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Smoothing his uniform, Picard straightens as three figures materialize on the transporter pad in the transporter room. Lips curling into a small smile, Picard takes in the sight of the familiar faces of two boys, a fifteen year-old in a bulky sweater, and a smaller boy of nine in a turtle neck sweater. Behind them stands a leggy redhead, their mother and the woman who had, from a distance, always owned his heart.

“Papa!” The nine year-old boy with light brown hair jumps off of the transporter pad and leaps toward Picard, his eyes wide in excitement.

Putting an arm around his son, Jean-Luc laughs heartily. “Louis! I think you’ve grown a foot! What is your mother feeding you?”

Giggling, Louis wraps his little arms around Picard’s torso as best as he can, overjoyed to see his father. “She makes me eat broccoli. I hate broccoli.”

Rolling her eyes, Beverly Crusher pads up next to Picard, shuffling a travel case in her hands. “It’s been a year, Jean-Luc. A lot’s changed.”

Extending his hand to the older boy to shake, Picard’s brows furrow. “ A year?”

Nodding stiffly, Beverly stands holding her case. “When you came to Earth to meet with Starfleet Command about taking the Enterprise.” Picard had officially been granted command of the Enterprise a year ago, and the ship had only just left Earth and started its first mission on Farpoint Station, where they had picked up Picard’s second officer, Will Riker, and Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Crusher .

Picard hardly has a chance to process that it’s been over a year since he’s seen his son before the boy is tugging at his arm.

“Papa, let’s see the ship!” Louis tugs Picard’s elbow, his face glowing in anticipation.

“Louis!” Beverly scolds, glowering at her youngest son. “We talked about this. We just got here. Don’t pester your father. He’s the commanding officer of this ship. He’s very busy.”

Still a little surprised by her admission that they hadn’t seen each other in a year, Picard turns to Beverly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have met you all on Earth before we set out.”

Waving him off, Beverly flicks her hand. “That’s alright. My mission got delayed. These things happen. No big deal.” Beverly had been posted at Starfleet Medical for a decade, since her late husband Jack Crusher had been killed. On occasion, such as this one recently, she would be given a special away assignment. In this case, they had made arrangements for her to transfer to the Enterprise, her new full -time assignment, when the Enterprise reached Farpoint Station.

“Well, you’re here now,” replies Picard optimistically.

“Can we see the Bridge, Papa?” asks Louis hopefully, pulling Picard’s hand.

“Louis!” cries Beverly in exasperation, glaring at the boy.

Chuckling, Picard puts a hand on the boy’s head, ruffling his soft brown hair. “I think your mother would like to get settled. How about we go check out your new cabin?”

Smiling, Louis bobs his head, gripping his father’s hand.

With a knowing smile, Jean-Luc reaches over to take the travel case from Beverly’s hand. “Follow me. I’ll show you your quarters.”

Letting out a deep breath, Beverly smiles trepidatiously .

* *
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“Sir, I’ve read all the ship’s technical manuals. I’m familiar with all the mechanics, all the processes. I wondered if there’s any chance I can see the Bridge?” Hands behind his back, Wesley Crusher, Beverly’s fifteen year-old, holds his breath as he awaits a reply.

Jean-Luc, on the floor of the boys’ bedroom sorting through a couple boxes with Louis, turns around to address Wesley.

“Hey! If Wes gets to see the Bridge then I get to see the Bridge!” protests Louis, dropping the book in his hand onto the floor.
Rolling his eyes, Wesley crosses his arms. “I’m older than you, and I know what I’m doing.”

Letting out a deep exhale, Picard frowns. “Wesley, I’m afraid I can’t permit children on the Bridge. I’m sorry.”

“That’s not fair!” whines Louis, kneeling on the ground between the boxes.

“What’s not fair?” Beverly pokes her head into the boys’ room, where Picard is helping Wesley and Louis unpack and put away some of their books, toys and clothes.

Standing up, Picard shoots her a knowing smile, indicating that he is extricating himself from the conflict. “How’s it going out there?”

“Fine,” replies Beverly with a casual shrug.She has a few boxed she’d like to unpack, but Beverly is anxious to check out the ship’s Sickbay.

“”Papa,” Louis calls, glancing between the two beds along opposite walls in the small bedroom. “Where do you sleep?”

Taken aback, Picard turns to Beverly, at a loss for words.

