Title: Make Way For Ducklings

Author: Deanna K

Rating: R


Disclaimers: The characters, ships, and jargon belong to Paramount. "Encounter at Farpoint" was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Rodenberry. "Baby Mine" and "You'll Be In My Heart" belong to Disney. "Make Way For Ducklings" was written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, ©1941, published by Puffin Books. Clairmont Academy, Delaney, Mr. Lansky, Ms. Lampson and the story belongs to me.

This story is dedicated to my true life Imzadi. You took my heart when you departed and I await the day when our souls will reunite. I hope you will see yourself in this story, see us, and Leilani. I know she is safe with you and that you are spoiling her with all the ducks we never allowed.

Author’s Note: Cannon? What cannon? They use phasers! My story begins on Betazed. I read Peter David’s “Imzadi” many years ago, way before I even began writing fanfic. When I began writing the outline for this story I picked up my copy and reviewed it a little, specifically how the events occurred on Betazed. Then I threw it out the window and began writing, only to run back out to get it so that I could see the definition of Imzadi, and how it is that they became Imzadi. That being said, if you read the book you will find only one similarity: they met on Betazed. Everything else that happened in that book does not take place in my story. If you have not read “Imzadi,” go read it. It’s quite good.

Then, I watched “Encounter at Farpoint” and transcribed some scenes (no internet access to simply look up a script). I then re-wrote them to fit this story, so if you find yourself reading a familiar scene only to come across some lines you swear aren’t part of the script, you are not going nuts. I am.

The last part of this story takes place sometime during TNG Season 6. So canon wise, one of the characters had a somewhat secret life which some knew about but never mentioned. I choose to assume these things were discussed during times not shown on screen. Now, let’s begin. Once upon a time, on a planet fifty lightyears from Earth, during the year…



Lieutenant William T. Riker was having lunch with the beautiful half Betazoid Deanna Troi. The sun is shining on Betazed, there is a soft breeze, and the day is just as beautiful as the girl sitting before him. He has been interested in her since he first saw her. They have had some friendly dates and he hasn’t been able to get any further than a kiss on the cheek goodbye. Lieutenant Riker is hoping to change that, and soon.

Deanna arranged this lunch date and said she had something to tell him. His hopes are high but something in his gut tells him it might not be very good news. She might tell him that she is not interested at all. That she does not even want him around. He may not be part Betazoid, but he knows she’s not feeling very confident at the moment. Some moments in silence pass as she seems to be looking for the right moment to tell him what she wanted to.

“Will,” she finally broke the silence. “Remember how I told you I’ve been doing an internship off planet and only came back to Betazed to do some classes before continuing with my internship?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“I have to leave for my internship at the end of the week. I won’t be back for 9 months.”

Will’s heart sank. He had been granted three weeks of leave while he waited for his next post to be assigned to him. He had been looking forward to spending more time with Deanna and advancing their relationship. He had just mentioned his time off to her while they waited for their food and had not been too surprised that she was not jumping up and down with joy, after all, he was the one pursuing her and she was the one wanting to take it at quarter impulse. Now she was leaving and any chances of going any further are gone. Or are they?

“Where will you be going?”

“Clairmont Academy,” she says casually.

“That’s not too far,” he said with a bit of renewed hope in his voice. “It’s not a tourist planet but I’ve been told they have some points of interests and are generally ok with visitors. I could come with you; we’ll spend some time together between classes.”

“I don’t think that is a very good idea…” hesitation very evident in her voice. But he wasn’t going to let her tone discourage him. As long as she wasn’t actually telling him to get lost, he was willing to do just about anything to be with her. She was smart, beautiful, and he felt a strange pull towards her. He knew that if he gave up he would regret it the rest of his life.

“Why not? It will only be for three weeks. I’m not asking for you to let me stay with you and spend your every free moment with me. Besides, I’ve never been there, it will be fun.”

Deanna sighed. She was hoping for more disappointment and less trying to find a way to work it out. It wasn’t that she wasn’t attracted to him, she found him very attractive. He was smart and funny and knew just what to say and when to say it. But she had to be careful. She had been pursued by men many times and they usually wanted nothing more than to have sex with her. She didn’t want to have casual sex, it wasn’t who she was and it would not go over very well with her mother. She wanted to save herself for someone special, someone who truly loved her and she loved. Not some up and coming officer out to conquer the universe.

“I don’t know how much fun it can be for you. I will be working with children and some families, it can be quite time consuming. I’ve already spent 6 months there; there isn’t much in entertainment besides the usual plays and musical concerts.”

“It’s only three weeks, I’m sure it won’t be torture.”

“Yes, only three weeks,” she said in resignation. She couldn’t stop him from going. It was his leave and he was free to do what he wanted. But she didn’t like the idea of going with him to another planet. She was safe on Betazed. Her mother held a very high position in their society and everybody knew that. If he so much as tried anything she didn’t want she could have help immediately and she knew he would be dealt with more than accordingly. On Clairmont Academy it was different. She was just another intern and few people there had empathic or telepathic abilities. And she didn’t have the looming threat of her mother to scare him away.

By the end of the week Riker had made arrangements to stay in a small town just outside the main campus where Deanna was going to be working and had informed his superiors of where he would be. So they boarded the transport, along with the other students from the University of Betazed heading to Clairmont Academy, and made the 6 hour trip. When they arrived they gathered their belongings and waited for their turn to be transported to the surface.

“I hope you are comfortable with children,” she told him.

“They’ve never bothered me, really.”

“Their classes won’t start for another two weeks so there will be very few students here right now.”

“Why do you have to be here so soon, then?”

“For orientation and to be assigned to our cases. I will probably be working with the same children and adults but I am hoping to get some families this time too.”

“So, where are the children right now, the ones that are not here.”

“With their families. Most are on the planet, just not on the campus. Others are with their families on Federation ships and space stations. They will begin to arrive next week and by the end of that week the campus will be full of students again.”

“Why are there children there now?”

“There are very few, less than a dozen. These are the children that for some reason couldn’t go to their families for vacation and two orphans.”


“Yes, children with no families.”

“I know what an orphan is, but I had no idea they existed in such a manner. Why don’t they have any family, any aunts, uncles, or cousins?”

“I don’t have much information about one of the orphans since he wasn’t a patient of mine. The other one was left here as an infant, her mother signed over custody of her and left.”

“I had no idea people did that! Why didn’t she keep the child?”

“I don’t know. No one does except the mother. Records show that she contacted Clairmont Academy and told them she was pregnant and could not keep the baby. They agreed to take her and she dropped her off after she was born.”

“Must have been very traumatic.”

“She was too small to remember anything so the event itself isn’t traumatic. She’s really quite a pleasant little girl, just needs someone to talk to. I can’t tell you much else…”

“I know, confidentiality.”

They stepped up to the transporter platform, their turn finally here, and felt the familiar tingling feeling as everything became blurry. Their eyes refocused on another small platform outside a tall building. The first thing he noticed where the trees and plants. They were everywhere. It seemed as if the visible buildings had been built in some sort of nature reserve. The smell of the plants and trees was overwhelming and it took Riker some time to get used to it. They both stepped off the platform with their belongings and Deanna started walking towards some trees to make way for the next group that was transporting down, and Will followed.

“I am going to go put my things in my room; you should probably do the same.”

“I’ve never been here; I’m not quite sure which way to go.”

“Just follow this path all the way to the end,” she said, pointing to the paved walkway alongside them, “and when it ends it should connect to another one. Take that one to your right… I think.”

“I’m going to get lost, aren’t I?” he asked with a smile. Deanna was about to respond when they both heard her name being called out.

“Deanna! Deanna!” came a small, loud voice. They turned to where it was coming from and saw a young girl running towards them. When she arrived she put her arms around Deanna.

“I missed you!” she said.

“Me too,” Deanna told her, bending over and returning the hug.

“I’ve got lots to tell you,” she said, finally pulling away. “I had a busy holiday.”

“Well, I can’t talk right now, I need to get settled in. But I promise that I’ll make some time before classes start, ok?”

“You promise?”


“Ok. Then I guess I’ll see you later. I wish I could help you.”

“You can help me,” said Riker.

“Delaney, this is my friend, Will.”

“Hi!” she said with a huge grin.

“Nice to meet you.”

“He will be staying in town for a couple of weeks,” Deanna told her. “Could you help him find his way there?”

“Sure! I like going to town, they have a place with really good ice cream.”

“Just don’t have too much of it, ok?”

“Ok, bye Deanna,” she said as Deanna got her things and began walking away. “I’ll see you both later.”

Will picked up his things and looked at his young escort. “Lead the way,” he said to her with a smile. She began walking down the walkway Deanna had told him to take.

“Are you an intern too?” she asked.

“No, I’m just a friend of Deanna’s.”

“You also a Betazoid?”

“No, I’m human.”

“Me too!” she said with excitement. “That means you won’t be reading my mind.”

“Nope, can’t do that,” he said with a chuckle. She was a small girl; her head barely reached his waist. She had cherry blond hair, almost red, with loose curls. She was light skinned and had very delicate facial feature with amazingly blue eyes. He had deduced that this was probably the orphan Deanna had mentioned and he was curious about her. Since Deanna couldn’t tell him anything about her he decided to take the opportunity to see if she would share information about herself.

“How long have you studied here?” he asked casually.

“My whole life, all 7 ½ years.”

“You’re 7?!” he asked, a little shocked. Though her height was certainly small enough to be 7, a tall 7 year old, her demeanour was not. He would have guessed that she was at least 9, just on the short side.

“Yup. I can have my own room now. I moved in last week,” she said in what sounded like an overly excited tone. “It’s really cool, I can see the meadow out back from my window and I have a closet all to myself. And the best part is that I’m in the big kids’ house. I’m the smallest but it’s ok. They don’t pick on me too much. And if they do I can go to my room and close the door and they can’t bother me anymore.”

Yup, he thought, definitely 7.

“Why didn’t you believe me?” she asked, in a more serious tone than before.

“It’s not that I didn’t believe you, it just surprised me. You sound very mature.”

“Deanna says it’s because I spend a lot of time with adults. She says I need to be with kids my age but I like the adults. They’re more fun. And they don’t pick on me.”

“What do the other kids pick on?”

“All sorts of stuff. But it doesn’t matter.” They reached the end of the walkway and she turned right. Will followed, noting that Deanna had been right. “Do you like ice cream? I’m gonna get some ice cream in town.”

“I enjoy ice cream from time to time. There isn’t any ice cream on campus?”

“Nah. All healthy stuff. Well, the much older kids can buy some and keep it in their kitchens but I can’t. We don’t have a kitchen in our house. We get all our food from the cafeteria. Where are you from?”

The question took him a bit off guard. So far the conversation had been mostly about her, as he had expected. Children, he had learned, are very egocentric and he was happy to listen to her cheerful voice as they walked.

“I’m from Earth. I was born in Alaska.”

“Cool. I’ve never been to Earth. I’d like to go someday. I don’t know where I’m from; my birth certificate doesn’t say where I was born. Are your mom and dad there?”

“My father is on Earth,” he told her, hoping he wasn’t going into things that would make her sad. “My mother died when I was very small.”

“Oh. I don’t have a mom or dad. Sometimes I wish I did. Everyone always calls their moms and dads and tell them about all the stuff they are doing. I don’t have anyone to tell anything to. No one gets excited when I do stuff.”

Will remembered coming home from school one day with a drawing. They had been assigned to draw an animal and he had drawn a whale. His teacher had told him it was the best whale she had ever seen. When he showed it to his dad he remembered how proud his dad had been over the drawing. It was just a big, fat fish, the easiest animal to draw he thought now in retrospect. But he had always remembered that look and how much it meant to him. It saddened him that this little girl had never seen such a look.

“You talk to Deanna, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same. It’s her job. And she’s not going to stay forever. She’s going to leave soon and is going to work on some ship maybe.”

The walkway they were on had much less trees than the previous one and he could now see the buildings that made up the town.

“You’re staying at the inn?”


“It’s next to the ice cream place!” she said with excitement. He was happy to hear a happy tone again. They walked some more and the walkway led them right into town. She picked up her pace and Will simply followed, noticing the anticipation in her body language as they turned off the walkway and onto another street, turning down more streets several times. As they turned onto yet another street Will was thinking he was going to end up lost if he tried to get back. Suddenly Delaney began running. She ran past several small buildings right next to each other and went inside a door. He kept his eye on the door as he walked to it, figuring there was no point in running after her. When he got to the door she was coming out with two bowls of chocolate ice cream.

“I got you some ice cream,” she said with a big smile.

“Thank you, but I don’t have any free hands,” he told her, showing her his belongings.

“It’s ok,” she replied and went into the building next to the one she had come out of. He noticed that it was the inn he was staying at and followed her in. He checked in at the front desk and was given his door access code and location of his room. They both went to his assigned room. It was a typical hotel room: a bed, a dresser, a desk, a chair, and a bathroom. She put down a bowl on the desk and climbed on the bed and began eating the other one. He decided his unpacking could wait and sat on the chair to eat the ice cream.

“I forgot to ask you what flavour you liked,” she said between bites. “I figured that you would like chocolate since you are Deanna’s boyfriend.”

Will’s eyes almost popped out as he swallowed the ice cream hard. “Who told you I was her boyfriend?”

“No one. I just know.”

“And how would you know such a thing?”

