Rating: PG 13, I think
Pairing: Isn't this a stupid question, considering where it is being
Archive: I'd be ecstatic if you thought it was good enough. Just
leave my initial on it.
Notes: set just after `Generations'. And I've conveniently forgotten
the existence of a certain Klingon. Oh, and I borowed one line off
Homer (dead Greek guy, not Bart's dad) in a futile attempt to
convince you all that I've actually learnt something in my first two
years in uni.

Riker, Troi, Picard et al belong to a higher power. I own nothing but
my imagination and have to work in a super market to get my cash. I
do however have an ever increasing student debt, and you're more than
welcome to take that off my hands!


The semester's third year basic psych class was an interesting group,
comprising cadets drawn from across the federation. Although here, as
well as most other places within the fleet, most of the seats were
occupied by humans, there were also five Bajorans, three Vulcans,
two Bolians, and an Orion, who together made up nearly half of the
small class. Despite their apparent cultural diversity, these young
men and women had several key things in common; they were all on the
fast track to command, each expected to graduate within the top ten
percent, and they all had to pass this class before they were allowed
to move onto their final year, - something that had already proved a
problem for more than one of them . Still, despite a lack of
enthusiasm which was also shared by the majority of the group, there
were significantly fewer absences at the beginning of this term than
there had been in the past. Apparently news of a change in instructor
had gotten out, and the prospect of having an actual line officer at
the front of the room instead of the usual dregs of last years
psychology graduates had dragged the most surly of candidates from
their usual haunts. Slumped into his usual seat, on the very back row
and as near to the door as he could get without actually sitting on
the steps, the ring leader of a particularly notorious group of
senior cadets kicked his legs out across the desk before him,
confident and relaxed as he studied the wall mounted chronometer with
growing interest. Another ten minutes and who ever it was who was
meant to be replacing Lt Davies would be officially late, and he'd
be able to leave without possible recriminations.
Folding his arms casually behind his head, he sighed briefly
in the direction of one of his classmates, before loudly voicing his
opinion that, "Davies wasn't that bad, I don't see why they had to
reassign him,"
"Lt Davies' instruction was severely lacking," came the cool
voice of the only female among the Vulcan students, "He had little
experience or command ability, and was totally incapable of
controlling this class,"
"You don't get it do you, Shari," said the human , still
smiling contemptuously "That's why he was so great, we got to do what
ever we liked!" This got a ripple of laughter from those closest to
him, but the only sign he received from Shari that she had even heard
him was a look of mild disgust in her sharp grey eyes, as she
continued the dispassionate defence of her position.
"I would have thought, cadet Sachez, that having failed this
course once already, you would have welcomed the opportunity to
actually learn something," she said, not so much as a raised eyebrow
creasing her delicate alien features.
"Shut up Shari," he spat back, his eyes narrowing
cruelly, "Some of us don't have your connections in fleet command, we
actually have to work for our grades,"
"Work?" Her voice hardened slightly, "You wouldn't know the
meaning of the word, and my mother's position has nothing to do with
my achievements,"
Sanchez smiled, determined to have the last word "And how is
the Admiral this week?"
"That is none of your concern," said Shari, once more
possessed of an unearthly calm, any sign of her slight lapse of
control vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. Then, turning to the
class at large, she went on, "I believe our new instructor will be
here shortly,"
"Your amazing Vulcan intellect tell you that, or do you have
inside information?"
"It is eleven fifty-six, as this period is due to start at
twelve o'clock, logic would dictate that they will arrive within the
next four minutes," she explained, her voice sounding, he imagined
like it would were she explaining something to a small child. He
couldn't say that he liked it much, but he decided to let it slide
for now. In his opinion, his brain had already had to work far too
hard for this time in the morning anyway, and he wasn't about to
start another argument with the Vulcan.
"What ever you say, Shari," He said instead, "Any Idea who it
is going to be?"
"None at all." Then, something very strange happened, she
tilted her head to one side, and regarded him with what, if he didn't
already know it was impossible, might have been humour in her slanted
grey eyes, "But I'm sure they'll have no problem living up to
Lieutenant Davies' exceptionally high standards,"
Sanchez blinked, not sure of what he'd just heard, "Was that
a joke?"
"Perhaps," she said, turning away before he had chance to see
the ghost of a smile that brushed across her normally stoic
He frowned, gazing thoughtfully at the back of her head, and
finding it hard not to admire the way the overhead lights bounced off
the shiny chocolate tresses. Maybe he had been wrong, maybe they all
were, maybe Vulcans understood far more about the human concept of
humour than they let on, and maybe, just maybe, Shari wasn't as cold
and aloof as he'd presumed she was. He was still staring at her,
oblivious to what was going on around him when the much debated new
instructor walked in two minutes later. He was so oblivious, in fact
that, had it not been for Shari's graceful movements as she rose and
called the room to attention, he would have never realised any thing
was happening. As it was he was late enough getting to his feet to
attract the instructors gaze. Luckily for him, she decided not to
make an issue out of his lapse of concentration, throwing him a wry
smile before heading out into the centre of the room. Relieved, if
some what puzzled by her charity, Sanchez sank to his chair with the
rest of the class. This was certainly nothing like his first
encounters with Lieutenant Davies, or any of his predecessors, who
out of inexperience and a desperate desire to be respected tended to
rip chunks into the first cadet they encountered who put a toenail
out of line, only to have their decisiveness vanish within their
first ten minutes in front of a class. Nor was she what he'd
normally expect from a line officer. She was small, all tumbling
ebony curls and even darker eyes, with a figure that had to be seen
to be believed, too delicate, or so he would have thought, to handle
the uncertainties of life on a star ship. She also seemed too young
to have logged more than a couple of years in space. Yet here she
was, standing before them, wearing the blue uniform of star fleet
science, and the three gold pips of a full commander, waiting for
them to settle with an air of quiet confidence.
When the noise of scraping chairs and hushed whispers had
subsided enough for her to make her self heard, she began. "As some
of you may have noticed by now, I am not Lieutenant Davies," this
caused a small ripple of laughter among some of the cadets, "He has
been reassigned. I'm Commander Deanna Troi, formerly ships counsellor
on the Enterprise," the mention of the great ship's name earned her a
few appreciative whistles from the back off the room, "And for my
sins I'll be teaching this class for at least the next semester." She
smiled, "Welcome to third year basic psychology,"

