** If a woman is partial to a man, and does not endeavour to hide it, he must
find out. (Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice, by Emily Bronte, 1813).

Chapter 1

Nothing I ever do seems to please her. Complained Lieutenant Hanley as he paced
around Counsellor Deanna Trois office.

This was a routine appointment for Troi, but she hoped that she would be able
to finish this one without being interrupted by a Senior Staff Meeting, Red
Alert or summons to the bridge. She loved being present on the bridge, but
counselling was what she enjoyed most.

Lieutenant Hanley was having relationship problems. Trois initial assessment of
him was that he was a little egocentric, and she had a feeling that may be part
of the problem.

Troi sat patiently, listening to his complaints. After a few minutes he sat
down opposite Deanna and said She thinks that I flirt with too many other
women. As far as Im concerned, Im just being friendly. Were always arguing
about this subject. Shes so unreasonable, Counsellor.

Deanna did not know his partner, but she found herself agreeing with her. From
the moment Hanley had entered her office, Troi had sensed empathically that he
was attracted to her. Did he think that she wouldnt have noticed? Everyone knew
about her half Betazoid heritage didnt they? Anyway it seemed that Hanleys
partner was right, but Troi knew that was not what he wanted to hear. Besides
she was not there to judge or take sides.

Instead Troi highlighted the importance of talking through his problems with
his partner and not dismissing her accusations so quickly. Perhaps there may
have been some truth in what your partner said. She added.

To her surprise, he agreed to talk to his partner about their argument. Hanley
then left the office with such haste that Deanna had not had a chance to assess
why. She decided to put it down to her influence. What other explanation could
there be? She just hoped that he went through with it and didnt make a detour
to Ten Forward instead.

She sat back in her comfortable chair and found herself thinking about her own
(non-existent) love life. Deanna sighed - she was the ships Counsellor, always
giving advice to crew members with relationship problems, but she had never
managed to be in control of her own personal life. Images of those she had
loved in recent years flashed through her mind; Thomas Riker, Devonini Ral,
Wyatt Millar, Aaron Connor, Worf, and the ships first officer, William T.
Riker. He was the only one she had never sorted her feelings out for. Their
relationship had been passionate, to say the least, when they first met on her
home planet of Betazed. Since then their relationship had been much more
platonic, but she was often reminded of their initial passions by the
characteristic glint in his eyes or his infectious smile. Her empathic sense of
him was extremely comforting. He had a very strong, good natured character and
she still cared for him very deeply. In fact, of all the crew on board no one
knew her better than her Imzadi. Will often told her things he would never tell
any one else and she equally trusted him with private thoughts and feelings.

Deanna often found herself wondering why they had not resumed their
relationship at the beginning of their assignment on the Enterprise. They were
so well suited (that was her professional opinion!) and it clearly upset Will
when she formed relationships with other men. Even recently, when she had been
seeing Worf, she had sensed Wills jealousy and discomfort. How did she feel
about that? She hated causing anyone pain, especially someone that close, but
she couldnt wait around forever for him.

Would Troi ever find her soul-mate? Perhaps she had already met him. She had
once been deeply in love with Will Riker and she knew many of those feelings
still lingered. Recently she had found herself thinking about him more and more
often. It was about time she settled down and had a long term relationship - as
her mother regularly pointed out. Neither she nor Will were getting any
younger, but they both had very important positions on the Flagship of the
Federation, the USS Enterprise.
Their relationship as it currently stood was very comfortable and rewarding. Of
course, they were both aware that if they decided to take things further, it
could be even more rewarding - if things worked out that way. However, if the
relationship unexpectedly turned sour, they would find it difficult serving
together on the same ship. It could mean one of them transferring to another
ship, and they may never resume the wonderful friendship they currently

Troi knew that deep down she feared he would again make his career a priority
over her, which was the reason they broke up all those years ago. But Will had
changed since then, he had been offered several commands during his service on
the Enterprise, and he had turned down each one. He was happy serving as first
officer, just as she was happy with her current assignment. She understood why
he didnt want to leave. She also secretly hoped that maybe she was part of the
reason he stayed.

She sighed and headed for her quarters. Once there Troi knew that she would go
straight for the replicator and order a hot chocolate. Then she would force
herself to sort her feelings out for Will. But maybe this was one of those
matters which was easier said than done, as the old Earth saying went.

** What does not recall her? I cannot look down to this floor, but her features
are shaped on the flags! In every cloud, in every tree - filling the air at
night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day, I am surrounded with her
image! The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did
exist, and that I have lost her.... (Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights, by Emily
Bronte, 1847).

Chapter 2

Will Riker was sitting in Ten Forward having a drink with Geordi and Data. They
were discussing the Captains recent experience with time travel, during which
he had travelled to both the past and the future. He was trying to imagine
Geordi without his VISOR and Data with a grey streak through his immaculately
styled dark hair, but found it difficult to say the least, not to mention
amusing! However, thinking about Datas hair was a desperate attempt to forget
what Picard had said about Deanna Troi being dead in the future. He hoped that
Picards experience of the future would not become reality. He decided to ask
his companions their opinions.

Data, do you think that the future the Captain told us about will definitely be
our future?

Sir, we know it is possible to travel through time - as we all did on one
occasion back to 19th Century San Francisco. The Captain believes that nothing
is set in stone, which I believe is why he told us about his experience.
Perhaps we can prevent certain things from occurring or ensure they occur
differently. Data answered.

I suppose the mere presence of Q throughout the Captains time travelling makes
this discussion pointless. Anything is possible when hes around. Geordi added,
referring to the omnipotent being the crew had encountered on numerous

Riker nodded and rose, pulling his uniform top down with a sharp tug. Well, I
think Ill go to my quarters now - it is getting late. Good night gentlemen.

Data and Geordi exchanged a surprised glance as Will walked across the room and
out of the door.

Commander Riker was not behaving within normal parameters. His excuse for
leaving was incorrect; it is only twenty one hundred hours. Perhaps...... Data
began to voice his speculations, but Geordi interrupted him.

Data, I think he has a few things to think about.

Why could he not stay here to perform that task? We are his friends, and....

Geordi sighed, interrupting Data. He began to explain that Humans sometimes
need to be alone when they had serious matters to think about.


Commander Riker sat alone in his quarters, sprawled comfortably in his
favourite chair listening to Jazz, his favourite form of music. He wanted to be
alone to think about Picards experience of the future. If Deanna died at some
point in the future before Will had been given the opportunity to tell her how
he felt (that was if he ever worked it out for himself first), he knew life
would not be easy. He thought back to the time when they were together on
Betazed. Much as he had denied it to himself at the time, he knew he had fallen
for Deanna. It came as quite a shock, as it had never happened to him before
and he had gone from one meaningless, short-lived encounter to the next, until
he met Deanna.

Their relationship now was very strange. Deanna knew him much better than
anyone else and they were still close. He had to admit there were times he
wished they were a couple. Perhaps that was why his relationships with other
women were so short. Maybe he unconsciously wanted them to fail so that he was
available for Troi. He shook his head and softly chuckled Ive been spending too
much time with a Counsellor!

Later, whilst lying in bed, he stared up at the plain ceiling and tried to
imagine life without his Imzadi, and couldnt. He knew that now he would be
paranoid every time Troi faced a potentially dangerous situation.

He turned over and started thinking of what he loved about Deanna; her
intoxicating dark eyes, gorgeous feminine body, long flowing ebony hair and
the sense of mystery that seemed to surround most Betazoids. He remembered a
few past memories which evoked a grin. Then it suddenly hit him. If she died,
memories would be all he had. He had to see her, just to remind himself that
she was still alive.

Computer, location of Counsellor Troi.

Counsellor Troi is in her quarters. Came the Computers prompt reply.

Riker was surprised to find a single tear rolling down his left cheek. He wiped
it away then walked out of his room in the direction of his Imzadis quarters.

** He swore that he had seen her in his dreams, that he had been looking for
her all his life, that he could not let her go, and that she was the woman fate
had meant for him.
(If you Touched my Heart from The Stories of Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende, 1989).

Chapter 3

Having rushed to Deannas quarters at an incredibly fast walking pace, Will
Riker stopped dead outside her door. He asked himself what he was doing there.
How was he going to voice his concerns to Deanna? It wasnt something he could
just say; I still love you, Imzadi, even to Deanna. He needed a plausible
reason to talk to her. Fortunately an idea came to him, and he pressed the door

The ships Counsellor was obviously not expecting any visitors. Her room was
dark, and she pulled on a beautiful midnight blue silken robe as she got out of

Computer, lights she said, followed rapidly by Who is it?.

Deanna, its me. was the reply. Instantly she knew who it was - there were very
few people on the ship who addressed her by her first name. Of course, she also
recognised the deep voice.

As she was not particularly tired, Deanna decided that she would appreciate
some company. Besides, she always had time for Riker. She walked towards the
door and pressed a simple combination of buttons which opened the doors. Wills
eyes lit up when he saw how she was dressed.

Its a long time since I saw you in a robe. Riker said, grinning widely.

Deanna grabbed him by his arm and pulled him inside quickly in case anyone had
heard the comment, allowing the doors to shut behind him. Well, if you decide
to come here at such a strange time, what do you expect? She gestured for him
to sit down. Would you like anything? She asked, moving towards the replicator.
Immediately she regretted saying that because she sensed what he was thinking.
With anyone else, she would only have sensed feelings, but with Riker she
sensed more, not exactly his thoughts, but she could when they had been

She turned to face him with an impatient look. Dont you ever think about
anything else? I meant from the replicator! She adjusted the robe, which
annoyingly kept sliding off her left shoulder.

Oh, no thanks.

Hot chocolate she said, trying to work out why he was really there. She knew he
didnt usually disturb people in the middle of the night shift. She sat down
opposite Will and decided the best approach would be to ask the question

Is there something I can do for you?

He pretended to look offended Do I need to have a reason to see you?

Of course not, but I know you too well. Theres something bothering you.

Will looked into the lovely dark eyes of his Imzadi and fought the impulse to
confess all his feelings. He had Deannas undivided attention. She wore a very
concerned expression on her face, and the longer the silence between them
lasted the more it convinced her that she was right. Will directed his gaze on
to one of Deannas many ornaments which decorated her quarters - he thought
perhaps it would enable him to tell her.

But the break in eye contact concerned Deanna even more. She stood up and
gently sat down next to him.

Tell me what it is, she said, taking hold of his hand maybe I can help. Her
senses told her that he was partly upset and partly frustrated. Suddenly she
realised some of these emotions were related to her.

He turned to face her, holding on to both her hands. Deanna he said in a more
serious voice than she had ever heard from him.

She looked back wide-eyed at him, wondering what he was going to say. Being so
physically close only amplified her feelings for him, and reminded her of times
when they had often been this close. But was the attraction she was feeling
real or was she just reminiscing their past relationship? She was sure it was
more than that and had to resist the urge to put her arms around him and find
out for sure. Was he feeling the same? She couldnt tell - her own emotions were
stopping her from sensing his now. Yes Will she answered.

He was trying to work out how to begin, whilst attempting to ignore the fact
that they were so close and were gradually getting closer without either of
them realising it. Deannas lips were merely inches away from his. Was she
feeling as out of control as he was? Riker didnt know and fought to contain his
feelings. I...... just wondered if you would like to accompany me to Alyssas
wedding tomorrow.

Deanna pulled back in surprise - she had expected him to say something that
would explain what she had sensed. But she knew that if he wanted to talk about
anything, he would do and it would be unethical for her to force him to tell

Alyssa Ogowa, the nurse?

Thats right. It is all planned for tomorrow. The Captain is conducting the
ceremony. As first officer it is my duty, and my pleasure to be there. But I
cant go without the most stunning, beautiful woman on the ship. Well?

Deanna didnt need to give it a second thought I would be honoured to go with
you she said, smiling.

Great, Ill call by at about 18.30 hours. We need to be in Ten Forward by 19.00
hours. Ill see you on the bridge tomorrow he said, walking towards the door.

Wait! Deanna called, following There is something else bothering you.

He turned around in the doorway No, everything is fine. Ill see you tomorrow.
Goodnight. With that, he walked out, leaving a puzzled Deanna stood in the

So we grew together,
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet a union in partition;
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem;
So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart.
(A Midsummer Nights Dream, Shakespeare, 1594-1599).

Chapter 4

All Senior Staff to the Bridge. Came the Captains voice over the ships intercom

Well Data, said Doctor Watson, a.k.a. Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge. I guess
thats the end of this case for the moment.

Data, dressed as Sherlock Holmes, agreed with his friend as they exited the
Holodeck. We will continue this program another time Geordi. Computer, save

By the time they had changed into their uniforms and arrived on the Bridge, all
the other members of the bridge crew were already there. Captain Picard was
talking to a very scruffy looking humanoid, whose face was projected to many
times its real size on the main viewscreen. Commander Riker was sat in his
customary seat listening to the Captain, and frequently glancing at Counsellor
Troi, presumably, Data thought, to see what she was sensing from the situation
and the stranger on the screen. Deanna was either ignoring him, or she was too
busy monitoring the conversation to notice, Data observed. He often thought
humans were curious, but now was not the time to voice his opinion or ask
questions. Besides, the man on the screen was even more fascinating.

Consulting his console as he sat down at the ops position, Data saw that they
had arrived at their destination, the planet Hoertan and the man Picard was
talking to was the planets Monarch, King Attnak. Hoertan was a member of the
Federation and its inhabitants looked human, except for the fact that they had
ash grey coloured skin and pure snow white hair.

Captain, I need your help. My people are being divided. Some of them are
following me, they are loyal subjects...

Who are the others supporting? Riker asked.

They are the people who believe there should be no monarchy and they believe
our world would be better served by having a government in power.

Picard looked quite concerned by this point. Your Majesty, I will beam down
immediately to assist you. These problems must be sorted out before the problem
becomes any worse.

Thank you Captain. I have heard of your many experiences in matters of
diplomacy, which is why I requested the Enterprise rather than any other ship.
I will transmit the co-ordinates for you to beam down immediately.

Thank you. Picard out. The Captain turned around to see his First Officers

For once Riker seemed to have no objection to Picard leading an Away Mission.
The Captain was by far the most experienced diplomat on board which was why
Riker was pleased to stay on the ship. Good luck, Sir. Was all he said.

Thank you Number One, he replied, heading for the turbolift. Counsellor, youre
with me, he added.

Troi immediately felt Rikers anxiety level rise. Youre not taking Lieutenant
Worf? The surprise was evident in his voice.

Not at this stage, Number One. This is a diplomacy mission, there is no need
for any security officers. If the situation becomes volatile, I will inform you
then. Picards tone indicated that he did not want to discuss the matter any

Captain..... Began Riker.

I have made my decision. Kindly look after things here whilst I am away
Commander. By this time Picard and Troi were in the turbolift, and as the doors
closed, Troi could sense Rikers annoyance. However that soon faded and she
sensed what she usually did if she went on an mission without Will, his worry.
It was stronger than usual this time, probably because of the lack of security
officers accompanying them and the potential volatile situation when they were
on the surface. Troi assured herself that there was nothing to worry about, and
even if things did start to become a bit rowdy, they could either beam a
security team down, or if it became really dangerous they could beam back to
the ship. There was danger involved with every mission to some extent anyway.

Sometimes Deanna, Picard said, as they walked from the turbolift to the
transporter room, I think Commander Riker takes his duties a little too

Deanna half smiled. She and the Captain had developed an extremely good
relationship over the years they had worked together, which was important
between a Captain and his Counsellor. He treated her a little differently to
the rest of the crew, perhaps because he knew he could give an air of
confidence to them, as if he always knew the right decisions to make. The truth
was, of course, he was never one hundred percent certain. Deanna was aware that
he did this and he had also told her many personal things in the past which he
had been unable to share with anyone else on the ship. She knew he was a very
private man, and thus she took it as a great compliment that he often talked to

Captain, I think we should be pleased the Commander worries about our safety.
He doesnt argue with you just to annoy you, Im sure you know that. She answered

Of course. But there are times when having an entourage of security officers on
an Away Team can be inappropriate. This is one of those times.
They entered the Transporter room at this point. The transporter Chief on duty
confirmed they had received the beam-down co-ordinates. A few seconds later
they were on the planets surface, inside the Kings huge palace, which was
decorated in only three colours; black, white and grey. Picard and Troi felt
strangely colourful in their red and blue uniforms respectively. They had both
noted the Kings grey skin and white hair during their initial conversation with
him shortly after the Enterprise arrived at Hoertan. They had not expected his
surroundings to be so dismal and colourless as well.

Stood in front of them was the King himself. He appeared to be very old, and
Deannas first impression of him was that he was a great leader who always put
the needs of his subjects before his own.

Captain Picard. Said King Attnak, bowing. It is an honour to meet you at last.

The honour is mine. Replied Picard, bowing in return. Please allow me to
introduce my ships Counsellor, Deanna Troi who will be invaluable in assisting
me with this mission.

Troi bowed to the King. I wish we were meeting under more pleasant
circumstances your majesty.

As do I. He replied. Please follow me to our honoured conference room. They
were led into a large room which contained a long, smooth table made of a
strange grey material. The King took his place at the head of the table and
gestured for Picard and Troi to sit either side of him.

King Attnak briefed them on the most recent events, a riot not far from the
palace about an hour beforehand. Picard then suggested that a meeting be
arranged for the day after tomorrow between the King, the government currently
in power, and the leaders from the other political parties. The King agreed
that would be the best plan, and they agreed to beam back down on the day of
the meeting. Picard had the wedding of Alyssa and Andrew to attend to, and the
King said it would take at least a day to arrange the meeting. Picard was not
sure if this meant they needed persuading or if he saw another problem in
arranging the meeting. He and Troi said their goodbyes to the King and his
advisors before beaming back to the ship.


Will Riker was pacing the length of his spacious quarters thoughtfully. He
really wanted to find out how Deanna felt about him and whether there was even
the remotest chance that she would give their relationship another chance. He
was not usually concerned about asking people questions directly or even giving
officers unpleasant orders, but this was different. The current friendship he
and Deanna shared was his most treasured, and he didnt want to do anything that
might jeopardise it.

He hoped that Deanna had not noticed any change in his feelings for her,
because he had been trying to keep it as private as possible until he knew
exactly what the situation was. Maybe she did know how he felt, after all, she
had said in the past that she was very sensitive to his moods. No, he thought,
She would have to probe my mind to figure it out. He had not felt the familiar
brush of her mind recently. It wasnt an unpleasant experience by any means, and
he realised that he missed the cool whisper of her presence in his mind. There
has to be an indirect way of finding out how she feels rather than embarrassing
myself again.

Suddenly, an idea came to him. He sat down at his desk in front of a computer
console. Computer does Counsellor Troi still advise crew members via the
computer? He asked, stroking his beard in delight. This could be fun!

The computer responded immediately Counsellor Troi will advise any crew members
via the computer who do not wish to be counselled in person. Do you wish to

Yes, when is the next available appointment?

The Counsellor is due to finish her current appointment in fifty seconds. She
has no appointments for the rest of the day. You may contact her at any time in
her office.

Riker smiled to himself. There was no reason why he couldnt have a little fun.
He would be the last person she would expect as her patient, as long as he was
careful and changed a few details or was vague enough so that she didnt
recognise the situation. He pulled down on his uniform top, almost in
preparation for what he was about to do. He pressed a combination of buttons on
the console, which connected him directly to the computer in Deannas office.
Now all he had to do was wait for her response....


Goodbye Ensign Coleman. Counsellor Troi said to her last patient of the day as
he left her office. She sat down in her chair and started updating her notes on
the Ensigns final counselling session. His problem had not been a major concern
to her and had only required three appointments over a period of two weeks, but
she was pleased that she had helped him resolve his problem. The day had been
rather successful in terms of her patients. None had been particularly
distressed, and she did not have any new patients. Her presence had not been
required on the Bridge or Conference Lounge, and she had no particular desire
to go there now. She had the rest of the afternoon to check that all her files
were up to date. It was the part of her job she enjoyed the least, but it was
something that had to be done. She sighed, realising how much work she had to
do. It was then that she noticed the flashing light on her console, indicating
a request for an anonymous appointment.

