Just like on her predecessor, Thursday night was the Enterprise E's senior staff poker night and this evening's festivities were being held in Dr. Beverly Crusher's quarters. While standing in a turbolift, Captain Jean-Luc Picard cast a concerned glance at his wife. Very pregnant with twins who were due to make their arrival at any moment, Vash grimaced slightly as she rubbed her swollen abdomen. He brushed a stray lock of hair from her face. "Are you all right?"
"Our daughter has her feet firmly planted in my ribcage and the top of our son's head slams into my pelvic bone with every step I take." Vash looked down at her light pink maternity sweater and black leggings. "And no matter what I wear I look like a whale who swallowed a beach ball."
"You're absolutely beautiful," he assured her, gently caressing her cheek. "Do I dare ask how you know whose feet are in your ribcage and whose head is hitting your pelvic bone?"
"An assumption based on last known positions," she answered as the turbolift slowed to a halt.
"Dr. Crusher's scan yesterday," he guessed.
Vash nodded while struggling to take a deep breath hoping it would encourage her daughter to move her feet.
"We don't have to go . . ."
"No, I want to go," she quickly cut him off as the doors to the lift opened. They headed toward Beverly's quarters. "I need to get out and it will be nice to spend time with everyone. It's been two weeks since Beverly put me on medical leave. The nursery and layettes are ready and there is only so much nesting one woman can do."
"All right, chere, but please let me know if you get too tired and want to go home." Picard activated the door chime.
"Well, there she is," Beverly beamed when the door opened. Guiding Vash into the room, she glanced over her shoulder at the captain and added as an afterthought, "Hi, Jean-Luc."
"Doctor," Picard responded dryly having become accustomed to being upstaged by his wife long ago and her pregnancy had only served to enhance her appeal.
"Vash, will you be sitting in on the game?" Data inquired as he and Geordi set out the poker chips and deck of cards on the table.
"No, thank you. I think the three of us will just sit down over here and enjoy the company," Vash smiled, lumbering over toward the big, easy chair next to the couch.
"Here, sweetheart, let us help," Riker offered as he took one of her arms and Worf took the other, gently lowering Vash into the chair.
"Thank you," she replied gratefully. With a sigh, she turned to Beverly. "I want it noted for the record that I have become so big and heavy it took both of them to lower me into this chair."
"You're hardly heavy," Riker corrected gently.
"Just bulky," Worf noted quickly adding, "as you said there are three people there."
"Thank you, Worf." Vash patted his hand.
"Dr. Crusher figured you might sit out so she invited me to fill in for you tonight. Your ankles look a little swollen." Alyssa Ogawa pushed a foot stool over to where Vash was sitting. "Put your feet up."
"Feet, I still have feet? I haven't seen them in months," Vash chuckled.
"And your shoes even match," Deanna teased.
A long while later, Vash grimaced shifting uncomfortably in her chair then relaxed again. Ogawa turned toward Crusher. "They're ten minutes apart. How long do you want to wait?"
"First pregnancy, yesterday she was zero station, eighty percent effacement and two centimeters dilated, when they're five minutes apart we'll take her to sickbay." Crusher placed her cards on the table deciding to fold. Picard looked up from his cards in shock. In response to his unasked question, she answered, "Yes, Jean-Luc, your wife is in labor."
Ogawa laid her hand on her commanding officer's shoulder keeping him in his seat. Her tone was one of practiced, gentle patience. "It's all right, Captain, we have plenty of time."
"Vash, are you comfortable there?" Beverly asked.
"I could use a pillow," Vash said, squirming uncomfortably.
Geordi tossed his cards down. "I fold and I'll tuck." He grabbed a toss pillow from the couch and carefully wedged it between the chair and the small of her back.
"Will, reach around and put that throw over her," Beverly ordered. "Vash, we've got a long night ahead of us. For now, I want you to lean back and try to rest between the contractions."
"All right." Vash leaned back closing her eyes as Riker tucked the throw around her. "I've got a confession to make, Bev, I never got around to studying that birthing material." She sat up, a bit wild-eyed. "I won't know how to breathe, I'll do something wrong, hyperventilate, pass out and they'll be stuck in here."
