owns these characters and basic format. This
story is not intended to infringe on any copyright.
Captain's Log, Stardate 48307.8:
The Enterprise is arriving at Starbase 22 where we have a scheduled
72-hour layover for routine maintenance and computer system back-ups.
The layover should provide the crew with some well deserved rest and
going shopping. My mother's
birthday is coming up soon, and this year I want to get her something truly
excitement was apparent in Deanna Troi's voice as she squirmed in her bridge
chair. The huge seat always seemed to dwarf the petite Betazoid.
She could easily sit sideways in it without being uncomfortable.
unusual. That will take some
thinking. What to give the woman
--- how does the old cliche' go --- who has everything?"
Will Riker was snickering as he replied, his wicked sense of humor
already turning to "gift" ideas that would embarrass even the
formidable Lwaxana Troi. Pushing
the fun a little farther, he turned to his captain.
Picard, for his part, had been trying to ignore the entire conversation ever
since the subject of Ambassador Lwaxana Troi first came up.
Her visits were uncomfortable for Picard, to say the least, and while
he never would have confronted Riker on the subject, the Captain suspected his
first officer got a perverse joy out of watching him try to dodge the
counselor's rather outspoken mother.
Captain," Riker asked innocently, "What would you pick for Mrs.
Troi's birthday gift?"
the temptation to say "a muzzle" or "a trip in the opposite
direction from me" Picard
replied with equally innocent sincerity, "Oh, I'm not sure, Number One.
I understand some of the newer Andorian pottery is quite
this time, the entire bridge crew was tuned into the conversation, trying not
to look like they were interested, and fairly creaking under the effort.
the tactical station, Lt. Worf broke in.
"Incoming message from Starbase 22, sir."
screen" Picard stood, trying to keep the relief out of his voice and
making a mental note to thank his Klingon security chief for the
image of a fifty year old human female smiled across the viewscreen.
"This is Commander Garlotti of Starbase 22.
On behalf of my entire staff, welcome."
returned her smile. "Thank
you, Commander. My crew and I are
looking forward to some rest and relaxation.
We can begin docking procedures when you are ready."
standard docking procedures at your convenience," answered Garlotti.
"Also, Captain, is Commander William Riker available?"
shifted in his seat and rose to stand next to the Captain.
"I am Commander Riker. Can
I help you?"
would like to see you in my office as soon as the Enterprise has docked and
you are free to disembark. A
situation has arisen that requires your attention."
Commander Garlotti's tone has carefully unstressed and casual.
Commander," Riker replied carefully, the apprehension obvious in his
eyes. "May I ask the nature
of this situation?"
would be better to take it up in my office," Garlotti assured.
"And you may wish to bring your ship's counselor.
She is female, as I recall?"
this is our counselor, Commander Deanna Troi"
Riker indicated Troi with a sweep of his arm.
"I will ask her to accompany me, if you want."
Garlotti acknowledged Troi's nod, "I'll see you both as soon as you're
available." She turned to
Picard. And thank-you,
nodded. "Picard out."
viewscreen faded and the men returned to their seats.
Riker stared first at Picard, then at Troi.
What the hell could this mean?
shifted in his chair. More than
anything else, he hated waiting. Especially
when he didn't know what he was waiting for.
Will" Troi whispered softly. "Don't
expect the worst." Although
they had been seated in Commander Garlotti's office waiting area less than
five minutes, Riker was ready to climb the walls.
that instant, the door slide open and a male civilian escorted a young little
brunette girl, maybe nine years old, across the reception area to Garlotti's
office. The girl's eyes were fixed on Riker as she crossed the room.
Commander Garlotti appeared in her office entrance.
it would be best if we saw you first, Counselor," Garlotti suggested. Troi gave one more reassuring look at Riker, and followed the
Starbase commander into the seclusion of her office.
sat, alone, fidgeting. Waiting
with a friend was hard enough. Alone
it was damn near intolerable. His
mind buzzed with possibilities, each more fantastic than the last, but his
thoughts kept returning to one explanation:
One little brown haired, blue eyed girl was looking for daddy.
And she just hit the bull's eye.
had he been doing nine, ten years ago? The
year after he'd left Betazed, the year he'd gone totally crazy, trying to
forget and re-adjust to life in space. The
year when he'd decided nothing would stand between him and a ship of his own.
Before the Enterprise, before the Borg, before so many other things
that where now a part of who he'd become.
"Mom" could be any one of a dozen women --- he'd never stuck
with one woman longer than a year --- okay, never slept with any one woman
longer than a year. Suddenly,
Riker found his insides moving from stress to near panic.
Oh, great, he thought. Deanna
meets my kid before I do.
appeared, alone, in the doorway, and Riker started to get up, only to have
Troi signal him back down.
" she said intently, "I promised we'd take only ten minutes, and you
have a lot to decide. Please
listen carefully. That little
girl is your sister."
emotions swept from shock to relief to fury in less than a second.
"Sister?" he stammered. "Dad.
Why that son of a ----" Riker's
voice trailed off. Troi's gaze
was fixed on him, saying more than any words could.
shoulders slumped. "Yeah, I
know. I know what I thought when
I first saw the little lady. And
I think I know what you thought."
smiled now, and took his hands in hers. "Tamara
is your father's child, the child of a woman he served with on Rigel Three.
In the records she left, she explained that your father never knew
about her pregnancy. She did not
want him to know, because she believed they had no basis for a life
Riker breathed. "He never knew."
Troi continued, "There's more. Three
weeks ago, Tammy's mother, a Starfleet operations engineer, died in an
accident. Her will names you as
temporary guardian of Tammy. Apparently
she had continued in her desire not to involve your father in her daughter's
guardian?" Riker demanded. "What the hell does that mean?"
wanted you to find a good, loving, permanent home for Tammy.
Although she never knew you personally, she and Tammy had kept up on
your achievements. She felt that
you were a man of honor and sound judgement," Troi explained. "They
maintained records on your career. One
of the first things Tammy said to me was how she wanted to see her brother,
"the guy who saved us all from the Borg"."
dammit, dammit," Riker exhaled, "she thinks I'm some
you don't have to accept this responsibility.
She has relatives on earth. One
of them could adopt her, or at least find her a stable home."
me? Why didn't she pick someone
who at least knew the girl existed?"
has spent her first nine years in space, on ships and space stations,"
Troi replied. "Her mother,
Allesandra, felt that someone who understood Starfleet life would make the
best choices about Tammy's future. Allesandra
thought that the transition to life on earth would be difficult for a child
like Tammy, and while we cannot rule out Tammy becoming part of a planetside
family, the starbase school counselor, who has been caring for Tammy, thinks
placement with a Starfleet family may be more appropriate."
dropped his head into his hands, rubbing his eyes.
"Okay. What about the
mother's family? Have they been
contacted? Have any of them
offered to adopt her?"
mother has an older brother on earth, married, but his children are grown and
live away from home," Troi answered. "And Tammy has living
grandparents. Tammy was born when
her mother was forty-three. Both
the uncle and the grandparents offered to take Tammy, if you thought that
best, but both have raised their families and aren't quite prepared for a nine
year old again."
lifted his head and exhaled a long whistle.
"So it's up to me. Okay,
she comes with me on the Enterprise, at least for now."
gently touched his back. "It
will be a complete change of routine for you.