The lecture hall was just up ahead, thank god. Will Riker had
been wondering the corridors of the psychology block for the past
twenty minutes trying to find the room that the ensign at reception
had told him had been assigned to Deanna that morning, and he was
beginning to worry that he might miss her when the lecture finished.
Since she was expecting him to be tied up with the review board all
day, she would have had no reason to stay behind any longer than her
students, and as it was he had barely reached the large double doors
before they slid open and he was surrounded by a swarm of cadets.
Forced to step back despite his rank and size to stop himself from
being trampled to death, he managed to catch brief snatches of
conversation as they poured out into the hall way. One exchange in
particular brought a smile to his face. In a show of complete
disregard for personal protocol, one of the human cadets, a young man
with broad shoulders and a touch of the devil in his dark eyes,
sauntered up to an attractive Vulcan girl and threw an arm around her
shoulders in a most familiar fashion .
"So, Shari, you learn enough in that one?" He asked,
"It was most informative," she said, removing his arm with a
slight frown, "I've always found the subject of racial misconceptions
"Really?" He asked, doing his best to seem casual as he moved
in front of her, halting their progress down the corridor.
"Yes," she replied, "It was especially ,,,,,,,, entertaining
when you expressed your belief that all Betazoids were nymphomaniacs,"
Riker found himself trying desperately to smother a laugh as
the human cadet cringed in response, "Its a common enough stereotype,
how the hell was I supposed to know she was half Betazoid?"
"It never occurred to you to just keep quiet?" Asked Shari,
not helping in the slightest. In fact if Riker hadn't known better,
he would have sworn she was enjoying making him squirm.
"Hey, I'm only human,"
"Nobody's perfect , Sachez," And in one graceful move, she
stepped round him and walked off. Sanchez stood there for a moment
looking confused, then he just shrugged his shoulders and followed
her down the corridor.
"Something I can do for you commander?" He turned at the
sound of her voice, regarding her with awe struck blue eyes as she
stood, hands resting on her hips, deliberately just out of his reach.
"I can think of several things, actually, counsellor," he
responded darkly, using the same mock formality that she had. He took
a step forward, closing the gap between them but made no move to
touch her, not knowing if she would welcome his advances here. She
smiled, making the decision for him as one of her hands brushed the
soft fabric of his tunic, coming to rest in the centre of his chest,
over his heart.
"Really?" She asked, her dark eyes dancing as she lifted them
to meet his, "Then you'll just have to make an appointment like every
one else!"
"Counsellor," he said, "You're a tease,"
"I know," reaching up, she placed a gentle kiss on his
lips, "but that's why you love me,"
He smiled, pushing a stray curl back from where it had
fallen across her face, "You're also very sure of your self," he said.
"I am aren't I?" She asked playfully before her perfect brows
creased in a frown. "I thought you and the captain were being cross-
examined today," she said, referring to the review board who had
been interviewing all the senior officers during their investigation
of the Enterprise's untimely demise.
"I was dismissed for the day, it appears they have their
hands full grilling the captain,"
She laughed at his strange choice of words; her all too vivid
imagination painting an elaborate picture of four admirals struggling
to cook Jean Luc Picard over an open fire. Noticing the odd look her
companion was giving her, she smiled, shaking her head slightly, "It
doesn't matter,"
"Are you busy right now" he asked, deciding that he really
didn't want to know what she had found so amusing in his last
statement, "Because I didn't have breakfast, and I know this great
little place across town where they serve chocolate all day,"
She sighed dramatically, "You certainly know the way to a
girl's heart, Will Riker," she complained, "I was meant to be using
the rest of the day to sort out my quarters,"
"But they can wait, right?" He asked, draping his arm around
her in an unconscious echo of the cadets he had been observing
"Lead the way, commander" she smiled, lacing her fingers
through his as he guided her along the hallway and out into the San
Francisco sunshine.


Part 2

The one redeeming feature of the otherwise bland, inhospitable
temporary quarters star fleet had provided for her was the view. Six
giant floor to ceiling windows dominated the rear wall of the living
area opening out onto a small wooden balcony from where she could
watch the moonlight dance across the bay. The perfect retreat from
the reality of life. Were it not for the continual buzz of emotion
from the six billion or so other inhabitants of this planet, she
might truly have thought she was alone. That was where she found
herself now, staring into the night while the wind caught her hair,
remembering what had happened that afternoon.
Will had taken her to a small cafe on the edge of San
Francisco's alien quater. Hidden up one of the narrow side streets,
past a Bajoran temple and an old Orthodox church, it was the kind of
place you didn't find unless you knew it was there. It was also
typical Will. A small rundown building with dark shuttered windows
and a narrow door way, above which hung a battered wooden sign that
said simply, `Joe's', the place was full of what he'd called rustic
charm. Lazy jazz music filtered out into the streets enticing people
inside where a lone performer played a saxophone on a small stage.
After the bright sunshine outside, her eyes had a little trouble
adjusting to the badly lit, smoke filled room, but once they had
she'd been enthralled. A few well worn tables cluttered the space
between the stage and the bar on the back wall, chairs clinging to
them in no particular order. The walls were painted a dull shade of
red, broken occasionally by ageing posters and autographed pictures
of musicians she didn't recognise. It was like stepping back in time.
The proprietor, a middle aged Human with dark skin and a greying
mustash had shown them to a secluded table, set into an alcove not
far from the stage, and taken their order before disappearing again
behind the bar.
They'd been left alone for the most part, save for the silent
arrival of their food, and had spent much of their time in quiet
conversation, sharing jokes and trading tales about the morning's
work. It hadn't been what he'd said that had captured her attention,
though, it was the way he looked at her as he spoke. She could still
see his blue eyes, gazing across at her like she was his whole
universe. He had watched her lips when she talked, and she'd known
that he'd been wondering what it would be like to kiss her here, in
front of these strangers. She had felt his curiosity, his stirring
arousal as the thought took hold, and she'd smiled. He'd reached out
then, taking her hand in his and turning it over, tracing
affectionate circles on her palm, smiling back at her with passion
darkened eyes. Capturing her chin in his other hand, he had guided
her forward bringing a breath apart. The kiss had been tentative at
first, a feather light caress of his lips on hers, slowly growing
bolder as he felt her responding. Her eyes had slid shut and she'd
released a soft sigh, giving his probing tong the access it demanded.
Her hands came up to stroke his bearded face, his fingers tangled in
her raven curls, legs brushed beneath the table, and for a few short
moments the world fell away. Thoughts of who they were, why they
shouldn't be doing this, melted in the heat of their embrace, and
they became just two people hungering after what they knew only the
other could provide, neither wanting to break away. Eventually the
spell was broken though, by the decorous cough of the young waiter
who brought their bill.
That kiss had brought them back here. To her standing on the
balcony, and knowing that she was being watched. To him walking up
behind her and wrapping his strong arms around her small frame. She
relaxed, leaning back against his chest, and he buried his face in
her soft hair. They held like that for some time, silent and
unmoving, content to simply be together. Until she felt his warm
breath on the back of her neck and his hands moving slowly up her
bare arms. In one gentle movement he pulled her closer to him,
brushing aside her dark curls to fasten his lips hungrily on her
delicate skin, enjoying the way she shivered against him when his
mouth began its teasing exploration. "Nice view," he murmured
seductively, his lips drawing back to brush her ear , "But wouldn't
you rather come inside?"
Rolling her head back as his lips continued their tortuously
slow exploration of her throat, "maybe you're right," she managed,
releasing a tremulous breath when she felt one of his hands leave her
arm and graze the underside of her breast.
"You're cold," he said, his fingers trailing a lazy path over
one taught nipple, and knowing that it had very little to do with the
falling temperature. She turned in his arms, and he pulled back a
fraction, chuckling softly as he saw the way she'd begun to respond
to him. Already her breathing had started to loose its normal steady
rhythm, her pulse had started to race, her delicate complexion
flushed, and to him, she had never looked so beautiful. Regarding him
with sultry, desire ridden eyes, her hands reached up, snaking their
way around his neck to pull him down for a searing kiss. And in that
first instant when their lips met, that was when he felt it. The
tender brush of her thoughts against his. Emotions like feathers
falling gently across his mind as she reached across their link. She
was like a mirror to this soul. Everything he felt, she saw, drawing
it deep within her self, adding to it with her own feelings,
intensifying it before sending it back for him to feel it again in a
never ending circle. She had barely touched him, but she was driving
him wild with anticipation, and when her hands joined her mind in its
intimate caress, it was almost more than he could bare. The rest of
the evening passed unnoticed in a blur of colour and sensation
leaving them both exhausted but content and free to drift into a
blissful sleep.

