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A Hill Too High As he read the final words, tears misted his eyes, the fingers of his right hand reverently caressing the texture of the ancient page. The words of the sonnet had touched him deeply, touched him as a lover, as a protector and as a warrior. He sighed then and closed the aged text, knowing he was a better man for having read it. His companion watched and saw all. She had been resting, her feet propped up, her hands absently stroking her swelling stomach. She had seen this reaction before, yet it still tugged at her heart....that this remarkable man, this gallant Captain could be so moved by the words of a time so long gone. Inclining her head to see under his brow, she said gently, “Was it beautiful, Jean-Luc?” Not bothering to wipe away the evidence of his emotion, he sighed and nodded. “Oh yes Beverly, very beautiful. I’ll mark the page for you....I think you’d like it. Tell me, what do you want for dinner? I believe it’s my turn.” Beverly placed her feet on the floor and, with Jean-Luc’s help, struggled to her feet and stretched. “Lucky for you, I’m not all that hungry....something light, a salad perhaps.” “Very well, I’ll just go to the cockpit and check the heading, then I’ll order dinner.” Beverly watched him leave then went to wash up. They were in a runabout on their way back to the Enterprise after attending a conference at a distant Starbase. Jean-Luc had been less than pleased at the thought of Beverly travelling at this later stage of her pregnancy, but she was obstinate, citing the chance to hear of the most advanced treatments in post influenza syndrome, a chance not to be missed. The current ‘flu doing the rounds was virulent and stubborn, the unfortunate patients having to suffer a host of unpleasant symptoms even when the illness had passed so, in the end, the Captain had capitulated. Secretly he was glad, he had always enjoyed being with Beverly and this trip was no exception. As she emerged from the bathroom, she heard Jean-Luc making the last of his selections. He set the table, then brought the dishes one by one. Having served Beverly, he placed a modest amount on his own plate and sat down. “Tell me Beverly; have you and Tobyn chosen any names yet?” Gesturing with her fork, Beverly gave a mock-serious look at her friend. “Now you know better than that. You know full well we’re not telling anybody.” Sitting back and looking as innocent as he could, Jean-Luc pleaded ignorance. “Really? I didn’t know that. So....you can’t tell me....your closest friend?” “Tell you what....I’ll let you know first, after the birth, ok?” “Thanks....I think. Has engineering finished the modifications to you quart...?”

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Jean-Luc was cut off by the proximity alarm. Immediately alert, the officers went straight to the cockpit. Beverly scanned the space around them and reported to her Captain. “There’s a disturbance off our starboard bow.....it’s a cloaked ship!” “Hail them.” Beverly’s fingers danced over the console and shaking her head, she informed the Captain, “No reply. They can hear us, but they’re choosing to ignore the hail.” “Resume our heading, warp two, and let’s raise our shields.” As the little ship began her jump to warp the mystery ship decloaked. Jean-Luc gritted his teeth and quelled the tension he felt. “Cardassians! What the hell are they doing in Federation space?” “Hail them again Beverly. Tell them they are in violation of the treaty and are expected to leave the area immediately” Before Beverly could initiate the message, an alarm sounded. “They’re powering up weapons!” “Increase speed to warp seven and re-route power to the aft shields!” Seen from outside it was a ridiculous situation. A fully armed Cardassian cruiser bearing down on a runabout small enough to be destroyed by the weakest setting of its phasers, but still, the little ship fought. “Beverly, fire phasers....target their shield generators, I’m going to deploy a distress beacon then we’ll see if we can play ‘The elephant and the flea’.” Shaking her head in disbelief, Beverly fired the phasers and watched in sickening disgust as the beams of energy were diffused by the warship’s shields. “No good Jean-Luc, we might as well throw rocks.” “Go strap yourself into the cabin seats Beverly; it may get a little rough.” Jean-Luc waited until Beverly was safely immobilised, then he started to throw the ship about in a desperate effort to shake off the predator. Defiantly, the runabout spat fire at the juggernaut that pursued her, the chase continuing for over and hour.” “What the hell are they doing? They’re just playing with us!” Hearing her Captain shout from the cockpit, Beverly called from the cabin in exasperation, “Why don’t they shoot? What are they waiting for?” As Jean-Luc was about to reply, the little craft was hit broadside by a sustained burst of deadly power. Controls exploded and smoke filled the air, alarms shrieking. “Jean-Luc! Are you alright?” Receiving no answer, Beverly undid her harness and made her way forward. She had gone only a few steps when she felt the jolt of a tractor beam. Entering the cockpit, the area was bathed in a sickly green light, an effect of the beam. The smoke was thick, making her cough, but she continued to make her way to her friend. She saw his hand and grabbed it. Turning to the console, she pressed the emergency filtration sequence activator and waited as the damaged equipment struggled to clear the air. It was an incomplete cycle, but enough smoke was removed for her to see. Jean-Luc was unconscious, blood covering his face. His left hand and arm were burnt and he had a serious gash in his lower right leg, which was bleeding profusely. Retrieving a med kit, Beverly treated him as best she could and staunched the flow of blood from his leg. After administering a painkiller, she next injected him with a stimulant. He came to with a sharp intake of breath and looked around thoroughly bewildered.

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“Beverly?” “The Cardassians, Jean-Luc. They fired on us and now they have us in a tractor beam. We’re moving at warp two, destination unknown.” Raising his right hand, Jean-Luc gingerly explored the lump and laceration on his head. “Are you alright Beverly....is the baby uninjured?” Beverly smiled gently and grinned lopsidedly. “We’re fine Jean-Luc, just a little shaken up.” Sitting straighter, Jean-Luc tried hailing the Cardassian vessel, only to find the equipment not functioning. “Jean-Luc, the distress buoy....did you get it away?” “I launched it, I don’t know if they saw it or not. We’ll just have to hope they didn’t. Have you checked the life support status?” “I’ll do it now.” Brushing burnt rubble from the console, Beverly ran a systems check and frowning, turned to the Captain. “Well, it’s not too good. We have no propulsion, no shields, weapons are down and we’re venting plasma at an alarming rate. We have twenty hours of oxygen left, but there’s no power for the environmental controls. It’s going to get cold, very cold, very soon.” Jean-Luc sat silently thinking, eventually sighing and taking Beverly’s hand. “We’d better prepare then. Could you help me to get to the cabin? Don’t take too much weight; just help me to my feet.” Holding his injured arm across his chest, the Captain allowed Beverly to place his good arm over her shoulders. Once he had gained his feet, Jean-Luc slowly made his way into the main body of the runabout. Between the two of them, they retrieved all the items they could use to keep warm. Blankets, jackets, thermal covers, anything they could find was put on the table. Already, they could feel the temperature dropping. It took moments for Beverly to pull out the cabin seat, converting it into a bed. Together they lay down, wrapping themselves up in the covers. When they settled, Beverly sighed and asked softly, “Why do you think they did it?” “Probably to stop us from reporting their presence. They are trespassing.” “Probably.....I wish I knew where they’re taking us.” “Me too. Beverly....what will happen, what can we expect in the cold?” “Hypothermia is quite insidious, it can take you unawares. We will have to keep each other awake, there will be an overwhelming drowsiness....sometimes the victim doesn’t even feel cold.” Jean-Luc frowned and looked searchingly at his friend. “And the baby?” “Junior will live until my body temperature drops to an unsustainable level. At that point I will already be dead.” Nothing further was said for some time, each person occupied with their own thoughts. Beverly sighed and took Jean-Luc’s hand. “Jean-Luc.....I want to ask you something.” Sensing her mood, he replied in a whisper. “Go on.” “I had no idea Tobyn was going to ask you to marry us. He thought it would please me to have such a dear friend to “do the honours”. I had sort of expected to hold the marriage on Caldos, inviting you of course.....I’m sorry, Jean-Luc, did it hurt?” Jean-Luc was silent so long, Beverly thought he wasn’t going to answer and when he did speak, she could hear the sorrow in his voice.

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“It took a while for me to accept that you and Tobyn were going to marry. Throughout your relationship with him, I watched....hoped, it would....peter out and when it didn’t I had to come to terms with the fact that we would never have what I had always hoped for. When Tobyn asked me to marry you I wasn’t just hurt, I was angry. My first reaction was to make an excuse, find a reason to be unavailable, anything to save myself from the exquisite pain of seeing you marry another man, but then....eventually....my love for you won out. How could I not grant him that honourable service? In marrying you both, I would be able to show you that I loved you enough to let you go.....I still do. I am truly happy for you Beverly and no matter what may come; I will always be here for you.” Beverly held his hand to her cheek and cried softly, unable to speak in the face of such raw emotion. Silence descended again, allowing the friends the time to regather their equilibrium. Hours passed as the officers chatted and shared memories. The temperature continued to drop until ice began to form within the cabin. They were both shivering and Beverly was about to ask Jean-Luc about the sonnet he’d read, when she noticed he was sweating. “Jean-Luc! What’s wrong?” “Nothing. I’m fine.” “You most certainly are not! What is it?” Trying unsuccessfully to stifle a gasp, Jean-Luc swallowed and concentrated on keeping his voice steady. “I’m in a little discomfort from my injuries, I’m sure it will settle soon.” “I’ll get the med kit.” Although weakened, Jean-Luc prevented Beverly from getting up. “No, don’t. We must conserve our body heat. Stay where you are, I’ll be alright.” Knowing he was right didn’t make Beverly feel any better about the situation. She thought about his injuries and realised the painkiller would’ve worn off some time ago. With no other option open to her, she decided to see if she could distract him from his pain. “Tell me about the sonnet.” “Ah....a magnificent expression of love and loss. I never expected the T’Allarrs to be capable of such depth. Yet another example of the folly of judging a people before you get to know them.” “Love and loss? How sadly appropriate.” “That’s not like you, Beverly. Right now I need you to be strong, to be my touchstone. No matter what happens to....Beverly....the ice is gone.” They both stared at the walls, confused by the disappearance of the ice that had formed. “Jean-Luc....the temperature must be rising.” Carefully getting up, Jean-Luc stood shivering for a moment before he imparted his news. “Beverly, it’s warmer, definitely!” Helping Beverly to her feet, the couple went forward to the cockpit. They were shocked by what they saw. The Cardassian ship was using its tractor beam to guide the runabout through the atmosphere of a planet which turned lazily below them. “We will be released soon; the beam will cut off well short of the surface. There hoping we’ll be smashed to pieces when we try to land. They know we have no propulsion. Beverly strap yourself in again, this is going to be a rather violent landing.” Before she went aft, Beverly squeezed Jean-Luc’s shoulder affectionately.

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“Have we any hope?” “There’s always hope my friend, at least these runabouts will glide a short distance. Keep your fingers crossed.” As Jean-Luc had predicted, the tractor beam cut off when the runabout was two miles from the surface. Wrestling with the sluggish controls as best he could, Jean-Luc managed to lift the nose and coaxed the wounded runabout into a controlled glide. “Hold on Beverly, I’ve got the nose up but I can’t do anything about the speed, she’s losing altitude rapidly, I’m trying to find somewhere to put her down.” Beverly gripped the synthetic webbing of the harness and adopted the impact position as best she could with her swollen stomach making it difficult. It seemed an eternity until Jean-Luc called out, “I’ve somewhere to land, Brace for impact!” The runabout clipped a rocky outcrop and lurched over the terrain still going too fast for a safe landing. Seeing a large lake in the distance, Jean-Luc hoped they had enough height to reach it. As it turned out, they nearly overshot the water because of their speed. The runabout skipped three times on the water and smashed head on into a rock wall, the impact causing the ship to slew sideways, the starboard flank opening up in an explosion of metal and rock. Being harnessed to the starboard bulkhead, Beverly was thrown clear of the vessel, coming to a sudden stop when the chair she was in slammed back first into a rock face, knocking her out. She awoke to feel someone undoing her straps. “Jean-Luc? Are you alright?” “Steady Starfleet, Don’t move too much, you’ve been hurt.” Dazedly looking around, Beverly tried to focus on the person who by now was using a knife to cut the harness. “What? Who are you?” “Look Starfleet, I can’t waste time talking, let me get you out of this first, ok?” “What about Jean-Luc?” “Who? Is there someone else?” Holding her hand to her bleeding head, Beverly tried to think. “Yes! He was in the cockpit....he landed the runabout.” Casting a quick glance over her shoulder, the rescuer shrugged her shoulders. “If he was in the cockpit he’s dead.” Lifting a trembling hand, Beverly pleaded with the woman. “Please, oh God please go and check, if he’s there he will need help.” Letting out a snort of impatience the woman waved Beverly’s concerns aside. “Look Starfleet, that vessel is only just hanging there. In a few moments it will slip off that ledge and sink into the water and I don’t want to be on board when it does.” “Please, please go and check, I’ll do anything, anything you want, just go and check....I’m begging you.” The rescuer looked frankly at the distressed doctor and, with a hostile scowl, abruptly rose and quickly covered the distance to the ruined runabout. Squeezing in through the shattered windscreen, the woman gave the cockpit a cursory look and was about to leave when she noticed the trickle of blood slowly making it’s way across the floor. “Oh hell.” Clearing some of the wreckage, she found another Starfleet officer jammed under the collapsed control panel. Blood was streaming from

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several deep lacerations on the side of his face and down his neck. She was reaching across him to free his trapped arm when the runabout shuddered, and, with a low scraping sound, shifted further into the black water. Beverly had seen what happened and called out. “Are you alright? Is he there?” “He’s here, but I don’t know if I can get him free in time. He’s trapped.” “How is he?” Grabbing the control panel, the woman answered as she strained to lift it. “He’s unconscious and bleeding. I’ll know more when....if...I get him out.” “Hey Starfleet, wake up! Come on, wake up, I need your help.” Jean-Luc dimly heard the voice and tried to drag himself up and out of the fog of his mind. He managed to shift slightly in his seat, the movement causing a burst of agony. “That’s it Starfleet. You can hear me, can’t you? I’m going to get something to lever this panel up. You hold on, I won’t be long. Wriggling through the windscreen again, the woman ran past Beverly and into the bush that grew down to the water’s edge. “Hey! Come back!” Beverly had managed to free herself from the harness and tried to stand. With a sharp cry of pain, she collapsed sideways, unable to put any weight on her left ankle. She lay there for some minutes, waiting for the first bloom of pain to recede. As soon as she was able, she began to crawl to the wreck. The returning rescuer stopped her and instructed her to sit and wait. Over her shoulder she had a length of vine and a stout looking branch. Going to the smashed front of the runabout, she located a strong support member and tied one end of the vine to it, then she scrambled up and over the rock face and fastened the other end to a tree, pulling it as tight as she could. Back at the ship, she entered and spoke to Jean-Luc. “Hey, Starfleet, you still awake?” Unable to talk, Jean-Luc could only groan. “Now you listen carefully, we’re only going to get one shot at this. When I jemmy up the console, I want you to grab my leg and pull yourself clear. Got it?” The reply was another groan, but the woman took it as consent. Forcing the branch under the ruined console, the woman began to apply pressure, but before anything could happen, the runabout slipped once again, making the vine go taut, the water level inside rising dangerously. She waited until the movement stopped and swallowed nervously. “Okay, here we go.” Grunting with effort, the woman managed to release the pressure from Jean-Luc’s torso and legs. “Now Starfleet!” Mustering every ounce of his failing strength, Jean-Luc wrapped his arm around the woman’s leg and pulled with all he had. Slowly he extricated himself and fell exhausted to the floor. The change in weight distribution caused another slip. The woman knew if they didn’t get out immediately they would end up going down in the doomed craft. Grabbing the Captain and heaving him over her shoulder, she sat JeanLuc at the broken windscreen and let him tumble backwards, and free of the ship. Stopping only long enough to pick up a tricorder that was underfoot, she followed him quickly and had only enough time to glance at the stricken vessel when the vine snapped with a loud crack. The

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runabout seemed to balance for a few seconds, then slowly and gracefully slid into the water with a shriek of ruptured metal.

The woman was about to turn Jean-Luc onto his back when she was stopped by Beverly who had crawled over to them. “Don’t touch him! Let me examine him first.” The woman watched in silence for a moment until she offered the tricorder. “Here, you could probably use this; I picked it up as I left.” Beverly took the instrument with a look of gratitude and started to scan the Captain. “Oh God Jean-Luc, how the hell do you manage to do so much damage.” Looking up at the woman, Beverly said briskly, “We need a med team immediately. Tell them they need to bring a stasis unit and some hydro plasma, also....” Shaking her head, the woman laughed. “Hey, slow down Starfleet. There’ll be no calls to anybody....there’s no one here, except a bunch of surly Cardassians, and somehow I don’t think they’ll be giving you any sort of help.” Beverly paused in her scanning and looked up at the woman aghast. “What! But we need help....we need a hospital.” “Well, you’re out of luck, and so is he.” Beverly regarded the woman before her, biting back the acerbic comment that teetered on the tip of her tongue. “Can you help us....will you help us?” The woman frowned and took a step backwards, obviously considering the request. Snorting, she shook her head ruefully and answered the doctor. “I’ll help you Starfleet....but I must be fool. If the Cardies realise you’re with me, they won’t be very happy.” “Thankyou.” “Yeah, well.....I’ll go and get something to transport you home.....I’ll move you both into the bush before I go, the Cardies will be here soon, nosing around.....we’d better stay out of their way.” Beverly looked down at Jean-Luc and grimaced with worry. “He really shouldn’t be moved.....” Growing irritated, the woman said curtly, “I move him, or the Cardies vaporise him. Your choice!” Nodding silently, Beverly closed the tricorder and made a request. “Please be very gentle with him.” The woman bent down and gently took Jean-Luc in her arms. Staggering slightly, she settled his weight and she moved off towards the tangle of thick bush that grew to the waterline. She was gone almost twenty minutes when she appeared and stood beside the doctor. “Before we go, I’m going to wash the blood off the rocks and get rid of the vine and that seat you were in. I want no evidence that anyone survived the crash. With any luck, they’ll surmise you and your....companion....went down with the ship.” Within moments, the telltale signs had been removed and, with help, Beverly was hoisted upright. Moving slowly, the woman helped Beverly hobble into the bush. It took longer to reach the hiding place than it had with Jean-Luc. Beverly’s swollen stomach prevented her from being

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carried easily, and her damaged ankle slowed her down. Finally, the woman stopped and gestured to a huge fallen log. “Can you climb over it? He’s on the other side.” With help, Beverly traversed the log and soon found herself sitting beside the Captain. “We’ve got a few hours before it gets dark, I should be able to get you both home by then, but you’ll have to wait here until I return. No noise, ok?” “Understood. Before you go....what’s your name?” “Lynnah.” “Thank you Lynnah.” Beverly checked Jean-Luc and made him as comfortable as possible and when she looked up, Lynnah was gone. Grateful that she had a medical tricorder, Beverly scanned her stomach and was relieved to find her unborn child was unharmed. She next scanned her ankle, dismayed to find it was broken, with torn ligaments and muscle damage as well. Her head hurt, cut and bruised as did her right shoulder. She was just trying to raise her ankle when Jean-Luc groaned. He attempted to lift his hand, but it obviously caused too much pain and Beverly was sickened to hear him whimper piteously. Not knowing where to touch him, she leaned forward and spoke softly. “Jean-Luc, it’s Beverly. You’ve been in an accident and you’re injured. Just lie still and soon we’ll get you in a bed. I’ll stay with you, it’s ok.” He groaned again and tried to lift his head. Unable to accomplish that, he concentrated on opening his eyes, succeeding in getting one open....just. Beverly could see he was trying to assess his situation. He again attempted to lift his hand, this time with more success. Beverly gently took his hand and held it, the contact seeming to calm him. She heard him whisper and bent forward to hear. “What....what happened?” “The runabout crashed into a rock wall at the lake. You were in the cockpit and you were injured.” “The Cardassians?” “They’re on this planet....we’re being hidden from them.” The effort of sustaining consciousness was draining the Captain. “Beverly....pain...bad...” “I know Jean-Luc...” “Help?” Beverly swallowed and bit her lip. “Soon Jean-Luc, soon.” He seemed to be satisfied with that. His eye closed and Beverly felt his hand become limp. *Hang on Jean-Luc, hang on.*

Beverly was unsure how much time passed. She checked Jean-Luc often, dismayed at the amount of pain he was in. He would rise to consciousness and battle to stay awake, all the time in breathless agony, yet still asking questions about their situation. It was growing cold and Beverly was beginning to think they had been abandoned, when Lynnah suddenly appeared over the log.

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“Sorry I took so long, I had to make the transport. I can’t use it through here, the bush is too thick. I’ll carry you both to where it thins out a bit.” Not waiting for a response, Lynnah gently picked up the Captain and disappeared from view, returning half an hour later. “Come on, your turn. I brought you this, it should help a little.” After helping Beverly over the log, Lynnah presented her with a crutch made from native timber. It did help and the distance to Jean-Luc was covered quickly. Beverly was intrigued by the contraption she saw. “What is it?” “Well, it’s supposed to be a travois’s....with some modifications...and there’s no horse, I’ll pull it. I’ll lay.....What’s his name?” “Jean-Luc.” “Right. I’ll lay Jean-Luc in there and you can sit across that bar and put you bad leg over there. When I pick it up, the skin will sag a bit and both of you will be cradled....sort of. Ok?” Beverly looked dubiously at the contrivance, eventually deciding it would probably work. “Let’s do it, but please, be very gentle with him, he’s in a lot of pain.” “I hope you realise I can’t help him. I know very little about medicine.” “I am a doctor.” “Oh.” Nothing more was said. Lynnah took great care in positioning Jean-Luc on the travois’s and showed equal gentleness in assisting Beverly. She hefted the end where the two boughs were brought together with the cross piece and fitted it over her shoulders. Leaning forward and pushing with her legs, they started their journey. It was difficult. The terrain was uneven and hilly, with trees and undergrowth to be navigated. Lynnah had to rest often, her shoulders being rubbed raw by the unforgiving wood. It was almost fully dark when they finally reached a small clearing in which Beverly could just make out a dwelling of sorts. Drenched with sweat and panting, Lynnah still carefully carried Jean-Luc into her home and set him on her bed. Beverly was helped to a chair by his side. “I’ll light the lamps and get you some water.” Nodding her thanks, Beverly scanned Jean-Luc, a deep frown clouding her face. Waiting for the light, Beverly undid Jean-Luc’s clothing and exposed his chest. “Lynnah, how many lights do you have?” “Four. Here, will one be enough?” “Yes. Could you put it on that shelf? Good. Now, can you help me undress him? We need to be careful, he has several broken bones.” The two women set about their task, stripping Jean-Luc down to his briefs. Already livid bruising was developing across his chest and stomach. His left shoulder was obviously dislocated and the burns on his left hand and arm had blistered. The gash on his leg was seeping blood, as were the wounds to his head, face and neck, with his injured eye swollen shut and oozing fluid. “Hell, he looks as if he insulted a Klingon, and forgot to run.” With a wry smile, Beverly muttered, “That’s only what you can see. Have a look at this.” She gave the tricorder to Lynnah who read the details, whistling in amazement. “Broken collar bone, three broken ribs on the right, two on the left, fractured eye socket, broken nose, fractured femur and a broken right

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arm. Hells bells, there’s not much that’s not broken. Is any of this life threatening?” “No....but infection is our major concern, that and pain management. He was so lucky his lungs weren’t punctured....could you roll him onto his left side.....just a bit, I need to check something.” Doing as Beverly instructed, Lynnah held Jean-Luc as the doctor scanned an area on his back. “Thanks, you can lay him back down now. He has a small puncture wound just over the right kidney, which is quite bruised. We’ll have to watch that....keep his fluids up....make sure the kidney’s working.” “For now, I’d like to wash him and dress the wounds. Have you got a med kit?” Frowning, Lynnah went to the fireplace and added some wood. “Look doctor....what is your name?” “Beverly Crusher.” “Well Beverly, I have very little. The Cardies raid me every so often, and what they don’t steal, they destroy. They hope I’ll give up and leave....the fact is, I have no way of getting off this planet or calling for help and they know it, the only thing I could do, is move further away, and I don’t want to. Stalemate.” By now, Lynnah had a large bowl of warm water and some rags. Kneeling beside the Captain, she started to wash him. “So you see Beverly, I haven’t got what you need.” Silence descended, each woman withdrawing into her own thoughts. After the cleansing was complete, a clean blanket was placed over the Captain and the women moved to the table nearby. “Is he your partner?” Beverly smiled and pushed her hair back. “No, he’s a very dear friend, and my commanding officer. We serve on the same ship.” “He’s a Captain then.” “Yes.” “Is he the father of your child....were you running away together?” That brought a startled look from Beverly. “No.” More silence followed, until Lynnah sighed. “We should be treating your injuries too. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and you can tell me how to bind that ankle.” Over the next hour, Beverly was cleaned and her broken ankle seen too. Not much was said, Lynnah becoming lost in thought. Standing, she looked about the small cabin. “I’ll make us both an area to sleep in near the fire; it gets very cold at night. Do you want something to eat?” “No thank you.” With a shrug, Lynnah gathered some skins and made a passable bed on the floor. “I’m tired Beverly, I’m going to bed. Keep one light burning and don’t go outside without waking me.” Lynnah removed her shoes, pants and shirt. Beverly gasped when she saw the raw skin on her shoulders. “Did the travois’s do that?” “Yep.” Saying nothing else, the tired woman settled herself into the bed on the floor. Tiredness overtook Beverly too and, after checking on JeanLuc once more, she undressed and snuggled into the skins. Three times during that long night, Jean-Luc woke in pain. He tried desperately to contain his distress and failed. All Beverly could do

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was talk to him, speaking words of encouragement and sympathy. When dawn broke, she was exhausted. Lynnah rose and prepared a light breakfast of fruit and bread, constantly watching the suffering man on her bed. Beverly sat up wincing and rubbed her back, kneading the soreness out. “How is he?” “In considerable pain. Dammit! It’s so frustrating!” Lynnah was silent as she cleared away the breakfast dishes, frowning deeply when she heard Jean-Luc’s moaning. She reached a decision and said to Beverly, “Will you be ok for an hour or so? I’ve got something I have to do.” Beverly was a little shocked, but hid it well. “Yes, I think so....where are you going?” Smiling mysteriously she said quietly, “To see a man about a dog.” “A dog?” “Yep.” Lynnah left quickly, leaving a very bemused doctor behind. True to her word, Lynnah was back in an hour and a half and, in her hands, was a med kit....a Cardassian med kit. Beverly was amazed, and worried. “Where did you get this?” “From the Cardies. Call it a five finger discount. They’ve built an installation of some sort and they guard it fiercely, however, they aren’t quite so diligent about their storage facilities. You should find all you need there.” Beverly took the kit and opened it. She was unfamiliar with some of the items, but there were some very useful instruments and drugs she could use. Her first priority was to ease Jean-Luc’s pain. The hypospray delivered its drug and the Captain relaxed visibly. “Jean-Luc?...can you hear me?” “Yes.” “How do you feel now, how’s the pain?” Jean-Luc gave a small sigh and even attempted a rueful smile. “Much better, thank you Beverly.” There was no auto suture in the kit, or a bone knitter, but there was an antibiotic and some dressings, so she set about giving whatever aid she could. When she finished she straightened and again rubbed her aching back. Fetching a tumbler of water, she lifted Jean-Luc’s head and encouraged him to drink. Being slightly dehydrated, Jean-Luc didn’t hesitate in drinking all the water, asking for more when it was empty. “Not now, perhaps later.” He lay his head back on the pillow, falling asleep within seconds. “That did the trick Lynnah, well done.” “No problem.” Gently stroking Jean-Luc’s face, Beverly broached the subject that had been bothering her. “Lynnah, how long have you been here?” Frowning, Lynnah brushed some twigs from her shirt. “I was twenty two when we arrived. My father was a geologist, my mother a botanist....my speciality is metallurgy. We were excited to be coming here; we’d moved so many times, the idea of staying somewhere for an extended period of time was wonderful. This planet was largely unexplored; we were gathering information for future colonisation. The years passed quickly....rather idyllic for us all. My little brother was leaning towards geology....he wanted to be like his father and

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everything was fine....until the Cardassians arrived. Within two months my family was dead. My father had thought we could go about our business and prove to them we were no threat. Mum, Dad and my brother were on their way to the study fields when they stumbled on a group of Cardassians. They were murdered in cold blood. I found their bodies the next day....they’re buried not far from here, in a fern gully and I’ve been alone ever since.” The doctor closed her eyes and shook her head. “The facility they’ve built is in violation of our treaty with them. I can only surmise they’re up to no good. We were returning from a conference when we were attacked. We couldn’t defend ourselves, we were hopelessly out gunned. Once they had crippled our runabout, they used a tractor beam to drag us here. We’re a long way from where we were.” Lynnah had listened with frank interest. “I can’t contact anyone, the only thing we could do is use one of their relay signals, a difficult task, but not impossible.” “Can we expect the Cardassians to search this area for us?” A wicked smile crept across Lynnah’s face. “Hopefully, they’ll think you’re dead. Actually, they can’t come here as often as they’d like. There is a huge rise of cliffs two kilometres to the north that interferes with their scanners and, as luck would have it, there’s an insect that abounds here that drives them mad by biting them. The bugs actually swarm in response to any Cardassian that ventures too far into the surrounding area. We’re at an impasse. I stay on my side of the river, and for the most part, they stay on their side, and the insects have no appetite for humans.” “So you’ve been here for some time.” “Yep, about eight years.” “Well, hopefully we’ll be rescued soon. Our runabout was venting plasma; all the Enterprise has to do is find it and follow the trail.” Lynnah cocked her head, her eyes widening. “The Enterprise? I’ve heard of her.....” Gesturing to Jean-Luc she said incredulously, “He’s the Captain of the Enterprise?” “Yes, he is.” “Wow..... How’s your back now?” Beverly frowned and rubbed the sore spot. “Oh, it’s alright, it was like this with my last pregnancy....I’d forgotten.” Trying to look disinterested, Lynnah’s curiosity was roused. “You’ve got other children?” Laughing gently, Beverly said ruefully, “Just one, a son....he’s grown up now.” “Oh. When are you....that is, how long...?” “In about six weeks.” “Not all that long then.” Again Beverly laughed softly. “Long enough. When you get in the last stages, you kind of want everything to hurry up.” Lynnah was about to say more, when Jean-Luc joined the conversation. “Everybody is keen for the baby to be born. Some mothers-to-be become quite cranky towards the end.” “Hey! That’s not fair! You should try feeling...and looking like a beached whale. It’s no picnic you know.” Jean-Luc’s gentle smile stole the outrage Beverly felt. She hobbled over to him and sat down beside the bed. “How do you feel?”

12


“Thirsty, mostly.” Lynnah heard and quickly brought a tumbler of cool water. “Here, let me help you.” Nodding his thanks, he let Beverly lift his head so he could have a drink. With his one good eye, he looked at his host and, after finishing his drink, said softly, “I take it we’re in your debt.” Shrugging her shoulders, Lynnah seemed to be embarrassed. Instead of answering the Captain, she picked up a bowl and left the cabin. “Was it something I said?” He said softly. “No Jean-Luc. She’s been on her own for a long time....I think she’s a bit shy. How’s the pain?” With his uninjured hand, Jean-Luc lifted the blanket that covered him. “It’s not too bad....I take it I will mend?” “Definitely.” “Very colourful bruises.....quite a work of art, if I do say so myself. I suppose there’s quite a list of my injuries?” “As usual, you’ve managed to get yourself banged up in a big way. How do you do that?” “It’s a dying art. Beverly, may I have another drink?” Frowning, Beverly acquiesced. “Alright, but drink it slowly, ok?” Nodding, Jean-Luc tried to relax as Beverly raised his head, but the pain made him catch his breath. “Jean-Luc? Is the pain returning?” Grimacing, the Captain tried to keep his voice steady. “It never went away completely...it’s getting a little stronger now.” Beverly was immediately concerned. “Why didn’t you say so? It’s pointless trying to be brave Jean-Luc and I can’t read you mind. If you need anything, for God’s sake say something!” Suitably chagrined, Jean-Luc offered his apologies. “Sorry Beverly, I just didn’t want to be a burden.” At that moment, Lynnah came in, carrying a bowl of fruit. Looking at Jean-Luc, she blushed and lowered her head, seemingly very interested in the bowl she carried. Beverly, from her seat beside the Captain, caught Lynnah’s attention with a small cough. “Lynnah, this is Jean-Luc Picard. Jean-Luc, Lynnah.....I’m sorry, I don’t know your surname.” “Moran.” “Pleased to meet you. Thank you for the help you’re giving us, it’s very kind of you.” Again Lynnah bowed her head, but not before the officers saw the blush rising on her face. After administering another dose of pain killer and a tumbler of water, Beverly sat with Jean-Luc until he slipped into sleep. Beverly frowned deeply and stroked his head. “This Cardassian analgesic isn’t all that effective on humans.” Lynnah stared at the Captain, not knowing what to say. Beverly continued, “He’s going to be in pain, no matter what we do.” Lynnah remained silent, doing odd chores around the cabin and studiously avoiding the Captain’s bed. Beverly could feel her tension, yet she was unsure what was causing it. Wanting to relieve the situation, she decided to start conversation again.

13


“So, you’re what....thirty now.” A tentative nod was her only reply. “Is there any other family....have you a boyfriend waiting for you?” Lynnah gave a sharp, bitter laugh. “No doctor, no family, or a beau for that matter, I was always considered too immersed in my work, an ice maiden. When it comes to romance, I’m a complete ingénue. I’ve never even been kissed.” Not knowing what to say to that obviously painful admission, Beverly asked something that had been on her mind for some time. “Lynnah, were do you go to relieve yourself? I need to go.” Picking up an assegai, Lynnah gestured Beverly to follow her. Beverly was led to a small clearing not far away which contained a biowaste unit. Pointing to a thicket of scrub, Lynnah said, “I’ll wait nearby. If you hear anything don’t hesitate to yell...loudly.” “Understood.” Having made herself comfortable, the two women went back into the cabin. Wishing to make Lynnah feel better, Beverly said softly, “Your time will come one day you know. When we get back to the Enterprise, I’ll introduce you to some very handsome crew members, who knows what might happen.” Lynnah shrugged her shoulders, looked briefly at the cabin and snorted, ending the subject. The day dragged on, the hours broken up by tending to Jean-Luc when he woke. Towards the afternoon, he called for Beverly. In obvious pain, he whispered, “Beverly I need to....” No problem, I’ll get something for you. “Lynnah, do you have a bowl you don’t need?” Looking first perplexed, then embarrassed, Lynnah handed over an old bowl. “Can you help me to roll him onto his side?” Without a word, Lynnah helped to roll the Captain into position and left his side as soon as Beverly began to help him with his briefs. His cry of pain startled both women. “Jean-Luc, what’s wrong?” Through gasps and moans Jean-Luc uttered, “My back! When I passed urine, pain, very bad.” Gently using her hand to press on the bruised kidney, Jean-Luc let out a sharp yelp. Beverly’s next task was to scan the urine in the bowl. With a look of dismay, she closed the tricorder. “You’re passing blood Jean-Luc. The kidney has been damaged, until we get to the ship, it will hurt like that every time you urinate. Closing his good eye, Jean-Luc shook his head. “Mon Dieu, it will hurt like that every time....” “I’m sorry Jean-Luc, there’s nothing I can do except encourage you to drink water. It will help the kidney.” Gently helping him onto his back, Beverly noticed he was sweating. Thinking it was the effort of relieving himself, Beverly none the less felt his forehead, worried when he felt hot. Scanning him, she found that infection had taken hold in the leg wound and the puncture in his back. Injecting him again with the antibiotic, she hoped that it would work on a human as well as it worked on Cardassians. Lynnah watched stoically, unsure of how to help. “Tell me Lynnah, do you ever go to the river....would it be safe for me to go there?”

