Arabian Nights

PG 13 (violence)
Angst factor (3 on a scale of 0-5)
Disclaimer:  The concept of Star Trek was dreamed of and guided by Gene Roddenberry, and financed by Paramount.  It belongs to the fans.

                       Chapter 1   

     Urgent thirst wakened William Riker to the aching of bruised muscles and the day's brutal heat.  His mouth was dry and vile, and his swollen tongue tasted like an exceptionally old and dirty rag in his mouth.  Dizziness assailed him every time he moved, and he was sure his blood was thickening as it slowed in his veins.  The room gracelessly tilted as he opened one bloodshot eye.  White upon white surrounded him, increasing his disorientation further.  He carefully opened the other eye and blinked furiously in an attempt to lubricate the dry scratchy sockets.  Ever so slowly the room righted itself, and the nauseating dizziness receded to tolerable levels.  He lay in a white tent on a hard pallet whose harsh fabric was sorely abrading the sun-reddened skin on the back of his neck.  Dust permeated everything, and the vile smelling caftan he wore was stiff with filth, accurately reflecting the lack of care he has received since his imprisonment. Will tried to move his fingers, but his hands were tied tightly behind his back with heavy fibrous rope that chaffed his wrists, their painful throbbing having quickly changing to numbness from lack of circulation. 

     His shoulder cramped painfully and he flexed his arms downward.  The movement was unfortunate, and he discovered that the rope that tied his wrists had been looped up around his neck, and when he straightened his arms he choked himself.  His face blushed scarlet as  he gasped for air. Black spots threatened his vision and his terror increased as he fought to loosen the stranglehold around his windpipe.   When the ropes finally loosened, he exhaled heavily, barely able to draw a full breath.  When he recovered his strength, he was more determined than ever to get away, Will struggled awkwardly to his knees and waited while the room to stopped its violent spinning.  Apparently he had hit his head, or more likely, someone had hit it for him.  When he made it to his feet, he took several staggering steps before the tent flap was thrown back without warning. The setting red sun was at eye level, and it's glare burned a pattern on his retina and vertigo enveloped him, dropping him first to his knees, and then to his face.  As he kissed the ground, unable to break his fall, the breath was knocked out of him and an explosion of pain threatened to rip through the back of his skull.  Gasping wretchedly and trying to stave off the nausea that threatened again, he became increasingly conscious of angry voices swarming around him like a cloud of worrisome gnats.  There was one in particular, which sounded maddeningly familiar.  His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth when he tried to speak, and then someone flipped him onto his side.  The familiar voice increased in volume.  It was a woman's, but it began to sound like nothing more then the buzz of an angry bee until the slap of a hand on flesh silenced it.  Several minutes or several hours later, he didn't know which, soft hands gently touched him, probing his face and skull.  They were blessedly cool against the heat of his burned skin and he tried to identify who belonged to the unexpectedly gentle touch.  But the effort required too much of him and he slid back to the dream-like state where the angry face of a dark- haired beautiful woman left him feeling unexplainably desolate. 

     Beverly frowned as she felt the stickiness of drying blood on the back of Will's skull, and her anger rose again as she examined the purpling bruises on his face.  Gently she touched his split lip with the tip of her index finger before sitting back resignedly.  There was not much she could do without medical supplies.  Someone had taken out a very bad mood on Will Riker in a very visible manner.  She watched him carefully, worried about possible concussion as his eyelids fluttering and signaled the return of consciousness.  "Will, can you hear me?" she whispered.  He opened his eyes fully and stared at her.   "Beverly?  What are you doing here," W ill lisped.  Beverly frowned at the sound of his deep voice scraping dryly over parched vocal chords. 

      "I'm trying to take a vacation Will, what does it look like?"  Beverly said frowning.  "And I now know that you know absolutely nothing about picking vacation spots," she said, folding her arms across her chest.  Will stirred but Bev restrained him.  "Slow down this time and let me give you a hand," she admonished, looping her arm through his elbows and around his back as she heaved. 

     Will's mouth quirked upwards at her futile efforts, but his humor disappeared when their efforts made the pounding in his head unbearable.  Just as he began to ask her to help him lay back down, the flap opened and a dark skinned woman entered dramatically. She would have been lovely in a lushly overripe way had she not been pouting. Skillfully balancing a tray, she ignored Beverly and turned her eyes on Will.  Her desire was evident as she seductively swayed her hips directly in front of his eye level.  Will closed his eyes tiredly, promoting the return of her angry pout.  Turning haughtily on her heel, she dropped the meal on the floor as she stalked out of the tent.  Beverly cleared her throat.  "That was Lissan, the caravan leader's wife," Will explained without opening his eyes.  "She was less than subtle when she propositioned me on my first night here," he said with a sigh, and even more unsubtle when I told her I wasn't interested.  "Thus my current situation," he said ruefully.    

    Beverly wrinkled her nose at the unappetizing odor arising from their meal, half of which had already been spilt already by rough handling.  "Well, she's pretty in her own way I guess, but not exactly up to your usual standards Will," she said," but neither is this food I'm afraid."  Sitting cross-legged beside him, she ordered him to drink and placed the cup under his nose until he took several long draughts.  He turned his head, making a noise of disgust.  "Yuck, Beverly! That tastes like goats milk or something worse," he said grimacing.  "You drink the rest."  

     "Come on Commander," Bev coaxed, holding it under his nose again, "there are worse things than goats milk,"  she said, worrying about the dehydration that showed in his sunken eyes and cracked lips.  Her gaze was an equal match for his in steely determination.  Finally Will sighed and acquiesced.  Beverly balanced one hand on his shoulder and the other tipping the cup.  She forced him to drink deeply until twin rivulets of milk ran down his chin and neck and into the filthy robe.  When the cup was drained he glared stonily at the floor, but wisely made no comment. 

     "Ok, now, a little of this Will," she said sweetly.  They both eyed the thin gray mush dubiously as she parked a spoon full of it in front of his mouth.  Beverly shoveled it in, and Will forced himself to swallow four large spoonfuls before he clamped his mouth shut.  "No," he flatly refused, "you eat something."   He stubbornly kept his lips locked until Beverly had eaten an equal amount.  "This is pretty awful," she admitted around her last mouthful, "but even though it tastes like dirty socks, we need to finish it up because it may be all we get for awhile."  Will nodded weakly.  "Ok," he grunted, "fire away."  They traded spoonfuls until it was finished, even scrapping the spilled mess from the tray.  As awful as it was, both wished there was more.

      "I think I should lay back down Beverly," Will said, his pallor markedly increasing under his sunburn.  "Ok Commander," she agreed, grunting as she took his weight, and helped him to lay on his side.  The unnatural angle of his shoulders was obviously painful, and though Will made no complaint, the fine lacework of wrinkles around his eyes and mouth spoke volumes to the ship's doctor.  If she knew any patient like the back of her hand, it was Commander William T. Riker.  Sitting back on her heels she eyed the loop around his neck with distaste.  "Maybe if I can slip it over your head you could move without choking yourself," she muttered.  When he didn't respond, she said more loudly, "Will, could you move your hands any higher up your back?"  His eyes opened slightly.  "I really can't even feel my hands," he replied, with a half-hearted smile.  First concerned and then angry, Beverly checked the knots and cursed under her breath.  I can take this rope from around your neck I think, then I can work on your wrists Will.  But I need you to bring your arms higher up your back,  just for a few seconds."  Will closed his eyes but said, "just pull them as high as you need them, it's all numb anyway."  Beverly nodded doubtfully and tilted his chin down, pulling upward on the rope.  His face began to reflect to her the truth of just how numb he wasn't.  His breathing was shallow and rapid, and sweat peppered his face as she inched the rope over his chin.  She managed to get it to the point where rested over his eyes, cutting into the bridge of his nose, but could go no further without more slack in the rope.  "I have to pull your arms higher Will," she apologized.

       Will gasped, "Beverly I think I am going to throw up, hurry." 

       Praying quickly that she didn't dislocate his shoulders, Bev pulled the rope up several more inches until the muscles on Will's shoulders bunched and tears flowed through the grime on his face.  Just as he began to beg her to quit, the rope slipped over the top of his head, abruptly releasing the pressure on his shoulders and sending nauseating waves of pain that rolled through him.   He retched until he emptied his stomach, only slowly becoming conscious of the gentle hands that massaged his arms and shoulders and wiped the sweat from his face. 

     When his breathing slowed, Beverly began to clean the mess he lay in.  "I'm sorry Will," she whispered as she touched his cheek.

     He nodded, the fiery pain already subsiding as it localized into a throbbing ache across his shoulders and back.  Forcing his eyes open, he saw the deep concern reflected in Beverly's. "Thanks Bev, I really couldn't have done that by myself," he tried to joke and distract her from worrying about what she couldn't fix.  I'm sorry about the mess, but I told you you should have eaten it instead of me," he said.   "Actually I feel better already" he said, forcing a ghost of a grin.  "Really!" he insisted at her skeptical glare.   "Now," he said catching a deep breath, "let's plan how we're going to get out of here."


Arabian Nights Chapter 2
PG 13 (violence)
Angst factor (3 on a scale of 0-5)
Disclaimer:  The concept of Star Trek was dreamed of and guided by Gene Roddenberry, and financed by Paramount.  It belongs to the fans.

                                                         Chapter two
             Guinan continued to polish a circular pattern in the bar and Deanna wondered idly if she were going to wear a hole in it.  The expression the hostess wore was neutral, but Deanna's sense of her was that she was concerned about something.  Guinan had asked her a few moments before if she "sensed" anything from Commander Riker, and that had filled her with fresh irritation and a little guilt that she wasn't ready to acknowledge yet.  Everyone seemed to take it for granted that she was an automatic locating device for the ships errant first officer.  "Counselor?" Guinan prompted.  Deanna tossed her thick hair back with uncharacteristic defensiveness.   "I think that Will Riker can take care of himself Guinan; at least that's what he so pointedly told me before he stormed off of the ship two days ago like an angry adolescent!" 

     Guinan's silence was almost a reprimand in itself.  She stood as still as a statue and waited a long moment before answering slowly.  "Perhaps a more accurate description would be like a wounded bear Counselor.  His anger seemed very self-directed if you ask me."

     Guinan's words pricked Deanna's already sore conscience, but she wasn't ready to let herself follow the logical path of her observation.  "He's fine, and he'll be just fine Guinan!  He'll find something or someone to distract him at that oasis and he'll be just fine.  He always is," she added, trying to keep the defensiveness from her voice.

     The hostess just stared at the gleaming bar top before looking up at the Betazoid; then she shook her head slowly, "well Counselor, you would certainly know better than I.  Seeing as how you two are connected," she said with emphasis, "in a way that many on the ship don't realize, and fewer understand."  The hostess shrugged, her dark-eyed stare disconcerting.  "You see,  it's just that I have this feeling of uneasiness that I can't explain.  And I've learned over the past several hundred years or so to trust my feelings."  She leaned closer to Deanna.  "I thought that if maybe you could sense him, you could tell whether he was alright," she said as she looked pointedly at the petite Betazoid.  But Deanna did not raise her eyes to the challenge she knew was waiting.  "Well,  I certainly hope you're right about this Counselor," she said, leaving Deanna with an untouched sundae as she moved down the length of the bar to serve her other customers. 

     Deanna sat alone, miserable about her breakup with Lieutenant Commander Worf and confused about her fight with Will that had preceded his leaving the ship.  She was emotionally exhausted from dealing with the two very difficult men that seemed to consume her life.   Worf had been hurt though he hardly showed it.  He refused any further conversation with her after she told him she could not be his wife.  Consequently, she was full of self-recrimination for hurting not only Worf, but Will as well.  She had been very mistaken to carry her relationship with Worf past the point of friendship.  But she had been lonely, and ready for a committed relationship.  Worf was honorable, and kind, and in his own way he had made her feel safe.  When the news made it through the ship's grapevine that they had split, it had been inevitable that Will would eventually come to talk with her.  Her face flushed, and she was ashamed now to realize just how little time she had given Will during her relationship with one of his closest friends. 

    When all of a sudden Will had presented himself at her door, bringing with him all of the unsettling emotions she had tried to escape, she had balked.  He wouldn't leave, and demanded that they reexamine the path their relationship had taken.  His physical nearness was heady, and her overpowered emotions and confused boundaries unbalanced her so badly that in defense she lashed out at him for his past mistakes that had hurt her so deeply.   "Why did he push me for answers I wasn't ready to give?" she thought.  Her anger had become the only defense against his pain, and the depth of his needs had pressured her, pushed her, and ultimately shamed her.  Will Riker had reacted badly and requested some of his long overdue leave, leaving the ship without speaking to her again.  Sitting at the bar by herself was making Deanna morose, and so she left the people she had never really joined and returned to her quarters.