Dawn awoke with rosy fingers, creeping softly between the
muslin drapes to gaze at the lovers. They lay among the tumbled
sheets still caught in the sweet oblivion of sleep, unaware of the
breaking day. It seemed as though they shared the same thought, two
hearts beat out the same steady rhythm, breathing together as gentle
smiles graced two very different faces. One male, one female. One was
strong and rugged, the other delicately beautiful. One open and
honest, the other mysterious. One was completely human, the other hid
her true heritage behind dusky lids and long black lashes. They were
a study in contrasts, but their differences complimented each other
rather than making them completely at odds. The large male form
curled protectively around his mate, one brawny arm draped across her
slender waist holding her to him even while they rested. The message
was clear to any who saw them: go else where, this one is mine. And
she seemed to have accepted his possessiveness, and his protection
without question as she nestled against his chest, her small hand
keeping his arm in place. Content at what she had witnessed, Dawn
withdrew and the morning sun flooded the room.
As the first rays of light caressed her pale skin the woman
began to stir. Before this week it had been too long since she'd been
woken this way, gently drawn from sleep by a rising star. It seemed
right some how, as if living on this alien planet a part of her was
rebelling from the technology on which they usually relied. Her smile
deepened and she opened her ebony eyes, taking in her surroundings.
She loved moments like this, early in the morning before the world
woke up around her, everything was so quiet, so peaceful. It gave
her a chance to open her senses without fear of being overwhelmed, to
relax before her day really started. Careful not to disturb the man
sleeping beside her, Deanna Troi rolled out from his embrace to sit
on the edge of the large bed. She wondered idly for a moment why
every time she stayed in fleet accommodation, the bedrooms always
seemed to come with spacious double beds, - was it a perk of rank,
or did they expect her to have company? Just then, Will started to
murmur in his sleep, and she reached out to brush a stray lock of
hair from his forehead, tenderly stroking his brow until he stilled.
Their relationship had never been exactly low key, their positions on
the flag ship, and her ties to the Betazoid government insured that.
Maybe the room assignments hadn't been an accident after all.
Catching sight of the small table top chrono', she suppressed
a disappointed groan. Seven hundred, only two hours before she was
due back at the academy, another half an hour before Will was meant
to start his gruelling debrief at the hands of Star fleet's top
brass. She would have loved to let him sleep, but neither of them
could afford it that morning, so shifting her weight slightly, she
leant down beside him and spoke into his ear. When that didn't work,
she added the feel of her nails tracing the mid line between his
navel and his upper chest, and he started to shift beneath her,
finally she bared her teeth, and bit softly into the exposed flesh of
his neck, releasing a provocative growl as she did so. Sapphire eyes
flew open, and before she had time to register her success, he had
flipped her onto her back and was kissing her savagely, awake in more
ways than one. Forcing herself not to give in, she pushed him away,
almost laughing out loud at the expression of disappointment on his
bearded face.
"We don't have time," she told him.
"You started it,"
"Yes I did," She smiled, the devil dancing behind her black
eyes, "And I have every intention of finishing it," she paused,
enjoying the wash of hopeful anticipation she felt from him before
continuing "Later. Until then, take a cold shower, Commander!"
"You're a cruel woman, Deanna Troi," he said, mock serious as
he dragged himself out of bed.
"Just looking after your best interests, dear," she teased
lightly watching his tight ass retreat towards the bathroom, "After
all, you're in enough trouble already,"
"Really?" He asked, not bothering to turn round
"Uh huh," she murmured falling back into the pillows and
idly playing with a loose curl of hair, "You crashed their favourite
"You were driving!" He called out over the rush of running
A low chuckle escaped her as she rose, and she wondered
briefly if he would ever let her live that down, "Technicalities,"
she grumbled before wrapping her sheer cotton robe around herself and
padding across the carpeted floor. He'd left the door open, allowing
the steam from the shower to billow through the gap, and she could
hear him humming as he massaged the shampoo into his hair. Slipping
silently into the small room, she leant against the far wall,
satisfied to watch for a moment through the misted glass as the water
trickled down his finely contoured chest and beyond. His eyes were
closed and he had no idea she was there until he felt her warm hands
brush against his back, closely followed by her lips and the rest of
her incredible body.
"What do you think you're doing, counsellor?" He asked,
"Taking a shower."


Part 3

Patience, like chastity had never been a virtue Will Riker
had ever been interested in pursuing. He wasn't the sort who believed
in sitting back to let the universe sort its self out, if there was
something he could do to alter a situation, he would. He had got
where he was by ambition, hard work and sacrifice, and that was why
he found the situation he was now faced with so intolerable. Twenty
minutes ago, a junior grade security officer had come and escorted
him to a large open room on the thirty fourth floor of the `Fleet
building, asked him to take a seat while he waited for the review
board to convene, then left. It had taken five of those twenty
minutes for him to get sick of just sitting there and start wearing a
hole in the floor. What made it even worse was that he was sure that
they'd done it on purpose, to let him stew, so he could start to
think about what was about to happen, to ware down his defences. It
was working. There were no windows, nothing to look at, nothing to
hear, only five chairs and a desk surrounded by sweeping neutral
walls. Making his seventh circuit of the room in as many minutes he
felt like an animal in a large comfortable cage, unable to think of
anything save the seconds ticking by, slowly driving himself insane.
Then, just like that it stopped. His breathing slowed, his mind
cleared and his muscles relaxed. As if someone had reached inside him
and taken all of his tension away, replacing his confusion with one
central calming image. A candle burning beneath the surface of a
lake, impossible and yet somehow captivating. Deanna. When the four
officers finally made their entrance they found him sitting in his
chair as if he had never moved, aware of his surroundings but
apparently unconcerned.
Rising as a mark of respect, to Star fleet, if not to them
personally, he watched as they filed in to take their places behind
the facing table. The three Admirals he recognised immediately. Paris
had lost a son when Voyager had disappeared in the Badlands and was
unlikely to be sympathetic; Saavik was present during the events that
had lead to the destruction of the original Enterprise but her
heritage meant that the most he could expect was impartiality; and
Necheyev who could sometimes make the Vulcan/Romulan woman look
emotional. The last to enter was a lieutenant Riker had never seen
before. He wore the blue of the science division, but he might as
well have had 'Intel' stamped on his forehead. His light build and
the unlikely combination of longish pale blonde hair and coal black
eyes marked out his Betazoid heritage, and it was clear what his
purpose was here. Tough crowd.
"Please state for the record, your name, rank and post,"
Saavik's voice was as cool and measured as he would have expected
from any member of her race, but there was something else in it as
well that gave him hope that maybe this wasn't the lynching committee
he had first suspected.
"Commander William Thomas Riker, First officer of the
"And how long have you held that position?"
"Seven years," As they continued to ask about his career, and
the events of the last few weeks, he began to find it harder and
harder to remain focused. He let himself drift, answering them almost
without thought as he turned his mind to more pleasant things. After
showering together that morning they had shared a leisurely breakfast
before dressing, well she had dressed, he'd more throne on a fresh
uniform and sat back to watch. He smiled, remembering the sight of
dark blue silk sliding over her perfect skin, completely unaware of
the strange looks that the members of the review board were giving
him. Then they'd walked through Boothby's famed gardens to the
academy, where she'd stopped in the middle of the quad, not caring
who saw as she kissed him good bye. The image of her passion filled
eyes staring up at him before she turned away filled his senses once
more making it almost impossible for him to break away as he
struggled to return his attention to the proceedings at hand.
Necheyev gave him a disapproving stare as he asked, "I'm
sorry, sirs, but could you repeat that?"
"I asked, Mr Riker, how you could justify your decision to
put counsellor Troi at the helm at such a critical point" repeated
Admiral Paris, his irritation clear in his voice.
"The helms man was seriously injured, I needed to fill the
position quickly,"
"I see," pushed the admiral, "And you chose Troi?"
"Yes, she seemed like the most logical choice at the time,"
"Because she was the most qualified, or because she's good in
Riker shot from his chair, almost unable to believe what he
was hearing, "With all due respect, sir," he hissed in barely
contained fury "My personal life is none of your business, and if
you'd bothered to read commander Troi's personnel file, you'd know
that she is more than qualified to take the helm!"
"But how much experience does she have?" Paris clearly wasn't
ready to let go of this so easily, "How many hours has she logged in
combat situations?"
"That is immaterial!" Riker was almost shouting at his
superior now, "Seconds counted, I needed someone who could fly that
ship under minimal power, and if needed land on the planets surface
with close to no loss of life, she was closest!"
"Careful, commander," Saavik cautioned him, "You're getting
perilously close to insubordination,"
He looked at her, taking a deep cleansing breath before
appealing directly to her, "You have to understand, Admiral, both
Data and I were occupied,"
"And you naturally turned to the person you could most
trust," she finished for him
He nodded, relieved, and sank back to his seat, "I knew she
was capable, and as the lieutenant will tell you, Betazoid hand eye
co-ordination and reaction times far out strip the human norm. I
would never allow my personal feelings for a member of my crew
interfere with my duty to the ship. If anything I would have been
inclined to order her off the bridge and away from danger,"
"Fair enough, commander," Necheyev almost smiled despite her
self, "I'm prepared to let the matter drop,"
"Thank you,"
"However, I would like you to explain one further point of
conduct for us,"
"Yes" he should have known that they wouldn't let him off
that easily.
"Why did you allow Captain Picard to offer himself as a
prisoner in exchange for your chief engineer?"
"He didn't consult any of us before he did it, Admiral," he
tried to explain, "So it wasn't really a question of weather I
allowed him to or not,"
Necheyev frowned, "Did you object? Or try to stop him?"
"Of course I did, but he is my commanding officer, and the
decision was his to make,"
"But isn't it your duty as first officer to safe guard the
life of the captain?" She persisted, already knowing the answer.
He had the sick feeling they'd just handed him the shovel
with which to bury his career "Yes, but-"
"No buts, commander," Necheyev interrupted
"Would you say that you had fulfilled that duty Commander, as
far as possible, during your time on the Enterprise?" Asked Saavik,
taking the next logical step, while attempting to avoid the witch
hunt her fellow admiral's seemed intent on pursuing. Unlike the
unstable human element in fleet command, she had no need to see
someone swing for the destruction of the -D, it was only a shame that
she was in the minority.
"Yes, sir,"
Admiral Paris' eyes narrowed in suspicion. In his opinion
Riker was just another cowboy who had made a career out of taking
unnecessary risks, and he'd be damned if he let him get away with
this one. "Would you say that releasing captain Picard to Klingon
dissidents, whom you knew to have criminal intent, was safe guarding
his life?"
"No, but I had no choice, sir," by this point he was again
finding it difficult to keep his tone respectful.
"There are always choices, Commander,"
"And Picard had made his. I tried to convince him not to go,
but he was adamant. The only other thing I could have done was knock
the man out and put him in the brig!"
One of Saavik's perfectly arched brows rose slightly at that
remark, and Riker could have sworn he saw a hint of amusement in her
pale eyes. Her voice however, was perfectly even as she said, "For
that, Commander, you would have been here facing a charge of
The interview lasted almost five hours in total, with him
being forced to justify every decision he had made prior to the crash
at some point. The two human's continued to take an accusatory
stance, deliberately trying to trip him up, while the Betazoid
silently scoured his brain for anything incriminating. Only Saavik
seemed willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and it was she
who ultimately called the meeting to a close. Walking out into the
corridor, he resisted the urge to sink to the floor in relief,
contenting himself instead with getting the hell out of the building
as fast as he could. It was experiences like that one that sometimes
made him doubt his decision to join star fleet in the first place.

