Captain Jean-Luc Picard surveyed the damage to the bridge of the Stargazer. Smoke and debris, including a large beam that had crushed the captain’s chair, littered the deck. But they were alive; thanks to the heroic efforts of his first officer, Jack Crusher. He flipped the switch to activate the communications system. “Picard to sickbay. Status report.”
“Sickbay here, Captain. We’ve got quite a few casualties. I’ll need a few moments.”
“The Chief beamed him directly here. A bit risky, but it worked. We’ll do what we can for him, but his injuries are too serious to be treated onboard.” His CMO paused before adding, “I’m sorry, sir. I wish I had better news.”
“Thank you, doctor. Picard out.”
He pulled up their position on the ship’s navigation system. Starbase Nine was the closest, but the facilities there were not much more advanced than the Stargazer’s own sickbay. However, if the warp engines weren’t too badly damaged, they were only two days at maximum warp from Earth and Starfleet medical.
“Picard to Engineering. Mr. Newton, are the warp engines online?”
“Barely sir. Two of the dilithium crystals are close to failing. I’ve initiated the re-compositing process.”
“Bottom line it for me, commander. We have seriously injured.”
“Aye, sir. Eight hours before the warp systems are fully functional.”
“What’s our current maximum speed?”
“Warp four is the best I can give you at the moment, sir.”
“Understood. Picard out.”
He plotted the course for Earth at warp four before turning the helm controls over to a junior officer. “Steady as she goes, ensign.”
The lights in sickbay were dimmed in accordance to the late hour by the time Picard arrived. The Stargazer was going to need extensive repairs, but for now, she was traveling at maximum warp back to Earth. He batted away the nurse’s attempt to check the gash on his temple. The blood had long since dried, and Picard wanted to check in on his first officer.
“How is Commander Crusher?”
An exhausted Chief Medical Officer entered from his office. “I’ve placed him in a medically induced coma. It is his best chance until we reach Earth. Now sit over here and let me have a look at that wound.”
“I’m fine, doctor. It is just a scratch.”
“With all due respect sir, I will be the judge of that. It will only take a moment.” Task completed, the two medical officers left the Captain to visit with his friend.
His mind conjured images of the two of them stumbling back to Jack’s room after drinking way too much of the local ale. Jack laughing as they tumbled onto the bed. Playful jostling over the covers that had somehow turned into more.
“You need to hang on,” he whispered.
Doctor Beverly Crusher stared at her husband’s prone form. When word of the Stargazer’s unexpected return reached Starfleet Medical, Beverly had known it was bad. Jean-Luc Picard didn’t panic. Her fears were confirmed when the casualty reports flickered across her data pad. She ran to join the team preparing to treat the injured, only to be blocked by the bulky form of her commanding officer.
“You’re going to have to sit this one out, Bev.”
“What? Jack is listed as critical. I need …”
“You need to arrange a sitter for Wesley. Or bring him here. I will handle Jack’s case personally. Wesley needs his mother right now.”
She ran her fingers through her long, auburn hair. She knew the admiral was right, but it didn’t make it any easier. If anything happened to Jack ….
Hours later she had sent Wesley home with the sitter. He had protested, but despite his seeming maturity, he was only four. So she had continued the bedside vigil alone, surprised that she had not heard from Jean-Luc yet.
The door opened quietly behind her, admitting the man in question.
He walked over and kissed both cheeks before pulling up a chair of his own. “How is he?”
“Paul said the surgery was a success. His condition is stable. It’s all up to Jack now.”
He held her hand. “He’s strong. And he will not leave you and Wesley.” He gave it a reassuring squeeze before letting go.
“He saved us. Saved us all. We — I owe him everything. I should be lying here — not him.” He looked at the floor, unable to look her in the eye.
“No. That’s not true. Your place was on the bridge. Jack knew the risks when he joined Starfleet. He wouldn’t want you blaming yourself. And neither do I.”
She surprised him by taking his hand and holding it in her lap. They sat in comfortable silence, broken only when she laughed unexpectedly.
She smiled ruefully at his raised eyebrow. “Do you remember the trip the three of us took to Corsica?”
“What was the name of that girl? The blonde from the beach? She kept calling you Johnny no matter how many times you corrected her.”
