To Journey Through the Stars

Author: Deede


Rating: PG… for now

Disclaimer: All characters and rights are owned by not me.

Notes: This is an AU in which Will and Deanna didn't meet each other until they were both stationed to the Enterprise.




Her father had tried to describe the sheer size of the universe to her when she was little. Ian Troi would take her in his arms and point to the stars above on beautiful Betazed nights when it was particularly clear and pristine, naming off each constellation as he recounted his travels and the adventures he’d been on before he had married her mother, associating each glowing globe of shining white with a new tale of discovery. And Deanna had clung eagerly to her father’s every word, wide-eyed and wondering - the innocence of childhood present in her untainted delight as she took in the brilliant canvass of sky, the glittering diamond-like stars, and the unending vastness of space. She would dream of the future, of exploring the universe the way her father had, of visiting each and every star he pointed to and even ones that he didn’t and discovering things that no one else had encountered before.

The far too early death of her father had been a devastating blow, and one that she never quite recovered from or understood. And the young Troi had felt his loss keenly. It had seemed to her as if all the warmth in the universe had been sucked from her world, and that the laughter, the music, the epic stories of far off places: all the comforts and securities of home, had all died with him. Her mother had tried to fill the void as best she could - throwing parties, and taking her daughter with her to political meetings. She had encouraged her daughter’s fascination with the capabilities of the mind, and sent her to all the best schools, but still there was the sense of loss, the sense of not belonging in a world of fully developed telepaths while she was half human and therefore merely empathic. And although the warm maternal hugs during the devastating experiences of puberty and the unconditional encouragement over her scholastic achievements were cherished, the desire for adventure, the sheer longing for something more never left her spirit.

And always there was the sky; that beautiful, midnight blue, glistening aura that held the hopes and dreams of the future and promises of something more.



He had been nine when his father presented him with the book and at the time he had been shocked that his father had even really remembered something as trivial as his birthday when Kyle Riker was so notorious for being such a busy man…. a man who didn’t have time for little nuances of life such as his young son’s coming of age. Still the younger Riker had reached for the precious object excitedly, his chubby fingers running over the leather binding and the gold plated design on the cover; his bright, baby blue eyes taking in every detail he could commit to memory while drawing out the experience of feeling a rare instance of warmth towards his father. And the older Riker, satisfied that he had supplied his son with something to keep him occupied for a time, quickly left to embark on another assignment, leaving Will to curl up on a sofa and read his book, alone.

The book was called "The Phoenix," and from the very first paragraph it utterly captivated him as it bravely detailed the adventures of an engineer by the name of Cochrane who had envisioned the invention of a ship capable of traveling light years through space, far away from the cold and desolate solitude of the white tipped mountains of Alaska. And so it became an obsession of Will’s to gather any form of information he could on the exploration of the universe, of far off galaxies and distant worlds, of a young Captain named Kirk, and the exciting adventures he and his crew embarked on - of life outside the vacuum he seemed to be living in. It was then that Will Riker, despite his youth, knew undoubtedly what he wanted to do with his life once he was old enough to venture out on his own.

Months passed, one following another. The days were often short, and the nights were lonely. Winter was always the predominate season and the cold was sometimes so unbearable that Will would huddle under layers of blankets, and shiver himself to sleep in the dead of night. But always there was the sky; the huge, vast, radiant sky that he would look up to, book clutched tightly in hand, and dream of a future among the gleaming stars.


Stardate: 41153.7

She was magnificent.

He was at a loss for words to describe the emotions the sight of her provoked, nor the feelings that swelled so powerfully within the pit of his stomach and passed so thoroughly throughout the rest of his body, causing him to feel light headed. It was literally love at first sight, and it dawned on him that it really didn't matter that they had only just met or that they had yet to become really and truly acquainted. No, all that mattered was that she was here now, and that Will Riker knew an opportunity when he saw one. Slowly he examined her curves and contours, delighting in each new facet he discovered, barely concealing the glee he felt when she became more and more exposed to him.