She pressed a button to commence the session. Counsellor Troi here. What can I
do for you? She said. Her anonymous patient could hear her, but the only
response she would have would be a written response on screen. It was more
difficult than her usual appointments because she could not use her empathy or
observe the patients body language. She also usually took into account their
cultural background and reviewed any previous appointments. In addition, she
did not have the benefit of reading his or her crew record. Think of it as a
challenge, she thought to herself. You dont even know what the problem is yet.
She did not have to wait long for a response to her question.

I think Im in love. Was the message that came up on the screen.

Thats a good thing for most people.

Not for me. The woman Im in love with is my closest friend and she doesnt know
how I feel.

So youre worried that you might loose her as a friend if you tell her?

Yes, but its more complicated than that. Years ago we were lovers and I didnt
realise how deeply I was in love with her, but I made a big mistake. I left her
in favour of other, more important priorities at the time. It has taken me a
while to realise how wrong that was.

And now youre close friends?


Have you ever told her you regret ending the relationship?


Well, thats always a good starting point. Are you sure you are still in love
with her? It is possible that you are confusing platonic love and friendship
for actually being in love.

I did consider that, but I think I know the difference between friendship and
love. Of all the relationships I have had, she is the only one I havent been
able to get out of my mind. She means everything to me, but by revealing all
this to her I could loose her completely.

Deanna thought about this situation. It sounded familiar, a bit like the
unresolved love between herself and Riker. She quickly pushed that thought
aside. She had to think of the best advice to give. After a few moments thought
she said, Well, I dont think you should keep your feelings to yourself. If you
feel that strongly about this woman, talk to her. And if you two are as close
as you say, it would probably make your bond stronger for being honest with her.

When she got no reply, she continued. On the other hand, your other option is
based on the old saying Actions speak louder than words. Some people,
especially human males prefer this approach. Make the first move, but subtly
and slowly. You will soon know if she wants to keep the relationship platonic.

A final message appeared on her screen; Thank you Counsellor. You have been a
big help. Underneath that she read the familiar End of session message. She
leaned back in her chair. Was it possible that someone else was in the same
situation she and Riker were? Well, if Riker was the anonymous patient, she
would soon know about it. It would be her dreams come true if he really did
feel that way again, but she doubted it. Why should he? What had changed? It
was only a coincidence that she had been thinking about him recently. But then
her mind went back to the moment he had asked her to go to the wedding. They
had been so close, yet she had been unable to determine how he was feeling
then. Perhaps she should take some of her own advice and tell Will how she felt.

With all this in mind, Deanna decided to keep a close watch on the situation,
on her Imzadi.

You have pursued me relentlessly. I have never been able to love anyone but
you. (Revenge from The Stories of Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende, 1989).

Chapter 5

Will Riker, wearing his detested formal dress uniform, stood outside Trois
quarters. He had just pressed the door chime again and was waiting for Deanna
to respond. Maybe she hadnt heard the chime or had already gone to Ten Forward.
He had already been waiting for a few minutes.

He pressed the door chime for the third time, starting to wonder whether
something was wrong. Computer, location of Counsellor Troi he said, when there
was no response.

Counsellor Troi is in her quarters. Replied the Computer, without missing a

At that moment the door opened. Deanna was stood in the doorway.
She looks beautiful, Riker thought. That nagging voice in his head came back,
saying he was a fool for taking the easy option and not pursuing what could be
a very rewarding relationship.

The empath was wearing a glamorous, long, deep purple dress that changed colour
when she moved. Riker could not decide whether the material was purple or
midnight blue. It didnt matter much to him anyway. He smiled widely, admiring
the low-cut clingy dress. Her hair was piled on top of her head with only a few
dark curls cascading down onto her shoulders.

Deanna gestured for him to follow her into the room. You are so impatient
sometimes Will.

Im sorry. He said, sitting down on a nearby comfortable chair.
I should have remembered that youre worth waiting for. His tone was light, but
Deanna thought she sensed a deeper meaning.

Whats wrong? Will asked. She had been distractedly pulling at her dress ever
since he had entered her quarters.

Its too tight for my liking. I must have given the replicator the wrong
measurements again, either that or Ive been eating too much recently! She
sighed, then sat down next to him.

You look wonderful Counsellor. He said with sincerity.

So do you, Commander. She was playing along with him, trying to be formal. It
was strange, she thought, neither of them had ever really told the other how
they really felt, at least not since they were a couple on Betazed. She knew
what her feelings were for him, and she often sensed how strongly he felt for
her. When they were both members of an Away Team, where they found themselves
in dangerous situations was when she sensed it most strongly - his need to
protect her. Even when it appeared to everyone else that his main objective was
to lead the Away Team and complete the mission, she knew that all came second
to her safety. It was really quite sweet, she thought, even if it was a bit
distracting sometimes........

Deanna Will said. You havent heard a word Ive been saying, have you?

She looked at him apologetically with those large, dark eyes. Im sorry Will,
what did you say?

I said Im going to marry a lovely Risean woman called....

Youre lying! She interrupted with a knowing look.

Nothing gets past you, does it? He said, grinning and leaning subtly towards

No. Like the fact that at the moment you would rather stay here with me all
evening than go to the wedding. She seemed to find that amusing, much to Rikers

I was saying, He continued, ignoring her last remark that perhaps we should
consider requesting shore leave together. He paused, waiting for a reaction.
She said nothing, so he continued in an effort to persuade her it would be a
good idea. It has been a long time since either of us had a break, and the last
time we finally got off the ship, we met your mother and were kidnapped by the

Deanna shuddered at the memory, but had to admit that in the first few minutes,
before her mother interrupted them, she and Will had been having a really
wonderful time. And it wasnt very often that she had time to relax. Being the
sole counsellor on a ship with over a thousand crew members meant that she was
kept quite busy. It would be a good idea to take shore leave, get away from all
the crews emotions. She squeezed his arm. Youre right Will, and thank you for
asking me to go with you. When shall we go?

As soon as weve completed this current mission. The Captain says he needs you.
Unfortunately, he added silently. He hoped they would not be waiting too long,
especially as Picard would be leaving him in command of the ship whilst taking
Deanna on an away mission.

So, who is going to ask the Captain permission for shore leave first? Deanna

Well, since he is never happy about losing two of his senior officers at once,
however temporarily and however necessary, he might need a little gentle

She gave him an annoyed look. In other words Im the best person for the job!

Your empathy is very strong tonight Imzadi! He teased. But seriously, sometimes
I think the Captain listens to you more than me! Riker suddenly remembered the
reason he was there - the wedding. He stood up, tugged at his uniform top and
offered Deanna his arm. Lets get this wedding over with. He said. But she knew
that he was looking forward to the event as much as she was.

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
(Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare, 1594-1599).

Chapter 6

Beverly Crusher was crying, but they were not were not tears of sorrow, they
were tears of happiness and joy at the sight of Alyssa Ogowa, her most
experienced nurse and close friend now dressed in a beautiful traditional
Wedding dress honouring the memory of her ancestors, becoming Alyssa Powell.
Troi smiled at the Doctor, who was the most emotional person in the room at
that moment, aside from the bride herself, who was excited, nervous and happy
all at the same time. Through her tears, Beverly smiled back at the Counsellor,
then turned her attention back to Captain Picard, whose duty it was to marry
couples aboard the ship. Ten Forward was crowded with crew members and
civilians. Guinan had offered to organise Ten Forward for this happy event. The
walls were decorated in silver and gold. Food had been laid out on surrounding

Picard was grinning proudly as he came towards the end of the ceremony. He
paused for dramatic effect before saying loudly I now pronounce you husband and

Datas eyes nearly popped out of his head at the couples passionate kiss at that
moment. He turned around to look at the assembled guests, half expecting them
to be doing the same. Of course, they werent. His friends were all watching the
last moments of the ceremony. He observed that they all had slightly different
reactions. Doctor Crusher was wiping tears from her eyes and smiling
simultaneously, the Counsellor had an expression of total delight on her face,
Commander Riker was grinning, Geordi also looked happy, and Worf...... Well,
Data could never tell when Worf was happy. Worf suddenly scowled as he realised
Data was studying him with fascination. The android rapidly turned his
attention back to the newly-wedded couple, who were still locked in an embrace.
The crowd had started clapping at this point, and Data readily joined in.

From somewhere in the background some music had begun to play, courtesy of the
computer. The crowd formed a circle to allow Andrew and Alyssa to have the
first dance alone. Something of a tradition Riker had explained to Data when
the android had not understood why only one couple could dance the first dance.
Guinan and her staff began to hand out refreshments. They carried trays of many
different unusual drinks of various colours and flavours.

Before long, the expanse of Ten Forward was filled with couples dancing slowly
to the music. Picard had to admit that he was having a wonderful evening,
dancing with Beverly, who was a charming and intelligent companion. He thought
she looked stunning in an elaborate cream coloured ball gown. She wore flowers
in her hair, which fell down around her shoulders in ringlets. Picard was
wearing the uncomfortable formal uniform. They were just enjoying each others
company, as they often did. They had both recently realised that the ghost of
Jack Crusher was a good enough reason to remain friends, and their relationship
would probably never progress any further than that.

The Captain glanced around the room. To his left he saw Data, who was utilising
his dance program, which he had probably not utilised since the last wedding he
had attended. Now he was sweeping a young blonde Ensign off her feet. Picard
smiled slightly, his gaze shifting to Geordi and Worf, both seated at a table,
silently keeping each other company. Worf looked like he would rather be
elsewhere, preferably somewhere where dress uniform was not required. Geordi
seemed as if he wanted to be dancing, and Picard surmised that he felt a little
left out. I think Geordi requires a dancing partner, he whispered to Beverly
and I have heard that you used to be known as The Dancing Doctor.

Beverlys expression changed from surprise at his knowledge of her old nickname
to a smile. Thats fine with me Jean Luc, as long as you don't mind sitting out
the next dance.

Picard watched his Chief Engineer dancing with Beverly. Then he realised he had
seen very little of his Executive Officer that evening. He finally spotted him
in the far corner of the room, dancing with a brunette. As she turned in his
direction, Picard realised it was Counsellor Troi. He wasnt surprised as such,
but he had not expected to see them together. He was often reminded that two of
his senior officers had the potential to develop an intimate relationship, and
at times he was not sure if it was an idea that he was comfortable with. He
would deal with the matter if it ever arose and if his intervention was needed.
He trusted his officers to keep their duties separate from their personal
lives. He also knew that Riker and Troi had a bond that was difficult for him
to understand. He glanced over at them briefly and found himself wishing he had
someone he was that close to. They seemed to know each other so well. He and
Beverly were good friends, but he would never fully understand her.

Riker was oblivious to the Captains brief scrutiny. In fact, he was only aware
of the slow lilting of the music and Deannas small, soft form pressed against
him. It had been a while since they had been so close and he smiled at the
familiar scent of her. Looking down, he saw that her eyes were closed, her face
resting against his chest. He pulled her closer as he remembered Picards
rendition of the future, without Troi. His nightmare of the previous night
flashed through his mind. He was standing in a dark, damp cave. The only light
came from a hole in the ceiling of the cave. Deanna was standing in front of
him, wearing flowing white robes. Their hands were entwined, but parted as she
slowly began drifting upwards. Soon they were no longer touching and she was
rising further upwards. He tried to reach her, but it was too late, she no
longer saw him. Her arms and face were raised towards the sky. Imzadi! He had
called, but it was futile. He had lost her. Then he had woken up in a cold
sweat. Even now the memory of it made him shiver.

Deanna opened her eyes, wondering what could cause Riker to shiver in the
environmentally controlled room of Ten Forward. She looked up at him with a
questioning expression. Will, are you all right?

Im fine. He said, although he hated himself for not having the courage to tell
her the truth. Why was he bothering? She could always tell when something was

Deanna did not say anything, she pulled away from him and took his hand,
something that didnt particularly please him. All he wanted to do was hold her
close and forget the nightmare. I think its about time we had a talk. She said,
leading him towards the door, past Data, who no doubt noticed the Counsellor
and First Officer were holding hands. Lets hope he doesnt ask the Captain why!
Thought Deanna as she stepped into the turbo lift, followed closely by Will.

Deck eight. She said to the lift. If she and Will were going to have a serious
conversation, she wanted no interruptions. In that respect she had decided that
her quarters would be the best place.

They were both silent until they entered Trois quarters. She gestured for him
to take a seat. The empath knew there was something wrong and wanted to help.
Please tell me what you are so upset about. She had taken the seat next to him
and was giving him all her attention, something he was not sure he needed at
that moment.

He took a deep breath, looked straight at her with that honest look that was
surprisingly similar to his best poker face, and began. Deanna, have you ever
thought about what life would be like if one of us was reassigned to another

She was taken aback. Well, I suppose the thought has crossed my mind once or
twice. But I always thought that you would leave the Enterprise to command your
own ship.

That used to be my only goal in life, but when I was offered the Aries...

Something held you back. You realised there are greater merits serving under
such a great man as Captain Picard, being his Second in Command on the Flagship
of the Federation than having your own command. She said, voicing opinions and
observations she had discovered in the past but never said aloud.

That was one reason I stayed here, yes, but there was another. He paused to
stroke his dark beard. Honesty is the best policy. I couldnt bear the thought
of us being light years apart again, and you were so upset when we said goodbye
before I was about to leave for the Aries. I knew I had already hurt you in the
past, and it wasnt fair for me to do it again. I care about you too much, and
you were so wrong when you said your own feelings didnt matter. They do to me.
Her eyes were misty and emotional as he continued. I know there has never been
a perfect time for us to get back together, but I always thought we would.

And one or both of us being reassigned would make it much less likely to happen?

Of course, and I think a separation would make more of a difference in our
lives than either of us would like to admit.

She nodded. Will, what made you start thinking about this?

He turned away from her, not sure if she was going to like what he was about to
say. Since the Captain told us about his experience of the future, the only
thing I have been thinking about is what my life would be like if you died. It
has made me realise how much you mean to me.

He watched carefully for her reaction. She seemed quite surprised at his
confession. I dont know what to say.

I know how you feel about not having a relationship whilst we are serving
together on the same ship, but we couldnt make a relationship work if we were
on different ships and only met up for shore leave either. It was an impossible
situation when he described it in that light. He continued, wishing he could
sense her feelings as easily as she could sense his. Deanna, I havent been able
to stop thinking about us. Doesnt that mean anything to you? He held her face
in his hands and moved closer. She had no idea what to say, she was overwhelmed
with so many emotions, not just his. Her own feelings were swirling through her
mind with his. How long had she waited for him to say something like that? Did
he know how she felt? Could she trust herself to let go and tell him?

She was so busy trying to analyse her feelings and what she should say that
time was slipping by and Will was anxious to have a response. He stood up, a
wave of disappointment radiating from him, and moved towards the door. Im
sorry, I should never have said anything. He mumbled, turning his back on her.
He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible and not let her know how much
her lack of response was hurting him.

The doors had just opened when he felt her hand on his arm. Will, dont go. She
pleaded, willing him to turn around to face her. But he knew what would happen
if he looked into those eyes and was denied the relationship he wanted. He
needed more reassurance that she would consider starting things over again. She
walked around him and stopped directly in front of him. She had focused her
empathy on him now and was startled at the intensity of his feelings. He still
refused to look at her, afraid she was going to reject him.

Imzadi I didnt know you felt that way. She whispered. Then as an answer to his
unspoken question, she said softly, You know how much I loved you when we were
together, and you arent the only one who has being thinking about us recently.
Now he had no reason not to look at her. She put her arms around his neck and
looked up at him with vulnerable dark eyes. And I realised that I have never
stopped loving you, I just learned how to suppress my feelings over the years.

She saw the desire in his eyes, something she had not seen there for a long
time, and wondered what she was waiting for. She stood on the tips of her toes
to bridge the gap between them and kissed him softly on the lips. He responded
by leaning down, holding her in an intimate embrace and starting what became a
very long, passionate kiss. It was just as it was when they had been a couple
during their short but meaningful affair all those years ago on Betazed. Then
they had not had any excuses not to be together. They had been free to love
each other fully. Deanna realised at that moment that Will could make her so
happy and all the excuses in the universe shouldnt keep her from his arms. She
hadnt felt this good in a long time. I should not be analysing everything, she
thought, I should be enjoying the moment. So she did, adding even more passion
into the kiss. His kisses moved down her neck, then further down until her
dress was obstructing his path. She raised his head with both hands and kissed
him again. She felt his hands in her hair loosening her style. Gradually her
dark hair fell down around her shoulders. Will had always preferred it that
way, but most of the time it was impractical, especially when she was on duty.
Moments like these were a different matter altogether...

Feeling certain that Deanna was ready for the next step, Will started moving
towards the bedroom door. She had plenty of time to protest. He picked her up
and carried her in that direction. This was the final opportunity to back out,
there would be no turning back and no denial of their feelings for each other.
He put her down on the edge of the bed and sat down next to her. Imzadi, He
Are you sure this is what you want?

She nodded and smiled, Ive never been more certain about anything. The roguish
glint in his eyes was back, along with a seductive smile. She couldnt help
moving closer, resting her head on his shoulder and putting her hands on his

He kissed her, and ran his hands along the length of her outfit. I love this
dress Deanna, but I think youve been wearing it long enough. He said, moving
her on to her back and leaning over her. The dress was rather difficult to
remove, and Deanna had to help him. Thats very cunning Commander, He said.
Assisting a senior officer with such enthusiasm might force me to recommend a

How do you think I got to the rank of Commander in the first place? She smiled
and began taking off his uniform whilst he kissed her neck, then progressed
downwards, and this time the dress was not in his way.

Captain Picard to Counsellor Troi. Came the familiar voice over the intercom.

She sighed, pushing Will away and tried to put the top half of her dress back
in place. Yes Captain? She said, trying to ignore Wills wandering hands and

Counsellor we need to go over this mission plan for tomorrow morning. I suggest
this just be a meeting between the two of us. Please report to my quarters as
soon as possible. Picard out.

Great. Moaned Riker. Just what we needed. He put his uniform top back on and
stood up. I might have to give you that same order myself, then he said in a
fair imitation of Picards voice, Counsellor Troi, please report to my quarters
now. I need you!

Later, I promise. She said with obvious regret. As for now, I suppose I should
change back in to my uniform.

Ill help you. He said with a grin.

No you wont. She kissed him and pushed him in the direction of the door.

He grabbed her by the waist and kissed her back. Fine, Im leaving. But Ill
never forgive the Captain for interrupting such an important counselling
session! He released his grip on her and walked out of the door, happier than
he had been in a long time.

Deanna smiled to herself, finally they had realised that their feelings were
too strong to be denied, and the powerful chemistry was still present. It had
existed from the first day they met on Betazed. She put on the nearest uniform
and strolled out of the room in the direction of the Captains quarters.

I have not broken your heart - you have broken it - and in breaking it, you
have broken mine.
(Heathcliff to Cathy, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte).

Chapter 7

By the time Troi and Picard had finished discussing all the different
alternatives of completing their mission on the planet below, it was quite
late. Deanna wondered if it was too late to call in on Riker. It had been a
long day and she knew the following day would be exhausting as a result of all
the strong emotions from the inhabitants of Hoertan. But as Rikers quarters
were next door to her own, it would not take long to find out if he was still
waiting up for her.

