Imzadi - The Lost Chapters
by Carol Sandford

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*Everything had been attended to. Almost.

Riker told himself that he was making a final stop at the art museum to verify for himself that everything was back in place and restored to order. After all, Starfleet would want nothing to be overlooked.

But he found himself standing for an overlong time in front of one particular painting, the one Deanna had showed him, the one with all the large concentric "goopy" swirls.

He stared at it.

Then he heard the music floating from nearby. And somehow, in a way that he couldn't quite explain, the music seemed to enhance what he was looking at.

As if dancing to the notes, the colors began slowly to swirl. It bore a striking resemblance, Riker realised, to stars swimming about in a sort of galactic whirlpool. No, not just stars...stars and planets, and perhaps...perhaps that was something like what the universe had looked like in the throes of creation. Void and miasmic and filled with promise and possibilities...

He sensed her standing next to him. But he couldn't turn to face her.

"Your leaving" said Deanna.


"I wish you safe voyage."

"I wish you..." He stopped and found the strength to look at her. He had turned quickly, and for a moment his mind's eye superimposed the flow of the painting over her. For one insane second, she was, literally, the center of his universe. "I wish you could come with me." he said at last.

She shook her head. "You know Imzadi...for a time there, I was ready to change my universe for you. But I don't think either of us is ready for that."

He tried to say that she was wrong, but he couldn't. So instead he tried to find some way to say good-bye. But he couldn't do that either.

He turned and looked back at the painting. Such vastness that encompassed everything there was...and yet somehow, now, it seemed completely empty.

"Deanna." He turned back to her. "Maybe..."

But she was gone.

He hadn't even said goodbye. Dammit, he'd said nothing to her... because he hadn't been able to find the words. And so he'd blanked his mind, and now she probably thought that he didn't care all that much. If he were able to part from her with such apparent ease, without even a word...

He took a step in the direction he was sure she had gone...but then stopped. Because he knew beyond any question, that this was the way she wanted it. And somehow, somewhere along the way, what she wanted had become more important to him than what he wanted~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*



Will turned to the picture once more, but as he stared at it, he now saw nothing, just a blackness that matched the image in his head. His heart-beat pounded in his ears as his mind began to race over the last few minutes with a clarity that only moments ago had eluded him when he truly needed it.

But what about what he wanted? Now it became more important, and he could not let her go, he could not leave it like that. Now what was vitally important to him was that she knew that he would come back for her, one day, but he had to tell her. Will must tell her that. As he turned and almost ran through the corridors, several curious eyes followed him out.

Slamming through the outer doors, he came to a halt, frantically scanning the area, desperation creeping in when he realised he had lost her. But from a terror born deep inside him, and before Will knew what he had done, before he'd considered where he was, Will shouted, out loud.


Even as he shouted, Will had known that she would not have come back even if she had heard him. But Will had to tell her, he had to find her, and he was not going to stop until she had promised to go with him, if not now, then one day. Even if it meant the Hood leaving without him...

How long Will stood in the doorway of the art museum, he didn't know. Several people filed past him, some were curious, some sympathetic, and some with enough pity to reach out and gently touch his arm, or his shoulder. Will felt and saw no-one.

Eventually, with a sigh he dejectedly headed off to his quarters. But as he entered the door, his eyes fell on the still rumpled bed. The memory of Wendy Roper, sprawled naked across it, soon got pushed away as Deanna's horrified face replaced the image.

Will groaned aloud, first with shame, then despair. Then from deep inside of him came an anger that he had not experienced for a long, long time. Without warning, like a volcano, it erupted, spewing out his misery, his loss, despair and agony.

Turning, Will stared at the door which had just entered through. Torn between running after her, and torn with the need for solitude to lick his wounds, the door found itself being slammed shut with such a force, it bounced back open again. Will kicked it with a howl. His eyes blazed as he watched it finally close.

The echoing silence filtered through, and slowly his anger abated and became replaced with an ache. An ache so deep, it physically hurt. Falling to his knees, Will clutched at his chest as the feeling overwhelmed him, and it was then...and only then, that he finally knew, he was, without a shadow of a doubt, deeply and hopelessly in love with Deanna Troi.


Peering into the darkened room, Sergeant Tang found Will some time later, sitting on the floor, huddled against the end of his bed with his knees clutched up to his chin. Tang, loathe to disturb him, knocked gingerly at his door. He did not expect him to answer, and he didn't. He did get a blank stare that begged to be left alone. Without a word, Tang nodded his understanding, backed out of the room, and closed the door with a resounding click.

Will listened as his footsteps retreated along the corridor and sighed heavily, the intrusion enough to pull him out of his stupor. Letting his head fall back onto the edge of the bed, he stared up to the ceiling, searching for...what? Mercy, pity, condemnation, answers, help...Will moaned pitifully.

"What have I done?...what can I do? Oh my god Deanna, I want you so much, I am so, so sorry...forgive me please"

Will closed his eyes, forcing the scalding tears to fall. Hugging his own body with his arms, a loneliness crept over him and seemed to swallow him whole. Along with the painful throb of his breaking heart, he murmured her name, over and over, "Deanna, Deanna, Deanna..."



Chapter 2


Deanna hurried out of the building, certain Will would not follow her. But as she turned the corner, she heard him scream her name, tears springing to her eyes as she heard the pleading tone echo throughout the peaceful lawns and through to her very soul.

Deanna's hands flew to her ears to block out the sound. Her heartbeat thumped painfully, along with the ache that had steadily built as she had walked silently away from what she had thought was her destiny, her new life. Her Imzadi.

Deanna heard footsteps approaching, and thinking it was Will, she ran. She was not ready for on the onslaught of Will's emotional state. Her heart still heavy with saying goodbye. No, she corrected herself, they did not say goodbye, she could not bring herself to say the words. Saying goodbye meant forever to her, she did not want to say that to him, because last night, in the corridor, after she had ran from him, the first time. After she had almost, foolishly thrown herself at him, Deanna had known that they were not ready for total commitment. Life for them was incomplete, and life still had to be lived, to the full. When she was ready, and when Will was ready, fate would find them again and reunite them, of that she was certain.

But not right now.

Deanna found herself on her best friend's doorstep. Chandra opened the door, her eye's already told Deanna that she knew what was wrong. No words were spoken as Chandra gently pulled the traumatised woman into her embrace.

The action was all Deanna needed, because as soon as Deanna felt Chandra's shoulder against her face, she began to cry in earnest. Huge sobs racked her tiny frame, and Chandra hugged her closer still. Deanna clung to her for dear life, and Chandra's heart broke along with her friends. To a Betazoid, losing your Imzadi was probably, by far, the worst thing to happen in the world, and her friend had just lost hers.

Eventually Deanna quietened to an eerie silence. Chandra could no longer read her thoughts and knew she had shut down her mind to block out the pain, and the memories. Guiding her to her spare room, she eased Deanna onto the bed. Deanna stared unseeing into her face, reaching out for her, she painfully clutched her hands, the desperation for her to stay with Deanna filtered through. Chandra lay down beside her, and using Deanna's mother's affectionate term, made her way in through Deanna's troubled mind.

*Hush, I'm not going anywhere. Sleep little one, it will help, please sleep*

Within moments, Chandra felt Deanna's body relax, her breathing became even and she knew she had fallen into a deep slumber.

Chapter 3


Tang did not bother knocking this time when he approached Will's quarters. Entering the gloomy room, the first thing he noticed was that Will had dragged himself onto the bed and appeared to be asleep. Tang crept over to the bed with the intent of covering him up. Pleased that he had finally settled down, Tang knew that sleep worked wonders for a fragile mind. He reached down to pull the coverlet over him, but jumped when he heard Will's subdued voice.

"I'm not a child, Tang."

Tang flushed, glad that the room was in darkness, "Sorry sir, I thought you were asleep."

"Would you be asleep if you'd just lost your whole universe?"

Tang sighed, "No sir, probably not, but you know what they say, sometimes answers come in your dreams. You never know, they might hold the solution."

Will pushed himself wearily up onto his elbow, running his hand through his hair. Dropping the hand loudly onto the bed, he growled at the equally tall man.

"Sit down Tang, your giving me a headache looking up to you"

Tang cautiously sat on the edge of the bed and apologised, "Yes sir, sorry sir"

After a few moments silence, Will flopped down onto his back. Lacing his hands behind his head, he spoke to the ceiling.

"I don't know what to do. My ship is due to leave in a few hours, but I can't go...I just can't go without making thinks right, but she doesn't want to listen right now. I just don't have enough time."

Will's voice trailed off, along with his mind mulled over for what seemed to be the thousandth time, their final conversation. He moaned again, "I can't leave her, Tang."

Tang considered the young man's dilemma. He liked Lieutenant Riker enormously. He also understood the strange Imzadi bond that ruled this planet, so his suggestion although totally unorthodox, seemed to be the only solution.

"Disappear for a few days."

Will's eyes found Tang's in the darkness, "What are you saying, Tang?"

The air around them stood still as the expectancy, and the uncertainty of his suggestion began to filter through the fog, along with a new found hope.

"I could say that due to depression, you've gone A.W.O.L sir. Nobody needs to know, it will give you the chance to talk the little lady around, and when 'thing's' have been resolved, you turn up again, out of the blue, a happy chappy. We just call the Hood to come and get you... if that's what you want."

Will swung his legs around, excitement glowed in his eyes. Afraid of being overheard, he whispered.

"Do you think it will work, Tang, will Starfleet fall for it?"

Tang shrugged, "I can't see why not, it's easy to disappear on this planet. Hell, you've got a jungle that could swallow you up within a few feet of entering it, and when your ready, when you've worked out what your going to say to Miss Troi, I can arrange for you to meet with her...Or, I could bring her to you...If you want sir."

Seconds later, Will's mind was made up. Plans were drawn up between the two friends, now they just needed to execute that plan.



Chapter 4


The Captain of The Hood's face looked incredulous. "What do you mean, 'he's missing?!', Where is my first officer, Sergeant Tang?."

Tang coughed nervously, squared his shoulders and spoke back to the viewscreen, "I mean sir, Lieutenant Riker has gone missing."

Realisation dawning, DeSoto asked him, "He did survive the Sindereen attack didn't he? Your report did say that he had returned with the hostage"

Tang nodded "Yes sir, he did return. But he er...He did suffer some distress. Perhaps sir, he just needs a little longer to clear his head..."

DeSoto stared at the man for several moments as he contemplated his position. His decision made, he sighed. "O.k. We have a short surveillance survey to attend to that should take three to four days, I'll give Lieutenant Riker the benefit of the doubt. I'll allow him the extra time, and we'll hopefully pick him up on our return. If he is indeed 'missing', then obviously we'll look into it, but until then, I'll leave everything in your capable hands Tang, to get my first officer back on track"

Tang nodded, trying to keep the relieved look from his face. "You can count on it Captain, I shall do my very best. Thank you sir. Tang out"

Tang breathed a thankful sigh as he rapidly severed the connection. He muttered to himself, "Well, that went better than I thought, now it's up to you William Riker."


Retracing his steps, Will slowly made his way through the dense forest. Tang had filled a rucksack with everything that he would possibly need for a short spell in the humid jungle, including a communicator. Will unconsciously patted the pocket which held the life line, happier knowing that all he needed was to call and Tang would be there...Deanna would be there...If she wanted to come...

Will strode with a purpose. He knew where he was headed, and for the first time in hours he began to feel at peace. Everything he wanted to know, and everything he needed to think about, feel, and resolve, would happen at his destination.

Janaran Falls beckoned him rather like a woman would. Like Deanna would. Memories of their union made him grow warm, inside and out. He felt the tightening in his loins, the familiar ache in his heart whenever her face, appeared like a mirage in front of him. He let the moan fall from his mouth knowing that only the birds could hear him.

Will was wretchedly tired, but hurried on. Only when had reached his destination would he rest. Then he would sit and formulate his ideas. Will was not going to leave this planet, or her... until they had made some...any... future plans to be together. One day, some way...

Chapter 5


Chandra sat opposite her dearest friend, her hands tightly clasped with her own. Deanna beat her to her words, "He's gone, hasn't he?"

Chandra hesitated for several moments, carefully weighing her answer. Deanna gasped as she read her mind, "He hasn't has he, Will hasn't gone?"

Chandra shook her head, looking into her friends eyes to gauge her reaction to the news. Deanna's eyes were still puffy from crying so much, but now they sparkled. Chandra saw the spark that re-lit them, then just as quickly, watched them dim again.

Falling back against the couch Deanna sighed heavily, "Oh Chandra, why didn't he just go. Why is going to make this even harder than it already is. Why?"

Chandra could not answer her. Eventually Deanna picked up on the silence, a coldness washed over her at the negative vibes that radiated from her friend. Coming to a sitting position again she nervously asked Chandra outright.
"Chandra, where is he?"

Chandra looked again into the chocolate eyes, and quietly informed her, "Nobody knows Dee...He's vanished"

Deanna audibly gasped, the sensation felt the same as being slapped. Eventually Deanna stood and began to pace. "I have to find him Chandra, I must, he might be injured, or suicidal, or severely depressed...I must go to him...Now..."e;

Chandra also rose to a stand, and grasping her tiny friend by the shoulder, she began to steer Deanna out of the door, "Come on, I know of only one person who's likely to know anything..."