He had waited half his life to meet her, had journeyed through dangers and pitfalls, and had forged stubbornly and ambitiously forward, never taking the time to look back and reflect or to contemplate the actions that had got him here. And now here she was. Years of hard work and persistence culminated in this, the achievement of a lifelong goal. A huge smile spread slowly across his face as he tipped his head to her in respect, his voice filled with utter wonder as he finally found the courage to speak to her.

"Good god, you're beautiful," he announced out loud, grinning further when he heard his words echo off the metallic walls of the space dock. And although the starship known as the Enterprise D was not equipped to return the compliment to the man that would serve as her new first officer in kind, she continued to glisten under the artificial light, proving herself worthy of such adoration.

Lost in his inspection of the ship that bore the legendary name that he didn't hear the light tread of footsteps slowly approach the viewing pad where he stood. Nor was he prepared when a soft, exotic and entirely feminine voice disrupted his awestruck solitude.

"Should I leave you two alone?" the new visitor asked with a singsong inflection, obvious amusement evident in her tone, and Commander William T. Riker whirled around to face the intruder, once again finding himself confronted with an awe inspiring sight, and realizing helplessly that he was destined to have his breath taken away more than once that evening.

An absolutely beautiful woman was slowly approaching his side, her stride graced with a sensuously feminine allure. A long cascade of ebony curls fell around her face and journeyed down her back, accentuating impossibly large brown eyes, which in turn complemented skin that glowed radiantly under the sparkling lights above. And oh, but she was a vision. Her frame was small, and slight, though the body hugging jump suit she wore revealed curves that marked what he’d consider an absolutely divine body. And yet there was an underlying strength to her that he could sense, as if she was a lot tougher at the core than she looked. Her eyes danced merrily at him, sparkling in mischief as if they shared a private joke and all Will Riker could do in return was stare entirely flabbergasted at her - as if, before that moment, he had never seen another woman before in his life.

Which was entirely ridiculous sentiment since he had seen, been with, tempted, and seduced more than his fair share of women throughout his highly decorated career. Ironic that he had never been ashamed of that fact until he had set his eyes on the stunning creature who stood before him now. However, he barely held that thought for a moment before it became distracted by some new aspect of her appearance that he had more recently discovered, mainly the way her long, dark lashes emphasized her eyes or at how her skin looked remarkably like smooth cream. His mind was failing him, marking him incapable of any sort of coherent thought, and the stranger lifted an eyebrow at him, as if she sensed his tumbling emotions.

Luckily it was she who decided to spare him the uncomfortable silence that followed his entirely unprofessional behavior.

"I'm Deanna Troi," she announced breezily, holding out her hand to offer it in greeting. A moment passed before he registered the friendly gesture, his thoughts occupied by the play of light on her hair as it accentuated the highlights, but finally his brain caught up with the moment and he moved his hand out in return, still thoroughly incapable of speech. And as it turned out it was for the better that he hadn't spoken, because the moment his skin touched hers any chance he had at ever thinking cognitively again escaped him.

The electric charge that sprang between their clasped hands was instant and it was powerful, sending little prickling sensations up his arm and causing his heart to lurch powerfully in his chest. Instantly his eyes sought hers, and for a moment, however brief, the dark pupils of her eyes grew wide, as if in shock and awe and he felt as if he could drown within them. But far too soon for his liking the woman now known to him as Deanna Troi regained her control of the situation, yanking her hand from his grasp as if she was withdrawing it from a fire.

Her dark eyes flashed angrily as she regarded him with accusation evident in her features, though what exactly he was guilty of he didn't know and as quickly as the anger had come, it too had disappeared. Once more she was regarding him with genuine amusement, although he noted that she had folded her arms across her chest as if to prevent them from reaching out for him once more.

"I'm Will Riker," he managed to say after a beat, secretly thanking whatever god that would listen for the fact that his voice sounded calm and collected, particularly when his mind (and his body, he acknowledged) was still in such chaotic turmoil.

