Issuu on Google+

A Knowing Hand. “I don’t like it Sir, it’s too dangerous.” Commander William Riker, First Officer of the Starship Enterprise sat back in his chair, frowning deeply at his Captain. Jean-Luc Picard smiled inwardly at his officer’s displeasure, but outwardly showed nothing but his command persona. “That may be Number One, but we will go, nonetheless. You know as well as I that the Enterprise is needed at Rullum IV and you’re also aware that I must go to the Thillus sector to secure the needed participants for the resolution talks. They won’t deal with anyone else and I see no need to put them off. Doctor Crusher and I will leave at 1400 hours and I expect you to carry on as normal.” Lifting his chin, Riker tried one more time. “Yes Sir. Of course I will see to my duties, but I can’t help but be concerned. The rebels are serious about disrupting the talks and I just think we’re providing them with too good an opportunity! You will have to travel by shuttle to starbase 215, pick up the vaccines, then make your way unescorted to Thillus. You must admit, Sir, it’s a terrible risk to take.” Pursing his lips, the Captain cast a glance at his Chief Medical Officer. To her credit, although she saw his look, Beverly Crusher kept her opinions to herself. Sighing, he looked around the briefing table. “Does anyone else have an opinion?” The rest of the attending officers, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge, Counsellor Deanna Troi and Lieutenant Commander Data looked at their Captain in exasperation. It was Geordi who spoke. “It’s a no win situation. You’re both right and I can’t see a way out of this. We have to go to Rullum IV and the Captain has to go to Thillus.” Deanna raised her obsidian eyes to her commanding officer. “Sir, could you take a security detail with you? At least they could be on hand if you encounter any trouble.” That idea seemed to brighten the participants’ demeanour until the Captain started shaking his head. “No, I don’t think so. Look, we’ll be gone less than ten days and our stay on Thillus will be, hopefully, brief and I’m sure their security will be adequate for the duration of our stay. I really don’t see the point in any further discussion. Dismissed.” Will Riker rose from his seat slowly and looked down at his Captain. “Sir…” Shaking his head once more, Jean-Luc grimaced. “That will be all Number One.” As the last of his officers left the room, Jean-Luc looked at his best friend and, recently, lover. Smiling, he took her hand. “Well, that went well, don’t you think?” Beverly smiled that special smile she reserved for him only and sighed. “If you think so Jean-Luc. They weren’t very happy…and Will…” “Will is never happy when I leave the ship Beverly, you know that. He’ll just have to get used to the idea.” She shook her head and chuckled. “And what about me? You don’t really need me on hand to take delivery of those vaccines. You’re quite capable of doing that yourself and you know it. Do I detect an ulterior motive?” The colour rose softly over his skin and he smiled lopsidedly. “Guilty. Look, I know there’s unrest with the rebels and a slight, but real danger, but I don’t think we’ll meet

1


with anything remotely hazardous. We will be travelling in Federation space the whole time and we’ll have the added bonus of security at starbase 215. What do you think? Is the slight risk worth a few days off on Thillus? It’s a beautiful place Beverly and I was sort of hoping I could show you the falls at Sett. They’re magnificent.” Beverly looked deep into his sparkling hazel eyes and capitulated. It was never in question anyway; she would follow him anywhere, the added incentive of being able to keep an eye on him pleasing her. “I’ll go and pack then. Shuttle bay…? “Three.” “Shuttle bay three at 1350.” He smiled and sighed his satisfaction as she gracefully rose and left the room *This will be fine, just fine.*

Captain Jean-Luc Picard looked out at the wondrous sight of his ship as she jumped to warp and disappeared in a flash of blue light. He never tired of seeing the sight and smiled as he felt Beverly’s arms snake around his neck. “So…it’s just us now huh?” He took the time to set the course and speed and watched as the runabout made her own jump to warp speed. Leaning back in his seat, he took her hands in his and raised them to his lips, kissing them softly. “We’ve two days to starbase 215, a lay over of four hours, then another day and a half to Thillus. Whatever shall we do with the time?” Beverly laughed outright and kissed his neck. “Well, I’ve brought a stack of reports to catch up on and then there’s all those journals…you know how the Captain is about keeping up to date…” He chuckled softly and nodded. “Yes, I know. I happen to have brought along quite a lot of my own work. Wouldn’t do to upset the old man.” Beverly nuzzled into his neck and face. “Old man? Who, the Captain? That’s not been my experience…” Jean-Luc loosened her hold and turned the chair to face her. Standing slowly, he wound his arms around her and kissed her softly, imparting his love, his desire, They soon made their way to the sleeping quarters at the rear of the runabout and spent the rest of the ships afternoon making love, their work forgotten.

“Starbase 215 is coming up on scanners now. ETA, 15 minutes.” “Thank you Beverly. Drop to full impulse and hail them.” The formalities taken care of, the couple relaxed and watched the starbase emerge on the viewscreen. Beverly watched her companion as he watched the screen. Smiling at his concentration, she asked, “Do you want me to be there for the vaccine transfer?”

2


He nodded. “It’s not strictly necessary, but I would appreciate your input. The stasis units are already replicated and I don’t foresee any trouble, but you can never be too careful.” “No problem.” Soon after that, docking instructions were received and the runabout entered starbase 215.

Captain Barry Hall was on hand to greet the officers as they disembarked. Pleasantries out of the way, the couple were led to the medical facility where Beverly checked the vaccines and caught up on old times with a colleague she hadn’t seen for a number of years.

In the shadows of a cavernous cargo bay of the starbase, a figure dressed in black and holding two small parcels, surreptitiously crept up onto the transporter pad and entered the co-ordinates of the runabout. Re-materialising inside the runabout, the figure wasted no time in accessing the small tubes either side of the warp nacelles, fixing the parcels on each plasma relay. His work complete, he regained the transporter pad and beamed back to the cargo bay where he expertly erased any trace of his actions.

Three hours later, with promises to keep in touch, the Captain and the Doctor left the starbase and once again found themselves in the blackness of space. As the stars streaked by, Beverly brought the last items of their meal to the table. “So anyway, I realised I’d not seen her for 20 years! Can you imagine how surprised I was?” Jean-Luc chuckled and shook his head. “Twenty years. Did she know Jack? Does she know about Wesley?” Beverly shot him a wry look. “Yes, she knew Jack… and Wesley? She knows now.” They ate in companionable silence, read and worked for some hours before tiring and going to bed. Beverly was dreaming about her late husband Jack, when a sudden explosion sent them both onto the deck. “What the hell was that?” Jean-Luc recovered first. “Go forward and check our status. Find out where that blast came from. I’ll see if I can pinpoint from here.” As Beverly moved forward another sickening explosion rocked the runabout, knocking them both off their feet. With the interior filled with smoke and lighting reduced to almost nothing, Jean-Luc realised the inertial dampeners were off line. Shaking his head, his ears buzzing, he wiped at the blood streaming down his face and tried to find Beverly. A sharp pain in his side slowed his movements and he coughed as he called her name. “Beverly! Where are you?”

3


He heard coughing then a groan and made his way towards the sounds, coming across Beverly suddenly. “Are you alright?” She groaned again and gripped his shoulder. “Oh God, my leg…” Using his hands, Jean-Luc gently ran his fingers down Beverly’s thigh until he encountered a jagged piece of metal embedded in the tight muscle. “Beverly, wait here. I’ll try and gain environmental control and get rid of this smoke.” He didn’t see her nod as he staggered to his feet on the canting deck and made his way forward. Most of the controls were off line and life support was failing, but he did manage to instigate an air cleansing cycle. Though incomplete, it cleared the air enough for them to breathe easier and see. Jean-Luc then tried and failed to gain axial control. Moving back to the groaning Doctor, he knelt by her side. “What do I do? How do I stop the bleeding?” Beverly gritted her teeth and gasped, “Get a med kit, quickly.” He was back in moments. “Alright, now what.” She took the kit and selected a vial to load into a hypospray. Jean-Luc took it and injected her, watching as the pain melted from her face. “It’s ok Jean-Luc, I can see to myself now.” She took a tricorder and scanned herself, then selected another vial. Seeing that she seemed to be functioning all right, Jean-Luc went forward and attempted to send a distress signal. When that failed, he tried, with limited success, to ascertain their heading and speed. By now well off course, they were still travelling at sub-light speed. Both warp nacelles had been blown off the runabout, the damage to the hull offset by emergency force fields. Had the shielding not been recently upgraded, they would not have survived the double blast. They had two intermittently working thrusters and failing life support. He had to find somewhere to put down…and soon. With barely functioning sensors, he found a planet that was within reach and class M, but only just. The oxygen content of the atmosphere was at the extreme limit for human habitation but, having no choice, he coaxed the runabout into a lopsided turn and made ready as best he could. Wincing in pain, he made his way back to Beverly to see her tying off a bandage around her thigh. With the metal still obviously embedded in her leg, he asked, “You won’t take it out?” She shook her head tiredly and sighed. “No. There’s probably quite a bit of damage to the muscle and blood vessels. It’s safer if I leave it there. With the pain killer and antibiotics, it should be ok for a while.” She looked up at her lover and scowled. “Jean-Luc, you’re bleeding everywhere. Here let me have a look.” He took her hands in his and shook his head. “No time, Beverly. We’re about to try and land…and it’s going to be a little rough. I want you strapped in. Come on, let me help you.” With that he gently eased Beverly down to a seat that was still bolted to the sloping deck.

4


Having secured her, he went back to the cockpit in time to see the planet looming up through the screen. Gritting his teeth and saying a silent prayer, he called back to the Doctor. “Descending now.” The plume of fire around the runabout grew in intensity as he tried to control their descent. Time and time again he fired the weakening thrusters, only barely keeping them under terminal velocity. When they broke through the sullen green clouds, he knew the ground was coming up far too quickly. With one last prolonged burst from the thrusters, he got the nose up and managed to ease them into a rapid glide. Still too fast, but better than before. “Beverly, brace for impact!” It was the last thing he said for a long while.

The runabout struck an outcropping of rock, slewed sideways and clipped the top of some trees, spinning sickeningly. Another rock massif collided with them, sending them plummeting to the trees below. Fortunately, the trees arrested their speed and they came to a bouncing, grinding halt, the runabout on its side, wedged between to enormous trunks.

For some time, it was silent in the wreckage as leaves and bark, small branches and twigs rained down. Then, with a muffled whoosh, fire appeared at the rear and slowly gained a hold. Inside it was dark and smoky, the two occupants unconscious as the fire increased and inched towards them. Beverly woke first, confused and in pain. Her hands went to her head, the throbbing telling her of injury. As she raised her arms, her broken ribs became evident and she gasped, a wave of dizziness overcoming her. A shallow calming breath, then her hands began to undo the harness that held her suspended in the seat, two metres above what was now the floor. Beverly knew she would fall and that it would hurt, but she was unprepared for the impact and again lost consciousness momentarily. The heat from the fire awoke her and, groaning, she started to look for her Captain. She dragged herself forward, keeping low under the smoke and came across his body lying face down at the entrance to the cockpit. Terrified at what she would find, she gingerly felt his neck and nearly sobbed with relief when she felt the faint throb of life beating within him. Waving her hands in front of her face, she tried to get a better look at his injuries, but it was impossible, the smoke was too thick and getting worse. With no other choice, she gripped him under his shoulders and tugged. Nothing happened. *He must be snagged somehow. * Feeling along his back, she found a shard of metal protruding across his waist and traced it to find it connected to the back of the upturned chair. With no time for finesse, she braced her hands against the chair and pushed, seeing dark blood ooze out as the metal left the flesh of his back. Again grasping his shoulders, and grunting in pain, Beverly

5


dragged her lover to the hatch on the runabout roof and hit the emergency release. With a noisy explosion and a rushing exchange of atmosphere, the hatch blew off and Beverly was able to drag Jean-Luc out and to safety. She realised the fire was worsening and moved as quickly as she could behind another huge tree just as the runabout exploded in a ball of eerie green flames. She covered Jean-Luc with her own body as bits of the runabout rained down, igniting some of the plant debris around them. The resulting fires were desultory the green flames guttering quickly. Beverly had little time to ponder this as she bent to examine her Captain. He was badly injured. The tibia of his left leg was protruding through the material of his trousers and his left arm was obviously broken. Ghastly burns ran up his legs and back, the blood still flowed sluggishly from the terrible wound in his lower back and his head was lacerated in several places. Gingerly turning him over, Beverly could see bad facial tears and a broken nose, his eyes already swollen shut. With gentle hands, she felt his chest, feeling the telltale grinding of broken ribs. And what of his internal organs? She’d been unable to salvage anything from the runabout and without a tricorder she couldn’t scan him. She was working with her hands and eyes only and she knew it wouldn’t be enough. Her own injuries were debilitating, she doubted she could care for them both much longer. The pain she’d been ignoring was building and her headache was beginning to make her dizzy. She recognised the symptoms of concussion and shock, but there was nothing she could do about it. As the sky darkened, she rested her head beside her lover and softly cried until she lost consciousness.

The two young lads had heard the explosion, but waited until daybreak to investigate. On their initiation hunt, the twins ate a light meal before leaving their camp and struck out for the forest at a quick pace. Barrel-chested, stocky and immensely powerful, their skin tinged with a bluish tint, the teenagers soon found the wreckage of the runabout and stood completely non-plussed by what they saw. Using their spears, they were poking about in the now cold ruin when their acute hearing picked up the sound of soft groaning coming from nearby. With caution, they approached a large tree and behind it, discovered the injured officers. At first they stood silently watching as a female with vibrant red hair slowly raised herself onto shaky arms and felt the neck of the male who lay inert beside her. Brushing a tear from her face, she tried to wipe the dried blood from his cheek and sighed gently when he moaned. At the sound, one of the boys grunted, startling Beverly. She looked up and froze. They were dressed in tanned skins and carried short spears with wicked barbed tips. Over their shoulders were slung shields. Their heads were shaved, except for a ponytail that hung plaited to their shoulders. On their feet were sturdy sandals and each had a belt with a knife in a scabbard around their waists. They stepped forward together and, after quiet consultation, one of them poked Jean-Luc gently with the butt of his spear. “Don’t! He’s badly injured. Can you help us?”