Tang felt like he was standing in front of a firing squad. The determination of the two women who stood, directly in front of him, hands on hips, was intimidating. Very intimidating.

"Come on Sergeant, we know you know where he is, so let's make this inquisition short, because you are not going to move until we get some answers"

Chandra's threatening tone and stance almost made Tang quiver. Deanna, although equally determined to find out the same information, stood silently, and hopefully, beside her. Moments later, both women turned and walked away, Chandra threw her parting comment over her shoulder.

"Thank you Sergeant Tang, that's all we needed to know..."

Tang slapped his forehead as he realised that he had given away Will's whereabouts without saying a word.

"Damned telepath's!"


"No, no Chandra, I want to go alone...I must go alone. I know my way to the falls, I've been there hundreds of times"

"But it's too dangerous Dee, The Sindereen might be in there looking for their leader. Please let me, or let my husband take you to Will, and I promise, we'll come straight back."

Chandra's voice trailed off when she spotted Tang approaching. "That won't be necessary miss, I will gladly escort Miss Troi to lieutenant Riker's destination, in fact, I insist..."

Tang waited expectantly for their decision as the two women silently conversed with each other, before Deanna finally, and quietly replied, "Thank you, Tang"

Tang grinned as he bowed slightly "All part of the service Ma'am."

Chapter 6


Will sat on a huge boulder that sat like a sentinel on the lake's shoreline. Opening his ration's pack, he selected some dried fruits, shuffled his body down until he was comfortable, and began to chew quietly. As he watched the light play on the cascading water, his troubled mind was unable to appreciate the true beauty of his surroundings.

Will was torn in two. How could he have his starfleet career AND Deanna Troi? He knew he loved her too much to let her go, but he had waited his whole life to become a Starfleet officer. And now... now he'd blown it by falling in love with most beautiful, the most frustrating, and the most incredible woman that had ever walked.

Will smiled as he remembered her newly discovered antics in the jungle. It seemed a life time away, when in fact it had been very few days. Had he barely known her a few measly weeks? Will had never felt so comfortable, so alive, and so captivated with anyone in his life. He was not going to let her go, ever.

He had heard that the Federation was building a new flagship, and his goal was if not Captain for a while, certainly its first officer. But Will needed to make the grade. He needed to get a few more brownie points under his belt first, and he knew he was not going to be able to do that with distractions. Will just needed a little more time.



Deanna became thoughtful as they began to make their way into the jungle. Until now, Tang had kept quiet, afraid of letting anything slip about the secrecy of this mission. Within moments of their decision to allow him to escort her, the two women had all but barrelled him out of the door, kitted him up and headed out. He had not got a chance to warn Will that they were coming.

"Sergeant..." Deanna's voice broke him out of his quandary, " me Tang ma'am"

Deanna smiled softly at him, and Tang instantly saw what had captivated the young lieutenant's attentions. She was exceptionally pretty, but then most Betazoid's were, but Deanna Troi had an air about her, that was solely hers. One could quite easily lose themselves in the onyx eyes, that sparkled with merriment when she smiled.

Before they had started out, Deanna's eyes had been almost matt in colour, now they were shining brightly as she neared her destination. Her voice brought him out of his reverie again.

"Tang, do you know Will very well?"

Pushing back the bushes and stepping to one side so that she could pass by without the spiky branch whacking her in the face, Tang smiled at her.

"Well ma'am, I know that the lieutenant is an honourable man in his heart, and I know that he is very fond of you. No man behaves like he is without being in love..."

Deanna stopped him in his tracks as she halted in front of him to look into his face as she thought about his comment. The seemingly ever-present tears sprung to her eyes.

"Then why did he sleep with Wendy Roper Tang...Why?" Her voice broke on her final why, and she turned her head away, embarrassed at revealing her true feelings to a near stranger. But she turned to face him again, and as Tang watched the tears spill down her face, Deanna asked once more, "Why Tang?"

Tang sighed heavily, he was no expert at this and chose his words carefully, "Sometimes ma'am, when your hurting badly, you reach out to clutch at anything that will give you comfort. Wendy unfortunately 'happened' to be there, she got to be his comfort..."

He watched her face as she digested the information, Deanna did not get angry like he expected, so he tried again. "Believe me ma'am, if the lieutenant could turn back the clock, he would, but he can't, and that's hurting him more than anything. Y'know, he's prepared to give up his career for you ma'am..."

Deanna was stunned. That information alone shocked more than anything else she'd had to endure. "But Tang...I don't want him to do that for me! I know how important his career is to him, it was what he was born to do, I can't let him do that...For me."

A spark of hope flared within Tang. This was what he wanted to hear, there was hope for these two after all. Swinging her around, he clasped her by the arm and with a new spring in his step, and new hope in his heart, they continued their journey.

Chapter 7


Will began to climb. Needing the physical exertion, he had decided to climb the biggest tree within a few kilometre's of the falls. Rapidly growing disappointed at the lack of communication from Tang, he was certain that Tang would have had some form of contact with Deanna, especially once he'd been reported missing.

The thought was sobering. Maybe after all, he was not that important to her. The more Will pondered on the thought, the more agitated he became. Feeling the need to vent some of the frustration within him, he had climbed. The tree was huge, and it was a while before he reached strong enough branches to hold his weight.

He went higher.

Reaching a point where he could go no further, he settle back against the trunk to catch his breath. His eyes took in the view, the silence, the peace. Time stood still as he took in the sight that spread out before him.

Autumn colors of every hue lay before him like a carpet, as far, and further, as the eye could see. Will felt humbled, he was certain that no-one would have seen this sight, and more than anything, he wished Deanna was here to witness it with him. Her image brought him back to where he had started. Deanna Troi, future wife of William T. Riker, future mother of his children, sacred holder of his heart. His Imzadi...


Dusk was rapidly approaching, made nearer by the natural canopy of the over head trees. Unconsciously Tang hastened his pace, dragging an exhausted Deanna behind him. They did not have much further to go, and he wanted to be able to pass her into safe hands before heading back alone.

"Slow down Tang, please"

Tang halted his pace, turned and apologised to her. "I'm sorry ma'am, but we're nearly there. I want to make it before nightfall, but we can go slower now, it's only around the corner."

Only around the corner...Deanna felt her pulse quicken. Soon she will come face to face with Will. Trepidation surged through her veins. She knew she was going to apologise to him, but was it too late?. Deanna prayed that it was not.

Lost in her thoughts of what she was going to say to him, Deanna was surprised when they finally reached the clearing. The gentle sound of the waterfall became an instant reminder of her last visit. Her eyes scanned the grassy banks, certain that their imprints would still be found in the soft soil. They were not.

The disappointment washed over her. Tang made his way over to Will's make shift camp, but there was no sign of the big man. Deanna joined him. Tang looked dismayed "He's not here, I can't leave you on your own"

Deanna took a deep breath, and plastered a brave smile across her face. "I'm sure he's not far, he'll be back any minute. Will wouldn't have left his things here would he? I know you want to get home Tang, and I insist that you go, I will be perfectly alright. Please Tang...Go"

Tang studied her face for several moments before resignedly asking her "Are you sure ma'am? I would hate for anything to happen to you, especially now"

Deanna nodded, "I'm sure, now please, go, before it get's any darker"

Tang hesitated a moment more, before pressing a communicator in her hand and making Deanna promise to call him if he did not show within half an hour. She agreed, and with a final hug, he turned and followed the same path out of the clearing.

Deanna made her way over to Will's belongings. Aware that she was intruding on what could be a huge mistake. Doubts began to creep into her mind now that she was here, and about to face him once more. About to probably change her life once more, one way or the other.

Tang's words made her feel a little easier. Maybe Will did truly love her. Maybe he loved his career more, maybe he really did not want to see her right now, and maybe this really was a huge mistake.

She pulled out his sleeping bag, spreading it wide so that she could sit on it and wait. Deanna had no intentions of calling Tang back. If Will did not turn up tonight, she would simply sleep in the bag and return home in the morning, after all she knew the way like the back of her hand. And besides, her mother would have sent a search party out if she hadn't returned by tomorrow night if nothing was heard from her.

Deanna chuckled as she tried to envisage Chandra telling her mother what was going on, but, chances are, Lwaxana already knew, but Deanna had finally grown up and knew what she wanted, and if it was William Riker, then so be it. But did Will still want her?


Lost in his thoughts, time slipped gradually away. Will finally acknowledged that he was rapidly losing light. The journey down the tree was going to perilous, but even he knew it was going to be worse in the dark. He inched his way back down, his mind already plotting on how to get Deanna to climb up and share the experience, one day.

Reaching the bottom branches, Will swung himself down the last few feet, the soft mossy ground masking his landing. His stomach growled with hunger and as he sauntered back to his camp, he tried to make his mind up on his choice of supper. The dried stew, with dried dumplings, or the dried curry, with dried rice. Will approached his belongings tossing the choices about in his head *Stew or curry...Curry or stew...*

Coming to a halt, Will spotted the humped figure that seemed to have made itself comfortable in his sleeping bag. Tiptoeing closer, he squatted down, half expecting it to be Tang. It would not have surprised him to see him here, checking up on him like a father figure. Will chuckled, but when he spotted the mass of black curls, he gasped, "Deanna!"

Deeply asleep, Will realised that she must have been exhausted. Will crept quietly away and taking himself out of earshot, he called Tang on his communicator. "Tang, Tang, answer me dammit!"

Seconds later Tang replied slightly breathless, "Tang here sir, glad to hear your voice, I gather you've found your surprise"

Will exploded, "Surprise! that's an understatement, you were supposed to warn me, Tang"

Will sighed, "O.k. Tang, Thanks for bringing her. I expect we'll be home sometime tomorrow. Wish me luck...Riker out"

Cautiously making his way back, he came to a stand in front of her. How long Will stood watching the sleeping form, he did not know, but while he did so, a myriad of thoughts and emotions played through his head. Finally he sighed, assessing the situation, and his surroundings, and muttered to himself "Now, where am I going to sleep?..."

Chapter 8


Dawn broke with a chorus of bird-song. Before Deanna opened her eyes, she stretched her body that was stiff from sleeping on the hard surface. Suddenly remembering where she was, Deanna sat bolt upright, her eyes scanning the immediate area as she did so. Eventually they fell on the solitary figure perched upon the large boulder. Their eyes met, hers taking in the whole picture, his, taking in the pleasure of watching her rouse from her sleep.

Will broke the silence, "Morning" Deanna smiled nervously, tentatively at him, then blushed as his eyes feasted upon her face.

Coming to a stand, Deanna slowly made her way to the base of the boulder. Arching her back to work out the kink, she looked up to him, pushing aside the awkwardness she felt. "Hello Will, I'm sorry I stole your bed, where did you sleep?"

He nonchalantly waved one hand in the air as he replied with an easy grin on his face "Oh, I made out o.k. I've been keeping watch for a while"

Deanna looked away, embarrassed again at the implications of his words, he had been watching her, but inside she glowed with pleasure. Smiling wide, Deanna looked up at him once more, determined to ease the tension that could be felt building between them, "So, can I make you some breakfast, being as you so kindly let me sleep, and kept me safe?"

Will looked at her for a moment longer, before sliding down the boulders smooth edge, to land neatly in front of her, grinning as he made a lively joke about the contents of breakfast. "Sure, now let me see, we have dried eggs, dried cereal, complete with powdered milk, dried fruit and powdered coffee..."

Deanna stared at him, enjoying the tease. Contemplating the variety of choices, she chewed on her bottom lip as she considered before finally settling on the only option. "Coffee"

Will laughed "Good choice" He bent and rummaged around in his rucksack, eventually proudly displaying the sachets of granules. "You fill the billycan and prepare the cups, I'll set the stove up."

Rummaging some more, Will found the tiny primus stove, and set it up. He had got it lit by the time Deanna had returned from the lake with the water. A comfortable silence grew between them as they waited for it to boil. Minutes later, they both gratefully sipped on steaming cups of coffee. Draining the last few drops, Will took her cup and rinsed them out. Coming back to a stand in front of her, he held out his hand. Deanna looked up into his eyes. It was time to talk.

"Walk with me."

Reaching up to take the proffered hand, Will gently hauled her upright. Deanna expected to be pulled into his embrace, but she was surprised, and disappointed when he did not. Instead, he kept hold of her hand, turned and began walking.

Will saw the passion and the hope flare in her eyes when he pulled her close to him, inwardly groaning as his body reacted to her close presence. He longed to take her in his arms and lose himself in her kisses, but this was not the time. Things needed to be said. Things needed to be resolved.

Taking a few steps, Will hesitated, looking ahead. Deanna followed his gaze, both set of eyes rested on the mossy bank, the route would have lead them to their 'spot'. Will abruptly turned and headed in the other direction. The tension mounted between them once more.

They had been walking for some time. Both stared unseeing at the breathtaking scenery before them, both unwilling to start the conversation, knowing that one of them had to. Eventually it was Deanna who spoke. "Talk to me Will"

Coming to a halt, she heard him sigh. Releasing her hand, Will made his way over to the nearest large tree and propped himself against it. Picking up a leaf, he systematically shredded it. Deanna watched his hands, "Will?"

Glancing at her briefly, he continued to shred the leaf as he tried to explain himself, "I couldn't say goodbye Deanna, I...I didn't want to..."