"Ah, the infamous Commander Riker. I've heard a lot about you from Captain Picard when we were going over the staff for the Enterprise. I'm ship's counselor," she announced somewhat guardedly, eyeing him warily as if she was unable to determine his next move or what he was capable of.

A slow, devious, cat-like smile spread widely over Will's face and his blue eyes sparked with challenge as he took in the counselors proclamation. In one moment he went from awkward to his usual confident and assured self, again recognizing an opportunity when he saw one.

"Then we are to serve together….closely," he said with a flirtatious grin, not bothering to hide his meaning, nor his obvious intent.

He knew instantly when she grasped his double meaning for something that crossed between fear, excitement, anger and denial flashed across her features and she took a quick step back as if to ward him off, causing his smile to deepen further.

"I suppose we will be forced to endure each other's company for extended periods of time, but we are, after all, professionals," she returned, meeting him challenge for challenge and indicating with her posture and her words that she had no intention of being an easy target for his attentions.

But Will Riker loved a challenge and the petite beauty standing before him had only managed to intrigue him further. He made the decision right then to put getting to know Deanna Troi high on his list of things to do once the bustle and commotion of starting a position on board the federation's flagship slowed down.

"I look forward to serving with you, Miss Troi," he proclaimed with a flourish, sending her a boyishly lop-sided grin that seemed to result in another quick darkening of her eyes. Although whether his actions had actually garnished a reply, or whether it was a product of his eagerness to see a response from her, he couldn't say.

"And I you," she replied after awhile, looking at him as if she were assessing him, as if she were trying to read his very soul. He allowed her to stare, looked back at her firmly and strongly, somehow realizing that there was some sort of importance in this exchange and that he shouldn't shirk away from her probing gaze. After awhile she sighed and turned away, her cheeks taking on the faint tint of a blush that she tried desperately to conceal.

"It was nice to meet you, Commander, but I really should get back. I just wanted to have a look at the ship before we board tomorrow," she stated in farewell, clearly intending to leave. And for now that was okay, because soon there would be countless instances where he would see her again - a thought that brought an unfamiliar kind of happiness to his heart.

"Goodbye, Counselor. I'll see you later…. on the Enterprise," he stated to her retreating form, unaware of the thousands of stars that danced merrily in reply out in the boundless universe beyond.


Chapter 2:

It amazed Deanna Troi that one could be as tired as she was and yet, still feel as exhilarated as she did at that moment. To call the past week hectic would be a drastic understatement and yet… There wasn't a minute of it that the new counselor of the starship Enterprise didn't soak up with eager focus and steadfast determination, wanting to prove that being one of the youngest psychologists in Starfleet didn't necessarily mean that she was by any means under-qualified. And so, she had thrown herself full force into her work, helping the Captain sort out countless faces as the arriving crew members settled into their new positions while making sure to it that each and everyone knew that she was there to make the transition a smooth one.

The hours this required were long and grueling. She had hardly any time to eat or sleep, let alone sit and ponder, however despite the hustle and bustle of organizing a large crew, she had felt instantly, and amazingly at home, as if she had been living onboard a starship her whole life, or maybe it was a matter of destiny. Either way it felt wonderful. Wonderful to be out in the stars, wonderful to look forward to learning new things and making new discoveries, wonderful to be in charge of her own fate for the first time in her life. And the sky, often her focal point of deep thought and contemplation, was just as beautiful onboard a starship as it had been during the sweltering Betazed twilight, a fact proven to her as she stared in admiration out the window of the viewing lounge in the middle of the night.

