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Three Minds One Heart.

The sculptured shape of Parrum N’arrok cast a shadow as the being moved to sit before its companion. Over both their naked russet bodies the golden flush of breeding readiness accentuated their fine features. A gentle humming began and their violet elongated eyes closed, the long dark lashes sweeping over dusky cheeks. They joined hands and trembled as their bodies began the process of expulsion. With rhythmic undulations in their muscles, an opening became evident. Through a distended tube in their chests a capsule of milky clotted matter appeared. For both of the beings, the effort involved in expelling the capsules made them sweat slightly, but no other outward sign of distress showed. The envelopes distorted as they squeezed through the outer sphincter and each being lifted their four-fingered hands to cradle them as they emerged. Once gently held the shape of the capsules changed. The outer soft shell developed a covering of thick sticky moisture and the capsules themselves grew, quickly doubling in size. The beings reverently turned and placed the capsules in an incubator with infinite care. Once beside each other, the capsules flattened, their edges touching. The contact caused them to glow softly and the miracle of creation began as they merged to form one single entity. With the lid of the incubator lowered and fastened, the beings seated themselves and sighed, Parrum nodding with wistful satisfaction. “E’ssart tells me it’s your first.” The companion nodded, a tired smile on its face. “Yes. When the cycle began I was happy to learn you found me suitable. It is auspicious to have such a celebrated partner for my first time. I’m sure our genetic material will create a commendable individual.” Parrum sighed and smiled. “Well we’ll never know will we? For myself, I wanted to give my experience to help you. Given your age…and the fact that this is your first cycle…I know how confusing it can be.” The smile warmed the being’s heart, the young companion so eager to please. “Thank you Parrum, I am honoured.” The older being sat forward and brushed its fingers over the head of its partner. “ H’romm would you like to indulge?” A flush of a different hue washed over H’romm’s body. The eyes darkened and the tips of the pointed ears curled. “You would recognise me so?” Parrum smiled softly, its melodic voice deepening. “Yes, I find you worthy.” Tears of deep blue shimmered and the downy hair that covered the lithely muscular body rose. “Oh Parrum…I am privileged!” With indulgent gentleness Parrum guided the younger being to a comfortable lounge and they lay together. Taking the lead, Parrum placed its hands either side of H’romm’s head and waited patiently while H’romm sited trembling hands the same way. In a whispering lilt, Parrum asked,

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“Have you indulged before?” Breathless with anticipation H’romm nodded. “Yes Parrum.” “Good. Relax then and enjoy the reward for your labours.” With eyes closed, the beings allowed their bodies to loose all rigidity. When Parrum was sure its partner was free from all but what it concentrated on, it leaned forward and touched their foreheads together. A sigh escaped H’romm and the tinge of pleasure glowed over their bodies. Parrum used its superior control to regulate its breathing, but H’romm began to pant, its hands tightening their hold of Parrum’s head. “Steady H’romm. Be patient…don’t be in such a hurry.” Unable to reply, H’romm swallowed and, with effort, slowed its reactions. “That’s it. When it comes we will rejoice together. For now let the ascension carry you.” For twenty minutes the beings enjoyed the exquisite sensation of deep sexual stimulation. With iron control Parrum led them in the intimate dance, its concentration never wavering. Although the majority of their bodies did not touch, the mental link was profound and remarkably sharp. When H’romm began to gasp and tremble, Parrum waited only seconds before deciding its partner had reached its limit. With an expansive sigh the older being permitted the orgasm and held tightly to its head as H’romm’s body convulsed. Deep breaths and the rich colour of pleasure over its skin were the only outward signs of Parrum’s climax. When it was certain H’romm had recovered the connection was severed. The younger being sighed and bowed its head. “Thank you Parrum.” Gently lifting its partner’s head, Parrum looked deeply into its eyes. “This cycle was your first, remember it always my young friend.” The smile of gratitude gladdened the older being’s heart. “I have learned much…I am sure I will be a better partner for your patient teaching.” Parrum stood and stretched its lithe body. “You flatter me H’romm, but I am pleased with you.” Already the swollen chest cavity was subsiding as the breeding cycle drew to a close. Soon the opening and the inner tube would retreat within the body, unneeded until the next cycle. H’romm looked on in appreciation as its partner worked the kinks out of its lovely body. With a glance down at its own body, the youngster sighed and wistfully shook its head. “I hope I gain your size Parrum. I would like to be your height.” The chuckle was deep but inoffensive. “You will be what you will be! Who knows what your donors were like?” They were silent a while as Parrum continued to stretch. H’romm’s question stilled the older being. “What will it be like Parrum…living amongst Humans on their Starship?” It sat on the lounge and sighed. ”I have been in the midst of Humans before my young friend. They do not concern me.” “But they travel in great ships and belong to a federation of planets! I have heard there are beings from many species with them…are you not worried that you will miss home?” Parrum shrugged and cast its bright eyes on its partner.

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“My time with them will pass quickly. You must remember H’romm this is a very important time for our people. If we find this…”Federation”…honourable then we will join and become a much more open society. My task is to see if it’s possible for our people to live among them…to interact with them in their daily existence. There is a chance, after all, that we may wish to enter their “Starfleet” and explore with them.” The youngster frowned, the expression adding years to its face. “But we have always explored space on our own! We’ve never needed others to help.” “That is true, but these are dangerous times H’romm. It has been recently discovered there are other more…belligerent species in space that might view us with less friendliness than the Federation. We have to decide what is the best course of action… what will benefit our entire world, and I firmly believe it’s the Federation we must align ourselves with…provided we can co-exist.” H’romm digested this in silence then looked at Parrum with caution. “Is it true they have two genders?” Smiling, the larger being nodded. “Yes it is.” “And is it also true that they procreate physically and gestate the creation within their bodies?” Parrum nodded, amused at the consternation on its partner’s face. “But Parrum that is…that is…primitive!” Parrum stood and patted H’romm’s broad shoulder. “If you like I can download for you a very comprehensive file on the reproductive process of Humans. You might find it as fascinating as I did.” With a crinkled forehead, H’romm’s mouth gaped. “You found it…fascinating?” “Indeed, and I’m sure the Humans were just as fascinated in the information we sent them about us. In fact a Doctor Crusher from the ship I will be on has already contacted me with some questions. One thing about humans…they’re extremely inquisitive. That’s how they learn.” A flush of embarrassment shimmered through the russet skin. “You answer these questions? Freely?” Laughing, Parrum bent and picked up its robe slipping it over its head. “How do you think we’re going to learn about each other if we allow embarrassment to silence us? H’romm my young friend you have much to understand about the outside world.” Nodding wisely, H’romm grinned at its partner. “When do you leave?” Looking out through the large windows of the domed room, the stars glittered in Parrum’s eyes. “Their ship arrives tomorrow.” “Will I see you again?” Turning to its young friend, the older being sighed. ”I cannot say. But know this…I have been honoured to have you as a partner. I will let others know that you are worthy.” H’romm stood and bowed, its body strobing with pride. “Thank you my teacher.”

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Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Starship Enterprise watched his breakfast companion out of the corner of his eye. With her delicate, capable hands, she sliced the peach and speared the segment with the point of her knife. Enraptured, the Captain sat perfectly still as she lifted the fruit and placed it primly within her mouth and began chewing. Eyes downcast on the table, she chuckled, stirring him from his study. “You’re staring Jean-Luc.” He blinked and straightened in his chair. “No I’m not. I’m merely committing your actions to memory.” Looking up, Beverly smiled demurely at her best friend, whilst slicing another piece of peach. “Why?” “Because I find this…” He waved with his free hand, “Perfect.” She tilted her head, a look of mild confusion crossing her face. “This? Define this.” Jean-Luc sighed and gently placed his coffee cup on the table. “Breakfast with you…the current mission…the beginning of a new day…don’t you find it satisfying?” Her broad grin made his heart swell, but her silence caused a moment of uncertainty. “You don’t think so?” Instead of answering verbally, Beverly wiped her fingers and mouth before rising and moving to his side. Bending, she cupped his face in her hands and tenderly kissed his cheek. Briefly closing his eyes, Jean-Luc savoured her closeness and the implied intimacy of the kiss, while although chaste, said more about their relationship than any words could. As she moved back to regain her seat, his eyes opened and he sighed with deep happiness. Her softly asked question brought his mind back on line. “About the mission…how much do we know about them?” He refilled their cups and sipped slowly, gathering his thoughts. “Not as much as I’d like, but more than we hoped for. The team that stayed on their planet amassed a lot of information…they’re an enthralling species.” Amused at how easily he slipped into the eager explorer, Beverly felt the surge of affection she always felt for him. More to keep him talking so that she could bask in his mellifluous voice, she asked, “And when was first contact made?” “Eighteen months ago. When the Ark Royal came across their ship in the outer rim, they were cautiously granted permission to follow them back to V’Larnn their home planet. The existence of a warp-capable species in that region was a boon to the Federation. Since the Dominion war our resources have been severely depleted and we desperately needed to find stable, friendly worlds to align with us to bolster our defences.” “And are they stable and friendly?” Jean-Luc nodded and ate the last bite of his croissant. Chewing thoughtfully, his eyebrows rose. “You have received the medical files of our guest. I know they are genderless, but what else can you tell me? I have been practising using ‘it’ instead of he or she. It will take some getting used to.” Leaning forward and warming to her subject, Beverly frowned.

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“ I know what you mean. I think it’ll be difficult for everyone. Such an impersonal prefix is usually considered rude. Physically they’re extremely complex. A mature adult averages two point five metres in height and weighs approximately ninety kilos, although there can be wide variations. “They are a reddish colour and are covered with short downy hair, except for the head, which is hairless. They are very long lived and don’t reach breeding age until about thirty. Life span is about two hundred and seventy standard years. Twice a year they enter a phase of fertility and, if they chose to do so, they select a willing partner and each produces genetic material, which is allowed to merge in an incubator. The donors have nothing further to do with their creation. The new being emerges from the gestating machinery remarkably well formed. Care and education of the young is undertaken by a specific caste and a genetic profile is kept for future reference.” The Captain, finished with his breakfast, was fascinated by Beverly’s discourse. “A very efficient form of reproduction. How genetically diverse are they?” Giving an expansive shrug, the Doctor pursed her lips. “Largely unknown, but considering the variances of their physical appearance I would guess it’s healthy. What do you know about our guest?” Sighing, Jean-Luc replied, “It’s a member of the group that our delegation liaised with on V’Larnn. Apparently it is considered well educated and progressive. They take two names, a familiar and a clan name. Our guest is called Parrum N’arrok and belongs to a clan that provides advisors to the government. We are to call it Parrum.” Beverly nodded slowly and mulled over the information. “And what exactly will Parrum do during the five months aboard?” Smiling at her inquisitiveness, Jean-Luc raised one eyebrow. “It will spend its time studying us in excruciating detail, learning all it can about how we live and conduct ourselves. If its conclusions are favourable, they will seek to join the Federation.” “That’s a hell of a decision to be left to the opinion of one being.” Shaking his head, the Captain held up his hand. “Oh no…it’s not like that. There will be others placed on different ships and a delegation will visit Earth, but these initial contacts will carry great weight. Apparently they believe that how people go about their lives…how they interact with each other is more important than political machinations or diplomatic sugar coating.” Her smile returning, Beverly’s eyes twinkled. “Now that sounds sensible! How much time will you be spending with it?” He shrugged and frowned. “As much as it wants…within reason. I intend to limit access to the Bridge and several other sensitive areas of the ship, but apart from that, it will have free range. I will instruct the crew to be open and forthcoming in answering any questions it may have and I will let Data know that the computer may be used to furnish non-classified material.” Seeing that he’d seamlessly slipped into his Captain persona, Beverly brought their morning meal to a close. “When do we arrive?” “Three hours. I take it you will want to do a full examination?” Standing, Beverly pushed in her chair.

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“Uh huh. My medical file on it is pretty extensive, but I like to have a base line to work from and nothing beats a hands-on approach.” Rising from his seat, he grinned rakishly at his beautiful companion. “Oh I couldn’t agree more.” He nodded, giving his dismissal and watched with silent amusement as his dear friend left his quarters. He stood still at the table, his eyes staring unseeing at the closed doors, allowing his mind the rare opportunity to wander. “So beautiful…Oh Beverly do you know how much I love you?” Shaking himself out of his reverie he cleaned away the breakfast dishes then tugged down on his tunic and left for the Bridge.

Commander Will Riker, second in command, stood beside his Captain in Transporter Room two awaiting the arrival of their guest. Having been thoroughly briefed, he found himself slightly nervous, thoughts of another genderless species sliding through his mind. As if sensing his subordinate’s discomfort, Jean-Luc glanced at his Exec. “Having second thoughts Number One?” Reddening somewhat and once again marvelling at his Captain’s erudition, Will snorted. “Not at all Sir. I’m sure there’ll be no problems.” Returning his eyes to the empty space of the transporter platform, the Captain remembered the last time they encountered a similar species. Will had fallen into a forbidden relationship with an individual who had discovered it had feminine tendencies. Such manifestations were considered abhorrent by the population and, despite strenuous objections from his First Officer, the individual was forced to undergo an invasive reeducation programme. Will attempted a covert abduction, only to find his friend had reverted to an asexual being who rejected him. It was a painful episode for all concerned, one the Captain fervently hoped would not be repeated. The Transporter duty officer broke into his troubled thoughts. “Captain? We are receiving coordinates now.” “Very well Ensign, beam our guest aboard.” Coming to attention, the officers schooled their features into pleasant visages. The platform lit up brightly and a form materialised.

Parrum took the time to look around at its surroundings. Finding the room utilitarian and functional, it stepped off the platform and smiled as it stared down at its welcoming party. Looking first at Will, it was stunned to see facial hair, although it knew

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males shaved the growth of hair from their faces daily, it had not occurred to it that some males might not shave. With its mind stowing that quirk, its eyes settled on the Jean-Luc. An involuntary breath was drawn inward and a gentle flush coloured its skin as the Captain’s intelligent dark eyes gazed discernibly up at his guest. Proffering his hand, the Captain smiled. “I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Welcome aboard the Enterprise Parrum.” They shook hands then Jean-Luc gestured to his left and said, “This is my second in command, Commander William Riker. He will escort you to your quarters and provide you with a guide to show you around the ship.” As the translator deciphered the Captain’s words, Parrum noticed how pleasing his voice was. Its smile crept wider as it took in Jean-Luc’s bald head and small ears. It decided it wanted to spend time with him. “Thank you Captain. You are not available?” Jean-Luc was drawn to the mesmerising violet eyes and the melodic voice. Giving himself a mental shake, he smiled diplomatically. “I’m afraid not Parrum, my place is on the Bridge. When you are settled, you will be required to report to Sickbay for an examination. I hope that meets with your approval?” Nodding slowly, Parrum bowed. “Oh yes Captain Picard. I have been in contact with Doctor Crusher and I understand completely. I am at your disposal.” Pleased that his guest was so compliant, Jean-Luc nodded and turned to Will. “When you are free report back to the Bridge Number One.” The big Human nodded and smiled. “Aye Sir.” The Captain bowed sightly to his guest and left. Will stepped up onto the platform and gathered the two bags, happy when Parrum took one from him. With his free hand, Will gestured to the door and the beings departed. They had travelled only a short distance when Parrum asked, “What is Number One?” Will grinned and enlightened his companion. “It’s an old navy term from Earth…British I think. Our Captain is the only one that I know who uses it, but I like it…it makes me feel proud to have him call me that and I’m also proud that no one else does. Do you have terms of address for different ranks?” Parrum frowned, the wrinkles marring its otherwise smooth face. “Not exactly. Our ships are more relaxed; they are staffed mostly by scientists and those of the teaching caste. The Captains are trained of course, as are their assistants, but there is little hierarchy. I suppose the only thing in common with your Captain is that our Captains have the final say in the event of any emergency.” Will thought about this and shrugged. “Well as long as it works…that’s the important thing, isn’t it?” Parrum smiled, warming to this gregarious Human. “Indeed.” They arrived at the assigned quarters and Will took some time showing Parrum the replicator, communication system and the controls for the doors and interior lighting. With its bags placed in the bedroom, the two beings left and proceeded to Sickbay. On the way, Will explained the Captain’s orders.

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“You will have free access to most of the ship and the computer data-base is at your disposal. Lieutenant Commander Data will be made available to assist you with the computer and the entire crew has been instructed to be open to all your enquiries.” Parrum was delighted, the information more than it could’ve hoped for. “And the Bridge?” Will frowned and shook his head. “I’m sorry Parrum, the Bridge is off limits.” Disappointed, Parrum sighed. “I was hoping to see Captain Picard at work.” Will brightened, his blue eyes twinkling. “Oh you’ll be seeing the Captain. He likes to wander around the ship, dropping by different departments…he gets a feel for the ship and how it’s functioning by doing that.” “A feel?” Will stopped and stared at his feet, frowning. Parrum stood at his side waiting patiently. “A perception…an idea…a…” Parrum grinned and clasped Will’s shoulder. “I understand. I can get a feel of a politician’s popularity by the communications it receives.” The Commander nodded and they resumed their journey. They arrived at Sickbay and Beverly was waiting for them. Will made the introductions and the Doctor was immediately drawn to the tall being. Its eyes deepened when they looked at her and she was fascinated to see a flush of colour wash across its skin. She raised her hand and gently touched its arm, feeling the soft hair. “I didn’t know you could do that.” Parrum sighed and bowed. “Please take it as a compliment. It was the flush of greeting a beautiful being.” Will’s eyebrows rose as he recalled it was the same reaction Parrum had for the Captain. Beverly blushed and Parrum laughed. “I see we are not the only ones who display so.” Fanning herself, Beverly grinned and shot a warning look at the slyly grinning Commander. “Flattery Parrum will get you everywhere.” Guiding it to a diagnostic bed, Beverly retrieved a medical tricorder that had already been programmed with information about the V’Larnnans. She scanned the being, aware of its intense gaze. “I have received a comprehensive file concerning your health and dietary requirements. Has Will told you the replicator in your quarters has been programmed to dispense a wide variety of appropriate food?” The melodic voice was uncomfortably sensuous. “Yes. The Commander was very thorough.” Parrum lifted an elegant hand and gently gripped Beverly’s wrist with its four fingers. Turning her hand over it sighed and shook its head. “Five fingers! It is not the first time I have seen such things, but it is astonishing, nonetheless. How do you coordinate this?” He picked up the thumb and gently squeezed it. The Doctor smiled and encouraged it to let her go.

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“Like this.” She demonstrated the movements of the hand; in particular how the opposable thumb accorded strength and dexterity. “How do you cope with only four fingers?” Holding up a hand, Parrum amazed the Doctor by bending the fingers at unbelievable angles. Audible clicking could be heard as the joints gave way. “And it doesn’t hurt?” Parrum chuckled. “No not at all.” Beverly smiled up at her patient and sighed. “Well I guess there’s a lot I have to learn.” Parrum leaned forward and said softly, “And I as well.”

Will left the turbolift and strode to his chair on the Bridge. He nodded to his Captain and Jean-Luc watched him as he sat. “Did everything go all right?” “Yes Captain, our guest is at present on a tour of the ship.” Jean-Luc sighed thoughtfully. “Good. Has it been to Sickbay?” Will suppressed a grin and answered. “Yes. Beverly did a complete workup…I doubt that anything could have hidden from her scans.” With a rueful chuckle of one who had suffered the Doctor’s scrutiny, Jean-Luc nodded. “I agree with you Number One. Now about the mapping of the gaseous cloud…I have informed Astrophysics that they may have time to avail themselves of the lateral scanners, but the allocation will be up to you. Please coordinate with all relevant departments and draw up a schedule. The last thing I want is dissatisfied scientists complaining that they’ve been short-changed.” Noting the undertone of suppressed irritation, Will knew there was more to his Captain’s vexation than the simple allocation of ship’s resources. “Sir?” With an expansive sigh, Jean-Luc shook his bowed head. “I take it you are familiar with Lieutenant Guy Barnum?” A broad grin split the bearded man’s face. “Oh yes Captain! I’ve had the…pleasure…of his company on more than one occasion.” “Well he cornered me in the lounge two nights ago and spent the best part of an hour telling me how his department should get the greatest portion allowable on the sensors. My God I couldn’t get a word in edge wise. Tell me Number One…is he always like that?” Smirking and only just holding his laughter at bay, Will answered his Captain.

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“As far as I know Captain, when Barnum gets a bee in his bonnet…there’s no stopping him. He’s totally devoted to his job and will stop at nothing to get an advantage.” Jean-Luc let out an exasperated breath. “Including bailing up his CO, or so it would seem. Do me a favour Will…advise him that in future I would appreciate it if he would confine himself to haranguing other officers? I really can do without that sort of distraction.” Rubbing his fingers through his beard Will covered his grin. “ Of course Captain.”

That evening Parrum ate a small meal and sat facing the viewports, its hands cradling a golden flute-like instrument. Closing its eyes and sighing it slowly lifted its hands until the flute pressed against its full lips. Gently swaying its body, it began to play. The music comforted the being, helped calm and soothe. It had been a stupendous day, coming aboard, the medical examination and tour. Parrum allowed its fingers to play by memory as it searched its mind for images of the two most remarkable people it had ever seen. As the thoughts provided more detail, the blue flush of pleasure slid across its skin. With eyes still closed, Parrum stopped playing and rose, quickly doffing the multicoloured robe and stretching languorously. The door chime startled the being. With no thought as to its nakedness, it went to the door and pressed the release. Jean-Luc’s smile froze on his face as he took in the nude guest. Savagely quashing the embarrassment that rose, he instead lifted his head and spoke. “Good evening Parrum. I just thought I’d drop by to see how you are settling in.” The telepathy Parrum possessed had no trouble picking up on the Captain’s hidden discomfort and the concept intrigued the being. Nevertheless, it beckoned the Captain to enter and quickly donned its robe. “My apologies Captain. I had forgotten Humans prefer to stay clothed.” Raising his hand, Jean-Luc shook his head. “Not at all Parrum. How you wish to spend your private time is no one’s business but yours.” Parrum smiled and gestured the Captain to a seat. Jean-Luc’s eyes saw the flute and he smiled, pointing to the instrument. “You play?” “Yes. I find it relaxing…a connection to home.” Jean-Luc held out his hand. “May I?” Nodding, Parrum handed the flute over. The Captain gave a few experimental toots then closed his eyes and played a simple melody. When he finished he was pleased to see a look of astonishment on Parrum’s face. He smiled softly and turned the flute in his fingers.

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“I have a very similar instrument and I play it as often as I can. Like you, I find it soothing.” Parrum smiled and sighed. “I had no idea there would be so many things our peoples could share in common.” Jean-Luc’s eyes sparkled as his smile grew. “I have been in space all of my adult life and I have discovered there are more similarities than you could believe. Sometimes, when meeting a new species…when tension is at its highest, a small connection will be made based on a similarity between us and new friends will emerge. When we see how alike we are, rather than how different we are… well it tends to speak volumes.” Parrum nodded, delighted to listen to the deep voice. “Yes I can believe that. I have also found that music can be a common connector. Most societies have music in some form.” “Indeed, in fact I have many recordings of music from Earth and many Federation worlds…and some from across the quadrant. I would be pleased to share them with you.” The blush of pleasure shimmered across Parrum’s skin, mesmerising the curious Captain. His silent enquiry brought a smile to the being. “As you know we are telepathic, although it is muted when applied to Humans. To further accentuate our emotions…to enhance the depth of our feelings so our companions may better see our reactions, we have developed flushes of colour. There are subtly different colours depending on the emotion. What you just saw was pleasure.” Jean-Luc nodded, his dark eyes glittering. “I noticed it before…in the Transporter room.” Parrum nodded, saying nothing. Jean-Luc smiled and tugged at his jacket. “Well I will leave you now. Perhaps we can have dinner together one night and I will play you some of the music I mentioned.” “I would be delighted Captain. And I will bring my flute…maybe we can play together?” The Captain smiled and nodded. “That is a splendid idea. Good night Parrum.” The tall being responded in kind and sighed when the doors whispered closed. It was attracted to Jean-Luc and looked forward to the promised dinner. Jean-Luc paused outside the closed doors and took a large breath. He found Parrum fascinating and made a mental note to find the time for the dinner.

Three days later Beverly was in the lounge eating a late dinner with Jean-Luc. They spoke sporadically as they ate, their eyes drawn to the viewports where a vast gaseous cloud roiled and seethed. Beverly’s question went unanswered. “Jean-Luc?” He blinked then reddened slightly as he realised he’d been caught wool gathering. “Sorry Beverly…what did you say?”

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Smiling at his discomfort, the Doctor’s eyes twinkled delightfully, enchanting the Captain. “I said isn’t Parrum a fascinating person?” Taking a sip of the Chablis, an authentic wine from his own stock, Jean-Luc nodded. “Indeed. I have invited it to dinner…apparently it has an appreciation of music and plays a flute remarkably similar to mine.” “That sounds wonderful. Do me a favour? If you manage to play anything together, record it for me will you? I love what you play and I’d be intrigued to hear Parrum’s efforts.” Glowing from her oblique praise, Jean-Luc sighed. He sipped more wine and asked, “Has it asked you anything? Any questions about Humans?” “Not really. It did ask about our thumbs…apparently it’s astonished by our five digits, asked me how we coordinate them.” Jean-Luc chuckled derisively. “I’m not certain I can coordinate my hands sometimes! I dropped my boot twice this morning, in fact I ended up throwing it on the floor in disgust and concentrating on the other one.” Beverly laughed outright, then sighed. “I must admit Parrum is a very…enthralling character.” Jean-Luc nodded, his own assessment of the being stirring his mind. Beverly lifted her glass and gestured for Jean-Luc to do the same. “To new species. May they always be friendly.” Their glasses clinked and they drank deeply, savouring the delightful wine.

Commander Deanna Troi, ship’s Counsellor, straightened at her desk and looked expectantly at the doors of her office. The chime trilled, as she knew it would, and she called out, “Come in.” Parrum entered, a small smile on its face. “I am not disturbing you?” Deanna stood and shook her head. “No not at all, I have a break between appointments. How may I help you?” The tall being towered over the petite Counsellor, yet she sensed nothing but gentle good will. “I have some questions…concerning Human sexuality.” Gesturing to the replicator, Deanna asked, “Would you like a drink?” Considering the question, Parrum nodded. “Yes please. There is an Earth fruit…orange I think. May I have some of that?” As Deanna placed the order, she turned to her guest. “You find orange juice compatible?”

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Parrum lowered itself into a seat and smoothed its robe. “Yes. With help from Doctor Crusher, we have discovered several drinks and some food that I can enjoy. I am going to have dinner with Captain Picard soon, perhaps we can have a variety of food from both our worlds.” Deanna placed the drinks on the table. “I’m sure he would like that. Our Captain loves exploring, even in culinary matters.” Parrum chuckled, a lilting sound that flowed around the room. “Tell me Parrum, what would you like to know?” The being frowned and sighed. “I have read an extensive file about Human reproduction and I understand how it works, but nowhere in what I read does it say that you indulge.” Deanna frowned and shook her head. “Indulge? In what?” A look of consternation crossed Parrum’s oval face. “To indulge is to experience an exquisite explosion of sensation. It comes at the culmination of stimulation…it is…extraordinarily satisfying, especially if your partner pleases you.” The Counsellor smiled and tucked her hands between her crossed legs. “Humans have something similar Parrum, it’s called an orgasm and usually happens at the culmination of the sex act. The expulsion of semen is the male’s orgasm and, provided the female has been sufficiently stimulated, her orgasm facilitates in the reproductive process, although not always.” “And this…orgasm…it is pleasurable?” Deanna smiled and nodded. “Oh yes, exceedingly so.” “And it is achieved by physical stimulation?” “Yes.” “How fascinating. With us it is a mental connection. The only parts of the body that touch are our hands to the head and our foreheads together. Usually the more experienced partner leads the other, but with equals it can be protracted and deeply fulfilling.” Intrigued now, Deanna sat forward. “So when you breed…you indulge then?” The being shook its head. “No not during the breeding process, but it is common to indulge with your partner afterwards. After all, if you find your partner satisfactory for sharing the breeding with, it is only natural that indulging would follow, but not always. Sometimes it doesn’t happen…it’s a very personal choice.” “I see. Do your species develop long term relationships with one partner?” Parrum smiled. “Looking for similarities?” Smiling, Deanna pushed her long curly hair back from her face. “Probably.” Parrum chuckled. “It does happen, but not very often. Our lives are very…structured. We are free to link with as many people as we choose and the database that coordinates the breeding cycles

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is open to us all. I suppose we are not as committed to long term relationships as Humans are.” “Have you ever been in a long term relationship?” Parrum shook its head and sighed. “Not long term no, but I was with the same partner for three years, that was…interesting. We bred five times, I’d like to think we created commendable beings.” Deanna sipped her Valerian tea and tilted her head. “The concept of the raising your offspring by someone else is completely opposite to the Human system.” “I know. I cannot imagine what it would be like to take responsibility for nurturing and educating a new being. I find it astounding, especially considering the relatively short lifespan of Humans. So much time and effort are devoted to it…it’s amazing, totally amazing.” The Counsellor nodded. “And some Humans do it alone.” Parrum’s head shot up and it gasped. “I had not considered that! How incredibly brave they must be.” “Love is the driving force Parrum, love and devotion.” Parrum sighed. “Devotion I understand, but love? I find the concept mysterious indeed.” Deanna’s computer chimed and she sighed. “I’m afraid I must call an end to our discussion Parrum, I have a patient in five minutes.” The being stood and smiled down at the Counsellor. “Thank you Counsellor, our time together has been very enlightening.” Showing her guest to the door, Deanna bowed her head. “Any time Parrum.”

Two days later, in the ship’s evening, Parrum found itself in sickbay. Beverly was scanning the inside of its mouth. “What exactly did you eat?” Parrum sighed and concentrated on keeping still. “It is called a groll. The entrails of a errodd are cooked in the stomach pouch…it’s considered a delicacy on my home planet.” The Doctor giggled and shook her head. “My ancestors on Earth ate something similar called Haggis. How did you come to burn your mouth and chin?” “Your replicators provided it much hotter than I’m used to. Without checking, I bit into it and the juices scalded my mouth and spilled down my chin, burning it also.” “Well,” said Beverly waving a tissue regenerator over the afflicted area, “This should fix it.”

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She finished and stepped back as Parrum raised a hand to gingerly stroke the newly repaired skin. Smiling, it caught Beverly’s hand and brushed it against the skin of its cheek. “Thank you Doctor Crusher.” Sighing with pleasure, Beverly retrieved her hand. “You’re welcome. Tell me, do you have plans for dinner?” With a snort, Parrum frowned. “I was attempting to eat my dinner when it attacked me!” Stifling a chuckle, Beverly gestured to the door. “Well I was off duty four hours ago, I’m only here because of some private research. What say we go to the lounge and have a harmless meal?” Parrum looked deeply into her cerulean eyes, mesmerised by the clarity and colour. “Do you know Doctor…no one on my world has eyes the colour of yours?” Beverly blushed slightly, delighting the being. Its own violet eyes sparkled and a bluish tinge washed over its skin. Breathlessly, Beverly asked, “Is that a yes?” Parrum bowed and slipped off the biobed. “Lead on Doctor.” They walked slowly through the corridors, Beverly pointing out any items of interest. Soon arriving at the lounge, a table was found next to the viewports. Consulting first with Parrum, Beverly ordered drinks and then spent some time considering what they might like to eat. “So…would you like to try for a groll again? I can order it to be served warm instead of hot.” Parrum shook its head and frowned. “I would like to try some more Human food. I have found several fruits that are nice…do you think I could try something a bit more…substantial?” Beverly thought for a while, mentally considering the differences between them. “You could probably consume meat safely and if you can eat fruit, then most vegetables should be ok. How about a steak and vegetables, gravy and bread rolls?” Parrum smiled and shrugged. “Will you have the same?” The Doctor tilted her head. “Well usually I have something light…but I did skip lunch…oh hell why not.” Laughing together, Beverly called the waiter over and ordered. While they waited, Beverly studied her companion. “Parrum, I know from your file that you are eighty seven standard years old. Are you alone? Do you have a partner?” “Yes Doctor I am alone. My species live mostly in solitude, we tend to be completely devoted to our tasks. I have had partners in the past, but nothing long term.” Beverly sipped her drink and sighed. ”I see. You don’t feel loneliness then?” “Oh no, not at all, there are always others about and if one feels the urge to indulge…well I only have to access the computer to find a suitable companion.” Beverly frowned.

