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[personal profile] so_jang
Title: Vermicular Confusion part VII
Previously: part I || part II || part III || part IV || part V || part VI
Author: me!
Rating: PG-13, blood and guts
Pairings:Sheppard/Weir, Crusher/Picard, Riker/Troi
Universes:Season 3 STTNG, Season 2 SGA
Notes: Okay, this ran off and decided to go epic. Oh well. I enjoy it.



Beverly studied the reddish metal door to Jean-Luc's temporary quarters. There didn't appear to be any kind of chime. She tapped her foot impatiently for a moment and then knocked.

"Come," Jean-Luc's voice was quick and pleasant. He was obviously still awake and she could finally talk to him. She'd looked for him in the mess hall and hadn't been able to find him watching the fictitious story that so oddly resembled their lives. Wesley was watching the show with the others and seeing him had just reminded her how much she needed to talk.

Staring at the door, she tried to remember how they opened. It wasn't like the Enterprise, doors didn't open because she wanted them too and she couldn't just talk to the computer whenever she wanted something. She had to-what? Glancing quickly around the edge of the door, Beverly remembered she was supposed to wave her hand in front of the blue lights on the side and kicked herself for not thinking of it earlier.

"Sorry," she muttered as it opened and Jean-Luc's confused expression softened into a smile. "I couldn't remember how the damn doors work here." Taking a look around his quarters, Beverly saw the view from his windows was spectacular. The static stars over the ocean and the moon at night was incredibly beautiful over the spires of the city. The romance of it certainly wasn't lost on Jean-Luc. He'd dragged his chair over by the window and was taking advantage of the view while he studied the large, cumbersome computer in his lap.

"Doctor Weir was kind enough to give me a computer with their mission logs," he explained as he stood. Setting it down on the chair, he looked around for another one to offer her and had to smile in apology. "Would you care to sit on the bed?"

"Maybe I'll stand," she retorted as she felt her carefully controlled anger start to slip.

Jean-Luc stiffened but his smile remained gentle. "I suppose I shouldn't offer you some tea?"

"I'm not staying," Beverly snapped and immediately regretted her tone. Jean-Luc was still politely standing between the window and her, but the door had closed and she was trapped with him. Stuck the way they all were in this alien universe, especially her son.

"All right--"

She didn't let him finish his thought. "Why did you bring Wesley?" Beverly asked as she lost the ability to stand still. Pacing helped her mind feel less chaotic, but she hated the way it was impossible for her to hold still when she was angry.

Jean-Luc set down his tea and folded his hands in his lap. “I gave Wesley the same choice I gave the rest of the crew,” he replied.

“Knowing he’d choose to be trapped,” she sneered. Feeling her anger boil within her, Beverly wasn’t sure where it was coming from but she was nearly overcome with the desire to scream sense into him. “You gave a child the choice between the rest of his life and being with his mother, his teachers and the closest thing to a father he has.”

“Doctor,” he began as he stood and met her eyes. The calm in his grey ones was even more infuriating as Jean-Luc watched her. “Beverly, Wesley may be young, but he is no longer a child. Though he is your son, he is a capable member of my crew and I will treat him as such.”

When she let go of her arms, her hands began to tremble. The motion was slight but the tightening of his jaw gave away his immediate concern. That twitch hadn’t changed in twenty years.

Jean-Luc cleared his throat gently and pointed towards the dark stone tea kettle on the wooden tray on his bed. “It’s not Earl Grey,” he said as he motioned her in. “However, I would be honored to share it with you.”

Keeping silent while she watched him pour the tea into a handleless cup, Beverly bit her lip and tried to figure out why her chest was so tight. Her fingers weren’t the only thing giving her away. He’d seen her biting her lip and he wasn’t going to let her leave until he was satisfied she was all right. Perhaps that was why she had come.

“Ginseng?” he sniffed his tea and was silent for a moment. “I’ve been trying to place it but I still can’t quite place the top notes. He stared at the computer in his lap for a moment before he spoke. “Doctor Weir told me you’ve been assisting the infirmary here in the city,” Jean-Luc began, gently handing her the cup. “Their resources are rather limited compared to the Enterprise and she is profoundly grateful for your assistance.”