14


Shaking her head emphatically, Lynnah warned the doctor. “No, don’t go there. The Cardies have motion sensors, they would respond to them immediately. Why do you ask?” The wound on Jean-Luc’s leg is swollen and obviously infected. There may be a water reed growing there, the roots can be ground to provide a mild antibiotic....possibly better than the Cardassian one. It’s a very common water plant.” “Cocking her head thoughtfully, Lynnah snapped her fingers. “There’s a fairly big creek flowing at the base of the cliffs, it curves....there’s a bend about half a kilometre from here, I’ll go now.” “No Lynnah...I’ll go. I need you to watch Jean-Luc, and besides, you don’t know what to look for.” Frowning, Lynnah could see the truth in what Beverly had said. She was not convinced, however and quizzed Beverly on how she would manage. Feeling slightly irritated, Beverly answered the questions as patiently as she could, finally getting Lynnah to agree. “Now if you can make me another crutch, I can put the bag handles over my head....I’ll be fine...I *can* manage. Look, I’ll even take the tricorder. Its sensors can warn me of any approaching life form in plenty of time for me to hide. I’ll be fine, really. Jean-Luc needs my help Lynnah....I must go.” Understanding the truth of her words, Lynnah wasted no more time, fashioning a second crutch and supplying a woven bag. Taking Beverly outside, She pointed to a distant landmark for Beverly head towards. “Keep scanning as you go with the tricorder, it may ghost a little, but mine worked better than the Cardie’s....that’s probably why they pinched it from me. I found it smashed to pieces days later. How long will you be?” “Not long. If the plant is here it will just be a matter of collecting the roots.” Putting the crutches under her arms, Beverly smiled at the worried woman. “Now you look after Jean-Luc. Keep his fluids up and help him to.....well I think you know what you have to do.” Lynnah nodded silently and watched as Beverly was swallowed by the bush that surrounded them. She waited until she could hear nothing but the bush, then went inside. She found Jean-Luc awake. With her customary blush, she offered him some water. “That would be nice, thank you.” Gently lifting his head, she helped him with the tumbler then settled him as comfortably as possible under the circumstances. Still, though, she could see he was in considerable pain. “I’m sorry I have nothing to ease your pain, Jean-Luc.” “It’s alright. Maybe you could get me a wet cloth; my face is very hot and sore.” Glad to be doing something, Lynnah gathered a bowl of water and a cloth scrap. She sat next to him and began to bathe his face. The swelling around his injured eye had increased and several lacerations were oozing serum and pus. “So, tell me Lynnah, how do I look?” The silence that followed surprised the Captain. “Lynnah?” Blushing furiously, Lynnah bowed her head and said softly, “Despite your obvious injuries, I find you to be a very attractive man.” Now Jean-Luc understood her discomfort.

15


“Thank you Lynnah, that’s very comforting. I shall have to tell my first officer, he will be most put out.” Noticing her lack of response, Jean-Luc realised he had treated her frank admission too lightly. “I’m sorry Lynnah, I’m flattered....I didn’t mean to make light of what you said....it’s just that I haven’t had anyone say that to me for many years. Lynnah? Lift your head so I can see you properly.” Still flushed, she lifted her head, keeping her eyes downcast. “Hey....He whispered, “Look at me.” Jean-Luc was struck by her expressive eyes, set in a plain, but beautifully intelligent face and framed by shoulder length black hair, the fringe of which reached almost to her eyes. “You’re beautiful Lynnah......No, don’t....don’t lower your face. Talk to me Lynnah, it will help me keep my mind off the pain.” Encouraged by his words Lynnah, slowly at first, then with more confidence, began to talk about her time on the planet. She spoke of her work and her family, sharing stories with Jean-Luc, marvelling at his exploits in space. As enamoured as she was, she still could see that Jean-Luc was gradually getting worse. She continued to bathe him, unable to do anything else. The water she had been giving him had passed through his system and, after an awkward pause, he asked Lynnah to help him relieve himself. Helping him onto his side, she positioned the bowl and discreetly turned her head to offer some privacy to the stricken man. His sharp intake of breath, followed by groans of pain, made her squeeze shut her eyes in sympathy. When he was finished, she once again endeavoured to make his as comfortable as possible. His continued illness and pain worried Lynnah; she didn’t know what to do. More than once she ventured outside and listened for Beverly. She sat in a chair next to Jean-Luc and held his hand, praying to whatever gods that may be listening to save this noble man. She was lightly dozing when approaching footsteps awakened her. Instantly alert, she grabbed a knife and stood protectively beside the Captain. Beverly had the good sense to announce her presence. “Lynnah, it’s me....Beverly. I’m coming in.” The door opened slowly and a very bedraggled doctor entered. “What the hell happened to you?” “Oh, nothing much. I had found a good patch of reeds, but when I was pulling them out, I fell down the bank and into the water. It took me ages to get back out.” “So you got the roots?” Taking the bag from around her neck, Beverly smiled triumphantly. “Yes! Not only that, but I also found a herb we can steep to help his pain.” The two women set to work, grinding the roots and brewing the herbs. Lynnah taking her directions with interest. Beverly went to the Captain only to find him semiconscious. She questioned Lynnah with alarm. “How long has he been like this? “Not long, he drifts in and out. He used the bowl, but didn’t recover fully. I’ve been bathing him....” “It’s alright Lynnah, you did fine. Help me lift his head.” Bit by bit, Beverly coaxed Jean-Luc to drink the herbal mixture and, after laying him flat, set about applying the crushed root to his many wounds. Then the wait began. Taking it in turns, Beverly and Lynnah sat with the tortured man, bathing and lulling him. Four hours passed and Beverly gave her verdict.

16


“Dammit! It’s not working.” “Why?” “I don’t know! There are so many things to bear in mind, all of them bad. Have you ever got infected by a cut or scrape?” Lynnah frowned in thought. “No. In fact my mother said this was the only place she’d been to that was free of nasty bugs. She said even the plants were germ free.” Beverly knew immediately what was wrong. “That’s what’s preventing the plants from working. There’s no interaction between the microscopic plant life and the basic constituent of the plant. I bet that’s why the Cardassians chose this planet. But why has it surfaced now?” Taking her tricorder, she altered the scanning parameters and ran the probe the length of Jean-Luc’s fevered body. Yes! There’s a foreign microbe at work. No wonder simple herbs were out gunned.” Lynnah was confused. “So....now what? Can we help him or not?” “No Lynnah.....we can’t do anything for him. The women sat, each struggling with the despair of helplessness. After a while, Beverly broke the silence. ‘Lynnah...what was that you said about the relay signals?” Startled by the sudden question, Lynnah stared at the doctor. “It would be possible to piggyback a message within their signal, but like I said, although it’s possible, it would be rather....perilous. If I’m caught...well let’s just say, they wouldn’t be amused.” Hobbling outside and gesturing to Lynnah, Beverly explained the situation. “Lynnah, Jean-Luc is getting sicker. Neither the painkiller nor the antibiotics are working as I’d hoped. Infection has taken hold and he’s in great pain. We need to let our ship know where we are....and soon.” “You’re saying he might die?” “Yes.” Looking annoyed, Lynnah angrily kicked at the leaf matter on the ground. “Bloody typical! First man I’ve ever been attracted to, and he’s about to die. Just my luck eh?” Somewhat taken aback, Beverly tried not to let her shock show. “I’m sure it won’t come to that. How about we give it a couple of days and if Jean-Luc can hold on and the Enterprise doesn’t find us, maybe you could send a signal. Lynnah snorted and strode quickly into the cabin, obviously upset. Waiting until she thought Lynnah had calmed, Beverly entered the cabin to find her gently wiping Jean-Luc’s feverish face. Beverly watched, noting the care and gentleness she used in her ministrations. “Lynnah, he will make a full recovery, we just have to get him to the Enterprise.” Nodding, Lynnah gave Beverly a lopsided grin. “I feel like a fool, admitting my feelings....it’s not something I often do, besides, who would hear me?” “It’s ok Lynnah; it’s perfectly understandable, given that you’ve been here so long without any other humans around. He is an attractive man...very much so, I can see how you....” Standing abruptly Lynnah glared at the doctor. “I’m not some puerile adolescent besotted with the first man I see! This is more....deeper....look I can’t explain it, but it’s there, I feel it.”

17


Not knowing what to say, Beverly let the conversation go and sat on the bed in front of the fire. Hours passed and soon it was dark. The Captain had woken three times, drinking more water and trying his best not to show his pain. The women retired for the night only to be startled awake by Jean-Luc crying out and thrashing in his bed some time later. Rising quickly they tried to rouse him, but the nightmare held him in a fierce grip. Taking a cup, Beverly filled it half way and splashed the cold water on his face. “Jean-Luc, wake up....it’s just a dream, a bad dream.” Slowly his frantic thrashing stilled and his good eye opened. “Beverly?” “You had a nightmare Jean-Luc, you’re ok.” “The Borg....have they gone?” Closing her eyes in sadness, Beverly’s heart ached for her friend’s torment. “Yes Jean-Luc, they’re all gone.” Sighing and wincing at the pain this caused, Jean-Luc said piteously, “They did dreadful things to me Beverly....I couldn’t stop them....it hurt so much.....” Tears overflowed his eye and ran down his cheek. “They’re gone Jean-Luc, they won’t hurt you.” Shedding tears of her own, Beverly stroked his face until he drifted off to a restless sleep. Lynnah watched the poor man fight the demons in his sleep, feeling a cold chill pass through her. “The Borg? What’s that?” “They are a race of cybernetic beings that function through a hive mentality. They “assimilate” whole cultures and individuals. Jean-Luc was captured by them and surgically mutilated, whilst fully conscious and feeling everything they did to him....they made him into a Borg, then using the information they had stolen from him, attempted to attack Earth and the Federation ships sent to stop them. It was a massacre, thousands died. He was rescued by our ship and aided us in destroying the Borg ship. We were able to remove most of the cybernetic technology, so physically, he’s fine. Mentally, however, he still carries the memories....they are always with him. In his weakened state, he’s linking the pain he feels now with the pain the Borg inflicted on him.” Shaking her head in awe, Lynnah sat on the edge of Jean-Luc’s bed and sadly watched the tormented man. “Poor man....one man shouldn’t have to bear that much sorrow and pain. Beverly I don’t think we’ll wait for your ship. I’ll go to the relay station as soon as it’s light. I don’t want him to suffer anymore.” Beverly sighed and expressed her gratitude. “Thank you Lynnah that would be good.” Settling once again into her bed, Lynnah lay awake, her mind unable to let sleep descend. She was still awake when dawn broke. Rising silently, she dressed quickly and went out into the cool air of the early day. Beverly saw her go, but refrained from saying anything....the words had already been said.

Throughout the day, Beverly nursed Jean-Luc. He began to bear the pain better, but the infection was causing his temperature to

18


rise, causing fits of shivering that reawakened the pain. While he was awake, they talked, about everything.....anything they could think of, and by late afternoon, Beverly was worried. Jean-Luc noticed her concern. “I’m sure she’ll be alright....she knows what she’s doing.” Smiling, Beverly looked kindly at her companion. “I know, it’s just been so long, I mean, how long should it take? She goes to the location, gets in and piggybacks a signal, gets out and returns.” “I think it’s a little more complicated than that....” Pushing her hair back, Beverly sighed. “Of course it is....but she left at dawn Jean-Luc, it will be dark soon.” As evening fell, Beverly gathered some fruit and prepared a simple tea. Jean-Luc tried to stay awake to keep her company, but sleep eventually claimed him leaving Beverly alone with her worry. During the long night, Beverly helped Jean-Luc with his bodily functions, still a very painful event for him and made sure he had sufficient water to drink. Dawn came and still Lynnah was absent. At the Captain’s request, Beverly placed several rolled skins behind his shoulders, allowing him to sit up a little. It caused him pain, but he preferred to see around him more clearly. Beverly was just starting breakfast when the door slowly started to open. Frightened at first, Beverly took it and opened it fully, at first not seeing anything, then with deep shock, saw a battered and bloody form on the ground. “Lynnah? God Lynnah what happened?” Unable to help much, the doctor had to wait as Lynnah dragged herself across the floor to her bed. As she reached the bed she passed out. Beverly gently turned her over and was horrified by what she saw. Taking the tricorder she began to scan, shaking her head in disbelief. The semi naked woman was covered in bruises and blood. Clumps of hair had been wrenched out and her front teeth were missing. “Beverly, how is she?” “Jean-Luc I.....she’s got a skull fracture, several facial bones broken, her jaw, four teeth are missing, a broken collar bone, broken ribs, broken arm, severe abdominal bruising and....oh no...dear God no...” “What? Beverly, what is it?” “She’s been raped! There’s three, no, four traces of Cardassian semen. The bastards! Why....why the hell did they do this? She has some...internal...injuries, she’s lost a lot of blood....Why did they...” “Beverly what are those marks on her breasts?” Sighing and shaking her head, Beverly sat back and wiped the tears from her face. “They’re bite marks Jean-Luc.” Closing his eyes, Jean-Luc whispered one final question. “And that dreadful odour?” “Cardassian urine. It would appear they urinated on her when they were finished.” Beverly rose and managed to carry a large bowl of warm water to Lynnah and began to wash her. It took three washes until the odour abated. No words were exchanged between the friends, each was dealing with the situation in there own way. Beverly was smouldering in anger; Jean-Luc was looking to the future, wondering how Lynnah would cope with what had happened to her.

19


With her limited resources, Beverly treated her as best she could, then sat back and let out a snort of anger. “Just give me five minutes and a phaser and I would make sure those Cardassian bastards never raped another woman...ever!” “Beverly....how is she?” “I’ll put it this way...by comparison; you’re ready to run a marathon. The bleeding has slowed...I’m worried about the skull fracture....God Jean-Luc; look at her elbows and knees. She did that dragging herself home. She saved both our lives and all I can do is give her a bath for God’s sake!” “Beverly when we get back to the ship, you’ll be able to care for her and Deanna will help her deal with what’s happened, you know that. We just have to hold on, they’ll find us....Will won’t be satisfied with anything but success.” “I know all that Jean-Luc, but this woman...she told me a little about herself....do you know, she’s never had a boyfriend...she’s never been kissed....she was a virgin Jean-Luc. Her first experience with the sex act has been one of violence, pain, humiliation and brutality. How will she recover from that? Will she ever let another male near her?” Jean-Luc closed his eye and allowed his head to lower, his chin touching his chest. He lifted his hands in supplication, but remained silent. Beverly felt his pain and wiped angrily at the tears that flowed. “She was already emotionally damaged. She had to bury her family...her parents and little brother, after the Cardassians murdered them. Her hold on life here has been tenuous at best....how the hell is she supposed to recover?” By now Beverly was shouting, panting and crying at the same time. Sitting on the floor next to Lynnah, it took a few moments before she realised Lynnah was touching her leg. “Lynnah! It’s alright, you’re home now.” Seeing that Lynnah was trying to speak, Beverly leaned forward to listen. Through split and swollen lips, Lynnah whispered her words to Beverly. “I didn’t send the signal....never made it to the building. They caught me....thought I was stealing more supplies. They knew about the med kit, asked me what I wanted it for....told them I was moving further south and needed one. They laughed and said they would give me something to treat.” Beverly repeated her words to Jean-Luc. He frowned and shook his head. “Bloody animals. Beverly, we’d better be very careful. Lynnah we will be rescued, just hang on, Beverly will care for you.” Jean-Luc received no reply, but Beverly smiled and nodded, letting him know Lynnah had heard him. The day wore on, Beverly dividing her time between her Captain and her rescuer. By now, she had got Jean-Luc to eat, despite the pain in his face and she knew it would be more difficult for Lynnah. The times she had been awake, she had begged Beverly to wash her. Understanding her anguish, Beverly complied, her concern building. Lynnah seemed to be ignoring her injuries, concentrating only on trying to make herself clean, a perfectly understandable reaction, although Beverly had tried to ask her how she was feeling, she wouldn’t answer. It soon became obvious that Lynnah didn’t care about her health; in fact Beverly came to believe she wanted to die. She wouldn’t eat or drink and Beverly began to despair for her. Nothing the doctor said seemed to help, Lynnah simply withdrew into herself and Beverly realised she may never return.

20


That night was the worst by far. Jean-Luc had requested to be laid flat to sleep and in removing the rolled up skins, Beverly, on one foot, lost her balance and knocked his dislocated shoulder. He tried to stifle the cry of pain, but he failed and the shoulder continued to torment him throughout the rest of the night. Lynnah suffered dreadful nightmares and Beverly was still unable to stem the bleeding she suffered from her internal injuries. Beverly herself was not without pain. Her ankle ached inexorably and she had a headache that refused to abate. The only good thing was the strong movements of her baby, reminding her of her mate and the Enterprise.

Just after dawn, Beverly was rising to her feet when the door suddenly burst in. Blocking the light was a dreaded form. A huge Cardassian, large even for his race, stood framed in the doorway, an evil grin on his unpleasant face. “Well, well, what have we here?” Pushing Beverly off her feet and into a corner, the Cardassian toed Lynnah with his boot. “You didn’t tell me you had visitors.....Federation visitors at that. A mistake my little toy, a mistake that just might cost you your life. So, let me see.” He stalked over to Beverly as three more Cardassians entered. Dragging her to her feet by her hair, he roughly gripped her chin and forced her head back. “Hmmm, quite passable....for a human. Interesting hair colour. And what’s this? You're carrying a child! Well, this will be interesting, won’t it men?” The laughter that followed was cruel and harsh, terrifying Beverly. As he dropped her, she wrapped her arms protectively around her stomach. Moving over to the bed, the big Cardassian stared down at the Captain. “So....you both survived. I commend you flying skills human. It’s a pity you didn’t die; you’re going to wish you had.” He reached forward and gripped Jean-Luc’s damaged shoulder in his huge hand and squeezed, shaking the joint at the same time. Unable to stop the cry of agony, Jean-Luc lashed out with his good leg, catching the tormentor in the groin. He grunted gutturally and increased the pressure of his hand. With his other hand he reached down and grabbed Jean-Luc’s broken arm, twisting and bending until the shattered bone burst through the skin in a gush of bright blood. “Mind your manners human, you really don’t want to make me angry.” Jean-Luc’s body had arched bow-tight and as the bones of his arm burst through the skin. He uttered a strangled cry, his eye fluttered and rolled back as consciousness fled. “Will you look at that......no pain tolerance.” More vicious laughter followed as the beast approached Beverly again. “I think we should indulge in a little sport. Koult, shift that whore on the floor....put it on that weak pile of Federation dung on the bed.” One of the other Cardassians moved forward and heaved Lynnah up by a leg and an arm and dropped her on top of Jean-Luc. She lay face down, her eyes staring sightlessly at Beverly. “That’s better. Now then....come here you Federation bitch.” Beverly, hampered severely by her broken ankle, still tried to elude the towering rapist. The others watched in amusement as she hobbled around the table.

21


“Oh, look....she wants to play. Like I told your friend....don’t make me angry woman, you really won’t like it.” With a casual flick of his wrist, the table overturned, leaving nothing between them. The other Cardassians crowded forward, trying to get the best view of what was to happen. The brute caught Beverly by the hair and lazily slapped her about the face. “You Federation scum are too tough....your meat has to be...tenderised.” As he raised his hand for a more forceful blow, a vivid stripe of orange energy hit him squarely in the back. He froze, a look of profound surprise on his face as his body quickly vaporised. The three remaining Cardassians reached for their weapons and were dispatched with the same efficiency. The doorway now framed another large form, this time in a Starfleet uniform. “Worf....” That was the only word Beverly managed before she passed out. When next her eyes opened, she took a moment to gather her senses, then sighed gratefully. She was in sickbay, on the Enterprise.

After some devious negotiation, Beverly was reluctantly allowed out of bed. She made her way straight to Jean-Luc and was worried to find him pale and still obviously unwell. Calling doctor Selar, Beverly was briefed as to his condition. “He is battling a particularly stubborn infection. It has entered his body in several places and is secreting a neuro-toxin that is compromising his immune system. His left kidney is barely functioning, we are giving dialysis support. His body temperature continues to rise and he is no longer able to ingest fluids, we are hydrating him intravenously. As of two hours ago, he was placed on oxygen support. The neuro-toxin is interfering with his lung function; we expect his cardio implant to be next affected.” Beverly pushed her hair about distractedly. “I see. How are we going with identifying the neuro-toxin?” In the same dispassionate delivery, Selar explained. “We have sent a team to the surface to collect samples. The woman brought aboard is also suffering the same infection. She is not expected to live.” With a look of alarm, Beverly straightened. “What! Why not, her injuries were treatable....is the infection worse in her?” “No doctor, in fact she isn’t affected as badly as the Captain. She has simply stopped fighting for life. She wishes to die.” “Well I’m not ready to let her go! Dammit Selar, we have to keep fighting....if she won’t fight for herself, we’ll do it for her! Keep her on life support....anything to sustain life; I’ll speak to counsellor Troi.” Bowing her head gracefully, doctor Selar turned to leave. “Wait Selar....why don’t I have the infection?” “Unknown at this time, doctor.” As Selar left to pursue her duties, Beverly went over to the still form of Lynnah. As with Jean-Luc, she looked pale, deathly so, and glancing at the bio readout, Beverly realised how tenuous was her weak grip on life. As she stood, fat tears escaped to roll down her face. She felt two strong arms encircle her and a warm voice whisper in her ear. “You should be in bed.”

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“Tobyn....” He turned her and took her in his arms trying with all his heart to quell her anguish. “Come my love; let’s get you back in bed. Your friends will be alright.” Pulling out of his embrace, she angrily shook her head. “That’s just it Tobyn, they’re not! They both have a rampant infection we can’t treat and this poor woman suffered a brutal multiple rape! She’s so traumatised she no longer wants to live! God, Tobyn, she was a virgin! Can you imagine....” The sobs came then, tearing through her chest and breaking Tobyn’s heart. Doctor Selar appeared silently and led Beverly to her bed. Once Beverly was safely ensconced, Selar administered a sedative and waited until she drifted off to sleep. “The doctor will sleep for some hours. I have noted that humans like to maintain contact in these circumstances. Do you wish to stay?” All Tobyn could do was nod. “Very well, I will have a staff member bring you a seat.”

Will Riker was angry, and savagely happy. Before him stood an unrepentant Klingon and Will was trying to make it clear that it had been unnecessary to have killed all four Cardassians. “All I’m saying, is that the one assaulting Beverly was justifiable, but the others hadn’t even drawn their weapons!” “They attempted to.” “Granted, but what about the ‘stun’ setting? Why couldn’t you have stunned them? Then we could’ve charged them and put them in prison.” Worf stiffened and snarled. “But commander....they would still be alive!” “That’s my point Lieutenant! Look, I understand how you feel....who knows, I may have done the same thing, but I want you to think about this Worf. I’m not happy...and neither will the Captain be when he finds out.” That caused Worf to scowl deeply. To displease his Captain was not an honourable thing to do. Perhaps the commander had a point. “How are the repairs going?” “They are progressing well Sir. We have shields and weapons and structural integrity has been strengthened. We should be fully operational within six hours.” “Yeah, well, going toe to toe with a Cardassian cruiser is bound to bloody our nose. Tell Geordi to keep up the good work, with our thanks.” “Aye Sir.” As the mollified Klingon left the ready room, Data entered. “Commander, we are receiving a message from Starfleet.” “I take it internal communication is still down?” “Yes Sir.” “Very well, put it through to here.” Will seated himself at the Captain’s desk and activated the monitor. “Admiral Hiro, what instructions do you have for us Sir?” The Admiral smiled slightly before answering. “Would you believe the Cardassians are complaining about the destruction of their heavy cruiser? Despite attacking without provocation, despite being in Federation space and despite the allegations of rape and murder against their men, they still maintain theirs was a mission of mercy to rescue some crashed survivors from that planet. They deny the existence of any installation, and are

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lodging a formal complaint with the federation. How’s that for utter gall?” “They are good at that Sir....it’s not as if we’ve never come across it before.” The older man smiled tiredly. “Quite so, commander. Your orders are to round up the remaining Cardassians and find out what the installation is for, then destroy it. I’ll send the Melbourne to relieve you of your...guests...and as backup, in case the Cardassians take umbrage.” Sitting up straighter, Will said crisply, “Aye Sir.” “Oh, commander, how’s Captain Picard?” Will’s face fell. “Still very ill Sir. We’re working on it, but not much progress has been made.” “I see. Well, good luck commander.” The screen went blank and Will called for Data, before remembering that communications were down. Muttering under his breath, he strode across the room and out onto the bridge. “Data, senior officers to the observation lounge in twenty minutes. Please gather everybody.” Rising effortlessly from the centre seat, Data replied as he walked towards the turbo lift. “Aye, Sir.”

At the appointed time the officers, Will, Geordi, Deanna, Data and Worf seated themselves around the obsidian topped table. “Our orders are to round up the remaining Cardassians, investigate the installation, then destroy it. Any questions?” Data cocked his head in a curiously cat-like gesture. “What are we to do with the prisoners Sir?” “How many are there Data?” “Sensors show twenty eight life forms Sir, all Cardassian.” Will stroked his beard at looked pointedly at Worf. “What do you suggest Lieutenant?” Quelling his obvious answer, Worf squared his shoulders. “We could erect a force field in cargo bay two. That, along with sufficient security, should do the job.” “Very well. The Melbourne is on her way to take our prisoners and to add to our strength in case the Cardassians get grumpy. In the mean time.....can we beam them up? Put them directly into the cargo bay?” Geordi answered. “Should be no problem there. I’ll let you know when we’re ready.” Placing his hands flat on the table, Will frowned. “Until we have them aboard, there’ll be no more away teams. I’m not risking anybody else to those bastards.” Deanna was dismayed. “But Will, what about the Captain and the woman? We still haven’t found what infected them.” “I know counsellor, but the order stands!” Then his voice softened. “I feel it too Deanna.” The officers filed out, each with a job to do. The repairs to the mighty ship continued.

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When Beverly woke the second time, it was to the pleasure of being in her lover’s arms. At some stage, Tobyn has abandoned his chair and taken to lying beside Beverly in her bed. She smiled and ran her hand over the short blond bristles on his head. “Hey, you.” Tobyn’s eyes opened and a smile graced his handsome face. “Hey yourself. How do you feel?” “Not bad...for a beached whale.” “A very, very beautiful beached whale.” Beverly sighed and snuggled closer to him, then remembered where she was. With a look of embarrassed alarm, she put some distance between them and tried to regain her composure. Tobyn chuckled and kissed her on the nose. “I wondered how long it would take.” “You rat! Come on, I want to check on Jean-Luc and Lynnah. How long have I been asleep?” As they untangled themselves and left the bed, Tobyn replied, “A little over ten hours.” Nodding her reply, she approached Jean-Luc’s bed with increasing alarm. “Tobyn....get Selar in here.” Beverly looked aghast as she realised her dear friend was connected to full life support. As she was scanning the read out, Selar entered the room. “Doctor Crusher, you wished to see me?” “Selar....what the hell happened?” Tilting her head, Selar formulated her reply. “As I said when last we spoke, the neuro-toxin has compromised the cardio vascular system. Captain Picard can no longer sustain life on his own. He was connected to full life support five hours ago. The neuro-toxin continues to infiltrate his body, causing nerve damage and muscle atrophy. We predict his brain will be irretrievably damaged in approximately eight hours, death will occur roughly two hours after that.” Beverly paled and took Tobyn’s hand in hers. He could feel her trembling. “And Lynnah?” “The same prognosis doctor. She was connected to life support before Captain Picard, but she contracted the infection after he did, so she has a little more time than he.” Easing Beverly into a chair, Tobyn crouched before her. Taking her hands in his he looked at her searchingly. “Beverly, you can do nothing here. Why don’t we return to our quarters, we could have a meal and you can rest....” Angrily shaking her hands free, Beverly glared at her lover. “How can you ask me to leave sickbay at a time like this? We need to find out what’s doing this and I fully intend to do all I can to help! “Selar, have the away teams found anything?” With uncharacteristic hesitation, Selar answered carefully. “No doctor.” Not fooled for a second, Beverly was immediately suspicious. “What.....what aren’t you saying?” Seeing no logic in hedging any further, Selar replied crisply, “There are no away teams permitted on the surface at this time.” “What!? Why? On whose orders!?”

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“Commander Riker’s.” “I see. Computer where is commander Riker?” “Commander Riker is in engineering.” “Right! We’ll see about this!” Beverly, fuming, stalked out of sickbay on her way to confront Will. Tobyn looked at Selar and muttered, “It’s the hair. Red heads are known for it.” He left, leaving a very bemused Vulcan to ponder the vagaries of humans.

Will had just received the report from Geordi when the smouldering doctor arrived. “Will, what the hell’s going on? What’s this about no away teams? You do realise that Jean-Luc and Lynnah are dying don’t you? How....” “Hold it right there!” Will’s bark momentarily silenced the outraged doctor. “Of course I know about the Captain and the woman, but there’s twenty eight Cardassians running around down there, all armed to the teeth. I take it you know how dangerous they are? No one, repeat, no one is going down there until all those soldiers are on board and under lock and key! Is that clear?” Somewhat taken aback, Beverly withdrew her horns. “Perfectly.” As she turned to leave, she said quietly, “Will, I’m sorry.” Nodding, Will said, also softly, “As soon as we can Beverly, as soon as we can.”

The trip back to sick bay was undertaken at a much slower pace. It was an introspective doctor that walked into sickbay. Seeking Selar, she found her at the Captain’s bed. “Any news?” “Nothing doctor.” “Selar, there must be something that protected me; the only difference between the three of us is my pregnancy. Could it be that?” “Unknown doctor.” Growing somewhat exasperated by Selar’s unruffled demeanour, Beverly almost shouted, “Well let’s explore that, shall we?” “Very well, doctor.” The two women retired to a cubicle, leaving Tobyn standing in the middle of sickbay, obviously forgotten. With a sour face, he turned abruptly and left, drawing a concerned look from Alyssa Ogowa. Taking samples of blood, amniotic fluid and tissue from Beverly, Selar began to run a series of tests, becoming more engrossed as the results came in. “Doctor Crusher, I need to reopen one of your wounds. I have an anomalous reading here I would like to clarify.” “Go ahead.” Selar injected an anaesthetic and lightly ran a laser scalpel over an area of Beverly’s head. Taking a sample, the wound was closed.

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Under the powerful computer scan, an enigma emerged. “Doctor Crusher, look at this.” Beverly looked at the screen and frowned in confusion. “But that doesn’t make sense!” “You were infected doctor, as heavily as the others, yet your body killed it.” “But.....” Suddenly, nurse Ogowa appeared at the door. Doctors, come quickly please, there’s something you should see. The doctors followed Alyssa to Lynnah’s room, to join a cluster of medical personnel already there. “What have you got?” Gesturing to the screen, Beverly thought she was witnessing a miracle. “It’s dying! The infection is dying. Somebody, go and check Captain Picard and report back immediately!” As the relieved staff watched the destruction of their nemesis, a nurse came back with sobering news. “No change with Captain Picard.” “What? Are you sure? He’s had the infection longer than Lynnah. If she’s throwing it off, so should he.....Unless....oh God no....Alyssa run a scan for pregnancy.” In a few minutes the awful truth was revealed. “It’s positive doctor, she’s pregnant....a Human/Cardassian genetic mix, gender unknown at this time.” Beverly sat down, holding her head in her hands. “Oh no....not this too. It’s not fair.” Slowly her training took over. “Selar it seems pretty obvious that pregnancy protects against the infection. Take some more amniotic fluid from me and inject it into the Captain. Maybe our luck will change.” The procedure took only moments, the staff waited impatiently in the Captain’s room. Half an hour passed, then an hour with no change, the Captain continued on his slide towards oblivion.

Within two hours of receiving his orders, Geordi had modified cargo bay two and signalled their readiness to Will. “Right. Beam them up as you find them and deactivate any weapons while they’re held in the pattern buffer.” Turning to Worf and his security teams, Will gave his orders. “Keep your weapons on them at all times. Disarm them, strip them if you’ve any doubts and get them straight into the containment area. Stun any who resist. I *do not* want to hear of any feral Cardassians running around on the ship....Understood?” With a lusty chorus of “Aye Sir,” the teams stood at the ready in the cargo bay transporter area. Will stayed to see the first two angry Cardassians beamed aboard and, satisfied, left for sickbay.

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Striding into the medical facility, he knew instantly something was very wrong. Finding Beverly in the Captain’s room with several others, he gently took her arm and led her outside. “How’s it going?” “No good Will. We had a back handed victory of sorts....” “You’ll have to explain that one Beverly.” Sighing heavily, Beverly took Will to her office. “About and hour ago, we found that Lynnah’s body was killing the infection. At about the same time we found that I had been exposed to it, but that my body killed it too. At the time, we thought there was no common denominator, until we scanned Lynnah for pregnancy.” Will looked up, realisation dawning on his kind face. “Oh no, you’re not going to tell me she’s....” “Uh huh. A Human/Cardassian embryo, the product of a brutal pack rape.” “Does she know?” Beverly rubbed her face tiredly. “No, she’s been unconscious for some time now. Will, how do we tell her that the child she carries saved her life? A child that is the result of the very thing that she can’t cope with? She’s given up Will, she wants to die and we can’t stop her.” “But she can abort the child....” “Yes, or it may abort spontaneously, the genetic mix doesn’t have a high survival rate. The thing is, she may die anyway. It’s so damn frustrating!” Will rubbed his eyes, also feeling fatigued. “So, can any of this help the Captain?” “Nope. We tried a direct infusion of amniotic fluid and that failed, we’re going to try a hormonal approach next, but truthfully? I don’t hold out much hope.” “Well, we’re bringing up the Cardassians now, it shouldn’t be too much longer....I’ll let you know the minute it’s safe for away teams.” “Thanks Will.” Beverly watched the Broad back of her friend disappear out the door and suddenly wondered where Tobyn was. The thought was gone almost as fast as it had arrived. Beverly had an idea and left the office, her mind working at a frantic pace.

Will returned to cargo bay two to see how his “guests” were doing. He walked into pandemonium. There were eighteen very angry, very naked Cardassians contained within the force field, all protesting vociferously about their treatment. Will had to shout to be heard. “Why are they naked Worf?” “They were....less than truthful about their weapons Sir! We found these among their clothes.” Worf gestured to a growing pile of wicked looking knives and other small personal weapons. Nodding his approval, he yelled to his security officer, “Get them some overalls, that may shut them up!” Scowling with disappointment, Worf replied, “As you wish Sir.” It only took another fifteen minutes to secure the remaining ten Cardassians and Will contacted sickbay immediately, with relief. “You can send your away teams now, the planet is secure.”

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“Acknowledged.” Will turned to Worf with fresh orders. “When this....situation....is stable, I want you to put together a team of scientists and Mr.Data and get down there and find out what they were up to....quickly Worf, we’re running out of time.” “Aye Sir!” Will took one more look around, ignoring the complaints from his reluctant passengers, and left for the bridge.

