The Gap

by Jordan Trevor

Author's Note: Well, this is the first time I've ever started posting a story that's not all the way completed. I may not be able to post a chapter every day, but I have enough written to make a start. For those who read it, I appreciate your patience, understanding, and support. Thanks, JT

Disclaimer: The crew of the Enterprise and the citizens of Cutter Gap don't belong to me.

The dream was almost ten years old, and he rarely dreamed it anymore. But it woke him in the middle of the night, shaking, frightened, reaching out for some sense of reality. And he found himself, as always, enveloped within the safe haven of Beverly's arms.

"Shh, Jean-Luc, it's just a dream," she whispered, smoothing her hand along the back of his neck. "You're all right. I'm here."

He clung to her, his face buried against her shoulder. She rocked him in her arms, like a child, like she rocked Andrew and Margaret and Walker, humming softly in his ear. The nightmare images began to recede, replaced with the familiar, orderly darkness of the cabin around him. He relaxed, took a deep shuddering breath.

"Mama?" The child's soft call came from the other side of the room.

Jean-Luc instantly stiffened, pulling away from Beverly's embrace, angry at himself for having woken one of the children.

"Mama?" It was Walker's voice, small and forlorn in the dark cabin.

Beverly climbed from beneath the blankets, pushed aside the curtain that partially surrounded their bed, and padded over to the opposite corner. She knelt beside the low trundle bed. "Shh, Walker, Mama's here."

Jean-Luc's eyes adjusted to the faint glow of moonlight filtering through the front window, and he watched Beverly bending over their son, brushing her hand lovingly across his forehead. She was humming to him now, the same tune.

Jean-Luc got out of bed, pulled on his dressing gown and silently went out the front door to the porch. The night air was still and cool, the tall mountains rising dark and black around the cabin. The small, swept yard and the woods beyond were bathed in the moon's ghostly, silver light. The stream gurgled in the distance. An owl hooted, and another returned the call. He leaned heavily against the porch railing, taking deep breaths of the fresh air.

He could not remember the last time he'd had that particular dream. Years, perhaps. He just wasn't sure. There had been a time when he'd had it every night, when the only way he could sleep at all was to have Beverly hold him. And that had been before... Well, long before Andrew had been born. Before they'd decided to live out their days here as husband and wife.

He heard the door open and gently close behind him. Beverly joined him, her arm wrapping securely around his waist.

"I'm sorry I...w-woke him," Jean-Luc said softly, stuttering slightly.

"He wasn't all the way awake. He's fine now." She ran a hand up over his shoulders. "How about you?"

Jean-Luc nodded. "I'm fine. I just..." His voice trailed off.

"You want to talk about it?"

"No. It's...an old dream."

"The accident?"

Somehow, Beverly knew. She always knew.

He nodded again. "I haven't dreamed it in a long time." But he'd thought about it. Every day. He was sure they all had. But years ago, they'd stopped talking about it, partly because they didn't want the children to hear.

"It will be better for them if they don't know where we come from," Deanna said, bouncing one-year-old Sam on her knee.

Jean-Luc stared down at his own tiny newborn son, cradled in Beverly's arms. "Then what do we tell them?"

"We can still tell them the truth. Your family is from France, Beverly's from Scotland, Will's from the Alaskan territory."

"And yours?" Jean-Luc questioned pointedly.

"Well, my father was Irish."

Will crossed over from the other side of the room. "But is it fair to them? Won't they always sense that there's something we're keeping from them?" He gazed at Deanna. "Especially Sam. He's only a quarter Betazoid, but surely he'll have a deeper degree of empathy than a full Human child."

Deanna nodded. "Yes, he probably will. But I still think it would be better for them if they didn't know."

Beverly looked up from the infant she was holding. "I agree with Deanna. This is our home now. The only home they'll ever have. Let's not confuse them with a world they'll never see."

And it had been decided. They'd all agreed. But someone had forgotten to tell Jean-Luc's subconscious mind. And the dreams seemed to haunt him more than they did the others.

A simple trip to a conference that had gone so terribly wrong. A rip in space that had somehow hurled their shuttle back through time and deposited them on Earth, on the side of a mountain, in the backwoods of Tennessee. The year: 1903.

Riker, Troi, and Crusher had escaped serious injury, but Picard had not been so lucky. He had collided with the shuttle's instrument panel, the metal tearing into the side of his skull. It was a miracle that he had lived. Crusher had been afraid that he would die in the middle of the unknown wilderness. He'd lain comatose for almost a week. And then, one day, his eyes had opened.

"Jean-Luc?" Crusher bent over him, running a wet cloth gently over his forehead. "Jean-Luc, can you hear me?"