By this time she had arrived outside his door. There was no response when she
pressed the chime. She pressed a combination of buttons and the door opened, he
had not left it locked. Will... She whispered. The rooms were dark, maybe he
was not there. She looked around the main room, then peered around the door to
his bedroom. He was lying on the bed, sleeping, as far as she could tell. On
the pillow next to him was a PADD with a message, which was just visible with
the light from the other room. It said simply Wake Me. She sat on the bed next
to him and ran a hand through his hair. He looked so peaceful that she could
not bring herself to carry out the request.

Deanna was tired, and the idea of going to her dark, lonely quarters did not
appeal to her. So she curled up next to Riker. He was warm and comforting. She
was sure he wouldnt mind if she stayed, in fact it would probably be the
opposite, and she didnt want to miss the opportunity to talk to him in the
morning. In his sleep, Will put his arm around her. This was where she
belonged, and she fell asleep with happy thoughts, which became dreams of a
kind she had not experienced for a long time.


Will awoke the following morning to find Deanna lying beside him. He kissed her
gently on the lips, wondering what she was doing there. He got a response to
the kiss. She stirred and said, seeming only half awake, Good morning.

He sat up and noted her outfit. Dont you ever take your uniform off?

What? Oh, I came in here last night and just fell asleep. Im sorry, do you want
me to go?

No. He grinned. I want you to take the uniform off!

By now she was fully awake and aware that he wanted to continue from where they
had been interrupted the night before. Will, I have to get ready, and so do
you. I have an Away Team to join, and you have a Starship to command.

He kissed her and said Who says this is going to take very long? You dont have
to be in the transporter room until 08.00 hours, and Data can command the
bridge just as well as I can. I want you.

She kissed him All right Will, as long as you explain to the Captain what I was
doing if Im late! She smiled seductively and pulled him close. He kissed her
again and began to take off her uniform, which was quickly tossed on to the
floor, followed closely by his pyjamas.

A little later, the couple were lying naked in each others arms, totally at one
with each other. Nothing else seemed to matter. Imzadi, Will said, Does this
mean we are together again?

Yes, I suppose it does. If thats what you want. She felt as if she couldnt get
close enough to him and wrapped her arms around him. I love you and I dont see
any point in denying our feelings any more. She kissed his chest as his
muscular arms tightened around her.

Neither do I. What we have is special. Besides, were not kids any more. We know
what we want, and I think we can balance our working lives with a relationship.
He tilted her head upwards and kissed her with a passion he realised he had not
felt towards any other woman. Youre beautiful. He said with emotion.

Youre not so ugly yourself. She said, flattered.

But he was serious I dont want to loose you again. That was the worst mistake I
ever made. You are so different from any other woman I have been... He stopped
to think of the right words, involved with.

He felt her tense at the mention of his other conquests. I always thought you
were a little too friendly to the female guests on this ship. She said in a
cold tone, finding it hard to believe that moments after rediscovering their
passion he was thinking about his other affairs. She felt her anger mounting.
And that was when I was around. Only you know what happened on all those Away
Missions when I was left here on the ship to advise the Captain.

Deanna! Im not as bad as you think. I had missions to complete and reports to
write. Getting involved with women as well would have complicated things too
much. Maybe I did engage in some harmless flirting, but thats hardly reason for
you to be jealous. As for guests on the ship, well I had to be careful there
too. Contrary to popular belief, I am very selective about my women. But dont
tell anyone, I enjoy having a bad reputation! He joked, but she wasnt laughing.
And what is it with you and Picard anyway? He continued.

Captain Picard? She looked confused.

Yes. You know what Im talking about. He asks you to go to his quarters for
private conversations, I often see the two of you coming out of the Ready Room.
He listens to you, sometimes more than he listens to me.

She climbed out of bed and reached for her uniform. Thats only because of my
empathic insight, and he doesnt want those conversations to be carried out on
the bridge. Youre just annoyed that he went with my recommendation instead of
yours on a few occasions. I cant believe you think there is something going on.

Isnt there? Maybe there was in the past. He treats you differently Deanna, and
I want to know why.

She sighed. He tells me things, which he would not discuss with anyone else.
Lately he has been very depressed over the death of his brother and nephew. Its
my job, Will. He trusts me, just like most of the people on this ship. Its a
shame you dont.

What do you mean? He was putting on his uniform.

Well, when was the last time you came to me with your problems? I can remember
very few occasions over the last seven years. Exactly who have you been
confiding in?

Deanna, I always knew you were there for me if I had a problem, but I dont talk
about things, I forget about them and get on with my life. But if you want me
to tell you something, fine. Did you ever think about how I felt when you got
together with my brother, Tom? What about you and Worf? When I was involved
with someone I tried not to rub your nose in it, but you didnt bother. Why
Worf? He was not the right man for you. I cant understand what you ever saw in
him. Hes primitive and has violent tendencies. You are the complete opposite.
Besides, he didnt want you. He just wanted someone to look after Alexander. A
Klingon child must be very difficult for a single parent. Everyone else could
see that, except you.

Stop it! She yelled. My relationship with Worf has nothing to do with you. At
least he didnt look at other women as soon as he was out of my sight. And he
never made empty promises like you did.

Deanna... He tried to put his arms around her, but she pushed him away. Do you
realise how much you hurt me when you didnt meet me on Risa? She said. I had
waited so long to see you, and after you proposed on Betazed I thought I meant
everything to you. After two weeks of waiting, each of those days more painful
than the last, I realised that you had forgotten me and found far more
interesting women to entertain you. She was annoyed to find she couldnt hold
her tears back any longer. It was still upsetting for her even now. And I
promised myself that I would never get that close to another man again, because
like it or not Will Riker you broke my heart and it took me a long time to get
over that.

But thats all in the past. I had career plans. I tried to take shore leave to
go to Risa, but I was on the way up, and there were opportunities that I
couldnt miss. There wasnt a night I didnt think about you, waiting on Risa. And
I was too busy working, there werent any other women.

I dont know if I can believe that. I think weve made a big mistake, letting our
physical attraction determine our actions. I shouldnt have stayed here.

Maybe youre right. I dont want to hurt you again Deanna.

Thats not it at all. You just dont want to be tied down to one woman,
especially an empath, who can sense your betraying thoughts. I pity whoever you
end up with. If shes Human, she will have no idea what you are like, and will
trust you implicitly because you give the impression that you are a one woman
man. But I have found that nothing could be further from the truth. Until you
realise that, I will never be able to trust you. She picked up her few
belongings and turned to leave.

Deanna Troi, if you walk out of that door you will not only loose my love, but
my friendship as well. I couldnt cope being friends again. Besides, this whole
thing was probably your revenge for being stood up on Risa. You want me to feel
what it was like for you. Well, you may not have any feelings left for us, but
I do, and Ill never forgive you if you leave now.

You will never understand how to treat a woman properly. Im leaving and with
any luck I wont see you for a while.

She walked towards the door. He ran after her and stopped her. Get your hands
off me. She said, with excessive emotion.

He let her go. The door opened and he shouted I hate you for doing this to me.
Then she was gone, and Riker wondered where they had gone wrong. You left her
waiting on Risa, he said to himself. It took a few minutes for him to realise
that he had just lost her again, and this time there was even less chance of
reconciliation. Working together would be difficult. He had never seen her
display such a range of strong emotions. Maybe his own anger had increased
hers. It would never work, he thought. They had too much of a past, and too
many grievances with each other. Love didnt seem to matter any more. He had a
feeling Deanna would go to Worf for comfort after the argument. He had a hard
time believing Worf was capable of an emotion such as sympathy. He stood up and
headed to the bridge. He would be a little early to take over the shift, but it
was better than getting depressed about another failed relationship.

One writ with me in sour misfortunes book.
(Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare, 1594-1599).

Chapter 8

Will Riker was sat on the bridge, waiting for a report from the Away Team,
consisting of Captain Picard and Deanna. Not that he cared, the longer she was
out of his sight the better. Data was sat at the Ops station and a young female
ensign had the helm. Worf was behind him at tactical. He had expected the
Klingon to show some sign that Deanna had spoken to him, but he seemed to be
acting normally. Maybe his honour prevents him from challenging me on the
bridge, Will thought. He hated being on the bridge when nothing was happening.
Report Data. He said, hoping for something interesting.

The Away Team have not attempted to contact us Commander. However, I do not
expect a report from them for 3.25 hours and 54 seconds. Sensors are detecting
nothing unusual in the area.



I said thats fine Data. Just tell me if anything changes.

Yes sir.


A few hours later, Data reported a disturbance on the Planet.

What sort of disturbance? Will demanded.

There is evidence of phaser fire and fighting in the capital city. Replied Worf.

Transporter room, beam the Away Team up immediately. He said.

Transporter room two to bridge. Came the frightened voice of an ensign. I cant
get a lock on them. Theres some sort interference.

Data, can we nullify it? Riker asked in panic. He couldnt leave them down
there, unarmed and without security officers.

Theoretically sir, we can. If I....

Yes Data, just do it. The Captains life could be at stake. And Deannas, he
thought. Despite their argument, nothing would change how he felt. Damn Picard
for not taking any security officers, he thought. If anything happened to her,
he knew who to blame.

The violence on the planet appears to be increasing. Said Worf from behind him.

Data! Riker practically screamed.

Yes sir, I am doing everything I can. Then a few seconds later he said I
believe we can try beaming them up now, Commander.

Transporter Room, energise. Bridge to Doctor Crusher, please report to
Transporter Room two.

On my way. Came Beverlys voice in response immediately. Riker hoped that her
medical expertise wouldnt be needed, but he felt better knowing she would be

Transporter Room, have you got the Away team?

Yes Commander, Came Picards voice, and Im on my way to join you.

And Troi?

Im afraid she has been rather badly injured, Number One. Doctor Crusher is
attending to her.

Riker felt his heart stop. Was this it? Was she going to die and leave him a
lonely, bitter old man? Picards future was starting to become reality right
before his eyes. And there was nothing he could do. Data, you have the bridge
until the Captain returns. Ill be in Sickbay.

Yes Sir. Data said dutifully. But Riker wasnt listening, he was al

By the time Riker got to Sickbay, his nerves were in pieces and he was out of
breath from running the distance between the turbolift and sickbay. Wheres
Counsellor Troi? He asked the nearest nurse. Over there Sir. Riker didnt even
stop to thank the ensign as he rushed in Deannas direction. Deanna! He said in
shock when he saw her. The Counsellor was only just recognisable. She had a
deep wound running across one cheek and her forehead. The once blue uniform was
soaked in blood, coming from a wound he could not even locate. Her eyes were
closed and her skin was deathly white.

Beverly was working hard, shouting out orders. She hated treating friends
because she found it difficult to emotionally detach herself. Deanna was one of
her closest friends, someone she had known for seven years. She couldnt loose
her now. Added to her problems, Will Riker had just arrived and was standing
helplessly nearby. She could do without that extra pressure, but didnt have
time to talk to him now.

Doctor, her readings are becoming dangerously unstable. Said an ensign.

Damn. Muttered Beverly. It didnt work. She thought quickly 500ccs Croproviline.
Come on Deanna, respond.

Riker felt totally useless. He knew Troi was in the best hands, but couldnt
help thinking this was the start of Picards future and no one could cheat fate
or destiny. Beverly was still desperately trying different methods to get a
response from Troi. He looked down at the ground and closed his eyes, almost as
if he had already begun mourning. A few minutes passed that seemed like hours
to him.

His mood lifted instantly when the nurse reported Doctor, her readings are
approaching normal levels.

But she was still unconscious. Exhausted, Beverly smiled slightly. She will
wake up when shes ready. Forcing her to do so could be dangerous under the
circumstances. She saw a worried Will Riker stood nearby and knew her next
task, making her way over to him.

Will, I have done everything I can at the moment. Her injuries could have been
fatal, but we got her in here quickly and I was able to treat her. For now she
is unconscious, and I am reluctant to bring her out of it. He did not respond,
his eyes fixed on the unmoving form of Troi. Beverly put a comforting hand on
his arm. Shes going to be fine Will, honestly. She just needs to recover.

He nodded, and looked at the Doctor. How long?

I dont know Will, but Ill let you know as soon as she regains consciousness.

Im not going anywhere Doctor, Im staying right here until she wakes up. He was
determined to be there until the moment she did.

Well, you will have to leave some time. The Captain will need you on the
bridge. She pointed out.

The very mention of the Captain made him loose interest in the conversation. Im
staying here. He insisted.

Fine, but dont forget you need your rest too Commander. Beverly had other
patients to deal with, so she left Riker alone with his thoughts.

Riker found a chair and moved it next to Deannas bed. The thought of loosing
her had been unimaginable. Now it had become a possibility. How close had she
been to death? Was she still in danger? Beverly had implied that Deanna was
over the worst part now, but had she just said that to comfort him? Anything
could go wrong at any time. His mind drifted back to their last conversation
before she beamed down. What if she died and those angry words were their last?
He could not live with that memory. Neither of us meant what we said, he
thought, She was letting out her anger which she had repressed for years. And
its my fault for leaving her on Risa and not considering how she felt when I
had relationships with other women. As for Worf and Thomas, she had every right
to be happy, and I couldnt expect her to wait around forever. His gaze had not
shifted from her beautiful face. Beverly had repaired the damage to her cheek,
which had been caused by a savage weapon native to Hoertan. Now she just looked
very pale. If only I had gone down there with her, he thought. He knew he would
have protected her, even if it meant he had been killed in the process.

How is she Number One? Came Picards voice. He was standing on the opposite side
of the bed. Riker had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he had no idea how
long Picard had been stood there.

How is she? He stood up and faced Picard. She nearly died because of your
wonderful idea not to take any security officers. Rikers voice was getting
louder. You know shes not accustomed to violent situations and shes extremely
vulnerable in those circumstances.

Commander, I did everything...

You think because youre the Captain you can do anything. I told you to take
some security, but you didnt listen. Look at her, shes unconscious and has
suffered severe injuries. Its your fault! He was shouting at the Captain, and
by now everyone in the room was listening.

Beverly appeared, a frown on her face. Gentlemen, would you please continue
this discussion somewhere else. The look on her face indicated she would not
take no for an answer, and would call security if she had to.

But they werent listening. If she doesnt come out of this, Sir, it will be your
fault. After all shes done for you.... He felt he had said enough and turned
back to Deanna, taking her cold, limp hand in his.

Picard looked at Beverly. Hes right. I was stupid not to take Worf, and now
Deanna is paying for that mistake.

Jean Luc, if it hadnt been for your fast actions - getting her back on the
Enterprise, she would be dead now. Deanna is strong, she will get through this.

I hope so Beverly. He would not be the only one upset if she dies. He glanced
in Wills direction.


No, actually I was referring to Lwaxana, not to mention all the crew members
she has helped over the years, including me.

Nothing is going to happen to her, not whilst shes in my sickbay! Beverly said
with determination.

Picard thanked her. And keep me advised. He said before leaving. Someone had to
complete the mission, and it was obvious he had temporarily lost not only his
Counsellor, but also his First Officer.

Beverly sighed. It had been a long day, and Deanna being one of her patients
had been more stressful than she would like to admit. She consoled herself by
telling herself she had done her best and now it was up to Deanna to recover
fully. She glanced over at the bed where Deanna lay unconscious, and was not
surprised to see Riker leaning over her. Beverly decided to leave him alone. He
probably didnt want to see anyone but Troi now anyway.

Riker had been staring at Deannas face for what seemed like an eternity. He
knew she would wake up, but until that happened he could not leave her. He
imagined the moment. She would open those lovely eyes and reach out for his
hand. He had almost forgotten their argument earlier and, although he was
prepared to resolve the conflict later on, he knew she would need him to be
there when she woke up, without any of the anger or bitterness he had felt
then. The most important thing to him was that she got through this and was
back to her normal self.

Fate could not be so cruel as to take her away when they had just acknowledged
their mutual attraction after so long. More to the point, he had been thinking
for a while that perhaps it was time to settle down with one perfect woman, and
his life would be different, but in a positive way. Going back to empty
quarters at the end of every day reminded him that he had not had a romantic
encounter for a long time. If he just committed himself fully to one woman, he
would never go home to empty quarters. But if he carried on as he had been,
well, he would end up like the Riker the Captain had met during his time
shifting. It had taken him a while to discover that Deanna was this perfect
woman, and even longer for him to do something about it. And now this happens,
he thought. Does someone out there have something against us?

By this time it was quite late and very few medical officers were still on
duty. The area of sickbay that Beverly had designated for Deanna was deserted
and quiet. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. He remembered the last
time he had been waiting at her bedside in sickbay for her to wake up. That was
when she was in a coma after experiencing a mental rape, something that had
happened to him only hours later. After the culprit had been identified and
held in custody, Will had felt compelled to talk to Deanna about his nightmare
visions, and he had always wondered what hers had been. She had never told him,
and he made a mental note to ask her about it.

Well here we are again. He said to Deanna. Me talking and you listening, I
hope. He paused, wondering what to talk about. You havent missed much since you
went down to Hoertan. Data has discovered a new theory which he hopes will
result in taming Spot. Geordi is apparently fed up with her disobedience when
he looks after her. Datas theory is that rewarding Spots positive behaviour and
punishing her anti-social behaviour will result in an all new improved cat. He
stopped there. Having a one sided conversation without any response made it
impossible to forget she was unconscious. Deanna. He said with obvious emotion,
leaning closer I need you, please wake up. But she remained still. Seeing her
like this was heart breaking, she had always been so full of vitality and love.
I promise you that when you do I will love and cherish you forever. Thats what
Imzadi means.

He jumped slightly as he felt a hand on his arm. Will, Said Doctor Crusher in
her sympathetic tone. Ive told you before. Get some rest.

I cant leave Beverly. When she wakes up I want to be the first person she sees.

Ever curious, Beverly decided to find out what was going on. You two looked
very cosy at the wedding.

He turned around to face her. She had a knowing smile on her face. Did you and

He looked even more depressed. We almost did, but Picard called her away at a
crucial moment. I could have killed him! But we sort of continued this morning.

And? Beverly prompted. Deanna would tell her all this later, but she wanted to
hear the other side of the story for a change.

He looked down at Deanna. Shes wonderful. Her empathy can be useful in intimate
situations. He smiled, remembered what happened next and suddenly found himself
telling Beverly everything. Has she ever told you how she feels about me?

She hesitated, not sure if she should betray what Deanna had told her in
confidence. He will find out soon enough, and anything I can say to make him
feel better is worth it. A few times actually. She was once deeply in love with
you and probably still is, but rejection is hard to take, and I think she is
very worried about leaving herself vulnerable to being hurt again. She has said
she wonders what life would be like if the two of you had met on Risa. Will
nodded sadly. Beverly continued. Shes the sweetest, kindest person I know. If
you want her back, be certain you can commit yourself fully to her. She has
already lost you once, twice if you count Thomas, not to mention her break up
with Worf recently. She couldnt take any more at the moment.

I know. I couldnt leave her again. If I mess things up this time, I will never
have another chance. She is perfect for me, and Im a little more mature than I
was when we were together. I know what is important in my life now.

Beverly smiled at his determination. Deanna was lucky to have a man like Riker.
She had to admit she felt a pang of jealousy. Lately she had had little success
in the romance department. She left Riker to watch over his Imzadi, suddenly
realising how late it was.

Beside you, I wait for you to complete the voyage into yourself, for the old
wounds to heal. I know that when you return from your nightmares, we shall
again walk hand in hand, as before.
(And of Clay Are We Created from The Stories of Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende,

Chapter 9

Riker had been forced to go to the Bridge, as the Captain had taken most of the
Senior Staff back down to Hoertan with him. Beverly, Worf and Data were hardly
a good substitute for Deannas empathic insight, but it was much calmer on the
planet, and the Captain seemed to be making progress. He leaned back in Picards
chair trying to imagine what it would be like to Captain the Enterprise. Data
would be his First Officer and Deanna would be his Counsellor. Beverly and
Geordi would have to stay, but he wanted a different Security Chief. He liked
Worf as a friend, but since his short relationship with Deanna, Will had found
himself feeling jealous of the Klingon. Not so surprising really. He doubted he
and Worf would ever totally rebuild their friendship. Of course, Worf wasnt
exactly to blame for that; Deanna hadnt exactly resisted his advances. Will
could forgive Deanna for that, for anything, as long as she still loved him. As
long as she was still alive....