In sickbay, Beverly was in deep discussion with her fellow doctors. “What we have to do is find a substance that will mimic the bodily changes that occur in pregnancy.” Selar frowned. “But we tried hormones, it didn’t work. The male body simply doesn’t react the same way.” “Then we’ll look for something else, maybe a combination of things...we must keep trying, we’re running out of time....the Captain is running out of time.” Down on the planet, Worf had managed to circumvent the external security doors, only to be confronted with a chilling symbol. He immediately contacted the ship. “Commander, we have encountered biological hazard signs. Request full containment suits and a complete stasis field for the surrounding area.” “Understood Lieutenant.” In a shimmer of distorted light, the containment suits took shape on the ground before them, followed soon after by the stasis field, closing them off from the rest of the planet. Quickly the team dressed and checked each other’s suits, then faced the doors. Having already broached the outer safe guards, the inner doors posed no problems and soon they were inside. “Worf to Enterprise.” “Yes Worf.” “It’s a biological manufacturing system commander. They were cooking up something nasty, no doubt. The scientists are analysing the substances now.” “Very well, keep me informed.” The scientists, with Data’s help were putting the liquids they found through a series of tests, each test bringing more disgust from the team. Suddenly one of the team stepped back in alarm. “I’ve found it! It’s an infective agent, highly virulent and very hardy, although it’s not stable. My guess is that it can’t survive for long outside. We need to get this back for further study.” “Would they have an antidote? Would it be here?” “Possibly Mr.Worf. We need to request a large containment field in one of the cargo bays, fully segregated from the rest of the ship, and Commander Riker needs to find the chemists among the prisoners.” Worf growled into his mask, making some of the team shift nervously. “Of course Mr.Data. I will contact the ship.” While Worf was talking to the Enterprise, Data looked more carefully at the myriad of vials that surrounded them.

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*Some where in all this is the substance we want, we need to save the Captain*.

In sickbay they were growing frantic. Everything they failed. They used natural substances, they synthesised an ever increasing number of concoctions to no avail. The neuro-toxin had invaded Jean-Luc’s brain and was building in strength to make its assault on him and they couldn’t stop it. They were powerless. In hours he would be as good as dead. Beverly was standing, holding Jean-Luc’s hand when Alyssa came in the news that Lynnah had spontaneously aborted the embryo. “Well, maybe it’s for the best. Is the infection still gone?” “Yes doctor.” “Thank God for that anyway.”

tried final two with

In cargo bay five the activity was also frantic. Vial after vial was tested against the insidious germs, with no success. Will was pacing outside the containment field when he received a call to tell him that the Melbourne had joined them in orbit and were offering help. “Have you briefed them Mr.Carstairs?” “Aye Sir. Captain Jamie Morgan sends his compliments and would like to offer his chief microbiologist to assist.” “Does this scientist have a name?” “Aye Sir. Doctor Jessica Beales.” “Hold on a moment will you.....Sickbay, Beverly.....” “Yes Will.” “Do you know of a doctor Jessica Beales?” “Indeed I do! She’s a brilliant microbiologist, why?” “I’ll get back to you.....Mr.Carstairs, thank Captain Morgan for me and have the doctor beamed directly to my location.” “Aye Sir.” Within seconds, a small attractive woman appeared in the cargo bay. Forestalling any introductions, Will motioned a crew member to help the doctor into the containment suit. She was inside the stasis field five minutes after she arrived. “Beverly, it’s Will.” “Yes Will.” “Doctor Beales is with the team looking for an antidote.” “Thank God....any luck with the Cardassians?” “None.” “Understood.” Will contacted the Melbourne then and organised the transfer of the prisoners. He stayed in the cargo bay, chaffing at the frustration of not being able to do anything but watch, and wait.

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One and a half hours had passed and Beverly was wiping the tears away as she worked, still trying desperately to find the key that would unlock this dreadful infection and set Jean-Luc free. She barely heard the peculiar whine of the transporter, but dismissed it as she focussed completely on her work. It wasn’t until Selar called her, the urgency in the Vulcan’s voice cutting directly through Beverly’s brain. She ran to Jean-Luc’s room to see doctor Beales introducing a sample of liquid into the mucous membrane of his mouth. “Is that it? The antidote?” “I think so....it’s too late to try anything else....” They watched intently, dividing their attention between the screens, the monitors and Jean-Luc himself. For agonising minutes, nothing happened when suddenly an alarm triggered. “His temperature is rising!” Slowly, Jean-Luc’s body began to stiffen. Limb by limb, he contorted in a terrible rictus, his jaw opening and his tongue protruding. Beverly was terrified. Grabbing Jessica she shouted, “Can we control this? It’s killing him!” “No! He’s killing *it*! Look at the screen!” Sure enough the areas of infiltration slowly began to shrink. Infinitesimal at first, the antidote took hold and spread quickly throughout his body. Beverly switched her attention back to her friend. The rictus still held him and he sweated profusely, the liquid running off him freely. His nose suddenly haemorrhaged in a spurt of dark blood, his hands also bloody as his nails dug deeply into his palms. Without warning, a violent tremor started and built until a restraining field was placed on him so he wouldn’t fall. As suddenly as it had begun, the tremor ceased and Jean-Luc’s body began to relax, the release of muscle and ligaments audible as they loosened. Soon he was lying still, breathing shallowly, the sweat still running off his body. Jessica said quietly, “Look at the screen.” The infection had retreated, concentrating in the areas where it had first entered his body. The gash in his leg, the lacerations on his face and neck and, later, in the terrible wound created by his broken arm, courtesy of the brutish Cardassian. As the neuro-toxin was destroyed, the surrounding muscle and tissue immediately started to regenerate, pleasing Beverly immensely. It seemed he had cheated death...again. Beverly took a step backwards and kept going. She registered something was wrong, but it made no sense. Why was the floor coming up to meet her? She never felt Will’s strong arms catch her and lift her onto a biobed. He stayed until Selar said she was fine...just exhausted...then went and joined the others in the Captain’s room. “How is he?” “Well, he’s going to be very sore when he wakes up and he’ll probably have the headache from hell, but he will wake up.....he’ll recover, in time.” “You did it doctor....thank you, thank you so much...” “Actually...*we* did it. Your Mr.Data and the rest of the team were all in on this. They’re a credit to their ship, commander.” “These infections all occurred outside the facility? How was that possible?” “We don’t know for certain, but my guess is they were just plain lazy. They must have tailored the infective agent to be safe for Cardassians. With the soldiers coming and going....it must have been spread outside on their clothing. We know that it has a very short survival span in

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the outside environment...they must have assumed there was no need to be more diligent about safe containment. I’m not convinced they had finished either. What good is a biological weapon if its withholding period is so small?” Will smiled his most rakish grin and beamed at the pretty doctor. “Well, they won’t be making too much more, will they? Would you like to stay and look around? The Enterprise is a little bigger than the Melbourne; we have a bar, for starters....” Laughing, Jessica clasped her hands behind her back. “Now why do I get the distinct impression you’ve used that line before? Don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered, but I must get back to my ship. We have to get this whole bag of worms back to Starfleet command and I’ve only been on board two weeks so....” “Then I won’t keep you. Thank you again, most sincerely and please give my thanks to Captain Morgan.” She was gone in a shimmer of light and Will sighed. Taking another look at his Captain, Will called Worf. “How we doing Worf? Our guests gone?” “Aye, commander.” “And the stasis field?” “The field and its contents are now aboard the Melbourne Sir.” “Excellent Mr.Worf! Meet me on the bridge.” As Will strode happily onto the bridge, he said to Worf, “Mr.Worf, how would you like to warm up a photon torpedo or two and wipe that disgusting installation off the face of that nice planet down there?” “With pleasure Sir!” “Then fire when ready.” “Aye Sir.”

In sickbay Tobyn sat beside Beverly trying to quell his jealousy. He knew it was irrational and misplaced, yet it gnawed at him nonetheless. He kept looking at the Captain’s room and thinking dark thoughts as his mate slept peacefully unaware. Lynnah slept too. Her body, now free of the infection and the pregnancy, set about repairing itself. If she knew this was happening, she would’ve stopped it immediately, but she didn’t so it continued. With the help of the machines she was connected to, she began to regain her strength, her body rectifying the trauma that had been inflicted upon it. The body was healing, her mind, however was not. It was desperately wounded, how deeply nobody, not even Lynnah knew.

It was two days before Jean-Luc finally awoke. The nurse saw it happen. One minute he was sleeping, the next, his eyes opened. He lay quietly, his eyes moving, before whispering weakly, “Is there anybody there?” Answering softly, the nurse responded, “Yes Sir. I’m Nurse Anders. I’ll get a doctor.” The nurse stepped out briefly and returned with Beverly. She went straight to him and took his hand. “Hello Jean-Luc. Welcome back.”

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Still whispering, he replied, “It’s good to be back. Thank you Beverly.” “Oh no, not me, not this time. I’ll explain it all later. How do you feel...and don’t say “fine”. Anyone can see you look like a dog’s dinner.” “How quaint. Truth? I feel terrible. I ache all over, my head is pounding and the base of my tongue is hurting. I feel nauseous and Beverly....I can’t see too well, I can’t seem to focus.” “Well, we’ll take this one symptom at a time. I’ll have Fleck come in and give you a full body massage using an analgesic cream. The headache I can deal with right now, (Jean-Luc heard the hiss of a hypospray), your tongue will settle down on its own, and there was something in that hypo for nausea. So! Let’s have a look at those beautiful peepers of yours.” Beverly retrieved an ophthalmoscope and looked deeply into each eye, humming as she worked. “Ok, it’s nothing major. The infection you had damaged quite a few areas of your body. So far you’ve made all the regeneration yourself, but I think we can give your eyes a little help. In a little while, I’m going to anaesthetise your eyes and introduce an organic catalyst that will stimulate the kind of cell growth you need. This catalyst doesn’t like light, so you’ll have to have your eyes covered for a couple of days. Will that be alright?” Jean-Luc sighed. “Whatever you think Beverly. I’m too tired to be a pest....maybe later.” “Well, that’s a first! Are you sure there’s nothing else?” “Beverly, how’s Lynnah?” Beverly pulled up a chair and accepted a tray of instruments from her nurse, nodding her thanks. While she worked, she spoke softly to him. “Oh, Jean-Luc, we can’t seem to be able to pull her out of her nose dive. Physically, she’s not too bad. Most of her injuries have healed, but she’s given up. She won’t fight, won’t wake up. Jean-Luc, can you blink for me? That’s it, thanks. She was impregnated during the rape. She lost the child, but the pregnancy saved her life, just as mine saved me. The infection couldn’t take hold when a pregnancy was in progress. She did become infected, but when the embryo formed, the infection died. I’m putting the bandage on now, is it comfortable?...No pain?” Jean-Luc gently shook his head. “Good. I’m hoping you might be able to get through where we’ve failed. She told me, when we were on the planet, that she was attracted to you. It might give you an advantage. There, how’s that? Oh, Fleck....good. Work your magic on the Captain here, Jean-Luc, I’ll be back later.” And with that, she was gone, leaving Jean-Luc with an armful of questions. Before he could utter a word, Fleck started whistling as he removed Jean-Luc’s pyjamas. “You’re in for a treat Captain; I have women queuing up for my massages!” Inwardly, Jean-Luc groaned.

Beverly ran her hand over Lynnah’s shoulder length black hair, wishing, not for the first time, that she could break through the wall that she had constructed so completely around herself. “Come on Lynnah, come back. You saved us....let us save you!”

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Alyssa came and stood beside her boss. “Any change?” “No, nothing. If the Captain can’t get through, I doubt she’ll survive the week. How did Fleck go with the massage?” Alyssa giggled with a conspirator’s glee. “It went well....very well, the Captain is now sleeping soundly....but.....he did say that the Captain told him not to give up his day job, but that’s not the best bit.....our Mister Fleck has no idea what the Captain’s talking about....isn’t that a hoot?” “Alyssa, I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re on about, but if you say it’s funny....who am I to judge?” The nurse left, still giggling, Beverly just shook her head in wonder. *I must be getting old.*

Jean-Luc awoke feeling much better than the first time. Not exactly refreshed, but definitely better. He smelled his first officer’s aftershave and spoke before Will had a chance. “Number One! Good to see you....almost.” “Hello to you too Sir. How are you?” Taking a big breath, Jean-Luc afforded his second in command a rare full grin. “Will, I feel just about ready to take the bridge....providing, of course, I had a Seeing Eye officer at my disposal.” Will chuckled warmly. “I’m sure we’d be inundated with applicants Sir.” “Hmmm. So, how is my ship?” “Just about one hundred percent. There’s still a bit of work to do on the port nacelle couplings, but Geordi has everything in hand...as usual. We had quite a spat with the Cardassian cruiser. Ultimately, they simply bit off way too much to chew. To coin an old Earth saying.....we kicked their arses....Sir.” “That you did, number one, but they weren’t exactly defenceless, were they?” Smiling, Will understood his senior commander. “No Sir, a timely lesson. Never assume might will always win.” “Very good Will. You handled it well though....how did it feel?” “When she went up, I felt...exulted....indestructible...the realisation of the loss of life came after, a rather sobering effect.” “Yes, it is, isn’t it? Did you find the distress buoy?” “As a matter of fact we did, but the Cardassians had taken a pot shot at it and, well, it wasn’t too....forthcoming with its information. We surmised there’d been trouble and sniffed around until we found traces of phaser fire, then we picked up the plasma trail, then.....I’m sorry we took so long Sir. The phaser residue was a long way from the distress beacon.” “Not to be helped Will. You got there, that’s all that counts.” “Captain, that was a dab bit of piloting to put down the runabout. How fast were you going? I take it you had no power.” “Too fast number one. The instruments were all shot to hell, probably a good thing. I don’t think I want to know how fast we were going. We hit the top of a cliff then skipped a couple of times across the water, then....bang.” “Bang indeed Sir. We retrieved the runabout, you can have a look...er, that is...when you...”

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“It’s alright Will, the bandages come off in a few days and Beverly is confident my sight will be restored.” “Good, Captain, that’s good to hear. Well Sir, I must be getting back to the bridge. Can I get you anything before I leave?” “If you will fill my water glass....I spilled it last time and incurred Beverly’s wrath. Harridan. In this sickbay she is a despot!....” In a silky voice, Beverly, who had silently joined Will, quietly said, “I heard that Jean-Luc.....we’ll talk later.” “My dear doctor, I smelled you before you arrived. Roses, if I’m not mistaken!” “Humph....you’re not off the hook just yet Jean-Luc....what’s going on with Mr.Fleck?” Will couldn’t see the Captain’s eyes, but he clearly saw the colour rising on his face. Taking the momentary silence as his chance, Will bid his friends good bye and strode from the sickbay with a rather huge grin on his handsome face. Things were back to normal. On his fifth day in sickbay, the bandages were removed. The room had been darkened and his first reaction was that the treatment had failed and panic momentarily surged through him. Beverly saw what was happening and gripped his hands. “Give it a few minutes Jean-Luc, it’s alright, you’ll see.” And see he did. Gradually his vision cleared and the first thing he saw clearly was Beverly. In a soft whisper that only she heard, he said, “You never looked more beautiful.” “Thank you, dear friend.” Standing up she instructed the nurse to gradually increase the light. “Jean-Luc I want you to tell me if the light becomes uncomfortable.” The light slowly increased in intensity until the Captain spoke. “There Beverly. That’s a bit too much.” “Alright we’ll back it off a little....how’s that?” Sighing, Jean-Luc nodded. “That’s fine.” “Good. Now don’t be concerned. Remember I told you the catalyst was photo sensitive? Well, it’s not quite finished yet. You can go without the bandages, but in subdued light for a little while longer.” Beverly thanked the nurse and dismissed him. Turning back to the Captain, she took his hand. “Jean-Luc....I’m desperately worried about Lynnah. Will you come and talk to her?....Please?” “Of course I will, but what shall I say? What could I possibly say to help that poor woman?” “Jean-Luc while you slept one night, at the cabin, I told her briefly about....your assimilation... by the Borg. In a way you share her violation. It wasn’t sexual, but they raped you, your body and your mind. If you could just...I don’t know...let her know you understand....let her know that it is possible to live with the memories, that there are people willing and ready to help....Jean-Luc, if we don’t get through to her, she will die.” At the mention of the Borg, Jean-Luc’s eyes clouded and the memory of recent nightmares came tumbling unbidden into his mind. Beverly saw the change and wrapped her arms around him. “It’s alright to be afraid Jean-Luc, I understand.” Taking a moment to gather himself, he took a large breath and expelled it forcefully. With a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, he said softly, “Lead on.”

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Lowering the lights as they went, Beverly and Jean-Luc crossed sickbay and entered Lynnah’s room. In the silence, the soft whispering of the life support equipment was loud, Lynnah’s breathing artificially rhythmic. Beverly drew up a chair for the Captain and said, “I’ll be in my office. Call me if you need to.” Jean-Luc nodded and sat down, his mind already constructing his words. Taking her hand, he began by speaking her name. “Lynnah, it’s Jean-Luc. Lynnah, Beverly tells me you’re very tired and that you want to give up. She told me that you know about my assimilation by the Borg and that we share the experience of violation and it’s true...both of us were violated, we had no control over what happened to us...that others did what they liked and we were powerless to stop it, and when they were finished, we were cast adrift....floundering in a sea of misery and shock and fear....I know what that feels like Lynnah. I know what it feels like to court death as an alternative to the pain and anguish of life...you’re not alone Lynnah...I understand. If you choose to live, it will be hard. It’s a long and difficult road you must travel Lynnah, but there are people here who will help you, as they helped me. They wouldn’t give up....no matter how bad it became and ultimately they convinced me to keep trying. I have my moments...you saw that at your cabin...and that will happen for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t rule me Lynnah, it doesn’t define who I am....it no longer overwhelms me. If I have to have ongoing therapy for the remainder of my life, it’s still better than the alternative. Giving up is the easy option, I know, I contemplated it many times, but isn’t something earned of greater value? Lynnah, no one but you can make this choice.....live, Lynnah, if only to prove to the universe that you matter, that you’re bowed, but not broken.” Giving her hand a final squeeze, he left her room and walked slowly to Beverly’s office. He sat heavily in the chair and ran his hands over his pate. “Hard work?” “Yes, it was actually. Those recent nightmares are still fresh.....I didn’t really want to have to remember them. “I know Jean-Luc, but if it saves her....” “Hmmm. Beverly, I’m tired. I think I’ll have a nap.” “Ok. I’ll walk you to your room.” “No, it’s alright; I’d rather be alone, if you don’t mind.” Beverly frowned in thought as she watched Jean-Luc walk away. She noted the sag in his shoulders and his lowered head. “Damn!”

Three hours later he was woken by Beverly. “Sorry to wake you Jean-Luc, but I wanted to show you something.” Rising quickly, Jean-Luc followed Beverly into Lynnah’s room. Jean-Luc could feel the change. This time the room felt...occupied. “She’s breathing on her own and brain activity has increased enormously. If she continues at this rate, she may well wake in a few short hours.” Beverly was beaming and Jean-Luc surreptitiously drew her joy into himself, repairing his own damage with her elation. “You did it Jean-Luc! Whatever you said worked...feel better now?” “Yes Beverly, it is gratifying. She even has some colour.”

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“Indeed she has, and it’s all your doing.” Taking his hand in hers she whispered, “Thank you Jean-Luc. I know how hard it was.” The Captain left them and made his way back to his room. *She was right, I do feel better.*

Later that afternoon, Jean-Luc was discharged to his own quarters, with instructions to rest. Beverly had promised to visit regularly and he found himself looking forward to her appearance. It was quite late in the evening when she did come, in fact, Jean-Luc had dozed off on the sofa, and as soon as she entered his cabin, he knew something was wrong. “Beverly? What is it...what’s wrong? Is it Lynnah?” Waving him back to his seat, Beverly muttered, “No, no Jean-Luc, Lynnah’s fine, in fact she woke about an hour ago...asked for you incidentally, I told her you’d come in to see her tomorrow, you needn’t worry, she’s improving all the time, physically at least.” “Then what’s wrong?” Beverly sighed and sat down, only to spring to her feet and begin an agitated pacing. “Dammit Jean-Luc, why are men so insecure? He’s jealous! Jealous of the time I spent in sickbay trying to find the antidote to that bloody neuro-toxin that was so gleefully killing you. He complained! Can you believe that? And.....get this....he’s jealous of my relationship with you! He accused me of wanting an “open” marriage with him so I can continue my....*affair* with you! God, the cheek! Well, he’s in for a little surprise. I *will not* be dictated to. I won’t have him telling me who I can or cannot have as a friend! My God Jean-Luc, you’re my best friend, you’re....I....” Standing very still, Beverly raised her hands to her face and silently started to sob, the force of her anguish shaking her entire body. Momentarily stunned, Jean-Luc lowered his head and squeezed his eyes shut, quelling the pain in his heart. Gaining control, he took a large breath and went to his friend, taking her in his arms. Beverly thankfully bent her head to his shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. Jean-Luc breathed in her scent, so familiar to him and tried desperately to stop the tears that welled in his eyes. Struggling for control, he stroked her hair and whispered, “Shh, Beverly, hush now....you’re tired and stressed. You need to rest, then you and Tobyn can sit down and work this out. It’s just a misunderstanding, I’m sure we can set it right. All you need to do.....” Jean-Luc frowned as the door announcer interrupted him. “Come!” The door opened to reveal an embarrassed Tobyn, his head lowered. “Sorry to disturb you Cap....” That’s as far as he got. He had raised his head and now stood, mouth agape, his eyes hardening. He looked down at the bouquet of white roses he carried, then returned his gaze to the couple standing before him. He coldly looked Beverly up and down, then curtly addressed the Captain. “I see I’ve come at an inopportune time. My apologies Sir.” He stepped back, allowing the door to close. The last thing they saw was his face beginning to crumble with anger and hurt.

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The Captain and the doctor remained motionless, both trying to take in what had just happened. Jean-Luc spoke first. “I’ll speak to him Beverly, I’m sure I can straighten this out.” Beverly returned her head to his now damp shoulder. Shaking her head mutely, he felt her sigh. He had to strain to hear her words. “Poor Jean-Luc....no matter what I do, I always manage to hurt you. I’m so sorry......I simply can’t believe the irony....it’s bizarre...in a sick sort of way. I’ve read some bad holonovels that would rival this mess. What god have we offended?” Jean-Luc led Beverly to the sofa, sat her down and put her feet up on the low table in front of her. Moving to the replicator, he quietly ordered himself an Earl Grey and a lemon tea for the distraught doctor. She hadn’t looked up, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on her restless hands in her lap. Having seated himself, and taking a sip of his tea, he tried again to calm his shattered friend. “Beverly, I’m sure when he calms down, we can explain what happened. We’ve done nothing wrong, we’ve nothing to answer for, it was just a very unfortunate piece of timing.” Beverly remained silent, Jean-Luc saddened to see tears trailing down her cheeks. “Beverly, is he aware of our....history....how many years we’ve been friends? The circumstances of Jack’s death? Maybe he doesn’t fully understand...” “Sickbay to doctor Crusher.” Wiping her eyes and shaking her head to Jean-Luc’s silent offer to answer, Beverly cleared her throat. “Crusher here.” “Doctor, Lynnah Moran is asking for the Captain, she’s becoming agitated....do you want me to sedate her?” “No, I’m on my way.” As Beverly rose, Jean-Luc stood with her and gently held her elbow. “Beverly, you need to rest. I’ll go and see Lynnah....you return to your quarters, I’m sure doctor Selar can handle the medical side of things. Please...go and rest.” Nodding resignedly, Beverly slowly walked to the door, turning as it opened. “I love you, dear friend....and I’m so sorry I’ve hurt you....again.” She stepped into the corridor and the door hissed shut, severing the eye contact between them. Jean-Luc lowered his head and stood motionless for some moments, finally going to his bathroom to wash his face and change his shirt. He looked at himself in the mirror, and with an effort, straightened his spine and squared his shoulders, looking more like the indomitable Captain....on the outside at least. In the distance between his quarters and sickbay, he pushed his distress deeply inside and assumed the persona of the unruffled senior commander and strode briskly through the doors of sickbay. After reporting to doctor Selar, he paused outside Lynnah’s room and steadied himself, then quietly entered. Lynnah was lying still, so still that Jean-Luc first thought she was asleep. He moved to the chair beside the bed and when he sat, he realised she had turned her head and was watching him. “Hello Lynnah, how are you?” She had lost some weight from her already spare frame, making her face almost gaunt. Her haunted eyes stared out from their sockets and as he

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watched, they filled with tears that rolled untouched down her face. He was unnerved, her expression remained unaltered, the look of desperation, the silent plea for help crying out in a silent shout. Very slowly, Jean-Luc gently took her hand and holding it, placed it on his face, closing his eyes as his own tears overflowed his eyes. When he was able, he whispered, “I understand Lynnah.....I will help you, I will stay with you. When you’re ready, I will introduce you to others who will help. You’ll not be alone....nothing will hurt you....no one will touch you unless you allow it. This is a safe place Lynnah....think of it as a sanctuary. The obscenity is over....now the healing begins.” He stayed with her for the rest of the night. She didn’t dream, he didn’t expect her to, that would come later....when full realisation hit....and the anger. For the next week, Jean-Luc walked a peculiar tightrope. Still on medical leave, he had time to spare, but found himself trying to help Beverly...who had withdrawn into herself, concentrating exclusively on her work, filling out reports for Starfleet command, trying to track down the elusive Tobyn Karlhonn and spending his nights with Lynnah, who didn’t seem to be able to sleep unless he was there. Finally, Beverly confronted him, and despite his protests, was ordered to his quarters under threat of extending his off duty status. “But Beverly, what about Lynnah?” “Jean-Luc, she’s recovered enough to be released to her own quarters. With her permission, she’s started to see Deanna....it’s time she started to heal. Shielding her won’t help at this point.” “And Tobyn?” “His problem not mine!” Jean-Luc tried to get through the shell she had built. “But surely you’ve talked.....” Becoming irritated, Beverly brusquely pushed his words aside. “Look Jean-Luc, I haven’t seen him in days. I’ve got far too much on my plate to spend time attempting to placate a bruised ego. Now, unless you need a doctor, I’m going back to sickbay.” The door closed and Jean-Luc shook his head in exasperation. He turned and contemplated his dark cabin. Sighing, he went to the bookcase and selected an ancient volume, seating himself on his sofa and eventually losing himself in the comforting words.

The next day, after breakfast, Jean-Luc decided to do something rather dangerous. He had come to the conclusion that if he didn’t put the unfortunate Tobyn straight about the misunderstanding, too much time would pass to allow for any reconciliation. The only problem was Beverly. If she found out, she may well kill him. It was with some well founded trepidation that he asked the computer the whereabouts of the officer in question. He was pleased to be informed that Tobyn was on his own in the main computer core, engaged in routine maintenance. The door opened and Tobyn said without turning, “That was quick Arwon, what did you do, bribe somebody?” Jean-Luc swallowed and stepped into the room. “It’s not Arwon.” At the unmistakable sound of the Captain’s voice, Tobyn spun around, hitting his head and dropping the spacer wrench. Cursing roundly under

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his breath, he straightened and, just concealing a glare, nodded to his superior. “Sir. How may I help you?” “Please Tobyn, at ease. We really do have to talk.” “If it’s all the same to you Sir, I’d rather get back to work. I don’t think there’s anything to talk about. My eyes work just fine...Sir.” Clenching his jaw and only just holding his rebuke at bay, Jean-Luc adopted a tone of voice that brooked no nonsense. “Lieutenant, you will listen to what I have to say, and you will keep a civil tongue in your head while I do it! Then, you will have your chance for rebuttal. Agreed?” Facing his Captain with undisguised anger, Tobyn said insolently, “Yes Sir!” “Very good. First of all, are you aware of the long history between Beverly and myself?” “I know you’ve known each other a long time....Beverly doesn’t speak of you much, you being the Captain and all....” “Sit down Lieutenant. Twenty five years ago, I served with her husband, Jack Crusher. He was my first officer on the Stargazer. He, Beverly and I were best friends....and I was in love her. I did nothing about it of course, Jack loved her first and he was my best friend....then he died under my command and I brought his body home to his grieving widow and young son. I stayed as long as I could....I helped as much as....I went back into space and over the years lost contact with Beverly. When the Enterprise was commissioned and I was given the captaincy, I was shocked to find Beverly’s name down as CMO. Later, I found she had requested the posting...not because of me....but because this was the flagship of the fleet....the best position she could get. And she was perfect for the job. Dedicated...brilliant....beautiful and I fell in love all over again. I said nothing. We served for years, then...due to extraordinary circumstances, we shared each other’s thoughts and she found out. Later, I asked if she would consider taking our friendship to a more...intimate level. She turned me down. We remain friends....best friends. We will seek each other out now, and in the future. We are not lovers and never will be and you can be assured I will not interfere in any way with your relationship with Beverly....but by the same token, I will not stop loving her or stop being her friend and confidant and if you knew Beverly, knew the sort of wonderful woman she is, you would never doubted her in the first place.” Tobyn stood open mouthed and silent. The doors opened and Jean-Luc said sharply, “Not now Arwon, come back later!” The doors closed on the startled crewman and still Tobyn said nothing. “Do you still have the roses? No? Well get down to the arboretum and get some real ones....take my advice, the perfumed red ones are best...and catch her out of the sickbay. *Do not* approach her in her domain; you may not make it out alive. Well, lieutenant...what are you waiting for? Move!” The last word drove into Tobyn’s brain and he responded hastily. He stopped as he passed the Captain, but Jean-Luc waved him away. “No time for that...off you go.” As he watched him go, Jean-Luc smiled ruefully. *It’s up to you now, Beverly.*

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Two days later, Jean-Luc was wakened by an urgent call from Deanna Troi. “Captain, could you please come straight to Lynnah’s quarters....it’s urgent Sir.” Taking a moment to don a robe and check the time, he left his quarters and arrived within minutes at Lynnah’s cabin. He was greeted at the door by the concerned counsellor and Beverly. The women took him aside and briefed him. “Deanna called me Jean-Luc. She sensed Lynnah’s distress and came immediately, but she won’t let us near. She’s terrified....a combination of nightmares and returning memories.” Deanna looked deeply into the Captain’s eyes. “Captain, at this moment you may be the only one she will hear. I know you remember how this feels....and I know it will be difficult for you Sir, but.....” “It’s alright counsellor. Where is she?” Taking Jean-Luc by the elbow, Beverly pointed over to the far corner. With great sadness, Jean-Luc realised Lynnah was curled up in a trembling ball under a table in the shadows. He slowly approached the terrified woman and sat nearby on the floor. In a gentle voice he called her. “Lynnah? Lynnah, can you hear me? It’s Jean-Luc. It’s all right Lynnah. You’re on the Enterprise, you’re safe. Did they come Lynnah? Did they come to you in your dreams?” Very gently at first, then louder, Jean-Luc heard a pitiful keening and as he watched, Lynnah started to slowly rock back and forth. “I know about that Lynnah, how the terror freezes you and takes away your voice. And you’re alone, always alone.” Jean-Luc moved closer, until he was within the shadow of the table. Keeping his voice low and steady he kept up speaking the litany of terror. “I know what it’s like to be so terrified I wet myself and vomited in my bed. I know how helpless you feel how you think nothing will ever take it away. I understand all these things Lynnah, I’ve been there. Come and tell me, come to me Lynnah.” He lifted one arm and held it out from his body in invitation. At first nothing happened, Lynnah kept rocking and keening, lost in her terror, but she had heard, just as she had heard in sickbay when she was so close to giving up. She tried to find a thread, something to anchor herself to so she wouldn’t be irretrievably lost, and she found it....she found it in his voice and in his words...he knew, he understood. With the jerky movements of stiff limbs she crept out of her refuge and snuggled herself onto his lap. As she dimly remembered from her infancy, she placed her head against his chest and listened for his heartbeat, calming as its throbbing rhythm spread through her body. One hand reached up and curled around the collar of his robe, the other spread itself flat on his chest next to her head. Jean-Luc felt the tension leave as she slipped into a state of calm, safe in his arms. Beverly and Deanna silently approached and kneeled at his side. “Are you alright Jean-Luc?” His stricken face told its own story. “I’m fine Beverly, thank you. In a while, I’ll take her to her bed....I’ll stay the night, she will need me.” Nodding, the two women went and remade the bed, returning to help JeanLuc gain his feet, carrying the sleeping Lynnah. He settled her into

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the bed, covering her with the blankets, then lying down beside her; he gently placed his arm protectively over her. “Will you need anything?” “No Beverly, I’ll give you a call in the morning. Goodnight.” The officers bid their Captain goodnight and left the cabin. Once in the corridor, Beverly stopped her friend. “Deanna, is he going to be alright? Can he cope with this? He had Borg nightmares on the planet....it was the pain I think. He said he would tell you about it. Did he?” Deanna frowned and looked back at the door. “No, he didn’t. He should be fine overnight, let’s face it, short of sedating Lynnah indefinitely, he’s really the only one who can help her right now....as you did for him those first terrible weeks....I’ll talk to him tomorrow, ok?” Looking unconvinced back at the door, Beverly nodded and together the two women returned to their quarters.

Several times during the long night, Lynnah began to moan, flinging her arms up to protect herself from her attackers and each time Jean-Luc was there to chase her assailants away with his strength and voice, the sound of which stilled her quickly. As soon as it penetrated her mind, she listened keenly, knowing it represented safety and she gave herself to it, letting it wash over her like a shell. Many hours later she awoke in a daze of images, a tumbling mess of fiends and angels. Trying to clear her mind, she moved to get up, causing the arm that held her to tighten in response. She froze, the terror rushing through her in a surging wave. In a burst of fright and horror, she wriggled free of the arm and fled the bed, tripping over the covers, losing her balance and hitting her head on the door jamb. Stunned, she continued to flee....not hearing his voice calling her.....she hit the wall and spread her arms out wide, seeking escape and finding none, collapsed into a ball on the floor whimpering in terror. Jean-Luc came to her, speaking in his low, soft baritone. She didn’t understand his words, but she knew it was him and she reached out for him. He took her in his arms and held her until the trembling stopped. With glazed eyes, she looked around, trying to find them....they were here, she was sure. “Lynnah, it’s alright, you got a fright, let me look at you.” Jean-Luc had seen the blood and quickly assessed the wound to her head. As he called Beverly, Lynnah looked at her bloodied hand and, confused, looked between her legs. Jean-Luc saw this and gently hugged her to him. “No Lynnah, not that.....you’ve hurt you head, Beverly’s coming, it’s alright.” They sat there on the floor in silence, Jean-Luc gently rocking her, until he heard her whispering. “Where were you? They came....they’re here....be careful...” “No Lynnah, they’re not here....here is safe. It was my arm; I was holding you as you slept. I’m sorry I frightened you.” “It was you?” “Yes.” “You slept beside me, you held me?” “Yes.” Lynnah raised her head and looked at Jean-Luc incredulously.

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“I don’t disgust you?” Jean-Luc closed his eyes and lowered his head. Hugging her to him, he said softly, “No Lynnah, you don’t disgust me or anyone else....don’t ever think that...please.” The door opened and Beverly quietly approached and spoke. “So, what happened here?” “Lynnah hit her head doctor...she got a fright.” “Well we’ll soon have that fixed.” Beverly worked quickly and had the wound cleaned and sealed in no time. Gesturing to Jean-Luc, the two of them helped Lynnah back to her bed. “Lynnah, I need to talk to Jean-Luc. He won’t be far away...just in the next room, ok? He won’t be long.” Lynnah nodded and lay down, gathering the blankets around her. “What happened?” “When she woke, she didn’t know I was there and she panicked when she felt my arm. She hit her head on the door jamb.” Beverly cast a glance at Lynnah and turned her attention back to the Captain. “Jean-Luc I’m not sure you should be doing this. You had a hard time on the planet and you very nearly died in sickbay. I’m worried you’re taking on too much. If you continue with this, it may stir up some very unpleasant memories for you. Are you sure you can cope with that?” Jean-Luc left her side and stood by the windows. Beverly joined him and together they stood in silence. Jean-Luc turned to his friend and she was saddened to see tears in his eyes. “Do you know what she said when I told her I had held her as she slept? She asked me if she disgusted me! God Beverly.....” Beverly stood in front of her friend and wrapped her arms around him. “Ok, you do what you have to do and Deanna and I will help all you need, but you promise me something.” He looked at her, quirking one eyebrow. “You talk to me or Deanna....don’t bottle it up.” Jean-Luc nodded and gave a rueful smile. “I think she better move in with me, at least for a while.” “That’s probably a good idea...do you want me to help?” Shaking his head, Jean-Luc let Beverly know he could manage. As she was about to leave, Beverly stopped just inside the door and turned to the Captain. “By the way Jean-Luc, I received a beautiful bunch of *real* scented red roses from Tobyn....thank you.” “So you’re......” “Uh huh.” “Good.” As Beverly left, Jean-Luc went in to the bedroom to find Lynnah staring at the wall. Sitting on the bed, he reached out and stoked Lynnah’s hair. “How would you like to live in my quarters with me for a while....until you feel better?” She turned over and nodded mutely, Jean-Luc could see the gratitude and relief in her eyes. “Come on then.” Knowing the simple tasks of showering and dressing were beyond her at that stage, they left as they were, both in their night attire. Fortunately, the distance to the Captain’s cabin was short, Lynnah held his hand tightly for the entire journey.

