Quantum Flux

Author:              D. Destiny

Paring:              T/R

Rating:              R- for some heavy emotional scenes...

Setting:             After the eps Parallels.

Summary:            What happened to Deanna in the last quantum reality Worf visited?


~Quantum Flux~

Dazed Deanna watched the shuttlecraft carrying her husband -or was he?- flew out the bay into space open space. Heading straight for the anomaly that would take him back to his own reality...or so they hoped. She should be happy for that Worf, he'd be going back to where he belonged. Yet she couldn't help but wondering what would happen to the Worf of her reality. Would he suddenly appear right in front of her nose, full of stories from the quantum realities he visited? Would he reappear, having no recollection of anything that happened? Or wouldn't he return at all? Would she be left alone with their two children?

Almost denying herself to think about it she shook her head widely, deciding to go to the Bridge and await the consequences of the quantum flux distortion there. As she entered the Bridge the incredible amount of different Enterprises she saw on the screen briefly made her hold in her steps. She assumed her position next to the Captain's chair, making sure she wouldn't have to meet the blue eyes of her Captain, knowing for a fact they'd be filled with compassion. She tried desperately to keep her concentration on the screen and the events at hand, unfortunately she did a lousy job.

How was she going to explain Eric and Shanara their father's disappearance, should Worf not return? What would life be without him? They'd been married for over two years now and albeit they'd had their problems she had felt at peace after years of longing for a steady relationship and now, all that was falling apart right in front of her eyes. In a moment of mental lapse she sighed softly and was too late to avoid Riker's gaze. She swallowed as she saw him open his mouth, undoubtedly to voice his compassion and quickly turned her head away, hoping he'd keep whatever comment he was going to make to himself.

Will noticed the sadness and unwillingness to accept his compassion in the eyes of the woman and closed his mouth without ever making a sound. He could only imagine how unnerving the situation must be for the Betazoid. Practically her entire future was as unsure as it could be. But at the same time he couldn't help his mind going over the new opportunities it provided him *if* Worf would not return. He hated himself for being so selfish and inconsiderate, but for the first time in years there was the slightest chance he could win Deanna back.

Worf's shuttle had almost reach the fissure, fortunately they had been able to disable the other Enterprise in time to prevent it from destroying the system. And although they all regretted the loss of  life immensely, they also recognized the possibility that in fact they'd done ' their other selves' a favour. Unconsciously both Troi and Riker drew a deep breath and held it as they watched the small shuttle disappearing into the blue-coloured anomaly. Seconds later the fissure closed and one by one all the other Enterprises disappeared. For a minute there wasn't a single sound to be heard on the Bridge, for the first time since the consequences of Worf's state of 'Quantum Flux' had been revealed Deanna locked her eyes on Will's. At his slow nod she gathered her courage and called out to the computer with an unsteady voice.

"Computer: Location of Commander Worf?"


Chapt. 2


Drawing another deep breath she forced herself to speak louder.

“Computer: Location of Commander Worf?”

This time short high-pitched beeps echoed throughout the Bridge, indicating the computer was trying to determine the location of her husband. Expectantly Deanna look up, half expecting her husband to be there.

<Commander Worf is not onboard the Enterprise.>  The Betazoid sighed of relief, triggering a confused look from the officers around her.

“Computer: specify whereabouts of Commander Worf.” It now dawned Riker that the first reply of the computer hadn’t reached Deanna at all, instead she seemed to belief that Worf was onboard. Quickly he got out of his chair and reach for Troi’s shoulders, cutting of the computers reply as he did so. Gently but firmly he began to push her to his Ready Room.

“Will? What are you--?”

“Shh, just follow please.” Reluctantly she did as asked. Why wouldn’t he let her go? She wanted to see her husband, feel his strong arms around her, reassuring herself he was indeed there. But nonetheless she followed her Captain into his Ready Room.

Riker wondered how he was supposed to make Deanna see that Worf wasn’t there? And more important, that he wouldn’t return? He recalled the days after Captain Picard had died, back than it had been Deanna who had kept them together, who had made them deal with the loss of their Captain. But now, she was the one who needed help and he didn’t have a clue how to give it to her.

The door closed behind them, extracting them from the curious and worried gazes of the other Bridge officers. “Deanna, have a seat.” Still confused she sat down. Why wouldn’t he let her go to see Worf? Why was he so serious? In her eyes her confusion was clearly visible, her hands were folded in her lap and her hair covered her shoulders and back. Will couldn’t recall a day she had ever looked so beautiful. He sighed deeply and then sat down next to her, knowing the news he would have to tell her would be devastating to her.

“Will? Why have you brought me here?” He locked his eyes and momentarily experience the most curious sensation of home. Shaking the feeling of he decided that to take Troi’s own advice ‘The best way out is through’.

“”Deanna,” He took another deep breath and hoped his heart would stop racing before it would explode, “Worf isn’t onboard. He didn’t return.” She looked at him blankly for several moments and then, totally in contradictions with his expectations, began to laugh.

“Very funny Will, c’mon, you heard what the computer said.” Realizing this would be tougher than he expected he sat down next to her, knowing there was only one way to make her belief him.

“What *did* the computer say Deanna?” She looked at him as if he was her mother being polite.

“You heard what the computer said. ‘Commander Worf is onboard the Enterprise.’” Sadly he shook his head and at her quizzical look he called out to the computer himself.

“Computer: location of Commander Worf?”

<Commander Worf is not onboard the Enterprise.> For a minute she just sat there, frozen, not making a single movement. Finally hearing the truth rather than her hopes. Then she suddenly stood up, nearly pushing Riker off the couch in the progress. She bolted to the door, trying to escape the truth in a moment of despair.

“Deanna!” His urgent whisper reached her before the door opened and magically made her halt and turn around. In her black eyes he could now see the shimmer of unshed tears and she began to tremble a little more violently with each passing second. Her Worf wasn’t coming back, her husband, the father of her children had disappeared and was now somewhere, somewhere where she couldn’t reach him, no matter how hard she would try.


Chapt. 3

Her black eyes were fixed on some invisible point behind him, she didn't seem to acknowledge his presence, not even when he moved closer. Deanna's mind was trapped in a swirl that no longer was either reality or imagination but rather a combination of both. She was sure Worf was still on the Enterprise, where else would he be? The computer must have been mistaken. But what she couldn't understand was why Will believed so fiercely that Worf indeed had disappeared.

Riker was now just an arms length away, watching her as the rational part of her mind began to take over. As it dawned her that the computer couldn't have made a mistake and that she indeed couldn't sense Worf at all she slowly began to give in to the truth. As much as she wanted to and as much as she tried to, she could no longer deny what the computer and her senses told her.

Will noticed by the change of the look in her eyes that she had begun to realize the truth. The first tear slipped from her right eye and made it's path down to her chin where eventually it dropped and fell on the skin of her chest. Not much later a second tear escaped, this time from her left eyes and made a similar path down, almost immediately followed by a third tear.

Quietly Will's eyes followed the tiny diamond-like teardrops. He was almost afraid to breath and just silently watched her until he dropped her head and lowered her eyes to the floor. She enveloped herself with her arms almost as if trying to keep her emotions inside.

Not able to keep himself from trying to comfort the Betazoid he reached out and gently pulled her against him. He was surprised by the force with which she collided against him, either he was a whole lot stronger than he thought he was, or she needed the embrace and comfort a whole lot more than she had showed.

Quickly Will wrapped his arms tightly around her shaking body, hoping she could draw strength from him. He took deep breath, breathing in the sweet scent of her wavy hair as she cried against his chest. Tear by tear fell on his uniform, bit by bit soaking the material until the salty wetness reached his skin.

He was amazed by how her nearness seemed to enhance every feeling, every sound and every vibration around him. The past years he had thought that that effect had become nothing but a dream. After all, she obviously didn't love him anymore at least not on the level he still loved her.

When he felt her stir slightly in his arms he quickly buried the suppressed feelings for her he'd carried around for so long, he couldn't let her sense those now. Deanna's sobs and sniff began to subdue but she continued to hold him tightly in fear of loosing her grip on reality. Oh she'd felt like this before, it actually had been much, much worse back then. But she couldn't and wouldn't admit that, she was hurting just as bad now as she had been when Will hadn't shown up on Risa.

There wasn't a difference, she loved Worf just as much as she'd loved Riker nearly a decade before. She had given Worf her heart, as she had Riker, but now, after trying to convince herself that there wasn't a difference between Worf and Will, that she loved both of them equally for three years, she had to admit that right now she felt safer in Will's arms than she had ever felt in Worf's.

Shocked by that realization she tried to push herself away from the man holding her, but he wouldn't let her go.

"Shh, it'll be alright." 'How can you say that?!' She wanted to scream, she wanted to scream so loud that the entire ship would hear her, but instead strangled gasps came from her throat as she began to cry again. Not for the husband she'd lost, but for the truth she'd found.

Will Riker rubbed her back soothingly while gently rocking her back and forth in his arms. He could tell she was exhausted and therefore moved to the couch where he gently laid her down. She was unwilling to simply give in to her sleep and tried to fight him, but already her body was too tired to obey her mind. Will watched her with loving eyes as she drifted off to a much needed sleep, tenderly kissing her forehead just before sleep settled over her mind. He knew that Deanna had begun to realize the truth, but he also knew she was still a long way from accepting it.


Chapt. 4

The Captain remained watching the sleeping form of the Ship's Counselor for a couple more moments before he gently kissed her cheek and went back to the Bridge. He was barely seated or his CommBadge went off.

>Ensign Dykal to Captain Riker.< Was he mistaken, or was there a nervous edge to the ensign's voice?

"Riker here, go ahead." In the two seconds it took for ensign Dykal to gather her courage to inform her Captain, Riker suddenly became very worried about what the ensign was going to tell him.

>Captain, I-uh I couldn't reach Counselor Troi or Commander Worf...< A sudden urge to deactivate his CommBadge overwhelmed Will and his hand flew up to his badge, he didn't tap it however and anxiously waited for the young female to continue. >Therefore I--I decided to contact you Sir.< Becoming a bit agitated by her stumbling he curtly ordered Dykal to tell him what was wrong.

>I was just in the other room for a couple of minutes Sir...when I returned they--they were gone.< It took a few moments for her words to settle in, but when he realized she watched over Eric and Shanara when Worf and Deanna were on duty he wished for nothing but the ability to turn back time and make sure this wouldn't happen. Just as soon is Starfleet training kicked in.

"Security to Counselor Troi's quarters. Mr. Crusher, run a full scan of our sensors and shields, if anything or anyone left this ship through the shields I want to know who, where and when! Mr. Data scan our surroundings for vessels, cloaked, Federation, Klingon, Cardessian or sailing boats for all I care."

"Yes Sir."

Riker felt very much like hiding his face in his hands or running as far away as he could because no training ever had prepared him for the horrendous task he faced now. Eric and Shanara meant the world to Deanna and she'd lost them in the blink of an eye. Oh he was pretty sure what the actual reason was they had disappeared, after all it could hardly be a coincidence they'd disappeared the same minute the 'other' Worf had been returned to his reality, but he felt he had to eliminate all other possibilities nonetheless.

She'd be devastated, in just a matter of minutes she'd lost her entire family. How was he ever going to tell her? How was he ever going to tell her that the decision they'd made to send Worf back to his own reality had destroyed her reality? And how was she ever going to forgive him? Almost in despair he shook his head, hoping he'd wake up soon.

Only he was already very much awake, and reminded off that as Wesley Crusher informed him of the results of his scans. "Nothing, no one has either left or boarded the Enterprise in a to us known way Captain. There have been no shield distortions or false sensor readings."

The Captain didn't bother to reply, but simply sat back in his chair wondering how the hell he was going to tell Deanna Troi she'd just lost her life.

"Captain," this time it was Data who drew his attention and who turned around to inform him of his findings. "Scanners show no vessels or any distortions in space within a range of five light-years."

Will didn't acknowledge him, nor did he make even the slightest movement. His blue gaze fixed on the door of his Ready Room, the door behind which a beautiful half Human, half Betazoid was peacefully sleeping.

"Data, Wesley I want an explanation for their disappearance. This should not have happened!" Hearing the urgency in their Captain's voice and wanting to help Deanna both snapped to attention and left the Bridge, ready to start an investigation.

On the Bridge Captain William T. Riker allowed a single tear to fall down his cheek, his heart going out to the mother who had just lost her husband and children.


Chapt. 5

Unlike Will Riker thought Deanna was anything but peacefully sleeping. Her mind was being assaulted by distressing images of her children. One moment they were sitting on her lap, the next they vanished into thin air. She saw them as they were crying out for her, standing only a few yards away, they're hands reaching for her. But
no matter how hard and how far she ran she couldn't reach them. Their cries were tearing her heart apart and at the same time encouraged her to keep running.

In her sleep Deanna trashed her head from left to right, all the while murmuring encouragements to herself and her children. A frightening feeling that something was terribly wrong wrapped itself around her heart. With a start she awoke, already realizing what, or rather who, was missing.

"~NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~" The cry of despair slipped from her throat without her even realizing it and at the same
time her mind cried out to anyone who would listen. Her voice remained confined to the Captain's Ready Room, her thought however not and reached telepaths many light-years away. Not to mention the human sitting just  few feet away.

On the Bridge Riker nearly doubled over by the intensity of Deanna's telepathic cry. Without knowing she forcefully pushed all her anguish and fear in his mind and it took him every string of strength not to collapse under the force of it.

