Honest Deceptions



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Chapter One:


            Deanna Troi felt  rage burning a hole in her stomach as tears rolled unchecked down her face.  She could feel Will’s blue eyes staring at her intently, his own anger pulsating from him in one hot wave.  She could not meet his stare.  The betrayal she felt was all consuming, complete. 

            “How could you?  Will, how could you do this to me?”

            Deanna winced as Will slammed his fist into the wall.  “Deanna, I didn’t do anything!  Why can’t you believe me?”

            Deanna struggled to control her temper, a losing battle in face of his deception.  “You betrayed me!   You betrayed our relationship.  How can you deny it?  How can you stand there and continue to lie to me when you know I have irrefutable proof?”

            “I’m not lying!”  Will bit out.  “Damn it, Deanna, you are an Empath!  You are supposed to be able to tell when someone is being dishonest.”  Will softened his tone and took a step toward her, imploringly.  “Open your mind and your heart, Imzadi.  Even without your abilities you should know that I would never cheat on you.”

            Deanna wished she could believe him.  Truth be told, she could not get a clear reading from him, her own emotions were too overwhelming.  “How can I know that Will?”  She asked, her voice cold.  “It’s not like it would be the first time.”

            Deanna thought she saw something vital, something intense flare in his eyes before being consumed by white hot flames.  He stared at her for several seconds before turning his back on her.  “I was wondering when you would bring that up.”  His voice was quiet, too quiet.  “Damn you, Deanna Troi!  You just cannot let it go, can you?   You still haven’t forgiven me for a mistake that happened fifteen years ago!”

            “I have forgiven you for Wendy, but it’s amazing how history repeats itself isn’t it?  I can’t believe that after all we’ve been through, you still cannot remain faithful.  You tell me you love me, ask me to marry you, promise me that things will be different this time.  Yet the minute some pretty young thing enters the picture, you can’t stop yourself from falling into bed with her.”

            “I did not sleep with her!  After all we’ve been through, why can’t you believe me?”  Will turned to face her again, his face masked by anger and pain.  “That’s it isn’t it?  You don’t want to believe me.”

            Deanna stared at him in disbelief.  “What?”

            Will stepped close to her, jabbing his finger at her angrily.  “You are so afraid of making a commitment, so afraid of your own feelings, that you are looking for an excuse to justify your insecurities.  You refuse to trust me.  You take a complete stranger’s word over mine.  Of course it has to be true because Will Riker can’t be trusted.  Our relationship, what we have become, what we have always been to each other means nothing.  You want out and have found the perfect excuse.”

            Deanna’s lungs constricted painfully.  She could not breath.  “That is not true.  Will, you know that is not true.”

            “Do I?  Ask yourself a question, Deanna.  Why are you so willing to believe someone you just met a week ago over someone you have known and loved for most of your adult life?  For years you have been privy to my every thought, my every emotion, and my every dream.  There is nothing you don’t know about me. We are best friends, lovers, Imzadi, and soon to be husband and wife.  If you really love me and want to spend the rest of your life with me, how can you stand there and at the first test of trust, completely discount everything you know in your heart?”

            Will turned and left Deanna’s quarters, leaving the dark haired Betazoid empty and broken.

            Deanna did not move for several seconds.  Then, like a puppet with its strings severed, she slumped to the floor, her small frame racked with sobs.  She wanted to believe him.  She  wished with all her heart and soul, her very being, that she could.  But how could one discount such overwhelming evidence?

            Crying uncontrollably, wondering if she would ever be able to stop, Deanna allowed herself to think back to the horrible day, barely a week ago…





            “Lastly, we will be rendezvousing with the USS Cyrus in 12 hours to pick up a Federation envoy.  We are to transport her to Paerdonius Prime where she will head peace negotiations between Paerdonius Major and it’s sister moon, Paerdonius Minor.”  Jean-Luc Picard glanced around the conference table at curious faces of his Senior staff.  “Little is known about these people and their customs, however, we do know that this war between these two moons has been in existence for twenty standard years.  As a Protectorate, they have petitioned the Federation for mediation.”  The captain turned to the pretty Betazoid on his left.  “Counselor Troi, I have volunteered you to help the Ambassador in anyway that becomes necessary.  Your skills may be needed.  I want you to work with Commander Data to gather as much information as you can on the Paerdonions and this long standing conflict.”

            Deanna acknowledged his request with a slight nod.  “Aye, Sir.”

            “Very well.  You are dismissed.”

            Deanna remained behind while the rest of the senior staff, excluding Will Riker, slowly left the Conference Room.  As soon as the room was empty, she turned to her fiancé with a wry smile.  “It looks like I will be tied up for the next dozen or so hours.  Rain check on lunch?”

            Will moved around the conference table  with an answering grin.  “On one condition.”  He stated, holding out his hand to her.

            “What would that be?”  She inquired, her voice light and laced with humor.  She placed her hand in his and allowed him to pull her out of her chair.

            “Make sure you take a break from research and have dinner with me tonight.”  He kissed her tenderly on the forehead, hugging her against his chest for an all too brief second. 

            Deanna snuggled against him, enjoying the small amount of personal contact they allowed themselves while on duty.  “Is that an order, Commander?”  she asked, laughter giving her words a musical quality.

            “You better believe it, Counselor.”

            “Well, never let it be said that I disobeyed a direct order from a superior officer.”

            With a toss of her long black mane, Deanna bounced happily out the door, heading for the ship’s library, where Data was undoubtedly waiting.


            The transporter chief looked up as three people entered the room.  He nodded a greeting to Picard, Riker and Troi.  “Sir,  the Cyrus is ready to transport three people over.”

            “Three?”  Riker questioned with a raised brow.

            “Yes, Sir.  It seems that Ambassador Rebchek has brought along her son and the child’s nanny.”

            Deanna smiled slightly at the discomfort on the Captain’s face.  Much to the captain’s relief, unlike the D, the Enterprise-E did not have families aboard.   The bachelor was still not comfortable with children. 

            “Fine.  As long as the child does not interfere with her responsibilities.  Chief, signal the Cyrus that we are ready to receive the Ambassador.”

            Within seconds, shapes began to form on the transporter pad.  As the Ambassador and her entourage materialized,  Deanna noticed, with some surprise, that the child was barely more than an infant, maybe a year old, and being held by a young woman in civilian clothing.

            Sensing a rather baffling emotion, Deanna turned her attention sharply to the Ambassador, as Captain Picard stepped forward to greet the newcomer. 

            Natalie Rebchek ignored the captain completely.  Her eyes were locked on the other male occupant of the room as surprise, then elation echoed in her mind.  She uttered a tiny gasp and stumbled off the transporter pad, launching herself at the dumbfounded first officer.  “Will Riker!  I can’t believe this! I thought I’d never see you again!”





Flabbergasted, Deanna watched as Will tried to disentangle himself from the woman’s exuberant embrace.  “I’m sorry, Ambassador, but do I know you?”

            The Ambassador laughed merrily.  “Oh, stop teasing, Will.  It’s me: Nat.  Of course you know me.”

            Will backed away. “I don’t know…”

            Picard interrupted, seeing the distress on the faces of both his officers.  “Ambassador, perhaps we should save the reunion for another time.  This is neither the time nor the place.”

            Natalie Rebchek stepped away from Will and faced the captain.  “My apologies, Sir.  I do not usually behave in this manner.  I was just surprised to see an old friend.  If you could show myself and my companion to our quarters, I would like to freshen up a bit before we get down to business.”

            Picard nodded curtly.  “Of course.  If you would follow me…”

            Ambassador Rebchek turned to her companion.  “Chloe, come along.  It is time for Caleb’s nap.” 

            The two woman followed the captain out the door.  The ambassador looked at Will one last time before exiting.  “It is wonderful to see you again, Will.  I must say this negotiation is going to be much more interesting than I first thought.”

            “Old friend?”  Deanna asked, somewhat miffed.

            Will looked at Deanna, shell-shocked.  “Deanna, I swear I have no idea who that woman is.”

            Deanna studied her fiancé  silently for a moment.  “But she does seem familiar to you, Will.  I sense that you know her from somewhere.  When she said her name, you felt a slight bit of recognition.”

            “I admit that she does look vaguely familiar, but I honestly do not know where from.”

            Deanna linked her arm through Will’s and steered him through the door.  She tried to laugh it off, although she was disturbed by the woman’s familiarity with Will.  “I sure am glad you didn’t forget me as easily as you seem to forget other woman you have encountered in your life.”

            “Deanna, that’s not fair.  I…”

            Deanna laughed.  “Forget it, Imzadi.  I’m only teasing you.  Come on, I believe you owe me dinner.”



            “…and so she is meeting us at Starbase 18 next month.  I think things are really going to happen for us this time.” 

            Deanna half-listened to what Geordi Laforge was saying.  As happy as she was for the obviously besotted engineer, she could not concentrate on the conversation. 

            Will, not noticing—or possibly disregarding—Deanna’s preoccupation, slapped his friend on the back heartedly.  “Fantastic, Geordi.  It’s about time!”  He teased with a wink.  “Maybe Leah can be your date for our wedding.  Right, Deanna?”

            “Huh?  Oh, yeah, Geordi, I’m happy for you.  I know you have been waiting patiently for Leah to come around.”

            Geordi shrugged, a shadow crossing his handsome face.  “Well, it’s been difficult for her.  Losing her husband that way was devastating, even though she will be the first to admit their relationship was based more on companionship and compatible career interests than love.”

            Deanna started to speak again, to warn Geordi to take things slow, when the door to Ten-Forward opened and Ambassador Rebchek entered.

            As Deanna watched, the statuesque redhead surveyed the room.  Her gaze fell upon Deanna and her companions.  With a smile, she strode purposefully in their direction. 

            Geordi and Will stood as the woman approached their table.  “Ambassador.”  Will greeted cautiously, still unnerved by the scene in the transporter room.

            Rebchek laughed.  “Honestly, Will.  We are not on duty, call me Nat.”  She gestured to the empty seat between Deanna and Geordi.  “May I join you?” 

            Not waiting for a response, Natalie sat and introduced herself to Laforge.  “I must say, Will, I was surprised to find you here.”  She pouted slightly.  “And I am a bit miffed that you do not remember me.”

            Will looked uncomfortable.  “Once again, I am sorry…”

            Natalie waved a hand in dismissal.  “I’m sure if you think about it long enough you will remember.  No matter.  I actually came over to talk to Counselor Troi, anyway. We can catch up later.”

            Not knowing what to say, Will stood up.  “Well, I will leave you two alone.  Geordi, would you care to join me at the bar?”

            Geordi stood up quickly, obviously seeing that his commander needed to get away.

            Deanna regarded the Ambassador with curiosity.  She desperately wanted to ask the other woman how she knew Will, but decided not to broach the subject.  “What did you need to see me for, Ambassador?”  She spoke a bit more sharply than was probably prudent, but it irked her to see the woman’s eyes follow Will across the room like a starving puppy. 

            Natalie finally tore her gaze away from the tall commander and faced Deanna.  “Captain Picard advised me that you would be available for consultation on the Paerdonion matter.  I thought we could meet at your convenience to discuss the peace initiative.”

            Deanna nodded decisively.  “Fine.  I have cleared some time over the next few days to dedicate to assisting you.  I have familiarized myself with the Paerdonions, their customs and the conflict they are currently engaged in.  I am unclear yet as to what perpetrated the hostilities.  Perhaps we can meet in my office in the morning, say 0900?”

            The ambassador did not seem to hear her.  “Ambassador?”

            Natalie jumped guiltily, forcing her attention back to the discussion.  Her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment at being caught unawares.

            “0900?  That would be fine.”  He gaze drifted to the bar again.  “He is quite handsome, isn’t he?  The minute I first saw him I was floored.”

            Deanna mentally counted to ten, determined to control her temper.    “Who?” she asked testily.

            “Commander Riker.  I cannot believe he doesn’t remember me, after the glorious days we spent together.”

            Deanna took a deep breath.  “You and Commander Riker had a relationship?”  She was quite proud of the calm she was exhibiting, considering her blood was pounding in her ears.

            The annoyingly besotted woman laughed heartedly.  “Did we ever!”  She leaned closer to Deanna, lowering her voice to a whisper.  “I probably should not be telling you this, I mean he is your commanding officer, and I am sure you and he are friends, but the three days I spent with him were the absolute best of my life.  He sure is something, isn’t he?”

            Deanna’s blood began to boil.  “Yeah, he’s something alright.”  She said tightly.  “When, ah, did you meet the Commander?”

            “About eighteen months ago, on Risa.”  The woman was completely oblivious to the anger on her companion’s face.  “I shouldn’t ask this, but do you know if he is involved with anyone now?”

            Deanna had had enough.  She stood up abruptly, almost knocking over her chair.  From all around the room, heads turned in her direction.  Standing at the bar, Will noticed her angry stance and immediately stepped away from the bar, moving in their direction.

            Deanna pushed a wall of anger at him through their bond, causing him to stagger backwards in surprise.  She looked the ambassador straight in the eye.  With deadly calm, she said, “Actually, he is engaged.  To me.”

            With that, Deanna turned and stomped out of the room.  As the door closed behind her, she heard Will frantically calling her name.


Chapter 3:



            Will sprinted down the corridor, trying to reach his rapidly retreating fiancée.  “Deanna!  Wait!”  he yelled, earning him a few surprised and curious stares from passing crew members.    Will forced himself to lower his pace.  The last thing he needed was ship-wide gossip regarding two senior officers and a public tiff.  Picard would have a field day with that.

            Will caught up to Deanna just as she entered her quarters.  He followed her inside, allowing the door to slide shut behind him.  Deanna had her back to him and did not acknowledge his presence for several long minutes.  Will could tell by the stiff set of her shoulders that she was very, very angry.

            Finally he could not bear the silence any longer.  “Deanna, what happened?”

            Deanna whirled around in a huff, shooting daggers from her obsidian eyes.  “You slept with her!”

            Will gawked.  “Excuse me?”

            “You heard me!  You had an affair with Ambassador Rebchek.  After we were a couple again!”

            Will shook his head, trying to make sense of what she was saying.  “I did not!  Deanna, I told you I have no idea who that woman is, other than the fact that she is a Federation Envoy.”

            Deanna stared at him in silence.  She wanted to believe him.  She could sense that he really did not recognize the Ambassador.  But…

            “Let me refresh your memory a little.”  Her voice was cold, her face etched in granite.  “Risa, 18 months ago.  You were there for five days before I was able to join you.”

            Deanna watched with a sinking heart as recognition shone from Will’s eyes.  Her breath lurched painfully, burning her lungs.  “I see you do remember now.”

            Will shook his head again in denial.  “No, Deanna.  You don’t see.  Yes, I remember her now.  She was on Risa the same time I was.  I met her on the beach and we began talking.  She said she was waiting for someone.  We talked for a while and shared a drink.  That is all.  I swear.”  Will stepped to her side and placed his hand gently aside her face, rubbing his fingers softly against the base of her neck.  “You know I would never do that to you.”

            Deanna stared into his blue eyes as tears rolled down her face.  She wanted to believe him, he seemed so sincere.  She wished, not for the first time, that she could get a better reading of his emotions.  However, her Empathic sense had always been somewhat unreliable when it came to Will, especially if her own emotions were in turmoil.  But how could she believe a woman she just met over her Imzadi? She knew him so well.

            “Why would she claim that she had an affair with you?”  Deanna heard herself asking and realized that she did believe him.

            Will wrapped his arms around her and stroked her hair.  “I don’t know.  But I intend to find out.  What exactly did she say?”

            Deanna repeated the conversation word for word.  “She seemed sincere.  She seemed genuinely surprised that you and I were involved.”

            “You were pretty livid.  Maybe your anger was blocking you from getting a true sense of her motives?” 

            Deanna pulled him to the couch and sat down, snuggling against him.  “I don’t know, Will.  What possible motive could she have for lying?”