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Once safely inside, Jean-Luc showed her around, and seeing that she was tiring, settled her on the sofa and replicated a light meal of sandwiches and tea for them both. Lynnah ate very little, although she liked the tea and afterwards, he offered to read to her. Her face relaxed and she nodded, a small smile hovering on her lips. Choosing something light, Jean-Luc began to read, his beautiful lulling voice quickly sending her to sleep. He continued to read for a long time and while he read, Lynnah slept dreamlessly, her head on his lap.

At the beginning of the ship’s day, Jean-Luc left his bed, careful not to disturb Lynnah. He had carried the sleeping woman to his bed that night and had himself found sleep, all the while holding Lynnah in his arms. He made himself some croissants and had just replicated some tea, when his door chime activated. “Come.” Beverly breezed in and flashed Jean-Luc a stunning smile. “Good morning my Captain! How are you today?” Jean-Luc smiled inwardly. “I’m well, thank you....and so are you, it seems.” Beverly stretched with feline grace, the smile broadening. “Hmmmm. I love mornings, don’t you?” A grin appeared on Jean-Luc’s face as he shook his head. “When I felt as you do, I stayed in bed.” A shocked silence was followed by a reddening of her face. “Jean-Luc! That’s outrageous. I...that is, we...we...you know...” “It’s quite alright Beverly; I think I can work it out.” To forestall any further embarrassing comments, Beverly moved to the table. Taking her seat, Jean-Luc gave her some croissants and a cup of lemon tea. During all this, Beverly regained her composure. She waited until her Captain was seated, then said, Jean-Luc, how did Lynnah sleep?” “It was very late by the time she got to bed, but she slept well considering. There were dreams, although she quietened when she heard my voice.” “That’s because you chase the demons away.” Jean-Luc turned to see Lynnah at the bedroom door. “Good morning Lynnah. Come and have some breakfast with us.” Jean-Luc rose from his seat and escorted Lynnah to the table. Having received her request, he replicated some toast and tea and brought the breakfast to the table. Beverly smiled encouragingly and gently touched Lynnah’s hand. The three spent the next fifteen minutes eating their morning meal, saying little but light comments and in companionable silence sat back to savour their tea. “So, Lynnah, how do you feel?” Looking at Jean-Luc, Lynnah smiled and said softly, “Not too bad. Since Jean-Luc offered to let me stay here, I’ve felt very relieved knowing I won’t be alone at night. Added to that is the fact that he knows what it’s like....to be....” Lynnah lowered her head and sighed, tears making their way down her face. From under the fringe of her hair she asked quietly, “Beverly.....how long will it take? How long will it be before I can function as an ordinary person.....be just me, without the fear, the pain....and the memories?”

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Beverly reached over the table and took one of Lynnah’s hands in her own. “I know this is very hard, Lynnah, but....believe it or not....it will get better. Each day, bit by bit, you’ll become stronger and the memory will lose its potency. Your memories will be there for the rest of your life, but Lynnah....they won’t define you. You’ll be a survivor, not a victim, And survivors recover. Don’t ever forget, you have friends and crew members trained in helping people in your predicament. Ask JeanLuc....he went through a very similar experience.” Lynnah shyly looked up and smiled at the Captain. In an almost inaudible whisper she sighed and said, “I know. He knows how to chase them away...he knows what scares them....I can draw strength from him.” Giving her hand a squeeze, Beverly nodded. “Well, I must scoot if I don’t want to be late...that would never do. Lynnah....did you hear about the Captain of this fine vessel? Apparently, he’s a real tyrant, not a person you’d wish to anger.” Gentle chuckles were heard around the table. As Beverly left, she reminded Jean-Luc of the appointment they both had with Counsellor Troi. With Beverly gone, an awkward silence descended, broken by an apprehensive Lynnah. “What will she do?” Jean-Luc beckoned her to the sofa and the pair sat down. The Captain took her nearest hand in his own large warm hands. “Lynnah, counsellor Troi won’t do anything to hurt you. She will encourage you to talk about your....assault, and how you feel as you recount the memories. The work will be done by you...and make no mistake, you’ll work like hell, but in the long term, you will heal.” Staring deeply into Jean-Luc’s soft hazel eyes, Lynnah drew strength from his quiet courage. Lowering her head, she asked, “Will you be there?” Jean-Luc placed his arm over her shoulders. “I will ask Deanna, she will have the final say.....agreed?” Lynnah nodded and she sighed. Sitting up straighter, she faced JeanLuc, a look of determination adding a hard edge to her beautiful countenance. “Then when do we start?” Chuckling, Jean-Luc answered her. “In just over an hour. In the meantime, would you like to see Stellar Cartography, or Xenobiology, or perhaps the arboretum?” I know there are some stunning exotic plants in flower right now. Would you like to see them?” Smiling, Lynnah spoke softly, “The flowers, Jean-Luc...they sound irresistible.” Rising from his seat, Jean-Luc quickly cleaned up the breakfast dishes, aided by Lynnah, and soon they found themselves travelling through the corridors of the mighty ship. As they walked, Lynnah often stole a glance at her escort, noting what a handsome, elegant man he was. Not only was he very pleasant to be with, there was also a disquieting restlessness....a warmth that grew stronger, the longer she spent with him. She wondered if he saw the effect he had on her, somehow she thought he didn’t, she would be mortified if he did.

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At the appointed time, Lynnah and Jean-Luc entered Deanna’s office and settled into the comfortable chairs. Deanna made them both a hot drink, then made herself at ease. Leaning slightly forward, the counsellor took one of Lynnah’s hands in hers. “So, Lynnah, how are you feeling?” Frowning, an obviously tense Lynnah muttered, “You should know....you’re the empath.” Deanna smiled and shot a glance at the Captain. “Yes, I am....no doubt you’ve been made aware of my skills, but the question still remains. How are you feeling?” After a short pause, Lynnah said, “I’m ok....I’m getting more sleep...and that’s good, I know with JeanLuc by my side, the nightmares aren’t so frightening....that is, they don’t go on for so long, like they have done before.” “But they’re still bad?” Lynnah nodded and sighed. “And you Captain, how have your nightmares been?” Jean-Luc’s head shot up and his startled expression quickly turned to one of irritation. Clearing his throat, he straightened in his chair. “I appreciate you concern counsellor, however I’m not in need of your services at this time.” Deanna shook her head gently. “Captain, you know better than that. I can feel your dreams from my cabin....they’re awful, I honestly don’t know how you deal with them.” Lynnah looked at Jean-Luc with astonishment. “It’s happening to you too? Why didn’t you let me know? You said that my nightmares would fade.....now you’re telling me they can come back?..... It was the pain, wasn’t it? Beverly told me the nightmares came because of what the Borg did to you, that the pain you were in made them return in your mind, but you’re better now...why do you still dream of them?” Jean-Luc sat still, staring intently at his hands, not replying to Lynnah’s question. Deanna broke the silence with a question for Lynnah. “Why do you think it’s happening Lynnah?” Lynnah continued to stare at the Captain, her mind racing, wrestling with Deanna’s query. Suddenly her eyes narrowed and she snorted with anger. “It’s me, isn’t it? Every time you look at me, you’re reminded of your ordeal....every time I call out in my terror, you remember, every time you hold me as I sob, you remember....my God, why didn’t you tell me?” Hurting from her harsh tone, Jean-Luc said quietly, but with unmistaken authority, “It wouldn’t have made any difference Lynnah, this....episode...will taper off soon, I know it will. In the meantime I’d rather we worked on your problems.” Deanna placed a gentle hand on Lynnah’s knee. “The Captain’s right, Lynnah, although he will need some counselling over the coming weeks, it’s you I want to concentrate on just now. Can you tell me what happened, from when you left the cabin, to being caught by the Cardassians?” Rubbing her hands nervously along her thighs, Lynnah moved forward to perch on the edge of her seat. “I got up early, I couldn’t sleep.....I was worried about Jean-Luc, he was very sick and getting worse....I made it to the relay set up and

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waited until the morning shift started. When the change over was complete, I gave them twenty minutes to make their raktajino then, just as I was ready to make a move, a huge hand covered my mouth and I was told to freeze.” “And did you?” “No....maybe, if I hadn’t fought, they wouldn’t have.....” “Lynnah, it wasn’t your fault. They were a particularly brutal group of Cardassians; at that point, nothing you could’ve said or done would’ve made the slightest bit of difference. You must face that.....believe that....Lynnah, it was *not* your fault.” The distressed woman leaned forward, covering her face with her hands. Jean-Luc was about to put his arm around her, when he was stopped by the counsellor. Soundlessly shaking her head, Lynnah was left to cry out the feelings that had overwhelmed her. Some minutes passed and slowly Lynnah regained her composure. “Feeling better? Good. Now tell me how you got back to the cabin. Looking at Jean-Luc for reassurance, Lynnah closed her eyes. “When they were....finished.....after they urinated.....they left, I could hear their laughter fading as they went.....and right then, at that exact moment of time, I wished, with all my being, to die. Just relax and float away....be a bird...a tree, anything except be me. I’m not sure how long I stayed there, curled up on the ground, and when I didn’t die....I was disappointed, then I felt afraid. What if they came back? I got onto my hands and knees and crawled....it took such a long time and towards the end I was dragging myself along with my arms only...everything else hurt too much, then the door, then Beverly and Jean-Luc and....and....here, on the Enterprise.” Deanna, keeping the physical contact with the distressed woman, said softly, “And you still wanted to die, in sickbay. You very nearly did you know. What changed your mind?” “There were an awful lot of things going through my mind, I was so frightened, so confused....and so alone. I had reached a point where I believed it would be better if I just faded away....and I was....until I heard Jean-Luc. Some of what he said was hard, frightening, but what he said made sense and I came to understand the strength needed to continue....as a survivor, not a victim. Jean-Luc, having received tacit approval from Deanna, wrapped his arm around Lynnah’s shoulder and gently squeezed. She laid her head on his shoulder and let the tears flow untouched. “Lynnah, we’ll call it a day for now. Go back to the Captain’s quarters and rest; I’ll see you tomorrow at the same time.” Jean-Luc helped Lynnah to her feet and was heading to the door when Deanna quietly called him back. She looked at him with intensity, lifting her chin defiantly. “Captain, if you don’t consult me...*soon*...I will report you as being unfit for duty and have you confined to your quarters.....or, worse still, I will tell Beverly.” That brought a sharp wince from the recalcitrant Captain. “You fight dirty counsellor; however, I will bow to your threats. When do you want to see me?” “How about I see both of you at tomorrow’s session, in your cabin. I think it will beneficial for you both.” Nodding his acceptance, the Captain once again took Lynnah’s hand and made the journey back to his cabin. Once inside, Lynnah shot Jean-Luc a threatening glare and quickly stalked to the windows. A perplexed Captain joined her there.

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“Lynnah, what’s wrong?” “What was that little chat about back there? I’m not something to be studied you know. If either of you have something to say, tell it to my face!” “Lynnah, the counsellor was reminding me that I have an appointment with her tomorrow, at the same time as you, here in my quarters. We weren’t discussing you; neither the counsellor nor I would be so unfeeling or rude.” Although the words were spoken quietly, the authority within them was unmistakable. Lowering her head Lynnah whispered, “I’m sorry Jean-Luc. So much is happening here...” Lynnah lifted her hands to her head. “I want it to go away and it doesn’t! I have no control, just as I had no control that day. They took my life and ruptured it! And when they were finished, they pissed on me for God’s sake! You talk about self esteem and each of us having a place in the universe, that we matter, well let me tell you....at that moment I was nothing, not animal or sentient being...I was ranked amongst the droppings, something to wipe off your boots. And what about you? Why didn’t you tell me that you’re having nightmares as well?” Jean-Luc retrieved two cups of tea and beckoned Lynnah to sit with him on the sofa. “Lynnah, it’s rather complicated, the important thing is that you get the counselling you need. I’ve been through the nightmares before. It happens when I’m tired or stressed and I know, with Deanna’s help, I will be rid of them again....until next time. It’s the same for you. In time you will regain you self esteem, you will find your place, but you must stay vigilant. Look after yourself and be kind to yourself Lynnah, you deserve it.” They sat quietly for a while, the intensity of the moment abating. Jean-Luc stretched and turned. “Well we can go for another walk, or we can rest here, what would you like to do?” Shyly, Lynnah raised her head, allowing Jean-Luc to see the blush that had risen to her face “Would you read to me?” “As long as you have something to eat, I’d be delighted.” The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and dozing while the beautiful ship cleaved her way through the void. Later that evening, the two became somewhat coy about preparing for bed. “Ah, Lynnah, I think I’ll shower and change in the bathroom, let me know when I can come back into the bedroom. An equally embarrassed Lynnah could only nod her acceptance. She quickly shed her clothes and put on a robe Jean-Luc had given her then she sat on the bed patiently waiting for Jean-Luc to finish in the bathroom. A gentle knock caught her attention. “It’s ok, you can come out.” The door opened, letting out a breath of steam. “Oh, you have a water shower! I haven’t had a hot water shower for......well, too long.” “Captain’s prerogative.” She stood and waited for Jean-Luc to turn the covers back, before she entered the bathroom. Stepping into the shower and letting the hot water soothe her body took her mind back to her childhood, evoking happy thoughts. She was relaxed and smiling when she came out. “You look wonderful Lynnah.” She stopped dead in her tracks and blushed fiercely.

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“Hey, it’s alright, no need to be embarrassed.” “Good God, Jean-Luc. We’re about to get into the same bed....and you know I’m attracted to you....and you say, ‘don’t be embarrassed’? Just how am I supposed to deal with that?” Jean-Luc chuckled, shaking his head. “Come on, hop in....I’ll read to you.” Lynnah sidled up to the bed and gingerly sat on the edge. Jean-Luc put some pillows behind him and searched for the page they were up to. Clearing his throat, he said gently, “Are you ready?” “Uh huh.” Lynnah settled into the bed and closed her eyes. As always, his gentle baritone soothed her nerves and a calm descended, narrowing her down....eclipsing everything else until only his voice remained. Sleep came then, dark and mysterious, drawing her into its depths, wrapping her in silence. Jean-Luc’s voice became softer as he watched her drift off. Smiling at her, he pulled the covers up and over her shoulder carefully, making sure he didn’t disturb her. As he looked down at her, he felt a tug, a stirring in his heart. It caught him off guard, surprising him with both its suddenness and strength. Pensively, he tried to analyse his feelings, not achieving anything but a warm glow whenever he thought of her. It was a very thoughtful Captain that succumbed to sleep that night.

Two weeks later, Jean-Luc received a much awaited call from sickbay, requesting his attendance. He strode into the medical hub to see a small crowd in the delivery suite and as he crossed the room, medical personnel parted quickly when they realised their Captain was present. Beverly lay in a semi-reclining position, covered with sweat and beaming with joy. Seeing her best friend, she caught her mate’s eye and nodded in Jean-Luc’s direction. Jean-Luc moved to stand beside the biobed and smiled gently down at the radiant doctor. “Beverly, how are you? You seem to have worked up a sweat. Where is the infant, I would like to welcome him....her? aboard. Tobyn found his voice, although it was a little shaky “Sir, may we present our daughter....Bonnie Jean Karlhonn.” Jean-Luc gently accepted the wrapped bundle and, with great care, pulled the blanket aside and peered into its soft folds. “Welcome aboard, Bonnie. May your voyages always be safe.” He handed the babe back to the proud father, and turned his attention back to his friend. “She’s beautiful Beverly, just like her mother. Congratulations....congratulations to you both.” Tobyn took Beverly’s hand and whispered, “Thank you Captain.” He looked into Beverly’s eyes and received a small nod. “Sir, would you do us the honour of being Bonnie’s godfather?” Jean-Luc looked carefully at Beverly and saw her willing smile. “I’d be happy to, thank you.” “Well, seeing everything is under control here, I should be getting back to work. Again, congratulations to you both.”

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With his customary elegance, the Captain exited the sickbay, a wistful smile gracing his face. He knew Lynnah would be very happy with the news, so, after questioning the computer as to her whereabouts, he made his way to Holodeck 4. The door slid open at his behest and he walked into a beautiful woodland. Following the well defined path, he strolled in the dappled sunlight which lazily speckled the forest floor. After some time, he came across a glade, a huge eucalypt growing in its centre, and at its base, lay a sleeping Lynnah. Knowing not to frighten her by touching her, Jean-Luc gently called to her, and on the third try, she awakened. She sat up abruptly and looked about in confusion. “It’s alright Lynnah, it’s me.” On hearing his voice, she relaxed and turned to face him. “What are you doing here? You’ve got three hours duty left.” “One of the privileges of being a Captain. I can take time off when ever I like.” “Uh huh.....So what brings you here?” Sitting down with Lynnah, the Captain couldn’t contain his happiness. “Beverly has had a baby girl...Bonnie.” “Oh that’s wonderful news. Can I go and see her?” With a sweeping gesture, Jean-Luc laughed. “Most certainly. I’m going back to the bridge. Will I see you tonight? Lynnah lowered her head, still unable to hold back the blush. She could only manage a nod. Jean-Luc smiled and lifted her chin, and placed a tender kiss on her lips. They left the Holodeck together, holding hands and only parted at the turbolift, Jean-Luc knowing his heart was glowing every time they were together. Time moved forward inexorably, slowly for some, hastening for others. The budding relationship between Lynnah and Jean-Luc grew slowly. Each of them was dealing with strong and painful memories, at times surfacing as hideous nightmares that sent them screaming in their sleep. At these times, their burgeoning feelings welled in a protective surge. Many times, Jean-Luc held a sobbing, helpless woman in his arms, holding her while the demons flew around the room and she held him when he thought all was lost. Their joint therapy had proceeded for the most part well, although Jean-Luc was often curt in giving perfunctory answers to Deanna’s questions. At these times, Lynnah would silently reach out and hold his hand, letting the tension flow from him to her, easing him. After three weeks of intensive therapy, Deanna broached a difficult subject. “Captain, Lynnah, I think it’s time Lynnah had her own quarters. I know you draw great strength and comfort from each other, but it’s time to stand alone. If you’re to complete the healing, you must see if you can cope by yourselves.” Jean-Luc frowned and looked hard at his boots. Lynnah sat very still, already feeling the fear building. “I understand how hard this will be, and with that in mind, I suggest every other night for now and we’ll see how it goes. If the absences prove too distressing, we can revert to the original situation. How do you both feel about that?” Lynnah nodded, sighing. “I kinda knew this would happen.” She looked at the Captain, then back at the counsellor. “I don’t think he’s too keen.” Jean-Luc’s head snapped up and he shot a dark look at Lynnah.

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“I don’t find this at all amusing, Lynnah. It will be a lot harder than you can imagine. Think about it, when you’re caught in terror, unable to move or cry for help, I won’t be there to wake you, to hold you and tell you it’s a dream, it will seem real to you. Do you think you can cope with that?” Deanna watched the exchange with interest. “Tell me Captain, what about you? Who will be there for you when the nightmares come?” “Your point is well taken counsellor, but you forget I have had much practice with this particular sort of terror, I would humbly submit to being somewhat of an expert.” “Granted Captain. I’m not suggesting you don’t know what’s ahead; I’m just proposing that you might miss Lynnah as much as she will miss you.” An uncomfortable silence ensued, broken by Deanna. “Well, Lynnah, would you like to have quarters near the Captain?” All Lynnah could do was nod. The realisation was slowly creeping up on her. The day would be fine. She would go to the arboretum, or the Holodeck, killing time while she waited for Jean-Luc. He was back on duty, at reduced hours, and she spent each day watching the chronometer, counting down the time until he came back to his cabin. Deanna saw the pain on her face. “Lynnah.....is there something you want to say, something that’s troubling you?” As she nodded, two fat tears rolled down her face. Tightening her grip on his hand, she whispered, “Jean-Luc, can we still see each other?” Jean-Luc shut his eyes and drew a large breath. “Of course we will. It will be my intention to see you even more; I miss you when I’m on duty.” Lynnah lifted her head, an incredulous look blooming on her face. “You miss me? Jean-Luc, I’ve missed you so much lately....I hate it when you’re on the bridge. When you’re not with me, I feel....I feel.....” “Incomplete?” Lynnah nodded, too shocked to speak. “Me too.” Deanna sat back and smiled. She had been feeling the attraction that was building between them, and she was glad they had let each other know how they felt, especially the Captain, a man known for his private nature.

That night Jean-Luc and Lynnah had dinner in her new quarters and awkwardly waited for the time to crawl by. At 2230 hours, Jean-Luc stood and offered his hand to Lynnah. “I suppose I must go.” Lynnah held his hand tightly and whispered, “I’m frightened.” “Me too.” Lynnah gave a soft chuckle. “Look at us....the intrepid Starship Captain and the terrified metallurgist...what a combination.” “If you have any trouble, don’t hesitate to call me, I’m just down the corridor. I dare say counsellor Troi will be ‘listening’ for you, she’s

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very good at her job, she wouldn’t have asked for this if she had any doubts about our ability to cope with it” Lynnah nodded then slowly lowered her head until her forehead rested on Jean-Luc’s chest. Speaking softly, she said, “I’ll miss you very much.” The simple truth of the statement tugged at his heart. Putting a gentle hand under her chin, he slowly lifted her head until they were face to face. He leaned forward and brushed his lips on hers. Shocked, she did nothing; although she was certain he must be able to hear her thundering heart. Taking her face in both his hands, he kissed her again, with tenderness and resolute strength. “Call me if you need to. Sleep well Lynnah.” All she could do was nod. He turned then, and without a backward glance, left her quarters. She stood; motionless, stunned by what had just happened. She slowly lifted her hands and lightly feathered her fingers along her lips. She was experiencing some powerful sensations, all new. She turned and walked to the long windows of her cabin, lost in thought.

Jean-Luc walked briskly back to his quarters, feeling better than he had in days. He had been considering how to initiate his growing feelings for Lynnah; he knew he would have to be extremely gentle and non-demanding, leaving everything to proceed at her pace....if she accepted him. The kisses had warmed his heart....he admitted to himself he had deeper feelings for her than he first thought. It would be an interesting time ahead. He showered and prepared for bed, the first night in a long time that he felt calm about sleeping.

Lynnah, having already showered, lay in bed as stiff as a board. Her mind wouldn’t let the memory of Jean-Luc’s kiss abate. Each time she replayed the moment, her heart skipped a beat and butterflies rose in her stomach, warmth spreading through her body....and to some surprising parts. *This won’t do....I must get to sleep.* Using a technique Deanna had taught her, Lynnah started to relax her body. Starting at her toes, she travelled up her body, identifying and releasing the muscles as she found them. Being surprisingly tense, the process took considerable time and when she finished, she was very nearly asleep. She teetered in the half world between sleep and wakefulness, her last thought was of watching Jean-Luc’s face as he kissed her, as she tumbled into sleep. It was 0300 when Deanna was wrenched from her slumber with a jolt of terror. Rising immediately, she donned her robe as she flew out the door. Knowing who was distressed, she went straight to Lynnah’s cabin, and using her code, went in. Deanna stopped momentarily, centring herself and detecting where the terror was coming from. She turned slowly and identified the bathroom as the source of the intense emotions that were assailing her. When she opened the door, she was confronted by a terror stricken Lynnah, curled into a protective ball in the corner.

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Deanna kneeled on the floor and closed the distance between them. In a soothing voice, she began to talk to the terrified woman. “Lynnah? Lynnah, it’s Deanna. You’re alright, everything’s fine. You had a bad dream. Give me your hand, Lynnah, reach out for my hand.” Tentatively, Lynnah extended a shaking hand and Deanna took it gently. Using the softest voice she could, Deanna coaxed Lynnah from her hiding place. Slowly at first, Lynnah followed her hand and was soon held in Deanna’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably. Rocking Lynnah gently, Deanna ran her hands up and down Lynnah’s back, crooning to her. “Shh, hush Lynnah, it’s over, it was a dream, it can’t hurt you. I’m here, nothing happened, it’s alright.” It took ten minutes before Lynnah felt calm enough to leave Deanna’s embrace. Retrieving a wet face cloth, Deanna helped her recover from the ghastly dream. “Was it the rape?” Lynnah stilled her hands and frowned. “No. Yes. I don’t know....it was just so terrifying...I was helpless and alone. I wish Jean-Luc was here.” “That’s understandable. Having someone to wake you...to end the fear...it’s a potent strategy; I’m not surprised you miss him.” Both women stood and walked into the living area. Deanna replicated some hot drinks and sat next to Lynnah on the sofa. “It’s more than that Deanna. I’m....that is I.....he....oh hell, look I think I’m falling in love with him and tonight, he....kissed me, twice. Does he do that....I mean is he the sort of bloke that....you know...could it be possible that he.....or am I just deluding myself?” Deanna smiled and patted Lynnah’s knee. “I’ve know the Captain for a long time. I can tell you he is a very deep man, not given to flights of fancy or casual affairs. He’s an intensely private man, I would say that if he felt enough to kiss you, I’d say your chances of your feelings being reciprocated are pretty good.” “You mean he....and I....” “Yes, but go easy. He will be very aware of your...plight...and he won’t be all that forthright. When you want more, tell him.” Lynnah nodded, her face showing the amazement she felt. She was incredulous; that a man like Jean-Luc could have feelings....romantic feelings for her...she was thoroughly stunned. “One thing Lynnah, you seem to be over you nightmare.” A rueful grin spread over Lynnah’s face. “I do, don’t I. Thank you Deanna. I think I’ll go back to bed now, I have a lot to ponder on, enough to keep me busy for quite a while.”

At 0730 Jean-Luc pressed the chime on Lynnah’s door and, on hearing the permission to enter, walked in to a beaming Lynnah, who gestured grandly to the table in the living area. “I believe croissants and coffee are the preferred breakfasts of intrepid Starship captains. Far be it for me to alter such a grand tradition.” Smiling warmly, Jean-Luc covered the short distance between them. “As he placed his hands on her shoulders, he muttered, “You’ve been talking to Beverly, haven’t you?”

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Smiling shyly, and unable to control the blush that rose in response to his incredible voice, Lynnah lowered her head and croaked, “Guilty.” Repeating the motion of last night, Jean-Luc slowly raised her face and kissed her gently; placing small kisses on her eyes and nose, before again capturing her mouth in a lingering, sweet kiss. “Jean-Luc....I....when we do that, I...it feels.....dammit, I can’t find the words. Is this arousal? What are we doing?” “We’re starting a journey, a voyage of discovery....of each other. I want to find what you like, what pleases you and, hopefully, you will explore me, and together we will form a bond built on love, trust and passion.” Lynnah stood slightly back and took a large breath. “Wow, we can do all that? You want to do that with me? You aren’t just being.....sympathetic?” Jean-Luc chuckled, shaking his head. “No Lynnah, I’m not being ‘sympathetic’. I’m falling in love with you and I want nothing other than to make you happy. But, I understand your....difficulties....and I will be guided by your feelings. I won’t do anything you don’t want me to, you will set the pace.” Stepping back into his embrace, Lynnah closed her eyes and breathed in his clean, male aroma. “Then can we cuddle...and kiss again?” “Definitely.” Some minutes later, a very flushed woman remembered the breakfast she had prepared. “Oh, hell’s bells, Jean-Luc, I forgot about feeding you. Come on, let’s eat.” The breakfast was eaten at a leisurely pace, Lynnah kept sneaking glances at Jean-Luc, finding she wanted to watch him constantly. His movements entranced her. Simple things like buttering a croissant or pouring the tea, she found captivating. All too soon he said, “I must go; I’m due on the bridge. Shall we have dinner tonight?” Nodding mutely, Lynnah sat quietly as the Captain rose and placed a kiss, first on her hand, then on her lips. “See you at 1000 hours.”

The Captain had been on the bridge three hours when Deanna entered and requested to see him in his ready room. “Yes, counsellor. What can I do for you?” Taking a seat at his gesture, the counsellor composed herself. “Captain, I want to talk about your growing relationship with Lynnah.” Frowning and quelling the urge to tell Deanna to mind her own business, Jean-Luc took his seat behind his desk. “I see. And what do you wish to say?” Knowing the Captain would be irritated by her wish to talk of something he felt was private, she was heartened by his apparent willingness to listen. “Captain, obviously I can feel what is growing between you, and I know you will exercise caution in how the relationship progresses.” “Obviously”, he said dryly.

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Clearing her throat, Deanna put her barriers up against the growing irritation in her commanding officer. “All I’m saying Sir, is to be very careful. Lynnah has absolutely no experience with love, or sexuality, and when her recent trauma is added, it becomes a volatile mix.” Jean-Luc sighed and reined in his anger. “I appreciate your concern, counsellor. I’ve already had a brief chat with her on this very subject. I told her she can set the pace, we will do nothing she finds uncomfortable....mentally or physically. “That’s good Sir, I knew you would approach this sensibly. I hope you aren’t offended by my advice....” “Not at all Deanna, I appreciate the care you’re taking with Lynnah. How is she progressing?” Deanna frowned and placed her hands on the desk. “On the whole, as good as can be expected, although she had a nightmare last night bad enough for me to sense it through my sleep.” Immediately concerned, the Captain leaned forward. “She didn’t tell me. Is she alright, she seemed fine this morning.” “Yes Sir, she’s fine. After she calmed down, we had a chat about things....it took her mind off what happened. Captain....I’m very happy for you....I’ve sensed your sadness....your loneliness. I think you’ll be very good for each other.” “Is that your ‘professional’ opinion?” It had been said so deadpan, Deanna momentarily thought she’d overstepped her boundaries, then she felt his gentle mirth and she drew a thankful breath. “Yes. It is.” As he tugged at his jacket, Deanna recognised the subtle dismissal. She rose and bid her Captain good day and left. He sat in quiet introspection, generally pleased in how the ‘chat’ had gone.

In the passing weeks, their bond strengthened and matured. They saw each other as much as possible, maintaining the sleeping arrangements, until Lynnah suggested her nights with Jean-Luc should be more infrequent. At first, he was disappointed; although he readily understood her attempt to take back control of her life....he had done the same in the past. He was surprised by the potency of his feelings toward her, and he desperately wanted to show her how beautiful and sustaining the act of love was, when shared by two people who cherished each other as they did. The dinner they shared that night had been a watershed, allowing them to gently explore the needs they both had. As always, Jean-Luc was undemanding and exquisitely gentle, allowing Lynnah to set the place, their kissing eliciting passion she had to learn to accept. Their caressing had progressed to Jean-Luc being able to touch her breasts, something she thoroughly enjoyed. She didn’t touch Jean-Luc intimately, yet she wanted to....the walls were coming down....soon they would be gone and then she would be free to give herself to him. Four weeks later, Jean-Luc invited her to dinner, a surprise he had generated on the Holodeck. Lynnah, with Beverly’s help, was dressed in something to capture his imagination and was standing nervously in her quarters debating whether or not to change into something a little less revealing. Her decision was made for her as the door activator chimed.

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Keeping her voice as steady as possible, she called out softly, “Come in.” The doors parted to reveal a dashing figure in a formal dinner suit and carrying a bunch of snow white orchids. “Lynnah, you look.....so beautiful.....gods woman, what are you doing to me?” “Oh, it’s too much isn’t it. I’ve never worn....Beverly said....oh, hell....” Jean-Luc closed the distance between them and took her hands in his own. “Lynnah, you look sensational. The colour is perfect, the dress fits you like a glove, you’re making it difficult for me to resist taking you in my arms and kissing you until you swoon.” The blush bloomed. Jean-Luc watched it rise up her cleavage, up her neck and spread over her face, to the very tips of her ears. He smiled warmly, enjoying her reaction. “Oh....so you like it then?......I really make you feel like that?......Honest?” “Oh, yes. I shall escort you to dinner, feeling the luckiest, and proudest man on the ship.” At that, Lynnah gasped audibly. “We’re going out?” “Uh huh.” Curiosity won out. “Where?” “You’ll see.” Proffering his arm, Lynnah took it and together they left her quarters. Their short journey took them to Holodeck four and they stood quietly as the computer loaded the program. The doors opened to reveal a beautiful courtyard at sunset. The arbours that surrounded them were covered with flowering jasmine; the gentle scent intermingled with the delicious smell of fresh bread. “Oh, Jean-Luc, it’s beautiful....where are we?” “It’s a small bistro in my home town, La Barre. Our table’s over there, near the balcony.” They sauntered through the tables, nodding to the other diners who had stopped to watch the handsome couple. Having seated themselves, JeanLuc ordered some wine and they sat back to enjoy the view. “Where is your home, Jean-Luc?” Glad she had asked that particular question, Jean-Luc smiled and pointed over the gently rolling hills. “See those two valleys, the river on the left and the line of farms to the right? Within those boundaries lies our vineyard. It’s quite large, about 750 hectares.” Lynnah closed her eyes, savouring the gentle night air, the wafting breeze lifting wisps of her hair, enchanting the Captain. “Do you miss it, the vineyard, your family?” “No. All I ever wanted to do was go into space. I haven’t been home in many years....I consider the Enterprise my home.” “How long can I stay?” Tilting his head, Jean-Luc tried to assess her mood. “On the Enterprise? As long as you like. I can ask the minerals department about your joining them, I’m sure they could use a metallurgist. Or, if you prefer, you could look around and see what takes your fancy.” The blush and mischievous smile delighted Jean-Luc, prompting him to chuckle. “What’s that about?”