Sickbay to Commander Riker. Came a distinctive Vulcan voice which Riker
recognised as Dr Selars.

Riker here.

Sir, Counsellor Trois condition is worsening. She may only have a few hours
left, I....

No! He shouted. The entire Bridge Crew stared at him, surprised by the terror
in his voice. Transporter Room, beam me directly to Sickbay.

Moments later he stood in Sickbay, leaving Geordi in command of the Bridge.
Deanna was lying in the same motionless manner she had been since arriving in
Sickbay. It was an image Riker had engraved in his mind. It was with him
wherever he went, whatever he was doing. He wanted to take her in his arms and
bring her back. He had always thought their love would be enough to overcome
any barriers life threw in their direction, even when they were friends the
power of Imzadi was still that strong. Death was the final obstacle. We left it
too late. I should have told her how I felt when we started serving together on
the Enterprise.

He watched Dr Selar and her staff working on Deanna. She looked so cold, so
lifeless. He wondered if he would ever hold her in a loving embrace, feel her
lips on his cheek or hear her sweet words in his ear again. What would it be
like to call out for his Imzadi and have no response. How would it feel loosing
the only woman he had ever really loved and knowing they could have worked
things out a lot sooner?

It was ridiculous, he wasnt scared of leading Away Teams in dangerous
conditions, commanding the Enterprise in battles with the Borg or Romulans, but
he was scared of admitting his feelings for Deanna and telling her he loved
her. It was stupid - she was the most approachable person on the ship,
something her job demanded, yet he still hadnt had the courage to talk to her.

Dr Selar appeared to have given up. I believe, Sir, that we have done
everything possible. Said the Vulcan. It is almost as if she does not want to
recover. At the moment we are keeping her alive on various pieces of equipment.
I need to consult with Dr Crusher. If we can not find a way to bring the
patient back, we may have to consider turning the machines off. Im sorry Sir, I
do not know what else to do. It would be illogical to keep her alive on these
machines indefinitely. With that she was gone, and Riker took a seat by Deannas

It seemed like eternity he was sat there, his tearful blue eyes never leaving
Deannas face. In reality it was only a few hours. Then he felt his eyes
starting to droop with sheer exhaustion; he hadnt slept properly since Deanna
had been in Sickbay, which was now close to a week ago. He almost felt guilty
for being healthy whilst she lay close to death.

He folded his arms on the edge of Deannas bed and cradled his head in them. A
few moments later he was sound asleep. That dream, he was having that dream
again, standing in the cave. It was darker and smaller than before. He looked
around for Deanna. Where was she? He searched around desperately, and finally,
in the darkest corner he saw her, kneeling on the floor, her face in her hands.
She was wearing a flowing robe darker than the deepest black hole the
Enterprise had ever encountered. As he walked softly nearer, he heard her
gentle sobs. Deanna? He said tentatively, as if he wasnt sure it was her. He
knelt down in front of her and tried to lift her face upwards. Imzadi, whats

She stopped crying and looked up at him, looking less than her usual vibrant
self. Will thought he had never seen her look so upset and scared. The fact
that this was a dream never seemed to occur to him, she was hurting and he
needed to help. He brushed away her tears, knowing she would talk without
further prompting.

Im dying. She said in a choked voice.

No. You are going to come out of this.

In a few hours it will all be over She said.

Will didnt think she was listening. Dont talk like that. You will recover. You
have to, I need you.

Death is so much easier than life... She suddenly decided to lie down on the
cold, damp floor of the cave.

He pulled her towards him, forcing her to face him. The Deanna I know wouldnt
just give up on life, shes a fighter, with the strongest spirit I have ever
known. Its one of the many things I love about her.

Youre wrong. Im so tired, I cant stay here any more. She closed her eyes and
fell against him. Holding her by the shoulders, he shook her until her eyes
opened again.

We can fight this, together. He insisted, brushing her dishevelled hair back
from her tear stained face. I love you, and I know you feel the same. Together
we can do anything, Imzadi. If you die, part of me dies too.

She looked back at him, struggling to keep her eyes open. Ill try, but don't
leave me, dont ever leave me again...

Ill be here. He kissed her softly to reassure her, hoping he had made a

It was then that he awoke, realising the whole exchange was a dream. He was
still in Sickbay, and Deanna was still unconscious. The first voice he heard
was Beverlys, she had obviously returned from the planet. Will, are you all
right? She demanded, running a medical tricorder over him. I came back from
Hoertan only to discover you telepathically linked to Deanna. I didnt know you
could still do that!

Im fine. He was surprised at this information. It was just like having a dream.
Are you sure I was....?

"Yes, and whether it's a coincidence or not, I don't know."


"Deanna has shown remarkable improvement since I have been back. If she
continues to do so at the same rate, she could be back with us any minute! I
don't know what you did, but I certainly haven't given her anything recently."
Her voice was full of surprise and hope.

Will turned back to look at Deanna. "Come on Deanna, wake up..... I'm still
here Imzadi." Beverly looked unconvinced his words would have any effect, but
to everyone's amazement, the nurse announced that the readings were back to
normal, and the patient started to wake up.

The first person Troi saw when she opened her eyes was Will Riker. She knew he
had been with her all the time. Beverly smiled at her from behind Riker, but
Deanna only saw him. "Will...." She whispered, trying to sit up.

"Just stay there." Said Beverly, having experienced problems with Troi being
her patient in the past. "I want to find out what happened before you go
anywhere. How do you feel?"

"A bit groggy but otherwise I feel fine. How long have I been here?"

"A week." Replied Riker, knowing she would be horrified.

"A week? Then I don't want to occupy this bed any longer Doctor. I'm sure you
have other patients waiting." She said, looking for any excuse to leave.

"Why don't you just relax and let me check you're fit to leave." Said Beverly,
running the tricorder over her. "Well, you seem to be fine." She helped Deanna
to sit up, then met her pleading gaze. "All right, you can go, but I want you
to have plenty of rest. If any unusual symptoms return, I want you back in here

Deanna smiled. "Of course. Thank you Doctor."

A clearly happy Riker put a protective arm around her. "I'll look after her,
don't worry"

Beverly nodded, knowing her patient was now in the best possible hands. "Let me
know if you need anything." She said to Deanna as the three of them walked in
the direction of the door. Then she made a hasty farewell as an injured Ensign
from Engineering was brought in.

Will and Deanna chose that moment to leave. I'm so glad you're back." He said
as they walked down the corridor. "There was a moment where I thought we would
never have another conversation. You really scared me."

"Even after our argument?"

"Let's forget about that for now, you need to have some rest, Doctor's orders."

She rolled her eyes in an exasperated expression. "Don't lecture me, I feel
fine. I really should go to the Bridge and assist the Captain

"Ah, the Captain." He said in a distinctly guilty tone.

"What happened?" They stepped out of the turbolift and walked down the
corridor. She had a feeling she wasn't going to like whatever was going to say.

He waited until they had entered her quarters. "Well, after you were beamed up
to sickbay, the Captain came in to find out how you were.

Deanna looked into his blue eyes, waiting. Go on.

Im not sure what happened, but I was so angry with him for letting you get
hurt. We argued about it, he smiled rather sheepishly, or rather, I was
shouting and he could hardly get a word in.

Will, She scolded. Maybe you were right, in a way, but then was not the right
time or place for such an argument. I suppose everyone in the room heard you.

He nodded. You have to understand, seeing you lying there like that when it
could have been prevented. I suppose I needed to blame someone, and Picard
happened to be the target.

She smiled. I understand, I probably would have done the same thing if our
positions were reversed.

He smiled back, then she felt a sudden rush of fear and sorrow in him. I
thought you were going to die hating me.

Deanna knew he meant it, and put her arms around him. I could never hate you,
not really. I knew deep down neither of us meant what we said before. Obviously
we have some issues to sort out, and it will not be easy making this transition
in our relationship, but it will be worth it. She kissed him softly then hugged
him. She felt tired, which annoyed her; after spending a week doing nothing,
she should have been full of energy.

Will noticed and stood up to leave. You need to rest, Ill see you in the
morning. Goodnight Imzadi.

It was only then that she noticed the tired circles under his eyes. She didnt
have to ask, she knew he had barely had any sleep in the last week, and despite
her tiredness, she jumped up to thank him before he could leave. You were there
for me, all the time and you even managed to use our bond to bring me back.
Thank you.

You know Id do anything for you. I missed you so much, I couldnt be anywhere
else whilst you were there. For all I knew, those could have been you last
moments of life. And I didnt intentionally enter your mind, I fell asleep and
had the strangest dream. I had no idea I was linked to you, I never knew I had
the ability.

You do, and as we grow closer in our relationship, it will become easier.

He smiled and said Goodnight Deanna, you really need to rest.

So do you. She returned. But I want you to stay here. I know it sounds silly,
but your presence makes me feel safer.

Its not silly at all. Id be happy to stay, and youre right, I need some sleep.
With that, he promptly walked over to the bed, dropped onto the near side and
fell asleep. Deanna smiled tiredly and followed his example.

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.
(Emma, by Jane Austen).

Chapter 10

The following morning, the senior officers had a meeting in the Conference
Lounge to discuss the situation on the planet. Troi had insisted on attending,
and Riker had begrudgingly agreed. She wanted to find out what had happened in
her absence, feeling very out-of-touch, almost as if she had been on a holiday.

The Captain started the meeting by bringing them all up to date on the latest
events. He had managed to persuade the leader of the King's opposing group to
meet with himself and the King to discuss matters. The two men had come to an
agreement, with Picard's help, a compromise. The King had realised that he
needed to take into account what his people wanted, and their views were
represented by this "government", who were to become the King's new advisors.
Picard had agreed that this was a solution which suited everyone concerned, and
therefore the mission was essentially completed. There was no longer any need
for the Enterprise to stay there.

He sat down in his seat, Deanna noticed that he and Riker seemed to hold no
feelings of ill will towards each other after their disagreement. She reasoned
that Picard would have known that his First Officer needed to take out his
anger and frustration on someone at the time, and it turned out to be him. In
fact, the mood of the entire group seemed lighter and happier than usual. Maybe
they were pleased to see her back, and combined with the success of just
completing this current mission, it should not have been so surprising to her.

Picard then mentioned that their next assignment was to study a new nebula in a
nearby system, quite routine, and something that did not require the assistance
of most of the senior staff. They all seemed delighted at this news, a little
rest until Starfleet found a more challenging task. He dismissed his officers,
and they all left, with the exception of Riker and Troi, who obviously wanted
to talk to him privately.

"Captain." began Riker tentatively.

"Yes, Number One." Deanna stayed in her seat, trying not to smile. She had
decided that Will should be the one to approach the Captain with their request
and could sense how difficult he was finding the task. She, meanwhile, was
totally enjoying it.

"You said yourself that this will be a routine mission." He continued.

"That's right." The Captain said, puzzled as to where the conversation was

"Well, in my opinion, Sir, the Counsellor needs a break. She is exhausted after
all she has been through." He glanced at her and saw just the faintest hint of
a smile on her lips. Clearly she was not thinking the same thing the Captain
was. Will gave her a mock stern look then turned back to Picard. "I think you
will find that the CMO is also very adamant about that. Her recommendation was
a week's shore leave."

The Captain smiled and nodded at the Counsellor. "There is a planet which we
will be passing in about three days time which may interest you as a
destination. It is a beautiful planet, Neyton 6, the best way to describe it is
Risa without all the commercialisation, and the inhabitants are few and far
between. Most of the planet is deserted and it has such beautiful scenery."
Deanna smiled and stood up to join them.

"That sounds perfect. The less people I meet on shore leave, the better I feel
when I return." She poked Riker in his side, to remind him he hadn't finished

"Was there something else?" Picard asked after a few moments silence.

"Actually, there is. I don't feel happy about letting Deanna go on her own."

"I totally agree," Replied Picard "I will see if Mr Worf is free to go." He
tried to hide his amusement at the expressions on their faces.

"Actually, I was hoping you would allow me to go." Will said surprisingly
quickly, silently praying there would be no objections.

"I thought you would." He replied, giving neither a positive or negative
answer. "But I think the Counsellor should be the one to decide who goes with

They both looked at the empath. She smiled slightly "Thank you Captain, I
thought you had both forgotten that I am the most important person in this
discussion. I don't think I need anyone else to come with me. It would be much
more peaceful if I went on my own." Riker couldn't quite work out if she was
serious or not and gave her a hurt look. "On the other hand, I have been saying
for months now that Will needs a break, so I suppose he could come along with
me, just in case there are any big, bad monsters down there I need to be
protected from!" She had made her point - she wasn't a helpless, weak woman who
needed looking after by a heroic man, but she did appreciate and enjoy his
company nonetheless.

The Captain stood there considering whether to say anything further to them.
Was there anything else he should know about? It was really none of his
business, and besides he would know soon enough. "Have a good time Number One,
Counsellor." He said, knowing they would. Deanna noted his curiosity directed
at her and Will, and wondered how many other crewmembers were feeling the same
way. They left the room with a happy feeling, knowing that in three days they
would be free from their duties and could spend some real uninterrupted time


Later that day Deanna decided went to Ten Forward to meet with her best friend.
She realised it seemed like a long time since they had talked. The Doctor was
sat at her favourite table drinking a glass of the most peculiar coloured drink
she had ever seen. "One of Guinan's experiments." Beverly explained as Troi sat
down opposite her. "So," She said with a wicked grin, "Tell me. I want to know

Deanna returned her frank gaze "There's nothing to tell Beverly."

"Of course not," She said, sounding very unconvinced, "You're only going on
shore leave together right?"

"That's right."

Beverly put her glass down. "Deanna, I don't need your empathy to tell me
there's a lot more you're not telling me. And I saw how he didn't leave your
bedside when you were ill. He really missed you, I had never seen him act in
such a..."

"What?" Prompted Deanna, eager for her to continue.

"Well, such a besotted, lovesick way. You have been ill in sickbay before, and
he was concerned then, but this time it went beyond that. So don't try telling
me you don't know what I am talking about."

Deanna looked down, unsure of what to tell her best friend. "We have been
rather more intimate than usual." She said carefully and slowly.

Beverly sighed, Deanna knew she thrived on all the little details. "Are you two
back together?"

"Yes, we are, and I know that makes me look a little silly after what I told
you about it being over between us, it wasn't."


"And what?" She replied with a smile.

"Are you happy?" She knew the answer. Deanna was almost visually radiating

"Oh Beverly, he makes me feel so wonderful, so alive. We wasted so much time,
but now I know we needed to build on our friendship to make our current
relationship even better."

"Does it compare to the time you were together before on Betazed?" Wondered the

"It may sound unbelievable, but it's better, a lot better in some ways." She
said with a meaningful look. "I can only think this is because we are both
older, more mature and more experienced at handling relationships." She laughed
"Him more than me! I think we both want a more long term commitment than we did
then, and we can achieve a balance between our personal and professional
lives." Beverly sat back in her chair, feeling a little subconscious about
counselling the Counsellor.

"You really love him don't you?"

"Yes, and his love for me is the strongest emotion I have ever sensed. It's a
bit overwhelming sometimes." She admitted.

"Well then, if you love him so much, I don't understand how you could work
together for so long and have a platonic relationship. I know if our positions
had been reversed I would not have been able to keep my distance like that."
Deanna's expression revealed there was something she had not told her friend.
"What happened? Why didn't you tell me?" She found it hard to believe she had
kept a secret for so long.

Deanna lowered her voice. "I have never told anyone about this because I was
ashamed. I'm the Counsellor, someone who is supposed to be in control of her
feelings and definitely her actions."

Beverly leaned forward, her curiosity rising considerably, eyes wide in
anticipation. "Go on."

Deanna shook her head "You don't need to know all the little details."

Beverly grinned "Yes I do! In confidence, of course." This was obviously
something Deanna did not want the whole ship to know.

"Of course. You know Will and I have been very close over the years we have
served together on this ship, and I never could quite consider the relationship
platonic, which may sound strange to you."

"Not at all." Said the Doctor, remembering all the times she had seen them
exchange glances, hugs and kisses. They had never made a secret of their

"I could at times sense how he really felt, but he never really pressured me
about the situation, with one or two exceptions. He was very good at hiding how
he felt, even from me. A look or a comment was sometimes enough to break
through that barrier he had somehow put up to prevent me knowing how deeply he
felt, maybe he denied it to himself as well. I think it was quite difficult to
begin with, especially as our quarters are so close, we could hardly avoid each
other. I felt angry then. He did not feel our relationship was important enough
for him to meet me on Risa, then just after I had finally dealt with the fact
that it was all over, there he was again. I knew I could have taken him back,
but it would have been to easy for him to hurt me again. Maybe I was wrong,
perhaps being together on the ship would have made him make more of a
commitment, but I was hurt and angry. I didn't want to give him the
satisfaction of seeing that I still wanted him."

"And did you?"

Deanna sighed. "What do you think? I seriously considered falling to the ground
and begging him to take me back, but I had too many doubts. Will is not a
predictable man, and I knew there were plenty of other potential relationships
just waiting out there. My job on the Enterprise was the most important one I
had ever had, I didn't want to do anything to jeopardise it. But now I think
things are a little different.

Beverly realised that Deanna still hadnt told her what happened and gently
reminded her of the fact.

Deanna lowered her voice. It was one of those relaxed evenings in Ten Forward,
we spent all evening here, just talking and enjoying each others company. She
paused, remembering how he had made her laugh with his impressions of the
Captain. We were both having fun. Neither of us wanted to part company when
Guinan threw us out because we stayed so late, so we went to his quarters. I
knew that it was a mistake to go in there, but a part of me was curious and I
followed him in. We talked for a while longer until I realised how late it was.
But I did not feel tired, and all thoughts of sleeping left my head when he
stopped talking and kissed me. I knew I could have left then, as I did once
before after a poker game. This time was different, he was too irresistible and
my rational thoughts only returned afterwards. I always knew the chemistry
between us was strong, but that night it was too strong to fight. Maybe I
didn't make much of an attempt to fight it, neither did he. It was a
wonderfully passionate night, one to remember, but in the morning we both
agreed to forget that it had happened. I think it frightened both of us, how
easy it had been for us to fall into that situation. Neither of us felt ready
to commit to a relationship then, so the best solution was to forget it
happened. I can still remember that night with such vividness, like it happened
yesterday." She drifted off into the memory.

Beverly smiled. "Something very similar probably did happen yesterday!"

Deanna nodded with a smile. "Beverly, tell me something. How many men have you
really loved? I mean really loved, with all your heart."

Beverly frowned in thought. "Jack, I loved him with every inch of my being, and
Odan too. Ronin captivated my heart for a while, but neither of those two come
anywhere near to what I felt for Jack."

"What about the Captain?" Deanna said, noting the obvious omission.

Beverly grimaced. "I have asked myself that same question for a long time. He
told me that he loved me, he doesn't love me now, he loved me in the past."

Deanna added "I think he does still love you, but it's up to you now. He told
you how he felt, and he feels the situation is in your control now."

Beverly admitted "I know, but at the moment I am comfortable with our
relationship the way it is now. What about you?" She said, eager to change the

Deanna hardly thought about her answer. "I think I can honestly say that Will
is the only man I have ever really loved."

"What about Devonini Ral, and that doctor you nearly married, what was his
name...?" Beverly couldn't quite remember.

"Wyatt." Deanna said. "I think I could have grown to love him, but we didn't
spend enough time together to find out. As for Ral, well, I thought I loved him
until I realised that he had used his empathic powers to attract me."