Overcome the initial shock he flew out his chair, almost sprinting to the door of his private office. When he was halfway there the door opened and an ashen faced, visibly shaken Deanna Troi walked onto the Bridge. Her black eyes were wide with fear and pain and brimming with tears. Will noticed how dishevelled her hair suddenly was and how her dress was wrinkled and had been slightly repositioned on her body.  Naturally her appearance was the last thing on Deanna's mind now.

"Deanna." He tried to lock his eyes on hers but she refused to meet his gaze and instead haunted glanced around her.

"I can't sense them. Where are they?!" At loss about what to say he decided to stay silent, trying to coax her mind into believing what her heart already knew. "They're gone aren't they?" His heart writhed in his chest. The pain and despair in her eyes were tangible, her voice tentive and trembling and to him she looked damn adorable.

"I have to see." She mumbled and then in the blink of an eye she passed him and disappeared in the Turbolift. Will waited two minutes before going after her, knowing she needed to see that they were indeed gone with her own eyes.

Deanna nearly ran through the corridors that would lead her to the quarters she's called her home for almost three years. Her surroundings were nothing but a big hazy blur to her and her mind was focussed only on finding her children. Having to loose Worf, her husband was bad enough, but to have to loose her children as well was
unimaginable...and scaring.

The two security guards posted outside her family's quarters stepped aside as she approached and the doors slid open before her. Abruptly she held still, only millimeters before the change in carpet. She wasn't sure she was ready to walk in there because if she did there'd be no escape for her, no way to fool herself into believing that Eric
and Shanara hadn't disappeared. Could she enter? Did she have the courage? If Worf were with her he would have told her about Klingon courage and honor and she would've crossed the invisible barrier. But Worf wasn't with her and she wasn't Klingon. She was Betazoid and more important, she was alone.


Chapt. 6

Reluctantly she gazed into her quarters, her eyes tracing every toy, every piece of clothing and every drawing on the walls. The room looked almost exactly as it had that morning, save for a few toys here and there. Unconsciously she reached out for the minds of her children, finding nothing but silence. Not totally aware of her surroundings or her actions she walked into the living area and halted when she'd reached the center. She stood there for century-lasting seconds her eyes unseeing, her heart and mind frantically trying to find her husband and children.

When Riker arrived five minutes later she was still standing there, not having moved a muscle. He studied her for a while, trying to decide how to act. Finally he decided to simply give in to his first impulse and walked up behind her. Just as he started to slip his arms around her to pull her against him she moved away.

"Don't touch me." Her voice carried no emotion and when she turned around he saw her face was blank as well. Her jaw set in determination she threw her head slightly back and met his gaze squarely. "If you'll excuse me, I have an appointment." She strode past him and briskly exited the quarters, leaving Riker behind with a feeling of Deja-vu. A bit shocked by the sudden change in her behavior he watched her retreat with open mouth.

Her behavior was very much the same as it had been when she'd lost her empathic senses. Only this time there wasn't a chance the 'damage' would simply be undone. "Computer: location of Counselor Troi?"

>Counselor Troi is in her office.< Of course. Denial was almost natural for Deanna, that much had become clear over the years. When faced with emotional distress the counselor had a tendency of burying herself in her work.

Reaching that conclusion the captain tried to hail her and was coldly ignored. Of course. He sighed and for a moment allowed his face to fall in sadness before he barged out the quarters and hurried for her office. Once there she refused to let him in, which was a larger obstacle than it would've been, had she not been the ship's counselor.

To overwrite the lock on her office he needed to give the computer his security code, as well as that of his first officer or chief security. And with that in mind he paged commander J'haq. Four minutes later the doors whooshed open and he was faced with the back of a dark-haired officer and a calm, collected counselor sitting cross-legged on the couch across the room.

He dismissed J'haq with a simple wave of the hand and moved far enough into the officer so her could recognize her patient. "Lieutenant Jmaeso, you're dismissed." His quiet order brought both the lieutenant and the counselor to their feet. "You cannot do that!" she exclaimed.

"On the contrary counselor, I can and I am" he returned calmly, then spun to face the lieutenant. "Liza, you might want to reschedule with counselor Stewart."

"Yes sir" she mumbled and hurried past him.

Blazing black eyes welcomed him as he turned back to face a very dangerous looking psychologist. "How *dare* you disturbing a session like that!"

"How dare *you* even practicing psychology now!" He shot back, adopting full captain-mode to get through to her. "In case you haven't noticed --captain-- I'm *am* a psychologist." She almost made it too easy. Will stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders, waiting just long enough for her to look into his eyes.

"You're not a psychologist now Deanna." No captain there, just him, her best friend. "You're a wife. And a mother." She couldn't take the compassion radiating from him, the gentleness in his voice and angrily pushed him away from her.

"Keep you hand off me and leave me alone!" He did as asked --at least partially-- and stepped away as he raised his hands in surrender.

"All right. I won't touch you, but I won't leave you alone." She eyed him without apparent emotion and remained staring for a long, long time.


Chapt. 7

Riker stood across from her, his arms crossed and leaning against the wall behind him. His mere presence only made the turmoil she felt inside of her. Her mind and heart were so confused, so empty. The miss of the familiar presence of her husband tore at heart and the missing presence of her children...she swallowed, and again, and again. She wouldn't cry. She wouldn't cry.

~Eric? Shan? Where are you?~

Silence. As expected.

~Worf? Answer me!~

Why did this have to happen to her? After all the difficulties they'd faced? All the dangerous away missions, wars, uncertainties, cultural differences; they had conquered them all. All of them, except a Worf from another reality. Her family had just disappeared...went as if they'd never existed. No bodies to say good bye to, to bury, no funeral to be held. Nothing left but her memories.

In utter despair she turned to the view ports behind her. ~Where are you? Please come back?~ Why did they have to leave? Why wasn't she allowed to be happy? Her mind was going in circles looking for her lost family; she felt it, but wouldn't stop it. Perhaps they were still out there, they had to be! Worf would find his way back to her. He would be back, he had to.

"Deanna?" She closed her eyes and tried to block him out. She didn't want his pity or compassion and she sure as hell didn't want to feel the hope and love he harbored.

"Please leave Will." Deanna surprised even herself by how normal her voice sounded despite the feelings raging inside her.

"You can't ignore this Deanna. You have to grieve." How *dare* he?!

"Don't you think *I* know that?! I will grieve *captain*, as soon as I have said my good-byes, which won't happen until *you* figure out *what* mistake you made and GET THEM BACK!" The force and venom in her voice literally made him step back. "Now, I want you to LEAVE and figure out when and where your solution became a mistake!" Angrily she turned her back to him; her hands clenched into fists at her side and her eyes squeezed shut to keep the tears back.

Riker's emotions swirled from pity and compassion to guilt and --amazingly-- desire, which only served to anger her more. She had just lost her husband and children! How could he even *think* about that now?!

Will stared at her shoulder for what felt like five minutes, but was probably lot shorter. What was he to do? He didn't want to leave her, certainly not now, in fact he wanted to pull her into his arms and as he thought that he saw her shoulders tense even more.

He watched her a little while longer, hoping fiercely she would turn around or something like that. When she didn't he sighed resigned and began to head for the door; straightening his uniform jacket in the progress.

"All right, I'll leave. But you can't hide forever Deanna."

She didn't react, at least not in a way he could detect. Her question earlier had been valid; where had the solution become a mistake? All the knowledge they had about quantum physics dictated that 'her' Worf should've come back and nothing could ever explain why the children had disappeared as well. It just didn't make sense!

Anger boiled within him, slamming against his chest for release as he stepped close enough to the computer sensors for them to open the door.

"Don't keep it inside Deanna" he stressed and then left.


Chapt 8

Tears wouldn't come, anger failed to make itself known, her throat remained closed and her heart...her heart was being torn apart one agonizing bit at a time. She couldn't remember how long she had been standing at the view port in their bedroom. How she longed for Worf's strong arms to surround her now. They'd stood like that more time than she could remember; especially during her pregnancies she would lean against his muscled chest as she'd muse about their feature children.

Eric and Shanara were perfect, despite being bad-tempered. They got along as well as any brother and sister; perhaps even better due to their unusual heritage. In fact that heritage had been the reason of a lot of concern during Deanna's first pregnancy. The children were the first with Klingon, Betazoid *and* Human DNA and for a long time Beverly had been uncertain about the genetic compatibility, which had only been enforced by three miscarriages before Eric and one before Shanara.

Grief flowed through Deanna's soul even stronger now as the full force of who she'd lost, not only this day, dawned her. Seven children and her husband...and she couldn't even cry, so strong was her grief. Her hands clenched and unclenched at her sides. She needed to thrown something, hurt someone.

Without giving it another thought she hurried to the holodeck, ignore the compassionate glances the crew threw her, her anger increased with each wave of compassion and/or pity she felt and by the time she'd reached the holodeck she was seething with anger. Quickly she selected one of her husband's fight-programs, including a bath'let. And when the first holographic enemy made itself known Deanna screamed on the top of her lunges and with a flowing movement forced her bath'let through the attacker throat.

Outside the holodeck Beverly Crusher stood contemplating on the wisdom of entering the holodeck, knowing Deanna was running one of Worf's programs she wasn't sure it was safe. Her heart went out to her friend inside. Sure she'd been uncomfortable with the relationship between the bulky Klingon and the sensitive Betazoid at first. The pairing just seemed so unnatural, but although Deanna had occasionally walked into sickbay with bruises and every so often a broken bone, Beverly couldn't help but feel admiration and some satisfaction when Worf would follow for the same reason.

The uneasiness she had felt around them had soon disappeared when she realized just how much the two loved each other. And she had been so happy for the two of them when Eric had finally been born! Eric and Shanara were such sweeties! (Although both had a temper that easily matched her own) And the faint Klingon ridges underneath the pale skin were simply adorable.

And now they were gone.

It was so hard to believe they were gone. Just like that, no warning, not even an explanation and it tore her heart apart. If it caused herself this much sadness, what would it be like for Deanna? Since she'd started her relationship with Worf she had been happier than Beverly had ever seen her. And she'd deserved every second of it.

Beverly remembered the haunted look in Deanna's black eyes clearly during the months after Wolf 359. Troi had helped her so much during the time she'd grieved for Jean-Luc, as she'd helped Will and Worf adjusting to their new positions and the absence of their former captain.

The doctor sighed resigned and stepped towards the entrance and waited for the doors to open. The sight that greeted her was completely unexpected. Yes, she'd expected to find Deanna, yes, she'd expected to see blood and yes, she'd expected to seem some nasty aliens, but not like this. Deanna sat in the middle of a clearance; her body, hands and face covered in holographic blood. All kinds of body parts; arms, legs and even heads.

What was perhaps even more shocking were the loud agonized cries of hurt and rage that came from the huddled form of the Betazoid. Quickly Beverly ordered the computer to discontinue the program and instead run one of her own she used to relax, then she lowered herself next to Deanna and drew her against her chest to let her cry her heart out.


Chapt. 9

Stars held no comfort; they hadn't for weeks. Her life was such a mess these days, with the disappearance of her husband and children, everything that had been consistent in her life for the past three years had disappeared. She didn't even have her job at the moment. In fact she had nothing but time and concerned friends.

And it was all so damn confusing! Why couldn't she reason it out?! Why couldn't she explain how she started to long for Will's strong arms around her instead of Worf's? It had only been three weeks and
already she was looking forward. How could she?! She loved Worf! She had, she did. And no one could ever replace the emptiness her children had left behind in her spirit.

But already she was aware of how Riker's presence would fill part of the emptiness Worf had left behind, simply by being there and caring for her.

"This *isn't* right!" She yelled at herself, the despair even noticeable to her own ears. It was wrong to feel this way; wrong, wrong, WRONG. The crystal vase at her left became the victim of her self-loathing and crashed against the wall; thousands of little pieces of razor-sharp crystal landed on the covers of their, *her* bed. With angry and desperate sweeps she brushed the shards off the bed, not even noticing the lacerations and little cuts that covered her hands and arms more and more.

The sweeps became more and more violent as time passed but shards wouldn't go away, and neither did her confusion or hurt. Her emotions were overwhelming, tied into a knot so strong she couldn't
even dissect it herself. The entire situation was simply frustrating, above and beneath everything else.

The crystal scattered over the bed totally forgotten she dropped herself onto her back, welcoming the stinging pain, yet at the same time hardly realizing it. She drew her hands from her temples through her hair to the back of her head, leaving smears of blood on her face and in her hair.

And that was how Will found her an in definitive time later when he came looking for her.

The smile he had been wearing dropped instantly in horror at the sight of her limp, blood-covered body and face. "Oh my god! Deanna!" To his eternal relief Troi stirred, 'at least she's still alive,' and rolled onto her side. Only then did he see the little pieces of a glass-like material that covered the bed and the floor aside from it. "Dea? Dea?! Wake-up!" Quickly, without paying attention to the sharp pieces, he made his way to her side. "Dea? We have to get you to sickbay."

Languidly she rolled in his arms, drunken from exhaustion. At first sight her injuries had seemed horrible; blood stained the white, half-sleeved robe she wore and the sides of her delicate features.
Now that he was closer however he could see that in fact the blood on her face came from the tiny cuts and lacerations on her hands.