The cup was warm in her hands and the unfounded rage digging up through her chest suddenly felt entirely out of place. “She’s too kind,” she forced herself to answer. “I haven’t been that useful. Jean-Luc, the Wraith don’t leave many injured,” she answered with a shake of her head. “I put a few marines back together, chemical based projectile weapons are a lot messier than a phaser and they have a type of scanning system entirely unlike ours. Different technology is something I can handle. Of course, it’ll be a relief to have sickbay back.”

There were things Beverly couldn’t heal in her own universe but few of them were as insidious as the Wraith. She’d seen many varied forms of life, even tried to convince herself they all had a right to exist, but Wraith? They literally lived on stealing life and, judging by the ineffectiveness of their attacks on Klingons, human life was their preferred source.

“The Wraith touch someone and suddenly you’re autopsying a mummy instead of healing injuries. They don’t just kill people, they turn them to husks.” Beverly ran one hand nervously through her hair and just shook her head.

Before she brought her hand back to her tea, her fingers trembled. The motion was slight and if she’d been talking to anyone else Beverly could have blamed it on a lack of sleep. Jean-Luc wasn’t anyone else and considering he hadn’t forgotten what her behaviors looked like in the years they’d been apart before she chose the Enterprise, her year at Starfleet Medical didn’t matter. He knew she was upset and that was why she’d knocked. Maybe she could get it over with.

Biting her lip didn’t help her think, but she couldn’t finish what she was trying to say. Jean-Luc’s hand hovered over her shoulder and she could feel the heat of it before he lowered it to touch her. Beverly met his eyes and forced herself to hold herself steady. There was a time, years ago when she’d been able to walk into her quarters, look at Jack and say anything that was on her mind. Maybe she’d been young, foolish and naive. She hadn’t known what was really out there.

Deep space in her own universe suddenly seemed friendly compared to this one. Human beings from a divided and petty Earth with projectile weapons, salvaged technology and luck, fought life-sucking aliens. The first life they’d found when they’d left their planet was evil, manipulative and controlling. Now she was trapped in this homogeneous universe of parasitic predators where humans existed simply to be exploited by whatever species got to them first.

Beverly dropped her head, letting the ache in her neck stretch out and down her spine. When she lifted her head again, Jean-Luc’s eyes were closer. “Carson, Doctor Beckett,” she corrected, “and I were doing triage. Mostly burns, blast injuries, normal casualties of a damn invasion force. Then the husks started coming. They’re not even bodies when they get to you. You look down at one and wonder if the corpse is going to start to falling apart on the stretcher.”

“Three marines were guarding us,” she said when she couldn’t look away from his face. “Carson and I thought they were over kill, that they’d be more useful somewhere else. I didn’t even have time to turn around before the first one started screaming. At first it’s shrill, you know they’re dying, then their throat closes up and it’s just like wind in the desert. One of them grabbed me. I’ve had close calls before. It’s part of the uniform, isn’t it?”

His hand on her shoulder squeezed and the itch that came before tears hit her eyes. Beverly blinked it away and sighed, sometimes there was no substitute for an old friend.

“I almost brought your son through so he could bury you,” Jean-Luc said for her. “That’s it, isn’t it?”

Sipping her tea, Beverly forced herself to swallow. The bitter taste was almost as bracing as his hand on her shoulder and the heat soothed the tightness in her chest. “None of us belong here. These people don’t even belong here. What kind of universe is this one? No diversity, no myriad alien races.”

“No Federation,” Jean-Luc added as with a slight nod. “It’s a different world. They haven’t had the time to look at the stars and wonder. They’ve been fighting for their lives against incredible odds and, astoundingly, they’re still alive.”

Leaving her shoulder, Jean-Luc hand’s retrieved the computer from the bed next to them. “Their current governing body is called the International Oversight Advisory and it represents the first time several of their nations have successfully worked together on a space-based project. It’s a bureaucracy, apparently they cannot be avoided in any permutation of the universe, but I read Doctor Weir’s logs and see all the personnel from distant nations working together to stay alive. The human spirit and desire for exploration are indomitable forces.”