Leaning in the door frame, Beverly crosses her arms over her chest, smiling easily. “Papa has his own quarters, sweetie.”

Confused, Louis glances between his mother and father. “But, I thought we were a family. Why aren’t we together?”

Face falling, Beverly’s heart breaks at the look of bewildered innocence on her nine year-old’s face.

“We are together, Cadet,” Jean-Luc replies warmly, kneeling on the ground next to his son. Ruffling the boy’s hair, Jean-Luc drops a kiss to his crown.

“I thought when we came on the Enterprise we were all gonna be a family,” admits Louis, hazel eyes pooling with fat tears.

“We are a family,” states Beverly, crossing the room to drop to her knees in front of Louis.

“Papa was on the old ship. He was working, so he couldn’t live with us before. But, we’re all together now!” blubbers Louis, tears rolling down his cheeks.

Wesley watches his little brother awkwardly, feeling bad,unable to even tease his brother.

Beverly draws her younger son into her lap, swiping the tears from his eyes. “Louis…”

“Hey, Cadet, dry those eyes,” orders Jean-Luc softly, squeezing Louis’ hand. “There’s nothing to be upset about. We’re all here. I’m looking forward to spending time with all of you.”

“I wanna come live with you,” pleads Louis, grasping Jean-Luc’s hand.

“Whoa!” Beverly puffs. “Excuse me…”

Forestalling her, Jean-Luc smiles in understanding, putting a hand up in defence. Looking to his son, Jean-Luc rubs the tears stains from his cheek. “That doesn’t seem right. Don’t you think you’d miss your mother and your big brother?”

Lips trembling, Louis glances up at his mother and older brother before finally returning his attention to Jean-Luc.

“I’ll tell you what…” Jean-Luc draws Louis into his arms. “You can visit me in my quarters. All the time. Not just you, Wes and your mother. I promise, we’ll all spend plenty of time together.”

Calming, Louis sniffles. “Can I sleep over?”

“We’ll see,” smiles Beverly. “Come on, you’ve got some organizing here to do.” Jumping to her feet, Beverly redirects them to the task at hand.

Slowly, Louis climbs out of Jean-Luc’s lap. Picard rises, ruffling Louis’ hair as the kids prepare to return to sorting through their boxes.

Picard follows Beverly out of the boys’ room and into the living area.

Bowing her head, Beverly sighs, running a hand through her hair.

Pausing behind her, Jean-Luc lays a hand on the small of her back. “Hey. What’s the matter?”

Jumping, Beverly whips around to face him, exhaling audibly. “Jean-Luc…”

Rubbing her shoulders, Jean-Luc locks their gazes. “Hey. You don’t seem overly thrilled to be here. What’s wrong?”

With a weary smile, Beverly shakes her head. “I am happy to be here, Jean-Luc. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be here.”

“I’ve waited a year for the Enterprise,” Jean-Luc tells her, sliding his hands down her arms. “For three years before that I was asking Starfleet for the first Galaxy class ship, a ship where I could bring my family. A ship we could call home.”

Bobbing her head, Beverly smiles lightly. “I know.”

“This is what we wanted, what we’ve waited nine years for,” exclaims Jean-Luc, taking both of her hands in his.

Genuinely smiling, Beverly nods. “I know.”

“You’re not excited?” Jean-Luc lifts a brow.

Pursing her lips, Beverly’s eyes wander to the door of the boys’ bedroom. “It’s just a lot, Jean-Luc. I’ve uprooted my kids. Louis has been waiting so long for this, to finally be close to you. He’s built it up so much in his head…We’re hardly in the door and he’s in tears.”

“Beverly,” murmurs Jean-Luc, his fingers tracing her palms. “I never want to hurt him, or Wes, or you. I just want to do what’s right.”

Letting out a long breath, Beverly frowns. “Let’s just take our time and figure out how we’re going to do this, okay?”

Nodding his agreement, Jean-Luc exhales. “Of course.”

* *

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* *

“Mom!” Wesley rushes up to his mother in Sickbay, his face lit up.

Beverly, in the middle of a conversation with a Vulcan doctor on her staff, smiles apologetically before turning toward her oldest son.

“Mom! Did you see the Engineering? You have to go check it out!” Wes exclaims excitedly as the Vulcan doctor excuses herself.

“Oh, another time, honey. I’ll be busy getting Sickbay in order,” responds Beverly, crossing her arms over her chest.

