so_jang: (b command)
[personal profile] so_jang
Title:Post-Parasitic
Rating: PG
Pairing(s): Beverly Crusher/Jean-Luc Picard
Warning(s): fluffy bunnies, fluffy kittens and (fluffy) socks.
Summary: episode tag for S7.06 "Phantasms" (Data has nightmares about space leeches). Jean-Luc picks up Beverly from her office and walks her home.
Beta
Disclaimer: TNG does not belong to me.
A/N: I wrote Fair Trade" because the bunny attacked me. And it's borderline silly, cliched baby!fic, but I loved writing it. Then I wrote Synthesis. Which is fluff and smut and plotless but I needed to write it.

Now it's my own personal fluffy AU of safety that I'm compelled to write in.



Her right knee was pulled up so she had to lean over it to reach her computer. Beverly’s red hair fell over her left shoulder and the interphasic scanner still lay on her desk, suggesting she’d been there for some time. Standing in the doorway, he clasped his hands behind his back and watched her work. When she was tired, she’d knit her eyebrows together and start fidgeting with her hair. Before that state came the lip biting, and if she was really concentrating, she’d bite her fingers as well.

Little finger still pressed against her lip, Beverly entered something else into her log and tilted her head to the left in thought. Her head rested on her knee for a moment before she sighed and the fine muscles in her forehead creased the smooth skin. When her left hand migrated over to pinch her the bridge of her nose, Jean-Luc realized he might need to adapt his personal system of measurement to fit her changing physical condition.

Clearing his throat to announce his presence, he rested his hands on the back of the chair as she turned to him and smiled.

“Captain,” she murmured in a less than professional, almost playful, tone. Brightening as she smiled, Beverly’s blue eyes welcomed his presence and she pulled her hands away from her computer. “Are you glad to be back in the real world after your foray into Data’s subconscious?”

“The idea that one’s dreams can be made as real as a holodeck is frankly unnerving,” he answered. Pushing off from the chair, he hovered by her desk, not quite ready to sit. Some days on the Enterprise had the nasty habit of becoming marathons without notice. Dealing with the fallout of Data attacking a friend and a fellow crew member had taken them all aback.

“I am relieved I don’t have the capacity to share my subconscious in that manner,” he continued. “Of course, that’s part of what makes it so fascinating. Data doesn’t even feel like his privacy has been invaded. He freely opened his innermost thoughts and let Geordi and I walk through them.”

Hugging her leg to her chest, Beverly rested her chin on her knee and watched at him with a soft smile. “Data’s always had that childlike honesty. It’s an admirable, though occasionally disturbing trait.”

“I suppose it just makes us all wonder what we’re keeping hidden,” he said. Tugging on his uniform, he reminded himself that he’d had a legitimate reason for being in sickbay. Switching between lover and commanding officer was never going to be easy and he was jealous it seemed so easy for her. Shifting his posture, he stiffened in a conscious attempt to formalize the upcoming conversation

“Doctor,” he began. “The parasites have been eradicated, Counselor Troi has been released from sickbay, Data has recovered and I don’t require your full report until tomorrow.”

Softening up as she raised her eyebrows at him in surprise, Jean-Luc paused and finished informally, “Beverly, come to bed.”

Erasing the lines on her forehead, her face broke into a genuine smile. Contemplating him, Beverly remained silent before she reached for him across the cool metal of her desk. His hand met her halfway and he felt a contented shiver run through her. In the darkness of the late hour, he could risk the contact without worrying about the perceptions of the crew. She understood. Beverly knew him and he was starting to wonder if she’d known what she was doing the whole time. If she’d realized he would need an additional nudge to be with her; that it would take a special force to overcome the inertia that held them apart for so long.

“Will took Deanna back to his quarters,” she teased instead of answering his request. “Something about keeping her safe from confused androids and invisible space leeches.”

Running his thumb along the back of her hand, he surprised himself as he swallowed a yawn. For the moment, everyone was safe, he’d avoided the Admiral’s banquet again and Jean-Luc found his mind resting on the very pleasant idea of falling asleep with her tangled up around him.

Beverly sighed and took her hand back to finish what she’d been working on. Whatever it was, it distracted her enough that she lost her train of thought and the gossip about Will and Deanna would have to wait. Beverly had the charming, if slightly unnerving, ability to process all the nuances of her day by discussing them with him.

