A/N: To quote the great Picard himself – "Enjoy!"

Chapter 11.

Theich gently flicked modified soil over the exposed roots of the mimetic plant that he was working on. The reaction to the injected bio-manipulatory cell samples seemed to be as normal; there were no adverse reactions within the plant. At this rate they would be ready for a localised test of the veinwork with a month. He sat back on his haunches and brushed the soil from his fingers as he looked back over his shoulder.

Jean-luc was resting in a soft lounger chair as his fiancé worked on his beloved plants. He was turned slightly on one side, reading a Henry James classic, one hand rested absent-mindedly against the large swell of his belly.

"How's Beverley's research going?"

Jean-luc grunted and readjusted his position to face Theich.

"She's not giving up on the idea. The cells do match quite accurately, I'll give her that but the idea this theory that the Q have something to with the Gatherers is a little far-fetched in my opinion. The Gatherer theory suggests that humanoid DNA was seeded throughout the universe by one race, known to us as The Gatherers, and that we all share common ancestors in them. The flaws come in there, for a start the Q are not humanoid, they just assume humanoid forms when interacting with those cultures. Then there are the sociological differences, the mindset just doesn't match – why aid in the creation and evolution of these races only to go back and torment them?"

"Perhaps it only seems like torment. Perhaps there are some higher goals that guide these encounters."

Jean-luc rolled his eyes.

"Oh not you too. I may not be unbiased here but I just cannot envisage the Q as some benevolent God-like race spreading genes across the galaxy."

"Well, they are God-like, you have to admit that but who ever proved that The Gatherers were benevolent? The theory hasn't been explored for nigh on a century, if my memory serves me right. We have no clear clues to their motivations at all, in fact we can't even prove that they existed – except for this common cell structure thing. AND what if they did do it and the Q were the Gatherers? Wouldn't that explain their continued interference and interest?"

Jean-luc groaned. It was Theich's turn to roll his eyes; what was it with these humans and the Q? Theich was about to respond with another point when Jean-luc groaned again, this time it became a cry. Theich was by his side in a second.

"Jean-luc? What…"

Theich's eyes widened as a patch of wetness spread across the front of Jean-luc's clothes and across the cushions of his seat. He tried to take his lover's hand but the fingers were firmly wrapped around the armrest, knuckles turning white. After a few huffed breaths and a rather intense stare torpedoed past clenched teeth, Theich slapped his chest hard enough to restart his heart, had it stopped.

"Dal Meritan to Crusher."

"Crusher here."

"Jean-luc's in labour, we're in Veinworks Hydroponics. We definitely need one of those floating bed things – now!"

The general rustle of movement could be heard over the comm link.

"We're on our way Theich. Keep him calm, help him to breathe evenly and stay calm yourself. Have his waters broken?"

"Yes, just now. He's having contractions."

Jean-luc's first uncontrolled cry of pain punctuated the relay of information clearly.

"Okay, we're nearly there. Try and get him to sit up and we'll transfer him to the gurney."

Beverley rushed through the doors of the hydroponics bay within minutes of finishing her last instruction. Jean-luc was between contractions and mobile but he didn't argue as he was manoeuvred onto the gurney.

He closed his eyes not in pain but embarrassment as he was floated through the corridors of his own ship. Within seconds any officers that had seen him would have passed on the news and by the time he arrived at sickbay he had no doubt that the entire crew would know that he was in labour. Scuttlebutt could work in one's favour at times, but this was possibly not one of them. He would have liked to have kept this private until he had his child safely in his arms.

Theich didn't notice the interested and amazed looks that they received as they travelled towards sickbay, he was focussed entirely on his mate, ready to do and say whatever needed to be done or said. He had imagined that he would proudly smile and nod and let them know that they would all be informed as soon as the baby was born, but suddenly they ceased to matter. There just wasn't enough room for everyone else in his consideration.

Will Riker and Deanna Troi were waiting in sickbay when they arrived. Will tried to speak to his Captain but was brushed off and ignored as the party went straight through to a private room and locked the door. Deanna pulled him away as he moved to follow and indicated that they should sit and wait.

The Captain's cries could not be heard through the soundproofed walls of the private room, so it was intensely silent, as waiting rooms should be. Nothing but an air of expectation and absent information to cling on to. Will quickly began to pace. Deanna smothered her amusement at his adoption of the classic "father" movement.

Inside the personal sickbay Jean-luc felt he had lost all dignity as he screamed, irrespective of the presence of two ship's nurses.

Kneeling on all fours on the biobed was the most comfortable position for the moment and having been quickly changed into a medical gown, Beverley had easy access in that position to check that everything was going well. She discreetly taped unnecessary body parts out of the way and examined Jean-luc's 'new' equipment.

It was lucky that the Nashiran genes were capable of modifying the 'mother' in such a way. It truly was a species that had genetically evolved to maximise the chances of sustaining that species. It seemed odd that such a people would have so much trouble procreating in the first place, when their genes were capable of adapting any gender of any species to be able to carry and deliver their young.

"Jean-luc, you are seven centimetres dilated. The labour is progressing quite rapidly, I don't think that it will be long before you feel the urge to push. We should know when that time is approaching, but don't worry, you are not alone, we will be doing everything we can to help you."

Jean-luc groaned as another contraction hit him, he began to rock backwards and forwards, the motion seemed to distract him from the pain if not lessen it a little.

He felt cold metal press against his spine and heard the hiss of a hypospray.

"This epidural is short lived and I can counteract it if labour progresses more rapidly than I anticipate. It should ease the pain for now but you will need to lie down while you continue to dilate because it interferes with the nerve messages to and from the brain and you won't be able to feel your legs properly."

Theich helped Jean-luc to lie back on the biobed. He looked slightly more relaxed as he did so, the epidural kicking in and muting the pain. He kissed his mate's forehead and found his hand grasped tightly as Jean-luc briefly had time to connect with other people and share his fear and pain.

The reprieve was short lived. Jean-luc dilated quickly as the efficient Nashiran genes controlled the process to try and ensure a live birth. Beverley had to counter the epidural when the baby's head began to push through the temporary cervix. Jean-luc needed to feel the pain so that he would feel the urge to push.

Theich climbed onto the biobed behind him, assuming the traditional birthing position of a Nashiran father by cradling his mate's body against him to lend extra strength. For once, Jean-luc had absolutely no problems whatsoever with Nashiran traditions and adjusted his own position to take full advantage of this new support.

They both testily waved away interfering nurses who regularly ventured too close as they took readings and tried to help in unwelcome ways. The two men felt their world shrink to a space which only included themselves and the forthcoming event. Jean-luc followed the natural urges that the pain prompted and continued to push with all his strength; Theich held him and helped to brace him as he strained to bring their child out into this minute microcosm of care.

After what seemed like an eternity of suspended time in which there was nothing but pain and pushing a new sound entered the world and changed the very fabric of it. A sound almost holy in the reverence it inspired. The sound of Alpha, the sound of Ohm, the sound of Aslan waking up an empty place to create something that had never been before. Inside a moment when sound could bring everything to life with new breath and flesh and purpose. A single cry from miraculous lungs; a focus tighter in consideration and in heart than either man had experienced in their previous lives. They emerged from the cocoon.

"You have a son!"