Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all. Always has, always will. I accept this.
Where There's A Will
by Diane Bellomo
Will Riker kept his head in his hand for a while longer, trying without success to block out the racket coming from Cochrane's "jukebox." Unfortunately, his head in this position gave him a clear view of Troi, passed out cold on the table in front of him. Man, she was gonna have one hell of a hangover, not to mention one killer bruise, particularly if he could not locate the medkit Crusher had left.
Okay, he admitted to himself, he had screwed up a few times in his life, but what, what had he done to deserve this? He sighed and looked over at Cochrane, who was still bopping around to the beat of the music, brandishing a half-empty whiskey bottle.
"Doctor Cochrane," he ventured. He didn't get a response, but he had not really been expecting one. He stood and walked over to the man, place a hand on his arm and tried again, louder. "Doctor Cochrane!"
"Yeah?" Cochrane spun around a little too quickly and feel into Riker. "Watcha want?"
Riker steadied him. "Can you please turn the music down?"
"Shhurre." Cochrane raised his empty hand, curled his fingers into a fist, and walloped the top of the jukebox. The old machine wheezed, the music slowed and then stopped altogether. Cochrane turned his bloodshot eyes back to Riker, a grin plastered sideways on his face.
"Howzzat? Have a drink!" He continued to weave around to his own inner beat, waving the bottle in front of Riker. Riker grabbed it from him before he could be clobbered with it and set it on the bar. He jerked his chin toward the still-inert Counselor.
"Is there someplace more private I can take her?"
"Follow me, hotblood."
Cochrane staggered out of the bar and moved unevenly in the direction of a half-blown shanty across the way.
Riker went back to Troi and sat in the chair he had just vacated. He reached over and touched her hair, carefully attempting to untangle it. He missed the curls, but it was much silkier now, and he kinda liked the lighter highlights. But her hair was in such a state he knew he would only make it worse. He couldn't resist reaching over to trace the delicate bones of her cheek when her head moved beneath his hand and he snapped out of his daydream.
Troi's head rose sluggishly from the table. She didn't exactly speak his name, but he heard it nonetheless: //Will?// Her head began a nosedive, but he jumped up and grabbed her by the shoulders, resting her gently and safely back against the chair.
"C'mon, Dee, we've got to get out of here." He wrapped a sturdy arm around her waist and tried to get her on her feet, but she could not stand. Her eyes never opened; if he let go of her, she'd have slid right to the ground, as fluid as the booze she had been drinking. Realizing it would be impossible to get her to walk on her own, he bent and lifted her completely into his arms. She mumbled into his face something about a "primitive culture," and he got a 100-proof whiff of whateverthehell it was. Woo-boy!
Cochrane had by this time reached the shanty and was standing in the doorway, watching. He hollered back at Riker. "Whatsamatter, big guy? She too much fer ya?" He laughed and disappeared inside.
Riker snorted. With Troi now securely in his arms, her long hair a mass of tangles hanging over his arm, he started toward Cochrane. As he walked, he tried to come up with a credible way to explain the truth to the man. He recalled Troi's words ("He's nuts.") and, completely blotto or not, he feared she might be right. He arrived at the hut, fully prepared to have to deal with another passed-out drunk, and was surprised by what he saw.
Cochrane had made up a cot that looked almost inviting. It was covered in a clean blue blanket that was pulled back, revealing an equally clean white sheet. At the head rested a plumped-up pillow. Two beat-up gray metal folding chairs and a counter full of junk in the corner completed the tableau. A small shaggy mongrel lay quietly beneath the counter, its plumed tail thumping gently on the dirt floor, sending up little puffs of dust.
Cochrane himself was bustling around fixing coffee, to all appearances completely sober. Riker wondered at this man's stamina and also at the condition of his liver, but as Troi was getting mighty heavy, his thoughts returned quickly to the task at hand. He went to the cot and bent to put her on it. She dropped like a stone from his arms and remained there absolutely motionless.
Riker scrubbed at his beard, looking down at her. Having had some little experience with real alcohol, he knew it would be best if she had awhile to "sleep it off," but, unfortunately, they did not have that luxury. He didn't envy the way she would feel when he woke her, particularly without Crusher's miracle drugs, but it could not be avoided. He slumped into the chair beside the cot, took her hand and patted it lightly. Glancing into her face, he noticed the bruise on her forehead was swollen and beginning to color up vividly.