Lifting her coat from the back of her chair, Deanna was just
about to leave the lecture hall when she felt someone behind her,
realising that one of her students had remained behind when the rest
had bolted. She looked up, giving her most encouraging smile as she
came face to face with the young Vulcan. Emotionally, the girl was a
puzzle: on the surface she was as calm and as controlled as every
other Vulcan she'd ever meat, but occasionally there'd be a spike of
something else. Little peaks of amusement or irritation at the other
cadets, or a curiosity about the subject that didn't quite fit with
her steady exterior. Right now, she was worried, and it showed in the
almost imperceptible crease of her brows.
"It's Shari, isn't it?" She asked neutrally, hoping to
relieve some of the cadet's obvious tension.
"Ma'am," Her emotions might not have been terribly Vulcan at
that moment, but her speech was. Direct and economical. It was
amazing really how she managed to convey so much in a single word. It
was a greeting as well as a response, and carried with it all the
respect and formality of an official report.
"What can I do for you? Was there something you didn't
understand about today's lecture?" It was unlikely, the girl had been
an enthusiastic participant in the latest class debate and she
seemed to have a sound grasp of the subject, but Troi felt compelled
to ask any way. Too many of her compatriots, especially the human
ones tended to presume that because a cadet happened to be Vulcan
that they were infallible.
"No, I find your subject challenging, with so little
experience of emotions, but not impossible." Once she had started
talking the tension had disappeared, smoothed over as well practised
logic and control reasserted themselves.
"Vulcans do have emotions, you just learn to suppress them.
It might be less of a disadvantage than you think."
"Perhaps," allowed Shari, "but that is not what I wanted to
discuss," she handed Troi a padd. "You may be aware of my mother's
position within star fleet?" Deanna nodded waiting for the young
woman to continue. There were very few who had never heard of Shari's
illustrious parents, in much the same way her own mother had cast a
shadow over much of her life. "She was recently responsible for
organising the defection of a high ranking member of the Tal Shiar,
but something went wrong. By the time the Lyssander reached the
border of the Neutral zone there was nothing but wreckage waiting for
"I see," said Troi. Since the growth of the reunification
movement on Romulus, the defections of highly placed individuals had
become increasingly common. This was the first time she'd heard of an
intelligence officer taking such an extreme step though.
"The sole survivor was a six year old child." That strange
Vulcan frown appeared again, "Initial examination showed that she has
an information chip implanted in her second lumbar vertebrae, any
attempt to remove it or to access the data without proper
authorisation codes will likely result in self destruction and the
paralysis of the child."
Deanna let out a shocked gasp. It was beyond her that any
one could subject their child to anything like this, and her voice
betrayed her revulsion as she asked "And they want me to do what? I'm
a psychologist, I haven't got the first idea of how to deal with a
device like this!"
"It is possible the child herself knows how to disarm it. My
mother wanted to know if you would consider talking to her, find some
answers," The girl's polished Vulcan exterior was flawless, nothing
that could be seen as an emotional response even flickering across
her elegant features, and it was only the uncertainty and the
sympathy Troi felt churning below the surface that stopped her anger
boiling at the cadet's apparent complete lack of concern for the
child, who was after all a victim in all of this.
"And what if I can't? Or what if she doesn't know?" She
asked, her voice a little more harsh than she would have liked. But
Betazoids were by nature a passionate people, they lived their lives
floating on an ocean of thought and emotion, and they embraced it.
And although her humanity gave her a little more control than some
other members of her species had been known to exhibit, at times like
these she was completely unable to understand the cold Vulcan
"We know nothing about this girl, she's awake but she won't
talk, won't let anyone near her, she is scared and confused and no
one can get through to her. Just do the best you can," the irony of
the last statement, spoken from student to teacher, was not lost on
Deanna, and in other circumstances she might have smiled.
"Very well,"