It was a balm to her to be alone while she marveled at the sights before her, allowing her spirit to soar out with the stars, taking in the giant, endless vastness of space and feeling so small yet a part of it all, and realizing with the acute sense of a counselor, that now, at this moment, despite her extended work day, that she was irrevocably happy. Perhaps, that was why it was fated that she would feel a faint tinkling to her senses at the same moment she made that conclusion, as if destiny had intervened and decided to insert a new element into her life. She wasn't exactly sure why it was that the first officer decided to pick that moment in time to visit the star lounge, but she was sure that Will Riker was headed in her general direction. She felt him long before he actually appeared.

It was utterly unnerving to her to meet someone who had had the instant and profound effect on her that William T. Riker had had within a single glance upon meeting him. For the first time in her life she knew what it meant to be entirely affected by the presence of another, to have, as they say, her knees weaken and her heart skip a beat, both sentiments she would have laughed at on any other occasion. And yet it had happened and she couldn't deny it any more than she than she could ignore it, although she fully intended to try. It was a new feeling for her: to feel the reactions he caused within her, to experience things that she couldn't control, and they were feelings she was pretty sure she didn't want. Especially not with him: him with his brilliant blue eyes that shone like sparkling sapphires, and a boyish grin that crossed between rugged wisdom and boyish laughter. He who had exhibited a great intelligence on the few occasions their paths had crossed during the last few days, and him that could go from poised suave, to sarcastically humorous within the space of seconds. She could easily fall for a man like William Riker and that was what scared her most of all, because he also had a reputation with the fairer sex that definitely preceded him, and more than likely, didn’t see relations with the opposite sex beyond momentary self-gratification.

Perhaps that was why she kept her back turned as the doors to the lounge hissed opened and his presence filled the room like a gentle shock wave. She felt his thoughts as he entered; felt it as his mind went from confusion at seeing someone else in the room at so late an hour to happiness and a quiet satisfaction that it was she who stood before him now, and although she kept her face remarkably stoic as she continued to stare out into the night, she couldn't help her body reacting to his presence by its own accord. She braced herself for the coming struggle of wills, expecting him to flirt relentlessly as he had when they had first met, but he surprised her by coming to stand a few feet away from her in utter silence, a sneak peek in his direction revealing that he too was looking out into space - a look of reverence in his eyes.

For minutes they stood like that, two virtual strangers admiring the stars while an electrical current ran between them that was powerful and insistent, and finally it was he who broke the silence, the slight timber of his voice sending shivers up her spine.

"What is it that you see when you look out at space?" he asked without preamble, his voice thoughtful and reflective.

And she took a minute to ponder the question before she answered, slightly taken off guard at the personal yet thought provoking nature of it.

"I see freedom," she answered honestly, keeping her eyes forward while she wondered what would happen next and how he would take that quiet form of news. She had left herself open, she had admitted a truth which could potentially leave her vulnerable and yet from the moment he had asked there was no other answer to give him.

"Me too," he exhaled softly, also focusing forward, though she felt emotions running within him swell, as if her words reached some hidden corner of his heart, a thought which equally excited and frightened her.

"Perhaps that is why we both joined Starfleet as a vocation," she added absently, marveling at the oddness of the conversation they were having, a discourse that seemed more like a philosophical discussion between two old friends and not one that would be considered normal for newly assigned officers. And yet it felt right, as if they had had countless communications like this one in the past and they would have numerous others in the future.

"Yeah, it definitely played a part," Will Riker admitted, finally turning to flash her a brilliant grin. "It’s nice to finally get a moment away and see a familiar face, it’s been a busy few days."

"It has," she agreed, praying silently to the gods that he wouldn't be able to sense the effect his smile had on her racing pulse. He took a step towards her, and if it was possible her heart leapt within her chest, her body frozen in place as she watched him with wide and wondering eyes.

And something clicked between them, something warm and vibrant, something abstract and intangible, yet something that seemed to spark with a life of its own, leaving both parties who felt its power entirely helpless in its wake. Her eyes were staring unwaveringly into his, losing herself in their depths and marveling at how much they matched the color of a Betazed sky on a warm and sunny summer day. The look on his face was one of awe, as if everything that was happening between them was an entirely new experience to him, and he was more than willing to see where it led.