Deanna began to scuff the ground with her boot, her hands shoved deep into her pockets to hide her nervousness. Will watched her movements with fascination. It seemed to be a very uncharacteristic thing for her do, very unladylike. But her words brought his eyes back to her face. "I too couldn't say the words Will" Eyes locked as the raw emotions bounced from one to the other.

Will's eyes beckoned her closer. Drawn by the unspoken forces that kept the two locked souls together, Deanna came close enough for Will to pull her into his arms, and kissing the top of her head, he brokenly asked, "What now, where do we go from here, Dee?"

Deanna rested her head upon his chest. Closing her eyes, she whispered back, "I don't know Will... I have my life, you have yours, we're both too young to take on the responsibilities of a mature relationship"

Deanna pushed herself away from his body, turning her back on him as she tried to sort out her tumbled thoughts, "But what if we can't wait that long Will. What if something...Anything happens?..."

Will came to stand behind her. Turning her around to meet his eyes, he tried once more to tell her how much he wanted her, "Deanna, we are Imzadi, Isn't that supposed to account for something?"

Deanna shook her head, "It's not enough Will. It is for me, but its not for you, you've already proved that"

She saw the anger flare in his eyes as Will swung away from her, "I wondered how long it would be before you brought that up. How many times can I say I'm sorry Deanna, how many?"

Now Deanna forced herself into his view, "Don't you understand Will? Sorry isn't the issue here. I know your sorry, and I understand why you did it, you needed comfort, I wasn't there, she was, I've come to understand that. But it should not have happened. If we were absolutely true Imzadi, it would not have happened."

Will walked away from her to stand at the water's edge. After seemingly searching for answers from the turquoise lake, he bitterly threw over his shoulder "What you mean is your mother shouldn't have interfered. This is her fault, that and the damn hold she has over you."

Deanna forced herself to sit on the floor against the tree Will had vacated before she carried on the conversation. "Yes, your right, she did interfere, but she has every right to be concerned Will, I am her only daughter, she only wants what's best for me, every mother does"

Will was quiet, then finally and just as quietly he murmured, "I wouldn't know about that would I"


Will shook his head, the bitterness creeping into his voice, "I will never, ever treat my child the way your mother treats you, she's...suffocating!"

Deanna smiled at his choice of word. "Yes, she does have her...moments. But in my heart I know she cares, I know she loves me Will, and that is the true basis for happiness."

Will stopped pacing as he contemplated her remark, eventually posing the question thoughtfully, "Are you happy Deanna?"

Deanna twiddled with a lock of her hair as she thought about her reply "I was happy, but then I met you..."

Will stared at her "What's that supposed to mean!?"

He sounded so indignant, Deanna laughed quietly, then just as quickly hushed again, "I mean, I was happy. I was happy with my life as it was, but then you came along and showed me a different kind of happiness...even if I have seemed to of spent a large chunk of it crying..."

Will came and sat down in front of her, the need to touch her bringing him within arms reach. Taking her hand, he let her continue. "Before I was happy, now I feel...complete, even though we aren't technically together, I still feel complete...whole. You have made my life absolute Will. What you have shown me...given me, has changed my entire life, forever, and I will always love you for that alone, whatever happens..."

Will watched the tears form and he tenderly reached out to caress her face, the tears sprang to his own eyes. She had exposed her soul to him, and now it was his turn. "I love you Deanna, I finally knew that when you walked away from me in the museum, I thought I would die when I couldn't find you. There was no way I could have left this planet without telling you that."

Will watched as her tears began to fall. He forged on."I love you Deanna Troi. Without you, I don't exist, I can't exist.

Will decided to take the bull by the horns, as he was certain, without no doubts, that this was what he wanted. "Will you join me later on board the Hood? We can be married on board, or if you want, here"

Deanna smiled at his sudden flurry of words, "Will, are you asking me to marry you?!"

Will grinned, surprising himself "I guess I am...Well, what do you say, Deanna Troi, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, Daughter of probably the world's worst mother, will you marry me?"

Deanna laughed, but shook her head at the same time, "Oh Will, you know I can't, please don't ask me now, please. Can we wait until we're just a little older, a little more responsible? We both have so much to do, so much to achieve."

Will looked crestfallen and Deanna reached out and touched his face gently "Will, I'm not saying no, just..not yet"

Will smiled sadly as they both fell silent once more, but it was a comfortable silence that fell between them as they contemplated their future. He knew what she was saying was right, and he was secretly overjoyed at her response. This was what he really wanted, Deanna eventually, and his career. But he was confident now that they would eventually be together.

He was happy.

Deanna patted her lap, "Lay down Will" Will needed no further prompting, swinging his legs round, he placed his head upon her lap. Shifting slightly to get comfortable, Deanna began to lightly play with his hair. He closed his eyes and let the peaceful feelings wash over him. Will happily realised he was content. He had managed to right all his wrongs. He was as good as engaged to the most beautiful girl in the universe, and she loved him. What more could he want?

"So, How many kids are we gonna have?..."

Chapter 9


"I guess we should be heading home"

The remark brought Will out of the mutual tranquillity that had settled between them. "I guess..." but neither moved. Both were loathe to break the spell, that magical moment.

Will turned sad eyes to hers and something flared in their depths, something sparked deep inside. Both felt it. Will reached up to touch her lip, the question fell from his. "Deanna?..."

It was all Deanna needed to hear. Leaning over, her mouth found his. His hand wove it's way into her hair, holding her firm. As Deanna groaned, Will grasped the opportunity, slipping his tongue into her warm moistness. Her tongue met his, and this time, it was he who groaned as he felt his body come alive.

Deanna tugged at his shirt, she needed to feel his body, and touch his skin. Her fingers finally found their quarry and Will whimpered. Pushing himself up, Deanna almost protested until she watched him remove the offensive piece of material. Will watched the hunger in her eyes as her hands reached out to touch him again.

Kneeling to face her, Will closed his eyes and let the sensuous feelings wash over him. With his palms flat against his thighs, he was at her mercy. He felt her breath on his chest but refused to allow his hands to move. Deanna traced every contour of his torso, every muscle shape, every dip, every dimple, Deanna touched every one.

Will was enraptured. Deanna nipped at his tiny nipples, the action pulling an inner warmth deep from within his loins. Her tongue snaked out to leave a trail along his collar bone, moving around to gently nip at his ear. Will tried to find her lips again, he needed to kiss her, but Deanna pulled away. His eyes flew open, she was barely inches away from him, a teasing smile matched the intoxicated ebony eyes. He grinned mischievously at her, his own body drunk with desire, with want, for her.

"My turn."

Bringing herself to her knees, she boldly faced him. Lifting her arms, Deanna silently begged him to remove her sweater. Moments later it was thrown down beside his. Removing the lacy brazier, it too joined the mounting pile of clothes.

Falling back on his haunches, he admired the scene before him. Deanna glowed from the desire that flared once more in her eyes. She whispered, begged..."Touch me Will.".

Reaching out, Will traced one slender finger from her bottom lip down her naked body, his eyes never leaving her face. By the time he had reached her tummy button, her eyes had fluttered shut, and she silently held her breath.

Pushing back up onto his knees again, he tugged at the waistband of her trousers to bring her body close to his. Her eyes still closed, Will murmured hoarsely, "Look at me Deanna, I want you to see how much I love you."

Deanna's eyes slowly opened revealing the deep hunger that flowed from every fibre of her body. Looking into Will's eyes, Deanna lost herself in the adoration that poured from the very depths of Will's soul. One arm held her close, the other hand gently lifted her chin. He Kissed her tenderly, "I will cherish you forever Imzadi, no matter where I am, what I'm doing, you will uppermost in my heart and mind until we're together again. I am in love with you Deanna, never forget that"

By the time Will had finished, Deanna was weeping, but this time it was with joy. Chuckling self consciously, Deanna wiped at her eyes "See what I mean? I'm always crying"

Will wrapped her within his arms and hugged her tight until the gesture sparked their desires again. Once more, they began to kiss deeply. From mouth to mouth, heart to heart, ache to ache, they became one again.

Chapter 10


"We really should be leaving this time Will, it'll be dark by the time we got home even if we leave right now." Deanna thoughtfully twirled the dark hairs on Will's chest as he lay completely satiated beside her, a contented, slightly smug smile upon his face.

His eyes were closed as he relished in the ministrations that she rained on his naked body. He felt his ardour began to grow again, along with the uncomfortable thought that once they reached 'civilisation', it would be several months, maybe even years until they would share these intimate moments again.

Deanna felt her heart grow heavy as the prospect of returning home neared. Believing fate would eventually see them together again soon, a small nagging doubt also crept in. The 'what if' that always accompanied every good feeling everybody had.

As Will pulled her on top of him once more, a different kind of urgency came into their union. And as he embedded himself deep within her once more, as they became one, hearts, minds, souls joined in the oneness. Their Imzadi link permanently locked for all eternity.

This was was their final promise to each other. No matter what, for as long as it took to be reunited, they would stay true to each others hearts. Both adult enough to know that their may be ~others~ until they met again, but when the time was right, they would return to each other, with no recriminations, no questions, and no doubts.

Chapter 11


Tang looked up from his desk when he heard the quiet footsteps approach his office. Tang's relief was clearly evident on his craggy face when he say who it was. Will entered the airy office and Tang gestured to the tall man to sit. Lowering his tall frame into the seat proffered, Will waited for his friend to start the inquisition.

Throwing down his padd, Tang waited for Will to relay how the reconciliation went.


Tang pushed back his chair, propped his foot upon the desktop, made himself comfortable, and waited.


Will wallowed with glee in the suspended agony that poured out from his friend.

Finally Tang could take no more and blurted out. "Aw geez!, come on sir, you owe me...Something!"

Will grinned, his blue eyes lit up in merriment at his friends predicament, but became serious as he appreciated just what the man before him had done. Tang had jeopardised his own career for him, for them.

"For as long as I live Tang, I will never, ever forget what you have done for me, for us. Both Deanna and I, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the necessary time to make things right."

Tang smiled, his pleasure apparent on his face. "It worked then, you got things sorted with the little lady?"

Will smiled at the fitting description of Deanna. "Yes Tang, it worked. At least I can leave now and know that she'll be waiting for me to come back for her, and I will Tang...Count on it. We've just got to get through tomorrow..." The statement left unfinished, the following moment of silence saying it all.

Coming to a stand, Tang joined Will on his side of the desk. Propping himself against it's edge, Tang folded his arms, his face thoughtful. "Any idea when you'll get back?"

Will stood and they both began to make their way out of the office. "Well, We normally get shore leave every four to five months, and I usually either go to Earth or Risa..." Will paused when he saw the knowing look on Tang's face, "Yeah, well, a man's gotta have some fun..."A slight flush crept up his neck at his confession, but coughing, he brought himself back to the present, "Anyway, I said I'd send her a communique when I had a definite date and destination, and she would meet me."

Will came to a halt and the two men turned to face each other. Will looked directly at Tang, his eyes glowing with his new found love, his voice echoed his eyes. "I can't believe it, thanks to you, she's mine Tang, she's almost mine..."

Tang nodded his understanding, and placing his large hand upon Will's shoulder, they walked down the corridor to begin preparations for the start of his future odyssey.


The Unspoken Goodbye's

"What time do you leave Will?" Deanna held her breath as she looked into the eyes of the man she had fallen in love with all over again. They both knew that it was getting close, so close for him to leave.

Deanna was not going to be able to bare watching him transport away before her very eyes. To disappear into the far reaches of space, maybe for a few short months, maybe for a year, maybe for ever.

Not being deeply religious, Deanna had found herself beginning to pray almost constantly. But sometimes she began to wonder if she was actually begging. Begging for Will to come home safely to her. Begging for something to go wrong so that he did not even have to go. And even though she was painfully ashamed to admit it, deep, deep down, she begged that their numerous, passionate lovemaking's had created a child.

Deanna ached to feel the weight of Will's baby inside her, and to hold it close to her breast. To watch the miniature version of him growing tall and strong. But she also knew that it was strict rules for members of Starfleet stationed on Betazed had to fitted with inhibitors. Deanna cringed as she remembered a comment made by a senior dignitary, "We can't have a bunch of those horny Starfleet bastards wandering our streets!"

Will pulled her tight into his arms, forcing her to expel the breath that she had been holding. His voice was barely audible as he uttered the words that she did not want to hear.

"1800 hours sweetheart..." Squeezing her tighter still, he gently rocked her back and forth, his words rumbled in his chest as his voice broke against her hair. "God Dee, I don't want to leave you."

Deanna breathed in deeply, kissing his chest, and taking in his scent, imprinting it forever in her head, never wanting to forget. The spicy aroma licked at her aching senses, and she moved her hips against his. Will instantly reacted. He moaned at the familiar ache, and she felt his response push against her. "Make love to me Will, one more time...Please"

Will held her away from him so that he could see her face. Her beautiful eyes were huge as she faced him head on, her desperation written all over her. She whispered once more, "

Sweeping her up in his arms, he carried her back to his bed. Only leaving it barely half an hour ago, the sheets were still warm. Laying her gently down, he pushed aside the huge shirt that she had 'acquired' from his wardrobe. Running his hand down the length of her body, he was once more in awe of her beauty. Deanna burned with the intensity of his gaze. Never again would anyone make her feel the way she felt when Will looked at her. Reaching up she tugged at his shoulder, "Love me Will."

Will swiftly took her hand and pinned it beside her side, he whispered "Soon Deanna, I want to look at you, I want to take this memory with me when I go... Just a little longer."