There is no shame in deciding to send her to earth, now.
You don't have to wait for other alternatives.
The starbase counselor is convinced the relatives could provide
a good home."
but they don't really want her and her mother wanted her to stay in space
somewhere." Riker stood,
shaking his head. "No, I've
got to get her settled somewhere. And
I have to call dad. He's got to
know about this. Mark my words,
he won't take any responsibility, but I'm going make him go through the act of
telling me that to my face."
Troi's voice sounded almost pleading, "think about this. What will a nine year old do to your life.
Think through your schedule for one week.
How can a child fit in?"
what's the matter!?" Riker was
getting genuinely frustrated. "You've
been supportive of Worf as a father."
is different. Tammy is not your
child." Troi chose her words
carefully. "Besides, Worf's
---lifestyle--- didn't pose quite the same problems with parenthood."
was undaunted. "I'll adapt for
as long as I have to. Come on, lets
say hello." He turned for the
Troi followed him across the room, wondering how she could temper the disaster
she felt was sure to follow.
I'm Will" Riker squatted down to address the girl at her level.
I'm Tammy." Her voice sounded
tentative but Troi noted that she did look her brother straight in the eye when
are going to be coming with me until I can find a new home for you," Riker
continued, "I understand you've been on starships before?"
can't I just stay with you?" Tammy replied, hurt innocence in her voice.
sorry, Tammy, Troi
found herself thinking. I'm
afraid you're going to have to live with a few shattered dreams.
don't think that would be such a good idea." Riker answered slowly.
"But I promise you I'll find a good family."
disappointed, disappointed and hurt,
I've been on starships before. Mama
and I were on the Crazy Horse when I was little, and then we were on the Gibraltar"
Tammy continued as if she hadn't said and heard the last few lines of
you packed and ready to go?" Riker asked.
The child nodded.
can be ready to transport to the Enterprise within two hours," Garlotti
interjected, catching the starbase counselor's nod, "The main question is
how long it will take you to get ready for her on the ship."
lord, Riker thought, you can estimate the time needed to move a few bulkheads,
but how much time would he need to clean up and put ---- everything ---- away?
would you like to come with me for a while?
We could visit the ecology deck on the Enterprise.
That would give Will a chance to get your quarters ready."
Troi offered, making a mental promise to bail Riker out only once in each
twenty-four hour timespan. I'll
help, Will, but you have to take the lead here.
Can I call you Deanna?" Tammy's voice was tentative and quiet.
This is going to be hard, Deanna thought.
She is dealing with the heartbreak of losing her mother, and now her hero
has failed her. For the first, but
surely not for the last time. I
can't give her stability, but I can give her a friend.
on," Troi smiled and took her hand. "Let's
overwhelmed, Riker watched the two heads of long dark hair depart through the
soon as the broad maroon back had disappeared around the corner, Geordi La Forge
shook his head and let out a low whistle. He'd
get a crew going right away on reconfiguring the bulkhead arrangements in
Commander Riker's quarters, but frankly, he couldn't help but thinking how crazy
the whole mess sounded. With all
due respect, the good commander had never impressed him as a family man. Riker hadn't really even known how he wanted the quarters
rearranged --- he seemed like he just wanted Geordi to figure out what he
thought was best and do it. That's
trouble, Geordi mused. If he can't
come up with a floorplan, how's he going to do on the really tough stuff, like
nightmares, discipline, and finding the kid a home, for pete's sake?
The hiss of turbolift doors brought Geordi back to reality,
and Lt. Commander Data appeared.
are you rearranging Commander Riker's quarters to allow for his sister's
needs?" Data queried.
yeah, I am. Did he tell you about
her mother dying and all?"
I have not spoken to Commander Riker," Data replied "My information
has been gathered from a variety of sources in Ten Forward."
smiled. "News certainly
travels fast on a starship."
I suggest you take approximately 50 square meters of floor space from the
adjacent lounge, and compensate for this loss by moving the lounge wall six
meters into the present storage area? The
full capacity of the section nine storage area is seldom utilized."
turned back to the plans on his padd. "Yeah,
Data, I think you've got it." He
tapped his communicator. "Lt.
Vasques, I think we're ready. Report
with your team to Commander Riker's quarters."
tried to slide up to the Ten Forward bar without being noticed, but, of course,
failed totally in the attempt. He
felt sure everyone had been discussing his little problem and quickly dummied up
at the site of him. Stop being
paranoid, he cussed to himself. Neither
Deanna or Geordi would have told anyone, and how could anybody else have found
out? Right now, he needed a drink,
and a chance to think. He spotted
Worf on the far end of the room, drinking alone, as usual.
shook his head in acknowledgement but said nothing as Riker sat down. Two minutes later, Riker finally made eye contact.
a single parent must be hard at times, isn't it, Worf?"
I am available to help you clean your quarters."
snorted, shook his head, stood up, and motioned for his friend to follow him out
through the barroom doors.
two men had been hard at it for a full hour.
Worf, as it turned out, was a great help.
You could always trust a Klingon, Riker thought, to look at --- objects
--- that would embarrass most people purple without giving them more that
casual, detached disinterest. After
the first few drawers he'd stopped telling Worf what to keep and what to throw
away. Worf's own judgement was extremely sound.
finished, Worf scooped up the enormous box of paraphanalia and rumbled
"Sir, I shall take this to transporter room two.
It will be particlized promptly."
go ahead. And Worf, thanks."
nodded and turned to the corridor. Riker
stared at the doors as they slid shut behind him.
All my favorite toys, Riker lamented.
Ashamed, he shook himself to attention.
She's the child, I'm the adult, he reasoned.
Besides, he grinned, He could always have some fun acquiring a new
set of "merchandise" later. Riker
checked the time. Deanna would be
back with the girl in less than a half an hour.
placed the box in Lt. Barclay's arms. "Particalize
this immediately, Mr. Barclay. And
do not examine the contents before you do."
Worf turned on his heel and left.
eyed the box. He knew he shouldn't,
but who'd know? Slowly, he lifted
the lid a tiny bit, and then a bit more. His
eyes went wide.
my, oh my g-g-goodness!"
Troi smiled down at the girl who trotted down the corridor besides her.
She's very intelligent, Troi observed.
That was easy to believe considering her parentage and education.
Tammy had been chattering almost constantly, telling Troi about her
mother, their last ship, and, about the furry friend she proudly carried.
I can hardly wait, Troi thought.
I can hardly wait.
answered his door chime. "Come
in." His mouth fell open.
Tammy trotted in, and in her arms was a large, brown, fluffy cat.
is Cocoa" Tammy announced proudly. "She's
Riker turned to Troi for help. He
wasn't going to get it. Deanna had
her hand over her mouth, and her whole body shook with silent laughter.
hi, Tammy" Riker started,
"Are the rest of your things on the way?"
Barclay said they'd be coming real soon. We'll
need a litterbox for Cocoa. And I
think she's hungry."
the second time in one day, William Riker was damn near highly unaccustomed
panic. A child was one thing.
A cat was a different problem altogether.
got a friend who knows a lot about cats. Maybe
he could give us some ideas on catfood."
you mean Mr. Data!" Tammy returned brightly.