“I see the much older kids all the time, the teenagers. They always look at each other the way you were looking at her and she was looking at you. Then they kiss. A lot. It’s sooo gross! They put their tongues in each others mouths and it looks like they can’t breathe. Only boyfriends and girlfriends do that.”

“Well, it’s different for adults,” he said, trying to find a way of explaining it to her. He couldn’t. “We are just friends.” She gave him a look of doubt. “You can ask Deanna.”


He hoped she would forget about it and not ask. Deanna would not be amused. They finished their ice cream and Will began unpacking as Delaney just sat on the bed, talking about all sorts of different things. He remembered what Deanna had told him, that she just needed someone to talk to. He just listened, commenting where it seemed appropriate. When he was done unpacking, he sat back down on the chair to listen to her some more. He had never been in the company of a child for so long, and never alone with one. Even though she was talking about kid things; games, friends, classes, it didn’t bore him. There was something about her that made him happy just to be in her presence. She paused to remember something in relation to what she was telling him and her stomach let out a loud rumble. She blushed deeply.

“You’re hungry,” he said with a grin.

“Yeah, but dinner’s not for another two hours.”

“Well, I’m hungry too. Would you like to get something to eat?”

“Sure!” she said. “I know a good restaurant not far from here.”

“You seem to know all the good food places.”

“Yup. I like food,” which surprised Will because she was thin.

Deanna walked out of the inn feeling confused and frustrated. After she had unpacked she had decided to go take a walk and get something to eat. However, as soon as she left the building where she was going to be staying she was stopped by one of the Academy’s staff. He had not seen Delaney in several hours and thought she might be with her. Deanna told him that Delaney had accompanied a friend into town but she should have been back by then. He was merely concerned because it was almost dinner time and Delaney never missed dinner. He wasn’t worried about her whereabouts since it was still early, well before her curfew, and there were no real dangers. Deanna, however, felt concerned and decided to go to the inn where Will was staying to ask him what time she left. When she arrived at the inn the inn keeper informed her that he was not in his room. The guest log showed he had left about 90 minutes earlier but could not tell her if he had left with Delaney since the inn keeper was not the one present when he left and Delaney was not a guest of the hotel so the person who logged it would not have included her. So she walked out and wondered what to do. She asked the ice cream parlour next door if they had seen her. She was told that she got two chocolate ice creams over two hours ago. She asked around and eventually she was led to a small restaurant on the other side of town. She walked in expecting to ask if any of the servers had seen either of them. As she waited for a server to come greet her she heard the familiar sound of Delaney’s laughter. She walked in further, following the laughter, and found them at a booth. As she got closer she noticed they had some empty plates in front of them which a server was clearing away.

“I see you two had a nice dinner,” she said as she approached the table.

“Deanna!” she shouted and got up to hug her. She sat back down and scoot into the booth to allow Deanna to sit next to her.

“I didn’t expect to see you until tomorrow,” Will told her.

“I was looking for Delaney. Someone was concerned that she might miss dinner so I thought I’d look for her.”

“We had dessert before dinner,” she said happily.

“I made sure she chose something relatively healthy,” Will said in response to Deanna’s accusing look.

“Will says he’ll go with me to feed the ducks tomorrow.”

“Really?” asked Deanna, very surprised he had agreed to do something without her.

“Yeah, and he’s really funny, Deanna.”

“Really?” Deanna could not believe that they had actually gotten along so long. She hadn’t thought of Will as a kid person.

“Why is six afraid of seven?”

“Why?” asked Deanna, even though she’d heard this joke as a kid and knew what she was going to say.

“Because seven eight nine! Get it? Seven ate nine!” and she burst out laughing hysterically. Deanna laughed, not at the joke but at the fact that Delaney found it so funny.

They stayed at the restaurant for a short while before Deanna said it was almost Delaney’s curfew. Will decided to walk back to the campus with both of them. It was still early, despite Delaney’s curfew, and he hoped to spend some time with Deanna afterwards and get an idea of what the next couple of days would look like. As they began walking back to the walkway that would lead them back to the campus Delaney complained that she was getting cold. Will remembered that he had seen a small throw blanket in his room and asked if she wanted to use it for the walk back. She agreed and they walked to the inn to pick up the blanket. When they left the inn, Delaney’s energy and demeanour had changed. She was becoming tired and irritable.

“Why do I have to have a curfew? Everyone doesn’t have one.”

“Because those are the rules,” explained Deanna. “The older you get the later your curfew will be.”

“You don’t have a curfew.”

“I’m not 7.”

“And a half!” she said with annoyance as she dragged on behind both of them. They were close to the second walkway that would lead them right into the campus and the trip was taking a lot longer than it should, which was frustrating Deanna. She still wanted to get something to eat and Delaney’s attitude was becoming more than she wanted to handle.

“Yes,” said Will, wanting to help the situation before Deanna got too frustrated and upset. “You are definitely 7 ½. Would you like to take a ride?”

“On what?”

“On my back,” he said as he stopped walking. He crouched down and she jumped onto his back, her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. She was now giggling at his gallops as he pretended to be a horse. Deanna watched with a smile. She had thought of Will as nothing more than a man that wanted to conquer the universe. She hadn’t thought of him as a man that one day might want to settle down and have a family of his own. Seeing him be so natural around Delaney and handling the situation that even she wanted to give up on made her see him in a new way. Perhaps there could be future with him.

By the time they reached the point where they had first met Delaney she had tired of “riding” Will as a horse and he was caring her in front of him. Her arms and legs were still around him, but she was facing him and she had rested her head on his shoulder. The blanket was draped on her back.

“I think she has fallen asleep,” he told Deanna. She took a step back to see her face from behind Will.

“How did you know?” she asked as she once again walked besides him.

“She feels a whole lot heavier than I could have imagined her to be.”

“We’re almost at her house.”

“She’s very pleasant.”

“How can you say that after the way she was behaving?”

“She was only behaving that way because she was tired. You should have seen her running to the ice cream place and all over town trying to get to that restaurant.”

“I think you are just saying that because she actually thinks your jokes are funny.”

“They are, if you are seven and a half.” They both laughed as Deanna walked up to a house and punched in something into a key pad next to the door. They waited only a few seconds before the door was opened by an older woman.

“Oh, my,” she said when she saw Delaney asleep in Will’s arms. “Come on in. Sorry you had to carry her.”

“Alice, this is my friend Will,” Deanna told the woman once they had entered.

“Pleasure to meet you. I hope Delaney wasn’t a handful.”

“No,” said Will before Deanna could answer. “She was a pleasure.” Deanna chuckled and Alice led them up a set of stairs.

“I take it you disagree, Deanna?” Asked Alice.

“She was a little whiny when she got tired,” said Will as he made his way up the stairs.

“And Will had to carry her,” added Deanna.

“Delaney has been a big burst of energy lately,” said Alice and she led them down a hall. “She wakes up early full of energy and tires hours before bedtime.” She opened the door to a room and Will walked in first. He quickly spotted the bed in the small room and laid her down on it. The motion woke her up.

“Are we home?” she asked him.

He bent over to her and said, “Yes, you are.”

“Thank you for the ride.”

“Anytime,” he answered without thinking.

“Really? That was fun.”

“Sure,” he said, realizing he had just volunteered to be a horse whenever she wanted him to be. “You should change and get ready for bed,” he told her.

She sat up on the bed and said, “Ok.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow after lunch.”

“Yes, we’re going to feed the ducks.”

“Yes we are. Good night Delaney.” He was about to stand up from his bending over position when she swung her arms around his neck. He returned the hug and Delaney loosened her grip from around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek before letting go of him. Will returned the kiss and stood up.

“Good night, Will. Good night, Deanna.”

The three adults left Delaney in her bedroom and made their way down the stairs once again.

“I hope it won’t be a problem for me to take her to feed the ducks,” said Will once they reached the bottom of the stairs.

“Not at all,” replied Alice. “She can go and come as she pleases until school starts. She just needs to be reminded of curfew from time to time. If you let me know in advance you can keep her past curfew, just don’t tell her that. Curfew for children her age is really just to make sure they aren’t out and about on their own too long.”

“I won’t tell her. We didn’t talk about doing anything else besides feeding the ducks tomorrow.”

“We are usually back from lunch at around one.”

Will gave her a confused look.

“They don’t use the 24 hour clock here,” explained Deanna. “They have two twelve hour sets in one day. That would make it around 1300 hours.”

“Oh, ok,” Will said, still a little confused by the concept.

“Come, I’ll explain it to you,” said Deanna, walking towards the door as Will followed.

“Thanks for brining Delaney,” said Alice as they walked out the door.

“No problem. I’ll be by tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have figured out the time by then,” replied Will. They all laughed as Will and Deanna walked away from the house. Deanna began explaining the how time worked as she led the way. Will didn’t know where they were heading, but he was too involved in understanding the concept to really care. They had walked through several walkways and were now standing between two buildings in an area that looked deserted. There was a bench and Deanna led him to it to sit down.

“I wish I would have paid more attention to that lesson in history. I never thought that I’d need something so complicated!” said Will, still trying to digest all the information.

“It really isn’t once you are used to it. I spent my first couple of weeks here counting on my fingers trying to figure out the time, but soon I got used to it.”

“Counting on your fingers?”

“Yes. If I had an appointment at 5 in the afternoon I would start at thirteen and count up five,” she said as she raised her right hand in front of her. She began counting and with each number she lifted a finger. “13, 14, 15, 16, 17,” she said and had all five fingers straight out. “It would be 1700 hours. The first few days I tried simply adding it in my head but for some reason I kept getting it wrong so I figured I can’t make a mistake using my fingers.”

Will raised both his hands in front of him and outstretched his fingers. “I’m glad I’m not missing any fingers,” he said with an amused chuckle.

“The only ones you have to memorize are 11 and 12 at night as 2300 and 2400. We don’t have enough fingers to count that far.”

They both laughed and as their laughter subsided Deanna reached over and grabbed Will’s hands.

“You were very good at handling Delaney. I’m better with the older children.”

“I plan to command a starship one day and if I can’t make a seven and a half year old listen to me then how can I make a whole crew listen?” he said with a witty smile.

Deanna laughed and pulled herself closer to Will.

“I am also shocked that a seven and a half year old got a date and a kiss from you before I did,” she said with a bit of sarcasm.

“Are you jealous of a little girl?” he asked her with a mocking voice.

Deanna leaned in and Will followed her movement so that their faces were only inches apart. “Maybe,” she said in a low voice. Will seized the moment and kissed her on the lips softly. He pulled away from her slightly and looked her in the eyes.

“While feeding ducks sounds like fun,” he said in almost a whisper, “there are plenty of things I’d like to do with you that I’m sure are much more fun. Things only we adults can do.”

“Being an adult does have its benefits,” she said and kissed him. They were in the midst of their passionate kiss when Will suddenly pulled away.

“What’s wrong?” asked Deanna as Will looked around.

“I just suddenly realized that there are children around.”

“Don’t worry about it;” said Deanna with a smile, “these buildings are where the interns stay so there are no children around.”

“You planned this?” he asked her with a bit of surprise.

“Well, I wanted to come back because I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten. You treated her to dinner and a ride and I got nothing,” she said with a slight pout.

“Would you like dinner?”

“You’ve already eaten.”

“But I’d love to watch you eat. I don’t know much about this place which would make you the perfect person to tell me what I need to know. Besides, how can I plan a date with you if I don’t know when you will be available?”

“Alright,” she said with a smile.

“Now, about that ride. I mean, I’m sure you’re not too heavy but…”

“I’m sure you can make up for it in some other way,” she interrupted with a laugh as she got up. Will followed and they began walking away from the bench. As she grabbed his hand in hers she said, “Maybe a show sometime?”

“Sure!” he said with a big smile.

From on top of the small hill Deanna could see the pond bellow and quickly spotted them. The sight she saw as she approached was one she was never going to forget. Will sat on the ground near the edge of the pond with his legs crossed. On his legs sat Delaney. He was holding her hand out, palm face up, as a duck ate out of her palm. There were several other ducks and birds surrounding them, picking up the crumbs they had previously dropped. Slowly, with his other hand, he grabbed her free hand and slowly they reached for the head of the duck and began petting it. As Deanna got closer she could see the huge smile on Delaney’s face. She stopped several feet away from them so that she would not scare away the ducks and birds that were eating.

“See,” Will told her, “he likes you.”

Delaney giggled, “He’s really soft and smooth but it feels funny when he gets the bread.”

The duck finished the crumbs in her hand and began pecking his way up her arm. Delaney’s body language immediately changed to fear and Deanna could clearly sense it from her. She was about to step closer when Will caught on to her fear.

“It’s ok. He’s just looking for more food,” he told her as he gently swayed the hand that had been holding the crumbs in front of her, gently pushing the duck away. As the duck ducked their arms he noticed the crumbs on the floor and began eating those. “See,” he continued, “he wasn’t going to hurt you. He likes you.” Putting her hands back on her lap, Will wound his arms around her small frame that still sat on his legs.

“My teacher said that they are all the same kind of ducks but they look different. How can they be the same if they look different?” asked Delaney.

“That’s right. These duck are mallards. The brown ones are the girls. The ones with the green head are the boys.”

“But why do they look different?”

“So that they know which are boys and which are girls,” Will responded, starting to feel uneasy at the direction the conversation was taking. “You and I are both humans and we look different.”

“Oh,” she said with a tone of understanding.

Sensing his uneasiness Deanna decided to get closer. The ducks and birds had finished the crumbs on the floor and most had already dissipated from around them.

