The Only Way To Go
"Did the morning come too early?
Was the night not long enough?
Does a tear of hesitation fall
on everything you touch?
Then it might just be a lesson
for the hasty heart to know..."
Will Riker rolled over in bed and groaned out loud. He immediately and ardently wished that he hadn't. The sound of his own misery, piercing through the silence of his cabin, seemed to serve only in aggravating his splitting headache. He brought his hands to his temples, silently cursing his own stupidity. He had spent much of the previous evening engaged in a spirited one-on-one with a bottle of Romulan Ale. The ale had, undoubtedly, won.
The stench of the stale liquid still permeated the air that met Riker's offended nostrils. He tried his best to sit up, but, discovering that action caused the room to spin at a nauseating pace, he quickly and decisively abandoned the effort. So he was left to do nothing but wallow in his own misery- his own self-inflicted, unbearable misery. He reached back through the haze that the ale had so kindly left upon his brain, to the events that led up to his ill-advised drinking binge. It made him want to spit.
Out of all of the words in all of the languages that Will Riker was familiar with, the one he had chosen for that particular occasion; to answer what could have been one of the defining questions of his life, had been, "sure." "Sure." Not, 'yes' or even 'ok', but "sure".
As in "I am certain that what you propose will have no profound affect on my state of being."
"Sure", as in "I know beyond doubt that I will have no problems, now or in the future with the action you are about to take, or with its repercussions."
"Sure," like, "I certify that I will positively never object to any of the events I am now allowing to be set into motion."
"Sure." He had said, "Sure," when what he had wanted to say was, "Go to hell."
It had been barely eight hours ago that Lieutenant Worf had rung his doorchime. It had been an unusual occurrence, Worf not being one to make a great number of social calls. But Will had let him in. There was no reason not to. It was not like he was a mind reader, not like he could tell what was coming.
But he should have known. Will swore to himself a hundred times over a hundred drinks that he should have known. He was angry with himself for never having picked up on the signs; for dismissing what he had seen, what he had felt.
He knew that Deanna and Worf had been spending an unusual amount of time together. Early on, he had written the relationship off altogether, as mutual concern for Alexander. And, when they began arriving at poker games together, and dining in ten-forward more and more often, he was not in the least concerned about their growing friendship. He had hoped it might make Worf a little more pleasant to be around. He had never dreamt of the two of them taking it any further. They were just too different.
"That's how stupid you are, Will Riker," he spat aloud, only further disturbing his pounding head. He didn't care. He deserved every bit of pain he was feeling. He had done it to himself.
Worf had explained that he and Deanna had been growing closer; that he wanted to see Deanna on a 'romantic level'. Will remembered having to suppress the urge to laugh at that, the thought of Worf being romantic was... well, it was beyond Will Riker's imagination. But he didn't laugh, he remembered, because Worf seemed deadly serious.
The Klingon, ever honorable, ever valiant, had come to ask his blessing; no, his permission to, how had he put it... 'Court' Deanna. He told the Commander that he felt asking this permission was the honorable thing to do- considering their past.
Again, Will had to fight back laughter. It was not like he had any claim to her. Not anymore. Even Worf had related to him that she had thought the entire thing to be ridiculous; that she had balked at the idea of his discussing their plans with Commander Riker, asking, "Why, is he coming?"
Will was certain that Worf had thrown that part in to make sure Will knew that this would most likely proceed with or without his blessing. What choice did he have, really? He could have said everything he wanted to say, and to what end? He could only imagine Deanna's coming at him, flying into one of her infamous rages, demanding an explanation. After all, they hadn't been a couple in a very long time.
But still... he wasn't warming to the idea of Deanna's forging a serious relationship with a Klingon, even if that Klingon was his own trusted friend. If he had been honest with himself, he would have realized that he didn't take kindly to her having a serious relationship with anyone. He knew he was being selfish about it and he didn't rightly care. And besides, he thought, what about her damned 'not-while-we're-on-the-same-ship' rule? Why had she so easily thrown it out the proverbial window for Worf? It had been her pat, convenient excuse for keeping him at arms length over these years. So why was it now that she was willing to go against it? And why, in hell's name, for Worf?
He seriously considered telling the Klingon to stay away from her. His mind concocted a million, somewhat ridiculous, yet plausible reasons he could have given Worf to stay away. And he knew Worf would have done it. If it meant a transfer, he would have done it. Worf was nothing if not a man of his word. But this was obviously something Deanna wanted. She had been spending an awful lot of time with Worf. And he would never, under any circumstance, deny her any modicum of happiness. And if being with Worf was going to make her happy; well then Will Riker be damned. So he had looked Worf square in the eye and said,
"Sure." That damned word echoed in his head like a prophecy; like an epitaph. He had sealed his own fate and he knew it the minute that evil word had escaped his fool lips.