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“Indulge?” Parrum flushed mauve and sighed. “I have recently discovered our indulging is comparable to your…orgasms. Because it is not connected with our breeding process, we indulge recreationally. It relieves tension, settles the mind, it is a great stress reliever. It is a pity you Humans cannot employ your orgasms the same way. Beverly laughed softly and sat back, placing her hands on the tabletop. “We do.” Parrum’s face registered shock. ”You do?” “Oh yes. Sex isn’t just for procreation. Most Humans, including bonded mates use it recreationally and one doesn’t even need a partner, you can achieve orgasm all by yourself.” “What!?” “Uh huh. In Humans the orgasm comes about due to physical stimulation, but you don’t have to rely on someone else for that…you can do it yourself. It’s called masturbation and, like you, it relieves stress, anxiety, tension…in fact it leaves you feeling wonderful. I must say, however, an orgasm shared during sex with a loved one does seem, at least to me, to be more…fulfilling…more meaningful. That’s why we sometimes call sex making love.” Parrum sighed and shook its head. “I had no idea. You are such surprising, complex creatures…that word…love…can you explain it? I keep hearing of it and I’ve yet to hear an explanation I understand.” Beverly tucked some loose strands of vibrant red hair behind her ear and frowned in deep thought. Some minutes ticked by, Parrum waiting patiently. Their meal arrived and Beverly stared vacantly at her steaming plate. Its mouth watering, Parrum studied the utensils and frowned, not knowing what to do. The Doctor eventually realised it was waiting for her and snapped back to the present. “Sorry Parrum, that question threw me for a loop.” It sighed. “I regret troubling you so. Forget I asked.” Beverly shook her head vehemently. “No! I’ll answer you, I just need to think about it some more.” Parrum nodded and held up his hands, gesturing to the cutlery. “Doctor…how do I use these?” “Oh…no problem, like this.” She demonstrated and it copied, quickly mastering the knife and fork. The meal was half eaten when Beverly started to talk. “There are many different kinds of love Parrum. The love a parent has for a child, for instance, is different to the love one has for your mate. Then there’s the love you feel for your close friends…you can even love inanimate objects, but no matter what kind of love you experience, it is usually profound…all encompassing. Love can take you to the greatest heights of joy and can also cause the greatest sorrow and pain. To lose a loved one is devastating…sometimes the grief is too much and the loved one left alone dies. Any parent’s ultimate fear is to outlive their children, or to have any harm befall them.

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It has been said that love is the binding force of Humanity, that the capacity to love has lifted us above the level of mere mammals. For myself I have experienced love as a mate, a parent and a friend and I know I’m a better person…more complete for each taste. Parrum do you not feel anything for those you indulge with, or breed with?” Parrum sat back and placed the cutlery beside the plate. “When I feel the need to indulge I advertise the fact on a bulletin board. Like-minded people contact me and I decide with whom I wish to indulge. It is based on mutual experience, tastes and age. As for breeding, a computer database makes a favourable genetic match and provides a list of suitable candidates. The older partner always has the choice. I have felt…comfortable…at times with partners I have habitually met with to indulge, I suppose I have even instigated a relationship of sorts…in fact I can say I cared for them, but I have never experienced what you describe, although we do feel sorrow when someone we’ve known for a long time dies. The loss to the community is hard, such minds are not easily replaced.” Having eaten enough, Beverly pushed her plate away. “Well I can’t imagine what it must be like not to be able to love. I would feel…bereft.” Parrum picked up its fork and absently pierced a piece of meat. It raised its hand but paused shy of its mouth. “Perhaps for us it would be a hindrance Doctor. After all we are completely devoted to our work.” “Maybe.”

In all it took thirteen days before the Captain found himself free to invite Parrum to dinner. During the day he contacted the being and made arrangements to meet it at his quarters at nineteen thirty hours. Parrum had requested the Captain refrain from programming the meal until it arrived, piquing Jean-Luc’s curiosity. At the appointed time, the door chimed and Jean-Luc rose from his chair, placing the open book on the low table. “Come.” Parrum entered and stopped, its mouth open. “Parrum? What is it?” The being’s mouth snapped shut and it gathered itself, shivering as a flush of deep blue suffused its body. “You are not in uniform.” Jean-Luc looked down at his white shirt and tan slacks and smiled. “No. When we’re doing quiet scientific studies such as we are now, I can relax a bit more than usual when off duty. Do you mind?” Parrum shook its head. “No not at all, in fact I find you very…pleasing.” The Captain smiled and gestured to the sofa.

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“So I see.” Parrum chuckled and when it sat, saw that Jean-Luc had placed some fruit juice on the table. Pointing to the sweating glass, the being asked, “What fruit is it?” “Mango and lemon. I checked with Doctor Crusher…she assures me it’s safe for you.” Picking up the glass and sipping, a smile broke across its face. “Thank you it’s lovely. And what are you drinking?” Jean-Luc held up his glass and turned it in the light. “It’s called wine. My family on Earth have produced it for many centuries and I keep a stock on board.” “Wine? May I taste it?” Jean-Luc shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Beverly tells me your digestive system can’t metabolise alcohol. It would make you ill.” “A pity. From what is wine made?” Rising, Jean-Luc went to his bookshelf and selected a large volume. Walking back to his chair, he proffered the book to Parrum. “A fruit called grapes. The juice is extracted and allowed to ferment, the sugar facilitating the production of alcohol. Different ingredients are added to enhance the flavour and the young wine is bottled and allowed to sit, sometimes for a long time as it matures. That book will explain the process, including the differences in red, white and fortified wines. The computer will translate it for you.” Parrum opened the book and looked at some of the photographs. “And alcohol…what is that?” “Ah. Alcohol can be seen as a drug. In small doses it causes happiness and a feeling of well-being. Too much can render the drinker senseless and an overdose can kill. The after effects of imbibing too much alcohol are singularly unpleasant. It’s called a hangover.” Parrum frowned deeply. “Then why use it if it causes so much ill health? Is it not dangerous?” Jean-Luc sighed and sipped his red wine. “When used sensibly it is a very relaxing experience.” Parrum placed the book on the table and regarded its host. “I find Humans appear to be preoccupied with emotions and sensations.” The Captain smiled and lowered the glass. “That’s probably true. We tend to remember that which affects us most and emotions and sensations are what we react to.” The being nodded and looked about Jean-Luc’s quarters. “You have many interesting objects Captain. Has it taken you a long time to collect them?” Jean-Luc sat back and crossed his legs. “Oh yes. There’re bits and pieces from all over the quadrant. I have an interest in archaeology, as you can plainly see.” Parrum stood and walked to the Captain’s desk. It turned and gestured to the pottery shard sitting on the desktop. “May I?” “Of course.”

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With careful attention, Parrum picked up the piece and turned it slowly in its hands. “Ibernian…third dynasty?” Jean-Luc stood quickly and strode to his guest. “Yes! How did you know?” Parrum chuckled, delighted in the Captain’s enthusiasm. “The striations around the base and the sloping design on the rim.” The Captain grinned widely and reached for another piece. “This was from the same dig. I have a feeling it’s from the same artisan.” Parrum gently placed the piece it held on the desk and carefully took the new specimen from the Captain. With fierce concentration, it inspected the piece. “I agree with you Captain. The artwork is consistent.” Jean-Luc activated his computer terminal and entered some commands. He turned the screen so Parrum could see and called up some information. ‘This is all the schematics of the dig. I’ll re-route it to your quarters.” “Thank you Captain Picard.” The Captain looked up and smiled. “Parrum when I’m off duty, please call me Jean-Luc.” Flushing with pleasure, Parrum bowed. “I would be honoured…Jean-Luc.” “So…what would you like to eat?” The two beings walked to the replicator and spent some time ordering several dishes from both their cultures. Delicious aromas wafted through the cabin and they sat expectantly, shaking out their serviettes. As they ate, Jean-Luc observed, “I see your Standard is improving.” Parrum smiled and shrugged. “It is not so difficult. I picked up quite a bit from the delegation and I have been learning from the computer at night in my quarters. Is it true that Earth has many different languages?” Jean-Luc wiped his mouth and nodded. “Yes it is. In fact Standard is not my native tongue. I am from France, my language is French and believe me, it’s nothing like Standard.” Parrum shook its head. “Fascinating. On my world there are dialects…subtle differences between the continents, but we have only one language. Where the separation lies is in our art. There are wide variances between the continents and a discerning eye can pick the difference quickly.” Jean-Luc nodded. “The same can be said of Earth, especially in the past.” “And your species had many confrontations…wars?” “Sadly yes that is true. It took a very long time for us to learn to live peacefully together, but I think our turbulent past has made us a more tolerant, more sensitive people. At least now we understand the value of peace…and the prosperity it brings.” Parrum nodded thoughtfully and they finished their meal in companionable silence. Parrum watched as Jean-Luc cleared the table then rose at his behest and made its way to the sofa. “Would you like to listen to some music?”

19


The tall being shook its head and reached into the folds of its robe. Jean-Luc smiled when he saw the flute. Nodding, he quickly rose and retrieved his instrument. “What shall we play?” Parrum fingered its flute and smiled. “Why don’t you start and I’ll join in if I can?” The Captain said gently, “Computer begin recording.” Taking a large breath, Jean-Luc lifted the flute to his lips and allowed his eyes to drift closed. His fingers found the positions by rote and Batai’s melody filled the cabin. Parrum watched the Captain, entranced as the man drifted in his music. Picking up the tune, the being gently started a counter melody, an alto echo. Jean-Luc’s eyes snapped open but he didn’t stop, mesmerised as the being’s lithe body swayed sensuously. Together they played, the music pure and sweet. When Jean-Luc brought it to an end they both sighed deeply. “That was beautiful Jean-Luc. Is it from Earth?” “No. It’s from Kataan.” Sadness crossed his eyes and Parrum yearned to comfort him. Jean-Luc gathered himself and lifted his head. “And now you Parrum. Play something for me and I will try to join you.” Picking a lively folk melody from its planet, Parrum launched into its music. Jean-Luc waited only a few minutes before he joined in, the happy tune bringing a smile to their faces. They laughed when it finished. “Well that got the blood pumping! More Parrum!” For three hours they played, sharing music and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Parrum’s yawn took them both by surprise. “I’m sorry Jean-Luc. It appears my body is telling me to rest.” The being stood and watched appreciatively as Jean-Luc stood and stretched. “Me too, but before you go, let me give you access to some music.” He entered some commands into the computer and smiled when he turned to his guest. “Just ask the computer to play Picard selection number five.” “Thank you Jean-Luc.” The Captain thought it would turn to leave. He was stunned when Parrum took him in its arms and hugged him. His own arms encircled the being reflexively, but he felt a surge of warmth and pleasure nonetheless. Parrum released him and stood back, smiling tenderly down at him, its body flushing deep blue. “Good night Jean-Luc…and thank you.” Jean-Luc returned the smile, also with tenderness. “Good night Parrum. I have enjoyed our evening together.” He stood staring at the closed doors for some minutes after Parrum left.

20


Beverly took the time to carefully butter her croissant; it was part of the ritual. Pull the pastry apart and select a piece then butter it properly before applying the chosen preserve perfectly on top. She was chewing appreciatively when Jean-Luc spoke. “I have something for you.” Eyebrows raised, she watched in amusement as the enigmatic man rose and went to his desk. He quickly returned and held out a closed hand. She reached for it and gently prised his fingers open, frowning when all she found was an isolinear chip. “What’s this?” He regained his seat and sipped his coffee, enjoying the game. “You asked me to record anything Parrum and I played.” Beverly gasped, then grinned delightedly, her eyes falling to the chip. “And this is it?” “Uh huh.” Closing her fingers around the chip, she closed her eyes briefly. “How long…how much is there?” By now grinning widely, Jean-Luc’s eyes danced. “Oh about three hours…maybe a bit more.” The Doctor giggled and picked up her coffee. “Three hours! Jean-Luc that’s wonderful. Has anyone else heard it?” Shaking his head, the Captain finished his coffee and took his time re-filling his and Beverly’s cup. “No, no one has heard it, in fact I haven’t even given Parrum a copy. I intend to drop by its quarters on my way to the Bridge to give it a copy.” Beverly blew on her drink before sipping gingerly. “I had a very interesting conversation with Parrum the other day. It wanted to know more about Human sexuality. Apparently its species uses telepathic bonding to share orgasms. It was unaware that we don’t require a partner…it had no idea masturbation was possible.” Jean-Luc pursed his lips, frowning slightly. “Must have come as quite a surprise.” ”Indeed. I gave it some information and directed it to the Human sexuality files on the computer. No doubt there will be more questions.” Jean-Luc chuckled and drew a cheeky glare from his companion when he said, “Well you’re the one to ask.” He rose from his seat and looked down at his best friend. “Are you finished?” Beverly wiped her mouth and stood, nodding. “Yep. Time to start a new day.” Jean-Luc smiled and walked to the desk, but as he passed the Doctor she gently gripped his elbow and stopped him. “Have I ever told you how much I enjoy our breakfasts together?” Mutely he shook his head and stood, mesmerised as she leaned close. “Well I do.” She kissed him. Not chastely on the cheek, or playfully on his brow, but sensuously on his lips. Shocked, he stiffened, his eyes wide. She ignored his reaction and prolonged the

21


kiss, persevering until he responded. His hands crept up to her shoulders and he relaxed, his eyes drifting closed as he opened his mouth and let her softly questing tongue in. When she broke the kiss he stood motionless, his eyes still closed. Beverly tenderly feathered her fingers over his lips, causing him to open his eyes and gaze into Beverly’s. In a breathless whisper he asked, “Why?” Beverly smiled lopsidedly and flushed. “Because I’ve recently discovered I love you…more than I ever realised.” “Oh.” Beverly giggled and brushed his shoulders with her hands. “Is that all you have to say?” “No.” “Well?” In reply he took her in his arms and kissed her, tenderly and languidly. When he tapered the kiss she sighed and rested her forehead on his. “Oh.” He smiled softly and tilted her head up with his fingers. “I have loved you for so long Beverly…you have made me a very happy man.” Beverly smiled and sighed again. “I’m glad. Have dinner with me?” He rubbed his large hands up and down her back, making her warm. “Tonight?” “Uh huh.” He frowned and she could see him thinking hard. “I’ll have to let you know.” She kissed the tip of his nose and stepped out of his embrace. “OK give me a call.” He nodded and watched as she went to the door, curious when she paused. She turned slowly and he sighed. “Have a good day.” He nodded, the smile widening. “I will…you too.” After she’d gone he went to his desk and picked up the chip for Parrum. Tugging down his jacket he left, his step light.

Parrum and Data were sitting at the desk, pouring over the computer. “So Mr.Data, Humans can form relationships…sexual relationships, with members of their own gender?” The android nodded sagely. “Indeed. It is called Homosexuality.”

22


Parrum frowned deeply and rubbed its forehead. “But such a union could not produce offspring. What is the point?” Data pulled down the corners of his mouth and raised his eyebrows. “I do not think such relationships are based on the need to reproduce.” Parrum stood and wandered around its quarters. “What then? Why would two people of the same gender form a relationship that included sex?” Data watched the being prowling and formed his answer. “Sex can be used as a way of expressing many things, including love.” Parrum stopped his pacing and faced the android. “Love? Why is it that love can be expressed in so many ways?” Data tilted his head and gave a slight shrug. “Love is a very complex emotion, it has many ways of manifesting itself. Sex is only one way, but with couples, either homosexual or heterosexual, it is an accepted form of expression. Indeed, Human sexuality can be expressed in such varied ways…have you read about fetishes or multiple partners in your studies?” The tall being nodded absently and was about to ask another question when the door chimed. “Come in.” The doors whispered open and the Captain stepped in. On seeing his second officer, he stopped and lifted his head. “My apologies Parrum, I didn’t know you had a visitor.” With a warm smile, Parrum approached the Captain and gestured for him to enter. “Not at all Captain, Mr.Data is helping me with my studies of Humans. Not only can he help me with the computer data banks, but who better to ask my questions than someone who is also striving to learn about Humanity?” Jean-Luc smiled and nodded. “You have made a wise choice Parrum. Mr.Data’s curiosity concerning the Human condition is boundless.” Parrum looked at the Captain with open affection and was pleased when it felt a similar emotion emanating from the taciturn man. Before it could react to that, Jean-Luc spoke. “Well I’ll not keep you. I made a recording of our musical efforts Parrum and I thought perhaps you might like a copy.” He held out his hand and Parrum stepped closer to receive the chip. It held it in its fingers and smiled as it felt the flush of pleasure surge through its body. Jean-Luc smiled and waited while Parrum settled. “Thank you Captain Picard I will listen to this and remember how much I enjoyed the evening spent with you creating it.” Jean-Luc nodded and sighed. “I’m glad. Well I must be getting to the Bridge.” Data stood and nodded to his Captain. “I will join you shortly Sir.” “Very good Mr.Data.” He left and Data turned to the alien. “I noticed your skin exhibited a momentary change of colour. I did not know you could do that. What is the purpose of such a function?”

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Parrum smiled and bowed its head. “It is another way we have to show strong emotion. Being telepaths it’s not entirely necessary, but it has become an important part of our communication system.” Data tilted his head and frowned. “Intriguing. What emotion were you displaying?” “Pleasure.” “Hmm. The Captain also seemed to be happy. If I may ask, when did he make the recording?” “Last night. We had dinner together and then we played our instruments, sharing many tunes from our home planets and far away. Captain Picard is an accomplished musician. He has written many beautiful, complex pieces…have you not heard him play?” Data shrugged. “Captain Picard is a very private individual. He only permits what he wants to be divulged about himself to his command staff. As a Captain I know him well. As a man I know little of him.” Parrum was surprised, the revelation being at odds with the person he was beginning to know. “Really Mr.Data? I’ve found him…warm and very forthcoming.” Data took some steps towards the door. “Then you are fortunate indeed. Of all the crew the only one I would say was close to the Captain would be Doctor Crusher. They have known each other many years and have a shared history. The Doctor’s husband served with the Captain and died under his command.” Parrum gaped and shook its head. “I had no idea, how interesting. How do Humans deal with situations like that?” Data shook his head. “I am afraid that will have to be addressed at another time, I must report for duty.” “Oh. Very well, thank you Mr.Data our exploration has been very satisfying.” The android nodded and left. Parrum sighed and turned to the viewports, its mind forming the questions it would ask Beverly.

Arriving on the Bridge, Jean-Luc took the time to make his usual checks and receive the status report from Will before retiring to his Ready Room. He checked his schedule and scowled with displeasure when he discovered he would be unable to have dinner with Beverly. Sighing he sat back and contemplated the monitor, glowing steadily on the desk. “Picard to Crusher.” “Crusher here.” Jean-Luc looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry Beverly, but I’ll be tied up for several hours tonight. Dinner with you will have to wait.”

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There was a pause, then Beverly replied, “That’s ok Jean-Luc, maybe tomorrow?” He smiled softly and answered, “I would be delighted.” He could clearly hear the smile in her warm voice. “It’s a date then.” Grinning widely Jean-Luc nodded. “Shall I bring some wine?” “Uh huh. And Jean-Luc?” “Hmm?” “Don’t work too hard tonight. If I find out you haven’t gotten enough rest I’ll be snapping at your heels.” He opened his eyes and sighed. “Understood Doctor. Picard out.” He was about to begin work, picking up a PADD, when he was hailed. “Parrum to Captain Picard.” “Picard here.” “I hope I’m not disturbing you Captain.” Jean-Luc frowned; slightly surprised the alien would contact him during duty hours. “Not at all. How can I help you?” “I was wondering if we could have the midday meal together? There are some things I would like to discuss with you.” The Captain set the PADD down and picked up his crystal shard, absently turning it in his hands. “I usually take a working lunch here in my Ready Room. Is it important?” “It concerns Doctor Crusher’s deceased husband.” The frown deepened as Jean-Luc’s curiosity rose. “I see. Well I suppose I can spare a half an hour. Would the forward lounge be acceptable? At say…twelve thirty hours?” “Yes Captain that will be fine, thank you.” Parrum severed the connection and Jean-Luc sat in deep thought for several minutes before resuming his work.

Beverly was in her office when Parrum arrived at the door. With a gentle knock it gained her attention and she waved it to a seat in front of her desk. “Parrum…what can I do for you?” The tall being arranged its robe and settled comfortably. “I had an intriguing conversation with Mr.Data this morning. He told me that your husband served under Captain Picard and that he died under the Captain’s command.” Beverly’s eyes hardened and she sat straighter in her chair. “That is so.”

25


“Doctor how did you cope with that? From what I have learned about bonded mates it must have been devastating for you, yet you maintain a close relationship with the Captain despite the unpleasant circumstances. You serve on the same ship under his command. Do you not feel anger towards him?” Beverly bowed her head briefly and sighed. “It’s very complicated Parrum. Captain Picard was our friend; in fact he was my husband’s best friend. Dying under his command didn’t change that…in some ways it made our friendship stronger. We all know that being in Starfleet can be a dangerous profession; I never blamed Captain Picard for what happened…indeed it was not his fault. The fact the he risked his own life to retrieve my husband’s body showed me how much he cared for both of us.” Parrum rested its arms on the desk and sat forward. “And now Doctor? It is obvious you care for the Captain…but you hold no…what is the word? Grudges?” Beverly smiled softly and tilted her head. “No none. You have to remember it happened a very long time ago and, as with all things, time tends to heal…even broken hearts. I will always love my husband, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love another.” Parrum’s eyebrows rose, it’s face a study of confusion. “Love does not cease with the death of a partner?” Beverly shook her head and sighed wistfully. “No. Love…true love, lasts a lifetime. You can consider yourself very lucky if you find love like that more than once.” The being flushed mauve and sighed. It saw Beverly’s look of curiosity and offered, “It is jealousy Doctor. I envy you.” Beverly sat forward and clasped her hands on the desktop. “Parrum I don’t believe you’re incapable of love. From what you’ve told me about your society…the way your people sometimes have lasting relationships with each other…it seems to me that perhaps you’ve been avoiding your feelings.” The older being looked speculatively at the Doctor. “And how would I go about finding love?” Shrugging Beverly pursed her lips. “I’m not sure exactly. Is there anyone on the ship you’re interested in? Maybe you could try initiating a relationship…one based on mutual attraction and shared interests?” The wry smile that crossed its face made Beverly wonder what was going on in its mind. “That is a fascinating proposal Doctor. I will give it some thought.” It rose and bowed before leaving. Beverly watched as it crossed the main room and exited Sickbay through the main doors.

Jean-Luc entered the forward lounge and scanned the room, spying his guest at a table near the viewport. Ignoring the sudden hush and surreptitious stares of the junior

26


officers, he strode purposefully across the room until he was standing beside the russet being. Keeping his deep voice soft, he said, “Parrum?” The alien jumped slightly and a pinkish blush swept across its skin. “Oh Captain Picard! I beg your indulgence, I was contemplating the stars…they’re so beautiful at warp.” Taking his seat, Jean-Luc smiled warmly. “Yes they are. Now that we’ve finished our survey of the gaseous cloud, we are en route to Starbase Four Tango to pick up a contingent of miners for delivery to a distant planet. We will be at warp for some days, you will have ample time to star gaze.” Parrum smiled warmly and beckoned to the waiter. After both people had placed their orders, Jean-Luc caught Parrum’s eyes. “You said you have something to discuss with me? Something concerning Doctor Crusher’s late husband?” Parrum studied its hands with serious deliberation. “Captain you know I am telepathic?” “Yes.” “Then you must also know that I can pick up most of your thoughts and feelings.” Jean-Luc frowned, his discomfort obvious. “It was my understanding that your telepathy was muted when applied to Humans.” Nodding slowly, Parrum tried to ease his annoyed companion. “That is so Captain, but I still…hear…you.” Jean-Luc’s silence made Parrum wince. “Please Captain I mean no offence. I would never deliberately pry.” Schooling his features into his command visage, Jean-Luc quelled his anger. “Why have you mentioned this?” Sighing, Parrum shook its head. “Because I am confused.” “Confused? About what?” Looking around to assure their privacy, Parrum lowered its voice. “Captain I know how you and Doctor Crusher feel about each other.” Jean-Luc stiffened in his chair, outrage just under the surface. “I fail to see what business that is of yours. What do you...?” Holding up its hand, Parrum silenced the vexed man. “Captain please. It’s just that I don’t understand how you can feel so strongly for the mate of a person who died under your command. How is this possible?” Taking a calming breath, the Captain steadied his racing mind. “Parrum I am not accustomed to talking about my private life. Perhaps you could…” “Doctor Crusher didn’t mind…she was very informative.” His eyebrows shot up, a look of startled disbelief on his face. “You have discussed this with her?” Parrum sensed the shock and dismay emanating from the man sat before it. “Yes Captain. She explained how she was able to love another, despite the circumstances, but is it the same for you? Can you put the burden of his death aside and love her unencumbered? From what I understand about love, it is all encompassing. Does it dampen your mind…make it possible to forget past sorrows?”

27


By now totally bemused and flabbergasted, Jean-Luc stood and stared angrily down at his guest. Parrum, feeling the angst, looked up at the Captain and said softly, “I have offended you Captain, I am sorry. I will not speak of this again.” Nodding curtly, the Captain strode from the lounge, leaving a forlorn Parrum watching his departure.

Later the next evening, Jean-Luc stood outside Beverly’s quarters still somewhat annoyed about his meeting with Parrum. He stabbed the door announcer and waited impatiently for the Doctor to admit him. The door whispered open and Beverly smiled, seeing Jean-Luc dressed handsomely in civilian clothes. “Come in Jean-Luc, I’ve programmed dinner.” He stepped into the living area and tried to quell his irritation. Offering the bottle of his family’s wine, his took a deep breath and summoned a smile. “How has your day been?” Busying herself with opening the wine, Beverly hadn’t picked up on his mood. “Oh you know the usual…I saw Lieutenant Drann, she’s due in ten days. God she’s huge, carrying twins. Her mate is a bundle of nerves,” she chuckled, “I think I’ll be sedating him when the time comes.” Still with the smile plastered on his face, Jean-Luc nodded and took a seat on the sofa. Beverly finally noticed his reticence and came over, carrying the bottle and two glasses. She sat beside him, poured some wine for them both and picked up her glass. “What shall we drink to? Jean-Luc frowned and shrugged his shoulders, his silence worrying the Doctor. “Jean-Luc? What is it?” He placed his glass on the low table and sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. “Beverly did you have a conversation with Parrum about Jack?” Immediately realizing what was wrong, she grimaced. “Parrum came to see you about it?” The Captain’s frown deepened and he shook his head. “It most certainly did! Beverly how could you be so…blasé about it? Dammit it told me it knew how we felt about each other and asked me how it was possible that I could love you after having your husband die under my command.” Beverly slowly placed her glass next to his and took his hands in hers. “Jean-Luc it all happened so long ago. I’ve found, over the years it doesn’t hurt so much to talk about it…and Parrum really wanted to know. It said it was…” “Confused, I know. Still…” Reaching up, Beverly caressed his face. “Does it matter Jean-Luc? It happened and we’ve managed to put it behind us. If we’re to move forward in our relationship we have to accept that from time to time, this will come up. How we deal with it…together…will define how we see each other. I don’t hold you responsible…do you?” He was silent for a while, Beverly noting his eyes clouding as his thoughts went back so many years. Eventually he sighed and turned to face her.

28


“I did…for a very long time, but I have come to accept that it was a terrible accident, one I couldn’t have avoided. My love for you, as you know, was a cause of much shame and anguish for me for a long time, but the knowledge that you love me has erased those feelings and filled me with joy and contentment. No matter what shape our relationship takes, know that I will cherish every second I spend with you, now and for ever.” Smiling softly, Beverly leaned forward and met him in a tender kiss. Holding his head in her hands, she deepened the kiss and sighed when his tongue slipped into her mouth. His hands wound around her chest pulling her closer and she felt the familiar heat of arousal. He sensed the kiss was becoming too passionate and tapered off, leaving her mouth and gently kissing her face. She sighed and opened her eyes, catching the look of desire deep within his dark hazel depths. With their foreheads touching, Beverly whispered, “I love you Jean-Luc.” To which he replied, “And I you my love.” After a moment of companionable silence, Beverly reached for her glass, gesturing for Jean-Luc to do the same. “So…the toast?” He tilted his head and graced her with a warm smile she knew he reserved for her only. “To love. May you always be by my side.” She nodded and their glasses clinked. They sipped the red and Beverly smiled, her eyebrows rising. “This is delicious…is it a new blend?” Swallowing with deep satisfaction, Jean-Luc grinned. “Yes. Marie has employed a new wine master and this is his sauvignon blend. Mellow isn’t it?” Taking another deep draught, Jean-Luc was enthralled to watch the tip of her tongue appear to lick her lips. “Mmm. How many bottles of this do you have?” Chuckling, Jean-Luc held his glass up to the light and slowly turned it. “A whole case and the opportunity to get plenty more should I so desire.” Laughing gaily, Beverly offered her glass for a refill. “I knew there was a reason I fell for you.” They finished the bottle then made their way to the dining table where Beverly set their meal. Conversation was amiable while they ate, a light pasta dish followed by lemon meringue pie. Beverly had been thinking about their previous conversation and decided to tackle him about it. “Jean-Luc how did you handle Parrum’s queries?” With the coffee cup half way to his mouth, he stilled and frowned. “I wasn’t very happy, nor was I very forthcoming.” “I see. Did you yell at it?” He shook his head and placed the cup in its saucer. “No, although I did end our meeting rather abruptly. Parrum apologised and I left.” Beverly sipped her coffee before asking, “And you haven’t had any contact since?” Jean-Luc shook his head, his silence adequately showing his discomfort.

29


Beverly knew how he felt, but also knew Parrum was innocent of any perceived infraction. “Don’t you think you owe it an explanation? It was confused before…imagine how it feels now?” Jean-Luc snorted and frowned, about to remonstrate with his best friend. But then he gave the suggestion some thought and realised Beverly was right. With an expansive sigh, he gave her a rueful grin. “You’re right. I suppose I could swallow my pride and answer its questions…if only to set the record straight. By the way Beverly, who told it about Jack in the first place?” Beverly lowered her head, but not before he saw the grin. “Data.” Jean-Luc was reaching for the coffee pot and froze at the pronouncement. “Data! How the hell did he come to tell Parrum about Jack?” Beverly shrugged. “I’ve no idea.” Pouring the coffee, Jean-Luc huffed. “Well I’ll intend to find out! What was he thinking, divulging private information to an outsider?” Beverly picked up her cup and blew softly on the contents. “Oh calm down Jean-Luc, you know Data. If he were asked a question he would answer it.” Jean-Luc protested, “But Beverly it’s our private business, he should have known better.” “Oh I think he knows that Jean-Luc, but sometimes his need to provide an answer to an enquiry overshadows his need for circumspection. I’m sure he meant no harm.” Savouring his beverage, Jean-Luc closed his eyes momentarily. “Perhaps, but I will be asking him what the circumstances were. “And so you should, but don’t be too harsh.” He smiled tenderly at his companion, all angst evaporating. “I won’t.” They moved to the sofa and sat quietly watching the stars, their hands entwined. The page was unexpected and unwelcome. “Bridge to Captain Picard.” Jean-Luc closed his eyes in exasperation. “Picard here.” “Sir there is an incoming transmission from Admiral Davies, priority one.” He sat up with a sharp intake of breath. “Understood. Re-route it to my quarters, I will be there shortly. Picard out.” The officers stood and Beverly was about to wish him goodnight when he suddenly took her in his arms and kissed her thoroughly. He left abruptly, turning his back and striding through the doors, leaving Beverly stunned, a sly smile on her face. “I love you too Jean-Luc.”

