A.N.: This is sort of a sequel to my novella, "A Dreary Man in a Tedious Job". That story is complete unto itself. And to understand what is going on here, I do recommend that you read that story first.
This story is part of a series of both short and long stories that I am planning to set in this alternate TAPESTRY universe which is a separate alternate universe from all of my other novels and stories.
In "A Dreary Man in a Tedious Job", Q does not return Captain Picard to his Enterprise. Instead, Jean-Luc is still stuck in the alternate universe where he is a lieutenant. In the mean time, the charms of being a lieutenant senior grade are beginning to grow on Jean-Luc as he learns just how much Beverly loves him. And how he can now freely love Beverly in return.
STAR TREK is Paramount's property. I'm just playing in their playground for a while. All the usual disclaimers apply.
And please, if you feel so inclined, leave a review - good or bad. It's what encourages writers to keep on writing, if only to prove the negative reviewer is in error. Heaven knows, I turned a short story into a novel because people kept encouraging me. And their kind words have brought about my continuation of that alternate universe which is something that I don't think that I really would have done without those reviews.
A LESS DREARY MAN IN A TEDIOUS JOB
He was a contented man at the moment. The former captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D stretched, appreciating the feel of the Risian grey cotton sheets sliding against his naked body. Lieutenant Senior Grade Jean-Luc Picard, smiled to himself, and then he rolled over onto his side on his new, much larger bed, and studied in great detail the woman sleeping next to him. She was the one who had presented him with the sheets. And though, in theory he disdained such indulgences, when he shared such luxuries with Beverly, he found himself appreciating them. Soft sheets… silken skin… He approved…
Ever since the Lenarian incident, Beverly had been spending all of her nights with him. And Jean-Luc Picard did not mind this one little bit. Especially since, for some reason, he'd been kicked out of his old quarters and assigned new ones, two decks above his old residence. He had supposed that having been promoted to lieutenant senior grade had been the impetus for the change in his shipboard address. His new quarters were slightly larger than the old though the walls were still Starfleet grey. And the walls did have one important feature that the old quarters did not have - a view portal. It was small; nothing like what could be found in the captain's quarters. But still, he now could gaze at the stars as he wished… with Beverly in his arms.
A low beep alerted him to a message on his view screen. Sliding out of bed and donning his short grey robe, Jean-Luc made note of the fact that at times, Beverly could seemingly sleep through anything. Including hails from their captain.
He went to his desk and read the short message. Captain Halloway wanted to see him in the captain's ready room at 1430 hours. Since that was hours before his gamma duty shift began, Picard did wonder what the captain wanted.
Unfortunately, he found out.
At the duly appointed time, he stood before the captain of this Enterprise. His double pips gleamed. His boots bore an inspection-ready shine. In short, he looked and tried to act as if he were the perfect senior grade lieutenant, who was now a gamma shift bridge officer under direct command of Lieutenant Commander Data.
The sandy haired, sixtyish, somewhat stout captain of Scottish and mixed ancestry seated behind the ready room's desk hid his amusement at Lieutenant Picard's oh-so-proper stance and attitude. Granted, Captain Thomas Ian Halloway ran a by-the-book starship, but on the few occasions when he'd encountered Lieutenant Picard, he got the impression that Picard was out to out-protocol him. Of course, since Picard had saved his life during the Lenarian incident, he was inclined to overlook such an attitude. Besides, it wouldn't hurt Commander Riker to be aware of an another bridge officer who somewhat subscribed to Captain Halloway's point of view.
Ever since the incident where Lieutenant Commander Troi had been rescued from the Romulans, Captain Halloway had not asked any of his senior officers what had really happened. And how they had known where and when to rescue Deanna Troi in the first place. But midst all of that turmoil and intrigue, Captain Halloway had gotten the distinct impression that this lowly lieutenant had been smack dab in the midst of it all. He had intended to interrogate Lieutenant Picard after the DeSeve and the Romulan defector's incident, but then Picard had saved his life by taking the Lenarian blaster shot that had been intended for the captain of the Enterprise. And since the end result of all of this were some glowing reports of the captain of the Enterprise's actions to Starfleet Command, Halloway had decided not to delve too deeply. He was a man with ambitions beyond the captain's chair. Still, he was curious.
This time, instead of making the subordinate wait at attention for a few minutes in front of his desk before deigning to speak to the lowly lieutenant, Thomas Halloway nodded in the direction of the lone chair in front of his desk.
"Be seated, Lieutenant Picard."
Somewhat surprised by this unexpected gesture, Picard nodded and seated himself on the chair, still maintaining a proper, straight back position.
Halloway stood. "I'm getting some coffee. Would you like something, Lieutenant?"
Now, really startled by this question, Picard uttered, "Tea."
Captain Halloway added, "Earl Grey, I believe." Even though the man didn't move or say anything, Halloway could tell that he had really shocked this lieutenant. For he was not a captain who normally took note of his subordinates preferences in most matters. Going to the replicator, he returned with the two steaming mugs and handed Picard his tea. He didn't reveal that he'd learned of Picard's beverage preference during his visit to sickbay to see how Picard was recovering after the Lenarian incident.