"Sure. Please. Be my guest. Tear my heart into as many pieces as you possibly can. And do me a favor, will you... let me watch. Do it right in front of me. And in full view of everyone I know and love. I haven't experienced the requisite level of misery to crawl into a hole and die yet, and you wish to arrange that for me? Sure." He was certain that he had added some superfluous pleasantry to turn 'sure' into a complete sentence. But he hadn't heard a single word after that one.
That one, single, terrible, hateful word. "Sure."
and let your feelings grow accustomed
to the dark.
And by morning's light,
You just might solve the problems
of the heart.
And it all might be a lesson,
for the hasty heart to know..."
"Sure?" He had said "Sure." Well, what had she really expected him to say? "Absolutely not,"? Or how about, "How dare you!". She knew he would never have said those things. She knew him better than that. She knew him better than anyone.
Deanna stared out the biggest window in her bedroom and wished that she could pluck the stars from her view. They shone so brightly, so infallibly, so constantly that, in her current state of mind, made her unbearably nauseous. She turned her eyes back to the darkness she had tried to achieve in her cabin. It wasn't as dark as she wanted it to be. It couldn't be dark enough as far as she was concerned. But the offensive light of the millions of stars in the path of the Enterprise intruded upon her inner sanctum. She wanted to scream.
In fact, at first she almost DID scream. But Worf had been standing less than two feet away from her and so she had though better of it. Probably a good move. Worf could never in a million years understand what, at that moment, had made her want to scream. After all, it had been good news he delivered.
He had come to her quarters beaming. Well, as close to beaming as one could be and still be Klingon, she had figured. He related to her that he had just spoken with Commander Riker in regards to their relationship; that he had asked the Commander's permission for them to 'court'. Laughingly, she had asked,
"Oh, and what did he have to say?" She stopped laughing very abruptly when Worf had replied,
"I believe his exact word was 'sure".
Worf had gone to ask Will permission to date her and Will had answered "sure." Deanna hated that. And furthermore, she hated the very fact that she hated that. For the first time in a long time Deanna Troi, the trained psychologist, the consummate professional, had absolutely no grasp on what she was feeling.
What had she really thought he would say? Did she honestly think that he would object? Try and lay some claim to her that they both knew was long since expired? She knew he wouldn't have done that. And she knew that she would have given him an earful if he had.
But still... there was this little, tiny, nagging voice in the back of her head; this smidgen of something deep down inside of her that would have given anything for him to have told Worf "no". For him to have belittled the lieutenant with talk of the Imzadi bond, and soul mates, and eternal love. Part of her, admittedly a tiny part, but a tiny vocal part at the very least, wished beyond anything for him to have come running in and to have thrown his arms around her, vowing to love her forever. And that fact disturbed her. That little voice disturbed her. It wasn't as if she didn't want to see Worf. Quite the contrary; their new relationship dynamic had been largely her doing.
Well then why in hell was it that she was so disturbed over Will's telling him "sure"? It was his choice of words that bothered her the most. It was almost like a thoughtless answer. He could have been more tender, he could have said, "it's alright," or given the well-intentioned Klingon a hesitant, "ok" or a thoughtful nod. But "Sure"?
"Sure, Worf. Take her. Have a good time. It'll be a relief. But when she goes all high-maintenance and teary eyed on you, don't say I never told ya so."
She began to get angry with herself. She had resigned herself years ago that Will Riker was never again going to be in a position to hurt her. She had done a fine job of keeping their relationship on a professional, albeit friendly, level during their mutual tenure on the Enterprise. She was proud of herself for that. There had been so many times that she had just wanted to give in to temptation and confess her undying love for him. And now she was certainly glad that she hadn't.
It was obvious to her that he did not feel the same. She always thought that he had. For years, she had been secure in the knowledge that she was incomplete control of their relationship, and that she could have him back, if she wanted, simply by snapping a finger. She had obviously been very wrong about that. And if she was going to find out that Will Riker was not in love with her, this was by far the best way.