6


At the sound of her voice, the brothers started and stepped backwards. Beverly slowly sat up and beckoned to them. “It’s ok, I won’t bite. Come closer…it’s ok.” Slowly, the tension left their faces and curiosity took over. Moving in unison, they came forward and squatted close by. Pointing back towards the wrecked runabout, Beverly spoke slowly. “We crashed in that and were injured. I need to get help for my friend. Can you take me to your village?” As she said this, she made gestures with her hands, hoping against hope that they would understand. They stood together and moved away, murmuring to each other. They left suddenly and Beverly groaned her frustration, once again alone with her injured companion. Throughout the long day she tended to her unconscious lover. Occasionally he would moan or softly whimper, but he would not awaken. Beverly had rolled him over to try and keep the burns free of dirt and she had straightened his broken arm and leg as best she could but she was greatly frustrated by her inability to help him in a meaningful manner. Without instruments or drugs she was helpless. It was late afternoon when she detected their approach. With remarkable suddenness, six beings appeared out of the forest and surrounded her. She would have been alarmed, except she saw they were carrying two litters. Laying the stretchers on the ground, the four obviously older beings gently placed JeanLuc face down one then gestured to Beverly to lie upon the other. In silence, they hefted the litters and followed the twins back the way they had come. Beverly had noticed that any exertion on her part made her breathless and light headed but the natives seemed to be unaffected as they made a swift pace through the forest. Darkness gathered, and then fell, but still they pressed on. Beverly knew they had left the forest only when she realised she could see the stars in the night sky. The gentle movement of their gait lulled her into a light sleep and she was startled when they finally stopped. Moving through some large gates, Beverly could see by flaming torches that they had indeed reached a village. They entered a hut and were placed on beds next to each other, Beverly keen to see that Jean-Luc was kept face down. Beverly had barely begun to look around when two women entered and set about gently removing first JeanLuc’s, then her clothing. Having achieved this, the women bathed them both, covered them with woven blankets, then left. Beverly once again examined Jean-Luc. Without the nuisance of dried blood in the way, she could get a better look at his injuries. His face was a mess. He’d obviously smashed his face on the console; she could see some pieces of clear aluminium embedded in the cuts. By the light of the flames she picked some out which started some of the cuts bleeding again. She was wiping away the blood when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. Looking up she was greeted by a pair of bright, intelligent eyes. This being was dressed differently to the others. In addition to a cloak and a sash about his waist, he had a full head of hair, which hung down free to below his hips and wore a brightly coloured headband to keep the hair from his eyes. Motioning to Beverly to sit on her cot, the being examined Jean-Luc, frowning and tut-tutting as he did. When he finished, he approached Beverly and she let him gently run his knowing hands over her; hands she recognised as a healers. He left soon after, but returned bearing a cup filled with a warm, slightly bitter liquid. Reluctant to drink, Beverly tried to

7


forestall him, but he quietly insisted until Beverly felt she had no option but to drink. He then bade her to lie down and he stayed with her until she drifted off to sleep.

It was s shaft of sunlight that eventually broke through the haze of her drugged rest. She had no idea how much time had passed. She knew two things. She must examine Jean-Luc and she was hungry. Her hunger caught her by surprise. She wasn’t just hungry she was ravenous. As she slowly sat up, her elbow bumped a platter set beside her on a small stool. On it was what she guessed were a selection of fruits and what appeared to be a cup of water. Slowly at first she tasted the fruit and, finding it palatable, quickly downed all she could find, finishing it all off with the water. Although slightly brackish, it quenched her thirst and she smacked her lips when she finished. Now to Jean-Luc. He was still unconscious, still face down, his head turned towards her. She pulled the blanket back to find the burns of his back and legs swathed in a sticky brown goo that smelled slightly of vanilla. His arm and leg had been splinted. Looking closely at his wound across his lower back, she found it had been closed with the heads of an insect with large nippers. They had been encouraged to bite the wound and, once the mandibles were closed, the body was removed. All his lacerations on his back, face and leg had been similarly treated and Beverly smiled at their ingenuity. She wasn’t so pleased when she saw the reddened area around his leg wound. Infection was a danger she knew dogged them and with that in mind, she uncovered the wound in her leg to find it too was showing the first signs of putrification. The metal shard was still there but, oddly, she felt no pain. In fact, she felt no pain from any of her injuries. She was pondering this when the healer entered the hut. He bowed his head slightly and moved to Jean-Luc, placing his hand on Jean-Luc’s forehead. Frowning and shaking his head he sighed and looked up at Beverly, speaking in a soft voice. “I don’t understand. Are you telling me something about Jean-Luc?” At the sound of her voice, the healer frowned again and shook his head. Undaunted, Beverly was determined to communicate. Tapping her chest, she said in a firm voice, “My name is Beverly. Beverly.” She pointed at the healer. “You? What is your name?” He though for a moment then uttered softly, “Issar.” Beverly pointed at him and said, “Issar.” Then pointed to herself and said, “Beverly.” Smiling, the healer pointed to her and slurred, “Beverly.” She grinned broadly and pointed to the Captain. “He’s Jean-Luc… Jean-Luc.” Again he said, with a slight slur, “Jean-Luc.” Using her hands to gesture, Beverly asked, “How long have I been asleep?” He seemed to know instinctively what she asked and made an arc with his fist twice. “Two days? Can he mean two days? That means Jean-Luc’s head injuries are worse than I thought!” To Issar she said, “Has he woken up?” She pantomimed waking and he shook his head. She was about to ask more questions when he left her and went to the entrance to gently call out. Within moments, two women entered and moved to Jean-Luc. Gently raising his hips, they withdrew a soiled fleece pelt. After cleaning him, they replaced it

8


with a clean one, and then drew the blanket up to his waist before leaving. Beverly looked at her bed and saw a similar piece of pelt and reddened when she realised its purpose. She picked it up and shook her head at Issar who had stood silently by as the women had tended to Jean-Luc. Smiling, he moved away and returned with a pot and placed it beside Beverly’s bed. She sighed. “Oh well, better than nothing.” She muttered. Looking up at her benefactor, Beverly smiled and said, “He has broken ribs. We need to turn him over.” She made the appropriate hand movements and Issar understood. He gently turned the comatose Captain and winced at the bruising evident on his chest and stomach. Beverly picked up a cup and motioned, “He needs water.” Nodding, Issar filled a cup and, with infinite care, lifted Jean-Luc’s head and managed to slowly dribble half of the contents into the Captain’s mouth. He swallowed convulsively, but most of the water went down. Unfortunately, it also started him coughing and Beverly was panicked when, along with some water, he brought up some bright blood. “Oh God, lungs, stomach or both? Issar, has he done this before?” It took many gestures before Issar could make out what she asked. He nodded and drew three strokes into the dirt floor. “He’ll dehydrate! Issar, we must keep giving him water in small doses. Like this.” To demonstrate, Beverly dipped her fingers into the water and held them above Jean-Luc’s lips. The falling drips made their way into his mouth and he swallowed. Nodding, Issar softly called and a woman came in. He spoke to her at length and she seated herself beside Jean-Luc, slowly administering water to him as Beverly had shown. Satisfied momentarily, Beverly smiled her gratitude and tried to rise from her cot. She swayed and would have fallen but for Issar’s strong hands. He guided her back to her bed and pressed another cup of liquid into her hand. She shook her head and tried to tell him she didn’t want to sleep anymore, but he insisted. As soon as she tasted the liquid, she knew it was different. He gently touched her injuries and smiled, although he lingered over her swollen thigh. Since undoing the bandage, the muscle had distended with angry red flesh surrounding the shard of metal. Infection had obviously taken hold and Issar was taking a closer look when Jean-Luc croaked Beverly’s name. She was immediately at his side. “Jean-Luc, can you hear me?” He groaned and slowly lifted his hand to his head. “Jean-Luc, try not to move too much. We crashed the runabout and you’ve been injured. Just lie still.” He tried again. “Beverly?” “I’m here Jean-Luc.” “Beverly…pain…” “I know. You have head injuries, broken ribs, burns to your back and legs and a badly broken leg. I know you’re…” He turned his head and tried to open his eyes. “Broken leg? Burnt legs? Beverly, I can’t feel my legs. There’s no pain there at all.” Beverly suddenly felt very cold. Casting about, she found a twig on the floor and moved to his feet. She dragged the twig end up the sole of first one foot, then the other with no reaction. Next she squeezed the twig hard across his toenails and again there was no reaction. “Jean-Luc, can you feel this?” She reached up and squeezed his broken leg and felt sick when his quiet voice said, “No.” “Beverly, what is it? Why can’t I feel my legs?”

9


Instead of answering, Beverly gently stroked his face. “Jean-Luc, we’re going to turn you onto your side. We’ll be as gentle as we can.” Gesturing to Issar, the two healers rolled Jean-Luc onto his side where Issar held him. The action wakened his pain. Jean-Luc was gasping in agony, but said nothing. Using her hands, Beverly gently pressed around the worst of the burns across his back. “Can you feel that?” “Yes.” “And that?” “Yes.” She had made her way to the deep laceration in the small of his back. She touched it. He didn’t react. She touched his buttocks and thighs…nothing. With great care, they rolled him onto his back and Beverly sat beside him. “Jean-Luc, when I found you in the runabout, you had a piece of metal embedded in your lower back. I had to free it to get you out. I think the shard has damaged your spinal cord. That’s why you have no feeling below that injury.” He drew a ragged breath and groped for her hand. “I’m paralysed?” Tears welled in her eyes as she nodded. “For now, yes. I’ll know more when we get you back to the Enterprise.” They were silent for a time, Beverly began to think he drifted off, when he suddenly rasped, “How long?” “How long what?” “How long have we been here?” Sighing, she answered, “Three days, I think.” He was quiet again for a while. “Should be about three or four more days then.” She frowned, not understanding him. “Until what?” “The Enterprise misses us. When we don’t show up at the rendezvous point, they will initiate a search, starting from starbase 215. They’ll retrace our flight path and hopefully pick up the debris field and follow our plasma trail to here, wherever here is. Where are we, by the way?” Beverly smiled to herself. Although badly injured, paralysed and in considerable pain, he still thought as a Starship Captain. “Well, as far as I can figure, we’re in a village. So far the natives have been friendly, in fact they’ve been very helpful. They’re intelligent and resourceful; their healer has quite a knowledge of the pharmacology of plants. Here, drink this.” Beverly had taken the cup from the woman and dribbled a little water into his mouth. He grimaced and turned his head. “No more, I feel nauseous.” Beverly frowned and shook her head. “Jean-Luc you really need to drink. It’s important. You already have a fever and you’ve been vomiting.” He sighed shallowly. “Later Beverly, maybe later.” He seemed to settle then, but he squeezed her hand to get her attention. “Can you do anything for the pain? It’s very bad in my head and chest and my back.” Beverly knew that for him to ask, it must be very severe. She motioned to Issar and picked up her drink. “Can he have this painkiller?” Sadly he shook his head and placed his hands on his head and winced.

10


“What? Will it increase cranial pressure?” She thought hard for a few minutes. “If he has a skull fracture…” She looked up at the healer and nodded her understanding. To Jean-Luc she said, “We can’t give you anything Jean-Luc because of you head injuries. I don’t know what it is and I don’t really know what it could do to you. I have to be guided by the healer.” He nodded and she saw the muscles of his jaw clench. Issar gave Beverly a strip of wet pelt and she gently wiped it over Jean-Luc’s brow. He sighed and slowly drifted off to sleep. She stayed by his side for the remainder of the day, feeding him water at regular intervals and applying the wet pelt to his fevered body. Early in the evening, two women came in and gently lifted Jean-Luc’s hips, waking him. “What?” “Easy Jean-Luc, they’re just changing the bed.” “Why?” “It’s …soiled.” “Soiled? How?” Beverly gritted her teeth. “Jean-Luc, you have no feeling below the waist. You have no control…over…” “Oh God.” “Hey, it’s ok…perfectly normal in the circumst…” “It’s not ok, it’s bloody not OK!” Suddenly he started to cough and retch. Beverly rolled him onto his side and he coughed and vomited up blood and water. Gasping for breath and groaning in pain he gripped her arms and tried to recover himself. “Can’t breathe!” he gasped. “Steady…just slow down and take it slow…you’re ok, it’s ok now.” Slowly he regained his breath and gingerly settled on his back. When he could, he spoke. “Low oxygen.” “What?” “This planet. Barely M class. Low oxygen content.” A light went on in Beverly’s head. “Well that explains a few things. The people here have huge chests, much larger lung capacity than us and the have a bluish tinge to their skin. Yes! The fire at the runabout crash was green and soon went out and every time I exert myself I get breathless. I bet…” Beverly looked closely at her hands. “Uh huh, cyanosis.” She checked Jean-Luc’s hands and looked carefully at his face. “You’ve got blue lips too. You know this isn’t going to help with healing. With less oxygen in our blood, the cells won’t regenerate so quickly. I’ll have to see if Issar can help.” “Beverly…” “If we can…” “Beverly…” “What?” “What if you can’t repair my spine?” Her mind stopped dead in its tracks. “Jean-Luc, you know better than to cross bridges before we get to them. I don’t even know how deep it is. Let’s just leave the conjecture and concentrate on the now. Ok?” He nodded reluctantly and sighed. “I wish I could open my eyes.” “You will, my love, you will.”

11


The night and the day that followed were long and painful for Jean-Luc. Unable to keep any water down and still coughing up blood, he slowly deteriorated until he began to drift in and out of consciousness. His temperature continued to rise, defeating all Issar’s efforts and making Beverly frantic with worry. The burns over his body suppurated, oozing serum and pus. Unless help arrived soon, he would die.

