The Morning After
By Deede


Fear was a complicated emotion. It had the power to convert the
strongest personality into a mewling mass of whimpers, the most
callous of individuals into a rebith of sincerity, and a large
gathered group into a mass of confusion. The foundation of fear
took many forms: phobias that were acquired, instincts that were
derived, and belief systems that were accumulated. But the most
potent, and perhaps the hardest fear to overcome, was a fear
that was taught through experience, usually through a trauma
or repeated circumstances of disappointment. Once that fear was
ingrained in the mind, forever imprinted in the psyche, it became
nearly impossible to overcome, even for those with strength of

Deanna Troi knew all of this. She had even written a thesis on
it during her years as a student of psychology; however knowing
and experiencing were two entirely different things. In fact,
she wondered if it made it worse that she actually knew what
she was going through and could define it with a text book perfect
diagnosis, because knowing what she was experiencing didn't really
do her a damn bit of good in the grand scheme of things. It hadn't
stopped the fear from coming and it couldn't help her get rid
of it… That large feat she would have to accomplish on her own.

Which was a task that was easier said than done - especially
since her particular fear was achieved from experience: an experience
that had nearly broken her into a thousand scattered pieces like
a wave crashing against a hardened shore only to be dispersed
and cast back out to sea. It had taken her months to recover,
countless weeks of wallowing in self-pity, engaging in heavy
tears and driving those around her nearly insane with her constant
long face. And although through time she had healed and had learned
to adapt and move on, a small part of her never really went back
to the way she was before. Her naiveté, her innocence, and even
a small shred of her soul had been irrevocably torn asunder,
though she had made a promise to herself at the time that she
wouldn't allow the sad twist of fate to control her or hold her
back from experiencing life as it came.

Which was now the root of the problem because she wasn't experiencing
life or out grabbing something she wanted so desperately and
could now potentially have… No, she was in her office well past
her shift, hiding. It had been two days since Commander Riker
and herself and beamed back onboard the Enterprise after their
success with the Briar Patch, their hands tightly clutched while
their faces glowed with obvious love and adoration. And during
the course of those two lonely days the Counselor had made sure
that their paths didn't cross again. There were numerous appointments
to be made, and the volunteering for extra bridge duty to be
done, even extended meetings with Picard to discuss the anti-aging
effects the Briar Patch had on the crew to be rehashed. All of
which served a purpose: they kept her preoccupied and kept her
heart from being broken by the same man, yet again.

For that was her fear, allowing the man she would admittedly
love from now until eternity free access to her heart only to
have it broken once more, as he had done all those years ago.
In the time they had served together, she had been very successful
at protecting her heart, falling into an easy friendship with
him, even to the point where they were good friends. The kind
of friends where advice was sought, comfort was given, and each
other was the first either of them ran to during times of crises.
Who knew that a friendship forged under such conditions led to
a deeper and more profound love, or that when the boundary into
intimacy was finally severed the years of serving as friends
would actually multiply the feeling tenfold like an aphrodisiac?

She certainly hadn't been prepared for it. All these years she
had been protected, safe even, while he was her friend and nothing
more. There had been occasions when they had been close to crossing
that boundary, but someone had always pulled back, both of them
agreeing that a romantic relationship while serving onboard the
same ship wasn't the best of ideas. And it had worked, they had
eleven years of serving together under their belt, eleven years
of spending time together, of discovering who they really were,
of unknowingly strengthening the bond that would always exist
between them.

What she had failed to realize in those eleven years was that
every friendly hug, every conversation held in low whispers,
every secret divulged, and every gentle caress of affection had
worked to bring them to the inevitable… A deeper sense of love
for one another now than they had been capable of in their youth;
Briar Patch out in the middle of nowhere be damned. However,
recognizing the circumstances surrounding their bond was one
thing - giving into it was another matter entirely, and one she
wasn't sure she was prepared to face just yet. After all, a part
of her would always be that young psychology student, desperately
in love with a man who had left her for his career.

Although in all fairness, she willingly recognized that the man
who Will Riker was now was a lot different from the man he had
been all those years ago, when they had both been so very young
and terribly inexperienced in matters of love. He had aged, matured,
was a little more seasoned, and had even given up a life long
goal of having his own command to stay on the Enterprise with
a group of six senior officers who were probably the closest
family-type bonded unit to exist within Star Fleet.

And more recently there had been other shifts in him as well.
A man who used to derive pleasure out of countless, short-lived
liaisons with a multitude of woman had more recently taken to
controlling his libido, though she had never thought to ask him

But despite all of that, there was still this nagging anxiety.
This learned behavior that transcended knowledge, realization,
and even acceptance, and prevented her from going to him now,
fearing his reaction now that the effects of the Briar Patch
had worn off, fearing allowing him the power to hurt her, fearing
losing herself to her feelings for him, and in his of her.

She was being cowardly and she knew it, she was even disgusted
with herself for it, yet somehow even that wasn't particularly
a strong enough motivation to go confront him.

And, as if fate existed with its own profound sense of irony,
she felt him coming her way no sooner than she had decided to
gather her courage and call on him. She felt the instant sensation
that traveled through her body whenever he was near, and one
that never failed to give her heart a strong lurch or her soul
a sense of exhilaration. He always had that effect on her: the
ability to make her feel pleasantly dizzy and profoundly alive
and for a brief second she resented that level of control. As
if it were out of her hands that her body reacted to him in the
way that it did and she had no other option but to deal with
it, feel it, experience it, and move on from there. 