He groaned softly and swallowed. His mouth and throat were dry. "Wa. . ." His lips tried to form the word. But he couldn't say it.

Crusher understood, though, and held a cup to his lips. He sipped at the cool liquid, the wetness running down over his chin.

"Jean-Luc, do you know who I am?"

He stared up at the woman. He knew her. "Bev..." he murmured, then closed his eyes. He was so tired.

He felt her squeeze his hand. "Yes, Jean-Luc. Yes."

His recovery had been difficult. There was some brain damage, and his speech had been affected; it was halting and slow. He found that he didn't always know the right words for what he wanted to say. He had trouble naming objects, and it was hard for him to remember what had happened to them. His ability to walk had been impaired; his left side was weak. But both Deanna and Beverly worked with him daily, and he was finally able to get around their small campsite with the aid of a wooden cane that Will had made.

Still, they had no idea where they were.

"I have to go down out of these mountains in order to find out where we are," Riker announced one evening after they'd been there for a little over two weeks.

Three pairs of eyes stared at him.

"You...you can't go..." Picard licked his lips, searching for the word he wanted. He found it. "...go alone."

Riker studied his captain's worried expression. He didn't want to countermand him. But there was no other choice. "I have to go. We don't even know how many miles we are from any civilization. If there is any civilization in this area." Riker angrily pushed himself to his feet and began to pace around the campfire in circles. "We don't know where the hell we are. And apparently, neither does Starfleet."

He voiced the fear they all felt. They were lost. Terribly lost. So lost they may never be found.

"I'll go with you," Troi said firmly.

Riker turned toward her, his gaze set hard. "No. The three of you have to stay together. I'll be all right. If I don't find anything within a week, I'll turn back."

Riker had left the next day. Only two days later, he'd returned.

"We're on Earth," he explained, "only we've gone through some kind of rift in time. About a day's walk from here, I came across a small village. There's a store and an old-fashioned train station. It's a good thing we had other clothes besides our uniforms. I still looked a little out of place, but I managed to get some information. The village is called El Pano, Tennessee. The year is 1903. "

Jean-Luc wrapped both of his arms around Beverly, pulled her close. "It's hard to believe we've...k-kept it all hidden from the children," he said, stroking his fingers through her hair.

She rested her head on his chest. "Yes. It is." She looked up into his eyes. "But sometimes...I feel that we shouldn't have. As hard as we've tried to fit into life in these mountains, we're still looked upon as outsiders. Even when the children are playing with their friends, I know they feel it."

"We all do," Jean-Luc whispered, gently kissing her forehead. Then he turned to lead her across the porch to the door.

A small face at the window saw them coming and scampered back to his bunk bed. Andrew was under the covers, pretending to be asleep, when his parents came inside.

~vVv~

Deanna Troi watched the sun come up through the window beside her bed, the silver-grey light of the morning sky turning pink above the hazy blue ridge of the mountain. The birds were beginning to sing and their music blended with the soft, familiar sounds of her sleeping family: Sam and Thomas tossing restlessly in their bed, Matilda sucking her thumb in her crib, and Will's gentle snoring beside her. She turned away from the window and stared down at him. He slept with his mouth slightly open, each breath ruffling the hair on his upper lip. Deanna sighed, her fingers longing to touch his beard. She nestled back into the bed beside him, fit her body against his. He stirred in his sleep, reaching an arm out, pulling her close. Hesitantly, she placed her hand against his cheek. His snoring stopped; he closed his mouth and opened one eye.

"Good morning," she whispered, nuzzling his neck, kissing the point of his chin.

"Umm," he responded, covering her lips with his, hands roaming over her body.

Turning on to their sides, they made love quietly under the blankets as the sun rose and the morning dawned.

~vVv~

"Hey, hey, slow down." Jean-Luc grabbed Walker's shoulder as he flew around the table, sturdy legs propelling his four-year-old body across the floor. "No running in the house. Now, sit...sit down and eat your breakfast." He steered his son toward the wooden bench beside the table and then sat down heavily in the chair at the end.

Beverly noticed the slowness in Jean-Luc's steps, how he'd had to lean against the table to steady himself, the hesitancy in his speech. She'd been noticing it more in the past several days, but she didn't say anything. Instead, she placed a plate stacked high with hot, golden pancakes in front of him.

"You've... outdone yourself this morning," he complimented her, reaching for the bottle of maple syrup in the middle of the table.

"I made them, Papa," Margaret piped, skipping over from the kitchen area.

"You did?" Jean-Luc raised an eyebrow at his daughter. "All by yourself?"

Margaret laughed, nose crinkling, blue eyes so much like her mother's. "Mama helped," she admitted, tossing a long brown braid over her shoulder.