"We met him on our way here! I
never had an android friend before! He
told me about his cat, Spot."
tapped his communicator. "Mr.
Data, please report to my, er, our quarters."
shot a look toward Deanna. She was
leaning against his desk, still twittering like a particularly irritating bird.
appeared at the door. "Counselor,
Miss Larson. Can I be of
this sound stupid, Riker thought. "I
was wondering if you had some ideas on what Cocoa, here, might want for
well, Commander. May I have your
cat, Miss Larson?"
child smiled up at the yellow eyes and lifted the cat.
"You can call me Tammy."
well, Tammy." Data turned to
the replicator. "Feline
supplement number 87." The
food appeared and he set it before the animal, who began devouring it.
then Tammy sneezed.
you all right?" Riker tensed
got allergies" she sneezed again. "Maybe
I'm overdo for my hypospray."
hypospray?" Riker was trying
to keep the hysteria out of his voice. He
was only partially successful. "Dr.
Crusher, this is Riker!"
here. What can I do for you,
Tammy's medical records here? She
says she needs a allergy injection."
Garlotti had her records sent a couple of hours ago, but I haven't got a chance
to look at them yet. I'm pulling
them up now. Yes, she needs a
weekly benahaladryll dose for respitory symptoms.
And it's overdue. Is she
with you? I could bring one right
fine, thanks, Doctor." Another
glance at Troi. He was sure he
could hear her laughter in his head.
chime. "Come in!"
walked in, in off-duty clothes, but carrying a hypospray.
"Hi Tammy, I'm Doctor Crusher, but you can call me Beverly.
Which arm do you usually get your shot in?"
left" replied the girl, pushing up her left sleeve.
arm. Left arm." Riker repeated under his breath.
"She gets the shot once a week. Thursday. In her left arm."
received her injection, Tammy's attention turned back to her cat.
Cocoa was sniffing the corners of the room. Tammy's voice sounded exasperated. "Will, I told you she needs a litterbox.
Her own one isn't here yet!"
mouth dropped open.
Data interjected, "Personal replicators cannot generate such
objects. We will have to have
Commander LaForge bring one up from the cargo replicator."
Riker called "Can you replicate a litterbox, and some litter, and bring to
my -- our -- quarters, please, now?"
chuckle came over the communicator. He
cut it off, but could hardly keep from laughing as he replied.
"A litterbox, sir? As
in a cat's --- sanitary facility?"
it, Geordi!" Riker returned a
bit more sharply than he intended. "Yeah,
Geordi, please, right away."
Crusher was shaking. Troi was way
beyond that, with tears running down her face.
turned to Troi. "Don't worry
Deanna, we'll be okay."
and seeing her concern, Troi smiled and took the girl into her arms.
"I know, Tammy, I know."
picked that minute to show up with the litterbox.
They were settling it into a corner when the door chime rang again.
Riker practically shouted. He was
fast approaching hysteria.
Picard stepped in. Troi's hand was
back over her mouth. Crusher was
clutching her stomach.
thought I'd come down and pay my respects to the young lady"
Picard glance around. "It
seems that others had the same idea."
the captain? Your ship is so
big!" Tammy said, awed.
hope you enjoy your stay with us" Picard
I have a tour? Can I see the
bridge, where Will works?"
Will inserted, "We'll see about getting you a look at the ship tomorrow.
Right now, I think we'd better say good night to everybody."
rushed to hug Troi. "Good
night, Deanna. Good night,
the crowd filed out. Riker's relief
lasted only an instant. Now What
should he do?
what time are you supposed to be in bed?"
looked unflinchingly into his eyes. "Mama
always made me go to bed by 22 hundred hours."
sized her up. "That seems a
bit late for a little thing like you. Now
tell me the truth."
looked dejected. "It was
always twenty-one hundred, and twenty-thirty on school nights."
better. And I should warn you.
I'm a pretty fair poker player. Bluffing
--- lying --- isn't a good idea around here."
she's old enough to take care of a few things for herself, Riker thought as Tammy used the bathroom.
And her belongings have all arrived, intact.
I'll have to make sure she brushes her teeth and such, but hopefully,
we'll find her a family soon. A
good one. She deserves as much.
his thoughts turned back to his own childhood, and how he always felt unwanted,
like an inconvenience, a burden to his father.
And all the anger their tortured relationship incubated, anger he carried
well into adulthood. He had to make
Tammy feel loved and wanted here and now, and somehow still keep reminding her
that this was only temporary.
night, Will Riker stared up a the ceiling at least two hours before sleep
shot upright in bed. She was
crying. Throwing on his robe, he hurried to Tammy's room.
She was huddled under the covers, sobbing into the pillows.
Cocoa nuzzled her arm.
did she have to die?" the child whimpered.
felt a lump in his throat. She
looked so tiny, lost and alone in the expanse of the big bed.
Thirty years ago, this was him, crying for the love of the mother he had
never known. How had the loneliness
and pain of his childhood shaped him? Would
he be better able to give love --- committed love --- now if someone had loved
him unconditionally as a child? What
lay ahead for Tammy --- a female --- if she didn't get that love now?
When he had cried alone at night, what had he really wanted?
What would have helped him then? Riker
settled onto the bed next to his sister, cuddling her next to him. "I don't know, Tammy.
Bad things happen. I just
don't know why."
hopelessly inadequate, Riker did what he could to comfort her, returning to his
own room only when the girl's tears had stopped and he was sure she was asleep.
rolled over and stretched. He
wasn't exactly sure what the day would hold, but at least he'd had the sense to
have the computer wake him up an hour early.
I wish I was one of those people who didn't need a half an hour to wake
up, he cussed to himself. Slowly,
he began his morning routine: Stagger
to the mirror, check yourself out, then a shower.
Trim your beard, get into uniform. Then
back to the mirror to admire what you've created.
ego trip will have to be a fast one this morning, he concluded.
You've got a kid to get ready. Riker
sighed. At least he was familiar
with the business part of handling children on board a starship.
As executive officer, he had had plenty of chances to see new families
settle onboard. But going through
it oneself was bound to hold a surprise or two.
At least the layover a Starbase 22 would give him some slack time when he
desperately needed it.
pulled up the "family orientation" file on his computer screen.
The issue of quarters had been pretty much taken care of, so the next
issue would be school enrollment. Riker
glanced at the screen's chronometer. O-seven-hundred
hours. Time to get Tammy up.
suppose you're going to make me eat a breakfast that's "nutritionally
outer lip was pouty and her voice filled with dejection.
smiled and shook his finger at her. "You
bet. I intend to grow you up
strong, healthy, intelligent and beautiful."
Tammy smiled, stuck out her tongue at him, and turned to the replicator.
Morning had gone smoothly so far. She
had needed a little advice on what to wear, but no real trouble.
Cocoa gobbled two dishes of supplement 124 and was now busy inspecting
(?) one of Riker's ferns. The cat
sure eats enough, Riker thought in passing.
hour later, Tammy was situated in a classroom alongside a dozen other upper
primary students, working over her computer terminal.
Riker and the primary teacher, Ms. Cursato, studied Tammy's class through
the glassed wall that divided the schoolroom from the private conference room.
you think she's going to be okay?" Riker
smiled softly. "Tammy is
accustomed to attending school on starships, but her recent tragedy and
subsequent move will certainly affect her concentration and learning skills.