Letting him refill her tea, Beverly stared at the dark liquid in the unfamiliar cup and wondered how long it would take him to acclimate to the blend. It wasn't the earl grey to which she was accustomed. Both Atlantis and the strange Earth she kept hearing about in conversation were unfamiliar.

After setting down the tea pot, he stood and crossed to the window. Looking out over the ocean below the, he folded his arms over his chest and stood silently in thought. Jean-Luc was an intensely private man, but she’d begun to remember that even he needed to talk. When he’d shared his mind with Sarek, he’d wept on her shoulder, and that experience had reminded her of his humanity. In his few moments of vulnerability, she was his sounding block.

“The Enterprise is severely damaged,” he said. Turning around as the explorer’s light faded from his face, Jean-Luc returned a step. “I have no doubt she’ll be repaired and we will find a way home. It may not be as quickly as we’d like and I find myself wondering what good we can do while we’re here. The Prime Directive would seem to apply, anything we do will irrevocably change the course of this Earth’s development.”

Sitting back down next to her, he kept his hands in his lap as he continued to think aloud. “The Prime Directive was written for a far different universe. One where we had the luxury of believing all worlds had similar chances to develop. This is a universe of exploitation and unspeakable horror. If we can help these humans, in whatever small way we can, I believe we have the right, if not that responsibility.”


“You’ve been thinking about this a great deal, haven’t you?” she teased and dared to reach for his hand. Taking the top one, Beverly wound her fingers into his. “You know we’ll support you, whatever you decide.”

“I don’t know if that makes it easier or more difficult,” he sighed. “I suppose it’s one thing to ask you to die, and quite another to ask you to live our your life in an unfamiliar, hostile universe.”

Beverly started to chuckle and his expression immediately became puzzled. “Sorry,” she muttered and tried to explain. “Yes, things here are difficult, but it’s better than being stuck at the end of the universe, blown into bits dozens of times, or dying in that damn cave with you two years ago. Remember falling through that hole?”

The shudder that ran through him surprised her. Minos had been years ago and she didn’t know it was still so raw for him. She hadn’t been seriously injured since then, but that experience had been difficult and for some time afterwards, she’d had nightmares where she was in the cave alone.

“You know,” Jean-Luc admitted sheepishly. “I had a series of rather unpleasant dreams about that cave for some time after that incident. I was terrified I was going to lose you.”

“You did well,” she reassured him with the warmest smile she could muster. “You got me out of there in one piece.”

“I think that might have had more to do with luck than my medical skills,” he teased her dryly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she replied lightly before she even knew what Jean-Luc was suddenly grateful for. “What did I say this time?”

“You’ve reminded me there are things worse than being trapped in an ancient city on a starlit sea,” he said and his face softened. Something she didn’t have the words for moved in his eyes.

Getting to her feet and moving towards the window, she looked out over the alien ocean and let herself appreciate the beauty of it. “It is lovely, isn’t it?”

He let her question be a rhetorical one, but Beverly could feel him move to stand next to her.

“I’m sorry I came down here to snap at you,” she said.

This time, he chuckled and touched her shoulder. “Glad to be of service.”

Staring at his eyes longer than she usually allowed herself, Beverly felt something that hadn’t bothered her since she’d come back to the Enterprise itch in the back of her mind. She always returned to the Enterprise for the same reason she came and she’d never had the nerve to tell him. She started towards the door.

“Beverly,” he interrupted her movement and they both stood there in silence.

Turning back, she felt the itch erupt into a sharp epiphany. She’d come for him. She’d requested the Enterprise once, and then abandoned Starfleet Medical because on some level, she needed to be with Jean-Luc Picard. Sometimes she tried to tell herself it was because Wesley had needed a role model and there was no man in her mind, after his father, who could be better than his father’s old friend. She’d spent the first year on board trying to rationalize the fact that she’d needed him too.

“Yes, captain?”

“You’re always welcome,” he said and the current of vulnerability in the words surprised her. “Even if you just need a living target.”