Beverly nodded, "And he used them against Will in the negotiations." She
smiled. "Jean Luc told me that you revealed Ral's deception only moments after
Riker thought he had lost the rights to the wormhole."

Deanna laughed at the memory of the look on Riker's face before she told them
all about the empathy. "Beverly, you know if anyone else had been negotiating
in place of Will, I would still have revealed Ral's secret."

"Would you?" Beverly wasn't sure that was true.

The empath chose to ignore the last comment. "I suppose I still love Thomas,
but not as much as Will. I had been serving with Will for six years when Thomas
came along. Tom reminded me more of the Riker that Will was when we were
together on Betazed. I really tried to concentrate on him and forget about
Will, but I couldn't. The more time I spent with Tom, the more I wished he was

Beverly was not entirely surprised at this revelation. "Did Thomas know?"

"I think he suspected something from the beginning, but decided to make the
best of the time we had together. I don't regret it. Now there's not much of a
chance that I will see him again." She tried to visualise poor Tom locked in a
Cardassian prison. She wouldn't wish that on her worst enemy.

"What if he is released or escapes?" Beverly wondered if her friend had
considered that possibility.

"He knows I will always be here for him."

"What about Will? Would he mind you seeing Thomas again?"

"I don't see why he should have a problem with that. Tom will need to talk to
someone if he ever escapes from that place, and if that someone he chooses is
me, I won't turn him away."

Beverly smiled at her friend's kindness. "I hope you and Will are very happy
together." She smiled. "Although I think you may have upset most of the young
male ensigns on board. Did you know they....."

Deanna interrupted, turning a barely noticeable shade of red "Yes, I know.
They'll just have to shift their attentions on to someone else, you would be
the next likely target."

"Don't be silly."

"Well, don't say I didn't warn you when they all invent symptoms just to see
you in person!"

Beverly couldn't quite tell if she was joking or not. "I'll send them to see
the Ship's Counsellor if they complain about symptoms they are not actually
experiencing!" She replied.

Deanna laughed "I thought you would send them to the Captain for lying to a
senior officer!"

They continued talking for hours, until Beverly realised how much time had
passed. "I'm sorry to have to leave, but it's getting late and I promised I
would have dinner with the Captain."

Deanna's eyes widened. "Why didn't you tell me that before?" She smiled "Have a
good time, and I will probably see you tomorrow before we go on duty." She
stopped. "Unless of course you're too busy having breakfast with the Captain!"

"I'll let you know." Replied the Doctor with a smile, before rushing out.

And what is bettre than wisedoom? Womman. And what is bettre than a good
womman? Nothyng. (The Tale of Melibee, by Geoffrey Chaucer, approx 1386).

Chapter 11

The Counsellor smiled and walked towards the large familiar doors of Ten
Forward. She wondered where Will was. He usually could be found in Ten Forward
in the evenings, it was strange that she and Beverly had been in there for
hours and not seen him. "Computer, locate Commander Riker." She said as she
stepped off the turbolift. "Commander Riker is in his quarters."

She frowned, how often in the last seven years had she received that same
response and wondered who he was with? She walked up to his door and told
herself that she was being paranoid. Why would he be with anyone else? Pressing
the door chime, she half prepared herself for a shock.

"Just a minute." Came Will's voice. Moments later he stood in the doorway.
"Deanna!" He said, obviously surprised to see her there.

"Can I come in?" She said, wondering why he was blocking the doorway.

There's no point in lying to an empath. He reminded himself. "No, you can't.
Not at the moment." He wasn't going to offer a further explanation. "Go and
change into something more comfortable." He said, regarding her uniform. "Then
come back."

"Will..." Deanna complained, she was not in the mood for his word games.

He pointed towards her quarters. "Just go, you won't regret it."

She sighed, trying to work out what he was up to. "I'll be back soon then, but
this had better be worth it." He grinned that smile that said more than a
thousand words. She went to her quarters, trying to think what she should wear.

Finally, having decided on a blue dress, she made her way back to Riker's door.
His appreciative smile when he saw her made her realise that she had chosen an
outfit similar to the one she had worn on their last day together on Betazed
all those years ago. There was something to be said about the subconscious mind
revealing your true inner feelings. She noted that he was wearing his favourite
off-duty blue outfit. "Am I allowed to come in now?" She asked.

"Of course." He said with a grin. She sensed his anticipation even before she
heard it in his voice.

Deanna gasped in surprise. In front of her was a table laden with all her
favourite dishes, and she could tell these weren't straight from the
replicator. "You cooked all this, for me?" She said, turning back to face him,
wondering how she could have suspected that he had been with another woman

He nodded "I hope you're hungry!"

She kissed him briefly "Thank you." He led her over to the table and pulled out
a chair. It was then that she noticed the roses and candles in the centre of
the table. There is something he's not telling me. She thought to herself,
wishing she knew what. As they began eating, it suddenly became clear when she
thought of the significance of a romantic meal and candles and flowers on his
home planet, Earth. He wants to propose! She thought, the very idea made her
start coughing.

Will looked up in concern. "Deanna, are you all right? Do you want some water?"

She was starting to turn a nasty shade of red. "No, I'm fine." She said, when
she finally stopped coughing. He still looked concerned, but she had no way of
knowing if her suspicions were correct. Was he really planning to make such a
large commitment so soon? Deanna realised that her recent brush with death had
something to do with it. She gently reached out with her mind, trying to find
out what he was feeling without him noticing. He feels happy. She thought,
which wasn't much help. She knew that already! Then she felt a glimmer of
anticipation from him. She looked across at him and wondered what she would
say. She knew what she wanted to say, but it would break his heart. I'm not
going to say no forever, we just don't need to rush things. She thought,
realising he would expect a fuller explanation than that.

"Deanna, are you probing me?" He asked, they were obviously a lot closer than
she had thought if he had noticed.

"Me?" She said innocently, wondering how to change the subject. "You know, this
was a wonderful idea Will, thank you."

He smiled. "I'm glad you like it. Here, have some more of this." He gestured to
a dish full of a delicious Alaskan salad. "You've hardly eaten anything."

If he's going to propose, the last thing on my mind would be my stomach! She
thought. "No thanks, I've had enough. It was wonderful though, really." It
should not have come as such a shock to her, she supposed. He really didn't
want to loose her this time, and marriage would mean that if either of them
were suddenly reassigned, the other one would be allowed to go too. Deanna
wondered if she was really fit to be a Captain's wife. Will had always wanted
to be a Captain, and if he had really turned down the various promotions over
the years just to stay on the Enterprise to be with her, he realised that if
they were married, Starfleet would make a position available on Riker's new
ship for her, there would be no reason to turn down a promotion. Unless, of
course, she turned him down. How could she end a perfect evening that way? She
sat back in her chair, watching him finish the food on his plate. The silence
wasn't uncomfortable, it was a sure sign they were happy together and didn't
need words all the time. She smiled, admiring the way the flickering
candlelight fell across his face, highlighting his features.

Having finished his meal, he stood up and began clearing the empty dishes into
the nearby recycler. Deanna stood up to assist, but he insisted that she stay
in her seat. "Beverly told you that you need rest, and I intend to see that you
get some!" He glanced in her direction. "And there's something I want to talk
to you about..."

She cringed inwardly, wishing the ground could swallow her up. She half thought
of inventing an excuse to leave, but that would be cruel. I'll just have to
face up to this, tell him how I feel. She thought.

"But before that, I have a special treat for my Imzadi..." He continued,
oblivious to her discomfort. He carried a covered dish over and set it down in
the middle of the now clear table.

It was a welcome distraction to Deanna, "What is it?" Smiling, he gestured that
she should lift the lid to find out for herself. She did so and smiled widely
in gratitude. "Double chocolate mousse with fudge sauce and cream!"

He handed her a spoon, laughing. "I knew you'd prefer this to the main course!"

Joining in his laughter, she fed him a spoonful of the dessert. "Am I really so

"Yes you are! Why do I get to taste this first? Don't you want any?"

Deanna grinned. "Yes, but I'm just checking it's edible. I haven't forgotten
the last time you cooked for me!" He gave her a hurt look and tried to
playfully hit her, but she moved out of her seat too quickly. He went after
her, both of them laughing with the silliness of what they were doing. Deanna
was more agile than he was, and she successfully avoided him for several

Eventually she found herself cornered. "There's no way out now!" Will said,
slowly walking towards her, smiling. Deanna wasn't so sure, and opted to dive
on to the floor and crawl away. For a moment she thought she had been
successful, and started to stand up. Then she sensed how close he was behind
her. She felt his hands on her shoulders. He turned her over to face him and
held her arms. "Now," He said in a mock serious voice. "I think you should
apologise to the chef."

"And what if I don't want to?" She challenged, breathing slightly more heavily
than usual.

"I have my ways of making you do things!" She giggled as he tickled her sides,
trying to push him off her, but he was too heavy.

"Stop!" She laughed, trying to think of a more effective way to beat him. One
of her arms was suddenly free, and she pulled his face towards hers, hoping she
could stop laughing long enough to initiate a kiss. She did, and he stopped
tickling her, instead he started moving his hands slowly upwards, sending a
wonderful feeling of warmth over her entire body.

Softly he whispered in her ear. "I don't know how I lived without you for so

She smiled and attempted to stand up, knowing they had to talk. If they carried
on, they wouldn't have time for talking seriously, their minds would be
elsewhere. "Will, we need to talk." She said, wanting to get it over with.

But he clearly had other things on his mind. "We can talk later..." He pulled
her back down, but she knew she couldn't carry on, not when she knew he was
going to propose.

"We can do this later too." She said, wishing she could forget about it.

He sighed, wishing she hadn't forced him into asking. He had been waiting for
the right time. But when would be the right time to ask? She was obviously not
going to give up until they talked, so he decided to get on with it.

They walked over to some comfortable chairs which were only found in the
Captain's and First Officer's quarters. Deanna sank into the closest one and
wished she one in her room. She looked at him, waiting for him to say
something, not even thinking about how she would respond. "Deanna, I've been
thinking..." He said, not sure how to continue.

"About?..." Deanna prompted.

"Well, you know how inseparable we've been lately, and I think we need to make
some sort of commitment to each other. I need to... I want to, so you'll never
worry that I'll leave you again, and so that you know how serious I am about
you." He got up and sat down next to her.

"I know that I was afraid to begin with that you might do that again, but now I
know you won't. We have discovered and proved that our love is unconditional,
you don't need to do anything to convince me how much you love me. I know, and
I hope you realise how much I love you."

He nodded, putting his arms around her. "Deanna, I wanted to ask you to move in
with me. If you don't want to, just say so!"

The reaction he received was not quite what he expected. She laughed! She felt
so relieved and happy that he had not proposed to her, that she couldn't help

The confusion and curiosity was evident on his face. "Deanna?"

She stopped laughing. "I'm sorry Will, I thought you were building up to asking
me something far more important."

"And that isn't?" He asked.

"I thought you were going to ask me to marry you!"

"What would you have said if I had asked that?"

She smiled and replied ambiguously. "You'll have to wait until you want to
propose to me properly!" She realised he was still waiting for an answer. "Are
you really serious?"

Nodding, he added. "It will mean that we will be able to spend as much time as
possible together, and besides, we're in here during most of our off-duty time
anyway. It will also mean that your quarters will be available for another

"Did you have someone in mind?" She wondered.

"Yes, I'm going to let my other woman stay in there!" Deanna poked him in the
side, wondering whether they were ready for such a commitment at the present
stage of the relationship. She didn't have anything to loose, he was right,
they were practically inseparable lately. And who could blame us? She thought,
looking into his lovely blue eyes. "If you're really sure about this, maybe we
should give it a try." She was aware that he wanted to feel he had the
relationship under control, not specifically his control, but he felt that if
they were living together, it would represent a form of commitment. She
understood how he felt, it would also make her feel as if their relationship
was more serious. The Counsellor side of her hadn't forgotten that although
Will Riker was a friendly and popular man, he was careful about who he let get
close to him. It was the result of his mother's death when he was very young,
and his father abandoning him when he was a teenager. She understood, and knew
that was why he preferred to have short, usually meaningless relationships with
women because it was safer for him. If he had decided from the outset that a
relationship wouldn't last longer than a few days or a week, then there was no
risk of him being hurt or abandoned again. But something different happened
when he met Deanna, he hadn't anticipated falling in love with her. Maybe that
had scared him enough for him not to meet her on Risa. She didn't know, but it
was a good theory, and a situation she totally understood. So if he was
offering a commitment, the worst thing she could have done was turned him down.
But more than that, she wanted to stay there. She wanted to be with him, and
she felt so happy that he had thought of it and asked her. Riker seemed equally
thrilled that she had accepted, and wondered what had kept him away from such a
wonderful woman for so long. Deanna thought for an instant that maybe they
should be considering whether moving in together would affect their work. Would
the Captain approve? Would he care? Was it anyone else's business? She was
dying to tell Beverly about the whole evening, but it would have to wait until
the following day.

"Now where were we, before we started all this talking?" She said, seeing the
glint in his eyes.

"I don't think you'll have any problems remembering..." He replied as he moved
closer to remind her, but she was already leaning towards him. Then she kissed
him, sharing his feelings for how well the evening had gone. She wished they
could stay there forever, just the two of them. The thought of leaving him the
following morning just to go to her appointments did not appeal to her. She
wrapped her arms around him. I'd better make the most of the time we have now.
She thought, knowing he felt the same. He drew her even closer when she sent
telepathically "Just imagine what it will be like on shore leave, just us,
Imzadi, and nothing else to think about." They spent the rest of the evening
together, wrapped in each other's arms. Shore leave was getting ever closer and
neither of them could think about anything else.

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Lintons is as
different as a moonbeam from lightening or frost from fire. (Catherine,
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, 1847).

Chapter 12

Counsellor Troi smiled at her reflection in the mirror. She was dressed in a
light blue flowing dress and her dark hair was clasped at the nape of her neck.
Her Shore Leave had already begun, in a few minutes she would be leaving the
Enterprise with her Imzadi. The Captain had agreed to let them have a
shuttlecraft, since the ship would not be travelling close enough to Neyton 6,
the planet they were visiting.

Having decided that her appearance was satisfactory, Deanna picked up a small
bag containing various essential items, took one last look around the room and

Meanwhile, Will Riker was waiting for her in the Shuttlebay, pacing the floor,
wondering where she was and hoping she hadn't changed her mind. He was just
about to ask the computer where Deanna was, when she ran through the doors
looking very much in a holiday mood.

She walked over to him, where he stood next to Picard and Beverly. "Sorry I'm
late." She apologised.

The Captain briefed them on what the Enterprise's mission was whilst they would
be away. "So you have about a week, possibly more." He finished.

They exchanged farewells, and Beverly whispered something into Deanna's ear
when they hugged. Riker wasn't quite sure what, but he knew the two women had
been talking a lot lately, and hoped that Deanna hadn't been revealing every
little detail of their relationship to the Doctor. He made a mental note to ask
her about it later.

As he gestured for Troi to enter the shuttlecraft first, she noted his light
mood and smiled. It had been a long time since she had planned a shore leave,
and she intended to make the most of the break.

Riker followed her in and they sat side by side at the controls. The door
closed behind them and they were given authorisation to leave the shuttlebay.
The huge doors at the end of the bay were open, and they flew out.

Soon the Enterprise was a small speck in the distance and the couple felt they
could relax. "How long will we be in this thing?" Deanna wasn't particularly
fond of shuttles, they made her feel somehow more vulnerable to the elements of
Space. On the Enterprise, it was easy for the crewmembers to forget they were
in space at times, especially those officers who worked and lived in rooms
without windows to the outside of the ship. She had no reason to feel unsafe,
they were travelling through a very quiet sector of space, with no reports of
unusual activity recently. And she and Will were extremely experienced
officers. What could possibly happen?

"We should arrive on Neyton 6 sometime tomorrow." He replied.

Deanna realised that although she was sat in front of a console, she had no
need for it. Will was hardly using his, just checking they were on the right
course and heading occasionally. He leaned back in his chair and sighed. Deanna
walked over to him. "A whole shuttlecraft, all to ourselves." She said

He smiled back at her and pulled her down towards him "Such an opportunity
can't be wasted."

She kissed him as if they had been apart for weeks, letting him know she felt
the same way. Their transport could take care of itself and they left it to
it's own devices. She felt the passionate waves of love and desire emanating
from within him, and it added to her own. His beard brushed against her face as
he kissed her, something she had become used to surprisingly quickly.

Will wanted her, at that moment, but she pulled his hands away from the barely
visible fastening on her dress. "No, stop." She said.

He couldn't quite work out if she was joking or not. "What's wrong?"

She laughed at the pained expression on his face. "Who said there was anything
wrong? I just think you do all this a bit too quickly sometimes, then it's over
before we know it." Will thought about it and wondered if perhaps she might be

She decided to take control of the situation and took his hand, leading him to
the sleeping area. "Much better." She said, undoing the clasp in her hair. He
gazed at her with his blue eyes, admiring her lovely feminine outline,
wondering exactly how she expected him to take things slower. He wanted to try
though, if that was what she wanted. She knew it would be a challenge to him,
and stood still, her hair falling down around her face in soft waves as she
tried to anticipate his next move.

He was almost magnetically drawn to her, resuming the kiss they had ended only
moments before. Will felt her long hair, now free from the clasp, brushing his
neck. He ran a hand through it's silky softness, his other hand on her back,
pulling her up against him.

She gasped as she felt something hard bump against her thigh. She was obviously
having more of an effect on him than she thought. Was she being unkind by
making him wait? Deanna realised that he couldn't bear it much longer. She
reached down and undid the front of her dress, and it fell to the floor at her
feet. He was surprised and pleased at this action, he thought she wanted to
take it more slowly, but maybe she had sensed that she was driving him crazy.
She was beginning to feel the same, and removed his clothes with ease, but he
was so absorbed in kissing her newly exposed skin that he barely acknowledged
his garments joining hers on the floor. She noticed that although he was
desperate for satisfaction, he held back and took a longer time than usual
before they were joined in a mutual ecstasy that seemed to last forever.

When it was all over, for a few hours anyway, until their desire got the
better of them again, Deanna ran her eyes over his gorgeous masculine form "I
love you Will." She said.

"I know that." He replied, kissing her softly. "And you make me so happy. I
haven't felt this happy for a long time." He didn't say that the only other
time he had really been content was when they had been together on Betazed. It
would have made her cry, or made him think of the depressing life he had lived.
The parts without Deanna seemed extremely dull and lifeless, although he hadn't
realised it until recently. But now everything was different. He had the woman
of his dreams, it just upset him a little to think of the time they had wasted.
For the first time in his life, he could imagine settling down, starting a
family. He knew ever since Deanna's brief experience with motherhood that she
wanted more children in the future. But all that would come later. For now he
wanted to give all his attention to her, make her feel as wanted and special as
she made him feel. He would start with the time they spent on shore leave.
Deanna was a woman who responded very positively to romantic gestures, and
Riker knew it. He was planning some romance that would have her "wrapped around
his little finger", (as they said on his home world) by the time they returned
to the ship. He felt her shift slightly to make herself more comfortable.

"What are you thinking about?" She wondered. He brushed her hair off her face
and said.

"You mean you can't tell?"

She knew she could sense what he was feeling, but she didn't know exactly what
he was thinking about. "I can sense your love and happiness, but I don't know
what you're thinking." She said, lifting her head from his chest to look
directly into his eyes.

"Well, love and happiness summarises my thoughts up." He said, knowing it
wasn't the best time to start discussing their future. There would be plenty of
time for that later. Will suddenly realised how tired he was and closed his
eyes, relishing the sensation of her soft skin resting on him.