Fortunately, in this case, her records state that she is a very curious
child, and a take-charge, competitive type, almost to the point of being a
daredevil." She turned to
Riker. "Those qualities ----
Commander, why are you snickering?"
leaned back in his chair. "Sorry. It's just that she sounds like a kid I knew pretty well about
thirty years ago."
smiled back. "Yes, Commander,
there is something to all this genetic business."
She grew serious. "How
long do you expect her to be with us?"
face darkened. "I don't know.
A couple of weeks, maybe a month. I
Tuesday night poker game was in full swing and he was hot.
He was cruising. He was
invincible. He knew it.
And so did Worf, Geordi, Bev, and Deanna. Riker had cleared two-thirds of the chips off the table and
was scheming to get the rest. Flashing
his famous, wicked grin, he dealt the cards.
"The game is five-card stud, aces and jokers wild."
had been having great fun all night, skittering around the table and letting the
players show her their cards and tell her how they were going get even "in
one more hand". Cocoa, for her
part, had introduced herself to each guest and then sacked out in one of the
other rooms. Riker had lost all
track of time when he suddenly realized that it was 22:40.
Ten minutes past bedtime. Riker
battled inside himself: He
had to get her off to bed, but how could he leave most of the makings of a full
me out this hand, Doctor." He
turned to Tammy. "It is past
time to get you to bed." Tammy
stuck out her lower lip and did her best to look pathetic.
about if I get you off to bed, Tammy?"
Deanna asked softly.
Tammy replied, still disgruntled.
smiled at the rest of the players. "I'll
be back in a hand or two."
gently tucked the covers under Tammy's chin.
She's very apprehensive, Troi thought, and with good reason.
She's just lost her only parent, and she doesn't know how long she'll be
here, but she's been told that it is only temporary.
She wants to be close to people, but she doesn't want to deal with loss
again. I feel so sorry for her, and I don't know what else I can do
to help. She such a spirited, alive
child, full of energy, creativity, and humor.
Just like her brother. Maybe
that's why I'm so attached to her already, Troi confessed silently.
I'm afraid" Tammy whispered, as if she had been reading and silently
confirming Troi's thoughts. "Why
can't I stay here with Will? I
won't be any trouble. I'll be good. I promise."
I know you'll try your best. It
just would be very hard for your brother to take good care of you with all the
other things he has to do." Tears
appeared in the child's blue eyes, and Troi felt her own grow wet.
"Tammy, I do understand a little of what you're feeling.
My father died when I was only five.
I still had my mother, but I still miss him so much.
And I had a little son, once. I
only had him for a couple of days, but I loved him anyway, and lots of times I
wish he was still here."
mommy used to sing to me at night. Would
you sing something with me, Deanna?"
drew a deep breath. She didn't have
her father's voice, but she remembered the comfort she took in his bedtime songs
so many years ago. "What do
you want to sing, Tammy?"
don't care" she cried. "Just
please sing to me."
picked a old sweet song, and began softly singing, stroking Tammy's hair and
holding her hand until she was breathing softly in her sleep.
to the card game in the next room, Troi sat wet-eyed on the bed, and wished
sweet dreams to the girl, over and over and over again.
Troi broke out of her reverie only when she sensed Riker
standing in the door. They
exchanged a soft smile and quietly slipped back into Riker's living room.
The rest of the poker players were gone, but the cards and chips still
lay scattered across Riker's round, green cardtable.
Troi lowered herself to the couch. Riker
studied her for a moment, and then began to pace up and down the room.
"You didn't have to take care of her. She's my responsibility."
Riker's tone was apologetic.
were "cleaning up". You
didn't want to leave the game." There
was no accusation in Troi's reply, only knowing, understanding, and compassion.
stopped in his tracks. His
shoulders went limp. "I feel
like an ass. A total ass! Hell no, I'm worse than an ass --- I'm acting like my beloved
father. Do you know what he said
when I told him? His basic attitude
was this: I can't handle this, her
mother chose you to find her a family; I'll trust your judgement. Sorry son, got to go."
Riker felt his emotions slide from anger to helplessness.
"She's a bright, pretty little thing.
She needs love, and security. I
know that. I know how I grew up and
I want something better for her. I
feel like an ass for not providing it for her."
know you feel guilty, and I understand why.
But the feeling alone isn't going to resolve the situation.
You said you didn't want her growing up like you did.
Right now, you know you'd feel cheated if you had to make the sacrifices
that go along with parenthood. You
need to admit that truth to yourself, and start finding her a home and a family.
There's no crime in that. The
real wrong would come if you accepted a role you couldn't handle, truly
let yourself become your own father, and then passed that resentment along to
eyes blazed. "Couldn't handle? Couldn't
handle? Listen, if I can handle the
Borg, I can handle this." He
stopped, shook his head and sighed. "I'm
sorry. I didn't mean to blow up.
But I could learn, couldn't I? I
mean, she's a beautiful little person, couldn't I learn to love her more than
the things I'd have to give
dropped her head to her chest. When
she slowly raised it again, her onyx eyes were wet, and her voice was a pained
whisper. "I think I've heard
that line before. And it didn't
work so well the first time."
he'd felt guilty a minute ago, it held no comparison to the regret and grief he
felt now. He moved to the couch,
taking Troi's hands in his. "Oh,
dammit, Deanna, I'm sorry. And
you're right. But, but,
----- oh, dammit, I just don't know."
his powerlessness and frustration, Troi gave him a soft, sad smile.
"Perhaps we should start looking for a permanent home for Tammy.
We could start tomorrow. I'll
help." She felt Riker's arm around her as she nuzzled her cheek
against his chest. "My office,
let out one last, long sigh. "Thanks,
next day began just as the one before: At
least an hour too early. But Tammy
got off to school, the necessary personnel and scheduling paperwork got attended
to, and the only real frustration had come from Cocoa's decision to
"nest" in Riker's uniform while he was in his morning shower.
Riker had made arrangements for Data and Spot to come over and keep an
eye on Tammy and Cocoa in the late afternoon so he and Deanna could begin the
daunting task of screening the files of potential adoptive families.
tapped the buzzer on the bulkhead outside Troi's office door.
stepped inside and crossed the room to where Troi was sitting.
He gave Troi one of his famous grins.
"Hi there. Ready to get
at it?" She returned the
smile, and then squinted, staring hard. "What's
wrong?" Riker queried.
rose and moved within half a meter of him, her eyes at his chest level.
"Just a minute" she replied, and began plucking brown hairs off
the front of his uniform. "You
seem to have missed all this cat hair when you were admiring yourself this
Riker wailed in frustration, not sure what had embarrassed him the most:
The knowledge that he'd met with three department heads with cat hair all
over his uniform, or the fact that Deanna still remembered the intimate details
of his morning routine.
still" she continued matter-of-factly.
"It'll only take a minute more."
that resistance was futile, Riker bit his lip and waited for Troi to finish
picking his jacket clean.
three hours of checking family files, Troi was ready to pull her hair out, and
she didn't need her empathic skills to see that Riker clearly shared her
emotions. They had scanned the files of two dozen families, and given
detailed attention to five, but every time she thought she was on to something,
Riker found a reason to disqualify the household. And, Troi admitted to herself, a couple of the families he
had advocated were definite nonstarters in her opinion. "What about Bromwell and M'Turnba? Tell
me, one more time, what you said was the problem with them."