Settling into his chair, Jean-Luc watched her work. Asking her what she was working on didn’t seem important, he knew she’d tell him. Her right hand finished entering something with her stylus and she stretched her leg down to the floor and sighed heavily. Beverly rolled her head down and brought it up to rest in her hands. Dragging herself to her feet, she crossed her office to the larger vid panel on the wall.

“Deanna doesn’t know how to be with him without losing herself,” she continued her thoughts from before as if she’d never left them. “They’ve made choices that have kept them apart. As you and I both know, that distance gets comfortable, even becomes something we put on with our uniforms. I didn’t think Will would be the one who decided they should try things between them again.”

She stopped working with the vid panel and waved him over. “I’ve been meaning to show you this,” Beverly changed the subject and pointed at the screen. “The resolution on the bioimager here in sickbay is a hell of a lot better than a tricorder and I thought you might like it.”

Crossing his arms over his chest, he regarded the screen with sleepy curiosity. “What am I looking at? Something else you’ve found studying the interphasic parasites?”

Resting her hand on his shoulder, she smiled and took a step closer to him. “This is about the other parasite onboard, the one specific to your chief medical officer. I asked Selar to do a complete prenatal work-up on me, after the parasite had been eradicated, just to be safe. I’ve been waiting for you to take a look at this part.”

Lying her head down on his shoulder, Beverly inhaled sharply as he grabbed her hand with both of his. The computer recorded image played for them and he tightened his grip. Nameless emotion, he was entirely unprepared, for sucked his heart up into his throat. Her response felt much simpler as she snuggled closer to him.

The last time he’d watched the stunning images the bioimaging system could produce of a developing fetus, he’d been trying to decide if Deanna’s child posed any danger to the ship. Having the luxury of being emotionally detached, he had tried to weigh the consequences that baby might have on the entire ship and the experience had held little wonder for him.

Two decades ago, he’d buried his envy and watched Wesley’s development with astonishment. Jean-Luc hadn’t wanted a child then and as he saw the damage Jack’s death had caused his family, he’d nearly written it out for himself entirely. He had his ship and his crew were the only children he would ever need. Even when he’d been taken by the Ressikan probe, he’d had trouble deciding to have children with his loving wife Eline and taken years to embark on that experience with her.

Shaking his head at his own stubbornness, he kissed the top of Beverly’s head and stared at image of the beating heart within the translucent skin of their child. Above that heart, the eyes in the enlarged, alien skull seemed to be watching them as if it could look out from the computer. Beverly’s free hand slipped around and grabbed his forearm.

Tasting her hair when he kissed her head again, Jean-Luc squeezed her hands. “Thank you,” he whispered when his voice failed to find much volume. His throat was still tight, as if he really were choking on his heart. Contemplating voicing the idea that he was grateful for more than just the momentary vision of their child, he realized he didn’t have the words.

Beverly kissed his cheek as she shut off the image then she brought her hand back to his and held the mass of fingers against her stomach. Her forehead rested coolly on his cheek. “I needed this,” she said.

“Headaches, the inability to hold back any sharp remarks that come to mind, a complete reversal of your natural grace and living with me?” he asked lightly.

She kissed his cheek and released him. “I could blame everything but my clumsiness on you,” she teased, tossing her lab coat over the back of her chair. Shutting down her computer with a touch, Beverly left the scanner where it lay on her desk and let her hand rest on her stomach for a moment. Smiling as he watched her, she waited for him to move before she fell in step next to him.

“I might even be able to blame that on you if I researched it,” she continued to tease as they walked through the dark corridor towards the turbolift.

Outside of the relative privacy of her office, they no longer held hands. He knew she bore him no ill-will for it however, he was still unprepared for how much he wanted the things he forbid himself. Touching the small of her back as they entered the turbolift reminded him how conscious he’d become of their physical connection. It had been quite some time since he’d been involved with a woman so completely. He’d certainly never led a monastic life, but he’d never lived with a lover for any real period.

Beverly entered their quarters first and before she could call for the lights, he wrapped his arms around her from behind and held her in the dark. Resting his arms on her chest just under her breasts, he breathed her in. Kissing his cheek, she turned in his arms and wrapped her own around the back of his neck.

His communicator chirped and she kissed his cheek before heading for the replicator. Smiling in amusement at him, she yawned and shifted wearily on her feet.

“Picard here.”

“Sorry to bother you, sir,” Mr. La Forge’s voice was apologetic but triumphant. “The computer said you were still awake and I thought you’d like to know that repairs have been completed and we’ve constructed a new plasma conduit. We’re bringing it online and we should be underway within the hour.”