Geez. Perfect. Great.
"Deanna, c'mon, up and at 'em."
He slapped her hand a little harder. This produced a stirring in her limbs enough to jerk her hand from his and an exhale that made his eyes water, but nothing further.
Cochrane paused in his own stirrings and held up a finger. "Hey, I've got just the thing for her. Don't move, I'll be right back." He vanished from the shanty, the little dog disappearing after him.
Riker scooted the chair up so it was even with her head and began once again to caress her hair, leaning in close to her ear and risking another eye-watering exhale.
"Deanna, Imzadi," he whispered, "I know you're in there, but I need you out here. We've got work to do. I know we'd be up the creek if you hadn't found Cochrane, but you have to wake up and help me!"
He laid a hand on her shoulder and gently shook her, wanting very much to wake her, but hesitant to be too rough with her. He felt the suggestion of words swirling around inside his head, but nothing coherent enough to make sense of. He leaned back in the chair, trying to think what to do next - abandoning more tender methods and considering ones he rather shouldn't, such as a faceful of ice water.
Cochrane returned at that moment, dog in tow. "If you want her awake, this is guaranteed to do the trick. Open it and wave it under her nose, er, what's yer name again?" Cochrane had come over to the bed and was holding out a tiny plastic vial. Riker took the vial and repeated his name to Cochrane. He pinched open the vial and did as instructed.
Awake she certainly came! Troi reared up off the cot as if it were on fire, coughing violently and surprising the hell out of Riker. He threw his arms out to keep her from hitting the floor, but she shoved him aside, clamped a hand to her mouth, found her footing, and bolted unsteadily outside, shoving past Cochrane as well. Riker grimaced at the sound of her heaving into the bushes beyond the shanty but was glad she was relieving her stomach of its burden. It would make things slightly easier. Cochrane merely sat in the other chair with a mug of hot coffee. The mongrel came up to him, sat down and put one paw up on his knee. Cochrane scratched him absently behind the ears.
Just as Riker was about to get up and go after her, Troi returned, looking sheepish and decidedly green around the gills. She went directly to the cot, waving away his offer of assistance, and sat heavily on the edge of it. She dropped her head into her hands and then jerked back and groaned when one hand hit the bruise. Breathing evenly through her mouth, she rested her elbows on her thighs and let her small hands dangle between her knees, finally acknowledging Riker with a bleary-eyed stare. The bruise was starting to turn ugly and her hair was just everywhere.
"Will, thank you for getting me out of the bar, but if you tell anyone about this, I'll kill you." She paused and let her head drop again. "God, I feel like shit."
Riker's eyebrows shot into his hairline at the sound of the swearword on her lips, but he had to swallow (hard!) against the urge to laugh out loud at the wretched picture she made. The always-perfect Ship's Counselor Deanna Troi looked every bit the way she said she felt, and he knew she was not in the mood to appreciate the humor. He heard Cochrane shuffling up behind him and was grateful for the diversion.
"Here ya go, love, just what the doctor ordered." He held out the steaming mug of black coffee.
Eyeing him warily, Troi accepted the mug and took a tentative sip. Her recently-emptied belly rebelled at this bitter intrusion and she was up and outside one more time, hesitating less than a second to glare at Cochrane.
This time unable to stop a bark of laughter, Riker cocked one eye up at the doctor, who merely shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh well, works for me." He walked over to the corner, the little dog right at his heels. "Let's see if I can scrounge up some crackers." He pawed through the mess on the countertop, pushing aside pieces of debris and other items best left unidentified. Riker in the meantime muttered to himself something about wanting to scrounge up a medkit. Cochrane heard him.
"Now that I have!" He patted around his coat, finally fishing into one deep pocket and pulling out the precious black travel medkit. "Found it on the ground outside the bar."
Riker rose and reached for it, but Cochrane was quick in yanking it back. "Ah ah, hotshot. First yer gonna tell me what 'USS Enterprise' and 'Starfleet' mean."
Riker sighed. Caught by the identification on a medkit. Well, no better an opening than this. He began with a sweeping gesture towards the other chair. "Doctor Cochrane, have a seat. Have we got a story for you "