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“I think I’ve found something that takes my fancy already.” Now it was his turn to blush, making Lynnah laugh out loud. “Gotcha!” The dinner was delicious and they lingered over dessert, neither one wanting the evening to end. Eventually Jean-Luc took Lynnah’s hand and called for the arch. They held hands all the way back to Jean-Luc’s quarters, their conversation sporadic. As they entered his cabin, JeanLuc said, “Take a seat, would you like some brandy?” “That would be nice....I think. I’ve never had brandy before, but I’m willing to give it a try.” She was surprised to see the large snifters Jean-Luc brought to the table. Demonstrating the correct hold, he swirled the liquor around, coating the glass before raising it to his lips to sip. She tentatively gave it a try, and smiled as the brandy warmed her mouth and throat. “It’s nice...is it real?” Giving a rare broad smile of his own, Jean-Luc nodded. “Oh yes, this is the real thing. I have a few bottles of this and that, and quite a few bottles of my family’s best vintage years. There are times when only the real thing will do.” They sat quietly enjoying the gentle company. When the brandy was finished, Jean-Luc rose and offered his hand to Lynnah. They stood closely together, Jean-Luc brushing his lips over hers. “You can stay here, with me if you like, or I’ll escort you back to your cabin.” Lynnah looked deeply into his eyes, searching for the love she needed and, having found it, swallowed nervously and whispered, “I’d like to stay.” He took her by the hand and led her to his bedroom. “Would you like me to change in the bathroom?” Her voice failed her so she nodded, keeping her face lowered. Jean-Luc went to his drawers and took out some pyjamas and placed them on the bed, with a robe, then he took another pair of pyjamas and entered the bathroom. Lynnah quickly undressed, placing her beautiful dress over a chair, donned the nightwear and waited for Jean-Luc to emerge. He wasn’t long and Lynnah gasped when she saw him, unable to stop the now familiar blush. He turned the covers back and slid between the sheets. Lynnah quickly used the bathroom and came to sit on the bed. “Would you like me to read to you?” Sighing with relief, she nodded. “Yes please....I’m a little tense. “Perfectly understandable, Lynnah.” She nestled into the bed and closed her eyes as he began to read and let his voice soothe her. As he read, she relaxed and after some time, gingerly reached out and let her hand touch his hip. He kept reading, his mellifluous baritone lulling her and arousing her at the same time. She concentrated on her feelings, startled at how quickly desire formed, her body warming, a need developing. The hand on his hip spread out and slid up to his chest, gently feeling the soft springy hair. It was moments before she realised he had stopped reading. Watching her intently, Jean-Luc put the book on the night stand and slowly turned onto his side, facing her. He gently ran his hand from her temple to her jaw and lifting her face, kissed her, tasting, wanting.

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At first she was tense, unyielding, but as he caressed her face she relented, moving closer to his body, amazed at what the contact did to her senses. Slowly running his hand through her hair, he whispered, “You’re so beautiful, Lynnah....your skin is warm and soft, your lips so inviting”, He breathed those words as his mouth captured hers again, his tongue making feather-like touches, making her open her mouth in response. Very gently, his tongue entered her mouth and softly explored, his hand caressing her side. He broke the kiss and stayed close watching her face as his hand rose to her breast. With exquisite care, he cupped her breast and lightly brushed the nipple. Lynnah hissed, her back arching, pressing herself along the length of his body. He was about to kiss her again when suddenly her eyes opened wide in panic and she moved quickly away and out of the bed, moving backwards across the room, only stopping when she bumped the wall, never taking her eyes off him. Jean-Luc sat up, a look of deep concern on his handsome face. “Lynnah? What is it? What’s wrong?” Lynnah stood stiffly, one hand at her mouth, the other pointing at Jean-Luc’s groin, tears forming in her eyes. “You....You’ve got a....you’re....hard.” Closing his eyes and sighing softly, Jean-Luc shook his head. “Lynnah, it’s just a physical response to the amount of arousal I felt. It doesn’t mean I’m going to make love to you.....or rape you. Didn’t you feel.....eager... to be touched, to be kissed?” Slowly nodding her head, Lynnah listened carefully to what he was saying. “Well, so did I, and this is just a rather....obvious...sign of my arousal.” “So....it doesn’t mean you *have* to....use it?” “No.” Lynnah moved closer to the bed, curiosity chasing away the fear. “What happens then?” “What do you mean?” Sitting on the bed, Lynnah look frankly at Jean-Luc. “What happens if you don’t.....use it?” “You mean if we don’t make love?” Lynnah nodded, her face reddening again. “If left alone, it will subside, with a small amount of discomfort, or I could masturbate and relieve it that way.” “Oh. And if we continue with what we were doing?” Jean-Luc smiled and tilted his head. “Then it’s up to you. I will do whatever you want.” Lynnah sighed and smiled sadly. “I think I ruined the moment somewhat....didn’t I.” Chuckling and shaking his head, Jean-Luc rose from the bed and beckoned Lynnah to join him in the living area. As she seated herself on the sofa, he went and replicated some tea for them both. Once he was comfortably seated beside her, Lynnah snuggled up to him sipping her tea. They drank their nightcap in silence; Jean-Luc was stargazing when he jumped as Lynnah rested her hand on his bare thigh. Nothing was said, and when the tea was finished, Jean-Luc placed both cups on the low table. He sat back and wrapped his arm around Lynnah’s shoulder; his other hand gently stroked her face. “You are beautiful, Lynnah, your hair is so soft.” Combing his fingers slowly through the silken strands, Lynnah turned and tilted her face up to meet his. The kiss was light and questing, a

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signal of growing desire. When they parted, Jean-Luc rubbed his face over Lynnah’s cheek and hair, sending her scent deeply into his senses. They kissed again and again, seeming to be unable to gather enough of each other, and with each kiss, the yearning, the hunger....the heat grew in intensity. Jean-Luc leaned back, moving to lay their bodies along the sofa. Cradling her head in his arm, he looked down at Lynnah and whispered, “I won’t hurt you Lynnah.....please, trust me.” She closed her eyes momentarily and nodded, Jean-Luc kissed away the small tears that emerged, tears of passion and fear. His large warm hand trailed down her body from temple to thigh. Lazily the hand, just keeping a delicate contact, feathered its fingers closer and closer to her breast. The tension in her grew, tightening and burning. Her senses were narrowing down, excluding her surroundings, her conscious mind, concentrating solely on the sensations, the deep yearning. Jean-Luc kissed her throat, his lips feeling her throbbing pulse at the suprasternal notch. Her hand spread out on his chest, moving under the silky material of his pyjamas, and brushed over his nipple, eliciting a low moan from deep within his throat. With desire ever increasing, she whispered huskily, “Jean-Luc....may I touch you......” He took her caressing hand in his and brought it to his lips, kissing each finger, then placing it on his chest. He looked deeply into her eyes as he guided her hand down, across the muscled plane of his torso, under the waistband of his silky shorts and, hesitating a second, he led her hand to his obvious erection. Turning her hand over, she softly ran the knuckles of her hand along the length of his penis, watching as he closed his eyes and sighed. “Is it....good?....is it alright?” In answer, he kissed her deeply, his hand finding her breast and carefully, gently tweaking the nipple. As before, this set free a deep response, Lynnah arching her back and gasping. Her fingers closed around his hardness and squeezing it gently, whispered again. “What do you want me to do? I want to give you....” Looking down at her lovingly, Jean-Luc tenderly kissed her lips. “Later, for now it’s just you....everything for you....may I touch you Lynnah....intimately?” Taking a moment, Lynnah closed her eyes and gave a small nod. “I give you my word, I will *not* hurt you. If you become uncomfortable with anything I do, just say so and I’ll stop.” Lynnah sighed and closed her eyes, giving this man, this extraordinary man, permission to please her. With eyes still closed, she felt the kisses, some light, some searingly deep, and his beautiful large hand, caressing the length of her body, slowly moving toward the core of her physical need. When he first ventured near, she tensed, but his immediate cessation showed he was in touch with her and, after a moment, she relaxed and his hand gently resumed its exploration. Softly stroking the inside of her thighs, she softened the muscles and parted her legs slightly, giving him access and when he first drew his hand across her genitals, through the thin material of her shorts, she was unprepared for the deep jolt of pleasure that uncoiled within her. Gasping audibly, her hand clenched in response, making Jean-Luc gasp in pain. Lynnah’s eyes flew open, her questioning face drawing an embarrassed blush. “I’m alright Lynnah....perhaps you forgot where your other hand is.....”

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Releasing him with alacrity, Lynnah added her own blush to the situation. “Oh God, Jean-Luc....I’m so sorry.....I forgot....” Saying nothing, Jean-Luc took her hand and once again guided it to his groin, smiling his pleasure. His deep, searching kiss made the incident fade, it was forgotten by the time his lips left her mouth to explore the juncture of her neck and shoulder. Again his hand gently made it to her sensitive core, this time beginning a sensuous rhythm of soft strokes, making Lynnah moan and gasp. Breaking the contact, his hand travelled up her body and slipped under the hem of her top, cupping her breast carefully. The silky material slid up and over his hand, exposing her breast to the air. Jean-Luc lowered his face and lightly drew his tongue over the puckered nipple, then blew cool air onto it, hardening it further and bringing forth another unguarded moan of pleasure. He nuzzled her neck, lightly nipping her earlobe, then made a trail of kisses back to the exposed breast, nuzzling again with his lips and tongue. By now, Lynnah was panting, wanting him to do something to alleviate the yearning heat deep within her. Taking her hand from him, she quickly took his hand and ushered it to the juncture of her legs. Once more, he began a maddeningly slow and gentle stroking, her back arching in counterpoint. He kissed her nipple and rose on his elbow to watch her. “Lynnah, may I touch you there.....” “Yes....oh, please, yes.” He withdrew his hand to the waistband and deftly slipped under the elastic and covered her folds with his entire hand. Still watching her, he began an erotic motion, gradually parting the folds and allowing his fingers to slide over the centre of her desire. As his finger made the initial contact, Lynnah’s response was overt. She jolted throughout her whole body, a cry breaking free from her mouth. Shaking her head from side to side, her concerned lover stilled his hand and asked if she was alright. Unable to speak, her hips thrust against his hand, answering his enquiry. With the resumption of the maddening stroking, Lynnah’s body arched from the sofa and her hands encircled his neck and shoulder. Something was happening...something was gathering, she felt the power and suddenly, it was there, about to consume her. Watching carefully, Jean-Luc slightly increased the intimate pressure, being sure not to penetrate her, and kissed her nipple, biting it gently. The result was instant. With a high pitched whisper, the orgasm surged through her, her limbs taking on a rigid tension as her body clenched in rhythmic waves. Jean-Luc eased, then finally stilled his hand, and kissed her passionately. She looked up at him with awe, crying gently. “Are you alright?” All she could do was sigh and nod. “Then why the tears?....Why do you cry, my lovely?” In an almost inaudible whisper, Lynnah tried to find the words to describe how she felt, eventually failing. She looked at her lover and spoke the simple truth. “I love you......I’m *in* love with you.” “And I love you, Lynnah.” When Lynnah had recovered sufficiently, Jean-Luc carried her to his bed where they spooned together. Just as she was falling asleep, Lynnah realised she had forgotten something. Turning in the bed, Lynnah looked worriedly at her lover.

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“Jean-Luc....I forgot you...your....you know. Are you alright? Is everything ok?” “I’m fine, don’t worry about me. I said this was all for you, I want to teach you that there is difference between having sex and making love.” Nodding, Lynnah rested her head on his shoulder and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, Lynnah had a session with Deanna, something she only did if she felt the need. On this morning she was very pensive, quite subdued and Deanna remarked on it. “Are you alright Lynnah? Is there something you want to talk about?” Breaking her train of thought, Lynnah shook her head. “What? Oh, no Deanna, I’ve got a bit to think about, that’s all.” Not completely convinced, Deanna nonetheless brought the session to an end, knowing any further therapy at this moment would be pointless. Smiling at the bemused Lynnah, Deanna said kindly, “Lynnah....go and talk to Beverly, maybe she can help.” Aside from Jean-Luc, Lynnah felt closest to Beverly, sharing an affection for the Captain and the care Beverly gave her in the early days after her assault. Lynnah sauntered through the corridors, her feet taking her as she retreated deeply in thought. It came as no surprise when she found herself at sickbay’s doors. Entering, Lynnah found Beverly in her office, muttering dark curses at her computer terminal. “My father used to say, if the hens won’t lay, lean an axe against the door. Maybe you should lean a hammer against that terminal....if nothing else, it might make you feel better.” Smiling broadly, Beverly sat back and stretched. “It’s not the computer’s fault....I’m just tired. I’d forgotten how much time a baby takes up.” Lynnah sat back and smiled. “Well I can plead ignorance here. I barely remember my brother as a baby....it’s sad really.” “Yes, it is....I’m so sorry you lost your family.....I lost my parents early, I was raised by my maternal grandmother. She’s responsible for my interest in medicine.” Lynnah smiled and picked up a stylus to fiddle with. “Lynnah?...is everything alright?” “Yes......yes.....can I ask you something?” “Go right ahead.” “What was your first orgasm like?” Beverly sat in stunned silence, her mouth slightly ajar. Recovering quickly, the doctor frowned in confusion. “Lynnah, why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind and we’ll see what we can do.” Running her gaze up and settling on Beverly’s face, Lynnah took a large breath. “I had my first orgasm last night....and I can’t get it out of my mind. I’m trying to look at it objectively....dispassionately...and I can’t. Every time I replay it in my head, I get......aroused. I’m walking around the ship feeling like a tight wire, humming with tension.”

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Beverly smiled and shook her head. “Lynnah, sometimes we experience things that simply defy analytical thought. Why try to dissect such a joyous event, just sit back and enjoy! And....if you find yourself getting aroused, save it. Use it to surprise your partner, trust me....it’ll be appreciated.” Frowning, Lynnah gathered her thoughts. “That’s part of the problem. It’s one sided.” Cocking her head, Beverly said softly, “Want to talk about it?” “Yes, I suppose I do. Last night was the most intimate experience of my life. Jean-Luc said to trust him....that he wouldn’t hurt me....and he was true to his word. He was....wonderful....gentle, loving, I gave myself to him....to a point. He was sure not to penetrate me....I’m not.....well, not yet....soon....look Beverly, the thing is, he goes without....release. He puts aside his own needs for me and I know it must be difficult for him. He said that he could let it subside or he could masturbate. I want him to have pleasure too. How do I do that? What do I do?” Sitting back, Beverly ran her hands through her hair, gathering her thoughts. “Jean-Luc is the most caring, solicitous man I know. If he is willing to wait, perhaps you could just leave it to him.” Frowning, Lynnah shook her head. “No Beverly, it’s not fair. I really want to *share* the experience.” “Lynnah....what do you feel when you think about the Captain?” Moving to get more comfortable, Lynnah snorted. “Well for starters I don’t think of him as ‘Captain’. Thinking of him....I feel warm....I get butterflies, I become aroused.....I realised last night that I’m in love with him. I love him Beverly, without reservation, I am incomplete without him.” Beverly nodded and smiled. “Do you realise how many people he is?” “What do you mean?” “Lynnah....like it or not, he’s the Captain of this ship. When called upon, he becomes a diplomat, a warrior, a mentor to his officers, an example to his crew....he’s an explorer and a fearless upholder of Starfleet policy....and the dearest friend I’ve ever had the privilege to have. If he feels you would be more...comfortable...with these arrangements, and you’re not...tell him. How does he feel about you?” “He loves me.” Smiling wistfully, Beverly sighed. “Lucky girl.......Lynnah he is naturally altruistic, you must tell him what you need. He’ll appreciate it.” Lynnah smiled and stretched, wincing slightly. “I think I used some muscles I never knew I had.” “Lucky girl.......”

The Enterprise was doing some interesting study of an anomalous dust cloud that was orbiting an ‘L’ class planet. It was found that, as the dust was brought aboard, it metastasised on contact with oxygen. To that end, the dust was kept in a vacuum, surrounded by a stasis field. As required, samples of dust were extricated for study. The dust already metastasised was put in a holding unit, and made inert

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until an opportunity came for further study. In all, there were twenty four units stored in cargo bay eight, contained in a duraplast holdall. On this morning, Geordi was notified of a series of fluctuating data coming from the holdall. As he left engineering, on his way to cargo bay eight, Captain Picard met him in the hallway and enquired about the odd readings. Geordi smiled at his Captain, how did he know? “I’m on my way there now captain, would you like to accompany me?” “Yes, Mr.LaForge, I would.” They walked in silence, until Geordi had to ask. “Sir, how did you know?” Jean-Luc smiled enigmatically. “You don’t honestly think I’m going to reveal my sources? It’s something one learns at ‘Captain School’” Trying to stifle a chuckle and not entirely succeeding, the two men strode into the cargo bay. As they moved towards the holdalls, Jean-Luc was going to remark that they were an odd colour. He turned to see Geordi activate his tricorder when, without warning, the containers exploded, sending fire, metal and the deadly dust flying about the bay. Jean-Luc and Geordi were blown off their feet and flung with sinister force across the bay, the blast bringing down the stacked containers and equipment on top of them. It only took seconds, an eerie silence descending. On the bridge, Worf barked a report to Will. “Sir! Explosion on deck sixteen....cargo bay eight! Reading....two life forms, both with weakening life signs!” Will was immediately on his feet. “Beverly, did you hear that?” “On my way now. I’ll report as soon as I know more.” Will turned back to his Chief of Security. “Worf, get a detail there and secure the area...and get someone from engineering down there. I want to know what the hell happened.” It was then that Will realised that the Captain hadn’t reported in. He knew where the Captain had gone and why, it was with a sinking feeling that he made the next call. “Bridge to Captain Picard........Captain Picard, report please.” “Computer, location of Captain Picard.” “Captain Picard is in cargo bay eight.” With dread, Will made his next call. “Worf, this is the bridge. Captain Picard is in cargo bay eight!” “Understood Sir.” “Mr.Data, you have the bridge. I’m going down to see what’s happened.” Data’s reply was lost as Will stepped into the turbolift.

Arriving at the cargo bay, it had a surreal quality. On the outside, no clue could be gained as to what had occurred behind the doors. The engineers were consulting their instruments, Beverly was rechecking her equipment, yet no one seemed to be doing anything constructive. Will said abruptly, “Report!” Worf stood to his full height and faced his commander. “We cannot go in commander. The sensors are showing heavy contamination from the anomalous dust. There has been significant damage; we are waiting for a specialist team to work in the bay. We cannot use cutters

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of any description....nothing that may cause the atmosphere in there to ignite. Two teams are making their way through the Jefferies tubes, ETA....three minutes Sir.” Gesturing to Worf and Beverly, Will moved them a little way down the corridor. In a soft voice he said, “Captain Picard and Geordi are in there.” Beverly staggered and grabbed Worf’s arm. “What! How....when....are you sure?” “We’re sure Beverly. How are the read outs?” “I don’t know. There has been a significant change in the air in there, our scanners aren’t doing very well...it’s that damned dust! It’s changed....grown.....I don’t know what’s going to happen. As she spoke, an ensign approached to report that one rescue team was ready to enter the bay. Looking over to Worf, Will said quietly, “Send them in.”

Mathew Smyth had been in Starfleet nine years and he loved his job. Having risen to Lieutenant in less time than most, Mathew......’Matty’ to his friends, was living a life few could rival. He still pinched himself every so often....this was the *Enterprise*.....THE ship to be on. As he waited for his team to prepare for their entry, he thanked again the gods who obviously looked kindly down on him. “Stavers, make sure those respirators are primed. Killon, get ready to boost the communicators, the atmosphere in there resembles you dam’s soup.” Satisfied his team was ready, Matty manually undid the hatch fastenings, feeling his ears pop under the pressure difference. Easing the hatch out and to the side, Matty got his first look at devastation. The blast had been so powerful, it had pushed the walls into an outward bulge, what remained of the holdall was scattered about like tissue paper. Operating a passive scanner, Matty slowly turned in a circle, searching for the bodies he knew were there somewhere. The air was laden with the tainted dust, making vision obscure; it seemed to stick on the visors of their evac suits. Noting a colour change on the scanner, he gestured to his team to look under some wreckage that appeared to be welded to the wall. As they worked their way toward the misshapen metal, his intercom crackled to life. “Matty, it’s Ellett. We can’t get through. We’ll get back and help with the doors.” “Understood Ellett, thanks anyway. Out.” “We’re on our own, come on....let’s get to it.” With three of his team pulling, the metal screamed as it was bent back, revealing Geordi, lying in a puddle of blood, his visor nowhere to be seen. “Get a respirator on him fast, and stem the bleeding. The scanner shows weak life signs...his lungs are damaged, amongst a host of other things.” “Cripes Matty, this is out of our league.” Matty put his hand on the shaky ensign.

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“Look, all we can do is try and stabilise him until either the med team gets in, or we get him out. Concentrate on your job....you’ll be right.” Turning back to the twisted metal, he stepped over Geordi and kneeled to get a better view. It was then he saw the hole in the wall and the leg that protruded from it, in a stream of gore. “I need some help here! I’ve found the Captain!” It took all five of them to pull the reluctant metal back far enough for them to get to Jean-Luc. One leg trailed behind him, the other was twisted at an unnatural angle. As Matty looked further into the cavity, he was shocked to see a jagged piece of metal, blown from the wall, impaling the Captain through his abdomen. Until it was cut, he couldn’t be moved. Matty could see blood coming from a multitude of wounds, his left arm almost severed at the shoulder. Fortunately, the heat of the metal that had done the damage cauterised the wound somewhat, thereby saving the Captain’s life. “WE need help here. He’s alive....don’t ask me how....M’Tarr have you got a comm. channel yet?” “Aye Sir, but you’ll have to get back into the Jefferies tube, at least for now, the damn dust keeps changing.” Matty nodded his reply and wasted no time in entering the tube. “Doctor Crusher, this is Lieutenant Smyth. We’ve found them and they’re alive.....just.” “Lieutenant, how badly are they injured?” “Doctor.....I....it’s bad, very bad. Mr.LaForge has head injuries, broken bones....the Captain....broken bones, severed arm, head injuries and he’s impaled through his stomach by a shard of metal that’s still connected to the wall. We can’t move him. We’ll put Mr.LaForge in a gravibag, but I don’t know what to do with the Captain. He’s bleeding....Doctor Crusher, I don’t think....” “Matty, you must slow the bleeding.” “I know doctor, we’ve pretty much got that under control, it’s just that the injuries are so severe...” “Lieutenant, I’m coming in.” Outside, Will was angry. “Beverly, you can’t go in there, it’s not stable, the atmosphere is changing by the moment. We need you here....to take charge of the medical teams.” “That’s not much use if we can’t get him out.” Staring hard, Will said that which he knew Beverly would hate to hear. “What about Geordi...he needs you too.” “Damn you Will......sometimes I.......” “I know.” Beverly turned to her team and called for four volunteers to go through the tubes to help their crew mates. She was gratified when the teams volunteered as one. Selecting four trained nurses and one doctor, she made sure they were fitted with passive instruments and bade them good luck. It took seven minutes for the med teams to get in and set up their equipment. Geordi was given pain killers and a drug that produced profound looseness in the skeletal muscles. A gravi bag was opened and he was gently placed in it. The med team had staunched the blood loss and, activating the antigrav, floated him to the Jefferies tube and out of the bay. Then they turned their attention to the Captain. The first thing to do was to monitor the blood loss. Wriggling in beside the Captain and around the wicked piece of metal, nurse Hammed stopped all the bleeding she could see and taped his nearly severed arm to his chest and applied

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a pneumatic tourniquet over the terrible wound. She then attached an intravenous line and began pumping his body with hydro plasma, replacing his blood volume. While Matty’s team wrestled with the problem of containing the dust, the doctor, a young man on his first tour of Starship duty, was trying to find if the metal shard that trapped the Captain was free on the other side. When nurse Hammed retreated from the cavity, he stretched his lean form beside his Captain and gently moved his hand over JeanLuc’s side and into the small space between his back and the wall, feeling for the protruding metal. His fingers soon found it and he was relieved to find it free. They still had to sever the metal, but only on one side. He relayed this information to Matty, who was called to give his opinion as to how to cut the metal. “Well, we can’t activate any energy sources in here....do you have anything corrosive enough to etch into the metal...an acid perhaps?” “No nothing....wait....is there anything in those hoses in the Jefferies tube?” Matty frowned in thought, then punched the air. “Yes! The liquid plasma...we need something made of polygrit, it will eat anything else.....what’s that med kit cover made of?” Hammed gave the cover to Matty, and they heard his whoop quite clearly. “Right, I’ll be back in a minute.” While he was away, the med team further stabilised the Captain, placing his broken limbs in hydrocasts. They were just tackling a particularly nasty gash over the top of his head when the tense Matty returned. “I’ve got some wetplas here, you’d better be quick, it’s doing it’s best to eat the polygrit.” The doctor took the liquid plasma to the wall where the shard was connected and spilled as much as he dared. The effect was instant. In a hiss of fumes, the metal disintegrated. Hammed made another gravibag ready and while she waited for the doctor to prepare Jean-Luc for his extrication, she turned to Matty “Wetplas?” “I heard Mr.LaForge call it that once.” He stood back to watch the practised ease with which the Captain was treated. Within minutes he was on his way to the Jefferies tube. *Good luck, Captain....you’re going to need it.* Once the team was free of the tube, they were beamed straight to sick bay where more personnel were waiting. Beverly scanned him and attached several probes before taking him into the surgical suit. By the time Will came down to sick bay, both Jean-Luc and Geordi were lying side by side, still connected to medical machinery. “Well, what’s the prognosis?” “We have a problem. They have both been affected by the dust. The mucous membranes and the fine air sacs in the lungs have been badly damaged, Jean-Luc’s so badly, one of his lungs collapsed. We reinflated it, but....let’s just say, they’re struggling.” “But they will get better....won’t they?” Beverly walked to Jean-Luc’s bed and held his hand. “I think so, it’ll take a while....and it will be....uncomfortable. See those tubes in their noses? They’re there to stop the nose bleeds they were having. Just lying there will hurt soon.” Will looked down at his captain. “Why does he always look...smaller... when he’s stretched out in here? How long will you keep them sedated?” Holding Jean-Luc’s hand over her heart, she softly rubbed his cheek.

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“At least until tomorrow. I want them to get as much rest as possible, they’ll need it.” “So, tell me, is the cargo bay clear now?” Will’s handsome face darkened into a scowl. “Uh huh. We’d reached a brick wall, in the end we just opened the door and let it blow out into space. Cleaned the bay a treat!” “Did you find out why it exploded?” “Nope, not yet.” Beverly hitched herself onto the edge of Jean-Luc’s bed and placed her hand on Will’s chest. “Will, there’s something I want you to do. I’m worried about Lynnah. She must have heard the emergency call. She either thinks Jean-Luc’s busy being the Captain, or she knows he’s injured and is too frightened to come down here. Can you find her....let her know what’s happened, I think Jean-Luc would like her to be nearby when he wakes.” Smiling, Will squeezed Beverly’s shoulder. “Sure, no worries. I’ll go by her quarters.” The big man left sick bay and soon found himself at Lynnah’s cabin. After three fruitless presses of the door chime, Will frowned and addressed the computer. “Computer, location of Lynnah Moran.” “Lynnah Moran is in her quarters.” “Right!” Using his override code he stepped into the dark cabin. “Lynnah? Lynnah it’s Will, where are you?” Nothing. It was as quiet as a tomb. “Come on Lynnah, I need to speak to you. Computer, lights.” The cabin was lit as directed and Will started to search. He was growing annoyed, when he spotted out of the corner of his eye, a patch of colour under a table. Tilting his head, he was shocked to see the terrified woman curled into a ball, in the room’s deepest shadow. He moved close and sat down on the floor. “Hey Lynnah...it’s ok, the Captain is in sick bay. He and Geordi were injured, but they’re recovering, with Beverly’s help. Come on out and we can go and visit him, would you like that?” Without turning her head, she whispered, “You’re lying....he’s dead. I loved him and now he’s dead. I know, it’s my punishment.” Tapping his communicator, Will requested Deanna’s presence. “Lynnah, Deanna will be here soon, I’ll wait with you until she comes.” A silence descended, neither person having much to say. It was with some relief when the door chime rang out in the silence. Deanna entered and took a seat next to Will, nodding to him that he could leave. After the doors had closed, Deanna moved closer and reached out a tentative hand and was pleased that Lynnah didn’t withdraw from the contact. “Come to me Lynnah, it’s alright. He’s injured and asleep in sick bay. He will want you there when he wakes up.” Lynnah gave Deanna a sceptical stare, but she did move closer to the counsellor. “What happened, Deanna?” Putting her arm around Lynnah, Deanna said quietly, “There was an explosion in cargo bay eight. The captain and Geordi were there when it occurred and were both seriously injured in the blast. They have both been in surgery and are now asleep and recovering.”

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Lynnah remained silent, although the tension in her body and the sadness in her eyes spoke volumes. “Come on Lynnah, come to sick bay with me....he needs you now, just as you needed him.” Looking up and smiling wanly, Lynnah softly snorted. “.....Still do.” The two women left together and shortly found themselves at sick bay. Without hesitation they entered and sought Beverly, finding her in her office. “Hello ladies....I’m so glad you came Lynnah, I was hoping you would. Sit down, would you like some tea?” Both women declined, so Beverly briefed them on the Captain’s condition. “Well, he is rather banged up. Head injuries, broken bones, an almost severed arm, internal damage....all repaired of course, it’s just the damage to the mucous membranes and lung impairment that’s keeping both of them here. Because it took longer to get the Captain out, he suffered more lung damage than Geordi. It will heal, but it will be....uncomfortable...for a while.” “Can I see him please?” Beverly rose and, nodding a ‘wait here’ to Deanna, left with Lynnah. She was back moments later and resumed her seat at the desk. “Where was she?” Deanna had got herself a cup of hot chocolate and sipped it pensively. “In her quarters....curled in a ball, under a table.” Beverly winced. “Has it set her back?” Taking another sip of her drink, Deanna answered, “I don’t think so. Although her first reaction was to withdraw, she came readily enough after I explained what had happened and that the Captain needed her.” Beverly wrapped her hands around the mug. “You know.....this could be just what she needs.” Deanna cocked her head in thought. “That she will have to nurse him, instead of the other way around?” “Yes. It may well silence all the feelings of inadequacy she has, proving that she has worth.” Nodding, Beverly finished her tea. “Time will tell.”

Lynnah sat quietly beside the Captain. She noted the apparatus attached to his mouth and winced when oxygen was pumped into his lungs. Looking at his body, she noted regen patches on several areas and a stasis field about his shoulder. Around his middle was a small medical shell, the soft violet of an intense regeneration beam visible to the naked eye. She was staring fixedly at an injury on his foot, when she sensed he was looking at her. Turning her head slowly, tears formed in her eyes as she met his gentle stare. Gently taking his hand, she leaned forward and touched her forehead to his. When she steadied, she drew her chair closer and softly spoke to him. “Jean-Luc.....what have you done to yourself? I can’t leave you alone......you’re like a big kid...”

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She stopped as tears flowed down her face. She lifted their joined hands to her face, the tears slipping through the joins and anointing both their hands. Unable to talk, or move too much, Jean-Luc frowned, his respiration increasing, showing the distress he felt. Clutching his hand, Lynnah started to rock back and forth, her anguish growing. Neither person heard the medical alarm, nor did they react when Beverly arrived, but when she raised her voice, she made her presence known. “Jean-Luc, calm down....you mustn’t breathe so raggedly. Not only will it be very painful, your lungs can’t take it right now. I’m giving you something for the pain and something to settle you down.” The hiss of the hypospray seemed to emphasise her words. As Jean-Luc’s condition calmed, Beverly turned her attention to Lynnah. “What is it? Doing her best to contain her fear, Lynnah sat up straight and wiped her eyes. “It’s just.....I was so sure he’d died, that I was being.....punished....I couldn’t stop feeling....fear, then overwhelming relief, I couldn’t find the words.” Beverly stroked Lynnah’s head. “I understand, he’s done that to me more than once. For the time being, at least the next two days, I want Jean-Luc to remain calm. The breathing assist unit will be attached for twenty four hours and then we’ll see if he can do without it.” Jean-Luc tried to speak, raising his hand. “No you don’t mister! No talking!” Then she relented. “We can’t let you talk Jean-Luc, not until tomorrow. I’ll give you a speech PADD; it will tell us what you say. Ok?” Trying to raise a glare, he didn’t quite make it and eventually abandoned the attempt. He was too sore and sorry. Stroking his arm, Lynnah gave him a soft look. “It’s alright Beverly, I’ll look after him. Can he go to his quarters?” Hitching herself onto the edge of his bed, Beverly ran the back of her hand down his cheek. “No, I’m sorry. While he’s using the breathe assist, he will have to stay here. I would like him to stay for the next two days.....and yes, I realise that short of sedating him, he won’t like that....we’ll look at him when we remove the breather. If he can breathe unassisted....and without pain....then he can be discharged.” Lynnah looked down at the irritated Captain and held his hand. “That’s not too bad....Jean-Luc? Hey, it’s not that bad.” Looking at Beverly, Lynnah managed a chuckle. “He’s grumpy! A silent grump.... Maybe this isn’t too bad after all.” Beverly stood up and left, flinging over her shoulder.... “Enjoy it while you can, but remember....he’s got a *very* good memory.” Smiling, Lynnah returned her attention to the annoyed friend. “Oh, come on....it’s not as if you’re stuck here for good. Twenty four hours, we can find something to talk about....why don’t we pretend to be federation representatives? They managed to say an awful lot without saying anything at all. Bloody typical....politicians haven’t changed for a millennia.” That brought a smile, his eyes softened and crinkled at the corners, and he squeezed her hand. Leaning in close, Lynnah whispered.... “You look very....cute....when you do that.” She kissed him softly and stroked his head. They talked for a while, until a med tech brought in a speech PADD.

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“The computer has configured it to Captain Picard’s profile and it will improve with use....it learns as it goes.” Thanking the woman, Lynnah looked speculatively at the PADD and offered it to Jean-Luc. “I’ve no idea, what do you have to do?” He took the unit and began typing. Lynnah could see that the device quickly began anticipating the words and within a few moments, Jean-Luc only had to type the first one or two letters of any given word. He activated the comm. unit and the unit spoke in a soft female voice remarkably like the Enterprises’ main computer. ~Thankyou for being with me, it’s much appreciated. I was frightened when I woke up, I couldn’t breathe on my own. They were attaching the breather, it was painful and frightening, but I’ve felt fine since you’ve been here.~ Lynnah smiled and moved closer. “I was frightened too. I heard all the orders and when they said you were injured....I folded up. I was so sure you had perished.....I didn’t want live anymore, not without you. Will came, then Deanna and they convinced me that not only were you alive, but that you needed me. I’m sorry I took so long.” ~It must’ve been terrible for you. We should make a deal. I forget my discomforts and you forget you sadness, and we just go on from when you came in. Dammit! I wish this thing could talk softly.~ Lynnah chuckled and kissed his cheek. “It’s a deal.” They ‘talked’ for several hours, surprisingly finding much to talk about. Eventually tiredness won out and Jean-Luc began to drift off. Lynnah waited until sleep claimed him, then gently lay down beside him and succumbed to sleep herself. Beverly found them together next morning and, checking him quietly, left and closed the screen around them.

Lynnah woke first, initially confused as to where she was, then her recollection kicked in and she looked lovingly at her sleeping companion. She touched him sweetly and gazed at his resting body the heat beginning almost immediately. Kissing him gently, she rose from the bed and was about to stand up, when his hand closed on hers. She looked down at him with overt desire and, leaning forward, whispered huskily into his ear, “You better get fit soon, Jean-Luc, I have plans for you.” He blushed. It rose above the overall he was wearing, travelled up his neck and bloomed fully on his handsome face, bringing a throaty chuckle from the woman. Within moments Beverly was coming through the screen. “Jean-Luc what.........” The couple quickly pulled apart, causing Beverly to lower her head and smile. “Uh, Captain....the computer registered a rise in your body temperature. Are you alright?” Picking up the PADD, Jean-Luc quickly started typing. ~I’m fine Beverly, no problem.~ More seriously, Beverly came closer. “Are you sure Jean-Luc? See if you can take a breath on you own.”