Troi tried to sound logical and methodical, not exasperated and
children are fourteen and sixteen. She's
used to being an only child. Two
teenagers would push her around too much" Riker declared.
wait" Troi began, "First of all, I'm the psychologist here.
And I think it would be much wiser to introduce Tammy into a family where
she'd be the youngest, not the oldest child. If we put her in a family that has younger children their
first will be "dethroned" from the position of oldest child, and that
usually leads to frustration and inability to cope on behalf of all family
members. For that reason, I can't
support your idea of the Muscoviwitches, even if their child is only four years
sucked in a deep breath and laid his hands flat on the desk in front of him. "I think we've both had enough for today.
I'm booked up tomorrow, maybe we could try again the day after?"
shook her shoulders out and managed a smile.
"Sounds reasonable. There's
got to be a solution to this somewhere that we both can feel comfortable
with." Troi paused. "How about this: Give
me a half an hour, and then why don't you bring Tammy over to my quarters for
idea" Riker replied, grinned, and headed out of her office.
had barely stepped through the doorway of his quarters when Tammy rushed into
his arms, squealing in excitement.
having kittens! Mr. Data says we're
going to have kittens!
retrieving his chin from the floor, Riker recovered enough to manage a
Tammy's cat is in the later stages of pregnancy.
Judging from my experience with Spot, I believe the kittens should arrive
in approximately six days. I
recommend you bring Cocoa to Dr. Crusher for a medical examination as soon as
Data" Riker replied in a voice an octave higher than normal. He fought to bring it down.
"And thanks for keeping these ladies company."
are welcome, sir" Data answered. Oblivious
to Riker's distress, the android scooped up his cat and headed for the door.
I'd take a kitten" Troi suggested between mouthfuls of dessert.
"I had a Betazoid kitten once when I was a child, but my mother was
allergic to her, so I had to give her up. But
a cat around here might be nice."
Deanna" Tammy responded brightly. "We'd
give you first pick. You could have
anyone you want."
leaned back in his chair. He'd
joined in the conversation some, but mostly he had been watching the two females
interact and chatter. Deanna is so
good with children, he mused, and the positive influence apparently went both
ways: He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Deanna actually
eat a green vegetable. Well,
he smiled to himself, you said parenthood involved sacrifices.
"Okay, ladies, how about if we get Cocoa and head to sickbay?
Beverly said she'd meet us there at 19:00."
door opened and Tammy called in "Cocoa!
Cocoa, come here! We have to
go see Beverly!"
on, Cocoa! Get out here!"
Riker called, annoyance creeping into his voice.
Troi sighed. "It looks like
we're going to have to find her." She
crouched down to check under the furniture.
Tammy skipped toward her bedroom.
headed for his own room, and spotted Cocoa on the bed, rolled in the uniform
jacket he'd discarded at the end of his shift.
"Cocoa!" he yelled, "Get out of my uniform!"
He grabbed the cat and turned for the exit, only to find Tammy standing
in the doorway, her hands on her hips.
know, Will," Tammy declared "if you'd hang up your clothes, she'd she
wouldn't get into them."
chastised, Riker followed the women to sickbay.
Crusher ran her gentle, practiced hands over the cat's plump tummy.
"I think Data was right. It
should only be a week, maybe a little less.
Has she been eating okay? At
this point, you should be giving her all she wants."
been eating plenty, to say the least."
Riker continued "Is everything all right?
She's going to be okay, isn't she?"
smiled, "Most of my experience has been with humanoid births, but it looks
like everything is as it should be." Noticing
Riker's expression, she teased "What's this sudden concern, Will?
I thought you hated cats."
gave her a "shut up" look and countered "This is Tammy's cat.
smiled. Will was so much fun to
harass. And it is satisfying,
Crusher concluded, to put dashing, overconfident males flat on their asses
occasionally. Forcing herself back
to seriousness, Crusher looked up and faced her friends.
Although she didn't possess Troi's empathy, Crusher could tell something
of what each of the other people felt: Tammy,
excitement; Riker, concern and worry; and Troi --- well, sadness somehow.
the cat-bearing trio left sickbay, Crusher sat alone and contemplated what she
had just seen and felt. You're
too attached already, Deanna. Don't
set yourself up to be hurt. To be
room was starting to look like her own space, with handsewn wall hangings, a
book of maps, and huge lumps of molding clay.
Her toys were there, a runabout race set, a collection of stuffed
felines, and, to Riker's horror, a miniature Parrieses Squares uniform.
Been playing since I was six, she had proudly informed him.
was tucking the pink and purple quilt under Tammy's chin when he saw the girl's
expression suddenly darken.
don't really hate cats, do you?"
question caught Riker totally off guard. Yes,
no, and I don't know were all unacceptable answers.
"No, not really, Tammy, I don't.
I've just had bad luck with a couple of them. Like Spot. I
volunteered to feed him when Data was gone once, and he practically clawed my
contemplated that for a minute, and then volunteered, "You're not getting
rid of me because of Cocoa and the kittens, are you?"
wanted nothing more than to simply disappear.
Escape, and give this responsibility to someone who knew how to handle
it. "No, Tammy" he replied gently "you need a
home, and a family. I can't give
you these things. I'm busy.
I'm gone on away missions a lot. You
deserve something better."
considered this all a bit longer. "Why
aren't you and Deanna married?"
closed his eyes. How in the hell do
I answer that? Because I'm not at
all sure that she loves me anymore? Because
she's sick and tired of waiting around for a coward?
Because I don't want to make a promise I don't think I could keep?
Because I'm waiting for the "right time" whatever that means?
Riker's excuse sounded lame even in his own ears.
"I guess I just don't think I'd make a very good husband --- or
smiled at him and patted his hand encouragingly.
"Will, my mama always used to say "you can do it if you want
to". I think you could take
real good care of us if you put your mind to it."
had been a long day, Deanna Troi sighed. Ensign
Ivanovitch was still having trouble with his supervisor, and the Careroak's
marriage was still far from what either of them wanted.
Counselling people from such radically different cultures can certainly
be a challenge, Troi mused. I still
have trouble remembering the significance of a Rigellian licking their spouse on
the left ear as opposed to the right.
Ten-Forward, she spotted Beverly across the room.
Girl's night out, Troi smiled. Dinner
(minus the broccoli) chocolate, and quality time to talk with a friend.
Ben caught Deanna's smile, flashed her one of his own, and followed her
to Bev's table to take their order.
the next table, Lt. Barclay, Data and LaForge sat together, engrossed in
conversation and oblivious to the activity around them.
A flustered Barclay was explaining something to the two senior officers.
"--- and I know I shouldn't have looked the box, Commander ---
Commanders, Lt. Worf told me not to; but I d-did, and you wouldn't have believed
racy stuff, huh, Barclay?" LaForge interjected.
sir" Barclay stammered. "The
stuff couldn't have been Lt. Worf's, but where did he get it?
There was one of those big fuzzy Orion things, and a ---
whatever-they-call-them from Bajor, I think, and ---"
Reg," LaForge smirked "this isn't good for your hormones."