It would be a while before they reached their destination, and Deanna hoped the
rest of their leave would go as perfectly as the last few hours had since they
left the Enterprise. Sensing that he was very relaxed, she looked up at him. He
had fallen asleep. She smiled, he had needed the break much more than she did.
His worry when she had been in sickbay would have added to the fatigue, and
there were also his normal duties as First Officer to worry about. Deanna was
too excited about the forthcoming shore leave to sleep. No appointments, no
worries, just her and Will doing whatever they wanted whenever they wanted.
They wouldn't have that luxury when they returned to the ship. Her eyes were
bright as she looked around the relatively dull walls of the shuttlecraft. The
planet would have much more interesting surroundings, and Deanna loved to be
close to nature. There were evidently some very beautiful flowers, exotic
plants and various wild creatures there, but nothing bigger than a Betazoid
rabbit, which was comparative to an Earth rabbit, only slightly more endearing.
She loved animals, and had thought of having a pet on the ship. I've got Will
instead. She laughed to herself. It would be exhilarating to be on solid ground
again too.

The slow in and out of Will's breathing was having a comforting effect on her
and she found herself feeling tired. She snuggled up closer to him and closed
her eyes, beginning a dream of her version of the shore leave, in which she
didn't let Will out of her sight for two seconds.

Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor. (Queen Elizabeth I,

Chapter 13

Hours later, Riker and Troi had successfully landed the Shuttlecraft on the
planet's surface and were exploring the immediate aready in the
turbolift, worry shadowing his face.

would evaporate as soon as the sun broke through the

Deanna delighted at the beautiful plants and trees. They had landed in a small
clearing in what appeared to be a forest. The tall pine trees reached higher
than she could see and seemed to disappear into the clouds above. There were
distinct animal sounds coming from within the depths of the forest. She cast
her mind out and sensed them all, but their emotions were not as strong as
humanoids and she was grateful for that. Will had returned to the shuttle for

Meanwhile, Deanna almost found herself drawn towards the forest and it's unique
pine and wood scents. This could be the best shore leave I've ever had. She
thought, thinking how different it would be from her usual ones on Betazed,
Risa and planets with similar settings and weather. This was a refreshingly
different planet without the humidity of her home planet, but not at all cold.
She turned around looking back towards the shuttle.

She could not see Will, so she assumed that he was inside the shuttle still.
She sighed and made her way over there, wondering what he was doing. "Will?"
She said as she entered the doorway. "What are you doing?"

He turned around briefly "I'm looking for that tent thing that is supposed to
be able to assemble itself. But it's not here, I've looked everywhere. We must
have forgotten it!"

"WE?!!" She exclaimed. "You told me you had everything taken care of!"

"I must have just forgotten this one thing!" He looked rather sheepish. "I'm
sorry Deanna, we'll just have to sleep in here!"

It wouldn't be too bad, at least all their provisions were already there, but
she couldn't resist scolding him for it anyway. "How did you ever make it to

"Bribery!" He replied almost instantaneously, continuing to search the last
storage cupboard on the shuttle.

"Don't worry about it Will, let's go for a walk." She knew that he would
appreciate the scenery as much as she had and pulled him in the direction of
the open door. Deanna had always thought that the most beautiful and romantic
place to be was a beach, but this forest was so intoxicating and invigorating
at the same time.

They walked away from the clearing, deeper into the forest. The trees seemed to
become slightly denser the further they walked. It was a peaceful place, full
of the sounds of nature. The trees were green with the start of Spring and
beautiful flowers soaked up the rays of warm sun coming from a cerulean blue
sky. Deanna grasped Will's hand, pleased he was there. She was aware that his
normal holidays consisted of a little more action than this, and she was
touched that her wishes were more important than their destination. The break
from all the crew's emotions was a therapy in itself. She was relaxed already,
sensing only Will's familiar emotions. We'll definitely have to do this more
often, she thought admiring a pretty blue flower as they passed it by.

It seemed like they had been talking for hours as they walked amongst the
fragrant pine trees, perhaps it had been that long. Deanna had decided that
once they returned to the ship, she would arrange a party. She was determined
to end the phenomenon she called the "I can't serve on the Enterprise and have
an ongoing relationship" syndrome. Riker had agreed with her, the last wedding
on the ship had been Keiko and Miles O'Brien's lovely ceremony. Maybe it wasn't
a huge problem, but Deanna, spurred on by her recent (and current) happiness in
her new found love, had decided that she had put up with enough Counselling
sessions with officers complaining they felt something was missing in their
lives. And she wanted to do something about it. Riker had pointed out Picard
and Beverly as the perfect couple, but knowing the background to their
relationship, Deanna knew their situation was slightly different and needed to
be approached with caution. But a little help couldn't hurt to get things
started. By the time they returned to the Enterprise, Deanna was sure they
would have thought of a subtle way of tackling the problem.

Their thoughts and words returned to their surroundings. "Maybe we should go
back, it's getting dark." Deanna observed.

"Don't you like the idea of being alone with me in the dark?" He teased.

She returned his smile and gazed ahead. "I think the trees are too dense over
there anyway." She continued.

He nodded "I'll race you back!" They both knew he wasn't serious, and Deanna
was tired anyway. He took her arm and they turned back in the direction they
had just walked. Deanna blinked and shivered as something appeared to flash
before her eyes. It was not there when she opened her eyes again, and she had
the distinct impression it had merely been her imagination. Will was walking on
and continuing to talk about his latest recipe and obviously hadn't noticed her
odd experience. She decided not to mention it, he would probably think she was
loosing her mind. Instead, she tried to forget about it, and became involved in
a deep discussion about different types of lettuce!

By the time they arrived back at the clearing, Deanna felt exhausted. "Don't
wake me up." She said to Will before they went to sleep, "I could probably
sleep for a week!"

"You'd better not!" He replied, obviously having other things planned.


The next day, Deanna awoke to find the shuttle empty. She threw on some fresh
clothes and stumbled outside, searching around worriedly. The panic and
insecurity she felt had something to do with the dream, or was it a nightmare?

She tried to recall what exactly was in the nightmare that had frightened her
so much, but the more she tried, the further it slipped from her memory.
Unfortunately, her fear did not diminish at the same rate. Then she remembered
the vision she had experienced the day before in the forest, and it was enough
to break through her memory block briefly. The two experiences were definitely
linked. She sank onto the soft green grass with that thought, running through
the possible causes in her mind. The word "delusional" immediately sprang to
mind, but it was not something that she liked the idea of.

She wondered where Will was. She could sense that he was nearby, and started
walking in an easterly direction from her position, her pace quickening with
each step until she almost felt like she was trying to run away from something.

Finally she came across her Imzadi. He was picking some fruit which resembled
small apples from a large tree. "I read about these somewhere." He said to her.
"They're supposed to be delicious, I thought you'd like to try some for

She was hardly listening to him, just being comforted by his presence. She
wasn't alone now, and the nightmare seemed much more distant than it had mere
moments before.

He continued to pick the fruit, wondering what they would be doing that day.
"Another walk perhaps?" He suggested. There wasn't really much to do on the
planet, and it was just what Deanna had wanted when she decided it would be the
perfect place to go.

She looked at him, debating whether to mention her nightmare to him. Perhaps
she was being delusional, or maybe there was another force at work. She didn't
know and only decided to tell Riker if she had any more strange experiences.

They walked further away from the shuttle site with a container full of fruit
which they ate with delight. "There's something different about eating
non-replicated food." Will observed. "This tastes wonderful."

She agreed. "I wonder how many other fruits grow around here."

They glanced at their surroundings but only saw pine and other non-fruit
bearing trees. "Well, I can't see any others." Riker said as they continued
walking down the barely visible path.

Suddenly Deanna stopped, her eyes wide and fearful. "What's wrong?" He said
almost instantly.

"It's happening again." She murmured. Will didn't have the faintest idea what
she was referring to. She turned around and began walking back the way they had

He hurried to catch up with her. "Deanna?"

She was too scared to explain fully. "There's someone or something else here."
She said, almost at a running pace. He was taking longer and longer strides to
keep up with her.

Riker had learned that Deanna's instincts combined with her empathy were
usually worth taking note of, and found himself wondering what she was sensing.

They finally reached the clearing, and Will saw she was still quite upset. He
asked her again what she had sensed. She told him about the nightmare and the
vision on the previous day. But this time it was a stronger image, and I sensed
another presence out there.

And how did this other presence react to us being here? He wondered, putting an
arm around her. It seemed to help her calm down, or maybe it was the fact that
she had told him about it.

I couldnt tell. I dont know, Im sorry. She felt like she had all the useless
information and none that could help them.

Well, tell me about the images you saw. He said.

Deanna looked up to him and described the only thing she saw, a large glowing
blue gem. Will couldnt understand what had frightened her so much. It was what
I sensed from it. That stone is capable of so much destruction and evil. Ive
never sensed anything like it, and I cant control when I see or feel it. Im not
sure how I know its so bad, but I do. Maybe its capable of good too, but I
didnt sense that.

And was that all you sensed? He was worried now, they had thought the planet
was uninhabited.

No, I thought, although only for a moment, that I sensed a strong mind, but the
stone was stronger and I was unable to distinguish them apart after that. She
tried to recall more, but that was it. It didnt sound very scary when she had
described it to Riker, but the experience was definitely something she would
rather forget. Will was lost in thought, wondering who or what was out there.
He was sure his curiosity would have to be satisfied sooner or later, something
was waiting to be discovered and he couldnt resist a challenge....

If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be; and, if
all else remained and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty
(Catherine, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, 1847).

Chapter 14

Despite Deanna's reluctance, Will had decided to investigate this mysterious
blue stone and
presumably it's owner, the life form Deanna had sensed. She had been worried
about having
the experience again if they returned to the depths of the forest, but Will had
pointed out to
her that she still had the nightmare when she was in the shuttle.

"Wonderful!" She had thought, "I'm not safe anywhere on this planet!

It would be days before the Enterprise returned, although they could leave on
the shuttle if they wanted to. But there was no need for that, she hoped.

They returned to the area of the forest they had been in the day before and
tried to locate the spot where Deanna had sensed the stone most strongly. "It
was here." She said suddenly, remembering the nearby tree with a distinctive
crescent shaped scar. "Now what do we do?" She wondered, looking around, almost
expecting to see something unusual.

"We wait and hope you sense it again." Will said. She didn't appear pleased at
the prospect. "Don't worry, I'll be here, you just have to tell me what you
sense and the direction it is coming from."

"Well I'm not sensing anything at the moment." She stated.

"Perhaps we should walk around a little, go further along the path." He
suggested, determined to find something. There was nothing he liked better than
a little mystery, although this was one he intended to treat with caution for
Deanna's sake. The last thing he intended to do was put her in danger or cause
her unnecessary pain, and he was pleased that she had agreed to help him.
Without her he would have little chance of finding anything else. That made her
sound like a tool or piece of equipment he might take on a mission, but there
was more to it than just her empathy. It was the way she used it to her best
advantage and he could always rely upon her to give another perspective to a
situation. Sometimes the information complicated matters, but he was always
grateful for it. He sometimes felt when she wasn't there that he had to watch
his back a lot more.

They began walking slowly down the path, Deanna taking slower steps behind
Will, looking prepared to run back in the direction of the shuttle if she had
to. They walked deeper into the forest than they had previously, surrounded by
the beautiful colours of the trees and flowers, although the flowers were
becoming sparser the further they walked.

Deanna suddenly grabbed Will's arm as she sensed that intriguing yet at the
same time terrifying presence. Everything appeared blue to her, even Will's
concerned face as he asked her what she was sensing. She closed her eyes to
concentrate on the life form she sensed, trying to sense something that would
give them more information. The glare of the powerful stone in her mind was
hiding the person, but she fought it, ignoring everything else. Then she sensed
it more strongly, a humanoid mind, someone who was totally at one with the

Deanna sank to the grass below, as she tried to determine who the person was
and where he was. She was becoming increasingly certain that the mind she was
sensing was strongly masculine and probably an experienced telepath.

Just as she felt as if she was making progress, the visions stopped. She felt
Will's arms around her, where they had probably been since she first sensed the

"Deanna? Are you alright?" He had been very worried when she didn't answer his
questions, and he had been forced to hold her, feeling totally helpless until
it was all over.

She nodded. "Yes, I'm fine now, but I'm not sure if I've discovered anything
particularly useful." She felt drained of energy, but tried to describe what
had just happened to her. It was always a frustrating experience to tell
someone verbally what she had sensed empathically. On Betazed there was never
that problem, because generally the population communicated telepathically. But
she was not there, and Will was not a telepath.

"Which direction was it coming from?" Will asked.

"Well, it was definitely coming from that direction." She pointed further down
the path.

His gaze followed hers into the mass of trees that went on as far as he could
see, looking for
something unusual. "Do you want to carry on walking?" He asked, turning back to
look at her.

To his shock, Deanna had vanished. He had not heard anything or had any
indication that she was in trouble. He searched around desperately, knowing she
couldn't have gone far, shouting her name, hoping nothing had happened to her
and that it was all her idea of a joke.

When it became darker, the breeze whispering through the large leaves of the
nearby trees, and the shadows providing hiding places for the little creatures
of the forest, he realised that he had to return to the shuttle. She was
probably there waiting for him, laughing at having fooled him for so long.

The trees seemed to loom over him as he returned to the clearing. He ran the
distance back, not knowing what he would do if she was not there.

"Deanna!" He shouted, entering the shuttle, breathing heavily. It was obvious
that she wasn't there and this would be beyond her idea of a joke. Something
had happened to her, and Will suspected it had something to do with that blue
stone she had described.

He searched the shuttle from top to bottom, then when he finally admitted to
himself that she wasn't there, he grabbed a flashlight and tricorder, and went
back into the forest. Deanna was out there somewhere, and he intended to find
her, even though it was almost dark.

Returning to the area where she had disappeared, he began a search with the
tricorder and light. The only way the tricorder would fail to locate her would
be if she was dead. That was something Riker preferred not to think about.
Instead he concentrated his efforts on finding her. He would search the whole
forest if he had to. Deanna had indicated what she had sensed of the stone had
been coming from deeper into the forest, further along the path. He followed
it, being forced to brush back the branches and leaves that obstructed his way.

After what seemed like hours, and probably was, Will leaned against the nearest
tree and sighed. He was so worried about his Betazoid angel that he wouldn't be
able to rest until he found her. But he could barely take another step, he was
physically exhausted. Unfortunately his mind was not, it was filled with images
of Deanna, lying somewhere, injured or dead. He tried to ignore the tears that
were welling up in his eyes, not knowing what else he could do to find her. He
felt so helpless. Contacting the Enterprise was about the only thing left to do
now. He hoped they were not too far away. The ship's sensors would hopefully
have more luck in locating Deanna than he had.

It suddenly occurred to him that wherever Deanna was, she would probably try to
contact him telepathically. He was capable of receiving and transmitting
empathic messages from and to her. She had taught him how to when they were
together on Betazed. He had only achieved minimal success, but it had been such
a special and wonderful experience. Maybe if he concentrated enough, he would
be able to receive a telepathic message from her, at least he would know she
was still alive, and hopefully which direction to look for her. He closed his
eyes, opened his mind and thought only of her. It was a long time since he had
tried to seek out her distinctive mind, but it could be vital to her survival
that he was successful. He concentrated hard, remembering how Deanna had taught
him to seek out her thoughts, he could almost hear her encouraging voice in his
head, telling him to believe that he could do it, as long as she was not
physically too far away. If she was, then this would be a wasted effort, but at
least he was doing something to find her.

All his remaining energy was used in attempting to find her. "Imzadi, where are
you?" Was the only message he thought over and over. He wasn't capable of
sending longer messages, and he knew she would understand that. He tried and
tried, but received no response. It meant she was either too far away or unable
to respond. Either way, it was not good news. He sank to the ground, feeling
utterly alone and angry at the same time. Who or what had taken Deanna? She had
not left of her own accord, of that he was certain. A brief image of Q toying
with Deanna sprang to mind, but he dismissed that idea immediately. Q would be
gloating to Riker if he was responsible. It was highly likely that she had been
transported somewhere, although he didn't recall hearing a transporter beam.
The only option left now was to return to the shuttle and attempt to contact
the Enterprise, although maybe he would have some luck with the shuttle's own
sensors. Hating to admit to defeat, he walked back to the clearing, still using
his tricorder and flashlight in case he had missed anything earlier, although
it was with a lot less enthusiasm. He wanted to see her so much, wanted her to
be safe. It seemed like decades since he had last seen her, he hoped it would
not be that long before he saw her again.

How could an Angel break my heart? (Toni Braxton, 1996).

Chapter 15

Deanna Troi was not quite sure where she was when she woke up, although she was
sure it was somewhere unfamiliar. She looked around in the darkness, wondering
exactly where she was.A feeling of distinct uneasiness washed over her, she had
not forgotten the last time she had woken up in a strange dark place only to
discover she had Romulan features! This time she could feel her long hair
brushing softly against the back of her neck and there were definitely no
ridges on her forehead. "Will?" She said, even though she couldn't sense him.
Did I bang my head? She wondered, because at that moment she couldn't sense
anything. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see the outline of
the doorway. There was a blue glow around it's rectangular frame. Suddenly the
visions of the glowing gem came back to her, she sensed it's strength and
power. Will wasn't anywhere near, all she could sense was the stone, such a
powerful object of a kind that she had not encountered before. She wanted to
walk towards the door, find a source of light and discover more about where she
was, but the idea of voluntarily moving closer towards the stone made her think

Beyond the doorway the stone generated enough brilliant light to make a man's
whole world blue. He was wise, but lonely, his only companion the Naeco Stone,
an ancient artifact that disappeared from a beautiful world, and was discovered
by the bearded man. The stone made his life complete, he couldn't leave it on
the planet, and he certainly would not take it to a populated planet for fear
that it could fall into the wrong hands. Even turning it over to the
authorities would be a bad decision. There was no other solution than to stay
with it on the beautiful, peaceful planet that he now called home and had done
for several years.

He hadn't seen another soul since he had found Naeco, until the dark haired
woman and her male companion had landed in their shuttle. He had seen it all,
and he had known they were coming. The stone had made sure of that. He knew
that they were only there for a while, then they would leave and he would have
the whole planet to himself again, or so he had thought. He hadn't anticipated
that one of them would have empathy. She knew far too much about the stone for
him to let her leave this planet. He intended to make her understand how much
he would value her silence. It had been wrong to take her away from her lover,
he knew that, but he had his reasons. She might be angry at first but she would

His head jerked up as he heard a murmer coming from the room he had left her in
- or to be more accurate, the room Naeco had left her in. It was time to
confront her, although he was not sure what he would say to her. He had heard
that female Starfleet officers could be quite, well, difficult to handle. The
stone was wrapped back in it's dark cloth and returned to it's box, which was
made of a metal substance which blocked the blue rays. The room seemed a lot
darker, as it always did when he put Naeco to rest.
He turned on a soft light which was standing on a nearby table. Then he worked
up the courage to open the door a few steps in front of him. He didn't even
know really what she looked like, having only seen her from a distance.

The door wasn't even locked, he hadn't wanted her to feel trapped. As the door
swung backwards, he peered into the darkness. The only light in the room was in
the far corner, the darkest one. He tilted his head, listening for her
breathing. It was so quiet, but she was definitely in there, he could sense
her. He walked away from the doorway, towards the light. If he turned it on, he
would be able to see her and he wanted to get it over with sooner rather than

Suddenly he felt somthing hard hit him on the back of his head. He fell to the
ground reflexively, but did not feel injured in any way. He made it to the
light switch and illuminated the room with a flick of the switch. He turned to
see her looking at him with fire in her eyes and a large book in her right
hand. "Who are you?" She demanded hotly "And why am I here?"

