Roles, Limits and Priorities
Lieutenant Jack Crusher sat in his quarters aboard the U.S.S. Stargazer and gazed fondly at the monitor in front of him. "How are you feeling?"
"Done," Beverly sighed from their apartment on Earth. "I am done being pregnant."
"What?" he sat bolt upright in his chair.
Her hands swiftly moved up in a placating gesture as she smiled. "Relax, I said that I was done being pregnant; your son isn't quite done gestating yet."
"Well tell him to wait a little longer," Jack said.
Beverly arched an eyebrow at the screen. "I'm the size of a shuttle and about as maneuverable. There are limits to the expansion capabilities of the female body, you know."
"You're the most beautiful shuttle I've ever seen," he grinned and winked at her. "I'm sorry you're so uncomfortable, honey; but I really want to be there for the birth so just hang in there a little while longer. I love you," he caressed the screen with his fingers as if he were touching her face through sub-space.
"I love you, too; I'll see you soon."
He closed the channel with a soft sigh and sat back, a tender smile playing across his lips. The door chime brought him out of his contemplation of impending fatherhood. "Come."
The door slid open to admit Captain Jean-Luc Picard. "Jack, I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"No," he stood and motioned for his friend and captain to have a seat. "I just got off a sub-space call to my very pregnant wife. She says 'hi' by the way."
"How is Beverly?" Picard asked.
"Uncomfortable but otherwise fine," Jack said. "Is this a social call or business?"
Picard held out a PADD. "A bit of both; I have your leave request here and I wanted to talk to you about it before I entered it into the official log."
"Is there a problem?" Jack asked. He had been looking forward to being at the birth since Beverly had told him that she was pregnant. This close to the big event was not a good time for last minute duty calls.
"Officially no, but as your friend I have some concerns," Picard replied. "Jack, you're a good officer and I know you want your own ship one day."
Jack regarded his captain curiously. "We've known each other a number of years and one of the reasons I wanted this posting was because I felt that there was a lot I could learn from you. If you have a problem with me, I'd prefer if you just said it."
"For the sake of your career, I'm advising you to reconsider taking this leave," Picard told him bluntly.
"Wait a minute," Jack said, confusion and frustration evident in both his expression and tone. "I'm entitled to that leave; we're not in the middle of anything but routine mapping which I don't have to be here for and there's no crisis looming. My wife is due to give birth to my first child--my son--any time now and that is just as important to me as my career. You know how much I want to be there, it's all I've been talking about for months."
Picard shifted uncomfortably and sat back. "Of course you're entitled to this leave, but think about your future, Jack. Starship captains are devoted to their ship and their crew, they rarely take personal leave and officers who want to be captains take even less. I know how much Beverly means to you, but if you want to be a captain, your career has to mean more."
"Not all of us can be the reincarnation of the great James T. Kirk," he retorted, barely keeping the bitterness out of his voice. The euphoria of his impending fatherhood had been obliterated and captain or not, Jean-Luc Picard was the cause.
Jack stood and snapped to attention. "Excuse me, sir. Permission to speak freely, sir."
"Jack, sit down," Picard said, trying not to make it sound like an order. "I'm trying to be your friend, here."
"I wasn't the top of my class in anything," he told his captain, re-taking his seat. "I'm solidly average and I'm happy with that. The words most commonly used to describe me at the Academy were 'dependable', 'competent' and 'grounded.' I know I have the ability to be a captain one day, but I'm not in a hurry to get there. I have a lot to learn about command before I'm ready for that responsibility and I don't have a problem admitting that. I love Starfleet--mostly I love how this uniform makes me feel and it is [b]one[/b] of the most important things in my life. Having someone who understands that feeling to share my life with is just as important. If having a family slows down my advancement, fine; but being a husband and father are things I wouldn't trade even for the flagship of the Federation. This isn't a race, Captain, it's my life and I'll live it at my own pace--not yours."
Picard closed his eyes and shook his head wearily. "This isn't going the way I'd hoped. I just wanted you to consider your future and make sure that your priorities were right. As your captain--"
"You're out of line," Jack broke in. "As my captain, you have no right to tell me what my priorities should be; how I perform my duties is your only concern. As my friend, you should understand that, while this uniform means a lot to me and my career is important to me, it's also going to keep me away from my wife and son for most of his life so I'd like to be there when I can, for what little time I can spend with them. I've never used our friendship for special favors and I don't expect you to 'overlook' the use of my personal leave time in my evaluation--"
"We wouldn't have become friends if you were that kind of person," Picard noted evenly. "Beverly is in her final year of medical school, she's a healthy, young woman; she can deliver your son with or without you there. I know you want to be there even if I can't understand it, but I do understand the desire for command and what it takes to get there. If you don't want to hear this from me, contact Walker and ask for his advice--he'll tell you the same thing I am, for the sake of your career, reconsider this leave request."
Jack stood and stalked angrily to the closet, yanking it open to retrieve a suitcase. "I've considered it and reconsidered it. Are you going to approve my leave or not, because I need to get going before I miss one of the most incredible events of my life--the birth of my son."
Picard entered a notation on the PADD and tossed it onto the chair that Jack had vacated. "Very well, Lieutenant Crusher, your request is approved. You may leave when ready."
"Thank you, sir."
Standing, Picard straightened his uniform jacket and crossed the room to where his friend was packing. "Jack, I'm sorry if I overstepped any boundaries here. Your friendship means a lot to me--"
"Then be my friend," Jack interrupted. "Be happy for me, be the man who took me out on a wild bachelor party night through every disreputable establishment on Wrigley's Pleasure Planet to celebrate my wedding."
Picard chuckled. "I'm still surprised that Walker didn't get us all arrested that night."
"He certainly gave it the old Academy try," Jack laughed at the memory. "Captain--Jean-Luc, I'm about to become a dad and, as far as you're concerned, that's nothing more than an impediment to my career advancement; it's so much more than that to me. Why can't you try to understand that?"
"I was out of line in more ways than one," Picard acknowledged ruefully. "My officers should decide the course of their own careers. If you ever want advice on that matter, you know where my ready room is; otherwise, give my best to Beverly and your son when you meet him."
Jack sat on the edge of the bed watching Wesley Crusher sleep peacefully in his mother's arms. The doctor had just finished repairing the fingers that Beverly had broken on their way to the hospital and they were alone for the first time. Beverly was drifting off to sleep, so he gently took Wesley from her and cradled him in his arms. Everything felt different now, fatherhood wasn't an abstract concept anymore. He was still a man, a Starfleet officer, a Lieutenant, a son and a husband; but now he was also a dad--a whole new role with responsibilities and demands.
The door opened and a nurse entered carrying a large basket. "This was just delivered for you, Lieutenant Crusher."
"Thank you." Without putting Wesley down, he opened the wrapping to find a gift basket full of baby items and a teddy bear. He opened the card and smiled at the content.
'Congratulations and best wishes from your friend, Jean-Luc Picard.'