Relief flooded through him as he realized her injuries weren't life threatening, but at the same time he wondered --not without concern-- what on Earth had possessed her to thrown herself into a bed filled
with sharp pieces of glass?

She was dead-weight in his arms, still half asleep and unaware what was happening. Her head rolled against his chest and instinctively nuzzled up against him. When she softly sighed his name however, it startled the hell out of him.

He'd carried her to bed numerous times in the past weeks, some times she was still awake, some times half asleep and other times deeply asleep. But whenever she'd sighed, or whispered or yelled a name it was Worf's and on rarer occasions Eric's and Shanara's. Except for her nightmares, in those she never seemed to call out for her husband, only for her children.

He made his way to sickbay without interruptions and gently laid her down on a biobed in a private-room. Her life was hard enough without gossip among the Enterprise's crew. He called Beverly, knowing full well she'd never forgive him if he didn't.

Chapt. 10

The wounds were quickly cleaned and healed and the blood was done away with. Deanna never really woke during the process and mumbled incoherently. Riker's heart missed a beat each time a faint Imzadi would reach his ears. "She hasn't slept in days" Crusher told him when he'd asked why Troi wouldn't wake.

How that was possible he couldn't quite understand; she'd fallen asleep in his arms the larger part of the last week. Before that she refused to be in the same room with; whether because she blamed him for her husband's and children's disappearance or because of some other reason he couldn't tell.

"Okay, I'm done" Beverly threw her medical instruments she'd used on a near-by metallic plate and swept a few stray locks of auburn hair away from her face.

"Can I take her back to her quarters?"

The doctor turned back to the sleeping form of the empath and contemplated on her options. "I gave her quite a strong sleep-inducer" she began hesitantly "and she's quite weak, so I don't think that would be a good idea. I'm sorry Will." He nodded silently and grabbed a chair so he could sit at Troi's side.

"I'll watch over her" he explained solemnly and took Deanna's left hand in his own. "Sweet dreams Imzadi."

When Beverly returned six hours later she found the two officers in very much the same position she'd left them, except that Riker had rested his head next to Deanna's and she had rolled onto her side. According to the readings, Deanna had never been close to waking up and as such it was a mystery she'd turned over altogether.

By gently shaking his shoulder she managed to wake her captain and after assuring him Deanna would sleep at least for another twelve hours he left to get some real sleep in a real bed.

Fifteen minutes later the nightmares started.

"No....no please!" Deanna trashed her head from side to side, tresses of dark curls sweeping along. "Don't!....no Eric!!!" Her bio-readings were off the scale! "SHAN!!!"

"Deanna?" With hands along Troi's temples she tried to keep her head still and wake her up, but Beverly was unable to penetrate the shield of horror around her patient.

"Let me go! Please! My children." Reality and nightmares intermixed in the Betazoid's psyche and Crusher seemed powerless to wake her friend. When Deanna's readings became even more erratic she called for the captain, aware of the mysterious connection between the two.

Seconds later Riker stormed inside, clad in off-duty outfit and immediately rushed to the counselor's side. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure, the readings are similar to a waking nightmare, but this is deeper. I can't wake her." Will understood instantly what the doctor wanted to him and in an attempt to soothe the horrified woman on the biobed he placed his fingertips between her eyebrows, trailed the upwards over her forehead and then down along the side of her face until he reached her chin.

The simple gesture; one made only between lovers on Betazed, calmed her almost immediately although she kept trashing her head, her murmurs had become voiceless. The bio-readings stabilized and when Will took Deanna's hand and held it over his heart the readings started to approach normal levels again.

Beverly shook her head as Deanna subconsciously moved her body to Will's and rolled her head against his chest. According to the readings Deanna entered what seemed like a trance-like sleep and a soft smile curled around her lips.

The healing had begun.


Chapt. 11

He stared at her from across the room, studying her body language to determine how she felt; not daring to reach out through their link in fear of angering her. It had been four months since the disappearance of Worf, Eric and Shannara and she seemed to be coping remarkably well.

If it weren't for the fact she refused to talk to him.

Never had she ignored him to this extend, not even during their first weeks aboard the Enterprise and he always thought she had done a pretty good job back then. Apart from professional conversations she didn't say a word to him and refused to look him in the eyes.

She laughed at something Data said; her head thrown back and long, dark tresses swept across her back. Her long and graceful neck exposed and he couldn't help but reminisce how it was to kiss her there, to feel the strong pulse of her heartbeat against his lips. Her head snapped towards him and for the first time since three months she bore her eyes into his. Will could swear he sensed her shock and anger. Before he had the chance to apologize empathically, she excused herself and stormed out the lounge.

Riker sighed resigned at swallowed the remains of his whiskey, watching Crusher take off after Deanna with just a spark of hope.

What Riker didn't know was that Troi was angry at herself, not at Riker...well to a lesser degree anyway. She was torn between the love for the memory of her husband and children and the love she harbored for her Imzadi. A love she'd denied for years and one he reminded her off every single day since Worf had...went.

She still couldn't say it. Not even in her thoughts. There had been a funeral, a beautiful fairy-tale like funeral for the children, with all their favorite foods and thousands of white flowers. It had helped a little to say good-bye to them in that way, but still a part of her hoped they were alive elsewhere and until she'd seen unmistakable proof that they weren't she would believe.

For Worf she had organized a true Klingon funeral and even managed to get through it without shedding a tear, as he would have expected of her.

She sensed Beverly standing behind her, ready to speak. "Please leave Bev." She whispered quietly, any compassionate words now and she'd either break down in tears or hurt the person saying them and she didn't want to do either.

"I can't Dea, you're behaving strangely."

"LEAVE" But although her exclamation had startled the doctor, the redhead wouldn't budge and kept her blue eyes fixed onto the back of Troi's head. Deanna sensed her determination and her understanding. Of course, if anyone knew how she felt it would be Beverly. After all, she had lost her husband as well.

Slowly, in an attempt to hold on to her composure, she turned around coming to stand face to face with a very determined, crossed armed Beverly Crusher.

For the doctor the turmoil in the onyx eyes of her friend was painfully clear. She couldn't say with absolute certainty what was bothering Deanna, but she had a fairly good idea. It was pretty obvious how she avoided being in the same room with Will Riker longer than was absolutely necessary and being the romantic she was the doctor hoped Troi's feelings for Riker had resurfaced.

Which was a source of major confliction for Deanna no doubt. But perhaps with a little encouragement and some patient nudging...


Chapt. 12

"I asked you to leave." To her relief she managed to keep her voice even and devoid of emotion, but she knew better than to expect her friend to leave.

"You did." A typical 'Guinan-answer' as they called it. Confirming a question or request without answering to it. Instead of leaving Crusher settled in a chair and made herself at home. Expectantly looking up at the counselor. "Hello Deanna," she began, as if she'd just walked in "how're you fairing?"

Deanna had to blink twice to see through the confusion Beverly's off-hand manner caused. 'We've been spending too much time with Guinan' she though bemused, then settled down as well. "I'm doing fine, thank you."

"Hmm" the hesitation was a clear enough indication she wasn't going to like the next question so Troi stood up and hurried to the replicator, taking the opportunity not to have to face Beverly "so why are you avoiding Will then?"

Deanna went rigid for the briefest of seconds and before she knew it a denial slipped from her throat. Crusher's only reply was an arched eyebrow as she waited for Troi to sit back down.

>Counselor Troi, please report to the ready room< 'Saved by the bell' she couldn't help but think and at the same time wondered if she didn't rather face Beverly's relentless prying than being alone with Riker in a small room.

"Acknowledged" she called out. After throwing her friend and apologetic smile she left the confines of her quarters and headed for her doom.

Deanna wasn't sure why the captain would want to talk to her, the bi-monthly evaluations of the key-officers had been completed and send and the full crew-evaluations weren't due for another couple of weeks. The only possible professional reason was an evaluation of the acting executive officer.

When she entered the ready room she was greeted by a William Riker looking entirely too relaxed for her liking. He was leaning back in his chair, a totally too satisfied smile beneath his beard and his legs were propped up on his desk. "Counselor, come in, come in." He beckoned cheerfully and never took his eyes of her as she complied.

"It has come to my attention" he started, not loosing his cheerful tone "that the Ship's Counselor is uncomfortable around me."

Her expression didn't falter --much to Riker's disappointment-- not because he hadn't surprised her, but because her anger overrode her surprise. Whatever had possessed him to act so cocky she couldn't know, but it sure as hell pushed her buttons.

"I assure you *captain*, that it will in no way affect my duties." She rose to her feet, intend to make her way out of his ready room the second she had the chance. This entire meeting had obviously been constructed for no other goal than to upset her.

Will jumped out of his chair, never loosing the smirk on his face. "Permission to speak honestly Counselor?"

His unusual request through her so completely off balance she answered affirmative without even realizing it and before she knew it he had framed her face between his hands. ~Honestly speaking, I think you look absolutely exquisite tonight and that I love you very, very much. *Imzadi*~ Before she could even react to familiar whisper of his loving voice through her mind he took her breath away with a universe-shattering kiss. One she returned all too willingly.

When he pulled back and waited for her feet to touch the ground again, the full force what just happened hit her. Hard. And for the first time in her life she backhanded him and stormed out the room to the sanctuary of her quarters.

And Will Riker still smiled.

Chapt. 13

The first thing Deanna did upon re-entering her quarters was grab the glass plate encrypted with Betazoid chants Riker had given her for her last birthday and hurling it against the view port on the other end of the room.

And she hadn't even noticed Beverly, who now sat frozen in her chair, unsure whether it was safe to move. The anger that radiated from Deanna stretched throughout the room, leaping out her eyes as flames from a fire. Even from this distance Beverly could feel the tension in Troi's muscles and the fury within her.

Whatever Will had done, it had made her angrier than Beverly had ever seen her. "Dea?" She tried cautiously, keeping distance for her own safety. When the empath didn't move the doctor tried again, raising her voice slightly "Deanna?"

Troi went rigid instantly and then the wall around her emotions broke. Beverly recognized three of the languages in which the empath yelled and cursed and doomed Riker. A padd flew through the air, shortly followed by a vase, complete with water and flowers. "THAT BASTARD!!!" She stormed into the bedroom and re-emerged a couple of minutes later in a simple, dark-blue dress. Her hair falling loosely around her face.

She halted in surprise when her eyes fell upon her friend. Crusher was relieved to see the anger had left Troi's face and finally dared to breath. "Hello Dea" she said cheerily, but with a hint of caution and fear in her voice. The Counselor's stance reminded her of the feline panther that used to live on Earth. Sleek and agile, muscles rippling beneath the black, silken skin.

"I think it would be best if you'd leave Beverly" she stated calmly without moving a muscle more than necessary. But the Doctor would not be dismissed that easily. Though she made it appear so by circling Deanna and heading for the exit.

"I hated myself Deanna, when I fell in love for the first time after Jack's death. Had I accepted those feelings Wes might have grown up with a father and I would've another partner. Instead of a titanium wall to talk to." She remained watching the Betazoid's back for a few more moments, noticing the tensing and relaxing of her hands, and then left her alone with her demons.

She knew, first hand, how hard is was to overcome the death of a husband, and no love would ever be similar, even though it might be more profound.

It would serve Riker and Troi right to get together, she was sure. The chemistry between the two had always existed and as Will had once explained it to her --albeit in a drunken state-- Deanna might have married Worf and given the Klingon her heart, Will Riker still held her soul in his hands, just like Deanna did his.

But the eternal question remain unanswered for now; when would *they* finally realize that?

No, the doctor revised, they did know. Both of them were aware of the mutual love between them, painfully so. Yet neither of them dared to act upon that love.

Riker out respect of Deanna, Deanna out of respect of her late husband and so the bond remained unsealed.

Frustrated with the entire situation Beverly flopped onto her bed. If she could just bang their heads together! How satisfying that would be, regardless the outcome.

In many respects, she now realized, was Deanna's situation similar to hers after Jack's dead. Save --thank the Heavens-- for the fact that she hadn't lost her son. She hadn't dared to take the step with Jean-Luc, had denied her attraction to him fervently, but god she hoped Deanna wouldn't make the same mistake.


Chapt. 14

Deanna shifted her gaze between the holo-picture on her nightstand and her own reflection in the mirror. She wondered if her mirror-image felt the same tingling she felt. It had been over an hour since Riker had kissed her and her lips still tingled.

The images and desires that single kiss had engendered still soared through her mind, and that, more than anything else made her angry. Once again she wondered why this had to happen to her, firmly denying she had wanted Will Riker to kiss; that she had wanted him to for ages. She couldn't even be mad at him, for she wanted nothing more than for him to kiss her again.

Yet it still felt as betrayal to Worf. Even before they married the Klingon had been weary of her complex history with Will and it had taken her quite sometime to convince him that Riker wasn't a thread. He hadn't lost that fear until Eric was born. And now it felt as if she was proving her husband right.

Her gaze returned to the laughing faces of Eric and Shannara; their black eyes alight with joy, brightly colored birthday hats on their heads and chocolate cake smeared all over heir faces. Behind them stood Worf, doing his best not to seem disgruntled and to his credit he wore the pieces of cake on his clothes, face and hair, together with the birthday hat, like his traditional armor. He just looked a lot less dangerous.

They had --like any couple-- discussed before what to do when one of them would die. Worf, being the oldest Son of Mogh, had been quite clear that he wanted her do to whatever it took to make herself happy again; even if that meant getting back together with his captain. He'd wanted Eric raised as Klingon. Not -just- as Klingon, but with his people's sense of honor and language.