     Later that evening, Guinan sat alone, fingers forming a steeple as she contemplated how involved she should become.  Ten forward was quiet and dark, the last of the crewmembers having left hours before.  She tapped her comm badge.  "Captain."

     "Guinan," he responded immediately, unable to completely hide his surprise, "what can I do for you?"  

    Guinan walked, hands clasped behind her back,    "I'm uneasy but I can't really tell you exactly why.  Could you tell me if you've heard from Commander Riker or Dr. Crusher?" 

     There was a short pause.  "No, but I haven't expected them.  After all, they've only been gone two days, and they're scheduled for five at the spa.  Do you think that there is a problem?"  Muted lights gave the hostess's skin a polished sheen and reflected off dark eyes.  She nodded thoughtfully.  "I don't know what it is.  I've spoken with Counselor Troi but she doesn't seem to be worried.  Perhaps if you talked to her?"  Picard assured the hostess that he would do just that and they said their goodnights. 

       When the sun had gone down on the desert, the night's stars glistened above like tiny jewels in the velvet sky.  Scant illumination bled from a tiny lantern left at the entrance of the tent.  Beverly shivered with cold as she wiggled out of her blanket and held her breath, hoping that there would be little risk of discovery for at least another hour. Lissan had just finished taking her outside of the camp to relieve herself, and Beverly had memorized the path to the horses while she was returning so she and Will could make good their escape. "Now if he can only stay on a horse" she prayed, cursing the fact she hadn't even brought a rudimentary first-aid kit with her.  "Spilt milk," she whispered.  How could she have anticipated that she'd need anything while vacationing at a spa, other than her swimming suit? Will was snoring softly and Bev was loath to wake him up, but now was the time if there ever was going to be one.

      "Will, turn over and let me work on those knots again," she whispered and attacked the ropes at his mumbled ascent.   The guards always checked to see that his wrists were still bound and so she hadn't dared to loosen them.  His hands had gone from purple to white and she was desperate to restore their circulation.   "A knife would be convenient," she muttered.   The dry rasp of Will's voice startled her.  "As long as you're wishing Doctor, how about a nice Italian pizza and warm garlic bread," he replied sleepily.  Beverly forced a smile while she tugged at the knots. Grateful that at least his sense of humor was still intact.

      "OK Mister Riker, but only if you can throw in a bottle of nice California Cabernet," she said, worrying the knots until her own fingers were raw from the rough fibers.  "Damn Will, they sure weren't about to let you loose were they?  They must have thought they were tying up a grizzly bear the way you're trussed up," she muttered.

      Will snorted, "I wasn't exactly a willing sacrifice Beverly.  Lissan made it very evident in front of the whole tribe that she was unhappy with her husband's,  uh,  prowess, and then practically disrobed in front of me.  She left him little choice in the matter if he wanted to save face.  Really, he couldn't afford not to if he wanted to keep his position as leader.

     Beverly nodded, not much really caring if Lissan's husband kept his job or not.  "Here, I think I've got them," she said, relief flooding her as one of the stubborn knots finally loosened.  When it came free the others loosened quickly.  "OK,  slowly Will, let me see your hands."  Will brought his arms around and hissed sharply as over-stretched tendons and muscles cramped with a vengeance.  Beverly kept her expression neutral as she moved his fingers and checked for circulatory damage. 

     Will jerked his hands away from Beverly when a thousand hot needles suddenly stabbed and burned.  Gritting his teeth he held them out again, cursing the uncontrolled tremble, but telling himself he'd felt much worse.  He inhaled deeply and held his breath until the burning lessened, and then opened his eyes to find Beverly watching him, her expression both angry and frustrated.  "What now Beverly?" he asked, wishing for a clear head as he shook it side to side.  Beverly was silent for a moment.

       "Ok Will, move each finger on your left hand and then make a fist.  She nodded curtly at his progress.  "OK, now the other one."  Will could barely curl the first two fingers.  Beverly's face clouded again and then she exhaled loudly.  "I'm sorry.  I'm feeling very useless as a doctor.  How's your head?"  Will began tentatively, "it's ok for now, as long as I don't move it too fast," he ended with a lopsided grin. "I feel sort of stupid."  Beverly didn't take the bait and she continued to worry.  "I think we need to get out of here Will.  I don't know what they have in mind for you, or for me, but I have a feeling we're not going to like it.

Arabian Nights
NC-17 (violence and sexual content)
Angst factor (3+ on a scale of 0-5)
Disclaimer:  The concept of Star Trek was dreamed of and guided by Gene Roddenberry, and financed by Paramount.  It belongs to the fans.

                                                           Chapter three

    Deanna slept little.  Guinan's words were running a marathon through her beleaguered mind.  She had been trying to find a few moments of calm as she lay on her bed, but it was proving more difficult with each passing minute.  Controlled breathing gradually allowed her to slow her racing thoughts, and her Betazoid mental disciplines allowed her to finally weave a web of silence around the distractions and discouragement of her life.  More than an hour went by before she was ready to extend a thread of her consciousness to the planet's surface and attempt to search for Will by using their bond, feeling her way along the connection that had been present since their first time together in the Jalara Jungle.  Nothing.  Deanna continued to enforce calm when what she wanted to do was scream with frustration.  Narrowing her focus, she struggled through the complex tangled emotions of others that fought for her attention, and searched carefully among them for a sense of Will Riker.  Her search was still unsuccessful but she wasn't ready to give up.   Slipping into a meditative autopilot, she allowed herself to stay in a light trance and eventually fell asleep after several hours.  Her sleep was filled with disturbing dreams and not restful.  She dreamt that she swam furiously upwards through a river of consciousness, fighting unfamiliar emotions that were overpowering and repeatedly threatened to drag her under.  The waves slapped against her heavily, hitting her face and filling her mouth, choking her as she inhaled the water into her lungs.  Darkness began to impinge on her vision, and hopelessness assailed her as she began to sink.  An unexpected current gripped her and violently flung her upon a rock that was protruding from the waters.  Knowing it was her only hope, she threw her arms around it's jagged edges and it morphed into the soft, living, breathing strength of Will.  Hanging on for her life, she gasped and turned her face from the buffeting waves, her breath coming in great heaving gulps. Will's solid strength cradled her and she caught hold of him so quickly that it almost startled her out of her sleep.  She hugged him tightly around his neck and quickly realized that even in the freezing temperature of the waters he was radiating terrific heat.  Strong arms pulled her close to him and soft lips kissed her gently, but her sense of underlying pain was acute and she pulled away from him, holding back a sympathetic moan.  His blue eyes were dark, almost indigo, and his expression stripped her heart bare.   Happiness at having found him infused exhausted limb, and she tried to reassure him when abruptly their connection was severed.  Deanna wakened tired, disoriented, and with a deep sense of Will that had not disappeared.  Perspiration curled tendrils of hair, framing her face, and her eyes were dark pits ringed with bluish smudges.   She stared at the chronometer that blinked malignantly.  It was 0600.  "Counselor Troi to Captain Picard," she said, her body tense until the warmth of the Captain's voice reached her.

      "Yes. Report Counselor," he replied with no trace of sleep apparent in his voice.  Deanna took a deep breath and swallowed audibly, "Sir, I suspect that Commander Riker might be in some kind of trouble, and if Dr. Crusher is with him, she may be as well.  There was heavy silence during the short pause before he answered.  "Very well Counselor, report to my ready room as soon as you're dressed." 

     Deanna quickly made herself presentable to meet with the Captain, part of her mind wondering peevishly how he had known she wasn't dressed.  When she arrived at the ready room she hardly knew how to tell him about her premonition.  He waited expectantly.  "Sir, I have not facts to give you.  But I did have a dream after spending time doing an extensive search for any sense of Will.  Picards' expression was bland and she sensed that he was reserving judgment while she talked.  When she was finished, silence reigned between them for a moment, and she stood and looked him in the eye.  "Captain, I have no doubt whatsoever that it's Will that I'm sensing.  I can sense him now.

     Picard nodded and rose quickly from behind his desk.  "Commander Data, try to locate Mr. Riker and Doctor Crusher."  Data answer him almost immediately.  "Sir, I have located their communicators, but there were no life-signs coming from Dr. Crusher's, and Commander Riker's are inconsistent with his medical data.  The sharp tug on his tunic was his only sign of Picard's irritation, and he wasted no time in ordering Data to prepare an away team.  "Sir, I think I should go as well, Deanna broke in.  "It's possible I may be able to direct them to Will and Beverly," Deanna said, bracing herself for an argument that never came.

      Beverly and Will crept away from their tent, moving from shadow to shadow, and holding themselves rigid whenever anyone looked their way.  The air was chilly, but heat still radiated from the desert floor.  Most of the camp was wrapped in slumber, and there were only two guards visible.  Beverly led the way with Will holding tightly to her shoulder, attempting to follow her as silently as possible.  He stumbled and fought for balance, leaning heavily on her for a moment.  Walking in the sand was difficult, and she fought to keep on her feet as she struggled with his weight as he swayed. "Will, she whispered softly," her professional senses on edge.  He didn't answer her at first, and when he did his voice was so soft she had to strain to hear him.  "I'm fine Bev,  keep going."  Beverly frowned, doubting he was fine, but she'd seen him in far worse shape and told herself that if they were ever to escape, now had to be the time.  When they finally reached the horses, Beverly swore under her breath as she realized that the saddles and bridles had been taken into a tent that was under guard.  She left Will leaning against a wagon bed and quietly spoke to the nickering horses, breathing gently into their nostrils to accustom them to her scent before she quickly fashioning two rope halters.  Beckoning for Will to hurry, she made a stirrup with her hands and heaved him onto the horse's back.  The warmth of the horses quivering muscles was comforting, making her wish they were anywhere but here so they could enjoy the novelty of their moonlit desert ride.  Will's expression was tight and unreadable, but he leaned over the mare's neck and he whispered to her that he was fine.  Beverly nodded and told him to stay put.  Putting all of her dancer's muscles to good use, she jumped up on her stomach across the horse's back until she could swing her leg over the side of her mount.  The animal felt her nervousness, and danced skittishly for several moments.  Beverly followed Will's example and lay flat against the animal's neck.  Slowly she edged her horse from the pack, grateful when Will's horse placidly followed.  Every noise carried in still night air, and so she was grateful for the muffled silence the sand granted them.  Her stomach had clenched into a hard knot of misery by the time they reached the perimeter of the encampment.  Beverly breathed a sigh of relief as their freedom seemed imminent.  Behind her, the muffled thud followed by a grunt of pain was all the warning she got, but it was enough to turn her gut to a block of ice.  Twisting her head she cringed at the sight of five dark skinned telandishkans surrounding Will, his loose limbed sprawl as he lay on the sand bespeaking his unconscious state.

    Beverly's head whipped around at the sound of a harsh voice to her right. "Were you going out for a moonlight ride tonight?  I'm quite hurt that you didn't invite me!" said the Janstal, the head of the camp guards.  The Kadaran will not be pleased to see this one get off so easily," he said prodding Will with his toe.  "But you," he said, sucking rudely at his teeth,  "you he may be inclined to be lenient with."  Beverly knew better than to speak and sat on her horse in silence, wincing only when they struggled with Will's weight, and then threw him head down over the back of his horse.  His arms and head dangled, swaying as if boneless to the rhythm of his mount's gait.  Though they continued to taunt her, she followed silently as the guard took her horse's reins and led her back to the nomad's camp.