As the Captain had predicted, the Enterprise was indeed on their trail, albeit a little earlier than he presaged. Their business concluded sooner than expected, they had reentered Federation space only to receive an urgent subspace message to the effect that the Captain and CMO had not reached Thillus. They warped directly to starbase 215 and set out on the flight path to Thillus. Eight hours into their journey they encountered the debris from the nacelles. Picking up the vented plasma, they entered orbit around planet 44G and began to search for human life signs. Will shifted in his seat and glanced worriedly at Deanna. “Anything yet Mr.Data?” Shaking his head, the android turned from his console. “No Sir. Since the discovery of the remains of the runabout, we have been unable to define any human life signs. The closest habitation is nine point two kilometres from the crash site and there are forty-three native bio signatures. If the Captain and Doctor Crusher are with them, we can not tell them from the natives.” Again Will look at the Counsellor. “They’re there Will. I can sense them.” Nodding, the Commander glanced up at the ceiling. “Geordi, can you enhance the sensors? We need to pick two needles from a haystack.” Geordi’s chuckle filtered through the speakers. “I’m working on it. Give me half an hour. Engineering out.” The half hour passed slowly. “Engineering to Bridge…the sensors are as sharp as we can make them. Good luck.” Will turned to the second officer. “Mr.Data?” “Scanning now Sir.” Tense minutes followed. “I have then Sir. They are both injured. The Captain…” “Right. Beam them…” Deanna rose to her feet. “Wait Will! We can’t just beam them up. Think of the Prime Directive. If they de-materialise it could cause chaos if someone sees it. We have to wait until they’re alone.” Data quietly interrupted the officers. “I would point out Counsellor that Captain Picard’s life signs are weakening. I believe he is close to death.” Will stood motionless for a moment. Then came to a decision. “Data, what time is it on the planet?” Checking the panel, Data rested his golden eyes on his Commander. “Early evening Sir.” “Right. We wait until the village falls asleep, then we beam them up. Agreed?” The three officers stared at the viewscreen, each lost in their own thoughts.

12


Beverly was dozing when she heard an odd gurgling sound. Night had fallen, darkening their hut. Focussing on the sound, she rolled out of bed and was at Jean-Luc’s side instantly. He was choking. Whilst lying on his back, he’d vomited and inhaled the vomit into his lungs. Unconscious and unable to move, he would have choked to death if not for the quick intervention of his best friend. Beverly quickly rolled him onto his side and was clearing his mouth when she felt the familiar tingle of the transporter.

Re-materialising in Sickbay, Beverly spoke without looking at her fellow Doctor. “Selar, he’s aspirated his vomit. We need to clear his airway!” Gently pushing her boss aside, Selar and two med techs lifted Jean-Luc onto a bio bed and began to work on him. After a few tense moments, Selar nodded to Beverly to let her know they had established a clear airway. It was then that Dr. Johnson began to scan Beverly. Trying to brush him aside, Beverly was forestalled by Will Riker. “Oh no you don’t Beverly. You’re obviously injured and need treatment. Dr.Selar will take care of the Captain for now. You let Mike do his job and we’ll talk when he’s finished with you.” “Now you look here Will…” “That’s an order, Doctor.” Beverly was so incensed she never heard the hiss of the hypospray.

As it turned out, they kept her sedated for two days. The surgery to remove the metal shard was successful as was the treatment for the broken bones and infections. What she needed most now was rest and her staff was determined to grant it. In a room on her own, she was allowed to regain consciousness naturally. It took her a few moments to remember where she was and what had happened. Only the regen field on her leg stopped her from leaping out of bed. “Selar!” After a moment, the graceful Vulcan entered Beverly’s room. “How is Captain Picard?” Showing not a trace of emotion, the Doctor said in a measured voice, “He is seriously ill Doctor Crusher, but we expect him to recover.” “And his spine? What’s the prognosis? What of his other injuries?” “The spinal cord was partially severed at the second lumbar vertebrae. He has no sensation below the injury. His skull was fractured in two places, with resulting damage to the meninges. His left radius was fractured and he sustained a compound fracture of the left tibia. He had three broken ribs, which lacerated his right lung and an abdominal rupture, leading to haemorrhage into the abdomen. His nose and both eye sockets were fractured. His soft tissue injuries include several severe facial lacerations and moderate to severe burns to the back and legs and significant contusions to most of his upper body. With the exception of the spinal injury, all his injuries have been successfully treated. We are at present having difficulties eradicating the infection, which has infiltrated the bone

13


in several places. He is at present under a full body regen field and is heavily sedated. Would you like to see him?” Sighing, Beverly controlled her voice. “Yes Selar, I would like very much to see him.” After turning off the regen field and procuring a robe, the two Doctors entered the Captain’s private room. “Oh God Jean-Luc.” Under the blue light of the regen field, his body suspended above the bed by an anti-grav beam, he looked gaunt. A bio-waste unit was connected to his lower body and a rehydration tube snaked into his right arm. Beverly closed her eyes. “How much weight has he lost?” Selar picked up a PADD and consulted it. “Seven point two kilos.” “He can’t spare it. What was the latest cystology? Is he passing any flora?” Again looking at the PADD, “None that we can identify.” Beverly brushed an errant hair from her face. “We’re sure its bacterial right? I mean if it’s viral…” “No Doctor, its bacterial. Just very elusive. His temperature continues to hover at 41C degrees. His body is fighting it, we just have to find a way to help him.” “He must be very weak by now.” It was Selar’s turn to sigh. “That is a problem. He’s been through a severe trauma and he needs strength to recover. Hopefully we will solve this enigma soon.” Beverly squared her shoulders and faced her colleague. “Well let me help. I’ve got to do something!” Selar shook her head. “I’m sorry Doctor. You’re off duty until further notice. My orders are to confine you to your quarters if necessary and to sedate you if you resist.” “Oh really? And who gave those orders?” “Commander Riker.” The famed Howard temper was in full swing. “Well last time I looked I was still CMO on this ship! As far as I know, he has no medical degree and if he thinks he can…” “Doctor Crusher…please. As your physician I agree with Commander Riker and I do have the requisite degree. Please report to you cabin and rest. Don’t make me order you.” Beverly’s mouth snapped shut as she glared at her fellow Doctor. Part of her knew Selar was right, but the greater part wanted desperately to stay with Jean-Luc. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Turning on her heel, Beverly stalked out of Sickbay and marched straight to her billet. She’d only been there ten minutes when she was hailed by Will. “Beverly I know you’re mad at me, but we need to talk.” Taking a deep breath, Beverly answered him. “Acknowledged Commander.” He was there within minutes. Frostily, Beverly greeted him. “What can I do for you Commander?” “Beverly…” She seated herself by the viewports and tried to maintain her anger. “I’ve been ordered to my quarters to rest. I would appreciate it if you would be brief.” “Beverly! It’s me, Will Riker. Stop the bullshit and talk to me.” Her anger evaporated, a small smile appearing. “I’m sorry Will, sit down. What do you want to know?”

14


Returning her smile with a wide grin of his own, the big man settled on the sofa. “Well for starters, what the hell happened to you two?” “There was an explosion…in fact there were two explosions on the runabout when we were about eight hours out of starbase 215. Both nacelles were destroyed and we lost most of our power and life support. We were both hurt, but Jean-Luc managed to find that planet and put us down. How we survived I don’t know, it was a pretty rough landing. The villagers found us and they took us in and helped us. Did you recover the runabout remains?” Will stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Yes we did and we found some interesting things. The explosive used was fairly common, but the detonator was Orion. We’re thinking the Thillus rebels had a hand in it. Starbase 215 is conducting an investigation, but it could take weeks. They see a tremendous amount of traffic through there.” Beverly nodded then fixed the Commander with an earnest look. “Will, how long will I be off duty? You must know about Jean-Luc. I want to help.” Will smiled and patted her leg. “Not long. As soon as we know for sure you’ve rested and eaten properly, I’m sure Selar will let you loose. Be patient.” “Harrumph! Patient indeed.” Still smiling, the big man stood. “Well, I’ll be off. I’d like your report as soon as you can…and…oh yeah, Deanna will come by later. She wants to talk with you.” “Bye Will.” As the doors whispered closed, Beverly went to her terminal and began the report while it was still fresh in her mind. She was nearly finished when her door chimed. “Come in.” The doors parted to reveal her friend Deanna Troi. “Hello Beverly, how are you feeling?” “You tell me. Hot chocolate?” Laughing, Deanna sat. “Yes please. If I had to put a finger on it I’d say you were frustrated and slightly angry.” Placing the drinks on the low table, Beverly smiled ruefully. “Right on both counts, I’m afraid. I’m not where I want to be and I’m not doing what I want to do.” “You can’t help him right now.” Deanna said softly. “You don’t know that! With an extra pair of hands who knows what could be achieved?” “Beverly…you’re tired and run down. Take the time to regain your strength. You’re not helping anyone like this. At least have a decent meal and a complete night’s rest.” “Alright!…alright. I’ll be a good girl and eat and sleep, but if I’m not allowed back in Sickbay tomorrow…heads will roll!” Beverly stewed for the remainder of the day, but she did eat a good meal and, not surprisingly, slept the entire night, waking feeling refreshed and ready for work in the morning.

Having gained Selar’s permission to return to work, Bevery strode into Sickbay, her blue lab coat flapping around her. Going straight to the Captain’s room, she checked the

15


read-outs and the numerous PADDS before approaching her lover and gently stroking his face. “Come on Jean-Luc, fight.” Selar joined her boss and watched silently as Beverly spoke to her best friend. Realising she was no longer alone, Beverly turned to her companion. “I see his temperature has dropped half a degree.” “Yes Doctor. We administered a derivative of Biatrol. It seemed to help. The infiltration into the bone has been arrested, although it has not retreated.” “Still no flora in the urine?” “No.” “Good. It may be worth adding Tetrahorlon to the drug regime. It had been indicated with Biatrol in the past for stubborn infections. You never know, we may get lucky.” Selar left to do her superior’s bidding and Beverly was once again alone with her lover.

The added drug did help and over the next seven hours, Jean-Luc’s temperature broke and the infection began to loosen its hold. It was a further two days before he awoke, his mind sluggish to take in his surroundings. “Hey you. Welcome back.” “Beverly?” “Yes. Its ok, you’re on the Enterprise and you’re going to be fine.” He lay quietly for a while, becoming more aware with each passing second. Suddenly his breathing stopped. “Jean-Luc?” “I can’t feel my legs. I’m still paralysed?” Beverly’s heart sank. “For now, yes. But I have a few ideas…have faith in me.” He looked sharply at her, his dark hazel eyes burning with indignation. “A few ideas?! I would hope you’d have more than that Doctor!” She rested her hand on his trembling shoulder. “I’m sorry, that didn’t come out quite as I intended. It’s complicated Jean-Luc. Your spinal cord has been partially severed, but I have been doing some study and there’s been some very good results using nanites. It takes time, but a complete recovery could be achieved.” “Could be?” She sighed. “No guarantees I’m afraid.” “And if it doesn’t work? What then?” Beverly shook her head. “No. I refuse to entertain such questions. One thing at a time. As soon as you’re strong enough, we’ll begin treatment. Until then only positive thoughts, ok?” His face fell into a stony mask and he nodded once. Beverly could see he was having trouble controlling himself. To keep herself busy, she started to disconnect the bio waste unit from his lower body. “What are you doing?” As Beverly got some swabs and gently cleaned him, she said, “You will have to learn to do without this Jean-Luc.” He frowned and glared at her.

16


“And just how am I supposed to do that? I can’t FEEL anything dammit! Do you intend my humiliation to be a learning experience?” Beverly closed her eyes and took a calming breath. “Jean-Luc let’s get a few things straight. Yes, you have every right to feel angry, frightened and helpless and, yes, some of the things I’m going to ask you to do will seem impossible, but you have to trust me. I know what I’m doing and your attitude isn’t helping. You have a right to vent your feelings and I know, more than likely, it’s going to be me that cops it and I understand that, but we have to work together on this. It’s going to take time…possibly some months before you’re completely recovered and I can’t do it without your full cooperation. Tell you what. Any time you need to let off steam, tell me and we’ll work something out. Ok? Deal?” He looked up at the only woman he’d ever truly loved and raised his hand to his face to hide his tears. Softly he said, “I’m sorry Beverly. It’s just so…frightening.” She sat on the bed with him and gathered him into her arms. “Together, Jean-Luc, together.” They stayed like that for some time, until the Captain had regained his composure. Beverly sat up and rubbed his chest. “Now first thing. Patients with injuries like yours learn to control their bodily functions fairly quickly. You have to identify the changes that take place internally and learn how to hold on until we can get you to the toilet. In the interim, and I stress this is only temporary, you’ll be wearing an incontinence undergarment.” “How delightful.” “Yes. Well as I said it’s short term only. Think of the added incentive it will give you. I’ll put one on you now. You know, you’re going to be discovering an awful lot about your body over the next few weeks.” Beverly left him momentarily and returned with the dreaded undergarment. It took no time to put it on. She then covered him with a blanket and replicated some soup and bread. Raising the back of the bed, she set the tray on his lap. He stared down at the meal and scowled. “Jean-Luc you’ve lost a lot of weight and muscle. You need to build yourself up. Come on, its not that bad.” He sighed and picked up the spoon and made a half-hearted attempt at eating, eventually pushing the bowl away after a few mouthfuls. “I’m sorry Beverly. I still feel slightly nauseous. Maybe later?” Beverly cocked her head and smiled at her friend. “Ok, later.” He closed his eyes and rested his head back on the pillows. With his eyes still closed he rumbled, “When will you start…with the nanites?” “It’ll be a few days yet. I have more study to do and I want you stronger.” “I see. What about Dr. Russell’s treatment?” The question was asked innocently enough, but the silence that followed was ominous. “Beverly?” “Never! How could you even suggest it! Toby Russell is a charlatan of the highest order. Her ‘treatment’ would most likely kill you!” “She helped Worf…”

17


“She nearly killed him! If not for his exceptional Klingon physiology he would have died Jean-Luc! And she would’ve chalked it up as another failed experiment. No! I will not even consider it and neither should you!” With that, she stormed out leaving a very chastened Captain in her wake.