“Hi you two,” she said as she approached.

“Deanna!” shouted Delaney, and she stood up, escaping from Will’s arms, and excitedly hugged Deanna.

“Hi,” said Will, amused at how enthusiastic Delaney got when she saw Deanna. “I’m glad you could join us.”

“It looks like the ducks have already been fed,” she replied.

“Yeah! One even ate out of my hand,” Delaney informed her just as excitedly as she had greeted her. “Then I got to touch his head. I touched the duck!!!” she exclaimed, jumping up and down excitedly.

“That must have been very exciting,” Deanna told her despite the obvious excitement. “I’m glad you got to touch him.”

“I want a duck but Will says a duck wouldn’t make a good pet.”

“I agree,” said Deanna, feeling glad that she didn’t have to deal with that conversation.

“I still say he would make a great pet,” she said with a bit of disappointment.

“Maybe when you are all grown up,” began Will as he stood up, “and you don’t have to share the bathtub with anyone you can think about getting a duck. But remember, you will need a very big bathtub. Ducks like being with their friends and families so you can’t just take one duck. He will get lonely and depressed and I don’t think there are any duck psychologists."

“No, there are not,” said Deanna, making every effort not to start laughing at Will’s comment.

“But I will keep him company and be his family,” Delaney responded defiantly.

“But you don’t speak duck. It’s hard to tell your friends and family things if you don’t speak the same language,” explained Will.

Delaney gave a sad sigh and began pouting. Will thought she looked incredibly cute and that she sounded adorable trying to rationalize how it would be no problem to have a duck as a pet. Deanna sensed these emotions from Will and she still couldn’t quite understand how Will had taken to this little girl in less than 24 hours.

“Why don’t we take a walk around the park,” suggested Deanna. The pond was merely the center of the large park. It had various walkways that led through many different plants and trees from various planets.

They began to walk with Delaney several feet ahead of them.

“I’m glad you have found something to entertain yourself with this week. I was afraid you would end up bored out of your mind since I have various orientations to go to. We’ll be able to spend more time together next week since most of my orientations will be done. Students will begin arriving and Delaney will probably be busy preparing for the beginning of classes.”

“That’s good,” he said in a happy tone with a smile. Had it been anyone else standing there besides him his disappointment might have never been known. But Deanna sensed it as soon as he had felt it.

“You really like her, don’t you?”

“She’s cute,” was his simple remark.

Will sat on Deanna’s bed, quiet and out of sight of her computer monitor, while she spoke to her mother. They had arrived at Clairmont Academy almost a week ago but her busy schedule had only allowed them a couple of private moments together. Tonight they had compromised and instead of ending their day early so that she could talk to her mother he sat patiently waiting for her to finish her conversation so that they could get on with their evening. They didn’t have anything specific planned, but they wanted to spend some more time together; Will was leaving in two weeks.

“Thank you for being so patient,” Deanna told Will as she approached him on the bed.

“Anything to spend some time with you.”

Sitting on the bed she told him, “I am completely free for the next couple of days so we can spend more time together.”

“Good, so am I.”

“You don’t have any plans with Delaney?” she asked, a little surprised. He had spent time with her every day since they had arrived.

“Nope. She left for a camping trip today after lunch. She won’t be back for four days.”

“You mean I don’t have to share you?” she asked, teasingly.

“I’m all yours,” he replied softly as he pushed some of her curls behind her hear. He leaned in towards her and Deanna closed the gap between them, falling in his embrace as they kissed passionately. She pushed him back onto the bed as they continued kissing, pausing only briefly to gasp for air before continuing. As their passion blossomed and clothing became a hindrance, Deanna paused to whisper, “I’m so glad I don’t share a room.”

Deanna was glad Delaney was gone for four days. Not simply because she got to have Will’s full attention all to herself on the few days she would have before beginning work, but because she had began to notice that they were getting attached to each other. It didn’t worry her too much for Will to get attached, he was an adult and would probably soon get over the loss especially since he would be on a new ship and busied with duties. She worried about Delaney’s attachment. She was young and didn’t have a family to count on for support. A sudden separation after being so attached could prove to be traumatizing for her. She wasn’t going on to new things after Will left, she would be right there, in the same place she had been all her life, doing the same things. This was why Deanna had chosen not to get too attached to her or allow her to become too attached. She did spend some non counselling time with her, but was sure to limit it greatly and instead encourage her to spend more time with children her own age. She too would be leaving and not coming back soon and didn’t want to be the cause of any sort of trauma to this little girl.

Deanna and Will spent almost every moment together for the first three days. She had noticed him become a little distant at times, sensing something was preoccupying this thoughts, but she was able to distract him and make him behave like the man she was falling in love with. She wondered what it was that was bothering him but didn’t want to bring it up because she didn’t want anything ruining their happy times together. Mostly, she had an eerie feeling that Delaney might be the cause of it and did not want to think about all the implications of that, especially if Delaney had grown as attached as she suspected Will had.

On the fourth day, the day Delaney was due back from her camping trip, Deanna noticed that Will had woken up in a very happy mood and was delighted to spend time with this happy man. But that happiness soon dissipated and turned into anxiousness within a couple of hours. As they sat under a tree, simply enjoying each other’s company, she felt him become distant again.

“Will, what’s wrong? You’ve been acting a little strangely today.”

“Nothing is wrong. I’m sorry if it seems like I am.”

“Oh, ok. Are we having dinner tonight on campus or in town?” If he didn’t want to talk about it, she would have to snoop around to find out. Delaney was probably due back a few hours after lunch time since they would probably be heading back right after lunch.

“Dinner? We just had breakfast and you’re thinking about dinner?”

“I just like knowing in advance where I’ll be eating, that’s all.”

“I see. Well, I haven’t thought about it yet. Don’t you have something to do tomorrow that you have to prepare for tonight? I thought you mentioned something like that.”

“I do, but I can stay up late doing it, it’s not a problem.”

“Ok. Well, lets see. Delaney wanted to go back to the restaurant we had dinner in the first time so I guess we can do that.”

“Delaney?” Deanna asked with surprise in her voice. She really wasn’t very surprised, she had suspected that her name would come up sooner or later.

“Yes. I promised that I’d go to her house two hours after lunch time, that’s when they are due to arrive. We’d catch up and then go get dinner. Didn’t I tell you?”

“No, you didn’t,” she said plainly. Even though she had suspected it would end up this way, she was still hoping to spend another day with Will all to herself. She would begin working the next day and with reports and meetings it would be hard to spend as much time with him. There would be even less time his last week, the week school started.

“You can come along, I’m sure she won’t mind since she likes you very much.”

Deanna knew she had to say something, had to voice her concerns. But she also didn’t want to risk ruining the day. She was torn between her professional obligation to Delaney and her personal feelings towards Will. She was prepared for this, she had been taught how to weigh the situation and how to deal with this sort of situation. But the knowledge of what she knew she had to do didn’t make doing it any easier. She had hoped she would never have to encounter such a situation, and this was why.

“Will, we need to talk.”

“Deanna, don’t tell me you are jealous of a little girl.”

Deanna laughed lightly and shook her head.

“No, I am not jealous. I want to make that perfectly clear right now. But I do have some concerns. Delaney is very young and has no family. I am afraid that getting so attached to you could be traumatizing for her when you leave.”

“But she is also attached to you and you will be leaving too.”

“I know, but her attachment to me isn’t as great, even though I’ve known her much longer. I’ve made sure to limit my time with her outside our therapy sessions, to encourage her to spend time with kids her age instead. I always remind her that I will be leaving and might not see her again. I also feel you getting very attached to her.”

Will sighed. He never imagined a little girl could grasp him in such a manner. He always thought that his first dealings with this kind of thing would be when he had a wife and they had their first child. But Delaney had captured his heart. He cared deeply about her and really enjoyed spending time with her. Her smile seemed to make him want to hold her and protect her, her laugh made his heart swell with joy. He had never felt these types of feelings towards anyone before. This was not the way he felt about Deanna, those feelings he was familiar with, though he had never felt them that strong before.

That was another thing bothering him, his feelings towards Deanna. He had been incredibly attracted to her from the moment he met her and that was why he had followed her to this place. But ever since their first time, three nights ago, everything seemed to change. He felt much more attracted to her, he was sure he was in love. But this love felt different, it felt much deeper than any he had ever felt. Sex had never felt the way if felt with her. It was almost as if he was feeling things through senses he didn’t have before. And many times when they were making love he could have sworn that some of the things he was feeling were not his feelings at all, but hers. And he could have even sworn that on a couple of times he had heard her in his head. Of course, that was impossible, since it was incredibly rare for a full Betazoid to be able to communicate telepathically with non telepathic species. Deanna wasn’t even a full Betazoid.

“Tell me, what’s troubling you,” Deanna interrupted his thoughts.

“I don’t want to hurt her in any way. I’ve never felt the way I feel about her towards anyone. It’s nothing like what I feel towards you, I love you and I am certain of it. But what I feel for her is very strong too. I just want to hold her and protect her and make her happy.”

Deanna was stunned. Had she heard right?

“You love me?”


Deanna’s heart swelled and she felt tears coming to her eyes. She had been hoping that she wasn’t getting all worked up for this guy that was probably just looking for some fun. She had felt herself fall in love with him and did not want to admit it because it would hurt so much more when she found out she had just been a fling. Hearing him admit that he loved her made all her worries fly away. She was also madly in love with him. I love you too, she said in her head, still trying to work up the courage to say it back to him. But his happy expression suddenly turned to one of confusion and she could sense that he was indeed very confused by something. Did I just hear that? she heard him say in her head, startling her and making her gasp and slightly push herself away from him.

“Deanna, what’s going on?” he asked, concern and confusion evident in his voice. She, however, was past her shock and was now smiling, a very big smile. She understood what she had always read about, always heard about, what she had hoped on their first night but shrugged off as wishful thinking. This was it. She kneeled up and got closer to him. With the smile still on her face, she leaned in, grabbing his head, and kissed him. The world around them seemed to stop as if time didn’t exist for anything else but them, just the way it always seemed when they kissed these past couple of days. They had both thought it was their silly imaginations, but at this moment it seemed utterly real. Imzadi she told him through her mind, letting the floodgates to her mind and soul open up to him. He felt slightly overwhelmed with the kiss and this completely new experience. He was getting a lot of information really fast and had no idea how he was able to process all of it or even understand it. Their passionate kiss and exchange of information continued for several minutes as Deanna, too, searched his mind and soul for confirmation of his feelings. Do you understand now, Imzadi?

Will finally broke the kiss when he felt he was about to loose his breath. Holding her head in his hands, he looked into her dark eyes.

“Yes,” he said breathlessly, “I understand.”

Will and Deanna sat at a café sharing a fruit salad. They had decided to have a small lunch since they would be having dinner a little early because Delaney would be joining them. They had spent several hours after their intimate revelations earlier that day simply enjoying the newness of their experience and exploring each others minds. But now, as they sat having their lunch, Deanna reluctantly brought up the original subject of discussion.

“Tell me more about your feelings towards Delaney.” She had decided to approach it from his point of view instead of simply defending Delaney’s feelings. It was a compromise and she was hoping it would all turn out in a positive way.

“I’m not sure how to explain it. I think I love her. Not in the way that I love you or have loved anyone else. Not in a sexual way at all. But I want to make her happy, she feels very important to me.”

“I see,” she said, not quite knowing how to voice what she was feeling. The feelings she had been sensing from him as he spoke about her were different than what she had sensed the last time he had been with Delaney. She was now sensing feelings she associated with her mother and other parents, very paternal feelings. She decided not to further press the issue for the moment. She wanted to see, and feel, what he felt when he saw her again this afternoon. Based on that, she would decide what to do next.

A couple of hours later they stood outside Delaney’s house as a transport vehicle approached.

“Will! Deanna!” came the yell as Delaney ran towards them after getting off the transport vehicle. They both smiled at her as they waited for her to reach them. Immediately she sensed great excitement and agitation from Will; he could not wait for her to get close enough. Once she was within arms reach she ran to him first, much to Deanna’s surprise, and he swooped her off the ground and hugged her. They simultaneously kissed each other’s cheek before Will put her down again. She then went over to Deanna and gave her a hug. Delaney began talking excitedly about the things she had done on her camping trip as they followed her back to the transport vehicle. They had begun unloading the several packs and Delaney picked up a bag which Will was quick to take from her. She then led them inside the house and into her room where she began putting the stuff from her bag away as she continued to share her camping experience.

Deanna could sense a lot of happiness and excitement as she spoke about her trip and that Will was genuinely interested in what she had to say. The paternal feelings she had sensed earlier were present again, and this was worrisome to Deanna. Even though she was in the room with them and neither Delaney nor Will had done or said anything to make her feel like she was not wanted, it was very obvious to her that Delaney was mostly speaking just to Will and that his full attention was on her. She wasn’t jealous; she was just concerned at what she was sensing: a bond. It must have happened during the times they had spent together without her. Somehow they had formed a sort of bond and she was surprised at how strong she felt it even though they had only known each other for about a week.

They spent the rest of the day in much the same manner, Delaney and Will talking and having a good time and Deanna mostly just observing. Any other time and she might have been bothered by it but today she was glad to simply be an observer. She still wasn’t too sure how she was going to deal with it and hoped that observing them would give her some idea.