   << "Will," Deanna said gently, "why don't you let me rub your shoulders?  You look tense."  Will grinned and leaned against the headboard closing his burning eyes tiredly. He enjoyed the familiar scent of her as the bed dipped with Deanna's weight.  The faint rustle of her clothes was somehow comforting as she pushed him into position.  Her soft touch on his heated skin brought back memories that might be better left buried at this point.  "Mmmm,  she smells like gardenias and tastes like strawberries," he thought dreamily, still trying to get comfortable.  Though his shoulders were cramping, his Imzadi's proximity was so distracting it was almost enough to make him forget.  His low back began to throb and he wiggled around on the bed, trying to release the pressure that was quickly becoming pain.  "Relax Will," Deanna murmured, I can't help you unless you relax." Her lips almost touched his ear, but her voice didn't sooth him as it usually did.  He cursed silently as his head began to join in the painful orchestration of his body as the metronome beat inside of it took on a lilting agony of its own, its dull throbbing making it difficult to even think.  He could sense her nearness and it provoked him, stirred his loins in spite of his pain, reminding him of his error on the ship when he'd given into his aching need of her as he pulled her lips to his for a taste of their unique softness.  He had overreached the bounds of their friendship.  It had been too soon after her break up with Worf.  Thinking about it again made fresh the memory of the slap she'd delivered that night.  He was angry, but it was his embarrassment and shame that had driven him from the ship.  He deeply regretted the harsh words between them, so now, instead of pursuing her, he lay quietly, awaiting the gentle feel of her touch on his skin and hoping for reconciliation.  Deanna began to massage his shoulders, but immediately he flinched and gritted his teeth.  It felt more like hot pokers sizzling bone deep than the healing touch of the Betazoids small hands.>>  Will wakened to the heat of the day and realized that the reality of his existence was far worse than the dream he had left.  He didn't have to open his eyes to know that he was shackled to the tents' supporting post, this time with metal manacles he had no hope of escaping.   The splintered wood of the tent pole dug sharply into his cramping back.  Shifting his position carefully, he started to cough, the dry sound scraping his raw throat and parched vocal chords.  This action had a reaction, and set off a series of minor explosions in his head, which was quickly becoming too heavy to support. He swallowed his groan with only partial success, and immediately cool hands like slivers of ice in the heat wandered gently over his face, and he opened his eyes with a start, believing for a brief moment that it was Deanna.

      "Well well.  I wondered if you were ever going to wake up Will," Beverly quipped, the dark worry in her eyes belying her casual comment.  "Are you ok?  You've been out for half a day."

     Will nodded his head and immediately determined he would not make that particular movement again.  What did they do with my clothes?" he croaked, only just now realizing that he was naked, except for a blanket, which someone, presumably Beverly, had thrown on his lap to protect his modesty. 

     She shrugged and noted the confusion in his glazed eyes.  "They figured that you'd be less likely to try and escape without clothes I guess," she said slowly. 

     Will wiggled as he tried to find a comfortable position but it was impossible.  "Well it does make things a bit more difficult," he said grumpily, wincing as his muscles rebelled against the smallest movement." 

     Beverly kept a straight face but wrinkled her nose.  "You know you'd be a little easier on the eyes and a lot easier on the nose if you had a bath Will, no disrespect intended."  Beverly sighed.  "But I don't suppose there's any chance of that."  Slowly her eyes began to take on an elvish glint and she grinned.   "Unless of course we can persuade Lissan to help."   Her smile broadened, and she didn't flinch at Will's glare.  She continued through his stony silence.  "It's not a bad idea Will.  In fact, she may be our best bet to get out of here.  And even poetic justice since she got you in here." 

      Will pointedly ignored Beverly's suggestion, faintly repulsed by the idea of the caravan leader's wife bathing him while he was shackled and helpless.  He was grateful when Beverly didn't pursue the topic, and so he considered it closed.  Since there seemed to be no reason to stay alert, and it seemed far too great an effort to stay awake in the silence, Will slid effortlessly into a hazy slumber and dreamed disjointed and disturbing dreams which he wouldn't remember upon awakening.


     The delicious feeling of warm sudsy water being sponged over his shoulders and neck awakened Will, but his eyes flew open and the unmistakable throaty voice of Lissan made his skin shrivel with instinctive protest. 

     "Ahhhhhh,  that's a good boy,  Let me see those sky-colored eyes again," she said, her body swaying close to his as she leaned over to immerse the sponge in the rapidly darkening water.  Will set his lips in a hard line and he forced himself to retain the angry words that threatened to tumble out, his face and neck flushing brick red.  The flush quickly paled as he tried to straighten up against the pole at his back.  Lissan's ripe bosom heaved and threatened to burst from her too tight bodice as she ran the sponge lovingly over his neck, scrubbing the foul grime until it ran in black rivulets down his chest.  When Will opened his eyes, his face was just inches away from being buried in her breasts, but his head by now was backed against the pole, and there was nowhere to escape.  Thankfully, Lissan moved to his back and began to wash his arms and back as well as she could.  As the water cut through the filth, livid red and blue bruises were unveiled to mark where Lissan's husband had instructed his men to beat him silly.  She seemed oblivious to the injustice however, as if he should have expected it as the price of him wanting her, though the opposite was far closer to the truth.  He flinched when the water stung the raw skin on his manacled wrists.  When Lissan turned her back on Beverly, she made frantic gestures to Will.  She wanted him to do something, but he couldn't figure out what.  Finally, when she began to passionately kiss her own hand, he got the picture.  His stomach roiled.  Resolute, he forced himself up, though his vision still swam and throbbing temples made him faintly nauseous.  The  thought of making love to Lissan nauseated him even more.  He glanced at Beverly and swallowed his pride, knowing it was their only option for escape.  He managed to smile seductively and whispered, "Lissan,  why did you come?"  She stopped what she was doing for a moment and examined him as if he were on display purely for her pleasure.  Slowly she reached for the clean basin of water and squeezed the fresh water over his head, repeatedly rinsing his hair until the grimy waters ran clear. She soaked the back of his head where his hair had become matted with dried blood, and dipped the sponge into the water, watching with fascination as it seemed to bleed itself and stain the clear water faintly pink. 

     Will was beginning to have difficulty keeping his eyes open, but he forced them wide for a moment and locked them with hers as she began to slowly clean his face.  Her spiced perfume agrivated his dizziness, and their bodies almost touched while she pulled the sponge downward over his eyes and then across his lips.  Will stoically thought of Deanna as Lissan's lips finally closed over his, but the illusion was spoiled by her tart taste that was nothing like Deanna's.  At Beverly's frantic insistence he kissed her as if his life depended on it, their tongues tangling as he tried to imagine that she was his petite Betazoid instead of this desert born and bred troublemaker.  Somehow he must have persuaded her he meant it because Lissan responded with a deep sigh and dropped the sponge into the sand.  Her hands moving restlessly through the damp curls on his chest and she breathed heavily as she stared into his half-lidded eyes, desire making her own heavy.  He hoped she was weakening and whispered again.  "Loosen me Lissan,  Her lips were millimeters from his and he forced himself up to capture them as he launched a full-scale attack with his tongue.  She gasped and squirmed as she pressed against Will, roaming over his body freely with her hands, and ignoring the presence of the openmouthed doctor.  At her insistent exploration of his body, It became less difficult for Will to lose himself in the dream of Deanna as he found his traitorous body responding physically to Lissan's erotic movement against him.  Lissan pushed against him and then sat on his lap, obviously aware of his desire that she falsely supposed was evidence of his lust to have her.  Slowly, she licked his lips and kissed his face, her fingers fluttered over him intimately, and returning to his sex like a moth drawn to a bright light.  "I will return after the next watch," she whispered, her breath hot in his ear.   

         When she left Will sagged against the pole, without even enough energy to hold his head upright. Concerned, Beverly lifted his face until his eyes were level with hers, but when she saw that he was no worse for the experience, she smiled tentatively.  "Well,  that was educational Will,  and at least you don't stink anymore."  Will let his head fall backwards, till it was painfully stopped by the pole.  He chuckled until he was forced to stop by his sore abdomen.  "Right," he said, wondering how much of this story Deanna would be willing to overlook once it came out how they escaped.  That's IF they escaped.  He had doubts that she would accept his claim that it was she that he was making love to in his imagination.  Despondent, he closed his eyes against glare of the setting sun.  He released his worry, realizing it was futile in the long run anyway.  The counselor had been very specific when she had told him what to do with his "feelings."   Even though they were in orbit overhead, he couldn't sense her.  Though it was probably because he was concussed, he bleakly speculated that perhaps their Imzadi bond had finally atrophied after all, and succumbed to the years of inactivity.  Well it was no fault but his own, he thought as he blearily forced himself to focus on the reality of his present situation.  He wondered with no small trepidation just how far he was going to have to go with Lissan to ensure their safety.  Exhaustion pole-axed him despite his best intentions, and he was soon asleep. 


Arabian Nights   Chapter 3b
NC-17 (violence and sexual content)
Angst factor (4 on a scale of 0-5)
Disclaimer:  The concept of Star Trek was dreamed of and guided by Gene Roddenberry, and financed by Paramount.  It belongs to the fans.
Author:  Di the demure                                                  
                                                       Chapter 3b
       Beverly hoped that Lissan would bring back clean clothes for Will. It would be a shame to put on the old caftan that was caked with filth and reeked of unspeakable smells.  Gazing at him critically as he slept, she had to admit that he truly was a gorgeous man.  It was rare that she ever saw him without clothing outside of the neutral atmosphere of sickbay, and so while he lay propped against the pole with his eyes closed, she took full advantage of the view.  But the thrill of staring at a bound and naked man eventually lost its appeal, and as long hours dragged by, Bev despaired of Lissan returning.   Sunrise was quickly approaching, and just as her hope's last flicker almost sputtered out, she heard the soft rustle of the tent flap being pulled back and saw Lissan outlined against the soft glow of the approaching sun for a moment before she was plunged into semi-darkness again.  Bev lay with her eyes cracked open and watched Lissan squat beside Will and run her fingers through his hair, but when he didn't awaken, she pulled his head up forcibly and kissed him quite thoroughly.   His groan was soft enough but conveyed fully to Beverly the depths of his misery when she broke away from him.  Bev frowned, remorseful that she forced him into this; but there had been no other choice.  The soft caftan Lissan wore slithered to the ground, and left her in a wisp of fabric that hid nothing and accented everything.  She dropped a metal ring filled with keys, their loud clanking unnerving Beverly.  Kneeling before him, Lissan greedily stroked his muscled body, touching him everywhere with the familiarity of a long time lover who had shared these intimacies of the flesh so many times that preliminaries were considered unnecessary.  She hummed with satisfaction and leaned her ear to his chest to confirm the rapid beating of his heart.  The woman locked eyes with Will's and her lips curved in a faint smirk as she slithered sensuously against him and invaded his mouth before sliding her lips down his neck and shoulder, alternately biting and licking his flesh until goose bumps marched across his body.  He glanced helplessly towards Beverly and she pantomimed frantically that he should participate as much as possible to encourage her, all but performing charades to show him that he needed to persuade her to unlock his manacles. 

     Dismay flashed across his face for a moment only, and then Will shifted painfully, somehow managing to make it look erotic and turn his groan of pain into a very convincing moan of desire.  Now Beverly was the one with gooseflesh, feeling like nothing more then a voyeur at a peep show.  Will somehow encouraged Lissan to move her attentions back up towards his mouth and he said, "I need you Lissan," his baritone voice cracking.  She needed little encouragement beyond that, and engaged him fully, kissing him with exuberant passion.  Though it was evident to Bev that Will was frustrated by his helplessness, it was equally obvious that Lissan enjoyed his discomfort and made no move to replace the displaced fabric that had been dislodged in her excitement.  Their lips separated with an audible pop and she began to forage southwards again, stopping to bite his nipple until he gasped, and then moved inexorably downward.  Bev felt sorry for Will as he tried every technique and phrase to bring her back upwards as she neared ground zero,  but she wouldn't be dissuaded this time. 

     Will flushed red and quickly turned his face away from Beverly and gasped, suddenly jerking and then becoming rigid as Lissan lavished her attention on him in such a way that left Beverly no doubt as to what she was doing.  The doctor's eyes were wide open now.  She knew she should turn away, but she was both aghast and fascinated by the scene before her.  Will's eyes were squeezed shut and his breathing was ragged,  "Lissan," he whispered raggedly, "unshackle me so I can love you like a man," he gasped.  She continued on her mission for a few excruciatingly long minutes until Will again begged her to stop.  "Lissan," he gasped again.  "Stop or it will be over before it's begun."  His already deep voice dropped into a low growl.  Free me so I can worship your body the way you deserve," he said, his voice ragged and his body quivering.   Beverly was stupefied as she watched, unable to turn away, and wondering how she was ever going to face Will again after this; that is, if they ever got out alive.  Lissan raised up sinuous and cat-like, licking her lips as her eyes devoured him.  Beverly could almost hear her purr as she slithered up Will's body, leaving a wet trail with her tongue. 

     "I love to hear you beg William.  What was it you wanted again?" she taunted, her lips now nibbling his ear as her hand kept busy in his lap.  Will was obviously struggling, his mind against his body, both of which had started out this game severely compromised. 

     "Lissan,  by the mercies of your gods, please let me loose.  It shames me to leave you unsatisfied," he gasped, catching his breath.  You are a feast set before a starving man," he improvised.