            “I’m trying to remember everything we talked about on Risa.  She said that she was waiting for someone and that she was afraid he would not show up.  She seemed very sad.  That’s why I  continued to talk to her, and why I bought her a drink.  I’m sorry I did not mention it to you.  It just wasn’t a big deal.”

            Deanna shrugged against his shoulder.  “That’s not important.   I’m meeting with her in the morning regarding the peace conference.  I just hope I can work with her without clawing her eyes out.”

            Will chuckled.  “I have the utmost faith in you, Imzadi.  You will handle yourself with your usual amount of decorum.”

            “I don’t know about that, Will.  She claims to have intimate knowledge of my man.  I cannot be held responsible for my possible actions.”

            Will tilted her head up and kissed her gently.  “I promise to speak on your behalf at the Court Martial.” 


            Will left Deanna’s quarters a short while later, claiming he needed to check in on the bridge before retiring for the night.  The truth was he wanted to speak to Natalie Rebchek himself.

            She opened her door almost immediately after he rang the bell, as though she had been waiting for him. 

            She greeted him with a smile and very little clothing.  “It’s a little late for visitors, Will, but come on in.  I can’t say that I’m surprised to see you.”

            “Ambassador, we need to talk…”Will began as he followed her inside.  He was prevented from finishing his sentence when she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately.

            Will shoved her away forcefully.  “Look I don’t know what kind of game you are playing, but it stops right now!”  Will looked at her with disgust.  “How dare you tell my fiancée that we were intimate on Risa!”

            “I’m sorry, Will, I did not know she was your fiancée.  You never mentioned being engaged.”

            Will shoved his fingers through his hair in agitation.  “We weren’t engaged at the time, but that is of no consequence.  I did not mention Deanna to you because there was no reason to.  Nothing happened between us.  We had one conversation and a drink.”

            Natalie pouted.  “You can deny it all you want to her if it makes you feel better, but don’t bother denying it to me.  I was there. I know what happened.  I remember every detail of our time together, down to the mole right above your left cheek.  And I don’t mean the one on your face.”

            Will stared at her in shock.  There was no way she could possibly know something like that.  “Nothing happened!  I don’t know what you are up to, or how you found your information, but I have had enough of this nonsense.  Tomorrow you are going to tell Deanna the truth, then you are going to request another liaison for the peace conference.  I will not subject Deanna to your lies!” 

            Where as by this time Will was yelling, Natalie was completely calm.  “A drink?  Is that what you told her?  I bet she believed you.  I wonder what she would say if I showed her my proof?”

            “What proof?”  Will yelled.

            “Be quiet!”  Natalie demanded.  “You will wake my son.  Or should I say your son?”





            Deanna sat at her desk reading over a Data PADD.  Actually, she was doing little more  than staring blankly at the viewscreen while her mind wandered.  She could not concentrate on her work.  She knew that in a few minutes, Natalie Rebchek would arrive for their meeting. 

            Deanna dreaded the appointment.  She had no desire to have any contact with the woman, personally or professionally.  Unfortunately Deanna knew that she would have to make an effort to not allow her personal feelings to interfere with her obligations.  She owed it to herself and her captain to behave with the grace and decorum befitting a Starfleet officer.  She could do no less than her best. 

            The door chime rang at precisely 0900.  Deanna sighed.  She wanted to ignore the insistent ringing.  Deanna allowed herself a small grin.  Maybe if she was really quiet, the Rebchek would think she was out.  “Coward,” she whispered.  Louder she stated, “Come in!”

            Natalie entered and greeted Deanna with what appeared to be an apologetic smile.  “Good morning, Counselor.  Listen, about yesterday…”

            Deanna cut her off.  “Let’s get down to business, shall we?  I have pulled up statements from both sides of the conflict.  Of course both sides are placing all the blame on the other.  Typical reaction.  The representatives we will be dealing with…”

            Deanna , I would like to apologize for my…” 

            Deanna went on as though the other woman had not spoken.  “…have a list of demands.  Some of the stipulations are reasonable, unfortunately both sides demand unconditional surrender.”

            Natalie tried again.  Deanna , please, I would really like to explain…”

            Deanna sighed angrily. “No, you don’t need to explain anything.”

            Deanna …”

            Deanna held up her hand, stopping the woman once again. “Look, Ambassador,” she snapped, stressing the woman’s rank.  “We are here to do a job and we will do that job, but we will not be on a first name basis, and we will not be discussing anything else.”

            The Ambassador took a step back, surprised at the venom in Deanna ’s voice. “All I want to do is apologize for the way I handled the situation.  I had no idea Will …”

            Deanna lost the hard fought battle to maintain her equilibrium.  “Get something straight.   As I am sure you are aware, I am Betazoid, and believe me, you are an open book.  Although you profess a desire to make amends, inwardly you are enjoying the conflict you have caused.  I don’t know what you are up to, and frankly, I really don’t care.    You will maintain a professional demeanor.  We will not discuss anything except the Peace Conference.  You will not, I repeat, NOT mention Will Riker in my presence again.”

            Natalie dropped her contrite expression.  “Jealous are we?  What are you going to do now?  Warn me to stay away from your man?”

            Deanna smirked haughtily, struggling to project a nonchalance that she did not feel.   “Please.  As if I have anything to worry about from you.” 

            Natalie laughed.  “Why don’t you ask your intended where he was last night?”

            Deanna froze.  “He was in my bed.” She lied smoothly.

“Before or after he was in my room?”

Deanna cringed inwardly, but did not let her emotions show.  “I don’t believe we have anything more to say to each other.  Get out of my office.  Any further communication between us regarding the conference will be via logged reports.”

            “Getting scared, Counselor?”

            “GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!”  Deanna yelled.  She then forced her voice to lower to a cold calm.  “Before I forget I’m a Starfleet Officer.”

            With a satisfied smile, Natalie left the room.      

The second the door slid shut behind Natalie , Deanna slumped into her chair, shaking uncontrollably.  Her false bravado of a few minutes prior crumbled. 

Despite the confident words she had hurled at Rebchek, Deanna was feeling anything but secure.  She could not deny the other woman’s words.   Deanna acknowledged to herself that she was jealous and angry and scared. 

While Deanna was having difficulty reading Will , she was able to clearly sense Natalie ’s emotions and intent.  The woman was definitely hiding something, most assuredly had an agenda, but Deanna knew that she was not lying about two points.  She had slept with William Riker , and he had been with her the previous night.


            Will Riker stood outside Deanna ’s office door.  He raised his hand to ring for permission to enter, but dropped the appendage to his side before he could depress the chime.  He had been performing the same unproductive motions for the past five minutes.  Why was he so hesitant to enter?

            Will was still reeling from his encounter with Ambassador Rebchek the previous night.  How in the hell was going to tell Deanna what happened?  How was she going to react to the latest accusation?  Would she – Could she – continue to believe his claims of innocence?

            Will reached for the chime, once again stopping himself before he followed through.  With a small twinge of inappropriate humor, he realized that he was afraid of the petite Betazoid. 

            “This is ludicrous!”  He chided himself mentally. 

            ~I agree. ~ he heard in his head.  ~You might as well come in, Will.  I knew you were there the moment you approached. ~

            A second later, the door slid open and Will entered the office with a sheepish smile.  “Hi.” 

            Deanna looked at him steadily for a few seconds.  Will could see the conflict in her eyes.  Then her face cleared and she smile wanly, as though she had come to a decision about something important. 

            He rounded her desk and leaned over, placing a gently kiss on her brow.  She instinctively leaned into him, resting her head against his torso.  He stroked her hair softly.  “Rough morning?”

            Despite her earlier conflux of emotions, Deanna took comfort in his presence.  It was funny how she could not read him emotionally at the moment, but had become aware of his nearness the moment he stepped off the turbolift onto her deck.  No matter what, her soul was linked with his and instinctively reached out for its mate.  It was because of this bond that the moment she saw him, she came to the decision to trust him, to give him a chance to tell her the news she saw in his eyes. She closed her eyes and gave a silent prayer that her trust was not unfounded. 

            “Very rough.  My meeting with the wolf in bitch’s clothing did not go well.”  Deanna subtly gave him a silent nudge.  Trust was one thing, but blind trust was stupid.

            Will stepped back around the desk and sat down on the couch with a sigh, closing his eyes.  “I can imagine. My conversation with her did not go much better.”  He opened his eyes a crack, watching her lovely face through his lashes.

            Deanna released the breath she had not been aware of holding.  “Oh?  When did you have a conversation with her?”

            Will sat up and looked her straight in the eye.  “I went to her quarters last night after I left yours.  I confronted her.   She still insists, even to me, that we had a relationship,  for lack of a better word.  I am baffled as to what she hopes to accomplish.  She can’t possibly believe she can convince me that I did something I know I didn’t.”

            Deanna knelt in front of him and lay her head on his lap.  He felt gratified at this small sign of trust on her part.  She really did believe him. He stroked her hair. 

            They sat that way for a long time, not speaking, just being there.  They both needed the comfort of the closeness that had taken years to cultivate. 

            When Deanna finally spoke, Will could tell she was trying to sound cheerful.  “Well, if all she wants to do is pretend to have had sex with you, I can live with that.  I can’t begrudge the woman her fantasies.  After all, I know how she feels, you are hard to resist.”

            Will did not laugh as she had expected him to.  He  cleared his throat.  Deanna , there is something else,”  He began, his voice hesitant.  “She is claiming that I am the father of her child.”


            Natalie smiled at the small viewscreen.  “Everything is going as planned.  I have them both so confused at this point, they will be at each other’s throat with in a matter of days.”

            “Don’t get too cocky, Nat. Deanna is no fool, and she is a very strong Empath.  If you are not careful, she will figure it out.”

            Natalie waved off his concern with laugh.  “Don’t worry, darling.  She is putting on a great façade right now, standing by her man, but she is having difficulty believing him.  A few more nudges and her jealousy will have her wanting to castrate him.”

            “And Will ?”  The disembodied voice questioned.

            “You were right.  He is a conceited idiot.  Actually, Deanna should thank me.  I’m doing her a favor, getting him out of her life.”

            “Just be careful, Nat.  We have come too far to blow it now.  Our entire future depends on your success.”




            Deanna dragged herself into her quarters and collapsed onto the plush sofa.  With a weary sigh, she closed her eyes.  The last five days had been exhausting to say the least.  Deanna was immensely relieved that the peace conference was over. 

            The better part of a week had passed since her confrontation with Natalie Rebchek and the subsequent conversation with Will in her office.  By mutual agreement, they had decided that for the sake of the peace conference, they would put the question of Caleb’s paternity on hold. 

            Unfortunately, that decision left a strain on their relationship.  Deanna struggled to hold on to her trust in Will, but it became increasingly difficult as the conference proceeded. 

            Will’s refusal to discuss the situation, even in private, was wrecking havoc with Deanna’s emotions.  While she could understand his reluctance, it did not make it any easier for her to continue to believe him. 

            Especially considering that Natalie had no such compunction.   She used every opportunity to make snide comments and veiled references to her “relationship”  with Will. The woman could not go an hour without saying something personal and completely inappropriate to the matter at hand.

 To make matters worse, the woman was completely incompetent.  How she ever became a representative of the Federation, Deanna could not fathom.  Rebchek did not know the first thing about mediating a peace initiative.  Deanna was appalled at her lack of diplomacy and professionalism.    The woman had bungled the initial meeting between the two parties so severely, if it weren’t for Deanna’s presence, the representatives would have killed Rebchek first, then each other.

            When Deanna tried to explain the situation to Picard and Riker, the ambassador had turned the facts around, suggesting that Deanna had a personal vendetta against her.  By “delicately” bringing up their personal conflict (“I believe that Counselor Troi is making more of this than is necessary.  I’m afraid her personal feelings have clouded her objectivity.”), Ambassador Rebchek made herself look completely innocent, while painting Deanna as vindictive and childish. 

            Fortunately, Captain Picard backed Deanna up, tactfully suggesting that Ambassador Rebchek was mistaken, Deanna would never allow personal feelings to enter into the equation. 

            Although the captain obviously trusted Deanna’s ability to separate her emotions from the proceedings, Will obviously did not.  Later that evening, while they dined in his quarters, he had the nerve to suggest that Ambassador Rebchek could partially be correct. (“You must admit that this whole thing has got you out of sorts.  Maybe you are reading too much into this because you want to believe she cannot handle the job.”)

            His thoughtless words led to a heated argument that ended in Deanna storming out of his quarters, more angry at him than she could ever remember being.  They had not spoken since. 

            As for the peace conference, things seemed to go from bad to worse.   Deanna found herself having to essentially take over as Mediator.  Rebchek stopped trying to even give the impression of caring about the talks. 

            Amazingly enough, despite Natalie’s incompetence and obvious lack of concern, the conference ended successfully.  Deanna, through her superb diplomatic skills and gentle demeanor, had managed to talk the representatives into agreeing to terms that would be satisfactory and beneficial to both parties. 

            Plus, to Deanna’s personal satisfaction, Natalie’s behavior had not gone unnoticed by Captain Picard.  He placed an official reprimand in her file and contacted the Federation Council, suggesting in no uncertain terms, that the woman’s status as Envoy be rethought.

            Despite her gladness that the grueling conference had ended, Deanna nevertheless could not help feeling trepidation.  She no longer had any excuse to avoid the question of Caleb.  She wholeheartedly wanted to believe in Will’s innocence, but how could she deny her empathic sense?  Her mental abilities told her that Natalie seemed to be telling the truth.  Of course, Will fervently, vehemently insisted that he was telling the truth.  How could they both be telling the truth?  One of them had to be lying.

            Deanna groaned when she heard the door chime.  She focused her thoughts, concentrating on the presence she felt outside the door.  With a sigh of relief, she sat up.  “Come in, Doctor.”

            Beverly Crusher entered the room.  The pretty  CMO eyed Deanna cautiously.  “Hi, Deanna.  Have I come at a bad time?”

            Deanna snorted.  “Right now, Beverly, anytime is a bad time.  But have a seat anyway.”

            Beverly crossed the room and sat opposite Deanna.  “Want to talk about it?”

            Deanna smiled wanly, grateful for the comforting presence of the doctor.  Next to Will, Beverly Crusher was the person that Deanna was closest to, on and off the Enterprise.

            “This is a switch,”  she said with a rueful attempt at humor.  “That’s usually my line.”

            Beverly smiled gently at her friend.  “Let me be the counselor for a while.  You look like hell.”

            “Great bedside manner you have there, Beverly.”  Deanna teased, trying to be cheerful. 

            Beverly gave her a sharp look.  “Don’t Deanna.  You don’t have to put on a brave front with me.  I can see that you are hurting.  I saw Will earlier, he does not look much better.”

            Tears welled in Deanna’s eyes.  “I wish I could see him.  We have not seen each other or spoken in anything than a professional manner in days.”

            Beverly moved over to sit beside Deanna, putting her arm around her friend.  “Deanna, what happened?”

            Crying softly, her head upon the redhead’s shoulder, Deanna poured the entire story out.  Beginning with the day Rebchek stepped off the transporter and ending with the argument of four nights ago. 

            Beverly patted Deanna’s back as she cried.  “Oh, Deanna, I’m so sorry.  But I don’t quite understand.  They can’t both be telling the truth.  Why can’t you sense it?”

            “Beverly, I can feel Will’s presence no matter where he is on the ship, as clearly as though he were sitting right next to me.  Under normal circumstances, I can feel his every emotion, can speak to him telepathically, and know his every thought.  Will learned to block me out years ago, when we were just friends.  Although we weren’t romantically involved, we were still bound together.  Blocking me was the easiest way for Will to handle our bond.  It’s because of that bond that I cannot read him clearly now.  My own emotions are so jumbled, that I can’t tell if he is telling me the whole truth, or if he is blocking me.  I have to rely on the facts at hand and the damning knowledge that Natalie Rebchek does not seem to be lying.  As far as Will is concerned, I have to go on blind faith, and I’m not sure I can do that.  Not with Rebchek being so adamant.”