30


The next morning the Captain called Data to the ready room. Once the android was seated, Jean-Luc cleared his throat. “Mr.Data I have requested your presence to discuss with you the appropriate dissemination of personal information, in particular personal information about myself and Doctor Crusher.” Data cocked his head and frowned. “I was not aware such information was classified Captain.” Sighing, Jean-Luc rubbed a hand over his bald head. “It’s not classified Data…it’s simply very personal and I would’ve hoped you would realise it was not for public consumption.” Data’s golden eyes slipped from the Captain’s to stare at his hands, clasped on the desktop. “Captain you are referring to what I told Parrum about the death of Jack Crusher?” Jean-Luc nodded in silence. “I see.” Jean-Luc relaxed slightly and leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. “I’m curious Data…how did it come up? Why did you tell it?” With his mouth turned down at the corners, Data shrugged. “We were discussing what a private man you are and I stated that of all the crew the one who knew you best was Doctor Crusher. I then informed it of your long history with her and mentioned the death of Commander Crusher by way of illustrating how intricate the friendship was.” Jean-Luc sighed and closed his eyes momentarily. Data frowned. “I am sorry Captain, it was not my intention to cause any upset.” Jean-Luc fixed his eyes on his second in command and was again amazed at how transparent he was. “I will admit I was somewhat upset Data, but that has passed. With Doctor Crusher’s help, I realised you would not deliberately divulge private information without a sound reason. All I ask is that in future, please be a little more discerning about what you tell people. All right?” Hearing the gentle dismissal, Data stood and nodded to his Captain. “Of course Sir. Again my apologies.” Jean-Luc nodded and sighed as the door closed. If only all his problems were so easily remedied.

Two days later, at shift’s end, Jean-Luc strode purposefully through the corridors of the great ship, intent on his mission. Coming to the assigned guest quarters, he offered a small prayer that the occupant be clothed, then pressed the chime. He had

31


only seconds to wait before the doors opened. Parrum took an involuntary step back, its face registering surprise. “Captain Picard!” With a warm smile firmly in place, Jean-Luc kept his deep voice friendly. “Good evening Parrum, I hope I’m not intruding?” Gathering its wits, the alien straightened. “Not at all. Please, come in.” The Captain entered and followed Parrum to the sofa where they both sat. “Can I get you a refreshment?” Jean-Luc shook his head and schooled his features into friendly concern. “Parrum I have come to you tonight to apologise for my brusque manner the last time we spoke. Unfortunately you caught me off guard and I reacted poorly. I’m sorry.” With a relieved sigh, the being smiled. “I am sorry too Jean-Luc, although in all honesty I don’t know what I did to make you so angry.” The Captain bowed his head momentarily and ordered his thoughts. “It was the subject matter Parrum. Recalling such a sad event always brings back feelings I’d rather not experience. Added to that your perception of my feelings towards Doctor Crusher evoked in me an angry response. You see I hold that information to be very private and precious and not for public consumption or discussion.” Pinkish hues flushed across its skin, the soft hair of its arms also rising. “Oh I am so sorry Jean-Luc I had no idea.” Jean-Luc nodded and sighed. “To answer your questions Parrum, it was very difficult for me to feel as I do for the Doctor, you see I have felt that way for a very long time. It took a long time for me to reconcile my feelings with the fact that her husband was my best friend…and that he died under my command.” Parrum shifted in its seat, its eyes glittering sharply. “She did not know?” The Captain shook his head. “No. She did find out eventually…recently in fact, but decided not to alter the platonic relationship we had at that time.” “And now?” With a wry grin, Jean-Luc struggled to keep his embarrassment at bay. “I am happy to say my feelings are returned in full. We love each other and are enthusiastic to see where our relationship takes us.” Parrum stood and went to the replicator, returning with two glasses of orange juice. Absently setting the tumblers on the table, the being was obviously lost in thought. “So how will this change your relationship with her?” Rubbing one hand over his face, Jean-Luc took a deep breath. “We will, I hope become intimate and spend more time together. We may even come to share quarters.” “Become intimate?” Furiously trying to stop the blush he felt rising, Jean-Luc muttered, “Have sex.” “Oh. Will you create offspring?”

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Gritting his teeth, the Captain ground out, “I don’t know. The Doctor already has a child, she may not want another.” “And what about you?” Sitting up, he rubbed his hands on his thighs. “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought.” Parrum took a drink of its juice and cocked its head. “Will you…marry?” Angry now, Jean-Luc stood, then reigned in his temper and sat down again. “I don’t know that either. It depends on how the Doctor feels about such things.” Parrum frowned. “You are angry again.” Jean-Luc closed his eyes and took a steadying breath. Calmer, he opened his eyes and gave a rueful look. “I’m sorry Parrum, I’m simply not used to discussing such things…with anybody.” The being slowly nodded its head and smiled. “I understand Jean-Luc and I appreciate your candour. With every day I am aboard this ship, I find Humans to be ever more complex. I do not know how you cope with such convoluted emotions.” The Captain was surprised. “But surely Parrum you must have encountered an entanglement of emotion?” The alien sighed and shrugged. “It has been recently pointed out to me that I may have been avoiding my emotions. That might be true, but if it means avoiding the heartache you have endured, then I am pleased to be so.” Jean-Luc shook his head, a frown marring his handsome face. “If that is true, then you are doing yourself a great disservice! Are you capable of love?” “So I am told.” “The embrace it! I can’t speak for your species Parrum, but love is the defining emotion of our being. The capacity to love…and to be loved is what makes us who we are.” Parrum clasped its hands on its lap and sighed. “Your words are remarkably similar to what I have already been told. I have been encouraged to find love…do you agree?” “Yes. Definitely.” With a broad smile, Parrum sat back and spread its arms along the sofa, a blue flush colouring its skin. “Then I will take your advice Jean-Luc.” His own smile splitting his face, the Captain rose. “Then I will leave you now, but before I go…who gave you the advice?” With a gentle laugh, Parrum stood and clasped Jean-Luc’s shoulder. Leaning down to the Captain it whispered, “Doctor Crusher.” Jean-Luc’s laughter hung in the room long after he was gone.

33


Deanna was stretching, the soft music she’d chosen wafting through the simulated studio as she awaited her companion. It was unusual for Beverly to be late; in fact it was usually Deanna that was tardy. The large Holodeck doors trundled open and a flustered Doctor rushed in, throwing her towel into a corner and immediately beginning her stretches. Deanna let several minutes pass until she offered, “What kept you?” Her flushed skin only partly due to her haste, Beverly blushed deeper and Deanna was exposed to the overt sense of sexual arousal from her friend. “Beverly!” The red head stood and arched her back, placing her hands in the small of her spine and grimacing. “Breakfast got a little…heated…this morning.” Shocked into motionlessness Deanna’s jaw dropped. “You mean your breakfast with the Captain?” With a sly sidelong glance, Beverly couldn’t suppress a wide grin. “Uh huh. What started out as a good bye kiss became…quite passionate, in fact if I hadn’t reminded him we would be late for duty…” Stepping up to the taller woman and grabbing her arm, Deanna gasped. “Since when did this happen…and why didn’t you tell me?” Standing up straight, Beverly pulled her ponytail tighter and grinned down at her friend. “It’s all very recent…and I’m telling you now.” Deanna took a step back and covered her grin with her hand. “Oh God Beverly this is wonderful news! When did you finally realise? How did he take it? Have you…you know...yet?” Holding up her hand and counting on her fingers, Beverly chuckled, “First…it’s been a gradual thing, only really settling on me recently. Second…he was ecstatic…very happy. He told me he’s filled with joy and contentment. And lastly…no not yet, although this morning we came very close.” “Wow! I wonder what he’s like?” Shock registered on Beverly’s face. “Deanna!” Giggling, Deanna took Beverly’s arm and dragged her down onto the mat. “Oh come on Beverly don’t tell me you haven’t wondered. I bet most of the women on this ship…and some of the men have speculated what he would be like in bed. He’s so restrained, so controlled; yet he’s possessed with so much passion. God it could be like unplugging a volcano!” Beverly stared into the liquid black depths of her friend’s eyes and shivered. Deanna’s assessment mirrored her own and she flushed with desire at the thought. The Betazoid clearly sensed it and giggled again, poking Beverly in the shoulder. “Come on, enough daydreaming, we have a workout to do.”

34


Parrum felt nervous as he approached Beverly’s quarters late one evening. Having accessed the computer on the appropriate gift for initiating a relationship, it clutched the bouquet of long stemmed red roses in a clammy hand and swallowed yet again. It stood outside her door and noted the lack of saliva in its mouth, but swallowed again nonetheless. Both parties were shocked when the door suddenly opened. “Parrum.” “Doctor Crusher.” There followed an awkward silence before Beverly found her tongue. “I was just on my way out. Can I help you?” The tall alien looked at the flowers, then at Beverly, unable to speak. Beverly took in the scene and gently took its arm and guided it into her quarters. “Look I’ll be back in a few minutes…I just have to pop into Sickbay for a bit. You wait here and I’ll be back soon. OK?” Nodding dumbly, Parrum sat down and stared fixedly at its feet, not looking up until the doors closed. “Gods what a fool I am! I acted like a being in the first cycle.” It stood and walked to the door, only hesitating when it thought of Beverly’s advice. It had taken her words, and those of Jean-Luc to heart, but in doing so had encountered a problem. The only people it wished to form a relationship with were the same two officers. It had been on board twenty-three days and, with the stress of being away from home and the complexities of the study it was undertaking, it felt an overwhelming need to indulge. Careful study of Human brain patterns had encouraged the alien, making it believe it was possible to share the experience with a Human. In any event, it needed a partner…indulging was not something it could do alone. Disheartened at its fumbling attempts with Beverly, it exited her quarters and made its way to Jean-Luc’s. With more confidence, although driven by desperate need, it pressed the chime and waited, hearts pounding. The call was welcome. “Come.” Upon entering, Parrum noticed the subdued lighting and saw the Captain sitting in his favourite chair, dressed in civilian clothing, his flute in his hands. The two beings looked at each other, Jean-Luc’s confusion plain as he noted the flowers. Finding its voice, it said softly, “I have come at an inopportune time, my apologies.” It turned to leave but Jean-Luc’s soft voice stopped it. “No Parrum, it’s all right. I was just composing a new piece, would you like to hear it?” Relieved disbelief showed clearly. Parrum walked slowly to the sofa and sat, its violet eyes darkening. “I would be delighted Jean-Luc, thank you.” The Captain ignored the flowers, which Parrum placed beside it. He requested the computer to play back his etude and Parrum flushed with pleasure as it listened. As the last notes lulled into silence, both beings sighed. With a warm smile gracing its face,

35


Parrum picked up the flowers and presented them to the Captain. Confused, Jean-Luc took them, but smiled nonetheless. “Parrum?” “They are for you Jean-Luc.” Now completely nonplussed, Jean-Luc shook his head. “Thank you…but why?” Flushing again, Parrum shifted in its seat. “I have accessed the appropriate protocols for initiating a relationship. Flowers, particularly those flowers were recommended.” With his penny slowly dropping, Jean-Luc sat up straighter. “I see…and you chose me?” “Yes. I find myself very attracted to you.” With his free hand, Jean-Luc scratched his cheek, trying valiantly to find an appropriate response. “Well Parrum…I’m flattered of course…I, ah…” Parrum flushed deeper blue. “You are embarrassed.” “No! Yes! Look it’s just that I’m already in a relationship.” The russet being frowned. “You cannot have more than one partner? I thought it was possible?” With an exasperated sigh, Jean-Luc stood and took the flowers to his desk, using the time to organize his thoughts. “It is possible, but it comes down to personal choice. Some Humans like multiple partners…I do not.” The alien looked crestfallen. “Oh. I had hoped…I have something I wish to share with you, something I am in great need of.” Immediately concerned, Jean-Luc crossed the room and sat opposite his guest. “What is it?” With a rueful chuckle to cover its embarrassment, Parrum said, “I need to indulge…and soon.” Curious now, Jean-Luc sat on the edge of his chair. “Indulge? In what?” “It is what you would call an orgasm. We do it telepathically and my studies indicate Humans could participate. I assure you it would not harm you.” Somewhat taken aback, Jean-Luc stifled a gasp. “And what happens if you don’t…indulge?” Parrum sighed and shrugged. “I will have trouble sleeping and my appetite will decrease incrementally until my health begins to suffer. For this reason we usually travel in pairs as we cannot perform this… need on our own.” “Then why did you come aboard on your own?” Parrum sighed and spread its hands. “I am an aged being Jean-Luc. I considered myself more schooled, less likely to require it, but the stress and rigours of my absence from home have exacerbated my need. Will you help me?”

36


Not knowing quite what to do, Jean-Luc asked another question. “What would I have to do?” Smiling slightly, the tall alien answered, “Very little. We would hold each other’s head and I would ask you to concentrate on what you feel. That is all.” “And that would be sufficient? We would remain…fully clothed?” “If you so wish.” Silence descended as Jean-Luc thought about the proposal. He wanted to help his new friend…but. Coming to a decision, Jean-Luc looked deeply into Parrum’s eyes. “Very well.” Parrum made room for the Captain on the sofa and surprised the man by lying down and gesturing for Jean-Luc to do the same. With some reluctance, Jean-Luc lay beside the alien and awaited what was to happen. With gentle movements, Parrum placed his long hands either side of the Captain’s head and waited while Jean-Luc did the same. Then, with eyes closed Parrum initiated the link, touching its forehead to his. The first thing Jean-Luc felt was warmth spreading throughout his body. His mind opened and he sensed Parrum’s presence as a note of almost musical quality, resounding and swelling in his brain. The softly escalating sensations grew over his body and he registered his growing erection. Shifting slightly to get more comfortable, he felt Parrum deepen the connection and groaned as the sensations became overtly sexual. It was as if he were being caressed by unseen hands, lips and tongues feathering over his most sensitive areas and his arousal heightened. He suddenly realised he could feel Parrum’s reactions. As he groaned and writhed, he felt his partner shudder with sensation and clearly sensed the caress that triggered it. Incredulous, Jean-Luc gasped as his arousal reached further heights. Although surprised at how quickly his companion was reaching his limit, Parrum increased the depth of the connection and used its considerable mental power to prevent Jean-Luc from climaxing. By now covered in sweat and every muscle stiff with effort, Jean-Luc was carried even higher in his arousal. Never before had he been so sexually tense. If he were capable of speech he would’ve begged for release. His erection, painfully swollen, throbbed and wept fluid and his testicles hardened and lifted snug against his body. All was in readiness for release but Parrum waited. Colours undulated across its skin and it began to pant, the strain of controlling them both beginning to show. Suddenly it reached its zenith and let go its constraints. Jean-Luc cried out inarticulately and spasmed as his orgasm swept through his body, but as relieved as he was, he was unprepared for the sensation of feeling Parrum’s release. He convulsed and jerked as the alien’s climax swept him away into oblivion.

He became aware of a rushing sound in his ears. As it cleared he heard two things… the sound of a working tricorder and Beverly’s worried voice. “He’s regaining consciousness.”

37


Jean-Luc cracked open his eyes and concentrated on focussing. Next he tried his roughened voice. “What happened?” He noted Beverly’s voice had gone from worried to annoyed. “You tell me! What the hell did you think you were doing?” Struggling to sit up, he grimaced at the cold wet state he found himself in. The copious sweat had drenched him and he’d come in his pants. Not a comfortable way to be. Parrum stood to one side looking both embarrassed and worried. Its voice carried its concern. “I’m so sorry Jean-Luc…I pushed you too far…you were not prepared…” The Captain held up a shaking hand and addressed the Doctor. “Am I all right?” Beverly snorted and continued to scan him. “You mean apart from nearly blowing a fuse? God Jean-Luc you completely overloaded your synaptic receptors! What the hell did you do?” Sighing, Jean-Luc waved a hand at the repentant alien. “We…indulged.” That sat Beverly back on her heels. “Oh for Christ’s sake! How do you know it was safe?” Parrum’s nervous voice interrupted. “I assured the Captain it was safe…and it is, but I over estimated his capacity. Apparently it takes much less for Humans to reach the point of…satisfaction. I took him too far.” Wearily Jean-Luc looked over Beverly’s shoulder and said wryly, “You also forgot to mention that I would experience your orgasm too. It’s that which caused my loss of consciousness.” Parrum flushed a deep dusky pink and, in an uncharacteristic gesture, sucked its lower lip. “Again Jean-Luc, my apologies. You are right…I should have warned you.” Muttering under her breath, Beverly said, “You’re both idiots! Bloody hell Jean-Luc!” With a warning tone to his tired voice, Jean-Luc remonstrated with the angry Doctor. “Beverly…that’s enough. I take it I am recovered?” “Hmph! Yes but I want to see you in Sickbay in the morning.” He stood on slightly unsteady legs and tried to assume a commanding stance, failing miserably. “Very well. If you will excuse me, I’m going to shower and retire for the night.” Knowing she’d just been dismissed didn’t stop Beverly from issuing one last order. “And I’m going to scan you before breakfast!” Jean-Luc nodded curtly, a frown darkening his face. As his guests left his shoulders slumped and he shook his head. The shower relaxed him further and he was very sleepy when he slipped naked between the sheets, too tired to dress in his shorts. His last thought before sleep claimed him was… “My god...that was the most extraordinary sexual experience of my life!”

38


Parrum walked silently beside Beverly as her quick stride took them through the corridors. It easily sensed her anger and was saddened to know it was partly to blame. Risking her wrath, it said quietly, “It really is safe Doctor. I would never have exposed the Captain to danger.” The Doctor stopped abruptly and turned angry eyes on her companion. “Oh really? Then how do you explain his condition when I found him? If you were so unconcerned why did you call me?” “I knew immediately what had happened and I also knew his state was transient. I called you only to verify his well being.” By now they had reached her quarters and she marched inside, gesturing for it to follow. “Did you hear my diagnosis? His synaptic receptors were overloaded! Who knows what damage that could have caused?” Now Parrum was beginning to become annoyed. “I knew! Doctor Crusher please believe me…I knew what I was doing. Yes I miscalculated his capacity but I assure you he was in no danger.” Only slightly mollified, Beverly was still angry. “OK I’ll grant you that, but I must insist…no more! You are expressly forbidden to… indulge…with any other crewmember. Is that clear?” Its shocked face stopped the Doctor. “What?” Parrum sat and shook its head. “You don’t understand Doctor. When the need comes upon us we must indulge. We have no choice.” “Why?” “Our health suffers. It is a physical and a psychological need…I’m sorry, the files you received should have noted it.” Beverly sat and sighed. “I’ll re-read them Parrum. In the meantime…are you…satisfied? Can you go some time now before needing it again?” The alien nodded. “Yes, the joining was satisfactory.” There was a moment’s silence before Beverly asked, “Why Jean-Luc?” This caused acute discomfort in the alien and Beverly noticed. “Parrum?” “Originally I had chosen you, but either of you would have been acceptable.” “Why?” Sighing, Parrum’s violet eyes deepened. “I took your advice Doctor and I found there were only two people on board that I was attracted to. You and the Captain.” Realisation struck the Doctor. “Oh God…you came to me, with flowers…” Nodding slowly, the alien flushed. “Yes and when you left I couldn’t wait so I went to the Captain.”

39


Beverly’s sudden chuckle caught Parrum unawares. It tilted its head and waited for an explanation. “What did Jean-Luc say when you gave him the flowers and then propositioned him?” Finally seeing the humour, Parrum smiled. “He was a little…shocked. Actually I believe he only agreed out of concern for my health, although I do sense genuine affection for me from him…from you also.” Blushing slightly, Beverly cleared her throat. “OK let’s come to an agreement. The next time you feel this…need…you come to me. We’ll do it together and I will use a tricorder to monitor my responses. I’ll show you how to use it and hopefully we can avoid overloading my brain.” Overcome with relief, Parrum leaned forward and took Beverly’s hands. “That is extremely generous of you Doctor, thank you. I will be more cautious next time…I understand Human limits now.” Nodding, the Doctor was curious enough to ask one more question. “Tell me Parrum, what was it like…to feel his orgasm?” The alien smiled wistfully. “It was much more powerful than I expected…it involved his whole body, although it was centred on his sex organs. I was gratified to find his brain was able to permit me access to his emotions as well as his physical sensations. He is a very controlled, very enclosed individual yet he rejoiced…exalted in his…our release. Even when he lost consciousness his psyche still resounded with emotion. He is a remarkable man.” Beverly smiled warmly and sighed. “He certainly is.” Feeling the evening at its end, Parrum stood and looked down at the beautiful woman. “I will leave you now Doctor Crusher. Again, thank you.” Beverly stood and held out her right hand. “I think you can call me Beverly now.”

Jean-Luc slept through his alarm, something that had not happened in many years. He also slept through the three chimes from the door, eventually rousing with Beverly shaking his shoulder and scanning him. “Hey come on Jean-Luc…wake up!” Cracking his eyes open, he smiled, sighed and burrowed back beneath the covers, leaving the Doctor completely flummoxed. “Jean-Luc!” Frowning at her tone of exasperation, the Captain surfaced and mumbled in a sleep roughened voice, “What?” Beverly again read her tricorder, reassuring herself that he was indeed all right. “How do you feel?”

40


He sighed again and stretched, the yawn expansive. “I feel…surprisingly contented. My body seems to be gently humming…a most pleasant experience.” Beverly stared down at her usually buttoned-up best friend and frowned. “You do realise you’ve slept through the alarm?” His eyes widened and he sat up. “What?” Gently gripping his shoulder, she prevented him from moving. “And you didn’t hear the door annunciator. I rang three times before I used my override. You scared the bejeezus out of me!” With confusion skittering across his eyes, Jean-Luc asked, “What the hell is going on? I never oversleep.” With a wry chuckle, Beverly shook her head. “After last night’s efforts I’m surprised you’re awake at all. Do you feel up to a shower and shave?” His glare was priceless. “I feel up to more than that! I’ll be damned if I’ll be late for duty.” Using both hands, Beverly held him to the bed. “Uh uh you’re off duty, at least until tomorrow, maybe even the next day. You went through a significant mental trauma last night and, although I was happy enough to leave you alone, you’ll be accompanying me to Sickbay after breakfast for some extensive scans. You won’t set foot on the Bridge again until I’m satisfied you’re completely over the experience.” This time the glare was decidedly deadly. “Now you look here Doctor! I am perfectly well and I do not require your assistance.” Summoning a gentle smile, Beverly softened the blow. “Be that as it may, it’s my way or no way Jean-Luc and it’s not negotiable I’m afraid.” The red head stood and stepped back from the bed. “OK time to hit the shower. Do you need help?” About to fling the covers off and demonstrate his physical well being, he suddenly remembered two things. He was naked and he had a rather large erection. Instead he shook his head brusquely and folded his arms across his bare chest, amusing the watching woman. When she didn’t move he muttered, “I would appreciate some privacy, if you don’t mind.” Her chuckle lasted until the bedroom door closed. Huffing his displeasure, Jean-Luc rose and entered the bathroom, his visit to the toilet protracted as he waited for his tumescence to subside enough to empty his bladder. The shower didn’t help, the warm soapy water reinvigorating his erection. It crossed his mind to relieve himself then and there, but Beverly’s close proximity derailed the thought. What if she thought he was taking too long and decided to check up on him? No, definitely a bad idea. With clenched teeth, he turned off the hot water and gasped as cold water hit his chest. Closing his eyes, he quickly finished his shower and left the stall, drying himself then wrapping a towel around his waist. As he shaved he was aware of being still semi-erect and frowned, not understanding why it should be so, although his body was feeling pleasantly energised. He entered his bedroom, dressed in casual clothes and glanced down at himself before going out to meet Beverly.

41


“Bloody hell…oh well, maybe these navy trousers will disguise it.” His optimistic thoughts were dashed the moment her eyes wandered over him. The sapphire eyes widened slightly and a wicked smile emerged but fortunately she held her acerbic tongue. With as much dignity as he could muster, he approached the table and concentrated on the meal set out in front of him. The delicious smell of hot croissants and coffee caused his stomach to growl and he found a rueful smile, shrugging his broad shoulders when Beverly snickered. They sat together and little more was said until breakfast was almost over. Beverly laid her hand over his and looked deeply into his eyes. “Promise me something?” Lost in her gaze, he murmured, “Anything.” “Don’t ever go experimenting with unknown alien practices again. No matter how sure you are that it’s harmless…just don’t do it .OK? He frowned and shook his head. “Beverly you’re overreacting. I’m sure it was…” Squeezing his hand, he was surprised to see tears well in her eyes. “You scared the hell out of me Jean-Luc…again. Please…please…don’t do it again.” Brought undone by her heartfelt plea, he gently cupped her face in his hands and kissed her, the hot tears wetting his cheeks. “No more tears my lovely, it will be as you wish.” Sniffing and wiping at her wet eyes, Beverly smiled hopefully. “Promise?” His eyes glittered darkly and he grinned. “Tell you what. How about I come to you first…get your approval, would that suffice? You must remember I am an explorer and sometimes I must test unchartered waters.” Bumping her head against his in exasperation, Beverly growled. “Dammit Jean-Luc! Every time you end up in my care I die a little inside.” He lifted his hand and caressed her face, gently smoothing her furrowed brow. “But surely you realise we live in a dangerous environment, anything can happen at any given time.” She lifted her head and lightly punched his shoulder. “Yes but that doesn’t mean you have to stick your head in the lion’s mouth deliberately! Jesus Jean-Luc!” Gathering her hands in his he stilled her. “All right I see your point. Like I said if I’m confronted with something untried…where possible…I will come to you first. Deal?” Her smile was slow in emerging, but it heartened him nonetheless. Beverly kissed him softly and nibbled his ear, making him shift uncomfortably. Her knowing look made him flush and when they stood up, her sultry licking of her lips as she stared at his slightly bulging pants made him shake his head. “Stop that! I’m barely keeping control as it is…don’t make it any worse or we’ll never get to Sickbay.” Chuckling, Beverly cocked her head and winked. “Oh I think it’s a nice look…very provocative.” Her amusement fled when she saw how annoyed he was.

42


“Jean-Luc? What is it?” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “I feel…my body feels…it’s humming with sensation! Even my underwear feels sensuous against my skin. I’ve got an erection that won’t go away and I feel constantly …aroused.” Frowning now Beverly deployed her tricorder and proceeded to scan him. “Hmm. Elevated heart rate and increased hormone levels. Can you control it? Jean-Luc scowled and shook his head. “Not even a very cold shower had much effect.” Eyebrows raised, Beverly snapped the instrument closed. “Well let’s get you down to Sickbay where I can check you out more thoroughly. Maybe you should carry something…a jumper perhaps?” Flushing again, Jean-Luc stepped into his bedroom and emerged carrying a jumper in front of himself. With an approving nod from Beverly, they left his quarters.

Jean-Luc was beginning to fidget. Seated on a biobed stripped to his briefs, he waited in his private room, a blanket bunched across his lap. His hyper-aware skin was registering the gently circulating air, the hair of his chest and arms rising in response. The signals travelled down the nerve pathways with astonishing speed, sending a pulse into his groin. Grimacing, he closed his eyes and concentrated on other things…anything except the heavy arousal nestled in his lap. He was startled out of his concentration by Beverly, her fingers sliding along his arm. It caused an involuntary groan, making the Doctor blush as she read his condition on the bio readout above the bed. “I’m sorry Jean-Luc, I’ll refrain from touching you.” He nodded, opened his eyes and summoned a small smile. “It’s all right Beverly. Have you found anything?” Pulling a chair closer, Beverly sat and crossed her legs. “As a matter of fact I have. Your brain is saturated in serotonin…the levels are off the scale. That, accompanied with the increased hormone levels and the apparent over stimulation of the pleasure centre of your brain have caused your…current state.” Jean-Luc sighed and swallowed. “Can you do anything about it?” The Captain noticed her blush and wondered what caused it. “Oh yes I think so. You get dressed and I’ll escort you back to your quarters.” While Jean-Luc dressed, Beverly called Doctor Selar, the Vulcan second in command of Sickbay. Once in Beverly’s office, she said, “Selar I will be with Captain Picard in his quarters for the rest of the day. Don’t hesitate to call me if you need me, but I would prefer it if I was undisturbed.” The unperturbed Vulcan nodded. “As you wish Doctor Crusher.”

43


By the time she returned to the Captain’s room, he was standing beside his bed, the jumper held grimly in his hands. “Come on Jean-Luc.” The walk to his quarters was not as quick as he would have liked, such was his arousal his step was curtailed somewhat. With a sigh of heartfelt relief, they entered his quarters and Jean-Luc went straight to his bedroom. It wasn’t until Beverly’s hands snaked around his waist that he realised she’d followed him. Breathlessly he almost panted, “Please Beverly…I need to be alone.” Her words shocked him. “No I don’t think so. What you need is help.” Without further words she slowly turned him and gently pushed him down onto the bed, then encouraged him up the bed until his head was on the pillows. She straddled his legs and quickly undid his trousers the pressure of his erection undoing the zip on its own. Gripping his pants at either hip, she gathered them and his briefs and wriggled them down until his throbbing erection sprung free. Jean-Luc couldn’t believe what was happening. He closed his eyes and held his breath, letting his head lie on the pillow, trying to relax, but when her mouth closed over him he cried out and flinched. Already highly aroused, he gripped the bed covers and thrust into her mouth, his jaw clenched tightly. She rose and descended again and again, sucking and licking and when she gently squeezed his testicles he abruptly grabbed her head and called her name as he climaxed. Shivering and panting, he groaned as she left him and came up the bed to lie beside him. With gentle manipulation, she took him in her arms and stroked his back as he slowly recovered. He swallowed and kissed her neck. “Oh God Beverly…oh God…” “I know…shh. Just try and relax.” Slow minutes passed and eventually he calmed. Shifting in her embrace, he rose up on his elbow and stared deeply into her eyes. ‘Thank you my love.” Her giggle made him frown. “What?” She stole a kiss and sighed. “It’s not over yet Jean-Luc.” He was disappointed when she wriggled from his arms and stood beside the bed. “Watch.” With slow deliberation, she stripped off her uniform. Jean-Luc’s eyes were transfixed as more and more of her lissom body was exposed. She never took her eyes off him as she divested herself of her clothing, his look of deep desire creating a heat inside her she welcomed. His gaze hawk-like in its intensity, he watched as she, now naked, crawled onto the bed and gently pushed him onto his back where she undertook to strip him. When she ran a finger up his revived erection he growled and sat up, grabbing her and pulling her down to him. His kiss was savage; his desperate need returning in full force. She returned the kiss, her own passion spiralling out of control. He suddenly rolled her onto her back and deepened the kiss as his fingers sought then found her opening. She groaned into his mouth as he slid two fingers inside her and cried out when his lips left her mouth and descended to her breasts where he attacked her nipples with his tongue.