      Will's head sagged and Beverly was suddenly afraid he would pass out.  But he raised it slowly, his eyes glittering as he locked them with his captors.  His voice was sultry and Beverly was mesmerized.  Lissan stared at him like a sparrow caught in the gaze of a snake.  "Lissan I'm desperate to have you. Please let me go before I die from longing," he said, his voice throaty and deep.  Beverly had to struggle to keep her jaw from dropping to the ground at his archaic phrasing, but her dazed disbelief evaporated when Lissan flung herself at him, kissing him forcefully and then wrenched herself away as she grabbed the keys, careless of their clanking together in her haste to unshackled him.  Beverly stifled a smile and inched towards the temptress, dismayed by Will's painfully slow movements when his freedom was restored.  But Lissan seemed heedless of everything but the heady proximity of his very male body, and she launched herself at him and he tumbled backwards to the ground while she wiggled against him, her breasts having come unbound as she pinned his arms above his head.  Though she had long ago abandoned all propriety, she now wantonly encouraged his increasing participation with her frantic undulations.  Beverly tried unsuccessfully to catch Wills' eye as she wadded a scrap of fabric into a ball, preparing to rise from her bed to sneak up behind the writhing couple and stuff the gag into Lissan's mouth.  This was going to be her only chance, and she intended to take it.  Will apparently was getting some feeling back in his arms, because he began to run them up and down his temptress's lush limbs, stopping to cup her breasts and tease her into a renewed frenzy as her legs clasped him tightly.  He ran his hands down her arms and captured them for a moment, teasing her in her into helplessness until she was gasping and begging for him to impale her in terms that left Beverly blushing furiously.  Will suddenly rolled on top of her, his naked ass shining white in the moonlight, clasping her wrists with one large hand as he kissed her breasts until she bucked under him and begged him in harsh whispers to complete the act.  Beverly watched, convinced Will had passed the point where he could stop, only to be amazed when he waved his free hand frantically behind his back in an appeal for the manacles.   Seconds before she was about to rise, the tent flap burst open and five angry men burst in, kicking Will in the back as they tore the couple apart and then cuffing Will heavily in the face, each of them kicking him at least once more for good measure as Lissan fled the tent. Moments later, Lissan's husband walked in, looking like the wrath of God. 

    "So I have caught you," he said, bitter satisfaction on his face.  "Now you shall pay the price of an adulterer," he said, nodding once sharply towards Will.  His men dragged him to his feet and hustled him through the doorway.  "What are you going to do with him?" Beverly said, trying to feign sleepiness as she pushed herself to a sitting position.  The leader eyed her with little interest and then beckoned her towards him.  Beverly hesitated until she saw Will's communicator winking in the moonlight on the collar of his caftan.  She hesitated, and then as if afraid, she followed him demurely through the camp.  She covertly glanced at where they had tied Will and bit her lip in dismay.  His arms were lashed to a pole whose diameter was so large that they could barely encircle it.  He also had a rope around his waist kept him from sliding down the pole.  His face was pressed against the rough wood and his eyes were closed.  Debanau noticed her glance and said, "do not trouble yourself, I will deal with him tomorrow when the sun is at its zenith.  Beverly couldn't allow herself to speculate on what was in store for Will, and eyed the communicator wondering if she had any choice in the matter of how she would acquire it.  Debanau halted in front of his tent and waved his hand to indicate that Beverly should enter before him.  It was lavishly appointed, draped with silks and covered with large satin pillows.  The  air was heavy, filled with cloying incense that made her feel slightly dizzy.  Debanau sank down gracefully and motioned her to do so as well.  When they were face to face, he reached out at touched her hair.  "I wondered if like fire, this would burn me when I touched it," he said with a smile that was anything but friendly as he locked his gaze with hers.  "I am told that my hair is not the only part of me that burns sire," Beverly said, coyly lowering her lashes.  When he touched her cheek, she smoothly backed away.  "Can we not have wine to cool the burning my lord she asked, grazing his body shyly with her gaze.  I am not vastly experienced and hope that you will humor me.  It has been long since I was with a man," she temporized.  "Perhaps the wine will calm me as well," she said.  Beverly reached out and touched him, trying to look both frightened and alluring at the same time.  He kept his place and poured them both wine and they drank deeply.  Beverly slowly stood and shed her outer garment, leaving only her shift.  "I hope you don't mind if I walk for a moment, it will sooth my nerves."

     He nodded, and contented himself with watching her, appreciating the fact the approaching sunrise was bright enough now to make her shift translucent as she walked, swaying purposefully as she passed him and then turning to face him, she crossed her arms across her chest, thrusting her breasts high enough for him to appreciate.  Sire, if I may be so bold to ask, she said calmly.  "What is to happen to the other prisoner tomorrow?"  Debanau poured two more glasses full of the potent wine and sipped his as he spoke.  "I shall have him scourged, and then kill him.  This is our way," he said with finality, judging her reaction carefully.  Beverly continued to sip her wine, trying not to choke at his pronouncement.  She moved closer to her goal.  "He is troublesome to you?" she questioned, spreading herself back on one of the cushions opposite Debanau, exposing her assets to his scrutiny.  His eyes flickered with interest as he scanned her body as if he were examining a camel or a slave at market.  She leaned forward enticingly and topped off their glasses again, smiling across the rim of her glass, encouraging him to drink again.  Her head felt slightly buzzed, and hoped he was similarly afflicted.  "At least," she thought fleetingly, "he's not bad looking, and I won't have an audience like poor Will if it comes to that."  When he reached out to touch her arm, she stayed still, her eyes widening as if in fear, and her body tensing.  "He chuckled, and poured them a small glass each of an amber liquid.  "Perhaps this will soften your fears," he said with unexpected kindness, tossing his back with a swift flick of his wrist.  Beverly sipped the golden drink and gasped, choking as it burned its way into her gullet.  Her eyes watering, she smiled a successfully tremulous smile and promptly knocked it over, spilling it into the fabric that covered the sand.  "More," she said with a smile, holding the glass before her, her hand trembling with only half feigned nervousness.  He smiled back, and filled both their glasses again.  Beverly sipped, but he downed his in one gulp again.  She wondered if he was ever going to show any of the effects of the alcohol he had consumed, and by all evidences been consuming all evening.  She had to move now, or lose his interest. 

      "I cannot understand your wife," she said.  "Why she would throw away the love of a virile man such as your self for that hairy animal," she said, the jerk of her chin indicating the direction of Will's imprisonment.  Beverly tentatively rested her hand on the smooth expanse of his chest, and felt the rapid beating of his heart pulse under her fingers.  His hand rested on hers and she moved closer.  He encircled his arm around her waist and poured another glass with his free hand, tossing it back quickly.  "But, even so, he is my friend, and I don't wish to see him killed," she whispered."  Beverly sipped her glass demurely, while teasing him with the brush of her breasts against his chest.  "You should choose your friends better," he said dangerously, "he will die like the dog that he is," he said.  Beverly raised her face to his and he rose up to kiss her, his questing tongue seeking her acquiescence and his hand firmly clasping her buttocks and pressing her against his groin.  She stiffened as if in fear, and then allowed herself to melt into his embrace, whimpering softly, and letting her whimpers turn into moans.  She was drawing on every ounce of her acting skills as she pulled away, giving him a wild-eyed stare that she hoped reflected both confusion and desire.  His eyes had finally lost their keen clarity, and she almost sighed with relief.  "You frighten me sire," she whispered, "but I find that I want something from you as well," she said, casting her eyes downward, shivering realistically as he brushed his fingers across her breast, drawing her nipple taut.  He was not an inconsiderate lover and Beverly wondered what was wrong with Lissan as he raised her face to his and kissed her gently until she began to return his kisses.

      Beverly pulled away and took a drink of the amber liquid and held it in her mouth until they kissed again, letting the potent liquor mingle on their tongues as she pressed against him.  He let her push him back onto the pillows as the fiery liquid poured down his throat, his body responding to hers as she moved against him in a way to ignite fire of a different kind in his loins.  Beverly moaned and quickened her breathing, unbuttoning both her shift and his outer garment as she straddled him, kissing him with increasing force, and then rising up to let him view her naked breasts shining in the waning moon.  He changed suddenly from passively receiving her attentions to demanding that she deliver on her promise.  He pulled her down and suckled her breast, making her moan with only half-faked desire.  This was far too real for comfort, and she knew then that she would have to carry it through if she was to save Will.  Pulling slightly away, she lay beside him and fumbled with his garments as she touched him and gasped.  "Is this the tool of loving," she said as she squeezed him gently.  He froze at her touch and moaned, gulping loudly before he whispered back, "it is".  Beverly knew without a doubt that she had his full attention and she began to act as if she had never seen one so wondrous.  "Mmmmmm.. it's so much larger than I expected Sire," she said, stroking him until he quivered at her touch.  "How will it not hurt me," she asked, and then leaned her breasts against him as she stroked his growing member.  She intended to blind him to anything but his own lust, and it wasn't long before Debanau's inarticulate groan told Beverly that now was the time.  She moaned in his ear as she continued and deftly disengaged the communicator from his garment, slipping it into the pocket of her discarded shift.  She silently activated it and continued to distract him, hoping that someone was listening.  "Must you kill my friend tomorrow Sire," she said, rubbing herself sinuously against him.  He opened his eyes, apparently irritated with her annoying insistence on bringing up the man he intended to kill.  He grabbed her wrists and pulled her off of him and then rolled over, with her beneath him.  "He will die tomorrow, but not until after he suffers enough to satisfy the matter of my dishonor," he gasped, and then grunted as Beverly moved her hips slightly against his.   She closed her eyes, resigned to the fact she was going to do this, and determined to make it tolerable, if not enjoyable.  "Mmmm, . Let us not talk more of this man.  Who knows where he really comes from," she lied.  "He said he was from the stars, but I think he meant to bedazzle me in hopes of gaining my womanly charms," she said, pulling his face down until his lips met hers and she hungrily devoured him. .  She quickly deactivated the communicator, and left only the homing device on as she gave herself to her fate, her mission; she hoped was accomplished.  "And those, I intend to give only to you," she whispered as her hips rose to meet his.


Arabian Nights
PG 13 (violence)
Angst factor (3 on a scale of 0-5)
Disclaimer:  The concept of Star Trek was dreamed of and guided by Gene Roddenberry, and financed by Paramount.  It belongs to the fans.

Chapter four

Back on the Enterprise, the cryptic message from Beverly had alerted Picard and his senior staff to the CMO's precarious circumstances.  The Captain's angry mood was indicated only by the increased stiffness in his already stiff posture, and the increasing amount of times he tugged down on his tunic while instructing the team.  With his approval, Data quickly arranged for mounts for each of them, with two extra for Will and Beverly.  Deanna and Data visited the sickbay replicator for the necessary items to hopefully satisfy the natives' need for vengeance against their first officer. 

     Due to an unusual intermittent atmospheric interference with the transporter signal, the closest they could be transported without giving rise to a whole other set of problems was the way station where the caravan had stopped the day before.  Their grueling ride to catch up to them took all day and Deanna sagged in the saddle, both exhausted and apprehensive at what lay before them.  She felt little from Will other than a sense of his dazed confusion and an underlying aching pain that gnawed at her like a bad tooth.  She brushed the sandy grit off of the rich fabric of her riding clothes and unconsciously straightened her posture, aware that no one must suspect that she was only playing the part of a wealthy merchants' wife.  If their plan to convince the Caravan leader that Will was her runaway slave had any chance of success, then her performance was crucial to their belief.  She touched the ornate box in the silken bag that hung from the cantle of her saddle.  Data gave her what she was sure he must believe was a reassuring smile.  He had been surgically altered, his skin and eyes darkened so he could pass as her husband. Worf rode silently, shoulders erect and with ill grace.  Wearing the colorful garb of a slave, he cut an imposing figure.  He glowered, still angry at the indignity of his costume.  The deep scarlet vest showed off his muscular stature, while the bangles and symbolic chains that encircled his neck
proclaimed him a slave.  He muttered that a Klingon would rather die then serve a foreign master.  "Over there," he grunted, "next to the water is where the caravan leaders tent must be," Worf stated while pointing to the largest and most colorful tent in the group.

       Deanna ignored her fatigue and sat her mount easily.  Her arms were folded and her head bowed in thought.  "Commander Data," she said, "I'm having difficulty sensing Will.  Do you have any readings that will help us?"

        The android pulled out his tricorder and frowned.  "Counselor, apparently Dr. Crusher is still in close proximity to her communicator, but Commander Riker is not wearing his or he is?"