"Your eyes... there's something about them, something I can't describe," he continued, drawing closer, waving an intricate spell over her that she had little hope of escaping. Her heart pounded relentless within her, the loud drumming echoing in her ears, as she became aware, genuinely and fully aware of the person before her. She put a hand up as if to ward him off, but he paid it little regard as he moved closer still, and other than that simple gesture she couldn’t really offer much else in the form of a protest, not with her soul crying out for some sort of connection it hadn't realized it needed until that point in time.

Her heart rate escalated to a seemingly impossible speed, and an overwhelming fear rose in her gut along with the sexual charged tension, sending her warning indicators that the situation at present could get rapidly out of hand. With a show of strength she took a large step back away from him, her eyes flashing in anger, hiding her disappointed over coming out of her daze to reality.

"I think we've somehow started on the wrong foot, Commander," she said formally, as shocked as he was by the cool and collected infliction evident in her tone, for she felt his surprise keenly, it pounded through her soul in an agony that blended with her own. "I have a strict policy of noninvolvement when it comes to people I serve with. I do not intend to lead you on to believe that anything can happen here."

For a brief moment he looked annoyed, upset over the break in mood and over her unwillingness to live in the moment, but his frustration quickly turned to obvious amusement as he regarded her with a definite twinkle to his eye and a resolve set firmly on his face.

"To say that nothing can happen from this and that we've started off on the wrong foot admits that there was something happening between us, some sort of attraction that we both felt that you'd like to squelch. Would I be correct in that assessment, Counselor?" he asked with an inquisitive grin, his gaze still locked with hers intently.

She narrowed her eyes at him, years of training in psychology coming to the forefront of her mind as she recognized instantly the corner he was backing her into. By implying that she had wanted the direction of their involvement to end she had unwittingly admitted that there was something there to begin with, a sentiment that surprised her for two reasons, one being that he was right and two being that he had realized it to begin with. But upon deeper reflection it shouldn't have surprised her, this man did not get to be the officer he was so renowned for being without having some rudimentary knowledge of psychology as it applied to negotiations, diplomacy, and Freudian slips and despite herself she couldn't help but grant him a small smile in return.

"Perhaps," she replied, as allusive as she could be while still maintaining a degree of honesty. "But whether or not there is physical attraction between us my decision remains firm."

"How about a friend then, Counselor? Or do you have objections to those as well? The way I see it we are going to be working fairly closely together from now on. Don’t you think it would be wise to at least try and get to know the officer you’re going to be serving side by side with?" he stated logically, making it harder and harder for her to argue against him. He definitely knew how to put dents in her most infallible armor, another aspect to him that caused her pause and that needed much further reflection.

"Friends would be good, I’d like that," she answered cautiously, still wondering if this was a trick or if he had less innocent intentions, but the Commander simply continued to stare back at her, a huge grin lighting his face and the feelings she read from him were sincere.

"Great," he responded, nodding his head slightly. "Then as a FRIEND would you like to do dinner tomorrow night, maybe get to know one another better?"

She was about to refuse, it was on the tip of her tongue to tell him no and take her leave of him, but something prevented her from acting on that impulse. Something that told her logically that she didn’t want to offend him and therefore cause tension between the senior ranks on a new vessel and another something that caused her heart to race, though the latter wasn’t something she readily wanted to admit to nor think about.

"Okay," she said softly, surprising them both with her answer, "I will meet you for dinner."

"Great," he responded with a flourish, his smile growing even more, "would ten forward at twenty hundred hours work for you?"

"Yes," she said in a slight daze, wondering how in the world a trip to the star lounge in the middle of the night ended up in a dinner date with a man whose attraction to her had been made clear and yet he now offered friendship instead.

"I’ll see you then," he replied eagerly, turning to leave the room with an added bounce to his step while leaving a confused counselor in his wake.