Deanna let her eyes fall shut as she let her mind fill with every passionate, loving and wondrous thought that flowed from the very depths of Will's soul. His breath lightly fanned over her bare skin, sending little ripples of anticipation throughout her body. She felt a feather light kiss touch her shoulder. Reaching over, she clasped his head forcing his lips to meet hers.

Deanna had had enough mental attention, her body began to scream for some of the physical kind. Dragging one long nail up the centre of his back, Will groaned at the sensation that rose within him as she got higher. Squirming as the same nail made its way back down, he jerked in surprise as she grabbed at a healthy piece of his ass. Shocked, Will's eyes flew open as he looked into her face. Seeing the devilment in hers, and the naughty grin teasing her mouth, it didn't take long to understand what Deanna had in mind.

"I see... The lady wants to play does she?..."

Deanna answered with a meaningful thrust of her pelvic area, her legs purposefully forcing their way between his. Puzzled, Will shifted to accommodate her, his apprehension growing along with his excitement.

Deanna shoved hard on his rib cage forcing him on to his knees. Shuffling her body down slightly she pulled his mouth down to hers, giving him a searing kiss that left him begging for more. Moments later, she surprised him again, by shuffling down further and began kissing his neck, then his chest, and then his nipples.

Now it was Will's turn to close his eyes and let the sensations wash over him. By the time Deanna had gotten to the point of swirling her tongue around his tummy button, he was violently trembling. "

'Sweet Jesus Dee, be a good girl will you, I'm only human y'know?"

Will jerked at the feelings that rocked through him. It was all Deanna needed to egg her on. She teased him with with her tongue, the swirling motion made Will's body jerk with rotating movements in time with her. Will eventually managed to still his body to relish every moment, every second, until he could take no more.

But Will could not control the convulsions that began to rack his body, and he finally had to beg, "Stop Dee, please sweetheart,, Oh.."

But through the haze of erotic delight, Will heard and felt her laughing.

Will was mortified!. Here he was, in ecstatic heaven, trying his hardest to not humiliate himself and she was laughing at him.

Disengaging his body from her ministrations, he pushed himself back down to her face level, puzzlement invaded his features. Ready to chide her for her lack of sensitivity, Will propped himself beside her, but it was then that he realised something was wrong. Very wrong.


Her name being spoken triggered the dam that had slowly built up inside of her. The laughter trailed off and turned to wretchedness and Will watched horrified as Deanna began to cry. But not a normal tearful cry. It was Gut-wrenching, soul-destroying sobs, that ripped his heart wide apart along with her own.

Will did not know what to say, or how to help. Holding her tight he mourned their impending separation along with her, but no matter how much he tried to comfort her, Deanna still cried as though her heart was bursting. So he did the only thing that Will Riker knew how to do.

He kissed her.

As Deanna sobbed beneath him, he kissed her. Will forced his tongue into her mouth and holding her head still with his hands, he kissed her. And as he relentlessly plundered her mouth, almost brutally, Will's own grief poured into her until the bodily needs began to overcome the heart's needs.

Seconds turned into minutes until he finally felt her sobs turn to hiccups. The hiccups eventually turned to moans, and as they began to make love, it was with the longing desperation that shattered every miserable emotion that had come from their souls to culminate into a shared wave of orgasm that went on and on, eventually ebbing away leaving them clinging to one another, gathering the strength they needed to finally part.

Soundlessly they began to shed fresh tears but who's tears were whose, neither knew as they hugged tightly... Silently. Lost in the shared, unspoken agony that enveloped them.

Exhausted, Will cradled Deanna until he heard her breathing become shallow and even. Gently easing his arm out from under her, he crept off the bed, and simply stood looking down at the woman who had become the mainstay of his entire life.

It was time for him to go. Until they were united once more, this was their exodus.

Catching the choked sob in his throat, Will quietly gathered his clothes, slipped on his pants, and with one last long look at the sleeping form, he whispered to her.
"I'm sorry I can't say goodbye to you darling, but I will always love you Deanna Troi, you'll be in my heart and mind forever."

Will sighed deeply and stepped outside the door, closing it silently behind him.

Deanna watched him leave through half closed lids. In her heart she understood that this was the best way to let him go. She would have probably passed out if she had to watch him disappear before her very eyes. A solitary tear freed itself as she whispered to the closed door.

"Good journey Imzadi, just come back to me one day, I'll be waiting..." She groaned into her pillow at the renewed ache that welled inside her.

"God, I'll be crazy waiting.."

Will almost collided with Lwaxana in his haste to escape the misery that always seemed to plague him in that room. Coming to a halt in front of her, Will stared into the matching onyx eyes of the woman he had just left behind.

Lwaxana appeared to be studying him intently and Will went cold under the scrutiny. But then she sighed as she finally spoke to him.

"I should hate you Mr. Riker for what you have done to my daughter, but, I know she loves you deeply, and believe it or not, I too was once in this exact same situation, so I know how you both are feeling right now. But I swear, if you hurt her anymore than you already have, I shall pull every string, and I shall call in every favour owed to me, to have you kicked out of Starfleet. Do you understand me Mr. Riker?"

Will wisely decided to say nothing, but curtly nodded, and watched as she swept past him, dragging her long gown behind her.

Lwaxana originally planned to say a lot more to him, She had come with just that intent and to be there for her daughter when Will finally left, but she had been genuinely shocked at the depth of his feelings for Deanna.

Half an hour previous, Lwaxana had arrived to try one more time to make them both see sense, and had almost knocked on his door when she heard her baby, and Will crying. Lwaxana's mind felt every ounce of the tragedy unfolding behind the solid door. Panic almost made her intrude on probably the most traumatic moment her daughter was ever going to have to endure. Wisdom told her that this was one moment in time when a girl did not want her mama. Right now, Deanna needed Will.

She would be there for her when he was gone.


Sergeant Tang was waiting in the transporter room for Will when he finally emerged ten minutes later. Will came to a stop in front of his friend. Tang looked into the young man's face, reading his eyes as he watched the emotions play over the handsome features and he could see that Will wanted to say something, but he seemed to be unable to.

Tang did not know what to say, or how to help, but Will understood and as they stared onto each other's eyes they shook hands firmly. Tang grasped his hand with both of his, somehow the gesture filtered through and Will gave him a small smile. Nothing was said until Will stepped onto the transporter pad.

Still watching Will, Tang spoke to the technician. "Inform The Hood Lieutenant Riker is ready to beam up" Moments later his hail was heard, and the permission was granted.

"Beaming up sir."

Seconds before Will began to dematerialize, he mouthed to Tang. "Look after her for me."

Pride flared in Tang's eyes and as his hand rose to touch his forehead, and as Will shimmered out of sight, Tang saluted his pledge whispering, "You got it sir." .

Still laying on the bed that smelled heavily of their last intimate embrace and wrapped within her mothers arms, Deanna Troi wailed as the light in her universe finally went out.

The Last Teardrops

Two weeks later
"Mother, I want you to know that I have applied for, and been accepted into Starfleet Academy". Deanna waited with bated breath for her mother to react, to throw something, to howl with rage or indignance. The response she received however, was not quite what she expected.

"I know dear, you seem to forget on occasion that nothing you say or do goes without my knowledge...for the most part." Lwaxana looked up at her daughter and carefully put down the book that she had been reading.

Lwaxana Troi had waited four days for Deanna to pluck up the courage to tell her to her face, and now that the moment had come. She had already been given time to 'react', in private, and respond to the knowledge that her child was leaving to chase a lost cause... a man...That Starfleet lieutenant, Will Riker.

Deanna balked as she read her mothers vehement thoughts. "Mother! Will is not a lost cause. I love him with every ounce of my heart and soul, and I will be with him again, soon. But in the meantime, I intend to go to the academy on Earth, and you've known for a long time that those were my intentions, even before Will came into my life. I just never had the courage or reason to disagree with you before now. And I think it still bothers you that I've finally found it, no matter what you say."

Lwaxana pouted her lips as she sulked. "But Deanna...Darling... Earth!!... What am I going to do without you?"

Deanna recognised the manipulative tone and smiled indulgently at her. "Oh, I'm sure you'll find plenty to do, and I'm sure you could even come to Earth with me for a while, if you wanted... Maybe we could find an apartment together ..."

Getting carried away with her plans, Deanna visibly jumped as her mother's thoughts slammed through her head. *STOP!*

Feigning a shocked look, Deanna asked her, despite already knowing what she was going to say. "Mother, what's wrong? I thought that would be want you wanted."

Deanna stopped as Lwaxana held up her hand to stop the tirade. "You know very well that I cannot leave Betazed. I have a duty to uphold. I have certain obligations, responsibilities. You of all people should know how important my role here is, little one"

Deanna hid the tiny smile that tried to break across her elfin face. "Yes, I know mother, but they are your obligations, not mine. I believe that my future...My destiny, lies out there."

Lwaxana watched as her daughter wandered over to the window to stare out at the crystal blue skies, already lost in her thoughts.
The Troi matriarch was solemn as she asked her daughter a question to which she already knew the answer.

"With him...?"

Deanna sighed, and folding her arms she turned back to face her mother once more as she thought about her answer. She desperately missed Will. Even more so upon finding out that she was not pregnant. The emptiness seemed ten fold now that she had nothing to hold on to, nothing except his love and the eventual reunion which she believed would happen, with every fibre of her being, was not so far away.

"One day soon, yes, but until then, I intend to continue with my plans, and they are Starfleet..."

Long moments passed as the two women digested the changes that were about to happen, in both of their lives. Resignedly, Lwaxana asked her, "When do you leave?"
Deanna moved to sit beside her mother, taking the older woman's hands within her own, she whispered, "Two weeks. There is a small transport ship due in, I'm scheduled to be on it at 0900 hours Saturday morning"

Lwaxana gave her a watery smile. There was no stopping Deanna now, her mind was made up. She was just going to have to grin and bare it. "Well, darling, if that's what you truly want..."

The younger Troi stood, her hand still clasping her mothers. She offered her a tentative smile, "It is mother..."

Deanna turned to leave the room but slowed to a stop at the doorway as Lwaxana's parting thought reached her.

*There will be plenty of time for babies when your older little one*. Deanna sighed deeply and squared her shoulders before carrying on out of the door.


Deanna's first communique came from Will came two days later. Unfortunately, she had not been there to receive it. When she arrived home from the university, she was dismayed to find the message left behind, unforwarded. With a scowl in her mother's direction, she settled herself down to devour his long awaited words.

What she was not prepared for, however, was the impact of Will's face when he appeared on the screen before her. She felt a lump rise in her throat before he had even spoken. His image became blurred as her eyes filled with tears which ran unchecked down her cheeks.

Deanna pressed the pause button to collect herself before carrying on with the message, she wanted to hear and savour every single word that fell from his lips. Finally composing herself, she gave a healthy sniff and pressed 'play' once more, gazing longingly at the bright blue, mischievous eyes which smiled out at her.
I miss you Imzadi. It's driving me insane not being with you, but I promise you, as soon as I'm back, I'm coming for you, be ready. I love you Deanna, take care..."

Will's hand touched the screen at the same time as hers touched it, as if by some invisible force the contact broke down the thousands of miles between them, their eyes locked, their souls joined for a fraction of a second, and then he was gone.

Deanna stared at the blank screen for ever before she whispered tearfully, "Oh Imzadi, come back..."

Chapter 2

Deanna Troi stepped out from the shuttle into a fairly chilly San Fransiscan afternoon. The sudden assault of the autumn breeze made her gasp as she pulled her arms together around herself.

Turning to a fellow passenger she whispered, "Sweet Heavens, how can they live here? It's *freezing*!"

The lady passed around her chuckling lightly. "Welcome to Earth honey, and be grateful it's only the fall!"

Deanna watched her walk away, open-mouthed. Having heard about the changing seasons on Earth, she had not been prepared for it to be quite this cold. On Betazed, the temperature never dropped below a very comfortable level; one often too warm for most human standards, but one she had become accustomed to having lived on the planet all of her life.

When Deanna had heard about it, she had initially been looking forward to winter, and her first experience of snow. A chance remark from her lover about the Alaskan winters when he was a child had made her all the more determined to come here, to his world, his past life. But if it were only going to grow *colder* than this... She shivered and sighed.

Her lover... her lover did not even know she was here. Deanna had attempted to send him an answering communique to let him know of her plans, but he was gone, she had been too late. In desperation, she had gone to see Tang. She no longer trusted her mother to send on any messages, nor to inform her of those which might have been sent to her at home. But she knew in her heart that Tang would move heaven and Earth to make sure she received anything from Will, and visa-versa.

Of course, Tang knew of her plans, since he had been the one who had made the initial enquiries for her within days of Will's departure from Betazed. But even he had voiced his concerns to her, worried as he was about not being able to uphold his promise to the lieutenant. He could not - after all -- look after his new charge while she was thousands of light years away from him.

"But ma'am, what will happen when Will comes back for you? He did promise he would."

Tang waited with suspended breath for her reply. "You've been a good friend, Tang, but I think that both Will and I have some thinking to do before we meet again."

Deanna met the older man's unwavering gaze and smiled. "If he's nearer to Earth the next time, then perhaps I can meet him there, but even if he chooses to rendez-vous at Risa, I don't see that it will really be a problem."

The sergeant looked at her worriedly, "But what about the Academy miss?."