Beverly nudged Alyssa under the table to stop her snickering. Barely managing to keep a straight face, she assured her patient. "I promise that if you don't breathe right, I'll hook up some oxygen for you and no matter what happens, they won't be stuck in there."
"I, on the other hand," Picard began, "did do my assigned reading on childbirth. I vaguely remember the birthing procedures they taught in the Academy, but I learned the proper breathing techniques used to ease labor."
Vash just stuck her tongue out at him.
"Of course you realize what this means," he continued with a smirk. "For the rest of the night, at least until those babies are out, you'll actually have to take orders from me."
Beverly arched an eyebrow. "And you'll both be taking orders from the medical staff because unless the ship is about to be blown up, Will is in charge and you are off-duty."
"I do request that we avoid any quantum filaments," Worf muttered while contemplating his cards.
"You mean you don't want to deliver these babies too? You did such a wonderful job bringing Molly O'Brien into the galaxy. Keiko raved about you for months," Deanna couldn't help teasing her husband.
"It was a wondrous experience which I never hope to witness again," Worf noticed his mate's eyebrow shoot up and continued quickly, "until we have our own, of course."
Knowing there had been much deliberation on the subject of names, Riker couldn't help stirring the pot a little more. "Dare I ask, but do we have names for these babies yet?" his eyes twinkled with glee.
"We decided that we would each get to choose one name and we would each get exactly one veto," Vash answered her eyes closed while she leaned back into the cushions of the chair. "Sorry, Will, but I had to use my veto on William Robert."
"Understood and agreed." Riker turned to his commanding officer. "What name did you veto?"
"Jean-Luc," Picard replied.
"Okay, so Billy Bob and Junior are out," Geordi chuckled. "What made the final cut?"
"Jean-Luc chose Maurice Robert for our son and I chose Jeanette Lucianne for our daughter." Vash's voice sounded a tad smug.
"Oh, those are both beautiful names," Beverly exclaimed.
Worf glanced up confused. "But the Captain said he vetoed using his name?"
"No, the captain vetoed using Jean-Luc not Jeanette Lucianne, a feminine version," Deanna corrected with a smile.
Picard sighed with defeat. "Which was Vash's rationale exactly."
Some time later, Vash awoke from a cat nap and stretched, "With all the horror stories you hear, I was really expecting the pain to be much worse. The entire pregnancy hasn't been nearly as--"
Picard looked up at her abrupt silence, and seeing the pain reflected in her features, he quickly moved to her side. "Are you all right, chere?"
"Mother pussbucket, that hurt," Vash gasped.
"And the first real pain hits," Alyssa quipped.
Beverly stood up. "Game called on account of labor. Time to go before your water breaks because you're in my chair and there is a limit to the self-cleaning capabilities of this ship."
"Where's your sense of adventure, Doc?" Vash retorted as Jean-Luc helped her to her feet.
Entering Sickbay, Vash and Jean-Luc headed straight for the birthing chair. Pausing as another contraction hit, she ground out between clenched teeth, "drugs, now."
Walking in behind them, Beverly calmly said, "Not yet,Vash. The pain medications can slow down or even temporarly stall the labor process. I want to make sure your labor is in full swing before I give you the medication."
"This isn't full swing?" Vash sputtered, having settled herself in the birthing chair.
Alyssa chuckled at that while she finished prepping Vash for labor. Gesturing from Vash's abdomen to her face, the nurse spoke to Picard, "Okay, Daddy, you work from here up." Then she gestured from Vash's abdomen to her feet. "I work from here down." She patted the starship captain on the shoulder adding with a smile, "And for the next few hours try not to confuse your rank with my authority."
"Yes, ma'am," Picard retorted with a small smile. Each member of Dr. Crusher's staff had their own way of establishing the control necessary during medical situations. A very petite woman with a tiny frame, Alyssa Ogawa customarily used good-natured humor. The captain knew firsthand that she could be a formidable presence when crossed.
Enjoying a respite between contractions, Vash glanced up at her husband and laughed, "ohhh, I like that! I'm just going to have to use that sometime."