The next three days passed slowly for Jean-Luc. He did indeed learn more about his body than he’d ever wanted to and he knew he still had much to discover. Beverly was his constant companion. With her patient help, he began to listen more carefully to his internal workings and began to understand how he might master the impossible. His lingering illness abated and he started to eat better, though still not to Beverly’s complete satisfaction. Although still confined to bed, he had a constant stream of visitors, something that was making him increasingly uncomfortable. Eventually it was Deanna who confronted him. “Captain, I sense your growing…unease with our presence. Would you like to talk about it?” He pursed his lips and frowned. “No, not really. Look…Counsellor…I’m fine. Really.” She smiled knowingly and shook her head. “No you’re not Sir. For people in your position, it’s not uncommon for feelings of inadequacy or even envy to surface. It’s perfectly understandable.” “I do not feel inadequate or envious!” “Don’t you?” He was silent for a time then sighed. “Counsellor…Deanna…I don’t, that is I…look it’s just…damn!” “Captain you’ve been through a significant trauma, one which you’re still reminded of every time you look at your legs. You’ve always managed to eventually walk away from your injuries and you will this time too, but you will have to talk to someone about how you feel…and soon. Withdrawing from your friends won’t help, nor will getting angry with them. You are still Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise, and…” “I cannot Captain this ship from a wheelchair.” “Why not?” He glared at the Counsellor, but said nothing. “Captain I think you’re suffering from a crisis of identity. We, that is your senior staff, see you exactly the same as we did before your injury. For us nothing has changed. You are still the Captain of the Federation Flagship. It’s you who has to make the shift. If you believe that commanding this ship from a wheelchair, even temporarily, is not something you can do, then so-be-it. We, however, believe you can. Make sure its not vanity that drives your decision Captain, you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice.” With that, she left. Jean-Luc brooded for some minutes then picked up his cup and threw it with great force across the room.

18


“Do you think I’m vain?” Beverly was massaging his thighs after the electrical stimulators had exercised the muscles. “Vain? No, not really. You have a very definite image of yourself…something that keeps you a little aloof perhaps…a little distant, but no I wouldn’t say you’re vain. Why?” “Nothing.” Beverly shrugged and continued working on his legs knowing he would come to talk in his own time. “After the nanites are sited, will I be able to use a wheelchair?” Pleased he had brought the subject up, Beverly beamed at him. “Yes! I’ve been wanting to talk to you about it but I wasn’t sure how you’d take the news. After the surgery, we’ll begin a regime of stimulation, using the bands I showed you earlier. You’ll be encouraged to work the muscles but for getting around, there’ll be no alternative except a wheelchair.” He ran his hands over his head and frowned. “And how long will all this take? How long would I have to use the chair?” Beverly stopped her massage and sat on the bed. “My research says all up, about three months. But…I think you may walk before that, perhaps with the use of crutches, so you may be in the chair…two months?” “I see. Have you scheduled the surgery?” She nodded and ran her hand down his face. “The computer has finished programming the nanites and you’ve finally started to regain some weight…tomorrow afternoon looks good. What do you think?” He sighed and gritted his teeth. “Does it matter?” Beverly leaned forward and kissed him gently. “Yes it does actually. It matters a great deal.” He reached up a hand and softly brushed the hair from her face. “I love you Beverly.” He whispered. “I know.”

She came to see him before the surgery and laughed when he said, “Well, I’m in your hands…again. Do your damnedest!” “I will. See you soon.” The surgery was uneventful, taking about two hours. Jean-Luc woke to find himself face down on a bio bed, the gentle sounds of Sickbay reassuring him. Beverly breezed in and took a seat beside his head and lightly rubbed his shoulder. “How do you feel?” Looking at the pain monitor she could see he was in mild discomfort and produced a hypospray from her pocket and injected him. “Better now,” he sighed. “Did it go well?” “Like clockwork. We accessed the damaged area and introduced the nanites in a gel medium. They’ve been programmed to build connective tissue between the specific nerve

19


ends, on a cellular level, to match them perfectly, so the join will take the impulses from your brain. Its incredible Jean-Luc. Even now they have begun their task.” He sniffed and tried to stretch. “Well I don’t feel anything.” “In time, in time.” He was about to say more when he suddenly stilled and closed his eyes. “Beverly…I think I need to…” Realising immediately what he wanted, Beverly shot to her feet and went to the nearby bench. “Hold on, there’s a bottle here.” She retrieved the urinal and helped him roll onto his side, leaving him to position himself. She smiled down at him and winked. “You’re getting better at this. This is what…the third time?” He grunted and frowned. “You’re getting far too much mileage out of this you know.” She laughed outright. “Ha! You just want to be rid of those underpants, admit it.” “I’ll grant you that does offer some incentive, but I will admit you were right. I think I am gaining control. Thank you.” He finished with the bottle and she removed it and disposed of the contents. Making him comfortable once again, she was a little surprised by his next question. “When can I go back to my quarters?” “Jean-Luc…” He took her hand in his and gently rubbed his thumb over her soft skin. “I know I’ll need help…maybe an orderly could stay with me during the day…” “And the nights?” “I thought perhaps you…” Beverly shook her head, exasperated. “I’ll think about it.” He nodded, knowing when not to push.

Two days later he found himself in a wheelchair for the first time. He tried not to show his disgust, but Beverly knew. She stood behind him as Deanna smiled at her commanding officer. “So, you’re mobile at last, Sir.” He dropped his hands and gingerly felt the wheel rims. “So it would seem.” Deanna clasped her hands behind her and said softly, “Shall we go then?” Jean-Luc nodded tentatively while Deanna and Beverly swapped places. “The arboretum will do for now Deanna. Two hours, no more.” He looked up at the Doctor, an uneasy look upon his handsome face. “Beverly…perhaps I…” “Off you go.” She turned and walked away, steeling herself against the dismay she felt emanating from her best friend. She knew he was reluctant to make these first forays through the ship. He would be confronted by concerned crew who would see their usually indomitable Captain, their invincible leader, being wheeled through the corridors, helpless and weak. Deanna also knew it was the only way to get the Captain to realise that those feelings

20


were not shared by anyone aboard. He had to conquer his fears and she would do anything in her power to accomplish it. The crew they encountered were polite and respectful, as they should be, and Jean-Luc was pleased to find himself relaxing. They entered the arboretum and spent an hour looking at the new exhibit of orchids the head botanist had coaxed into bloom. Will’s arrival hardly embarrassed him at all. “Hello Captain, its good to see you out of Sickbay.” Jean-Luc smiled up at his First Officer realising just how tall he was. “Indeed Number One. How is my ship?” Will sank to his haunches and rested his forearms on his thighs. “Nothing has changed since we last spoke Sir. We’re still mapping the Lonkar Cluster. All systems normal.” Jean-Luc smiled and clasped his hands. “Good. Has Geordi had any trouble with the long- range sensors? The Cluster emits random bursts of type four radiation. You might want to remodulate the shields.” Will nodded and frowned. “We have had some problems with the sensors. I’ll pass on your suggestions. Thank you Captain.” Standing, Will directed himself to Deanna. “Ok, my turn. You’ve got appointments to keep. I’ll take over here.” She grinned at the bearded man then leaned down to her Captain and gently squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll leave you in Will’s capable hands now Sir.” “God help us!” Her lilting laughter hung in the air after she left, making Will smile wistfully. Noticing the look, Jean-Luc smiled to himself and sighed, his thoughts drifting to a certain red haired Doctor who held his heart. He was broken from his reverie by his First Officer who bent down to his ear and muttered, “I don’t know about you Sir, but I always found the arboretum a little…tame. How about we go to the lounge and get a drink?” His first instinct was to refuse, but he hesitated and Will saw his opening. “I can get you a cup of Earl Grey if you prefer.” Jean-Luc nodded decisively. “Perhaps that would be best Number One. I’ve no wish to upset the good Doctor.” Their trip to the lounge was quick and blessedly uneventful. The few crewmembers there cast the odd curious glance their way, but soon ignored them. As promised, Jean-Luc got his cup of Earl Grey, something Beverly had been withholding for medical reasons. JeanLuc suspected she thought he simply drank too much of it. He took his first sip of the hot fragrant tea, closed his eyes and sighed in appreciation. Will had pushed him up to a table near the viewports and he had an unobstructed view of the cluster in all its glory. Guinan had been over to say hello, adding to his feeling of contentment. They talked of inconsequentialities, happy in each other’s company, eventually sitting in silence. Beverly’s arrival came as a surprise to them both. “Captain…Will. Do you have any idea what time it is?” The two men looked at each other in confusion. The Doctor was obviously upset, but why? Will answered. “Err, no Beverly. Why?” “Why? Because the Captain was supposed to be back in Sickbay an hour ago. He’s due for the stimulators and a meal. What happened to the arboretum? I had to ask the computer where you were. Is that Earl Grey your drinking?”

21


Jean-Luc bowed his head and squeezed his eyes shut. Reality had intruded, shattering his contentment. Will started to offer explanations, but Jean-Luc raised his hand to stop him. “Its alright Will. Beverly, its my fault. I got bored in the arboretum and I asked Will to bring me here. I…” “Captain! Beverly that’s not…” Jean-Luc glared up at his First Officer and said in that quiet, deadly manner of his, “I would appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me, Number One. As I was saying, we lost track of the time. I can only offer my apologies. Oh, and the Earl Grey? My idea also.” Will stood behind his Captain furiously shaking his head. Beverly pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. “Fine. Are you ready to return to Sickbay now? Or would you rather go to the bathroom?” Jean-Luc blushed and momentarily debated whether or not to reprimand her for her attitude, deciding ultimately it wasn’t worth the effort. Besides, she was right, as usual. He did need to relieve himself and had been agonising over how to ask Will for help. “That would be acceptable, thank you Doctor.” Casting a knowing look at Will, she wheeled the Captain to a bathroom nearby and helped him to use the facilities. The trip back to Sickbay was taken in silence, as was the stimulator therapy and when his meal was served and still no words spoken, he began to worry. She came to gather the tray and he caught her hand. “Beverly…” “I’m busy, Jean-Luc.” He refused to release her hand. “Tell me why you’re so angry.” She pulled her hand free and glared at him. “If you don’t know, there’s not much point.” Jean-Luc felt the stirrings of his own anger. “Look, I’ve apologised for my indiscretions. Can’t we leave it at that?” Beverly was dismayed. “You don’t get it do you? Whatever else we’ve become, right now you’re my patient and I’m responsible for you. I gave permission for a two- hour trip to the arboretum. No more, no less. How would you feel if your instructions to a crewmember were so wilfully disregarded? I thought we’d agreed to tackle your recovery together? And as for undermining my authority in front of my staff…” He held up his hands in supplication. “Enough. I understand. I’m sorry Beverly; it won’t happen again, I can assure you. I didn’t think, I just acted. It felt so good to be out of Sickbay…I …” Beverly squatted down to his level and took his hands. “Ok, that’s understandable. Did you want to go to the lounge in the first place?” He smiled and shook his head. “No. My courage seemed to grow exponentially.” She laughed. It was like music to his ears. “Well, no harm done.” “So…I’m forgiven?” She leaned in and kissed his lips with a lingering tenderness. “Most definitely.”

22


He spent only one more night in Sickbay. The next morning, after an orderly had helped him to bathe, he was sitting in his wheelchair eating breakfast when Beverly came in and pulled up a chair. “So, how do you feel this morning?” Suspecting something was on her mind, Jean-Luc was non-committal. “I’m fine.” She tilted her head and stared at him so long he began to feel uncomfortable. “What?” “How would you like to be released to your quarters?” His eyebrows rose in surprise. “When?” “Today.” He graced her with a rare full grin. “Yes! I mean, yes please.” She grew serious and took his hand. “You’ll have to have an orderly with you during the day, for a while at least and I’ll come by three times a day for your therapy…and I’ll be staying with you over night…but I think you’re ready.” He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. “Thank you Beverly.” She gently squeezed his arm. “Who would you like? I thought Neville, but if you’d prefer someone else…” He smiled at her choice and nodded. “No, Neville would be fine. He’s been helping me consistently for a while now. We get along well.” “Good. Well, whenever you’re ready…” She stood and left the room as he wheeled himself after her. It took no time for the three of them to make their way to his cabin. As he reacquainted himself with his quarters, Beverly gave the orderly last minute instructions. All too soon she was ready to leave. “Ok. I’ll be back in a few hours for your therapy and Deanna will be here soon. Neville, make sure he gets some rest. Bye.” As the doors sighed shut, Jean-Luc turned his chair and made his way to his desk. He’d just activated his terminal when Deanna arrived. “We thought you’d like to look over these reports Captain. Will has been taking care of most of the work, but some of this stuff is yours alone. Do you mind?” He smiled and raised an eyebrow. “I take it you’ve passed all this with Beverly?” “Aye Sir.” “In that case hand them over.” He didn’t notice when Deanna left.

