Title: It's Not Too Late
Author: Christal

    William Riker, first officer of the flagship of the Fleet, promoted for his
exceptional valor on the Nervala IV situation, on the path to becoming the
youngest Starfleet Captain, was at a loss for words. He never thought this
could happen. He never expected this would happen. But it was, right now,
and just across from his quarters’ wall she prepared.

    Will was lying on his bed, deep in thought. The news had come so suddenly;
not even she had been prepared for it.

    //How could she have kept this from me? ME! Her Imzadi! Why had she never
told me, or anyone about this old tradition? //

    He kept asking himself these same questions over and over again.

    //I’ll never be the same again,// he realized. //What will life be like
without her?// he wondered, and shuddered at the frightening prospect.

    Everything had been fine, until he came aboard. //Him and his lovely
family, // he thought bitterly. He couldn’t even blame her mother for this
one; she had tried to stop it.

    //But why did she have to agree? She could have declined. They can’t force
her into it. She couldn’t possibly love him, could she?//

    Will blinked the mist out of his eyes at the possible answers to this last
query. He couldn’t be hard on her, it wouldn’t be fair. He knew how
important her culture and its traditions were to her. She was proud of her
heritage, and if he truly loved her he wouldn’t hold a grudge for her
actions in the past few days.

    //It must be hard on her too. She will have to leave the ship, all her
friends, her new life here with us. It will be a big change for her, not to
mention that now she must learn to live with him!”

    Will’s comm badge activated, “Captain Picard to Commander Riker.”

    “Riker her sir.”

    “Will, the ceremony starts in one hour, I want you down here in half.”

    “Understood sir. Riker out.”

    He didn’t really want to go; he hated facing the reality of it all.
//Why?// he kept asking himself, //Why me? Why her? Why us?! And dammit, why

    But only silence answered him.

    Will dragged himself out of bed to shower and shave quickly. As he was
dressing he kept hoping for a call to come, saying it had all been called
off. Or that it had all been some cosmic joke, even if it was purported by
Q. It would have been better than this.

    //Why don’t you go over and talk to her Riker? Tell her how you feel. Maybe
it will change her mind. It’s not too late. It’s never too late.//

    Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope in his heart. Yes, if he talked to her
about his feelings, told her he still loved her, then she’d kindly decline
for him. She’d stay for him, wouldn’t she?

    Will sighed depressingly. “Don’t try to kid yourself ol’ boy.” He chided
his image in the mirror, “It’s already a done deal. She wouldn’t stop it,
her customs mean too much to her. To complicate the situation further with
your feelings would just be cruel. It’s time to suck it up and be a man. You
waited too long, you missed your chance.”

    Dejected, Will ordered off the cabin’s lights and slowly made his way to
Ten Forward. //But it’s not too late.// his mind whispered all the way.

    Ten Forward was simply, but elegantly, decorated for the event. The tables
and chairs had been removed to make room for the guests, and everywhere you
turned was white silk and lush green vines. As he sat down and waited, Will
grew thankful for Lwaxana’s relenting. They had agreed it would be half
Betazoid and half Human, in honor and respect for both cultures. Deanna and
he would go nude, in the Betazoid tradition, as would her mother and his
father. Captain Picard was allowed to conduct the ceremony while Mr. Hohm
had been bumped down to best man. It had taken quite a bit of quarreling and
bickering, but the traditional earth ceremony would be performed.

    Will watched as she walked up to meet him. She was breathtaking, it made
his heart ache inside. At the beginning of the ceremony he noticed the
ticking of a clock. Tick-tock, it hissed, Tick-tock. As the ceremony got
underway, the ticking grew louder. His heart pumped in time with the beat of
the ticking as his mind kept up with its insistent taunting, //Not too late,
// over and over again.

    He heard the Captain say, “If there is anyone here who feels that these two
should not be joined, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”

    The roar of the clock was deafening as she held her breath to see if he

    And then it was if time stood still. The ticking kept getting louder, and
it was all he could do but to cover his ears and scream. “Tick-tock,
tick-tock,” it taunted. But Will stood his ground. And then suddenly the
universe tipped over.

    “I now pronounce you man and wife. May I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt

    The clock exploded in his mind, in his ears. Will thought that surely he
was deaf. Deanna and Wyatt turned to walk down the aisle. As they passed
Deanna stole a glance at Will, and then looked away, saddened. She had seen
the tear slip slowly and silently from its cage.

    The reception began and later on wound down. Through it all William T.
Riker, first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise 1701-D, promoted for his
exceptional valor on the Nervala IV situation, and biggest fool in the
entire universe, heard only one thing. It would be the one thing that would
haunt his dreams for the rest of his life. The clock. He would forever hear
that Tick-tock. It would haunt him now, whispering softly in his mind.

“Too-late, Too-late, Too-late…”