44


Pistoning his fingers in and out of her, he sucked a swollen nipple into his mouth and suddenly ground his thumb against her clitoris. She arched up from the bed and shrieked as the orgasm swept over with an abruptness that left her breathless and moaning. Still contracting around his fingers, he gently withdrew the digits and parted her legs, kneeling between them. He took a moment to take in the sight of the most wantonly beautiful woman he’d ever known, before he took his erection in his hand and gently guided it into her depths. As he stretched out over her, filling…completing…she opened her eyes and let two tears slide free. He kissed her tenderly and, as her residual internal contractions massaged him, he began to gently thrust. With each downward stroke she gasped, her hands clutching his back. Sliding his hands under her shoulders, he cradled her head and kissed her repeatedly, only stopping long enough to gasp a breath. Her hands drifted down his back and gripped his buttocks at the same time she lifted her hips, accentuating his thrusts. His eyes closed and he moaned her name. Releasing one hand, he reached down and hooked his arm behind one of her raised legs, drawing it up and deepening his strokes. He bent his knee and thrust harder, spurred on by Beverly’s impassioned pleas. “Quickly Jean-Luc…harder…I’m almost…” Giving in to the overwhelming sensations coursing through his body, Jean-Luc complied and redoubled his efforts, rewarded when Beverly’s body stiffened then flexed, flushing gloriously as her orgasm consumed her. He tried to watch, to commit it to memory, but his own release caught him and he cried out gutturally as he spasmed and jerked his essence deep within her.

It was sometime later that he realised he was still lying on top of her. With a start he lifted his head and was gratified to find her with her eyes closed and a smile gracing her delicate features. Rolling to his side, he trailed his fingers over her face, not really believing she was real. Her eyes slowly opened and she sighed, her voice soft and musical. “Wow.” He returned her smile and replied, “Wow indeed. Tell me the truth…are you real? Is this a dream?” Pushing him onto his back, she buried her hand in his body hair and kissed his nipple. “Oh I’m real all right and this was no dream, although I wouldn’t mind betting you’ve dreamed of this…or something like it. I know I have.” With a snort he caressed her back languidly and sighed. “Yes I’ve dreamed of this, far too many times in fact…but I can tell you with all honesty, nothing can compare with the reality of making love to you. You are magnificent.” Beverly chuckled softly and stretched up to kiss him tenderly. “So it was worth the wait?” “Oh yes…although I do wish however the wait hadn’t been quite so long. If I had continued to tend to my need by myself much longer I may have indeed gone blind.” Beverly chuckled again and tickled his ribs, earning a muffled guffaw.

45


“Stop that!” “Or what…you’ll go blind?” With quickness that startled the Doctor, he rolled her over and pinned her hands. “Now look you…” Beverly kissed the tip of his nose and whispered, “I have news for you.” He lessened his grip and allowed her to free one hand. She trailed her fingers from his brow to his lips, making them purse. “With the amount of serotonin present and the over stimulation of your pleasure centre, added to the increased hormone levels, I would be willing to bet you’re not quite finished yet.” With a happy grin, Jean-Luc rolled over, pulling Beverly with him. She settled on him and kissed him. He sighed into her mouth and let his eyes drift shut. She tapered the kiss and gently sucked his adam’s apple while he slid his fingers through her hair. She released his skin from her mouth and lifted her head. “What was it like Jean-Luc, to feel Parrum’s orgasm?” Jean-Luc’s eyes opened and focussed on the ceiling. His voice was filled with awe. “It was…astonishing. Its body reacted to the mental stimulation and carried us higher and higher…I have never been so aroused…just as I thought it was too much to bear my climax surged through me and as I registered that there was this insurmountable joy…a euphoria exquisite in its complexity pouring out from Parrum in wave after incredible wave. It was as if its brain had expanded into mine and we became nothing but ultimate joy. I was trying to take it in when I lost consciousness, yet even in oblivion I sensed ecstasy and contentment. It was an extraordinary experience, but afterwards, when I awoke, I realised there was not the feeling of closeness…the sense of connection that occurs when you make love with someone to whom you’ve given your heart. It was an overwhelming sensory experience, but I find making love with you is more satisfying.” Smiling tenderly Beverly kissed him and whispered, “I’m glad.” She rubbed herself sensuously against him and her smile turned sultry as she felt the answering swelling of his penis. “See? What did I tell you?” Jean-Luc sighed and entangled his hands in her hair. “If I were to perish right now I would die a very happy man.” “Hush Jean-Luc…make love to me.”

Commander Geordi LaForge couldn’t contain the chuckle that bubbled up, amusing all around the table. “Parrum if you continue to colour up like that you’ll never win a hand.” The embarrassed being sighed and placed its cards face down on the table. “I know I am at a distinct disadvantage, but you must remember I can read your thoughts somewhat. Perhaps that levels the playing field, after all I seem to be doing quite well.”

46


It looked down at its considerable pile of chips. Will laughed while stroking his dark beard. “I think I should remind you that we’ve been playing with a half Betazoid…if anyone can gain an advantage it’s Deanna.” With a withering look, the Counsellor dismissed her lover. “Ignore him Parrum, he just likes to win…far too much! Simply apply yourself to the game and see what happens.” Parrum rewarded Deanna with a winning smile and bid. “Very well, in that case I will match your bet Mr.Riker, and I raise it…twenty.” Will’s smile became predatory. Deanna and Geordi folded and Data stayed in. Another round went by and Data succumbed leaving Parrum and Will. The big Human kept his face neutral and his thoughts calm as he upped the bid again. A tan flush shimmered through Parrum and it sighed. “You are forcing my hand Commander. All right here’s your thirty and fifty more. I call.” His face a triumphant visage Will spread his cards on the table. “A pair of nines and three queens!” Low whistles were expressed around the table as the players waited to see Parrum’s hand. With a theatrical pause, the slender being sighed and closed its eyes before laying down its cards. The gasps were audible. Geordi coughed on his drink managing to splutter, “A royal flush! Oh my God…you got him.” With great satisfaction Parrum leaned forward and dragged the winnings over to its pile. It looked up, a huge grin on its face. “And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes the evening.” Groans could be heard. Will refilled his glass and offered the jug to the others. “So you’re not going to let me win my chips back?” Stifling a yawn, Parrum shook its head. “No Commander my body is telling me it’s time to rest. Perhaps another time.” Will nodded, then said, “Tell me Parrum, do you play cards on V’Larnn.” Caught in the motion of rising, Parrum regained its seat and answered the question. “We have something very similar and a game called S’Kop is much like your poker. In fact we can play it with many people, we just add more cards. You would be surprised to see some of the winning hands.” Will puffed out his cheeks and expelled a big breath. “I bet! OK how about you teach us a new game? I’m sure we could do with a change.” Parrum frowned and looked at its hands. “I will be busy in the foreseeable future…I indulged with the Captain and there were… repercussions I must address.” Deanna gasped and gripped its arm. “You what? You indulged…with Captain Picard?” Its eyebrows raised, Parrum’s look was curious. “Yes Counsellor. Why do you sound so surprised?” By now spluttering, Deanna sought to extricate herself from an explosive situation. Waving her hands dismissively she uttered, “Oh nothing…nothing at all. Forget I said anything.”

47


Nodding, the being rose and bowed to its friends. “Well then I will leave. Thank you for a very enjoyable evening.” The doors only just closed when Will grabbed Deanna’s hands. “Right! Out with it…what’s going on? What the hell is indulging?” Deanna swallowed and looked around the table. “Will I don’t think…” The Commander sat back and placed his hands on the table. “Hey it’s all right. Everyone here is trustworthy…aren’t you?” Data and Geordi nodded, intrigued with what was going on. The Counsellor sighed and shook her head. “It’s incredible…I never would have thought…the Captain of all people…” By now exasperated, Will growled, “Deanna! What the hell is it?” Lifting her head, Deanna fixed her eyes on her lover. “To indulge is to experience an orgasm. It’s done telepathically…apparently Humans are compatible, although I didn’t know that.” Will sat up, shocked. “So what you’re saying is that Parrum…and the Captain…had an orgasm…together?” Nodding mutely, Deanna sat stunned as the others took in the information. It was Data who broke the silence. “It makes some sense, Captain Picard is an explorer. How else could he explore this phenomenon if not by experiencing it?” Deanna’s head jerked up and she frowned. “You don’t understand. He…that is the Captain is in a relationship with Doctor Crusher.” Geordi sipped his drink then offered, “Hey we know they’re close, but that doesn’t mean…” Deanna shook her head. “No I mean a committed relationship. They love each other…deeply. It’s still only new so don’t say anything to either of them, but I can’t understand why the Captain would do this when he feels so strongly for Beverly.” Will snorted and looked sharply at the Counsellor. “You’re not suggesting by doing this he’s been…unfaithful?” Sighing, Deanna held up her hands. “I don’t know. All I do know is if it were you…I’d be livid.” Shocked at this outburst, Will tried to placate the irritated woman. “But Dee…it’s not even female! It’s not as if he’s had an affair.” “Isn’t it? I’m not so sure.” Geordi sought to calm things down. “Hey look…you’re aware of all of us all the time. What have you sensed from the Doc?” Cocking her head and frowning slightly, Deanna replied, “Well to be honest all I’ve sensed from her lately is happiness, although she was very angry last night, but that’s par for the course for Beverly. Mercurial always.” Said so dryly, the others chuckled. Geordi pushed home his argument. “Well there you go!” With an assassin’s timing, Deanna leaned forward and said silkily, “That’s if she knows Geordi.”

48


That brought the conversation to a close. They packed up the cards and chips in silence and made only perfunctory efforts at saying goodnight to each other. When Data and Geordi had left their quarters, Will took Deanna in his arms. “Well I don’t care. As long as everyone’s ok I think we should let it go.” Smiling and breathing in his warm scent, Deanna snuggled into his embrace. “Oh I agree, but can you resist teasing him?” Her curly hair muffled Will’s laughter. “I can’t make any promises.” Her giggle turned to a moan when he kissed her deeply. With masculine dexterity he picked her up and carried her to the bedroom, the kiss unbroken. Beverly woke and took a moment to orientate herself. She noted the muscular arms that surrounded her and she sighed, a grin creeping across her face. As she stretched, she realised their legs were entwined and gasped when a large hand reflexively covered her breast. Then she felt the erection pressed against her back and she grinned wider, shifting backwards and wriggling her hips. His arms tightened and he groaned softly, still mostly asleep. Sneaking a hand behind her, she gently caressed his erection and he stiffened appreciably in her hand. She felt the kiss to her neck as his hand left her breast and moved to her hip, pulling her even closer. She groaned softly and covered the hand with hers, guiding it further down her body to her parted legs. Taking the hint, he parted her folds with his fingers and slid his digits through her wetness, making her undulate her hips and sigh. Pushing the arm beneath her, he curled his free hand up and caught her breast, kneading and moulding it before gently pinching the nipple. As the bud hardened, he slipped two fingers inside her and brushed his thumb over her clitoris. She arched away from him and gasped his name, her lower hand covering his and mimicking his motions. The erotism of her action was not lost on the Captain. Pulling her back slightly, he withdrew his fingers and pressed down on her pelvis, aligning her properly. He slipped one leg between them then reached down and guided his penis into her, sliding effortlessly into her heat. She clenched him internally and he moaned, pushing himself in as far as he could go while his fingers reached over and fluttered over her clitoris. All she could do was clutch his arm as wave upon wave of ecstasy surged through her body. In the first words spoken she said, “Oh God yes Jean-Luc…yes…” She reached down beyond his hand and slipped her fingers around the shaft of his penis as it slid in and out of her. He growled his appreciation and gently bit her shoulder, his upper fingers tweaking her nipple rhythmically. Unable to take any more, Beverly left his penis and covered his hand with hers, pushing his fingers more firmly over her clitoris. He responded immediately, stroking her broadly and sucking her neck. She was swept abruptly into her climax, her body flexing and shuddering, a shout of liberation torn from her throat. As she convulsed around him, he thrust quickly four times then held her to him as he reached his own release. Pushing himself into her to the limit, he pumped his semen into her, grunting with effort and emotional and physical bliss. Slowly he loosened his hold and they relaxed, panting and sweating. He eased himself out of her and she turned over where he kissed her tenderly. “Good morning.”

49


Beverly chuckled and nuzzled his neck, heady with the scent of their joining. “And good morning to you my love.” He sighed and whispered, “Do you realise what my bed smells of?” She frowned against his skin and muttered, “What?” “Sex. Unbridled, unrestrained sex.” She giggled and bit his nipple, making his breath hiss. “So what? Are you complaining?” Rolling onto his back, he pulled her with him. Once she’d settled on him he kissed her again. “Not on your life. In fact I’ve always wanted to wake up with you like this…it’s a dream come true.” She folded her arms across his chest and raised her head. “Good. So…how do you feel? Still horny?” He sighed and looked up at the ceiling. “No I don’t think so. My body feels relaxed and quiet…that feeling of…humming seems to have gone.” Beverly buried her fingers in his chest hair and idly drew runes. “Just as well I suppose…I could only do it so many times…” His snort made her laugh and they lay together chuckling for some time. Jean-Luc’s hands gently held her head as he lifted it. Looking deeply into her eyes, he couldn’t stop the tears in his. “My God Beverly…how I love you. How I’ve dreamed of this…” “I know…me too.” He wound his arms around her and pulled her down. They lay like that for a long time before Beverly’s stomach growled. Chuckling, Jean-Luc released her and they sat up. “So…daily life intervenes.” Beverly leaned forward and kissed him softly. “Yes but there are some consolations. Did I ever tell you I just love having my back washed?” One eyebrow rose imperiously as Jean-Luc’s face settled into his Captain’s visage. “I see. Is this fact in your records? I seem to have missed it.” Laughing, she kissed him again. “Oh no…it’s not for public consumption…just for my lovers.” Still keeping his stern face, he intoned, “And there won’t be any more of those!” With a devilish grin, Beverly slipped from the bed, crooking her fingers at the man. “Uh uh I seem to have found the one I want.” With amazing grace and speed, he left the bed and took her in his arms. “Just as well, as I would’ve had to eject any others out the nearest airlock.” “So…you’re the jealous type eh?” He kissed her thoroughly, only tapering when her knees sagged. “You’ll have to find out, won’t you? Now into the shower with you so we can finally get to breakfast.”

50


Before the morning meal, Beverly scanned Jean-Luc and smiled down at her tricorder. “Well that’s much better!” He frowned up at his lover and said dryly, “Would you care to bring me into the picture?” Beverly chuckled and walked to his side, showing him the instrument. “See? Everything’s returned to normal.” Happily, Jean-Luc strode to the replicator and began ordering breakfast. Over his shoulder he said, “So I can go back on duty?” “Uh huh. There’s no reason why you should have any more time off…that is of course unless you’d rather spend your time in bed with me?” He froze at the replicator and Beverly thought he might actually be considering the suggestion that is until she saw his shoulders shaking. He turned slowly and she was delighted to see a rare full grin accompanied by a hearty laugh. “You’d do it too wouldn’t you…wench?” Her own laughter bubbling up, Beverly stepped up to him and kissed him softly. “You bet!” Shaking his head, he turned to the replicator and began putting their meal on the table. “Well it’s probably just as well that I have such a firmly ingrained sense of duty then isn’t it? I can just see it…Will calls down asking where I am and you answer, telling him I’m in bed…with you…for my health.” Now completely charmed, Beverly took her seat and admired the man sitting across from her. Dressed only in his robe, he was very attractive and to see him so comfortable with her filled her with untold joy. “OK, so it might’ve raised a few eyebrows, it would, however, have been the truth. If I hadn’t…helped you…with your…problem…you would’ve faced a cold, lonely, passionless release that would’ve done nothing for your psyche.” He paused in pouring the coffee and lowered his head. “That is so, although it’s nothing I’m not very used to. Far too often you have driven me to that in the past and the number of times I’ve woken up needing…well let’s just say it was commonplace. I will say however that I was overjoyed that you decided to…help me…God knows I’ve dreamt of it often enough.” Saddened by his admission she decided to let him in on her most closely held secret. Not even Deanna knew it. “Jean-Luc?” He looked up and smiled into her cerulean eyes. “Hmm?” “It used to happen to me too…all the time. I’d wake up from a particularly erotic dream of you and me or I’d simply be lonely, but I always thought of you…every time. You were in my dreams, in my mind for a very long time. It was one of the reasons I finally recognised just how much I loved you. In the end I simply couldn’t get you out of my head.”

51


He sat up, tears welling in his eyes. Beverly left her seat and came to kneel by his side. She wound her arms around his chest and sighed as his hands took her head and gently held it. He bent down and kissed her crown, whispering, “We have so much time to make up.” She tilted her head up and smiled at him.” “That’s the best part!” They ate their breakfast, dressed in uniform and left for duty, agreeing to meet back at his quarters for dinner.

The days passed quickly on board the Enterprise, They reached the Starbase and picked up the miners, Jean-Luc being given a caution from the Station Commander about the behaviour of the Tellerites. Large, barrel-chested, four armed beings; they were belligerent and short tempered. Action was taken to keep them in small groups and to limit their access to the forward lounge. Security was assigned to their accommodation deck and Will addressed them when they came aboard, telling them of their obligations while on the ship. Four days after their departure from the Starbase, Jean-Luc, Beverly and Parrum were in the lounge having a pleasant after dinner drink before retiring for the night. Parrum had been keen to re-establish its relationship with the happy couple and was pleased to find they bore it no malice after what had happened. Due mostly to the Captain’s discomfort, they didn’t discuss the issue of mutual attraction. Beverly was happily informing the V’Larnnan about her knowledge of the native plants from Caldos and how they could be used in medicine when angry raised voices interrupted her. Jean-Luc frowned and looked over his shoulder to see five Tellerites involved in what seemed to be a heated argument. Pushing and shoving ensued and the Captain stood, his face darkening as he strode over to the warring beings. “What the hell is going on here?!” The tallest of the huge people barely paid Jean-Luc any attention as it muttered, “Be off with you Human, your presence is not wanted.” Moving to stand between the antagonists, Jean-Luc drew himself up to his full height, still two heads shorter than the speaker. “Your behaviour is unwelcome! If you cannot control yourselves I suggest you leave… now!” The blow to his head was lightning fast. As he reeled, the Tellerite used two immense arms to grip him by the throat and testicles, hoisting him off the floor and holding the choking Captain at eye height. “Now you look here you puny Human…I say where we go and what we do…not you!” Writhing in his iron grip, the Captain tried to touch his communicator, but he was rapidly losing consciousness. Beverly slapped her badge and called for Security as Parrum strode to the ugly scene. “Put him down!” The huge being turned slothfully to Parrum and grinned. “Or what?”

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“Or I will hurt you.” The Tellerite squinted and grunted, shaking the Captain and grinning as he noted the Human’s senseless state. “When I’m finished with this…meat…I will deal with you!” Not waiting a moment longer, Parrum closed its eyes and concentrated. Suddenly the Tellerite cried out and released the Captain who fell to the floor in a heap. Beverly ducked in and dragged him clear as the large being raised his hands to his head and began to scream. Parrum stood still, a picture of concentration. Security arrived and took control of the other Tellerites, but could do nothing for the stricken ringleader. Beverly looked up and took in the situation. Quickly she called out, “Parrum…stop it!” The russet being snapped its head up and opened its eyes, severing the connection. The Tellerite fell to the floor unconscious. Beverly wasted no more time. “Transporter Room, two to beam directly to Sickbay!” They shimmered away just as Will arrived. “What’s going on?” The Lieutenant in charge of the Security detail was unable to furnish any details. It was Parrum who explained. Will listened and frowned. “So what did you do to him?” Shrugging, Parrum replied, “I interfered with his brain patterns and rendered him senseless. He was injuring Captain Picard…something had to be done.” Will stared at the V’Larnnan, a cold shiver going down his spine. “OK fair enough. I’ll want to speak with you further about this…all right?” Will set about calling medical assistance for the assailant, still senseless on the floor. Parrum nodded and left the lounge, unsettled. It made its way to Sickbay.

Jean-Luc woke up with a start and tried to sit up. Gentle hands pushed him down and he stilled when he heard Beverly’s voice. “Take it easy Captain, I’ve not finished with you yet.” He attempted to speak and grimaced at the pain it caused. “Uh uh, no speaking just yet. Your hyoid bone and jaw has been fractured and there’s a lot of bruising.” He calmed and sighed, then realised he could feel nothing of his groin. Grabbing Beverly’s hand, he frowned and looked down at himself. She understood immediately. “You’re badly bruised there too and there’s some swelling, nothing that can’t be quickly fixed though. You just be patient and we’ll put you in your private room and begin regen therapy.” He nodded; somewhat glad Beverly had deadened the affected area. Within ten minutes he’d been placed in his room and the blue light of the regeneration beam glowed softly over his throat, face and groin. Beverly was entering some data into the computer when her trusted head nurse came in.

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“Doctor Crusher the V’Larnnan is here to see the Captain.” Smiling, Beverly nodded. “Thanks Alyssa, I’ll see it outside.” Finishing her tasks, she made sure Jean-Luc was comfortable, giving him a light sedative and then left him to see Parrum. It was waiting patiently in her office. When she entered it stood and frowned. “How is Jean-Luc?” Beverly took her seat and gestured for the being to sit. “He’s going to be fine in about two hours.” “He will be completely healed? No long term problems?” Beverly smiled, enamoured by the being’s concern. “No he’ll be fine…good as new.” Sighing with relief Parrum sagged in its chair. Beverly grew concerned. “Parrum? What is it?” “I was so frightened…when I saw Jean-Luc lose consciousness then the way he fell to the floor…I though for one horrible moment that he was…dead. Humans are so…frail.” Beverly grew even more concerned. “Parrum what you did to the Tellerite…was that motivated by anger?” Flushing deep blue, Parrum slid its eyes to the desktop. In a very quiet voice it replied, “Yes. I wanted to hurt him for what he did to Jean-Luc.” “What exactly did you do?” “I entered his brain and disrupted the patterns…the functions. I stopped when you told me to.” Beverly stood and came around her desk, hitching her hip on the edge. “And what would’ve happened if you hadn’t stopped.” In a very still voice it said, “He would have died.” Beverly was deeply shocked. “My God Parrum…can you do this to any species…to Humans?” “Yes, but please believe me we use it for defence only. I would never hurt you or JeanLuc.” Beverly stood and began to pace around the confines of her office. “Did the delegation know about this?” “I do not know…perhaps not, it’s not something we talk openly about. If you were capable of such an act, would you advertise it?” Beverly looked down at the seated being and felt compassion for the first time. “OK I’ll buy that, but Parrum this changes things. For one the Captain isn’t going to be very happy when he finds out.” “Why?” Exasperated, Beverly sat down. “Well look at it from our perspective. You have suddenly gone from being a benign guest to a potential weapon…a walking security breach. How the hell are we supposed to deal with that?” Parrum stood, outrage clear on its face and in its voice. “I would never use my abilities against any of you or this ship! What sort of people do you think we are? Undisciplined, savage…beneath you perhaps?”

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Waving her hands in a placatory manner, Beverly sought to calm her upset friend. “No! Of course not Parrum. Look once Jean-Luc’s awake I’m sure we can sort this out. In the meantime, would you like to sit with him? He’ll be awake in a couple of hours.” Nodding, the ruffled being followed Beverly into Jean-Luc’s room and grew still as it watched the sleeping man. Noticing its demeanour, Beverly gently gripped its arm. “It’s ok really. He’ll be fine.” “When he sleeps he looks so…vulnerable.” Beverly cast her eyes over her lover and nodded. “I know what you mean, it comes as a shock, doesn’t it? He’s so commanding, so full of authority when he’s awake.” “Yes. I am sorry for my outburst Beverly, I hadn’t considered what my abilities would mean to your people.” “Put it out of your mind for now Parrum. I’ll drop by later to see how you’re going.” The alien nodded and Beverly left.

Jean-Luc woke and lay quietly, assessing his body. The heaviness of the deadening drugs had lifted and he could feel his whole body again. Gently clenching his teeth, he noted the soreness in his jaw and the residual tenderness in his throat when he swallowed. His visitor spotted his movements and he opened his eyes when Parrum spoke. “Jean-Luc?” Summoning a smile, the Captain whispered, “Would you call Beverly please?” Parrum complied and quickly the Doctor arrived, her blue coat flapping. “So…you’re awake? How do you feel?” Taking an experimental deep breath, Jean-Luc replied, “I’m fine. I take it my injuries have been healed?” Standing over her patient, Beverly helped him sit up and ran a tricorder over him. “Yep, all mended. You can go to your quarters and…” “I can return to duty tomorrow.” Beverly sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “As I was saying…you can go to your quarters tonight for a decent rest. I’ll scan you tomorrow and if I think you’re up to it, then yes, you can return to duty.” He swivelled on the bed and slid off, wincing as his feet hit the floor. “Jean-Luc?” He shook his head and gripped Beverly’s hand. “It’s nothing, just a bit of residual tenderness. I’m…” “Fine. I know. Very well Captain you’re free to go. I’ll drop by later to see you.” As he made it to the door he turned and asked, “What happened to the Tellerite, the one who assaulted me?” Beverly frowned and looked briefly at her feet, a sure sign she was uncomfortable.

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“Ah…after he was treated he was confined to the brig.” Squaring his shoulders, Jean-Luc stepped back into his room. “After he was treated? What happened to him? Did security have to phaser him?” Parrum moved forward and cleared its throat, flushing deep mauve. “It was me Captain Picard. I…injured him in the process of making him release you.” Jean-Luc’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “You injured a Tellerite? How?” The Doctor and the V’Larnn looked at each other and Beverly intervened. “Look Captain it’s not important. For now let’s just get you back to your quarters.” She gently gripped his elbow and began to usher him through the door, but Jean-Luc smelled a rat. Stopping his feet, he used his free hand to disengage Beverly’s hand. “No I don’t think so. I would rather learn how Parrum managed to injure an angry Tellerite. How did you do that Parrum?” Once again glancing imploringly at the Doctor, Parrum stepped back, seeking an escape. The Captain spotted this and barked, “Parrum! I have asked you a question and I expect an answer!” With no other recourse, the V’Larnnan confessed. “I injured him telepathically. Using my mind, I entered his brain and disrupted his patterns, his brain waves. He released you and when Doctor Crusher asked me to, I let him go. He was rendered unconscious by the experience.” His dark eyes glittering, Jean-Luc mulled over what he’d been told. “You say you let him go when Doctor Crusher asked you to. Weren’t you going to release him?” All Parrum could do was shake its head morosely. “Then what did you intend? Just how badly injured did you want him to be?” In a whisper the alien replied, “I wanted him dead.” Silence settled for a few moments as Jean-Luc digested that statement. His voice now deceptively quiet, the Captain asked, “You can do that? You can kill…with nothing but a thought?” Parrum looked into his hard eyes and pleaded, “He was going to kill you! I had to do something. When you fell to the floor I thought he already had and I felt rage and sorrow!” Jean-Luc’s silence bored into Parrum’s head and it grimaced at feeling the anger emanating from the man. “Jean-Luc please! You must understand!” The Captain’s deep voice had a deadly cold edge. “What I understand is that you have been on this ship under false pretences! What else have you hidden from us? Hmm? You came on board to assess us, yet here we find that you have been hiding a potential weapon, obviously ready and willing to use it.” Parrum looked at Beverly for help only to find her with her head bowed. In desperation it tried once more, “Captain Picard please…I…” Jean-Luc held up his hand, effectively silencing the alien. ”For the foreseeable future I am confining you to your quarters. I will contact my

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superiors…and the other ships containing your fellow beings and I will be asking them to reassess your petition to join the Federation.” Tapping his communicator he summoned security. They waited uncomfortably until three security personnel arrived and the Captain ordered them to escort Parrum to its cabin and to stand guard outside. Once they’d left, Jean-Luc turned his attention to Beverly. “You knew.” Raising her head she looked at him defiantly. “Yes I did and for what it’s worth, I think you’ve overreacted. Its not a danger, not to any of us or the ship.” Standing rigid with indignation, the Captain kept his voice icy. “And on what do you base that assessment?” Annoyed at his aloof demeanour, Beverly spat, “For God’s sake Jean-Luc it was trying to save your life! Who knows how much more damage would have been done to you…maybe even death, if it hadn’t intervened?” “That changes nothing! We knew nothing of this ability! It came aboard this ship under the auspices of peace, with the sole intention of studying us to see if it could coexist with us. Where in that does it say it can use a lethal telepathic ability? And why the hell didn’t it disclose it?” Folding her arms across her chest in exasperation, Beverly hissed, “Because they don’t want to advertise it! Maybe they’re worried that this very reaction might take place. It asked me if I had such abilities would I advertise it? I’ve been thinking about that Jean-Luc and you know what? I would keep quiet about it. The last thing I would want to do is frighten the very people I was trying to get to know. Why would I put a barrier between us?” Jean-Luc stood staring into Beverly’s eyes, his body motionless and rigid. Finally he lowered his gaze. “You may have a point. I will sleep on this situation and readdress it in the morning.” Letting out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, Beverly reached for his hand. “Come on then, I’ll walk you to your quarters.” She was surprised when he shook his head. “No thank you Beverly. I think I’ll take a stroll around the ship before I retire.” She reached up and traced his eyebrow. “You don’t want me to stay tonight?” His smile was tight, but she saw the warmth in his eyes. “No my love I need time to think, I’m afraid I would be poor company tonight.” The Doctor sighed and squeezed his hand. “OK, but don’t be up too late, you’ve had quite a night already.” He nodded and left.

His wanderings took him through several decks and he wasn’t surprised to eventually find himself outside the brig. The large doors rumbled open and he motioned to the Ensign on duty to stay seated at her post. Walking up to the force field, he watched

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the belligerent Tellerite lying on the undersize bunk. The being sensed his presence and abruptly sat up, snorting explosively as he got to his feet. “So you’ve come to gloat!” Jean-Luc treated the statement with silence, his face stony. They stared at each other until the Tellerite became unnerved. “What do you want? An apology? If it will get me out of here you have it! I apologise!” More silence ensued as Jean-Luc kept his stoic vigil. The big alien became belligerent again. “How did it feel Human? How are your balls eh? What was it like to feel life oozing out of you as I cut off your air? You puny Humans…you populate the galaxy, Gods you’re everywhere! Well I won’t be told what to do by a miniscule Human…Captain or otherwise!” Speaking for the first time, the Tellerite had to concentrate to hear the softly asked question. “You would have killed me?” The alien moved closer to the force field, making it hum loudly. “Oh yes Human I would have killed you…gladly!” Frowning now the Captain’s face softened slightly. “Why? I had done nothing to you.” The spittle sizzled angrily as it hit the field. “Human scum! Federation dog! My father was murdered by a piece of Human excrement and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to avenge him. You gave me that chance.” By now thoroughly puzzled, Jean-Luc tried to see sense in the story. “But you work for the Federation…travel on Federation ships…I don’t understand.” The Tellerite snorted again and went to sit on the bunk His shoulders sagging, he shook his huge head. “I only found out two weeks ago. My father was a free agent…not tied to the mines. He had his own ship and indulged in trade, which the Federation tried to stop. There was a fight near the Zone and he and his ship was destroyed. He never stood a chance! You have no right to tell us how we may trade…it’s none of your business!” It was becoming clearer. “If he was indulging in the black market…trading with people he shouldn’t, then he could only expect a firm response! We can’t allow…” ”What you do or don’t allow is irrelevant! A Human murdered my father so a Human must die!” Shaking his head in exasperation, Jean-Luc turned to leave. He stopped when the Tellerite asked, “And what of me Human? What will happen to me?” “You will be tried for the attempted murder of a Starfleet officer. I expect you will be confined to a correctional facility for a lengthy period.” The alien stood and walked to within a few centimetres of the field. With slothful arrogance, he undid his trousers and urinated on the floor, careful not to let the stream hit the force field. “I piss on your courts Human.” Jean-Luc turned on his heel and left, the alien’s harsh laughter ringing in his ears.

