Title: A Picture's Worth A Thousand Memories
Author: Christal
Fandom: STTNG
Pairing/Rating: Riker/Troi, PG
Warning: it's a sad piece, character deaths
Note: this was un-betaed... just my twice over and Word's grammer/spelling checker. so blame me for mistakes, Word for horrendous catastrophe's.
Distribution: None of its mine, so don't sue. I'm poor and trying to get to a Cher concert... it isn't pretty.
Summary: Deanna, fireplace, books, gloominess.


Twighlight crept over the grounds of the Troi Mansion, the gloom seeping into every nook and cranny, forcing nature from bright green to drab gray. As dusk settled in, casting foreboding shadows along the walkways, all but one window of the Troi home remained dark. The front side window of the library flickered from the flames of a roaring fire.

It was cold outside. Betazed was a tropical planet, but its winters could sometimes rival its summers. Deanna hated the cold. She usually spent the winter at their beachside home, but last summer's hurricane had hit their side of the island hard. The beach house collapsed in on itself, thankfully hurting no one. It was being rebuilt, but it wouldn't be ready for another six or seven months. So she was stuck her, trapped, with the bitter cold she feared.

She had started the fire hours ago, and hadn't budged since, not even for dinner. She wasn't hungry, just tired: of the cold, of the pain, of feeling and living like an empty vessel.

She was glad to be alone in the house for once. She was sick of people fussing over her, pretending that they were only trying to 'help.' Her mother seemed to have suddenly become her arch nemesis. Deanna cringed as she could still hear her voice: "Deanna darling get some rest, you look terrible, "Little One you MUST eat something, you're practically wasting away," and her favorite, "Deanna why not get out of the house? Darling, your friends will leave you if you keep up this isolation, you need to socialize. It'd be good for you."

Deanna welcomed the solitude.

An hour ago she moved from the sofa to the rug in front of the fireplace and curled up with a few of her personal favorites. She was still flipping through when she paused, leaving reality once again to remember that day in Alaska.

She and Will had decided to return to Will's childhood home to show the kids where he had grown up, and show them a bit of their heritage. Their grandfather even paid a short visit. The kids had never seen real snow before, just holo-simulations on the Enterprise. They were so happy, giggling and rolling around in the white powder. Will taught them all the essentials: snow angels, snow forts, sledding, and most importantly… how to pack the neatest, most perfect snowball, and the perfect pitch to go with it. By the end of the trip they all had colds, but the kids didn't care, they were having too much fun.

Deanna began to cry again. She sniffled as she thought, // Why? Why did we have to bring them to Alaska, to the cold and snow? Betazed gets cold enough. We should have never gone. //

Deanna shook her head and went back to her page turning. A few more pages and she stopped again. She fingered the edges of the bottom picture. It was the four of them on Pacifica. Brianna wanted to be a 'serious surfer,' and so Will bought her her first surfboard. It now adorned the left-hand corner of her room. Billy had gotten his first crush and she invited him to a beach party that night. He had come home floating on air. Will explained later that he had gotten his first kiss. She remembered how depressed he'd gotten the week after when he had to tell her goodbye, and she assured him that she didn't need to know how to reach him. First love, first heartache. A week later he was eyeing some girl in his science class.

Deanna smiled; remembering the way Billy had acted when he went out on that first date, and when he came back. He had strutted around the house for days. Will had found it quite amusing, and the twinkle in his eyes spoke of times past.

She was shaken out of her reverie by the sound of the library doors opening. Brianna had returned home. She sensed her daughter coming closer. She stopped just behind her and sat down, resting her chin on Deanna's shoulder. Brianna didn't have to look down to figure out what her mother had been doing.

"When are you going to let them go?"

Deanna didn't answer; she just turned to the next page.

"I remember that day," Brianna whispered, causing her mother to pause again, "that was the afternoon we bought Buster."

Deanna nodded, "And by that night your father was ready to bring him back."

They were silent for a few minutes. "Where is that little fiend anyway? I haven't heard him bark once all evening."

Brianna laughed, "Gran shooed him outside after he got ahold of the plate of cookies Homn baked for lunch. She found him asleep on the edge of her bed, crumbs everywhere. Gran says he's punished for the night, but I suspect she'll get lonely and let him in around midnight."

Deanna smiled slightly and went to turn the page, but Brianna put her hand atop her mother's.

"It wasn't your fault mom."

"I know."

"Liar. If you knew you would be getting on with life. Instead, for the past 3 years you've been hiding and slowly dying. Even Aunt Chandra stopped coming over. She calls though, she's worried, and she misses you." She turned to face her mother, "I miss you."

"If only they hadn't…"

Brianna threw her hands up in frustrations and huffed. "Oh 'if only,' 'if only.' Mother, life's full of 'ifs,' but some things you just can't change, or prevent. It was a freak accident. Dad and Billy didn't even think to consider an avalanche when they planned the ski trip. It's so rare."

"But if I had told them no, demanded that they stay home…"

Brianna took Deanna's hands in hers. "If it was meant to be, then it was meant to be. And nothing you could have said or done would have prevented."

Deanna stared straight through her daughter, and bent to turn the page, but Brianna stopped her again, and looked her straight in the eyes.

"Billy and daddy are gone momma, they're dead. And so are you. But you can come back. Do you think daddy would want you to be like this? Lifeless? And because of him? Let them rest mother, let them be in peace."

Deanna looked at her daughter, this time really looked into her eyes, not trancing out. But it was only for a moment. "Maybe you're right," she conceded, her eyes glazing over once more. "Maybe it is time to move on."

Brianna sadly smiled and sighed in surrender. "Night momma, I love you." She kissed Deanna and left for bed. When she got to the library doors she turned to look at Deanna again and sighed depressingly.

// When will it ever be over mom? //

She closed the doors behind her. Deanna stayed still as she followed Brianna through the house, and relaxed when she entered her bedroom. She settled down n the rug once more, and stared at the fire.

Her daughter didn't understand. Her mother didn't understand. She turned and stared back down at the album full of memories of her son and Imzadi. She turned the page.

The End