Jean-Luc scrunched his eyes as he searched his memory. “Trixie. No Roxy.”
“Did you ever see her again?”
His ears turned a light shade of pink. “No.”
Her eyes twinkled with mischief, “But why ever not Johnny?”
Picard wagged his finger at her good-naturedly. “You were behaving like a brat that day too, if I recall.”
“Jack had me half-buried in the sand. My arms and legs were buried deep enough so I couldn’t move. I couldn’t figure out why he had left my feet and torso exposed — until he started tickling me.”
He chuckled and she swatted his arm.
“And you! When I cried out for help, you took his side! God, I was so turned on.”
A smiling Picard turned to her with great interest. “Really? From all the racket you were making you would have thought we were murdering you.”
“Two hot guys had me completely at their mercy — me wearing only a skimpy bikini? Who wouldn’t be turned on? As for all the noise, well you both knew I’m insanely ticklish. I was about to offer to take you both to bed, but Roxy dragged you off to your room.”
“What?!” Picard choked.
The life signs over the bio bed came to life as Jack’s eyelids fluttered open. He smiled and reached out a hand in confusion, “Bev?”
“I’m here, Jack,” she replied, clutching his hand.
“How? I was on an EVA off the Stargazer’s port nacelle … It was bad. I should be dead …”
Picard stepped back into the corner allowing the couple some privacy. Watching as she stroked the side of Jack’s face; he wondered about the bombshell she had dropped.
As Jack became agitated, his biometric readings fluctuated erratically.
Beverly tried to calm him. “Shh. You’re at Starfleet Medical. You’re going to be fine.”
“The Stargazer? Jean-Luc!”
“You saved them. Jean-Luc is here.” She motioned for him to come forward.
He took Jack’s other hand. “I’m here, Jack. You saved us all. Lie back and relax. That’s an order.”
Jack fell back against the pillow looking as if he was about to go back to sleep — when his eyes flew open. He cried out as his body was wracked by convulsions; life support monitors blared as his vital signs flatlined. Medical personnel rushed into the room — crash cart in tow.
Picard dragged a struggling Beverly out of the way. “Bev, let them work.” He tapped his communicator, “Picard to Admiral Parker.”
Beverly leaned over his chest, “Paul! Jack is in code blue!”
But instead of a reply they heard the definitive whine of a transporter beam. Admiral Parker shook off his momentary disorientation. “The engineers still have a few bugs to work out on site to site transport.” One look at the readings from the medical scanner had him barking orders to his team. “Prep him for emergency surgery. We need to break up that blood clot.”
A distressed Beverly sobbed onto Jean-Luc’s shoulder. “I can’t lose him.”
Jean-Luc held her tight. He had no words. Beverly was not one to frighten easily and she was an excellent doctor. If she was scared, then his best friend was in trouble.
Admiral Parker patted her shoulder as he left to scrub up. “Captain, take Beverly for some tea.” It was an order not a suggestion.
Four hours later, the Admiral found the pair in the waiting room. Beverly had fallen into a restless sleep on Picard’s shoulder. The doctor waved off Picard’s notion of standing for a superior officer. “Jack is going to be fine. We dissolved the clot before it caused an aneurysm.”
“Was there any permanent damage?” Beverly asked with a shaky voice.
“No. He’s going to be fine, Beverly. Barring complications, we should be able to release him in a week. He’ll still have quite a bit of recovering to do at home before he’s ready for active duty.”
“Can we see him?”
Parker nodded. “Just for a few minutes. He’s on a pretty strong regimen of painkillers.”
She grabbed Jean-Luc’s hand and pulled him towards Jack’s room, leaving a bemused Admiral Parker in their wake.
When they reached his bedside, Jean-Luc tried to hang back but Beverly was having no part of it. While keeping a tight grip on Picard with her right, she picked up Jack’s hand with her left. She let out a relieved sigh when Jack smiled up at them.
“You’re not going to get rid of me that easily,” he teased.
Beverly sniffed, but kept it together. “Paul said you can come home in about a week, as long as there are no other complications.”
He squeezed her hand. “Could I have a moment with Jean-Luc?”