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Parrum paced within its quarters, a light sheen of sweat matting the downy hair on its body. Having dispensed with the robe, the agitated being let the cooling air of the cabin attempt to dry its skin. Perspiration only occurred under great stress, usually only during the rigours of expulsion. With the calamitous situation at hand, Parrum was at a loss as to know what to do. Coupled with this was the impending and overwhelming need to indulge. In desperation it raised its head and addressed the computer. “Parrum to Doctor Crusher.” “Crusher here.” ”Doctor…Beverly…I need…I have to…please I need to…” “Parrum? Are you all right?” Sitting, the V’Larnnan cradled its head in its hands. “No Doctor I’m not.” “I’ll be right there.” Grabbing a med kit and a medical tricorder, Beverly ran from Sickbay and covered the distance to Parrum’s quarters in record time. Not bothering to press the chime and ignoring the guard, she overrode the lock and entered to find a naked Parrum on its knees upon the floor. “What is it?” As she deployed the tricorder, Parrum grabbed the instrument and closed it, shaking its head. “No! I need to indulge…quickly Beverly.” Noting the strobing colours and the sweat, Beverly wasted no time. “Right! What do I do?” Beckoning to her, they lay on the floor and Parrum panted, “I will not hurt you Beverly…please…trust me.” The Doctor nodded and Parrum continued. “You will feel what I feel and vice versa. I will make it as quick as I can. Take hold of my head.” Beverly laid her hands on its head as it held her the same way. It leaned forward, touching their foreheads and Beverly immediately felt the invasion of her mind. Accompanying this sensation was a rush of warmth throughout her body and, as she tried to assimilate the experience, the first overtly sexual arousal hit her. It skittered across her skin, concentrating on her genitals and breasts. She gasped, her body jerking as she also felt the burgeoning arousal in her partner. Unseen caresses stimulated her and she quickly spiralled out of control, leaving Parrum to see her through the storm of sexual need. Higher and higher it took her but mindful of what happened to the Captain, Parrum accelerated it’s own responses and rapidly reached its limit. With a glorious exultation, the climax surged through the alien. Its mind expanded and took Beverly’s answering orgasm and exalted in it. The woman sobbed and gasped, her body shuddering as inarticulate joy pervaded her senses. Parrum held them in an other worldly place of peace and calm as their bodies recovered. When it was certain Beverly

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was all right, it severed the connection and held her as she regained her mind. After some minutes it asked, “Beverly…are you all right?” The Doctor freed herself from its grasp and rolled onto her back. Taking a deep breath, she nodded. “Yes I think so. My God Parrum that was…that was…” The alien smiled indulgently. Sitting up it helped the Doctor up too. “I know, it was like that for me too. Your climax was as strong as Jean-Luc’s, you Humans are very lucky.” Curious Beverly brushed her hair back. ”Lucky! Why?” Standing, Parrum held out its hand and aided Beverly in regaining her feet. “In our species not everyone is capable of strong orgasms. Some of us can barely achieve much at all…indeed if not for their partner, they would not experience it at all. It is another reason why we need to be coupled to indulge.” Beverly straightened her clothing and blushed slightly as Parrum clearly felt her discomfort. “Well…are you ok now?” Smiling, the alien nodded. “Yes Beverly I am fine.” Chuckling, Beverly made for the door. “Hah! You sound remarkably like someone I know.” Parrum’s face fell and its shoulders sagged, an orange flush colouring its skin. “Beverly…the Captain…” The Doctor took its hands and peered under its brow. “Let him think about it Parrum. He’s a fair man…let him get over what’s happened, I’m sure everything will be all right.” The being nodded and summoned a warm smile. “Goodnight Beverly…and thank you.” She surprised it by kissing its cheek. “Goodnight Parrum.”

Beverly slept dreamlessly that night but woke early unsettled and very aroused. She groaned and squirmed in her bed, briefly considering tending to her need. In desperation she called, “Crusher to Picard.” He answered sleepily. “Picard here.” ”Captain could you come to my quarters please…immediately?” There was a momentary silence. “Beverly? Are you all right?”

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With an exasperated sigh, Beverly replied, “I’m fine! I just need…will you come?” “Can you wait until I shower and shave? I…” “NO!” His voice registering his concern, Jean-Luc responded, “Very well, I’ll be there shortly. Picard out.” She had only a little time to wait. The door had only begun to chime when she called, “Come in!” Breathlessly waiting in her bed, she gasped as Jean-Luc found her. He had on his robe and was barefoot. “Beverly what is it?” He approached the bed and she moved over, making room for him. Looking into his eyes she confessed, “I indulged with Parrum last night and I’ve woken up…very horny.” Eyebrows raised he hesitated by the bed and swallowed. “Oh and now you want…” “YES!” He stood looking down at his lover, a small smile appearing. With slow deliberation he undid his robe and slipped it off his shoulders. Beverly’s hungry eyes roved over his lean muscled body, her tongue wetting her lips. Dressed only in satin shorts, he took his time sliding them down his legs then stood proudly naked and aroused. Beverly sat up and peeled her nightie off staring as he used one hand to gently stroke himself. She was surprised at his next action. He leaned forward and gently pushed her back and when he spoke his voice was deep and velvety. “Lie back and play with yourself.” Her skin flushed dusky red as her eyes fixed on his. Taking his challenge, she lay back and opened her legs. With one hand teasing her breasts, the other drifted down her torso and slid into her folds. Her eyes slitted but he spoke again. “No…keep you eyes open.” Using the first two fingers and thumb he stroked the length of his penis, his other hand caressing his testicles. Beverly groaned and slipped a finger inside her as she pinched her nipples. Deliberately avoiding her clitoris, she feasted on the erotic sight of her lover pleasuring himself. For Jean-Luc it was another dream come true, watching the woman he’d fantasised about for so long masturbating for him. She began to writhe and pant then, no longer able to deny herself; she slid two fingers over her swollen clitoris. With a cry she arched off the bed, shaking her head as she tried to stall her orgasm. His words caressed her. “Do it my love…let yourself go, I want to watch you as you come.” The deep mellifluous voice, so blatantly sexual, sent her over the edge. She was just able to maintain contact with her pearl as she shuddered and jerked through the climax and, such was her arousal, another release chased the first, tearing his name from her throat. Mesmerised, Jean-Luc watched intently as Beverly writhed and bucked. Close to his own orgasm, he quickly squeezed his penis under the glans and steadied his breathing as he retreated from the abyss. When he was once again in control, he kneeled on the bed and gently parted Beverly’s legs, settling on his knees between them.

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The panting woman opened her eyes and watched transfixed as he gently picked up her hand and sucked her wet fingers into his mouth. With meticulous care he cleaned her fingers then bent forward and tenderly lapped at her sodden folds. Beverly moaned and mewed, his ministrations tantalising and provocative. With gentle attention he slowly rebuilt her desire and when he reached up and palmed her breasts she thought she would die with want. As his tongue slid in and out of her, he used one hand to join his mouth, the fingers opening her wider. The thick digits entered her and he redirected his tongue to her clitoris, feathering and tapping as he took her closer to ecstasy. He noted her hands holding his head and felt her internal contractions as he curled his fingers inside her. She arched up pushing herself harder onto his face and he knew she was very close. With scandalous ease he sucked her clitoris into his mouth and nipped it. Beverly shrieked and gripped his head fiercely, her upper body rising from the bed, as she was held suspended in a rictus of euphoria, her spine arched and her head thrown back. Jean-Luc slowly stilled his tongue and gently withdrew his fingers. Beverly fell back on the bed panting his name continuously and he sat up watching keenly. He took his throbbing penis in his hand and gently slid it through her wetness, making her sigh and mew. He rested his penis against her and used both hands to lift her buttocks onto his thighs. Waiting until she again opened her eyes, he made sure he had her attention then looked down and watched as he pushed his erection into her. Beverly rested her head on the pillows and stared with unfocussed eyes as Jean-Luc slowly pushed in and out of her. From his position he had an uninterrupted view of what he was doing to his lover and the opportunity to employ his dextrous hands. Fanning his large hands over her lower belly he caressed her skin then, using his fingertips, feathered his way to her nipples where he tweaked the hard nubs until they stood erect and rosy. Beverly’s hands covered his and she licked her lips wantonly. He closed his eyes and deepened his strokes. Beverly lifted her legs and draped them over his shoulders causing him to gasp as the movement increased the depth of his thrusts. Breathing deeply he infused his senses with her intimate scent then trailed one hand down her body to gently tantalise her clitoris with his fingers. She gasped and jerked throwing her head from side to side. He splayed his fingers and opened her labia wide exposing her pearl to his broad thumb. With long strokes he sent her into ecstasy again gritting his teeth and riding out her contractions as he waited inside her. The waves of bliss lessened and he took her legs from his shoulders and placed them either side of his hips. He leaned forward and stretched out his legs, covering her body with his and began to thrust again. Beverly, still in the aftermath of the most recent orgasm, cried out and grabbed his shoulders, her nails tearing his skin. Touching his forehead to hers, he let lose his control and started to slide in and out of her vigorously. Beverly, her voice one continuous cry was vaulted again into ecstasy as Jean-Luc reached his release. With three final hard thrusts he buried himself in her and shuddered as he pumped rhythmically, filling her with his seed.

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He rolled to one side and took her in his arms. Beverly’s trembling body was hot the sweat from both of them running onto the sheets. Her exhausted chuckle made him smile. “What?” Her whisper made him snort. “Now my bed smells of sex.” They lay quietly for a while before Jean-Luc kissed the top of her head. “How do you feel?” He was greeted with silence and he gently lifted her head to find her asleep. Placing her softly on the pillow, he reached down and pulled up the blankets. With gentle movements he eased from the bed, donned his robe and walked into the main room. “Picard to Doctor Selar.” “Selar here.” “Doctor I am authorising a day’s leave for Doctor Crusher. Please amend the duty roster to reflect the change.” “Yes Captain.” Closing the channel, he opened another one. “Picard to Riker. “Riker here Captain.” “I will be in Doctor Crusher’s quarters until further notice Number One. I would prefer to be undisturbed but you may contact me if necessary.” “I see Sir. Is everything all right? Beverly’s not sick is she?” Stifling an annoyed sigh, Jean-Luc replied, “No she’s fine, she just needs my help with something.” “Very good Captain I’ll see you tomorrow then.” “Yes Commander. Picard out.” As soon as the channel closed Will gestured for Deanna to follow him into the Ready Room. Knowing what he wanted made the empath irritated. Once the doors closed he turned to her. “Well? What’s going on?” Waving her hands dismissively, Deanna sat on the sofa. “Really Will it’s none of our business.” He stood, towering over the petite Counsellor. “Oh come on…don’t tell me you don’t want to know?” Deanna knew all too well. All morning she’d been vicariously experiencing their activities, so much so that she had to fortify her mental barriers to dampen her sense of the couple and wanted to give them their privacy. “Will let it go!” Hearing the rising anger in her voice he changed tactics. “OK, but what if one of them is sick…or injured and the other one is trying to cover it up?” Disbelief settled on her face and Deanna scowled. “You don’t honestly think they would do that do you? The Captain would never allow it and Beverly would never compromise his safety in such a manner. Grow up Will.”

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Defeated, Will sat beside her and shook his head. “It’s not fair! You know and you won’t tell me!” She patted his thigh and rested her head on his shoulder. “There there Will, you’ll get over it.” Jean-Luc made one final call. He dismissed the guard outside Parrum’s quarters then called the alien. “Picard to Parrum.” “Parrum here Captain.” “Parrum I have given some thought to your situation and have decided to rescind my orders. You are free to leave your quarters, but I will want to talk to you about what happened.” “Understood Captain, thank you.” “Picard out.”

Jean-Luc went back into Beverly’s bedroom and made sure she was sleeping peacefully. He then showered and re-entered the bedroom and took a few moments to watch her sleep. “So beautiful…my deesse…my goddess.” Sighing with happy contentment, he eased into the bed and gently took his lover in his arms. She smiled softly and snuggled deeply into his embrace. It took him some time, but he eventually relaxed and found sleep. Three and a half hours later he woke to the door annunciator. Checking to see her undisturbed, he extricated himself from her arms and left the bed, donning his robe as he strode to the door. Before he pressed the release he hesitated…after all he was in the CMO’s quarters during duty hours dressed only in a robe. He looked over his shoulder at the closed bedroom door and grimaced. Instead of answering the chime, he asked, “Computer who is at Doctor Crusher’s door?” “Parrum N’arrok is at Doctor Crusher’s door.” Frowning, Jean-Luc pressed the release and squared his shoulders. The doors whispered open and Parrum took a step back, surprised at the identity of the person facing it. “Captain Picard.” “Parrum. Doctor Crusher is indisposed at the moment…can I help you?” Resisting the urge to look him up and down, the V’Larnnan bowed slightly and brought its hidden hand from behind its back. “I have come by to give her this…it is for last night.” In its hand was a perfectly formed camellia. “I believe it is her favourite flower.” Taking the bloom, Jean-Luc smiled as he studied it. “Yes it is.” Parrum smiled and flushed slightly. “Captain I can feel your contentment. I take it you and Beverly have…become intimate?” Briefly closing his eyes and gritting his teeth, Jean-Luc’s only reply was a curt nod. The alien felt his defensive irritation and held up its hand.

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“Please Captain…do not be angry, I am very happy for you both. I have some questions…” With a large sigh, Jean-Luc glanced again at the bedroom doors and stepped back. “Very well Parrum, come in.” The two beings settled in the living area near the viewports. Jean-Luc concentrated on keeping his emotions in check and Parrum appreciated his effort. “Captain is this not your duty shift?” “Yes.” “Yet you are here in Beverly’s cabin barely dressed.” “Yes.” The alien sat back, a look of incredulousness on its face. Jean-Luc sighed and lost some of his rigidity. “Parrum are you aware of the…side effects of indulging with Humans?” The tall being’s eyebrows shot up. ”Side effects? There are side effects?” The Captain sat back and crossed his legs, careful to keep his robe from falling open. “Yes there are. When I woke the next day after we indulged, I had raised hormone levels, a saturation of serotonin in my brain and the cerebral pleasure centre had received an over stimulation…well beyond its capacity to assimilate. The result of all this was that it left me in a state of high sexual arousal, a condition that lasted in excess of twelve hours and, although relieving this state proved to be exceptionally pleasurable, I would have appreciated being in a little more control of myself.” Parrum sat forward and made an abortive attempt to reach for Jean-Luc’s hands. Realising the inappropriateness of the gesture, it withdrew its hands and clasped them on its lap. “Jean-Luc I had no idea…that doesn’t happen to us. And what of Beverly? I tailored my responses to make it easier for her…was she similarly affected?” Sniffing, Jean-Luc looked again at the closed bedroom door. “I’m here aren’t I? During my duty shift, dressed only in my robe.” Parrum frowned and sat back. “Were her hormone and serotonin levels elevated too?” The Captain rubbed his face. “To be honest I don’t know, we didn’t get around to checking them. I was asleep when Beverly called. She sounded distressed and asked me to come straight away. I found her in her bed…in need of my…help.” “Oh.” Flushing deep mauve, Parrum shook its head, a smile emerging. “You know there is a Lieutenant Gowering in Anthropology that would be very happy to be in your position. He said that a woman should be…” Jean-Luc scowled and held up his hand. “Go no further Parrum, I really don’t want to know.” The alien grinned and hazarded a mischievous wink. “So Jean-Luc what do you think of each other’s orgasms?” The Captain’s head snapped up and the anger bubbled close to the surface. “That is too private Parrum! I would appreciate it if you…” The russet being frowned.

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“But Jean-Luc your climaxes are so strong! Surely it enhances the sex act for you both?” His eyes glittering dangerously, Jean-Luc took a large breath then realised Parrum was labouring under a mistake. Keeping his anger in check he asked, “Are you under the impression that we can feel each other’s sensations?” “Can’t you?” Lowering his head and shaking it, Jean-Luc sighed. “No Parrum we can’t.” The V’Larnnan frowned and opened its mouth several times. “But Jean-Luc…I thought that during the sex act a connection was made…a physical and mental closeness that allowed the transference of sensation. People have told me… described the phenomenon…now you tell me there is no such connection?” Rubbing his hands over his head, Jean-Luc sighed. “There is a connection Parrum especially if the people involved are in love, but it’s more…spiritual. Certainly one can tell if your partner has had a…meaningful experience, just as one can easily feel the difference in yourself, but no, we can’t feel what happens to our partner. Although I must say there is a great deal of satisfaction, other than the physical, in knowing you have given your partner the ultimate sensual pleasure.” Parrum sat deep in thought and amused the Captain by cocking its head and rubbing its lower lip, a gesture Jean-Luc was very familiar with. “So…the experience is a personal one, but shared on a basis of mutual affection…of love?” “Yes.” “I see. Did it matter that your recent…joining…was one of immediacy? Did the stress of relieving the need under those circumstances take anything away from the act?” Jean-Luc shook his head and smiled. “No because we love each other. Despite the fact it was…under less than ideal circumstances, it still held wonder and great meaning for us both. Our love for each other transcends any hiccups, any missteps. We realise it will not always be rosy, but our love will carry us through any adversity.” Parrum nodded then frowned. “Jean-Luc…about what I did to the Tellerite, I am most abjectly sorry. I…” The Captain shook his head and held up his hand. “No Parrum it is I who should apologise. You were trying to protect me and I must thank you for that. You may well have saved my life, I’ve since found out he did indeed intend to kill me. I am duty bound to inform the other ships and my superiors of your species’ mental abilities but I will also tell them the circumstances under which you used yours. I will also offer my recommendation that your lack of disclosure should not be taken as a deliberate act of dishonesty or hostility. After all we don’t go telling new acquaintances everything about ourselves do we?” The being smiled gratefully and flushed dark blue. “Thank you Jean-Luc. Beverly said you were a fair man and she was right. Again my apologies for causing you any upset.” Jean-Luc waved his hand and smiled. “We will talk of it no more.” Parrum looked over its shoulder at the bedroom door and sighed.

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“You have also been very forthcoming about some very personal issues and I appreciate that too.” “Think nothing of it.” The being chuckled, sighed and stood. “You have given me much to think about Jean-Luc, thank you for being so…open. I know how uncomfortable such discussions are for you.” Jean-Luc stood and pushed his hands into the pockets of his robe. Summoning a crooked smile, he sighed. “Actually you’re doing me a power of good. Deanna tells me I should be more open about my feelings, perhaps you’re teaching me to…open up.” Chuckling, Parrum gripped his friend’s shoulder and nodded. “I think we are doing each other some good Jean-Luc! If you knew how closed my society is…rest assured they will be learning many new things when I go home.” The tall being left and Jean-Luc shook his head. After drinking a cold glass of water he went into the bedroom and took off his robe, slipping quietly into the bed. Before he could gather Beverly in his arms, she rose up on her elbow and kissed him soundly. He sighed and lay back taking her with him. “How do you feel?” She nuzzled under his chin and chuckled. “After what you did to me…I don’t think I’ll be fit for anything for some time yet.” With a warm grin, Jean-Luc rose up and watched as the beautiful red head stretched languidly. “So you feel…sated? Your body’s not humming?” She growled softly, lifting her head and biting him softly on the neck. “I’m ok for the moment…just don’t go anywhere…I’m sure I’ll have need of your… expertise later. By the way, how did you handle our time off?” He stroked her hair, tucking several strands behind her ear. “I called Selar this morning and told her you were having a day off at my behest. As for Will I simply told him I was with you and to leave us undisturbed if possible.” “And he just accepted that? No…interrogation?” Smiling, Jean-Luc dipped his head and kissed her softly. “Well he did try to dig but I put him off. He wouldn’t dare ask me to my face what we’ve been up to; his methods of information gathering are far subtler. His first port of call will be Deanna.” Beverly’s muffled laugh caused Jean-Luc to frown. “What?” Regaining control, Beverly traced her fingers over the contours of his face. “Don’t you think Deanna doesn’t already know exactly what we were doing? Think about it Jean-Luc…who are the two most likely to be under her radar…constantly?” The Captain’s face darkened as his penny dropped. “Do you mean…while we were…she was…oh God.” The giggle was unexpected. “It’s not funny Beverly! I do not appreciate having an audience! Even a surreptitious one.”

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“Oh calm down, she can’t help it. Of all the crew she monitors your emotional well-being is above anyone else because it’s her job. She has to know, at all times that the Captain of this ship is functioning properly. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of her duty.” He snorted and lay back on the bed. “All right I accept that but what about you? Why would she be concentrating on you?” Beverly lay back and sighed. “Now don’t go getting upset. She’s tuned in to me for two reasons. One…I’m her best friend and it’s her way of looking after me.” “And second?” “She knows about us and is very…curious.” He sat up abruptly and raised his voice. “What! She knows about us? And how, pray tell did that happen?” Dragging herself into a sitting position, Beverly gripped his arm. “Now I asked you not to get upset. The short story is I told her, but she would’ve found out anyway. I’ve been glowing and giving off some rather…heated emotions. I’m not as good as you at blocking her Jean-Luc and truth be told, I don’t want to. Look I know Deanna; she won’t rat on us, not even to Will. She understands how precious we hold our relationship to be.” His anger slowly evaporated. Finding a smile he kissed her tenderly and gently pushed her down onto the bed. He deepened the kiss and softly kneaded her breast. Leaving her mouth he nuzzled her neck and whispered in her ear, “Are you sure you’re no longer humming?” She growled softly and bit his ear lobe. “No I’m not sure at all. Maybe you should see for yourself.” He stretched his body over hers and kissed her deeply. “I hope Deanna is busy because if she’s listening she’s going to be in for quite a show.” “Damn Deanna…and you Jean-Luc…hurry up and make love to me again.”

Eight days later they dropped off the miners and handed the prisoner over to the planetary authorities. He would be transferred to the nearest Starbase to await trial. The Enterprise left orbit and made the effortless jump to warp as she headed for her next assignment, an extended tour of a distant system. They were to rendezvous with another ship in two weeks to download their amassed scientific data and to receive some new crew. Parrum found itself outside Jean-Luc’s quarters late one night, slightly nervous. “Computer is Captain Picard in his quarters?” ”Affirmative.” “Is he awake?” “Affirmative.” The tall being nodded to itself and lifted a hand to press the chime. Hesitating slightly, it asked another question.

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“Computer is Captain Picard alone?” “Negative.” “Who is with Captain Picard?” “Doctor Beverly Crusher is with Captain Picard.” Frowning Parrum rubbed its chin. “Computer where are they in Captain Picard’s quarters?” “Invalid enquiry. Please restate the question.” Giving it some thought, Parrum asked, “Are Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher in the bedroom?” “Negative.” Feeling its confidence rise it decided to press the chime before it lost its nerve. “Come.” Parrum stepped in and was relieved to find both officers dressed casually and sitting on the sofa reading. Jean-Luc set his book down and stood. “Parrum? What can I do for you?” Moving to sit opposite, the alien cleared its throat and flushed in a deep mauve. “I needed to talk to you…both of you.” The Captain noticed Parrum’s discomfort and glanced at Beverly, only to receive an imperceptible shrug. “I see. Well would you like something? A drink perhaps?” “No thank you, I’m fine.” Casting a glance at his lover, Jean-Luc gestured with his hand. “Well then please have a seat.” Gathering its robe around it in a gentle rustling, the alien sat and sighed. “I am afraid I am in a dilemma and I thought perhaps you could help me.” Jean-Luc frowned and looked at Beverly. “I see. Is it me or Doctor Crusher you wish to speak to?” “Both of you…it concerns both of you.” Focussing his attention on his guest, Jean-Luc sat forward, listening intently. “You must understand what I have to say comes as complete a surprise to me as it will probably be to you. I think I have begun to feel love.” Beverly gasped and sat straighter. “Parrum that’s wonderful! Who?” Swallowing and bowing its head, its words were difficult to hear. “You and Jean-Luc.” The Captain frowned and shook his head. “What?” Lifting its head, the being sighed and spread its hands. “I’m sorry, I never intended this to happen, and in fact I thought it was impossible, but I decided to try anyway. When I took your advice I altered my thought processes to enable me to be more…open to the possibility of experiencing such an emotion. With my species, when we wish to try something new…mentally speaking…we can shift the fundamental structure of our mental approaches to better embrace new concepts. I thought long about what you said Beverly…that I might have been avoiding my emotions and you were right. Once I made the adjustments I found the emotion took seed in my mind and has grown with time. Indulging with you both has strengthened it to the point

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that I find my thoughts are constantly returning to you both…and I don’t know what to do. I was simply attracted to you both before…but now…” Jean-Luc’s “Oh God.” Earned him a glare from Beverly. She was about to say something when Parrum raised its hand. “No Beverly I know. Jean-Luc explained.” Frowning, the Doctor looked at her lover. “What did you explain?” With an expansive shrug, Jean-Luc was confused. “Parrum?” “You told me you don’t want multiple partners.” Eyebrows rising in comprehension, Jean-Luc smiled. Turning to Beverly he explained. “When Parrum came to me that night, the night we indulged, it confessed attraction for me and I explained that although some Humans tolerated or accepted multiple partners, we did not.” With light dawning in Beverly’s eyes she nodded. “Ah. So Parrum what do you intend? Why have you told us?” The tall alien shrugged and sighed. “To be honest I don’t know. As I said, I find the phenomenon very distracting and then there’s this.” Reaching into the folds of its robe, it produced a flat instrument and activated it, handing it to Beverly. “It is called an aruk. It is the equivalent of your tricorder. You can see here”, it leaned forward and pressed some controls bringing up some schematics, “these were my original readings…and now”, it repeated the manoeuvre and a new lot of information scrolled across the screen, “these readings now apply. My body chemistry has altered and my brain waves have been affected. It seems love can be quantified physically…at least for me.” Deep in thought Beverly rose and went to the replicator, ordering the supply of a medical tricorder. Once seated she asked Parrum, “Can we download your information into this? In a form I can understand?” Nodding, the being took Beverly’s instrument and aligned them. Pressing a few controls, the exchange was made. “You will find the readings in Standard Doctor.” Smiling her thanks, Beverly walked to Jean-Luc’s computer and accessed the medical database where she downloaded Parrum’s file into her tricorder. Now she could do a comparison. Jean-Luc watched over her shoulder as she studied the readings, a slight frown on her face. While she was engrossed Jean-Luc spoke. In a quiet voice he asked, “What do you wish us to do? Would it be easier for you if we limited contact between us?” With an alarmed shake of its head, Parrum clasped its hands. “No! I think that would only exacerbate the problem If I were denied your company I would suffer withdrawal. It would be painful and distressing for me. Perhaps we should simply keep seeing each other and allow me to attempt to redress the changes…try to regain my normal balance.” Jean-Luc frowned and shook his head.

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“But would that mean you’d lose the emotion? I think that would be a terrible waste Parrum having only just found it.” Beverly’s hand on his arm silenced him. “Parrum these changes can be rectified, but I think Jean-Luc’s right. If I restore you to normal you’ll lose the feelings you have now. Do you want that?” The alien stood and paced, its hands sliding over the dome of its head. “I don’t know! If I had known what confusion, what distress love caused I would never have…” Beverly stood quickly and gripped its arm. ”Don’t say that Parrum, love isn’t always like this. If you had chosen someone unattached then you would be free to explore the delight, the euphoria that love can bring.” The being spun to face her, its body strobing brightly. “But I didn’t! I chose you and Jean-Luc and it hurts! Physically and emotionally it hurts!” With that Parrum turned abruptly and left. The lovers stared in stunned silence, each struggling to come to terms with what had happened. Jean-Luc stood and went to Beverly, taking her in his arms. “Is there anything we can do?” Shaking her head, Beverly draped her arms over his shoulders and snuggled into his neck. “No. It has a decision to make…a very difficult one. Keep feeling love and be in mental and physical anguish, or be restored to normal and dispense with the emotion altogether, having only just found it.” She sighed heavily and Jean-Luc tightened his embrace. “Not an enviable position to be in.” “No.”

Parrum felt the churning of its gut and sought solitude. Entering its quarters, it knelt on the floor facing the viewports and began to chant, steepling its fingers at eye level. Gently rocking back and forward, the mantra slowly calmed it. When finally at peace, it climbed to its feet and sat on the sofa, cradling its head in its hands. “That did not go well, I should have stayed calm. What must they think of me? Gods I feel…I feel…I want them to…” As the stress increased Parrum made a startling discovery. In spite of the growing tension, it did not feel the urge to indulge. Sitting heavily on the sofa, it took out the aruk and scanned itself, frowning at the result. “I have changed significantly…if I stay like this I will be able to control the need to indulge.” With this realisation came the lurch of its hearts. “I will have to stay in love! Gods…I have no choice.” Closing its eyes, it put away the instrument and sighed, shaking its head, its body flushing deep green, the colour of dismay.

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For the next ten days the Enterprise nosed her way through the old system, stopping here and there to make scientific studies. The rendezvous with the Arunta had gone smoothly and several new crewmembers had come aboard. Beverly was delighted to find a new diagnostic computer was transported aboard to be fitted to all the biobeds. With greater sensitivity, the new system would enhance Sickbay pleasing the Doctor inordinately. She had the computers up and running two days after receiving them and pestered several crewmembers to be patients so she could test them. The situation soon became common knowledge and information swept the lower decks so quickly that Beverly soon had no takers. In desperation she went to the Bridge. Finding Jean-Luc in his Ready Room, she settled into Will’s usual seat and leaned over the Command chair to whisper in his ear. “Will I have a favour to ask. I want…” The big man stroked his beard and chuckled. “I bet you have and the answer’s no. I do not want to be a test bunny!” The outraged Doctor sat up and took a swipe at his shoulder. “How the hell do you know?” With a delighted laugh Will replied, “It’s all over the ship! Everyone’s talking about it…Doctor Crusher wants test bunnies. I really don’t think you’re going to get anyone.” By now becoming irritated, Beverly huffed. “Oh for God’s sake! I just need a representative of each species aboard. It’s harmless, painless…it just takes a little while…” The First Officer leaned over and said wryly, “I heard it takes over two hours.” Now angry, the Doctor glared. “Well I have to calibrate and specify…there are readouts and schematics…dammit Will!” Just then Jean-Luc strode out of his office. He stopped as Will and Beverly vacated their chairs then sat quietly, easily sensing Beverly’s angst. “Doctor Crusher? What seems to be the problem?” “Captain. I am having a little trouble gaining volunteers to test my new diagnostic biobed computers.” “Ah yes, the new computers…I’ve heard. Somehow Doctor I don’t think you’ll be getting your volunteers if what I understand is true.” With hands on hips in an almost insubordinate display, Beverly tossed her hair back and met her CO head on. “And just what is that Sir?” With a small smile, Jean-Luc shrugged. “That it takes several hours. I don’t think…” ”It takes two hours tops!”

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Seeing his displeasure at being cut off, Beverly amended… ”Sir.” Crossing his legs elegantly, the Captain tugged down his tunic. “Nevertheless Doctor I doubt anyone had that kind of time to spare.” Thinking furiously, Beverly had an idea. “You could make it an order?” Pursing his lips and lightly stretching his neck, Jean-Luc pondered. “Why would I?” Straightening her spine, Beverly looked down at him. “Because it’s in everyone’s best interest…and you know it…Sir.” He allowed several tense minutes to pass before coming to his decision. “You’re right of course. Very well I will make it an order and as a show of camaraderie, I will be the token Human.” The Doctor gaped then snapped her mouth closed and smiled brightly. “Thank you Captain, I’m sure your example will encourage everybody.” Stepping smartly she left the Bridge and Will stifled a chuckle. His Captain, however, did not miss his actions. “Yes Mr.Riker?” “Oh nothing Sir…just that I’m sure Beverly will be very…happy with you.” Casting a sidelong glare at his exec, he silenced the man and returned to his work, the smile only just under the surface. “Oh I’m planning on it.”