She could now direct her full attention toward Worf and the lovely thing that was happening between them. If Will Riker didn't love her- so what? She was now free to see Worf with no questions looming in the back of her mind. She would no longer be haunted by the what-if's and maybe someday's. She was going to look forward, eyes open, to a future where the 'comfortable' fiction she had created between herself and Will had become the truth. She had done this to herself and she knew it. But she wasn't about to give it another thought.
That was why, she rationalized, when Worf had invited her to dine with him the next night in his quarters, rather that ten-forward, she had responded with the one word that she felt suited the situation; the one word that still echoed through her mind like ice swirling around a glass,
"People reach new understandings all the time.
They take a second look,
Maybe change their minds.
People reach new understandings every day.
Tell me not to reach,
And I'll walk away."
"Come," Will called when his door chime sounded. What choice did he have, really? Whoever it was would have just kept ringing the damned thing until he answered. And his head was still in no shape to take the repeated ringing of the cursed device. When the doors parted to reveal his unexpected guest, he suddenly wished he had opted for the auditory assault. He was in no condition to face Deanna at this moment, and he was in no mood. She stepped inside his quarters, her soft, measured footfalls hardly even an assault on his ailing head, but that made her no less welcome at this moment. "Counselor," he addressed her coolly.
"You... you weren't on the bridge today, I- was-concerned," she stammered, looking down at him. He was slung over his couch in a manner that suggested he had just landed there and chosen to stay put rather than take the trouble to adjust himself.
"I had a headache," he answered her, not bothering to look her in the eye.
"Bull," she challenged. He did look up at her then, just tilting his head enough so that she could see that he was serious.
"The empty bottle of ale is still on my dresser if you care to verify it." Deanna shook her head.
"Why, Will?" she questioned him.
"You know me," he quipped in response, "Sometimes I get drunk and do stupid things; not always in that order."
"Will, I don't understand..." He cut her off,
"Do you remember how you introduced yourself to me?" he asked her, his speech still audibly slurred from the numbing effects of the large quantity of alcohol that was still trying to leave his system.
"No, I can't say that I do," she answered, "What does that have to do," he cut her off again,
"You said, 'I'm Deanna Troi and the answer is no." Deanna chuckled a little,
"I did say that didn't I" she chuckled. He was not laughing. In fact, he was not even smiling.
"I should have listened." He spat, yanking himself up off of the couch and stumbling toward his bedroom.
"Will?" She was absolutely dumbfounded by what he had just said to her. He was halfway to the bedroom when he turned to her and asked,
"Aren't you supposed to be somewhere?" Deanna's heart jumped clear in to her throat. Will had never, even in the face of a romantic rendez-vous, ever tried to get rid of her. And that was what he was clearly trying to do now. She answered him in the only way she could think to, with the truth.
"I'm supposed to meet Worf in a few minutes, but..."
"Then go." He demanded, venom practically oozing off each syllable. Deanna brought her hands onto her hips,
"Is that what this is about?" she whispered. Will either hadn't heard, or had chosen to ignore her. He had made the slow and arduous journey across the room to his bedchamber and had nearly collapsed against the doorframe for support. He looked pathetic and she was having none of it. "You gave us your blessing!" She reminded him, with more than a little hostility finding its way into her voice. He mumbled something. It was unintelligible, but melancholy in its very utterance. She softened her voice a little when she asked him,
"What was that?" He turned around to face her; all the anger and frustration and hurt she he had ever felt was splayed out across his face for her to see. She almost didn't recognize him as he looked at her and practically growled,
"I said I didn't mean it." Deanna's breath caught in her throat. He said he didn't mean it- he hadn't meant it. He hadn't been so quick to dismiss her- he hadn't dismissed her at all. He had...
"Then you..." she tried to make sense of what he had just said.
"Lied, Deanna," he finished, "I lied. I lied through my fool teeth." Her mouth fell open, she was having a very hard time processing what was happening. All she could get out was,
"Why?" And even that one syllable came out as barely more than a whisper. Will closed his eyes and, if Deanna hadn't known better, she would have guessed she could hear soft laughter coming from him.
"WHY?" He exclaimed, louder than his headache would have normally permitted. But he was fortified by something stronger than alcohol by this point. "Do you really need me to answer that, Deanna?" It had clearly been a rhetorical question, but Deanna's voice had chosen that moment to return to her and so she answered him.