"Cookin's women's work," Andrew snorted from the other side of the table.

"And who told you that, young man?" Beverly inquired, crossing over and putting a hand firmly on the boy's shoulder.

Andrew slouched lower, his chin almost touching the table top. "That's what Creed Allen says," he mumbled.

"Your Uncle Will likes to cook," Jean-Luc reminded him.

"Yeah, and he's not a woman," Margaret added.

"He wears Aunt D'anna's apron," Walker giggled.

And they all laughed at the image of the tall, bearded man with Deanna's flowered apron tied around his waist.

"Let's make sure and...k-keep that in the family," Jean-Luc suggested as he caught his breath.

"Well, I sure am not gonna tell Creed Allen that my uncle wears an apron," Andrew vowed, shoveling a forkful of pancake into his mouth.

"No, I don't think Creed would understand," Beverly agreed.

"I'm not sure I understand," Jean-Luc frowned. "Even after all these years."

"He likes to cook," Beverly sighed, sitting down next to Andrew. "There's nothing wrong with that."

"But Mama, he looks silly in Aunt Deanna's apron," Andrew persisted.

"Yes, he does. But he enjoys cooking." She fixed a steady gaze on her son. "And in this family, we respect each other's interests. Is that understood?"

Andrew frowned slightly, but answered her. "Yes, ma'am."

"And, for your information, Creed Allen is wrong. Cooking is not 'women's work'."

"But Mama..."

"No, Andrew, your mother is right," Jean-Luc said firmly. "Neither of us believes that any sort of work belongs to either women or men. You know yourself that your mother is just as...fine a doctor as Doc MacNeill."

Andrew nodded. "I know. But why won't any of the families in the cove let Mama take care of them?"

Jean-Luc glanced at Beverly, the expression in his eyes one of regret. This wasn't where he'd wanted the conversation to end up. "Andrew we've talked about this before. The families aren't used to the idea of a...w-woman doctor. But just because they're not used to it, doesn't mean it isn't possible. There are... many women doctors in the larger cities outside of the mountains."

"Then why don't we move there?" Margaret asked, having been listening intently.

Beverly sighed exhaustively, and before Jean-Luc had a chance to answer, she brought the conversation to a halt. "Because we're not. We live here. Now, all of you, eat your breakfast or you'll be late for school."

Three heads, two brown, one red, dipped closer to their plates. Beverly smiled across the table at Jean-Luc, shaking her head. He returned her smile. Before they'd come here, he'd never imagined that he would have a family. Let alone have a family with Beverly Crusher. Now, he couldn't imagine not having one, nor having one with any other woman than the one sitting across from him.

~vVv~

Will's hand rested on Deanna's round stomach, and he blinked in surprise when he felt the sharp blow.

"Deanna?" he gasped softly.

She snuggled closer in his arms, her body molded to his. "Our other three children are awake as well," she sighed sleepily.

Will smiled and kissed the back of her neck. "I know. Sam's making breakfast. And Thomas is getting Matilda dressed." He kissed her again. "I told them you and the baby needed some more sleep. But it seems that the baby is wide awake." He ran his hand over her stomach and was rewarded with another kick. "He's quite a little fighter."

Deanna laughed. "I keep telling you that this one's another girl."

"And I keep telling you you're wrong," he said, kissing her one last time before reluctantly pulling away and getting out of bed.

Deanna started to get out of bed also, but his voice stopped her. "Oh, no you don't. You're sleeping in this morning."

She pushed herself up in bed, leaned against the headboard and stared at him. "I most certainly am not. The children need to be fed and dressed and sent off to school."

"I can do that," Will answered as he pulled on a pair of trousers, hitching the suspenders over his bare shoulders.

Deanna frowned. "Then why is Sam making breakfast?"

Will rolled his eyes, searching for an answer. "Because he wanted to."

She nodded. "I see. And I suppose Thomas wanted to get Matilda dressed?"

Will grinned. "It just so happens that he did." He propped one knee on the side of the bed and leaned over toward Deanna. "He pleaded with me. He said, 'Please, Daddy, please let me dress my little sister'." He imitated Thomas' small, high-pitched voice.

Deanna playfully swatted her hand at his chest. "And I suppose he really wanted to change her diapers as well?"

Will pulled back, escaping another gentle slap. "I tried to talk him into it, but..." He sighed. "I've already taken care of her. So, you see, we're doing just fine. Now, stay in bed. I'll bring you some breakfast in a little while."

He pushed back the curtain that separated their bed from the rest of the one room cabin and disappeared. Deanna settled back into the pillows. She felt the baby kick again, and held her hands to her stomach. This one was going to be just like Will: strong and insistent.

~vVv~