Beverly pressed a cup of tea into his hands as she passed him on the way to the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, she took of her boots and disappeared towards their closet. Leaning back against the table, Jean-Luc waited lazily for her to be visible in the doorway.

“Thank you commander,” he replied.

“Commander Riker asked me to convey his sympathies that you missed the banquet,” La Forge’s voice had a hint of amusement.

Beverly’s chuckle carried from the other room. When she reappeared in the doorway to the bedroom, she as out of uniform and wearing her long, cream-colored nightgown. As if to tease him, she wore his blue robe over her nightgown and pulled it tight over her chest as she curled up on the sofa.

“Good night Geordi,” Jean-Luc finished. “Well done.”

“Good night, captain,” La Forge replied as the connection ended.

Moving his tea to the coffee table in front of the sofa, he sank gratefully into it and closed his eyes. With his hands behind his head, he allowed the silence to relax him. To his surprise on his left, Beverly’s sigh was almost a moan.

“What?”

Beverly’s shoulders moved as she took a slow breath. Her hand pressed into the center of her forehead and she tried to force the sensation that bothered her away. “Got a bit lightheaded taking off my boots," she answered.

Bringing his arm around her shoulders, he pulled her closer and, to his surprise, she let herself slide all the way into his lap. Resting one hand on her shoulder, Jean-Luc stroked her hair with the other. Rolling back further into him, she tilted her head so his fingers were on the skin of her forehead. Her skin was cool but her body was a heavy warmth in his lap. He couldn’t help musing that three weeks ago, he would have ended his day alone with his tea.

“It’s all right,”she assured him before he could demand more of an explanation. “I thought this might return. I hoped--” Pushing her thumbs into her forehead as if she could force the feeling away, she sighed again. “I guess I hoped it was over.”

As if she could hear him opening his mouth, Beverly preemptively answered his question.

“It’s not like before,” she promised and he felt her hand squeeze his leg just below the knee. “This is nothing, a mild annoyance.”

Trying to allow himself to agree with her, he put his fears into the back of his mind. Getting rid of them all together was too difficult, but he could try to keep them in their place. Jean-Luc curled his fingers against her cheek.

“Other than patching up Deanna and discovering the ‘space leeches’,” he paused and made a face at his first officer’s terminology. “What else did you do down in sickbay?”

Her groan was distinctly frustrated and her annoyance was so overpowering she almost lifted her head. Beverly settled and twitched her fingers against his knee instead. Silently thanking the fact that he had never been ticklish, he waited for her to find words for her frustration. “Yerbi Fandau is taking a sabbatical from Starfleet Medical, he wants to spend some time dedicated to his mitochondrial research, and there’s an Arcadian replacing him. Doctor Ba Hjyu Lii .”

The stiffening of her shoulders gave away her frustration before she rolled up to look at him. Beverly reached up to brush his chin with her fingers, almost apologetically, before she finished her story. “She’s an interim director, she’s not supposed to implement any policy changes. She isn’t really, but she insists on constantly changing which policies she wants us to make a priority. Since I boarded the Enterprise, Starfleet Medical has always expected that we transmit our caseload, then the development of any current cases, then our research and anything xenobiology needs to look into for further research.”

Sighing heavily, she leaned back into his thigh and he moved her head until it seemed to be comfortable. “I could swear she writes communiques just to make herself feel important. There’s no substance to them, and she marks them all ‘urgent’ so one of my nurses pulls me away from what I’m doing so I can hear about how exasperating it is that I haven’t sent in my research on whatever medical miracle I’ve just pulled to keep someone on this damn ship alive for one more mission.”

“When does Doctor Fandau return?” he asked when it seemed safe to do so.

“Not soon enough,” Beverly replied as she closed her eyes and the anxious energy that had propelled her through her complaint faded away.

With it gone, he started to worry she was going to fall asleep in his lap. “Do you need to get anything else off your chest before we go to bed?” he asked, stroking her cheek.

“Wesley’s promised to try us on subspace after his classes,” she volunteered. “I did tell you, didn’t I?” Beverly wondered as she forced her eyes open. “I thought we’d be up late after the Admiral’s banquet.” She stopped and started to lift her head from his lap. “I didn’t tell you.”

“It’s all right,” he assured her quickly as he tried to be available to steady her if necessary as she pulled herself up from his lap. Halfway to a sitting position, she quickly changed her mind and lowered her head. Resting his hand against her forehead, Jean-Luc watched her eyes close again. “I am still incredibly grateful you were willing to attend that dreary affair with me.”