About an hour before Delaney’s curfew they walked her back to her house and Will promised they would go feed the ducks again since Deanna said she would be busy most of the day and would be free in the afternoon. They walked away from the house and Will began walking Deanna back to her building. Since she had some stuff to do before bed and would be busy the next day, he knew that she needed to spend the night in her own room, probably alone.

As they approached the building, they passed by the bench where they had kissed for the first time. They both went to it and sat in silence.

“Deanna?” asked Will, breaking the silence.


“I’m curious about something. As I understand it, all the students that attend this school stay here all year and only leave for holiday. Is this true even for the students who are native to this planet?”

“Yes. It works very much like a boarding school.”

“Then, if none of the students get to see their parents during the year, what is the difference between an orphan and a student who isn’t?”

At the question Deanna got a strange feeling, something inside her was giving her warning signals, big, bright, red ones, like a red alert.

“What brings this about?”

“Before she left for the camping trip, Delaney told me she was sometimes made fun of and given a tough time because she is an orphan. She told me she wished she wasn’t an orphan because her life would be different, it would be better. I was just wondering how life would be better for someone like Delaney if they weren’t an orphan. Since I haven’t met any non-orphans to compare, I thought I’d ask you since you have.”

“The students speak to with their parents quite often, at least once a week, some even daily. This keeps them in touch with their families and gives them a sense of belonging to a group that they will always belong to. It’s a great self esteem booster. Orphans tend to have not much more than the basics. This planet accepts several forms of currency, including credits, which the parents can put on the student’s account. They can purchase things like treats, toys, and all sorts of things that aren’t necessary for school. Orphans get a sort of allowance for these types of things, but it’s very minimal. Not because the school doesn’t want to give them more, but because the budget for orphans must also cover the expenses that result from the orphans. The budget is quite small since there are only two of them.”

“What kind of expenses?”

“Since they have nowhere to go during holiday, they have to stay here. That means that a certain amount of buildings and houses must remain open, with adults in them to supervise the students. These adults need to be paid for this time too. The children need to be feed, so the cooks need to be paid too. There are also the costs for things like the camping trip Delaney went on. The children can’t be expected to simply sit in their rooms through the whole holiday. These things are all expenses that the school would not have if there weren’t any orphans. Of course, there are also those that simply can’t go anywhere during their holiday but do have parents, making it worth the trouble. But the parents pay extra to have them stay during holiday. And no one is paying for their clothing, food, housing, basic necessities and tuition. This is a private educational institution even for those native to this planet. Their parents pay through their service to the society, off-landers pay through currency.”

“I see. Are there any other differences?”

Deanna sighed before continuing. This was the part that broke her heart the most. “Kids will always find something to make fun of, it’s part of them finding their self identity, testing their boundaries to see what they can get away with, and to make themselves feel better if they feel they have failed or are lacking somewhere. Now, teasing isn’t tolerated, but you know very well that not all teasing gets reported. For a child with a family, they can turn to them for comfort after being teased. Orphans don’t have anyone to turn to for comfort. And if they are teased for not having parents, it hurts them even more. The one thing all children crave, need, is what they are being teased about. They are often told that no one likes them or wants them and that they are all alone. And since there are only two of them they can’t exactly support each other. The other orphan is a 12 year old boy and not interested in a 7 year old girl.” Deanna could sense Will’s sadness and his concern for Delaney, obviously.

“Delaney gets teased for being left here, because her parents didn’t want her.”

“Yes, she does,” said Deanna, taking Will’s hand in hers to comfort him. They were silent for a while before Will spoke up.

“Deanna, while I absolutely love spending time with you, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute we’ve spent together, I think I need to be alone for a while. I’ll come by tomorrow after you are done for the day. Will that be alright?”

“Sure,” Deanna said. While she would have loved to have spent more time with him before he left, she understood that he needed to sort his feelings about Delaney out. He cared about her and she knew he didn’t want to hurt her. They kissed and he stood up and left. She sat there for a few minutes, thinking. She wanted to help him but was not quite sure how. She was only an intern and didn’t have much practice in these sorts of things.

“Hello, Deanna,” came a voice, taking her out of her thoughts. She looked up and smiled.

“Hello Mr. Lansky,” he was the head of the school’s counselling department and a mentor to the interns.

“Have you been adjusting well?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Are you ready for the term to begin?”

“Yes, I am very much looking forward to it.”

“This is your second term here, isn’t it?” Deanna simply nodded. “How long will you be studying with us?” he asked, taking a seat next to her where Will had been sitting.

“I have not decided yet. This might be my last term here or I might stay one more after this one. While I am getting great experience here, I would like to focus more on families and adults since I will be serving on board a Starfleet starship when I am done with my advanced studies.”

“Well, it’s good that you know where you are heading. That is the most important thing.”

Deanna smiled at him. She liked him, he always talked to them as equals and didn’t belittle them as she sometimes had felt at Starfleet Academy. He was a great therapist, too. She had seen him in action with both children and adults and was very impressed at his ability to help them without fumbling around. She hoped that one day she would be able to do the same.

“Mr. Lansky,” she began, “I think I need your help.”

“With what, Deanna?”

“It’s something that is a bit personal, but also involves a student here.”

“What is it?”

“Before I came here, I met someone on Betazed. Since he will be leaving for his new post in two weeks, he decided to come here with me so that we could spend some time together before he leaves. But during the times that I have been busy he has been spending time with a student here and they have grown very attached to each other.”

Deanna felt the extreme concern coming from Mr. Lansky and decided she quickly needed to clarify some things.

“I have begun to sense some very paternal feelings from him towards Delaney. Delaney has also grown very fond of him. I don’t quite know what to do about it, I feel responsible for this.”

“I understand your concern and am very glad you have told me. Tell me everything you know about their relationship.”

Deanna began telling him everything she could remember him saying they had done, everything she had seen and observed, absolutely everything. It would have been much easier if he was a Betazoid as well, but she tried her very best to verbalize everything she had to say.

“You said they were going to be feeding the ducks tomorrow?” he asked her once she had told him everything.

“Yes, after lunch.”

“I’d like to observe them from a distance before deciding what would be the best course of action. I will excuse you from the meeting tomorrow; you can read the minute report. This is much more important to deal with. I’d like you there so that you can use your empathic abilities to tell me how they are feeling and reacting.”

“Yes, Mr. Lansky. Thank you.”

“I’m glad you told me. But I think it would be best if you didn’t tell your ‘friend’ that we will be observing them. I’d like to see the most honest and natural responses from both of them.”

Will Riker sat on the soft ground surrounding the pond. His legs were crossed beneath each other and his upper body was leaning back against his hands on the ground him. He sat enjoying the soft breeze as he watched Delaney run up to the edge of the pond, squat down to feed some ducklings and run back to get some more bread crumbs. Her small hands could not get enough to feed all five ducklings and their mother. Getting more comfortable with her presence, and taking advantage of the free meal, the mother duck followed her back to the bag of crumbs followed by her five ducklings. Will laughed lightly as he saw Delaney turn around and freeze in her tracks as all six ducks began quacking at her and surrounding her. She was only a few feet away from him and seeing her panic at the sudden duck “attack” he picked her up over the ducks and sat her on his lap. The ducks quickly followed and Will tossed some of the crumbs from the bag on the ground in front of them allowing Delaney to reach out with her hand and only attract two of the ducklings. Neither one was aware that while they shared these moments with each other they were being watched from a distance.

“He responds very quickly to her needs, especially considering he has no children and has no younger siblings,” Mr. Lansky said to Deanna as he looked through a set of binoculars.

“He told me he was an only child,” added Deanna. “I can sense their bond being very strong.”

“I agree. I don’t need your empathic abilities to see that. They are responding very naturally to each other. I’ve dealt with Delaney before and the only thing she hates more than being told what to do is being told what she can’t do. Yet, he tells her not to go into the water and all he gets is a pout,” Mr. Lansky said as he brought his binoculars down to his lap and looked over at Deanna.

“Yes! I made the mistake of telling her to do something twice. Both times she looked at me defiantly and didn’t do what I had asked. It took a lot of effort to learn to word what I needed her to do in a way that didn’t sound like telling her what to do or not do. Last time they fed the ducks she wanted to take one home and he managed to convince her not to, without a tantrum or drama!”

“Really? If he wasn’t going to be leaving so soon I might have suggested that this is a good relationship for her.”

“What are we going to do?” asked Deanna. Even though what he was seeing made her happy for both of them, she knew that the results would be devastating to Delaney once Will left.

Mr. Lansky brought the binoculars back to his eyes and said, “Well, it looks like that duck family has finished the rest of the bread, Will has balled up the bag and is holding it in his hand. Since they are done feeding the ducks I’d like to go up to them and observe them as we walk Delaney back to her house. Then I’d like for us to talk to Will. We’ll tell him of our concerns and come up with a solution, hopefully one that he will like since the obvious one is the one he probably won’t be happy with.”

“Alright,” Deanna said letting out a long breath and getting to her feet. Mr. Lansky also got up and headed towards Will and Delaney. As they approached they saw Delaney waddling behind the mother duck and her five ducklings towards the water.

“Delaney,” Will said in a warning tone.

“I know! Just to the edge, ok!” responded Delaney. Once she was at the edge she said good bye to the ducks and turned around to see Deanna and Mr. Lansky walking towards them. “Deanna!” she said and ran towards them. Will immediately turned to see them and got up off the ground. They stopped a few feet away from Will where Delaney had met them and was giving Deanna a hug.

“Hello Deanna,” Will said with a smile.

“Will, this is Mr. Lansky. He is the head of the counselling department here on Clairmont Academy. Mr. Lansky, this is my friend Will Riker.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” said Will as he extended his hand. Mr. Lansky did the same and replied, “Likewise.”

“Deanna,” began Will in a cheerful tone, “I’m happy to see you. I thought you were going to be busy for another couple of hours.”

“I was, but an important matter came up that I had to take care of with Mr. Lansky. Do you two have any other plans for today?” she asked.

“No. Delaney has to go back to her house to begin preparing for class since it starts in a couple of days.” As he finished talking he turned to see what Delaney was doing. He had his back to the pond and even though both Deanna and Mr. Lansky could see that she wasn’t in any trouble or danger, he still felt like he had to see what she was doing. The other two adults noticed as Will called to Delaney. “Delaney, we have to go now.”

“Can we get ice cream?” she asked Will. She knew they couldn’t, they would have to go all the way back into town and she needed to be back at her house soon so that she could begin getting her things together for classes to start. She wanted to ask anyway, just in case.

“Not today,” Will told her as he went down on one knee in front of her. “We’ll have to plan that out since we have to go all the way into town for it.”

“Then when?”

“I don’t know right now, but we’ll get some ice cream before I leave, ok?”

Delaney looked down at her shoes and sadly nodded. Seeing her like this, sad, tore at Will’s heart. He put his arms around her and pulled her against his body in a tight hug, his hands stroking her hair. He could feel the moisture of her tears beginning to soak through his shirt at the shoulder where she had rested her head. He knew it wasn’t just the ice cream, it was the attention. She had mentioned that she rarely got to go feed the ducks because no one liked doing it with her and she wasn’t allowed to get that close without someone older. She had mentioned many things that had made his heart ache, things that were so small and insignificant that Deanna hadn’t mentioned them when he had asked her about the orphans’ life style. He fought back the tears that were threatening to fall just like hers. “I promise,” he whispered in her ear. She took a step back and he wiped away the tears that had fallen with his fingers.

Deanna and Mr. Lansky exchanged looks as they witnessed the emotional moment playing out in front of them and silently agreed that, yes, they had to talk to him and the sooner the better.

Will stood up and Delaney took his hand. “Come on, lets get you back,” he told her. They left the park and walked back to Delaney’s house. Once they dropped her off they walked away from the house, heading towards the buildings where Deanna was staying, in silence.

“Why do I get the feeling I’m being ambushed?” asked Will after a couple of minutes of silence.

“You aren’t being ambushed,” said Deanna reassuringly. “We just want to talk.” They continued walking in silence and Deanna sent Will reassuring and comforting thoughts and feelings telepathically. He was glad they had this special bond and that it was forever. He felt so torn by the situation with Delaney that he was sure he could not handle loosing Deanna. They finally reached the building where Deanna was staying and they entered. Instead of going to her room, however, they went down a hall he had not gone to before and entered a room at the end. It was larger than Deanna’s room and it had a large table with several chairs around it. They walked to the end of the table and Deanna sat at the end. Will sat to her right and Mr. Lansky sat to her left.

“This is about Delaney,” Will said plainly. The other two nodded. “I know you are worried about her, how she will deal when I leave. I’ve been thinking about that too. I don’t want to hurt her. When I came here I never thought I’d end up falling in love with a little girl. But the more time I spend with her the harder it is for me to think about leaving her. I thought about making a commitment to come back every time I have leave, but is that enough? I don’t think it will be. It’s not just about seeing her and being with her. I want to make a difference for her. We spent five hours in the library the day before she left for her camping trip. You know what she wanted? She wanted me to read to her. She picked up a huge stack of books and even though she could read them all on her own, she wanted to have someone read to her. She said that the only time someone reads to her is during story time in school and at the house. It’s never the book she wants to listen to. She loves listening to stories. It’s not her fault she is this situation. Her parents obviously made some terrible mistake that for some reason they couldn’t keep her. And even though this place has been great to her, there is more that she needs.”