Part 4

Frightened and all alone, she shrank further back into
the shadowy corner that had become her sanctuary since they left her.
All kinds of strangers dressed in some kind of odd, colourful uniform
talking to each other in a language she couldn't understand. Some of
them looked like her father and his friends, others could have if it
weren't for the occasional glimpse of a rounded ear or a creased
nose, and still others were hideously deformed, blue or green or
purple skin, with crests and ridges and extra limbs. They'd tried to
come after her, waving their alien instruments at her till they sang,
but she'd ran away, keeping as far from their grasping hands as she
could get. It wasn't hard, she was so much smaller than them she
could crawl under beds and tables, into crevices they couldn't hope
to pull her from. And so they'd left her. Pulling a blanket over her
head as a shield, she'd curled up on the floor, her childish logic
telling her that if she went to sleep, she'd wake up and it would all
be a dream. But she couldn't sleep. Every time she closed her eyes
she saw her fathers face as he closed the hatch of the escape pod
between them, tears that shouldn't have been there filling his eyes,
one hand reaching out towards the clear panel, trying to touch her
one last time. Where was he? Why hadn't he come for her? Who were all
these people? She didn't know the answers. She didn't know anything
any more. Clutching her knees to her small chest she began to rock,
tremors wracking her slight frame as she let out an anguished cry.
She remained that way until untold moments later she heard
the now familiar sound of the door hissing open. Expecting another
onslaught of alien hands and voices, she tensed up ready to flee, but
it never happened. Instead she watched through a gap in the blanket
as a single figure entered the room. Squinting against the harsh
lights that filtered in from the corridor she saw some one she hadn't
met before, a small woman with long curly hair and large inky eyes
wearing a short jacket over civilian clothes. Whoever she was, she
was nothing like the others who came. She didn't speak, didn't try to
approach, didn't even look her way for more than an instant. instead
she just walked to one of the chairs on the other side of the room
making herself comfortable before operating a small table lamp near
by, opening something old her father had told her was a book, and
started to read. Her voice was like nothing she'd heard before, soft
and musical, it seemed to implore her to listen, easing the tension
in her small body. To her surprise, she found she could understand
the strangers words; through her thick alien accent she recognised
her own language, weaving a tale of a great sorceress who created a
wizard to return her people to the magic of the old ways. Confused
and curios, the child slowly let the blanket fall to her shoulders,
straining to hear the story from her haven in the corner. She
listened as the sorceress let the woman she had used to bring the
wizard into the world die, and left him to the care of a serving
woman who watched him grow like any normal child. Slowly, as she
began to realise that she had nothing to fear, she started to creep
closer to the bewitching voice, using the furniture for cover. And
the young wizard met a beautiful young woman, using magic he didn't
know he had to save her from sinking mud when she ventured off the
forest path, then he was taken back to the sorceress to fulfil his
destiny. If the woman knew she had captured her attention, she gave
no sign of it, and when the angry young wizard turned his back on the
sorceress' lessons and left her underground palace, she closed the
book and retreated back into the corridor.
The pattern repeated its self at the same time every day for
a week, each time she heard a little more of the story, and each time
she allowed her self to get a little closer to the gentle alien
reading it, until she sat, expectantly at her feet. Now, gazing up
into those strange black eyes as the sorceress was defeated, she
started to wonder about her mysterious visitor. She had never spoken
to her directly, neither asking questions nor offering information,
and all they knew of each other was the world contained in that book.
Suddenly it wasn't enough, she needed to find out more about the only
person she felt safe with here. What was her name? Where did she come
from? Did she know what had happened to her father? Gathering her
courage, the little girl took a deep breath and asked:
"Who are you?"
The stranger closed the book and looked down at the child for
the first time. They regarded each other for a while, until she
smiled, a beautiful gesture that seemed to make her dark eyes dance
in the dim overhead lights, and said "Deanna,"
The girl tried it out, "Deanna?" carefully rolling the alien
syllables around her tongue. "Are you a Terran?" She'd always been
told she couldn't trust the terrans. What if this woman turned out
to be one of them; who could she trust then?
"Sort of," the child frowned. How could someone be sort of
Terran? Seeing her reaction, Deanna explained "I'm half Terran, and
half Betazoid,"
"Can you read my mind?"
"No, only your feelings,"
"You're pretty," If her instructor was here, she was sure
he'd be angry with her for thinking such a thing about an alien.
Aliens were meant to be weak, inferior in every way, but then she
often thought things he disagreed with. To her Deanna seemed to be
the perfect mix of the familiar and the exotic. Her colouring was
almost Romulan. She had dark hair like them, but it curled. Her olive
skin was perhaps a little too pale and delicate. Her brows were high,
but they arched rather than inclined. Her forehead had the same
gentle slope, but no ridge. Possibly her most alien feature, apart
from her ears which were hidden today, were also her most beautiful,
her eyes were wide dark pools that pulled you into their luminous
depths. No one on Romulus had eyes that dark, there was no iris, no
pupil as she understood them, just two chunks of liquid onyx that got
impossibly darker when she turned towards the light.
"So are you,"
"My name's Solaan," The girl offered hesitantly, still not at
all sure she should be telling any one here that, but desperately
wanting Deanna to like her. Troi smiled in response, at last she had
something concrete to report to those in command who didn't seem to
care weather the child was adjusting or learning to trust in her new
environment. The smile vanished, all they seemed to care about was
the information lodged in Solaan's spine. Sometimes humans could be
so cold.
The little girl noticed the change in expression
immediately. "Are you OK?" She asked, looking up at her with wide,
innocent eyes. The concern and the fear she felt from the child over
her well-being was overwhelming, her dependence and trust so complete
that it nearly brought the empath to tears. If she succeeded here,
she would be forced to hand Solaan over to the scientists, and after
that betrayal, she would never see the girl again. Could she really
bring herself to do that? After befriending her, gaining her trust,
helping her open up and adjust to a new life, could she rip it all
away? "What's wrong?" The young voice pleaded with her to be
reassured, and she pulled herself from her dark thoughts, forcing
herself to smile.
"Just a headache," she lied. It was strange, but even after
her experiences on the war bird, she'd never really thought of a
Romulan as an individual until now. Her experience had been limited
to a few hostile encounters with their military, and she like many
line officers had found it very difficult to look past that cold,
sinister exterior to the people beneath. It had been the very same
kind of pre perception that she had been lecturing her students
against only a few short days ago, and it had taken a frightened
child to make her open her eyes. "It'll be all right," she murmured
before sinking to the carpet in front of her young charge and
wrapping her in a tender embrace.
Solaan resisted at first, unused to such close physical
contact, then relaxed into the counsellor's arms, feeling more
content than she had in a long time. And as she nestled there, warm
and safe, the little girl came to a horrible realisation. "Father's
not coming, is he?" She asked quietly.
She heard the soft response and clung tighter to the woman
who was now her whole world. "Is he dead?" She had a feeling she
knew the answer, but she had to ask, she had to hear the words.
Deanna took an unsteady breath before answering, "Yes," she
hated causing the child further pain, but she couldn't lie to her
about something like this, "Your escape pod was the only thing left
intact when they found you," she explained gently.
"They're all gone?"
"Can you stay?" she begged,
And when Troi looked down into her innocent emerald eyes,
feeling the hope and the desperate fear of being left alone, and
knowing that she'd have to disappoint her, her heart broke. "No," she
said, her voice barely above a whisper, "They won't let me. I'm