Crusher and Troi were both trying to ignore the bawdy talk behind them, and
failing miserably in the attempt. As
the purple color spread across Troi's face, Crusher gave up all pretense of
disinterest and giggled like a schoolgirl.
stood up and swung around in one motion. "Mr.
Barclay" she began firmly
"where did you get this box of toys?"
was mortified. "L-Lt. Worf
g-gave it to me t-to particlize, s-sir."
see. And you examined the contents
of the box before destroying them." Troi
continued, looking directly down at the cringing lieutenant.
"Did these objects include a Betazoid celeuti?"
d-don't know, s-sir" Barclay managed, and blushed two shades darker.
lieutenant" Troi replied crisply and returned to her seat.
hid his face in his hands.
glanced from Barclay to Troi and Crusher, to LaForge, back to Barclay, and
LaForge leaned back in his chair and belly-laughed until he was too sore to
A couple of days later, Riker was relaxing at his computer terminal,
scanning an article on sanato fishing on Deneb IV. Tammy was working nearby on her own computer, picking her way
through a life science lesson. At
Troi's suggestion, he'd had the techs install her study terminal in the
livingroom, rather than in her bedroom. Troi
had pointed out that Tammy had been trying hard, too hard, to please him; it
wouldn't be good for the girl if she felt that he wanted her out of his way and
in her room all the time. It would
be a little tough to study on poker nights, Riker knew, but they'd work
last few days had passed without incidence, the low spot being another long,
unproductive family-hunting session with Deanna, and the high points, Riker had
to admit, his time spent listening to and talking with Tammy.
Her spirit and charm were weakening his resolve, and more than once he
had reminded both himself and Tammy that this situation was definitely
temporary. But every time he
broached the subject he felt like he was talking at, not to, the child: She obviously didn't want to hear what he had to say.
All the more reason to get a move on, Riker decided.
It's just going to get harder the longer she stays here.
continued to focus on his computer screen, as if to hide his thoughts from his
sister. I still feel guilty, but
Deanna is right, he concluded. The
real crime would come in accepting something he couldn't cope with and then
passing that frustration on to Tammy. His
own father had been forced into single parenthood, but he, himself had a choice.
Troi's initial observations were definitely on-target.
Getting up too early, practically no privacy, endless questions, no
let-up: He couldn't do this for ten more years.
looked up. "Will, tomorrow
night, could we go do some snow stuff on the holodek?
I love sledding, and you said you grew up in Alaska.
Could we, please?"
smiled. She did have school
the day after tomorrow, but a romp in the snow sounded fun.
"Good idea. You can
help me set up the program."
Tammy declared emphatically. "I'd
like to ask Deanna to come with us."
don't know," Riker answered slowly "she was raised on a warm, tropical
planet. She's never been too much
for winter and snow."
please, can't I at least ask her?"
smile spread. I've never been able
to get Deanna to set foot on the holodek unless the temperature was at least
twenty degrees above freezing, but how'd she be able to turn down this bright,
chubby-faced kid? Okay, Tammy,
lets get her. "I guess so,
but be sure to tell her to bring a hat and mittens."
was a perfect hill, Riker assessed. He
and Tammy had designed it together, with a clear blue sky, a few scraggly pines
along the edges, some long gentle slopes and a set of lovely mogul-like bumps
down the middle. Five inches of
powder over a packed, slippery base. In
short, simply perfect. They had
been cruising the hill on Tammy's green saucer sled, sometimes alone, sometimes
together, hooting and screaming and blowing up powder all the way.
Tammy had just headed down the hill alone when Riker heard the doors
behind him. He chuckled as Deanna
entered the holodek.
was obvious that she had brought her hat and mittens.
Three pairs, to be exact, and ear muffs to go under the hat.
Plus two sweaters under her parka, she confessed, and three layers of
socks. Looks like a little stuffed
meatball, Riker reflected.
eyelids flew open. "SAY
didn't say anything."
stuffed meatball?" Troi
carefully pronounced each syllable.
Riker quickly apologized.
Troi with her bother at the hill's top, Tammy skiddered up the slope full speed,
and rushed into the counselor's arms. "Oh,
Deanna, thanks so much for coming! See
what I can do!" Tammy jumped
onto her saucer sled, and went swirling down the hillside.
soon as Tammy was out of earshot, Troi turned her attention back to Riker.
"Will, did you put this crazy notion into that child's head?
I'm going to freeze to death in here!"
said parenthood involved sacrifices." Riker taunted.
"Like vegetables and bobsleds."
Troi clutched her arms across her chest and watched Tammy ascend the hill.
you try it, Deanna" Tammy encouraged.
Seeing Troi's apprehension, she added, "you can ride with me. It's fun."
eyed the round green sled suspiciously. "I
don't know ---" she began tentatively.
Deanna, please!" With Troi's
attention still focused down, Tammy winked at her brother.
"We won't go over the bumps."
Troi relented. Grimacing, she
pulled on her second pair of mittens, and lowered herself onto the sled.
settled in in front of her, and pointed at the handles on the saucer's sides. "Now Deanna, hang onto these, real tight."
give you a push off" Riker volunteered,
and snapped the sled hard to left and down.
The aim he had practiced as a boy was still perfect:
The sled hit every mogul he and Tammy had built.
As they twirled backwards, Troi let out a screech that Riker was sure
they'd hear four decks away. Finally,
the sled and passengers settled to a stop at the bottom of the hill.
struggled to her feet and shook herself all over.
Tammy looked up at her, a bit worried, and apologized, "I'm sorry,
Deanna, we just couldn't resist."
forced a smile. "It's
okay." Tammy grabbed the
sled's rope and headed back up the slope. Troi
trudged up behind her, not sure which infuriated her more, the fact that they'd
had the nerve to dupe her, or the knowledge that she'd been so concerned with
her own predicament that she hadn't sensed the deception. Forget it, she thought.
It was kind of fun.
Troi reached the top of the hill, Will Riker was on his knees, laughing so hard
that tears ran down his face.
rubbed the back of his neck as he slowly walked down the corridor.
After last evenings exercise and cool, fresh air, he had slept like a
rock, and this afternoon's family screening session with Deanna had been
constructive, at least; maybe they were both becoming a bit more reasonable.
Deanna had volunteered to help him describe two potential families to
Tammy, but they both knew the girl's reaction would be totally negative.
Dreading the talk with his sister, Riker had persuaded Troi to put off
the inevitable until after dinner.
and Tammy were just starting dessert when she suddenly looked up, concerned. "Where's Cocoa? She's
not begging around the table!"
considered her words. "You're
right. This is the first time she
hasn't been clawing my pants legs when I've got food in my mouth."
joined in "Cocoa! Come
here!" She jumped up and headed for her room, calling over her
shoulder, "Will, c'mon, she might have gotten out into the corridor or
Riker shook his head. Can't even
finish a meal in peace anymore. But
admit it, you're going to miss both of them.
Tammy cried in frustration.
on it" Riker replied.
almost missed Cocoa on the floor of his closet.
She was back in the corner, adjusting today's uniform jacket around
herself, and nervously licking her belly. Instantly,
Riker understood. He went to the
door, and called just loud enough for Tammy to hear "She's in here --- I
think the kittens are coming."
rushed in and stopped, wide-eyed, staring at her pet through the closet doorway.
"What should we do?" she murmured.