Deanna touched his arm gently and Tang watched as her expression grew thoughtful. "We all have goals and dreams, sergeant. Perhaps when Will has had enough of whizzing around the universe, our lives will find a place in sync once more.
Until that time, it's always been a dream of *mine* to make a difference. I've come to believe that I will be able to do that in Starfleet, but I won't even know unless I try."

Tang watched her shrug and continue, "Besides, you know how those deep space missions can be. If Will ends up on the other end of the quadrant for a while, I can't just put my life on hold indefinitely..."

Though she sounded resolute enough, Tang saw the uncertainty in her eyes. Just as quickly as it came, however, it was gone, and she tried to reassure him once more,

"One way or the other, Will and I will meet again, of that I am certain..."
Two months later:
Will's grinning face appeared on the screen in front of Tang's and the sergeant smiled in response to the young man's obvious cheerfulness. "Lieutenant Riker!, it's good to see you sir."

Will could not contain himself, he had been so filled with anticipation as he reached communique range, that he had nearly forgotten the end of his duty shift, lost in his thoughts of Deanna. But he needed to speak to his friend before feasting his eyes on her once more.

"Hello Tang, it's good to be back. How's my girl?" Will accompanied the somewhat cliche term of endearment with a knowing smile. When he saw the older man's hesitation, however, an eerie dread stole over his consciousness, making him grow cold. Harsher than he intended, his one word prompt demanded an answer.


Tang cleared his throat loudly before plucking up courage to fill the lieutenant in on the events of the previous few months. "I'm sorry sir, but the little lady's gone."

Will simply stared at him in disbelief. He might have even chuckled at the attempt at bad humour, but when he saw Tang look down at his feet, he knew; he sensed that he was telling him the truth. The air crackled with tension as he asked, hoarsely, "Where is she, Tang?"

Nothing could have surprised him more than the answer he was to receive. "Earth sir" The older man watched Will blink several times, digesting the information.

Seconds later, Will echoed him, "Earth..? What's she doing on Earth?"

Unconsciously Tang puffed up his chest with pride as he boldly informed him, "Miss Troi has joined Starfleet Academy, sir..."

Once more Will stared silently at him before finally spluttering out: "Starfleet!? What did she go and do and dumb fool thing like that for? She was supposed to wait for me, we were going to get married, have some babies..."

Will broke his tirade when he realised what he had just said. More to the point, how archaic it had sounded, even to his own ears. He shook his head, and then, more quietly he muttered, "She was supposed to wait for me Tang..."

Unsure of what to say, Tang allowed an empty, guilty silence to surround them both until the sergeant suddenly remembered the disc he'd been given to guard. Digging in his pocket excitedly, he finally held aloft the shiny object, almost like a trophy. "I, uh, I was supposed to give you this when you returned sir, it's from Miss Troi..."

Will peered into the view screen at the disc and Tang watched him reach out automatically with his hand, then drop it just when the realisation that he could not simply take it from the older man's hand finally dawned on him.

Tang could almost feel the lieutenant's disappointment from across the distance. Another silence followed, until Tang suggested hopefully. "I could upload it to your station there sir, at least you could hear it...but it would have to playback here as well simultaneously.."

Will nodded sadly, "O.k. But I'd like to hear it in private if you don't mind Tang"

The sergeant nodded vigorously as he fitted the disc into the machine, "Of course sir, just give me a minute..." Seconds later Tang walked out of the office and Deanna's musical voice took his place.

"Hello Will...I know by the time that you receive this I will be at the Academy. Please know that nothing about the way I feel for you has changed. I miss you almost desperately sometimes.
But then I look up at the sky, and I imagine you're thinking of me, perhaps.. all those many light years away. I am still waiting for you, just in a different place. Before I met you, it had been a distant dream of mine to leave Betazed, to divest myself of all of my mother's responsibilities and make a difference. I really think that I can do that as a Starfleet officer.
Will... I want you to know that if it hadn't been for you, I may never have realized this opportunity. When I met you, you changed my life... me. You gave me the courage to stand up for what I wanted, you showed me what it might be like to break away, even if it is only for a short while. You've set me free Imzadi...and now I can never go back to the way things were...
Tang has my location details so that you can send your next communique directly to me. I can't wait to see you again, to hear your voice, my love... You know, at night the stars are so bright over the Golden Gate bridge, and every once in a while there's a Starship that goes by, closer to the atmosphere than the others -- and I imagine that its you, on your way back. And that we'll be together again very soon..."

When Tang came back into the office a few minutes later he walked into a deafening silence and a blank screen.

Chapter 3
Will could not believe what he had just heard. On the one hand, his heart wept with joy that Deanna had finally found her purpose. But on the other...Would this new purpose take her away from him? And did he have any right to stand in the way of it, now that he had encouraged her so strongly to seize control of her own life and dare to *live* those dreams?

One moment, it seemed, she had wanted to be with him. And the next, she wanted to be free...Free to join Starfleet. Hell, she had done *that* already, without even a word to him!
Then again, he had not exactly been around for her to consult, had he? Slumped in his chair, one hand splayed over one half of his face as her words repeated themselves in his mind, Will allowed himself to mope, tossing her words back and forth in his mind until he could recite them verbatim: "You've set me free Imzadi...become a Starfleet officer...until you come and get me...."

Will did not think he had ever felt so torn; so wretched, in his entire life. Staring at the now blank view screen in front of him, he muttered absently, "What the hell am I going to say to her?"

If anyone knew what the demands of a Starfleet career would place on a person, it was Will Riker. And so he sat, unmoving in his chair. Feeling a conflicted sense of depression, mixed with pride for her. It was a full ten minutes before he finally punched in his access code and began recording a message marked personal and confidential: "For Deanna Troi, Starfleet Academy." And it would be five days after that before his hail was answered.

Even though he was desperate to see her, Will really did not expect her to be sitting at home, waiting for his call, so he was taken aback as Deanna's smiling face lit up his view screen.

Certain that she was not going to be there, he had not prepared his response for the reality of the beautiful young empath's actual presence come alive before him.

"Will!, What a wonderful surprise, it is so good to see you, Gods, I've missed you so much... I didn't even realize how much until just now."

Will smiled despite himself. Her enthusiasm lit up her expression and she had never been more beautiful to him. He tried his best to look happy for her, as well. "Hey Deanna, I've missed you too, I, uh, I hear you've been busy. "

Will had tried to keep his voice spirited. But as Deanna's entire being came alive with tales of life in the academy, his heart grew heavier and heavier. Knowing from first hand experience that the life she had chosen would take her farther and farther into a realm of discovery and wonderment. He was also (selfishly) aware that it would likely take her farther and farther away from him...

Even once she had finished her studies... A career in Starfleet was day by day, all work and very little play. It was a life he had always loved. But it was also a life which had precluded him from any sort of serious relationship, or even the thought of one. Until he had met Deanna. Now with both of them living the same kind of schedule, the odds of their having a workable relationship had gone from marginal to very, very slim.

Deanna'a voice repeating his name brought Will back to the present and she chuckled at his far-distance expression. "Am I boring you already Will?"

He grinned and shrugged, changing his train of thought. "I'm sorry Dee, it's been a long haul, especially after being planet side for a while, I think I need a holiday..."

Deanna laughed at the suggestive tone in his voice. "Does that mean we have a date, Imzadi?"

The grin on his face faltered and Will posed his next question carefully, "What about your schedule Deanna? As I recall, classes aren't exactly very forgiving of lateness or absence."

"Will," Deanna rolled her eyes. "We're talking about a date, an evening alone.. maybe two." She grinned. "I'm not dropping out of the Academy, and they do let us off for a few hours in the evenings if we're good." Her eyes sparkled with mischief.

That was it. The wall of pent up emotion within him finally snapped and he shook his head, his gaze serious. "What if I wasn't talking about just a date, Deanna. What about what happens *after* the Academy? When you get assigned to some ship somewhere and we get to spend two days together every five or six months. Have you thought about that at all?"

Deanna watched his face as he spoke, and her eyes grew sober. "Yes. As a matter of fact, I did. And I imagine it wouldn't be a problem ... If we were married Will, we could still be together, even on a Starship."
" do still want to marry me don't you...Don't you?"

Even to Will's mind his voice sounded hollow as he rapidly answered her. "Yes, of course sweetheart, the sooner the better, but why didn't you wait for me like we planned?". There. He'd said it. Gotten it out into the open, so to speak. But Deanna only sighed.

Will's uneasiness pricked at her conscience, but Deanna ignored the sensation and met his gaze defiantly instead. "I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, Will. When you left Betazed, I wanted nothing more than to be with you, out there, wherever, I wanted to go anywhere, as long as it was with you.

But then you were gone, and I didn't know for how long. A part of me wanted to sit back and wait for you, I won't lie to you about that, but another part of me, a bigger part of me wanted to go somewhere and find a way to make a difference somehow. There's nothing wrong with that is there?"

Will frowned as he tried to understand her logic. "No...But you could have done that on your home planet. Why Starfleet? Why Earth?"

Deanna shook her head, desperately needing him to understand, "Because I had never lived anywhere other than Betazed. Will, can't you see? I needed to find myself, and the only way to do that was to leave everything which clouded the reality of my purpose with the monotony of habit. My mother is such a powerful voice at home, she's an Ambassador to the Federation -- Can you not imagine how hard it was for me, trying to help find a place where I 'fit' on Betazed? I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall.

But when I talked with humans, in each experience, and with other non-Betazoid cultures, I knew that there was something 'out there' for me. A way that I might be able to help, not only because I can sense the feelings and emotions of others, but because I finally felt worthy of the challenge. Will...I want to help people..."

Will did not need convincing of her innate urge to understand others. He smiled fondly at the memory of Deanna trying her utmost to get within his head when all he wanted to do was get in her panties, but once he'd succumbed to her way of thinking, their ultimate joining had been like nothing he had experience in his entire life, and would probably never be surmounted in the rest of his existence.. Deanna Troi had somehow taken possession of the deed to his soul, not that he was complaining. The reality of that thought made up his mind for him.

"O.k. you win. And I do understand. I'm not really as dense as I look sometimes." He smiled lopsidedly. "So, how about this? Exactly three weeks from today, you and I meet up at the hotel Parisido on Risa. It's a beautiful resort, Dee, they've got a private holosuite for every client, there are real beaches along the outer city... I'll be there waiting for you, in exactly twenty one days."

Will suddenly grinned. "Oh, and you may want to bring along your Mother and your prettiest dress. I know you do things 'au natural' on Betazed and your mother will probably call for my immediate execution, but I..."

The end of Will's explanation was drowned out by Deanna's sudden cry of joy, "Oh Will, do you really mean it?"

His smile grew wider at the look of unguarded happiness which crossed her features.
"Absolutely sweetheart, we'll be married on Risa... And after that, who knows?" He waggled his eyebrows and she laughed.

Deanna's eyes filled with tears of happiness and her hand automatically extended. She touched the screen, wishing she could touch him instead and she whispered as a solitary tear fell, "I love you Will, you've made me so happy."

Will's heart swelled with love, pride and an overwhelming feeling of completeness as he rose his fingers to his lips, and blew her a kiss. "I love you too Deanna, I'll be counting the days until we meet again, and you'll finally be mine..."

Pausing as he looked over his shoulder, Will turned back to her, an apologetic look upon his face, "I'm afraid I'm being summoned, I've got to go. Take care of yourself, Dee, I'll see you soon."

Deanna barely managed to mouth the word "bye" as their connection became severed. As it was, she sat and stared at the blank screen for several long moments, recalling every precious word of their conversation, her heart filled with an almost painful excitement and ached from the renewed contact of their bond. With a heavy sigh, she finally forced herself to move and to think on other things.

*Three weeks Deanna, you've just got to wait three weeks* muttering to herself as she walked out of her quarters, Deanna shook her head.

"If I don't die from insanity first..."