"Of that I have no doubt." Picard took her hand in his. He noticed Vash beginning to tense up, her hand tightly clutching his. He watched her reaction carefully and kept his tone soft and gentle in spite of the fact that his petite wife was crushing every bone in his hand. "Vash, don't hold your breath. Look at me and focus. Now take a deep breath, that's it. Slowly, let it out. Now, breathe normally. That's it, in . . . out . . . in . . . out. Good girl, just breathe through it."
Alyssa watched Picard calmly coach Vash through the contraction even as his wife's small hand threatened to mangle his much larger one. When Vash sank back into the chair after the contraction passed, the nurse discreetly pried the captain's hand lose. She allowed him a moment to flex his hand before arranging it so that only his index and middle fingers were straight out. "Give her these two fingers together to hold. No matter how hard she squeezes she won't be able crush them."
As Vash's labor progressed, Picard found Alyssa Ogawa's suggestion invaluable. Focusing on breathing, Vash tightly clutched his two fingers while he watched the numbers on the monitor measuring her contraction slowly fall back to the baseline. "Deep breath and let it out, that one's passed."
"It feels like someone is cutting out my stomach with a phaser set on low," Vash whimpered blinking back tears as Jean-Luc tenderly brushed a stray lock of hair from her forehead.
"I know," he whispered placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. He glanced over at Ogawa.
"You're doing just fine, Vash," the nurse reassured her. Seeing a worried husband standing there in the guise of a starship captain, she added, "and so are you, sir."
"Oh my!" Vash gasped her free hand going to her lower abdomen.
"Vash?" Picard quickly glanced at the monitor. She was between contractions.
Feeling the rush of water after a strong fetal movement, Vash announced "Jean-Luc, our son just punched really hard and broke my water."
At her nurse's tacit summons, Beverly made her way over and checked Vash's progress. "Now, we're cooking. You know, Vash, you're being entirely too nice to him; by this point during Wesley's delivery, I was reminding Jack that I was a surgeon and could remove any appendage of his that I deemed offensive."
"I'm an archaeologist; all I can threaten to do is run home to my mummy," Vash retorted showing a brief flash of her usual impish self.
Ignoring the exchange, Picard watched the numbers on the monitor slowly start to creep up. "Deep breath, Vash."
"Would you like that pain medication now?" Beverly asked.
Clutching Jean-Luc as he coached her through the contraction, Vash managed to nod yes. She felt a slight rush as the medication entered her system and the pain dissipated. Releasing her death grip on her husband she looked over at the monitor. The numbers were still climbing but all she could feel was a tightness in her lower abdomen. She grinned at Jean-Luc. "Wow! Talk about better living through chemistry."
"While you're comfortable, I want you to lean back and relax until we're ready for you to push. We still have a lot of work ahead of us pushing those two babies out," Beverly informed her.
Later, Vash found out that, if anything, Beverly was understating the case. It had been forty-five minutes since the doctor had turned down the medication enough for her to feel the contractions sufficiently to push; she had never experienced such physical exertion. Vash could feel the strain in every muscle in her body including a few she didn't even know she had.
"Okay, another deep breath, hold it, bear down and push. 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1," Beverly commanded.
"I've decided this whole miraculous experience of giving birth is overrated. Why don't we just use the transporters to zap those babies right out of there," Vash panted while Jean-Luc wiped perspiration from her forehead.
Beverly smiled. It seemed like every first time mommy suggested that at some point during delivery. "Fetal transports can have complications and since you're doing just fine and no one is in fetal distress, we're going to do this the old-fashioned way. Now, here we go again."
"Bitch," Vash grunted.
"Oh come on, you speak how many languages? I know you can do better than that," Beverly teased. "Again. Deep breath, hold it and push. 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . . 7 . . . 6 . . . 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1."
As she collapsed back against Picard's supporting arm Vash let out a loud, Klingon expletive howl. Shaking his head, he observed dryly, "when words just aren't enough."
"Drag something the size of watermelon through one of your orifices and see what kind of noise you make, Captain," Vash hissed. "You did this to me and you're never touching me again."
"I'm sure she doesn't mean that," Picard confided to Beverly.
"Oh I'm sure she does; but, she'll most likely change her mind," Beverly chuckled. She turned her attention back to her patient. "The head is just begining to crown now, Vash. I want you to really push hard this time."