        "No, I'm not asking if he's alive," Deanna interrupted, shaking her head emphatically. "I know he is, but I'm just not sensing him clearly."

        Data cleared his throat and looked uncomfortably towards Worf and then back to Deanna. "Counselor Troi, do you realize that you will have to punish Commander Riker adequately to make them believe that he is actually your slave?  My study of the Farbeni culture indicates it is a grave offence and not taken lightly," he said.  Deanna frayed the ends of her hair as she thought over the question carefully.  "I know Data.  But I think my plan will satisfy them,  at least I hope it will," she muttered.  Neither of her companions commented, though Worf looked dubious.   After a moment's uncomfortable silence, Data cocked his eyebrows said, "I think we should ride in soon.  The later we wait, the more we risk Commander Riker and Dr. Crusher's safety. 


        Since early morning when the sun had peeked over the edge of the horizon, Will had repeatedly been the subject of mocking insults of the women, and suffered occasional blows from the men as they passed him during the routine of their day.  But it had made little difference in the orchestration of varying pains that made up his discomfort.  The absence of water was his greatest torment.   Will tried again to loosen the grip of the ropes that had tied him.  He was bound to the post in the center of the natural courtyard formed by the inner circle of the wagons since the night before.  But the leather knots were sweat soaked and stubbornly held true.  All he succeeded in doing was scraping more skin off his wrists.  It was nearly noon and the painful stretch of skin across his back confirmed the suns damage there, not to mention on his naked backside that never saw the sun, even in the best of times.  He squinted but could make out nothing against the reddish glare of the overhead sun.  Will was unable to think of much else now but water, and how much he needed some.  A woman passed close by, but he could barely get the word past dry mucous membranes and though she glanced his way, she acted like she didn't hear him.  

     Sweat stung his eyes, blurring his vision.  He rested his forehead against the splintered pole and tried to imagine himself somewhere else, and was somewhat successful until someone grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head back until he could feel vertebrae popping with the strain.  When he refused to open his eyes they released him with the force of his head hitting the pole practically knocking him senseless again.  Dirty water doused him and he shook his head, sputtering and licking the rancid drops from his parched lips as he reflexively opened his eyes to unwillingly face his captors. 
"It is time to face your punishment, and then your death," Debenau said, his voice a flat angry monotone.  It is my right to lay the first strokes of your punishment, and then Jeroni, who is a master, will finish it for me," he said, indicating the burly guard next to him.

     Will said nothing, but the muscles across his back twitched with apprehension.  He wondered how everything had gone so terribly wrong, but the moment of self-pity was fleeting as he worried again about what would happen to Beverly when he was gone.  He was responsible for her safety, knowing that she was only endangered now because she had come after him.  His mind and heart filled with regrets he could do nothing about. As much as he didn't want Deanna to think he had been a willing participant in the adulterous affair he was accused of, the reality of the situation was that she might not even care. 

        Will shivered despite the heat, unable to completely subdue his fear of what lay ahead.  He told himself that men had been whipped as military punishment for centuries on Earth, especially during their early seafaring history.  And from what he remembered, most men survived. But Debenau had announced that he wasn't going to survive his punishment, and apprehension made his skin crawl as he waited.  Even so, Will was not prepared for the deep searing pain as the first stroke of the lash lay the flesh of his back open to the bone.  His breath was snatched away, prohibiting even a yell as he panted in an effort to control the pain.  But at the fall of the second lash, he had to fight against the scream that threatened to erupt from his throat, clenching his jaws tightly.  It was impossible to collect himself before another lash fell, and then another.  Someone shoved a piece of wood between his teeth and he grunted heavily with each stroke.  The pain was frightening, and Will hugged the post tightly, slivers digging into his cheek as he jerked reflexively.  The rhythm faltered for a moment as the whip changed hands, and then the lash fell again, this time the lash curled around his torso and hit him with enough force to steal the breath from his lungs, leaving him gasping.  How many had he said?  Twenty?  Fifty?  Though the strokes were slow and methodical, Will lost count after fifteen, no longer even trembling with trepidation before each heavy stroke fell and split his skin, sometimes deep enough to expose bone.  He sagged against his bonds, conscious only of the fresh agony of each lash as they dragged him back from the brink of unconsciousness.  The whipping stopped he was doused again, and this time with salted water that sent a fresh wave of pain along his nerve endings.  The friendly darkness had disappeared and Will hung quivering, his ears filled with a roaring that drowned out the voices that had seemed somehow familiar. 

     Deanna jerked upright in her saddle.  Her sense of Will was as unmistakable as it was awful.  They were doing something to him that had broken through his mental shielding.  His agony was palpable, and the pulsing regularity of his pain and fear goaded her until all Deanna could think of now was to get to him as quickly as possible.  They were close, but were they close enough to get there in time.   She nudged her mount to a faster pace.   "We have to hurry," she said to her companions.  "It has already started."   They moved out in a ground-eating trot that had them at the camp in ten minutes.  Deanna glanced at Worf and Data before urging her mount through the gap in the wagons.  She was stopped at gunpoint by the perimeter guard.   "State your business," he said, his face expressionless and dark eyes hooded.  "I have come for my runaway slave, and also for the female slave I sent after him," Deanna said, her manner imperious as she looked down her nose at the guard.  He measured her and her party with his stony gaze, and they apparently passed inspection.  He motioned silently for her and her party to dismount and follow him.  They left their horses tied at the entrance and followed behind the guard.  When they walked past the outer wagon, Deanna saw Beverly, scantily clad, and standing at the edge of a gathering of gawking people.  She didn't notice them as she stared at the man in the center of the ring of spectators.  The people surrounding him roared with approval when the whip cracked.  Deanna pushed forward through the crowd and saw him tied fast to the post in the center.  She didn't have to see his face to know it was Will, for she felt him strongly now, and the sick expression on Beverly's face was enough to confirm her fear.  The man with the whip raised his muscular arm and let the loose coil of leather fly forward.  The snap of it hitting soft flesh was followed by a deep gasp of pain, making Deanna's unsettled stomach roil. Forcing every bit of arrogance and strength she could muster into her voice, she commanded, "stop."   The smaller man to the side of the whip wielder snapped his eyes towards her, taking in every detail of she and her party.  He said nothing, did nothing as another lash fell with a sickening thud.  Deanna walked slowly forward and locked eyes with him, forcing herself not to react at the dark blood that ran in ribbons down Will's naked body.  The lash fell again and Will hardly moved. 

     "If you kill my slave, you will have to replace him with one of equal value," she said haughtily, "and he is very valuable." 

     The man stared at her, his eyes measuring, as if assessing the weight of her claim. 

He motioned for her to come towards him and stared into her eyes as he grabbed the bloodied whip from the guard and thrust it into her hand.  "If he is yours, then you may finish his punishment.  But I demand his death."  His tone was flippant, "Of course I shall replace him to your satisfaction."  Deanna thought quickly.  "I am loath to lose him.  He has successfully fathered many slaves for us.  But I suppose that is not so important," she said with a casual shrug.  "There are other reasons I am not so willing to disclose as to why he would be difficult to replace," she said, and held up a daintily jeweled hand as she halted his protest.  She successfully kept the revulsion from her face as she dropped the bloodied whip.  "I believe that I have both a fitting punishment and a gift that will satisfy your honor," she said with a slow smile designed to intrigue, "and it will only decrease his value to me slightly.  If you would give me ten minutes, and the privacy of your tent for me to prepare both his punishment and your gift?" she said, raising her eyebrows in askance, "and if you have a very sharp knife?"   He swiftly drew a wicked looking knife from his boot and handed it to Deanna without comment.  She strode to Will and cut him down with a single slash at the ropes that bound him.  Worf didn't attempt to catch him when he fell, but he quickly lifted him from the sand at Deanna's nod and slung him over his massive shoulder as if he weighed little more then a blanket roll.

     Deanna schooled her face into impassivity and forced herself not to look as Worf strode by her.  "Ten minutes," Debenau said ominously.  Deanna nodded amicably before ducking into the tent.  Worf placed Will face down and stood silently awaiting Deanna's instructions.  She stared at the butchery the whip had made of Will's back and forced back the nausea caused by the strong smell of blood.  She fought the urge to take the knife she clutched and ram it into the belly of the man who still awaited her outside.  "Worf," she said, struggling to steady her voice.  I need you to hurt Will now," she said, drawing the ornately inlaid box open to reveal it's grizzly contents.  The giant Klingon stared from the box to her grim features until comprehension dawned on his fierce countenance.  He nodded once before kneeling.  Deanna couldn't bear to watch, but the blood-curdling scream that filled the tent pierced her heart and sent her to her knees, fighting waves of dizziness and the black specks that danced before her eyes.  Ignoring Will's ineffectual efforts to push himself away from the source of his pain, she reached down and smeared blood from his lacerated back onto her own hands and the knife, picking up the box and snapping the lid shut as she left the cool of the tent to face Will's captor once again.  "Get him dressed quickly," she hissed to Worf before exiting the tent.

     The sun dazzled Deanna's eyes as she picked her way through the hot sands towards the caravan leader.  When she was within several feet of him, she raised the box, nestling it in her hands, forcing him to reach for it.  His eyes glittered, betraying his curiosity as he plucked the box from her sticky hands.  Opening it carefully, his dark eyes widened but didn't betray the emotion that Deanna felt so clearly.  He was gloating,  surprised but highly satisfied by what she had done.  He nodded once and gave a harsh command to the burly guard that had whipped Will.  He showed his wife Lissan the contents of the box, laughing when she lost both her color and her lunch.  The guard stared at Deanna for a moment before hastening to do his master's bidding.  Deanna hoped that Data and Worf had had enough time to get him ready for travel.  She looked at Beverly, measuring her anxiety and thankful that her friend had risked so much for Will.  "She is mine as well.  I sent her in search of the male," she said, indicating it was Beverly she was talking about by a jerk of her chin towards the tent.  Deanna was surprised at his genuine regret at her announcement.  If you will have your men bring our horses, we have far to travel before night falls." 

      "He will not survive the trip," he announced, his voice flat and his eye's hooded and unreadable.   

      "I will see that he survives, for he has duties that await him at home," she said, allowing an expression of disdain.

     "You are a hard master," he said with admiration, "for a woman," he qualified. 

     She looked into his eyes and said, "few who have crossed me have come away unscathed," she said, her warning holding a double meaning he was well aware of.  He nodded once and then again, lower, to indicate respect. Their horses were led to where she stood, and Worf exited the tent holding his commander as if he weighed little in his arms.  The Klingon slung Will face down over the saddle and tied him securely.  Denebau eyed Worf's muscular physique appreciatively as he boosted Deanna onto the saddle of her own mount.  "I don't suppose you would part with this one," he asked, pointing at Worf as if asking for a spool of thread off a shelf.  Deanna allowed herself a small smile.  "No, I'm afraid not.  All of my slaves are hand picked and have multiple skills.  His are more than meets the eye Denebau."  Beverly and the others quickly scrambled onto their mounts and they exited the caravan at a trot. 


     Will was hanging upside down, his back awash with fiery pain and his head exploding with rhythmic precision as he rocked to the gait of the animal he was tied to.  The sweat of his mount stung his face, and he wondered briefly if this was salvation or purgatory.  Opening his eyes only made it worse by adding severe nausea to the mix.  He shut them again until the rocking stopped, and he felt the mercy of a cool shadow on his face.  Cracking them open experimentally, he blinked, trying to clear his clouded vision.  Things stayed blurry though he blinked rapidly.  His eyes remained dry and felt as if the sand of the Sahara were beneath their lids.  Will again wondered if he was saved or lost, and squinted, struggling to make out the face looming above him.  Reaching out for help in mute appeal, sharp waves of lancing pain quickly aborted his effort.  He closed his eyes just as a feather light touch caressed his face and the calming sound of Deanna's voice helped to abate the demons dancing on his head.  Immediately he felt the sting and the familiar hiss of a hypo.  His senses slid and mixed, becoming muted and muffled until even the agony of his back ceased to matter though he was still conscious.  His reality skewed and with eyes wide open he saw nothing but colors and lights, with flashes of distorted faces as they tended to him.  Will tried to smile but couldn't feel his face.  He tried to reach out but couldn't tell if he had moved his hand or not.   He seemed to be moving in and out of consciousness, the pain came and went; but the one constant that never changed was Deanna's comforting presence.  He tried to say her name but it became lost somewhere between his heart and his mouth.  He didn't feel the hands that lifted him down and tucked the blanket around his shivering limbs. 