Now out of Sickbay and with some work to do, time became friendlier for Jean-Luc. He found his days fairly regimented. Periods of work, followed by therapy and, in the afternoons a nap, which he at first rebelled against, but came to appreciate as his therapy increased. It was his evenings he most cherished. Beverly would come to his quarters at 1730 hours and Neville would leave. She would discuss her day with him then they

23


would have dinner, followed by reading in companionable silence. After showering, she would join him in bed where he would hold her until sleep took them. On the sixth night he felt the beginnings of arousal. Confused, he gently cupped Beverly’s chin, lifting her face to his. “Beverly…I’m getting an erection. How…” “Shh. I’ve been expecting this.” She reached down and slipped her hand under the waistband of his sleep shorts to caress him gently. He gasped and swelled in her hand. “I can…I can feel…” “Don’t analyse it Jean-Luc, just concentrate on the sensation.” Still gently stroking him, she sat up pushing the covers out of the way. With her free hand, she pulled his shorts down, then caressed his chest, teasing his nipples, before leaning forward and kissing him deeply. He was stirred into action. His hands came up to entangle in her hair as the kiss became more passionate. Her nightie was soon removed as she moved up to allow him to tongue her hardening nipples. As he suckled her, his hand drifted down between her legs to explore her folds and she moaned into the darkness of his bedroom. Now fully erect he throbbed in her hand and she smiled wickedly as she straddled him. His large warm hands closed on her breasts as she guided him into her, her sigh thrilling him. She set a slow rhythm, rising and falling on him as her hands caressed his face and chest. His hands left her breasts and slid down to her hips, which he gripped tightly. She sensed his need and increased her pace, her own desire spiralling out of control. Faster and faster she rode him until she saw him arch his head back, his upper body stiffening, his hands clenching the flesh of her hips. She felt him pulse within her as he let out a guttural cry and felt her own climax approach. With three quick plunges she convulsed in his arms and cried out his name. He was still holding her tenderly when she regained her senses some time later. She sat up on him and smiled triumphantly. “How was it?” “Oh God Beverly, it was…it was…different. Good, very good, but definitely different. How was it possible? Have the nanites…” “No my love. It’s way too soon for that. The nervous system involved is an atavistic one, one of the primitive systems that are often not affected by injuries like yours. I’ve been waiting to see if you could…well, I think you get the idea.” She leaned forward to kiss him and he slipped from her body. She took the opportunity to stretch out beside him. “Was the erection spontaneous, or can I be stimulated?” She twirled her fingers through his chest hair and smiled. “Both. As with the process of elimination, you’ll gain control with practice.” He chuckled into her hair. “Practice? I think I like the sound of that.”

Three days later Neville was discharged from his duties. Jean-Luc had become very independent and took great pride in being able to get himself to and from his bed and the toilet. He no longer viewed his wheelchair with complete disgust, although he still disliked it. Overall, Beverly was pleased with him, but she knew he was not thinking of himself as whole. He would not, under any circumstances, visit the Bridge and was still somewhat uneasy with his command staff. As a new phase in his therapy approached, she

24


wanted him to tell what he was feeling but, true to form, he hid that which concerned him most and it rankled her that he did. She would give him a little more time.

Beverly breezed into Jean-Luc’s quarters and stopped dead. There, comfortably seated on his sofa was the Captain, his nose buried in a book. “What’s going on? It’s 10.30 and you’re reading? Haven’t you work to do?” He looked up and grinned. “I’ll have you know, I’ve completed all of my work…and… I’ve made a good start on tomorrow’s. So there!” She chuckled and came to sit beside him. “I’ve got news for you.” “Good or bad?” Her smile faded a little. “Well, medically speaking, it’s good…but you might not think so.” He lowered the book and settled his intense gaze on her. “I see. Tell me.” “You’re ready for the next phase in your therapy, and it may be a little…difficult for you.” He pursed his lips and considered her words. “How so?” “You know those stimulator bands we’ve been putting on your legs? Well we’re going to attach stronger ones and see if we can get you to stand. You’ll support yourself between two rails and we’ll use anti-gravs to gradually ease your full weight onto your legs.” He nodded slowly, seeing in his mind what she suggested. “And why would I not like this procedure?” Beverly sighed and took his hands in hers. “You know that scan we did yesterday? It shows the nanites have begun to make the connective tissue. It’s still early days, but enough nerve ends have been rejoined to allow some impulses to pass through…and that’s good, very good, but I’m afraid the only sensation you will experience is…discomfort.” He frowned. “Define ‘discomfort’.” “There’ll be pain Jean-Luc and there won’t be much we can do about it. You need to do the therapy, but that very therapy will awaken the nerves.” “For how long?” “I don’t know. It varies from person to person. I do know that it will eventually cease, but I can’t put a time on it.” They sat quietly for some time, until Jean-Luc sighed then cleared his throat. “When do we start?” “After lunch.” He smiled grimly. “Suddenly I’ve lost my appetite.”

25


Beverly thought he looked quite handsome in the light grey sweatsuit he wore. Though still a little thin, he was slowly regaining the weight he’d lost and a recent trip to the ship’s barber had his hair closely clipped again. She stood back and began a check of the equipment she had attached to him. Around his upper thighs were dark elastic bands, which would deliver the impulses to his muscles, and slung on his hips was a personal anti-grav device that Beverly controlled remotely. She moved behind him and wheeled him between two metal rails that would support him when he stood. “Ok, I’m activating the anti-grav now. Reach up and grab the rails.” He did and repositioned his grip twice before letting her know he was ready. “Got a good grip? Good. Now pull yourself up.” With remarkable ease, Jean-Luc hoisted himself upright and felt odd when he noted that his feet had left the padded deck. Beverly moved beside him and gently pushed down on his shoulder, holding him steady as she adjusted the anti-grav control. Although he couldn’t feel it in his feet or legs, he knew his feet had contacted the deck and that some weight was settling on them. He felt the muscles in his upper back and arms flex and inhaled sharply as a wave of giddiness washed over him. “Jean-Luc talk to me. What are you feeling?” He closed his eyes momentarily and swallowed. A little dizzy…somewhat disorientated.” Beverly ducked under the rails and stood before him, her free hand coming up to gently squeeze his shoulder. “That’s to be expected. We’ll just hold you here until you settle. Everything’s going fine. Ok?” He nodded slowly and took a few calming breaths. After a moment he set his gaze on his lover and conjured up a smile. “Suddenly you’re not so tall any more.” She smiled fondly at him, stepping closer to kiss him gently. As she stepped back he rumbled, “You know I rather like your bedside manner.” She shook her head and grinned. “Enough. I’m going to increase the weight…are you ready?” He nodded and prepared himself as best he could. She manipulated the control and he felt a further tightening of muscles in his back, abdomen and arms. “Ok?” He nodded, concentrating too hard to vocalise. “More?” Again he nodded and more weight was added. “You’re at 75% of you body weight. How do you feel? Any pain?” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “No, no pain, just hard work for my back, stomach and arms. It’s a very odd sensation, standing on legs one can’t feel.” “I bet it is. Want to go further, or shall we call it quits?” “Give me a minute.” Beverly waited patiently as Jean-Luc steadied himself. She was ready when he nodded. “Ok, here we go.”

26


Now the tension extended through his chest and neck and he felt all his upper body muscles begin to tremble in protest. He was trying to regulate his breathing when the first cramp hit his shoulders. He gritted his teeth and groaned one word. “Stop!” Immediately Beverly adjusted the control and the weight was taken from his legs. As he held the rails, she moved behind him and positioned the wheelchair. She reached forward and guided his now weightless body down into the chair and quickly massaged the contorted muscles. His head fell forward and she noted a slight sheen of sweat on his skin. “It’s ok Jean-Luc, you’re alright just relax.” She felt the cramped muscles release and she spoke softly to him. “I’m going to slowly turn off the anti-grav now. Are you ready?” He nodded and she did as she said. He had just taken his full weight when he suddenly cried out and twisted in the chair, his hands clutching at his thighs. “Jean-Luc! What is it?” “Pain! Shooting pain in my legs and feet!” “Crusher to Sickbay! Neville, James come to the physiotherapy room now!” The med techs arrived within a few minutes, but not soon enough for Beverly. As she waited helplessly, Jean-Luc continued to cry out and gasp as spikes of pain shot through his legs and feet. “Get him face down on the mat…gently!” Having got him in position, Beverly stripped off the equipment and his trousers and said tersely to her techs, “Massage his legs and feet. He’s suffering severe neural pain. She went to work on his hips and buttocks as the Captain groaned beneath them. It was a good fifteen minutes before he indicated that the pain had eased. With gentle hands, they turned him over and continued their work on the front of his legs. It wasn’t until he grasped her hand that she stopped. “I’m alright now.” She nodded and gently caressed his face. “I’m so sorry Jean-Luc. I had no idea it would be so bad.” He took her hand in his and lowered it to his chest. “Help me up, if you would.” They helped him back into his trousers then Neville positioned the chair and Jean-Luc was gently settled into it. She had to strain to hear his roughened voice. “Take me back to my quarters Beverly.” On arrival at his cabin, he went immediately to the bathroom, leaving a very worried Doctor to wait in the living room. When he didn’t reappear, she went to the door and knocked. “Jean-Luc? Are you ok?” There was no reply. Using her override she opened the door to find Jean-Luc hunched over the washbasin sobbing convulsively. She lifted him by his shoulders and squeezed between him and the basin, taking him into her arms. He buried his head in her neck and cried, his arms clinging around her. Eventually his sobs evened out and the trembling ceased. Sensing he’d regained control, Beverly eased away from him and held his face in her hands.

27


“Talk to me jean-Luc.” His face crumpled and he lowered his head. “Beverly…it was horrible…the pain was so bad…I don’t think I can go through that again.” She gently ran her hand over his bald pate. “It won’t always be like that my love and I’ll work to find some way to ease you pain, but the therapy must continue if you’re to recover.” His head jerked up and he glared at the Doctor. “You’re not even sure I WILL recover! All you’re going on is some damned studies done on some poor souls who found themselves at the mercy of an inquisitive medical fraternity! If you had used Toby Russell’s treatment in the beginning, I would be walking by now, instead of grovelling on the floor like some kind of crippled cretin!” Beverly straightened and put her hands on her hips. “Is that how you see yourself Jean-Luc? As a crippled cretin?” “Well I’m not exactly the man I was, now am I?” he spat. Beverly sighed and rubbed her eyes. “You think that because you’re paralysed, you’re somehow less of a man?” He said nothing, just glowered at his knees. “Jean-Luc how many times to you need to be told? You’re you! You’re the same excellent Captain, the same consummate diplomat…you’re the same man I fell in love with so long ago. Why is it that everyone sees this but you?” He snorted and clenched his fists. “Maybe it’s because it’s not everyone else who’s confined to this fucking chair!” With that he spun the chair brusquely and exited the bathroom.

Some time later, when Beverly entered the living room, she found him parked by the viewports staring fixedly at the stars. She left him alone and busied herself by replicating some hot drinks, lemon tea for her, Earl Grey for him. In silence she placed his tea on the sill and withdrew to the sofa. He remained motionless for a time, then seemed to notice the tea. He turned his head slightly, picked up the cup and sipped the hot brew sighing. “You know you have the right to request another physician to take your case? If you’re not happy with the way I’m handling things, just say the word and I’ll find you someone else. It wouldn’t be…” “That won’t be necessary.” Flat…sad. Beverly stood and walked to him, placing her hands on his shoulders. “Jean-Luc, turn around.” She stepped back as he turned the chair, then knelt in front of him and rested her hands on his knees. “You’re quite right you know. I don’t know if this treatment will work, not one hundred percent anyway, but I do know it’s the only way to go. Toby Russell’s treatment would kill you Jean-Luc, as surely as a phaser set on level 16. Believe me if there were any

28


other way, a way where we could repair the damage without pain, don’t you think I’d do it? Every time you feel pain it kills me a little inside and knowing there’s nothing I can do to help you…well let’s just say it’s my worst nightmare. I can tell you it will get better. As the connections grow stronger and more numerous, the pain will abate and eventually cease.” He laid his hands over hers, taking a large breath and nodding. “I know Beverly and…I’m sorry. When the pain hit, It was so sudden and severe…I couldn’t…I’m sorry.” He shook his lowered head and closed his eyes. “No apologies, ok? You tell me what you’re feeling and I’ll try to compensate. Together Jean-Luc, together.”

Jean-Luc endured two more days of therapy, the result being much the same. The therapy went well, but the resulting episodes of neural pain were excruciating for him. Beverly had been working on some heat packs for him when she entered his cabin. Not seeing him, she went to his bedroom to find him sitting on the floor in his briefs, between the chair and the bed. ���Well, there’s an endearing sight.” He looked up with indignation. “It’s not funny! I fell out of the damn chair.” Folding her arms, Beverly tried to keep the smirk from her face. “And just how did that happen?” He had the good grace to look embarrassed. “I forgot to lock the wheels.” “I see. What were you trying to do?” He snorted then. “I was trying to get on the bed. I thought I’d have a lie down before this afternoon’s therapy.” Beverly’s smile faded. “Come on, I’ll help you onto the bed.” Having made him comfortable, she kissed his nose. “I’ve developed some heat packs I want you to wear. We’ll activate them before the therapy ends, maybe the heat will offset the pain.” He smiled and held her hands as they enjoyed a moment’s silence. It was broken by the door chime. “That’ll be Deanna.” Beverly left him to answer the door as Jean-Luc donned his robe and regained his now stable chair. He entered his living room as the two women were placing three cups on the low table. “Counsellor, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Deanna glanced at Beverly then smiled at the Captain. “I thought you might like a chat Sir.” It was Jean-Luc’s turn to cast a look at the Doctor. “A chat Counsellor? I don’t believe that’s necessary.”