Chapter 4

~~~~~~~~ "Set a course for Nervala 4"
The Captain of the Potemkin looked around at his senior officers one by one, finally settling on Will, "Any questions?"

Will briefly looked around his fellow officers before posing his question. "How long have we got to evacuate the crew sir?"

The Captain sighed before answering him, "Previous data indicates that the distortion field should be open for approximately 36 minutes..."

Will slumped back as he thought of the huge risk, "That's not a lot of time sir..."

The Captain nodded silently, finally adding "I know that lieutenant, we won't have much of a window, but it'll have to be enough to beam out everybody down there, unfortunately we're going to have to come back another time to retrieve all the data banks. The initial urgency is to get everyone on board first, the data can wait, it isn't going anywhere, and I don't suppose for a minute that any other visitors would be mad enough to attempt to retrieve it, so I think we can safely leave it there for the time being. Now, is there anything else?"

Will looked expectantly around the table once more, and everyone remained quiet. Satisfied that the meeting was over, the captain rose to a stand. "Good, be ready in the transporter room at 0800 hours, dismissed. Lieutenant Riker can I have a word with you before you go?"

Will nodded and sat back down as the others filed out of the room. As the door hissed shut behind them, his captain turned to him, a look of concern evident on his face, "Are you sure you can handle this Will? I know this is your first rescue mission."

Will smiled as he confidently reassured him, "Yes sir, I don't foresee any problems, I know it's going to be tight time wise, but providing no-one panics and runs away to play hide and seek, we should be o.k."

The captain smiled at the lieutenant's humorous remark, and coming to a stand again, he briefly touched his shoulder, "O.k Will, but remember, your safety is paramount too, so no stupid heroics, I want to see this gorgeous woman you keep telling me about.."

Will grinned, "Just remember, she'll be my wife when you do, so keep your hands to yourself.... Sir."

The captain laughed heartily as the two officers moved in unison towards the door to the room, but before the entryway opened, the older man stopped and touched Will's arm once more, proudly passing on his confidence. "I'm counting on you to pull this off. Do this well, and I will see that you're commended, Lieutenant." Will swelled with pride, maybe he was going to beat Kirk's record after all...


"COME ON...MOVE IT!!" Lieutenant Riker's voice roared above the clamour and chaos which surrounded his team as he herded the frightened researchers towards the transporter site, desperately resisting the temptation to push them. He was acutely aware that they only had five minutes left to complete the transports and there was still ten people to go, plus himself. He knew it was going to be close, but he was cocksure that he would make it. He would make it because he had purposely reduced the time limit by four minutes to make absolutely certain they would all get off the station before it fell about their ears.

The entire planet was made up from living colonies of volcanoes that stretched from one extreme to the other. Bubbling mountains that rose thousands of feet, down to deep crevasses that were immeasurable. The research station had been built on a shallow plateau that was now being threatened by violent volcanic activity. Huge fissures were constantly ripping apart the fragile mantle surrounding the plateau, and the landing bay had long since disappeared taking the only shuttle with it. The distress beacon emitted two days ago finally reached Starbase 9, sending the USS Starship, the Potemkin, the nearest ship, to it's rescue.

Will watched the last five people de-materialize before him. The floor began to shake beneath his feet, knocking him off balance. Hitting the ground hard on his knees, he tapped his communicator at the same time as he cursed the ship. "Hurry up, damn you, it's not going to hold much longer!" Will silently began praying until seconds later the Potemkin told him they were ready to beam up.

Coming to a stand, Will prepared himself for the beam out. Nothing happened. Will mumbled angrily "Come on, come on, get me out of here!"

Finally he began to feel the familiar sensation of his body de-materializing. He held his breath until he found himself looking into the face of the transport technician. Will plastered a huge confident grin across his face as he stepped off the transporter pad, his glee at the successful mission clearly evident in his smug retort to the relieved man, "Piece of cake..."
Back down on the surface, Will stared unbelieving at the smouldering consuls of the research station. They had failed to get him up. He checked his watch: thirty seconds left. Punching his communicator pin a third and fourth time, he found himself shouting, "Riker to Potemkin...".


He tried again, "Riker to Potemkin, urgent beam-up. Come on you guys, I'm running out of time here, request priority one beam up, NOW!".

Nothing. The rising panic began to claw at him. Will held his breath, trying to hold on to the last shred of hope, but within a minute, the deafening roar that now resounded and thundered throughout the distant skies told Will that the distortion field had already fixed itself firmly back in place. He was trapped. No one was getting in, and he was not getting out of here now, or for the next 8 years.

Sinking to his knees, Will finally forced himself to look around at his new home. He was stuck, on his own, on a planet that was about to be ripped apart by all of nature's cruellest forces. But there was only one thought which rang through Will's head, resounding in all of the corners of his consciousness, seemingly at once -- and it was the worst thought of them all, the absolute worst. He was going to miss his rendezvous with Deanna...


Chapter 5
"Congratulations Lieutenant Commander Riker." A multitude of cheers erupted along with several whistles and jesting comments.

Will grinned as he looked around at his Captain and the rest of the senior officers; his newest circle of friends on board the Potemkin. The ceremony was the second biggest highlight of his life. Nothing could hide the pride Will felt, but the only person he wanted to share his news with, was Deanna.

Deanna who was, even now, on her way to meet him on Risa. She would so proud of his promotion and it would mean a better, easier life for them both. His captain had even hinted that Starfleet were considering him for captaincy in the near future, but for now he was on his way to join the Excelsior class ship the USS Hood, as it's first officer. It would be the next step towards his ultimate goal, and Will was as pleased as punch with everything.
Checking the stardate, Will estimated that Deanna would reach Risa two days from current. The problem was, his transfer to the Hood was tomorrow.
Though he was desperate to see Deanna again and to join her on Risa, the sudden and unexpected promotion he'd received; the change in ship, all of it was going to put a slight kink into his well laid plans. And he was not entirely sure if Captain DeSoto would agree to his request for shore leave on such short notice.

As it turned out, however, Will was not even to receive the opportunity to ask. Two hours after transferring to the Hood, an emergency communique from Starfleet issued orders to the Captain and crew that they were to leave for Turkana 4 as soon as their new first officer was on board. Before Will had even settled into his new quarters, they were heading for deep space once more, far, far away from Risa, and Deanna.

An hour before they disappeared from communications range, Will sent a message to Tang, hoping against hope that the sergeant would, once again, find a way to get his message off to Risa, so that at least Deanna would know that he wasn't going to be able to make it back.

"Tang my man, I'm sorry your not there to receive this, but it is imperative that you get a message to Deanna on Risa and inform her that I won't make our date. Something impossible has come up and they've sent me off on a new ship and I've barely had time to pack. Tell her to return to Earth, Tang, and that I'm sorry. Tell her I'll contact her as soon as I can and I'll make it up to her..."

His voice trailed off. "Oh, and Tang.. I'm only asking this of you as a friend. But please, tell her that I love her...That I haven't forgotten, and that if I could have been there, I would have. Thanks Tang, I'm depending on you."

Unbeknown to Will however, Sergeant Tang had been sent out on training manoeuvres with the security patrols, and was not due back to base for 5 days...


Chapter 6
~~~~~~~ "Are you sure there are no messages for me? I'm expecting to be joined by Lieutenant William Riker?" Deanna tapped the desk nervously as she waited for the receptionist to check the guest lists, and communiques. Her heart fell as the pretty blond woman looked back up to her, her apology falling quietly from her lips.

"I'm sorry Miss Troi, we have nothing from a Lieutenant Riker. He hasn't checked in yet and there are no messages...I'm sorry."

Deanna turned away from the desk and simply stood, lost, alone and frightened. Her mind raced through every possible scenario that might have occurred, and she had an answer for all of them, except one.

*Is he dead?... no, I would have sensed it*

*Has he gone on another mission?... no, Tang would have told me*,

*Has he had an accident?... no, I would have felt his pain*,

*Has he fallen out of love with me?... No of course not, we are Imzadi*.

...and the one remaining question came to her mind over and over.

*Has he changed his mind?* She couldn't answer it, she refused to answer it.

Deanna eventually found herself at the docking bays, waiting for the final ship of the day to come into land. At ten minutes to midnight, an announcement echoed throughout the arrival's area, "The shuttle craft from Sector 2148 will be arriving in five minutes at gate 4. This is our last arrival of the day. Thank you.".

Without even realising she had moved, Deanna found herself standing in front of the glass window which overlooked the landing pads. Moments later, she heard the distant hum of the approaching craft, her hands were flat against the glass as she watched the ship's descent. But even before the ship had powered down and the hatch had opened, tears were running freely down her face. Deanna had known Will was not on board.

Turning her back away from the sympathetic stares of the arriving passengers as they searched the crowd for their own loved ones, Deanna pushed her way through the throng. By the time she had reached the doors, she was running, and she didn't stop until she had reached her room...Their room.

As she slammed the door shut behind her, her back fell against it and the sobs finally came. Dredged up from the very bottom of her soul, they shook her body and forced her to her knees.

Eventually, her tears slowed as her misery melted away into anger. Deanna's eyes fell on the dress that hung on it's hanger, new and sparkling on the bedroom door. Her wedding dress. It had taken her hours of pouring over computer images of Earth's bridal dresses to choose just the right one. But as soon as she'd seen it, she knew that it was THE one.

The garment was made of sheer white satin, plunged low at the front, the back laced with thin shoe string straps. But it was the bodice which had captured Deanna's immediate attention. Hundreds and hundreds of miniature pearl teardrops hung all over the tight intricate webwork of fabric.

Teardrops... Deanna stared wide eyed at the breathtaking creation as she walked slowly up to it, and then began to painfully laugh at the irony. Teardrops...All she had done since she had met Will Riker was shed teardrops. But no more.

Approaching the dress, Deanna reached out to caress the gossamer material, her mind imagining floating up the aisle in the tiny chapel here, the heavy scent of the roses following her. And Will...Will clinging to her as he escorted her up to the planet's equivalent of a minister, looking down into her eyes, a proud, happy smile upon his face, his love for her emanating from deep inside of him.

Deanna's bubble burst as she found herself still staring up at the dress in front of her. Thankfully none of the wedding plans had been arranged, they were supposed to be doing it together.


Her heart grew heavy with misery, shame, disappointment, and an overwhelming feeling of loss which made her clutch at her chest; the pain indescribable. It was then that the anger flared.

Before she had realised what she had done, Deanna yanked the dress off its hanger, fingered the beads once more, then gave several of them a sharp tug. It was enough. A thousand tiny pearls scattered like raindrops, clattering into every corner of the room. Deanna watched them fall as new teardrops of her own began to cascade down her face. Bitter and totally alone, she screamed at the emptiness which surrounded 'their' suite.

Though devastation and humiliation threatened to overwhelm her, Deanna made up her mind instead. Choking on her own sobs, she howled into the hollow enclosure: "No... more... Will Riker. These are the last teardrops I will cry for you... no more. Not now, and not ever again..."

The following day, a brand new, very grown up, resolute Deanna Troi took the next available shuttle craft back to Earth.


The Waiting Game

Chapter 1
"For God sake Deanna, answer me dammit!..." Will swore profusely as yet again, Deanna had refused to answer his hail. Determined to speak to her, Will had tried again and again, repeating the hail for hours. The constant chirp would have driven anyone crazy, but she still did not answer him. He had left countless messages, asking... pleading Deanna to call him.

She ignored every single one.

Once, out of sheer desperation Will had tried her mother. Bad move. Stunned that from out of a woman with her prestigious upbringing, could come some of the worst verbal abuse that Will Riker, man of the world, Mr. Unshockable, had ever heard.

It had been nearly three months before Will had returned from deep space. As soon as he had got within communique range, Will had tried to call her. Assuming that Deanna was not in her room, he had left a cheery message, expecting an even more cheery message back later on in the day. Will had been mystified when he'd received nothing.

For four days on the trot, Will had left a message, morning, noon and night. Then he had stayed silent for a week, figuring that maybe, just maybe, she had gone on leave, then he tried again, morning, noon and night, until it had finally sunk in that Deanna Troi had got the right royal pip.

It was also then that he realised that maybe, just maybe, she hadn't got his message that he'd left with Tang...


Tang was up to his ears in paperwork when he heard the familiar chirp on his console. Tang stared silently at it for a few seconds as he read the data that was informing him of the communiques origin. It was the Hood.

It was Will Riker.

Taking a few seconds to bolster up the courage to face him, Tang unconsciously sat up straight in his seat, as he finally punched the answering button. Will's face swam into view, and Tang noticed how much he had changed. Staring back at him was a man that had been in one to many wars, and seen one too many deaths. He also recognised a face that was desperate for information of his loved one. He wanted to know what had happened to Deanna Troi.
"Hello Tang, it's been a while, it's good to see you man..."

Tang smiled at the anxious face before him."Hello Lieutenant Commander Riker..."

Will laughed at the formal title. "Yes, yes very funny Tang, cut the crap, Will will do perfectly well thank you..."

An expectant moments silence followed as they both plucked up the courage to approach the much needed information. Tang got in first.
"Sir...Will...I didn't manage to get your message to Miss Troi...I was out on patrol...I didn't get back until five days later..."

Tang silently watched as Will digested the news.

Watched as his eyes told him how much his information had hurt.

Watched as his hand came up to his head and almost covered the handsome face in his despair.

Tang felt helpless. He had let his friend down in the worst possible way, and all he could offer him was his heartfelt apologies. "I'm sorry Will...If there is anything I can do...".

Tang watched as Will shook his head, removing his hand to show him just what the news had done to him. Tang's gut twisted with remorse, he hoarsely whispered to the pain-etched face. "Christ, I am so sorry..."

Will shook his head once more as he began to rationalise that it was nobody's fault, just an accumulation of bad luck. He also knew that he needed to release Tang of his guilt. "It was not your fault was no one's could not have known, you could not have prevented any of this..."

Will drifted off again as he thought about how to solve his dilemma. Finally he turned to the screen, the question in his eyes. "I take it you haven't tried to contact her on Earth?..."

Will was surprised when he nodded his head. "Yes sir, I did, but I got no response, the little lady did not want to listen. "

Will sat up expectantly. "You mean you actually spoke to her?" His expectancy died as quickly as it arose as he watched Tang shake his head.

Tang solemnly shook his head."No sir, I did not, nor did she answer the message I left asking her to contact me".

Will nodded slowly as he muttered. "She was sure pissed at me wasn't she?..." the question didn't need an answer, Tang didn't offer one.

Moments later, Will resignedly accepted that for the moment, nothing could be done. But as an afterthought occurred to him, Tang saw a spark of life brighten the sky blue eyes. "O.k. I'm done chasing, but will you do me a favour Tang?"

Tang nodded warily, no longer confident in his ability to uphold any sort of favours, or promises, but needed to somehow make amends in any way that he could. He nodded more forcefully. "If I can sir..."