Several more pushes and Maurice Robert Picard made his way into the galaxy. After Alyssa helped Picard cut the cord, Beverly cleaned and swaddled the baby cooing. "Welcome aboard, Maurice. Your mommy's still a bit busy, but we can pause and let her say hi to you."
"Hello there, handsome," Vash whispered. Overwhelmed with emotion, tears slid down her cheeks as she held her son for the first time. Looking up at her husband, she marveled, "He even looks like your father."
"Yes, he does," Picard agreed watching Vash give their son a kiss before handing the child off to a nurse to be weighed and measured.
"His sister seems anxious to join him, Doc. Do you want me to blow through this contraction or push with it?" Vash asked as another contration began to build. Seeing Beverly and Alyssa exchange a glance, she added more than a bit impatiently, "will you just make the damn decision!"
"Push!" Beverly ordered.
Ten minutes later, Jeanette Lucianne Picard joined her brother. While cutting the cord, Picard murmured, "ma petite, I knew we should have named you after your beautiful maman instead of me."
"Jean-Luc?" Vash prompted wearily having thought they'd settled this matter.
"She looks just like you, Vash." Feeling blissfully content, Picard gazed at his daughter's lovely visage, so angelic.
"Looks like someone has already fallen head over heels in love," Alyssa observed with a smile helping Beverly clean and swaddle the baby.
"It certainly looks that way," Beverly agreed handing the baby to Picard. Turning to Vash, she added, "However, he is right. She definitely has your features, Vash."
For a few moments, Vash watched Jean-Luc craddle Jeanette, gently rocking back and forth while singing a lullaby to her softly in French. Amused, she realized that Jeanette might look like her, but she was already her daddy's little girl. Vash's eyes sparked impishly as she teased, "Mon Capitaine, will I actually get to see our child before she applies to the academy or the Daystrom institute?"
Several hours later, Picard walked back into the private alcove in sickbay Dr.Crusher had assigned to Vash. He stepped over to the bassinet where Maurice was sleeping and reached down, stroking his son's cheek reverently.
"Thank you for the beautiful roses; they were brought in while you talking to Will," Vash whispered. Both of them knew that there had been a number of ship-wide betting pools and Jean-Luc had taken a few minutes to contact Will with all the particulars about both babies.
"You're welcome. How are you feeling, petite amie?" Picard looked over to see Vash sitting up in bed wearing the lace-trimmed, blue nightgown and robe set that she had purchased for this occasion. Cradling Jeanette in her arms, she leaned in to nuzzle the baby.
"Worn out and very sore," she replied. Cooing at the baby, she added, "afterall we've had quite a busy evening, haven't we?"
He sat down on the edge of the bed next to her and kissed the top of her head, savoring the sweet scent that always lingered in her silky, brunette hair. "Both of you lovely ladies should think about getting some rest. By late morning I'm sure there will be a line of admirers waiting to see you."
"I'm still a little too keyed up to sleep. It's all so emotionally overwhelming. We have this beautiful baby girl, a beautiful baby boy and they're both so perfect." Vash gazed down watching Jeanette wrap her tiny hand around her index finger.
Cupping her cheek with his palm, he slipped his thumb under her chin to bring her gaze up to his, "Je t' aime, Vash."
"Je t' aime," she whispered resolutely. Her eyes drifted shut as he lowered his face to hers, claiming her lips in a tender, lingering kiss.
Days later, Vash finished changing Maurice in the bedroom while listening to Jean-Luc's rich, gentle baritone coming from the other room. Vash stepped out into the livingroom, cradling Maurice, to see her husband reading to Jeanette while he held her. "What are you two up to?"
Picard glanced up. "We're just enjoying a little bit of quiet reading."
Peering at the book, Vash was dubious. "'When Character was King, A story of Ronald Reagan'?"
"Fortieth President of . . ."
"I know who Ronald Reagan was," Vash cut him off, rolling her eyes. "And without a doubt, Peggy Noonan was one of the most eloquent writers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. However, don't you think the 'Reagan Revolution' is a bit of a weighty topic for your basic three-day-old infant? What's next 'Ulysses' by James Joyce?"
"Of course not. I haven't finished reading 'Ulysses' to her brother yet."
*** Finis ***