29


Deanna came and sat close to him but Beverly, he noticed, chose the easy chair distancing her from him. “Captain we need to talk about how you feel about yourself, how you’re coping with your therapy…” His eyes hardened. “I see. And whose idea was this?” “Captain that’s not important. What is important is that you tell me why you have feelings of inadequacy.” He sighed forcefully and ran a hand over his head. “I must accept my…limitations.” “Why?” His head shot up and he glared at the Counsellor. “I would’ve thought that was patently obvious! I’m paralysed!” Deanna’s voice hardened. “And that means what? That you think you can’t be with your staff? Command this ship? What do you think we think about you?” He made fists of his hands and lowered his voice to a deadly calm. “I cannot command this ship from a wheelchair, nor do I want to arouse feelings of pity from my staff.” Deanna shook her head and snorted. “You know for an exceptionally intelligent man you can be very obtuse!” Before he could react she continued. “Your staff don’t feel pity for you. Dismay, perhaps…maybe anger, but definitely not pity. What your staff want…what you entire crew wants is to see you in uniform and on the Bridge, not hiding in your cabin, shunning your friends and licking you wounds. You’re better than that Captain. How about showing us?” I took a moment before Jean-Luc realised his mouth was open. Closing it, he frowned at his Counsellor. “Deanna, it’s not that easy. What you ask…” “Is to show your crew that you’re human after all? Oh come on Captain, I expect better than that.” Beverly rose from her chair and sat on the arm of the sofa, at his right hand. “Jean-Luc, you need to do this. For yourself…for all of us.” He was silent so long the women thought he wasn’t going to answer, but slowly he sighed and shook his head. “So what is this…guerrilla counselling?” Deanna laughed and cocked her head. “Actually it’s a new technique…developed for recalcitrant Captains.” He let his head roll back and stretched his arms. “Alright, you win. I’ll be on the Bridge tomorrow…in uniform. Satisfied?” Smiling beatifically, she nodded and rose. “I’ll be there. Thank you Captain.” She left and Beverly said quietly, “You know you’ll be on restricted hours…” “Do tell.”

30


The turbolift doors opened and Jean-Luc took a deep breath. Having already discussed it with Beverly, he wheeled himself forward and entered the Bridge for the first time in almost four weeks. Will and Deanna came to their feet, their faces beaming. “Captain! Welcome back.” “Thank you Number One. Everything in order I trust?” Will clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on his heels. “Just a you left it Sir.” “Good.” Jean-Luc looked awkwardly at the centre chair and glanced at Beverly. She nodded surreptitiously and he cleared his throat. “Well I’ll just park myself here.” He wheeled himself into position and noted, with satisfaction, that no one stared. “Report.”

The four hours of his shift ended far too soon for the Captain. Two things were uppermost in his mind. One: he thoroughly enjoyed being back on the Bridge and two: he didn’t want to go to therapy. To that end he asked to see Beverly in the Ready Room. “Could we hold off the therapy for a while longer?” Beverly frowned and shook her head. “No.” “But…” “No Jean-Luc. You’re incorrigible! First we can’t get you up here, now you don’t want to leave. I said restricted hours and I meant it. And you’ve got therapy in half an hour!” He scowled and grimaced. “How could I forget?” “Do you want to leave the Bridge on your own, or shall I accompany you?” He sighed to the inevitable. “Together.” Leaving his Ready Room, he faced his First Officer. “Well, I’m off duty now. You have the Bridge Number One.” “Aye Sir.”

That afternoon, instead of going straight to the physiotherapy room, Beverly wheeled the Captain into Sickbay and parked him next to a bio bed. “Beverly?” She patted his shoulder and got two med techs to help lift Jean-Luc onto the bed. “We’re going to do a scan and run a new test.” “A new test?” He sounded doubtful. “Uh huh.” “Will it hurt?” She ran a gentle hand over his face. “I hope not, but I don’t know.” He nodded, hating the fear that lay coiled in his stomach.

31


The scan was completed and showed further good growth of connective tissue. Jean-Luc was then turned over and hair-like filaments were passed through the flesh of his lower back and electrodes attached. “Jean-Luc, we’re going to introduce a mild electric current through your spine. What we want is movement in your feet. Let me know if you feel anything.” Beverly looked up at her staff and nodded. “Ok, let’s start at 0.5.” Jean-Luc braced himself but felt nothing. “Up it to 1.0.” Nothing. “And 1.5…” “Beverly! There’s a burning sensation in my lower back…it’s…” Suddenly the toes of his left foot spasmed and he cried out in pain. “Stop! Stop it!” With alacrity, the instrument was closed down and removed from his back. Heat pads were applied as the Doctor and med techs massaged his legs. He regained himself quickly. “Beverly it’s alright…the pain has receded.” With the help of the med techs, she turned him over and looked closely at him. “Are you sure?” He nodded and breathed deeply. “Yes. It was quite severe, but dissipated quickly, thankfully. Did anything happen?” She smiled softly and placed a hand on his chest. “Yes! The toes of your left foot moved.” “And that’s good?” She laughed outright. “Oh yes, that’s very good. It shows that more impulses are making their way through.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “But I still have to have the therapy.” It was a statement. “I’m afraid so.”

That evening as they lay in the darkness of his bedroom, Beverly snuggled up to him and ran her hand over his chest. She began to move her hand lower when he stopped her. “What is it Jean-Luc? Tired?” He sighed and shook his head. “No. I just want to…it’s…I don’t like just lying here while you…” Beverly stopped what she was doing. “But you…we…look we both enjoy it, so what if you can’t be as active as you’d like. So long as we’re both getting something out of it..?” “But that’s just it Beverly. I’m not making love to you…” She sniggered. “No, you’re making love with me.” “You know what I mean. I need to know I’m directly contributing to your pleasure and as it is at the moment, you have to do everything while I just lie here.” “Hmmm. You can’t think of yourself as my sex toy?” He sighed exasperatedly. “No, not really…as flattering as it is.” She thought a while then smiled into the darkness.

32


“Well…we’ll just have to improvise.” Sitting up, she pushed down the covers and slowly divested Jean-Luc of his shorts, then shed her own nightwear. Straddling his stomach, she took his hands and placed them on her breasts. “I think you know what to do.” “Beverly…” “Shh. Arouse me.” He hesitated but a moment then applied himself to her request. Gently his large hands moulded her breasts, his thumbs brushing over her hardening nipples. Leaning forward, she gripped the headboard and presented him with an opportunity he couldn’t resist. Lifting one breast, he swirled his tongue around the areola making it pebble, before taking the stiff peak into his mouth. As he suckled his lover, she moaned her pleasure and gyrated her hips. His other hand left her breast and moved lower, parting her folds and stroking her softly. He was about to slide his finger within her when she stayed his hand. He looked up to see a wicked smile. Taking both his hands in hers, she moved up until her knees were either side of his head. Arching one eyebrow she issued her silent challenge. His own smile grew at her mischievousness. As his hands reacquainted themselves with her firm breasts, his mouth tasted her with tender kisses. His lips caressed her labia, his tongue dating forward to push into her depths. She arched her back and moaned, slowly thrusting her hips. Her hands slid up his well- muscled arms to his shoulders as she encouraged him to continue. He lapped at her, taking in her arousal, his prominent nose bumping her swelling clitoris. She was nearing her peak and wanted more. “Jean-Luc…please…please…” His hands left her breasts and moved to her trembling thighs, curling around the firm muscles as he urged her legs further apart. The movement lowered her further onto his mouth and he alternated his tongue between her vagina and her clitoris. With each contact with the pearl of her desire, she jerked and whispered his name, her nails digging into the flesh of his arms. His timing was exquisite. As she began to tremble, he sucked her clitoris into his mouth and nipped it gently. It was all she needed. With a cry of triumph, she flexed her graceful body and shuddered as the waves of her climax washed over her. He thighs quaking, she remembered to take her weight as he nuzzled her pulsing vulva. When she was able, she moved to lie over him, enjoying the feeling of his erection trapped between them. He was about to speak when she pressed her fingers to his lips. With a wink, she slid down his body and parted his legs. Kneeling between them, she gently brushed her face over his penis, her hair trailing over his testicles. He sighed and closed his eyes, concentrating on what he knew she would do. She didn’t disappoint. Taking his penis into her mouth, she sucked gently on the head, her hands gripping the base and massaging the sensitive orbs below. As she descended on his length, he desperately wanted to thrust. His feeling of frustration was lessened when he tangled his fingers in her hair and helped to set the rhythm he needed. It was faster than she expected and she knew he was getting close when she tasted the first droplet. Pushing one hand into her own wetness, she lubricated a finger and waited patiently for his approaching orgasm. As he began to swell in her mouth, she gently inserted one finger into his anus and hung on as he suddenly exploded into her mouth. He cried out and pushed her head down, completely engulfing his pumping manhood. As he spasmed

33


through the aftershocks, she let his penis slip from her mouth and ascended his body to lie with him. When he recovered, she kissed him deeply. He sighed and smiled ruefully. “You gave me control…over both of us. Thank you.” Beverly chuckled and kissed him again. “That’s my Captain. Always in control.”

Three days later, Jean-Luc was once again standing on his feet between the rails, the sweat running freely down his torso. “You’re doing fine Jean-Luc, coming up on five minutes. Now I want you to ease the strain on your arms. That’s it; just use the rails to maintain your balance. Yes, that’s better. How does it feel?” Jean-Luc was frowning, concentrating deeply. “Beverly…I think I can feel something!” Her head shot up and she checked her instruments. “Where?” “In my left foot. A vague throbbing and burning.” Using a tricorder, Beverly scanned the foot, up the leg to the wound site. “Anything else? Can you feel the floor?” Barefoot, Jean-Luc looked down and shook his head. “No.” “Ok, it’s still good news. I’m going to activate the heat packs now and slowly bring the anti-gravs up. You ready?” He nodded, dreading the pain that was to follow. Instead of lowering him into the chair, they had found it was better to lay him face down on the mats so as to be better able to help him through the pain episodes. Neville and James were ready when he suddenly started to writhe and groan. Strong hands pushed the muscles, kneading and coaxing, trying to ease the suffering of the man on the floor. He managed to groan, “My foot!” Beverly looked down at his left foot and, sure enough, the toes were spasming. She gripped the foot and pressed her thumbs deeply into his flesh. Again and again she kneaded the muscles until, finally, Jean-Luc let her know it had passed. Beverly retrieved a damp towel and used it to wipe down his sweat soaked upper body. When he’d regained his composure, the med techs helped him into his clothing and then aided him in gaining his chair. Once he was seated comfortably, they left. “Beverly?” She knelt before him and frowned. “I’m not certain, but I think you just had your first return of feeling. When you’re up to it, we’ll scan the area and see for sure.” He nodded and gave her a lopsided smile. “I can’t wait.”

34


The scan did indeed show a firm connection. Jean-Luc had experienced an impulse of his own making and he felt damn good about it. Holding up a bottle of Chateau Picard, he grinned, “I say we should celebrate!” Beverly frowned and shook her head. “Jean-Luc you know you’re not supposed to be drinking alcohol yet. I don’t even think synthehol is a good idea. Wouldn’t you like a nice cup of hot Earl Grey?” He sighed exasperatedly. “Beverly this is momentous…a turning point. This bottle will yield a little over four glasses. That’s two each. Can’t we relax, just this once? It’s not as if we’re going to get intoxicated.” She was about to remonstrate when she caught a look rarely seen on the stoic Captain. A roguish, devil may care look that took her breath away. Her protestations melted in her mouth. “Ok, but just that bottle, no more.” Offering an equally rare full grin, he made a show of removing the cork and pouring the delicious red wine into the crystal glasses. He raised his glass and lowered his mellifluous voice. “To you Beverly. My lover, my dearest friend and, fortunately for me, my Doctor. May you always be by my side.” She gently touched her glass to his and sighed with contentment. “You’re in rare form tonight.” “I’m inspired.”

Four days later he was not so happy. “What do you mean Data? Elaborate.” “Sir, the emissions coming from the pulsar are creating waves we cannot dissipate. If Engineering cannot provide further shield modulation, we will not be able to arrest the shocks as they hit us.” Jean-Luc frowned and rubbed his hands along his thighs. At times like these he greatly missed the ability to express his agitation with movement. “And what if we go around? How much time will we lose?” Data cocked his head slightly and made his calculations. “It is a very large area that is affected. At full impulse it would take us three weeks, two days to circumvent the emissions.” Will Riker rose from his chair and stood beside the Captain. “No warp capabilities either…not this close.” “We can’t afford the time Will. We have to be at Rassa III in five days!” He was about to say more when the mighty ship suddenly lurched onto her side as another wave struck her. “Inertial dampeners off line!” Will lay sprawled on the floor. Rolling onto his side, he was dismayed to find the Captain had been tipped out of his chair and was writhing on the deck in obvious pain. “Bridge to Sickbay!” Summoning all his strength, Jean-Luc called out to his officer. “Belay that! Help me into the command chair.”

35


He gritted his teeth as Will gently picked him up and placed him in the Captain’s chair. “Mr. Data, time to next wave?” “Eight minutes Sir.” Closing his eyes against the pain, he gripped the armrests and spoke as evenly as he could. “Do we have helm control?” “Aye Sir.” “Then come about and retrace our heading on a reverse course, half impulse. Continue until we clear the emissions. We’ll go around.” “Aye Sir.” Will took his seat as other Bridge crew dusted themselves off. He cast a look around and asked, “Anyone injured?” Receiving negative replies, he leaned to the Captain and said sotto voce, “And you Captain? Are you alright?” Jean-Luc nodded slowly and swallowed. Not convinced, Will placed his hand on his superior’s shoulder, earning a glacial glare. Will removed his hand but voiced his opinion nonetheless. “Captain you’re in pain. Let me call Sickbay…” “I’m sure they have plenty to occupy themselves with after that little contretemps Number One. I’m fine.” Data turned from his console and reported, “All systems coming back on line. No significant damage to the ship and only minor casualties.” “Thank you Mr.Data. Would you be so kind as to pick up my wheelchair and take it to the Ready Room.” “But Sir…will you not…” A look silenced him. Without further comment, he carried out his orders. Will ran his hand over his beard. “Sir…you have therapy scheduled in 45 minutes.” “Under the circumstances I think it better I stayed on the Bridge.” Will frowned and sighed. “Very well Sir.” The next 45 minutes were going to be uncomfortable.

The Captain was mortified. To be seen helplessly sprawled on the deck, and then having to suffer the humiliation of being picked up by his First Officer…it was too much. And the pain! His left leg was on fire, stabbing agony lancing down his leg and into his foot. He could feel the appendage contorting in his boot. Having had his image so severely dented there was no way he would be taken off to Sickbay now. Damn them, damn them all! Fifty minutes passed before the first enquiry came from Sickbay. “Crusher to Picard. You’re late Captain.” By now, Jean-Luc was gripping his left thigh tightly, sitting tensely in his seat. “I’m sure you’ve got plenty to do at the moment Doctor. My therapy can wait.” There was a short pause, followed by; “We’re fine down here Captain and waiting for you. Is everything alright up there?”

