Story: The Gift
Author: Deede
Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, I just borrowed. :-)
Synopsis: A bad day looks up when the discovery is made that the best
birthday gift of all, is love.


She wanted the day to be over.

It wasn't, by far, the worst birthday she had ever had, yet it wasn't
the best either. In fact, she had seen to it that the day remain in
constant mediocrity, neither having the spirit nor the proper frame
of mind to engage in festivities.

Those close to her had protested, of course. In fact, up until the
very last minute Beverly had sworn to go against the Counselor's
wishes and put together a party anyway. But Deanna had been adamant:
no party, no presents, no special attention or time off from duty,
just a day as any other… a day to match the downtrodden flux of her

And so far everyone had adhered to her requests, however
begrudgingly. Satisfying themselves with well wishes in passing. All
the while shaking their heads in obvious disappointment, like solemn
siblings deprived of their celebration and their need to share in the
joy of the day with her. As they had all of her birthdays for the
past twelve years of her service on the Enterprise… Until now.

The problem was that she felt no joy. Hadn't really had any inner
peace for well over two weeks, since the day after the Enterprise had
left the Briar Patch to be exact… The day she told Will that she
didn't want to go back to being lovers; she wanted to remain friends.

And since that time he had seen to it that they were neither friends
or lovers. Nursing his broken heart in his own form of isolation,
which included avoiding her at all costs. Not that she blamed him.

In fact, if their roles had been reversed, she was pretty sure she
would have reacted the same way: in love, disappointed, sad, and
angry - definitely, definitely angry. After all, the waltz that was
the two of them had begun far before either of them knew what
the `Briar Patch' was. They had been dancing around each other for
years: as friends, as lovers, as something far deeper and strikingly
more profound than either label of friend or lover. When she was sad,
Will was the one she cried to. When she was happy, Will was the one
she laughed with. When she wanted to be alone, Will was the only
presence she would tolerate. It was a common conclusion among the
crew that Will and Deanna would eventually end up tied together
romantically; it had simply been a matter of when, not if.

That is until a blinding moment of panic had taken control of the
better part of her conscience. Until memories of another time,
another place, flashed across her mind as an ocean wave crashes
against the shore.

Her mother had called her that morning to wish her a happy birthday,
inserting into her well wishes her usual, blatant `suggestions'
towards Deanna's future.

`You know, Little One, by the time I was your age I had already been
married, had you, been widowed, and was looking forward to the time
you would grow up, find a man of your own and produce grandchildren.
Time is a precious commodity, Deanna, and you have allowed far too
much of it to pass... alone.'

It had been all she could do to hold her tongue. All she could do to
keep from shouting out… `What if the prospect of being alone was far
less intimidating than allowing love? What if remaining single meant
that there was far less to lose?'

The problem with that theory, of course, was that her heart was
broken anyways, as was Will's. And logically, she knew that her soul,
and his, had been involved long before the wild, reckless, exuberant
effects of the Briar Patch had sent them into each other's arms,
finally consummating what had been a long time in coming.

It had been a matter of schematics, really. Either in bed or
out, `imzadi' lived in their hearts, minds and souls as its own
tangibly dominant force. And no matter how she examined the
situation, as she had done continuously in her head since that
fateful day in Ten Forward over two weeks before, she couldn't figure
out why it was that she could want something so badly, yet be so
afraid to `officialize' it.

Yet there was that past life where Will had broken her heart and she
had been so utterly devastated.

But that had been so long ago. Before they were friends, before they
had served together for twelve years, before they had come to be each
other's strength; each other's inspiration.

Surely the past twelve years of growth had matured them past the
driven yet scared youth they once were, hadn't it? Surely, after all
they had been through, and all the experiences they had shared, a
chance of history repeating itself was slim to none?