Taking three steps back to him, she kissed his cheek quickly. “Good night,” she wished him and escaped into the hallway.

It was dark, Beverly guessed it had to be later than she thought it was, and the figures walking towards her swayed slightly. She didn’t recognize the man immediately but the woman in the red t-shirt had to be Elizabeth. Trained eyes recognized intoxication and she had to remind herself that alcohol in this city was real.

Elizabeth pushed the man she was with into the wall and started to kiss him. After watching the man dig his hands into Elizabeth’s curly hair, Beverly realized she had two options, that didn’t involve interrupting their kiss: disappear down the corridor behind her which wound off into the blue darkness towards the unknown or duck back into Jean-Luc’s room.

She nearly collided with him as he emerged from the dark red door. Putting a finger over her lips, Beverly drew him down the dark hallway. “We don’t want to interrupt,” she said as she pointed to Elizabeth and her companion.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Jean-Luc offered in a whisper. She returned his small smile and fell into step next to him. “Perhaps you’d join me for a walk?”

“Do you know where you’re going?” she asked as they reached a safe distance from Elizabeth. “I think it was Sheppard,” she guessed when Jean-Luc caught her eye.

“The Colonel didn’t mention being involved with anyone,” he replied. “And no, I have no destination in mind. Just needed to stretch my legs, your company would be appreciated.”

“We don’t always mention our involvements,” she mused as they walked. “In fact, sometimes the emotions we never say are strongest of all.”

“Beverly, that’s a very poetic viewpoint.”

Unable to resist taunting him, she put on a wounded look. “You sound surprised.”

He chuckled and the sound was comforting. He’d never been much of a gossip but Jean-Luc had a weakness for indulging her when she needed to talk. All the years they’d been friends made it obvious to him that this was one of the times when he should smile and let her start confiding what she had learned from Elizabeth.



Elizabeth tasted like beer. All the times he’d imagined kissing her, he hadn’t thought of her lips tasting like hops. They only had cheap beer, but it had tasted like the good stuff because he was home. Atlantis was the middle of Wraith infested nowhere but it was home.

She’d liked the show. She laughed at Q’s antics, shared Riker and Troi’s amusement at the way they were portrayed. The first episode of any show was always a toss up, it wasn’t a bad plot line, the actors were all reasonable matches for the people he’d met on the Enterprise. Patrick Stewart was as earnest and Shakespearean as he remembered.

Watching the old show left him pleasantly nostalgic, but Elizabeth was seeing if for the first time. She hadn’t known Riker and Troi could share each other thoughts, or that Picard had brought the body of Doctor Crusher’s husband home. She’d grown quiet and accepted a second and third mug of beer. Elizabeth rarely drank, but this time she’d allowed herself the luxury of intoxication.

She’d finally explained what was on her mind when they were out of the mess hall. The people of the Trekverse, Picard’s crew, had crossed time and space for three of their own and a city of strangers. Self sacrifice she understood, but it was the Federation government she envied. In the Trekverse, alien races worked together, the greatest threats to humanity were from space anomalies and misunderstandings. It was a better world and they’d left it behind to help theirs. Starfleet had let them.

Picard had brought him home, Elizabeth had whispered just before she’d kissed him. He remembered kissing her when he’d been Thalen but this time it was only the two of them and the familiar taste of beer. Her fingers dragged through his hair. She rested her forehead against his cheek and sighed heavily before she released him.

“I think we’re on the wrong end of the universe for this,” Elizabeth whispered sadly. She sighed and pulled further away. John touched his lips, feeling the dampness she’d left behind, and watched as her expression faltered. “If things were different. If you and I were on the Enterprise--” She didn’t finish and he wondered if she even could have.

“Good night John,” Elizabeth finished as she backed up a step. “Episode two tomorrow?” she asked lightly.

Smiling softly, he nodded and felt the wall come back down between them. “The one with the Psi Two-Thousand Virus, you’ll like it. Everyone gets drunk. People hit on people and Wesley almost breaks the ship.”