On her turn, Deanna was the last in line of the Fifth House and under normal circumstances Shannara would be her heir, if she would be accepted by the other Houses, which was doubtful since she was half-Klingon, a quarters Human and only a quarter Betazoid. Therefore she'd opted to raise both Eric and Shannara with equal knowledge of all three cultures. When old enough they could determine for themselves whether to take the Klingon rite of Ascension, or its Betazoid equivalent, or both, or neither.

Only they never would.

Instead they'd been ripped from her life, heart and mind and had simply seized to exist! And so she remained alone. Not able to take her mind of their loss, not able to take her mind of the kiss Riker had given her.

Deanna started to pace, for the first time of her life she paced. Desperately trying to do away with the absurd swirl of thoughts in her mind. Thoughts and memories of Worf, Eric and Shannara came and went, as did memories of her time with young Will Riker on Betazed.

It was wrong, wrong WRONG!!!

It were Worf's hands fondling her, Riker's hands arousing her. She was on the Enterprise, playing with her children and the next moment she was in the Jalara Jungle with Riker. Worf's long hair that tickled her skin and then Riker's soft lips.


Their bed, his bed, the Jungle, or the arboretum? Worf, Will, Will, Worf. Klingon ridges, Human skin. Klingon poetry, Human lust. Strong, arousing and demanding, gentle, torturous and loving. Love for Worf, love for Riker. Desire for Worf, lust for Riker. Lust for Worf, desire for Riker. Love. Love. Love. Will, Worf, Worf, Will. Klingon mating, Betazoid bonding. Cries of pleasure and despair, Klingon and standard. Trust, fear, fear, trust. Broken furniture and skin, broken hearts, satisfied lust and desire. Returned love, unrequited love. Honor, betrayal. Love...


Chapt. 15

Not ten minutes later the doors behind her opened and an all too familiar man entered. He studied Troi's back for a while, eventually his eyes settled on the white-knuckled hands griping the edge of the vanity. He had expected her to have calmed down by now, perhaps even admitted that she had enjoyed --and if the Gods favored him, wanted-- their kiss.

It seemed he was wrong.

She was obviously furious; perhaps his best chance was to break through it. And God help him to make it through alive. "Dea?"


Not a good sign. Not a good sign at all. For her to speak through clenched teeth with such a tone of withhold anger and forced calm, meant she was as angry as she could ever be. "I came to apologize." A small snort left her throat, telling him she'd already sensed his initial reasons for coming, before ever thinking of an excuse. "All right" he conceded "I came to talk."

"I asked you to leave."

At least she didn't object again. He placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to turn her with gentle force. "Deanna--"

"Let me GO!" She shrank from his touch, swirling around and bringing herself eye to eye with her Imzadi. Fire blazing from her eyes. But for a reason he couldn't quite grasp, Riker got the impression it wasn't him she was mad at.

"Why won't you allow yourself to heal?" She took a step towards him, the anger that radiated from her forced him to take a step back.

"I will do as I please *Captain*."

This wasn't working, he had to find a way to pinch through her anger and reach the real Deanna Troi. "Will you listen to me?!" Perhaps his captain's tone would get her attention.

"Give me one reason to" From her victorious tone he surmised she didn't expect one, and had he not prepared he probably wouldn't be able to.

But then, he had prepared. He had done everything in his power to be able to truly reach her. And so he focused. His eyes tracing the features of her face, pale skin stretched over delicate bones and framed by streams of obsidian tresses, eyes that held within them her soul, as well as his future. Her heart held a place for everyone, even the evil-spirited.

He focused on the goodness of her soul, as he did on the gentleness of her hands, then forced himself to remember how she'd once loved him and how deep their friendship had become.

He recalled their very first meeting, back on Betazed. He recalled her surrender in the jungle, the opening of her heart. With a profound sense of guilt he also remembered leaving her and the breaking of his heart, along with hers. He had realized long time ago that neither of them had ever been willing to fully accept their respective parts in their parture. Perhaps that time had come.

Will never noticed the tilting of Troi's head, or the confused look that settled in her eyes. The emotions radiating from him intensified each second and though they were most definitely focused on her, he seemed to have forgotten she was in the room.

What a nerve he had! First forcing her to kiss him, then barging into her quarters without incentive, calling upon on romantic and lustful feelings and then forget she as even in the room!

She was about to do something about it, to break through his shield of emotions, but what Will Riker did next was something she wouldn't have expected in her wildest dreams and it broke down all the barriers she had left to fight him with, diminished all the reasons she had for not admitting her feelings. The bond had not been broken, she knew that, but never would she have expected it to grow.

{Because I *love* you}


Chapt. 16

Will Riker couldn't help but stare at his Imzadi with a sense of victory as her face turned ashen. "What?!"

~You heard me~

She had, but that didn't mean she believed it. And it certainly didn't mean she'd just fall into his arms now, for that seemed to be what he believed.

Riker was aware of her ire rising and took a step backwards, turning pleading blue eyes on her. "Deanna, please. Why are you running way?"

"I'm not--" she started to counter, but dropped her defense when Will squinted his eyes.

"Why won't admit you love me?"

"I don--"

"You do! Don't play me a fool Dea! I can *feel* it remember? The bond is still very much alive!" She felt the almost overwhelming urge to crawl into a dark corner and hide for the rest of her life. She loved him, yes. But she couldn't betray Worf's memory, could she? She couldn't allow herself to forget him or her children.

Yet psychologically she knew she had every right to choose a new mate --as Worf had once put it. Why did it have to be so difficult?! If had been anyone but Riker it might have been, she reckoned, but the simple truth was, that although she loved Worf, she'd never stopped loving Will.

It had been four and a half months since Worf, Eric and Shannara had disappeared, but it still felt too soon to start a new relationship. She needed time to fully deal with their absence; not keeping their like and dislikes in mind when thinking of what to eat, not having to align her duty roster with Worf's and stop having to remember herself she needn't pick Eric and Shannara up from kindergarten.

Not feeling the pain of their absence all over again each morning.

"Hey" Riker exclaimed suddenly, "why don't we have dinner tomorrow? Just the two of us." -- "In Ten-Forward" he added hastily.

"All right" Deanna reciprocated slowly. Not sure if she wanted to go, but not daring to say outright 'no' either.

For a second she thought he might kiss her, but instead he pulled away --to both her disappointment and relief-- and locked his eyes on hers. He wouldn't rush her, he'd decided. Better take it slow and avoid crashing

He could understand her turmoil better than she seemed to think, but at the same time his suppressed feelings for her were overwhelming him. They'd wasted so much time --no, *he* did, he corrected himself-- he couldn't think of anything but holding her in his arms. He might have pushed her harder than he had, had he not been given a speech by Beverly Crusher minutes before seeking out Deanna.

And yes usual, the doctor had been right. If he would push her too hard, Deanna would turn away from him forever.

And that, he would never survive.


Chapt. 17

The reflection that stared back at her invoked a jolt of surprise, even after two months. She'd decided on a new hair cut, her curls only served to remind her of Worf and her children and so, after some negotiating with Mott, she now sported a much shorter and straighter style. Her hair reached just below her shoulders and had been dyed in a light-brown color. It was much easier to deal with than her natural, unruly curls and felt a lot lighter.

She tugged her burgundy dress straight and smoothed the fabric over her stomach. She retrieved a pair of black pumps from her closet and wiggled her feet into them, making a last stop at the mirror to finish her make up.

With an intentional slight smile Deanna strode into the quarters of Captain Riker for another dinner by candlelight. Ever since he'd pushed through the barriers of her mind, four months ago, he'd been cordial and easy going, but slowly the friendly dates evolved into less harmless, more flirting events, Riker made sure she didn't feel pushed.

Perhaps tonight that would change.

She still felt some guilt, but after eight months she felt she needed to pick up her life again. Will stood near the view ports across the room, his face enlightened just enough for her to distinguish his beard and eyes from the darkness around him.

"You look amazing" he said quietly, never taking his eyes off her as he called for light and lead her to the table.

"You look quite handsome too, Captain" she responded as she sat down and eyed the food. She had long since learned not to ask what it was, no matter how suspicious it looked. Will returned from the replicator with bottle of wine and two flute glasses. Deanna couldn't tear her mind away from his as he filled the glasses. His emotions were like music to her soul; hope, love, contentment and desire all woven together in a blanket of tenderness.

"To an amazing woman." He toasted with sparkling eyes, daring her to counter his words just like the many times before.

Only she didn't.

"Something wrong?" He couldn't help but become concerned at her silence and studied her more carefully. She looked wonderful, better than she had in a long time, in fact. For the first time since her family's disappearance she seemed completely at ease in his company and when he gently reach out with his mind he found that all her barriers were down.

Ground had been gained.

"Not at all. I'm here with you, aren't I?" She looked at him from under her lashes, her gaze lingering at his half-bared chest before moving up to his lips and finally his eyes.

The hints were overly clear, but still Will hesitated. And even when Deanna pushed herself to her feet and placed herself within easy reach, he still couldn't bring himself to move.

"Dea? Are you sure?" Not the most romantic thing to say under such circumstances, but he had to make sure she wasn't just overwhelmed by emotions and that she wasn't going to regret this the next morning.

{Shut up and kiss me Will Riker} She sent him, intentionally repeating what she'd said to him so long ago.

And who was he to disobey?

Chapt. 18

Will cradled her face in his hands, searching her shining black eyes to be absolutely sure this was what she wanted, for there was no going back. Her smile grew a little wider when he was ascertained. With her face still cradled in his palms he bent towards her, brushing his lips against her with the utmost tenderness.

~Love me Will~

Her needing plea fueled the desire within him and quickly their kiss turned from tender and exploring to passionate and needing. Deanna reciprocated joyfully, pushing her tongue into his mouth to dance with his. His hands moved from her jaws into the light tresses of her hair, reveling in the sweetness of her soft lips and softness of her hair. She was so perfect, so immensely desirable that he couldn't keep his hands from moving to her waist, pulling her body flush against his as their kiss became torrid.

She seemed sure of herself, and when she kissed him all hesitation he might have had fled his mind. Her skin felt so soft under his hands and everywhere her hands traveled his own skin burst into Goosebumps. When his mind registered her hands working on loosening his shirt he launched a counterattack by drawing his hands up from her waist, skimming her breasts to eventually reach the catch of her dress.

A ripple of trepidation reached his mind, but when Troi deepened her next kiss he forgot all about it and relished in her hands gently pulling the hairs on his chest. He had succeeded in loosing her white dress and was about to slip it off her shoulders when suddenly her entire body when ridged.

"No" she breathed and used all her strength to push him away "this isn't right!"

Riker could do nothing but watch as Deanna spun around and practically ran out his quarters, barefooted and with her dress half unfastened. Staring at the door that had closed behind her Will didn't know whether to cry, laugh or ram his fist into the nearest wall.

Forgoing the decision, he sat down and ate.

In her own cabin Deanna fell down in the comfortable chair that stood facing the view port and buried her face in her hands, tears already escaping. "I'm sorry." She whispered, mentally chiding herself for the silly gesture, but repeating it nonetheless, glancing at the photo of her family.

She had been so sure she was ready. She loved Will, she loved him enough to harbor hope that she would get back together with him again and she knew he loved her too; he'd shown her that in every way imaginable. Their kisses earlier that evening had set her body on fire, he had always been a terrific kisser and he had only grown better. If she wanted him so much, why had she pushed him away?

The smiling eyes of Worf danced in front of her eyes. She smiled, remembering how he could smile and look annoyed at the same time.

That unusual mix of emotions had often mystified her during the first years she had known him. Most other species experienced conflicting emotions at the same time almost constantly, yet by Klingons two opposite emotions could be so thoroughly tangled with one another it was difficult to discern which emotion rules.

That uncertainty was often a reason for telepaths and empaths to avoid them, yet Deanna had found it a challenge to come to understand the Klingon psyche. Seeing she married one, she would say she succeeded pretty well.

And for the first time since the occurrence of the other Worf, Deanna smiled at a joke involving Worf or Klingons, even if she made it herself.

It felt good.


Chapt. 19

With a loud groan Will rolled to the edge of his bed, swinging his legs over the edge just before it was too late. He stumbled into the living area, not really watching where he was going until suddenly he saw the floor not two inches away from him.

The pain the fall invoked didn't hit him until a couple of seconds later.

With another groan --this time from pain-- Riker crawled back onto his feet and searched for the obstacle that had not only bruised his elbows and knees, but his ego as well. He bent at the waist to pick the two silver items up and placed them on the table. Replicating a piece of paper and a pen he quickly wrote down a couple of sentences, placed the note on the item at the left and disappeared into the bathroom to dress.

When he headed out his quarters he made a detour and left the silver items he'd tripped over earlier outside one of the orange doors connected to the corridor.

Inside her own quarters Deanna Troi awoke after her first peaceful sleep in months. Although her date with Riker had turned into a disaster the night before her mind was cleared of grief, doubt and fear. With a lingering smile she hopped out her bed and into the shower.

Some forty-five minutes later she was ready to head out to her officer and start her day. When , however, she opened her doors she found herself staring at two silver shoes…-her- shoes.