He couldn't answer her, he was too busy thinking how long it had been since he
had been so close to a woman. She looked stunning despite the fact that her
outfit was slightly crumpled from lying on it. He wondered if she always looked
that good, or if perhaps he was dreaming. He sensed a lot of kindness in her,
but what surprised him the most was her inner strength. From his experience
(which was limited to say the least) with females, the more attractive they
appeared physically, the less attractive they wer
e in terms of personality and intelligence. He could sense her intelligence
too, coupled with a serentity he admired and liked, he was a peaceful man

"It's about the visions you've been having." He started, not sure if she would
listen and keeping his guard up. She looked intruigued, and could probably tell
he would not harm her. He could sense she was not frightened, and she sat down
on the bed, almost eager to know what the visions had meant.

"The blue stone you saw is in fact the lost stone named "Naeco". You must have
heard about it, being a Betazoid yourself."

She nodded, not surprised for some reason, at his insight. He was an empath,
and probably a telepath. "That's what I was seeing?" She asked, the fact that
she had been kidnapped was now far from her mind.

"Yes, would you like to see it?"

She shuddered. "No, I want to know more about it."

"Like what?" He hated to admit to himself how much he had missed being with
people, how lonely he had been, and how fate had brought him this perfect
woman, whose name he didn't even know. He felt incredibly attracted to her, and
wanted to prolong her stay with him, but it would be against his morals to
force her to stay. That wasn't the type of man he was.

"My mother used to tell me about it when I was little. It has a great deal of
power, omniscient power if I remember correctly."

"That's right." He said, most Betazoids knew of it's existence, but it was
thought of as a myth or a part of Betazed's ancient history to most who knew
about it. Only a few believed it was out there somewhere. He was not surprised
that she knew about it. "Omniscience is very useful, but I have my reasons for
keeping this a secret." He explained the reasons to her.

She seemed to understand. She appeared to have forgiven him for kidnapping her
in the first place too. He was grateful for that. She rubbed her forehead,
complaining that she still felt a bit foggy. It had not escaped her notice that
she was very much drawn to him. She felt no fear or hatred towards him, which
was quite strange for someone in her situation. His eyes were beautiful, dark
and chocolatey, she couldn't look into them for long and kept averting her gaze
to the floor. She felt awful for being even
the slightest bit attracted to him. It was like she was betraying Will, and she
hadn't even done anything. Still, he was probably out there worried sick about
her, she still couldn't sense him anywhere nearby. "Imzadi..." She thought,
hoping he was close enough to receive the telepathic message. The image of him
desperately searching the forest immediately made her resolve to keep her
distance and try to ignore the feelings she was having.

"What's your name, I haven't even asked you that yet." He said.

"Deanna." She replied, then thought perhaps she shouldn't have told him.

"I'm Jed." He said, sensing she felt slightly uneasy at revealing her name to
him. It definitely helped, she visably relaxed.

They talked for a while longer, and felt increasingly comfortable in each
other's presence. It was then that Deanna decided that it would be the best
time to leave. They seemed to have a mutual respect and trust, and she wanted
to find Will.

"I've really got to go now." She said, and immediately sensed the
disappointment and sadness in him. "I'm sorry, but my friend will be worried."

She walked towards him and the door, but couldn't bring herself to just walk
past and leave him there. Their eyes met, and he couldn't stop himself reaching
out to touch her face. "I don't want you to go."

She took his hand away from her cheek "Please don't." She knew how lonely he
had been, how long he had been by himself. Such a situation had been proven to
have a psychological effect, and she knew how he would react if she left
suddenly. As strange as it may seem, it went against her counselling nature to
do so. He needed her help. But Will needed her too, she hated to think of him
being worried about her safety. And she hated herself even more for being so
attracted to this strange yet compelling man.

Deanna, don't try to deny that you are fighting an attraction for me. I know, I
can tell." His dark Betazoid eyes locked with hers and she felt her control
slipping away. Nothing else seemed to matter except this man who needed her. He
needed her more than Will ever had, or perhaps it was Jed's empathy that
amplified his feelings. She had never felt such an overwhelming need and it was
hard to fight. It had become even stronger than her desire to escape, which was
a curious thing.

She tried to deny what she was feeling and sensing, but she couldn't walk past
him and she couldn't say it. "I really have to go." She insisted, knowing he
could tell she didn't want to leave him alone again.

The expression on his face showed his disbelief. He knew that with the help of
Naeco she would stay with him forever. Then he would be truly happy, he needed
the companionship of another person, and a female of his own kind would be
perfect. He took another step towards her, feeling her discomfort, but also
noticing the speed of her breathing had increased considerably.

She shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other as he watched the rising
and falling of her chest. She still felt foggy and her limbs felt tired, but
she felt very clearly his emotions and intentions. His gaze shifted to her
face, but she refused to look into his eyes. Instinctively somehow, she knew
that would be the worst thing to do. But he lifted a hand to tilt her face
upwards, and she looked up, knowing she would see the despair and loneliness in
his eyes.

Jed couldn't think about anything other than her, they were as close as they
could be without touching. He couldn't let her leave now - Naeco would want him
to be happy and could make her fall in love with him. But it didn't appear that
he would need Naeco to further assist in his seduction of Deanna. She was so
tempted, despite what she said, her body and mind gave her real feelings away.
He leaned down and kissed her, softly. She pulled away and he sensed her guilt.
He wondered why for an instant, then put
it out of his mind as he continued the kiss. She still resisted, but he knew
she wouldn't for much longer. It was all a matter of time.

He was right, her resistance didn't last long. He pulled her closer, thinking
how lucky he was. The other women he had been involved with before he left
Betazed were nowhere near as lovely.

When Deanna looked back on this moment afterwards, she had no idea what had
been going through her mind, or how she had dismissed the guilt so quickly and
easily. Jed had telepathy of course, and she realised later that the stone had
a lot more to do with the situation than she had thought at the time. The kiss
became more intense, but then Deanna heard Will's voice in her head
"Imzadi..... Imzadi". She jumped as if Jed had slapped her, and broke of the
kiss immediately. "Will." She murmered, running towards the door she presumed
was the way out, but Jed was behind her, not wanting to loose her after only
knowing her for such a short time. He caught up with her before she reached the
locked door, and grabbed her arm.

"Deanna, wait." He pleaded.

"I'm sorry Jed, I shouldn't be here. I have to go now." She reasoned. "Let go
of me." She said as he gripped her arm tighter. She whirled around to face him
when she discovered the door would not open. "Open this door, now!" She said
slowly, as if talking to a child. It was only then that she saw the dangerous
look in his eyes. He fully intended to keep her there and did not appreciate
being told otherwise. "Imzadi.." She shouted with her mind, hoping Will was
somewhere nearby and could find her more easily if she projected to him.

Even though he knew the mood had been broken, he still didn't want her to
leave. "I don't know where the key is." He said. She knew he was lying. "And
besides, you'll get lost out there in the forest by yourself."

That was a good point, she had to admit, but being lost out there was better
than being locked in a room with Jed. She realised that pleading and reasoning
wasn't getting her anywhere and she could hardly wait around for Will to rescue
her like a knight in shining armour - he'd never let her forget it! She glanced
around looking for the key, then edged over towards a desk where she could see
something shining, hoping that was the key she was seeking. "This is a lovely
room." She said, hoping to distract him long enough to open the door with the
key. He seemed pleased with the compliment, and started telling her what he
wanted to change to make the room even better. She seized the opportunity,
grabbing the key and running towards the door. Jed gave a cry of alarm, and
knocked her to the ground just as the door opened.

Deanna vaguely heard her head hit the stone floor, and felt a shooting pain run
down her body. He felt her pain almost as if it were his, but he still looked
at her hungrily. Deanna barely registered that she could be suffering from a
concussion. She pushed him off her stomach and he rolled backwards down the
slope. Deanna didn't waste any time in running in the opposite direction. She
wanted to be as far away as she could from him and the stone. She tried to send
a message to Will but it made her feel even worse. She put a hand to the back
of her head, and discovered that it was bleeding. She felt like collapsing,
but she was not sure if Jed was following her. She had to find Will or the
shuttlecraft, only then would she feel safe. The logical thing for her to do
was look for the path, which had been more visible the closer they had been to
the clearing. She guessed that she was quite deep in the forest, judging by the
closeness of the towering trees. Running in the direction she assumed was the
clearing, she tripped and fell several times, each time finding it more
difficult to stand up and continue. She wanted Will, and would have given
anything to see his lovely smiling face or hear his laughter.

The guilt was starting to set in, she felt awful for loosing control like that.
Would she tell Will, or would it cause arguments she didn't need after
everything else she had been through? She had once told Will's father that
honesty was the trait Will admired the most, and she had never had reason to be
dishonest before. But if he knew what she had been doing whilst he was worried
for her safety, would upset and anger him. No one needed to know what had
really happened to her. It wouldn't be lying, just leaving out a few little
details. The main concern she had was finding her way back. They could return
to the Enterprise if they wanted to, and she really wanted to get away from the
planet as soon as she could.

"IMZADI!" She heard again in her mind. He was much closer now, she could tell.
He hadn't given up looking for her, all this time. She felt so touched by that,
he really did love her. She changed direction slightly, running towards the
source of the thought. She needed him more than she ever had before. She was
running with enthusiasm and hope now. He was somewhere nearby. Her eyes
desperately searched around for him as she ran between the beautiful green
trees, imagining how pleased he would be to see her, and for the first time
since she had been kidnapped she lost the frown on her face and smiled.

Death, with its ancestral weight of the terrors, is merely the abandonment of
an unserviceable shell at the time the spirit is reintegrated into the unified
energy of the cosmos.
(Interminable Life, from The Stories of Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende, 1989).

Chapter 16

Will Riker was tired. He had been searching the forest for nearly a whole day,
and there was still no sign of Deanna. He had not received any response to his
empathic messages to her. He had to accept the inevitable conclusion - she was
either dead or no longer anywhere near him. He had never felt so lonely, and
missed her so much that he couldn't stop thinking about her. Sleep was
impossible, he wouldn't stop looking for her until he found out what had
happened to her. All the time he had been searching, he had been blaming
himself for not paying attention, for not preventing her disappearance in the
first place. Deep down he knew she wouldnt have blamed him though, she
considered herself just as independent as any other female Starfleet officer
and didnt like him making a big fuss about her safety. He didnt know that she
enjoyed the attention and his thoughtfulness in worrying about her. Of course
it wasnt all one sided - she always worried when he was on an away mission
without her.

He brought himself back to reality. "This shore leave was meant to be perfect."
He muttered to himself. "And now it's turned into a tragedy." He couldn't live
without her, not after all they had been through so far. He tried to put all
the depressing thoughts out of his mind, but it was difficult. She meant more
to him now than his career, more than commanding a ship of his own, more even
than himself, more than anything else in his life. That had been the problem
before, he thought his career was his number one priority. Things change, and
Will Riker had definitely changed since he first met Deanna Troi. He wondered
how many of those changes Deanna was partly responsible for over the years they
had become closer and closer friends.

Walking through the beautiful emerald green trees, Riker continued to look for
her, oblivious to the beautiful colours surrounding him. The flowers and
wildlife would only be noticed when and if he found Deanna. He hadn't
completely given up hope yet because it would be like admitting the possibility
that she was already dead.

Noises in the undergrowth made Riker tense, whatever it was, it was quite large
and coming towards him. The lack of any sound other than the sound of leaves
and twigs cracking underfoot reminded him of a predator stalking it's prey.
What if there were some large predators on the planet? He had never seen any
evidence to suggest it, but it was highly likely that there could be. He
crouched down underneath a tree, hoping he was hidden well enough not to be

Sitting there underneath the tree, he felt like a little boy again. He had fond
memories of playing hide and seek with his friends in the wooded area around
his home in Alaska. He did not have to wait long before he saw a pair of
shapely legs, female legs. He peered through some leaves, wondering who this
woman was. To his delight, he saw it was Deanna, trudging slowly and tiredly
along the muddy path.

"Deanna, Imzadi!" He shouted, with pure joy, she was alive, and he had found
her again.

She turned around and practically flew into his welcome arms with what little
energy she had left. "Will..." She barely whispered, grateful for his
comforting embrace, but not sure how she would explain where she had been, or
what she had felt briefly for Jed. She would prefer to forget he existed, and
especially the stone.

"Where have you been? I've been so worried." He said with his heart in his
eyes, noting her bedraggled appearance.

She didn't feel like re-living her experience in her mind by remembering it all
in order to tell him, but he deserved to know where she had been. She told him
as briefly as possible, deliberately omitting the parts she didn't want him to
know about. Dishonesty was not something she usually associated herself with,
but she felt so guilty about what had happened, even if she wasn't entirely to
blame. How long had she waited to be with Will, and then she risked their
relationship with one stupid meaningless kiss. Or maybe it wasn't meaningless.
She had felt a very strong attraction towards Jed, in fact it was only Will's
thoughts that had brought her back to her senses. She shuddered, thinking about
what might have happened if Will had not projected his thoughts to her. Would
she have been feeling even more guilty for doing more than she already had with
Jed? The pains of guilt stabbed at her as they walked back along the path
towards the shuttle.

"I want to find this man, this Jed. I'll give him what he deserves for
kidnapping you." Will said with determination in his eyes and voice.

Deanna panicked, knowing Jed would probably tell Will she had enjoyed the time
she had spent as his captive. "No, Will you can't. He's dangerous. I'm still
not sure what that stone is capable of doing." She looked up at him. "I just
want to go back to the ship, get away from him and this place." She glanced
around, taking in their pretty surroundings. I thought it was lovely here when
we first landed, but now all I see is the dark side. Can you understand why I
don't want you to be in danger too?"

He nodded. "I understand Deanna, but someone has to teach this man a lesson. He
can't just go around kidnapping people, it isn't right. What if the next person
to visit the planet is old or ill and suffers some sort of attack from being
held against their will? And I was really worried, I thought maybe I'd said
something to upset you!" He laughed, and she realised the comment was intended
to lighten her mood.

"I know what'll really make you feel better." He continued with a smile.

She returned the smile, suddenly she realised that she felt a lot better. Just
being away from Jed and the stone and being back in Will's company had made her
feel much happier. She remembered the old Betazoid saying "Being with your
Imzadi is a medicine in itself" and realised for the first time how true it
was. Will had also helped her when she was unconscious in sickbay before shore
leave had even begun.

Will wanted to take her back to the shuttle and somehow contact the Enterprise
so they could go back as soon as possible. He didn't want to risk anything else
happening to her. At the same time, he didn't want to leave - he wanted to
punish Jed for what he had done. He realised that Jed could have done many
things to Deanna whilst she was his prisoner, but he hadn't and Riker was
extremely grateful for that. Maybe Deanna could have stopped him if she had
sensed any unwelcome intentions from Jed, she had a quick thinking mind and was
calm in dangerous situations, but nevertheless he was pleased that she had
managed to get out unharmed. The last thing he would have wanted was a
counsellor in need of counselling. He looked down at her briefly, trying to
work out how she really was. She looked tired and a bit dirty but at least she
was smiling. He pulled her a little closer, as near as he could whilst they
were still walking.

It was not long before they found the clearing and the shuttle. Deanna
collapsed onto the bed, not caring about the bedcovers getting dirty from the
mud on her clothes. Will left her to rest and attempted to contact the

If Deanna wanted to leave, that's what they would do. She was right about them
not having the knowledge or means to estimate the power of the stone, or Jed
for that matter. He would be foolish to try and challenge something he knew
nothing about. He didn't even have a phaser with him - only a tricorder. What
sort of weapon was that? He almost laughed at the visual picture in his mind of
trying to destroy a blue gem with his tricorder.

Still waiting for a response from the Enterprise, he gazed over at Deanna. She
was sleeping peacefully on their bed. To anyone else, it was about as
interesting as watching one of Wesley's experiments, but Riker couldn't take
his eyes off her. She smiled in her sleep, and he wondered what she was
dreaming about. He wasn't quite arrogant enough to think she was dreaming about
him, although he hoped she was.

The control panel bleeped, indicating the computer had failed to contact the
ship after trying continuously. Will sighed. I want to leave this place, he
thought, but he couldn't stop thinking about the magical stone Deanna had
described in such agonising detail. To her it was frightening to be anywhere
near it, but that was because of her empathy. Surely he would not suffer the
same horror she had any time she got close to it. The gem didn't belong to
anyone, surely he should try to bring it back for the Federation's
archaeologists to study. The planet was in Federation territory, Jed had no
real right to keep the stone and use it as he wanted to. If the man was as
strange as Troi had suggested, driven by loneliness and possibly greed, wanting
the stone to be his and his only, then he was a dangerous man. The stone needed
to be somewhere safer. If the Ferangi or some greedy mercenaries found out
about it, they could kill Jed easily and take the stone and all the power that
went with it. It would be too easy for something like that to happen, and if it
did, Riker would feel responsible for not taking action. Despite how Deanna
felt, he had to find the stone and Jed.

He wanted to tell Deanna, but he knew she would do everything she could to stop
him, and knew he could do without her pleading. It would be better to go, and
hopefully return with the stone before she woke up. He knew approximately where
she had been, she had told him earlier how close he had been to finding her. He
sat down beside her and kissed her cheek gently, not wanting to wake her. "I'll
be back soon." He promised, stroking her hair.

After leaving Deanna a note on the computer in case she woke up, he picked up
the tricorder and light and walked in the direction of the door. Little did he
know that Jed was the last person Deanna wanted him to meet, for more reasons
than he thought. She continued to sleep soundly as he left the shuttlecraft,
she wouldn't know he had gone until it was too late.

Big brother is watching you.
(1984, by George Orwell, 1949)

Chapter 17

Will Riker strode through the heavy greenery that surrounded the path. He knew
it couldn't be much further until he discovered the lair of Jed. He smiled, it
made him think of the traditional Alaskan children's stories that he loved to
hear when he was little. Jed was the villain, he liked very much the idea of
being the hero, doing whatever was necessary to ensure a happy ending, keeping
the princess alive and well, whilst bringing the villain to justice all at the
same time. Well, the "Princess" would be well out of the way when he confronted
Jed, at least he could feel comforted by that.

He continued to walk in the direction Deanna had mentioned briefly during their
walk back to the shuttlecraft, and within a few minutes came across a white
building, simplistic in design and strangely compelling, yet not at all what he
had expected to see.

Purposefully, he strode up to the old fashioned rectangular door, and knocked,
bracing himself for the confrontation, trying to control his anger as he
thought more and more about what he had done to Deanna.

The occupant of the dwelling left him waiting outside the door for a few
minutes, knowing who he was, and why he was there. Jed also was aware of the
other man's anger, and decided that leaving him stood there for a few minutes
would perhaps give him time to calm down. Patience was something Jed had in
abundance, he could have left Riker stood there for days before he opened the
door, but that would be impractical - he would eventually come to the
conclusion that noone was in, and would return to that little flying craft in
the clearing.

Jed motioned to a woman stood in the corner of the room. She nodded slightly,
she knew what she had to do. Jed uncovered the huge glowing gem that was the
recipient of almost a lifetime's worship from him. His face shone a blue colour
from the brilliance of the glare.

The woman walked through several corridors until she came to the front door.
She had never really known the person stood on the other side of the door,
although she could sense him. He had a strong mind and spirit. On the surface
she felt his impatience growing, replacing the anger she had initially sensed.
She unlocked the various locks and catches on the door, Jed was very security
conscious, even on such a planet with no other inhabitants.

Will looked up as the door opened, and his confusion and panic was obvious to
the woman who greeted him. "Deanna!" He said, confused. "What are you do....
How did you get here so fast? How did you know I was coming here?"

"Hello Will." She said, enjoying the confused sensations she was getting from
him, Jed was such a boring person emotionally, and Will was the complete
opposite. Deanna did not answer any of his questions, she merely gestured that
he should follow her into the house.

"Deanna?" There was no way she could have walked or even run so fast in the
time it had taken him to get there. The only way, he suddenly realised, was the
transporter in the shuttle. But that still did not explain why she was there or
her odd behaviour. The emerald green dress she was wearing was very unusual
too. It was not the sort of outfit she usually chose, he had noticed that
immediately. The scooped neckline was low cut, much lower than she usually
liked. In fact, it reminded him of the outfits Lwaxana frequently wore.