"Will you keep me informed of how she's keeping, and her whereabouts?...Just because she thinks I don't give a hoot about her doesn't mean I have to stop caring. She's too important to me..."

Tang smiled sadly, relieved that what he wanted was relatively simple to achieve. He did not work for Starfleet without having some pull, and if that was all Will wanted of him, then that was what he would get. "No problem sir"

The two men's eyes locked as they conveyed the unspoken understanding, and their respect for each other. Will gave him a tight lipped salute as he severed the connection.

Chapter 2

Two Years later

Deanna pushed back her chair with a sigh. Having had enough for one day, she felt slightly guilty as she almost welcomed her last patient's exit.
Letting her body slump low in the luxurious soft leather chair, her head fell back, her eyes closed and she let her mind empty of the days events. But as she tried to fill her mind with sights that not so long ago she had considered therapeutic, now only held sad memories for her.

Her mind focused on the abstract picture that hung in the museum, the large concentric swirls once reminded her of peace, Now when she thought about the painting, his face appeared in it's place. The colours swirled and fused together to make up the outline of him, his words echoed in her head. *I'm coming for you, be ready. I love you Deanna...*
Deanna's eyes snapped open along with the spark of anger that flared within them. Her derisive outburst followed again as it did whenever she tried to shut him out her mind. "Love!! don't know the meaning of the word Will Riker. You would never have left me if you truly loved me.*

Knowing that she sounded like a spoilt brat, she quietly added *You could have least have tried Imzadi*

Deanna's eyes caught the newly framed diploma that graced her newly acquired office wall. Coming home to Betazed to begin her counselling career amongst familiar surroundings, her old friends, and her mother, had been the only thing that Deanna focused on.

Graduating from the Starfleet Academy in only two years still made her swell with inner pride. Her previous training at her home university had already sent her well on her way, plus the added bonus of being empathic, seemingly forged her path with a silver lining. Passing the exam with honours, the only blight on the horizon was that the one person who she wanted to share her joy with was no where in sight. Deanna began to wonder if he was ever likely to be.

Deanna's mind wandered back to the earlier times, the time when she had to face the humiliation of returning to Earth, to the questions, the sympathetic stares, and the 'I told you so' conversation with her mother.

For that alone she did not think she would ever forgive Will.

Getting back into the swing of Academy life was harder than she ever imagined, her heart was shattered, along with her spirit. More than once she had packed up and prepared to return home, but the one person who made her stop, stay and grow up was her mother.

Of all the people she had expected sympathy, and welcoming arms from was Lwaxana Troi, but she was decidedly put out to find her quite forcefully discouraging Deanna to 'give in'.
But Deanna's biggest nightmare was the prospect of Will's return to Earth, of actually seeing him, face to face. One day.

But it never happened.

Deanna was never quite sure if it was a blessing in disguise, or a deliberate evasion on his part. Her heart ached for him, but that very same ache told her to step back and give it time...lots of time.

Now was the time to make a career for herself. Some day, one day, Deanna would meet Will again, but this time, it would be on her terms. Along side the ache that she doubted would ever leave her, was a determination to show Will Riker that she could, and would, survive without him. She was going to prove to him, her mother, and to herself that she, Deanna Troi, could do something with her life, on her own...

But it still hurt.

A knock on her door took her by surprise and she physically jumped, bringing her out of her reverie. "Come in"

The door swung open quietly and Deanna craned her head to see who it was, because the visitor made no move to enter. She was surprised to see Sergeant Tang standing there, In full uniform, but nervously twisting his beret around in his huge hands. Deanna watched the hypnotic motion for a few moments before raising her eyes to his face. He looked very nervous, but it was not the emotion that Deanna felt from him, it was shame.

Deanna tentatively smiled at him, unsure of his reason for the visit. "Hello Tang, this is a pleasant surprise, please, come in."

Tang stepped into the room enough to close the door and to resume his nervous twirling. Deanna sensed that he had and needed to say something, so she stayed silent. It was several moments before he glanced up at her face, then away to the window, before clearing his throat. "Hurrumph...I'm sorry miss for not getting Lieutenant Riker's message to you on time... Believe me, if I'd have known, I would have done my utmost to have got that message to you, but I was away on patrol...I'm sorry Miss Troi".

Deanna was not sure if it was the words 'Lieutenant Riker, or 'message' when her heart stopped beating. But when it started again, she was sure that Tang must have heard it's thump. "Message Tang...What message?"

Once more Tang shifted restlessly. Deanna reached out to touch his arm, her voice calming...begging..."What message Tang?"

Sadly as Tang relayed the message to her, he watched her eyes well. "The day that Will was supposed to meet you on Risa, he sent a communique to me just before he went into deep space that he would not be able to make the rendezvous and for you to return to Earth and wait for word from him there...Nothing would have stopped him coming for you miss if he could've, it was out of his control."

Tang's next words forced the tears that had built to spill down her now pallid cheeks. "He said...he said, tell her that I love her...". Tang had no difficulty saying the fragile words to the delicate woman that stood before him, knowing of their importance, and knowing that it was the only chance he had of making things right.

Time stopped as Deanna absorbed his words. Tang took a step towards her, his eyes, and arms beckoning. Feeling the need to be a father figure for her, but not quite sure if she would welcome the gesture. He gently pulled her into his arms, offering any comfort that he could.

At first Deanna was stiff and unwieldy, but Tang could feel her sorrow seeping through him, unconsciously he began to gently rock, rather like lulling a small child off to sleep, and eventually he felt her body posture began to relax, until he heard her sniff. He realised it was her way of asking him to release her, and he did so, stepping back to give her the space.

He gruffly asked her, "Are you alright?"

Relieved when she offered him a watery smile, Deanna nodded. "Yes...Yes thank you Tang, I'm sorry about that. It's been a long time, I think I must have been storing it up, even if I did promise myself that I wouldn't cry over him anymore ..."

Tang smiled as he tried to reassure her "It's o.k. ma'am, I'm glad I was here to help, even if it was mostly my fault that this has happened..."

Deanna cut him off, "No...No Tang don't say that. I have come to realise that it was probably the best thing that happened. We were both too young, we both had too many dreams that needed us to be individuals to achieve them. You probably did us the biggest favour, so don't ever, ever blame yourself Tang."

Tang became nervous again as he posed his next question to her. "Do you think you will ever get together again Miss?"

Deanna grinned at him, her eyes still bright with unshed tears. Feeling the need to set his mind at ease, she spoke with every conviction that her heart could muster, "Absolutely, when the time is right for both of us, we will be together, of that I am certain..."

Tang frowned, "Why didn't you answer any of your communiques?, I'm sure Will tried to contact you many times, as did I."

Deanna stepped back, and turned away, her face thoughtful. "By the time I had arrived back to Earth, I had realised that Will not coming had been the best thing for both of us. I saw no point in resurrecting the relationship, it would have been unbearable, and pointless at that time, so I severed any contact, including from you Tang. And it seems to have worked hasn't it?. I've qualified from Starfleet Academy, and Will...well, Will is out there, doing what Will does best. He couldn't have done it with me in tow. I know it, and I'm sure he knows it too...

"I made a conscious effort to wipe Will from my life, and it hurt Tang. The pain was an experience that I never want to go through ever again, and I know I would have if he'd have come to Risa. He would have left me again Tang, and what would I have been left with?... No Will, no career and absolutely, no self esteem, no self respect...

"No Tang, what I did, I did for the best, for both of us."

Deanna turned back to face him, feeling that she had made peace within herself once more, and she smiled gratefully at him. "Thank you again Tang, for everything."

Tang smiled and turned to leave her office, but Deanna's voice, low with underlying doubt of what she was about to ask of him, stopped him in his tracks as he turned to face her once more.

"Tang...Could you keep me posted of what Will's doing?..."

Chapter 3

Deanna watched Gart Xerx stir his coffee, but when he spoke, her mind snapped to attention. "I hear that the Federation's new Flagship is almost ready to sail..."

Deanna glanced up at his face to find him quietly watching her, waiting, gauging her reaction. Deanna's heart pumped harder, and she was certain that the table's other occupant must of heard it and her eyes flew to each of her closest friend's, searching for something. She did not know what to say. Deanna found herself staring into Chandra's rich brown eyes, the silent message bounced between them. Deanna did not need to say his name.

*Do you think he'll be commissioned to it?*.

*I don't know, last I heard he'd been offered captaincy of The Drake*.

*No...No, I heard that it had been destroyed at a planet called Minos*.

Gart spoke aloud, breaking the silent communication between the two girls. "I also heard that they intend having a full time Counselor aboard...I put your name forward Deanna..."

Open mouthed, Deanna blinked several times as she took in what her dear friend and mentor was telling her. She did not quite believe what she was hearing. "Excuse me"

Gart's professional mode kicked in as he repeated his statement. "I recommended you for the post, you would be perfect for it Deanna, and I might add, it's just what you've been waiting for."

Chandra reached over to grasp Deanna's fingers, Deanna looked at her dearest friend with a mixture of disbelief, trepidation, excitement, and terror. Once more the two friends minds linked.

*But what if he's serving on that ship?*.

*Honey, your going to bump into him sooner or later, but until then, you've got to do what you want to do. You've waited this long, you can wait a little longer, and besides, he made his choice Deanna, Will chose his career over you, now it's his turn to wait.*

Deanna sighed *Your right, I've got to do this, for me. If Will Riker wants me, he's going to have to do the chasing, we'll see if I'm ready to be caught when he finally catches up with me...*


"It's a shame about the Drake, sir. I heard that she was a great ship in her heyday."

Will nodded absent-mindedly. but then chuckled at the irony. "Yeah. I finally get the chance to become Captain, and look what happens."

Tang tried to reassure him with a little perceptiveness. "Maybe sir it was for the best...Maybe your destiny lies elsewhere."

Will looked long and hard at his friend. "Are you talking about The Enterprise?"

Tang nodded. Will pulled a face as he thought about his options...Hell, he had no options now, his chance of Captaincy had just been blown into a million and one particles. How long it would be before another chance came up? How long was it going to be before he was in a position to offer Deanna a life with him?

Will had decided long ago that he was not going to pursue her until he had achieved his single minded goal. To be captain. She deserved the best, and in his mind, the best was Captain's wife.

"It's not what I had in mind Tang..."

Tang shrugged, unable to see the younger man's logic. "What have you got to lose? The Federation's Flagship is nothing to be scoffed at. Only the best of the best will be picked to serve her. Being First Officer on the USS Enterprise would be a privilege sir. You should not think of it as anything else but a privilege."

Tang waited while Will pondered on his remarks, but what Tang had purposely kept from him was that the ship was to be the first to have a Counselor, and only two days ago Deanna had informed him that she had applied for the position.

Tang was finally, at long last able to see the light at the end of their very long tunnel. Deanna Troi and William T. Riker were to be reunited on the best ship ever to grace the universe and beyond. The waiting game was soon to be over, and nobody was happier than he was.

Chapter 4

One month later, Will's ship arrived at the planet Deneb 4, home of the newly constructed Farpoint Station, the Federation's latest Starbase. The base had been under attack by an alien life-force since it's completion, but by the time The Hood had arrived, things had reached crisis point.

Starfleet had despatched the USS Enterprise, and the USS Starseeker to join forces against the alien. But it was not until the Starseeker had been destroyed that it came to light that the attacking alien was trying to free its mate that had been captured by the planets inhabitant's, the Bandi. It had eventually taken the ships newly appointed Counselor to sense the Bandi's deception and to free the trapped alien.

Will returned to his own ship, tired, battleworn and in desperate need of some R & R, so was surprised when he was summonsed to his Captain's ready room.
Will stood before the man who he had come to greatly admire, puzzled at the smug smile that was upon the older man's face. "You wanted to see me Sir..."

DeSoto grinned at his first officer and indicated him to sit. "At ease Will, I have some news for you."

Instantly Will was suspicious. "Oh...And what may that be Sir?"

DeSoto decided to wind him up a little. "Your being transferred.".

Will cautiously looked at his senior officer. "Oh...and where am I being transferred to if I might ask?"

DeSoto smirked, "Farpoint Station."

Will simply stared at him before exploding with disbelief. "Planetside! Jesus Christ Robert, I joined Starfleet to zoom around the galaxy in Starship's, not to get my bloody ass planted on solid ground again!"

Robert DeSoto began to quietly chuckle before falling about with laughter at Will's expression.

Will was not amused. "I hardly find it funny Sir, its not you being stuck on some God-fore-saken ball of dirt, that hasn't even got any decent looking women!"

As soon as he had said the statement out loud, Will found himself silently adding, *And she isn't there*

Another burst of laughter finished Will off. With an unaccustomed coarse word that told his Captain just exactly what he thought of his new mission, he made to leave the room. Robert DeSoto's laughter choked off as he realised that Will thought he was being serious, and he promptly called him back.

"Will...Will, come back, I was kidding you."

Will stopped as he reached the door, he looked back over his shoulder, his face still held its murderous gleam. "That was not funny Sir."

Robert waved his hand mid air as he indicated for Will to resume his seat. "Sorry Will, couldn't resist, but it was worth it just to see your face."

Will half hid the smile that played across his features. "Yes, well, my sense of humour got let behind with all the dead bodies that I've just had to catalogue."