            “But you said she is hiding something.”

            Deanna shrugged.  “I sense that she is hiding something, but unless she is a very practiced liar and skilled at blocking empathic abilities, I can’t honestly discount what she claims.  Even though it doesn’t feel right.”

            Beverly shook her head.  “I just can’t imagine Will cheating on you.  He loves you so much.”

            “I really want to believe that, Beverly.”

            The women fell silent for a moment, pondering the situation.  After a while, Beverly spoke.  “I have an idea, but you may not like it.”

            “What’s that?”

            Beverly took a deep breath.  “We are headed to the Crominon sector to deliver supplies and have some maintenance done on the warp nacelles.  We are dropping the Ambassador off there.  I suggest that before we get there,  I be allowed to run a DNA test on the child.”

            “I don’t know that she will allow that, but…”

            “At least that will give us a definite answer.”

            Deanna closed her eyes.  “That’s what I am afraid of.”  She whispered hoarsely.


            Deanna watched nervously as Beverly extracted a small sample of blood from Will.  She would then run a complete DNA analysis on it and the sample that she had taken from Caleb earlier in the day.  Contrary to Deanna’s earlier statement, Natalie had been more than willing, even eager to run the tests.  That did not make Deanna feel any better.

            Deanna looked Will over with longing.  She missed him.  It felt like an eternity since she had last touched him.  The need to hold him, the need to be held was overwhelming in its intensity.

            Deanna was not sure what would happen after the results were back.  Regardless of the outcome, she was not feeling too confident in her relationship with Will.  He refused to even look at her.  He had reacted so angrily to the suggestion of a DNA test.  He wanted Deanna to believe him because she believed in him, not because of medical science.

            “There,” Beverly said, interrupting Deanna’s reverie.  “Why don’t the two of you wait in my office?  DNA sequencing is a slow process, but it should not take much more than an hour.”

            Deanna and Will sat in Beverly’s office, neither of them speaking.  The thick tension between them made the wait drag on endlessly. 

            “Will,” Deanna tried, timidly.  She could not stand the silence anymore.  “I want you to know that there is a very large part of me that wants to believe you, no questions asked.”

            Will’s cold expression did not waver.  “Then why can’t you?”

            “I’m trying to, but I have to know. If for no other reason then to throw it back in her face, and force her to admit that she is wrong.  But Will she truly does believe what she is saying.”

            “Deanna, I’m asking you to trust me, regardless.  I’m asking you to walk out this door with me right now and forget the testing.”

            “I can’t, Will.  You know that.”

            Will’s eyes flashed angrily.  “Fine.  If this is what it takes for you to believe me, then we’ll wait.  I know the tests are going to be negative.  So we wait her and prove her wrong.”

            They fell silent again, neither willing to give the comfort and reassurance that the other needed.

            Finally, Beverly stepped into her office and closed the door behind her.  She said nothing until she was seated behind her desk.

            “Come on, Beverly.  Tell Deanna that the results prove I’m not the father.”  Will demanded.

            Beverly looked miserable, perplexed and angry all at the same time.  “I’m sorry, Will.  Caleb’s DNA pattern shows a definite match with yours.  You are the father.”




            Will Riker stared broodingly into his glass of synthehol.  Anger radiated off him, giving everyone in Ten-Forward the clear message that their commanding officer did not wish to be bothered. 

            After Beverly delivered the damning, and in Will ’s mind impossible news, Deanna had stormed out of sickbay without looking at Will .  With a pleading look at Beverly he whispered.  “That’s not possible.  Beverly , run the tests again, there has to be some mistake.”

            He left sickbay and followed Deanna back to her quarters.  He had to talk to her, he had to explain.  He was prepared for her anger, nevertheless, the fight that had ensued still came as a surprise to him.  The angry words they had hurled at each other sliced through his heart like a dagger.  How were they ever going to erase the horrible things they had said?

            Though still very angry at Deanna , Will was able to admit to himself that the evidence was damning.  With medical science saying differently, how could she believe anything he said?  His soul cried out a denial.  How could she not?

            Lost in his own thoughts, he did not hear anyone approach until Data and Geordi were standing right beside him.

            “You look like you just lost your best friend.”  Geordi commented as they sat down.

            Will sneered.  “I have.  Look, Geordi, now is not a good time.”

            Geordi ignored him.  “I think it’s a very good time.  Want to talk about it?”

            “If I said no, would you go away?”  Will asked caustically.

            Geordi was not put off.  “No.”

            Will remained silent, ignoring his friends’ attempts to draw him out.  After a while he gave up.  “I suppose you know what happened.”

            “Some of it.” Geordi admitted.  “Personally, Commander, I think it’s a bunch of bull.  You would sooner cut off your own hand than hurt the Counselor.”

            Will smiled slightly at his friend’s unfailing faith.  “I wish Deanna felt the same way.”

            “Give her time.  She will realize the truth sooner or later.”

            Will laughed humorlessly.  “Really?  In case you haven’t heard, medical science does not lie.”  He sighed.  “I’m sorry, Geordi, I know you are just trying to help.  I’m just not good company right now.”

            Geordi shrugged.  “Understandable.  Look, you insist that you are telling the truth, right?  Now it’s not my place to say whether or not you are.  But let’s suppose for a moment that you are telling the truth.”

            Will ’s eyes flashed. “I am telling the truth.  I know I am not the father of that child.  I never touched that woman.  How can the DNA test show something that I know is not true?”

            Data spoke for the first time.  He had a thoughtful look on his face.  “Sir, if I may speculate for a moment?”

            Will nodded his consent.

            “What if both you and the DNA test are correct?”

            Will shook his head.  “That’s not possible, Data.  The only way the test would be correct is if I am the father, which I am not.”

            Data held up his hand.  “Yes, but I can think of one circumstance where it is possible for the test to be correct, and for you not to be the father.”

            Realization dawned on Geordi’s face.  “I see what you are getting at, Data.”

            Will was getting more frustrated by the moment.  “Well I don’t.  Data, what the hell are you saying?”

            “Begging your pardon, Sir.  The DNA of the child would match that of William Riker if the person known as Thomas Riker were the father.”

            Will stared at the android, speechless.  Tom ?  Data, Thomas is in prison on Lazon IV .”

            “Are you positive of that, Sir?  It would be worth looking into.  If you did not have intercourse with Ambassador Rebchek , then someone that matches your DNA sequence did.”

            Will considered this.  It was farfetched, but what other explanation could there be?


            Will looked over Data’s shoulder as he searched the library’s data banks for information on Thomas .  He was afraid to hope.  It did not matter in the least that he knew he was innocent, but it mattered  a great deal to him what Deanna believed.  Unless they could prove Thomas was involved, Deanna would always believe the worst about him.  She would never be able to believe him, trust him again.

            “Here is the prison records for Thomas , Sir.  According to this…”  Data’s voice trailed off.

            Will ’s heart stuck in his throat.  “What, Data?”

            “Sir, according to the records, Thomas Riker was killed while trying to escape.”

            Will stared incredulously at the screen.  “What?  When?”

            “Two weeks ago, Sir.  There is a notation stating that the authorities tried to contact his next of kin, but was unable to reach you or your father at the time.”

            Will felt a twinge of remorse at his duplicate’s death.  Despite the fact that they had never gotten along, Will felt real regret and a touch of his own mortality.

            “That proves that he was still in prison right up to his death.  Difficult to father a child in prison.”  Will felt dejected.  He had been so sure…

            “Sir, there is another notation here, dating back about 20 standard months.  It seems that Thomas tried to escape one other time.  He was caught and brought back, but his companion, a woman, was able to escape.”

            Will ’s eyes narrowed.  “A woman? Is there a name?”

            “Affirmative.  Nadine Jawoski .”

            Will ’s heart sank. 

            “There is also a picture, Sir.”  Data punched in a few more commands and a woman’s image filled the screen.  The hair and eyes were a bit different, but the smiling woman was undoubtedly one Natalie Rebchek .





            Deanna stared forlornly at the ceiling, not really seeing anything.  Her entire body felt numb.  She could not even cry anymore.  Hours had passed since Will had stormed out of her room after the absolute worst fight they had ever had. 

            Anger welled to the surface again as she thought about it.  She was not sure whom she was angrier with, Will or herself.  She could not get past the feeling of betrayal that gnawed at her heart.  She had trusted Will , and given her heart to him once again.  She had truly believed that he had changed.  How could she have been so wrong?   Deanna no longer trusted herself, either.

            Deanna jumped when the door chimed.  She opened her mind.  Will.  “Go away!”

            Deanna ,” she heard from the other side, “Let me in, we need to talk.”

            “We have nothing to talk about.”  She answered, her voice laced with anger.

            ~ Deanna , let me in.  I am not going to have a conversation through a door.~

            ~Good.  Neither am I.  Go away.  I don’t want to talk to you.~

            Her door slid open.  She jumped off the couch, facing him, her eyes flashing with fury.

            “How dare you come in here without my permission?  You have no right to override the lock on my door.”

            Will stepped fully into the room.  The door slid shut behind him.  He stalked across the room toward her.  “Get over it, Counselor.  I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

            “Damn it, Will, I don’t want to talk to you right now!”

            “Damn it,  Deanna ,” He mocked.  “That’s too bad, because I have something to say and you are going to listen.”

            Deanna scoffed.  “What could you possibly say that will make any difference to me?  It’s bad enough that you cheated on me.  I can learn to live with that.  But, you lied to me.  You made me believe you.  You made me doubt my own empathic abilities.  Even after there was proof, you still lied to me.  Now here you are again.  What lies do you have for me now?”

            Will took a deep breath, reminding himself that she had what she believed to be solid evidence against him.  Her words hurt, but if he looked at it from her point of view, he could not condemn her feelings.  Deanna , I have found evidence that suggests that Thomas may be the father.”

            Deanna stared at him in disbelief.  Thomas ?  You have got to be kidding!  Thomas is in prison.   You are so desperate to shove the blame at someone else that you would say anything.”

Will exploded, forgetting his pledge to stay calm. Anger and hurt caused him to lash out. “Damn you and your blindness!  Of course, Tom couldn’t possibly be the father!  Not Thomas .  Why?  Because he’s the one who wasn’t given the opportunity to chose his career over you?  Because he is so much more honest than me?”

“I never said that!”

“You didn’t have to.  Because he was the one left behind, you have always been under the delusion that if he had been the one rescued he would have come for you.  You have always considered him to be the better man.”

“I have not!”

“No?  You sure fell into bed with him quick enough.”

Deanna stared at Will coldly.  “That was uncalled for, Will Riker !”

“Was it?   Why are you so quick to assume that I am lying, that I betrayed you, but you can’t even consider the possibility that it could have been him?  Well, consider this, sweetheart, just two months before we were on Risa,  Thomas tried to break out of prison.  He was caught, but his accomplice escaped.  A woman who looked remarkably like Natalie Rebchek .”

Will turned to leave, not able to stand being in the same room with her anymore.  Before leaving, he looked at her for a long moment.  “Oh, and one more thing,”  he said softly, “ Thomas was killed two weeks ago while trying to escape again.”


            Deanna sat heavily on the couch, her legs giving out.   Thomas was dead?  She could not even wrap her mind around the possibility.  As she thought about it, she realized that aside from a small bit of regret, she really did not feel anything regarding his death.  Over the years, she had put him out of her mind.  Will had become so important to her, so vital to her very existence, that Thomas had become nothing more than a vague memory. 

            Will was wrong.  She had never considered Thomas to be a better man.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Although both were the man she had become Imzadi to all those years ago, it was the man Will Riker had become that she loved and cherished now.  

            Deanna stopped short when she finally realized what her heart had been trying to tell her all along.  She had fallen in love with Will Riker .  Not Thomas .  Not the man they were 15 years prior.  But William T Riker ,  first officer of the USS Enterprise.  The kind, gentle, loving, honest to a fault, man he was today.

            “Oh, my Gods, what have I done?”  Could he be telling the truth?  Was it possible that Thomas had fathered Natalie ’s baby? 

            Determined to find out the truth before it was too late to repair the damage, Deanna went to her desk and accessed the personnel files on her computer.  As a counselor, she had access to the files of just about everyone below the rank of Captain. 

            It took her a while, but she found the information she was looking for.  Thomas Riker had indeed died in an escape attempt.  She researched back and found the same information that Will and Data had regarding the attempt made almost two years prior.  She stared in stunned silence at the grainy picture of Nadine Jawoski , AKA Natalie Rebchek .

            Deanna swallowed past the lump in her throat.  Of course, this did not prove anything, but it certainly gave credence to Will ’s theory.

            Without stopping to think about what she was doing, Deanna rushed out of her room, headed for the guest quarters. 

            Natalie answered her door on the first ring.  “Hello, Counselor.  I must say I am surprised to see you.”

            Deanna laughed derisively.  “Yeah, I bet you are.”

            Natalie stepped back, motioning for Deanna to enter.  “Well, come in.  I’m sure you don’t want the entire ship to hear this conversation.”

            Deanna fought the urge to slam her fist into the woman’s face.  She had to play it cool.  Had to convince Natalie that she had won.

            Deanna cringed when Natalie began to speak, her voice sickening sweet.  “I truly am sorry things turned out the way they did, Deanna .  I had no idea he was engaged when I met him.  If I had I would not have slept with him.”

            Deanna shrugged.  “I understand.  He is rather hard to resist when he is trying to be charming.”  Deanna felt bile rising in her throat and choked it back down.  “No matter.  It’s not the first time Will has strayed, and I’m sure it will not be the last.  He always comes back to me.”

            Rebchek smiled smugly.  “Not this time.  He has a child now.  I can’t imagine him turning his back on his own flesh and blood.”

         “Don’t be so sure of that,”  Deanna scoffed.  “You mean nothing to Will .  I know Will Riker better than anybody, right down to the scar on his stomach.  He will never leave me for you.”

            “You mean the scar I repeatedly ran my tongue over?”

            “Do you honestly believe Will is going to drop everything to be with you?  Destroy his entire life for a meaningless fling?  Don’t delude yourself.  Child or no child, you will never lay claim to William Thomas Riker .” 

            Deanna turned and left the room, thoroughly enjoying the unease on Natalie ’s face when she stressed the word Thomas .

            Deanna walked back to her cabin, a troubled smile on her face.  She should have believed Will , should have given him the benefit of the doubt.  She now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Natalie Rebchek was lying.  Will did not have a scar on his stomach. 


            Natalie sat down at her desk the minute Deanna Troi left the room.  Within minutes she had placed a call over subspace.  “She knows.”

            “What?  How could she?”

            Natalie huffed.  “I don’t know!”

            The man on the other end swore.  “Damn it, Natalie .  If Deanna suspects the truth, we are done for.  I thought you said you had everything under control.”

            “Don’t yell at me!  I do have everything under control.  She can’t prove anything.  Nobody would believe her anyway.  They will all think she is being spiteful.”

            “You better be right.  You better stage a scene, give everyone the impression that she is insanely jealous.”

            Natalie was quiet for a minute.  “I think we need to get rid of her.”

            “No!”  The man shouted.  “Absolutely not.  You will not lay one hand on her.  Destroy her credibility.  Make her look foolish and jealous, do what ever you need to do to break them up, but do not harm her in anyway.”

            Natalie narrowed her eyes.  “You have feelings for her.”  She accused. 

            “Don’t be ridiculous.  Killing her would be too suspicious.  We can’t risk anyone  suspecting that Riker did not choose you of his own volition. Promise me, Nat.”

            Natalie sighed angrily.  “Oh, alright.  I promise I won’t harm her in any physical way.”

            “Thank you.  Don’t worry, in a few days, our every dream will be realized.”