She felt him pause in front of her door, felt his uncertainty
that was so much like her own, felt his hurt at her avoidance,
and his confusion over circumstance. But she also felt his resolve,
as strong as the unbreakable nature of his spirit, though what
he had resolved himself to do she didn't know. And, surprisingly
there was anger mixed in there as well, which was an emotion
that caused her soul to sink mildly.

Her heart raced wildly as she heard her door chime, a sense of
foreboding filling the large office with suffocating air. Feeling
more trepidation than she felt remotely comfortable with, she
called for him to enter, mentally bracing herself for what promised
to be an emotional confrontation.

The first thing she saw when the door had opened were his eyes,
which instantly met hers… deep, endless pools of blue which threatened
to consume her alive. And she lost herself in that gaze, the
way she never failed to respond, almost entirely hypnotized by
the unwavering emotion that she felt from him, and the bond that
sparked and energized between them, linking her heart to his.
Any argument she had considered, any excuse she had pondered,
immediately died in her throat, and she was left staring wordlessly
at him, unsure of where to proceed.

The silence between them was thick and heavy, making it more
and more difficult for her to breathe. And finally, blessedly,
she found her voice.

“All of this is very, very intimidating…” she began softly, wincing
at the sheer inadequacy of her words.

“You’re afraid,” he replied bluntly, not releasing her gaze or
allowing any sort of release from the apprehension that had built
up between them.

“Yes,” she admitted, briefly tearing her eyes away to gain some
sort of fragile control over her emotions. “Can you blame me?”
she finished firmly, once she had collected herself, letting
him know that she could give as much as she took as she raised
her eyes to meet his once more.

And finally it was he who sighed, his gaze softening as he regarded
her with a combination of sorrow and resolve. “No, I can’t blame
you. However, I do feel that we need to talk about it, not ignore
it and hope it will go away,” he finished, looking very tired
and suddenly older than his usual youthful appearance should
have allowed.

“I don’t want it to go away, I just don’t know what to think
or how to feel. It’s been years, Will. And during that time we’ve
been friends, and this... Well, this could change everything
between us - our friendship, our positions…”

“Our self-made emotional safety nets,” he interrupted persistently,
once again becoming forceful in his need to understand her.

“Yes, our safety nets. The ones that protect us from developing
feelings that would allow for either one of us to get hurt should
the relationship not work out,” she finished, still holding his

Whatever reaction she was expecting from him due to her last
words it wasn’t what she got. He started to laugh morbidly, softly
at first and then more heatedly as time passed, and she could
only stare back at him in utter shock.

“With all due respect, Counselor, it sounds as though you’re
giving up on us well before we’ve even begun. Who says it won’t
work out? Who said that everything we’ve experienced these past
few years wasn’t meant to lead us to where we are now? Who said
that I haven’t spent the past few years wishing that we would
get back together? And where on earth did you get the idea that
mistakes we’ve both made in the past have any effect on our future?
This didn’t just happen yesterday, or today, or tomorrow. It
didn’t happen out in some patch of space filled with youthful
radiation. It’s been building for a long time, Deanna, you know
it, and I know it,” he shot out angrily, his voice growing in
volume with each word that he spoke.

“Maybe it has,” she relented indignantly, “and maybe you’re right
and fate has led us to this point. However, Commander, you’re
forgetting the simple fact that there was a reason we broke up
to begin with,” she nearly yelled, her temper matching his just
as every other aspect of them, together, matched.

“Yeah, there was a reason. I was young, driven, and a coward.
I was inexperienced, and so lost in you that I couldn’t see straight.
It scared the hell out of me. I had never been in love before;
I didn’t know what to compare it to... So I left, I made the
decision to follow my career and did it. And I’ve been paying
for that decision ever since. Do not think for one minute, Imzadi,
that a day hasn’t gone by where you weren’t in my thoughts, even
while serving together as friends all of these years. And know,
damn it, that this is something I want, something I’ve been waiting
for… sometimes it feels like forever. I want *you*,” he finished,
this time softly, and unable to hide the soft quiver in his baritone

And just like that her anger evaporated and the fight left her
body, as if his words alone had the power to bring some sort
of inner peace that had been missing in her before. And slowly
she stood; and walked to him attentively, reaching out her hand
to cup his cheek while glorying in the electrifying current that
ran through them wherever they touched. Her eyes met his wonderingly,
filled to the brink with tears on the verge of falling, and he
brought his hand up to cover and engulf hers, his eyes briefly
closing as he fought the shudder that passed through him.

"I love you," he exhaled, once again opening his eyes and drawing
her into his gaze with hypnotizing force. "I loved you long before
the Briar Patch, or the Enterprise. I love you in a way I can't
fully articulate. We can make this work, Deanna, I know we can,
because this time I know without a doubt that the only place
I want to be is with you."

She felt his words to be true, felt them as she felt the last
of her fear ebb quietly away. And finally, after years of hiding
her heart in some unreachably sheltered place, she let it out
and let her feeling for him consume her. And he felt her give,
knew the exact moment she let him in, and smiled the beam of
a man really, truly, deeply and genuinely in love, and who knows
that love is returned in full.

"I love you too," she answered in a whisper, seconds before her
lips met his and the rest of the universe fell away.

The End!