He hadn't seen Deanna for almost two days now and when she
hadn't turned up for dinner last night as planned Will had started to
worry about her. No one knew where she was. She wasn't answering
pages and didn't reply to messages, He'd tried the academy and the
other senior officers from the enterprise, but she hadn't been to
work and no one had heard from her, not even Beverly who was more
like a best friend and big sister to her than a colleague. One of the
cadets he'd found hanging around outside her office had told him that
she'd been seeing a patient over at `Fleet medical, but when he
checked no one there had any idea where she was either. Finally out
of desperation he had sought out the security guard in Deanna's
building, who had confirmed that he hadn't seen her leave for the
last 48 hours, but couldn't guarantee that she was still there. It
hadn't taken long for Will to persuade him to hand over the emergency
codes for her door, and perhaps that fact should have given him
further cause for concern, but he was too relieved to notice the
After the bright lights of the corridor it took a while for
his eyes to adjust to the darkness inside her rooms. The windows had
been shuttered and the lights turned out, so that the only
illumination was now the haunting green light cast by two lonely
meditation candles. Between them he could just make out a small
ghostly figure; dressed in flowing white she knelt, head thrown back
and her arms extended so that her fingers just brushed the flames.
Dark eyes flickered in the gloom, unseeing as tears rolled down her
flawless porcelain skin, the only sign to an outsider, save the
almost imperceptible rise and fall of her chest, that she was even
alive. Where ever her mind had taken her she was still troubled, and
he wondered briefly how long she had been like that. He'd heard
stories of Betazoids who'd been able to hold a trance for days, even
weeks while they tried to work through their problems alone, free
from the distractions of the world around them. Such extreme mental
discipline wasn't normal, even in a telepathic species, and it came
at a price - because although the unusually high metabolic rate could
be slowed during meditation, it couldn't be shut down completely, and
some had even been rumoured to starve. It was what the candles were
for, Deanna had explained to him once, so that as the arms got tired
and drooped closer to the flame, the physical pain of being burnt
would break your concentration. If she had really been here since
last night he knew he wouldn't have long to weight. It never came to
that though, because as he drew nearer she started to react to his
presence. Her posture relaxed, and she blinked her eyes, watching him
for a small while before she stood silently and embraced him. He held
her like that, stroking her back and whispering words of
encouragement into her hair, wondering what had happened to reduce
her to this.
At last she took a deep calming breath of air and pulled back
enough to meet his eyes "I can't do this anymore," she said.
"Do what?"
"Star fleet,"
He was shocked. True he'd had similar thoughts recently, but
they hadn't been serious, and the conviction in her voice was clear.
Star fleet was a dream, for her as well as for him, one she had given
up a life of unimaginable privilege to follow. She'd turned her back
on the expectations of an entire planet when she'd left, breaking
traditions that had held for millennia and defying her own family -
could she really be thinking of giving it all up? "Why?"
"I'm a psychologist, not a soldier," she took another ragged
breath, "I don't belong here anymore. I'm meant to help people, not
manipulate them." Then she fell silent again, her beautiful black
eyes unable to look at him, staring off into the darkness of her
quarters. Unsure of her own weight, she rested against him trusting
that he wouldn't let her fall.
He rocked gently with her, his steady presence calming her
just as it had all those years ago in the jungle. "You do help
people," he told her softly, "Your strength holds us all together."
"I'm tired of being strong,"
He could barely hear her, and if she hadn't been so close he
would have missed her heart felt admission completely. They were
words he never thought he'd hear her say and his desire to comfort
her was almost overwhelming. He knew then that he would have
willingly taken on the whole universe if it would have taken her pain
away. "It's okay, I'm here, you don't need to do it on your own
anymore, just tell me what's happened."
His words had the opposite effect than he had intended, and
she pulled away from him. Helpless he watched as she sank instead
into a nearby chair, curling herself into its thick cushions trying
to hide from his compassionate words despite the sincerity she felt
behind them. She was shaking, he could see her spine trembling under
her thin gown, but she shrank from any attempt to touch her. And when
she spoke her voice was sharp and full of anger "You know what
happened!" She snapped "You were there. We were attacked, Geordi was
tortured, the Captain could have been killed, and none of us could do
a damn thing about it!"
"It wasn't your fault," he knew she wasn't angry at him.
If she had even heard him, she gave no sign of it as she
continued "I'm sick of picking up the pieces after star fleet sends
us out to die! I just can't do it any more,"
He knelt down in front of her, gently running his fingers
through her soft curls, relieved that she'd once again allow him
physical contact, "If you don't pick up the pieces, then who will?"
He asked.
"I don't care," she whipped her head round to face him,
belligerence trying to hide the hurt in her eyes.
"I don't believe you," he said calmly, "and I don't believe
this has anything to do with what happened to the Enterprise."
"Then you'd be a lousy shrink,"
"Really?" He smiled and a thought occurred to him "What have
you been doing over at `Fleet medical?"
She frowned, "How did yo-" but he stopped her interrogation
with a tender finger against her lips.
"It doesn't matter, but I know they've got you seeing a
patient over there." His smile disappeared "Who is it? Why have they
got you so wound up?" he asked.
"Will, have you ever thought about the Romulans?"
Now it was his turn to be confused, but he answered her any
way in typical good humour "Sure, every time a Warbird appears a
hundred meters in front of us and the son of a bitch threatens to
blow us half way across the galaxy,"
His flippant response tugged at the sides of her mouth, but
any trace of a smile was soon forgotten as she tried to frame for him
the thoughts that had been torturing her for the past week, "That's
not what I meant. All we know about them is their military. They
teach us about their technology in the academy, their tactics, the
strength of their fleet; but what do we really know about them? A
civilisation is more than just weaponry. What about their scientists,
their philosophers, their families?" It was the most she'd said since
he'd found her, and when she'd finished she looked at him with fresh
tears, daring to hope for the first time that someone might
understand what she was feeling.
"You're counselling a Romulan?" His question was concerned,
sympathetic, and cautious all at once, "Are you sure that's a good
"Will, she's only six years old, every one she knew was
killed trying to defect. I don't think I have anything to worry about
do you?"
"Maybe," he was still hesitant but eventually his curiosity
overrode his suspicious `fleet taught attitude toward anything
Romulan and he asked, "What's she like?"
"Scared, bright, articulate, perhaps a little more reserved
than a human child would be." She turned away again, trying to
control the sudden burst of anger that flashed through her when she
thought about why she had been introduced to the girl in the first
place, and what could happen if she failed to deliver the right
answers: "Damn it Will! She has her whole life in front of her, why
can't they just leave her alone!?"
"Who?" In stark contrast to Deanna's emotive display his
question was calm, unpolluted by his own confusion. But she didn't
hear him.
"They asked me to betray everything I believe in; to lull a
child into a false sense of security and then turn my back while they
destroy what little trust she has left; and I agreed! I'm letting
them use us both for some dumb tactical advantage!" She was shouting
at him now, and bordering on hysterics, "How dare I call myself a
"You're a great counsellor, Dee," he said knowing that she'd
be able to feel his sincerity and realise that he wasn't just trying
to placate her, "And a good officer,"
Her dark eyes shot him a look that might have floored a
lesser man; "A good officer!" She repeated, her voice rising another
notch , " I don't think, I don't feel any more, command says `jump'
and I just pull out the trampoline! Oh yes, I'm a good officer! It's
everything else I'm having trouble with now!"
"If that were true, you wouldn't be tearing yourself apart
like this," he said evenly. It wasn't often that he got to be the
voice of reason in their exchanges - usually it was her trying to
stop him putting his fist through something - and if she hadn't been
so distressed he might even have enjoyed the irony of the situation.
The hot head first officer trying to calm the tranquil counsellor.
Without warning the flood gates in her eyes gave way and she crumpled
into his arms. He didn't know weather to be relieved or alarmed. She
was no longer shouting at him, but the tears were no better, and her
rapid emotional shifts were confusing the hell out of him. Not
knowing what else to do, he lifted her up and carried her towards the
bedroom hoping some much needed sleep would help her sort things out.
As he turned to go, he heard her trembling voice calling after him.
"Please, don't go,"
And he didn't.


Part 5

The following morning Riker found himself back in that
damned room at `Fleet HQ; and he could swear that those featureless
walls were laughing at him for his misfortune. This time though, he
wasn't alone, his captain stood at his side a picture of strength and
confidence. It was a damn fine act, because if Picard felt one tenth
of the anxiety his first officer did at being here again he was sure
that the older man should be silently shaking under that stony
facade. Then again, the captain had lost a ship before, and survived
with his career intact. Could Riker hope for the same? It had been
him, after all, who had been on the bridge when the Enterprise went
down. Picard was a hero, he had proved himself time and time again,
he had saved them all from the Nexus and Will felt some what guilty
about not having kept his side of the bargain. The Enterprise was
gone. It had been clear from the outset that the review board had
been out for blood, and Riker was now sure it was going to be his. It
didn't matter any longer, he realised. There was nothing further he
could do. All the questions had been asked, all the answers minutely
examined, there would be no opportunity to farther defend or
incriminate himself. The judgement had been made, and once more there
was nothing to do except wait. And in the few moments they were
allowed before the review board made its entrance Will allowed his
mind to drift back to Deanna.
It had hurt him to see her like that. The one woman he'd
allowed himself to care for, torn apart by grief and self doubt;
tears that he had been able to do nothing to stop streaming down her
delicate face. She was usually so strong, but the one time she had
needed him all he'd been able to do was hold her. It had seemed to be
enough then. She'd relaxed a little when he'd lain down beside her,
leaning back into his strong arms, and eventually falling into a
fitful sleep. When day broke however he could tell that nothing had
really changed. True, rest had given her greater control, but that
didn't mean that the harmful emotions weren't there; and while she
was no longer hysterical she had been far too quiet. There had been
no welcoming smile, no light behind her dark eyes; and when they'd
made love he could tell that her heart just wasn't in it. She'd used
him as a distraction. Not that he had minded. Much. It was like her
soul had been locked in a metal box, and he couldn't find the key. He
only hoped that she would find something soon to lift her out of the
depression she seemed to be in. Before Star fleet lost the best
counsellor in the fleet, and he lost the love of his life.