Riker whispered back. "She'll
need quiet, and the best thing we can do is not interfere."
we watch?" Tammy asked in
but we shouldn't scare her. No loud
talk, sudden movements or such."
dropped to the floor, as awed as the child.
Tammy curled up on his lap, thrilled beyond words.
half an hour later, Riker knew something was wrong.
Cocoa was panting, struggling, and not getting anywhere.
Even her eyes looked pained.
then the door chimed. That would be
Deanna, he realized, coming for their "talk".
"Stay here, Tammy. I
think it's Deanna."
motioned for Troi to be quiet as soon as the doors parted.
"Deanna, I think Cocoa's trying to have the kittens, but nothing's
coming --- come here, tell us what you think."
ran to Troi as soon as the counselor entered Riker's room.
"Deanna, something's wrong. Will
says the kittens should be coming by now."
knelt by the closet door and focused on the animal.
Softly, she whispered, "I agree:
Something is wrong. She's
in a lot of pain, and she's --- confused. If
this were normal, her inborn maternal instincts would be directing her. I think we should get her to Beverly."
pulled his communicator out of his pocket.
"Riker to Crusher."
can you meet us in sickbay? Cocoa's
trying to deliver, but she's straining and nothing's coming."
long has she been pushing?" Crusher queried.
not sure, most of an hour" Riker explained, still eyeing the frightened
Pick her up carefully and bring her to sickbay.
I'll be right there. Crusher
out." She turned to her dinner companion, who was smiling softly
and shaking his bald head. "I'm
sorry, Jean-Luc. Duty calls."
cautiously lifted Cocoa and uniform jacket, and, for the second time in a week,
headed to sickbay with Troi, Tammy and cat.
and breathless, Riker, Troi and Tammy stood by and watched Crusher examine the
terrified cat. And for the
hundredth time, Troi felt a deep admiration for her friend's healing touch and
gentle compassion. Beverly
continued to work, and slowly, a tiny, damp kitten emerged.
Beverly sighed in relief. "This
first kitten was turned around wrong. Hopefully
the rest will come easier." Troi returned Crusher's glowing smile, and turned who Riker
and Tammy, who were beaming like a pair of proud parents.
the worst stress ended, Cocoa continued to push, and in time produced four more
wet, hungry, mewing and helpless kittens. The
four humanoids gathered nearby, lost in time and spellbound by the mystery of
was nearly midnight before they got Cocoa and offspring home.
Tammy wanted to pet Cocoa, touch the kittens and just watch, but Riker
and Troi insisted that she get to bed. After
all, adults, children, cats and kittens all needed rest.
Exhausted, Troi dropped herself on Riker's couch.
Riker collapsed into a chair.
her lids open, Troi eyed Riker and teased "You shouldn't have thrown out
all your "toys". Tammy is
old enough not to go through other people's dresser drawers."
head jerked up. How'd she find out?
Worf wouldn't have told anyone, particularly a female, but the
possibilities remained legion: The transporter technician might have taken notes in vast and
terrible detail and circulated copies in Ten-Forward, for all he knew.
"Okay" Riker sighed "how did you find out?"
talk. They always have, they always
will" Troi replied nonchalantly, broke into a wide, self-assured smile,
waved good night, and headed for home and sleep.
quietly regarded Troi as they left mukbara class.
Deanna was clearly depressed. She'd
gone through her morning exercises without much enthusiasm, and now, walking
next to her down the corridor, Troi's distress was even more apparent.
Sympathetically, Crusher asked "Deanna, what's wrong?
It's long past time we talk about it."
just tired, that's all. You should
be too, Doctor. We all had a late
one last night."
Crusher gently urged "we're friends. Please
be honest with me. More
importantly, be honest with yourself."
all pretense, Deanna stopped and asked in a tiny, forlorn voice "Bev, could
you be my first appointment this morning?"
Crusher shifted her weight against the back of her couch.
She taken Troi back to her quarters, determined to keep the counselor
from shouldering the pain alone, and now, after fifteen minutes, she was still
holding the younger woman, and letting Troi cry her eyes out.
Tentatively, Crusher began to push the subject.
"Deanna, it's okay to love her."
breathed in and out, controlling her sobs.
"but she's going away. Will
can't take her for the next ten years. He's
just not equipped to raise a daughter alone."
Troi lowered her head into her hands, rubbing her swollen eyes.
Then suddenly, she realized Crusher's emotions had totally changed:
Anticipation replaced helplessness, fire replaced sorrow.
Confused, Troi looked up and saw Crusher's eyes burning with wisdom and
reply came in a low, intense whisper. "You're
right. Will can't raise a child
alone. But with a little help, I'll
bet you could."
considered her friend's words for a moment.
Slowly, her expression changed from despair to determination.
"Yes!" Troi hissed. Hugging
Crusher, she blurted "THANKS, Bev. Got
to go." She was out the door in a second.
Crusher shook her head and muttered "Soft as a rose, tough as duranium."
leaned back from his computer screen. More
scheduling, personnel and timing work. The
combination of computer, late bedtime, and the now-normal early morning was
making it tough --- okay, damn near impossible --- to stay awake and
functioning. But at least Tammy got
up and off to school on time, and Cocoa was busy feeding and tending a healthy
litter of kittens. He was getting a
third cup of coffee when his door buzzed.
rushed in, still wearing her white exercise suit, eyes wet, shoulders squared. "Will" she announced "I want to adopt
what?" Riker asked, not sure if he believed what he thought he'd just
it's like this. I need something
more. Something I'm not getting.
When you --- left me --- I hurt, so badly that I couldn't look at anyone
else. Not for years.
And when I did, I started making mistakes, because I still loved you, and
the strain of loving you, but not really being with you, day after day after day
was driving me crazy.
at first the mistakes were obvious, and no one worthwhile got hurt except me. The first was a jerk, a mercenary who served no one but
himself. But then it got worse.
Then came a good man, a man from a closed society, a man who could never
share my life, any more than I could share his.
I knew at the time that it was wrong, but I was so starved for that kind
of attention that I did it anyway, even those it was totally
unprofessional. Then came someone who looked like you --- someone who was you
--- you from a time when you couldn't stand to be away from me for more than
three days in a stretch. And I
realized than I hadn't ever given up on you wanting me again, even though I did
realize that I couldn't pretend that eight years of my life had never happened.
then came the worst part, my friend, your best friend, a completely impossible
idea of a relationship, me with a Klingon.
I couldn't ever stand to sense you with a cut lip, how could I possibly
have a mate from a culture that celebrates pain and makes love by beating each
other up? I don't know, maybe deep
down inside I was just trying to make you jealous, to force your hand, to make
you do something to keep from losing me. But
how I must have hurt him, and how I could have hurt us all worse, if the Captain
--- and, I can hardly say it --- Q --- hadn't intervened.
Did you notice that in Q's future I never did get together with Worf, or
anybody, for that matter? Why?
Because I couldn't let go of the hope of having you.
don't you see? I need Tammy, as
much as she needs you and me. This
may be the only way I ever get to have a child, raise a child, share a child's
life --- oh, I can help Worf with Alexander, but I can't raise a Klingon
child, especially not that child, not anymore now --- and Tammy needs you, and
this would keep her near you" --- Troi was practically screaming through
her tears now --- "and this will probably be the best chance I ever get to
have at least a piece of the life I need."