Jean-Luc issued his order and Beverly had no further trouble. The Captain however had a few considerations to take effect. He insisted that the scan be done late at night with only Beverly present. She acquiesced, too happy to have him in Sickbay under such innocuous circumstances to argue. “Now you just lie still and I’ll input the information. It won’t take long.” Those prophetic words had been uttered one hour and forty-five minutes ago and the Captain was getting very restless. He shifted his shoulders for the umpteenth time only to have Beverly admonish him. “For God’s sake Jean-Luc…keep still!” He gritted his teeth and hissed, “How much longer will this take Doctor? I’ve been here hours already and I’ll have you know I put off some very important work to come down here. Am I going to be able to complete my work any time soon?” Her eyes fastened on the monitor, Beverly absently squeezed his hand. “Shh, I’m nearly finished.” With a snort of derision, the Captain closed his eyes and decided to ignore the entire procedure. It was some minutes before he realised he could no longer here the processing

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computer. Cracking his eyes open, he saw a radiantly beautiful woman smiling gently down at him. “What are you doing?” She bent forward and kissed him tenderly, robbing him of his irritation. His eyes drifted closed and when she departed his mouth, he smiled and sighed. “I was watching you. You’re so handsome Jean-Luc…especially when you relax.” He blushed slightly and huffed, pleased, but somewhat disgruntled. “Are you finished?” “Yep.” He sat up and swivelled on the biobed, curious when Beverly insinuated herself between his legs. He remained still, his face expressionless as she wound her arms around his head and rested her forehead against his. Her delicate perfume mixed with his subtle aftershave and he shivered slightly at feeling the heat emanating from her body. He whispered, “Beverly?” “Shh.” She tilted her head and snuck in for a kiss. Due to their location, Jean-Luc remained unyielding so she teased his lips with her tongue and feathered her fingers through the fringe of hair at the back of his head. His resistance began to crumble. His hands came around her and travelled up and down her back as he opened his mouth to her questing tongue. She was deliberately tantalising him and he responded quickly, pulling her closer and taking control of the kiss, deepening it. She moaned softly into his mouth and he sighed, one of his hands creeping around to gently knead her breast. Gasping softly, Beverly broke the kiss. Panting, she said, “What about your work?” He bit her neck and sucked the skin, before licking the area and nibbling her earlobe. “What work? I’m officially off duty, but I am wondering about our locale. What if there was an emergency?” Beverly rested her brow on his and glanced down at his groin, smiling sultrily at the outline of his erection. She lazily ran a finger over his length and gently tongued the whorls of his ear. “Good point, but what about this?” In response to her caress he pinched her nipple, the other hand going down to firmly cup her sex, massaging it. Both panting and softly moaning, it was Jean-Luc who broke the sensuous spell. “Stop Beverly. If you continue to do that to me…so help me I’ll drag you onto this bed and have my way with you which, although tempting, is not what I really want to do to you.” Lifting her head, the flushed woman frowned. “You don’t want to make love to me?” He chuckled and gently kneaded her breast. “Oh yes my love, but not here and not in a mad rush. I want to take my time and enjoy you…you’re like a fine vintage wine, to be savoured, sipped, not guzzled all at once.” Beverly sighed and kissed him again, but she kept her hands to herself. Sensing her agreement, he dropped his hands and tilted his head back, closing his eyes and taking a large breath. Beverly took a step back and watched as he struggled to regain control over

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his body. When nothing happened after a while, he opened his eyes and sighed, a rueful smile on his face. “Beverly do you have anything you need to do in the office? Your proximity is making this bloody impossible.” With a knowing snicker, Beverly half turned, then spun back and kissed him once more and, on an impish impulse, ran her finger over his erection. He growled and managed to slap her behind before she retreated out of range. “You’ll pay for that!” Her laughter ringing in his ears, he was left to sit alone on the bed and regain control.

They were breathless once again as they entered his quarters. Having run the last metres, they were in each other’s arms before the doors closed. A trail of clothing was left across the floor as they undressed each other quickly, but once beside the bed and naked, Jean-Luc stayed true to his word. He slowed things down, taking his time to caress and love his beautiful companion. Beverly was in seventh heaven. She always knew he would be a thoughtful and generous lover, but his tenderness, his reverence was heartbreaking. Despite his own urgent need, he ignored his body and concentrated on pleasing her. His kisses were languid and travelled the length of her fevered body. His hands joined his mouth, he even used the hair of his torso to tease and delight, pulling Beverly further and further into a web of sensual overload and when his fingers slipped inside her she nearly climaxed. His mouth descended on her nipples, sucking and grazing with his teeth as his fingers pumped in and out. She arched off the bed, gripping his head and begging him for more, for him to touch her there. He teased and aroused, caressed and kissed until she thought she would go mad with desire. Her breaths coming in strained gasps, she begged, pleaded for release. Taking his mouth from her breasts he rose to his knees and settled between her spread legs. Taking a moment to watch her writhe as his wet fingers slid in and out, he used his free hand to open her labia before leaning forward and probing his tongue around her clitoris. To have him so close, but not yet touching her where she most wanted him to nearly made Beverly weep in frustration. She bucked under him, reached down with her hands and pressed his face to her sex, and continued to plead. Finally he gave in. Increasing the tempo of his thrusting fingers, he suddenly swirled his tongue over her swollen clitoris then sucked it into his mouth, nipping it gently. Beverly shrieked and arched off the bed, twisting her body sideways as the climax surged through her. It flashed from her clitoris out through her body to her extremities then crashed back in pulse after pulse of ecstasy. Jean-Luc gripped her hip with one hand and held on while the tempest raged. Two, three times she climaxed then finally a fourth

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before he gently stopped his intimate caresses. Momentarily senseless, Beverly rolled onto her back, moaning incoherently, her body slack and trembling. Jean-Luc came up the bed and pulled the covers up, settling beside her. With her last bit of energy, Beverly rolled towards him and cradled her head on his shoulder. She quickly slipped into sleep. Despite his turgid erection, Jean-Luc relaxed and eventually dozed, but woke after an hour and a half, still erect, in fact painfully so. With his lover sleeping peacefully beside him, he sighed, closed his eyes and eased the covers off his body. The sensation of the sheet travelling across the sensitive erection was almost too much. He reached down and gripped his penis, establishing a slow rhythmic pumping. His free hand cradled his testicles, gently squeezing and he had to concentrate to keep from moaning. Sweat broke out on his skin, his eyes were screwed shut and he didn’t sense Beverly waking up. She slowly rose on an elbow and watched in erotic fascination as he went about tending his need. When her hand covered his, he gasped, his eyes flying open, his hand stilling. To assuage his embarrassment, she kissed him slowly and encouraged him to let go of his penis. She took his hand and placed it on her breast and he broke the kiss, his look one of enquiry. She nodded, smiling seductively and running her fingers up his erection. He sighed and kissed her again, moaning when she spread his pearl bead over the head. She eased onto her back, gently pulling him with her. As he settled on her, she opened her legs and lifted her knees, raising her hips in a suggestive manner, making him gasp as his erection slid through her wetness. She reached between them and took him in hand, guiding him to her entrance. He hesitated; worried she wasn’t ready for him, but she gripped his buttock and pulled him down…he slid into her effortlessly. He stilled, throbbing painfully inside her, trying to maintain control, but she began to clench him rhythmically, her strong internal muscles beseeching him to join her. He rose up on his arms and locked his eyes onto hers as he began to thrust. Slowly at first, Beverly curled her hands around his head and drew him down, kissing him passionately. “Let go Jean-Luc…I want to feel your power, your raw unrepressed power. Give it to me!” He closed his eyes and let lose a low growl. Taking her hands he pinned her to the bed and began to thrust hard and fast. Vigorously he pumped in and out of her, bending one knee to deepen the penetration. “Yes! Yes Jean-Luc…fuck me!” Her coarse words sliced through what was left of his composure. With an abruptness that startled him, he orgasmed, the force of it tearing a guttural shout from his throat and causing his body to flex and spasm. Unaware to him, Beverly experienced her own orgasm; he only heard her whimpering as he slowly came down, the roaring in his ears abating. Realising he held her wrists in a vice-like grip, he made a conscious effort to loosen his fingers, his arms trembling and sweat dripping onto her flushed skin. She opened her eyes and smiled weakly up at him. He gently lowered himself and rested his head on her shoulder. Still panting, Beverly gasped, “Oh my God…that was…that was…fabulous!” Tiredly, Jean-Luc raised his weary head and kissed her. With slow movements he rolled off her and lay panting, trying to order his thoughts. He smiled when she turned onto her side and flung an arm across his chest. Sleepily, he whispered, “Beverly?”

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“Hmm?” “Why did you want me to do that?” She sighed and brushed her fingers over his nipple. “What…give up your control?” ”Yes.” She slowly rose up on her elbow and trailed her fingers across his lips. “Because your control is so important to you. I wanted to see if you would give it up for me…what it would be like to be…taken by you. It was a very erotic experience.” His silence worried her. “Jean-Luc? Wasn’t it good for you? Didn’t you like it?” He sighed and swallowed. “I told you I wanted to savour you, not take you like some maddened animal. I love you Beverly and I want my lovemaking to reflect that love.” Beverly smiled in the dim light, her hair picking up the starlight, her eyes glistening. “Jean-Luc I know you love me! And it shows in everything we do together. Tenderness has its place but sometimes a woman wants to feel her lover’s power, the unrestrained potency and sheer virility of her mate. I won’t ask it of you often, but I hope you never hold back when I do. You did enjoy it didn’t you?” He stared up into her eyes and smiled. “Yes. In fact I came so suddenly and so hard I nearly passed out. For a moment there I didn’t know who I was…just that I was in ecstasy.” “There you go. We will do a lot of experimenting my love, just trust me, ok?” He gently pulled down and kissed her. “Implicitly.”

Three days later Jean-Luc and Beverly were waiting for Parrum to arrive at the Captain’s quarters. Jean-Luc was uncorking some wine and Beverly was finishing the table setting. The door chimed and Jean-Luc sighed. “I’m still not sure about this.” Beverly walked to him and kissed him lightly on the tip of his nose. “It’ll be all right. I spoke to Parrum yesterday and it assured me it can keep its feelings under control.” “Still…Beverly it is in love with us…I don’t want it to experience any…extra pain, at least no more than what is unavoidable. I know full well the particularly exquisite pain of unrequited love.” Sighing Beverly squeezed his arm. She looked deep into his eyes and felt his remembered sorrow. “I’m so sorry Jean-Luc. I had no idea I was causing you such pain.” He smiled warmly and shrugged. “It’s in the past my love, my happiness now is boundless, I’m just concerned for Parrum, that’s all.” Her eyes sparkling with unshed tears; Beverly hugged her lover, whispering in his ear,

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“Well you’d better let it in or it will start wondering what we’re doing in here.” Chuckling to himself, Jean-Luc went to the door and pressed the release. “Good evening Parrum please come in.” The tall being smiled warmly and stepped past the Captain, coming to a halt in the middle of the room. “Beverly! You look…lovely.” The Doctor grinned and raised her arms, allowing the flowing robe she wore to exhibit its pattern. “Actually it was you who inspired me. I really admire the robes you wear so I thought I’d give this a try. The design is something I had the computer create…it’s supposed to reflect the Milky Way, the constellation that contains our home world.” Jean-Luc walked to the low table and retrieved a frosted glass of juice for his guest. His eyes roved over the beautiful woman, his discerning gaze admiring the way the robe showed off her figure when she raised her arms. Parrum grinned and, when it caught the Captain’s eye, nodded and sighed. “I agree Jean-Luc.” An annoyed look of being caught out flashed across the man’s face, but he kept control. Instead he muttered, “I will never get used to that.” Laughing, Parrum took its seat on the sofa and admired the Captain as he went about pouring wine for himself and Beverly. When they were all seated, Jean-Luc raised his glass. “Parrum it is a custom of Earth to make what we call a ‘toast’ before we take the first sip. It is a means of adding solemnity or humour to a new event. So! Here’s to good friends and safe travels.” Following their example, it clinked glasses then they sipped their drinks. Parrum smiled and raised its eyebrows. “A new drink? What is it?” Beverly giggled and leaned forward. “Passionfruit and guava. Do you like it? It comes from the more tropical areas of Earth.” The alien’s smile slipped and alarm flittered across its face. “Passionfruit?” Seeing its alarm, Beverly patted its arm. “Oh no Parrum! It’s only a name; it doesn’t mean it elicits that kind of response. I think the namers were trying to tell the consumer how nice it was.” Sighing with relief, Parrum took another sip and smiled at its friends. “So how is the exploring going?” The Captain looked up from his glass and pursed his lips. “Actually you might be interested in our next stop. We are due, in a few days, to enter orbit around a very old planet in this sector. The original inhabitants are long gone, but there are extensive archaeological sites open for study.” The tall being flushed dusky violet and grinned broadly. “That sounds wonderful. What about safety? Are there any animals we need to watch out for?” Beverly offered her glass to Jean-Luc for a refill and took up the conversation.

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“As a matter of fact there are. It seems the planet is undergoing a renaissance. New humanoid life forms are appearing and, although extremely primitive, they have demonstrated the beginnings of tool usage…and weapon making. You will only be able to visit those sites remote from the colonies. Contact with these beings is prohibited.” Parrum frowned and turned his attention to the Captain. “Because of the…Prime Directive?” Jean-Luc nodded. “Indeed. As you know we cannot allow beings less technologically advanced to have any contact with us. To do so would be calamitous, extremely destructive. We learned the hard way to mind our own business where it involves evolving species.” Parrum shook its head. “I’m not sure I agree totally with your strictures Jean-Luc. Although I understand the reason behind it…indeed we have a similar edict, however we have, on occasion helped lesser species when confronted with sickness or something like famine. We could not stand idly by and allow whole civilisations to perish when we had the expertise to help.” Jean-Luc and Beverly looked at each other and smiled ruefully. Parrum watched as the silent conversation passed between the two lovers. Eventually sighing, Jean-Luc enlightened his guest. “Beverly and I have very few heated arguments…I’m happy to say, but the one topic that’s bound to bring us to logger heads is when the Prime Directive prevents us from interfering in another culture when sickness or some other non-military reason is to blame for their trouble. As a physician, her first instinct is to render aid, while as a Captain, and a strict adherent of Starfleet policy, my job…indeed my sworn duty, is to uphold the Prime Directive. Needless to say we have had some…disagreements over the years and, I will admit, there have been one or two times when I have disobeyed my orders, but I do wholeheartedly believe in it. As I said we learned a very hard…and bloody lesson centuries ago and if anything can be said of Humans…we learn from our mistakes.” Parrum thought about this for a while and shrugged. ”I will admit we have had some problems and I will also admit we, where possible, eliminate our presence from the memories of the people we encounter. It’s not always possible, but we do try. Perhaps you could try that?” Beverly sighed and took a sip of her drink. “We’ve found, over the years, that memory wiping can only be done on certain species. Maybe we can share technology and improve our techniques. In any case, if your people join the Federation, you’ll have to abide by the Prime Directive whether you like it or not.” The three friend sat in silence for a while digesting the words until Beverly broke the quiet. “So tell me Parrum, how have you been coping with stress? Have you felt the need to indulge?” Flushing deep blue, the alien bowed its head. “No. The physical changes I showed you that came about as a result of my…feelings for you both have altered me so I no longer feel the urge to indulge. At least not as a stress reliever. I would indulge as an expression of my love, but it’s not something I have to do.

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For this reason I have decided to remain in this state, even though I find it… uncomfortable.” Jean-Luc cleared his throat and when he spoke his voice was deep and tender. “Parrum are you sure? We don’t want you to feel pain for any reason.” Looking warmly at its friends, the alien spoke with equal sincerity. “I will be fine, as long as I can spend time in your company. Mr.Data has steered me to literature of a romantic genre and I have read about unrequited love. Somehow I feel quite…heroic.” With a relieved chuckle, the three stood and went to the dining table. As they sat, JeanLuc muttered, “You should ask Data how his own romances have gone. His subroutines would be worth studying.” With gentle laughter, they began their meal.

Four days later they were in orbit around planet 225 Omega. Its designation had been given by the first Starship to chart it and Starfleet had decided to wait until more study had been done before applying a more suitable name. In all, three science ships had visited, the Enterprise being the last scheduled for some time. Selecting a likely site well away from habitation and with good archaeological remnants, Jean-Luc, Beverly, Parrum and a squad of eight scientists beamed down to the planet late in the afternoon of the thirty-eight hour day. They beamed down in three groups and Jean-Luc watched appreciatively as the scientists immediately set about organizing themselves to their tasks. Although armed, they knew their weapons were of limited use as the ionisation of the atmosphere and the presence of conducting crystals would deflect the energy discharges. To that end, they established a perimeter warning system and made sure they stayed within it. Parrum eyed Beverly as she studied Jean-Luc, admiring him in his civilian clothing and gently licking her lips when he bent to pick up some tools. It came quietly to her side and whispered, “Me too Doctor. He is a very…pleasant sight.” Blushing deep red, Beverly averted her eyes, then chuckled when Parrum asked, “Why are you here anyway? I didn’t think you had any interest in archaeology.” “I don’t, it’s just nice to get off the ship once in a while…and to let our hair down a bit.” That caused a look of confusion. “Let our hair down? Beverly I have none and Jean-Luc has precious little hair to let down. I don’t understand…” Laughing again. Beverly took Parrum’s arm and led it over to the Captain. “Sorry. It’s an Earth saying, it means to relax…unwind, be yourself, although we can’t really because we’re not on our own, but he will relax a little, won’t you Jean-Luc?”

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He had set up a computer terminal and was busy downloading information from the Enterprise. “Hmm? What did you say?” Beverly smiled wistfully and muttered to Parrum, “Gone already. He’s all yours.” The alien’s gentle laughter made Jean-Luc look up, a perplexed expression on his handsome face. “What?” Waving its long hands, Parrum settled the man. ”It’s nothing Jean-Luc. Where will we start?” Consulting the schematic on the screen, Jean-Luc lifted his head and pointed off to the east. “Over there initially. There are buried ruins with intact glyphs evident. Shall we?” Nodding and picking up its share of the equipment, the two explorers headed off. Beverly watched them go, shaking her head in amusement. “Big kids…both of them.” The other crewmembers had set up their instruments within a short distance of the beam in point so Beverly secured a tricorder and a bag and set off for the perimeter. Her mission, a private one, was to collect some new plant specimens to add to her already impressive collection. Spying a thickening of growth, she pushed her way through, her eyes glued to the ground, looking for mosses and ground covers, mindful always of the boundaries. For over five hours the groups toiled under the hot suns, all totally engrossed in what they were doing. Beverly had returned to the centre twice for new bags, only to disappear once again into the undergrowth. A shadow crossed Jean-Luc’s field of vision and he looked up at the sky, frowning. “Parrum check the weather station. Those clouds look threatening.” It took only a moment to verify the Captain’s suspicions. “You are right Jean-Luc, it will soon begin to rain…heavily. There is a storm brewing.” Straightening his back and wincing at the tight muscles, Jean-Luc looked around him. They had amassed an imposing pile of artefacts and unearthed a significant portion of the ruin they were working on. With one final scowl at the sky, Jean-Luc tapped his communicator. “Picard to away team. The weather is about to turn inclement. We will return to the ship, please make ready to leave.” He received confirmation from the scientists, but not Beverly. Frowning, he tried again. “Picard to Crusher.” He was greeted with silence. “Captain Picard to Doctor Crusher. Respond please.” Nothing. With an annoyed sigh, Jean-Luc slapped his communicator again. “Enterprise this is Picard. Can you locate Doctor Crusher?” There was a momentary silence before they replied. “Riker here Captain. Yes we’ve got her, two hundred and fifty-seven metres north west of your position. We can’t read bio signs, just her combadge signal.” “Thank you Number one. I will put my communicator on some artefacts I want beamed aboard. Once we’ve catalogued them they can be returned to their original sites.”

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“Aye Sir.” Jean-Luc watched as the pile of items shimmered into nothingness. He then turned his attention to his recalcitrant lover. “I’ll go and see what’s keeping her Parrum. Would you like to beam up with the others?” Parrum frowned and squinted into the failing light. “Could I stay with you Jean-Luc? I would like to know Beverly is safe.” The Captain nodded and, picking up a tricorder, set off after the Doctor.

Beverly was crouched behind a dense bush watching a small furry four-legged animal feeding on a clump of plant life she’d not seen before. She eased from her hiding place and was about to creep closer when the hail from her Captain issued from her communicator. The animal flinched and snapped its head up, but didn’t flee. Beverly quickly snatched the badge off and disabled the unit before re-attaching it to her blouse. With stealthy movements, she inched forward and glared when she came up against the perimeter boundary. The animal was approximately twenty metres outside the boundary and the plant it ate intrigued Beverly. It seemed to regenerate immediately, the grazing leaving it unaffected. She had to get a sample. Using her tricorder, she made a hole in the perimeter and slid through on her stomach. If possible she wanted the animal too, she wanted to see if the eaten portions regenerated in the stomach. When she was close, she unholstered her phaser and, adjusting the setting to light stun, took aim. She had to stifle a cry of shock when a spear suddenly pierced the animal, pinning it to the ground. With a loud grunt a hominid appeared and proceeded to dispatch the animal with a heavy blow to the skull. Beverly froze, hoping the creature wouldn’t see her. She was about to breathe a sigh of relief as the being picked up the animal when her tricorder beeped. He stilled and cocked his head. Suddenly whipping around, he spotted Beverly and let out a startled growl. The Doctor scrambled to her feet and dashed behind a cluster of crystals, furiously resetting her phaser. The being ran to her shelter and rounded it, his spear raised. Beverly pointed her weapon and fired but, being too close to the crystal, the charge was absorbed by the formation. Taking aim the creature growled then yelped as a charge abruptly blew the spear from his hand. He looked about in confusion but when Beverly tried to run, he lunged and grabbed her hair then brought up his hand with the club and struck her across the head. Beverly fell unconscious just as Jean-Luc and Parrum burst through the bushes. Jean-Luc fired another shot but the crystal dissipated the charge. He yelled and charged the creature, hitting him with his shoulder in his midriff. With a loud grunt, they both fell to the ground. Jean-Luc managed to call to Parrum, “See to Beverly!” just as the rain began to fall heavily. Parrum ran to the seemingly lifeless body and gently rolled her over. Blood smeared her face and he found a terrible wound on her scalp. It concentrated and found Beverly in her mind.

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“Help me Beverly! You have a bad head wound…what do I do?” “I need to get to the ship. Where is Jean-Luc?” “He is fighting the being who hurt you.” “Help him Parrum! Use your ability to help him!” Cradling Beverly’s head in its hands, Parrum looked up and concentrated on the creature. He had Jean-Luc in a headlock and was beating his face with his fist. Parrum could sense Jean-Luc’s failing strength. Suddenly he released the Captain and grabbed his head with his hands. He staggered then fell to his knees, issuing a low howl. Coughing and rubbing his throat, Jean-Luc lurched over to Parrum and tapped its communicator. “Enterprise three to beam directly to Sickbay.” As they shimmered away, Jean-Luc saw the creature roll onto its side and let go of his head. His next sight was the bright confines of the medical facility. Quickly the staff put Beverly on a biobed sealing the gash and repairing the underlying fracture. Once she was stable and comfortable, Doctor Selar turned her attention to the Captain. “I will treat you now Sir.” ”What? Why?” Deploying her tricorder, Selar’s voice was unemotional. “Captain you have bruising around the throat, several contusions to your face and lacerations to your brow, lip and cheek, all of which are bleeding.” “Oh. Very well, just make it quick will you?” The treatment took only moments, leaving a very agitated Captain and a worried alien at Beverly’s bed. Selar knew he wouldn’t leave until he was sure she was all right. To that end she said, “I will give Doctor Crusher a small stimulant. You may speak with her for a few moments then I must ask you to let her rest. She can return to her quarters in four hours, provided she is well enough.” The Captain nodded curtly and watched as the medication was delivered. Beverly sighed and her eyes opened sluggishly. “What?” Jean-Luc put one hand near her head and gently pushed back her hair with the other. “Hush Doctor. You were injured on the planet but you’re aboard the Enterprise now… safe and well.” Smiling, Beverly stretched then suddenly stilled. “Jean-Luc! You were fighting…and I asked Parrum…are you all right?” “I’m fine, you just rest now…we’ll talk later.” “But…” With a warning note to his deep voice, Jean-Luc admonished, “Beverly…” She quietened then slipped back to sleep. The Captain looked around surreptitiously and, seeing they were unobserved, bent down and kissed her tenderly. Straightening he looked Parrum in the eye. “We need to have a talk.” The tall being nodded and they left Sickbay.

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They walked in silence through the ship, both beings preoccupied with what had happened. Once in Jean-Luc’s quarters, the Captain turned to his guest. “I would like to change my clothes. If you like you can replicate yourself a new robe and change out here.” Parrum bowed slightly and smiled. “Thank you that would be fine.” Several minutes later the two beings sat on the chairs facing each other. Jean-Luc sighed and ran his hand over his head. “You used your…ability.” Parrum nodded, keeping silent. “Why.” It began to rise, feeling agitated, then calmed and sat. “Beverly asked me to, but in truth I would have done it anyway. I sensed your loss of strength and I knew I needed to put an end to the situation as soon as possible.” Frowning, Jean-Luc grimaced. “You realise of course, that we have compromised the Prime Directive?” Shaking its head, the tall alien refuted his claim. “Not so Captain.” Eyebrows raised Jean-Luc tilted his head. “Oh? How so?” “When I entered that creature’s mind I not only forced it to release you, but I erased the memory of the encounter. If it went according to my intentions, the creature will have no memory of Beverly or us.” Sitting up, Jean-Luc crossed his legs. “Can you be certain?” Parrum smiled and nodded. “Oh yes, definitely. We can tell when we enter a mind what we are capable of doing. I knew immediately.” The Captain stood and strode to the replicator, using the pause to order his thoughts. He returned with a cup of Earl Grey for himself and a glass of orange juice for his guest. “So it would seem I’m in your debt again Parrum?” With a gentle chuckle, the alien rose and sat itself beside the Captain. Taking his hand, it looked deeply into his eyes. “Not at all Jean-Luc. I would protect both of you with my life in any event. Think nothing of it.” Jean-Luc stared at the hand holding his and sighed. “Parrum…I’m sorry I don’t…share your feelings for me. I know what unrequited love feels like and it distresses me to know you are experiencing it. If I could…I would ease that pain, you know that don’t you?” Parrum smiled sadly and lowered its head until it rested on the Captain’s shoulder. “I know Jean-Luc and I thank you for your compassion.” Lifting its head, it gently snorted. “One thing this whole business has shown me…I know how jealousy feels. It too is a very potent emotion.” Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.

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“Of all the emotions you could learn from us it has to be unrequited love, jealousy and envy. God Parrum there’s so much more…” The alien gently squeezed his hand and leaned forward, stopping mere centimetres from touching Jean-Luc’s face. “Would you allow me the intimacy...?” Swallowing and closing his eyes, Jean-Luc nodded and gasped gently as their heads touched. Warmth spread through his body but instead of sexual arousal, he felt a flood of joy and contentment fill his mind. He smiled and sighed, understanding the gift he was being given. Parrum sensed his comprehension and broke the connection. Looking deeply into his eyes, it whispered, “That is how I feel whenever I am with either of you. It is worth the anguish, believe me.” The alien stood and stretched. “I will leave you now, no doubt you have many things to do. Will you go and see Beverly later?” At the mention of the Doctor’s name, Jean-Luc scowled. “Yes. We have some things to discuss.” Parrum chuckled and shook its head. “Don’t be too hard on her Jean-Luc. Her curiosity is one of her more endearing qualities.” Snorting, Jean-Luc said dryly, “One that may get her killed one of these days.” His guest left and the Captain took the time to finish his tea before going to the archaeology department. Parrum was right he had much to do.

Several hours later Jean-Luc was escorting a very tired Doctor to his quarters. Beverly had protested, wanting to go to her own cabin, but Jean-Luc had insisted, hence their arrival at his door. Upon entering, he ushered her to his bedroom and she smiled, seeing the bed turned down and a tray with a hot cup of chamomile tea sitting on a chair beside the bed. He picked up her nightie and gestured to the bathroom. “You go and change.” She took only moments, soon reappearing and sliding gratefully into his bed. She let out a surprised chuckle when he reclined beside her and cradled her in his arms. “Are you sure you’re all right? No residual pain?” Snuggling into his neck, Beverly gently shook her head. “Nup. Believe me Selar wouldn’t have let me go if she had any doubt whatsoever. That woman is thorough!” “Good. Would you like your tea now?” Sighing the Doctor snuggled further into his embrace. “Uh uh, I just want to stay like this…possibly forever.”

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His deep chuckle warmed her and she nuzzled the skin of his adam’s apple. Feeling the desire rising Jean-Luc lifted his head and cleared his throat. When that failed to stop her he used his hand to lift her head. “Beverly we need to talk.” Seeing the seriousness of his gaze, the Doctor sat up and pushed her hair back. “OK.” Jean-Luc sat up and frowned, easily sensing Beverly’s nervousness. Leaning to one side he retrieved the cup of tea and waited until she’d taken a tentative sip. “You disobeyed my direct orders concerning staying within the boundaries of the established perimeter. AND you broke the Prime Directive. AND you refused to answer my hail.” With her head lowered, the Doctor sighed. “I know. I’m so sorry.” “Care to tell me why?” Taking another sip of her tea, Beverly frowned. “I got carried away…as usual. I was collecting plant specimens when I saw a small animal grazing on a low growing plant I’d not seen before. Not only was it new…it was unique! It regenerated as it was grazed. I intended to collect both the plant and the animal…I wanted to see if the plant renewed itself within the animal. Your hail startled the creature so I disconnected the feed, then I used my tricorder to make a hole in the perimeter. It was only twenty metres Jean-Luc.” Scowling and shaking his head, the Captain huffed. “Still you had orders! Jesus Beverly…” Holding up her free hand the Doctor closed her eyes briefly. “Oh God I know! I just couldn’t help myself.” Calming himself, the Captain asked, “What about the hominid? Did you know he was there?” Shaking her head, Beverly carefully placed the cup and saucer on her thigh. “No. In fact the tricorder only registered it when it was really close. How do you know it was a he?” With an incredulous look, Jean-Luc shook his head. “Because my dear Doctor I got a good look at his genitals when he had me in a headlock whilst he was pummelling my face. Believe me…he was most definitely male.” Blushing slightly, Beverly grinned and shrugged. “Oh. Were you badly injured?” “Nothing ten minutes with a tissue regenerator wouldn’t fix. Beverly how did you communicate with Parrum when you were unconscious? It told me you asked it to help me.” Beverly nodded and rubbed the tip of her nose, something that enchanted the watching man. “I’m not really sure. I wasn’t aware of anything until I heard its voice. It asked me how to help, explaining that I’d received a bad head wound. I told it I needed to get to the ship, then I asked about you. It said you were fighting the hominid and I asked it to help you. What are the repercussions? Is the Prime Directive irretrievably shattered?” Taking the crockery and placing it on the chair, Jean-Luc shook his head.