DeSoto sighed, immediately sorry for his lousily timed jest. "Yes, your right, forgive me. We lost too many lives this time, I'm sure this battle won't be forgotten for a very long time..."

Will nodded, a poignant silence followed before Will quietly asked his Captain with a heartfelt sigh, "So...Where am I being transferred to?"

Robert DeSoto looked at him blankly for a brief second as he brought himself back to the present, "Uh...Oh, yes, Congratulations Will, your the new first officer of the USS Enterprise D."

Will was stunned, so stunned that he just sat and stared at his companion.

DeSoto continued, "Seems that the new Captain...What was his name?...Oh yes, a Jean-Luc Picard...French I guess...Anyhow's, seems like he requested you personally. Heard about your heroic efforts on Nervala 4, and Turkana 4. Oh, and I gather someone you recommended from there is also on board the Enterprise, as head of security, Natasha Yar, Remember her?"

Will grinned, "I sure do, one hell of a gal, I look forward to working with her".

Robert threw Will a knowing wink, "Yes Will, I'm sure you are."

Will waggled his eyebrows, the machiavellian grin and blue eyed sparkle pushing aside the last few days horrors.

Robert merely chuckled as he shook his head. "I'm going to miss you Will, it's been a true pleasure having you watch my back. Picard is a lucky man. Hell, your a lucky guy, this is the chance of a lifetime for you. Starfleet want you to return to Farpoint Station and tie up a few loose ends, and then you'll be reporting to the Enterprise, so I guess you've got to pack your bags and take them with you."

Both men stood, both reached for a hearty handshake. "Thank you sir, it's been a fun."

DeSoto jumped in "Not as much fun as I'm going to have now your going, I might actually get a look in with the ladies." Both men erupted with laughter as they exited the ready room.


Meeting up with the Enterprise's new doctor and her teenage son, Will soon found out that Doctor Beverly Crusher did not mince her words. Will, while trying to be super-clever and super-efficient by spouting off about collecting totally unnecessary information for his new Captain soon got told in no uncertain terms that he was 'showing off!'.

Will waited for word from his new Commanding Officer and within hours, the newly appointed Chief engineer, Geordi Laforge passed on the message that Captain Picard had requested his presence on board. As Will summonsed the transporter, little did he know that on board the Enterprise D, he was about to come face to face with the one person that had haunted his dreams.

The one person that had helped him come through his already numerous close encounters with death. The soul reason for his very existence, to find again, to love again, to rejoin the bond that had locked their two souls together for all eternity.

His Imzadi...Deanna Troi.

Chapter 5

~*~*~*~*~*~Captain Picard finished giving his First Officer his orders as they both exited the ready room. Picard heard the turbo lift door open, and seeing who stepped from it, beckoned her to meet the latest recruit.

"Over here...I've asked the Counselor to join us in this meeting. May I introduce our new first officer, Commander William Riker...Commander Riker, this is our ships Counselor, Deanna Troi"

Will turned his gaze to the newcomer, and for an instant, barely an instant, the name did not register.

Until he felt her presence surround and embrace him.

Until his heart pumped so hard even she must have been able to hear it.

Until his feet refused to move as the shock moved in sending his body into an embarrassing statue mode. Until his eyes met hers.

It was was his Imzadi. After all this time, he had finally come face to face with his one true love.

The other half of him.

His destiny.

Everything in the Universe came to a standstill as the two souls re-connected for a moment.

Will's startled eyes met dark, sultry, confident ones. It rapidly became obvious that Deanna had known he was commissioned to the ship, if only he'd been given the opportunity to know that she was also assigned. He would have been more prepared for this moment.

Will's heartbeat ceased as he felt her mind connect with his.

*Do you remember what I taught you Imzadi, can you still sense my thoughts?*

But her mouth said, "A pleasure Commander."

As Will's heart resumed it's steady beat, he knew he had to somehow answer her, coherently, but he inwardly cringed as he replied, "Likewise Counselor"

But Picard was talking to him, he could not answer her first question...He could not ask her what he wanted to know. His mind raced through a myriad of silent questions.

*I wonder if she knows how much I want to take her in my arms, right now*

*I wonder if she still loves me after all this time, after all what's happened*

*I wonder if we can continue where we left off*

*I wonder if she knows that I couldn't say goodbye*

But as they entered the turbo lift, Picard was animated when he realised that they knew each other, insisting that it was excellent that his key officers knew each others abilities.

Both Will and Deanna hid the small smile as Deanna answered, "We do sir"

Will's heart swelled as he heard her once more, "I too could never say goodbye, Imzadi"~*~*~*~*~*~

Maybe, just maybe she had forgiven him and let bygones be bygones, but he had a long wait until they could be alone to find out.


Working beside Deanna for the next six or seven hours had been the longest, most frustrating time of Will's life. Watching her feel the intense pain from the trapped life force and the anger from it's mate, Will wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and fight it along with her. But with everyone around, he could do no more than offer her comforting words, comforting thoughts, and a gentle touch when ever he could.

But both were conscious that they had to talk.

They so desperately needed to talk.

The agonising wait for their respective shifts to end brought with it an intense relief when they finally arrived.


Deanna paced her floor, her arms crossed protectively in front of her as she waited. She halted as she sensed his arrival at her door. Deanna took a deep, shaky breath and spoke through the solid metal."Come in Will."

The door hissed open, The sight that greeted Will stopped him in his tracks. Pausing on the threshold, Will simply stood, and looked.
Once more, time hesitated as they faced each other again. Will's eyes swept down her body, taking in the transformation.

Gone was the starchy, unflattering uniform.

Gone were the hair restraints.

Gone was the barrier that held her traitorous emotions.

Before him stood a girl that had grown from a shy, highly intellectual teenager into possibly the most beautiful creature that he had ever set eyes on. Her hair was free, although slightly shorter than it used to be, it still cascaded past her shoulders in a ripple of never-ending ebony waves. Her dark peacock blue dress moulded her figure that had matured to delicious perfection.

But it was her eyes that captured him.

It wasn't the dark make-up that transformed them into exotic midnight pools.

It was not even the obvious pleasure of seeing him. It was more than that.

Deanna Troi had grown up.

He was now looking at a fully grown, mature woman.

A woman who knew what she wanted.

A woman who had got what she wanted.

Why did he suddenly think that he was not it.


Deanna was disappointed.

Her eyes fell from his face down his body. Will still had on his uniform, and in that instant, she realised that Will Riker was pure starfleet, through and through.

She had made a huge effort for her first private confrontation with him, and he had turned up in his uniform. But it was more than that, and she could clearly see it as her eyes rested once more upon his face.

He had not changed, at all. He still looked exactly the same as he did when he was a brash, cocky lieutenant on her home planet.

And she was disappointed.


Will hesitantly stepped into her domain and the door quietly closed behind him.
He took another step closer to her.
On his way to her quarters, Will had imagined Deanna running into his arms as soon as he had gotten to her room, and she would be crying with joy at their long awaited reunion.
But Deanna neither ran, nor did she cry.

This wasn't going at all like he had hoped.

Will tentatively held one arm out to her, his eyes begged her to come to him, his mind pleaded. But Deanna did not move until he uttered the only word that she wanted to hear.


It was all Deanna needed to hear and she stepped into his waiting embrace with a sigh. Closing her eyes as she wrapped her arms around his waist, she let her mind empty of all the negative thoughts. She didn't want to remember her heartbreak on Risa, or the seven long years of waiting. But at that moment, the last thing she wanted to think about was her decision to not resume their intimate relationship.

Instead Deanna lost herself in the magical feelings that washed over her as Will in turn, cradled her within his own heartfelt embrace. They felt so right together, fitted so right together, perfect even, but perfection had its flaws and it was these minute flaws that filled Deanna's senses as she summoned up the strength to do what she had to do.

Things had gone too far now, they both had achieved their own personal goals. Both had worked long and hard, with their own assortment of miseries and troubles. Life had dealt them with some cruel blows, their relationship had been the cruellest of them all.
But they had each come out the other end of it, older and wiser. But this was as far as they were going.

Will sensed the upheaval, her inner misery, and the finality. He had to make her see...To understand. He hugged her tighter as he whispered the agonising words that brought her back to the present and halted her breathing.

"I love you Deanna, I have never stopped loving you, not for a minute."

Deanna gasped with dismay and tried to leave the circle of his arms, but Will held on fast.
It was then he knew that things were not going to go back to the way they were.

He knew.

Will knew what she was going to say, but right at this moment he did not want to hear it. He felt an urgency build up within him as he needed to make her understand how much she meant to him before the years of waiting... wanting, and aching, went flying out of the nearest porthole.

Forcing her chin up with one hand as he kept her body still with his other, Will tentatively kissed her. Relieved that she did not pull away, he kissed her again. And again, until he felt her slowly begin to melt into him.

Will deepened the kiss, circling her lips with his tongue before delving into the sweetness of her mouth. Two groans became one, as their very essences coupled once more. Time went backwards to a magical moment in the Jalara jungle, when two lost souls found each other for all eternity. A time when everything felt right to give each other the precious gift.

A bond.

A bond that bound them together. No matter what happened in their lives, or however far apart, even in death, the Imzadi bond would keep their hearts, body's and souls intertwined forever.

They would always love each other.

Deanna felt the passion begin to build in the man that had once become her entire reason for living. Until she had found another reason for living...herself. And it was with the deepest sorrow that she broke the intimate embrace and stepped back.

Still hanging onto his arms, her legs unsteady with the fever of desire that smouldered between them. Deanna watched as Will's eyes found hers. Still suffused with his own ardour, the smoky blue wonderment settled on the velvety, rich brown gaze of hers, and Will tried once more to make her understand.

"Do you still love me Imzadi?"

Will's heart soared and then crashed to the floor when she told him her answer,

"Yes, I do love you Will, with all my heart, but we must not let this ever happen again."

Chapter 6

Will stayed silent for several moments as he digested her words.

This was not what he wanted to hear.

He had to try one last attempt to win her back. Speaking harsher than he intended, Will found himself almost growling. His hands holding onto her upper arms in a brutal grip, unleashed a pain that she almost welcomed to compensate for the pain that ripped through to her very soul as she destroyed the man standing before her.

"But I love you Goddammit!...I'm not going to give up that easily, not after everything...not after all that we've been through together."

Deanna's bitter laugh cut him to the quick as she deliberately pulled herself out of his hands. "Together Will!...We have done 'nothing' together for the last seven years. Seven... Whole... Years Will...Things have changed."

Deanna brokenly whispered the last few words." We have changed."

Will tried again with the only word that seemed to have any effect, "Imzadi...Please..."

Will watched as the tears welled in her eyes, unhappy that he had evoked that reaction, but pleased that he could still do so. He stepped towards her again, but she held her hand up to stop him, her voice wavered as she spoke.

"No Will...I can't do this, I can't let you destroy me again, I won't let you destroy me again. If you loved me...Truly loved me Will, you would not do this to me again. If we're going to work together, this has got to be resolved here and now."

Will stepped away from her and paced her floor, unsure what to say, but figuring he'd got nothing to lose, he ploughed in,

"What about me Deanna, What about what I want? I tried to get a message to you, I really tried, but you would not answer me. How in the hell was I supposed to talk to you, apologise to you, when you wouldn't even acknowledge my communiques"

Deanna watched Will prowl around the room. He was angry and he was hurt, but hell, she was hurting too. But if things were going to work between them, she had to do this, and she hoped with all her heart that he would eventually understand her reasons why she had to do this to him.

To her.

To them.

Deanna could no longer take the hurt so, somehow, the hurting had to stop here.

Quietly she whispered more to herself than him, unable to look into his eyes, "When you didn't arrive on that last shuttle, something inside me died that day. I went back to Earth the next morning, and for the next seven years, I worked until I dropped, I got my diploma, in record time, I had to face my friends, my colleagues...AND my mother!...with the humiliation that I had been dumped yet again by the infamous William T Riker."

She ploughed on. "But, I can live with that now, I loved you enough to be able to put that behind me, but what will never leave me Will, is my memory of waiting for you to arrive on that last shuttle...Inside, I'm still waiting...I shall always be waiting."

Will stared silently at her as he watched the unshed tears finally trickle down her cheeks. Her voice finally broke as she sobbed in earnest. "Please Will, don't do this to me anymore."

Will instantly pulled the broken woman back into his arms and held her tight as she cried. His own heart broke as he realised just what he had done to her.

What he had done to them.

What they'd lost.

"I'm so sorry Imzadi, please, please forgive me...I promise I will never, ever do that to you again, you have my word."

Gently lifting her chin, Will wiped away a trail of moisture and lightly kissed her lips, he made his murmured vow with a heavy heart, but along side of the pain was relief, relief that he hadn't entirely lost her.

"I swear to you Deanna, that I am here for you, I will always be here for you, no matter what... and If you'll let me, we'll be the very best of friends. And if you want more, that's o.k. too...but, whatever happens, I will always be here, o.k.?"

Deanna nodded as a fresh wave of tears cascaded down her face, but these were tears of joy, and she laughed, "Thank you Will, for understanding...I can't believe it, I'm crying over you again"

Will chuckled and pulled her in for a huge hug. And as the two rejoined soul-mates began another chapter in their lives, a wave of contentment settled between them and as he kissed the top of head, he whispered.

"At long last, we're together again and this time, I am not leaving you Imzadi, We're here, together, and its like we've finally come home, and right now, I feel like I'm the luckiest man in the Galaxy..."