“We do the best we can with the orphans,” said Mr. Lansky. “Luckily there are only two of them. It is true that she needs and deserves so much more, but there is nothing any of us can do about that. She has to learn to deal with the set of cards she’s been handed.”

“But that’s where you are wrong! She doesn’t have to deal with it. She can just get another set!”

“Will, what do you mean?” Deanna asked, confused.

“I stayed up all night the night before she came back thinking about her. What can I do for her? What can I offer her? What can my career offer her? A lot. And when I saw her running towards me from the transport vehicle, I knew what I had to do.”

“What are you thinking of doing?” asked Mr. Lansky, beginning to get worried at the direction the conversation was taking.

“I’m going to adopt her.”

“What?!” they both said in unison.

“There is a lot I can do for her. I want to be there for her, be someone she can talk to on a regular basis. I want to change her life and help lead her in the right direction. Above all, I want her to know how proud I am of her and how happy she makes me. I want her to have somewhere to go during holiday, and a family.”

“I can’t believe you are serious about this,” said Deanna.

“Will,” began Mr. Lansky in a calm tone, “this is a very big decision. Once you adopt her she is all yours and you will have to make some important decisions. There might be times when she gets into something that might require you to leave your post immediately to come deal with it. She is only 7, there are many more tough ages she will go through. You will be the one in charge of parenting her, setting boundaries. We only do the most basic in these areas, it is up to the parents to do the rest. One day she will disobey you, I guarantee it because that is what all children do. She will make you steaming mad, make you want to pull your hair out, and you will still have to deal with her. You can’t just say you don’t want her any more.”

“I know, I thought about it. About all of it. My mother died when I was two and my father left me when I was fifteen. I think of what I went through and realize that she is going through much worse. She has absolutely no body on her side. I know it will be hard since I don’t have any experience with kids, but many people have kids without any experience. I am up to the challenge. I will do anything I need to for her.”

Mr. Lansky turned to Deanna with a questioning look. She knew exactly what he wanted to know.

“He is being honest and is very sure of what he is saying. He has no doubts about what he wants to do.”

Mr. Lansky sighed. This was a young man, probably the same age as Deanna, and he was a Starfleet officer, full of ambition. But it would improve things for Delaney. He had seen them together and knew that if, if, he worked hard, it would definitely work. It was all for her, for that little girl that deserved so much more.

“Alright,” he said, getting up, “we need to go speak to the director.”

They spent two hours in the director’s office. While the process of adopting an orphan was quite simple, the director wanted to be absolutely sure this was the best thing for the child. She didn’t want her ending up in a worse situation. The three of them talked and she asked Will many, many questions. Once she was convinced that he had no bad intentions and her best interest in mind and, above all, that this was a permanent decision, she agreed to authorize the adoption. Before completing all the paper work she called in one of her assistants.

“Can you please bring Miss Delaney,” she told her assistant.

“Yes, Ms. Lampson,” the assistant replied before leaving.

“Once Delaney arrives I will explain to her what is going on. Since she is old enough to understand the situation if she does not wish to be adopted, I must respect her wishes. This is your last chance to change your mind, Mr. Riker.”

“Thank you, but I still want to adopt her,” he answered.

They waited in silence as Mr. Lampson did some things on her computer. After a few minutes there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” called Ms. Lampson. The door opened and Delaney came inside. She had a very big smile when she saw Will and went to him and hugged him. He hugged her back and picked her up and sat her on his lap since there were no other chairs.

“Am I in trouble?” she asked once she was sitting on his lap.

“No, you are not,” answered Ms. Lampson as she turned away from the computer and addressed Delaney directly. “I’ve been told you’ve met a new friend.”

“Yes!” Delaney answered excitedly. “Will likes doing lots of stuff with me. He’s really funny too.”

Ms. Lampson asked Delaney many questions about the kinds of things they did together and how she felt about him. After a few minutes of questions Ms. Lampson told her, “Will likes you very much as well. He likes you so much he’d like to be your father. How do you feel about that?”

While still on his lap, Delaney turned to face Will. “Really?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered her with a smile. She turned to Deanna and Mr. Lansky for confirmation. They also smiled at her and she turned to face Ms. Lampson again.

“What if my real mom and dad come back looking for me?”

Ms. Lampson thought about what to tell her. She didn’t want to crush her hopes by telling her the truth: that her real parents were probably never coming to look for her. It was Will who answered her question. She turned her so that they were facing each other again before speaking.

“You are going to stay here, to keep going to school. There are no schools on most starships. I will come and visit whenever I can and we can spend your holiday together. If your real mom and dad come looking for you, you will still be here and if you are not, Ms. Lampson will know where you are and can tell them.”

He also knew that her parents were most likely not going to be looking for her, so it was easy for him to reassure her in that respect, knowing she would not be taken from him by her biological parents.

“But if you are my daddy,” she began, “then I won’t be able to have them too.”

“Of course you will,” he said. “You will be the luckiest kid in the universe. You will have two fathers and a mother.”

“Oh, ok,” she said with a smile.

The three other adults were amazed. They had all dealt with Delaney before and had thought they were going to be spending another hour in that office trying to explain it to her and answering all her “what if” questions. Will Riker, however, was somehow able to assure her that everything would work out in such a way that it didn’t involve a whole hour of “what if” questions. None of them was sure about how he did it, but they suspected it was her trust in him that allowed her to simply accept his assurances.

“Delaney,” began Ms. Lampson, “would you like Will Riker to be your father? If you say yes, it’s forever.”

“Yes!” she said very excitedly and turned to wrap her arms around his neck. He held on to her tightly, feeling very excited at what was about to happen.

“Alright,” Ms. Lampson said and began imputing some things into her computer. After a few seconds she added, “Will she be taking your name or keeping hers?”

“What would you like?” Will asked Delaney.

“Hmmm…” she said as she sat down on his lap again. “Delaney Riker. Delaney… Yvette… Riker. I like it!”

“Very well, I will change it on the records; however, I can’t change it on her original birth certificate. I will issue you a new birth certificate with a note that states that it reflects changes due to an adoption. I will also add a note to the original one stating that she has a parent and a new name, reflected in the updated certificate,” and she continued imputing information into her computer. A few minutes later a machine next to her desk produced two pieces of paper and a PADD on her desk beeped. She picked up the two pieces of paper and handed them to Will. “This is the new birth certificate reflecting the changes. This one is the original certificate of adoption.” She then handed him the PADD, “This has digital copies of both as well as the original birth certificate. We never got a hard copy, just a digital copy. If you really want a hard copy I’m sure you can do some digging around in Starfleet records to find it. You will probably need to submit these to your superiors to have the adoption reflected on your record. However, it does not need to be on your record in order for it to be valid; these documents are valid throughout Federation space. It also contains all our rules and procedures. I will give you until the end of the week to read it all and come and sign a new enrolment application. You will need to sign a new one before every school year begins.”

“Thank you,” said Will, suddenly overwhelmed at the realization of what had just happened.

“Well, it’s done,” Ms. Lampson said, “Delaney, you’re now Will Riker’s daughter.”

Riker’s heart swelled with joy as he held her tightly against him. Delaney just giggled.

“Can I call you daddy?”

“Of course,” he said and gave her a kiss on her forehead.

Deanna and Mr. Lansky had simply been observing and Deanna suddenly felt overwhelmed at the emotions she sensed from both of them.

“Maybe you two should go spend some time together,” Deanna suggested. “This is a big change and there are a lot of things you will need to discuss.”

“Dea,” began Will, suddenly feeling guilty and torn, “I promised you that we’d spend some time together tonight, after you were done with your work for the day.”

“Why don’t we compromise?” she said. “Why don’t the three of us go have some dinner and you two can discuss all the arrangements and things that need discussing. I can guide you through these things.” And when she has gone to bed we can go have some ‘adult’ fun, she added telepathically.

“That sounds like a great idea,” he said. “What do you think?” he asked Delaney.

“I like it!”

“It has been an interesting three weeks,” Deanna told Will as she took his hand in hers.

“It certainly has been. I never thought I’d be leaving this place as a father.”

They were walking back to his hotel after dropping Delaney off at her house, something they had done every evening since the adoption was finalized.

“And where does that leave us?”

“I love you, Deanna. I’ll come back to visit Delaney and you. When you are done with your studies maybe we can get a posting on the same ship.”

“I still have some courses to do back on Betazed. I am probably not coming back after I leave.”

“We’ll stay in touch and work something out as we go along.”

“A long distance relationship,” Deanna said with disappointment.

“Well, what do you suggest?”

Deanna sighed in frustration. “To be honest, I don’t know what to do. Neither one of us is ready to sacrifice our career for the other. I can’t expect you to do that if I know that I wouldn’t do it. And you are now a father. I don’t know about being with a man with a child.”

“Delaney doesn’t change anything. She doesn’t change who I am.”

“She will. You might not see it right now, but you will see soon how you will think of things differently, with new eyes, new priorities.”

“And how does that affect you?”

“I’m not ready to be in that kind of relationship.”

“Deanna,” he said, realizing what she was getting at, “I don’t want you to be her mother. I don’t even want you to be a role model, though that would be nice. If you could accept her as just a friend; that is all I would ask.”

“Will, this is the hotel,” said Deanna as they walked passed it.

“I know, but I need to pick something up at the bookstore.”


“A book for Delaney. I think she might like it. I came by yesterday but they didn’t have it. They said they could replicate me a copy but since I was in a hurry I told them I’d be by today to pick it up.”

“Oh. Which book?”

“I’m not telling. You might ruin the surprise!”

They walked into the bookstore and headed for the counter. There one of the clerks recognized Will and took out a small package which obviously looked like a book wrapped in pink paper with a bow.

“I printed the inscriptions on the back of the first page and on the second page, between the egg drawings,” said the clerk.

“Thank you,” said Will and took the package and headed out the door.

“You’re really not going to tell me!” Deanna said in disbelief as they headed back to the hotel.

“No, I’m not. Because you are right, I have changed. I am a mushy father with a ‘daddy’s girl’ and that is not how I want you thinking of me on our last night together.”

“Then, how do you want me to think of you?” she asked as they went inside the hotel.

“I want you to remember me as the handsome lieutenant Will Riker that swept you off your feet!” and he lifted her into his arms as they entered his room.

“Well, since it is our last night together, I guess I will grant you that one wish.”

“Thank you,” he said, putting the gift on the desk and taking Deanna to the bed.

In the morning the U.S.S. Potemkin arrived and Will had all his belongings transported on board the ship. Then, he and Deanna walked back to the campus to have their final meal together with Delaney. Deanna’s job was to keep the gift concealed until after they had finished their breakfast and Will asked for it. They had their breakfast and Will decided he wanted to find a nice tree to sit under. One was quickly found and the three of them sat under it.

“I have to leave in a little while,” he told Delaney.

“I know,” she said in a sad voice.

“Come here,” he told her and helped her up and into his arms. “I’ll call you at least once a week, right before bedtime. If I can’t call, it’s not because I don’t love you but because my duties didn’t allow me to, ok? And I will be back for holiday and we’ll go somewhere, I promise.” Delaney simply nodded as tears started to silently flow down her face. He wiped them off and held her tightly. “I got you something,” he told her. Deanna produced the gift from within her coat. Delaney got up and sat between them to open her gift. It was a green picture book with ducks on the cover.

“It has ducks, just like the ones we fed!” she said excitedly.

“Yes, it’s about a family of mallard ducks,” replied Will.

“My father read it to me when I was small, it’s a really nice book,” added Deanna as she looked up at Will. He had certainly picked something that was very special between them.

“Make Way For Ducklings,” she read. “Robert McCloskey, that’s the person that wrote it.”

“Yes, it is. Open it.”

As she opened the book Deanna leaned in closer, remembering that there was an inscription somewhere in the beginning. She flipped passed the first page and on the back of the first page, starting on the upper left side, was a trail of duck eggs. With each progressive egg, you could see it starting to hatch. Once the trail spilled onto the second page, the egg had hatched and you could see the duckling, ending on the bottom right side of the second page. On the first page, under the trail, was one inscription.

“Can you read it to me,” Delaney asked Deanna since she was now sitting slightly behind Delaney.

Deanna began reading, “Little one, when you play, pay no heave what they say. Let your eyes sparkle and shine, never a tear, my little sunshine. If they knew all about you, they’d end up loving you too. All those same people who scold you what they’d do just for the right to hold you. From your head down to your toes, you’re not much, goodness knows. But you’re so precious to me, sweet as can be, my little sunshine.”

“I really like what it says,” said Delaney.

“Will, I had no idea you were a poet!” said Deanna.

“Neither did I.”

“What does it say over here?” Delaney asked, pointing to the second page, right above the trail of ducks. Deanna read that as well.

“Come stop your crying; it will be all right. Just take my hand, hold it tight. I will protect you from all around you. I will be there; don’t you cry. For one so small you seem so strong. My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm. This bond between us can’t be broken. I will be here; don’t you cry. ‘Cause you’ll be in my heart from this day on now and forever more. You’ll be in my heart no matter what they say. You’ll be here in my heart, always.”

“I love you, daddy!” Delaney said as she got up and went over to Will with the book in her hands. She hugged him and he held her in his arms tightly, fighting the tears that were threatening to leak.

“That is very sweet,” said Deanna.

“Daddy, will you read me the book before you leave?”