“I was planning on becoming ill if it became necessary,” she replied dryly. “I can falsify symptoms with the best of them. You would have been the grist of the Admirals’ gossip mill, but at least you would have been free.”

“I appreciate your dedication.”

Her lips smiled; they were tight and the gesture didn’t reach the skin around her eyes. Even closed, Beverly’s eyes betrayed her emotions as they tightened anxiously. Concern was keeping her awake.

Jean-Luc sought her hand and felt a sudden rush of warmth in his chest as she wrapped it in hers and brought it to her stomach. He’d been trying to adapt to the feeling of contentment that had wormed into his psyche. Occasionally, even on the bridge, he had trouble keeping himself from smiling.

“What is it?” he asked.

Her sigh this time was more directly related to the answer that followed. “Wesley’s been odd, lately, more distant. His smile’s seem forced and he reminds me of Jack when he’d done something he couldn’t tell me. Like that search and rescue during the Cardassian War.”

Jean-Luc rose his eyebrows in surprise. Jack had agonized over his decision to take the mission that demanded he be so far away from his wife when his son was about to be born. Unlike Beverly’s rambling, nearly tearful communique that danced around what she was trying to ask, the one he’d received from Jack, twenty years ago, went right to the point.

Jean-Luc, Earth’s lovely this time of year. There’s a couch in my apartment with your name on it. Need you on this one.

“That bad?” he asked.

Pulling her legs up onto the sofa, Beverly shook her head slowly. “Sometimes I just can’t read him. He goes to a place I don’t understand.”

“I doubt you’re the only parent who feels that way,” he assured her. Her silence made him worry she was still berating herself for not being to read Wesley’s mind. Finding her wrist and caressing it slowly, Jean-Luc wondered what the duality of parenting would be like. Wesley was an adult about to embark on the greatest adventure of his life and this baby was only beginning to live.

Beverly’s and touched his chin and drew him back. “Have you put in your request for leave yet?”

Her change of subject surprised him and it took a moment for him to realize what she was talking about. Jean-Luc nodded and he watched her smile as she felt the motion of his head with her fingers. “Admiral Necheyev has offered me an interesting choice. I intended to discuss it with you over breakfast.”

"Oh?” she asked.

The single word was a plea for distraction and hearing the need beneath the artificial lightness in her tone, he acquiesced. “I can retain my command and use my leave sparingly closer to your due date, which is the response I expected from her. On the other hand, she offered me a fairly interesting second choice. I can step down from all administrative duties and serve in an advisory capacity while the Enterprise serves as a training ground for an acting captain.”

That piqued her curiosity as he thought it would. “Did they give you any idea who it will be?”

“Apparently they’re having trouble deciding between giving command of the Starship Voyager to Will or a young Commander named Kathryn Janeway,” he replied with a touch of pride. “Her service record on the Billings is exemplary and her scientific theories are highly regarded.”

“However?” Beverly filled in for him.

“Admiral Necheyev finds her diplomatic skills to be somewhat lacking--”

“I wasn’t aware Admiral Necheyev had even discovered diplomacy,” she teased and he couldn’t help smiling. “So with your reputation as a diplomat, she thinks Janeway could learn something,” she finished his thought. “The admiral’s not asking you to leave the ship, is she?”

“I will remain in an advisory capacity,” he answered dryly. “She’s not going to ask me to relinquish my command codes, but I will not be involved in the day to day operation of the ship.”

“If it’s any consolation, Starfleet Medical will be sending a trainee doctor,” she offered sympathetically. “Most likely someone fresh from their residency, ready to take on everything in the universe single handed. I retain administrative control, Selar becomes acting CMO on the duty roster. I’m trying to convince myself, I’m looking forward to it.”

“How is that shaping up?” he wondered.

Beverly didn’t get a chance to answer. The comm system chimed once, then he heard Worf’s deep voice.

“Doctor Crusher, I have an incoming message from Earth,” Worf announced. “It is from Starfleet Academy.”

“Put him through,” she requested. Dragging herself up from his lap proved difficult and Jean-Luc helped steady her. Her smile insisted she was all right, but she appeared grateful for his hands.

“It is a prerecorded message, doctor.”

Jean-Luc knew Worf well enough to hear the sympathy in his voice. Beverly’s smile faded into disappointment like the sun disappearing into the clouds over the vines in La Barre.

Her reply was soft but polite, “Thank you.”