It had all the makings of a beautiful day. The sky was blue
and clear, the sun warm without being too hot, and a gentle breeze
whispered through the park. Deanna Troi saw none of it, however - to
her the world was as grey as her mood. There was no bird song, no
laughter, no sense of peace as she went on blindly towards her
responsibilities, just the bleak never-ending path she walked and a
chill that cut to her core. She shivered, wrapping the light summer
jacket she wore tight around her shoulders, forcing her feet to go
She'd woken that morning, numb and dehydrated from having
cried herself to sleep, unfeeling in her lover's comforting embrace,
and so far the day had only got worse. Every where she turned she saw
a pair of innocent emerald eyes looking up at her in the dark,
begging her to stay, reminding her of the decisions she had yet to
make. She had promised Will before she'd left that she would give
things time, think it over properly, and not rush into anything she
might regret later. But the farther she got from him and his calm
strength the more difficult it became. Each breath she took hurt more
than the last, and her eyes stung with tears that seemed to have
become permanent. She was so distracted by the time she reached the
main campus, so unaware of her surroundings that she walked straight
into two cadets coming the other way. The collision jarred her back
to reality, and when her head snapped up she found herself looking
into the concerned faces of Sanchez and Shari. Strangely it was the
Vulcan who first seemed to notice her distress.
"Is everything all right commander?" She asked "You seem
unusually troubled," Most cadets, or junior officers in fact, shied
away from making personal observations, or even talking to their
superiors without first being invited to do so. Then Shari was in
many ways an exception. Perhaps it was the unusual level of exposure
her mother's position had given her to Star fleet's top brass, or
maybe that cool Vulcan logic, but she was unafraid.
Sanchez of course was too cocky to care, and determined not
to be out done, he cracked a smile that was startlingly similar to
the one Riker gave her when he was trying to lighten the mood, and
said, "Yeah, we missed you yesterday. Lieutenant Davies couldn't seem
to comprehend that we'd learnt more off you in a week than he'd been
able to teach us all term!"
She smiled back feeling her depression lift, if only
slightly, for the first time in a couple of days as she replied "That
might be, Mr Sanchez, because there are those who would deem you
"Yeah, well," he had the good grace to look some what
embarrassed by her observation, but it didn't last long before that
confidant grin reasserted it's self and he added, "I mean, with all
due respect, Davies' `technique' isn't nearly as ..........enticing
as yours is, Commander,"
The smile grew, not quite believing the audacity of this
young man, "Are you trying to suggest that it's not my fascinating
lecturing that so easily captures your wondering attention?"
"Maybe," he said, looking her straight in the eyes and daring
her to take it any farther.
It didn't come to that though because Shari, not quite able
to disguise her own amusement, intervened "Careful, Ben. Flirting
with a senior officer is always a dangerous proposition, especially
for someone who's primary talent seems to be attracting trouble,"
Troi forgotten for a moment, he turned towards her with one
eyebrow raised in deliberate mockery of Vulcan surprise, "Flirting
with a senior officer?" He asked "Now why would I want to do
something like that when I've got you?" He rested a hand
affectionately on her shoulder as he said it, and strangely the young
woman seemed quite content in having it there.
"I have no idea, I'm sure,"
"Any way, I was only trying to get her to smile," he began as
if trying seriously to explain his transgression, then ruined it
completely by throwing Deanna a conspiratorial smile and saying "She
looks so beautiful when she smiles,"
This earned him an almost playful elbow in the ribs followed
by her cool "You're a riot Sanchez,"
"And you, are a very strange Vulcan,"
"Odd, isn't it?"
Troi, sensing that she was about to be in the middle of
something that they'd all rather she didn't witness, coughed politely
and asked "Classes aren't over yet, aren't you two headed in the
wrong direction?"
Sanchez lifted his spare hand between them in response,
revealing two pairs of running spikes, "We're headed towards the
track. We've got a meet against Sciences and Medical," he explained.
"Good luck, then, and thanks,"
He looked confused, "For what?" But she didn't answer, just
smiled enigmatically and continued on her way. He shrugged, not
really bothered so long as she was feeling a little better, and
turned his attention back to Shari.

Will's train of thought was broken by Picard's subtle cough
and he realised, belatedly, that the three Admirals had arrived.
Necheyev and Paris took their seats while Saavik moved forward to
address her junior officers. It was clear that they weren't going to
waste any time on needless protocol and after a cool "Gentlemen," and
without so much as inviting them to sit she proceeded to deliver the
board's findings.
"After due consideration of all presented evidence and
testimony," her voice rang clear as she proclaimed, "it is the
decision of this panel that the destruction of the USS Enterprise was
not the result of negligence of either of the two officers here
present, but rather hostile action taken by an outside force. While
some of the actions and decisions taken by both parties may with
hindsight be seen as questionable, none show sufficient lack of
judgement to warrant Court Marshall. It is our recommendation
therefore that no charges be brought and that both officers maintain
their current ranks and honours. However, the destruction of the flag
ship is a serious blow to the fleet, both in terms of resources and
morale. With this in mind the senior staff is to be grounded for
twelve months pending the completion of the Sovereign class building
project." just great, at least if they'd demoted him he wouldn't
have been stuck planetside for a year.