“Sure,” he said as Delaney sat on his lap. “I have just enough time to read it before I have to go.” He read the book to Delaney and Deanna sat listening. Seeing them reminded her of when her father used to read to her. She could sense the feelings of both happiness and sadness that they were both feeling. He finished reading the book and gave her a kiss on her head before they both got up, followed by Deanna. He went down on one knee in front of Delaney and said, “This isn’t good bye, we will see each other again.” They hugged one last time and gave each other a kiss on the cheek. He got up and went to Deanna. “Until the next time I see you,” he told her and she grabbed his head and gave him a passionate good bye kiss.

“I thought you said she wasn’t your girlfriend,” teased Delaney. They both laughed and Deanna said, “I will miss you, Will Riker.”

“As will I.” He straightened his uniform and brushed off some grass. “You behave and listen to your teachers and Alice, ok?” he told Delaney.

“Yes, daddy,” she said, unable to control her voice, more tears evident in her eyes. Deanna went to her and held her hand.

Riker tapped his com badge, “Lieutenant Riker to Potemkin, one to beam up.” Seconds later he was gone. The two of them stood there for a moment before hugging each other, letting their tears flow freely in each other’s embrace.



Beverly Crusher was walking through the mall at Farpoint Station, feeling very nervous. She had requested this assignment so that she could get the courage to do something she should have done nine years ago. She thought about how to approach him. She had not seen Jean-Luc in 10 years and the last time they had seen each other was not under the best of circumstances. It had been easy to hide her secret, but devastating to do so. She should have told him then, he would have been angry but might have understood. That was why she had taken this assignment, to get to know him again and find the best way to tell him without ruining anything. She was longing to go dig up her secret but could not do it without telling him first.

“Dr. Crusher!”

Hearing her name brought her out of her thoughts. She was approached by Commander Riker and her son, Wesley. He began talking to her and she could tell this wasn’t just a friendly chat. He was up to something but she didn’t really care. She wanted to go back to her thoughts, back to planning how to approach the captain. But he wasn’t going away and she gave that up for a later time.

As commander Riker approached Dr. Crusher he could tell that she was distancing herself, though he didn’t know why. He told her about what he had been experiencing but she was not interested. He would have liked to count her as a friend but she seemed unwilling, despite saying that she wanted to be friends. Since she had a son he had hoped that as friends she could give him some advice on the never ending list of issues concerning his daughter, Delaney. However, he shrugged it off. There was time for friendships later. Since her son seemed to like him, and he liked Wesley, maybe over time Dr. Crusher would too.

So in that moment he decided not to mention his daughter. He had mentioned her on both the Potemkin and the Hood and the reaction from colleagues had not been good. They had told him that he was too young to accept such a responsibility and that it would hold him back in his career and with women. Of course, this was only the reaction from males. The females tended to like that he had adopted a sweet little girl. But on the Enterprise, he decided that only the captain needed to know, and he probably already did since he would have looked at his personnel file and she was listed on there as his daughter. Maybe one day he would casually bring it up to Dr. Crusher, but for now and the near future, no one else would know. Not because he didn’t want people to know he was a father, but because he didn’t want to deal with the lectures. He would mention her to the crew when he got his own command, he knew he would one day and then no one could tell him she was holding him back in his career.

Commander Riker went into the Observation Lounge after conducting a manual docking of the drive section to the saucer section, as ordered by Captain Picard.

Captain Picard sat at the end of the table in the observation lounge, stirring his tea. Commander Riker stood at the opposite end of the table, hands behind his back, waiting for the captain to speak.

“A fairly routine manoeuvre but you handled it quite well,” he began.

“Thank you, sir. I hope I show some promise,” replied Riker as the captain brought his cup to his lips.

“I do have some questions for you, however,” he said before taking a sip.

“Yes, sir, I thought you might.”

Putting his cup down on his saucer he began, “I see in your file that Captain Desoto thinks very highly of you. One curious thing, however. You refused to let him beam down to Altair III.”

“In my opinion, sir,” began Riker in a confident tone, “Altair III was too dangerous to risk exposing the Captain.”

“I see,” he said, leaning forward and looking at his lap. Then he suddenly looked up and in an accusing manner said, “A Captain’s rank means nothing to you.”

With the same confidence as before, Riker explained, “Rather the reverse, sir, but a Captain’s life means a great deal more to me.”

“Isn’t it just possible,” began the captain with a tone of arrogance as he stood up, “that you don’t get to be a Starfleet Captain without knowing whether it’s safe to beam down or not?” He began walking towards Riker with his cup and saucer in hand. “Isn’t it a little presumptuous of a first officer to second-guess his Captain’s judgment?” he asked as he stopped a few feet in front of Riker and took another sip of his tea.

Riker was now feeling defensive. In a much more serious tone he asked, “Permission to speak candidly, sir?”


Stepping towards the captain to close the space between them, he began in the same serious tone, “Having been a first officer yourself you know that assuming that responsibility must, by definition, include the safety of the Captain. I have no problem with following any rules you lay down—short of compromising your safety.”

“And you don’t intend to back off from that position?”

“No, sir,” said Riker confidently, even though he was thinking he was about to loose the position he had just gotten. He was not going to step down from his position on the matter.

Picard looked down at his cup, tapping it a couple of times, before beginning in a much gentler voice. “One further thing,” he said as he began walking towards a window, his back to Riker. “A special favour.”

“Anything, sir.”

With his back still to Riker, he said, “Using the same strength you showed with Captain Desoto I would appreciate it if you could keep me from making an ass of myself with children.”


“I’m not a family man, Riker,” he said with some annoyance, “and yet Starfleet has given me a ship with children aboard.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Since you seem to like children, I thought it would be something you’d enjoy anyway.”

“Sir?” Riker was not sure what the captain meant by that.

“Your file shows that two years ago you adopted a child. I assumed that you liked children since I can see no other reason why an up and coming officer would take on such a great responsibility.”

“I see, sir,” he said, feeling annoyed that a lecture about her holding him back was coming.

“Your file also shows that this child has not been a hindrance to your duties, responsibilities, and career. These facts are what drove my final decision to accept you as my first officer. I hope the same will be true here.”

“Yes, sir,” he answered, relieved that he had noticed that she was not a problem.

In a much humbler tone, Picard continued, “And I… I don’t feel comfortable with children,” he said before turning back around to face Riker, “but since a Captain needs an image of geniality,” he paused to smile before finishing. Then, in a very serious voice and expression, “you’re to see that’s what I project!”

“Aye, sir,” said Riker, feeling as if he had just witnessed someone going through multiple personalities.

Picard walked towards Riker looking happy. “Welcome to the Enterprise, Commander Riker,” he said and extended his hand to him.

Riker half smiled and looked down at his extended hand. He was sure he had definitely seen multiple personalities. He accepted the hand shake and looked back up at the captain with a smile.

Dr. Crusher sat in her office, thinking. She had finished some work and had a moment to herself. This was a big ship and in just one week she had gotten all sorts of accidents and maladies to treat. This was sure to be a place to keep her busy and on her toes.

She remembered the reason she asked for this assignment in the first place. Jean-Luc’s reaction towards her and Wesley was not what she had expected. He had almost thrown her off the ship so that he didn’t have to deal with his feelings about their past, about Jack. She needed to get him used to the idea of having her around before telling him her secret. They had to form a friendship first, a closer one. Telling him right now would probably be devastating. She’d waited 10 years; one more wasn’t going to kill her.

Commander Riker was in his quarters writing a report. He had been on board for almost a week and things had gone relatively well after they had passed Q’s test. The door chime brought him out of his report.

“Come in,” he called. The doors swished open and he looked up to see who it was. It was Counsellor Troi. He had seen her his first day on board and all those emotions from two years ago had been brought up to the surface. It had been difficult to put those feelings aside, for both of them, during their first mission on Farpoint Station. He had not spoken to her since, not while off duty, anyway. Their conversations so far had been brief and work related. He knew he had to face her eventually; he just didn’t have the courage. The frequency of their communication had gone down when, two months after he had left, she said she could no longer be Delaney’s counsellor because of her personal relationship with her and her father. She could not detach her personal feelings from her professional responsibility. He understood that but they had used the counselling updates as an excuse to talk. He then stopped trying to stay in communication with her after she left Clairmont Academy a few months later.

“Will,” she said as she came in through the doors. She was not in uniform so this was very clearly not a professional visit. “We need to talk.”

“I know,” he said, getting up from his desk. “Take a seat. Would you like something?”

“No, thank you,” she said as she sat down on his couch. She kept a neutral expression, not wanting to be overcome by her feelings. He walked over and sat next to her. They faced each other and Counsellor Troi began. “I think it is obvious that we cannot start from where we left off.”

“I agree. It has already been difficult for us to detach our personal feelings from our duties.”

“Yes, it has.”

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, right?”

“Right,” she said with a smile. Will leaned towards her and opened his arms, she naturally fell in them. They held each other for several minutes before letting go.

“I’ve missed you,” said Riker.

“As have I. You stopped writing and calling.”

“I got caught up in everything I had to do.”

“What about Delaney?”

“We talk often. If fact, I am going to call her in another hour. You can join me if you like.”

“I’d like that. How is she doing?”

“She’s good. She has passed all the other students her age academically. At 10 years old she is taking classes with students that are 12 and 13. She has taken up the saxophone, though she still needs plenty of practice. She has joined the choir. Her singing is much more pleasant than her saxophone playing, but don’t tell her that. And she is going through a stage where she wants to be called by her middle name, Yvette.”

“That’s good. Now tell me about her as a counsellor and not your friend.”

Will sighed as he leaned back onto the couch.

“She constantly breaks curfew, using her older friends as an excuse. I tell her that their curfew is only thirty minutes later than hers and doesn’t explain the other 45 minutes that she was late and that she must follow her curfew. She turns in assignments late and she gets marked down for it. Unfortunately, she does such a great job that even after the mark downs her grades are still good. She went swimming in the lake without permission, not that it’s ever allowed. She hasn’t been doing a good job with her house chores, only doing parts or not doing a decent job. I’ve taken all privileges away, I even stopped sending her credits for personal use, but she is not getting any better. I thought it was because she was taking classes with older kids and she was trying to be like them. Her current counsellor says that she is probably testing me; to see if she can get me frustrated enough to say something like I wish I wouldn’t have adopted her. She says I just have to be firm and not back down from anything I say.”

“The current counsellor is probably right. How long has this been going on?”

“About five or six months.”

“She has had a very good two and a half years, much better than her whole life. She is probably thinking this is too good to be true and wants to see if it can go away. She wants to see if it really is forever.”

“There are nights when I lay in bed, thinking, why is she punishing me like this? Why doesn’t she believe me?”

“Believe what?”

“That I love her and no matter what happens I will still love her. That she is my daughter forever.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Just keep being firm and she’ll grow out of it.”

“I hope so. I wouldn’t want to have to break a promise.”

“What did you promise?”

“I told her that when she graduates I’d bring her onboard with me. At the rate she is going she will probably be graduating early, in another five or six years. If she is still acting like this, there is no way I can bring her onboard a starship.”

“Maybe you should tell her that. It could be a goal for her to work towards. Just don’t use it as blackmail. That would make it worse.”

“Deanna, I am so glad you are here. I was hoping to get some help from Dr. Crusher since she has a child, but she was less than receptive to me.”

“I’m glad I can help. What did she say when you told her you had a child?”

“Nothing. I didn’t tell her. Since she didn’t seem like she wanted to talk I decided not to mention it. And I’d like to ask you a favour. Don’t tell anyone. The captain knows and that’s all I want for now. On both the Potemkin and the Hood I was given a rough time about it. She has never interfered with my duties yet I was told on more than one occasion that she would be holding me back. I don’t want to hear that again, especially right now that we are going through some tough times.”

“I understand.”


“So, do I get my own quarters?"

Will Riker chuckled at the question. “Nope,” he answered. “You will be staying in mine.”

“Right,” said Delaney, all smiles, “because you will be moving in with Deanna."

“Delaney,” he began in a more serious tone, “we’ve talked about this before. Deanna and I are just friends now. Please don’t say inappropriate things like that.”

“Darn,” she said in a sarcastic voice, “I was looking forward to having my own quarters so that the ensigns wouldn’t feel uncomfortable visiting me.”

Will looked at his teenage daughter through the small computer screen and could not believe she was thinking about boys. He was still having a hard time believing she was 15 and not 7 anymore.

“Then where am I going to sleep?” she asked after all she got from her father was his warning look.

“On my bed,” he answered.

“Where are you going to sleep?”

“On the sofa, so that I can make sure you don’t sneak in any ensigns."

Delaney laughed at her father’s small joke. She was very excited about finally getting to go live with him on the ship he had called home for the last 6 years.

“You are going to make it in time for the graduation, right?”

“Of course. I don’t care if I’m in a coma; I have given standing orders that they are to wheel me in on a gurney if they have to.”

“Oh, please don’t be the center of attention!” she said with worry in her voice.

“And embarrass you? Never,” he reassured her with a smile.

“Thank you. I need to go now; I want to do some last minute studying before my exam tomorrow.”

“Alright. Make sure you don’t stay up too late, ok? I’ll talk to you next week.”

“Ok. Love you, daddy.”

“I love you, Laney,” he said, using the pet name only he was allowed to call her, before they exchanged their final smiles, they never said good bye, and Delaney’s face was replaced by the familiar insignia.