The triangle over the Golden Gate bridge emblem of Starfleet Academy flashed on the viewer behind his desk before it faded into Wesley’s face and the sunlight wall of his dorm room.

“Hi mom, sorry I couldn’t talk face-to-face. My essay on theoretical plasma dynamics in warp nacelles is due tomorrow and I really have to get it proofed before dinner. Robin’s in town, Ensign Lefler, remember her? She’s getting ready to ship out on the Lexington and we’re trying to catch up before she needs to leave.”

“I bet the captain’s with you. If for some reason he’s not, say hi for me,” he paused and flushed slightly. “I hope you’re feeling okay. We’re talking about Andorians, the Lalairu and Ikarimachten Alliance, some of the insectoid races, in xenobiology and I thought of you. I bet you have moments when you wish you weren’t mammalian.”

His dark little smile echoed his father.

“My emergency medical course, the one you suggested-”

Wesley’s grin hinted that suggested was a too light of a term. Jean-Luc buried his head in her hair and let that hide his smile.

“-I take is covering human deliveries in two weeks. Don’t get any ideas. Doctor ch'Sugiya’s teaching the course, you remember her don't you? Short, Andorian with heavy white hair. She remembers you from your residency, and she told me Captain Picard did just fine the first time you had a baby.”

Beverly laughed and surprised him by kissing his cheek.

“Doctor Sugiya thinks he’ll do even better this time,” he continued as the embarrassment faded from his face. “I’d love to hear the story. I think. To be honest Mom, I’m kind of surprised it never came up before. I guess I’ve never asked.

“I miss you. See you next time we’re in the same sector, I do have that vacation coming up. Love you.” Wesley looked sheepish again and he made a show of turning his eyes to where he imagined Jean-Luc was sitting.

“Bye Captain. Say hi to everyone for me. Goodnight mom,” Wesley’s smile was warm and loving but his eyes were heavy.

“He looks tired,” Beverly observed as she left the sofa and headed for the bedroom. “Did you see the circles under his eyes?” she continued without waiting for him to answer. Hearing the hum of her toothbrush through the wall, he dragged himself up and started getting ready for bed.

He was dropping his uniform into the laundry slot when he found a balled up black sock on floor near the bed. Dropping to a crouch to search for the other one, Jean-Luc heard her sigh heavily and saw the light from the bathroom cease.

“Jean-Luc,” she teased after a moment. “I doubt there are any monsters under there.” The blankets whispered and he felt her cool hand rub across his head. “I think he’s always going to call you captain.”

Confused, he tried to decide what she was talking about. “Who?”

“Wesley,” Beverly reminded him.

Finding her other sock by the corner of the dresser, he dumped it into the laundry slot with his uniform. Stripped down to a soft pair of shorts, he climbed into bed with her. Beverly curled into his chest and shivered once before he pulled the blankets up. Preferring to feel the air, he’d slept with thin blankets his whole life. Having her in his bed was almost warmer than he liked, however there was no denying the pleasure of her skin against his.

“He’ll be a fine officer,” he assured her before he realized that wasn’t enough. Being in Starfleet was a part of Wesley’s life, something that he was proud the young man had chosen, but that wasn’t what she needed to hear. Wesley’s future career wouldn’t be on her mind. Part of him wondered if it would really be so bad if Wesley became a career Starfleet officer, married to his ship and duty, as so many of his role models were. He’d certainly expected to live out his life that way.

Would it been different if long ago a young Beverly Howard had been introduced to him first? Would he have had the courage to marry her then? He’d chosen the stars over Jenice. Phillipa had put her career before his and he’d respected that. There was no reason he couldn’t have had a sensible, working relationship with a young Doctor Howard. Perhaps then he would have died and Jack Crusher would be consider his son as his own. Jean-Luc rarely allowed himself the weakness of questioning the past but it was hard not to be nostalgic when he thought of Doctor Sugiya and the time he’d stepped in for his best friend.

Being best man was no preparation for filling Jack’s shoes on the day Wesley had been born and Jean-Luc would have doubted himself more if both of his friends had not been so confidant. When Jack had gotten his orders, he sent his communique to Jean-Luc. Not to Walker, who had known them slightly longer, not to Beverly’s grandmother who had raised her, but to him, Jean-Luc Picard, bachelor captain of the Stargazer.

He had never expected the course of his life to bring him there and now he felt an odd sense of symmetry. He was facing that which had seemed so alien to him twenty years ago and now it held promise. It was certainly worth a few socks on the floor of their quarters.

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