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“No. Fortunately not only was Parrum able to make the being release me, it also erased his memory of all the events. He won’t remember you or any of us. Provided we replace all we’ve taken for study in precisely the same places we got them from, there should be no trouble.” Beverly breathed a large sigh of relief and lay back down. “ I am sorry Jean-Luc. So am I forgiven?” Scowling down at his lover, Jean-Luc felt his irritation soften. “Promise me you won’t do anything like that again? That you’ll at least contact me to see if what you want to do is feasible?” With a saucy grin, Beverly reached up and pulled Jean-Luc down until his face hovered just above hers. “On one condition.” Breathlessly he whispered, “And what’s that?” “You make love to me. Gently…softly…sweetly, as only you can.” He looked lovingly into her eyes and kissed her. “Are you sure? You’re just out of Sickbay…” “How better to celebrate life?” Turning his head slightly, Jean-Luc addressed the computer. “Picard to Riker.” “Riker here Captain.” “I’ll be spending the remainder of my shift in my quarters Number One. Please see to it I’m not disturbed.” “Aye Sir.” He turned his face to his lover and kissed her passionately, the rest of the afternoon passing in blissful ecstasy.

On the Bridge Deanna smiled and crossed her legs. Seeing the satisfied smirk, Will leaned over and whispered, “They’re at it again aren’t they?” Deanna’s grin widened and she nodded. “Uh huh.” Will sat up straight and snorted. “I didn’t know the old dog had it in him. Must be all that tea.” He felt the Betazoid death glare and refrained from looking at her. His chuckle however dissolved her angst.

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Three decks below the Captain’s quarters Parrum sat, its body taut with sweaty tension. As the intense erotic emotions escalated in the couple making love above it, feelings of jealousy, envy and frustration welled up, eventually making the alien groan and sink to its knees on the floor. With fingers steepled at face level, it began the mantra, rocking back and forth, but it didn’t help. Rising quickly to its feet, it ran to the bedroom and threw itself onto the bed, clutching its head in its hands. “Oh Gods…help me!” For the first time since it was very young, tears ran down its face.

Over the next three days the Enterprise continued her study of the planet, but due to the ongoing difficulties in reading the bio signs of the resident population, it was decided only quick trips would be made planet side. Artefacts and specimens were collected, catalogued, recorded and returned. Jean-Luc was standing on the Bridge brooding over the view of the planet when Will reported their readiness to depart. “None too soon Number One. Have you sent the recommendation to quarantine the planet?” “Yes Captain. I suspect Starfleet will agree with you, at least until we can accurately read the population from orbit. So captain where to next?” Jean-Luc turned, his hands clasped behind his back and strolled to the Command chair. He took a moment to study the seat then sat and crossed his legs elegantly. “Helm set a course for the Australis Nebula. Warp five.” “Aye Sir. Course set.” ”Engage.” As the great ship turned and made the effortless jump to warp, Jean-Luc brushed a speck from his trousers as his exec smiled. “The Australis Nebula Captain? We haven’t been there for a while. What takes us there now?” Folding his hands in his lap, Jean-Luc pursed his lips. “Starfleet wants a reading on the concentration of metrion gasses in the nebula. It seems since our little contretemps in the Briar Patch, the propulsion scientists want to develop a method by which ships can maintain warp within the nebula. If the metrion saturation is at an optimum in the Australis, they’ll make it their model for testing.” Will stretched his long legs and grinned. “So a bit of down time then? What say we do a few drills? Liven up the lower decks Captain.” Jean-Luc smiled and tilted his head. “You are a evil man William Riker. However you have my permission to badger the youngsters, just keep me informed. And Will? I really don’t want to lie ‘dead’ on the Bridge again. Make it so I can absent myself to the Ready Room…all right?” Drawing his hand over his dark beard to hide his laughter, the big man nodded. “As you wish Captain.” The two men sat in comfortable silence until Will decided to dig a little. Leaning closer to his Commander he said slyly,

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“So you and Beverly have been having some time off together? Are you enjoying yourselves?” Keeping his head lowered and his eyes fixed on his hands the Captain remained very still. When he hadn’t responded after a few minutes Will straightened and softly cleared his throat. “Sorry Captain…I’ll mind my own business in future.” Jean-Luc’s reply was so soft Will had to strain to hear him. “See that you do Commander. I do not take kindly to teasing.” In an equally soft voice Will answered, “Aye Sir.” The First Officer made a show of concentrating on his duties while his mind wandered. “OK so the Captain’s out. Maybe Beverly will be more forthcoming.” He made a mental note to get the good Doctor aside so he could go trawling for information about their blossoming romance. His chance came the next afternoon.

Will sat on the bio bed, his face a study in boredom. He had been seen by a nurse and was waiting for a doctor. The fact he’d asked for Beverly should have set off her alarm, but she was so engrossed in her work she thought nothing of it. Breezing into the treatment room, she chuckled at seeing Will sitting on the bed. “OK fess up…what have you done?” Proffering his right hand, Beverly could clearly see the misaligned thumb. “Oh nice! Don’t tell me…Ambo Jitsu?” With the good grace to appear embarrassed, Will shrugged. “Uh huh. My opponent caught me off guard and this”…he waggled his injured hand… “Is the result.” Beverly scanned the hand with a tricorder and frowned over the readings. “Wow you’ve really done it Will. There’s torn ligaments and nerve damage. It’s not like you to let your guard down.” The First Officer grinned slyly and leaned forward. “Some would say that about you…although you seem to be very…smug lately.” Keeping her eyes glued to her instrument, Beverly’s eyes squinted. “Oh? I hadn’t noticed.” She put down the tricorder and picked up a tissue regenerator. With measured strokes she repaired the deep tissue injuries in silence, waiting for the next jibe. It wasn’t long in coming. “Come now Doctor. Everyone has commented…you’re glowing Beverly…in fact you have that special look of a woman who’s been very…satisfied.” Beverly reddened and discarded the regenerator for a nerve blocker. Applying it to the base of the dislocated thumb, she anaesthetised the area then expertly re-aligned the joint. Will breathed a sigh of relief and experimentally waved the digit. “There you go Commander, all fixed.” Will took Beverly’s hands in his and said softly,

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“Come on Beverly tell me.” Raising her head she looked him in the eye, her frown slowly giving way to a smile. “He’s wonderful Will…we’re so deeply in love.” The man smiled tenderly and nodded. “You’re happy? Completely content?” Nodding, Beverly absently wiped at the tears in her eyes. “Oh yes!” Wrapping his arms around his friend in a bear-like hug, Will’s heart swelled with happiness. “Well it’s about time! God you two have been dancing around each other for so long… it’s been excruciating to watch.” Beverly stepped out of his embrace and slapped his broad shoulder. “You think it’s been any easier for us? My God the sexual tension between us would’ve been enough to re-ignite a dead star!” The sly look returned to her friend’s face. “So you’re…satisfied?” Crossing her arms over her chest, Beverly glared defiantly. “As a matter of fact yes. Any more…satisfied…and I’d need intravenous vitamins to keep up with him.” His eyes wide, Will shook his head. “I mentioned it to Deanna…it must be all that tea he drinks. Still, I didn’t think he had it in him. Just goes to show not all the surprises are in space, are they?” Snorting with a mixture of outrage and amusement, Beverly couldn’t resist one last dig. “He’d put most men half his age to shame Will Riker…you included. And, if you recall, I should know.” With that she shooed him off the bed and ushered him towards the door. The exasperated man tried to get a word in but Beverly wouldn’t have it. “Now that thumb will be sore for a few days and you should come in tomorrow for a deep regen treatment. OK? Off you go then.” Will ended up in the corridor and stared open mouthed as the Sickbay doors closed in his face. Embarrassed and his pride dented, he spun on his heel and marched off, his mind roiling. “He’s better than me? Bloody hell I’d better start drinking Earl Grey.”

Five weeks later the Enterprise entered the Australis Nebula and began the first of many sweeps to measure the metrion gasses. It was mundane work and the crew worked to make their tasks interesting. Since the series of drills, the efficiency had increased but it was hard to maintain whilst engaged in such boring work. To that end, Deanna and her support staff had developed a system of complex games for the crew.

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Based on mental agility, they kept everyone amused and sharp. One afternoon the quiet of the Bridge was shattered when the Ensign at the helm suddenly shouted, “Yes! It’s the cupboard…it’s in the bloody cupboard!” There followed an ominous silence. The hapless Ensign realised with dismay what she’d done and turned slowly to face her Captain. She swallowed and tried to keep from trembling when she saw the stony look on his face. “I’m sorry Captain.” He sat in silence his dark hazel eyes glittering dangerously and boring into hers. Finally he broke the silence. In a deceptively soft voice he asked, “What was that about Ensign? Why did you suddenly blurt out gibberish on my Bridge?” Rising from her seat, the Ensign came to attention. “Sir! I’m sorry Sir I let my mind wander. I was working on a puzzle Counsellor Troi set us. You see there are these…” Holding up his hand, Jean-Luc silenced the woman. “Enough. Why did you allow your mind to wander whilst on duty? Isn’t helm control important enough for you?” By now shaking visibly the Ensign shook her head, then nodded. “No Captain! I mean yes Sir! That is I…I…” One look at her Commanding Officer stifled her words. She stood quaking and sweating until the Captain shook his head in disgust. “You will turn around, sit down and resume your duties…and if I hear any more outbursts from you…” He then looked around the Bridge…”Or anyone else…there’ll be hell to pay! Concentrate! I know you’re bored but being in space is not a game. Anything can happen at any time and frequently does. You would be well served to remember that.” There was a quiet chorus of …“Yes Sir.” From around the Bridge. Jean-Luc scowled at his monitors before barking, “Picard to Counsellor Troi!” “Troi here Captain.” “I would like to see you in the Ready Room Counsellor…now.” “Yes Captain, I’ll be right up. Troi out.” Jean-Luc stood and strode into his office, replicating a calming cup of tea and sitting at his desk. He didn’t have long to wait before the chime sounded. “Come!” Deanna entered frowning having easily sensed his irritation. She stood before the desk at attention. “You wanted to see me Captain?” “Yes I did. One of my Bridge crew just uttered some senseless nonsense out loud and completely disrupted the watch. It seems she was pondering a puzzle you set her and she just found the answer.” Deanna’s face cleared and she smiled. “Oh that would be Ensign Garnsworthy. I…” “Counsellor! She let her mind wander from her duty and as she was stationed at helm control. I consider it a serious breech.” The Counsellor sighed and gripped the back of the chair.

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“Captain Picard these last few weeks have been hard for the crew. First there was Will’s interminable drills at all hours and then, when the crew has reached a high degree of efficiency, we find ourselves measuring gas in the Australis Nebula. Not very inspiring work, wouldn’t you agree?” Jean-Luc sighed and let some of the tension leave his body. Gesturing for his guest to sit, he sipped his tea and thought. “What was she trying to figure out?” Deanna chuckled and turned his terminal to face her. “May I Sir?” He nodded and she pressed a few buttons, bringing up some information. “Are you familiar with Earth’s twentieth century crime novelists?” The Captain smiled and shrugged. “Of course. As you know Dixon Hill is a favourite of mine.” “Yes Sir, but not very many people read them any more. The task I set Ensign Garnsworthy and her friends was to solve this.” She turned the monitor back to the Captain and what he read made him smile. “Agatha Christie?” “Yes Captain. I wanted them to discover where the body was hidden based solely on the information I gave them. Of course they were forbidden to read the novel, they had only what I told them to go on. What did she say?” He thought a moment before grinning. “She said it was in the cupboard. Was she right?” Nodding and grinning widely, Deanna’s eyes twinkled. “Yes Captain, she was correct. That’s three mysteries she’s solved this past week. She really is quite good.” “Hmm. Well perhaps she will confine herself to the job at hand in future and leave the detective work to me.” “Yes Captain I’m sure…” The Counsellor’s words were cut off by the claxon. “Red alert! Shields up! Captain to the Bridge!” The two officers strode out onto the Bridge, their eyes trained on the viewscreen. There sat in the murky gasses an alien ship. “Report Commander.” “It just appeared Captain. Unknown configuration and not answering our hails.” “And the red alert?” “Sir sensors showed they had armed their weapons and raised shields. I thought it prudent we did likewise.” Jean-Luc took his seat and studied his readouts. Lifting his head he ordered, Tactical full scan and repeat the hails, all frequencies, all languages.” “Aye Captain.” Tense minutes followed as the two ships stood bow to bow, separated by one hundred kilometres of space. Suddenly the Lieutenant at Tactical reported. “Sir! We are being hailed.” Jean-Luc stood, straightened his uniform and faced front. His voice filled with quiet authority he said, “On screen.”

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The screen flickered and rolled then cleared to reveal an alien of monstrous proportions. It filled the screen, its dark knobbled skin undulating and weeping a green substance. In silence it watched Jean-Luc who had to make an effort not to grimace at what he saw. It abruptly turned and sat, its image growing smaller on the screen. Jean-Luc cast a surreptitious glance at Will before addressing the creature. “I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. To whom am I speaking?” The being never took its red eyes off the Captain for a second. It lazily spread some of the green excrescence and rubbed it on its teeth. Jean-Luc was about to question it further when he felt a tickle in his mind. At first irritating, it quickly grew until it started to become painful. He lifted a hand to his head and winced. Turning to Deanna he gasped, “There’s something in my mind! It’s…it’s…help me!” He fell to his knees and cried out, both of his hands now gripping his head. Deanna called out, “Medical emergency on the Bridge! The Captain is injured!” Will stepped forward and shouted at the alien, “Stop! Stop what you’re doing!” He was about to say more when he suddenly groaned and fell next to the Captain holding his head and writhing on the deck. Data spun and raised his usually calm voice. “Helm full reverse. Put us one thousand kilometres from that vessel.” “Aye Sir.” The Enterprise backed off at three quarters impulse. Thankfully the alien ship stayed put. Beverly and a team of three techs arrived to find both Jean-Luc and Will unconscious. Unable to revive them, she had them transported to Sickbay. Parrum was waiting when they materialised. “Beverly I sensed what happened. Are they all right?” “I don’t know! Neither of them is responding to any stimuli.” Both officers were put on diagnostic beds and connected to neural scanners. Parrum watched silently as Beverly’s frustration grew. “Dammit! Why can’t I wake them? What the hell has happened?” The tall alien stepped closer and took the Doctor’s arm. “May I try Beverly?” She looked deeply into its violet eyes and saw only genuine distress. Nodding she watched as Parrum approached Jean-Luc and gently took his head in its hands. “Jean-Luc can you hear me?” There was no reply so Parrum deepened its concentration. “Jean-Luc it’s Parrum. I want to help you…can you hear me?” As if from far away the being heard the response. “Yes Parrum I hear you.” “Where are you Jean-Luc?” “I am…I am in a box…I can’t get out. Can you find me?” “Stay calm Jean-Luc, I will find you.” Parrum centred itself and entered a state of mind seldom used by its people. With awesome mental power, it pushed through Jean-Luc’s mind searching and eventually finding the box that contained the Captain. “I have found you Jean-Luc. Can you get out?” “No I don’t think so. Every time I try there’s terrible pain in my head.”

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“All right I will open the box but it may hurt Jean-Luc…you will have to be brave.” His reply was tentative. “All right.” Exerting phenomenal control, Parrum started to crush the box with its mind. Jean-Luc’s scream made the being hesitate, but only momentarily. Re-gathering its concentration, it exerted inexorable pressure and ignored the gut wrenching screams of the trapped man. Suddenly the box collapsed and Jean-Luc tumbled out sobbing and clawing at his head. On the bed the Captain writhed, his hands going to his head. Beverly quickly administered an analgesic and a muscle relaxant. Jean-Luc quietened, his body falling loose on the bed, blood streaming from his nose. Parrum severed the connection and sat heavily on the floor, sweating and panting. It watched as Beverly stemmed the flow of blood and sighed wistfully as she stroked the man’s head tenderly. A nurse helped Parrum to its feet and it stood next to the Doctor. “How is he?” “His readings are returning to normal…there seems to be no residual damage. What did you do? Your neural output was off the scale.” Parrum brushed its fingers over Jean-Luc’s face and sighed. “I entered a mental state that allowed me to destroy the…restrictions that had been put in his mind. In effect, Jean-Luc felt he’d been placed in a box he couldn’t get out of; to even try caused indescribable pain. I am sorry, but I had to risk that pain to release him. I did warn him.” Beverly looked over at the adjoining bed. “And Will? Will it be the same for him?” Its face saddened, Parrum sighed. “I’m afraid so. Shall I do it now?” Beverly gripped its arm and looked into its eyes. “Parrum I know what it took out of you…are you sure you can do this? Maybe you should rest first?” It shook its head and went to stand at Will’s head. “No Beverly. He will suffer if I leave him in there.” Tem minutes later Parrum was once again on the deck, only this time it curled up on its side and resisted attempts to help it to its feet. Once Beverly had stabilised Will, she knelt at Parrum’s side and used a hypospray to deliver a sedative. As the being relaxed, it was picked up and placed on a bed. “Rest now Parrum, your work is done. Thanks to you we have our friends back.”

Three hours later a groggy Captain was arguing with the Doctor. “Beverly just give me a stimulant!” The Doctor glared and scanned him again. “You came out of that state by yourself…with the sedative I gave you, you should still be asleep. I don’t understand how you…”

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He gripped her hands and looked blearily into her eyes. “Doctor! I must return to the Bridge. Those aliens have attacked us without provocation and I want to know why. Please give me a stimulant.” Slamming her tricorder down on the table, she picked up a hypospray and checked it before tugging his collar down. The telltale hiss of the instrument made the Captain close his eyes as he waited for the effect of the drug. Suddenly taking a large breath, he opened his now clear eyes and smiled softly at his lover. In a gentle voice he said, “Thank you. When Will wakes please give him a stimulant and send him to the Bridge.” He swivelled off the bed and stood a moment, shaking his head and tugging down his tunic. As his eyes fell on Parrum, the memory of what it had done flooded his mind. He turned to Beverly. “Is it all right?” The Doctor, still angry with him, nodded curtly. “Yes. It was so weakened by the retrievals, I sedated it and will insist it stays until it is fully recovered.” Nodding once, Jean-Luc strode to the door. Over his shoulder he called, “Be advised Doctor…we may need its help.” Her expletives were ignored.

Arriving on the Bridge, Jean-Luc strode to the Command chair and sat, studying the readouts on his monitors. Without raising his head he barked, “Report Mr.Data.” “We are, at present, one thousand kilometres from the alien ship. I can report there have been no further attacks on any of the crew. Scans show that we have a distinct tactical advantage and…” Jean-Luc’s head snapped up. “What? Explain.” “Sir we have better shields and vastly superior weapons. In a confrontation we would win…easily.” There was silence as the Captain digested the information. At length he asked, “Did they scan us?” “Yes Captain.” “So they would know of the disparity between our vessels.” Data shrugged. “Presumably Captain.” Jean-Luc turned and regarded his Second Officer, his brow furrowed. “Then why..?” “Perhaps it was a pre-emptive strike?” The Captain raised his eyebrows in enquiry. Understanding the question, Data supplied, “Knowing they were…outgunned…they employed other measures to gain the upper hand.”

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“Hmm. I suppose I can see that, but why? We showed no aggression, our posture was one of caution.” “We did raise our shields and arm our weapons.” Nodding, the Captain rubbed his fingers over his lower lip. “Yes but only in response to the same action from them. Are they still there?” “Aye Sir. They have not moved from their position.” Jean-Luc looked at the viewscreen. “Can we see them through the gasses?” “If you will wait a moment Captain?” Data’s fingers flew over his console and an image on the viewscreen began to form. Although hazy and indistinct, it was undoubtedly the alien ship. Jean-Luc addressed his Tactical officer. “Hail them.” “No response Sir.” “Hail them again and keep trying until they respond.” ”Aye Sir.” “Picard to Crusher.” ”Crusher here.” The Captain lowered his head and frowned. He knew Beverly was not going to like his next question. “Doctor how is Parrum?” “It is still asleep.” “Wake it Doctor, it is needed on the Bridge.” “Captain! May I remind you…” Sighing, Jean-Luc scowled. “Not now Doctor, the ship and everyone on her are at risk. I need Parrum up here now.” Her reply was coldly angry. “Very well Captain. Crusher out.” The ten minutes that passed while they waited was tense. When the turbolift doors opened, Jean-Luc was delighted to see Will exiting along with the tall V’Larnnan. “Will! Parrum! How are you both?” The two beings settled into their seats and grinned at the Captain. Will spoke first. “Apart from the headache from hell…just a little tired. How about you Sir?” Jean-Luc’s face held a ghost of a smile. “Same. And you Parrum?” The tall alien smiled and bowed its head. “Just tired Captain. How may I be of service?” Jean-Luc’s eyes travelled to the viewscreen where he pointed. “It would appear we have the measure, tactically speaking, of that ship. It may be that the alien instigated the mental assault as a means of gaining the upper hand.” Will stroked his beard. “So you’re saying we would win any fight so they tried to attack us in another way?” “Exactly. Parrum can you sense them at this distance?” Parrum frowned and sighed. ”Yes Captain I can. Their presence in my mind is unpleasant. They are very…raw.” Rubbing his thumb and forefinger together, Jean-Luc sat in deep thought.

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“Counsellor Troi to the Bridge.” “On my way Captain.” They waited in silence until she arrived. As soon as she was settled, Jean-Luc asked, “Counsellor can you sense the aliens?” She sighed and shook her head. “No Captain. When you turned to me for help when you were assaulted I had no idea what was happening or how to help you. I’m sorry Sir.” He smiled at her and shook his head. About to say more, Parrum interrupted him. “I sensed them Captain, it is how I knew you and Will had been injured.” “If we approached them again, do you think you can protect us from further assault?” Parrum thought for a moment then nodded. “Yes I think so…and Captain…I am capable of doing to that alien what it did to you.” With surprised alarm on his face, Jean-Luc’s voice was soft. “I can only hope that won’t be necessary. Tactical send this. We are returning to your position. Do not take any provocative action or we will retaliate. Send in all languages.” “Aye Sir.” “Helm set course and engage at one quarter impulse.” “Aye Sir.” They sat in tense silence as the great ship slowly advanced on her adversary.

Once again halted one hundred kilometres from the alien vessel, Jean-Luc stared at the ship with a frown creasing his brow. “Any response to our hails Data?” The android sighed, shook his head and was about to reply, when he suddenly caught himself. “Yes Captain. They are answering us.” ”On screen.” The same image greeted the Captain and he quickly moved to establish the upper hand. “I consider what you did to be a hostile act. If you…” His head snapped up and he blinked. Jean-Luc staggered back several steps and called to Parrum. “It’s happening again! I can feel…” He began to raise his hands to his head when Parrum stood and stepped in front of him. It closed its eyes and slowly raised a hand, pointing a finger at the dark glowering form on the viewscreen. “You will stop…NOW!” The Captain stilled and slowly dropped his hands. Will, who was by his side asked quietly, “Captain?” Lifting his head and sniffing, Jean-Luc glanced at his exec and nodded once. “It’s all right, I’m fine.”

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The Captain stepped from behind Parrum and looked at the viewscreen. The dark alien was writhing in its seat, green ooze flowing copiously down its body. Jean-Luc reached up and gently gripped Parrum’s shoulder. “Enough. Stop now.” The V’Larnn slowly lowered its hand and opened its eyes. Approaching the viewscreen, Jean-Luc said softly, “As you can see we can adequately defend ourselves in many ways. I have told you who I am. Who are you and what are you doing in Federation space?” There was silence as the two beings regarded each other. With an abrupt hiss, a communication channel was opened between the two ships. “I am the Commander of this ship, my name is none of your business. Why do you encroach on our feeding ground?” Jean-Luc frowned and began to slowly pace back and forth in front of the screen. “Are you aware you are in Federation space?” “It matters not where we are. When we need to feed, we feed.” The Captain stopped his pacing and clasped his hands behind his back. “Upon what are you feeding?” “That is none of your concern.” Jean-Luc frowned and sighed. “That may be so, but, as you are in our sector of space, I will have to ask you to either furnish me with appropriate answers to my questions, or I will be forced to escort you out of this area.” The huge form shifted in its chair and leaned forward. “You wouldn’t dare!” Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Jean-Luc clenched his teeth. “Oh but I would! You are aware that I have the upper hand in weapons and shields and you also know you can no longer assault us telepathically. I have nothing to fear. You, on the other hand, have much to fear.” “You would not harm us…you are…Federation.” “That is true, but there’s nothing stopping me from putting a tractor beam on your ship and towing it to wherever I wish. It’s not as if you can do anything about it.” The two Captains stared at each other for several minutes. The alien slumped and coughed up some black mucous, spitting it onto the floor. “You give me little choice Captain. We feed on neutrino particles. They are abundant in this area and we were deficient.” “And where are you from?” “A planet called Xerrix. It lies in an area beyond system eight five.” Jean-Luc turned and raised his eyebrows at Data. The android’s nimble fingers flew across his console and the information was delivered to his Captain within seconds. “Ten thousand, eighty nine light years away Captain.” Turning back to the screen, Jean-Luc said softly, “You’re a long way from home.” The dark form on the screen shifted again and Jean-Luc thought it had sighed. “We search for food. Neutrinos are becoming scarce near our home world and we were sent to find more sources. We collect as well as feed. ” The Captain frowned.

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“Are your people suffering on your world? Is it a famine?” “It is becoming such. Our ships are few and dispersed throughout this galaxy and others.” “You have heard of the Federation…The United Federation of Planets?” “Yes. Your territory is vast.” Bowing his head and pursing his lips, Jean-Luc kept his deep voice even. “Are you aware that the Federation will assist warp-capable species in times of emergency?” That was greeted with silence. Jean-Luc turned and, with raised eyebrows, queried his tactical officer as to whether the channel was still open. The Lieutenant nodded, her quiet “Yes Sir.” For Jean-Luc’s ears only. He faced the viewscreen and waited patiently, feet braced slightly apart, hands clasped behind his back and shoulders square. Eventually the alien shivered and spread more green ooze onto its teeth. “You would do this for us?” Keeping his voice gentle, Jean-Luc smiled. “Yes.” “And how would we do this Captain?” Shifting his hands to his sides, Jean-Luc relaxed slightly. “If you are willing to wait while we conclude our studies of this area, I will then escort you to a Starbase where you can consult with our scientists. Hopefully together you can work out a way to ease the famine and perhaps solve the problem permanently.” “And what would be the price for this…help?” Jean-Luc sighed and smiled ruefully. “There will be no price Commander. The Federation would never exploit another world.” The red eyes of the alien glittered then faded somewhat. With a resigned snort, it lifted a taloned finger and picked the scab off a suppurating pustule. “Despite your seeming generosity you have me at a significant disadvantage. I have little choice. It will be as you say Captain, but by the spirits if you, or your Federation betray us we will find a way to retaliate. We will not be taken for fools.” Jean-Luc nodded curtly and stiffened his spine. “So noted. We will require a further twenty-four standard hours in this region to complete our work. If you will hold station here, we will return to escort you to Starbase twelve sierra tango.” The huge alien stood, a loud expulsion of gas accompanying the movement, and ambled closer to the viewscreen. Its eyes brightened as it studied the Captain in silence, the close up of the seeping pustules unpleasant to see. “What species are you?” Jean-Luc smiled. “I am Human.” “Human? You are small…and dry.” Jean-Luc shrugged and his smile grew. “It is the way we are.” The lumbering alien turned to regain its seat, but hesitated. Slowly facing the Captain it bared its formidable teeth. “My name is J’Henn’As.”

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The screen blinked off, once again displaying the view of the alien ship. Jean-Luc sighed and turned to his exec. Will grinned, his blue eyes sparkling. “A new friend?” “Perhaps. At least not a new enemy…I hope.” The Captain issued orders for the resumption of their scans and was about to retire to his Ready Room when Parrum gently took his elbow. In a whisper, the tall alien said, “Captain I can feel your pain. You and Commander Riker should report to Sickbay.” Frowning in annoyance, Jean-Luc freed his arm and shook his head, mentally grimacing at the pain that caused. “That will not be necessary Parrum. I…” His words died in his throat when his First Officer approached rubbing his temples. “Captain if you feel as bad as I do, we should both go and see Beverly.” Sighing, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes. “You go Number One. I’m fine.” The big bearded man shook his head slowly and pulled down the corners of his mouth. “Uh uh Captain. If you don’t come down with me I’ll tell Beverly you’re suffering and she’ll order you to comply. What’s it to be Sir? My way…or her way?” Straightening his spine and squaring his shoulders, The Captain looked disdainfully at his First Officer. “That Commander could be considered blackmail…and exceedingly poor form. Very well I will acquiesce. However, if she traps me down in that…den of iniquity…I’ll hold you personally responsible.” Smiling broadly Will stood back and bowed, sweeping his arm grandly. “Understood Captain. After you.”

Jean-Luc, Will and Parrum strolled nonchalantly into Sickbay, seemingly disinterested in what was going on around them. The head nurse, Alyssa Ogawa approached and the Captain asked to see the CMO. They were kept waiting and Jean-Luc grew increasingly impatient. With his arms folded across his chest, his rear hitched onto a biobed and his ankles crossed, he was the epitome of an agitated Captain. Scowling deeply he muttered, “She’s got two more minutes then I’m going back to the bridge. This is ridiculous.” Will’s concern for his friend was growing as the older man grew pale and his usually piercing hazel eyes dulled. He was about to try cajoling the irritated man when Beverly breezed into the room. Jean-Luc’s head snapped up and he barked, “It’s about time! We’ve been waiting…” By the set of Beverly’s jaw Will could plainly see she was in no mood for his histrionics. With a glare she took a tricorder from her coat pocket and snapped,

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“Captain Picard you are not the only patient in this facility! I came as soon as I could, now what seems to be the trouble?” His face a mask of stone and his eyes glittering dangerously, Jean-Luc went to step past her, but she placed a hand in the centre of his chest and halted him. Taking a calming breath, the Doctor tried a different approach. “I’m sorry Jean-Luc. What is it?” His deep voice deceptively quiet he responded, “It’s nothing really…I have a mild headache that’s all.” “Right then, I’ll just scan you.” He stood ramrod straight as she took the probe and waved it about his head, whilst studying the readout on the instrument. Clenching her jaw, she suppressed the urge to remonstrate with him. ”A mild headache? Captain the pain register is in the morbid sector. How long have you had it?” Keeping his eyes locked on the floor, he muttered, “Since I woke up. Will has it too.” Beverly cast a glance at the First Officer only to see him rubbing his temples and frowning. “Right! I want both of you on a biobed now!” The indignant man tried one last ploy. “Beverly really. Just give me an analgesic and I’ll…” Having passed angry and quickly approaching furious, the red head leaned close and hissed, “Don’t tell me how to do my job! When you have a medical degree I’ll listen to you. Now I’m ordering you to lie on that biobed and you’d better bloody well comply!” Having lost control of the situation, the Captain glowered at his lover, clenched his jaw and stiffly climbed onto the biobed, lying rigidly, indignation coming off him in waves. Beverly heard Will doing the same and smiled inwardly. “At least he won’t fight me.” She administered a large dose of painkiller to each man then set about instigating deep scans of their brains. Now free of pain, Will turned his head, intending to smile encouragingly at his CO, only to see his stony profile and clenched jaw. Discretion being the better part of valour, Will settled onto the bed and simply enjoyed being pain-free. Parrum stood back watching with concern. It felt the anger and frustration surging between the lovers and was at a loss to know how to help. When Beverly noticed the tall alien she summoned a small smile and lifted her head. “How are you?” Returning her smile, it sighed. “Just a little tired.” “Well perhaps you should retire to your quarters to rest. These two…gentlemen…will be here a while.” Nodding and flushing red, the V’Larnn asked quietly, “Will they be all right?” Hearing the concern in its voice, Beverly stepped closer and nodded. “Yes Parrum I think so. There seems to be an imbalance in the brain chemistry…nothing I can’t fix. They should be released to their quarters tonight.”