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The Captain swallowed and attempted to draw a breath. He started fine, but suddenly his face screwed into a grimace of pain, his hands rising to his chest. “Hey, that wasn’t bad at all. You did quite a bit on you own; you’re improving all the time, well done!” The Captain wasn’t too sure about what Beverly had said, but generally felt good. Lynnah was beaming, again holding his hand. “So, Beverly, do you think all this can be done away with later?” Beverly smiled and put one hand on Jean-Luc’s head. “If he continues at this pace, I don’t see why not.” “That’s great! Isn’t it Jean-Luc?” His eyebrows rose and his eyes crinkled. “He’s smiling.” Beverly looked at her sceptically. “Uh huh. Hmmm, well, I’ll leave you to it. Call me if you need anything.” Beverly breezed out, raising a mischievous chuckle from Lynnah. “If I ‘need’ anything I won’t be calling Beverly.” Jean-Luc missed a breath and his eyes crinkled again. He took her hand and squeezed it, words unnecessary. The hours drifted by, Jean-Luc improving with each passing minute. It came as a surprise when Beverly returned to tell them it was time for Jean-Luc to see if he could breathe without the supplementing machine. “Already? But....you said...” Beverly smiled gently. “That was seven hours ago.” Lynnah gasped in disbelief. “Seven hours! But...I...We...” “Hey, I can come back later....” Shaking her head, Lynnah laughed. “Oh no you don’t! He’d string me up.” The women laughed, Jean-Luc scowled ineffectually. Beverly carefully undid the holding apparatus and withdrew the length of infiltrating tube. Keeping an eagle eye on the monitors, she said to Jean-Luc, “Ok, breathe normally.” He gingerly drew a breath, then another...each breath getting bigger, until he drew in a large lung full of air and expelled it with some force. Smiling, he gazed at Lynnah and tried to talk. Nothing happened, except for a violent coughing fit. “Hey! Steady! What are you doing Jean-Luc? I didn’t say anything about talking. Come on now...settle down. Take easy breaths, that’s it, slow down. You’ll find your voice a little patchy for a while, a couple of days at least. The nerves in your larynx have been damaged and they need time to recover. So....no talking. You can whisper, and that’s all. Understood?” Wiping the coughing induced tears from his eyes, he ruefully nodded to Beverly, swallowing as he did. In a husky whisper he asked, “Can I go to my quarters?” Beverly snorted. “Now just how did I know you were going to say that? You know, you give this place a bad name. You come in here, we fix you up, then you almost kill yourself in trying to get out! Yes, Jean-Luc, you may return to your lodgings, there’s not much wrong with you now. I will make regular calls to see you’re behaving yourself and I’ll want to see you here in three days...Lynnah, you have my permission to yell at him if he

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disobeys any of my edicts. All clear? Good. Scat! This place is for sick people!” Still grinning, the Captain and Lynnah left sickbay, just as Will was entering. “Captain, Lynnah, it’s good to see you up Sir. I take you’re discharged? Fine Sir, I may see you in your quarters later, if that’s alright.” Nodding his acceptance, Jean-Luc left his first officer and entered the turbolift with Lynnah. After the doors had closed, he took her hand in his and squeezed gently. Lynnah leaned on him, resting her head on his chest. They parted when the lift doors opened, yet he still held her hand. They entered his cabin and Lynnah offered to get him some tea. Shaking his head, he gestured towards his bedroom, whispering, “I’m tired Lynnah. Can we just rest?” Frowning with concern, Lynnah agreed, “Of course, you must be exhausted.” “I didn’t say *exhausted*, just tired.” Smiling, Lynnah proposed, “Why don’t you change for bed, and I’ll make us some tea...you can have it in bed.” “How decadent. That would be lovely.” As she waited for the replicator to make her request, she listened to the small noises of Jean-Luc changing and getting into bed. When she came in with the tray of goodies, he was sitting up in bed smiling. “Well, look at you. Here, let’s see if I can tempt you.” She sat on the bed and laid the tray on the blankets. “We have tea...of course, some strawberry jam, cream and scones. I thought a Devonshire tea would be appropriate.” Sighing with pleasure, Jean-Luc leaned over and kissed her tenderly, robbing her of speech. He had a scone covered with jam before she recovered and she was delighted with the grin on his face. They ate all the scones, their consumption interrupted by a gentle game of cream daubing. Jean-Luc took great fun in dabbing Lynnah with the thickened cream, then kissing her to remove it. It grew to become semierotic and Lynnah was disappointed when the cream ran out. She was going to get some more, when Jean-Luc took her hand and rose from the bed. Taking her with him, he went to the bathroom and gestured to the shower. “You want to take a shower? No problem, I’ll....” “No, Lynnah,” he whispered, “*We* are going to take a shower.” Growing several shades of red, Lynnah lowered her head speechlessly. “Trust me Lynnah. Look at me.” Lynnah looked up to see Jean-Luc slowly removing his pyjamas and, when he was fully naked, he began to take off Lynnah’s clothes. Her hands rose to help him, but he stilled them, leaning in, his face against hers, “No Lynnah. This is all for you. Relax and concentrate on how you feel.” He slowly divested her of her clothing, and when they were both naked. Jean-Luc started the shower and backed in, leading Lynnah, not taking his eyes off her. Once under the warm spray, Jean-Luc turned her around and lathered up his hands. Starting at her neck, he started to massage her, his firm fingers kneading out the tension. Moving down her back, he allowed his hands to stray under her arms, lightly brushing her breasts. This gentle arousal continued until he was sliding his hands fully over her breasts, rolling the nipples between fingers and thumbs. Lynnah was deeply excited, her sexual tension arching her back, soft

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gasps and moans escaping her. Sensing she wanted more, he slid his hands down the plain of her abdomen and further onto her thighs. She pressed herself into him, his erection trapped between them. Drawing his hands up, he let one hand slide between her legs, brushing the sensitive bud lightly and eliciting a moan of urgent desire. He turned her then and pressed his body against hers. Taking her face in his large hands, he whispered in obvious desire, “Trust me.” Closing her eyes, she nodded, her tension causing the ligaments in her jaw to creak audibly. As he washed away the soap, the caresses continued and when he took her nipples into his hot mouth one by one, she thought her legs would give out. Slowly he worked his way down her body, until he was kneeling between her legs. He looked up at her and whispered huskily, “Lynnah, watch....I want... I need, you to watch. She opened her eyes and looked down at this incredible man and knew for the first time, with absolute certainty, she trusted him....she loved him. He didn’t see the tears with the shower’s spray, but they fell nonetheless, falling on his upturned face, mingled with the rain. He ran his hands up to her breasts, massaging them and tweaking the nipples, then he leaned forward and nuzzled her sweet folds, his tongue lapping and exploring. Nudging her legs apart, he gently pushed his face deeper between her legs. With exquisite care, his tongue entered her, then withdrew quickly, travelling the short distance to the centre of her desire, making feathery flicks over the nub. Looking up at her, he enquired.... “More?” Her hands went first to her own head, then to his and she nodded inarticulately. He resumed his intimate caress, this time bringing a hand into use. His tongue lazily rolled over her clitoris, making her body jerk with each touch. One of his fingers gently penetrated her. Holding his hand steady, he withdrew his head and looked at her mutely. Receiving another nod of acceptance, he again resumed his beautiful stroking. He started a rhythmic thrusting with his finger, sucking her bud and rolling his tongue over it with breathtaking care. The orgasm happened without warning, Lynnah throwing her head back and calling his name, her body jerking, her hands pressing his face into her folds. Jean-Luc eased his caress, but didn’t stop. He let her regain her breath, then began again, slowly building his touch until it happened a second time. With the second climax, Lynnah lost the ability to stand. She slid slowly down the wall until she was sitting in front of Jean-Luc. She was weeping and this time Jean-Luc saw it. Gathering her in his strong arms, he waited while she regained her strength, then stopped the shower and helped her to her feet. He rubbed them both down with a towel and lead her to the bed, and when she was comfortable, he spooned against her and let sleep claim them.

The next morning Lynnah awoke to find her head resting on Jean-Luc’s chest. She lay quietly feeling the rhythm of his heart, the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. She gently lifted her leg and slid it over his and moved closer to be touching him from head to toe. With her free hand, she spread her fingers and softly moved her

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hand through the springy hair, then moved to his stomach, gliding her hand ever downwards. Just as her hand reached the thick growth, she was slightly startled when Jean-Luc moaned. It was a very low, exciting sound, one that aroused and encouraged her. She reached further and encountered the base of his erect penis. Boldly, she caressed him intimately, eliciting another low moan. Delighted with the reactions, she rose on her elbow and pushed the covers off them and down the bed, staring hungrily at his obviously aroused length. Moving down his side, she leaned forward gingerly and placed a kiss just under the glans and was amazed when the organ twitched in response. She looked up at JeanLuc to see him, arms outstretched, head back and his mouth slightly ajar. Lynnah was captivated. She reached up and ran her finger softly over his lower lip, making it purse in response. He opened his eyes then and caught her in his heated gaze. “Show me, Jean-Luc...show me how....” Keeping his eyes locked on hers, Jean-Luc ran one hand down his torso and gently gripped his penis and began a measured stroking. As she watched this intimate act, her own desire had taken wing and was fluttering about her body. Again she felt the heat, the longing; she needed to be with this extraordinary man.....her first lover. With confidence, she covered his hand with hers and learned the rhythm as he closed his eyes and opened his legs. The tension continued to build, soon Jean-Luc withdrew his hand, letting Lynnah do as she saw fit. She moved down to be nearer and leaned forward to add her mouth to the act. She could see that he was nearing his climax. His body was rigid, sweat covered his skin and his breathing was ragged. She bent forward and used her tongue in sync with her pumping hand, when suddenly his penis swelled and his hips thrust up from the bed. The orgasm was strong and intensely erotic; she felt her own desire heighten as she watched him come over her hand and onto his stomach. In the resolution of his climax, he reached down and stilled her hand. She moved up the bed and kissed him sweetly, whispering, “I love you.” His eyes opened and he regarded her with tenderness. “And I love you.” They lay quietly, Jean-Luc regaining his breath, until he said, “Stay here a moment, I’ll go and clean up.” “I think I’ll come with you.” He looked at her with a mysterious smile and agreed happily. They entered the shower together and Lynnah was amazed to see he was semi erect again. Jean-Luc enjoyed her astonishment and they played erotically under the warm spray, Lynnah’s desire growing all the time. Jean-Luc reached down with a soapy hand and touched her sensitive bud, bringing a gasp of delight from her and causing Jean-Luc to stop the water and lead her to the bed. Still wet, they lay down and Lynnah gave herself over to this beautiful man. He kissed her thoroughly, then left her face and kissed his way to her folds, licking and sucking until he knew she was close to her orgasm. He stopped and moved back up rolling her onto her side to face him. He ran his hand down her leg and lifted her leg from behind her knee, bringing her leg up to and over his hip. She felt the tip of his penis at her entrance and he waited for her to give her permission. She looked deeply into his eyes and nodded wordlessly. He kissed her with overt passion, and as his tongue filled her mouth, his penis filled her body. She tensed, experiencing the tightness, the feeling of being filled. Jean-Luc lay passively, gently undulating his hips, letting her become accustomed to him. She opened her eyes and smiled at the concerned face of her lover, nodding that

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all was well. A smile graced his own face and he kissed her tenderly. Running his hand down to her buttock, he started to thrust very gently, watching her face carefully, ready to stop immediately if need be. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back and began to meet his thrusts with her own. His hand left her buttocks and moved to her breast, tweaking her nipple in time with his thrusts. He moved forward and gently bit her earlobe, again in sync with his inexorable movements. She felt it coming and was frightened of its speed and intensity. Her eyes flew open and she saw the face of her lover, eyes half closed, watching her intently. She felt loved and cherished, she tried to tell him, but the words flew away, scattered by the approaching wave. JeanLuc saw its advance and, with exquisite timing, gently bit her nipple at precisely the same time as the wave of her climax crashed over her. She cried out, arching her back, pushing herself as close to Jean-Luc as she could. Feeling his penis gripped by her internal muscles, he thrust hard three more times and reached his own peak, calling out her name as his body jerked spasmodically. When he was able, he opened his eyes to see her tear filled eyes gazing at him. He reached up and tenderly caressed her face. “Are you alright? I didn’t hurt you?” Still unable to speak, she smiled and snuggled into his embrace and, still joined, they tumbled into sleep.

Some hours later, Will strode into sick bay, seeking the beautiful red head he knew was there. Spotting the small crowd and the signature flash of her hair, Will ambled over to the gathering. “You’re not supposed to be here.” Laughing, Beverly replied, “I know.....I just came in to pick up the chip with Jean-Luc’s notes and Alyssa saw that I had Bonnie with me. The rest is history.” Will peered into the blankets and encouraged the infant to grip his finger. Satisfied that the little one had passed the test, he spoke to her mother. “You’re on your way to the Captain? I was supposed to see him last night, but I finished late and I didn’t want to disturb him.” Beverly chuckled. “Disturb him? Have you spoken with Deanna lately?” “What?” “Never mind, come on we’ll go together.” The two friends walked the corridors of the great ship happy in each other’s company. More than anything else, Will loved his “family” on board, Beverly because she knew she belonged here, with friends and now, family. They arrived at their commander’s quarters and Will pushed the activator. Nothing happened, so he pressed again. This time they heard a rough voice call, “Come.” The doors gasped open to reveal a sleep tousled Captain, trying to tie the robe about his bare form. Will studiously studied his feet, while Beverly paid close attention to Bonnie. Getting his errant robe under control, the Captain said in a gravelly voice, “Ah, good morning.....what can I do for you?”

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Will straightened and, hiding the grin that was just busting to get out, answered his Captain. “ Good morning Sir, I’ve come by to bring you up to speed on ship’s business, but I think I’ll come back later.” Smiling, Will turned and exited, leaving Beverly alone. “And you?” “My, aren’t you the glib sort this morning. I’ve come to check your throat. By the sound of your voice, I’d lay odds you’ve disobeyed orders and over taxed your larynx.” Having the good grace to look embarrassed, the captain croaked, “Guilty.” Beverly moved closer to Jean-Luc and, without warning, placed Bonnie in his arms. “Here, hold bubs for a minute.” “Bubs?” Beverly smiled warmly. “Bonnie bubs. Don’t ask....it just sort of happened. Come on Jean-Luc, open wide.” Reluctantly, Jean-Luc opened his mouth while still trying to watch the infant in his arms, a strategy not truly appreciated by the doctor. “Jean-Luc, tilt your head back!” “I can’t. If I do, I can’t see Bonnie.” “I’ll take her.” Lynnah was leaning against the bedroom door jamb, watching the scenario unfold, an amused grin on her face. She wandered over and held her arms out, Beverly taking the baby from the relieved Captain and placing her gently in Lynnah’s embrace. “Jean-Luc, come and sit down.” Once he was comfortable, Beverly did a thorough scan of his throat. Sitting back she sighed exasperatedly. “Jean-Luc....I specifically told you *not* to speak....*not* to strain your throat. How the hell am I going to treat you, if you won’t follow my instructions? I’m not a magician, I can’t....” Lynnah came and sat with the irritated doctor. “It’s my fault Beverly, I.....encouraged him.” In unison both the Captain and the doctor said, “It’s not your fault.”, Followed by Beverly’s curt, “Jean-Luc! Shut....up!.....please.....Sir.” Looking startled, Jean-Luc was about to remind Beverly that it was extremely poor form to tell her Captain to *shut up*, but before he got the chance, Lynnah intervened. “She’s right Jean-Luc, although I might’ve chosen a different way to tell you.....in any case, it is my fault and I apologise for it. Can you fix his throat, Beverly?” “Yes, I can do that....but really, no talking. He must rest his throat for at least twenty four hours. Each time he tries to speak, he puts his healing back several hours..” Turning to the Captain, she said, “I mean it Jean-Luc. If I come back and find you’ve disobeyed me, I will put you back in sick bay and sedate you until you’re healed.” Jean-Luc’s hard stare softened and he bowed his head and nodded. “Good. Now....where’s breakfast?” As Lynnah handed the sleeping baby to a startled Captain, she rose and followed Beverly to the replicator, the two of them discussing menus.” Jean-Luc looked down at Bonnie and whispered, “It’s just you and me kid.”

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Three days later, the Captain was passed fit for duty and Lynnah had taken a position in the minerals department. After talking with Deanna, and receiving her approval, Lynnah moved in with Jean-Luc. One evening, after dinner, the couple were sitting on the sofa watching the stars streak by. Jean-Luc was leaning back, his feet on the low table and Lynnah had her back against him, her feet on the sofa. “Lynnah, what do you think of Bonnie?” Silent at first, Lynnah slowly turned and regarded her lover. “Exactly what do you mean? Do I like her?...of course I do, she’s adorable.” Jean-Luc’s eyes moved slowly back to the stars. He was silent for some time, then trailed his hand over Lynnah’s fine hair. “Do you think you’ll ever have a child, Lynnah?” The question was asked so quietly, with such gentleness, Lynnah at first didn’t know what to say. Having found throughout her life that honesty was indeed the best policy, she answered him with the truth. “I’ve never really thought about it, but I suppose I will, maybe, someday.” Still stroking her hair, Lynnah leaned back against him and savoured his warmth and his uniquely male odour. “Would you, perhaps, have a child.....with me?” Stiffening, her head spun around. “What?” “Would you be interested in having a child with me?” Turning to kneel at his side, Lynnah gently caressed his face. “Jean-Luc....I don’t know....it’s never even crossed my mind. Your implant.....it’s current?” “Oh yes, don’t worry, I’d never do that to you. My contraceptive implant is still active. I’m sorry Lynnah, I was just thinking out loud.” He settled back into the sofa, but not before Lynnah saw sadness in his eyes. They went to bed soon after and made love, his gentleness, as always, touching her heart.

Two weeks later, Lynnah was with Deanna in her quarters. The on going therapy was slowly tapering off, Lynnah being able to continue to recover more by herself. The women were enjoying a hot drink together, when Lynnah quietened and became serious. Deanna felt the change and quelled her own high spirits. She reached out and touched Lynnah’s knee. “What is it?” Lynnah put her drink down and sat forward. “Deanna, has Jean-Luc ever mentioned having children?” A shocked counsellor sat back, momentarily speechless. “What?” “Has Jean-Luc ever talked to you about having kids?” “......No.....not exactly.....how much has he told you about....”

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“Beverly? Everything, I think....I know he was in love with her....he still is.” Deanna sipped her drink, gathering her thoughts. “They have a very long history, spanning decades. I’m surprised you accept his feelings with such equanimity.” Lynnah shrugged and rose from her seat, feeling restless. “I’m trying to be pragmatic....how am I doing?” “How do you think you’re doing?” Lynnah laughed and threw a cushion at the counsellor. “Now how did I know you were going to say that? Look there’s no point losing sleep over it. I just had to accept that, although he says he loves me.....he also loves her...and probably always will. I can cope with that. I still can’t quite believe that a man such as he would want me.” Raising her eyebrows dramatically, Deanna challenged her. “And why wouldn’t he want you? What is there about you that makes you think a man like him wouldn’t want you?” Lynnah lowered her head and put her hands in her pockets, muttering so softly that Deanna had to ask her to repeat what she’d said. “Damaged goods!” Deanna closed her eyes and erected her mental barriers against the anger emanating from Lynnah. “Is that how you see yourself....damaged?” “Well, I’m not exactly pristine am I? How many lovers have to hold their partners when the terror comes.......tell them there’s no rapists under the bed........have to ask for permission to make love? I wasn’t much before, I’m not sure what I am now, but I don’t think I’m all that......clean.” Deanna rose from her seat and approached the angry woman. Reaching out, Deanna was about to speak, when Lynnah angrily brushed aside her hand. “No, don’t. Don’t try to placate me. This is something I must deal with, alone.” “But that’s just it.....you’re not alone. Jean-Luc loves you, and despite his enduring love for Beverly, he will stand by you. And, Lynnah, I think you’re forgetting how much you do for him. You hold him at times.....tell him there’s no Borg under the bed. He relies on you as much as you rely on him and if he’s willing to open himself to you....well, all I can say is that you’re extraordinarily lucky. Few people have ever got that close....I know I haven’t. You’re not *damaged goods* any more than he is. I keep telling you....you’re a survivor. It’s time you believed it!” Deanna stared defiantly at Lynnah, daring her to disagree. With a snort, Lynnah plonked into a chair, momentarily defeated. Deanna resumed her seat and, after a few minutes spent calming ruffled feathers, opened the conversation again. “Now I believe you asked me about the Captain’s stand on children?” Lynnah laughed, shaking her head. “Not exactly. I asked if he ever mentioned having children.” “Ah, yes. To my knowledge, he’s not contemplated it openly. I’ve never sensed any desire to have children, although he has been quite lonely before you came along, Beverly’s marriage plans were a painful episode for him....until they announced their upcoming wedding, I think he sort of hoped it wouldn’t happen.” Lynnah groaned, shaking her head in disbelief. “You mean I got him on the rebound? I can’t believe it.....see I told you, under normal circumstances a man like that wouldn’t look twice at a woman like me.”

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“Lynnah that is ridiculous! Now it sounds like self pity. What are you trying to do.....find a way to end your relationship with him? Do you think you know him at all? I’m telling you...categorically...if he says he loves you....Believe it! He would *never* do anything to hurt you and that includes loving you for the wrong reason.” Lynnah held Deanna’s angry glare, then lowered her head and let the tears fall. Deanna got up and went to sit with her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Lynnah, he loves you....and you are *worthy* of that love. Enjoy it.” Lynnah leaned back, wiping her eyes. Taking a big breath, she looked ruefully at the counsellor. “Do you think I’d make a good mother?” Smiling, Deanna hugged her. “I think you’d be an excellent mother, the thing is....do you want to be a mother?” “I don’t know.” Deanna rose and went to get a moist face washer. When she returned, Lynnah had become pensive. Thanking Deanna, Lynnah wiped her face and got to her feet. “I’ve a lot to think about, haven’t I?” Deanna stood and gently took Lynnah’s hands in her own. “I’m always here, you know that. Lynnah, be kind to yourself, you’re worth it.”

Two days later, Lynnah came back to her quarters tired and frustrated. The cataloguing of material from the last planetary survey had become quite tedious. The elements they had collected had been contaminated in transit and were resisting all efforts to refine them. Short of going back and collecting new samples, she couldn’t see what they could do to remedy the situation. The doors sighed open and, as she stepped into the room, the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread wafted around her. “Hello lovely.” That beautiful deep baritone sent shivers up her spine. She stood still and closed her eyes. She knew when he approached, his aftershave giving him away. So attuned to his scent, she pursed her lips before his lips touched hers. The kiss was soft, a prelude to what was to come. He broke the gentle kiss to nibble down her neck, then back up to her face. The next kiss was languid and prolonged. When he ended it, they were both breathless. “Welcome home. I have tea ready, are you hungry?” Again closing her eyes, the smile grew across her face. “Oh yes....*very* hungry.” “Good. That’s very good.” Taking her by the hand, she was led to the table and seated. With a flourish, Jean-Luc lifted the lid from the silver platter which sat in the middle of a beautifully arranged table. Fine white linen, silver service and fine bone china crockery was spread about with care. She was captivated....and flattered. Looking up at her handsome mate, she smiled warmly. “Thank you Jean-Luc, it’s all so lovely....when did you have the time to do this?” With a twinkle in his eye, he chuckled warmly.

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“I’m the Captain, remember?” “What is it they say about ‘absolute power’?.....” Bending low, he whispered into her ear, “You don’t think I’m corrupt....do you?” Laughing out loud, Lynnah kissed his cheek. “God, I hope so....how boring would it be to be *good* all the time?” “But Lynnah.....I’m always *good*.” Sharing the quiet humour, they began their meal and, afterwards, stretched out together on the sofa. Jean-Luc was gently running his large hands through her hair. They had not spoken for some time, when Jean-Luc asked, “Would you like some brandy?” “No thank you. Jean-Luc....you asked if I had considered having children.....I hadn’t, not really. There were times when I was alone on the planet when I thought about it, but never seriously. I don’t know if I can have children. My injuries....the internal damage...I never asked Beverly if I could....conceive a child....it never occurred to me....” Jean-Luc pulled her closer to him and said gently, “You can conceive.” Lynnah looked at him sharply. “How do you know?” Jean-Luc realised his mistake and squeezed his eyes shut. Taking a steadying breath, he said gently, “Lynnah, you conceived a child as the result of the rape.” Leaving the sofa, she stood in front of him, staring incredulously. “What!?” “You remember the infection we had? The pregnancy was what saved you; it was the same for Beverly, only she didn’t get infected. As soon as the embryo reached a certain stage, the changes in your body killed the infection.” Sitting down on a chair, Lynnah whispered, “And what happened to the child?” Jean-Luc stood and went to sit with the stunned woman. “You spontaneously aborted it. The genetic compatibility of human/Cardassian is very low.” “Why wasn’t I told?” Lowering his head, Jean-Luc said quietly, “Lynnah, don’t get angry...please. Think about it for a moment. How could we tell you that, as a result of a very brutal, violent rape, you conceived a child that saved your life, only to ultimately die? We were in a no win situation. There was no way to tell you....gently. I’m so sorry, Lynnah, I can imagine....” Jumping to her feet, Lynnah looked angrily down at her lover. “No you can’t! You can’t imagine.....” She turned abruptly and stalked out of their quarters, leaving a very worried captain in her wake. “Picard to Troi. Please come to my cabin.” “Aye Sir.”

Lynnah didn’t know what to do. The tears flowed unheeded down her face, her feet took her of their own volition....she wasn’t surprised when she found herself at Beverly’s door. Pressing the activator, she rested her head on the wall. When the door opened, Tobyn at first thought there was no one there; the he caught a glimpse of a

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shoulder and stuck his head out further into the corridor. Taking one look at the distressed woman, Tobyn called for his partner and ushered Lynnah into his abode. Beverly came into the living room, sized up the situation and silently gestured Tobyn to leave. His departure was ignored. “Lynnah....what is it?” Hearing her name, Lynnah lifted her face and glared at the doctor. “Why didn’t you tell me I had conceived a child?” “Under the circumstances we decided it would prove no good.” Walking stiffly around the table, Lynnah started to wring her hands. “One of those Cardassian bastards impregnated me.....and the pregnancy saved my life....and then I aborted it. Does that sum it up?” Lowering her head, Beverly sighed. “Lynnah it’s a lot more complic......” “Does that sum it up?!” “More or less.” “More or less? More of what...less of what? When were you going to tell me?” Beverly sat down and tried to defuse the situation. “Soon. We were waiting to get the go ahead from Deanna. She was to tell us when it was time....when you had recovered sufficiently.” Sitting across from Beverly, Lynnah said quietly, “So, am I recovered enough?” “I don’t know. How do you feel?” Rising to her feet, Lynnah ignored Beverly’s enquiry and walked out of the doctor’s quarters. Beverly was about to follow, when Bonnie started to fuss, and Beverly stopped in her tracks, opting to stay with her child. Tobyn came in moments later and asked, “What was that all about?” “Hard, unforgiving, cold truth.” Taking Bonnie in his arms, he said to his mate, “Do you want to go after her?” “No, she has to work this out alone. No one can help her with this one.” Lynnah left Beverly’s quarters and moved quickly through the ship’s corridors, eventually stopping at a small observation lounge on deck seven. Ordering the lights out, she wrapped her arms around herself and leaned her head against the cold, clear aluminium windows. She was there in the silence two hours later, when she heard the soft wheeze of the activated door. She felt the presence of another, but remained silent. “By noting your thermal output and the increase of you cardio-pulmonary system, I would surmise you are somewhat distressed.” Without looking at commander Data, Lynnah grunted softly. After computing the most likely response and staying with the percentages, he offered... “Do you wish to be alone?” Feeling vaguely irritated, Lynnah straightened and said brusquely, “Yes!...No,...Oh hell I don’t know!” Data stood motionless as he assimilated the latest information. The scenario he now faced had several strategies he could employ. He chose the most logical one. “If you are unsure, perhaps I should stay with you. I have noted that many humans, when distressed, state that they want solitude, when, In fact, the opposite is true.” Sighing and turning to face the commander, Lynnah became mildly curious. “Really, commander Data? And what do your statistics tell you about my bearing a child in the face of my recent trauma?”

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Taking note of her body language, Data correctly interpreted that the question was largely rhetorical. “If you are asking on the basis of your previous failed pregnancy, I would say the odds are in your favour, considering your age and sex, providing the genetic mix was a more successful one.” “A more successful genetic mix? Data, I’m talking about creating a new life, not trying to establish a pedigree of some sort.” His face taking on a child like innocence, he cocked his head in thought. “I wasn’t aware of that option. I merely stated that the easiest pregnancy for you would be with a partner most like your own human structure, as opposed to the more unstable variety. For instance.....” Sighing and sitting down, Lynnah silenced the talkative android with a wave of her hand. “I know Data....I know that. The question is....can I bring a new life into being?...would I make a fit mother?...and...does Jean-Luc want a child for the right reasons, not out of pity for me...or him? What do I do, Data?” Slowly shaking his head, Data said softly, “I do not know.” Lynnah looked up and stared into his eyes. “No, neither do I.” She rose to leave and as she passed Data, he gently reached out and held her arm. “I do know, however, if you and Captain Picard have children together, they will be fortunate indeed to have two such parents as you both.” “Statistics data?” “Gut feeling, Lynnah.” He left her then, standing once again, watching the stars.

Several decks away, a restless Captain was pacing his quarters. “It was a stupid, insensitive thing to say. I should never have mentioned it.” Fortifying her mental barriers, Deanna took a calming breath. “Captain, the timing may have been a little premature, but she had to find out, just the same.” “I know, but I asked if she and I....whether we could....” Stopping his speech, the Captain gathered his thoughts. “I asked her if she would be disposed to have children...with me.” “Disposed?” “Well yes, although not in those exact words...” “Thankfully...” “Look counsellor, the thing is....I let the cat out of the bag. I hadn’t received the go ahead from you or Beverly; I opened my mouth and managed to hurt her in complete ignorance. I really don’t know what possessed me.” Deanna rose and sat nearer the distressed man. “Captain, I know you’ve been feeling lonely for some time now. You dealt with Beverly and Tobyn better than I thought you would and I know you’re truly in love with Lynnah. The arrival of Bonnie has made many of us re-evaluate our lives, take stock of what we have and who we are. That little infant has stirred up paternal feelings you’re unfamiliar with. Lynnah is stronger than she looks, she’s bright and dynamic. She

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will be thinking about what you asked....give her time Sir...in fact give yourself some time too, all this is bound to have an affect.” Sensing his need to be alone, Deanna rose and moved toward the door. “If you need me....well, you know what to do.” Still seated, Jean-Luc nodded pensively, not really noticing the doors close with their customary swish. After a few minutes, Jean-Luc rose and entered his bedroom, changing into shorts, tee-shirt, socks and gym shoes. He left his cabin and went straight to the gymnasium, a towel draped over his shoulder. After stretching his body to warm up, he approached the weights with a lingering sneer.

Lynnah had stayed in the observation lounge for a while longer and slowly realised she was missing Jean-Luc. Asking the computer where he was, she left and headed for the gymnasium, arriving after some minutes walking. The doors parted for her and she entered, then stood still. She heard him almost instantly, his grunts as he exerted himself unmistakable. Following the sounds, she came to the weights room. He stood, feet braced apart, lifting a heavy barbell from chest to arms fully extended over his head. He had removed his shirt and sweat was running freely down his torso. His eyes were closed and his jaw tightly clenched. Lynnah was entranced. She stood, open-mouthed, watching this beautiful man exercise his magnificent body. Sensing her presence, Jean-Luc’s eyes snapped open and he froze with the barbell at chest height. Lynnah regarded him with quickly rising desire. She walked to him and gently traced her fingers down his trembling muscular arms. Taking a step back, he made two final reps, then, with remarkable grace, lowered the weight to the floor. He stood still, watching his lover with hooded eyes, the rivulets of liquid cleaving his face. Lynnah bent forward and retrieved the towel, offering it to him soundlessly. He took the towel and rubbed his face, then his chest, making quick the perfunctory cleansing. Lowering his hands, he stood still, holding the towel in one hand. Lynnah took a calming breath. “I’m sorry.” “No need.” Frowning, Lynnah closed the distance between them. She stopped before him and gently ran one fingernail from his collarbone to his hip, enchanted when he closed his eyes and sighed. “I’ve been unfair.....over reacting...I....” Reaching up, he clasped her hands in his and raised them to his lips, where he softly kissed them. “Don’t my love, it’s not necessary. It’s been a difficult time for you; your reaction was perfectly understandable. We still have much to learn about each other.....” She kissed him then. She simply placed her hand on his cheek and covered his lips with hers, his eyes drifting shut. He placed his large hands on her waist and ran one up her back, the other to entangle in her hair at the back of her head. She instigated the kiss, he took it over. His passion was like liquid fire, its strength making her knees weaken. He felt her desire and deepened the kiss, pulling her closely to his body. His tongue claimed her mouth, plunging into her in time with the insistence of his gently thrusting hips. She could feel his arousal through the material that separated them, hard and heated. She

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ran her hands down to his buttocks and pulled him even tighter against her. He suddenly broke the kiss and gently pulled at her hair, her head tilting back to expose the soft underside of her jaw. He leaned in and placed open mouthed kisses on the line of her jaw, travelling down her throat until he met, and nipped, her collarbone. She gasped and opened her eyes, her vision blurred by the tears of relief and love. He straightened and took her face in his hands, kissing her with ardent desire. “I think we should go to my quarters. I want to lay you on my bed and make slow, passionate, love to you, repeatedly.” He stood back from her and noticed her embarrassed grin. Following her eyes, he realised what had provoked her mirth. She giggled and pointed, “What about that? You wouldn’t dare walk the corridors of the ship with it....like that.” Raising one eyebrow, he stooped and picked up the discarded towel and let it hang from his grip, conveniently covering his....embarrassing condition. “Oh, I’m impressed....very innovative!” “That’s why I’m the Captain....and I’m so happy you’re....impressed....” She kissed him again, but ducked out of his reach when he made to embrace her. He smiled indulgently and took her hand, leading her from the gymnasium, the rest of the journey taken swiftly. They were in each other’s arms before the doors had shut. Jean-Luc had removed her shirt and bra, his lips finding the nipples unerringly. She arched her back, wanting more, but his mouth had already moved on, claiming the sensitive juncture between her neck and shoulder, pleasing her when he bit her playfully. He stepped back and looked at her searchingly, the love and desire clearly evident in his hazel eyes. “You are so beautiful, Lynnah.....so beautiful.” Taking her hands, he walked backwards into his bedroom, ordering the lights down as he went. He was caressing her face when she surprised him by gently tugging down his shorts and briefs, then, taking his hand, led him to the shower. He stood passively as she set the water temperature, then asked silently with her eyes for him to join her under the delightful spray. Silently he stepped in with her and spent delicious minutes playing erotically, heightening the hot desire that lay coiled within them. In the warm steam, Lynnah sank to her knees and took his erection into her mouth. Holding the shaft, she kissed the tip and fluttered her tongue on the sensitive underside. Jean-Luc groaned softly, stroking her head, then pulled her slowly to her feet. They kissed languidly, Jean-Luc using one hand to guide his hard length to slide over the heated lips of her vulva. She began to thrust her hips, wanting more, wanting for him to touch her *there*. Pushing a little harder, he parted the folds and exposed the nub of her sexual centre and slid his hardness over it. She cried out, clasping his shoulders and jerking with each touch. He reached down and lifted her leg while pushing her back against the wall, increasing the pressure on her engorged clitoris. That was all it took. She flung her head back and pushed frantically with her hips, jerking as the spasms tore through her. Her climax robbed her of control and strength and she would’ve fallen if not for Jean-Luc’s strong arms holding her up. Wrapping his arms around her, he held her to the muscled wall of his chest, while she caught her breath. “My God, Jean-Luc....what have you done to me? My entire body is alive....sensitive...” He smiled and closed his eyes, nuzzling her neck, then whispered sensuously,

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“Shh, my lovely. Consider it an appetiser.” When she was able, they stepped from the shower and took the time to dry each other thoroughly, continuing their erotic playing. By the time they were back in the bedroom, their desire was peaking again, but still Jean-Luc wanted to show her the way to further passion. Gently pushing on her shoulders, he encouraged her to sit on the end of the bed, while he kneeled between her parted legs. Slowly, he ran his hands gently up and down the inside of her thighs, at times barely touching her, yet still questing, enticing her to open her legs wider. When he leaned forward, she tensed, seeking the touch she knew he would make, but he withheld it, content to nibble and bite her pubis. With mounting frustration, she held his head in her hands and tried to guide his mouth to her burning centre and he retaliated by rocking back on his heels and tweaking her nipples with his fingers. Again she arched, thrusting her hips forward and nearly off the bed and, at that moment, Jean-Luc’s mouth descended unerringly into her hot folds, a finger, then two, sliding in. The orgasm exploded through her system. It came without warning, and was shattering in its intensity. Jean-Luc waited until the tremors lessened, then reapplied the caresses, bringing her again to the point of fulfilment. Sensing her state, he withdrew his mouth, leaving his fingers to slide sensuously in and out, keeping her on the edge of the abyss. She dropped back onto the bed, writhing and crying out, pleading for the release that was so close. He kept her there, balancing her on the knife edge, masterfully playing her body as a maestro with his instrument. Without warning, he quickened his movements and brought his tongue back down to make the intimate contact she so urgently needed. The orgasm crashed once again through her, two waves washing over her simultaneously. As they passed, he removed his mouth and slowly stilled his fingers. He got on the bed, took her in his arms and helped her to move up to the pillows, making her comfortable and covering her with a soft blanket. There, in his arms, she drifted off to sleep. Wanting to tend to his needs, but being completely boneless, she was unable to lift so much as a finger. She slept safely in his arms, until she wakened and sighed. Turning over gently, so as not to disturb her lover, she took the opportunity to watch him sleep. His face had softened in sleep, the tiny lines of age and care smoothed out, the stern brow relaxed. Raising herself very carefully, she brushed her cheek over his face, the contact so light, he wasn’t aware of it, then, again with a feather like touch, she tentatively brushed her fingers over his sensuous lower lip, causing it to purse. Taking a large breath and expelling it slowly, he shifted slightly and smiled in his sleep. Growing bolder, Lynnah, with great care, moved the covers down his body to his feet, and still he slept. She paused, simply to take in the stunning sight of his lean, muscled body, affording herself a caress of the soft hair on his chest. She drifted her hand lower, gently swirling her fingertips through the hair on his stomach, and lower still, until she came to his genitals, soft and at rest. With the tip of one finger, she traced its length, first from base to tip, then the reverse journey from tip to base. It was on the second trip that the change began. With surprising swiftness, his penis steadily grew in size and hardness, raising it’s self from its resting position to being erect and hard against his lower torso. Gently moving between his legs, Lynnah kissed the length of his erection, gently mouthing the sensitive tip. She marvelled at the hard, yet silky softness of the organ, delighting in the seeming incongruity. She was startled by his deep, sleep roughened voice.