He followed Deanna through the door and into an inner hallway. "Deanna, what's
going on?" He asked, still not having received an explanation from her at this

She half turned around as she continued to lead him through the maze of
identical hallways, "There's nothing going on." She insisted, in a tone that
meant that she didn't intend to continue the conversation.

Will had realised by this point that Jed or the stone was somehow controlling
or influencing Deanna, and if he wanted to get Deanna back, he would have to
sort out the problem. That obviously meant confronting Jed, which he had
intended to do anyway. He had not realised that Deanna was so vulnerable to
Jed's powers, and wished he had stayed with her in the shuttlecraft, or even
persuaded her to accompany him in his search for Jed and the mysterious blue

He knew without question that he was in Jed's house, although he was beginning
to think of it as being more the size of an Earth style castle. The corridors
seemed to go on forever, he wondered how Deanna had managed to escape - he knew
he would have trouble finding the door again by himself .

He continued to follow Deanna as she walked uncaringly in front of him, not
even bothering to check that he was still following her.

Of course she knows I'm still here. He remembered she would sense his presence,
and probably hear his footsteps echoing hers.


Deanna Troi awoke from her deep, refreshing sleep feeling much better than she
had in days. She looked around the shuttle for Riker, she had half expected him
to be waiting beside her.

He was not within sight. He must be outside taking a walk. She thought to
herself, jumping out of the bed with new found energy.

She ran out of the shuttle, breathing in the fresh, sweet air. She still
couldn't see her Imzadi, and began to panic slightly when she opened her mind
in an attempt to sense him.

He wasn't anywhere in the immediate vicinity, but when she concentrated more,
she sensed him. He was tense and worried. Deanna wondered where he was and what
was causing those particular emotions.

It didn't take her long to work out where he had gone. "I'll kill him when I
get my hands on him!" She mumbled to herself as she rushed in the direction of
the pathway leading to Jed's house.

The very idea of going back to see him repelled her, but it was the only place
he could possibly be, and he would be helpless against Jed's empathy combined
with whatever power he could get from the stone.

As she half ran along the path, she tried to recall what her mother had told
her about the stone, Naeco
when she was younger. It was talked about so little, that only those Betazoids
interested in their history and mythology ever heard about it. Her mother had
encouraged her to be proud of her heritage, and had filled her head full of
traditional Betazoid stories, insisting they were much more appropriate than
the Western stories her father had prefered to read to her.

Naeco was reputed to have existed and been used by the rulers of Betazed to
protect the planet from alien invasion centuries ago. Then it had been stolen,
and never recovered. The stone was not omnipotent like Q, it was simply
omniscient, it had all the knowledge of the universe. Such a stone was highly
sought after - it was the only one in existence as far as she knew, and Betazed
would be eager to have the stone back.

She thought of how proud her mother would be if they managed to return Naeco to
its rightful home, although she was not sure whether the Federation would allow
it to return there. It would be important to ensure that the Romulans or
Cardassians could not take it. She was not sure whether they would consider
Betazeds National Gallery of Treasures would have sufficient security for the
Federation to be happy with it remaining there.

Naeco was supposed to become considerably more powerful when several Betazoids
combined their mental powers together with the stone. Jed by himself could only
unleash a small portion of this power she had heard of, but if he returned to
Betazed with it, the stone could be put to its proper use. Deanna tried to
remember if her mother had told her anything else about it. If she had, it had
long been forgotten.

She continued to run along the path, until she reached the familiar looking
house she had escaped from only hours earlier. It felt strange to be returning
there willingly. She opened her mind to find exactly how far away Will was from
her location, and almost fell over with the empathic response she received from

Determindly, she strode towards the door, unsure what was happening, but she
knew Will was inside and he needed her help.


Will and Deanna reached another dull looking doorway, and Deanna opened it,
leading the confused man into a large room. The first thing he saw was Jed
sitting in front of an enormous glowing stone, but he was surounded by people.

Will gasped as Deanna went to his side, joining all the other Deannas gathered
around him. They were all looking at the stone, trance-like. Will felt a shiver
run up his spine, wondering which of the women was his Deanna and where all the
other ones had come from

Jed looked up at the newcomer, smiling in a sinister manner. Welcome to my
home. He said. I knew you would come here sooner or later. Youre just in time
for the show.

The sooner every party breaks up the better.
(Emma, by Jane Austen)

Chapter 18

Will Riker sat transfixed at the scene before his eyes. The Deannas were
beginning to concentrate on the stone, which seemed to be glowing much brighter
than before. He had never considered that a mere object could have such power.

Jed was smiling, as if it was the moment he had been waiting for. The tension
in the room had been rising since Will had entered, and it seemed to be close
to breaking point. Will wasn't sure what that meant, he only knew that
something big was going to happen.

If only I could figure out which one of these Deanna's is mine. He thought to
himself, it didn't seem to matter any more where the others had come from. It
was obvious why - Jed needed telepathic power to unleash the power of the
stone, and alone he didn't have a hope of achieving that.

But why would Deanna, his Deanna help Jed achieve that? He shook his head, not
understanding totally what had happened.

He studied the women in the room, hoping to see something that would help him
find her, and somehow felt himself partially understanding Deanna's dilemma
when she had first encountered Tom Riker.

Will somehow knew that if Jed hadn't been there, and if there wasn't a mystery
as to where his Deanna was and why all the other Deanna's were there, he would
be in heaven. For a brief moment he tried to imagine it, all the Deannas, their
attention focused on him as intently as they were focused on the stone at that

And then he wondered how he would react if they were all chasing him like Tom
had chased after Deanna. He had known how much Deanna had resisted his brother
at first, but he had pursued her despite that, and eventually won her over.
Will shuddered at the memory of seeing her with his brother, even though it
hadn't lasted and Deanna had realised that the relationship wasn't meant to be.

That had been rather fortunate. He thought to himself, knowing how much it had
hurt him when she and Tom had been together for just those few days. How would
I have felt if it had lasted longer than that? He thought to himself.

Suddenly the Deannas began chanting in an ancient tongue he suspected was
Betazoid. Like Imzadi, he thought, that was an ancient Betazoid word that had
been in use for centuries. But only between special people. He added to

Jed had also gone into a trance and had linked hands with one of the many
Trois, one hand on the pulsing surface of the stone, the women forming and
completing the circle. Will could feel the increasing heat in the room and
combined with the monotonous chanting that Jed was now leading, he began to
feel slightly light-headed and was grateful for the chair he was sat in.

He continued to watch the scene before him, wondering whether he could leave
unnoticed if he chose to. However, at that moment, he was curious about what
was about to happen and wanted to see whatever it was. He also couldn't leave
his Deanna there with Jed, not knowing what he had in store for her.

The chanting continued, the participants having glazed, almost zombie-like
expressions on their faces. He found he had been holding his breath in
anticipation, yet still nothing had happened, other than the rising temperature
of the room and the stone continuing to glow more intensely.

He looked up as one of the Deannas broke from the circle of her look-alikes and
began walking towards him. She smiled, the smile she reserved only for him, a
smile that told him she loved him and needed him. He could not help smiling
back, as he always did.

As she walked closer, he noticed how stunning she looked. But I'm biased, he
admitted to himself. At that point she was within a breath's distance of him.

"Will." She whispered, as if she didn't want to bring the others out of their
trance-like state. She knelt down in front of him, bringing her face to the
same level as his. She looked and smelt so wonderful, his senses were
overloaded with her presence.

Somehow she was different to the other Deannas in the room. He took that as a
sure sign that she was the real one. She reached up with one hand and brushed
back a lock of his hair away from his face, a gesture he was familiar with.

She whispered as if it were a test. "Do you love me?"

He kissed her in response to the question. She knew that he did. When they
finally broke apart, he asked her what the others were doing. The stone was
still glowing and the chanting continued.

Deanna stood up and pulled him up at the same time, leading him in the
direction of the stone. They stopped as he hesitated, fearing the heat and
power of the beautiful blue stone.

She frowned at his sudden hesitation. "We're all joining together, using the
power of our minds together to try and unleash the power of the stone." She
took his hand, giving his other to another Deanna. "I'll show you." She added,
not taking her almost hypnotic eyes from his.

Suddenly the door flew open and another Deanna burst through, her eyes and mind
together seeking her Imzadi. "Will..." She shouted above the noise of the

"Deanna?" He said, noticing this Deanna wore the same clothes his Deanna had
been wearing when he left her sleeping in the shuttle.

Will took his hands away from the other Deannas, breaking the circle
momentarily as he rushed to his true love's side. "Deanna, tell me you don't
like what they are doing, and tell me you don't want either of us to join in."
He pleaded.

I don't." She replied simply, staring at the vision before her. She was not
surprised, Jed had wanted her so much that he had re-created her - a few too
many times for her liking. She had sensed what had occurred before she had
entered the room - that Will had been attracted to and kissed by one of the
many women who looked so much like her, but there was only one real Deanna

She understood how confused Will had been, unsure who was really his Imzadi.
But she felt that as she had arrived and made it clear to him that she was the
real Troi, he was no longer in a dilemma. These women were all controlled by
Jed, a fate she would never share with them. He must have known that. She

The room was so hot that it was becoming unbearable. The real Deanna grabbed
Will's hand. "We have to get out of here." She said in a raised voice to ensure
that he would hear her above the chanting.

Despite his curiosity over what would be the result of all the chanting and
telepathy combined with the stone's powers, Will needed no further persuasion
from her. She lead him to a nearby door, one he had not noticed on his way in.

When they had left the building, they heard an explosion. They turned back to
see the house burn to the ground before they could do anything. "I knew the
stone was powerful, but combined with so much telepathic power, it was
obviously too much." Deanna commented.

When the flames had died down, the couple investigated the scene, which
consisted of some ash and little else. They must have destroyed the stone."
Deanna said, knowing how disappointed the Betazoids would be if they ever found
out how close she had been to retrieving it.

As they walked back along the path, hand in hand, they agreed that there was
nothing left there of interest to them, and decided that they had had enough of
shore leave - they wanted to return to the Enterprise.

As soon as they entered the shuttlecraft, they made every effort to establish
communication with the ship. The answer was almost instantaneous. The
Enterprise was not far from the planet and was travelling at warp to get there.

The happy and relieved couple were told that the ship would be there in a
matter of minutes and they could therefore begin the short journey to meet at
the rendezvous point.

"I don't think I'll ever be quite so relieved to see my quarters." Deanna
commented, then remembered where she really wanted her home to be and added,
"Or yours..." with a promising smile that almost made Will forget the recent
unpleasant events.

The door of the shuttle closed automatically, and a grinning Will Riker
initiated the taking off sequence. They would be back on the Enterprise before
they knew it.

I heard your heart, you held it close to me.
The wild embrace, the silent sea,
A whisper of imagery for Lovers Supreme.
(Shadow of a Doubt, by Roxette).

Chapter 19

Will Riker and Deanna Troi both breathed a sign of relief when the shuttle
doors opened to reveal the interior of the Enterprise's main shuttlebay.

Data was there to greet them. "Commander, Counsellor." He said, with his polite
expression that always made his friends want to laugh for some unknown reason.
"Did you have a pleasant rea around them. There was a
misty atmosphere which replied. It was partly true - until they
had encountered Jed, the shore leave had been perfect.

Will was in a slightly grumpy mood at the prospect of going back on duty, and
the thought of writing a report on their experience was making him even more

Deanna smiled to herself, as they all walked out of the shuttlebay towards the
nearest turbolift. She was looking forward to seeing all her friends again - it
seemed like she had been away for years. The difference in their moods amused
her, and it was even funnier that Data had that curious expression that they
were both accustomed to seeing on his android features whenever he encountered
something "interesting".


The three officers joined the other senior officers for a meeting in the
Conference Lounge, where Will and Deanna informed them all what they had
discovered on the planet and the subsequent events leading to the destruction
of the stone and everyone inside the building.

"But clearly there's nothing more we can do now." Beverly pointed out.

Picard looked around the table at the familiar faces there. "Other than write a
report." He added. "Although it might be prudent to check that there is nothing
left of the stone - after all, even a tiny fragment of it could harbour some

Several of them nodded at this suggestion, even though Will and Deanna were
fairly adamant there was nothing left at the site.

"Mr Data, Mr Worf - I want the two of you to investigate this briefly. We will
remain in orbit for the next twenty four hours unless something more urgent
presents itself. You may enlist the assistance of any other officers you
require. Please keep me advised as to any developments. Dismissed.

Data and Worf both appeared pleased to have something to occupy themselves
with, whilst the others seemed grateful for the break. Will noted that Beverly
and Deanna had left the room together in rather a hurry, and found himself
alone with the Captain.

Is there something on your mind Number One? He asked in his usual direct manner.

You could say that, Sir. He replied, thinking of the room filled with Deannas.
Picard wondered if this was something he could help his first officer with,
although he had hoped that the couple would have returned to duty refreshed and
ready to work. Instead, it seemed they had uncovered more problems since they
had been away. Do you want me to send for Deanna? He asked, observing the
reaction to this question closely.

Will snapped his head up suddenly. No sir, thats not what I want. He wanted to
tell someone what had happened, hoping that it would somehow alleviate the
guilt he felt. But was the Captain the right person to confide in? He was
afraid that he would make the same moral judgement Will had already made of
himself, and possibly would have the same reaction he imagined Deanna would if
she ever found out. Besides, he was sure the Captain would take her side - he
was in the wrong, she was the victim. He would probably insist that he confess
to Deanna too, and Will didnt want to hear that. Time was what he needed, to
sort out his feelings and ultimately to decide whether to tell her or not. He
knew what the repercussions would be, and he dreaded to think how he could
possibly make it up to her.

The Captain was still looking at him, as if trying to find out his problem by
simply staring at him. Thanks for your concern, but Im fine. He said, getting
out of his seat and heading for the door.

Number One. Picard said, before Will had reached the door.

He turned around, hoping the Captain wasnt thinking of asking more questions.

But the older man had never been in favour of pushing people to tell him things
unless it was a life or death situation. Its good to have you back. The bridge
never seems the same without you.

Will was touched in a strange way by the comment, he supposed he had always
known he was an important part of the crew, but he had never considered what it
was like for the others when he was not there. Thank you, Sir. He said, then
left the Captain alone with his thoughts.


Deanna and Beverly were talking animatedly in the Doctors quarters. Beverly had
noticed that something was not quite right between the First Officer and

Deanna had decided to tell her best friend about her intimate encounter with
Jed, but she was fully convinced that she had not been entirely in control of
her actions the whole time she had been in the house. Beverly had wondered
initially if that was just an excuse, but now she realised that Deanna fully
believed that there had been another force at work that had severely swayed her

Beverly had to ask the question that had been on her mind since Deanna had
first told her. Does Will know?

The Counsellor looked honestly at her friend, someone she knew she could trust
with anything. No, because the worst thing was that I wanted something to

Beverlys eyes widened in surprise. With Jed?

Yes, and I feel like Ill never be able to look Will in the eyes again.

The Doctor noticed a tear forming at the corner of her friends eye, and pulled
her close in a comforting hug. Dont worry about it, you said yourself that Jed
was influencing you. And Im sure the stone had more to do with all this than
you realise. Besides, other than one kiss - nothing happened did it?

But it would have if I hadnt heard Will calling for me. Deanna sobbed.

Theres more to this than meets the eye. Beverly said.

How do you know that? Deanna asked in surprise, sitting back in her seat.

Something else happened didnt it? Beverly insisted.

Sighing, Deanna told her about the clones and how she had sensed what had
happened before she had entered the room to rescue Will. But that was
different. She said, He thought the clone was me.

Beverly wondered. Has Will confessed to you about this, or does he know that
you sensed it all?

No, I dont think he knows, but I have sensed a lot of guilt from him since then.

Beverly smiled reassuringly, Well then, think of it like this - youre even.
Both of you regret what happened and feel bad about it, but what will that
achieve. Tell him that you know, but tell him what happened. Or if you prefer -
leave it alone. Youll soon have forgotten all about it.

Deanna smiled back, when it was put that simply, the whole situation didnt seem
that bad. Thank you Beverly, youve been a wonderful friend recently. She said
with such sincerity that Beverly thought they were both going to cry again.
They exchanged another hug, then Deanna decided to try and find Will.

The first time we met time stood still,
You left me breathless,
Suddenly speechless.....
Im really sorry I made you cry,
(Im Sorry, by Roxette).

Chapter 20

Deannas search for Will did not last long. She found him where she expected him
to be - in his quarters.
She felt much better after her talk with Beverly, it was good for her to be
able to talk to someone about her problems. She could hardly counsel herself!
Beverly was a good listener, and always gave her good advice.

Will? She said as she entered his quarters, having decided upon her course of

He walked over to the doorway, where she was stood. These are your quarters
too. You dont have to have my permission to come in. He said with a welcoming

She returned the smile. Imzadi, we need to talk.

He had wondered when she would say that. What about? He asked innocently,
hoping she hadnt found out about what had happened. She didnt appear angry

They looked at each other as if somehow they were strangers, and didnt know
quite what to say or how to say what they felt.

This is ridiculous, Deanna thought after a few moments of awkward silence. He
was obviously waiting for her to say something. Something happened on the
planet, in Jeds house. She began, knowing what he would think she was referring

She knew, but how did she know? Will thought. Then he realised, she must have
sensed what had happened - his attraction and desire for the other Deanna. But
she obviously wanted him to confess to her about it, but he wondered if she
also wanted excuses and explanations.

Deanna, you know I love you, and only you. He began. And you probably saw or
sensed that one of those other Deannas kissed me, but I thought she was you.
Honestly. He wanted to be truthful, but he didnt want her anger or tears that
would inevitably follow the confession.

He took her hands, and she didnt pull away. That surprised him, and he took it
as a sign that she had forgiven him already. Perhaps she understood how he had

He put his arms around her and knew then that nothing could really come between
them. He would never need anyone else, and neither would she.

They stood together for a moment in a much more comfortable silence than the
last one. Deanna wanted to tell him what had happened to her, but knew he would
be so hurt. At least he had a good reason for his minor infidelity - she didnt
have that luxury.

But Deanna knew that if she didnt tell him, she would regret it. It was the
only time to confess, or forever hold it inside. Experience had taught her that
secrets often drove people apart. She gathered all her courage and confessed.
Will, I didnt mean that.

He looked at her in surprise. Well, what did you mean?

Jed.. She began.

Jed? He repeated, confused. Then he suddenly realised what she was inferring.
You and JED? He said incredulously, hoping he was wrong.

She pulled herself out of his arms and walked away, trying to keep the tears
away that had suddenly resurfaced. I should have kept this to myself. She
thought. Im only going to cause both of us pain.

Will lost no time in following her and forcing her to look at him. One glance
at her face was enough to tell him that he was right.

It was only one kiss. She whispered, sensing his anger and love at the same

He hated seeing her upset, and knew how she had been influenced by the strange
lonely man and his mysterious stone. Considering how easily she had forgiven
him, he wanted to return the favour.

Come here. He said, tenderly pulling her back into his embrace. I know you
didnt mean to, and Im only sorry I didnt find you sooner.

Im so sorry. She sobbed.

Deanna, its alright. We both made mistakes, just like we have in the past. The
important thing is that we love each other and we were honest about what
happened. He brushed away the tears from her cheeks.

Her expression softened as he bent down to kiss her, and she knew everything
was fine. In fact, it had proven how strong their relationship was.

She felt so much happier now that her secret was out, and she loved him more
than ever (if that was possible) for his rapid forgiveness and his sweet words
that melted her heart and emotions all together.

Her mothers voice rang in her head. Little one, never forget, Imzadi is
forever.. She realised that she had never really forgotten, and that no matter
what happened to them from that point on, they would face it together.

***** T H E E N D ***