Picard approaches them in the middle of the emergency ward, Louis clutching his hand.

“So, how was the tour?” Beverly inquires conversationally, glancing between her sons as Picard and Louis walk up to them.

“Mom, you gotta come play in the holodeck!” exclaims Louis, chewing on a piece of red liquorice.

Raising a brow, Beverly looks between Jean-Luc and her son. “Candy?”

“What? Is he allergic?” asks Jean-Luc in alarm.

Stifling her exasperation, Beverly extends her hand palm-up to Louis, motioning for him to release the candy.

Disappointed, Louis hands his mother the piece of liquorice. “Papa let me.”

Hand sticky from the candy, Beverly frowns. “We’re going to save this for after your dinner. Say ‘thank you’ for the tour and go on to our quarters and get cleaned up. I’ll be back shortly and get dinner.”

Tugging on Jean-Luc’s uniform sleeve, Louis peers up at his father. “Papa, will you have dinner with us?”

Relaxing marginally, Beverly smiles at Jean-Luc. “You’ve spent all day with them. If you want to relax, I completely understand. But, you’re welcomed to join us.”
r32;“Yes! Please, Papa!” begs Louis.

“I’d love to,” answers Jean-Luc, laying a hand on top of Louis’ head. “I’ll take them back to your quarters?”

“Thank you,” replies Beverly gratefully. “I’m just going to talk to Doctor Hill for a quick minute and then I’ll be home.”

* *
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* *

“One more?” pleads Louis, nestled in his bed as Jean-Luc perches on the edge of the bed next to him.

“That’s an entire novel!” laughs Jean-Luc. “I think you’re stalling. Time to call it a night.” After they had had dinner, Jean-Luc, Wesley and Louis had played chess. When it was time for Louis to go to bed, Louis had asked that Jean-Luc read him a story. The boy is capable of reading short novels independently, but he had wanted his father to read to him and tuck him into bed, having had only his mother to do so in the past.

“Don’t go, Papa,” begs Louis fearfully, wrapping his small arms around Jean-Luc’s neck.

Entering the boys’ room, Beverly is surprised to observe her younger son clinging to Jean-Luc in the bed.

“Hey, it’s alright,” coos Jean-Luc, rubbing the boy’s back. “Take it easy, Cadet.”

“What’s wrong?” Beverly inquires in concern, sitting on the end of the bed.

“Don’t go,” repeats Louis, clutching Jean-Luc’s back, burying his face in his chest.

“Hey, you’re fine, Louis,” states Jean-Luc calmly, stroking his hair. “I’m right here. Just close your eyes. I’ll stay until you fall asleep.”

Apprehensive, Beverly watches in concern as Jean-Luc tucks the boy back into the bed.

Jean-Luc drops a kiss to his forehead, brushing Louis’ hair aside. “Sweet dreams, Cadet.”

Waiting until the boy has succumbed to sleep, Jean-Luc brings the blankets up to his chest and climbs off of the bed.

Beverly rises off of the bed and moves toward the door, her lips set in a tight line.

“Beverly…” Jean-Luc starts, walking up to her as she pauses in the doorway.

Crossing her arms over her chest, Beverly fixes him with a pointed stare. “This was a bad idea.”

Raising a brow, Jean-Luc’s lips part, incredulous. “What?”

Tears welling in her eyes, Beverly is exhausted, confused and scared. “I shouldn’t have come. We were fine, Jean-Luc. We had a perfectly fine life. And now Louis is all hurt and confused!”

Eyes wide, Jean-Luc’s jaw drops staring at her in disbelief. “You’re blaming me? Beverly, I’m trying to be a father. No, I’m not perfect. But, you haven’t let me be one the past nine years!”

Flushing hot, Beverly’s eyes sting with tears. “I’ve raised those boys single-handedly, Jean-Luc…”

“Because you wanted to,” Jean-Luc reminds her quietly. “Because you were ashamed that after Jack died we fell into bed, and Louis happened.”

Tears dribbling down her cheeks, Beverly stammers. “That’s not true!”

“Well, I am proud of my son,” spits Jean-Luc, grasping her arm as he passes through the door. “You may have had a nice life before you got here. But, your son didn’t know his father. I’m here to rectify that. I hope you are, too.”

Whimpering, Beverly swallows hard as Jean-Luc slips out into the living area. r32;r32;


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