            Deanna watched Worf and Data ease Will off of his mount onto the blanket that they had spread as a makeshift medical surface.  There was no shelter from the sun as it hovered like a big red ball on the horizon, but no matter, for it would soon be gone.  Beverly had stopped as soon as they were out of sight of the caravan, insisting that they care for Will before the entire reason for this mission could become moot.  The ships doctor cut the ruined shirt off of his back, soaking it with precious water from her canteen to ease it from where it had adhered to his skin.  Deanna watched with forced detachment as Beverly carefully disengaged bits of flesh from the shirt, realizing that they were still attached to Will's back.   Sand was throughout his wounds, and Beverly carefully used her water to irrigate as she gently cut away the dead tissue. 

"There's not much I can do for him yet," Bev said, fatigue slurring her speech.  "It's impossible right now to clean the sand and dirt from his wounds.  If we used the dermal regenerator on his back now he would die of infection," she said.  Beverly squatted back on her haunches and sighed, rinsing his back with their limited water, and making sure his shirt was damp before she lay it across his wounds and bound them in place as gently as possible.  She wrapped his swollen wrists with the left over strips from his shirt, and then pulled the largest splinters gingerly from his face.  Finally she completed his makeshift treatment with a whopping dose of antibiotics from the medkit the team had brought with them.  There was nothing she could do for his concussion until they were back on the ship, and so Beverly grudgingly gave him a light stimulant; just enough to waken him to sit in the saddle.  Data easily lifted him up and held him in
place while Worf swung up behind him.  The Klingon carefully sheltered him with his massive chest, one arm remaining around his waist to anchor him in place.  Will swayed in the saddle but his Klingon protector ensured that he would not fall.  Worf nodded to the doctor that he was ready. 

Deanna and Beverly flanked Will on either side, and Deanna couldn't help but glance worriedly at him every time he made a sound.  After an hour of this, Beverly finally spoke up.  "Deanna, he'll be ok," she said.  "Once we get him to the Enterprise he'll be up to his old tricks in no time, so try not to worry."  Deanna nodded obediently, but still found it difficult to follow Beverly's advice while Will still fought the effects of his drug-induced haze, and she caught fleeting glimpses of blue.  His eyes however, remained blank and unseeing.   As the sun went down, the temperature dropped rapidly. Deanna shivered until her teeth chattered, and quickly untied her cloak from the saddle, huddling under it until the thick fabric trapped her body's warmth enough to make a difference.  She watched as Worf did the same, wrapping folds of the voluminous fabric around both himself and Will.   It only grew colder as several more miserable hours passed.  When it became obvious that they couldn't continue the punishing pace they'd begun, they halted and Worf stepped down from the saddle, catching Will easily as he slid into his waiting arms.  The Klingon carefully lay him face down before he covered him with his blanket.

      "Worf, I will sit with him for a while," Deanna said, her hand on his arm.

      "Then I will see to the animals," he said, his dark gaze impenetrable as he quickly glanced from his Commander to Deanna.  She squeezed his arm in silent thanks and turned away quickly, dropping to her knees and arranging her things so she could sit quietly next to Will.  He seemed to be dreaming, with emotions touching his features, but he was unable yet to waken.  His emotions remained vague and muddied, but sometimes anger, and more often shame would penetrate the sedation imposed upon him.  When that happened, Deanna would smooth his hair with her fingers, and gently massage the deep wrinkles on his forehead until they disappeared. 

     Deanna frowned, her own self-imposed guilt gnawing at her.  She barely noticed Beverly until she squatted next to them, interrupting her gloomy thoughts when she smiled and handed Deanna the dermal unit. 
     "Here.  Why don't you clean up some of the more superficial damage while I check his back?"  Deanna nodded, grateful to finally be useful.  Pulling back the blanket, she lifted Will's hand, acutely aware of the difference in its size compared to hers as she unwound the dark stained strips of cloth from his wrist.  That he was a very big man was easy to appreciate at such close quarters.  He shifted slightly, his face nuzzling her leg, and the sharp acrid scent of his sweat made her dizzy, the unexpected intimacy of their physical contact increasing her discomfort.  Taking much care to be gentle, she cleansed his raw skin, dipping the rag into a bowl of water Bev had provided.  Pulling the blanket more firmly around her shoulders to ward off the increasing chill of the night, she held the regeneration unit over the ugly abrasions until they shone pink in the moonlight.  She let go of his hand, and it slid down into her lap.  Ignoring the feel of his warm fingers brushing against her thigh through the flimsy material, she tried to focus on caring for Will, and not caring about him, pushing away the filthy hair from his forehead and cleansing the cuts and scrapes on his face, including the cut that had split his lip.  While she ran the regenerator over them she asked Beverly.  "What happened?"

      Beverly, raised her eyes to those of her friend.  "Well," she began hesitantly.  I guess you knew that Will had left the ship," she said, "but after he spent a day at the spa, he was bored, and he joined the caravan to meet up with a caving expedition that was already in progress, about two days travel from the spa," Beverly revealed.  The caravan leader, Debenau, promised to let him join their group in exchange for his labor, and then drop him off when they caught up with the caving group."  The doctor glanced uneasily at her friend.  "Lissan, the one you saw emptying her stomach back at the camp, was Debenau's wife, and she decided right away that she wanted Will," Beverly said with a sardonic laugh as she shrugged.  "The problem for Will was that when he made it clear that he wasn't interested, she practically threw herself at him, right in front of her husband and the rest of the caravan.  I suppose that was the start of his troubles, but it all took place about twenty four hours before I arrived."  Beverly was unable to hide her anger.  "Debenau had his men beat the hell out of Will,  and when I showed up, a woman alone, and inquiring about a tall dark haired, blue-eyed terran, they threw me in to keep him company I guess."  She reached across to brush the hair from Will's face, not meeting the Betazoid's eyes.  "They had hog-tied him, and I knew from his behavior that he most likely had a concussion, but he was still able to move fairly well, and was very determined to get us out of there.  After practically strangling him, I was able to get him untied, and so when the opportunity came that night, we tried to escape."  Beverly blew the hair from her eyes and caught Deanna's for a moment before continuing her task and her story.  "Obviously they caught us, and that's when Will took another blow to the head.  He didn't seem in any danger, but it surely didn't do him much good and he was unconscious long enough to make me more than a little nervous.  Before they manacled him to the tent post, they took his clothing."  Beverly cleared her throat uncomfortably.  "That's when I got the bright idea that Will should press his advantage with Lissan.  She practically drooled over him every time she came into the tent, and I knew we had to get out of there."  She looked guiltily away from her friend.  "I pushed him into making love to Lissan to get the key.  Truth be known, he didn't want to, and he really wasn't in any shape to make love to anyone."  Beverly made a sound between a snort and a chuckle.  "At one point I was sure he was going to throw up, but somehow he managed to get her to unshackle him.  Just when things appeared to be going our way, Debenau and his men came in and caught Will and Lissan in what presented itself as a very compromising position."  Beverly leaned back, surveying the mess in front of her.  "That's when he decided that Will was going to pay for his attentions to his wife with his life."  

     Deanna nodded.  "And that's when you did,  what you did to get access to your communicator?" Deanna whispered, compassionate tears filling her eyes. 

     Beverly nodded and shrugged, turning away from her friend.  "It wasn't so bad really," she said with a shrug.  "He was kind, even a considerate lover if you can believe it.  I just imagined he was someone else,  like Will told me he had done with Lissan," she said, facing the Betazoid squarely. "He told me that the only way he could do anything with Lissan was to think of making love to you," she said bluntly.  "I guess I guess I want to make sure you know it was no less of a sacrifice for Will than it was for me.  I meant it when I said he wasn't willing Deanna.  He had to pretend he wanted her when she demanded something that she had no right to ask for.  We were caught just before they actually, .um, finished anything you know," she said, her eyes reflecting her troubled thoughts.  "But I think that emotionally it was the same for him as if he had, and the consequences were certainly the same.  He did it purely because of me.  And I did it because of him.  But we both had to.  It was our only hope for escape." 

     Deanna nodded and swallowed her queasiness.  "I guess I knew that Beverly, she said quietly, pulling the blanket higher to guard against the rapidly chilling night air.  Even though it shouldn't have mattered, she was oddly comforted by the fact that Will and Lissan hadn't actually finished the act.   She rubbed Will's hand gently between her own for a while before lying on her back, her shoulder barely touching his broad chest.  Holding his lax hand over her heart, she wondered at the strangeness of the fact that no matter how dire the situation they found themselves in, somehow she always felt better, safer, whenever she was close to Will.  Maybe her body knew something her mind wouldn't admit; that they belonged together, no matter what, no matter where,  and no matter what had gone before.   Sighing, she turned over onto her side to face him.  His eyes showed slivers of blue, but he was unresponsive when she pulled one lid up and looked in, still tightly gripped in the twilight world of drug-induced sedation.  

     Deanna lay still and held his palm against her chest.  Its warmth was comforting, and she imagined that her heartbeat was transmuted to him through a route that was both physical and mystical.  Imzadi.  Maybe Will was right.  When he had asked that they both examine the road not taken she'd been afraid, but now she was becoming much more afraid not to look.  She kissed his cheek and then let her lips touch his before lying back to stare at the thick blanket of stars, hoping she might find the answer written there.

      "We should go," Worf's bass voice rumbled, and his long braids where flung across his face by a strong gust.  Beverly strained to raise her voice over the rising wind.  "Data how far are we?" she said, glancing once worriedly at Will. 

       Data gazed over the horizon and then at his tricorder.  We are not far, perhaps only fifteen kilometers.  But the way station will be difficult to find if this turns into a full-blown desert storm.  We should make haste doctor."  

       Beverly's face creased into a frown as she weighed in her mind Will's need to get to the Enterprise against trying to find closer shelter for them all.  Will's need won and she moved decisively.  "Ok.. let's go.  I'm going to waken Will so we can move faster.  Worf, you're going to have to hold onto him."  The Klingon nodded and gave her a look that told her that she'd had no need to remind him of his duty.  She carefully loaded the hypo and administered it, balancing the stimulant with as much analgesic as she dared and still let Will stay conscious.  His eyes opened and he winced, almost as one movement.  Deanna felt his muscles bunch under her hands.  "Will," she murmured, "you're safe now.  We're on our way to the Enterprise."  Will nodded groggily.  "Hey, he mumbled, "you get the number of that camel that hit me," he asked, widening his eyes.  His voice was hoarse and when she didn't laugh he sighed and blinked his eyes heavily.    "Bev that's my best line."

       She shrugged.  "You'll have to do better than that Riker.  It's a tough crowd tonight." 

       Will grimaced again when he tried to move.  "I'm afraid that's as good as it's going to get doc," he muttered and closed his eyes again.  Deanna let her fingers trail down the side of his face.  "Will," she said quickly, "We're going to have to move in a hurry.  There's a sandstorm headed our way, and there's no protection between here and the way station," she urged.  He opened his eyes to half-mast, weary acceptance in his nod.  "It's not too much farther," she promised, and then signaled for Worf and Data to get him up on the horse.  Worf mounted quickly, and then between he and Data, they lifted Will, who protested groggily all the way that he could get up on the horse himself. 

     "Sir," Data said amiably, "Although the probability is unlikely, you might have been able to do it by yourself with our assistance," the android cocked his head, "but we must hurry if we are to get safely back to the Enterprise."  Will nodded his acceptance of the logic of the androids pronouncement, and then swayed in the saddle.  Worf's arm suddenly became a vise-grip around his waist. 

     "Hey, I can't move," he complained, his voice weak. 

     "That, Sir, is the idea," Worf stated matter-of-factly.

     Will tried ineffectually to loosen the Klingon's grip.  "I can't breathe either Worf," he gasped, only half joking.  With that the Klingon loosened his grip marginally.  The pace Data set for the group was brisk, and soon Will had no inclination to do anything other then hold onto the pommel, hoping not to disgrace himself by falling off.  Within a short time, the pain of his mangled back sapped what little strength the stimulant had given him, and he was finding it impossible to stay upright.  Finally, he gave up his pride and leaned weakly against the broad chest of his Klingon guardian.  But the pain of his back made that respite so painful that soon he pushed himself away from the shelter of Worf's chest to hunch miserably over the pommel.  With the jarring pace they had set, the lancing pain of his lacerations quickly became unbearable and his pride wavered as he considered begging Beverly for unconsciousness.  He wanted nothing more than to slide off the saddle onto the ground and let the blowing sand cover him up, perhaps later to be discovered by an archeological expedition.