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“That’s very nice, Lynnah, very pleasant indeed.” She took him in her hand and began a slow, sensuous stroking, bringing a low moan from Jean-Luc. He raised his head and watched for a few moments, the reached down to her arm. “Come here....” She stopped her caress and moved up the bed, intending to position herself by his side, but instead, Jean-Luc took her in his arms and bade her to lie upon him, fully covering his body. They lay quietly, kissing gently, the desire growing, taking shape in their bodies. With his hands, he reached down to her thighs and encouraged her to open her legs to straddle him. As soon as she did that, she could feel his erection, hot and very hard, caught between her legs, touching her equally aroused centre. Jean-Luc gripped her hips and started to rock rhythmically, Lynnah catching on immediately. She started to slide herself up and down his length, her desire becoming almost unbearable. He reached up and caressed her breasts, tweaking the nipples in time with her movements. She was close, very close to fulfilment, when he suddenly raised her up. Instinctively she took her weight on her knees while he reached down between them and lifted his member and raised his hips to make contact. As soon as she felt the throbbing tip at her entrance, she lowered herself slowly, impaling her wet opening on his rigid length. They stilled momentarily, taking time to adjust to the sensations. With his hands on her breasts, Jean-Luc started to gently thrust. The effect was instantaneous. Lynnah threw back her head and began to shudder. She picked up the rhythm raised and lowered herself as a perfect counterbalance to his motion, both of them almost overcome with passion. He cupped one breast in his hand, the other he reached down to touch her nub of sensitivity, and when he did, the climax burst through her senses, causing her to call out his name and fall onto his chest. Still gently thrusting, Jean-Luc rolled them onto their sides and hooked her leg in the crook of his arm and increased the power of his strokes. She was beyond coherent thought. All she wanted, all she felt had narrowed down to this incredible moment and she gave herself totally to this extraordinary, magnificent man. She was so close.....he was keeping her on the edge....just a little more.....then it happened. With only seconds between them, their climaxes struck them, causing them both to call out incoherently When her hearing returned and her pulse rate had dropped, she pulled up the covers and snuggled next to her lover. “I love you Jean-Luc” She whispered. “And I love you, Lynnah.” He replied in a soft rumble. Sleep came then...the petit mort, the French had so appropriately named it, the stars the only witnesses to their declarations of love.

Two days later, they were sitting together having a quiet after dinner drink, when Lynnah snuggled closer to Jean-Luc. Placing her head on his chest, she trailed her hand across his stomach. “Jean-Luc....when does your contraceptive implant expire?” Tucking in his chin, he turned to look at his beautiful lover. “I’m not sure...exactly, Beverly keeps tab on that sort of thing. She just requests my presence in sick bay and renews it there....it only takes a moment.”

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Lynnah slipped her arm around his shoulders and kissed him softly. “Let it run out, don’t renew it.” He looked at her searchingly, holding his breath....tension straightening his back. Bowing his head and softly expelling the breath, he closed his eyes. “Lynnah....it’s alright. I spoke without thinking the other day, I know I caused you anguish and I’m very sorry. You have no reason to take this step; it’s certainly not something I require you to do.” She sat up and frowned. Adopting his solemn tone, she admonished him. “No reason? How about....I love you Jean-Luc and I want to bear your children....I *want* to have children with you. Would that suffice?” Jean-Luc was speechless. He sat shaking his head, trying to gather his thoughts. “Lynnah, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want children. It’s something that’s crept up on me these last few years....I think little Bonnie may have brought it to the surface. I was feeling....melancholy....lonely...I looked at my approaching years and realised how empty those years could be, without a companion....or children, but....and you must believe me....my ruminations are not your concern.” Lynnah drew back and looked at him frankly. “Look, I understand why you said what you did...and I can see how you could let the desire, unguarded as it was, slip out, but that doesn’t alter anything. The bottom line here is simple....do you want to have children....with me, do we *both* want to be parents because I can tell you I’ve given this a lot of thought. I admit you threw me a bit...at the time I had to fight a very strong urge to yell at you....but later? I thought a long time and the conclusion I reached, was yes, I do want to have children with you...nobody else....just you.” They sat, staring at each other, trying to assimilate the emotions that were running freely through their minds. Jean-Luc suddenly stood and offered his hand to Lynnah. She rose gracefully and he took her in his arms. “I may be the luckiest man in this universe....I love you Lynnah.” They retired to their bedroom, the tie between them having grown substantially stronger.

Three and a half weeks later, Jean-Luc was in his ready room sipping some hot Earl Grey whilst browsing through some ship’s reports, when he was summoned to sick bay by Beverly for his periodic physical examination. Having already given the bridge to Will, he left immediately; secretly glad to put aside the tedious reports, if just for a while. He strode into sick bay cutting an elegant picture of the senior officer he was. Going straight to her office, he paused at the door, smiling at his CMO, who was engaged in a protracted war of wills with her computer terminal. “My father used to say....” “Yeah, yeah, I know...lean an axe against the hen house door.....” Jean-Luc frowned in confusion. “What?” Looking up for the first time, Beverly gaped and blushed. “Oh, it’s you! What are you doing here?” Coming to the desk, the Captain gripped the back of the chair. “You called me not five minutes ago.”

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“Yes, but I was expecting the usual protests....as I recall the all time record was only five days from me calling you, to your appearance. What’s up?” Frowning, Beverly rose and quickly came to his side. “Are you alright Jean-Luc? Is there something you’re not telling me?” Taking her hands in his, he chuckled and diffused the moment. “Beverly...I’m fine....couldn’t be better actually. I just thought I’d come down for my physical at your first summons. Is that so remarkable?” “Yes!” “Well then, you’d better get it done, I have other....” “I know...other ship’s business.” Laughing, the two friends left Beverly’s office and went to a private cubicle. The Captain stripped down to his briefs and Beverly started the battery of tests, smiling as they came back with excellent results. She then administered the current inoculations and fed the details through the uplink to his file. The last thing she did was to remove the expired contraceptive implant and load the delivery instrument to inject a new one. As she gently pinched the skin under his collar bone, he reached up and took her hand, whispering, “That won’t be necessary.” Thinking she had misheard him, she stopped and frowned. “What did you say Jean-Luc?” Gently lowering her hand, Jean-Luc smiled, saying softly, “The contraceptive implant.....I don’t need it at the present time.” Beverly couldn’t cover her surprise. “What? Jean-Luc.....Lynnah, I....You....” “It’s alright Beverly; we’ve decided to let nature take its course. If we’re lucky enough to conceive a child it will be a blessed event, something we both want.” Beverly stood motionless for a few seconds then stepped forward and wrapped Jean-Luc in a warm embrace. With her lips near his ear, she said through tears of joy, “Oh, Jean-Luc, I so happy for you....you’ll make an outstanding father.” “Yes well, I may have to ask for help occasionally, we both will, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. We have to get pregnant first.” Beverly stood back and grinned broadly. “But Jean-Luc, that’s the best part! All that practice!” Lowering his head, he shook it ruefully. “Beverly we have one thousand and fourteen people on this ship, and I would estimate you’re the *only* person to get away with saying such a thing to your Captain. You’re unbelievable!” “Hey, I’m not the one sitting there in my undies. You don’t look very *commanding* right now.” With that, Jean-Luc slid off the exam bed and began dressing. He was putting on his shoes by the time Beverly had reined in her humour. Jean-Luc straightened himself and tried to adopt a “Captain’s” visage....failing utterly. “Gods woman, how does your mate put up with you? And speaking of Tobyn, why hasn’t he come to see me about the wedding? It’s been weeks.” At the mention of Tobyn, Beverly smiled and sat on a nearby seat. Running her hands through her hair, a large grin settled on her beautiful features. “We were going to see you about that. We’ve decided to postpone marriage indefinitely.....there were some difficulties....it’s better this way.” Jean-Luc’s face took on a serious cast.

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“Oh, Beverly, I’m sorry.” “Don’t be. Look Jean-Luc, we’re deliriously happy, we both feel that the bonds of marriage aren’t what we want....or need. We may marry some day, if it happens....well who knows?” Jean-Luc picked up one of her hands and clasped it in his. “As long as you’re happy Beverly.” “I am...we are.” The Captain left then, his step light, his heart full. The rest of the day became a blur. Their current mission was ferrying some delegates to a trade exhibition on Heara V. The mission required little input from him, aside from the formal welcome to the ship, and he found himself having increasing difficulties focussing on his work. With twenty five minutes left in his shift, he exercised his rank and left early, heading straight to his quarters. He showered and changed into some black trousers and a snow white open necked shirt, a pair of soft leather sandals on his feet. He had just completed setting the table when Lynnah entered. She stopped in her tracks and looked heatedly at her lover. In a low voice, not taking her eyes from him, she murmured... “Jean-Luc....you take my breath away.” It never failed. He lowered his head and smiled. When he looked up again, Lynnah just caught the last traces of his blush. “You know Jean-Luc....you could patent that.....make it a requisite for all trainee Captains...and diplomats.” With a rueful grin, he shook his head. “Believe me, there are some species that would kill you in a moment if you displayed such a personal reaction. I’m so glad you’re not one of them!” Lynnah came and stood very close to him, close enough to feel the warmth of his body and smell the clean musky maleness of his personal scent. “Do we have to wait till after dinner?” Jean-Luc’s hands raised and rested on her small waist, then travelled up each side of her body. “No.” “Good.” Taking her hand, Jean-Luc led her to the bedroom where the lovers spent the next hour and a half showering, playing, and making love......languidly. Some time later, Lynnah was dozing when Jean-Luc cuddled closer and spoke her name. “Lynnah.....are you awake?” Enjoying the feel of his body so close to hers, she nuzzled his neck and growled, “Hmmm.” “Hey, come on....this is important.” Sighing, Lynnah raised her head. “What could be so important that you should want to talk *right now*?” “I no longer have a contraceptive implant. I had my annual physical today and I asked Beverly not to replace it.” Lynnah rose up on one elbow and looked deeply into her partner’s eyes. Running her hand up his torso, she caressed his face, then kissed him softly. “How long until.....you know....when will you be fertile?” He frowned in thought, shaking his head. “I don’t know, I didn’t ask Beverly....we sort of got side tracked. Do you want me to ask her?”

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Lynnah considered the request, her warm smile telling the Captain before she spoke the words. “No, it’s really doesn’t worry us anyway, does it? If we get pregnant, then we’ll know you’re fertile again. What did Beverly say?” Reaching up, he wrapped his arms around her and drew her to his chest. “She was happy....really happy. It made me feel....quite pleased, for her to care so much. Hey, are you hungry yet? We still haven’t had dinner.” “No, we were feeding a different appetite, and yes...I do want to eat. That was my stomach you heard.” Chuckling, they took a protracted shower, almost succumbing to the sensuous warm spray....until both their stomachs growled, eliciting a laugh from them both. They dried themselves, donned a robe and went back into the dining area. Lynnah took a seat as Jean-Luc brought the selections to the table. They had just started to eat when the door chime activated. “Come.” Beverly leaned in and peeked around the door. “Beverly, come in.” Smiling, Beverly stepped in, allowing the door to close. “I know it’s getting late...I just thought of something from earlier today that I should probably tell you, Jean-Luc.” He looked at Lynnah and smiled. “Is it about the contraceptive implant?” Looking a little uncomfortable, Beverly nodded. Smiling, he took Lynnah’s hand. “It’s alright Beverly, Lynnah knows. You may speak freely.” Feeling relieved, Beverly came to the table and sat down. “What was it you wanted to say?” Smiling broadly at her Captain, her eyes sparkled in mischief. “Well.....you’ve been using implants a very long time, and in cases like yours I would usually warn of a short time...about two weeks.....until fertility returns fully.” She sat back and grinned, making Jean-Luc frown. “And.....” One of those tests you took was for fertility. Your implant had expired two days before you came in, it may have been damaged in the cargo bay explosion, in any case, your test showed you were almost completely fertile after only two days! Congratulations!” Feeling very embarrassed, Jean-Luc rose and went to the replicator, ordering a herbal tea for his wicked CMO. He turned to catch the last traces of a conspirator’s grin between the two women. “You enjoy this, don’t you. You take delight in embarrassing me. You sit there and conspire with my partner, cooking up devious and evil ways to catch me completely off guard.” Both women laughed, Beverly having the last word. “And you know what Jean-Luc? It works!” The next minutes, as they sipped their drinks, were taken in warm humour.... the type only shared between close friends. Beverly left shortly thereafter and the lovers returned to their bed for the night. It was very early in the next day that Jean-Luc awoke. He lay quietly processing all the information he had. Beverly was right, he was happy about his fertility and it felt odd, contemplating such a thought. Turning, he watched his sleeping partner and felt the up welling of love and tenderness he felt for her. So much had occurred and if his wishes came true, their journey had only just begun. He

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dozed then, images of life aboard ship filling his mind, and in all of them was Lynnah’s smiling face.

The trade exhibition on Heara V had finally finished and, as Captain of the flag ship, Jean-Luc was invited to attend a formal dinner dance on the planet. In the past, Beverly had been his companion at such events, and Jean-Luc realised this would be the first outing as a couple with Lynnah. He was pleased and hurried to the mineral department to see his beautiful companion. Striding through the doors, there was an immediate tension felt throughout the room. The *Captain* was in attendance, and although saluting had long since faded away in Starfleet, his staff, civilians and crew, all straightened with respect. Scanning the faces all turned to him; he located Lynnah and walked to her side. Taking her by the elbow, he went back to the door and stepped out into the corridor. “Sorry to disturb your work, Lynnah, but I’ve just received an invitation to a dinner dance on the planet and I was wondering if you would go with me.” Lynnah looked at the Captain aghast. “Are you nuts?” she hissed. “I’ve never attended anything like that! I don’t even know how to dance.” Somewhat taken aback, Jean-Luc realised too late that this event would not be welcomed by his partner. “Lynnah....I’m sorry....I didn’t think. Look, it’s alright, I’ll go alone.” Placing a quick kiss on her cheek, Jean-Luc departed, leaving a very rattled woman in his wake. Lynnah re entered the minerals department, but couldn’t concentrate on her work, eventually leaving in disgust. Jean-Luc’s invitation had placed a glaring light on the very different lives they had lived and she felt totally out of her depth. She needed to talk with someone who would understand, so she requested the whereabouts of Beverly Crusher. Beverly was still on reduced hours, the maternity leave appreciated by both parents. Lynnah arrived on her doorstep without having thought of what she wanted to say. As a consequence, the doors opened to her request and left her gaping and inarticulate. Tobyn frowned and beckoned to Beverly to go to the door. One look was all he needed, saying his goodbyes as he left. “Come in Lynnah, would you like a cup of tea.” Reduced to nodding, Lynnah sighed and took a seat in the living room. The women sipped in silence until Beverly had finished her tea. “Want to talk about it?” Lynnah nodded and put her cup on the low table. “Jean-Luc asked me to be his partner at the dinner dance.” “The one on the planet?” “Uh huh.” Beverly tilted her head to see under Lynnah’s lowered face. “And that’s a problem?” Unable to sit still any longer, Lynnah rose and began to pace restlessly about the cabin. “Yes, it’s a problem! I’ve never been to any formal events....I didn’t even go to my own graduation from university....as I recall, I was studying the read outs from a new planet in the Dorias

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cluster.......and I can’t dance...and he’s so handsome and I’m so plain...and....” Beverly stood up and stilled Lynnah’s pacing. “Let’s stop right there, shall we. For starters, you’re *not* plain, in fact if Jean-Luc tells me one more time how beautiful you are....I’ll explode! In fact you make an outstanding couple. Now, as for dancing, I can quickly teach you all you need to know, as a matter of fact, you won’t need to learn much....our Captain dislikes dancing....or so he says. What interests me, is picking your dress. Now that’s fun.” Lynnah stood gaping at Beverly. “We make an *outstanding* couple?” “Oh yes! Lynnah you two turn heads, haven’t you noticed?” Shaking her head, Lynnah was about to sit, when Beverly took her hand. “Oh no, you’ve work to do. Computer, an evening quick step, Lynnah, hang on to your hat.” Over the next hour or so, Beverly initiated Lynnah into the world of dance and Lynnah loved it. As she and Beverly wound their way around the cabin, Lynnah imagined being in her lover’s arms. Finally, sure that her charge had memorised the dances, a flushed and happy doctor called a halt to the proceedings. “Beverly...that was...great! It felt so wonderful; as if it was the music was carrying us...I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.” Pleased that her pupil had found the event such a happy one, Beverly took her hand and led her to the cabin monitor. “Now, Lynnah my dear, what will you wear?” Suddenly, Lynnah felt her good humour abating. She looked at Beverly and swallowed. “What do you have in mind?” Fetching a chair for Lynnah to sit in, Beverly accessed the evening wear catalogue. “Well Lynnah, let’s begin with your favourite colour.” “That’s easy. Blue.” “Light or dark?” “Dark.” “Excellent!” Throughout the next forty minutes the two women studied various styles, all in dark blue. It occurred to Beverly that Lynnah may not be too sure about picking the *right* dress, so Beverly suggested they “build” their own. Combining several designs, Beverly started to mix different parts to see what effect they had. Within twenty minutes, they had their creation. Supplying gloves, shoes and a subtly beautiful spray of fine orchids for her hair, the programs were inputted for retrieval later. “When is the reception?” Sighing, Lynnah managed a rueful grin. “Tomorrow night.” Taking Lynnah’s hand, Beverly squeezed it and smiled. “You can come here for a brush up a little on the dances and I will help you with the dress and the flowers. Tell Jean-Luc to pick you up here tomorrow night. He may think it odd....men, even outstanding ones like our Captain, can sometimes be a little.....obtuse. They don’t mean it, it just sort of happens. Tell him....you need help with a sore ankle, nothing serious, just a little regen on a stretched ligament.” Lynnah smiled broadly and hugged her friend. “Do you know, I haven’t told him I’m going yet...I’d better scoot!” Beverly walked the happy woman to the doors and whispered.... “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

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It was with a very light step that Lynnah made her way through the ship and, for the first time in her life, she allowed her hips to swish as she walked, her head held high. She didn’t notice the appreciative glances as she sashayed along, she would’ve been mortified if she did. She arrived at their quarters, but stepped back, not activating the door sensor, using the time to calm herself...at least long enough to regulate her breathing. She stepped forward and the door sighed open, revealing Jean-Luc at the terminal updating his personal log. He looked up and grinned fully, obviously happy to see her. “Hello lovely, you look beautiful.” Lynnah cast her eyes down her torso. She was wearing a burgundy crew neck jumper, linen coloured slacks and on her feet were regular issue Starfleet boots. She was wearing her hair pulled back in a ponytail, more to keep off her face than any asthenic reasons. “You, my friend, need optical regeneration; your sight is obviously failing.” Letting a warm, gentle chuckle escape, he covered the distance between them and drew her further into his cabin. Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her forehead, nose, eyes, cheeks and chin, before finally kissing her fully on the lips....a kiss so tender and full of passion, that she swooned, allowing his embrace to hold her up. He ended the kiss with another light peck on the nose and took her hand in his to move to the replicator. “Tea?” Sighing and leaning on his arm, she said softly, “Aye Sir.” Flashing a rakish grin, he replicated two teas and gestured to the sofa. When they were comfortable, Lynnah said quietly, “Have you a partner for tomorrow night?” He shook his head and spoke, “I haven’t asked anybody.....I think I’ll go alone, it doesn’t matter.” Snuggling closer to her lover, she put her lips near his ear and whispered, “I’ll go with you....if you still want me to.” The incredulous look quickly transformed into one of shocked delight. “You will? Oh that’s grand, really marvellous.....what made you change your mind?” Lowering her head lest he see the grin, Lynnah said, “I did some thinking and I realised it was foolish to say no. Anywhere I go with you is ok if we’re together.” Jean-Luc leaned over and touched his forehead on Lynnah’s brow, uttering in his beautiful baritone, “Thank you my lovely, I’ll be so proud to have you come with me.” He lifted her head and kissed her, first playfully, then languidly and then passionately. They rose from the sofa and kissed their way to the bedroom, leaving a trail of discarded clothes. Standing by the bed, the last remnants were removed and they slid onto the bed already joined, their lovemaking passionate and deeply satisfying. It was some hours later that they realised they hadn’t had dinner.

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The next day was a long one for Lynnah. Usually engrossed in her work, she found her thoughts continually turning to Jean-Luc and last night’s passion, leaving her aroused and uncomfortable. She knew she wouldn’t see him until later that night, going to the bridge was not an option, yet she would only see him briefly at their cabin....she had to sell him the story about her “sprained” ankle. As time moved inexorably forward, so her tension increased. The Captain was also somewhat uncomfortable. As with Lynnah, his thoughts kept slipping to her and how she looked as they made love the previous night. Twice he had to take refuge in the ready room to let things...subside.... earning a wicked smile from Deanna and a perplexed look from Will as he left the bridge. The shift finally ended and Jean-Luc hurried to his quarters. Replicating a quick cup of tea, he was sipping the hot beverage when Lynnah came in. He noticed immediately that she was limping slightly. “Lynnah, you’re limping, what happened, are you alright?” Feeling horrid to worry him so much, Lynnah’s dark mutter was directed at herself. “I’m fine Jean-Luc, it’s nothing serious, I just sprained my ankle. Please don’t fuss, it’s nothing...really.” Jean-Luc came to her and brushed his hand along her face and jaw sending jolts of desire shooting through her body. “Perhaps you should stay here tonight.” His deep rumble and touch only served to heighten her arousal. Swallowing, she quelled the thoughts of throwing him onto the floor and ravishing him, concentrating on her ankle. “No, no, it’s nothing. I’ll go to Beverly and get it fixed. Can you pick me up from Beverly’s?” Somewhat confused, Jean-Luc nodded distractedly, his own thoughts taking on a distinct erotic flavour. “Very well. In...say...and hour and a half?” “Good, yes, ok.....I’ll be going then.” “Yes....I’ll see you soon....” He leaned tentatively forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. His hands had begun to lift to take her in his arms, when she gently pulled away from him. “I’d better go.” As she moved backwards, his fingers trailed down her arm, until they were touching just her fingertips. It was almost her undoing. The desire rose with startling speed and she knew if she didn’t sever the contact immediately, she would be in his arms and on the floor. Pulling her arm back, she swallowed and took a big breath. “Right! See you later.” She turned and walked briskly away....Jean-Luc noticed the limp was gone. By the time she reached Beverly’s cabin, Lynnah had some regained a semblance of control. She had her breathing reined in as she pressed the activator. Beverly beamed when she saw Lynnah and greeted her with the dress, holding it across her arms. “Here it is, isn’t it gorgeous?” Sighing, Lynnah muttered. “As long as it’s still *gorgeous* after I put it on!” The two women retired to the bedroom, Lynnah asking Beverly the whereabouts of Tobyn.

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“He’s gone to show Bubs off at Ten Forward. I explained we needed a noman zone for a while.” Lynnah laughed. “He’s very patient, isn’t he.” “With my temper, he needs to be. Now, you take a shower and I’ll lay everything out.” Lynnah’s shower was a quick one and, as she emerged from the steamy bathroom, she was still trying to quell the monstrous butterflies in her stomach. “Come and sit down and I’ll do your hair.” That was the start of an intense sixty minutes and when Beverly was finally finished, Lynnah stood in the bedroom looking like the dark haired beauty that she was. “Go on....take a walk around the cabin, get used to the feeling of the dress.” Lynnah walked stiffly out of Beverly’s bedroom and into the living area. She hadn’t realised she was holding her breath until Beverly called out, “Relax! Take a deep breath and let those tense muscles go...and swing your hips!” Within a few minutes, Lynnah started to enjoy herself. The dress was utterly beautiful. Made of a light shimmering deep blue material, it clung in all the right places and fell in glistening folds to her feet. Her hands were covered in long gloves made of the same material and her low shoes raised her just off the floor. The spray of flowers was fastened above her right ear, the coiffure done in waves piled up and held with a pearl dipped pin, loose strands falling to frame her face. She was beautiful and for the first time in her life, she felt it. The chiming of the door startled them both. “That’ll be Jean-Luc. You go stand over there and I’ll let him in.” Jean-Luc appeared as the doors parted. He greeted Beverly and stepped into the room, asking the doctor about Lynnah’s foot. He looked up and the words stopped abruptly, leaving him standing with his mouth ajar. “Jean-Luc, I take it you know my guest.” He stood still, a wistful smile gracing his face. “Oh, yes....we’ve met. Lynnah you are so beautiful, gods woman how am I supposed to be the Starfleet representative with you looking like that. I will forget everyone else is there.” The blush only served to make her more attractive. She regarded her handsome lover with a hungry look. He stood, ramrod straight and looking devastatingly handsome in his dress uniform. “Thank you Jean-Luc, you’re not bad yourself.” Remembering the corsage in his hand, he walked to her and took her hand, saying softly, “For you, my lovely. They hardly do you justice.” He pinned the exquisite orchid to her dress and kissed her lightly. Beverly, smiling and with tears in he eyes, ushered them to the door. Jean-Luc offered his arm and they left, neither aware of anything but each other. The dinner dance passed in a whirl of images. Lynnah knew it would take a long time to see the reception as a whole. She was overwhelmed, sitting with Jean-Luc at the official table, eating exotic food and, best of all, dancing with him. She would have to speak to Beverly about that. He was a very good dancer, in fact, Lynnah wasn’t aware of her feet touching the floor. Held in his warm embrace, smelling his uniquely clean maleness, her face touching his, it was the most sensuously tactile experience of her life.

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Towards the finish of the reception, Jean-Luc whispered into her ear, “I think I can leave now. We should go and say goodnight to our hosts and the other dignitaries. Unaware to them, they had been causing quite a stir amongst the other guests, the dance floor crowd thinning to allow the others to watch the blissfully ignorant couple breezing with the music. They came to a sensuous halt at the end of the bracket of songs and started to move towards the official table when the sound of gentle clapping stopped them in their tracks. Bewildered, Lynnah looked about her to find happy faces looking at her and her handsome escort. “Jean-Luc?” Clearing his throat gently, he turned and whispered to Lynnah, “I think we’ve caused a bit of a stir. No doubt they find you as beautiful as I do.” He punctuated the statement with a fleeting kiss and took her hand and led her through the appreciative crowd. Their arrival at the dignitary’s table was greeted with smiles all round. To the head delegate, Jean-Luc said, “Thank you for a wonderful evening Sir. We will be returning to the ship, I know I can speak for my partner when I say we had a very good time.” Still holding Lynnah’s hand, he nodded to the other delegates and retired from the table, turned and, acknowledging the nods from the other guests, made his way to the doors. Once out in the anteroom, he took Lynnah in his strong arms and kissed her, a long, slow, passionate kiss that left no doubt as to what Jean-Luc wanted to do. He took her hand again and travelled the short distance to the transporter room and was back on board the Enterprise within minutes. They arrived at their quarters panting; having almost ran the last few corridors. The doors swished open and Jean-Luc had her in his arms before the door had closed. “Gods woman, look at what you do to me.” Lynnah stood slightly back and let her eyes travel up and down his body, noticing, even through the thick material, his heavy erection. She was breathless, not from their haste, but from burning desire, heightened by the heat emanating from her ardent lover. In a breathy whisper, she sighed, “Well we should do something about it, shouldn’t we.” Shedding their clothes as they went, they entered the bedroom and fell onto the bed in a passionate tangle, urgently seeking the pinnacle of desire they both needed so intensely. Their joining was immediate, the climaxes occurring only minutes later. As they lay panting, Lynnah couldn’t hold back a chuckle that quickly became a full laugh. It was infectious and soon Jean-Luc joined her, both of them flat on their backs, laughing uproariously. The laughter settled and Jean-Luc turned his head to watch his smiling companion, a deep, contented sigh making Lynnah feel happy. “My God, I haven’t done that since I was a lad.” Lynnah turned onto her side and ran her hand from his face to his hip. “Hey, you’re one up on me...I’ve never done it like that...as you well know, but I will say....Wow, it was fun, shall we do it again?” Snorting, he frowned in mock outrage and leaned in to kiss her. Not right now....what I have in mind is something more suited to a man of my advanced years...something passionately erotic....something like this.......” Rolling to cover her entire body with his, he kissed her repeatedly all over her face and neck. He took her hands and pushed them above her head and held her wrists tightly. Trapped under him, all she could do

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was lift her legs in a silent plea for more. As soon as she did that, he growled and entered her, gently biting her earlobe at the same time. His thrusts were long and deep, making Lynnah gasp out his name, over and over. As his thrusts increased in strength, he released her and wrapped his arms around her groaning sensuously. Lynnah’s pleasure was increasing quickly, every touch, every sound became woven in the web of her passion. Nothing else mattered; at that point there was only the two of them and the love they were making. Tightening his grip, she knew he was close to his release, her own climax fast approaching. He came an instant before her, groaning and calling her name. She arched her back and took him as deeply as she could and let her orgasm devour her. They lay entwined, panting and gasping, eventually tripping over consciousness and falling into a deep sleep, neither knowing they had just conceived a child.

Three weeks later the Enterprise was making a final approach to a very busy space station in the area of space at the edge of the Australis nebula. Deep space twelve was always a popular stop. Although run by Starfleet, several species operated shops in the promenade deck. While the Enterprise was fitted with some important upgrades to her systems, her crew were granted shore leave, leaving a rostered skeleton crew aboard. Jean-Luc had walked through one of several connecting hatches, and when they were off the ship, Jean-Luc turned to his partner. “I have to go and see the station commander, but I shouldn’t be too long. How about you make your way to the shops, and I will meet you at Fren’s Cafe at, say about....1200hours.” Giving her a peck on the cheek, the Captain walked away and Lynnah watched him with an appreciative view of his behind. Sighing, she went to a locality map and found the cafe and was just about to leave when she heard her name called. Turning around, she was delighted to find Beverly and Deanna approaching. “I take it Jean-Luc has gone to the command section?” Lynnah nodded to Beverly’s query. “Well come on, we need to do some serious shopping!” Laughing, the three women left to storm the shops in the retail area, Lynnah taking advice from her friends as to what to buy. She soon realised two things. She was in need of a lot of products and clothes, and that shopping was *fun*! She became quite engrossed in what she was doing and the time slipped by unnoticed. Jean-Luc had finished with Captain Tok, exchanging log downloads and catching up on Starfleet gossip. He arrived at the cafe a little early and amused himself by watching the vibrant comings and goings around him. Lynnah was in a haberdashery, looking at a black silk shirt she wanted to buy for Jean-Luc. Finally making her purchase, she looked up at the computer clock to find she was running slightly late and left the shop quickly. She wasn’t far from the cafe when she caught a glimpse at a beautiful dress in a shop window as she hurried by. She stopped and looked appreciatively at the dress. Unbeknown to her, Jean-Luc could see her and was delighted to watch her. She stood with her head cocked, obviously staring at something intently. She didn’t see the two commanders sidle up to her, but they soon made their presence known.

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Something the men said caused her to blush and bow her head in embarrassment. The officers were flirting openly and Jean-Luc could see her getting flustered He left his table and strolled over to the commanders. They were unaware of his arrival until he spoke. “Can I be of assistance gentlemen?” Without turning, one of the men frowned and said, “No. Can’t you see we’re busy? Run along pal, you’re out of your depth.” When Jean-Luc didn’t leave, the shorter of the two turned to give some more ‘advice’. When he saw Jean-Luc he straightened and grabbed his fellow commander by the arm. “Captain!” The other man stiffened at the word and turned slowly, shock was the first reaction, followed closely by dismay. “Captain Picard...I...we...that is....this...” The taller man gestured to Lynnah, who was doing her best not to laugh. “This....lady was .....I....she....” Jean-Luc’s face had taken on his “Captain” look. Hard eyes bored into the hapless man and Jean-Luc watched him crumble until he was without speech. Lifting his chin, he quietly spoke. “That lady is my partner and I can assure you she doesn’t need to be accosted by two men on the station Broadway.....particularly in front of me!” Both men answered, “Yes Sir!” “Goodbye gentlemen.” With great relief the two men made their retreat, and when he looked at his lover, he was disquieted to see irritation showing. “What.” Breaking eye contact, Lynnah breezed past him and took a seat in the cafe. He wandered over, taking a seat opposite her. “Lynnah? What is it?” Placing her hands on the table palm down, she regarded him at length. Frowning, she spoke, “I don’t need you to act like a watchdog, Jean-Luc. I was in no need of *rescuing*....what you did was very embarrassing.” Jean-Luc snorted. “They were trying to pick you up! What was I supposed to do, sit and watch?” “Yes! Do you trust me?” Sighing, he muttered, “Yes, I do.” “Well.....” Jean-Luc leaned forward and covered her hands with his large, warm ones. “Lynnah, I felt....jealous. Those men were out for some fun and I didn’t want them to upset you.” I appreciate that Jean-Luc, but really, I could’ve handled it myself. What is it....what is it you’re not saying?” Jean-Luc sat back and turned to watch the people as they passed. “Look, I’m sorry...let’s just forget it...alright?” Not fully convinced, Lynnah nodded. The couple ordered some coffee and a tasty sweet to share and nothing more was said. They spent the rest of the day shopping and strolling through the huge arboretum, situated on a separate ring of the station.