The answer, she knew, to both of those questions was yes. Yet even
despite that knowledge, and even despite the love, desire and longing
she felt, her heart had never fully forgotten what it had felt like
to be shattered. Had never forgotten just who it was who had done the

The sudden ringing of a chime jolted her out of her morose thoughts
as her empathy reached out to lightly touch the life force standing
just outside her door, surprising her with its presence, its
familiarity. And she tried to keep her heart from racing out of
control when her brown-eyed gaze met her visitor's blue. She tried,
but she failed. In fact, her heart seemed to have a mind of its own:
wanting, longing, needing… scared, frightened, yet loved; definitely,
definitely loved.  And in return it gave as it got, that much she
could sense in him, in his heart.

For a moment they stood quietly, drinking each other in, feeling for
each other not with hands but with something intangible, something
inarticulate yet so distinctly them. For a moment. Not more.

"I've been selfish, and I'm sorry," he announced suddenly, his voice
cracking as he eyed her, tormented.

Her startled confusion must have been evident in her expression for
he continued, driven by something unseen.

"Deanna, you're the most important person in my life, regardless of
what we call each other: friends, lovers… imzadi. In fact, I've spent
the last two weeks trying to define exactly what it is we are to each
other and have always come up short of an explanation. But I do know
this… I love you. Always have, always will. And that love isn't
restricted to the status of our relationship. It exists as it is.
There. If you want to be just friends, I can be okay with that," he
trailed off then, looking briefly away while taking a deep breath to
prevent his voice from breaking. "We've always celebrated your
birthday together," he finished quietly, as if it summed up

She tried to hold back her tears. Tried to look at him with a strong,
clear mind, yet she couldn't. The tears fell steadily down her
cheeks, and her body betrayed her will, and shook… powerfully.

In less than an instant he was by her side: holding her, comforting
her, loving her. And she could only sob harder, her heart knowing
that she loved him as he loved her, without condition. Even if that
love meant showing courage. Even if that love meant overcoming the
ever-present fear of the unknown, as well as overcoming the
uncertainty of what the potential future may hold.

He held her for untold minutes. Wrapping her in a safe cocoon of
love; sheltering her from the outside world until she could collect
herself and meet his eyes once more… Those wonderful, tender, loving
eyes that she could safely drown in quite happily, and never tire of.

"I don't think I want to be just friends anymore," she responded with
a whisper, watching with rapt attention as the dawning of her words
sunk in, causing an odd yet wonderful light to illuminate in his eyes.

"Thank god," he exclaimed, a huge smile working its way across his
face as he held her tighter still: relieved, anxious, longing… yet
still mildly uncertain, still slightly hurt by his own recent

"I've been selfish and I'm sorry," she echoed his earlier words,
reaching up to tenderly stroke his face with her fingers, while
delighting in the heat she felt there. "I love you. Always have,
always will. I was afraid of hurting, afraid that if I gave in to my
love, my heart might be broken again; either by our own will, or the
will of the universe. But I've found that I was already hurting just
as much, if not more, without you."

His gaze turned fierce, solid, as he held hers… frozen. His grip on
her tightening to the point where she almost couldn't breathe, and he
hesitated only a second before he pressed his lips against hers,
firmly, to ensure that she most definitely couldn't.

The kiss was long, and it was powerful, sending her reeling… wanting…
needing, giving as it took. He kissed with all the strength and
fervency she knew to be at his disposal, pouring everything he was
into it as if he had something to prove: to her, to him, to the
universe at large. But then he broke it just as suddenly as it had
begun, again meeting her eyes to state with clear, firm
assuredness, "the last thing in the world I want for you is a broken

"I know," she said. And she did, honestly and truly, although she
couldn't pinpoint with certainty when that epiphany had come or if it
had been there all along, hiding beneath the fear.

Silence followed then, both exhilarating and breathtaking, granting
her the opportunity to bask in the aftermath of the kiss, and their
recent confessions. Allowing her, and him, to saturate in their love
as neither had truly allowed in far too long.

"Happy birthday, Deanna," Will whispered quietly, after awhile.

And with that, she smiled. "Best one ever."

The End!