Confusion settled in for a moment, only to be quickly overwritten by clarity; she’d kicked her shoes off at Will’s place, as she always did when they had dinner there. Quickly she picked the pumps of and carried them inside. Once she put them down again her eye fell on a piece of paper tucked under a strap. Carefully, as if she were picking up a fragile Rshi-flower, she pulled the paper out and unrolled it.

“Deanna, I thought you might want these back, so I dropped them of on my way to Sickbay. Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with me, I just tripped.” You needn’t be a genius to figure out what had caused him to trip and Deanna turned bright red as she realized just that. “I’m sorry if I pushed you last night, but I couldn’t help myself, you looked so beautiful.” A slight smile curved around her lips. Typically Will, taking the blame even if he never did something wrong. It was after all –she- who had come onto him. “I have patience Deanna; I’ll wait as long as I have to.”

And she knew he would.

For the rest of the day she couldn’t wipe the happy grin that seemed to have settled on her features permanently off, not knowing that only decks away Will Riker was summoning all his power of will not to start pacing.

He had meant what he’d told her; he’d wait forever if necessary. Yet the waiting was becoming more and more difficult and never had it been as tortuous as the previous night. The sparkle in her onyx eyes, her dress –what little of it there was-…he’d been ready to rip it off her and when she started flirting with him his heart had started beating so loudly he could hardly hear her words.

And then there was the kiss.

With all his might he suppressed the moan that struggled for release as he remembered their kiss so vividly he almost thought it was happening again. Only it wasn’t.

Would they ever come to a point where they could trust and love each other without fear or reservations? Where they would live together as friends, lovers, husband and wife and parents? Only since Worf’s disappearance he’d dared to wish such wishes again.

Wishes of sharing unrestricted, unconditional love with the only woman that had ever mattered to him on so many levels. Would, one day, those wishes come true?

God he hoped so.


Chapt. 20

He watched her as she left the Observation Lounge, not able to tear his eye away from her backside. Deanna had been avoiding him since their fiasco date a week and a half prior, yet she was flirting with him at the same time. And he didn't have a clue how to take her behavior. She avoided him with the sneakiness of a snake and while doing so she managed to arouse him.

The captain shook his head, mentally chiding himself and then left for the Bridge to monitor the progress of the Away Team. "Mr. Crusher, report."

"They've beamed down safely sir, Counselor Troi reports no information yet." The young officer replied calmly, his eyes not leaving his station. Riker felt no need to respond and resigned himself to awaiting the next check-in from the team. It was the part of captaincy he most hated, waiting, hoping that his officers would return safely. Hoping that Deanna would.

Minutes passed like hours and with every one of them breathing became a little easier. "Sir!" Wesley's sudden distraught voice broke the silence with the power of a phaser being fired and Riker's heart stopped beating instantly. "Sensors show an explosion at the science station!"

Instinctively the captain's hand shot to his commbadge "Mr. Diran, I want the Away Team beamed up *now*!"

"Yessir!" Came the instant reply, followed by and excruciating silence as the man worked his on console. Will waiting anxiously for any positive words, his heart beating faster and faster with every minute that passed now..

Finally an update reached his ears. "Sir, I can only lock on to commander Data and Doctor Crusher."

"Beam them up" Will managed to order through the tightening in his chest, "and keep looking for the other's." He added, slumping into his chair.

This couldn't be happening! He couldn't loose her, not now, not again! Why was it that fate always seemed to conspire against them? He shouldn't think like that, not when he knew she was still alive and yet...and yet he couldn't ban the image of her leaving the Lounge just a couple of hours earlier.

He was supposed to be the captain, show confidence and objectivity, not let his personal feeling get in the way. How the hell had Picard done it all those years? Of course that was a question he'd asked himself a thousand times before, during just as many tense away missions yet the question resurfaced time and time again.

With intense strength of will he asked for updates, only to find out that Doctor Crusher and Commander Data were being examined and treated for their injuries. And that the transporter chief still hadn't been able to lock on to the two remained members of the Away Team.

Desperately having to do something Rier pushed himself out his command chair and hurried down to sickbay, leaving Lieutenant Crusher to monitor changes from the Bridge.

Once there he found the redhead sitting on one of the biobeds, a dazed expression in her eyes, an ugly smear of ash across her face and a nurse working on her arm. "Doctor?" he queried gently, careful not to shout like he felt to. "What happened?"

"We were looking for bodies when Deanna said she smelled something, next thing we knew something exploded and she--" her blue eyes suddenly glazed over and just as soon she snapped into full 'doctor-mode' "oh my god! Deanna! How is she?!" Nurse Ogawa --Beverly's most experienced and trusted nurse-- placed a firm hand on her shoulder.

"We haven't been able to beam her back yet." Riker informed her gravely.


Chapt. 21

Heavily coughing Deanna tried to get rid of some of the smoke that had entered her lungs. Of course it only made matters worse, but it was a natural reaction. The faint lives she’d sensed her earlier had died, she’d felt them slip from her mind only seconds after the initial explosion in the station’s power source.

When she managed to hold her breath and stay quiet for a moment she heard faint coughing a few yards away from her. It was Lieutenant Davies she realized, the man had been standing a few feet away from Beverly when the explosion occurred. Deanna had been able to push Crusher away, but she hadn’t been fast enough to push the Lieutenant away as well.

“Frank?” she called, hoping the man was strong enough to answer her. Her senses told her he was in a lot of pain and she was quite certain that if help didn’t come soon he would die. But when she tried to move towards him she found that a bulkhead had quite effectively –and painfully—pinned her against the floor and that her right shoulder was dislocated. Bending her left arm in an uneasy angle she managed to activate her commbadge, only to hear an off-key tone that told her the communications device had been damaged.

Realizing there was nothing more she could do, Deanna closed her eyes and focussed on her breathing, murmuring encouragement to Frank Davies in the mean time.

She knew her injuries weren’t life threatening and all she had to worry about was being rescued before the air around her became toxic or too dense with smoke to breath, yet she was scared almost to the point of panic.

And angry she realized scarcely two seconds later.

Angry that fate always conspired against her and Will.

Angry that just when she had prepared the perfect night for herself and her Imzadi to consummate their bond, she was lying in a deserted, God forsaken science station, pinned to the floor and with a layer of ash and dust over her.

“C--coun—counselor?” Deanna narrowed her eyes in an attempt to lock them onto the Lieutenant, but the smoke around her had grown too thick.

“Yes Frank.” She called instead, making her sure her tone was calm and confident, even though she could tell the young man was dying.

“Please, t-tell Kate I lo-love her.”

“I will.” Deanna returned in a quivering voice. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut but couldn’t help a tear from escaping as she felt the security officer’s soul slip away. But she couldn’t allow herself to grieve for him, not yet, not until she was safely back onboard the Enterprise.

In the safe haven of Will Riker’s strong arms.

Another coughing fit overcame her, this time interrupted by sneezes that wracked her body and caused flames of pain to leap across her legs and arm. Her eyes watered from the smoke around her and coughing only seemed to make it worse.

WHY did this have to happen to her?!

She sneezed again, crying out when the jerking of her body pulled at her legs, causing skin and bone to scrape against the bulkhead that had fallen across her shins.



Chapt. 22


"Yes Captain." After having seen the Android 'without' his 'skin' for numerous times the image was still disconcerting and the blinking lights had a surreal quality to them. Right now a large part of the left side of face was missing, and the top of his head had been opened.

"What happened over there Data?" The Android cocked his head to the side and seemed to search through his memory chips.

"It seems sir that the attempt the scientist made to increase the efficiency of their power source failed. When we arrived the slight increase of carbon dioxide caused a second explosion. Counselor Troi was the first to notice to increase in agilium-oxide, she managed to push Doctor Crusher out of the fire's main way. Lieutenant Davies took a full blow."

Riker had the urge to groan in displeasure, he was no closer to having any clue about the situation down there! "Isn't there a chance another explosion will occur when the carbon dioxide increases?"

"I do not believe so sir, according to my calculations there is no longer enough agilium present for another explosion."

"How sure are you?"

"46.7 percent captain."

Riker was about to respond, but just then Lieutenant Crusher hailed him "Captain, we've just lost Lieutenant Davies' life signs."

"Damn it" Will hissed under his breath. "What about Troi's, Lieutenant?"

"Steady and strong captain." Riker breathed a sigh of relief, then finding his thoughts returning to his chief of security, Lieutenant Frank Davies, who had gotten engaged just three months prior. With Data and Beverly Crusher in tow the captain headed for the Bridge.

The suddenly tingling sensation that ran over his sins was ignored and not realizing what it represented Riker forgot all about it.

"Mr. Crusher, why isn't Counselor Troi back yet?"

Despite the ire apparent in the bearded captain's Wesley responded with his usual calm. "It appears she is stuck, sir."

"And how do we plan on getting her -un-stuck?"

Data calmly stepped forward. "I will beam over sir. I exhale no carbon dioxide and I will be able to -unstuck- the Counselor."

Without giving the proposition a second through Riker agreed, for he had been thinking the same thing.

Giving his superior officer a characteristic nod, Data turned around and headed for the transporter room, on his way to retrieve the body of their security officer and the woman who meant the world to their captain.

Of course, being an 'emotionless' Android he did not -feel- love, but seeing the Counselor and the Captain together, even during the Counselor's marriage to Worf, had always given him at least some 'feel' about how it was to be completely loved by another person and his android sense of honor --as Worf had often told him-- dictated that he should, and would, do everything in his power to bring the Counselor back.

And by that, allowing the doctor to kick some major ass.


Chapt. 23

The smoke was now so dense Deanna couldn't stop coughing and sneezing, the pain that spread through her body was no almost constant, her legs felt as if they were on fire and her lungs started to burn as well.

What the hell was keeping Will to send someone over? She couldn't tell how long she'd been lying there, but it felt like way too long. Damn, she couldn't even sigh!

She was getting exhausted, the coughing and the pain eating her energy almost too quickly. Damn it Riker, where are you?! Deanna closed her eyes and tried again to achieve a meditation trance, hoping it would block out the pain as well as the need to cough. As usual in such a stressful situation the only thing that allowed her to forget her surroundings was focusing on the Imzadi-bond she and Will Riker shared.

She recalled their first joining in detail, remembering the hopeful spark in his eyes, quickly replaced by a smoldering fire of passion. He had been so cocky back then, so convinced he could win her over with just a look of those clear blue eyes and she had, being the proud young woman she was, refused to be an easy catch.

Despite her predicament the corners of her mouth turned upward as she recalled the not so innocent game the two had played, both aware and yet unaware, willingly and yet not and for both it had ended in heartbreak.

Looking back on her years on board the Enterprise though, she wouldn't have wanted it any other way. For if she had stayed together with Will when both were so young she probably never would have married Worf...or having to say good-bye to him.

This wasn't going anywhere, all she managed to do was making herself sad.

Deanna shook her head as if throwing her thoughts out, but then her attention was caught by a quite sound at her left. Turning her head towards its direction she could see nothing but smoke, but then she heard him and her heart soared with relief. "Counselor?"

"Data! Over here." She was about to laugh of joy, but the coughing started again and all she could do was smile between coughs and breaths at the yellow Android whom appeared from between the clouds of smoke.

"Counselor," he acknowledged, assessing her situation with a couple of quick scans. "I will transport Lieutenant Davies' body back first."

Deanna had had enough medical training to realize that his silence about her condition meant that it was worse than she expected, but she was confident everything would be alright and listened to him as he freed Frank. Less than a minute later she heard the familiar sound of the transporter and was left alone once again.

She wondered if Data was informing Doctor Crusher about her condition, but banned the thought and waited.

Data returned quickly and after telling her to lay as still as she could he lifted up the bulkhead from across her legs and moved it off her body. The pain in her legs intensified instantly and made her cry out. The sudden increase caused an overload in her pain receptors and she blissfully slid into blackness, barely aware of Data lifting her up.

"Data to Enterprise, two to beam directly to Sickbay."


Chapt. 24

"Okay Data, put her down on the bed." Beverly ordered; intentionally keeping her gaze away from Troi's blooded legs until she was able to fully crawl into her doctor's persona. The Android complied and carefully laid the limp form of the Ship's Counselor on the biobed, making sure her legs didn't hit the bed until she was lying comfortably. For a reason he couldn't quite pinpoint, the blood that streamed over her shins, ankles and feet disturbed him.

"All right, Nurse please take her under." The man nodded and swiftly brought Troi under anesthetic. Crusher ran a tricorder along her body, comparing the results she found with those Data had obtained just five minutes prior. "Alyssa, will you take care of her trachea and lungs? Myself and Doctor Hammle will work on her legs."

It was tougher than any time before, Beverly realized with great annoyance. Never had she felt so personally attached to a person during surgery. Of course she had never had to operate on Jack...or perform any kind of serious treatment on Jean-Luc.

It hurt just to watch at Deanna's legs. The bulkhead that had fallen on top of her legs had hit her with a sharp side, scraping of flesh nearly to the bone. Together with Hammle she started on stopping the blood from flowing.

She never noticed the tall, bearded man entering behind her, keeping a safe distance and watching the scene in front of him with horror edged all over his handsome features.

He didn't know how long he'd been standing there, but eventually he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and suddenly he saw a very tired looking Beverly Crusher standing in front of him. "She'll be all right Will" she answered his unspoken question, "her legs will need a while to heal, but she will be all right."

He averted his eyes from her reddened face and looked at the sleeping figure in the room behind her. "We'll keep her under sedation for a couple more hours," Beverly explained quietly, "she doesn't react too well to painkillers, so we'll keep her asleep until the pain will have lessened."

