by Andra Marie Mueller
Counselor Deanna Troi was alone in her office, quietly reading the file on the patient she had just seen. After finding what she needed to know, Troi shut off her computer panel and walked over to sit on the couch. Letting out a small sigh, Troi closed her eyes and allowed her thought to wander to the events of two days ago doctor Crusher had fallen in love with Ambassador Odan, only to learn that he was actually a symbiont being inhabiting the body of a hosted species called the Trill. In a bizarre turn of events, Odan had been temporarily placed in the body of William Riker before another Trill host had arrived. It was this turn of events that now troubled Troi, for she knew what had transpired between Crusher and Riker while Odan inhabited the latter's body. Professionally, she understood that Riker's body had only acted as a shell and that it had been Odan that Crusher had been drawn to, and the counselor had even encouraged her friend to seek him out Personally, however, Troi could not help but feel the slight stirrings of jealousy and even possessiveness as she thought about what had transpired between Crusher and Riker.
Did I do the right thing by encouraging Beverly to go to him? she asked herself silently. Or did I just create more problems for them to deal with now that things are back to normal? And how do I face either one of them after what happened? Beverly's my best friend, and Will is the man I love. How am I supposed to act toward them knowing they've been lovers?
Troi's train of though was shattered at the sound of the voice, and she looked up to see Commander William Riker standing in her doorway. Smiling in greeting, she monitored for him to enter her office. "Good morning, Commander." "Good morning yourself, Counselor," Riker replied. "Did I interrupt anything?" Troi shook her head. "No. I was just reviewing a file on one of my patients. What can I do for you?" "For starters, you can tell me why you've been avoiding me for the past two days." Troi's dark eyes widened slightly in surprise, but she quickly covered her reaction. "I'm not avoiding you, Will," she protested. "I've just been very busy." "So that's why you've scheduled your duty shifts opposite of mine and have walked out of the room every time I've entered it?" Riker countered. "I may not have your empathic powers, Deanna, but I know you, and I know you're lying to me. Please, tell me what's bothering you."
Troi hesitated, slightly embarrassed at the thought of telling Riker what she had been feeling, then she said, "It's kind of silly." "There's nothing silly about human emotions, Deanna," Riker responded gently. "You of all people should know that." Troi flashed him a small smile of gratitude, then reluctantly explained the reason for her behavior of the past few days. When she finished, she sat back and waited for Riker's reaction. "Well," he said at last. "Now I understand why you've been acting so strangely. I certainly had no idea you felt this way." "I didn't either at first," Troi replied. "I was so busy concentrating on Beverly's feelings I didn't take time to examine my own." She paused a moment, then added, "Then again, if I had, I might not have been able to help Beverly at all. I would have allowed my personal feelings to interfere with my professional judgment, and that goes against everything I was trained to do." "No one trained you to handle this kind of situation. Under the circumstances, I think you handled it very well." "Thank you," Troi responded gratefully.
"So where do we go from here?" Riker asked. "I can't change what happened, Deanna; I don't even remember most of it. I can tell you that it meant nothing to me, because it wasn't me. The thought and feelings that make up Will Riker became the thoughts and feelings of Odan the moment he was put into my body. I thought you understood that." Troi managed a faint smile. "It's one thing to understand it intellectually, Will; it's quite another to accept it emotionally." "Do you see what happened between Beverly and me as some kind of threat to what I have with you?" Riker questioned. "Is it?" Troi countered. Riker automatically began to deny the question, but then changed his mind and replied, "You tell me."
Troi let out a delicate sigh. "I don't know. I know that you care for me; you always have. But, I've always had a little voice in my mind asking, 'What do I mean to him? Does he love me, or am I just a fond memory?' Will, you've never told me how you feel about me. Maybe because I'm empathic you think that I can sense your feelings and therefore you have to tell me what they are. Or, maybe you never told me simply because I never asked. Well, I'm asking you now: what may I to you, Will Riker? I need to know, and I need to hear you say the words." Riker stood up and walking over to Troi, pulled her to her feet. Taking her face in his hands, he said, "If you need to hear the words, Imzadi, here they are: I love you. I may not say it or show it as often as I should, but it's true. From the day we met there has never been anyone who captured my heart the way you did. And you're right; I did think that because of your empathic abilities you would know how I felt about you. If I had known you needed to hear the words, I would have said them a long time ago."
Troi gave him an affectionate smile. "You've said them now, Imzadi, that's what counts. I love you, Will, and I'm sorry that I've been behaving badly." "I'm sorry I gave you reason to," Riker responded. "I guess that makes us even then," Deanna remarked softly. "I guess it does," Riker agreed, and bend over to give her a brief kiss, then lifted his head to ask, "Would you like to accompany me to the bridge, Counselor?" "I'd be delighted, Commander." The couple linked arms and strolled out of Troi's office.