Riker sat back on his chair and smiled. In three weeks he would be attending his daughter’s graduation and she would be coming on board with him. He had already done all the paperwork and everything was ready. Since he was the one in charge of dealing with all the paper work regarding civilians coming to live on board the ship, he had it all done quickly. Sitting there he decided he should go tell the captain that his daughter was coming in three weeks. Though he gave the final approval on all new civilians, he had mentioned on more than one occasion that he trusted Riker’s decisions and usually approved his decisions without looking too much into the civilian reports. He had probably approved it and didn’t notice Riker’s name on there.

Will sat up and picked up one of the PADDs on his desk, and smiled. It was the digital copies of the all the paperwork he had received when he adopted Delaney. As he scrolled through them, he saw the note in her birth certificate stating that it reflected changes due to an adoption. He realized he had never bothered to look at the original and looked it up so that he could see what the changes were. The first change he saw was one he expected, but one that made his heart stop beating momentarily. He knew her last name had been changed to Riker, and when he met her she had mentioned her last name. But after the adoption he never thought about her name again and had forgotten it. Now seeing it he was stunned. Could it just be a coincidence? He got up and went to his bedroom to get the latest picture he had of her, it was taken only a few months before. He sat back on his desk and looked at it closely, trying to see if there was something that could give a hint to his suspicion. He did see something but it could have just been him wanting to see something. He activated his computer once more and began to look through the Federation database to find all people with that last name. As he had suspected, it was a very rare name, and there were only a handful of people associated with that last name alive at the time Delaney would have been born. And from those five people, only one could have been the parent, the one person he knew.

“Commander Riker to Counsellor Troi,” he called as he tapped his com badge."

“Troi here,” came her voice.

“Deanna, do you have a moment?”

“Sure, what’s going on?”

“Can you come to my quarters?”

“I’ll be right there.”

Only a few minutes passed before his door chime sounded since her quarters were only down the hall, but those few minutes had seemed eternal as he continued his research.

“Come in,” he called. The door swished open and Deanna walked in with a smile and headed straight for him at his desk.

“Deanna,” he began in an urgent voice, taking her off guard with his “straight to the point” attitude which was unusual for their friendship. “Do you remember Delaney’s last name, the one on her original birth certificate?”

Deanna gave him a questioning look as she tried to recall the name. “No, Will. Why?”

He handed her the PADD he had been reading, displaying the original birth certificate. Her expression turned from confused as she took the PADD to surprise as she read it, “Delaney Yvette Howard. It could just be a coincidence.”

“That’s what I thought,” he said, swivelling the computer towards her. “But I did some digging. There were only five people alive with connections to the name at the time she was born. Beverly’s grandmother and her grandmother’s sister were too old to have conceived a child. The sister did have a daughter but she was pregnant at the time Delaney was born, her child was born three months later. That leaves Beverly and Wesley, and he was only five.”

Deanna studied the screen for anything that Will might have overlooked, but there was nothing.

“What do I do, Deanna? Delaney will be here in three weeks.”

She picked up the picture Will had brought out from his bedroom, studying it.

“Even though she has the same bright blue eyes and red hair, there really isn’t much of a resemblance. You can probably get away without saying anything about it. But Beverly is the CMO, and as your daughter, she will be Delaney’s primary physician. You can ask for another one of the doctors, but that will look suspicious since we are all friends. She knows where she dropped off her baby and the name she put on the birth certificate, so she will know as soon as she finds out we are picking up your daughter and what her name is. It would make things easier for everyone, including Delaney, if you give Beverly a heads up.”

“What do I tell her? How do I tell her?” he asked as he got up from his seat and headed towards the couch with Deanna following. They both sat down before Deanna began again.

“How do you feel about finding out that your daughter’s mother is a friend of yours?”

“I am upset. She rejected her as a baby and I don’t want Delaney to feel rejected from anyone, especially someone I consider a friend.”

“What else do you feel?” she asked, sensing that there were more feelings there. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to hide his feelings from her, but his human side always hoped.

“I’m afraid.”

“Of what?”

“That she will realize what a great kid she is and want her back. That Delaney will find out as easily as I did and want to be with her. And of how Delaney will feel if she does find out and is rejected by her.”

“This is what I suggest. Go and tell her that you adopted Delaney and she will be coming on board. Tell her that you’d like to clear things up before she does and that you will give her some time to think about it. Then tell her to come see me, she’ll know that that means if she doesn’t come I will go to her. Leave it at that for now. Once I talk to her then I can help you both figure out how to handle it.”

Will took a deep, cleansing breath. He gave Deanna hug and held her tight for several moments. She was always there for him when he needed her most. “Thank you,” he finally said in her ear as he pulled away from her. He looked at her, even more beautiful than when he had first met her despite being older than she was then. He ran his hands through her hair, remembering everything that had occurred between them during those three weeks. He smiled at the memories, the experiences, the feelings and sensations.

“I too, remember,” she told him with a smile, having sensed all those familiar feelings. He leaned in and gave her a soft, sweet kiss on the lips.

“I need to go speak to the captain. I will head to sickbay after that. That way I can have some time to think about how I’m going to tell her.”

“Ok,” she said with a smile as she stood up. He kissed her like that on occasion, just a quick, tender kiss, as if to remind her or simply let her know that he still loved her despite their mutual agreement to just be friends. Her acceptance of the kiss was her way of letting him know that she understood, and that she too still loved him. After all, Imzadi is forever. They both headed towards the door and left, each in their own direction.

Will headed straight for the turbolift and to the bridge; the captain was still in his ready room. He pressed the button to let him know someone was at the door and waited to hear him call before going inside. Inside he found the captain behind his desk doing something on his computer.

“Will, what can I do for you?” He knew Commander Riker was off duty and was most likely not there for anything official so he had decided to address him in a more informal fashion. After six years of serving with him, he had grown comfortable enough to be able to address him in such a manner naturally and with ease.

“Captain,” he began, searching for the words he had sort of put together during his trip on the turbolift. “You are aware that I have a daughter…” he said, wondering if he remembered.

Picard stopped what he was doing on the computer and looked sideways momentarily as he remembered reading it on his personnel file. “Yes,” he said as he looked up to meet Riker’s eyes, “I’d almost forgotten since you’ve never talked about her. Is there a problem?”

“No, sir. I just wanted to let know that on the last civilian report I requested to bring her on board. You approved it but I was not sure if you had noticed.”

“Will, take a seat,” he told him, noticing he was still standing. He sat at a chair in front of the desk and the captain continued. “You are correct, I did not notice since I fully trust your decision on these matters and I was busy with other work. When will she be coming on board?”

“In three weeks. That is why I requested a week’s leave in two weeks. I am still working on the transport arrangements so that I can go pick her up."

“How old is she?”

“She is 15, sir.”

“The same age Wesley was when he came on board.” Hearing this made Riker remember his impending conversation with Dr. Crusher. He had not drawn the connection that Wesley was Delaney’s brother.

“Yes, but you don’t need to worry about her wanting to be on the bridge. She is not interested in any of the things Wesley was.”

“Good, I would not want another 15 year old taking over my ship again,” he said light-heartedly as he remembered the Tsiolkovsky incident. “Where is she now?”

“She is at Clairmont Academy.”

“Clairmont Academy, that’s not far from Betazed.”

“No sir, sixteen hours at warp eight."

“Yes. Is there a specific reason why she is coming on board now?”

“Yes, sir, I promised her that I would bring her on board when she graduated.”

“She’s graduating? At 15?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yes, sir.”

“She won’t be taking over the bridge, but she will be taking over some other part of my ship, won’t she?” he asked in a joking manner.

“No sir, her interests are in the arts and literature and she will be keeping busy. She will be taking classes remotely from The University for Advanced Studies at Clairmont Academy.”

“That’s good to hear. Thank you for letting me know. I would have been utterly confused when you showed up from your week’s leave with a teenager. I assume she is coming here to live and not just a visit?"

“Yes, sir.”

“I look forward to meeting her since she will be joining our family.”

“Thank you sir, that means a lot to me.”

“Yes, well, I am also looking forward to seeing your parent side. I’ve seen you face down Romulans, the Borg, Q, but I have yet to see you face down a teenager.”

They both chuckled at the joke. Will was glad the captain didn’t seem bothered by Delaney’s impending arrival. While his discomfort around children had not disappeared, he had become more tolerable of them over the past couple of years.

Will stood up to leave. “I do hope, for my sake, that I never have to. I’ll leave you to your work,” he said as he headed for the door.

“Thank you for stopping by,” the captain told him before he left. Will was glad that his conversation with the captain had gone very well. It did help relax him as he made his way to sickbay, still not sure of the words he would use once he was there.

He walked into sickbay with no more idea of how he was going to tell her than when he left his quarters. His heart was in knots and he was afraid, the same question still nagging at him. What if she wanted her back? What if she took his little girl, his Laney? He knew she couldn’t do it legally, he had full custody and parental rights recognized by every government that was a part of the Federation. But Delaney could choose to go with her mother and he could never hold her back from such a thing. Her happiness was the most important thing. There weren’t any patients in sickbay, but several medical personnel going about their daily duties. He didn’t see Dr. Crusher and proceeded to her office, where he found her standing right outside of it talking to a nurse.

“Commander Riker,” she said as she spotted him, “what brings you in today.”

“Doctor,” he began as calmly as he could, “do you have a moment?”

“Sure,” she said as the nurse knowingly walked away and she went inside her office followed by Will. She took a seat behind her desk and said, “What can I do for you?”

Will stood in front of the desk, still not sure of how to say it. His uneasiness was coming across quite obviously and Dr. Crusher gave him a concerned look.

“I know we’re friends,” he began, deciding he was just going to do it however it came out. “I need to tell you something and it’s not easy for me to say this, but it’s very important.”

She stood up from her desk and walked around to where he was standing. She could see his stress and concern and wanted to comfort him. He was obviously here for something personal and she was wanted to treat him as a friend and not a patient. Seeing her right in front of him, her eyes the same as his Laney’s, brought up all his fears. He reacted the only way he knew how: by putting on a brave face and taking charge.

“Do you know anything about a Delaney Yvette Howard?” he said in his commanding voice. Her face went to immediate shock, questions running through her head as she took a defensive step away from him. How did he find out? Why did he care? “I thought so. Look, I don’t care what happened or why you left her. Whatever skeletons you have in your closet are yours to keep and I have no intention in bringing them out in the open. But eight years ago I adopted Delaney and she is my daughter. It had not occurred to me to look at her original birth certificate until today so I didn’t know until only an hour ago. Delaney is coming to live with me, here on the Enterprise, in three weeks and I didn’t want you greeting her with that shocked look on your face. She never has to know since that is what you obviously want. But I don’t want you making her feel any less welcomed than if you had never given birth to her.” He felt he had nothing else to say and headed to the door. On his way out he remembered something and turning around he added, “Deanna said to go see her.”

“She knows?” was all the stunned Dr. Crusher could mutter as she tried to digest all the information that she had just received.

“She introduced me to her,” he said before heading out and leaving Crusher alone in her office.

She couldn’t believe what had just happened. All these years she had thought she would never see her daughter again and now she was going to meet her. She didn’t know whether to feel excited or scared. She still hadn’t told her father and he was going to need to know. She was suddenly confused with a broad mixture of emotions. Her first reaction would have been to run to Jean-Luc, but there was a whole list of reasons why she couldn’t. She had to go to someone, she didn’t know how to deal with this situation. Will was obviously on the defensive and was reacting like a mother lion, showing all his teeth and aggression in order to protect his daughter. She wanted to talk to him but he wasn’t making that easy. She decided that she should go to Deanna, she would be expecting her and already knew of the situation.

Dr. Crusher walked out of her office and headed for the door, letting one of the other doctors know that she needed to take care of something and that he was in charge. A few minutes later she was standing outside Counsellor Troi’s quarters, waiting for the door to open. It did and she walked in, seeing Deanna at her desk. Deanna looked up to see her and smiled as she got up and walked towards her.

Deanna could sense her friend’s uneasiness and she gestured towards the couch so that they could talk. Beverly joined her at the couch, still not sure how to begin, hoping Deanna would be the first to speak.

“Will went to speak with you?” Deanna asked once they were both sitting.

“Yeah,” she answered quietly.

“What did he say?”

“You don’t know?”

“I know what I suggested that he say. I don’t know what he actually said.”

Beverly paused for a moment, trying to collect her thoughts and what Will had said. It still seemed a little surreal. “He said he adopted Delaney and that she would be coming here in three weeks. He said he doesn’t care about what happened and that he doesn’t want me making her feel unwelcome. And that she doesn’t need to find out.”

Deanna sighed, “That’s not exactly what I suggested…”

“He was very defensive,” added Beverly, “I thought he was going to get angry and start yelling.”

“He loves her very much,” began Deanna, trying to figure out how much she should really say. “He has many concerns and wants to do what is best for his daughter. I know he didn’t say it, but he does want to talk about the situation and try to come up with an agreement as to what, if anything, Delaney should be told and any arrangements resulting from that.”

“He didn’t seem to want her to know anything,” Beverly said, dropping her eyes to her lap. In the short while she had known she had hoped, maybe…

“What would you like her to know?” she asked, sensing the defeating feelings from Beverly.

“I didn’t mean to leave her there, not after Jack died,” began Beverly, tears quickly swelling in her eyes and her breathing becoming staggered. “At first I was grieving Jack’s dead. Then when I got passed that I needed to tell her father and it took me a long time to get the courage to do so. Too long,” and tears began to fall. “When I finally got the courage I looked her up so that I could show him but she had already been adopted. I didn’t look further into it since I figured she had a new set of parents and that I would never see her again. I couldn’t just go up to some strangers and tell them I wanted my baby back.” Her tears were now flowing freely down her face and Deanna got up to get a box of tissue for her.