            Deanna entered Will ’s quarters without permission.  She did not want to give him the chance to turn her away.  She looked around the empty room in dismay.  He did not seem to be there.  Then she heard the water running in the other room.  With a sigh of relief, she walked into his room to wait for him.  She was so anxious to see him, to apologize.  Now that she was here, she was nervous.  What if he did not accept her apology? 

            Will stepped out of the lavatory, drying his hair with a royal blue towel.  He did not see Deanna perched on the edge of his bed.  Deanna took advantage of his inattention to study him with hungry eyes.  His broad muscular chest was bare and glistened with moisture.  Drops of water clung to the patch of springy black hair on his chest.  Deanna ’s eyes followed the path of hair downward where it tapered off right above the towel that hung low on his hips, barely covering the most intimate part of his spectacular body.  Deanna ’s mouth went dry.  She missed him so much.  It seemed like an eternity since she had last caressed the solid muscles that rippled before her eyes.  She longed to step forward and pull the towel away, to lose herself in his strong embrace. 

            Her gaze drifted upward as he looked up, noticing her for the first time.  Obsidian eyes met blue.  Deanna thought she saw a welcoming glint in his eyes before they became shuddered, his expression turning cold. 

            “What are you doing here?”  he demanded harshly.

            “I came to say I’m sorry, Will.”  She began, imploring him with her eyes to forgive her blindness.  “I was wrong, about everything.”

            Anger flashed across his face.  “You’re sorry?  Well, I guess that makes everything all right again.”

            Will walked to his closet and pulled out his robe.  He slipped it on, covering his almost naked body.  His stance was ridged, unyielding. 

            Will , please.  You were right about Ambassador Rebchek , and about Tom .  I can’t tell you how sorry I am I didn’t believe you.”

            Deanna , I really don’t want to hear anything you have to say right now.  Please leave”  He turned and left the room.  Deanna followed. 

            Will picked up a data PADD and sat down at his desk.  Deanna came up from behind, placing her hands on his back.  Will , if you would just listen to me, let me explain…”

            Will shrugged away from her touch.  “Explain what?  Explain how you can claim to love me, yet have absolutely no faith in me?”

            She reached for him again.  “Imzadi, I do love you, with all my heart and soul…”

            Will stood up and shoved past her.  “But you don’t trust me!”

            Deanna shook her head in denial.  “I do trust you.”

            Will laughed derisively.  “You do?  You could have fooled me!  You disregarded everything I tried to tell you and believed that woman.  Is that your idea of trust?  When backed into a corner, you were more than eager to believe the worst, regardless of the fact that you knew I would never have done anything to hurt you.”

            Deanna felt tears threatening to surface.  He was right, she deserved every angry word he was saying.  But, oh, how it hurt.

            “Look at it from my point of view…”

            Will interrupted her again, fury blocking out everything but his need to get back at her for hurting him.  “No!  Why should I?  Were you willing to listen to me?  Did you give me a chance?”  As suddenly as it began, the anger faded from his face and was replaced by a pain so intense, so raw, that it cut Deanna to the core.  She would have preferred his rage over the tortured expression in his beautiful blue eyes. 

            Will sat heavily on the couch.  Deanna , I think you better leave.  Before this becomes any harder.”  His voice was dull, lifeless.

            No , Will .  I can’t.  I can’t leave it like this.  I was wrong.  You were right.  I should have trusted you.  I will do what ever it takes for you to forgive me.”

            Deanna knelt in front of him, taking his hands in her own.  “Please, Will , Imzadi, tell me you forgive me.  Tell me things can go back to the way they were.”

            Will cupped her face gently in his palm, staring into her eyes for a few long agonizing minutes.  Deanna was terrified by the sorrow she saw reflected in his eyes.  “I can’t.  I can’t do this anymore.”

            Deanna stared at him in disbelief, feeling something die inside her.  “What?”

            Will stood up and crossed the room, leaving Deanna on the floor, struggling to hold back the tears that burned in her chest and throat.  He stared out the window at the line of stars racing past.  He spoke quietly, with heartbreaking finality, “I accept your apology.  I am glad that you know the truth now.  But that does not change the fact that when we were faced with adversity, you turned  away from me.  I know you love me, but that is not enough.  I need you to have faith in me.  I need you to have faith in us.  You don’t.  You never did.  If you truly believed in me, in my love for you, you would not have been so ready to assume that I was lying.  I can’t spend the rest of my life trying to earn your trust.  After everything we have been through, I thought I already had, but  I suppose I was mistaken.  I am willing to do just about anything for you, anything except wait for something that you are not capable of giving.”

            Deanna was sobbing uncontrollably now.  Will , give me a chance.  I do trust you.”

            Will spun around.  The look on his face was frightening in its intensity.  “Don’t lie to me, Deanna .  Don’t make a mockery of what we had.”

            Deanna stood up and stumbled toward him.  Have! Imzadi, what we have.”

            Will turned away once more.  Deanna , I’m asking you to leave now.”


            Anger flashed in his eyes once more.  “I never want to hear that word again. It has no meaning anymore.  Now, LEAVE!”

            Devastated, Deanna half ran, half stumbled out the door, sobbing.  As the door closed behind her, she thought she heard him whisper, “Goodbye, Imzadi.”




            “Standard orbit, Lt. Blackwell .”  Picard tapped the comlink on his chair.  “Senior Staff report to the Observation Lounge.”  Picard turned to the dark haired woman on his left, noticing with concern that she had given no sign of being aware of his order.  “Counselor?” 

            Deanna snapped to attention, her cheeks turning a bit pink with embarrassment at being caught unawares.  “Sorry, Sir.”  She stood up quickly and turned to enter the Observation Lounge.  Picard fell into step beside her.  “Counselor, is there something on your mind?  You have been rather distracted all day.”

            Deanna shook her head, rather sadly, Picard noted.  “It’s nothing, Sir.  I’m sorry if I have not been at my best.”

            “I have no complaints about your job performance.”  Picard hesitated, not wanting to interfere in his crew’s personal lives.  “But I have noticed that you do not seem to be yourself.  Is there anything you would like to talk about?”

            The Observation Lounge door opened, admitting Geordi Laforge and Will Riker .  The latter was laughing at something the former was saying.  The laughter died  as the First Officer’s eyes met those of the Counselor’s.  He turned away abruptly, taking his seat at Picard ’s right.  The tension between his two key officers did not escape the captain’s notice.  He gave Doctor Crusher a questioning look as she entered the room, taking her seat.  She shook her head almost imperceptibly.  He made a mental note to speak to her later.

            Seeing that the senior staff was all present, Picard cleared his throat and began the meeting.  “In light of the maintenance work that has been scheduled for the warp nacelles, I have decided to authorize shore leave for all personnel.  As you are aware, Bakura boasts an extensive resort facility as well as one of the finest repair facilities in this sector.  All non essential personnel will be granted immediate leave, those that are needed here will be allowed to depart as soon as duty permits.  Counselor, I would like you and Commander Riker to coordinate a schedule.  We can’t have everyone leaving at once.”

            Deanna looked at Will and swallowed hard.  “Yes, Sir.”  She answered dully.

            “Very good.  I’ll be in my Ready Room.  Mr. Data , you have the bridge. Dismissed.”

            The senior staff filed out.  Deanna hurried to catch Riker before he exited the room.  “Will.”

            Riker looked at her coldly, impersonally. “I don’t have time to go over the schedule at the moment, Counselor.  I will meet with you as my duties permit.  In the meantime, I trust you to handle it on your own.”  Will left the room without another word. 

            Deanna stood there, fighting tears.  Beverly , who was still in the room and had heard the exchange, gave Deanna a sympathetic look as she passed.  “Don’t worry, Deanna .  Will is just hurting at the moment.  He will get past it.”

            Deanna ’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears.  “Will he, Beverly ?”


            “Tea.  Earl Grey .  Hot.”  Jean-Luc Picard ordered his customary beverage and carried it to his desk.  He no sooner sat down than the door chime rang.

            “Come.”  The door slid open, admitting Deanna Troi .  “Counselor, come in.”

            Deanna perched on the edge of the chair, nervously ringing her hands.  Picard could see that she was agitated.  What surprised and unnerved the captain was that his usually unflappable Counselor seemed to be on the verge of tears.  “What can I do for you, Deanna ?” he questioned softly, purposely using her given name.

            “Sir, I would like to be released from my duties and given a leave of absence,”  Deanna ’s voice was hesitant.

            Of all the things she could have said, Picard was not expecting that.  “May I ask why?”

            Deanna answered in a monotone, as though she had rehearsed the “appropriate”  answer. “I feel due to a personal issue I am no longer capable of performing my job to the best of my ability.  Circumstances require that I separate myself from my current responsibilities.”

            Picard regarded her quietly for a moment, considering what she said.  As the Captain of a Starship, he had an obligation to maintain the best working conditions for is ship and crew.  On one hand, losing his counselor at that time would put a strain on the crew.  On the other hand, a distraught counselor would also be a strain. 

            The haunted look in Deanna ’s eyes disturbed Picard .  At the moment she looked as though she needed a friend more than a commanding officer.  Picard circled his desk and perched on the edge, directly in front of Deanna .  “That’s a very official answer.  Want to give me the real one?”

            Deanna looked up, startled.  “Sir?”

            Deanna , we have known each other for a long time.  I consider you a good friend, and I would like to help if I can.  As your captain, I have no reason not to grant your request.  As your friend, I don’t want to.”  Picard took her hand gently.  Deanna , what happened?”

            The out-of-character tenderness in his voice was Deanna ’s undoing.  To her horror, the tears she had been fighting began to roll steadily down her face. 

            Her voice breaking with intense emotion, she poured out the whole story to Picard .  When she finished, he handed her a tissue.

            Picard remained silent while she collected herself.  When she was in control once again,

Picard looked at her intently for a moment before nodding his head.  “I’ll grant you leave.  When do you plan to return.”

            Deanna could not meet his eyes. “I do not intend to come back.  I’m putting in for a transfer.”




            The early morning sun shone brightly on the green dew drenched grass.  In the distance, the first rays of morning painted the vast mountain range with a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors.  Brightly hued birds fluttered through the trees, greeting the new day with a happy song.

            The planet of Bakura could not be labeled as anything less than spectacular.  For decades the Bakuran people cultivated the land, turning the entire region into an immensely popular wilderness retreat.  To walk down one of the lush paths was to walk in beauty.  Even the most diehard space traveler could not resist the pull of this natural wonderland.

            Will Riker barely noticed his surroundings.  He walked aimlessly along the path that led from the main hall.  He had no particular destination in mind.

Beverly had invited him to join her, Geordi, Data, and Alyssa on a guided hike.  Not wanting to subject his friends to his foul mood, Will declined.  Instead, he walked alone on a seldom used trail, wallowing in his misery. 

Deanna was leaving. 

Picard had imparted that bit of information in a round-about, “completely professional, we-need-to-change-the-duty-roster” non-meddling fashion. 

Will felt like his heart had been ripped from his chest.  Granted, he was still angry with her, still hurt.  He did not want to see or talk to her.  But he did not want her to leave.  Despite the angry words he had hurled at her, despite the fact that he had for all intents and purposes ended their relationship, he could not stand the thought of her walking out of his life completely.

“So what are you going to do about it, Riker?”  He asked himself, bitterness eating a hole in his stomach. 

He loved her.  God, how he loved her.  But was that enough to overcome the pain and mistrust?  As much as he deplored the very idea of living without her, could he spend his life living with the knowledge that she had never, possibly would never, have any real trust in him?  How could they make a life long commitment if she would always be subconsciously waiting for him to fail her?

A shadow crossed his path. He looked up, startled.  He thought he was alone on the winding path. 

Will scowled.  “What do you want?”

Natalie smiled, lowering her lashes coyly.  “I just wanted to talk to you.  To apologize.”

“Apologize?  What makes you think I would be remotely interested in anything you have to say?”

“Will, please, I can explain.  I never meant any harm.”

Will snorted.  “Cut the act, Rebchek.  You and I both know we never so much as touched.  So what exactly do you want to explain?  Why you wanted my fiancée to think I was unfaithful?  What you hope to gain?”  Will sneered.  “I know.  Here’s a good question for you.  Did you tell Thomas he was a father or did he go to his grave not knowing?”

Natalie ’s entire demeanor changed.  Gone was the coy look.  Tears welled in her eyes.  “No, Tommy didn’t know about Caleb .  I did not know myself until after  I got off Lazon IV .  There was no way to tell him.”  She wiped the moisture from her face with the back of her hand.  “He spoke of you often.  He had a lot of strong feelings in regards to you.  He told me if I ever needed anything to find you.”

Will stared at her, astonished.  “Find me?  Why?  Thomas and I were barely on speaking terms.”

Natalie placed a hand on his arm.  “Will, there is so much you don’t know.  The whole thing is complicated.  Come with me now.  There is something you need to know.”

Will narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What?”

“Come with me, I promise you will understand soon.”

Will hesitated.  He did not buy the tears for one second.  He knew he should walk away.  He should tell her to get lost and leave it at that, but he couldn’t.  He had to know.  This woman had destroyed the best thing in his life.  He had a right to know why.

“Lead on.  But this had better be good.”

Will followed Natalie as she made her way up the path, headed deeper into the woods.  After about twenty minutes, they came upon a small cabin. 

Natalie looked over her shoulder at Will .  “In here.  There is something I have to show you.”

Wishing he had a phaser, Will followed Natalie into the cabin.  The room was pitch black.  Will strained to see in the inky darkness.  Behind him, the door slammed shut.  He whirled around, reacting instinctively.  He could see nothing.  He heard a movement to his right and turned toward it, just as something heavy crashed into his skull.  He was unconscious before he hit the floor.


            Deanna , you really should come with us.”  Beverly Crusher implored her friend. “The fresh air will do you good.”

            Deanna Troi shook her head sadly.  “I appreciate it, Beverly , but I really don’t feel up to going anywhere.”

            Beverly sighed. She hated to see her friend so miserable.  The sadness she saw in her friend’s eyes was heartbreaking.  It was the same expression Beverly had seen in Will ’s eyes earlier.  Beverly wondered how two people, so obviously needed each other, could be completely oblivious to the pain they were inflicting on one another.  Maybe they weren’t oblivious, Beverly thought.  Maybe they were just too stubborn and prideful for their own good. 

            She tried again.  Deanna , you can’t stay here and wallow. It’s not healthy.  As a psychologist, you know better.”  She chided gently. 

            Deanna remained silent.

            Beverly tried a different tactic.  “You are leaving in a few days. This may be the last chance we have to spend time together.”  Beverly hoped to get Deanna alone on a quiet trail and browbeat her into staying.

            Deanna sighed. “Alright!  If it is that important to you, I’ll…” Deanna stopped suddenly with a strangled gasp.

            Beverly took a step toward her, alarmed by the agony that marred her features.  Deanna , what’s wrong?”

            Deanna began panting, struggling for breath.  “Will” She croaked. “ Will is hurt!”

            She slapped her commbadge frantically.  “Troi to Riker.”  No answer.  Will , answer me!”  She practically shouted.

            She looked at Beverly , her eyes wild with fear.  “You try.  He may be ignoring me.”

            “Crusher to Riker.”  No answer.

            Deanna closed her eyes, reaching out mentally.  Nothing. Where Will ’s presence usually resided there was just an empty void. “ Beverly , I can’t sense him!”  Her voice trembled with fear.

            Beverly slapped her badge again. “Crusher to Picard .”

            Picard here.”

            “Captain, I need you in Counselor Troi’s office.  Something has happened to Commander Riker .  He’s not responding to our hails.”

            “Be right there.  Picard out.”

            Beverly took her friend by the arm and guided her to the couch.  The Empath looked ready to pass out.

            Within minutes, Picard hurried into the room.  “What happened?” he demanded.

            “I don’t know, sir,” Deanna voice shook.  “I felt intense pain coming from him, then nothing.”