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Parrum sighed and smiled. “Thank you Beverly, I will do as you suggest.”

It was twenty-three fifteen when the two officers were finally released from Sickbay. Will went to his quarters knowing Deanna was waiting for him. Jean-Luc, despite explicit orders to the contrary from Beverly, went up to the Bridge and received a status report before reluctantly acceding to Data’s insistence that he retire for the night. The Captain was lost in thought as he strode through the corridors. Before he’d left the Bridge he’d sent a message to headquarters informing them of the situation with the aliens. Due to their distance from the nearest habitable space, it would be some days before he received a reply. He approached his cabin and walked through the doors, automatically calling for the lights to dim. The quietly cold voice stopped him in his tracks. “Where the hell have you been?” He looked up to see Beverly standing by the viewport. With the backdrop of swirling multicoloured gasses she made an alluring figure. He hesitated a moment, initially ignoring her tone of voice to appreciate her. “I asked you a question Captain!” Her words cut through his retrospection and his anger rose. “You will keep a civil tongue in your head when you address me or you will find yourself on report!” The Doctor stiffened, her hands fisting at her sides. “Very well Sir, I apologise. If you’ll excuse me…” She stalked past him, intent on leaving when he grabbed her arm. “Wait Beverly. Look I’m sorry…can we start again?” The red head stopped and glowered at the floor. Her voice quiet and steady she asked, “Am I The CMO on this ship or not?” “Of course you are.” Still staring at the floor, she went on. “And my orders are to be obeyed?…At all times?” Seeing where this was heading, Jean-Luc tried to defend himself. “Beverly please, I had to go to the Bridge. I needed a status report and I had to contact Command about the aliens.” Slowly lifting her head and training her eyes on his, she said softly, “And you couldn’t do that from your quarters?” Caught in her trap, Jean-Luc released her arm and stalked to the easy chair. “Look Doctor…” ”No you look Captain! I gave you a direct order to return straight to your quarters! Dammit Jean-Luc…” He turned and held up his hands. “All right! I stand guilty as charged.” He lowered his head and sank wearily into the chair. “I apologise Beverly…I ignored you and usurped your authority. I’m sorry.”

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She watched keenly as the tired man slumped and eased his feet up onto the low table. Feeling her anger abate, she wandered over to him and stood at his side, looking down at him. “How do you feel?” He looked up, a lopsided smile creeping across his face. “If I said I was fine, would you believe me?” Finding a chuckle, Beverly sat on the sofa and shook her head. “What the hell am I going to do with you Jean-Luc? You disobey direct orders, abuse your health…neglect your lover…” His head snapped up and he frowned. “Now the first two I freely admit to, but when have I ever neglected you?” Sliding off the sofa, Beverly eased herself onto his lap and wound her arm around his shoulders. “I came here tonight to spend the evening with you…all of the evening. When you weren’t here…” He shook his head and muttered, “Blast.” Settling his arms around her waist, he pulled her closer to him. After nuzzling her neck, he murmured into her hair, “So is the evening irretrievably lost?” Her soft giggle warmed him and he was delighted when she began nibbling his ear and jaw. “If you’re very careful, you just might be able to pull it from the fire.” He growled softly and lifted his hand to caress her breast. “Fire? My dear Doctor don’t you realise you’re playing with fire?” Beverly mewed with desire as his thumb gently rubbed over her straining nipple. Turning further into his embrace, she whispered huskily, “So burn me.” With little effort he rose to his feet cradling his lover in his arms. He took her to the bedroom and laid her on the bed, before slipping off his boots and lying next to her. The foreplay was languid and protracted, the lovemaking gentle, sweet and utterly satisfying. Afterwards they lay together naked and entwined, Beverly idly drawing random patterns through the softly curly hair of his chest. Her voice a gentle whisper, she asked, “How do you feel now?” He grumbled deep in his throat and Beverly thrilled to feel the vibrations travel through her body. “I feel like liquid plasma. Utterly without a rigid bone in my body.” She chuckled dreamily and sighed. “You know you’re scandalously good at sex.” He snorted and Beverly was delighted to hear him chuckle softly. “I would like to think I don’t have sex. I make love.” It was Beverly’s turn to chuckle. “Well excuse me!” He tightened his embrace and Beverly sighed deeply. “Jean-Luc?” “Hmm?”

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“Don’t disobey me again.” His own sigh made Beverly rise and fall on his chest. “Very well mon coeur.” Sleep came then, dark and mysterious.

Two weeks later they had delivered the aliens to the Starbase and were on their way to V’Larnn. It was time to return Parrum to its people. The alien had been an almost constant companion of both Jean-Luc and Beverly and it was patently obvious the coming separation was going to be very difficult. During one shared lunch in the lounge, Parrum gently took Beverly’s hand. “There is something I would ask of you.” The Doctor cast a quick concerned glance at the Captain before giving Parrum her complete attention. “And what is that?” Taking a large breath, the V’Larnnan briefly closed its eyes. “I have given this a lot of thought Beverly. I want you to restore my body chemistry to what it was before I fell in love.” The Doctor looked deep into its eyes, trying to see the truth of the request. “Are you sure Parrum?” Jean-Luc’s quiet deep voice drifted through its mind. “Parrum you will lose so much…are you absolutely certain?” The tall alien sighed and flushed deep mauve. “Yes. If I don’t do this I will grieve when you are gone. I fear I will not be able to carry out the duties my people expect of me. And, in truth, I do not want to feel the depth of despair I know will assail me…I’m not…ready for it.” Beverly gently squeezed its hand and sighed. “All right Parrum if you’re sure that’s what you want. Come down to Sickbay whenever you’re ready, it won’t take long.” Smiling sadly, Parrum looked at both his loves. “There is one more thing.” The Captain said softly, “Anything.” “I would like to have one last dinner with you both…there is something I wish to give you…a gift, something to remember me by.” The two officers glanced at each other, both shrugging their shoulders. It was Jean-Luc who spoke. “Of course. Would tonight be acceptable?” Parrum thought a moment then asked, “What is our ETA at V’Larnn?” Again Jean-Luc replied, “Three days.” Nodding decisively, Parrum smiled.

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“That would fit in well. Tonight would be perfect.” Conversation drifted to other topics and before long the diners left to pursue other duties.

Later that night Beverly and Jean-Luc were dressed casually, waiting for their guest to arrive. The Captain had just called up a menu of music when the door chimed. They both called out, ”Come.” And smiled tenderly at each other. Parrum entered carrying a decanter of sparkling blue liquid. It was greeted warmly and the trio sat in the lounge, the stars streaking by the viewports as the ship travelled at warp. Jean-Luc pointed at the decanter. “What have you there?” Smiling broadly, Parrum rose and gathered three glasses. Once again seated, it poured the liquid into the glasses and lifted its to smell deeply. “On Earth your family create wine. On V’Larnn we make this…at least what your replicator thinks is this. I have checked, it’s safe for Humans to drink.” Sipping carefully, Jean-Luc couldn’t keep the smile from his face. “Parrum you’ve been holding out on me! This is delicious. What, exactly, is it?” “We have a fruit called firom. When we…ferment it, it develops the spicy piquancy you taste. Of course there is no alcohol, but it is a very refreshing drink, is it not?” Beverly slowly liked her lips and giggled. “It makes my whole mouth tingle. Jean-Luc’s right…it’s delicious!” Pleased that its friends were so happy, Parrum sighed and sat back in its seat and watched them, always envious of the obvious love they shared with each other. A few more drinks and they left the lounge to sit at the dining table. The Captain had left the programming of the replicator to Beverly and his mouth watered, as he smelled one of his favourite meals. “Beef stroganoff on wild rice?” She stepped around him while putting dishes on the table and chuckled warmly at his open delight. “Uh huh. I thought it would be nice to have one of your favourites…and Parrum can experience it too.” He gently caressed her back and she shivered at his knowing touch. They seated themselves and took their time eating, regaling each other with anecdotes from their respective careers; very aware of how sad Parrum must be feeling. Their meal finished, they once again went to the living area, taking their coffees with them. Jean-Luc ordered the music selection to play softly and they spent some time quietly discussing music in all its various forms. After a while they grew quiet and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Into the companionable silence Parrum said softly, “I said I have a gift for you.” It watched as interest grew in the Human’s faces. “It is a very precious gift, but to bestow it…I must indulge with you…both of you.”

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Jean-Luc’s sharp intake of breath was heard over the soft music. He frowned and looked at his boots. “Parrum…I don’t think…” “No Jean-Luc hear me please. For as long as I have been in love with you both I have not needed to indulge…and that was probably a good thing considering the stress I’ve been under. But if I am to be returned to my normal state then I must…please Jean-Luc…I have to indulge with you…as a lover. I have never indulged with someone I loved… please Jean-Luc…Beverly…do not deny me this exquisite act…I beg you.” By now staring openly at the intense alien, Jean-Luc could plainly see the pain in its eyes. He turned to Beverly to see tears in hers. His soft whisper made her smile. “Beverly?” Reaching out with both hands, she gathered Parrum’s hand and Jean-Luc’s in her own. Nodding slowly, she couldn’t stop the single tear from falling. Taking a deep breath, Jean-Luc briefly closed his eyes. In a very soft voice he whispered, “Very well Parrum.” The tall alien stood and led them to the bedroom. Stopping just outside it tenderly cast its violet eyes over them, and said softly, “You may want to change into appropriate clothing. I will wait out here until you are ready.” Silently the two entered Jean-Luc’s bedroom and slowly changed, Beverly into a pretty peach nightie, Jean-Luc into grey satin shorts. They lay down on the bed and Jean-Luc took Beverly’s hands in his. “You’re sure my love?” She nodded silently and the Captain sighed. With resolute strength, he called the alien. “Come in Parrum.” It came in and stood at the foot of the bed. In silence it removed its robe and stood still, its body strobing gently. The two Humans made room between them and Parrum crawled up the bed to lie between them. Lying on its back and spreading its arms, it encouraged the lovers to lie on their sides resting their heads on its shoulders. Wrapping its arms around them, it laid its hands on their heads and took a large breath. Softly it whispered, “To complete the connection, each of you place a hand on my head.” This was done and Parrum sighed. “Now relax and let the ascension carry you. All will be well.” Jean-Luc and Beverly closed their eyes and gasped as the first swell of arousal washed over them. In their minds and bodies a warmth pervaded as they felt Parrum deepen the connection. Its mind expanded and they shuddered as their skin registered the caresses. Beverly’s nipples hardened and pushed against the fabric of her nightie, she opened her legs involuntarily and groaned as her desire heightened. Jean-Luc arched his back, vainly pushing up his hips as his erection strained in his shorts. Unseen hands and mouths roamed over their bodies, the stimulation becoming increasingly powerful. Parrum began to sweat as the strobing colours and stiffened body hair gave away its arousal. The alien spent twenty minutes taking them deeper and deeper into sexual insanity. Both humans were rigid, shuddering and moaning continuously, their entire bodies erogenous as the sensuous torment went on. With astounding control and power, Parrum held them at the point of release, but prevented it, as it revelled in the sexual intoxication it had created.

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Beverly suddenly sobbed and cried out, her fingers digging into Parrum’s head. JeanLuc’s answering sob told Parrum it had taken them far enough. It had been thirty minutes of exquisite torment, but they were at their limit, any further could damage them. With an expansive sigh Parrum released its control and permitted the orgasms. There was a loud cry from both Humans and their bodies spasmed and convulsed through a cataclysmic triple climax. Parrum maintained the connection; guiding them through the aftershocks and helping them regain themselves. When it felt they had sufficiently calmed, it broke the connection. Its hands left their heads to softly caress their shoulders. Beverly snuggled into its embrace while Jean-Luc rolled onto his back and flung one arm across his eyes. Summoning a gentle voice, the alien asked, “Are you both all right?” Beverly mewed and sighed, nodding her head. The Captain softly cleared his throat and muttered. “I’m fine thank you, although I should go and shower before I drop into a coma.” Somewhat alarmed, Parrum turned its head towards the Captain. “Jean-Luc I can assure you, you will not fall into a coma! I was very careful…” He shook his head chuckling. “It’s all right Parrum, I was joking. I feel so relaxed…so sated, that when I fall asleep it feel like a coma.” “Oh.” Sitting up slowly, Jean-Luc grimaced in his wet discomfort. Looking over at his beloved Beverly, he smiled warmly and sighed. “She looks so lovely.” Parrum smiled and agreed. “Yes she seems to glow. Does she always do this after lovemaking?” Blushing slightly, Jean-Luc refrained from answering out loud. Instead he nodded curtly and rose slowly from the bed. “I won’t be long. Will you stay?” “May I?” The Captain nodded again and entered his bathroom. After a quick shower and change of shorts, he re-entered his bedroom and took his place beside Parrum. Beverly’s gently snoring was the last thing he heard.

The next morning when he awoke, Jean-Luc was surprised to find Parrum absent. At some stage during the night the alien had left and the Captain had taken Beverly into his arms and held her still as he woke. He sighed and registered the sensuous humming in his body, his insistent erection pressed firmly against her hip. Not wishing to disturb his sleeping companion, he snuggled into her and further entwined their legs. He closed his eyes and tried to regain sleep, but his arousal was such that he couldn’t relax enough to let that happen. Frustrated, he involuntarily arched his hips and groaned softly as his hardness rubbed across Beverly’s hip. The Doctor sighed softly and pulled herself

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closer to him, allowing one hand to slide down his body to gently grip his straining penis. As the contact was made, Jean-Luc gasped, his hips bucking of their own accord. Now awake, Beverly’s arousal was evident. She opened her eyes and gently bit his earlobe before swirling her tongue around the contours of his inner ear. Jean-Luc rolled and settled her on her back. He sat up and watched as she slowly stroked him, his hand drifting to cup and caress her breast. With gentle insistence, he peeled her nightie from her body then took his time to slowly slide her panties down her willowy legs. He felt a gentle tugging and lowered his gaze to watch as Beverly pulled down his shorts. With little effort his shorts joined Beverly’s clothing on the floor beside the bed. He lifted her ankles and kissed them softly, kneeling between her legs. Slowly kissing his way up her satiny skin, he draped her legs over his shoulders and used his fingers to slide sensuously over the sensitive inner thighs. Beverly stretched her arms out and arched her neck giving herself to her lover trusting…knowing he would not disappoint. Jean-Luc bent forward and eased his tongue into her folds while his hands gently slid up her torso to encounter her swollen breasts. Covering them with his large hands he kneaded them tenderly before gently pinching her hardened nipples. Beverly groaned, her hands finding his and covering them, helping him to pleasure her. He sighed into her wetness, intoxicated with her intimate scent. He pushed his tongue deeply inside her and she lifted her hips in response. Releasing one breast he employed his fingers to parting her labia and teasing provocatively around her turgid clitoris. The Doctor groaned his name and arched off the bed, her hands gripping his head, pushing him harder against her. He withdrew his tongue and fingers, swapping their application. When he next caressed her, two fingers slid inside her while his tongue lightly feathered her bud. Beverly’s body jerked and she cried out, the release of her lubricant lapped up by her lover. Jean-Luc knew she was close, her internal muscles clenching rhythmically, so he quickened the pace of the fingers sliding in and out of her and swirled his tongue over her pearl forcefully. Beverly suddenly stiffened and shrieked. Her body flexed and she pulled Jean-Luc’s face hard against her sex. He maintained his intimate caresses and she climaxed again, and again. Slowly he stilled his hand and gently kissed her clitoris. The Doctor was moaning softly, her body limp and quivering. Jean-Luc stretched himself over her and spent time tenderly kissing every part of her face, before descending on her mouth for a languid, passionate kiss. Beverly could feel his hot erection sliding through her folds as he slothfully thrust his hips. Her desire, so recently sated re-awakened as his hand found her breast and tweaked her nipple in time with his questing tongue and thrusting hips. She lifted her legs and hitched them over his waist, inviting him to penetrate her. He drew back, found her entrance and entered her in one slow motion, causing her to moan into his mouth and dig her fingers into the muscles of his shoulders. Beverly suddenly broke the kiss and gripped his head in her hands. Lifting her head she bit him on the neck, snarling, “Oh yes! Do it Jean-Luc…quickly…God do it to me…” With agonising sloth, he pulled himself out, almost leaving her body and hovered there, watching intently as she arched beneath him, trying to sheathe him inside her. With a powerful thrust he buried himself deep inside and ground his hips. Beverly called his name and gripped his buttocks pulling him hard against her. He rose up on his arms and pulled back again. Frantic, Beverly bucked beneath him sliding herself up and down his shaft. He grabbed her chin with one hand and kissed her savagely as he abruptly started

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to vigorously pump in and out of her. Mindless with sensation, Beverly screamed into his mouth, her fingernails raking his back. He broke the kiss and growled, “Look at me!” She forced her eyes open and gasped at what she saw. His dark hazel eyes glittered and swirled with intense emotion. That he loved her passionately was obvious, but there was more, there was a naked clarity, a patent honesty that convinced her he had indeed given her his heart…and soul. Imbued with this knowledge, Beverly sobbed his name and gasped as his tears fell on her face. “Oh God Jean-Luc…I love you!” Her impassioned declaration was his undoing. With an abruptness that astonished him, he felt his orgasm surge through his body and quickened his pace, gratified when Beverly shrieked and convulsed under him. He held himself buried deep within her as he spasmed and pulsed, her milking contractions making him gasp and shudder. On shaking arms, he slowly lowered himself until his face nestled in her neck. His last though before sleep took him was, “Deesse, she is my deesse.”

Will was a little surprised when the Captain called to excuse himself from duty for the day. He was amused when his enquiries to Sickbay disclosed that Beverly had done the same thing. Turning to Deanna, seated beside him on the Bridge, he noted her dreamy look and knowing smile. Leaning to her he muttered, “Again?” She focussed on her lover, her obsidian eyes sparkling with happiness and contentment. “Uh huh.” The big man stroked his beard and grinned. “What are they doing now?” Shocked, the Counsellor slapped his shoulder. “Will!” His eyebrows raised, the First Officer playfully rubbed the feigned injury. “Come on…give!” She huffed and made a show of pushing her hair back. “If you must know…yes, they are…erotically engaged.” Will sat up and laughed. “The old dog! I tell you Deanna it’s the…” “Will you shut up about the tea! It’s about time you accepted the Captain is well schooled in the art of love and that, perhaps, he just might be able to teach you a few things.” Taken aback, Will snorted. “Oh come on! Just because they’re happy with each other doesn’t mean…” Sighing, Deanna leaned over to him. ”Will they started early this morning. This is the third time since oh five ten and it’s only

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oh nine thirty…and I can tell you they’re not sated yet! I don’t know what’s going on, but I know from personal experience you can’t manage that, so if I were you, I’d shut up and stop casting aspersions.” Will scowled at his lover and studiously concentrated on the readout in front of him, all the time smarting at her words. “Three times in four hours! Bloody hell…he’ll kill himself. Still…what a way to go.” The after effects of indulging with Parrum lasted for the rest of the day. The couple made love as often as they could until eventually they couldn’t physically perform any more. They lay quietly in each other’s arms, the urge still present, but no longer able to satisfy it. With an expansive sigh, Beverly snuggled into Jean-Luc’s embrace as he pulled up the covers. Their bodies completely sated, they slipped into sleep.

The next day both the Captain and the Doctor returned to duty. Beverly was in her office when Parrum came in. “Hello Parrum. Are you here for the procedure?” Flushing deep blue, Parrum sighed and nodded. “Yes Beverly…it is time.” The red head stood and slid her arm through its arm. “Come on then.” She led them out into Sickbay proper and gestured for Parrum to sit on a biobed. After a lengthy scan, Beverly took a sample of blood and analysed it. Entering some commands into the computer, they chatted amicably while they waited for the results. “I noticed you were not on duty yesterday.” Beverly reddened slightly, but found a rueful smile. In a quiet voice she explained, “It was the after effects of indulging. We were…occupied for the day.” Parrum’s deep chuckle amused the Doctor. “What are you laughing at? It’s your fault.” It clasped her hands and looked deeply into her blue eyes. “I know. Beverly…do you remember I said I was going to give you a gift? A very precious gift?” “Yes of course Parrum. It was wonderful.” The tall alien shook its head. “No, you misunderstood. Indulging, though an exquisite intimacy, was not my gift to you both. As your brains assimilate what they have experienced, there will be a fundamental change. Over the next few days those changes will manifest themselves in the gift I have bestowed.” Beverly frowned and shook her head. “You have altered our brains? Parrum I’m not sure…” It squeezed her hands, silencing her words.

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“Fear not my dear Doctor, I have done nothing detrimental I assure you. I would never harm either of you, not if it meant my life!” “OK I can accept that…but what did you do?” Smiling enigmatically, Parrum sighed. “You will find out in your own time. The only thing I ask is that you remember me.” Beverly gently took its head in her hands and kissed it tenderly. “Always my friend.” The computer chimed and Beverly retrieved the formula necessary to restore the V’Larnnan. She replicated the required drugs, loaded a hypospray and softly rubbed Parrum’s neck. “You’re sure?” It nodded, a sad smile evident and Beverly administered the doses. “It will help if you lie down for a while, it may take an hour or so before the change is complete.” Parrum nodded and swung its legs up before settling on the bed. “Will you stay with me?” “Of course.” Beverly was surprised when the alien fell asleep. True to her word, she stayed by its side for an hour and a half and when its eyes opened she knew the change had taken place. Gone was the soft affection in its limpid violet eyes. In its place was sharp clarity, reminiscent of how it had been when it first came aboard. She helped it into a sitting position and scanned it. “How do you feel?” Parrum sighed and stretched. “Much more like myself, thank you Doctor. If you are in agreement I will retire to my quarters to pack.” Nodding, Beverly stood back as the alien exited the bed and stood tall beside her. As it left Sickbay, Beverly felt a pang of regret, but quickly swallowed it. “Everyone has the right to be as they wish.”

Parrum’s return to its people went successfully. Jean-Luc spent two days on the planet meeting with officials and providing more information. The other aliens that had been sequestered on Starfleet vessels also returned and there was a great deal of data to be compiled. The days went by fast but it was an exhausted Captain that finally returned to his ship. He reported to the Bridge and received a status update. After briefing Will on their next mission and seeing the ship safely on her way, he retired for the night. Beverly waited on the sofa in his living room sleep dogging her brain. Determined to stay awake, she asked for some music and amused herself by leafing through his many books, enchanted by his eclectic tastes. When the doors hissed open she was dismayed to see

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how tired he was. She rose silently and walked towards him, watching as he reached up to unfasten his tunic. “Long day?” He grunted his reply and sat heavily in his favourite chair, toeing off his boots and putting his feet on the low table. He sighed then growled in appreciation as Beverly’s knowing hands began to massage his tense neck and shoulders. “You’re really locked up Jean-Luc. What the hell have you been doing?” He sighed again and muttered, “Playing diplomat. I was working with Parrum and the ruling council. God…the questions! They certainly are inquisitive.” At the mention of Parrum’s name, Beverly became wistful. “Tell me Jean-Luc…how was Parrum.” Knowing full well what she was alluding to, the Captain sighed. “It was sad Beverly. When I looked in its eyes…the warmth was gone. The gentle sensitive being we came to know is lost to us…and to everyone else. Dammit! If only…” “Hush Jean-Luc, don’t get upset. We had to honour its wishes…to do other wise would’ve been a travesty. After all we were responsible for the situation in the first place.” The Captain snorted then groaned as Beverly kneaded out a particularly knotted muscle. “Have you had anything to eat?” He chuckled and shook his head. “Nothing I could readily identify.” Raising her own chuckle, she finished her massage and tenderly stroked his bare scalp. “Why don’t you go have a shower and I’ll replicate us something to eat?” Reaching up, he caught her hands and pulled her down to him. The kiss was soft, yet tenderly passionate. “You know I love you mon coeur.” Beverly sighed and nuzzled his neck. “I know…and I love you.” She left him to prepare their meal and he went to shower, emerging soon after dressed in satin shorts and a robe. Beverly was amused to see he was barefoot. They ate in companionable silence and retired to the bedroom where Jean-Luc slid into bed and watched appreciatively as Beverly changed into her nightie. She slid into bed and snuggled into his embrace. His soft questioning kiss made her sigh. “Just hold me my love…I want to sleep in your arms.” He kissed her face and smiled at her. “Anything mon coeur, you have only to ask.” They quickly settled, sleep coming swiftly.

Over the next eight days the ship was occupied with more drills as they travelled to their next assignment. Jean-Luc and Beverly spent as much time together as possible

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but found that their recent experience with Parrum had left them without the need to make love. Instead they touched and kissed, caressed and learned each other’s bodies, falling to sleep each night entangled in a tight embrace. Their passion however was slowly building. Two weeks after they left V’Larnn Jean-Luc was working in his Ready Room when his mind suddenly furnished a vision of Beverly in the throes of erotic fulfilment. His body responded immediately and he gasped as a wave of insistently powerful arousal swept over him. His hands fisted as he concentrated fiercely to dispel the image… and his reaction to it. Several deck below him, Beverly was treating a broken wrist when she suddenly gasped, took an involuntary step backwards and dropped the osteo regenerator. Alyssa Ogawa gripped her arm. “Doctor Crusher? Are you all right?” In an unsteady voice, Beverly called for Selar. The Vulcan came over and Beverly transferred the treatment to her. She then beat a hasty retreat to her office, sitting at her desk, face red, mouth open and panting. The highly erotic image of her lover that had appeared in her mind had almost overwhelmed her. The surge of arousal that accompanied it had her teetering on the edge of an abyss.

Deanna was in her office going over crew rotations when her senses were buffeted with the arousal from both the Captain and Beverly. She gasped, reeling at the potency of the sensations she perceived. Erecting her mental barriers, she centred herself then chose to visit Beverly. She knew instinctively the Captain would rebuff her. She found Beverly in her office, head bowed, hands gripping the edge of her desk in uncharacteristic desperation. “Beverly what is it?” The Doctor shook her head, taking several shaky breaths. “I don’t know! I had this vision of Jean-Luc…it was sexually explicit and I’m…I’m…” Deanna rounded the desk and gripped her shoulders. “I know how you feel. Even with my barriers up I can sense your arousal. Look Beverly the Captain is feeling the same way. Perhaps you should…” She got no further. Shaking herself free Beverly lurched to her feet and gasped, “Tell Selar she has command of Sickbay. I’ll be in his quarters!” Before Deanna could reply, Beverly exited her office and quickly left Sickbay. Once in the privacy of the empty corridor, she hastily slapped her combadge. “Crusher to Picard.” His voice was clipped but she could easily hear his tension. “Picard here.” “Captain I have to see you urgently…in your quarters.” “I’m on my way. Picard out.” Jean-Luc stood and glared down at his bulging trousers.

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“Merde!” He removed his tunic and held it in front of himself then left the Ready Room. Entering the Bridge he went straight to the turbolift tossing over his shoulder, “You have the Bridge Number One, I’ll be in my quarters. Please see to it I’m not disturbed.” Will’s reply was made to the closing lift doors.

Jean-Luc had to concentrate on not running. He kept his pace brisk…’Captainly’ would’ve been Beverly’s description. Clenching his jaw and keeping his tunic in front of him, he almost growled when he finally reached his door. He strode through and Beverly turned to face him. They stood motionless, panting, their hungry eyes boring into each other. The Captain dropped the tunic to the floor and Beverly’s eyes widened as she saw his erection straining in his trousers. Moving in unison they covered the distance between them and kissed savagely. Jean-Luc reached up and gripped her tunic, wrenching violently and tearing it open. He quickly disposed of the ruined garment and made short work of her undershirt and vest. Her bra he tore in two and when his mouth descended to her nipples she went weak at the knees. With quick and dextrous movements she divested him of his tops and opened his pants. Reaching into his briefs, she freed his throbbing penis and stroked it wantonly, spreading the thick pearl bead with her thumb. Tugging impatiently, Jean-Luc unfastened her pants and pushed them and her panties down and out of the way. As soon as he touched her intimately they both gasped. Their heads snapped up and Jean-Luc uttered, “I felt that!” Nodding quickly Beverly caressed him again as he slid his fingers through her slick folds. “Oh God yes…I feel…I feel…when I touch you I feel it too!” With a growl Jean-Luc kissed her with passionate intensity, pushing her gently to the floor. He broke the kiss only long enough to strip her of her boots, pants and underwear. Kneeling between her legs, he pushed his own pants and briefs out of the way then covered her with his body. When their genitals touched they both cried out. “Yes! Jean-Luc quickly…I’m almost there…quickly!” He slid into with haste and screwed his eyes shut as he experienced her sensations of penetration as well as his own. Beverly arched under him and cried out, “Oh God…I never knew…” He kissed her and began to thrust. With each invasion and retreat from her body he felt both reactions, hers and his. Speechless, he lost himself in the exquisite experience and when he let the combined sensations draw him into a cataclysmic shared orgasm, their joined cries of liberation heralded their ascension into emotional and physical bliss. Blood rushed in his ears and he became aware he was groaning her name over and over. Their bodies still twitching and jerking, Jean-Luc wearily lifted his head, his eyes brimming with tears. In a ragged whisper he said, “Mon Dieu what happened to us?” Prising her eyes open Beverly’s tears slipped free. Panting she replied, “It was Parrum. It told me of a gift it gave us.” Jean-Luc frowned and gasped softly as a residual contracting gripped him internally.

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“A gift? Wasn’t that our indulging with it?” “No my love. It told me that it had subtly altered our brains and that it would take effect over some days. It asked only that we remember it.” Jean-Luc closed his eyes and rested his head on her shoulder. They were silent a while enjoying the afterglow of a most extraordinary experience. Eventually Jean-Luc rolled to one side, taking Beverly with him. Still joined he kissed her softly. “Do you know…ever since I was a young man I’ve wondered..?” Beverly giggled and kissed his nose. “Me too. I once told Deanna if I was ever turned into a male I would masturbate just to see what a man’s orgasm felt like.” He smiled softly and traced his fingers softly over her face. “And now you know.” “Uh huh…and so do you. What do you think?” He closed his eyes momentarily and sighed. “Oh God I had no idea it was so intense! It swelled up and resounded through my entire body, affecting me mentally as well as physically. It’s little wonder women treat sexuality more seriously than men. What about you? How did you find it?” Beverly gently feathered her fingers over his sensuous lower lip and smiled when he kissed her fingers. “It was very powerful, the pulsing sensations reaching deep inside me. I felt an exhilaration I don’t usually equate with making love. It was very…profound.” They kissed again and then parted, sighing. Jean-Luc asked wistfully, “Do you think it will always be like this for us?” “Uh huh. When Parrum experienced love it was a watershed for it. It recognised what we have and, although it couldn’t share it with us, it found a way to bond us even more deeply to each other.” Jean-Luc sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “And the urgency? God Beverly if I couldn’t have you…” ”I know I was the same. Perhaps it was because it was the first time. Maybe, with time, we can come to enjoy this as a unique aspect of our relationship.” “Come to enjoy it? Beverly we came so hard I nearly passed out!” The Doctor chuckled and sighed. “Come on sailor, help your mate up and we’ll have a long hot shower.” With a certain amount of stiffness they climbed to their feet and Beverly watched with amusement as Jean-Luc stripped off the remains of his clothes. She looked around her at the ruined garments and sighed. “Of course there’s something to be said for the…jungle aspect.” Jean-Luc took her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist. “What can I say? You bring out the beast in me.” She allowed her eyes to travel over his beautiful body, and her voice became husky. “Well after our shower maybe we can go on safari?” His eyes darkening, Jean-Luc growled and swept her up into his arms. “I think that could be arranged.” As he carried her effortlessly into the bathroom, Beverly laid her head against his muscular shoulder and sighed. Sending out her thoughts she said, “Thank you Parrum.”

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Three Minds