"Good gods, I’m in trouble," she announced when she was finally alone, an admission that did little to sooth her troubled soul as she readily cursed the hands of fate.


Chapter 3:

She had a pre-notion as to how the evening was going to go. She had carefully contemplated what she would say, what signals to convey… how to ward Will Riker off of any further advance. She had even calculated down to what best to wear that would emit the aura of indifference she so desperately wanted to portray. But, as with every strange little circumstance of life, things rarely went as one planned.

The moment Deanna Troi walked into Ten Forward, determined and head strong, meeting his gaze and falling desperately into his eyes, she knew she was a fool to think that anything about the evening, *especially* the company she spent the evening with, would be easily controlled or fall in accordance to plan.

Alone with her thoughts, she’d had the best of intentions: to make sure to that by the time the evening was over both parties were clear on where they stood with each other, friends and nothing more. But the moment her eyes met his all good intentions, logic, and restraint seemed to cease and she became that proverbial puddle of mush she used to berate her more romantic friends for suggesting would happen to her one day when she met ‘the one.’

Whether Commander Riker was this ‘one’ they had often alluded to, or not, escaped her, but she did know that he was about the furthest from her unacknowledged dreams of ‘the one’ as she deemed plausible. She had never seen herself with an overtly ambitious officer, as his records clearly indicated he was. He was career driven to the detriment of everything else, and if rumors were to be taken into consideration, a man who had been with more women then the total sum of her graduating class. Nor would she have been pleased if anyone suggested she would one day be attracted to one. So why then did he have this effect on her? Why was it that his presence instantly commanded her attention and why did her heart rate steadily increase whenever she felt him near? She didn’t really have the answers to such questions (at least none that she cared to admit), and that alone was extremely intimidating, not to mention everything else that seemed to go against the years of mental discipline she had fought so hard to accumulate.

All she did know for certain was that when he looked up at her and smiled… the way he was doing presently, she was entirely lost with little hope of ever again being found. And so she instinctively smiled back, all carefully formed conversation topics flying forever out into the blackness of oblivion as she walked towards his table with an unpremeditated sparkle in her eyes.

For his part, Riker was infinitely more at ease with the situation than his soon-to-be dinner companion seemed to be. He couldn’t help but smile widely as he watched her breeze into Ten Forward, looking more beautiful than the picture of her that had been running constantly through his head during both his waking and sleeping hours. He felt a lump rise in his throat when he saw her smile at him in return; the frightened look in her eyes all but disappearing while the dark pools of her gaze sparkled wonderingly under the dim lights of the room. And in that instant Will Riker knew without a doubt that he would do anything to keep that smile on her face, to keep her expression shinning and her countenance brilliant.

He held his breath as she approached, unable to prevent the increased drumming of his heart the sped with each dainty step she took. And it struck him how small she was, and how elegant. Since he had met her, she had seemed larger than life, untainted, untouchable, a strange and wondrous piece of fine porcelain, but with an inner core of steel. And yet she was real: warm and vibrant, walking towards him with an unconsciously measured stride and causing him to feel dizzy and hot, as if he had jumped into the midst of a fire. And perhaps, figuratively speaking, he had, for he had never in his life felt this much for another person before. This need to grab her, regardless of how well they had yet to get to know one another, and pull her to him as tightly as he possibly could and hold on for dear life.

It was the night before that had cinched it, that had firmly grabbed a hold of his desires and let him know, without a single doubt, that he would pursue this woman without holding anything back, using every bit of determination at his disposal. There was something in the way she glanced out at the stars, the way her face looked awestruck and wondering. It was a look he knew only too well for it had been mirrored back at him whenever he had a moment to stop and glance out the windows of a Starship. Something in her answer to the question he had asked about what she saw when she looked at the sky, claiming that the artistic vision of space granted her a sense of freedom, a conviction that he had shared the better part of his life.