            Picard spoke into his badge. “Transporter room, lock onto Commander Riker ’s signal and beam him back, now.”

            Seconds passed into eternity.  “Sir, we are not picking up his signal.  It seems to have been turned off.”


            “Thank you, Sir.  If you remember anything else, do not hesitate to contact our ship.”  Data turned back to his fellow away team members.

            “The proprietor of this establishment states that he saw Commander Riker leave about an hour ago.  He was headed East along a seldom used path.”

            Deanna barely heard him.  The emptiness she felt was intense, almost overwhelming. She could not feel Will anywhere.  He could be severely hurt, unconscious, or –Gods forbid –dead, and it was all her fault.  If she had believed him, if she had trusted, he would not have been off by himself on an unknown trail.  He would have been with her.  The guilt she felt weighed heavily on her chest—warring with extreme fear—suffocating her.


            Deanna snapped her head up at the sound of Worf’s voice.  She was surprised and somewhat embarrassed to discover that while she was in reverie, her crewmates had moved on and were several meters down the path.  She hurried to catch up with them.  “I’m sorry.  I guess I spaced out there for a moment.”

            Geordi Laforge smiled sympathetically.  “I can understand.  Have you been able to sense anything since we beamed down?” 

            Deanna shook her head mutely.  She could not elaborate.  She could not bring herself to voice her concerns. 

            Geordi squeezed her hand lightly. 

            Deanna , Geordi, Data and Worf continued down the path, scanning for any sign of their missing Commander.  For more than an hour they searched, silently.  With each step they took, the away team became more and more despondent, as their search continued to be futile. 

            “There is no sign of a struggle, no indication that anything at all happened.”  Data commented.  “The tracks indicate a slow and steady pace, as though he were taking a leisurely stroll.  Commander Riker …”  The android’s musings were interrupted by a strangled cry from behind.

            The three men whipped around, surprise and concern mirrored on their faces.  As they watched in amazement, Deanna ’s face transformed.  Up to that point her face had been expressionless, carved in granite.  Now the ebony haired counselor was smiling, her face filled with surprised joy.  “I can feel him.  He is close.”

            Simultaneously, her fellow officers leapt into motion.  Worf looking and listening intently to the area surrounding them.  Data pulled out his tricorder and scanned for Will ’s com-signal.  Geordi pounced on Deanna with a happy smile and a barrage of questions.

            “Where?  Can you tell from which direction?”

            Data interrupted his enthusiastic friend.  “Counselor, are you certain?  We are picking up a few life signs, but not the Commander’s signal.”

            Deanna closed her eyes, concentrating, searching for the essence that was unique to her Imzadi.  Her sense of him was clear.  He was close.  Very close.

            Before Deanna could answer, a rather loud rustling came from the trees to the east.  The sound was that of something, or someone, heavy running toward them.  Seconds later, Will Riker burst through the trees, stopping short when he saw the four people on the path.  He bent over, with his hands on his knees, breathing heavy.

            Geordi and Worf rushed to him, helping him into a standing position.  His clothes were torn and splattered in mud.  His commbadge hung from his shirt, mangled beyond working capabilities.  His face was streaked with a mixture of dirt and blood.  The latter trickling from a small gash on his forehead. 

            Horrified, Deanna stood frozen, unable to move toward him, and likewise unable to look away.

            “What happened, Commander?”  Geordi questioned.

            “I was jumped from behind.  I do not know what happened.”  His voice was raspy, filled with pain.  Deanna snapped out of her immobility.  Something wasn’t right.  His presence did not feel correct in her mind, and he was lying about not knowing what happened to him.  She also sensed that he was not in as much pain as he was trying to convey.  Deanna stepped toward him and wrapped her arms around his neck.  She pressed her lips against his hard, pouring all her love and need into the kiss.  He kissed her back for a moment, then shoved her away forcefully.

            He pushed past her without a word.  He went to Geordi and spoke to him in an undertone.

            Deanna did not hear the conversation, and barely noticed when they signaled the Enterprise for a beam out.  Stunned and confused, she could do nothing but stare at him, her blood pounding in her ears.  Nothing felt right.  Not his presence, not his emotions, and especially not his kiss.  Something was very wrong.  She stepped toward the men, trying to catch his eye.  She could tell he was avoiding her, trying to block her out of his mind.  Granted, he had been blocking her for days, but this was different.  He wasn’t blocking her because of anger, but from fear. 

            Unable to pinpoint the cause for her anxiety, Deanna continued to watch him closely as they transported back to the ship.


            Deanna stood just inside the door to sick bay watching Beverly examine Will .  He was laughing at something the doctor was saying. To the average person, he looked fine.  Will Riker at his jovial, happy-go-lucky best.  But  Deanna was not the average person.  She knew Will Riker better than anyone, and he was anything but fine.

            He turned to look at her, the laughter dying abruptly.  His eyes turned cold.  He turned his head away, pointedly ignoring her.

            Unable to stand the unease, Deanna left Sickbay.  She walked down the corridor, her mind troubled. 

            Deanna stopped suddenly as pain shot through her head.  Whimpering, she fell to the floor, her hands pressed against her temples.  The corridor was deserted, there was no one around to help her.  Through a haze of agony,  she felt a new presence in her mind.  “Will?” she whispered, hoarsely, confused.  The pain she was feeling was coming from Will Riker , not from Sickbay, but from the planet.




            “Captain, I’m telling you, that is NOT Will Riker in that room!”  Deanna’s voice was adamant, pleading for acceptance.  She had to make him believe her.  Will’s life could depend upon it.

            “Counselor, I want to believe you, but can you give me any evidence to prove your claim?”

            Deanna huffed, frustration making her sharper than was probably prudent.  “I can’t.  I have no concrete proof.  All I know is that I felt Will in extreme pain, and the sensation was coming from the surface.  That is not Will in there.”  Deanna took a deep gulping breath.  “OK, technically he is, but not the right one.  Our Will, my Will is somewhere on the surface, and for all we know, could be dying.  Sir, I know this is hard to believe, but I am one hundred percent sure that the person that beamed up from the surface is Thomas.”

            Picard sighed.  “Deanna, I have never doubted your empathic abilities.  If you are sure about this, then I will take your word.  But, why? And how?  Last I heard, Thomas was reported killed in an escape attempt.  If it is him in sickbay, how did he get off Lazon IV and what is he doing here?”

            Deanna shook her head.  She had no answers. “I don’t know, Sir.”  Briefly she explained the connection between Natalie Rebchek and Thomas.  “I honestly don’t know what all this means.  But  I do know that Will is in danger.”  Deanna’s obsidian eyes pleaded with Picard.  “Please, Captain, let me go down to the surface and look for him.  My sense of him is weak, confusing, sort of overlapping with my sense of Thomas.  If I go down to the surface, I can filter out Thomas and find Will.”

            Picard looked thoughtful for a moment.  “Counselor, forgive me, but I have to ask.  If you can sense them both at the same time, and it is conflicting in your mind, how do you know for sure that it’s not Will here and Thomas there?”

            The look on Deanna’s face would have withered a lesser man.  “At the core, they are the same man, but there is a plethora of differences between them. Trust me, I can tell.”

            Picard accepted that.  “Go on down, but be careful.  Don’t do anything stupid.  Take Data with you.  In the mean time, I’ll have Worf keep an eye on Thomas, see if we can ascertain his motives.”

            Deanna smiled gratefully, “Thank you, Sir.”

            Deanna turned and left the room.  She hurried to the transporter room, calling Data over the comlink as she practically ran down the corridor.


            “This is the precise location we found him, Sir.”

            Deanna nodded in agreement.  “Thank you, Data.  He ran from that direction.” She stated, pointing to the trees.  “You search that area, and I’ll go a little further ahead, see if I can pick up any sign of Commander Riker.”

            Data shook his head.  “Sir, I believe we should stay together.  There is the possibility of danger.”

            “I’ll be fine, Data.  It makes more sense for us to split up.  Commander Riker is injured.  We can cover more ground and have a better chance of finding him if we separate.”

            Data did not give in.  “Counselor, it would not be prudent…”

            Deanna cut him off.  “Commander Data, I insist that we do this my way.  I will take the utmost care.  If I see even the slightest sign of trouble, I will contact you immediately.  I have a phaser, a tricorder and my commbadge.  Nothing is going to happen.”

            Deanna held her breath and waited.  Although, technically, she outranked him, he was still third in command of the Enterprise , and therefore, her superior.  He could insist on staying together.  She hoped he saw the logic behind her request.

            He did.  “Fine, Counselor.  Report back every five minutes.”

            Deanna hid her smile.  “Yes, Sir.”

            Data turned and pushed his way through the trees, his tricorder humming.

            With a sigh of relief, Deanna began her own search.  As much as she appreciated Data’s assistance, she preferred to be alone in her search.  Alone with her thoughts.  She felt an urgency in her mind, a tingling that she needed to concentrate on fully.  She knew that to find Will, she would have to employ less than standard procedures.  She had to go on instinct and a psychic connection that could not be easily explained.  She could not afford to be distracted by the presence of a stoic, by-the-book android. 

            Deanna closed her eyes and cleared her mind.  She brought up a mental picture of Will, focusing all her mental acumen on pinpointing the essence that was unique to her Imzadi.  After a few minutes, she opened her eyes and began to move forward through the brush.  She moved on instinct, unconsciously allowing herself to be guided toward an as-of-yet unknown destination. 

            The minutes ticked by unnoticed.  Minutes turned into an hour.  Finally, after an eternity, Deanna felt Will’s presence enter her psyche.  It was faint, but it was there.  Deanna concentrated harder.  ~Will?~  She called out mentally, desperate for a response.

            She moved further into the overgrowth.  As she continued to walk, her sense of him grew stronger.  She sped up.  The further she moved, the stronger his presence got, and the faster she moved.  ~Will? Please answer me!~


            Deanna’s heart leapt.  ~Will!  Where are you?~

            ~I don’t know.  Some sort of cabin.~   Will’s “voice”  was faint.  Deanna sensed a nagging, persistent pain.  ~Deanna, Thomas is alive.  He was here.~

            Deanna moved faster, her eyes scanning rapidly for a cabin.  ~I know.  He’s on the ship.  Worf is keeping him under surveillance.~  

            Deanna sighed in relief when she spotted the cabin.  She pulled out her tricorder and pinpointed its coordinates.  She tapped her commbadge. “Troi to Data.”

            “Go ahead, Counselor.” Replied the disembodied voice of the android.

            “Commander Data, I believe I have found him.  I am transmitting the coordinates to your tricorder.  I am going in.”

            “Negative.  Counselor, stand down and wait for back-up.”

            Deanna rolled her eyes in exasperation.  “Acknowledged.”

            Deanna closed the open channel and resumed her course, disregarding Data’s order.  She approached the cabin from the East.  ~Will, I’m right outside.  There is a window facing North.  Can you see it?~

            ~Yes.  I am about ten feet from it.  Deanna don’t come any closer.  Rebchek could be back at any moment.~

            ~Negative.  I’m coming in.  I’ll have you out of there in a matter of minutes.~

            ~Stand down!  That is an order, Commander!~

            Deanna laughed.  ~You are not in any position to be giving orders, Commander.~  By this time Deanna had reached the window.  She peered in. The faint sunlight shining through the pane allowed her to see Will in the corner of the room.  He was tied up, his hands and feet bound.

            ~I see you.  I’m at the window.  Hang on, I’m going to find a way in.~

            ~Damn it, Deanna, don’t you ever listen?  Get away from here.  Get back up.~

            Deanna ignored him and began moving around the building toward the door she had seen on the other side. 

            As she stealthily rounded the corner, she heard a noise behind her.  She turned, her hand automatically reaching for her phaser.

            “I wouldn’t try it if I were you.”  A voice sneered.  “Move your hand away from your weapon slowly, or I will blast you into oblivion.”

            Deanna dropped her hand and completed her turn.  Natalie stood about ten feet away, her own phaser trained on Deanna.   “Very good, Counselor.  I must say I am impressed.  I underestimated you.  I honestly did not expect you to figure it out so soon.  That’s unfortunate, for you.  Turn around slowly.”

            Helpless to do anything else, Deanna obeyed.  She should have listened to Will and Data.  As Natalie came up behind her and took her phaser, Deanna prayed that Data was not too far away.

            “Now move inside, and don’t try anything stupid.  One false move, and I  will kill you.”


            Thomas Riker walked steadily down the corridor, reminding himself to act naturally, as though he belonged there, and knew exactly where he was going.

            He entered Will’s quarters with a smile, proud of himself for finding it without anyone wondering why the First Officer needed to ask the coordinates of his own room.

            The first stage of his plan had executed with relative ease.  Will was safely tucked out of the way.  Thomas now needed to put phase two into operation.  Namely, getting off the Enterprise and away from the people his “twin” called family. 

            Thomas surveyed the room intently, drinking in the life that should have been his.  All around him were mementos of his past, their past.  Thomas felt anger boiling inside himself, threatening to erupt.  This all should have been his.  Would have been his.  Will Riker had it all.  The career, the friends, the respect, and most importantly the love that should of belonged to Thomas.  “Not anymore.”  Thomas reminded himself. “It’s all mine now.”  Thomas’ only regret was not being able to share the life he had commandeered with the woman he still considered his soul mate.  He deeply regretted hurting Deanna, but for his plans to work, he had to stay as far away from her as possible.  It really was a shame, he thought sardonically.  One of them had finally gotten around to pursuing a relationship with the Betazoid, and now it had to end.

            Pushing Deanna from his mind, Thomas sat down at the desk.  He saw a red light blinking on the computer.  “Will don’t you ever check your communiqués? Computer display all communiqués for Commander Will Riker.”

            Thomas perused the messages with little interest.  As one particular one flashed across the screen, he snorted.  It was from his father.  He pointedly ignored it and moved on to the rest.

            “Boring, boring, boring.  Will, don’t you get anything interesting?  Boring, boring. Wait, what’s this?”   Thomas sat up a little straighter, no longer disinterested.  “Computer, play last message in full.”

            Thomas stroked his beard as he read the communiqué from Admiral Kathryn Janeway.  It seemed that the esteemed Commander Riker was being offered a promotion again.  The USS Titan.  The Admiral was awaiting his decision.  “ I bet you were going to turn this one down too, you sap.”  Thomas sneered in disgust for a moment, then smiled.  It was perfect.  Thomas immediately sent off a reply, accepting the promotion.

            Thomas leaned back in the chair with a grin of immense satisfaction.  A new ship, a new crew.  Nobody who knew William Riker well enough to guess that something was different about him.  He could not wait to tell Natalie.  Nothing stood in their way.  No longer did he have to be the “duplicate”.    He would have the life that was stolen from him.

            Riker hurried from his new quarters to the transporter room.   Completely immersed in self gratification, he never noticed that he was being carefully monitored by a very suspicious Klingon.




            Sitting in a corner, his hands and feet tightly bound, Will shot Deanna a furious look.  “I told you to stand down, Counselor Troi.  Why the hell didn’t you listen to me?”

            Equally trussed up, Deanna sat at his side.  She spoke calmly, which fuelled Will’s fury.  “Would you have if our situations were reversed, Commander Riker?”

            Will scowled.  “That’s not the point.  What are you doing here anyway?”

            Deanna stared at him incredulously. “What do you mean ‘What am I doing here’?  What do you think I am doing here?  I came to rescue you.”

            Will snorted derisively.  “Good job.   What I meant was I thought you were leaving.”

            “In a hurry to be rid of me?”  Deanna asked sarcastically.

            “What do you think?”  He shot back.

            Deanna sighed.  “I think we are not having this conversation now.  This is not exactly the best place for it.  Data should be here soon. I gave him the coordinates, but I had traveled for an hour in the opposite direction from him.  We  need to find a way out of here, before Rebchek comes back.”