“He said it didn’t happen that way,” John reminded her dryly. Watching the fictional representations of the crew from Trekverse was hardest on Wesley. The young man was brilliant but shy. It couldn’t be easy being the youngest ensign on a starship. John knew how hard it was to be smarter than he was supposed to be. “The part with the tractor beam was exaggerated.”

Tilting her head, she crossed her arms and asked, “Tractor beam?”

“Tomorrow,” John replied as he felt the beer he’d had tease the back of his mind. “You’ll like it. The uniforms get better, their hair gets better. Not Picard’s, not that his is bad, but everyone else’s. Riker looks better once he gets a beard. Troi gets rid of the dress,”

“I like it,” Elizabeth said with her comforting smile. “I’m really enjoying it.”

He could have kissed her again if he’d taken a step. John could have pulled her into his room, kissed her down onto the bed. His body liked where that headed and heat ran through him. In the real world, he nodded.

“Goodnight Elizabeth.”



Will leaned back against the grand staircase in the ‘gate room and passed the mug of beer along to Zelenka. The scientist passed the mug along and it stopped in Data’s hands. Will kept passing and Major Lorne kept filling them from the barrel they’d dragged into the center of the chamber. Teyla had found it in trade and apparently they’d been waiting for a good excuse.

Grinning up at the stained glass ceiling, he turned his eyes downward and studied the damage from the Wraith attack. Even with the scars of battle, Atlantis was ethereally beautiful and he was beginning to find it comforting. He’d found Deanna again in this strange place, and that made gave Atlantis a special place in his heart. Even if it currently smelled faintly of burnt metal, he doubted the Enterprise smelt much better given the report of the battle he had just heard.

Deanna wrapped her arms around his neck from behind and kissed his head. “I am glad Starfleet changed the regulations for women’s uniforms,” she giggled and drank out of his beer. “Though I do miss the boots. They always made me feel more like a like an ancient seafarer.” Shaking her head as she giggled again, Deanna realized what he was thinking. She was already tipsy. “This isn’t synthehol.”

“We don’t have to work tomorrow,” he reminded her as he grinned up at the stained glass ceiling. “The briefing isn’t until fourteen hundred. Don’t you think we’ve earned this?”

Geordi swirled his beer and nodded. “The ship’s a mess,” he sighed over the clip of his mug. “We couldn’t have the briefing on the Enterprise even if we wanted to.”

“We will be successful in repairing this section of the Enterprise,” Data offered optimistically and Will realized how grateful he was to have his family around him again, even if it meant they were all trapped. “Although, it will take some time.”

“They got your speech right on the ‘show’,” Will teased and listened as Geordi started to chuckle near his feet.

“I forgot how funny you looked before the beard,” the engineer poked back.

Deanna was little help. Reaching down to ruffle his beard, she grinned wickedly. “It does make him look more professional, doesn’t it?”

Data inclined his head and passed Geordi the bowl of chips. “In many cultures a beard is a sign of virility and strength, particularly in Klingon tradition,” he volunteered.

“Where is Worf?” Geordi asked as he took a handful of chips.

“On the mainland,” Lorne said. The major refilled Will’s beer and handed it to Deanna. His imzadi taunted him with the cup and Will could feel the contentment radiate in her mind. He was with her and he was meant to be.

“The Klingons and the Athosians are on the mainland celebrating their victory,” Rodney finished. “There are nearly as many Satedan and Athosian rituals for victory as there are for Klingons.” Finishing his beer, he plunked down the cup and sighed. “I’m sorry about your ship.”

“The Enterprise is tough,” Will said. “We’ll get her back.”

“And then what?” Geordi wondered aloud. Will was sure all of them were thinking the same thing. Deanna’s brush across his mind was more apparent than usual because of her growing level of intoxication. She was in his head looking for comfort. The Enterprise was here and she had brought their family. Will’s confidence in the situation had changed when he’d seen the Enterprise appear on the hologram in the chair room.

“We find a way to return to our own universe,” Data answered simply. Lying back on the floor, he imitated the position of Zelenka’s hands as he crossed them over his chest and stared up at the sky. “Though it is an improbable and daunting task.”