     Beverly watched her patient like a hawk, observing the seesaw of his painful balancing act and cursed the desert, the storm, and Debeneu all in the same breath.  They continued to travel as fast as the storm allowed. The wind pushing against them at an increasing velocity that sandpapered their skin raw and made them feel as if they were moving backwards.  They had no choice but to push onwards, and they were all taken by surprise when Will collapsed so unexpectedly that Worf almost let him slip out of his grasp.  The Klingon immediately made sure Will was secure in the saddle and pulled his unconscious Commander into a tight hold against his chest.  Beverly called an abrupt halt, trying to ignore Will's grimace of pain as Worf shifted his weight in his arms.  "Worf, can you hold Will on like this for another hour?" she asked. 

        "Yes Doctor.  I could as easily carry him on my back if needed," he growled, her question offending him.

       Beverly chose to ignore his Klingon sensibilities.  "Good. Since he's down for the count anyway, I'm going to put him out of his misery," she muttered, checking the meter on her hypospray before moving her horse skillfully sideways until she was parallel with Worf's mount.   She gave Will a hefty dose and waited, only satisfied when the lines that furrowed his forehead and creased deeply along the sides of his mouth eased a bit.  Checking to see that everyone was ready, she nodded and then gave her horse a sharp kick, prodding the anxious animal into a ground-eating lope. 

        Deanna felt as if her nerves were stretched to the breaking point when Will passed out.  She had always depended on his strength as one of the givens in her life.  It affected her deeply to see him so frail and dependent.  Watching as Worf held him tightly against his chest, her feelings were conflicted.  Despite her success as a counselor on the Enterprise, she never had been able to really see clearly when she examined her relationship with Will.  Rubbing her arms wearily, she shivered, her skin crawling at the memories of this day that already seemed as if it was going to go on forever.  Deanna had tried for several hours to block the horrific pictures that continued to plague her, but with no success.  Her eyes closed for only a moment, and it was enough time that she could see Will's body jerk under the lash of the whip.  Adrenaline surged with each fresh remembrance, draining her already scant reserves.  It had taken everything she possessed to not pull out her phaser and blast the whole lot of them when her Imzadi suffered for no good reason. 

     She glanced at Worf, remembering his own troubled expression, when at her command he'd been forced to hurt his commanding officer in order to give their plan the authenticity it needed to work.  She was unused to making decisions that affected the physical well-being of others, and It was then that she had truly felt the full weight of her rank for the first time.   What if there had been a better way, an easier way?  Some way that wasn't so damaging to Will.  God knows that if she could have, she would have taken his pain upon herself, but that hadn't been an option.  Will was defenseless now, and so unlike the strong-willed, strong-minded man she knew and cherished, the man who had always been her protector. She desperately wanted to protect him now, and wished she could have saved him from his pain, including that which she had inflicted on him herself.   Kicking her horse when it lagged behind, she rode almost knee to knee with Will, making sure that she was close enough to be at hand should he need her.   Sighing, she glanced again at Worf, and realized that Worf would willingly give his life for his commander and friend, and Will was as safe as a baby in it's mothers arms with the burly Klingon.  He was another man that life had placed in her path, and who had been nothing but good to her; but she had hurt him as well.  Deanna found that he was already looking at her and their eyes locked, dark on dark.  She held his gaze for a painfully long moment until they both reached silent understanding, and turned forward again.

Beverly was miserable,  with sand filling every crevice and cranny, and stinging her face and eyes.  But she knew that the rest were no better off then she, though no one complained.  They had accomplished their mission and now they just wanted to get their wounded Commander back to the Enterprise.  When another hellish hour crawled by, Beverly began to worry, wondering if they had missed their target altogether.  The driving wind was blowing sand and dirt everywhere, making it near impossible to see more than a few meters in any direction. Discouraged and on the verge of panic, she rode completely blind until she practically collided with the main building of the way station.  "Thank you God," she said, her words lost to the wind as she pulled her exhausted mount to a sliding halt and jumped off, throwing her reins on the ground.  The others didn't need any encouragement to follow her example.  

     She flung open the door and stepped out of the storm, the contrast striking as she stumbled into the relatively quiet interior of the station and shut the door against the howling wind outside.  Beverly had to try twice to speak, and felt like she was yelling when she croaked her request for their room key.  It was impossible to tell if the men behind the counter were the same ones as when she first came through here.  It seemed like so many she had encountered wore the same ragged garments, and were universally filthy, sporting the same long scraggly beards.  Whether they were the same or different, these two remained silent and sullen at her request, ignoring her as they watched the rest of the beleaguered group drag in.  The older one's eyes narrowed with speculation when Worf carried Will rescue fashion over his shoulder, his shirt stained pale crimson.

  Chapter 4c

      "You still have our room." Data said, making it a statement instead of a question.  He pushed the sand encrusted covering from his face and passing over a large enough credit chit to assure that no questions would be asked.  After a moment's deliberation, the younger man grudged the android a short nod, and the taller of the two men handed over the grubby passkey.  He looked at Worf and seemed about to speak, but Worf growled under his breath, and the man appeared to have a change of heart and closed his mouth.  Data led the way, the weary group trudging behind him as they went single file into the crowded room.  After shutting the flimsy door, the android looked around and pulled a box from under the bed, snapping open the lid.   "Good," he said, almost looking as anxious as they felt.  "The transponders are still here," he said, pulling them quickly and carefully from their case.  Deanna helped him set up the enhanced transporter field, fumbling in her haste as she expanded them to full height.  Finally, when they stood ready, Data gave the command.  They shimmered for several moments, and then became luminescent as their molecules dissolved, to be reunited again in transporter room three of the Enterprise. 

       Beverly stepped down from the transporter pad and immediately issued orders.  "All right, bring the hover board and get Commander Riker to sickbay," she said, nodding to the medics who had been awaiting their arrival.  Worf slid Will carefully off of his shoulder, holding him as easily as he might a child.  He instructed the anxious medics who came to relieve him of his burden to place the commander on his stomach.  "We must give our report to the Captain," he said, looking pointedly at Deanna.

       Deanna sensed the hint of an underlying challenge in Worf's comment and responded with her usual calm, knowing that the understanding they had reached would take time. "You might want to change your shirt first," she said, staring at the blood that had been smeared across the colorful fabric.  She softened her next comment with a smile.  "I will be in sickbay Lieutenant Worf, and if the Captain wishes to talk to me, he can reach me there," she said.  Data opened his mouth and looked from one to the other and wisely withheld whatever comment he had been about to make. The Klingon's expression became impassive so quickly that Deanna wondered if she'd imagined his pique.

       "Lieutenant Worf," Data said, his eyebrows raised in an expression of perpetual curiosity, "I believe the Captain awaits us in his ready room." 


Arabian Nights
Authur: di the schmi
Angst factor (2 on a scale of 0-5)
Disclaimer:  The concept of Star Trek was dreamed of and guided by Gene Roddenberry, and financed by Paramount.  It belongs to the fans.

                                                                    Chapter five

     Will tried and couldn't open his eyes, though he made heroic efforts to do so.  She was nearby.  He knew because not only could he smell her, but he also felt her unspoken presence near him, strengthening him.  He wanted more then anything to see her, but the first problem as he saw it was that he couldn't open his eyes.  Trying instead to speak, he succeeded in opening his mouth to speak, however, no sound escaped.  His tongue felt thick and clumsy as it stuck to the roof of his mouth.  If taste was any indicator, his mouth had been taken over by a mossy overgrowth that resembled leftover gagh.  Oh god,  worst of all, his nose itched, and try as he might, he couldn't scratch it.  Will breathed deeply in an attempt to speak, his agitation increasing as he realized his helplessness.  But the air that flowed out over his vocal cords only elicited a weak sound that was more like the sound of a rusting hinge than a bona fide word.   Cool hands touched his face, delicately drawing the rising heat away from him, and soothing the dull ache that had resided in his head since before he had become aware that he once again had a body.  With her touch, he realized that she knew, and oddly enough, that was enough to comfort him, enabling him to slip once again into the depths of healing sleep.  In his dreams he once again played the hero, but somehow, try as he might, the girl eluded him.      
     Deanna studied Will's face, allowing her conflicted feelings to rise as they might while he was still unconscious.  Even though he was clearly in no danger, he seemed vulnerable, and she found herself hesitant to leave him alone in sickbay knowing how he hated to wake up and find himself confined there.  Beverly leaned on the door jam and watched her.  Deanna knew she was there without having to look.  "How is he doing Beverly?" 

     Beverly smiled, "he's doing fine Deanna, so there's no reason for you to wear yourself out staying at his bedside you know."

     Deanna smiled.  "I know that.  But I hated the thought of you being the one stuck with convincing him to stay put when he insists he wants to go to the bridge the moment he wakes up."

    "Well don't worry on my account," Beverly drawled, "I've got plenty of experience making Will Riker stay just where I want him."  They both chuckled and Deanna sighed.

    "He seems so young asleep like this," she said fondly, her voice soft. "Don't you think he must have been adorable when he was a little boy." 

     Beverly pursed her lips as she examined the six foot four sleeping man in question.  He didn't seem at all child-like to her, but then she wasn't in love with him like her Betazoid friend.   

     "Deanna really," she said kindly.  I'm sure that his father thought most fondly of him when he WAS asleep if the Will Riker I know now is any indication of past performance," Beverly said affectionately of her most faithful patient. 

     The man in question stirred and groaned, his eyes opening under protest.  "If you two are finished discussing me as if I were no more than a side of beef, I'd like to get out of here," Will managed to croak, making Deanna flinch and Beverly laugh.  "When are you going to let me out of here doc," he repeated, making an abortive attempt to rise and immediately giving up.

      "You're not going anywhere," Beverly and Deanna said in tandem. 

      Will looked from one to the other.  "I suppose I'm outnumbered," he said crossly, opening his eyes wider to reveal pupils still dilated with narcotics, practically obliterating the brilliant blue.   

      Beverly folded her arms.  "You're not leaving here Commander Riker, until your electrolytes are balanced and your back has healed enough so any macho stunt you might pull to prove that your "fine", doesn't damage it," she said, her mouth drawn tight in a prim line. 

       Will's mouth tightened and turned downward. 

       "Fine," he muttered. 

       "Fine," Beverly said back, her own stare formidable, and not at all intimidated by him.

       "I said fine," he snapped, glaring at Beverly and then glancing at Deanna.  She was watching him with her arms folded across her chest and a knowing smile on her lips.

       "I think you two are very evenly matched and I've done my duty," Deanna said."   I'm really exhausted and need to get this sand out of. Well, out of everywhere!  I think I'll leave you two alone for a while," she said with a faint smile as she turned away from them both and left the room before either could protest.    

      A streak of stubborn pride had Will pushing his unwilling body to sit up.  Beverly said nothing, knowing it was futile anyway, and stood with arms folded as she waited for him to concede defeat.  He was forced to give up on the third attempt and ending up shaking and sweating from the effort.  When he shifted on the gel filled mattress, he was surprised and grateful that its contours conformed intimately to his body with his every move.

    "The mattress will take most of the pressure off of your back as it heals Will," Beverly said.  Will fought back the tendrils of nausea that threatened, and shivered, suddenly cold.  Beverly pulled the blanket higher under his chin and said nothing.  He had only been conscious for ten minutes, and already his weakness was frustrating him beyond belief.  

      "At least another forty-eight hours Will," Beverly said briskly before he could draw a breath to ask.

     "How long have I been here already then," he said, his voice as moody as his scowl.

     "Thirty-six hours Will," she said, her professional tone keeping his imminent protests at bay.  "I kept you well sedated so I could do some forced tissue regeneration on your back," she said.  And please don't think that I won't sedate you again if you don't cooperate," she said, her voice sharp with fatigue and annoyance.  When Bev turned to give him another stipulation of his impending convalescence, she stopped at the worried look on his face.  "It may not be pretty Will," she said gently watching as he grimaced while straining to touch his mangled back, "but no one is going to see it unless your shirt is off," she said while trying to gage his reaction to what his seeking fingers had found.  "You can come back for the cosmetics once you're fully healed and have regained your strength."  Beverly fell silent, carefully trying to measure his mood. 

       "OK," he finally said, letting the breath he'd been holding out in a prolonged sigh.

       "OK, so turn over then please," Beverly commanded him and gently examined the newly granulating tissue.  Will flinched several times but said nothing until she hit a particularly tender spot. 

     "Ow Beverly," he gasped, "do ya think maybe you could lighten up a little?"