            Will forced his anger and lingering melancholy to the back of his mind.  “These ropes are pretty tight.  I have been trying for hours to loosen them.  They won’t budge.”

            Deanna tried to wiggle her hands free and winced when the ropes chafed her delicate skin.  “They are cutting off my circulation.”

            Silence prevailed for several minutes as they tried to free themselves.  Finally, Deanna spoke softly.  “Will, I’m sorry.  This is all my fault.”

            Will looked up in surprise.  “What brought you to that conclusion?”

            “I should have trusted you.  None of this would have happened if I had trusted you.”

            Will’s stomach clinched at the sadness he heard in her voice.  He steeled himself against the desire to reassure her.  “You’re right.” He agreed flatly. “However, that is neither here nor there.  It is a moot point. We have more important things to worry about at the moment.”

            As Deanna and Will continued to struggle against their restraints, outside Natalie paced and fumed.

            Everything was ruined.  Damn Deanna Troi and her empathy!  Natalie knew they would not be able to get away with their plans.  She tried to tell Thomas just that, but he was adamant.  He was thoroughly convinced that he could seamlessly take Will’s place, integrate himself effortlessly into his life.  All they had to do was cause a rift between Will and Deanna, he said.  Make them not want to be near each other.  Then Thomas could, as Will, leave the Enterprise and start a new life with the mother of his child. 

            It would be easy, he said.  Will had always been a player.  His friends would be surprised, but not too shocked to discover Will had been lying about his relationship with Natalie.

            Caught up in her own angry deliberations, Natalie did not hear his approach until Thomas picked her up from behind and swung her around.  “Natalie, darling, everything is perfect.  The gallant Will has been offered a promotion.  Needless to say, I’ve accepted it.  Just imagine, Nat, I’m going from a disavowed Lieutenant to a Captain.” 

            Thomas stopped talking when he noticed that Natalie did not share his enthusiasm. He looked at her warily.  “What’s wrong?”

            Natalie exploded.  “EVERYTHING!  You said she would not notice.  You said she would be too emotionally distraught to pick up the differences between you and Will.  You promised it would be alright!”

            Thomas gripped her arms painfully.  His eyes narrowed incredulously.  “What are you talking about?”

            Natalie jerked away from him.  “Your precious Empath!  I tried to tell you she suspected something!  But no, you insisted we continue.  It’s over, Tommy!  She KNOWS!”

            Thomas shook his head in denial, not wanting to believe what she was saying. “Deanna?  Deanna knows?  Are you sure?”

            Natalie laughed humorlessly.  “As sure as I can be, considering that she is here.”

            “She’s here?”

            “Yes!  I tied her up and put her in there with Will.”  Natalie gripped his arm desperately.  “Thomas, we can still make this work.  We have to get rid of her.  We can get rid of both of them!  Nobody will find them.  Then you can convince everybody that she was imagining things.”

            “NO!”  Thomas shouted.  “We are not getting ‘rid’ of anybody.  I’ve already tipped off the Cardassians regarding Thomas’ escape.  They will be here soon and nobody will suspect that they really have Will Riker.”

            “What about her?”

            “I’ll figure out something.”

            Natalie fumed.  “We need to shut her up permanently.  We can make it look like she left on her own.  She’ll just disappear.  To heal her broken heart or something.”

            Thomas growled.  “We are not going to kill Deanna!”

            Natalie purposely softened her tone, sliding her hand along his arm in a gentle caress.  “Tommy, after all we have done, after all our plans, do you really want to lose everything now?  What about Caleb?  Are you ready to lose him?”

            Thomas closed his eyes in misery, picturing his precious son.  “No, but…”

            “It’s the only way.”  Her voice was cajoling, sugar sweet.  “Tommy, you know it’s the only way.  For us.  For Caleb.”

            Thomas caved.  “I don’t know if I can.  You know how much she meant to me…”

            His wavering was all the incentive Natalie needed.  Her eyes hardened as she stepped away.  “Don’t worry, I can.”  She turned and crossed the distance to the cabin in three quick strides.

            Thomas hurried to catch up with her.  “Nat, wait…”     

            Thomas entered the cabin a second after Natalie.

            Will and Deanna stopped struggling with the ropes.  They had heard the entire conversation.  Will looked at Thomas with disgust.  “I knew you had changed, Thomas, but I never imagined you would stoop this low.”

            “Shut up!” Thomas demanded.  “You have no idea what it’s been like…”

            Will interrupted his tirade.  “Spare us the ‘poor me’ speech.  You are a disgrace. You  do not deserve to carry the Riker name.”

            Will’s words strengthened Thomas’ resolve.  “How dare you judge me!  I am sick of your holier-than-thou attitude.  It has been so easy for you.  You went on with your life as though I never existed.  Because of you, I have never been anything more than the unwanted copy.  That life you so happily enjoy should have been mine.  Well no longer.  I will have the life your existence robbed me of.”

            Deanna looked at him solemnly.  “What are you going to do, Thomas?  Kill us both?  Deny everything you have ever been?  The man I know would never do what you are contemplating.”

            Thomas turned furious eyes on her and sneered.  “Deanna Troi, always psychoanalyzing everyone.  YOU DON’T KNOW ME!  You never have.  I was never good enough for you because I wasn’t him.”

            Deanna did not look at Will.  “That’s not true, Thomas.  I loved you.  Not because of Will.  But because of you. You are still the man that I fell in love with on Betazed. Deep inside, you are still the honorable William Riker you were then.  I know it.”

            She could see the conflict in his eyes, could feel his confusion.  “No…I’m not.  I wish I could be.”

            Deanna pushed gently.  “You are.  You know it.  You can’t do this, Thomas.”

            Natalie screeched. “Enough!  This is all very touching, but we don’t have time for this.” She pointed her phaser at Deanna.  “Thomas, untie them.” Still conflicted, Thomas did as she commanded.

            Will rubbed his sore wrists as he stood up.  He started to lunge at Thomas, but Natalie turned the phaser on him.  “Don’t move.  Thomas, come over here.  Now this is how it is going to go down.  Tragic really.  Poor Deanna.  Her suspicions were correct and she found Will.  Unfortunately, she got caught in the cross fire that killed Thomas.  Will, of course, will be heartbroken as he holds his dying ex- fiancée in his arms, but after a while he will get over it, and start a new life with the woman his ‘brother’ loved.  Honorably raising Thomas’ son.”         

            Horrified, Deanna tried to appeal to Thomas.  “Please, Thomas,  don’t do this.”

            “It’s too late,”  he whispered.

            Will held out is hand to his brother.  “No it’s not.  We can work something out.  Thomas, I know you hate me, but do you really want to kill Deanna?  Can you really take the life of the woman we spent a lifetime loving?”

            “Don’t listen to him, Tommy,”  Natalie interjected, her voice dripping with venom.  “This is the way it has to be.”  Natalie faced Deanna again and raised the phaser.  Deanna could sense anger and jealousy radiating from the woman.  “You know, he talked about you constantly, even after he declared his love for me.  All he ever thought about was his precious Deanna, and how much he missed you.  His soul mate.”

            In the split second it took for Natalie to fire, Deanna heard two identical voices scream “No!”.  Then she was being knocked hard to the ground, the force of the body over her stealing her breath and slamming her head against the hard stone floor.  She felt a blinding pain, then nothing, as she slipped into oblivion.

            Stunned into immobility for a brief moment, Will stared in disbelief at the body of his double lying motionless over his Imzadi.  His paralysis lasted only a few seconds.  He lunged at Natalie.

            The door slammed open and Data stepped through.  A millisecond passed as he took in the scene.  Assessing the situation, he fired at Natalie, his phaser on stun.  She slumped over just as Will reached her.  He caught her deftly and lowered her none too gently to the floor.

            “Deanna!”  He dropped to the floor beside the two bodies and rolled Thomas off Deanna.  He heard a moan.  Torn between caring for Deanna and his ‘brother’, he looked up and caught Data’s eye. 

            The android immediately went into motion, leaning over Thomas as Will tended to Deanna.

            Will lifted her head gently into his lap, sighing in relief when he saw her chest rise and fall slightly.  “We need to get them back to the Enterprise .”

            As Data stepped away to call the ship, Thomas raised his hand. “Will?”

            Will moved to Thomas’ side.  “Lie still, Tom.  We will have you in sickbay soon.”

            Thomas shook his head, breathing erratically at the effort even the smallest movement required.  “No,” he whispered,  “Its too late for me.  Is Deanna alright?”

            Will swallowed hard. “She’ll be fine, and so will you.”

            “Don’t lie to me.  I know all your poker faces.”  Thomas’ voice was fading. “It’s alright.  I can’t go back to Lazon.  Just promise me one thing?”

            Accepting the inevitable, Will nodded.  “Anything.”

            “Take care of her.  She’s the best part of you…us.  Don’t let my stupidity destroy that.”

            With that, one William Thomas Riker passed into another plane of existence , while another watched, tears coursing down his face.




            Will Riker sat in stunned silence as he hovered over Thomas’ motionless body.  Intense pain made breathing almost impossible.  The entire situation seemed surreal.  How could anyone be expected to watch himself die?  How would he ever get that particular picture out of his mind?

            A sharp pang of regret stabbed into Will’s heart.  There was so much left unsaid between them.  He had given Thomas very little thought in the past few years.  How different things could have been if he had only reached out to his other self instead of ignoring his existence.  Will had never been able to accept that he was not an unique individual, had never given Thomas a chance.

            Caught in his self-recrimination, Will failed to notice that Beverly and a few members of her staff had beamed down.

            Beverly assessed the situation immediately, her practiced eye going first to Deanna lying unconscious on the floor.  She quickly ran a tricorder over her friend, breathing a sigh of relief  that Deanna’s condition was grave, but not fatal.  She looked up and motioned to another doctor, before turning to her obviously more dire patient.  She stopped for a few seconds, disturbed by the sight of one Riker staring at the other as though looking into a macabre mirror. It was eerie.

            What was most disturbing to the red haired doctor was that she was not sure which one was which.  As she knelt down beside them she wondered to herself if she would be wrong to hope that Will was the one still cognitive.

            “You Riker men sure are a pain in my backside.” She stated with a lightness that she did not feel.  She ran her tricorder over the prone Riker, not expecting much.  She started in surprise when her ultra-sensitive equipment registered a heartbeat.  Faint, but definitely there.  “He’s alive.  Barely.”  She tapped her commbadge.  “Crusher to Enterprise.  Medical emergency.  Five to beam directly to sickbay.”  Her concerned eyes met surprised blue ones as the transporter beam took hold, beaming the three of them, as well as Deanna and Doctor Spencer back to the ship.


            Will paced outside sickbay like a caged animal.  More than two hours had passed since they returned to the surface.  To Will’s relief, Dr. Spencer had assured him that Deanna  would be fine.  She suffered a few cracked ribs from the impact of Thomas’ body, and she was concussed, but she would make a full recovery after a few days of rest.

            Thomas was an entirely different matter.  For two hours now, Will had impatiently waited outside sickbay while Beverly labored to repair the damage done by the phaser blast.

            Will did not know what to think, what to feel.  He felt ashamed, and guilty.  He had been so cold to Thomas, so unforgiving.  He could not help but believe that if he had only tried harder to accept Thomas, if he had tried at all, they would not be in this situation.  He could have reached out to Thomas, could have helped him come to terms with their dual existence.  They could have helped each other.  After all, who knew Will Riker better than Will Riker?

            He had been too stubborn, too busy denying it.  How did one deal with suddenly becoming one of a pair?  How did one deal with the possibility that he was the duplicate?  It was easier to write Thomas off than to wonder which one was the real Riker.  Was his entire life, from the transporter accident on, just a facsimile?

            Will stopped his pointless pacing when Beverly stepped through the door, pulling off her surgical scrubs.  “Doc?  How is he?”

            Beverly rolled her head on her shoulders, trying to ease the knot of tension.  “Its still too soon to tell.  I was able to repair the obvious damage, but he is still in critical condition.  His system has taken a brutal beating.  The next twenty-four hours are the most critical.  I’m sorry, but it’s touch and go at this point.”  Seeing his distress, she laid her hand gently on his arm.  “I am doing everything  I can for him.”

            Will ran his fingers through his hair, sighing.  “I know you are, Beverly.  I have the utmost faith in you.”

            Beverly no longer doubted that she was speaking to Commander Will Riker. Thomas would not speak so casually to her.  Would he?  “What did I say to you last time you were in sickbay?”  She questioned, hating herself for having to.

            Will laughed, understanding. “You told me that the next time I broke another bone due to Worf’s version of calisthenics,  you would drag him here and make him patch me up.  You also threatened to delete all my holodeck programs.”  They shared a smile, his amused, hers relieved. “It’s me, Beverly.”

            “I’m sorry, Will.  I can only imagine how hard this is for you.  Is there anything I can do for you?”

            Will smiled sadly.  “Just make him recover.  I have a lot to make up for.  We both do.”

            Will turned and started down the corridor. 

            ‘Will?”  Beverly called after him. He turned back to meet her eyes. “What about you and Deanna?”

            Will’s shoulders slumped. “I don’t know, Doc.  I really don’t know.”

            Beverly watched the usually unflappable commander walk away.  She had to turn her head.  She could not bear to see him looking so lost, so broken.



Thomas Riker sat up in his biobed, propped against several pillows. Four days had passed since he was brought in to the Enterprise’s sickbay, barely alive. Thomas understood why Will held Beverly Crusher in such high regard; the woman was a miracle worker. Thomas almost wished she wasn’t quite so good at her job.

Today was the first day he had been capable of sitting up on his own. He had hovered just above death for the first two days. Just yesterday, the good doctor had cheerfully informed him that he would make a full recovery. Baring any “stupid Riker machismo” as she called it, he would probably live a long and healthy life.

Thomas laughed sardonically, his chest aching from the movement. She had saved his life, just to send him back into hell, in the form of Lazon IV.

Thomas looked up as someone entered the room. Surprise crossed his face. The newcomer was the last person he expected to see.

“What are you doing here?” He asked Will warily.

Will grinned and held up a deck of cards. “I figured you could use a little distraction.”

Despite his wariness, Thomas smiled slightly. “You are a life saver. I am bored out of my mind.”

“I thought you might be. Actually, I came in defense of the medical staff. I imagine you are as bad a patient as I am.”

Thomas could not help himself. He grinned and reached for the cards. “Five card stud?”

“Is there any other game?”

The Rikers played in almost compatible silence for quite a while. Neither really knew what to say, and neither wanted to disturb the tentative harmony that currently existed.

Will sighed in disgust as Thomas won another hand, his fifth in a row. “I think you are cheating.”

Thomas sat back with a grin. “You are just a sore loser, you always have been.”

“You should know.”

Thomas looked down, his grin fading. “Will, I know this doesn’t mean much, but I really am sorry.”

Will’s eyes flashed with no small amount of anger. “You’re right. It doesn’t mean much. Do you have any idea what you have done? Can you comprehend the magnitude of your betrayal?”

Thomas felt his own deep seated anger rising to the surface. “Betrayal? Betrayal of what? Our friendship? Our brotherly relationship? The Riker name?” Thomas laughed harshly. “Give me a break! I have never been anything but an embarrassment to you and the sacred Riker name.”

“Maybe so, but it did not have to be that way. You had many opportunities to prove yourself, you just never took them.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to live up to the revered Will Riker? I was never given the chance. Everybody expected me to be just like you, and when I wasn’t, I was looked down upon.”

Will rolled his eyes. “Please spare me that same old song and dance. Of course I expected a lot from you. Maybe I did expect you to be more like me, but that was only natural, considering you are me.” Will’s voice softened, took on a slightly contrite tone. “I realize that I probably wasn’t fair to you. I may have judged you too harshly in some cases, especially the Maquis. Who’s to say that under the same circumstances, if our positions were reversed, that I wouldn’t make the same choices you made? I can live with that. I can accept that while we were at one time the same person, circumstances dictated that we take different paths in life. I can accept that you are not always going to make the same decisions that I would make. We are not the same person anymore. In a lot of ways, we are as individual as if we had been born that way. Like twins, or something. Our inherent nature plays a big part in who we are, but so does life experience.”