“Of course. I’ll call and check on Wesley.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek before planting a similar one on Jean-Luc.
The two men watched her leave before speaking.
“I don’t want to keep any secrets from her.”
Jean-Luc mentally kicked himself. Of course Jack would want to be honest with his wife.
“I thought maybe the three of us could go to Corsica when I’m stronger.”
What? Why would he want a third wheel? “I don’t understand …”
“Jean-Luc, I know it’s a lot to ask, but trust me. Please?”
He nodded. The tortuous guilt over the secrets he had harbored these past few weeks had become unbearable. He would lose his two best friends, but then maybe he could move on. Jean-Luc didn’t like the man he had become. Noticing Jack had drifted off to sleep, he slipped out of the room.
Two weeks later, Jean-Luc stood on the doorstep of a remote private villa in Corsica. He knocked.
“Jean-Luc! I’m glad you came.” Beverly hugged him enthusiastically. She pulled back with a puzzled expression. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. A little tired, perhaps.” He smiled but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Jack shook his head and pulled his friend into a bear hug. “Trust me,” he whispered before slapping him on the back. “How did you find this place?” He led his friend inside the surprisingly elegant accommodation.
“Ah, Walter Keel mentioned it to me,” he lied.
“Beverly and I have already claimed the master bedroom. Hope that’s okay?” He led Picard into the other bedroom and shut the door. “Jean-Luc, what is up with you? You look like you’ve lost your best friend.”
“Isn’t that why I’m here?” Jean-Luc tossed his carryall onto the floor. “Look, Jack — I get it. And if I were in your position I’d probably do the same. Just don’t expect me to be happy about it.”
His best friend turned his back and said nothing.
“Uh, I’m not sure what you think is going on here, so I’m just going to spell it out. I overheard you and Beverly at Starfleet Medical.” He held up his hand to prevent Jean-Luc from interrupting. “Look I’ve known for a while she was attracted to you. Anyone with eyes could see it. I’ve also known you have feelings for Beverly. Which is why the last time we were here, the blonde you picked up was so — jealous.”
“Nothing has ever happened.”
“I know. I’m guessing it is also the reason you’ve distanced yourself from us. From me. Well, until shore leave last month.”
Jean-Luc closed his eyes. “I’m sure Beverly will forgive you, Jack. It’s not like you’ve a history of sleeping with other men.”
“She already has.”
“I told her about that night as soon as the medication wore off. She was angry at first, but she forgave me. Forgave us.”
“What are you saying? Why did you ask me here then?”
“Because I think the three of us could be something special. And in case you’ve forgotten, tomorrow is Bev’s birthday. Meet us in the hot tub. I hope you remembered to pack your swimsuit.”
A short while later, a bewildered but freshly showered Jean-Luc joined the couple in the outdoor hot tub.
“Sit here,” Beverly tapped the seat next to her.
He complied, leaving a respectable distance between them. “I’m sorry, Beverly.”
“I know. I’m still a little angry at you both, but I suppose it wasn’t something to discuss over subspace.” She turned to look at him fully. “There’s a few things I need to know. And I want you to be completely honest.”
“Are you in love with Jack — or was that a one time thing?”
“I’ve never thought of a man in that way before. I…I’m not sure. Jack is my best friend, so of course I love him, but I don’t know if I’m in love with him.” He looked down at his hands, clearly uncomfortable.
“That’s fair, I guess. Are you in love with me?
“Yes,” he answered so quickly she didn’t have time to qualify her question.
“For how long?”
“I realized my feelings were more than physical the last time we were here. I knew it was wrong. It is wrong. You’re my best friend’s wife. So I tried to distract myself with Roxy.”
Beverly let out a breath. “Okay. How do we do this?”
Jack slid over closer and motioned for Beverly to sit on his lap, her back flush against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her waist, making her squirm as he tickled along her sides. He wrapped her with both arms and legs, immobilizing her. He nuzzled her neck; whispering a promise in her ear. “We are going to make you scream in pleasure all weekend.”
Jean-Luc, recognizing his cue, positioned himself between her knees. With a last look to make sure she still wanted this, he took her mouth in a passionate kiss — his hands roaming freely over both his lovers.