“Let’s save this for the briefing,” Will suggested as he took a long drink of his beer. “We can worry about where we are and how we’re going to get home tomorrow. For the moment, we have beer, we have good company and we have a hell of a view.”

“Should see it from the top,” Rodney said as he tossed pieces of popcorn from one bowl to the other. . Will could hear the intoxication in his voice and wondered if it was obvious in his own. “From the spire you can see halfway across the planet. it’s all ocean though, so there isn’t that much to see. Unless you like ocean.”

“Only with the right company,” Lorne teased with a pointed look at Deanna. Will started to chuckle. The major’s dry sense of humor had remained buried until his second beer, the revelation that Will and Deanna were sleeping together and it was acceptable to discuss it in public. Watching Lorne take another sip, Will returned his smile.

“You’re lucky you know,” Lorne taunted. “In my space-Air-Force, we still have frat laws.”

“Maybe you should have studied your algebra just a bit harder and been a physicist,” Doctor McKay prodded as he popped open another bag of chips and dumped them noisily into the bowl at his feet. “We can date whomever we like.”

“Ah,” Lorne retorted. “Will they date you?”

“Starfleet has never had strict fraternization policies,” Data explained and saved McKay from coming up with a witty retort.. “It is generally accepted that dating on directly in the line of command requires a certain delicacy. As head of the science departments, I would need to take great care in a relationship with a head of a science section, such as Stellar Cartography. However, were I to become romantically involved with Commander La Forge, or Lieutenant Barclay, who are both in a different section, it would be less complicated.”

“Ah,” Lorne answered with a shake of his head. “We have rules against that too.”

Riker looked from the mildly uncomfortable look on Doctor McKay’s face to the bemused smile on the major’s and wondered how pervasive homophobia still was on this Earth.

“They dumped that rule when the Third World War started,” Geordi volunteered before Data could launch into another history lesson. “At least their desperation to fill the ranks was good for something.”

As Data and Geordi explained the Third World War, Will’s attention was drawn away. Deanna tilted her head slightly as if she was trying to find the memory from a lifetime ago. They’d worried about being on the same ship when they’d first found each other again and it had taken this strange city for them to realize they were stronger together than apart. Feeling her brush along his mind, he grinned and squeezed her shoulder.

Will saw the crumpled plastic that had held the chips crash into the back of the major’s head and both men started to laugh. Deanna’s head slid along his arm before she rested it on his shoulder. Kissing his cheek, she wound her arms tighter around him and sighed happily.

“Do you remember when the captain broke out that bottle of Chateau Picard to commemorate our first year on the Enterprise?” she whispered into his ear. “When you and I ended up in your quarters with that jug of Saurian brandy?”

Feeling amusement radiate through his chest, he nuzzled her cheek and replied, “First time I went hungover to my own staff meeting.” The heat of her body against his shoulders was a pleasant contrast to the cool metal of the stairs. Her skin would be warmer in his bed when they eventually retired there. He’d have the scent of her all around him and, more importantly, Will would have her in his mind as he fell asleep.

Her presence was like a curtain hanging between the sanctity of his mind and his experience of the rest of the universe. Deanna’s touch fluttered with her emotional state, buffeted occasionally by his own surges of emotion, but omnipresent. Being human gave him no frame of reference for what it must be like to be a true telepath, but he imagined it was something similar. Somehow Deanna was between him and reality, and his connection with her was only one breath shy of her being part of his soul.

His feelings were as varied as the colors in the stained glass windows above him. Will couldn’t focus on his sense of displacement nor his ever deepening attachment to Deanna. All of his thoughts seemed determined to exist simultaneously in his head and for the moment his beer was keeping them manageable.

Sensing his unease, Deanna rested her lips against his forehead and nudged his mind towards happier thoughts. Sharing the contentment of the minds of the city with him, she coaxed up a dominant feeling and Will let it over take him. His career prospects in this strange universe, the best way he could advise the captain, wether or not his father would even try to find him-- all of those thoughts could wait beneath the warmth of the moment.