Riker nodded as if he completely understood what the CMO was talking about, but all he was thinking was being able to see her beautiful face. She always looked so peaceful when she slept, he remembered that as well.

He walked past Crusher and reached for Deanna's temple the second he got within reach. His first instinct was to trail his finger from the bridge of her nose, over her forehead and down the side of her face, but he felt too self-conscious.

So much had happened between them that he didn't feel he had the right to make such an intimate gesture, so instead he lightly touched her temple. Her breathing seemed a little raspy to him, but he knew that was just his imagination playing tricks with him. He was grateful her legs had been covered; he wouldn't be able to bear seeing her graceful legs scarred and bruised.

In a couple of minutes he needed to get back to reports and evaluations, messages to Command, orders and officers, but for now he had these moments with her. Moments he had missed more than he was willing to admit. He took her slender hand in his; squeezing it gently and hoping the gesture would reach her wherever she was.


He felt he needed to apologize for not realizing what the tingling across his legs had meant; he felt he needed to apologize to her for everything that had happened to her, even though he knew he had nothing to do with it. It was a strange kind of magical web she had woven around him and now that she was lying there, soft, sleeping beauty to be admired by all who passed, he saw for the first time since he knew her what it truly meant to be caught in her web.

It was home.

Chapt. 25

Sounds and lights slowly slithered back into her existence, accompanied by a sour taste in her mouth and disorientation. Slowly she opened her eyes and waited for the red blur hovering above her to transform into Beverly Crusher.

“Welcome back.”

Deanna opened her mouth to reply but was silenced by a slender hand against her mouth. “No talking for another twenty-four hours. The smoke damaged your thorax and lungs, talking would be harmful and painful.”

Troi nodded her understanding and then, becoming aware of the numb feeling in her legs, looked pointedly downward. She sensed Beverly’s reluctance to answer the unspoken question and unbidden panic crept in her mind. She would recover wouldn’t she? The injuries hadn’t been that bad! Had they?

Crusher seemed to notice the Counselor’s sudden distress and placed a calming hand on her shoulder. “It will heal, but you’ll need several treatments to regenerate the tissue and extensive physical therapy.”

Again Deanna nodded; she could live with that.

To her horror she felt her eyes begin to close again and fought to keep them open. The Doctor found it rather amusing and chuckled softly as Deanna lost her battle and drifted back to sleep.

Beverly checked the protective bandages around Troi’s shins and then returned to her office to continue writing her reports.

On the Bridge Captain Riker read the Doctor’s report on Counselor Troi’s condition for the thirteenth time. According to Beverly Deanna could return to duty after being released from Sickbay, although she would have to make use of an anti-grav chair for at least two weeks to allow her legs to fully heal. He wondered how much trouble Troi would give her doctor; she never had liked feeling helpless.

Crusher had hailed him earlier to inform him that Deanna was awakening, obviously expecting him to come running down to Sickbay and although his first reaction was to do just that, something held him back and instead he remained in his chair.

Would she wonder where he was? It was a kind of unspoken agreement to be there for one another when one of them woke up in Sickbay. Would she remember that?

Will's attention shifted back to the padd in his hand. She had scared the hell out of him. It should be something he had gotten used to by now, having to visit his friends in Sickbay after away missions, but it was different with Deanna, it had always been different with Deanna.


He sighed heavily, drawing the attention of the other officers around him. He wanted to go to her, he wanted to see her so badly it hurt, yet at the same time he felt as if she didn't want him there, she had been avoiding him after all.

So what did that leave for him? Waiting? Or did she expect him to keep their pact intact? Wait for her to come to him, or take the first step himself again?

Why was he feeling as if their relationship was starting for the very first time, why did he doubt whether or not he should go to her? Of course he should! She was his best friend, if nothing else, she was Imzadi.

Having made his decision he relinquished command to Commander Data and hurried down to Sickbay.


Chapt. 26

In Sickbay he found Crusher working on her reports "she's asleep again" he acknowledged her warning with a nod and continued his way to Deanna's private room. The corners of his lips turned slightly upward as he admired her beauty. "Don't ever scare me like that again." He whispered in her ear, and then placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. She stirred a little, but fortunately didn't wake.

On his way back to the Bridge he was stopped by Beverly before he had a chance to leave Sickbay. She drew him into her office and crossed her arms, regarding him with a cold glaze. "Just when are you two getting yourselves out of your misery?"

"Hey, don't look at me" Riker defended himself "I tried."

"But did you try hard enough? She's scared Will, scared for what she's feeling and scared that it won't work out. And perhaps there's even a little part of her that hopes that Worf is still alive somewhere and will return."

Her words were bullets through his heart, never had he come to fully accept her marriage with the Klingon. "Was that all?" The Doctor's expression remained unchanged and yet she managed to convey her disdain. Unwilling to stay, he simply left trying not to feel her eyes boring holes into his back.

Why did it have to be so complicated?

"Because she's worth it." He answered his own question, softly banging his head against the wall of the Turbolift. He just wanted to grab her, tell how much he loved her and never, ever let her escape from his arms again, but something held him back and he was beginning to wonder if that something wasn't Deanna herself. Maybe he should just leave her alone for a while.

An increasing pressure on her left shoulder roused Deanna from her peaceful sleep. Instinctively she reached out to Will Riker with her mind, but she found only a white wall; he was blocking her. Why would he do that? He never blocked her, unless...unless he didn't want her to know what was going on inside him and he didn't want her to know what when he was mad, at her.

A sole tear trickled down her face and disappeared into her hairline. "Dea? Are you all right?" Beverly's quiet intrusion into her thoughts brought her attention back to the redhead next to her bed.

"Yes, I'm fine. A little hungry though." She added when her stomach growled demandingly. Crusher smiled and helped her sit up, then handed her a plate with crackers with cheese and a glass of orange juice. Deanna decided not to tell the Doctor she preferred something Betazoid and instead munched eagerly on the too salty crackers.

"I made an appointment for you with the physical therapist at twelve hundred hours." Just then a nurse pushed a grey anti-grav chair into the room, triggering a surprised look of Deanna. "You cannot walk for at least a week and a half; the tissue needs to heal."

Being as intuitive as she was, Crusher easily recognized Troi's anxiety and anger at being forced to give up her independence, but there really wasn't any choice. Deanna suddenly lifted up her --now empty-- plate and held it out to Beverly, who accepted it, not sure what her patient was planning on.

With a slightly trembling hand the Counselor pulled the sheet of her legs, fearing how they might look and yet airing a sigh of disappointment when she saw the clinical white bondages covering her legs from ankles to knees. "I'd forgotten about those" she admitted.

"You wouldn't want to see it." Beverly confessed. In her friend's eyes she could see she didn't agree. "Com'on, let's get you a shower and some clothes otherwise you'll be late." Judging by Deanna's facial expression she didn't really care and although it must have hurt when --with the help of Beverly and the nurse-- she pushed herself into the chair, she didn't twitch a muscle.


Chapt. 27

From the corner of his eye Riker watched as Deanna maneuvered her chair down the Bridge and positioned herself next to her usual chair. Although he'd gotten used to seeing her in the AGC it still pained him to see her like that, even after a week. "Counselor."

"Captain" she acknowledged after a moment's hesitation. Despite having known Will for nearly a decade she wasn't sure how to handle herself in his nearness; ever since she'd returned from the science station he'd kept at a professional distance. The only times she saw him off duty as at a poker game or a brief encounter in one of the corridors. But never allowed he her to sense anything but vague impressions of basic emotions.

And that hurt.

Over and over again she sought in her mind for a reason, -any- reason for his behavior but found none.


"Yes Data."

"Was it not today that you were allowed out of your chair?" Deanna smiled at the Android's involvement in her recovery. In fact, Data had been a better fried than Will during the past week and a half; helping her with her therapy, spending his free time with her and lifting her spirits even though they'd mainly talked about captain Picard, Tasha, Geordi, Worf and her children.

She was about to answer his question, but a voice coming from behind beat her to it. "It was, but it seems the regenerators have some difficulties with her mixed DNA."

To Troi's surprise Riker actually reacted. "But there has never been trouble before, has there?"

"No" Beverly amended ruefully "but we've never had to regenerate skin lying so deeply, it's a lot more complex than healing more superficial injuries."

"Perhaps I can help Doctor." Again Deanna smiled at Data's readiness to help.

Doctor Crusher walked down slightly so that she could look at Troi's face. "That is why I came down here Data" she grinned, then turned serious eyes on her best friend "when we're finished I want you in Sickbay so we can use you as guinea pig."

"Of course." Deanna replied mockingly.

"Good girl, Data will you accompany me please?"

"Of course Doctor." Unable to turn Deanna listened intently to the soft padding of her friends' feet on the floor. She hoped the adaptations were quickly made; it was bad enough to have to spend three extra days in the AGC, she certainly didn't want that period to become even longer.

Hearing the doors of the turbolift open and then close, Deanna returned her attention to the vast expanse of star in front of her, glancing at her captain every now and then. She tried desperately to break through his block, or at least figure out why he was blocking her in the first place, but Riker didn't let his guard down for a second.

Sighing loudly Troi drew the attention of nearly everyone on the Bridge, expect of the person who's attention she was fishing for.

Will Riker was flat out ignoring her.


Chapt. 28

The chair did have its advantages, Counselor Troi thought smugly as she watched her last patient of the day leave her office. Sixteen-year-old Shilon Maloet had been injured three months earlier and now suffered spinal injury, leaving both her legs paralyzed. Deanna had been unable to forge a break through with the girl, who had cut herself of from all social contacts, until Shilon had entered her office and came face to face with her counselor...in a chair similar to hers.

"What happened?" She'd asked.

"I got injured during an Away Mission." And for the first time since she'd started counseling Shilon, Deanna could see a trace of interest and genuine concern in her pale blue eyes.

"Is it forever?" She had asked in a small voice. Deanna sensed dread; for Shilon didn't want anyone to be in the same position as herself, yet there was also some joy? at having someone with the same problem she was facing. In reply Troi had shaken her head slightly. "I'm glad" her patient told her.

"Yet you're also a little disappointed."

Huge eyes had met her own then and shame flooded through the teenager's being. "I--I don't mean you any...harm Counselor, but..."

Realizing she was too ashamed to answer, Deanna had finished her sentence "but you would like someone who's experiencing the same as you are."

With her cheeks blushing deep red Shilon had nodded. "I just thought that...that maybe..."

"I'd hate it as much as you do?"

Shilon grinned genuinely then, the first broad grin she had offered her Counselor. "Something like that."

And the breakthrough had been made. Now, nearly three weeks later the girl had regained her formed positive attitude, although she still leapt back into depressive episodes from time to time. With the help of her arms Deanna pushed herself to a standing position, holding still for a couple of seconds to regain her balance and began to head for the exit of her office.

Because her legs were still somewhat wobbly she choose to stay near to walls incase she lost her balance. She still had the AGC, hidden away in a corner of her quarters. Her appointment for her therapy was due in thirty minutes, so she had just enough time to walk to her quarters, take a shower and eat a sandwich.

Grumbling to herself about still having to use the damn chair for 'longer' distances drew her some confused glances from passing crewmembers. She had nearly reached the door to her quarters when Riker suddenly came around the corner and practically ran past her, causing her to stumble and fall against the wall.

It took her longer than she would've liked to retain her footing and balance. Silently she wondered why he had been such a hurry, but when the computer told her he was in his quarters and off duty she cursed him. He might not be interested in her as Imzadi anymore, but they were still friends, or at least co-workers and he had no right to run her over like that and not even offer her an apology or help her up!

With her mouth now set in an angry line --Will Riker always had that affect on her; changing her mood drastically without even trying-- she walked into her bathroom. She was going to have one serious conversation with Captain William T. Riker tomorrow. Whether he liked it or not.

No one treated a Daughter of the Fifth House as if she didn't exist. Much less a Starfleet Commander.

Chapt. 29

Deanna glanced around the filled tables in Ten-Forward and put her utensils side to side on her now empty plate. After wiping the corners of her mouth with her napkin she threw that too on her plate and stood up. When she passed the bar on her way to the exit she dropped her plate off, smiling at the man who took it from her.

She felt the eyes of some of her shipmates on her back as they studied her walk and since it had been a long day and she had nearly overstepped her limits walking normally was out of the question and with each step she lost more and more of her balance and strength.

Alone in the Turbolift she leaned gratefully against the wall, as soon as the lift halted to allow a second person entrance however, she pushed herself into a normal position, hoping her legs wouldn't give out from under her.

To her surprise it was Will Riker he entered. "Hello Will" she greeted him cheerfully, hoping that her mood would transfer onto him, but he just continued ignoring her, not even returning her greeting.

Enough was enough.

Determined not to let him get away with his behavior Deanna maneuvered herself between her captain and the door, just before it opened. "Deanna" he said warily.

"No Will, you've been avoiding me for weeks and I'd like some answers." She ignored the burning in her shins best she could, but nonetheless she felt it creep higher and higher as she waiting for Will to answer her.

But instead of answering he simply said "Counselor, I'm in a hurry, excuse me" and brushed past her when she wouldn't move away.

In her already weakened state Deanna failed to keep her ground and when he pushed her shoulder she yelped and fell. The fire that had been slowly burning her legs intensified and she couldn't stifle her cry of pain.