But there was even more to it then that. There had been a connection between them, an instantaneous pull that he felt strongly compelled to follow, despite his companions more obvious intent to fight it. He couldn’t readily explain it, couldn’t find the exact words that summed up the situation or its ramifications, what he did know was that something in his soul demanded insistently that he follow his instincts. And he fully intended to, whether Deanna Troi cooperated or not, somehow being consciously aware that this was a battle he definitely didn’t want to lose.

And if that meant trying to be a friend to her first then so be it. He had never had to use that approach before, but if it worked… If it allowed him the necessary time and space he needed to get to know her and worm his way into her heart, then that would be well worth the effort it would take to reign in the physical attraction he felt towards her and simply concentrate on breaking through her apparently formidable walls.

Of course any thought of walls and a struggle of wills disappeared into the receding background as Deanna reached his table, her close proximity inciting an immediate reaction to his body, and his spirit. He wondered if the shiver that immediately ran up his spine was noticeable, or if she could tell that goose bumps were marring his heated flesh. He pondered if she could feel the urgency in his desire, or if he tried hard enough he could keep that facet of his feelings hidden until she was ready to embrace them. He contemplated a lot things while looking up into the dark, beckoning pull of her eyes, but he still remembered to stand as she approached and pull out a chair for her, a little point of etiquette Kyle Riker had managed to instill in his son at a fairly young age.

Will Riker had never been more grateful towards his father, a man he rarely felt any degree of warmth towards, because Deanna looked visibly moved by such small actions, as if he had managed to chip a little at the hardened exterior around her heart with deeds that were really more instinctive than anything else. But most importantly there was a softening to her eyes, a look that he reveled in briefly, taking it as a small victory, before returning to his own chair opposite of her.

And for once utter silence between two people did not seem uncomfortable, not with her looking at him just so, as if she were studying him, cataloguing each feature for future reference, though her probing wasn't unpleasant. And so he simply sat there, returning her stare with one of his own equally intense looks as he studied her in turn. The odd thing was that he didn't feel the need to inject conversation into the dizzying silence the way he normally would have. As if sitting here, like this, with her, was enough for the moment and words would only inadequately convey what it felt like to be in her company.

And finally she sat back and gave a slight, barely noticeable nod, as if to indicate she was finished doing… whatever it was that empaths did when they were finished sizing someone up while trying to decipher their intentions. A small, amused smile tugged at the corner of her lips, and he wondered at it, deciding to call her on it with a brash form of honesty he somehow instinctively knew she would appreciate.

"So what did you just learn?" he asked, with a quirk of his eyebrow, amused by the slightly, and fleeting look of surprise that crossed her features at his question.

"Nothing too surprising," she replied breezily, her tone smooth and unaffected. Though her words, obviously intended to keep him at bay, had the reverse effect. It wasn’t what she had said, or the tone that she said it in that caused a small shiver to travel its way through his body, it was the sound of her voice, soft and musical, cultured and exotic, so fitting to the woman herself. But then again, so many aspects to Deanna Troi seemed to fascinate him. He’d loved her voice from the first moment he had heard it.

"Do it again," he requested, delighting once more at the astonished look that crossed her features.

"Do what?" she asked, perplexed, and suddenly wondering if she should perhaps take back her previous comment about his emotions being less than surprising.

"Talk," he replied with a flirtatious grin, taking complete advantage of the fact she was caught off guard. "I love the sound of your voice, it’s so different, and beautiful."

And once more her expression softened as if by its own accord, and Riker was granted a sudden insight into the woman before him. It wasn’t blatant flirting or obvious attraction that broke through to her. He could argue that there was chemistry between them, he could pursue her relentlessly, as he fully intended to do, and she would continually manage to rebuke him because her will seemed as strong as his own.

However, it was the little things that seemed to break through her armor, tiny attentions to detail that warmed their way into her heart and softened her to his advances. But not for the life of him would he share this newfound knowledge with her. Instead he planned to use it. He would study Deanna Troi, learn things about her that would otherwise seem small, discover the minute things that added up to become the whole.