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Later that evening, they were curled up on the sofa in their quarters, eating some sorbet. Lynnah stretched forward and placed her empty bowl on the low table. Putting her hand on Jean-Luc’s chest, she said softly, “Want to talk about it now?” Jean-Luc sighed and looked at his lover. “It was jealousy Lynnah. I saw those men, your age, and I felt the years between us. You should be with someone your age, not an old man like me.” At first Lynnah stayed silent. She knew him well enough to know that for him to actually voice his concern was significant. She thought of how to respond properly. Taking his hand, she looked deeply into his eyes. “My love, my life, don’t you know how much I love you? It matters not to me how old....or young....you are. I chose you, I want no other. Our age difference is inconsequential, I love you for what you are....a gentle man of deep conviction and boundless love. Your age simply doesn’t concern me and, if other men make the mistake of trying to chat me up, they’ll quickly learn I’m not available....or....they might be set straight by my drop dead gorgeous mate.” Placing his bowl to join hers on the table, he took her in his arms and kissed her gently. “May I make love to you Lynnah?” “Yes my love, but you better hurry or you’ll find I will make love to you first.” After their ten day stop over at the Starbase, the Enterprise was sent, as the Federation representative, to escort the Imperial Guard of Tarsus Minor to a coronation on the sister planet, Tarsus Major. Will sat in the command chair stroking his beard. “Data, how old is the monarchy of these two planets?” Without missing a beat, Data replied, “Four thousand, eight hundred and eighty six years, and fifteen days, Sir.” “That’s it. I couldn’t remember if it was eight hundred or eight hundred and fifty.” Will nodded and thanked his second officer. “I’ve been reading about the division of the family to rule over the two planets. Apparently they have a law that insists the ruling family wed only those who aren’t related to them, even remotely. It has kept the imperial family strong generation after generation. Tell me Data, will you be wearing a dry suit, or will you go as you are?” Data turned to his commander and smiled softly. “I will suit up Sir, you have no idea how irritating water in your servos can be.” Will was still chuckling when the Captain came out from his ready room. Will vacated the command chair, still trying to quell his gentle laughter. “Well, this is pleasant. Care to share it with me number one?” Yes Sir. Mr.Data just informed me that he will be wearing a dry suit at the coronation. He said water in his servos was very irritating.” Smiling gently, Jean-Luc leaned towards his first officer and said, sotto voice, “Do you have any idea what you do to keep warm in a *wet* suit?”

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“No idea Sir....I don’t know if anybody still uses them.” Data’s head swivelled around quickly. “I believe I do Sir. When the wearer of a *wet* suit becomes cold, they urin.....” “Thank you Mr.Data, that will be all.” Frowning, Jean-Luc straightened in his chair, tugging at his jacket. “Yes, well.....perhaps the next time we meet in Ten Forward, I’ll regale you.” Will sat back and crossed his long legs. “I look forward to it Sir.” With a gentle sigh, the turbolift arrived at the bridge and opened for Deanna to leave. She walked down the ramp and took her seat to the Captain’s left. With a gentle smile, Jean-Luc welcomed her. “So good of you to join us, counsellor. I take it you’re up to speed with the history, etcetera, of our charges?” Smiling widely, Deanna looked warmly at the Captain. “Aye, Sir. The protocols have been established and are waiting for your approval. I routed it to the ready room interface.” “Excellent! Anything I need to know, apart from the obvious?” Deanna looked at Will and kept grinning. “Well, yes.....When you are presented to the monarch, it is considered very bad taste to vent bubbles....from anywhere.” “Bubbles?” “Yes Sir. Geordi has adapted a special valve that will recycle the used air, for expulsion later. It was either that...or hold your breath...Sir.” Jean-Luc looked frankly at his counsellor, trying to decipher exactly how much of this was real and how much was in jest. He decided, after a moment, that this was no joke. “There will be eight in our party; I take it the modifications have been made in all the dry suits?” “Yes Captain. There’s one other thing though....the liquid we will be immersed in is not water. Far from it.....to us it’s more like an acid. The dry suits have been proofed against corrosion, but it’s imperative....*do not* get the liquid on your skin. As there are no land masses above their seas, a raft of polyduride will be in place for us to use. The atmosphere is also dangerous to us; we will be in either a dry suit or an evac suit for the duration of our stay.” “We can’t simply transport down?” “No Sir. Protocol demands we descend from the surface.” Nodding his thanks to the counsellor, the Captain turned his attention to Data. “A little more of a problem than water, eh Data?” “Aye Sir.” The Captain stood and turned to his seated officers. “I’ll be in the ready room....it seems I have some reading to do. You have the bridge number one.” He nodded to his fellow officers and left the bridge.

Three days later, they were in orbit around Tarsus Minor, greeting the flotilla of craft that had risen from the planet below. “Greetings you Majesty, I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. On behalf of the Federation of Planets, we are delighted to

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be escorting you to your sister planet. With your permission, we will keep station two hundred and fifty kilometres above you.” Through the clear fluid that filled the alien ship, Jean-Luc could see an amphibian creature activating a com unit attached to its thorax. “It is a pleasure to meet you Captain Picard, your reputation has reached even the depths of our small worlds. The position of your ship is entirely up to you...we are grateful for the assistance you offer. I must say, your vessel is enormous...we look like zards on a hempill.” Keeping his smile in place, Jean-Luc ended the conversation and issued orders to gather the small craft together, underneath his mighty ship. The journey wasn’t long, the planets being only three parsecs apart and within a few short hours, Jean-Luc was seeing the vessels he had escorted sink into the bright orange liquid that covered the entire surface of Tarsus Major. Seeking input from his officers, he convened a meeting in the conference room; also there were Lynnah and Lieutenant Zet Garl, the chief xenobiologist. “We have successfully acquitted our duties as escort for the Tarsurans, now we must prepare for the coronation. We have had some days to bring ourselves up to speed on their culture, social rules etc, now we must study our roles in the ceremony. The away party will consist of only those present; the Tarsurans were very strict about that. We know precious little about the Tarsurans and Starfleet wants us to improve that situation. I have received permission to record the rites and the Tarsurans have made a historian available for explanations. Mr.Ablinger will be the officer of the watch and we will be in contact with him before and after the ceremony, but not during. There will be a communication black out for approximately three hours.” “Any questions?” The gathered officers cast glances around the table, Will being the first to speak. “I am curious about your role Captain. What will you be required to do?” “Exactly what it states. I will be an official witness, representing the Federation and Starfleet. I will be given an intricately carved stamp which I will use at the end of proceedings to make an impression on a wax like substance on the great motif of the ruling house. I was advised to bring a party of seven with me....the number eight signifies good fortune and friendship.” Data inclined his head and fixed the Captain with his golden stare. “What equipment will we be taking?” “As you know, we will be in dry suits whilst in the liquid and our support crew will be on the raft in evac suits. Each of us will have a video unit affixed to our helmets and Mr.Garl will have a special tricorder to take biological data. All this has been cleared with their protocol chief, I don’t expect any hiccups, but we should be on our toes, so to speak.... I would be most upset if there was any breech of procedure by any of us.” Will nodded at swept his eyes around the table. “I’m sure all will go as planned Sir. When do we beam down?” Placing his hands on the table and clasping them, Jean-Luc smiled and raised his eyebrows. “The raft is in position, and its crew are ready for us. As soon as we get the green light, we go.....I would think it will be some time within the next hour. That will give us time to acclimate and take our positions before the rites begin.” The officers spent a moment thinking about their tasks before the Captain said, “Is that all?...Right, I will call you when the time comes.”

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The conference room emptied quickly and Jean-Luc waited with Lynnah as the room was vacated. He took Lynnah’s hand and with his other hand, brushed a wisp of her hair from her face and tucked it around her ear. She smiled gently and kissed him lightly on his neck. “Jean-Luc...are you sure I’ll be alright at this? I’ve not had any experience with matters of protocol...and I’ve only worn a dry suit once....” Jean-Luc raised her face and kissed the tip of her nose. “You’ll be fine. Just follow my example and stay by my side. Really, you’ve nothing to worry about.” Lynnah sighed and stepped closer to her lover. He responded by wrapping both his arms around her and holding her close. “I love you Lynnah.”

It was two hours later that the call was received to beam down to the raft. They arrived wearing the evac suits and received their instructions from the protocol officer. With his help, they practised their movements and Jean-Luc was given the heavy stamp, and was told he was to keep it after the coronation as a memento of his participation. When all in the party were confident with their role, the protocol chief left and the officers entered the dive room. To one side of the raft was a room, the atmosphere of which was controlled by the Enterprise above. It allowed the occupants to change their suits and equipment in safety. Special permission had to be gained and, although it was sanctioned, their time inside was strictly limited, time only to change, nothing more. They changed quickly and seated themselves around the pool in the structure. When the force field was removed, a sulphurous miasma rose from the liquid covering them instantly. The dry suits they wore were specifically designed for this corrosive sea, but could not be worn in the above water atmosphere so the officers followed their Captain into the fluid, involuntarily holding their breath, but soon relaxing. Under the hard dry suit they were comfortably dressed in a light second skin made of a synaptic weave of fibres designed to maintain a constant temperature and compression so as to balance the difference of pressure in the deeper areas of the sea as well as monitoring the proper blend of oxygen they required. As they hung, suspended in the liquid, they marvelled at its clarity. Seen from above, the sea appeared an opaque orange, but under the surface, it was a crystal clear, orange tinted world, remarkably like Earth’s oceans. Peering into the depths, Jean-Luc spotted a figure rising to meet them. His intercom crackled softly as the comm. units configured themselves into compatibility. “Captain Picard, I am Huss, keeper of the seal. Is everything in order?” “Yes thank you Huss. We are ready to descend.” With a graceful sweep of his fin like arm, he gestured downward into the orange haze impossibly far below them. Altering their ballast, the away team began their descent. Lynnah held Jean-Luc’s hand, her tension felt even through the tough covering separating them. The helmet had a 360 degree visor; all one had to do to see anything was to simply turn the head. She gazed at Jean-Luc as they dropped at a leisurely pace, fear nibbling at her edges. Jean-Luc must have known as he took her in his arms and looked searchingly into her eyes, the potency of his

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emotion clearly felt through the fluid that surrounded them. Huss’ face changed and he glided toward the couple. “Is everything alright, Captain?” Jean-Luc turned his head to find the speaker and was surprised to find him some distance away, approaching rapidly. Huss noted the change of his face and reasoned the Captain might be startled. “You are surprised by the clarity of communication? It is the fluid you are in. It conducts thought and emotion and, although you are not of this world, there is enough emanation for me to...sense your...demeanour. I hope you’re not angry.” Jean-Luc released Lynnah, feeling that she had calmed as she listened to Huss. “Why would I be angry?” With an imperceptible shiver, Huss moved his body closer. We’ve noticed some species do not like being so easily...read...they see it as a violation.” “Well, we don’t. In fact I appreciate the ease of communication, it will ensure there are no....misunderstandings....I hope.” “Indeed Captain.” They continued their descent, the popping of their ears the only evidence of their downward plunge. Jean-Luc checked the “heads up” display on his visor and noted they were 250 metres from the surface, yet he felt no pressure and, surprisingly, no loss of light. He was about to bring this to Huss’ attention, when they saw, through their feet, the tops of great towers that provided illumination above and below the city that was appearing before their startled eyes. Jean-Luc looked about in wonder. Never had he seen such a beautiful sight. Before his astounded eyes rose spiralling buildings made of a glittering crystal substance. The architecture mirrored the shapes around them. He could readily see the sensuous grace of marine creatures, the unresisting fluid shapes providing no barrier to the flowing sea around them. It was as if the buildings were alive. His astonishment grew as they approached the stoa of the biggest building and passed under its entrance arch. Longing to touch the structure, he gently reached out his hand, only to find his hand passed through the matter that made up the edifice. He stood very still, trying to imagine what material it was. Huss’ gentle voice infiltrated his mind. “It’s alive Captain. We have a symbiotic relationship with the creatures you can see. In return for holding these shapes and providing us with the buildings we need, we supply food, light and protection Later, when you come forward to be recognised, you will be scanned by both life forms, our and theirs.” “It’s astonishing....vast....beautiful....you’re very lucky Huss, you all are.” Huss bowed his head and smiled, showing three rows of razor sharp teeth. “I am pleased you appreciate our bond, it will please the crystanids also.” Reaching beside him, he took Lynnah’s hand and smiled warmly. Looking at the rest of the team, he found them staring incredulously around, their mouths agape. He waited a few minutes then gently called his officers together. “Please remember it is very important to stay in pairs. Bonded relationships are held in the highest esteem by our hosts, that’s why we were sent as couples....Mr.Garl, you are, of course, Mr.Data’s partner. “Aye Sir, I am delighted.” Gentle laughter circulated, making Data cock his head in inquiry.

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“Sir?...” “Later Data.” When the group settled, Huss ushered them through a maze of tunnels, the light growing stronger as they went. They were teased by hazy images, the clarity increasing as they approached, finally revealing an immense chamber, so large the away team stopped dead in their tracks. “My God.....” Huss stood in front of the group and waved his fin like arm theatrically. “Welcome to the Vault of Ecclesiastes.” Coming toward them were a phalanx of armoured beings, like Huss, but with different colouration. The leader of the formation stopped his charges and stepped up to Jean-Luc. “Advance and show me the stamp!” He adopted his most commanding stance, back ramrod straight, his face fierce. With a stiff arm, he proffered the stamp. “The guard recognises the stamp! You may pass, friends.” The further they went into the huge vault, the more they saw that astounded them. Enormous ceilings stretching upwards, massive walls shimmering with life. They were led down an aisle to be introduced to the incumbent sovereign. Beside the monarch stood an imposing multicoloured being with piercing red eyes. Jean-Luc took Lynnah’s hand and approached the throne, bowing as they reached the correct place. “Your Majesty, may I.....” “STOP!” Jean-Luc’s head shot up, his demeanour immediately changing. As his group pressed forward, he spoke with authority. “Stand fast! Let’s everyone remain calm.” Turning to the monarch, he was about to speak, when the attendant hissed... “What do you mean by bringing her here in that condition!?” Jean-Luc frowned and turned to the incensed being. “I don’t understand. What have we done wrong?” The angry being descended one step and was about to speak when the monarch raised a translucent hand. “Enough Strett. I don’t think they meant any offence......do you Captain Picard.” “No your majesty, none at all. What is wrong?” “Strett is my seer; he is highly skilled in the mystical arts. He had detected you companion’s condition.” “My companion’s condition? I don’t understand....what....” Strett descended the stairs and stood in front of Lynnah, placing a gentle hand on her stomach. “She is with child.” Even through the suits they wore, the gasp was plainly audible. “You did not know? How is that possible? Is the event unwanted?” Jean-Luc looked deeply into the eyes of his life mate and said richly, “I can assure you Mr.Strett it is a much wanted event, we just didn’t know....thank you for showing us.” As best he could in the cumbersome suit, he looked deeply at his lover and with the enhanced connection within the liquid; she felt his warmth, his love. Remembering the monarch and turning to her, he said... “My humble apologies your majesty. I hope we have not offended you.” The sovereign remained still and silent so long, Jean-Luc feared she wouldn’t answer at all, that irreparable damage had been done. Sweat appeared on his brow as he began to formulate his report to Starfleet

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on how he managed to single handedly destroy the alliance with the Tarsuans with his ignorance. His mind was brought back on line when the monarch seemed to clear her gills. “It may have come as a surprise, but I sense it’s a joyous event nonetheless. From what I know of your culture Captain, a new life is greeted with as much love as we have for our infants. Of course we have multiple births....three hundred is considered normal....still, the sentiment remains the same. Congratulations Captain Picard...and you....Lynnah.” Swallowing the lump in his throat, the Captain bowed his head, saying humbly, “Thank you, your majesty.” “One more thing Captain, I wouldn’t have told Starfleet, your career was safe.” Jean-Luc risked a quick glance and just caught the last vestiges of a smile sliding off the monarch’s face. From there, things happened rapidly. Leaving the throne room, they were taken to a long row of seats on the right of an aisle that led to a vacant throne. They were aware of sounds, seeing and feeling the musical qualities in the fluid around them, their universal translators occasionally unable to provide an intelligible sample of speech, but having no trouble with the beautiful music. Jean-Luc held Lynnah’s hand as they swayed to the orchestral pieces, noting that all the video equipment was functioning. He was looking forward to reliving this event. It wasn’t long before Jean-Luc was requested to provide the stamp, its use coinciding with an uplifting choral opus that stirred his very soul. After the stamp had been used to seal the proclamation, it was returned to him and they witnessed the incumbent reagent take her place upon her throne, to rule in tandem with the sitting monarch. Unable to take part in the feast, the away team made their apologies and were again acquainted with Mr.Huss to begin the ascent to the raft. On the way up, Huss engaged the Captain in conversation. “Captain...you’re the first human I’ve ever met. I notice there are many ways to wear the hair on your bodies. Why do you choose to have none on your head and face?” Smiling, Jean-Luc shook his head. “As for the facial hair, I prefer to have my skin unadorned....my head?...nature dictated this and I see no reason to upstage her.” Huss laughed, a sibilant, pleasant sound that made everyone smile. “Our young are always trying to find different ways to display. I remember my parents as twenty of my brothers and I tried to wear our dorsal find in a “parenger”, quite an outlandish array I can assure you. My parents were very patient, something I’m just learning with my first brood.” “Your first? Congratulations!” Jean-Luc, still clasping Lynnah’s hand looked around and noticed, with the exception of Data and Mr.Garl, the other couples were also hand in hand. He turned to his escort and voiced his observation. “Yes Captain, that’s normal. The fluid creates a special intimacy; you will be surprised to see that it will last for some time after you leave our seas. Consider it a gift.”

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They rose to the polyduride raft and bid farewell to Huss, expressing their gratitude for his forbearance. Changing quickly into the evac suits, they stood ready to beam up, the couples still holding hands. They materialised on the transporter pad seven hours after they had left, feeling tired, but elated. Jean-Luc was the first to remove his helmet and to his officers he said, “You are all off duty until ten hundred hours tomorrow, and yes Data, that includes you. Dismissed.” There was a brief flurry of movement as they divested themselves of the evac suits, then, clad only in the synaptic skin, they paused prior to leaving. Jean-Luc looked at his mate with tears forming and only just managed to say, as they left the room, “I love you, Lynnah....with all my heart.” They were silent for the remainder of their thankfully short journey, in each others arms before the doors to their quarters closed. Peeling the skins from their bodies only heightened their desire. They kissed heatedly, moving ever closer to the bedroom and finally naked, collapsed onto the soft mattress. Jean-Luc craved contact with his whole body, Lynnah moaning with yearning as his entire body covered hers. He took her hands in his and stretched their arms away from their bodies and, arching his back, placed more urgent contact from their hips down. Continually groaning and sighing with desire, Lynnah opened her legs and pushed upwards, almost begging for the release she so wanted. Looking down at her, Jean-Luc said quietly... “Look at me....” He withdrew, then pressed forward, sliding into her in one slow stroke. She arched, tensing with undisguised passion, wanting....needing more. Not able to stop, he started to thrust...hard and fast. This wasn’t the time for romance and endearments, this was passion, heated, raw need that sent them spiralling toward their release and when they achieved it, they were incoherent with sensation. They lay together gasping and groaning, not capable of anything more lucid and in their release; they fell into dreamless sleep, sated and senseless.

The next day, at ten hundred hours, the away team met in the forward observation lounge ostensibly to discuss the mission. As JeanLuc took his customary place at the table’s head, he was somewhat startled to look up into a sea of smiling faces. Will beat him to it. “Captain, Lynnah, congratulations....we’re all very happy for you both. It’s just the *best* news.” Jean-Luc blushed. He felt it coming and couldn’t do a damn thing about it, blooming on his face like a tropical flower. Lynnah lowered her head, her own blush creeping over her cheeks. That morning, they had made slow, delightful love, and afterwards, Jean-Luc had told her of his utter joy and contentedness with the knowledge of her pregnancy. Over breakfast in bed, they enjoyed the time off by indulging in conjecture about their infant. Now here, in the observation lounge, the couple were bathed in the goodwill of their dearest friends. “Thank you....all of you; it’s very joyous news for us both. Now, tell me, what communication have we had from the planet?”

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Will cleared his throat. “Yes Sir. Mr.Ablinger reports that the ceremonies were completed seven hours ago. We are requested to escort the delegation back to Tarsus Minor at our convenience.” “Very well number one, signal we can leave immediately, and give their captain my compliments. Has the video footage been sent to Starfleet yet?” Mr.Data leaned slightly forward. “Aye Sir. The entire package of sensor readings, video footage, the ceremonial stamp and a message of goodwill has been sent via a shuttle relay to Starbase eighteen, from there it will travel on the next ship due to return to Earth.” “Very good. Now, if there’s nothing else, we’d better get to our posts.” The attendees all rose and exited, the Captain first to leave. He strode onto the bridge, feeling the immediate rise in tension from his more junior officers. “Report Ms.Taylor.” Taking a steadying breath, the lieutenant turned to her Captain, feeling a twinge of heightened tension as she looked into his eyes. “Sir! All is well. There are no outstanding items of ships business...and we are ready to escort the Tarsus delegation...Sir. Jean-Luc smiled warmly and acknowledged the report, thanking the lieutenant and bidding her to return to her duties. Will, after receiving the updates from engineering, came to seat himself at his Captain’s right. “All’s well, number one?” “Yes Sir, we’re just waiting for a hail from the delegation. It should be so.....” “Incoming hail Sir.” “Thank you ensign, put it on the screen.” “Captain Picard, this is the Tarsus Minor delegation. My apologies for the delay...may we proceed?” “Of course delegate. We will keep station above you for the duration of the journey.” This was agreed on and the flotilla moved off as one. The trek was undertaken without incident, Jean-Luc was saying the goodbyes when the details of their next mission came through. Jean-Luc had it diverted to his ready room and went there at the close of transmission with the Tarsuans. Handing the bridge to Will, Jean-Luc made his way to his ready room computer console, gave his identifying code and settled to read with growing interest. That evening, as he shared dinner with Lynnah, he mentioned the upcoming mission. “We will have some quiet time soon. Starfleet wants to gather information about the double eclipse in the delta-epsilon cluster. We’ll stay about a month mapping, gathering footage and data....the cosmic gases in the region make for some breathtaking sights....I think you’ll enjoy the beauty of the area, and you should get some very interesting information on the geological makeup of the planets.” Lynnah looked up and smiled. “Sounds good. How long will it take to get there?” “Oh, about three weeks.” She smiled wickedly..... “So during this time....when we’re just travelling....you could take some time off?” “Possibly.....why?”

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Having finished their meal, they rose, cleared the table and took tea on the sofa. With the help of Data and Geordi, I’ve made a hologram programme....one I’d like to share with you.” “Well, I’m sure Will be more than happy too get me off the bridge....he says I scare the younger members of the bridge staff, even if I stay in the ready room.” “You ogre.....frightening those poor ensigns....what will they think when the baby’s born?” “I’ve no idea.....and I don’t care...come here...” He leaned forward and kissed her softly, then whispered... “I will be the epitome of the besotted new father....what about you?” “Hey....I’m the Captain’s partner, I can do whatever I please....but I think I’ll manage to be the besotted new mother and leave everything to you.” He closed his eyes and smiled. Nodding, he spoke softly, “You already know I’d do anything for you.”

As it turned out, it was two weeks before the lovers could arrange the time off. Will and Worf had decided to run security drills and battle simulations, not to mention the phaser upgrades and the ongoing maintenance of the impulse injectors. It had been a busy two weeks. Having contacted Jean-Luc, Lynnah was nervously pacing at the holosuite, waiting for the Captain. As she knew he would, he came striding around the bend in the corridor, managing to look commanding even though he was clad in a short sleeved white linen shirt and a dark blue pair of shorts. Lynnah ran her eyes from his bare feet up to his eyes and felt the desire rise within her. “You’re breathtaking Jean-Luc.....” With twinkling eyes, he offered a rare full grin. “You’re not bad yourself. That dress is beautiful.” “Well I thought it appropriate....come on, let’s initiate the programme.” After briefly talking to the computer, the large doors whined open and the couple stepped through into a hot, bright summer’s day. “Lynnah...it’s beautiful, where are we?” Her head tilted up to the sun, she smiled and scrunched up her eyes. Pointing to her right, she said, “This is Waratah Bay. It runs from that headland on that side....” Then sweeping her hand to her left... “To those spectacular mountains over there. See those islands out there? That’s where the surf is born.” Jean-Luc breathed deeply, stretching expansively. “It’s stunning, the sea is so blue. Is this on Earth?” Slipping her hand into his, they slowly walked to the few items that were resting on the sand. “Yes it is. It’s in Australia. That promontory over there is the most southerly point of the mainland. Travel south from here for about four hundred kilometres and you hit Tasmania. After that....Antarctica, and believe me, in the winter this strait is exceptionally cold.” They had reached the equipment and Lynnah smirked. “Did you bring your togs?” “I’m wearing them.”

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“Oh, good. And are they....” “Yes.....Speedos, black.” Lynnah sighed, her eyes twinkling. “Well.....” Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Jean-Luc removed his shirt and shorts and stood, feet apart, arms folded on his chest. “I believe it’s your turn.” Lynnah divested herself of the dress and stood facing him in a dark gold bikini, her pregnancy showing. “Oh....I do like that.....” “Lecherous old man.” “Uh huh.” Over then next two hours, Lynnah taught Jean-Luc the rudiments of surfing. Body surfing and body board surfing were what he liked most and he was an apt pupil. At times Lynnah just stood and watched his beautiful, lean muscular body, so gifted with powerful grace. She stood in the shore break watching him come in on a good wave. He came off the back of the breaker and porpoised his way to her. “That was great! Come on, we can get out beyond the back break and catch a wave together.” “You go; I’m a bit cold and tired.” Placing his hands on her shoulders, he bent to look into her eyes. “Are you alright? You haven’t done too much have you?” “No, I’m fine. I’ll lie on my towel and soak up the sun. You go and surf.” Nodding, he stood and watched as she left the water and when he was satisfied she had settled on the sand, he turned and swam out to the back break. Jean-Luc stayed in the surf for another half an hour then caught a last wave and still had the energy to jog up the beach to Lynnah, a sight she was very happy to have witnessed. He collapsed on the towel, panting and laughing, then suddenly turned and took Lynnah in his arms and, laying salty kisses over her face in the process, dripped very cold water over her. Shrieking, Lynnah tried to wriggle free and, failing that, she playfully bit his earlobe. He got the message and disengaged, contenting himself with flicking the odd drip her way. “Now you stop that! Are you sure that’s not ice?” “No my lovely, it’s just that you’re so warm in the sun. However....I can organise a cease fire in return for a kiss.” “Agreed!” Laughing, he took her in his arms and kissed, smirking when she shivered.

Time moved on relentlessly and Jean-Luc was bemused to find it moved in two distinct lines. On one hand there was ship’s time. The crew and civilians ordered their lives around the rhythm of the great ship, heedless of the silent void in which they travelled. And then there was “pregnant time.” Preferring to forego the knowledge of their child’s gender, they found themselves tied to a video program that was used by doctors when learning obstetrics. Beverly had supplied them with a copy and they

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looked forward to each stage of development. Every fourteen days they sat together at the monitor in their quarters and, holding hands, watched in fascination as the miracle of life unfolded before them. One afternoon, when Lynnah was six months into the pregnancy, the ship was on down time between missions. This was the time for rest and maintenance....both physical and mechanical. One afternoon Jean-Luc and Lynnah were showering together when Lynnah felt a strong movement from her babe. Jean-Luc was standing behind her, massaging her back so she reached back and took his hands and slid them over her swollen stomach, resting over the area of activity. In every other instance when he tried to feel the movements of his child, as soon as he put his hand on his mate, the movements stopped. He was so successful at this, that Lynnah would employ him when the active infant interfered with her sleep. But not this time. As he felt the strong kicks he became still, incredulous with astonishment and joy. He stepped up close to Lynnah and nuzzled her neck, whispering.... “Do you how much I love thee, my beautiful one?” She turned in his arms and looked deeply into his tear filled eyes. Reaching up, she wound her arms around his neck and kissed him with all the love she felt....the kiss growing to one of heated, boundless desire. They left the shower and went to bed, making love gently into the evening.

In her eighth month, Lynnah endured some lonely days while Jean-Luc represented the federation at and important annexation of three planets, the leaders of which wanted their worlds to become federation members. He contacted the ship frequently and always presented himself as the indomitable Captain, but he ached to return to his mate. On the morning of the tenth day, Lynnah stirred, then woke. *What?* Something had woken her, but she didn’t know what. She settled back under the covers, sighing with contentment. It happened again and this time she sat up, a look a concentration on her face. The third time it happened her hands flew to her stomach. “A contraction! It’s contractions.....what.....” Rising from her bed, she stood still listening to her body. Five minutes later it happened again, and this time she called Beverly. It took only moments for Beverly to arrive, breezing in, her lab coat flapping. “You’re up early Beverly....how come?” “The arboretum had a plant in flower that’s causing some nasty allergic reactions. I’ve been administering omega histamine left, right and centre. Now....sit down and tell me how you feel.” Lynnah settled onto the sofa and took a calming breath. “I’ve had four contractions, about five minutes apart. I feel fine and my water hasn’t broken.” Scanning with a medical tricorder, Beverly studied the read outs. “Hmmm. Well, everything seems to be fine....we’ll get you to sick bay, then we better contact “Papa”.” “Beverly....it’s early, isn’t it? “Yes, a little, but its ok, everything is fine. Do you want a gravibed?”

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Lynnah stood still as another tightening gripped her. No, I don’t think so, as long as we take our time.” Beverly took Lynnah by the arm and together they left the cabin and made a slow journey to sick bay. “Alyssa, make Lynnah comfortable and attach a foetal monitor. I’ll contact the Captain. In her office, she opened communication with the planet they were orbiting. “Enterprise to Captain Picard.....” “Yes Beverly.” “Jean-Luc, can you leave the proceedings?” “Possibly....why?” Unable to keep the grin off her face, she let her happiness show in her voice. “Because you’re about to become a father.” In the short silence that followed, Beverly could see his astonished look in her mind’s eye. “Jean-Luc? Are you still with me?” “Yes....just. Is Lynnah alright?” “She’s fine and so is the baby. The contractions are five minutes apart and shortening quickly. I don’t think the little one is going to wait much longer.” “Right! I’ll make my apologies and I’ll be right up. Beverly, are you sure everything’s alright?” “Yes Jean-Luc....you’ll see for yourself soon enough.” Beverly breezed back into the delivery suite and scanned the read outs from the discreetly placed monitors. Smiling, she took a cool washer and gently wiped Lynnah’s brow. “The contractions are intensifying and becoming closer together. How do you feel?” Lynnah was about to answer when another pain took her breath away. As it eased, Lynnah nodded and smiled at the doctor. “That’s a “yes” to both....stronger and faster.” “You’re doing fine. Jean-Luc should be here soon, he said he was coming up.....” “And here I am.” Moving to Lynnah’s side, Jean-Luc took her hand and held it to his heart. “How are you?” “Fine......” Beverly checked the monitor and turned to examine Lynnah. “That was only two minutes. Junior is in a hurry.” Suddenly, Lynnah groaned and arched her back. In a soft gush, her water broke and a succession of ever increasing contractions began to push the infant into the outside world. Gripping Jean-Luc’s hand, Lynnah arched again and stretched her head back, then abruptly forward and with a cry of relief, the baby was born in a wet slithering rush. Gathered in a soft blanket, Beverly spoke quietly to Jean-Luc who was still stunned by what had happened. “Jean-Luc....would you like to cut the cord?” “What.....yes.....yes I do!” It was a simple matter that was done quickly and the little bundle was handed to its father. “Here Jean-Luc, hold your son.” He sat and held his arms out, still benumbed by what he’d witnessed. His little son was placed gently in his arms and Jean-Luc looked at his

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lover with tears in his eyes. He moved forward and placed the little one in the crook of his mother’s arm. “Lynnah....our son.” “Hello Jean-Jacques, I’m your mother.” Jean-Luc leaned over and enticed the infant to take his proffered finger, and when he did, he whispered... “Welcome aboard, my little son.” Having done all she needed to, Beverly left the couple, taking her staff with her, affording the new parents some time to savour their infant before the deluge of congratulations began.

Whilst he was held securely in his mother’s arm, Jean-Luc opened the blanket to see his son. Although small, he was perfect in every way. They covered him back up and spent the next fifteen minutes talking softly and dividing their attention from each other and their offspring. When Beverly appeared, they were happy to see her. “Beverly....Thank you.” “All part of the service. Would you mind if my staff come in?” Jean-Luc looked at his mate, and gaining approval, motioned to Beverly to let them in. The next ten minutes was spent cooing and cuddling, all under the watchful gaze of the proud father. When everyone had a nurse, the babe was handed back to his mother and the Captain prepared to make a ship wide announcement. “This is the Captain. It is great pride and affection that I announce the birth of our son, Jean-Jacques Picard. Mother and child are safe and well. That is all.” Jean-Luc held Lynnah’s hand as they both watched their son. Lynnah looked adoringly at her mate and whispered, “Listen.....I could swear I can hear cheering.”

Much later that evening, Lynnah, Jean-Luc and the baby were resting on a large reclining lounge in their quarters. The lights were low and Lynnah nursed their son as they enjoyed the magnificent vista of the planet below them and the infinite stars above. Every so often, Jean-Luc would gently pull down the blanket to watch his son suckle, amused to find the junior Picard had his hands planted on Lynnah’s breast and seemed very happy about it. “He’s so beautiful Lynnah....so perfect. You know....he looks a little like Robert when he was small. Maman would say that we were very alike as youngsters......I must remember to send them a holovid, they will be so happy.....Lynnah....is there no one you want to contact?” Gently stroking her son’s head and not taking her gaze from him, she whispered, “No Jean-Luc, no one. All I have is here....you and Jean-Jacques.” Jean-Luc carefully rose and returned with some warm drinks. Settled again on the lounge he sighed and rested his head on the soft cushions.

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“My God Lynnah, so much has happened in such a short time.... and my life has changed so completely......if someone had told me this as a story, I would’ve called them a liar.” Reaching up gently with her free arm, she caressed his face and nodded slowly. “I always thought I would see out my days on that planet.....one way or another. If fate dictated that I had to walk this... rocky path... to end up here...with you and our son, then I accept what happened to me because nothing....absolutely nothing has brought me so much love and joy....” She stopped there...too overcome to continue. Jean-Jacques finished his feed and quietly burped in a semi conscious daze, unaware that his father had gently placed him on his shoulder and was softly patting his back. He soon dropped off to sleep in his father’s arms and Jean-Luc placed him reverently in his bassinette, rejoining his mate on the lounge. He gathered her to him and together they stretched out to watch the planet turn lazily below. Lynnah turned to her lover and whispered softly, “And now, Jean-Luc....what now?” “We will live each day as it comes and gently guide our son to follow his path. We will live and love and be a family.” “And the future?” Jean-Luc looked up and gazed at the stars outside. “Out there, amongst the stars. We will find our destiny out there, and who knows....Jean-Jacques may get a sister.....” He looked down at Lynnah and kissed her tenderly and she nuzzled his neck and whispered so only he could hear... “I love you Jean-Luc.”

The End.

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A Hill Too High