Amused by the similarity of turbolifts to their transporters, Elizabeth sighed in sympathy when she arrived on the battle bridge and the turbolift opened for her. She’d heard the Enterprise had been damaged. The mess of the control room had been weighing heavily on her mind, but much of that damage had been superficial. She didn’t know much about the Enterprise, however, she knew what a war zone looked like.

Elizabeth guessed it had been utilitarian, unlike the beautiful curves of the main bridge, this space seemed to be more angular. The chair in the center was alone instead of flanked by the other two. One of the cross beams had fallen down, and pieces of metal and ash crunched under her feet as she stepped out of the clean turbolift.

Hearing the sound of debris being moved, she peered in and saw Captain Picard tossing bits of metal into a small cart. Watching curiously, she smiled and noted that cleaning up hadn't changed much in three hundred years.

Picard had rolled up the sleeves of his red uniform and the dusty arms beneath were lean. Clearing her throat, Elizabeth drew his attention away from a dark, battered console. “I’m sorry to intrude,” she began. “Your Mr. La Forge brought-beamed me up and explained how I could use your computer to find you. It-she-” she paused for a moment and tried to decide how one addressed a computer that spoke. “The computer said you were on the battle bridge.”

“It usually looks much neater,” Picard answered with a sigh of apology. “I don’t think I refer to the computer as anything but computer,” he answered her pause as if he had heard the question. “I believe some captain’s refer to their as the name of the vessel, but I’d feel a little odd asking the Enterprise for a cup of tea.”

“Have your replicators been repaired?” Elizabeth asked, surprised that such progress had been made so quickly. She watched the captain smile and nodded once. “I suppose our food isn’t what you are accustomed to.”

“It is far superior than our emergency rations,” he explained gracefully. “The spirit with which a meal is shared often adds to the taste.” Rubbing his hands on the black legs of his uniform, he frowned at the dust he left behind but smiled when he noticed her watching him. “It’s unsettling to see the Enterprise like this,” Picard explained. “I came up here to think and ended up being unable to stop myself from cleaning up.”

Elizabeth smirked in response and squatted to grab the edge of a larger chunk of what had been the wall. He bent down and took the other side and they moved it over out of the way together.

“I was kicked out of my control room by a set of rather grumpy scientists,” she explained as he pointed out another piece she could assist with. “The relaxed discipline of last night’s celebration didn’t sit well with them.”

Picard raised an eyebrow and Elizabeth grunted as they dropped the heavier piece of the side. He gathered some smaller pieces of debris in his hands and dumped them into the cart with a puff of dust.

"What happens to this? Can you melt it down?"

“It’s part of our replicator system,” Picard explained patiently dusting his hands off again before he went back to work. “Matter is reclaimed and used to form new matter.”

“Deck plate today, cup of tea tomorrow?” Elizabeth quipped and wiped a dusty hand across her face. If she left a mark, he was too polite to mention it.

“Something to that effect.”

“How are your crew finding their rooms?” she asked politely after a silence. “I know we’re not the Enterprise, we don’t have holodecks and this city has some of the oddest beds.”

Picard stopped replacing a broken panel on the wall and turned back to her, arms folded thoughtfully over his chest. "Doctor Weir," he began. "In my century, it's very bad manners to critique what is given to you. On Hunru Six, I was given the gift of a bed in freshly spun spider silk, an honor traditionally reserved for royalty that they extended to the visiting away team. Had I hair during that incident, I would have woken up entirely tangled."

The anecdote lightened her guilt and made her smile, as was his intent. Elizabeth toyed with the leather band of her watch and tried to relax. "Do you usually get such welcoming receptions?"

"First contact is one of my favorite and most sacred duties," he answered. Picard gestured at the panel behind the center seat. "If we can clear this off, I might be able to restore power to tactical."

Following him, Elizabeth helped brush metal and ash from the smooth surface of the console. Instead of the white of the Lantean consoles, this was jet black and smooth like stone. He retrieved a case from the back of the battle bridge and next down once they had cleared an area.

"First contact?"