And as if she could sense his sudden resolve, as if she could read the direction of his mind, her impossibly dark eyes seemed to darken further as she stared him down from across the table, a sudden vulnerability appearing in the soft lines of her face. She looked at him wide eyed and although he knew from the captain that she wasn’t a full telepath and couldn’t fully read his intentions, it occurred to him that she did feel his mind grasping some undeniable truth, some token of thought that could potentially expand his horizons. And she marveled at it, that much he could feel from her. She replayed the change of emotions in him continuously in her head. Perhaps deciding that maybe he wasn’t as incapable of examining the psychological as she had previously assessed, or perhaps merely coming to the conclusion that certain traits of his were endearing to her after all.

Whatever the cause there was a new light in her eyes that hadn’t been there before, a sparkle to them that beckoned him closer. Once again they lapsed into silence, only this one was far different from comfortable or companionable, this one was charged with a strong current of electricity, as if the feelings he felt brewing in his soul had somehow manifested themselves in the air that surrounded them. Her eyelids started to fall shut: closed eyelids surrounded by long, dark lashes that covered even more beautiful eyes, and he unconsciously leaned closer still, entirely captivated by how brightly her cream colored skin seemed to glow the closer his face got to hers, and at how her delicate face was free from any imperfections. And his own eyes started to close by a will all their own, his last sight through almost covered vision was the sweet picture of her, lost to the same trance he seemed to be in.

And then…contact. A thousand hues of light: stars being born and expanding to fill a whole galaxy of emotions, of thought, of rebirth. Soft, silky lips met and a sudden beacon of illumination seemed to spread between them, encompassing their bodies, their souls, all that they were... Reaching into dark corners and yanking out hidden fears, yet ever so sweetly, and baring untamed souls to the eager acceptance of destiny. A tidal wave of emotion seemed to swell up powerfully, causing them both to drown unresisting as it engulfed them, sending them rushing dizzyingly into the outer reaches and back. Their spirits seemed to soar into some unknown place, some peak that had never before been reached. And a lifetime of discovery unfolded in one small, single, perfect moment.

He wanted more, and fleetingly Will wondered if there would ever be enough - as he leaned closer still, pressing harder: wanting, needing, feeling, his heart joyously leaping though new, previously uncharted territory. He felt the whimper that welled up in her throat, felt her give herself unresisting as he brought his hand up to cup the back of her head, securely holding her face close to his, burying his fingers in satin soft masses of hair. And she opened her mouth to him, like a flower blossoming under the gentle caress of the sun, and then tongues dueled, caressed, and danced, and the feelings of flying, of floating, of elevating up to through the stars happened anew. And a word formed, generating from her mind to his, a beautiful, wonderful, mystical word filled with all the promise of the universe and a meaning as deep and old as time…Imzadi.

And then a new feeling pierced the sweetness, an emotion radiating from her that shattered the spiritual journey they had both been heading towards…panic. A powerful, abrasive fear penetrated her daze, causing her to yank suddenly from his grasp, her mouth panting as fast as her heart pounded, her eyes portraying the wild look of an animal caught in the clever trap of the hunter.

She stood up suddenly, causing her chair to fall with a clamber to the floor, her hands shaking with unfamiliar and unwanted emotion. She stared at him blindly, seemingly looking through him to some horrific conclusion just past where he stood.

"I can’t do this," she breathed in a shaky tone, avoiding his gaze as she brushed past him as quickly as she could without it being construed as running.

For a moment he was still, entirely stunned, glancing at the door she had just escaped through and feeling the loss of her heat, and the powerful force that existed between them. But then a slow smile spread slowly and smugly across his face, one that spoke of potential success and a future teaming with prospect. He knew for certain that she'd felt what he had - as though they had both been swept into the throes of ecstasy. It was only a matter of time, and patience. The Enterprise was a big ship, but not that big. There were only so many places in which to hide before one inevitably needed to be found, literally and figuratively.


To be continued…