     Beverly's exhaustion finally defeated her professionalism and she answered irritably. "Maybe if you'd lighten up on the charm a little Mr. Riker, you wouldn't find yourself in this kind of fix quite so often."  He tensed under her hands and she bit her lip at her stupidity.  "Will, I didn't.."

     "I used that charm to good effect didn't I?" he said quietly.  "A lot of good it did either one of us," he said before falling silent. 

     "I'm sorry Will, I didn't mean that it was your fault," Beverly said, not knowing what else to say.  Her fingers still rested lightly on the healing tissue that had scarred the corded muscles down the length of his back.  She was so weary she could probably have slept standing up, and now she dearly wished she could take back her thoughtless comment.  Will shifted under her hands and moved from his side to his stomach.  He grunted for her not to worry about it as he closed his eyes, indicating clearly that this conversation was over.  Beverly worried her bottom lip with her teeth.  There was so much she and Will needed to talk about, but she knew she was too exhausted right now to talk about anything.


Chapter Six

       Will woke slowly to Alysia's insistent voice telling him that the Captain was here to see him and it was time to wake up.  Still feeling groggy he asked, "how long did I sleep this time?"   Alysia dimpled prettily, "oh, only a mere sixteen hours Commander," she said, her warm laughter pleasant to his ears.  "Mmmrmph, " he grumbled.  "Knowing Dr. Crusher, I'm sure she gave me something to help me along," he said with a sigh.  Gingerly sitting up, he felt absurdly pleased when his body obeyed him.  Swinging his legs carefully off the edge of the biobed, he looked up just as the Captain entered the room.  Straightening quickly, he ignored the pain of protesting muscles not yet fully healed and locked his gaze with his mentors.  Will was immediately troubled by what he found there.  "Sir, I'm sorry for any inconvenience," he began awkwardly.

     "Number one," Picard said, "at ease." The Captain's posture was rigid, and he stood with his hands clasped behind his back, making Will tense up. "I want to know what you can tell me about this incident Commander," he asked finally.

     "Sir didn't you get the report," Picard loosed his hands and pointed an accusing finger towards the planet.

     "I want to know what else happened down there Commander.  I want to know what can you tell me about your "trip" that can justify the price doctor crusher paid to rescue you" he said.

     Will's confusion made his head whirl, and the unexpected censure from the man whom he looked upon almost as a father hit him hard.  Blinking rapidly, he averted his eyes in an effort to cover his confusion. "Sir," he stuttered, "I'm, I'm not sure what you want.  I mean, I hired on as a laborer with the caravan to get a lift to a caving expidit"

     "I'm fully aware of the official report Commander," he said, clipping his words short, his eyes snapping,  "but I'm more interested in the truth."  

      Will's grogginess had fled when he heard the unmistakable accusation.  He swallowed audibly, not quite knowing how to answer. "The truth sir?" 

      Picard leaned close to Will until their faces almost touched.  "I want to know what you really did that forced Beverly into offering herself to that, chieftain.  Why was he really so intent on killing you that Beverly had to compromise her integrity to save you."

       Will stared at his Captain uncomprehending.  "I didn't,  I mean she didn't," he said, still confused.  "What do you mean sir," he asked, feeling like a school child in a room full of children where everyone knew the answer but him.  He flushed, feeling first hot and then cold, as sick anxiety clawed his gut as he closed his eyes against sudden dizziness.  His flush became pallor at the realization that his Captain had really lost faith in him.

     "Captain I'm going to insist that you stop questioning my patient now," the icy tones of Beverly Crusher barely cut through Will's returning lethargy.  Obviously he's not up to this interview," she said, her arms folded across her chest.  Picard stared at her, and their eyes locked in a short contest of wills.  It was the Captain who finally nodded and left without another word.  "Lay back Will," she admonished, helping him ease into the gel mattress.  "You're already overdoing it in typical Riker fashion," she said with a grim smile. 

     Though he was laying down, Will's head still spun, but he grabbed Beverly's hand before she could leave.  "Bev, what was the Captain talking about," he groaned, dreading the answer.

     Beverly squeezed his hand tightly and brushed his hair from his forehead, as she'd done every time he'd wakened up in her sickbay for years.  "Will, I did no more then you did in your attempt to free us.  The only difference was I, um,  I went all the way," she said pausing, "although I wasn't forced to do it in front of an audience like you were," she said wryly.

      Will's chest was suddenly too small for his heart and his eye's stung, finally realizing why the Captain was so angry with him.  "Bev, I'm so sorry," he said, forcing the words past a fist-sized lump in his throat.  He finally looked at her and Beverly did something that surprised him.  She smiled, and then sighed, not unhappily.

      "Will," she said, cocking her head and staring at a point past him, as if she were remembering, "I'm not saying that I was a willing participant in what happened, but I have to tell you that when I resigned myself to the fact that it was unavoidable, I was more then pleasantly surprised."  The constriction in his chest eased slightly as she brought back her gaze to rest on him and continued with a slight smile.  "He was a gentle and considerate lover, and it certainly wasn't a hardship," she said, squeezing his hand once more.   Will found himself unable to speak and Beverly seemed to understand. "Will Riker, I'm not scarred for life, and in fact, I think I'll write about my desert lover in my memoirs."  He raised his eyebrows at her pronouncement and sighed heavily.  Beverly patted his hand and turned to leave.  "Don't worry, I won't tell if you won't tell," she said, winking at him before she left the room.

Arabian nights Seven, G

     Chapter 7

     Will and Beverly talked again several times about their desert nightmare, and were able to come to terms concerning the things they both did to fight for their freedom; but secretly, Beverly was still having a difficult time erasing the vivid picture she carried in her mind of Will Riker and the caravan leaders lusty wife, and she didn't feel like talking to the Counselor about it.   Bev had blushed yet again when she walked in on him out of bed and half naked the night before, and had taken it out on him by sedating him again for twelve hours, both to ensure his cooperation in sleeping through the night, and to stop him from pestering her with questions about her new propensity to flush what he called "a beautiful shade of chartruse."

     It was early morning, and Will waited impatiently for Beverly to make her rounds.  When she entered his room he jumped in before she had time to jam any more hypo's into his neck, arm or any other part of his anatomy.

     "When can I get out of here," he asked.

    "When you're ready and not before," she said, fussing with something in a drawer, her back still to him. 

    Will's temperature rose a few notches,  "I'm ready now Beverly," he said, his irritation mounting at her refusal to meet his eyes. 

    Beverly swung around to face him.  "You're ready when I say you're ready Commander," she snapped, her blue eyes flashing.

     Will's already short fuse exploded and he yelled at her, "I'm perfectly stable Doctor Crusher, and there's nothing more you can do for me here that I can't do in my quarters, except mother hen me to death!" 

      Alyssia stuck her head in and frowned, admonishing them both.  "You two are disturbing the other patients.

      Will and Beverly both had the grace to look embarrassed.  "All right Commander, let me examine you.  I'll run a few more labs and I'll let you know," she said and waved the tricorder over him before proceeding to silently examine his back.  Will sat silently, forcing himself not to flinch as she touched the deep-ridged scars; until finally, she looked up at him and grudgingly pronounced him ready to go to his quarters. 

     Will inwardly cheered and didn't waste words, barely waiting for her to leave the room before he pulled on a set of sickbay scrubs and left, too impatient to wait for a uniform to be replicated.  Besides, he worried that Beverly might change her mind if he waited for her to cool all the way down.   He was awash with the familiar strangeness of being let out of confinement, and Will absentmindedly trailed his hand along the cool walls as he walked slowly down the corridor to the turbolift.  He nodded affably to crewmembers that greeted him, and inwardly cursed inconsiderate designers that hadn't put any rest stops along the way to his destination.  Now that his sunburn had faded, Will was now peeling like paint on an old fence.  Feeling pale and sickly, he was far more weakened then he'd let Beverly know.  He smiled faintly at his folly, and realized that Beverly probably knew anyway, but she also understood the claustrophobic anxiety that sickbay induced in him, at least when he was a patient there.  He was still faintly surprised that she'd let him escape to his quarters, but on the heels of their disagreement, she'd become otherwise occupied with a bleeding ensign that had unfortunately managed to mangle himself in engineering. 

      He leaned against the wall of the turbolift, wondering why it seemed to be taking forever.  He was weak in the knees and trembling a bit by the time he exited on deck eight.  Grateful that his quarters were only a few feet away, he keyed in his code and sighed with relief when he stepped inside.  The jazz that greeted him upon his arrival buoyed his mood immediately, and the tension he'd been feeling dissipated as he gratefully drank in his surroundings.  Will stood in the center of the room and took a deep breath, feeling as if he'd been gone for months instead of days.  His eyes slowly roamed over the memorabilia from his life that made the four walls of his quarters a home and decided that this was just what he had needed. 

       Ordering black coffee from the replicator, he plucked at his sickbay shirt with fresh irritation.  His skin was damp, and as light as it was, the fabric irritated the newly regenerated skin on his back.  He sat first to catch his breath, and when his heart rate slowed to normal he disposed of the offending garment and slipped into his oldest gym sweats, commanding the computer to lower the temperature in his quarters.  They hung low on his hips, making his weight loss very evident, and a deep frown creased his forehead when he remembered that Beverly had forbade him any exercise, or even light duty for a minimum of another whole week.   Frustrated already, Will puttered around until he began to feel a bit shaky and his body suddenly overrode his mind, overwhelming him with exhaustion.  The couch and the bed both called to him, but he quickly settled for the couch.  Punching up his pillow to jam it under his chin, he rested on his stomach for lack of any other position that didn't hurt.  "Damn, I miss that bed," he thought.  "Beverly's probably just waiting for me to ask if I can come back," he muttered, punching his pillow some more for good measure, "and it just ain't gonna happen," he declared to the uncaring walls.  His eyes were getting ridiculously heavy, and soon his thoughts drifted until despite his intensions otherwise, he fell asleep.

"Will. Will.  someone's sweet voice was calling him.  But he couldn't breathe deeply enough to produce a reply.  "Will, the voice was more urgent now, prompting him to reluctantly open his eyes.  He found himself staring directly into the concerned brown-eyed stare of his favorite Betazoid and quickly oriented himself to reality and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.  "Deanna, what are you doing here," he asked slowly, shifting himself away from the irritating upholstery.  Deanna smiled and traced a line with her finger down his perspiring nose.

      "I'm a bit more in tune to you right now Will," she said.  When I sensed your anxiety from my quarters,  I became worried."  Her eye's conveyed her concern.  "I hope you don't mind that I overrode your privacy lock," she apologized. 

     "Sure, no. I don't mind I guess," he said, still wondering if his head was filled with sawdust.  He struggled into a sitting position and sat gingerly, elbows on knees as he tried to wake up more fully.  "I don't really remember what happened when you found us on the planet, but I sure want to thank you for coming to the rescue," he said with a faint smile.  "I can't seem to even do a vacation right it seems," he said wearily.  "I hope I didn't, compromise you in any way Deanna," he said, not noticing the self-condemnation that shadowed her eyes. 

     "Will, nothing could have kept me from you.  You of all people should know that," she said seriously.  He didn't answer but just nodded, relaxing slightly as her small hand slipped into his. He pulled her next to him and he carefully lay back, wearing his emotions openly as he watched her with undisguised affection.  "Will?" Something in her voice made him search her expression, but he was still lost about what she was truly feeling.  He was just going to have to trust what she told him.

     "I'm so very sorry for the things I said to you before you left.  I didn't mean them, and you didn't deserve them.  But I was frightened, and I wasn't ready to face my feelings about you," she said, the tension in her posture begging him to understand.

     "I think I know that now Deanna.  And I guess I knew it deep down even then," he said with a heavy sigh.  "Even then I knew that the timing was wrong, but I swear, I couldn't stop myself.  When, when Beverly told me that you and Worf had, had split up," he said awkwardly, "I was afraid that if I didn't do something right away you'd find someone else," he said, blinking away the stinging that plagued his eyes.  When his eyes cleared, Deanna looked as beautiful as he had ever seen her and he held his breath, awaiting her reply.  Her petite shoulders raised and lowered with the explosive sigh that escaped her.

     We seem to be our own worst enemy's don't we Will," she said wryly, finally breaking the tension.  Deanna reached out to touch his face and leaned so close to him that he could almost touch her lips with his; if only she would just moved a fraction of an inch closer.  "I'm not afraid to face my feelings now Will," she said, her voice gentle as she smoothed his snarled hair and then trailed her fingers down his arm.  Will shivered and his muscles tensed.