Despite his anger and still strong resentment, Thomas found himself being touched by Will’s words, his hesitant attempt at apology. Suddenly he smiled, the warped Riker sense of humor shining through. “You have been hanging around Deanna too long, you sound like a psychologist.”

Will allowed himself a small sad smile. “Yeah, well, she does have that effect on people.” Will’s amusement died as quickly as it had risen. “This brings me to my next point. What the hell were you thinking? Forgive me, but different people or not, I cannot fathom any circumstance that would lead either of us to do what you tried to do.”

Thomas reminded himself that Will had just cause to be angry. “For what it’s worth, I never had any intention to kill either of you. That was Natalie’s doing.”

“And that makes it alright? You planned to have me locked up in your place and take over my life.”

Thomas’ eyes flashed. “The life that should have been mine!”

“Don’t give me that crap! I made the life I have. I fought hard for everything I have. It was not handed to me. Yes, you spent eight years alone on that planet, and yes, another Will Riker went on in your stead, but that does not mean that you can spend the rest of your life blaming me for everything that has gone wrong since you were rescued. You made your own choices. It is those choices that got you where you are today. Just as mine have led me to where I am. You could have made your own life.”

“Easy for you to say. You have the life we wanted, and the woman we wanted.”

Thoughts of Deanna sliced painfully through Will’s mind. “Not anymore I don’t. Thanks to you.”

“At least part of my plan worked.” Thomas’ poor attempt at levity fell flat. “It was an ingenious plan actually. Natalie is an expert at blocking extrasensory perception. She can also lie outright and make an empath believe her. Everything she said would have come across as being the truth. And to that the fact that we have a history of hurting Deanna, and you didn’t stand a chance. My big mistake was that I did not know that the two of you were engaged. I never once thought you would actually make that kind of commitment to anyone, even Deanna.”

Will was disgusted. “You actually sound proud of yourself.”

Thomas shook his head. “I’m not. I never was. I never really liked what I was planning to do.”

“Then why did you?”

Thomas shrugged. “Desperation, Billy-boy. I was desperate to get off that stinking hellhole, to start a new life. Look where it got me. I almost allowed Deanna to die, and for what? Here I am going back to Lazon IV. I’ve lost everything again. Only this time, I am also losing my son.”

“You’re not going back there.”

Thomas stared at him. “What?”

“The Cardassian government is in chaos since the end of the Dominion War. They neither have the resources nor the inclination to worry about bringing you back. Of course, you are still being brought up on charges by the Federation. Impersonating an officer, kidnapping, attempted murder. Actually the attempted murder charge won’t stick, since technically you saved Deanna’s life, almost ending your own in the process.” Will looked at Thomas levelly. “You will probably do some time, but I can promise you it won’t be nearly as bad in a Federation Penal colony as it was in a Cardassian.”

Thomas exhaled loudly. His relief was clear. “You did this, didn’t you?”

Will smiled. “Actually, Deanna did. She still believes in you. She has recommended a full psychological evaluation, and intense counseling.”

Thomas felt humbled. After everything he had done, he was still being given another chance. He vowed silently that he would not blow it this time.

He raised his left brow comically. “Psychological evaluation, huh? I don’t suppose she will be the one conducting it?”

“Not likely. Deanna is going back to Betazed, indefinitely.”

“Will Riker, if you let her go, you are a bigger fool than I ever thought.”

Will snorted. “I thought you wanted us apart.”

Thomas had the grace to look uncomfortable. “I did.” He fell silent for a minute. When he spoke again his voice was harsh, as though he were forcing the words out. “Look, Will. I know that we will probably never get along. And I will probably always hold resentment toward you, and you toward me. But, I would really like to try to make things right. To change things. It won’t be easy but I am willing to try if you are. My first act in redefining myself is to admit that I was wrong. About a lot of things. Now I can’t promise to accept you and Deanna being together with open arms, but I can admit when I’ve lost. The fact is: she loves you. She made her choice and it was you. I was prepared to cut her completely out of both our lives, for the sake of my ‘new life’, but I failed. You both know now what happened. I started this, but if you let my mistake keep you apart, then you have no one to blame but yourself.”



“Jean-Luc, it has gotten completely out of hand. I’m about ready to kill them.” Beverly Crusher nibbled on her croissant delicately.

Jean-Luc Picard looked at her with a mixture of surprise and interest. “Surely things are not that bad?”

Beverly swallowed her food and nodded emphatically. “Oh yes it is that bad. Will and Deanna are still not speaking to each other. I swear they are the most stubborn people I have ever met. I’ve tried talking to Will, but he brushes me off. I think deep inside, he wants to talk to Deanna, to work things out, but he won’t.”

Picard shook his head. “Why the hell not? We will be arriving at Starbase 23 in a few days, at which point Deanna will be departing. If he allows her to leave without even trying, he will regret it.”

“You know how stubborn he is. Deanna has been spending a lot of time with Thomas. I think that is bothering Will more than he will admit.”

“But this break up happened before Thomas came on board. What I don’t understand is if they know that Thomas and Rebchek engineered the whole thing, why is it still an issue?”

Beverly shrugged. “I don’t know. Deanna won’t talk about it much, but I think it is more a matter of trust between them than truth.”

Picard thought about that for a moment before shrugging his own shoulders. “Ridiculous, if you ask me. They are acting like children.”

“Then maybe we should treat them like children.” Beverly whispered, almost to herself.

“Pardon me?” Picard did not trust the devilish gleam in his CMO’s blue eyes.

“Deanna and Will have been avoiding each other. I think if they just took the time to talk, everything would be fine. However, they are doing everything they can to not be in the same place at the same time. So I propose we force them to spend time with each other.”

“And how do you propose we do this? Lock them in his quarters? Or hers?” Picard asked in jest.

Beverly grinned. “Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of the holodeck.”

Picard choked on his tea. He looked at the pretty doctor as though she had suddenly sprouted another head. “Beverly get serious. We cannot lock two Senior Officers in the holodeck.”

“Sure we can. Deanna is not on duty at all right now, and we can spare Will for a little while. I’ll take his shifts. It really should not take too long. Once they are alone, I am sure it will not take long for them to work things out.”

“Doctor,” Picard tried to reason with her. “Riker has full authorization to override any programs. What makes you think he will stay in the holodeck?”

“That’s where you come in. I’ll need you to lock out the computer so only you can override the lock.”

“No, absolutely not. I will not interfere in the personal lives of my crew. It is completely inappropriate.”

“Inappropriate? Jean-Luc, how is it inappropriate to help two of your closest friends? Stop thinking like a captain for a few minutes. Actually, do think like a captain. If we don’t do something Deanna will leave. Then we will lose the best counselor in Starfleet, and you will have an angry, miserable first officer to contend with. For the good of this ship, for the crew, we have to take extreme measures.”

Picard rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. “So I should look on this as my duty as a captain to maintain a good working environment for my crew?”

Beverly grinned. “Absolutely!”

“Do you honestly believe I am going to swallow that line of bull?” Beverly thought she saw a slight twinkling in his eyes. “I should take advantage of my position as captain to trap two reasonable, sound-minded adults in a holodeck? Is that what you are trying to tell me?”

“Two normally sound-minded adults who are currently behaving unreasonably. Really, Jean-Luc, do you want Deanna to leave?”

“Of course not, Beverly, but…”

Beverly looked at him imploringly. “What harm can it do?” Beverly’s voice was cajoling, beguiling. “Nobody outside the senior staff will ever know.”

Jean-Luc Picard looked into the pleading eyes of his CMO and caved. He knew when he was beaten. “Alright. I’ll help. How do you plan to get them there?”

Beverly leaned closer, lowering her voice conspiringly, despite the fact that they were alone in the captain’s quarters. “Listen closely, this is what we are going to do…”

“Geordi, I do not understand the logic behind what we are attempting to do.” Data commented as he and Geordi Laforge rode the turbolift to the bridge.

“Data, it’s not logic, it’s romance. The doctor hopes that by getting Commander Riker and Counselor Troi alone, they will have no choice but to talk and work out their differences.”

“But, Geordi, it stands to reason that if Commander Riker and Counselor Troi have not come to an amicable agreement on their own, the likelihood of forcing them…”

“Data,” Geordi interrupted, exasperated. “You’re missing the point. A relationship between a man and a woman is not a peace negotiation. When it comes to matters of the heart, logic does not apply. We are talking about two of the most stubborn people in Starfleet. If left to their own devices, they will continue on just as they are. The Doc’s plan is perfect. Trap them in a romantic holodeck program, and let nature take its course.”

The turbolift door slid open, delivering Data and Laforge to the bridge.

“Lt. Commander Data reporting for duty.”

Will turned the center seat over to the android. “All is quiet this evening, Mr. Data. We are approximately half a light year behind our projected course, making our ETA to Starbase 23 about twelve hours behind schedule. Since there is nothing of major importance occurring at this time, the delay is negligible.” And it prolongs Deanna’s departure by twelve hours, Riker told himself silently.

“Very well, Sir. Beta shift will now commence.”

Geordi waited until Riker headed for the turbolift before approaching him. “Commander, do you have anything planned at this moment?”

Will yawned. “Not really, Geordi. I thought I would turn in early. Why, what’s up?”

“I need to show you a problem I found in the computer’s matrix.”

“Problem?” Riker narrowed his eyes. “What sort of problem? Why wasn’t I notified before now?”

“It’s a problem with the memory modules in the holodeck, nothing critical, but it does require attention before anyone can use the them.”

Will sighed, bone-weary. “Fine, Geordi. Let’s go.”

They stepped into the turbolift. “Deck eight.”

“Deanna, c’mon. You are going to love this new program.”

Deanna sighed. “Sure,” she stated with little enthusiasm. Spending an evening in the holodeck with Beverly was the last thing the counselor wanted to do. She was exhausted, physically and emotionally. Pretending not to be affected by Will’s continued coldness was draining enough. Add to that Thomas’ anger, self-hatred, and depression, and what one ended up with was a very tired counselor. She yawned. “Beverly, do we have to do this tonight?”

Beverly linked her arm through Deanna’s and pulled her along. “Yes, we do. My schedule is very full for the next few days. This is the last bit of free time I have until we reach Starbase 23.”

“Alright, but this better be a great program.”

Beverly smirked. “Deanna, I guarantee this is a program you will never forget.”

Deanna looked at her friend quizzically, sensing a strange conflux of emotions. “Beverly, what are you up to?”

The doctor was the picture of innocence. “Me? Nothing. I just want to spend some time with my dearest friend.”

Deanna did not believe her. “Uh-huh”

Beverly stopped suddenly outside the holodeck door. “Oh, damn!”

“What? What’s the matter?”

Beverly looked furtively up and down the corridor. “Oh, nothing. I just forgot something in my office. Something integral to the program.” She snapped her fingers as though coming up with a great idea. “You go on in, I’ll just run back and get it.”


Beverly gave her friend a slight shove toward the door. “Go on. I’ll be right back.”

Before Deanna could utter another word of protest, the holodeck door opened and she was pushed through.

The door slid shut with a click, trapping the highly suspicious counselor inside. Outside the massive door, Beverly Crusher smile with satisfaction at the man walking down the corridor.

“Are they both inside?” Jean-Luc Picard asked.

Nodding an affirmative, Beverly gestured to the control panel, watching with a smirk as the captain punched in a few commands, locking the doors. Only he could override the lock now. “How will we know when to let them out?”

Beverly shrugged. “I say we give them twelve hours. By then they will have either made up, or killed each other. Either scenario would be preferable to the limbo they are currently in.”



Deanna turned around in surprise as the holodeck door slid shut. What was Beverly doing? She stepped forward, expecting the door to open at her approach. Nothing happened.

“What the hell is going on?” Deanna spun around at the sound of the voice. Will stood in the center of the room.

“Will, what are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same thing. I was supposed to be helping Geordi with a glitch in the memory modules.”

Deanna raised her eyebrows, realization dawning. “I was invited by Beverly.”

Will stalked to the door, stopping suddenly when they did not budge. He tried again, whirling around in surprise as the doors disappeared.

They stood in speechless wonder as the yellow grids gave way to a majestically beautiful scene. In an instant, Deanna felt the cold hard floor beneath her transform into soft warm sand. To her left lay an ocean, calm and glass like, the full moon above reflecting off the surface like a mirror. The waves licked gently at the shore, coming within an inch of her feet before rolling playfully away. Deanna turned slowly, only to gasp in wonder. The beach ended, tapering off into a deep blanket of forest. In the distance, mountains rose above the trees, touching the sky. The moonlit night cast a brilliant glow on the mountains, bathing them in shades of purple and gold. It was breathtaking.

“Well, Beverly sure picked an incredible scene.” Deanna commented dryly.

“You can stay here and enjoy it if you like.” Will muttered. “I’m leaving. Computer, exit.” Nothing happened. “Computer, end program.”

“Unable to comply.”

“What!” Will was beginning to get angry. “Computer, display arch.”

“Unable to comply. All holodeck controls have been locked out.”

Will swore. “Computer, override lock out, authorization Riker one-Alpha-zulu-five-niner”

“Authorization denied.”

Deanna could not prevent the laughter the bubbled out. Riker shot her a blistering look. “What may I ask is so amusing?”

Deanna struggled to contain her mirth. “You are. Come on, Will, give up. It’s obvious that we are stuck in here.”

Will ignored her. “Riker to Picard.”

Deanna snickered, suddenly everything seemed hilarious. “Forget it, Will. That isn’t going to work.”

Deanna jumped when Picard answered. “Picard here. What can I do for you, Number One?”

“Sir, Counselor Troi and I are trapped in Holodeck Three.”

“You don’t say?” Came the disembodied voice. “Well, hang in there, Will. We’ll have you out of there as soon as possible. Picard out.”

Riker shot Deanna a triumphant look.

Deanna rolled her eyes, still trying to control her laughter. “Oh, please. Will, who is the only one on this ship that can override your commands?”

Will was furious. He turned on her. “You did this, didn’t you? You couldn’t just leave well enough alone.”

Deanna’s amusement died abruptly. “Why would I want to be locked in a holodeck with someone who so obviously wants nothing to do with me?”

Will did not answer. He turned away and began walking up the beach.

“Where are you going?” Deanna yelled after him.

“Away from you!” Will yelled back over his shoulder.

“Fine!” Deanna turned in the opposite direction.

Suddenly, without warning, the scene changed. They were no longer on a beach, but in a cave, about ten meters in diameter. The entrance was a wall of water, cascading down from above.

Will growled. “Now what?”

“It looks like our would-be captors want us to be in close proximity.”

Will examined the entrance. The water fall was too strong for him to get past without injury. He did not trust his “friends” to have left the safety protocols in place. Like it or not, he was stuck right where he was at, alone with Deanna. Not such a bad thing, he admitted to himself. He missed her, terribly. He just was not ready to tell her that. Pride warred with the pleasure of being near her again.

He sat down, as far away from her as he could get in the small cave, leaning against the cold stone wall.

Deanna mimicked his actions, remaining silent.

They sat that way for a long time, each stealing glances at the other and quickly looking away when discovered.

Deanna felt ridiculous, growing weary of the cat-and-mouse game they played. She imagined spending the rest of her life in this holoprogram, waiting for Will to speak to her. She shivered.

Will caught her movement out of the corner of his eye. “You could have said something about being cold.”

Deanna rolled her eyes. “And broken this wonderful silence we have between us?”

“Computer, produce campfire.” Will was surprised when the computer complied. “Well, at least something works.”

Within minutes, the heat from the small fire filled the small alcove, chasing away the chill.

“Thank you.” Deanna mumbled.