36


Barely keeping his anger in check, he replied, “All is well. I do not require therapy at this time Doctor. That is all. Bridge out!” “Engineering to Bridge…Commander Riker, could you come down here? There’s something you should see.” Gaining permission from his Captain, Will left the Bridge and acknowledged the call. As soon as he was in the turbolift, he called Beverly. “What’s going on Will?” “I’m not certain, but it’s not good.” “What happened?” “He got tipped out of his chair when the wave hit. I had to pick him up and put him into the Bridge seat. He ordered Data to remove the wheelchair and Beverly…he’s in pain and it’s bad.” “I’ll come up…” “No! I don’t think that will help right now Doctor. He’s furious…I really don’t want to provoke him…” “Well we have to do something! Can you at least get him into the Ready Room?” “I’m on my way to Engineering. I’ll try when I get back.” “Ok, let me know if you succeed.” Will was gone over an hour and when he returned to the Bridge he was worried with what he saw. Jean-Luc was deathly pale and was sweating. He was twisted in his seat and was rhythmically gripping his left thigh. Will went to him and bent to his ear. “Captain I’m taking you to the Ready Room. Jean-Luc gave a curt nod then gasped, “Get the chair.” Will had intended picking up his Captain but stopped mid action. “Captain?” “Get the damned chair!” Will straightened and left to retrieve the wheelchair. On his return, he helped Jean-Luc into the chair then quickly wheeled him into the privacy of the Ready Room. “That will be all Commander!” Tight lipped, Will exited and called Beverly as soon as he gained his seat. “Beverly he’s in the Ready Room. Hurry…and bring a med kit.” Beverly arrived in no time and called to Will as she hurried by, “You’re with me.” Overriding the sensors, they entered the Ready Room to find the Captain in agony. Beverly extricated a hypospray and applied it to his neck, holding him upright as consciousness fled. “Will, help me get him on the sofa.” They laid him out and she scanned his back and leg. Will asked worriedly, “What the hell happened?” “He probably damaged the injury when he fell from the chair.” Will ran his hand through his dark hair. Is it bad? Is it permanent?” Beverly put away her instrument and gently stroked Jean-Luc’s face. “I don’t think so, I’ll know more when we get him back in Sickbay. I’ll see you there. Transporter room, two to beam to Sickbay.” Will went back to the Bridge wishing they’d never seen the damn pulsar.

37


Jean-Luc became aware of a dull throbbing through his buttock and down his left leg. It irritated him and he tried to shift himself to ease it. His heart fell when he remembered his paralysis. It was then he realised he was in Sickbay. Confused, he cast about; trying to recall what had happened…then it came crashing down on him. The fall, Will, his humiliation…the pain. But how did he get here? All he could remember was the allencompassing pain. He lifted his hands to his head and a soft alarm sounded, Beverly arriving within seconds. She frowned as she read the bioboard. “Still in pain.” She looked down at him and smiled. “How do you feel?” He sighed and pursed his lips. “Somewhat disoriented. Wasn’t I on the Bridge?” “Yes.” “So how did I get here?” Beverly sat on the bed and took his hand. “I came up to see if you were alright and I found you in the Ready Room in terrible pain. I sedated you and had you beamed here.” His face turned to stone. “I see. So as well as being seen helpless on the deck and picked up bodily by my First Officer, I was beamed unconscious to Sickbay.” Beverly’s face hardened also. “I had no choice! You needed medical treatment.” “I don’t recall being consulted…” “Jean-Luc don’t be ridiculous! You were in agony! You weren’t capable of being consulted about anything. You could’ve done serious damage in your fall and instead of contacting me, you nursed your bruised ego and shunned those who tried to help! I’ve a good mind to…” “That is enough Doctor!” They both stared angrily at each other for some minutes until Beverly relented. “I’m sorry Jean-Luc, I know it must’ve been hard…” He took her hand and closed his eyes. “You’ve no idea.” When he opened his eyes, she was smiling at him. “So Doctor, what’s the damage?” “Bruising. The residual pain should slowly ease…and no therapy for a couple of days… but no permanent damage.” He nodded slowly and whispered, “Thank you.” She was nearly out the door when his question reached her. “When do I get out of here?” “Don’t push your luck, Jean-Luc.”

Now five weeks into his treatment, Jean-Luc knew things were happening. Although still experiencing periods of excruciating pain, He now had almost constant feeling in his left leg. During the twice aborted talks on Rassa III, Beverly had scheduled breaks where she could massage his leg and apply heat compresses to alleviate the pain he was

38


experiencing. In retrospect, he wondered how he coped, his reliance on Beverly never more important. His therapy mirrored his changed physical status. With Beverly’s help, he started to take the first tentative steps. Still supported between the rails, he now comfortably rested his weight on his legs; his arms doing nothing more than aiding his balance. He could, with a concerted effort, shift his leg forward in spastic movements to take a step. Beverly would bring his right leg through and the whole movement was repeated. He could manage eight steps to date. Although transitory in nature, he could also clench the muscles of his leg and left buttock, one day surprising his helpers as they massaged him. Thinking he was experiencing more pain, Beverly gripped his leg and said, “Steady Jean-Luc, it will pass.” Turning his head, he frowned. “I beg your pardon?” Beverly reapplied her efforts. “The pain, it’ll pass.” “Beverly, I did that.” Her hands stopped. “You did that? With your leg?” He smiled and did it again. “Jean-Luc! That’s wonderful! How long have you been able to do that?” He chuckled and closed his eyes. “I just did it then.” Beverly didn’t hear him, already lost in thought. “We’ll have to alter your therapy… you need…” “Beverly…” “Maybe some light weights…” Jean-Luc gently grasped her hand. “Hey, remember me? I’d like to be in on this too you know.” She looked down at him and her vision cleared. “What? Oh! Sorry Jean-Luc, just thinking ahead. This changes things somewhat. We can now tailor therapy specifically to that leg, strengthening it…regaining coordination…we need to do a new scan.” They helped the Captain into his chair and wheeled him into Sickbay proper. Having made him comfortable on a bio bed, Beverly ran an extensive scan of his back and, fully engrossed in what she was doing, didn’t hear his gentle enquiries. He sighed and stopped his questions, willing to wait until she was finished. It didn’t take long. Beverly put away her scanner and brushed aside an errant strand of hair. “Ok, this is good. The connections on the left side are ahead of schedule. The ability to carry your impulses is becoming more and more stable. I would expect that fairly soon you’ll be getting greater control over the limb. As for the right side, the initial damage there seems to be more severe. The connections are appearing, but they’re still not strong enough to carry the messages from your brain. It should follow the same pattern as you left leg, but I can’t predict when that will happen.” Jean-Luc thought about that for a while, then asked his questions. “Will there be the same pattern of pain after therapy?” Beverly nodded. “Probably.” “Oh, charming. What were you saying about weights?”

39


She smiled and folded her arms. “Well aren’t you the curious one? I intend to attach your left leg to an instrument that can increase gravity. By carefully loading the weight on your leg, we can calculate how much push and pull your leg can bear. By adding to it incrementally, we can build up the muscles.” “Won’t I end up…lopsided?” She laughed. “Well yes, but only until we start working on the other leg. You have to remember your leg muscles have been stimulated for a while now, they’re not atrophied.” “And when will this new therapy start?” She clasped his shoulder. “Tomorrow.” That evening, in their bed, he was holding her and stroking her hair. She ran her hand down the muscular plane of his chest and dallied her fingers in his navel. “Beverly…” She lifted her face and was startled by the look of deep desire that emanated from his dark hazel eyes. Raising herself, she slowly covered his lips with hers and gasped when his tongue suddenly invaded her mouth. With movements borne of the intensity of his arousal, his hands roved over her body, caressing and delighting. She tried to caress him, but he wouldn’t allow it. Twisting to one side, he held her hands above her head as he plundered her body with the other hand. First to her breasts, then to the juncture of her thighs, stroking and probing as his lips burned the skin of her neck. Unable to take any more, she freed one hand and pushed his shorts out of the way, then rolled on top of him. As she straddled his waist, he whispered hoarsely, “Turn onto your side.” She did as he requested, pulling them both over and found one leg trapped under him, around his waist, the other over him the same way. Using the newfound control of his muscles, he clenched his buttock and managed to partially penetrate her. She moaned and rocked her hips forward, taking him in further. His free hand found her breast and tweaked a nipple. She arched her back and pulled him closer, burying him completely within her hot depths. His mouth trailed over her skin, kissing and biting, inflaming her already throbbing senses as his fingers found her swollen clitoris. She jerked when he first stroked her, her hips following the movement. He groaned and attempted to thrust. She met his motion and reciprocated, a pattern soon developing. His fingers continued to stimulate her, her free hand holding his head close to hers. She felt her climax gathering and whispered her encouragement to her lover. “Oh yes Jean-Luc…please…please, just a little more…” He felt himself harden and his testicles lift. Using all his strength, he pushed in and out of her and ground his thumb against the centre of her desire. “Oh God…” She clung to him desperately as she was overcome with ecstasy. He felt her internal muscles contract as his own climax spread out through his rigid body. As they slowly calmed, he kissed her softly and spoke quietly. Beverly…that was….” She smiled and nuzzled his neck. “Yes, it was, wasn’t it?” He kissed her again and whispered, “I love you.” They drifted off to sleep still joined.

40


Ten days later he experienced sensation in his right leg for the first time. Having finished with the weight routine on his left leg, Beverly and her aides were in the physiotherapy room with Jean-Luc practicing walking between the rails when he suddenly halted and frowned. “Beverly…” She looked up at him and knew something was afoot. “What is it?” “I can feel…there’s something…my right leg. There’s something definitely going on…” “Can you be more specific?” He looked down at his leg somewhat puzzled. “It’s vague. Not pain exactly, but a feeling…like I’m trying to clench the muscles but not quite succeeding.” Beverly retrieved an instrument and scanned the leg. Staring at his bare foot she said, “See if you can move your toes.” Still observing his foot, the Captain frowned in concentration and applied his mind to the task. Nothing happened. He was about to voice his disappointment when his foot suddenly twitched. “Hey!” Beverly lifted her head and beamed at him. “Jean-Luc that was great!” He shook his head. ”It’s not what I intended. I meant to wriggle my toes.” She laughed and leaned on the rails. “Do you really think it matters?” He smiled ruefully and lowered his head, admitting his acquiescence. His smile soon disappeared. Ten minutes later he was on the floor, keening in agony as his helpers massaged his tortured leg. His right leg was waking up.

Over the next four days he had to be sedated three times. The pain generated by his awakening leg simply became too much for him to bear. Twice it happened in the physiotherapy room and once in his quarters. That time, however gave Beverly cause for optimism. He had, with the aid of two crutches, risen to stand on his own. It had come about as the result of a heated argument. His left leg now more or less under his control, he had started to pester Beverly about getting rid of the chair. “It’s not time yet Jean-Luc. Dammit I had sedate you yesterday and the day before that. Just be patient a little longer hmm?” “Patient? That’s all I’ve been! If you’ll just let me have a go with the crutches…I’m sure I would progress faster if I knew I could be rid of that damn chair.” She sighed and brushed her hair aside in an irritated gesture. “You’re not ready yet! What if you fell? You could do the same damage you did on the Bridge, and where would that leave you? For God’s sake, just be patient will you!” He sat and brooded for a few moments then wheeled his way over to the replicators. “Computer, two adjustable crutches…with grips and arm braces.”

41


“Jean-Luc…” “I’ll show you bloody patient!” He retrieved the replicated aids and put them across his lap while he wheeled to the centre of the room. He bent down and locked the chair’s wheels and then set about adjusting the height of the crutches. Having achieved that, he placed them firmly on the ground and gripped the handles. Using his left leg and arms, he hoisted himself upright and balanced precariously while he fitted the crutches to his forearms. The look of triumph on his face when he finally stood straight was heart warming. Beverly moved closer to him and offered a cautious smile. “Ok, now what?” “Now”, he said concentrating fiercely, “I walk.” Putting his weight on his left leg, he gingerly moved the crutches forward a little. Once he felt balanced, he hopped forward and swung his right leg, using his hip as a counter lever. He wobbled somewhat, but soon regained his equilibrium. He repeated the movements and managed three halting steps. He was making his way to the sofa when he suddenly paused. He was about to ask for Beverly’s assistance when his left leg went from under him. He fell like a sack of coal, striking his head on the low table. “Jean-Luc!” Beverly made a mad dash for her med kit, hearing him cursing in the background. “Here, let me look at you.” He half rolled onto his side, his hand staunching a free flow of blood from his forehead. “Shit!” He shook his arm brusquely, trying unsuccessfully to disengage the crutch that was hanging onto his forearm. “Hey stop that! You’ll beat me with that if you’re not careful. Put you hand down.” She wiped away the blood and was assessing the wound when he suddenly stiffened and cried out. “What is it?!” Still tangled in the crutches he tried to grasp his right leg and failed. His back arched and he roared in agony. Beverly’s hand dived into her med kit and the sedative was administered with alacrity. Jean-Luc’s unconscious form relaxed onto the floor as Beverly hailed Sickbay. “Neville report to the Captain’s quarters immediately.” As he lay senseless, she repaired the gash on his head and was just finishing when the medical aide arrived. “Help me get him into bed.” Between the two of them, they gently carried Jean-Luc into his bedroom and laid him on his bed. Thanking her helper, she dismissed him and set about undressing the Captain and making him comfortable. As she looked down at the sleeping man she thought, “You and I are going to have a little chat, my dear man. Patience indeed.”

He slept for seven hours and it was pain that woke him up. Groaning he reached down to his right thigh only to find Beverly’s strong hand beginning the massage that would alleviate the remaining discomfort. She kept her head lowered while she worked.