"Thank you, Sir." Picard felt quite uncomfortable. He could count on one hand the number of times he had shared hospitality in this ready room with his officers on either side of the captain's desk. It just was not something that he'd readily done when he had been a captain - much less a lieutenant.
Smiling to himself, Halloway returned to his comfortable captain's desk chair. "I suppose you're wondering why I ordered you here, Jean-Luc."
Picard nodded. He still had to repress his instinctive reaction to someone calling him by his first name in this reality.
Halloway continued. "Though your official record doesn't seem to indicate it too much, I've been given the impression that you're somewhat skilled with diplomatic matters."
"I have some experience, Sir."
"In fact, your record doesn't seem to indicate too much of anything, when it comes to your abilities. Yet Commander Riker's recent reports about you are positively interesting. Why were you hiding your abilities in the lower decks all these years?"
Jean-Luc hadn't a clue as to how to really answer that question. Fortunately, Halloway came up with his own answer.
"I suppose it is because of Beverly." He watched as with a steady hand, Jean-Luc picked up his mug of tea, drank a bit, and then returned it to the desk's edge. The captain was impressed that this lieutenant was not being intimidated by these personal questions. "I learned a long time ago that anyone Beverly considered to be a friend, was a person to make note of. Beverly does not grant her friendship - or her sexual favors - imprudently." He could tell that Picard did not like his referencing Beverly's private affairs in such a manner. The captain sighed out loud. "I have been courting the lady for some time. My family has been friends with the Howards for decades. My grandmother was Felisa's second cousin." At this pronouncement, the captain observed that the lieutenant raised an eyebrow.
"I was not aware of your connection to Caldos, Sir."
Thomas knowingly smiled. "Actually, Beverly and I go all the way back to Scotland. Our ancestors do, that is." Halloway drank some of his coffee. "I would have preferred it if Beverly had chosen me as a lover. But once Wesley became Locutus, I knew that would never happen. My duty as captain to this ship would prevent it."
Picard decided that it was wiser to take another sip of Earl Grey. The last thing he wanted to discuss with this man was the captain's treatment of Wesley after he'd been rescued from the Borg. For Halloway was one of the many in Starfleet who still in some way, blamed Wesley Crusher for becoming Locutus. None of them seemed to grasp the fact that they should have been thankful that Wesley had been picked as Locutus. For though he was young, Wesley had been able to save the Federation in the end. Not in quite the same way that Picard had done it, but still, Picard doubted that there were few others with the mental fortitude to have survived and succeeded like Wesley had.
Halloway didn't expect a response from Picard. From what little he'd observed of this officer, the man kept his thoughts to himself. "Anyway, because of the way you handled that situation, that's why I'm considering you for a new assignment."
In spite of himself, Picard was curious. "New assignment?"
"Yes. If you could manage to discreetly date the woman that the captain was trying to woo at the same time, and not end up scrubbing exhaust manifolds with a manual toothbrush, then you are probably the right officer for the job."
"I am not sure that I understand, Sir…"
Then Halloway said that which would explain everything. "Lwaxana Troi."
This time Picard's hand did tremble as he returned his tea mug to the desk top.
"I take it that you know of the Ambassadress, Lieutenant Picard?"
Choosing his words carefully, the lieutenant answered the captain. "I know of the lady. I have met her in passing, but I doubt that Commander Troi's mother would remember me."
"And I'm sure that you have heard all the stories about the lady."
Picard nodded. "I have learned of a few improbable incidents…"
"Believe them. They're all probably true, and then some."
"I am well aware that Lwaxana Troi has a reputation and that dealing with the lady can be... problematic."
"We're picking up the Betazed delegation and taking them to the conference on Rigel X. Once they are on board, lieutenant, you will be the officer responsible for the handling of the Ambassadress."
Picard gulped. Suddenly, he felt sweat forming on the back of his neck and on his forehead.
The captain continued. "Do whatever you need to do even if it means not making the gamma shift on a daily basis. Just let Commander Data know when you can't make your shift." Halloway finished off his coffee. "Anyway, use any and all the ship's resources, officers, sedatives, booze - whatever. Just keep the lady away from me." The captain stood. So the lieutenant did as well. "Am I understood, Lieutenant Picard?"
"I will do my best, Sir." Picard shuddered at the thought of what it would take to control the Ambassadress.
The captain sighed again, knowing that he might be asking more of the lieutenant than was humanly possible for a mere mortal to achieve. "Just do your best. I am well aware that the lady is a formidable force of the universe. I won't court martial or demote you - unless I find myself married to her before we reach Rigel X."
Picard stood attention. "Aye, Sir," he replied. And then he considered what level in Dante's rings of hell he should mentally consign that member of the Continuum that was continuing to plague his life. For it sounded like Lwaxana Troi was on a man hunt. And that she'd set her sights on the captain of the Enterprise…
At least it wasn't him. This time. He hoped.