On the positive side, for the first time since three weeks did Will Riker pay attention to her. "Deanna!"

"I'm, I'm all right sir." She assured him through gritted teeth; determined not to allow him to see how weak she still was. But when he pulled her back to her feet she failed to keep standing when he let go. Troi now realized his mental blocks had cracked and concern dripped into her mind.

Before she understood what was happening Riker had lifted her in his arms and was on his way to Sickbay. Within minutes he'd reached their destination and put her down on a biobed, but as soon as he had alerted the Doctor he was gone, without as much as telling her good bye.

Frustration built up in Troi; what the hell was he thinking?! Not five weeks ago he'd promised to always be there for here after sweeping her feet from under her with the most earth shattering kiss she'd ever experienced and now he was avoiding her as if touching her was lethal. Why did he have to tell her he loved her and then act opposite? And for that matter...why had she fallen for him? Again. The tears were building up in her eyes again and she tried to keep them inside, but damn it Riker was well on his way to break her heart yet again!

When Beverly appeared at her side she rolled her head way, not willing to answer her friend's prying questions. "What happened Dea?"

"Will ran me over."


"You heard me; he threw me on the floor." And not just my body, she added mentally and began to cry.


Chapt. 30

Just outside of Sickbay Will Riker leaned against the wall, shaking his head at the precarious situation he'd gotten himself into.

Deanna was livid, and with good reason.

He knew perfectly well his avoidance hurt her, hell it hurt him as well. And he didn't even know why he felt he needed to ignore her so completely. True he didn't want to push her into something she wasn't ready for, but now he was doing pretty much everything possible to push her away from him. It was just that he was...scared. As much as he hated to admit that, it was the truth. He was scared; not for loving her but for loosing her.

He could remember all too well how she'd looked when Data brought her back from the science station; her pale face smeared with ash, her uniform torn and her legs, god her legs...he shuddered involuntarily, unable to bring himself to remember. And then there were Beverly's words; did Deana really still hope for Worf to return? And if she did, how could she give herself completely to him? How could she love him as Imzadi if she remained waiting for Worf?

Would they ever be together? He began to doubt it more and more.

Inside his quarters he flopped down on his couch and allowed his thoughts free reign, shutting himself off from the world around him and sinking into the past; their past.

She hadn't changed much from the headstrong young woman he had met all those years ago. More independent and wiser, yes, but she could still be unimaginably stubborn when she wanted to and he doubt she'd lost any of her passion. In the matters of appearance she'd only become more exquisite and more desirable.

He had changed considerably --or so he thought-- love meant something to him now, it had ever since he'd met her even though he had allowed himself to forget that sometimes. He liked to believe he wasn't as cocky as he used to be, or as single minded. He was more 'seasoned', or so Deanna had told him. Personally he thought he still looked good, with beard and without, and the bi-daily work-out sure paid off.

All things considered, they would make a perfect couple. Right?

With his thoughts still lingering in the past, Will stepped into the bathroom and stripped down. Seconds later his body was enveloped by soft streams of hot water, steam building up all around him.

He allowed himself to remember how her supple body felt against him, the satiny feel of her skin as it rubbed against his, the fluttering touches of her fingers and the heat of her. He allowed himself to remember how it felt to have his soul intertwined with his, how he could think of nothing but her; the love induced high that brought him to higher grounds each and every time.

He remembered the wonder of feeling her heart beat against his chest, or hands, or lips. Her melodious voice as it sang through his head and her eyes.

Always those onyx depths beckoning him, ordering him, loving him.

He remembered how content he felt when he could bury his hands in masses of black curls and allow himself to drown in her eyes. Lost, yet found.

Having left the shower he dried himself and slipped into boxers and a robe, choosing one of a rough material as not to be reminded of her touch. He was obsessed, and willing to admit it without hesitation. He was completely, head over heels obsessed by, possessed by and in love with...



Chapt. 31

Riker had to swallow harshly to recover from his surprise at seeing Deanna Troi hovering in the middle of the room, hands on her hips and black eyes glittering with anger. "I'm surprised you still remember my name." Her cold words stripped him of the ability to speak, which only served to anger her more. "Is there anything else you remember? Like that we're supposed to be friends?" Despite the anger she so intentionally laced through her voice, Riker knew she was hurting more than that she was angry.

"Imzadi" he pleaded and reached out to her.

A short, hysteric laugh coming from her throat startle him, "Imzadi?" she questioned incredulously "You ignore me for weeks and now you call me Imzadi?!" Will hung his head in shame, unsure of how to respond. Right now all he wanted was to pulled her into his arms and assure her, without words that he still loved her, but he knew that would be a bad thing to do under the circumstances.

When she remained silence he thought she might be waiting for him to say something. "Deanna, I-" He didn't really know why he'd expected her to let him finish, when she was this angry she wouldn't allow him to speak until she'd vented her every thought.

"What were you thinking Will?! First you tell me you love me and then you shut me out! Just how much do you love me?!" The sarcasm in her voice hurt him, but that hurt was quickly overridden when he saw tears beginning to form in her eyes. He'd never been able to hold his ground against a woman in tears. "You said you'd give me time! Did you simply moved up the deadline or did another opportunity present *her*self?"

How dare she accusing him like that! "Hey! *You're* the one who married someone else!" He didn't know where that'd come from, but he regretted the words the second they left his throat.

As furious as she was Deanna didn't give him a chance to apologize. "At least *I* didn't break my promises to you!" He always hated it when she used that against him, even though he thought she had every reason to.

"Imzadi" Will so desperately wanted her to calm down, but all he seemed to be doing was making it worse

"Oh fuck you!!!"

Openmouthed he watched her as she flew the AGC out his quarters, stunned by her use of the ancient Terran profanity. And again, he hated it when she came to confront him and then ran out before he had a chance to defend himself. Not really thinking about where he was going Riker left his quarters, following Imzadi.

Sure enough he found her in the arboretum, just like he expected. She stood in front of the memorial plate for Worf, Eric and Shannara, her shoulders slightly shaking from crying and her AGC standing at her left.

"I love them" Deanna whispered quietly as she turned "I always will."

"I know." They faced each other now, their eyes locked and both determined to solve their problems. Will knew her body language well enough to see that her anger had faded and been replaced by a need for physical contact. He could practically see her swaying back and forth; on the verge of giving in, yet unwilling to surrender.

"Then why?"

Why indeed.


Chapt. 32

Black eyes watched him in silence, crystal drops of liquid slipping of long lashes. He knew she was waiting and he knew she wouldn't wait forever, but he didn't know how to verbalize to her why he had avoided her.

"Will? Please" With each second that passed he could feel her withdraw, resigning herself that he wouldn't talk to her. In her eyes he could see the countdown beginning; his time had become very limited.

Words leapt from his throat when she started to take a step back. "I didn't mean it like that Deanna, I just…"

Deanna remained frozen, waiting for him to make it right, waiting for the words she so longed to hear. Will's incredibly blue eyes pleaded her for a chance, but when he started to talk she didn't allow herself to hope yet.

"…I just can't loose you Deanna, not again." Unable to think of what else he needed to say Will did something he never should have to do in the first place; he lowered the shields around his mind and sought out the Imzadi-bond. Everything he felt trickled in Deanna's mind and he could see her face lighten with disbelief and then joy.

He held one arm out to her and when she stepped within range he reached out with his other as well and pulled her against his chest, careful not to push her out of balance. Troi buried her face against his chest making him smile when he became aware of the joy in her mind.

She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tighter. They stood like that for several minutes before she whispered quietly "we've been foolish, haven't we?"

"Beverly would certainly say so."

Deanna pulled slightly away at that and studied his handsome features for a while. "I do love you, you know."

So beautiful, so sincere that he couldn't help but respond "More than Worf?" WHAT was wrong with him?! A hurt deeper than he'd ever seen clouded her eyes as she turned away from him. "Deanna, I didn't mean…I don't want to hurt you."

"What do you mean William? Because just when I think things will be all right between us you say something to hurt me.

Barely touching her he laid a hand against her waist. "I wasn't thinking. Things will be all right Imzadi, they will." When she didn't object he encircled her waist with his arms and rested her back to his chest.

"Will they? Will we ever escape from this limbo of fear and distrust?"

He truly didn't know how to respond, but damn it, he wanted to make it work or die trying. "With time and with love. I want to make it work Deanna."

"As do I."

"I do love you, you know." Will said, repeating her words intentionally and rested his chin on her head. Content just to be standing there with his Imzadi in his arms and her sweet presence in his mind, stronger than ever before.


Chapt. 33

Deanna slowly drifted back from the land of the sleeping, yet she kept her eyes closed, willing herself to return to her dreams. She couldn't recall exactly what her dream had been about but she felt wonderful, so the dream must have been a good one. She tried to roll onto her back, but was stopped by a soft, warm body spooned against her and became aware of the strong arms wrapped around her. "Worf" she murmured and nudged against him as she used to do whenever she woke up earlier than him. When he didn't release her she reached out with her mind, trying to determine how deep in sleep he was.

When she sensed Riker's mind instead of her husbands she jerked away from him, as if his body was boiling water. Deanna jumped to her feet and nearly lost her balance due to the weakness of her legs. The near fall brought back with it the memories of what had happened, which had been hidden behind a veil of sleep until then.

Her mind reeled with the complications that one word suggested and she began to back away from the man sleeping in her bed. After four or five paces she halted and decided she would run no longer. Worf wasn't coming back, she had accepted that and after a year of uncertainty and loneliness Deanna decided she had the right to be happy again.

Her eyes turned to her Imzadi, who had now rolled onto his back. His lips -half hidden beneath his beard-were slightly parted and his hair was all tousled. The covers had been pulled down and his board, muscles torso was exposed to her gaze. She remembered fondly how she used to tangle her fingers in the soft hair covering his chest. She could sense he was still very much asleep and used the vulnerability of his mind to ensure herself that all the things he had told her the night before were true. Perhaps it was unethical of her, but she needed to know that she could trust him this time around; that he wouldn't walk out on her again.

Having found what she was looking for she allowed her own mind to wrap itself around his and crawled back into bed, molding her body against his and laying her head to rest on his chest. Deanna closed her eyes and delved deeper into Will's psyche until she fell asleep; surrounded by the love she had been looking for.

It was Riker who woke next and unlike Deanna he remembered exactly what had happened the night before. He looked down at the sleeping beauty on his chest and had to use every inch of his strength not to reach out and trace her delicate features, for the moment reflecting the content he felt. They had talked for hours the night before and when he had found out she had been avoiding him to prepare a surprise he had felt so stupid and guilty Deanna had to resort to flirting to get him to let it go.

She had told him about Worf and -all- the reasons why she had married him, as well as what she wanted in life and what she dreamt about. Together they had put the past behind them; their own failed relationship on Betazed and Troi's marriage with the Klingon. And so, throughout the night their strong friendship had slowly progressed into a deeper relationship.

It was long past midnight when Deanna hadn't been able to keep her eyes open anymore and had fallen asleep in the crook of his arm. He had been content just watching her sleep, his fingers playing with a lock of her hair. The straight, light-brown style looked magnificent on her, but he missed the black curls, they just seemed more…Deanna to him.

When his own eyes had started to close he had woken the empath so that she could change. Unwilling to run the risk that she wouldn't let him back in once he'd gone to his own quarters to change, Riker had stripped down to his boxers and crawled into her bed before she had returned from the bathroom.

Deanna returned; clad in a pale pink, off the shoulder gown and didn't even raise an eyebrow, but crawled into bed with him and quickly drifted back to sleep. This was where he belonged; with Deanna sleeping on his chest; not because of a comforting friendship, but because of an undying, devoted love.


Chapt. 34

With her nerves nearly fried from anxiety Deanna paced through her bedroom. From window to wall and back to the window again. Next to her bed stood a picture of Worf, Eric-Christoffer and Shannara. She still missed them every day, even three years after they'd gone and on their birthdays as well as the day they'd gone from her life she would visit their memorial plates alone. Will had offered her time and time again to come with her, but she felt she had to do it alone. It had been her family, her life for three years and despite knowing better she still felt a little guilty for continuing her own.

She and Will didn't have children, as much as she wanted to she felt it was still too early. They would have children someday, but right now there was too much uncertainty in life; wars dominated their lives. The Enterprise had just restored the timeline by following a Borg sphere into the past and Deep Space Nine had reported increasing difficulties between the Bajorans, the Cardessians and the Federation.

The Enterprise was currently docked at Utopia Planitia to undergo repairs for the damaged sustained by the Borg and she and Will had taken the opportunity to elope to Betazed for month. Will especially had taken the recurrence of the Borg hardly; his doubts about his actions at Wolf 359 had resurfaced all over again, worsened by the knowledge that in another reality he had succeeded in rescuing Picard.

~Deanna? Are you all right?~

~I'm fine Will, just nervous~ From one of the adherent rooms Deanna sensed her mother's surprise at the strength of the bond she and Will shared. It had nearly grown to full strength during the past two years, through the good times and the bad. There had been weeks when the two of them had been separated; either Deanna had to attend conferences or either of them had to go on a elongated away mission. But with each separation their sense of each other grew less dimmed and now they were able to communicated telepathically over several light-years.

They had faced their trails in life; illnesses, near fatal injuries, fights, misunderstandings and professional disagreements and their love had surfaced all.

A knock on the semi-closed door harshly interrupted Deanna's musings. "Dea? Can I come in?"