Will grunted in reply.

“Will, this is ridiculous. Are we going to continue to sit here for hours on end, not speaking?”

“What would you like to talk about, Deanna?” Will’s voice was harsh, biting.

Deanna moved around the fire to stand in front of him. “How long are you planning to shut me out? How long do you plan to punish me for something that was not my fault?”

“I’m not trying to punish you.” He denied, knowing that he was lying.

Deanna knew it, too. “Liar! What do you call it, if not punishment? Shutting me out, refusing to talk to me? How long do I have to pay for making a mistake?”

“I don’t know, Deanna. How does fifteen years sound? That is how long I have been paying for a mistake that I made.”

Deanna’s fists clenched at her sides. “Oh, stop it! What happened then has no bearing on what is happening now, and you know it!”

Will snorted. “Do I? It sure seems to me that the events of the past have a lot of bearing on our current situation. You don’t trust me because of a mistake I made a life time ago, when we were different people. That is exactly what this is all about. I hurt you a long time ago, so of course I can’t be trusted now.”

Deanna had never in her life wanted to hit someone as badly as she wanted to hit him at that very moment. “Would you please stop putting words in my mouth? I told you that I have forgiven you for Wendy, and Risa, and all that. I forgave that a very long time ago.”

“But you haven’t forgotten! Why else was it so easy for you to believe the lies that bitch was spouting? Because in the back of your mind, you were expecting me to fail.”

“NO!” Deanna vehemently denied. Riker just raised an eyebrow at her. Deanna swallowed hard, still fighting the urge to slug him. “Will, you have to understand my point of view.”

Will shook his head. “No I don’t”

Deanna screamed in frustration. “Damn you, Will Riker, you have had your say and now I am going to have mine, and you are going to listen.” Deanna poked him in the chest with her finger. “What was I supposed to think? She seemed sincere. I felt no indication that she was lying. You on the other hand, I could not read at all. Add the fact that you avoided any discussion about it, not to mention the DNA test, and what other conclusion was I supposed to come to?”

“You were supposed to trust me!”

“Why? Why was I supposed to trust you? The whole scenario was carefully orchestrated so that I couldn’t trust you. We were manipulated by an expert. Someone who was carefully coached on our history. Come on, Will, be reasonable, you heard what Thomas said about…”

Will interrupted, sarcastically. “Oh, well if Thomas said something, then it must be true.”

Deanna screamed again. “William Riker, you have got to get over this childish jealously you harbor toward Thomas.”

“And you have to get past the pure-blind adulation you feel.”

Deanna’s entire body burned. Anger pulsated through her. “Ohhhh. Gods, I am sick unto death of the both of you! The transporter accident must have split your brain in two, because I swear neither of you are working with a full one.”

Deanna stomped around the small cave, muttering to herself. A practice Will might have found amusing, if he were in any mood to laugh. “Gods, why me? What did I ever do to get stuck with two William Rikers? Wasn’t one bad enough?”

She turned to face Riker again. “I just spent the last few days counseling your ‘brother’, trying to get him past the negative feelings he is holding inside, and all he could do was continuously question why I chose you over him.”

“And did you tell him what he wanted to hear? Did you tell him I was an available substitute for him?”

“Argh!” Deanna did hit him this time. She slapped him across his left cheek, causing her hand to sting. “See? One brain. No, you idiot! I told him that I was fool enough to fall in love with a commander I met aboard the D. You know, the one who vaguely resembled the young man I once knew, but was a great deal more mature?”

Emotionally shaken and appalled at her violent outburst, Deanna turned away, running toward the waterfall.

“Deanna, wait!” Will pleaded. Deanna did not stop. She plunged into the wall of water with out a backwards glance.

Seconds later, the silence was ripped apart by a blood-curdling scream.

“Deanna!” Will screamed, rushing through the water fall himself. He stopped short, balancing precariously on the edge of a cliff. Regaining his equilibrium, Will scanned the area for Deanna. Finally he spotted her, five meters below. His heart stopped. She was lying face down in a shallow pond, motionless.



“Deanna!” Will screamed, frantically searching for a way down. His eyes cut quickly to the water below. Deanna still had not moved. “Computer, end program! Emergency override!”

“Unable to comply.”

“Damn it!” Will felt the force of the waterfall as it cascaded around him. He fought to keep his footing as the artificial force of nature endeavored to knock him from his precarious perch. “Computer, discontinue waterfall.” Will held his breath, only releasing it when he felt the deluge subside. He cut his eyes below once more. He thought he saw Deanna move. His heart leapt as she slowly turned over, thrashing wildly in an attempt to bring her head above water. Will dropped to his knees and swung himself over the edge. “Hang on, Deanna, I’m coming.” Will let go of the ledge, dropping ten meters into the icy water below. He landed with a splash, flailing his arms wildly to keep his balance. He trudged through the waist deep water toward where Deanna was struggling to remain afloat.

The water was not deep, and Deanna was a strong swimmer, however the force of her fall, and the freezing water, left Deanna momentarily in shock, without the strength to stand.

Will reached Deanna’s side within seconds, hooking his arm around her waist and pulling her to the edge. He dragged her onto the bank and dropped beside her shivering body. He examined her closely, running his hands over her trembling body, looking for signs of injury. He was relieved to find nothing, however Deanna remained listless, unresponsive, as she lay in shock. “Damn Beverly and her games.” He muttered angrily. The meddling doctor probably thought the cold mountain scenery would be romantic. He could not even change the program to a more hospitable climate. He had to get Deanna out of the cold, he had to find some place warm and dry. He touched her icy cheek lovingly. “I’ll be right back, Imzadi.”

Will hurried, searching the area for something that could be used as shelter. Finally, he found a cave about a hundred meters from where he left Deanna. It was small, barely 6 meters deep, but it was dry, and with a fire, would be warm. He rushed back to Deanna, lifting her gently in his arms. In the cave, he lay her as far into the interior as he could, before requesting blankets, dry clothing, and a fire from the computer; thankful that Beverly was thoughtful enough to leave him even this miniscule amount of control.

Moving quickly, more than a little concerned by Deanna’s continued listlessness, he stripped her wet clothes away and wrapped her in one of the thermal blankets. After changing out of his own wet clothes, he sat against the cave wall, pulling her into his warm embrace. Deanna lay trembling in his arms, the shock of her fall still affecting her system.

Will rubbed her arms and legs, and stroked her face, willing her to respond. “Come on, Deanna, wake up. Open those beautiful eyes and smile at me.” He whispered hoarsely, pleading. Not that she had much to smile at him about lately, he thought, with self-recrimination.

Slowly, the warmth began to seep back into Deanna’s limps, bringing her around. Her eyes flickered open. “Will?” she said in a small, questioning voice. She lifted her hand to his bearded cheek, touching him hesitantly.

Will looked into her eyes. All the love and tenderness he felt for her shone brightly from the endless depths of his incredible blue eyes. It felt so good to be lying in his arms. She was afraid to move, afraid to break the spell.

For Will, the events of the past few weeks melted away. Nothing mattered—not the fights, nor the mistrust—except the wonderful relief he felt. “Oh, God, Deanna. You scared the life out of me. I thought I had lost you.”

Will lowered his head, capturing her lips with his own. It was not a tender kiss. His lips pressed forcefully upon hers, pouring out all the love, all the anger, all the relief, and all the emotion he felt toward her. It was the kind of kiss Deanna had waited for, the kind she had dreamt of for longer than she cared to think about, the kind of kiss that had her eagerly responding. She opened her mouth as his tongue skimmed across her lips, begging for entry.

Feeling a warmth that had nothing to do with the fire spread through her, Deanna scrambled to her knees without breaking the kiss.

Deanna wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing her body as close to his as possible. Will’s arms tightened around her, as though trying to absorb her into his body.

Deanna deepened the kiss, her own tongue stroking his, drinking in the heady passion she had never felt for anyone else.

Will tore his mouth from hers and began training hot wet kisses along the length of her neck. He pushed the blanket off her shoulders, following the cloth down, leaving a trail of heat in his wake.

Eager to feel his skin against her hands, Deanna yanked at his shirt, pulling the obstructing garment over his head. Their lips met again, hungrily, as Will caressed Deanna’s bare breast, kneading the silky flesh with his strong hands. Deanna moaned.

Tenderly, Will lowered Deanna to the ground. Their eyes met and held, speaking volumes, as Will stroked his hands down her fevered body. His mouth followed the path his hands were making, stopping first at her breasts. He took her into his mouth, smiling slightly when he felt the tiny nub pucker.

Deanna felt like she was floating, riding on a cloud of passion and need. She felt a flutter, a liquid heat in her lower abdomen as Will dipped his tongue into her navel before going lower.

Deanna squirmed in pure pleasure, loving the feel of him. Just when she thought she could stand no more, Will kissed his way back up her body. Their eyes met again. Deanna reveled in the smoky passion that clouded his eyes. Deanna ran her hands down his muscled chest and unfastened his pants, pushing them off his hips. Will sucked in his breath sharply as her hand closed around him, stroking him lovingly.

Will took her lips again, hungrily, as he reached down to finish removing his clothing. Neither of them spoke as he lowered himself over her willing body, entering her in one quick thrust.

Deanna groaned against Will’s mouth. She arched against him, taking him fully into the soft, warm recesses of her body.

They moved together in a sensual dance as old as time, riding a tide of passion, love, and intense need. Their eyes met again, locking together in an irresistible magnetic pull. They did not break their gaze as their movements became frantic, building in intensity until they exploded as one. As wave after wave of sensation washed over them, one thought echoed through their minds.

~I love you, Imzadi.~

Will rolled to his side, cradling Deanna against him, as they slowly descended back to reality. They lay silently for several moments, neither of them wanting to break the spell, knowing that despite what had just occurred, there was still so much between them. Will did not know what would happen next. The only thing he did know was that he had come dangerously close to losing her completely. It was something he never wanted to face again.

“Where do we go from here?” Deanna asked quietly, sensing his uncertainty.

Will sighed, stroking her bare thigh absently. “I don’t know, Deanna. I still have a lot of things inside that I need to deal with. I’m not sure what I want anymore.”

Deanna turned in his arms. “Will…”

Will placed his finger against her lips, silencing her. “Shh, let me finish. I need time, Deanna. Time to think. I don’t know anything anymore. All I know is that I love you and I don’t want to lose you. I know this is asking a lot, but I want you to stay. I can’t promise anything, but I don’t want you to leave. Please just give me the time I need to work things out in my head.”

Deanna sighed. “And if you decide you don’t want me anymore? Then what, Will? Am I supposed to put my life on hold while you decide my future?”

“Deanna, please. Give me a chance. Trust me. Don’t go back to Betazed. I just need time.”

Deanna looked deeply into his eyes, searching for answers he himself probably was not aware of. She found what she was looking for. Love, need, hurt, fear. Deanna knew Will Riker better than anyone. She knew him inside out. She would wait. This time she would trust him unconditionally.



Deanna stood silently at the window in her quarters, staring into the endless night. The stars streamed past in the long colorful lines that always signified warp flight. The symmetry of the starlines brought with them a serene peace that Deanna had always loved. She wished, not for the first time, that her life had the same type of serenity.

Three days had passed since that night in the holodeck. Three long days of uncertainty and waiting. She felt like a fool, helplessly waiting for Will to “think”, to decide what he wanted.

Deanna smiled slightly when she remembered the hard time Will had given Beverly after they had been let out of the holodeck. Her amusement however did not last long. Will had taken to once again avoiding her. She knew she had promised to give him time, but the wait was killing her.

Deanna had gone to Captain Picard and requested to be put back on the roster. She decided that no matter what happened between her and Will, it was foolish to give up her career. Being off the rotation schedule, however, meant that she had come back to a heavy work load. Deanna did not mind the extra work, it helped to occupy her troubled mind.

Deanna turned with a start when the doorbell chimed. She reached out, focusing her mind. It was Will. Taking a deep breath, she called out for him to enter.

“Hi,” he greeted hesitantly as the door slid shut behind him. He entered the room fully and sat down on the sofa. Deanna sat across from him, wondering how he was feeling, what he was thinking. She could not read him at all. He had been blocking her mentally since they left the holodeck.

“Hello.” She returned his greeting just as hesitantly.

Silence filled the small room. Finally Will spoke. “I heard from Thomas.” They had left him on Starbase 23, bound for Earth for trial. Will and Deanna both had given recorded depositions so they would not have to appear in court.

Deanna nodded. “And?” Truthfully, she was only minimally interested in the news. She had not yet forgiven Thomas.

“He has been sentenced to two years in a minimum security facility. During that time he is to undergo extensive therapy. At the end of those two years, he will be reevaluated to determine whether or not he is ready to reenter society. Natalie is still on trial, and faces a much stiffer penalty.”

Deanna nodded again, satisfied. “And the child?”

“Caleb will be staying on Earth with his nanny, until Thomas is free and ready to take on the role of father. The nanny loves Caleb a great deal and promises to take him to see Thomas as often as she is allowed.”

Deanna breathed a sigh of relief. Having his son near would give Thomas more reason to fight, to get better.

Will fell silent once more. Deanna watched him carefully. “Is that the reason you came down here? To tell me about Thomas?”

Will shook his head, not meeting her eyes. “As you probably know, I was offered the Titan. Thomas accepted the promotion while he was impersonating me.”

Deanna swallowed hard, not liking the direction the conversation seemed to be going. “Yes.”

Will finally looked at her. Deanna was shocked and slightly frightened by the look in his eyes. The determination. Deanna knew before he could speak what he was going to say, and her heart began to sink.

“I’ve decided to take the position. I’ll be leaving the Enterprise as soon as the Titan is ready.”

Deanna felt sick to her stomach. “I see.” Her voice cracked. She cleared her throat, determined not to show any emotion. “How long?”

Will shrugged. “A few months.”

Deanna struggled to breathe past the lump in her throat as Will stood up and paced around the room. He was leaving her, again.

Will stopped pacing and waited for her to look up, meeting his gaze. “I, uh, need your advice on a personnel matter.”

What? Deanna wanted to scream. “What kind of personnel matter?” Deanna was amazed at how calm her voice sounded.

“Well, you see, the Titan also needs a few other positions filled. One of which is ship’s counselor.”

Deanna felt hope spring to life in her chest. “Oh? Did you have anyone in mind?”

“A few people. Who would you recommend?”

Deanna smiled, batting her lashes at him coyly. “How about Commander Deanna Troi? I hear she is a pretty good counselor.”

Will shook his head slowly. “No, I don’t think so.”

Deanna’s face fell, her heart plummeted to her feet. How could she have read him so wrong? “No?” She croaked.

Will shook his head again. He stopped in front of her. “I was thinking more along the lines of Counselor Deanna Riker.” Will dropped to his knees in front of her, capturing her trembling hands in his own.

Deanna just stared at him. “Are..” Deanna had to clear her throat and try again. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

Will grinned. “Yes. And damn it, this is the last time I’m going to!”

Will pulled her hands away and placed them on either side of his beloved face. “Are you sure, Will?”

Mimicking her actions with his own hands, Will kissed her softly. “I’m sure that I love you. I’m sure that I need you. I’m sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side. Say yes, just one more time.”

Deanna took a deep breath and pressed her forehead against his. “Yes.” She whispered.

Will kissed her deeply, moving his body to join her on the sofa. Deanna wrapped her arms around his neck, hanging on as though she never intended to let go.

Will knocked down the mental block he had held in place for so long, allowing Deanna full access to everything he was, everything she had made him. For Will knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was Deanna’s love that made him different from Thomas. It was Deanna who gave him the strength and courage to face each day. It was Deanna’s love that made him the man he had become. And he would spend the rest of his life cherishing the precious gift she had given him.

Outside, the brightly colored starlines continued past, their quite peace no match for the absolute serenity that existed in the hearts and minds of the small room’s two occupants.

The End.