Troi pulled away from her own emotions and focused on Riker, who had been quiet
through her entire tirade. He was
standing, frozen and wet-eyed, against the far wall of the room.
began slowly, in a low, still voice. "We
could apply for joint custody. I'm
not ready to be married yet, but I know I could never have with anyone else what
I have with you. I promise I'll be
---" Riker fumbled over the word --- "monogamous.
Would that be enough for you, at least for now?"
stared at him for a minute, letting his words, and all that they implied, sink
into her heart and mind. She stood,
still five meters away from him, and quietly replied "We could put a second
door in Tammy's room, one that leads into my quarters, and a door directly
between my place and yours."
get the mornings." A bit of a
smile flickered across Riker's face.
days a week. On the other three I
have mukbara class."
won't have much time for --- being together" Riker observed.
know" Troi whispered. At that
moment, she wanted nothing more than to rush into his arms, hold him, and make
love to him, over and over and over again.
"I have a client in half an hour."
I have six people coming here for poker tonight" Riker's voice cracked.
can we tell Tammy?" Troi asked softly.
at noon, if you like."
Troi paused. "I have to
do I. I need to talk to Worf."
glanced down. "I can tell him,
if you want."
Riker answered firmly. "This
is something I must do."
I see you tonight, after poker?"
eyes crinkled up in that smile that no one else in the galaxy could match. "Yes, and tomorrow night, too. See you later." He
turned and was gone.
stood alone in the middle of Riker's livingroom, still assimilating the last two
hours of her life. She looked
around the room, slowly taking in the trombone, the lounge chair, the spy glass,
card table, and all the other objects that were parts of the man she knew as
William T. Riker. Eventually, her
eyes settled on the hor'ghan.
Troi jumped onto the couch, kicked her legs in the air, and screamed in joy for
ten minutes straight.
squared his shoulders and hit his communicator.
"Mr. Worf, could we arrange a half hour or so to talk, as soon as
your duties permit?"
drew a long, deep breath. Predictably,
his friend had taken the news with Klingon stoicism, but now Riker needed a
response, some acknowledgement, some evidence of understanding.
Forgiveness, maybe. In the
low reddish light of Worf's quarters, Riker scrutinized the security chief's
Worf turned to face his would-have-been rival, his commanding officer, his
friend. "If I am to mate
again, it must be with a Klingon. I
have always known this."
stared into Worf's dark eyes, and realized, dimly, that he was seeing a part of
the man that he had never seen before, a part that perhaps no one had ever
known, a man alone, a man removed from his people, a man who had toyed, however
briefly, with the impossibility of denying his own nature to ease that
loneliness. Riker clamped his hand
onto Worf's shoulder. A moment
later, he felt the Klingon's firm grip on his forearm.
ago" Worf explained, "I researched Betazoid customs, hoping this
opportunity would arise. You will
need a talamarini."
tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Worf
was volunteering to be his talamarini --- the Betazoid equivalent of a brother,
a best man --- someone to protect his back --- and, Riker shook his head --- his
virtue --- until the time came for he and Deanna to be married.
With a mixture of relief, gratitude and deep respect, Riker finally
replied "And there is no one I would rather have."
Troi turned down the classroom corridor, Riker was already waiting by the door,
beaming. The glittering sapphire
eyes, humor, courage, never-say-die spirit, is it any wonder I love him?
Troi thought. And very soon, I won't have to hide that love anymore.
She had hardly been able to contain her joy throughout the morning, but
she knew that she must: Tammy, Worf, Beverly and the captain must hear first, and
directly from them. As she
approached, Riker reached out and gently took her hand.
a moment Troi's eyes lingered on their intertwined fingers.
Imzadi, she thought, were you able to talk to Worf?
Riker said aloud. "And he,
like you, is more friend than I deserve. Worf
asked to be my talamarini, and I accepted."
ebony eyes twinkled. "I like
that. I suspect he will take the responsibility very seriously.
One look at another woman, and you get the batlith."
hope" Riker took a deep breath "he won't see the need to resort to
that." Glancing down, he
continued, "I'll need to call dad. He
needs to know that Tammy is going to be a part of the family.
If not a part of his family, then a part of mine."
Riker squared his shoulders resolutely and smiled.
"Let's go tell Tammy."
we'll be a family?" Tammy bubbled. "And
we can keep Cocoa, and maybe a kitten or two?"
was squatting at the girl's eye level, with Troi on her knees next to him.
"Yes, we'll be a family, and Cocoa and babies will be part of that
family. But, like I said, Deanna
and I aren't getting married, at least not yet."
okay" Tammy replied philosophically. "My
mama always used to say "you gotta start somewhere". You took a big step today, Will.
I'm proud of you."
The next few weeks were filled with plans, legal
arrangements, and gifts from Tammy's new "relatives":
La Forge souped up her race set, Data and Spot volunteered for more child
and cat sitting (after which a particularly smiley Troi told Data "thanks
so much. Will and I had a very unforgettable
time on the holodek"), and Worf provided some Parrieses Squares pointers,
which enabled Tammy to best all but one --- boys included --- of the
participants in her age group. The
captain actually let her on the bridge for a five-minute tour, an Riker could
hardly contain his amusement when Tammy wanted to sit, not in the "big
chair", but at the helm. Crusher's
gift came the closest to Troi's heart, a poem that summed up everything Deanna
wanted Tammy to know, a poem that she made into a plaque for the wall of Tammy's
flesh of my flesh,
bone of my bone,
the years that lie ahead
while you were not born under my heart,
were born in it.
last the time came, and Riker, Troi and Tammy took a shuttle to Deep Space 4,
where, in an appearance before the Judge Advocate General Officer, Tammy
officially became Ms. Tamara Marie Troi Riker Larson.
"So now I'm an adopted person!" she proudly informed the JAG
officer at the hearing's close.
scooped up the last mouthful of his blueberry pie, and surveyed the activity in
the starbase promenade as Troi and Tammy polished off their last forkfuls of
chocolate French Silk. "Well,
we got two hours before we have to get back to the shuttle.
Anybody got any ideas?"
Troi volunteered. "I still
don't have anything for my mother's birthday."
I meet her soon?" Tammy begged. "Not
just on the viewscreen, but for really real?"
hope so" Troi smiled. "We'll be in sector BK-5 in three weeks, and
maybe then she can get a transport out from Betazed and visit us."
nodded. "Sounds good. Let's go find a birthday present."
said two hours" Riker reminded "or I report the two of you as missing
two females regarded him suspiciously and whispered to each other, plenty loud
enough for Riker to hear. "I
think he's bluffing" Tammy assessed.
think you're right, but we'd better get going, just in case.
I don't want to ride back to the Enterprise in the shuttle's cargo
bay." They nodded in agreement
and headed away. Happier than he
ever remembered, Riker watched the two heads of long dark hair bounce across the
promenade. Slowly, his grin spread
ear to ear.
wait!" he called, and plunged into the crowd after them.
I'd like to thank all the people (both fffJF and USS
Fitzgerald) who supported me through the disappointments of Next Generation's
last season, and to whom I dedicate this story. Renee, Judi, Louise, Annette, Christie, Jeri, and Marina:
I hope this helps makes it all a little bit better.