42


“Want to talk about it.” He sighed expansively. “What, you want me to say you were right?” Her head shot up. “No dammit! Why do you think I’m your adversary? I’m on your side Jean-Luc!” He closed his eyes and placed his hands on hers, stopping their work. “I’m sorry. I just thought…oh hell what’s the use. It was a stupid idea and I paid for it.” She resumed her massage and they sat in silence for a while. “It’s not such a stupid idea.” “What?” “Your idea with the crutches. If you hadn’t proved you could do it I wouldn’t have believed you. I think we can work with this Jean-Luc, but maybe not quite yet. Let’s get this leg under control or at least the pain, and we’ll have another go. Ok?” He smiled softly and beckoned to her to climb up the bed. Taking her in his arms he kissed her gently. “My God, what did I do to deserve you, my love?” She shrugged and burrowed into his embrace, loving the way he smelled.

Two days later Beverly joined the Captain in Sickbay. “Well the latest scans all show good news. I have an idea, however, as to how we may be able to overcome or at least lessen the pain episodes in the right leg.” Jean-Luc leaned forward, his eyes narrowing. “Do tell Doctor.” “With your permission, I intend to insert a hair-thin wire directly into the main sciatic nerve. My research shows that with pain of this magnitude, electrical current passed through at very low voltage can have a beneficial effect.” “How much?” She shook her head and frowned. “I don’t know it varies from individual to individual. Your right leg has been much more severely affected than you left. Obviously the damage was greater, therefore the recovery has been slower and the pain worse. Honestly? It’s better than a stab in the dark, but I really don’t know for sure until I do it.” Jean-Luc sat up and absently rubbed his hands on his thighs, deep in thought. Beverly allowed him his space and busied herself with the scanner. Eventually he drew in a large breath and expelled it forcefully. He had made his decision. “Alright. When.” “Right now, if you like.” He nodded and waited patiently as they helped him onto a bio bed and prepared him for the procedure. Lying face down and wearing only his briefs, an area just below his right buttock was swabbed and he felt a pressure as Beverly inserted the wire. Guided by the monitors she carefully threaded the wire through the flesh and smiled with satisfaction when the sliver of metal pierced the nerve, making his right foot twitch.

43


“How is it Jean-Luc? Can you feel anything?” “I felt a pressure and a bit of a jolt…I think my foot moved…but nothing now.” “Good. Just as it should be. Ok, we’ll connect this with a small voltage regulator you can wear on your thigh and we’ll go and test it.” “Do you have to sound so damn cheerful?” She playfully slapped his behind, making him smile. Soon he was off the bed and back in the chair, heading for the physiotherapy room, Neville in tow. They wheeled him to the rails and positioned him. ”Now remember Jean-Luc, there’s no anti-gravs, you’re going to do this on your own.” He nodded and slowly reached up and took hold of the rails. He gathered himself, and then hoisted himself upright. He stood firmly on his left leg and twisted his hips to bring his right foot into place. “Now, when we did this in your quarters…just before you fell, you paused. Did you feel or sense something?” He frowned, remembering. “Yes! I had a sensation in my left leg. A contracting of the muscles.” “Hmm. That might be the signal that the leg is about to give way. Concentrate Jean-Luc, listen to your body. Neville, go and stand behind the Captain and be ready to catch him if he should collapse.” Neville took up position and they waited patiently for Jean-Luc to start. “When you’re ready Jean-Luc.” He nodded and sighed. Gripping the rails firmly, he swung his right foot forward. Taking the weight on his arms, he then took a quick step with his left. “Good, excellent! And again.” He repeated the manoeuvre and again had success. Four more steps were accomplished when he suddenly warned, “Beverly…my leg!” Neville moved into position and took Jean-Luc’s weight as his left leg folded under him. He was gently lowered to the ground and Beverly quickly activated the voltage meter. Just as he began to contort with pain, she applied the current and his right leg stiffened. His head shot up and he looked incredulously at his Doctor. “It works!” “Has the pain dissipated completely?” He shook his head, but he still smiled. “No, but it’s tolerable…nothing like it was.” “Wait, let me just…” She manipulated the control and looked up in surprise when he called out. “No! Enough…too much…back it off!” She concentrated on the device and he relaxed. “That’s about it. Keep it there.” “How is it now? Is there still pain?” “Yes, but bearable. It’s ok Beverly really. This is so much better than, well you know.” She nodded and smiled, reaching out a gentle hand to caress his shoulder. “Well how about we get you back in the chair. It’ll be a while until we can turn this off so we might as well take you back to your quarters. Ok?”

44


He nodded and lifted his arms to aid his helpers. Back in his cabin, he caught Beverly’s hand as she went by. Pulling her down gently, he kissed her and stroked her face. “Thank you for what you’ve done for me today. You’re a genius.” She blushed and laughed. “Why thank you my handsome Captain. Anything to please.”

Over the next week, more time was spent strengthening Jean-Luc’s left leg. As he gained control, the incidents of the leg collapsing became less frequent. His right leg responded well to therapy and he could tell, four days later, that feeling was returning. With the help of Beverly’s nerve treatment, he was able to extend his therapy sessions in both frequency and duration. By weeks end he was ready to try the crutches again. They were in the physiotherapy room when Neville came in carrying the aids. Jean-Luc quirked an eyebrow, his gaze settling on his lover. “What’s this?” Beverly came over to him and gave a lopsided smile. “Well, I thought we’d have another try. You’ve got help on hand…and there’s no furniture to hurt yourself on…how about it? Are you game?” In reply he lifted his hands and gestured to Neville to hand over the crutches. He got to his feet easily and readjusted his grip. He looked up at Beverly and smiled. “Well here goes.” With the same dedicated concentration, he made short work of the distance from the rails to the door. Slowly turning, he hazarded a glance up and was rewarded by seeing a look of love and pride coming from his best friend. With equal care he made his way back to her. She gently clasped his shoulder and whispered, “Well done.” He breathed deeply and nodded. They both knew this was a watershed. He would no longer use the wheelchair unless he needed to and the knowledge pleased them immensely.

He was dozing, drifting in and out of sleep as Beverly rubbed the warm oil into his back and legs. The pain in his left leg had abated significantly but the right was still a problem. After use, there were prolonged bouts of lancing pain that even the electrical impulses refused to blunt. He had been on his feet for some hours when they returned to his quarters. “Hey you, wake up.” “Hmm? Why?” “Because we’re meeting Will and Deanna in the lounge in half an hour.” He sighed and nestled further into the pillow. “Don’t want to go.”

45


She huffed at him and slapped his behind. He started and growled, “You’re beginning to make a habit of that.” “Of what?” “Of slapping my arse.” She chuckled and did it again. “Beverly!” “Oh come on Jean-Luc…it’s only ‘cause it’s so cute.” “Harrumph!” She left the bed and entered the bathroom, calling over her shoulder, “Get up and I’ll help you with your shower.” The evening spent with Will and Deanna was pleasant, but Beverly could see that JeanLuc was tiring. She ended the get together and walked slowly alongside Jean-Luc as he made his way to his quarters. Jean-Luc sighed as he gingerly lowered himself onto the couch in his living area. He put his crutches beside him and rested his head on the back of the couch, closing his eyes and trying to ignore the look of concern from his best friend. Beverly knew he was in pain; she also knew there was little she could do about it. The nerves in his spine were re-working themselves and the random firing of electrical impulses was something neither of them could predict nor control. She sat beside him and took his hand in hers. “Is it bad?” She noted the tightness in his face and the light sheen of perspiration. A short nod was her only reply. She squeezed his hand and frowned. “Can I get you anything? A cup of tea perhaps?” Despite his pain, he smiled. “A cup of Earl Grey would be nice, thank you.” As Beverly walked back from the replicator, she saw him grimace and push his fists into the cushions beside his thighs. She hurried to his side, placing the cups on the coffee table. “Jean-Luc…” He shook his head. “It’ll pass.” And slowly, it did. The spasm released him and he slumped into the couch breathing heavily. When he’d regained his composure, he opened his eyes and smiled at the frowning Doctor. “Beverly, it’s not that bad…really. If this means I’ll soon have complete use of my lower body, then I’m not about to complain.” She smiled then, a thought forming in her mind. “Jean-Luc, you’ve had a very full day, what with your therapy and everything. Why don’t we go and get you comfortable in bed. It is, after all, quite late.” He nodded and allowed her to help him to his feet before making slow, but sure progress to his bedroom. It took no time at all to disrobe him, the grey, silk sleep shorts he chose pleased her. Having settled him on his back in bed, Beverly undressed and slipped into a sheer satin negligee that had his undivided attention. Before coming to the bed, she went to the replicator and retrieved two items. She was grinning widely when she approached the bed. He slitted his eyes and frowned. “What have you got there?”

46


“Oh just some things to expand your therapy.” “Expand my therapy? How so?” She smiled and leaned forward to kiss him briefly. Pulling back, she laughed gently at his intensely curious gaze. “Relax Jean-Luc. I have here a feather and a pin. I’m just going to test your responses to different stimuli. You’ll enjoy it, I promise. Now, close your eyes…and keep them closed.” He gazed at her a moment longer then acquiesced, a small smile gracing his handsome features as his hazel eyes drifted closed. Beverly knelt beside him and gently placed his arms out from his body. Happy with his positioning, she picked up the feather and ran it gently over his head and down his face. He sighed and was about to speak, when Beverly placed a finger on his lips, followed by the feather. He found the soft caress on his lips stimulating and pursed them in response. He was rewarded with another light caress with the feather, then suddenly a gentle prick form the pin. The sharp intake of breath was noted by Beverly and she smiled wickedly. Dragging the feather over his well-muscled chest, she twirled it teasingly over his nipples, making them pebble. Before he could adjust to the sensation, she gently pricked each nipple repeatedly. He gasped and arched his back. Beverly glanced down his torso and was pleased to see the tented material of his shorts, his evident arousal making the silk taut. Still using the pin, she alternatively dragged and pricked her way down his stomach, but stopped short of his groin. Using the feather next, she moved to his thighs, gently stroking and twirling, then inserting the feather up the leg of his shorts to tickle his testicles. He snorted, barely choking back his laughter. He changed his mind when she very gently pricked the bulging orbs through his shorts. His breath hissed through his teeth and he groaned. She noted the wet patch on the silk and moved to divest him of the offending shorts. In no time, he was naked and very aroused, his erection visibly throbbing. Avoiding the obvious centre of his desire, Beverly took up the feather and, using the lightest of touches, caressed him under the scrotum and around the base of his straining penis, up his abdomen and back. She noted his hands had made fists in the sheets and he was sweating slightly. Her next target with the feather was the underside of his penis. As she made light swipes back and forth up his length he thrust upwards, a bead of pearl appearing at the tip. She leaned forward and took the bead with her tongue, at the same time gently running the pin up his length. He moaned loudly and arched his hips again. “Beverly…please…” “Shhh, just a little more Jean-Luc…trust me.” He swallowed visibly, his jaw clenching. With just the tip of the feather, she brushed it around the rim of the head, then very gently pricked the surface of the sensitive glans, immediately replacing the pin with the feather, sawing it softly through the slit. His mouth opened and he began to pant, the muscles of his magnificent body corded and tense. She placed a hand on his thigh and noticed the trembling. Leaving his penis, she flicked the feather over his body and smiled when he frowned.

47


As she ran the feather over his nipples, she gently pricked the base of his erection then slid the pin up to the rim and very gently pricked him there. Before he could react she bent down and took him into her hot mouth, as deeply as he could go, and sucked hard. She dropped her tools over the side of the bed, one hand going to his testicles, the other to the base of his turgid penis. With both hands, she gripped rhythmically as she sucked, tasting his first emissions. His hands released the sheets and tangled in her hair as he began to thrust into her throat. Looking up, she was treated to the view of a man in ecstasy. His head thrown back, mouth open, eyes screwed shut, concentrating solely on that part of him immersed in her hot, wet mouth. He swelled in her mouth and she new he was close. Reaching under his scrotum, she pressed a knuckle into the soft flesh and held on. He cried out and arched upwards, pushing her head hard down onto himself as the first spurt of semen left his body. He jerked with each subsequent emission until he was spent and began to soften. His hands released their grip and his body slowly relaxed as his breathing began to ease. Beverly released him from her mouth and gently kissed his sated penis. Moving up the bed, she stroked his face and was rewarded when he opened his eyes. She smiled lovingly down at him. “How’s your pain now?” He drew her down and kissed her tenderly, sighing when he let her go. “What pain?” Beverly just laughed.

It was two weeks later when he was able to report that the pain was almost nonexistent in both legs. A quick trip to Sickbay relieved him of the wire and the subsequent therapy session was nearly pain free. His control had increased exponentially and he was less reliant on the crutches. That night, in his quarters, he surprised Beverly by walking a few halting steps by himself. He collapsed in the chair, a huge grin on his face. “You look like the cat that swallowed the cream.” “With good reason Beverly. It’s been a very hard few months.” She sat next to him and snuggled under his arm. “I know my love, but we’re nearly there, just a few more weeks and you’ll be as good as new.” He sighed and drew her closer to him. “I wonder…will I be the same man?” ”What do you mean?” “Well…I have discovered some less than flattering things about myself.” “Like what?” “Like being conceited…being afraid…being too proud…being…” “Stop. Stop it right there. Jean-Luc you have been to hell and back. Why not look at the positives? You were able to see all of those things you mentioned and overcome them! I think a lesser man would’ve devastated by what you’ve been through. And let’s not

48


understate the pain you’ve endured. Really Jean-Luc, you’ve done marvellously well under the circumstances.” “Yes, well…” “Well nothing! If anything, you’re a better man, Jean-Luc. A wiser, more sensitive man…and I love you all the more for it.” He smiled and leant his head back. No doubt the coming weeks would hold frustrations and disappointments, but he also knew that after what he’d been through, he was well equipped to handle what was to come. And he had Beverly. They would conquer all… together.

49


A Knowing Hand