"Sure Bev" Troi responded and crossed the room to her closet out of which she picked a robe and wrapped it around her nude body, as not to embarrass her friend.

"I still can't believe this is happening." Crusher admitted as she laid the dress she had been carrying onto Troi's bed.

"Neither can I." Deanna conceded, returning to her bed to take the dress out of its concealment.

She stopped when Beverly caught her hands and held up a little silver box. "Lwaxana told me to give you this." She said quietly, obviously curios about what the box contained.

Deanna carefully accepted it, just as unaware of what was in it as her friend. With a flick of her thumb she unlocked the lit and lifted it. She gasped when the small treasure was revealed, she couldn't believe her mother had actually retrieved it from the pond she had thrown it in! ~It wasn't your time Little One~ Lwaxana explained ~but I knew you would need it some day~

~Thank you mother~ Deanna send her, the message coming from her heart.
"What is it Dea?" Beverly asked a little concerned as tears rolled down her friend's face.

"It's a hairband a Betazoid woman wears when she gets married" Troi whispered quietly "Will made it for me twelve years ago."


Chapt. 35

"Dea?" Are you ready?"

Troi swallowed and checked her appearance in the mirror one last time and smoothed the last fold out her skirt. She wore a translucent white wedding dress; a compromise between her culture and Will's. During the ceremony everyone would wear clothes; during the bonding ceremony that would follow however, everyone would discard their clothes, the people who didn't want to were free to leave. "Yes." She answered quietly.

Together the two women descended down the stairs, a time Beverly spend in awe "I'm still not used to this house" she admitted slightly flushed "it's so beautiful." Deanna hardly heard her, the thumping of her heart blocking out nearly all other sounds.

At the exit into the garden at then end of the hallway Lwaxana Troi was waiting impatiently and as soon as her daughter was within reach she grabbed her wrist and laid her forehead against Deanna's. The elder Troi whispered an ancient Betazoid chant, then straightened and took off the crown like jewel she was wearing and placed in on Deanna's head. Then she took of the solid golden-colored necklace and handed it to Beverly, who accepted the pointed jewel and fastened in around Deanna's slender neck. Within two weeks Deanna would have her own versions of the two Fifth House heirlooms, but per tradition she wore her mother's on her wedding day.

Now that Deanna was ready, dressed up as the Daughter of the Fifth House, Beverly was surprised to see Lwaxana pick up an onyx chalice -she hadn't thought the chalice to be for real-. Lwaxana began to make her way down the aisle, holding the chalice in front of her stomach with two hands. When she had reached the plateau on which the ceremony would take place, Beverly turned to Deanna and squeezed her shoulder slightly. "See you in a couple of minutes" she promised and followed Lwaxana.

Because Deanna was a Daughter, the ceremony was slightly different from normal Betazoid weddings. Instead of summoning the bride to the aisle Beverly had to question Will's love for Deanna. Only if he answered her questions satisfactory would Lwaxana give him the Chalice of Rixx, in which the Rings of Betazed were lying.

Deanna would then be summoned and deem Riker worthy enough, if she did so he would give her the Rings (and because he was human, a traditional wedding ring as well) and then, so seal the marriage Deanna would put her hands against Will's on the Chalice and they would rest their foreheads against each other before sharing their first kiss as a married couple.

Personally, Beverly felt that the ceremony was more romantic -albeit a little sexist, but then Betazed was a matriarchal society-than the traditional Earth one.

"William Thomas Riker" she called, and waited for the bearded captain to appear "what is your purpose here today?"

He lifted his chin slightly and clasped his hands behind his back, locking sky-blue eyes with her own. He knew, just as well as she did, that the honesty of his answers were being monitored by both Chandra Xerx and Reittan Grax. "My purpose is to marry Deanna Troi, daughter of Lwaxana and Ian Andrew Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, Holder of the Sacred Chalice or Rixx, Heir to the Rings of Betazed and the woman I want to spent the rest of my life with."

"Did you not promise her to marry her before?" They had known this would be asked, for tradition required it, yet she didn't want to ask it. Riker on the other hand seemed all too eager to answer.

"I did, but although I broke my promise to her, I never stopped loving her."


Chapt. 36

Hand in hand Deanna Troi and her husband of ten minutes, William Thomas Riker-Troi, walked into the Jalara jungle, in search of the exact spot where they had forged the Imzadi-bond between them in a moment of senseless passion and pure love. It would be at that place where their bond would be completed. Of course a public ceremony would be held after they returned, but the actual event would take place with only themselves and the birds as witnesses.

When they reached the place that had been edged in their memories since their twenties, Will knowingly let go of her hand and watched her with utter love as she crossed the last couple of yards. This too they had discussed before. Will was the most important man in her life and nothing would change that, yet her love for him would always be second to her love for her children and he accepted and understood that.

It was however now, only seconds before their sacred bond would be completed, that she felt she had to say her final goodbyes to her previous husband. Sergey and Helena Rozhenko had come for her wedding and given her their blessing. She on her part had promised them to include them in her new life, for she considered them her family.

Having said her goodbyes she turned to her Imzadi. Will recognized the love and longing in her black eyes and made his way to her, grasping her hands in his as soon as he was in reach. "I love you so Imzadi" she whispered quietly, removing one of the onyx Rings from her middle finger to place it on one of her husband's finger. She then took his hand, making sure the two Rings were touching each other, and waited for him to rest his head against hers.

Will watched the features of his Imzadi closely; grateful to see the hint of sadness being swiped away by a love so deep it nearly brought tears to his eyes. Deanna's elegant hands trembled as she removed the Ring from her finger and placed it on his. He buried his face in her long, black curls -grateful she'd allowed them to reappear, even if it was his condition if she wanted to shave his beard off-- then lowered his head further until it rested against her forehead.

The ever-existent telepathic link between them opened with all its power as Deanna slowly wrapped her spirit around his. He could feel her love for him, burning brightly at the core of her soul, as he'd never felt it before. It was so intense it nearly overwhelmed him; he felt as if he was drowning in a thick, glowing substance and he didn't care, all he cared about was making that one moment last a thousand more.

~Imzadi~ he sent to her, growing worried when she didn't seem to respond.

Deanna was too overwhelmed by what she felt, too caught up in the moment to be aware of anything but the sparkling in her mind. She literally lived in that single moment in time, her spirit soaring between the stars, free of heartbreak and memories of the past, free of everything but the love and devotion of her Imzadi.

Free and yet caught in perfect love.

In this single moment, that lasted less than the blink of an eye all her dreams came through. All her childhood fantasies she had ever had about her true love, all the dreams she had had as an adult, waiting for true love to light her life and all the passion she could possible feel were all tangled in that one single moment as the bond that had been a part of her for as long as she could remember grew and strengthened; intertwining her soul forever with that of Will Riker.

Her husband

Her Imzadi
Her life.


Chapt. 37 (Epilogue)

Leaning against the bulkhead Riker watched his wife sleep in their bed, her dark curls were fanned around her head, creating a halo of black silk around her disturbed features. As happened more often than he could count since they were married, all the love he felt for her bubbled in his throat and made him want to scream out loud.

Deanna stirred in her land of dreams and awoke slowly, her eyes fluttering beneath closed lids before she opened them and gazed at her husband, love brightening the saddened black depths when she recognized him. "You're back" she whispered hoarsely, attempting to sit up, but failing. "how long?"

"A couple of hours."

"Why didn't you come to bed?" She wondered, she could have used a night in his arms; the beauty of his mind chasing away the memories that hunted her.

"My place was taken." He replied quietly, shifting his gaze from his wife to their twelve year-old daughter and ten year-old son. They might not have their empathic abilities, but they had been empathically aware of their parents since birth and knew as well as he did that their mother had needed them at her side. He could see by the lines in Deanna's face that the past weeks had been tough for her, she seemed but a ghostly appearance of her usual, vibrant self.

They had moved to Betazed five years ago, having lived in space for two decades and being married for one of them they had encountered one too many battles, too many losses of friends and had decided to move planet-side for the safety of their children as well as for the sake of the grey streaks in his beard.

Deanna rubbed her puffy eyes and climbed out her bed, nearly slamming herself against her husband's chest. He managed to guide her out the room and close the doors before her first sob wretched itself free.

~Shh Imzadi, it's all right, I'm here~

~She just left! How could she leave?!~ Deanna clutched his uniform which he hadn't taken off since completing the special, two month assignment he had just returned from. The first assignment away from home he had accepted in the last five years and just in the middle of it Lwaxana had decided to surrender herself to the Kutarui -death. He had been able to feel his wife's sorrow and pain thousands of light-years away and to make matters even worse, tomorrow was the twentieth anniversary of the disappearance of Worf, Shannara and Rozhenko.

It was dawn by the time Deanna stopped crying and the married couple became aware of two small bodies pressing themselves against them. Yalithë looked up at her mother with her big black eyes and hugged her closely. The two falls of black curls mingled into one, to be separated a moment later as Yalithë turned to her daddy to welcome him home.

Tommy took his cue to hug his mother and as Will was released by his daughter, his son turned familiar blue eyes on him and give him a hug as well.

Both children were perfectly aware what significance this day had; both had been raised with full knowledge of their mother's first husband, as well as the three children she had lost. "I'll pack the picnic basket" Yali exclaimed cheerfully, pulling her brother along as she disappeared into the kitchen.

Will lifted Deanna's chin by placing a single finger underneath it. Her eyes were sill clouded by tears of sorrow, but he could see that love was already chasing away the bad weather. ~I'll be fine~ she assured him silently, letting him know that she had passed the first and most difficult stage of her grief and that, like everything life threw at him, their love with conquer all.

Their lips met in a healing kiss of love and understanding and when they reluctantly broke away he wrapped his arm around her waist, noting absently that she had lost a little weight. Linked together they walked into the kitchen, where the children had already finished packing the basket. Their minds reaffirmed the link between them, their family was back together, save for the hole Lwaxana's presence had left behind.

But his family was still together, and together they would conquer whatever life threw at them. For now, and for the rest of their lives.

Chapt. 38 (side-story: Friends and Lovers)

"Hello Jean-Luc" she had always felt silly talking to the memorial plate that lay hidden within the lush garden behind Troi's house. The first time Deanna had returned to her home-planet after having lost her husband and children, she had asked Beverly if it was all right with her, if she placed a memorial plate for Jean-Luc as well.

And so here she was, hours before Deanna's second marriage. "I still miss you, you know and I wish you'd been here today, if only to buy me that drink I won." She chuckled breathlessly and turned to face the house. "Sometimes I wish I had Deanna's courage, after Jack's death. God, there have been so many instances that I wanted to tell you, to make you understand how I felt. And yet the same questions popped up in my mind time and time again."

"What if he feels differently? What if he doesn't, but is lost in the line of duty, too?" A sole tear trickled down her cheek. "Now that I know how…how your life ended I still can't answer the ever present of 'what if'. I would've lost you, yes. It would've hurt worse than it did, true as well. But there would have been years in between. Years of shared love, of silly disagreements and dangerous fights and undoubtedly a conflict of interest every now and then as well."

"I've watched Deanna these past years and I am a bit shameful to admit that only now I see why you respected her the way you did. I know strength is a feature you respect in any woman, but although I'm her best friend, I can't say I've ever seen her express as much fire and strength of spirit as she has these past years. How I wish I had that fire myself."

If only, if only she hadn't blamed him for Jack's death. If only he hadn't been Jack's best friend, if only he hadn't been her captain.

If only he hadn't died.

"I'm jealous you see" she whispered quietly, leaning closer to the cold stone as if in fear anyone else might hear her. "I'm jealous that history didn't repeat itself, so to speak. When Worf disappeared" Beverly felt her cheeks flush a crimson red as the words rolled out her mouth "I was relieved, because finally, finally I had a friend who understood what I'd been through. And I felt horrible, for I wished no one a faith like mine, certainly not my best friend. And I felt even worse when I realized she knew, that she could sense what I felt."

She remembered that day well; she had been brooding in her office all day about Deanna's situation versus her own, and which each minute that passed she had felt more and more guilty. Then Troi had stormed in, grabbing her by her shoulders and nearly yelling 'don't do this to yourself Bev!' before she had calmed down and had whispered quietly 'I understand'.

"I still wonder at times what my life would've been like if I had dared to speak my feelings and more often than not I imagine a little brother for Wesley, with -red-hair" Crusher smiled half-heartedly at her own humor, for a brief moment lightening the mood she'd managed to talk herself into. "But the past cannot be changed and so I draw strength from the near certainty that there is a reality parallel to ours in which you and I haven't been as foolish as we have been in this Universe."

"I guess…that what I'm saying…no, what I'm *admitting* is that…that I still love you very much Jean-Luc." Finally the words had been lifted from her heart; not in some wild moment in her dreams or in a moment of despair. She had admitted her love, to him and to herself, completely sober and uninfluenced.

And from somewhere deep within her a voice whispered quietly "As I love you."

With a smile brighter and more genuine than ever, Beverly Crusher rose from her kneeled position and turned to face the figure that had been waiting at a discreet distance. The two women met in a big hug, affirming the strong sense of friendship between them.

"There is a Betazoid saying" Deanna said quietly as they broke the embrace "that a soul never forgets. No matter how dark a place is or how joyful, in this realty or another, in this realm of existence or another. I believe," Deanna finished confidently, "that as long as you remember, he will remember too."

Final Fini