"Something I imagine you handle every day," he offered genially. "The first time our people make contact with a new species. When we actually speak face to face, I have the very great privilege of being one of the first to experience their culture."

"Also the greater responsibility of dealing with the situation, should something go wrong," she added. Elizabeth had felt that responsible keenly over her time in Atlantis. She still wondered if there was some way she could have better handled the Genii so they could be allies instead of the cool standoff. "I was asked to drink the blood of a mare fermented with mare's milk in upper Mongolia. It's vaguely pink with white curds floating in it." The dust from the metal made her hands gritty, the air smelled metallic and unfamiliar. As if the metal were one she had never been exposed to.

"How did it taste?"

"Like blood but chewy, with a vodka chaser," Elizabeth shuddered at the memory and he seemed slightly amused by her grimace. "I kept it down though, the ambassador didn't and it very nearly became a diplomatic incident."

Picard's smile was genuine and something Elizabeth found very pleasant. "You should visit the Klingon homeworld," he suggested cheerfully. "Seems like you have the stomach to fit right in."

Pushing the cart full of scrap over to the turbolift with him, she tried to guess what the Klingon homeworld would look like and found herself genuinely puzzled by the thought. Picard stared at the empty wall beside the lift and then turned back to her thoughtfully.

"On the main bridge hangs a plaque dedicating the Enterprise to a journey of exploration," he explained as he stared past her at the blank wall in the front of the bridge. "I find I miss it now that it's in the other universe however, I believe we have that in common, you and I for example, and more importantly, our peoples."

"We boldly go where no one has gone before?" Elizabeth quipped as she followed his eyes to the screen. "It was on your show," she explained smugly. "Patrick Stewart does a lovely impression of you."

Picard chuckled softly and met her gaze as her turned to face her, he studied her for a moment and began, "So I am told." He gestured to the turbolift. "We should be getting down to the briefing. I've been studying my entertainment. There is a piece of science fiction in the holodeck database called 'Pegasus Xtreme' and though the holodecks are down and I haven't had the pleasure of playing it first hand, I was able to catch the opening speech of one Doctor Victoria Weir."

"Victoria?" Elizabeth asked in surprise.

"Apparently one British queen is as good as another," he mused with a shrug. "I looked up this Patrick Stewart and found out he's British. My mother would turn in her grave if she knew."

"Perhaps they were just looking for poise," she teased him as they made their way into the transporter room. Stepping up to the pad as he moved to set the controls, Elizabeth found him paused, with his hand over the panel.

Picard turned thoughtful again, and then he began to quote, "'I hope we all return one day having discovered a whole new realm of humanity to explore, but as all of you know, we may never be able to return home.'"

Elizabeth recognized her words and felt a chill run up her spine. He was a man from another universe, that whole new realm of humanity she had so idealistically wished to discover, and unlike the Wraith and Goa'uld, these people were in space simply to see what was out there. So was she and he was the first person she'd met who truly understood that part of her soul.

"It's not going to be easy," she told him as he tapped the controls. "My government's notoriously difficult. The IOA is worse. There's parasites who call themselves gods and religious fanatics who want to spread one faith across galaxies and murder anyone who doesn't agree with them."

Picard's boots made a soft sound on the glass as he stepped up next to her. "I can raise you murderous cyborgs bent on the enslavement of all sentient life and a race of omnipotent beings who take delight in tormenting all they come in contact with."

"Captain-"

"Jean-Luc, please-"

"I think this is going to be fun."

The transporter began to whine and Elizabeth grinned and waited for the tickling blue lights to envelop her. John had been right about transporters, they were truly incredible on the inside, like being wrapped up in glitter, a snowstorm and fireflies all at the same time.

"Try saying that after the staff meeting with our hungover crews," he said, feigning dismay.

"I think we'll manage," she replied as the transporter pulled them in and whisked them back to Atlantis.

Date: 2009-04-05 12:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yunadax.livejournal.com
Awww I so love this fic.... both of my favourite shows and ships all together :: sighs in happiness::

Date: 2009-04-05 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oparu.livejournal.com
thanks very much! it's a guilty pleasure to write. :)

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