“So you’d like to be her mother,” Deanna said in a soft voice, hoping to help calm her. Beverly shook her head as she wiped away her tears.

“Will doesn’t want that. He didn’t say it but he made it clear that he doesn’t want me getting too close to her. I think that’s just the way we’ll do it. I’ll be just another person on board and I won’t get too close to her, not any more than a physician needs to. What good would it do for her to know? She will start asking questions that I don’t want to answer, that will lead to just more trouble. I’m sure she is happy with just Will and doesn’t need me.”

“Yes, she is very happy with Will,” Deanna said, putting her hand over her friend’s trembling hands in reassurance, “but there are things that Will can’t provide, no matter how hard he tries. She doesn’t have a female role model in her life. Will hoped that you and I could fulfill that role for her. That’s one of the reasons he wanted to bring her on board. She is at an age where she has a lot of questions, questions she doesn’t feel comfortable asking Will and Will doesn’t feel comfortable dealing with them. I have sort of tried to be there for her but we’ve never had the opportunity to really get into those issues. I have limited experience dealing with those sorts of things since parents will usually go to their physicians for help and if they come to me I refer them to you.” Beverly simply nodded, acknowledging that she understood. “We can start by simply being her friend. Over time, after you have gotten to know her and she’s gotten to know you, and Will is more comfortable with the situation, we can approach Will again, see if he’d allow her to know.”

Beverly met Deanna’s eyes, a bit of confusion in them at what Deanna had just said. Deanna was quick to figure out what she was confused about. “This is a very unique situation. The only thing all Federation governments can enforce is the actual adoption. Other than that, each government has their own laws and can choose whether or not to enforce any of the details of an adoption that takes place in another government. Starfleet, however, has taken the position that whatever laws regarding adoption are put in place by the government in which the adoption was issued are what they will uphold and enforce for each individual situation. On Clairmont, orphans are very rare and they took the position which was most familiar to them, a variant from the traditional closed adoption. While they do not withhold all information regarding the biological parents, a certain amount is. They had none for Delaney, so that was never a problem. However, their laws also state that the biological parent cannot contact the child or let them know they are the biological parents once they have been adopted unless they seek explicit permission from the adoptive parents. Not until the child is 21. And since this is a Starfleet vessel…”

“Yes, I remember being told that, now,” she said in resignation.

“We’ll take it one day at a time and I’ll be here to help you in any way I can.” Deanna contemplated asking who the father was but decided against it. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway and she didn’t want to push Beverly any further. Beverly would tell her when she was ready to talk about it.

“That sounds good,” she replied as she wiped away more tears. There was silence for a short while as she got the courage to ask some questions. “How did you meet her?”

“I did an internship at Clairmont Academy eight years ago; she was one of my patients.”

“What was wrong with her?”

“The usual seven year old stuff. Mostly, she needed someone to talk to and the head of the department thought it would be good practice for me since I had trouble with young children. There wasn’t anything actually wrong with her, psychologically speaking.”

“How did Will fit into the picture?"

Deanna sat back and smiled as she recalled. “After I had been at Clairmont Academy for six months, they went on holiday and I went back to Betazed to do some classes. That’s when I met Will. He was set to leave three weeks after I was leaving to go back to Clairmont Academy so he arranged it so that he would follow me there for his last three weeks. She came to greet me within minutes of our arrival. I was staying on the main campus and Will was staying in a nearby town. Delaney offered to help him find his way to the town and to his hotel while I went to settle into my room.”

“He adopted her after knowing her for only three weeks?” she asked, a bit of shock in her voice.

“No. He adopted her after knowing her for a week and a half. See, the first week we were there I was very busy and they took to each other very quickly so they ended up spending time together every day that first week. At the end of the week I finally had a bit of free time and Delaney was going camping, I think. For four days we didn’t see her, and while we had an amazing time together he missed her dearly. He adopted her the day after she got back, after a very emotional plea for ice cream.”

“He adopted her because she wanted ice cream?” asked Beverly, feeling very confused by that.

“No, it wasn’t the actual ice cream. Delaney craved attention and getting ice cream was a lengthy process which meant she got lots of attention doing so. She didn’t kick and scream and throw a tantrum. She gave him that look that only an emotionless person can turn their head on. She had him tightly wrapped around her little finger, though I doubt she knew it, and he wanted to give her the universe.”

“I never thought of Will as a father, I just don’t picture him as you describe him.”

Deanna sighed with a smile. “It is a very different side of Will that I am glad I have gotten to see. It is a much gentler side, but a very firm one at the same time. She’s his little girl and she plays the part very well.”

“What does she look like?”

Deanna got up and went to a drawer at her desk. She pulled out a photo album and quickly turned through the pages, stopping at one and taking out a picture.

“This was seven months ago, I think,” she said as she walked back to the couch and handed Beverly the picture. She immediately smiled as she looked at it.

“She’s got my hair.”

“And your eyes.”

“Will got her interested her in music?” she asked, referring to the flute Delaney was holding in the picture.

“Yes and no,” said Deanna. “At Clairmont music is part of the core curriculum, as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. They start music very young. Delaney had taken up the piano and stuck with it because she felt that she wasn’t good at music. After Will played for her a couple of times, showing her that it was more about the fun than actual skill, she began to get interested in other instruments. I know she played the saxophone for a while as well as the trumpet. The flute is just her latest instrument. At this point I think she’s learned how to play enough instruments to make a one man band. She just needed some encouragement and to see beyond the piano. Will much prefers her singing, though.”

“I see.”

Captain Picard sat at the head of the table, his senior officers all present for their briefing.

“We have been given our next assignment,” he began, looking just a little bit annoyed. “We are to pick up Ambassador Troi from Betazed and take her to a conference where she is being recognized for all her work for the Federation. Then we are to transport her back to Betazed. The Ambassador will be staying with us for three days. Commander,” he said, as he turned to address Commander Riker, “I know you are scheduled to depart tomorrow morning, but we will be in the area of Clairmont Academy twice this coming week. It would be no problem to swing by.”

“Thank you, Captain, but I must be at Clairmont Academy in four days. That’s the day of the graduation.”

“Then we can stay in the area an extra day. We don’t have anything pending right after the Ambassador’s departure.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

“Then after we drop off Ambassador Troi on Betazed,” the captain said to his whole staff, “we will make our way to Clairmont Academy to pick up Commander Riker’s daughter.”

“You have a daughter?” asked Geordi before he captain could dismiss them.

“She is mentioned on the commander’s personnel file,” stated Data.

Geordi looked around the table and saw that no one else seemed surprised. “Was I the only one that didn’t know?”

“I was not aware either,” said Worf.

“And I just recently found out,” added Beverly, deciding that this was a good time to start acting like she knew nothing about her.

“Well, now that we are all up to date,” said the Captain, “dismissed.”

Everyone stood up and began filing out. It had been almost two weeks since Will had confronted Beverly and they were now acting as if nothing had happened. This is what Beverly had wanted and Deanna delivered the message to Will, to which he agreed.

Inside the Enterprise’s ready room, Captain Picard sat at his desk with a cup of tea. He had decided to watch the broadcast of the Clairmont Academy graduation, thinking that it would give him something to talk to Commander Riker’s daughter about, especially since Riker had mentioned that his daughter was going to be one of the speakers. It would certainly give him some insight into who his daughter was.

Several decks below, Dr. Crusher sat in her office, also waiting for the broadcast of the graduation to begin. She had told her staff that she had some very important work to do and didn’t want to be disturbed. At first she was not going to watch the graduation, but after she overheard Will saying that his daughter was going to be giving a speech, she just could not resist the urge to know what that little baby she had given birth to so long ago had to say.

Down on the planet Will and Deanna sat in the great performance hall that the graduation was going to be taking place in. It was crowded with excited parents, relatives, friends, and staff, all waiting for the ceremony to begin.

It began only a few minutes behind schedule and proceeded like typical high school graduations. The band played the traditional Pop and Circumstance as the students began walking down two isles of the theatre towards the stage. Once on the stage, they all went to their seats and waited for all the students to arrive and be given the signal to be seated. As expected, there were a whole series of speeches from different students, staff, and guest speakers. Delaney Riker was to be the last speaker before the director, who would be reading the names of all the graduates after her speech. Will and Deanna sat in the theatre, anxiously waiting for her turn to speak, as did Picard and Crusher on the ship. The moment finally came and Will got a rush of pride as he saw his daughter walk up to the podium.

“Being the youngest person to graduate in the Academy’s history has been interesting. I certainly did not intend to break any records when I started going to school. When Ms. Lampson told me that she wanted me to give a speech, I had no idea what to say. I can’t say that I’ve worked any harder than anyone else on this stage with me, or anyone else still trying to reach the point in which we find ourselves today. Yes, I’ve worked hard, but so has everyone else. It wasn’t always easy, we’ve all had our rough spots. I also can’t say that I am smarter than anyone else. I needed help with a lot of things and I had my share of tutors though the years. I did have one advantage over everyone else, and I think it is important for me to say this before there are rumours that I am some sort of genius. I never went away for the entire holiday break and started taking classes during holiday at the university when I was ten years old. If I had never taken these classes then I would not be here today. So please don’t think that I am any more special than any one of my classmates.

“However, since I am being given the chance to say something for everyone to hear, I will acknowledge some people. All my teachers certainly deserve a mention. Thank you all for all your patience with me, I know I haven’t always been the best student but you never gave up on me. Thank you, Alice, for always catching me doing the things I wasn’t suppose to and for letting Daddy know. You’ve helped me become who I am by helping to guide me on the right path. Thank you Ms. Lampson for not letting me get away with anything. If you had I would not have made it this far. Thank you to all my counsellors and mentors who also helped guide me. I’d also like to thank my classmates for putting up with me. Being the youngest has been challenging for all of us. A special thanks to Deanna Troi who brought Daddy to my life. And of course, the biggest thanks to Daddy. He got to know me when no one else had wanted to and saw something special in me. Even when I was bad, pushed all his buttons, and did everything I knew I was not suppose to, he never gave up on me. He always told me to try to behave and that he loved me.

“Daddy adopted me when I was seven years old, so I’ve always known that I have biological parents somewhere out there. I do not know who they are but I have always hoped that maybe they’re keeping track of me. In case they are listening today, I’d like to thank them too. I have had the privilege of seeing parents with their new babies and the unquestionable love that they have for these little squirming babies the moment they first see them. I cannot imagine what kind of extenuating circumstances led to me being brought here when I was six weeks old, but I know it could not have been an easy decision make or go through with. As grim and unpleasant as it is to think about, there are other options that would have taken care of their problem permanently. Instead, I was brought here and I thank you for that. You chose a place where I would be safe, sheltered, fed, and educated. I am not mad for the choices that you made. In the end, everything worked out great. I may not have two parents with memories of my birth, but I have one with more than enough love for me. And I still hope that one day, somewhere out there, we will meet and maybe even be friends.”

There was an applause as she left the podium. Commander Riker had lost his self control and tears were silently falling down his cheeks. It was due to a mixture of pride and fear. That same fear he had tried to put aside since he found out Dr. Crusher was his daughter’s mother.

In the privacy of her office, Beverly was a weeping mess. Of everything she thought Delaney would say, she never imagined that she would mention her biological parents, much less thank them. Her heart was torn once again, and she wished she could meet her as her daughter and not her friend’s daughter.

Meanwhile, in the ready room, Picard took another sip of his now cold tea as he thought of what she had just said. She was obviously very mature, which pleased him. But he could not get the eerie feeling that she looked awfully familiar but he could not put his finger on it. The only person he knew with red hair and blue eyes like hers was his CMO and best friend, but Delaney didn’t look like her. He had met Beverly when she was still young and had seen pictures of her as a teenager. It was not Beverly that he was being reminded of. He figured that it was probably the hair and eye colours that were leading him back to Beverly. He had met thousands of people throughout his career and she could be reminding him of one of those faces that he long put away from his mind. As the director began reading the names of the graduates and they begun accepting their diplomas, he put the thoughts out of his head and simply continued watching the ceremony.

Since the day Picard had informed his senior staff of their assignment involving Ambassador Troi the news of Commander Riker having a daughter spread quickly through the crew. Everyone had their thoughts and opinions on the matter but mostly everyone was interested in seeing the commander in this role they were not accustomed to seeing him in. And they were interested in knowing about his daughter. In the three days before the graduation Riker was approached by many crew members and civilian friends asking questions about his daughter. He had not anticipated that their interest in her would be so great.

As the post graduation festivities wound down, Will, Deanna, and Delaney made their way to the house Delaney had spent the last eight years in. All her things had already been transported to the Enterprise, but her house mates wanted to give her one last goodbye. The emotions ran high and Deanna had a hard time coping with all the emotions in the house. They finally left the house with Delaney holding on tightly to the book her father had given her before he had left the first time. She had not wanted that transported with her other things, she wanted to take it herself to ensure it arrived safely. It was still her favourite book and Will read it to her, recited it would be a better way to describe it since he had memorized it, every time they had talked and every night during their vacations together. They awaited the familiar feeling of being transported, the three of them excited, nervous, and worried, though for different reasons, at what this new chapter in their lives was going to be like.