"Yes, I would like to hear this," she managed to get out with no hint of emotion. He hung his head,
"Fine," he whispered, mostly to himself "I've screwed things up well enough already, I might as well finish the job." He looked straight at her, his piercing blue eyes seemed to scream, but his face collected itself into a proper visage and he spoke. "What would you have had me say, Deanna, " he asked, his voice sounding positively defeated, "Should I have told him to stay away from you? Lay some claim to you that we both know hasn't been true for nearly a decade? Huh? Would you have wanted me to tell him, 'sorry, Worf, really, I am, but- I plan on trying to win her back someday. I love her, so you can't have her- and that's an order, lieutenant'? You and I both know you would never have stood for that.
"So I told him what I thought YOU wanted to hear. He seems to make you happy, Deanna; which is a feat I haven't been able to accomplish in a very long time. So I didn't stand in his way." Will hung his head again. Deanna couldn't stand to see him like this. She wanted to reach out to him, to hold him... she wanted to do something. But she sensed, rightly, that he would not accept her embrace at this moment, nor, quite possibly, would he ever again. She couldn't leave him on those words, though, she couldn't let that be the end.
The end...she thought about that. Why should this be the end of anything? Over the years they had spent together on board the Enterprise, Will had become her closest and most trusted friend. There was no reason for that to stop now. But there were questions... a million questions whizzing around in her head, and there were things she needed to know. She started with the first that found its way to the surface,
"Will," she began, making certain that her voice was warm and inviting, "If you had said- those things- to Worf, would they have been the truth?" Will looked at her and squinted his eyes,
"What do you think, Deanna? Of course that would have been the truth."
"Well than, why didn't you tell him that? Worf values honesty, you know he does. He would have understood." Deanna encouraged.
"Were you listening a minute ago?" he quizzed, "I told you. I wanted to do what was going to be best for you. I was not about to be the cause of one more minute of unhappiness for you. You're too important to me- I -love-you-too-much...." He stopped, mid sentence. Deanna could tell that he was about to cry, and she could sense his apprehension at allowing her to see this particular episode of vulnerability. She shook her head.
She came to realize that all of her was shaking, and try as she might, she couldn't get the tremors to stop. She gained what she figured to be a modicum of control and asked him, her voice cracking,
"What am I suppose to do now, Will?" He looked at her in a way that made her want to fall onto the floor in a blubbering heap, but she stayed in control. "You're standing here telling me that you love me, and yet- you told Worf you didn't have a problem with our seeing one another."
"And Worf will never know any different," Will's husky voice affirmed.
"But I know Will! I know!" She yelled, "What I don't know is how I am going to handle this. On one hand there is a very dear, sweet, devoted man, just down the hall, who- for me- had the courage to come to a superior officer wearing his heart on his sleeve- which, might I add, is not something that comes easily to him. And on the other, here you are... the one person in this universe who I have loved longer and deeper than anyone else- my best friend, soul mate... Imzadi. And I know that my being with him hurts you. And I don't want to hurt you Will, you know that. If I had thought... I mean..." Will cut her off again, only this time his voice was not angry, not hostile, but gentle, and tender.
"Deanna," he said, taking a tentative step toward her, "Go. Be happy. Be with Worf, or don't. But be happy. If you're truly happy with Worf, then I'll be okay, and you'll be okay."
"Are 'WE' going to be okay?" She asked him softly, tears trying to fight their way to her eyes. He stepped even closer to her, close enough that he could reach out and touch her shoulder.
"Yes," he answered her. "It's going to take a lot more than this to change things between us." But he knew it was a lie. He knew beyond a doubt that things had just changed irrevocably between them. And it was breaking his heart, but he would never again let his guard down when it came to her and Worf. He vowed to never again, no matter how long this thing lasted, let on even the slightest bit that it bothered him. He was Imzadi, he owed her that much. He owed her some happiness. "And I'll always be here, Deanna," he told her, "Always. No matter what... I'll be here. If you need me, or if things change, I'm here for you. I'll always love you."
Deanna closed the distance between them, confident now that he would accept her embrace. She wound her arms around him and he did the same. He pulled her to him, knowing full well that this may be the last embrace they shared. Will felt like he couldn't breathe. His head was still aching, and his heart still felt like it had been ripped from his chest.
But at least she knew. She knew how he really felt. She knew that he would be there when things got tough, or when things went wrong.
But she had always known. She stepped away from their embrace and looked into his tired eyes. "I have to go," she whispered. "Are you sure we're alright?" Will stepped farther away from her and nodded.
"Go," was all he could bring himself to say to her. She turned and slowly moved toward the door. As it swished open to allow her exit, he heard the familiar comfort of her voice in his head,
"We will always be Imzadi..."
And A heart without a home
Is Such a lonely row to hoe
Maybe leavin's not the only way to go