Part 6

When the doors opened she found Solaan waiting for her at a
table, all most unrecognisable as the child who had been cowering
under a blanket only little more than a week ago. They'd achieved so
much together over the last few days and the sight made Deanna's
heart sing, giving her hope that they might yet find a painless
solution to their problems. As if reading the thoughts behind her
dark eyes, the little girl smiled and ran over to greet her. She
threw her arms around the empath's legs and held on as though she
thought they'd disappear.
"You came back!" She cried into the soft plum coloured
fabric "I didn't think you'd come back, I thought you'd left me like
everyone else!"
This was the breakthrough she'd been waiting for, the
outpouring of emotion that meant the child was ready to start moving
past her loss, that maybe she could start to live again, to be happy
again, and Troi felt herself crying along with her. She held her
close, stroking her hair in an unknowing imitation of what Will had
tried to do for her the night before, reassuring the child until she
was ready to let go. Eventually the young Romulan stilled and Deanna
watched amazed as she backed away, wiping any sign of her tears from
her eyes and reigning in her feelings so completely that her Vulcan
cousins would have been proud.
"I'm sorry ," she said, hiccupping with the strain of holding
back, "My father always told me that it was weakness to let others
see you cry,"
"Under the circumstances, I don't think he would have minded,"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," the Counsellor smiled, blinking back the moisture in
her own eyes. "I've brought something for you," She reached into her
bag and drew out a much loved, but well cared for stuffed animal.
Solaan accepted it gratefully and held it against her,
burying her face in its soft white fur for a while be for examining
it curiously. It was a strange creature like nothing she'd ever seen
on Romulus or any of the worlds she could remember visiting in the
empire, the closest thing she could imagine was a small Terran
monkey, only with wings "What is it?" she asked, unsure if Deanna
would be upset with her for not knowing.
"His name is Jarri," she explained gently "He's a Zathinti,
the real ones live high up in the Tanit Jarra mountains near my home
on Betazed. My father gave him to me the last time I saw him, and
he's gone everywhere with me since then,"
"I think he's funny!" Solaan smiled, her troubles forgotten
in a moment of childish delight. "Why didn't you see your father
again after he gave him to you?"
Solaan was naturally inquisitive, and Deanna had known that
she'd ask, it was why she'd brought the toy with her, - to talk about
the last time she'd seen Ian Andrew Troi so that the little girl
would feel more comfortable talking about the last time she'd seen
her own father - but it still hurt a little. "My father died when I
was seven," she told her, "Jarri was a birthday present,"
"I can still remember that day, it haunts me sometimes," she
said quietly, "Very few people have ever seen a Zathinti, they rarely
leave the mountains because its too hot on the rest of the planet,
even in the winter but if you listened carefully, when the wind was
blowing in the right direction you could sometimes hear them calling
to each other. They seemed like magic to me, but they were real, and
when I was small I used to dream about being one of them. I'd wanted
to be able to see them so badly that I tried to teach myself to fly,"
She stopped, laughing at her own childish antics, and was pleased to
see Solaan giggling as well, "I fell out of a tree one time and hurt
myself pretty badly, but my father came to pick me up from the
hospital on my birthday and gave me Jarri, making me swear never to
climb that tree again. We spent hours together, and he told me that
he had to go away for a little while. He'd been offered the job of
chief engineer on a new type of star ship. He was so excited to be
going back into space, but sad as well because I couldn't go with
him. I didn't want him to leave either, but he promised that he'd
come back. He never did."
Solaan looked up at her with fresh tears, clutching Jarri
harder to her "It's not fair," she asserted "Why doesn't any one ever
come back? Why isn't he here?"
"Who?" Troi's voice was soft, trying not to push although she
was sure they were talking about Solaan's father now.
"He said it was OK to go. He said he'd find me." She
"Your father?" Deanna asked, and at the child's timid
nod, "What else do you remember?"
Solaan swallowed, looking slightly lost before she looked up
into the counsellor's kind charcoal eyes, and reassured that no one
was going to hurt her for what she said, she started to explain. "It
was dark, and I was meant to be asleep, but I was cold and the rain
was keeping me awake so I left my room and went looking for my
father. The house was very quiet, but when I got out into the main
corridor I could see a light on in his office. When I got closer I
started to hear voices -one of them was my father, but I'd never
heard the other one before, it was female though- they were trying to
whisper, but they were angry and I could hear them through the door."
"What did they say?" Troi prompted, knowing that if the
little girl stopped now she might never get another chance to find
out what had happened.
"The woman was calling my father a traitor. She said he was
meant to be a spy, not a sympathiser, but I don't know what that
means. She ordered him not to leave the house."
"And did he?"
"Yes, not long after she left. He took me to a cave where
some of his friends were hiding. One of them said he could find us
a ship and get us out of the empire, he said he had friends in the
"What happened then?"
"I don't know," the child was desperate not to disappoint the
woman who was, so far her only friend in this strange place, and she
seemed genuinely up set that she didn't have the answers Deanna
wanted. "They injected me with something, when I woke up father was
already fastening me into a chair in a tiny room. Every thing was
dark, and there was smoke every where, and the floor wouldn't stop
shaking. My back was sore, and I didn't understand what was going
on," more tears slipped through her tight control, "I was so scared,
I thought I'd done something wrong, but I didn't know what." She
looked towards the Betazoid, more vulnerable in that moment than
Deanna had ever seen her, "Did I do something wrong?"
"No," Troi's professional reserve crumbled as Solaan clung to
her once more and she lowered them both into a soft chair, pulling
the girl onto her lap and tenderly kissing her head and
whispering "No, little one, nothing was your fault,"
"He told me he'd always love me," she murmured "And he gave
me this," she removed a thin silver blue chain from around her neck
and handed it to Troi. At the centre of the chain was a small
cylinder, which to first glance appeared to be solid, and engraved on
it was the symbol for the deity whom the Romulans had once believed
held the keys to eternity.
Deanna studied the necklace intently, but she could find no
evidence that it was anything other than it appeared to be. She
thought she recognised the symbol though, and asked "Is this
T'ktaan?" The girl didn't have to answer however, because on the word
T'ktaan the cylinder unrolled revealing a single neat line of Vulcan
numbers on its underside. This was it, she was sure. The code that
could give star fleet what it wanted and leave Solaan able to walk.
Why else would someone have gone to such lengths to hide
it? "Solaan, do you trust me?" "Yes, why?"
"There are some people I'd like you to meet, they're doctors,
but they don't want to hurt you," And she carefully began to explain
the delicate procedure as she understood it, willingly fielding the
girl's many questions until eventually they fell back into an easy
conversation about their respective home worlds. Listening to Solaan
talk and remembering what she had read in official `Fleet records, it
was hard to believe that it was the same planet. The child saw
nothing of the pervasive and dangerous military presence that most on
this side of the boarder associated with their rival power. She spoke
instead of vast forests and gardens, spiralling towers and majestic
public buildings, and of a culture rich in history and tradition. It
sounded like an idyllic place to grow up. If you were a Romulan. A
love of art, architecture, nature, history, mastery of the political
sciences, and wondrous technological achievement: the worlds of the
Federation and the Empire had so much in common, and so much that
they could learn from each other if only they'd allow themselves to
let down their guards and see. And ironically it was the same set of
prejudices and suspicions that kept them apart. Both thought the
other treacherous and expansionist, cowards that hid behind a massive
arsenal of ships and weaponry that was, in truth, there for
exploration and protection. They were huge barriers to over come, yet
sitting there smiling and exchanging stories with a child who had
once been told to hate and distrust everything about the world that
now surrounded her, Deanna Troi allowed herself for the first time in
a long while to hope for the future.

She'd stayed with Solaan until they came to take her into
surgery, and she'd be there in the morning when the girl woke up, but
for now what Deanna really needed was time to centre, and to think.
So she'd left the confines of the science building and headed into
the nearby park. Settling on a secluded grassy slope, surrounded by
trees, she sat back to watch unobserved as the world went by. A
little over an hour later she was joined by Will. He hadn't planned
to meet her like this, but like so many times over the course of
their lives, the universe seemed to have conspired to bring them
together. He had entered through the north gate, hoping a walk and
the clean air would help him clear his head after his appointment at
HQ when he had spotted her from the path, leaning back against the
trunk of an ageing sycamore, finally at peace.
"Deanna," he said quietly, unwilling to break what ever spell
she was under, but wanting her to know that he was there. She jumped
slightly on hearing his voice, as if he'd been able startle her.
Quite an achievement with an empath. "I'm sorry , I didn't want to
scare you,"
She smiled, feeling his concern for her and allowing it to
surround her like a warm blanket, "You could never scare me Will,"
she reassured him, "I was lost in thought, that's all,"
"What were you thinking about?" He asked sitting down beside
"Life, the things children have to go through when they're
growing up," from where they were they could see a group of
youngsters laughing and chasing each other about, "They look so happy
down there," she said, watching as a small boy tumbled over his own
feet only to get back up laughing even harder.
Will reached over, tenderly brushing back her long curls
where they obscured her face, "We can't protect our children from the
universe, Imzadi, what kind of life would they have if we tried?"
Did he mean their children the way it sounded, she wondered,
or was it some thing more general. "We don't have any children," she
pointed out, hoping to find the answer.
"But we will," he whispered, leaning in so that his lips
brushed the outside of her ear.
"You sound so certain of that, Commander," she teased lightly
He frowned, and backed off, not sure what to make of her last
remark, "I..... I thought you wanted children,"
"I do," she answered seriously, knowing that he was no longer
joking, "In time,"
"Time," he repeated quietly, his mind sudenly changing
tracks "We're going to have plenty of that over the next year,"
"I heard we'd been grounded," and, noticing he was about to
query just where she'd got this information, explained, "One of my
cadets has relatives in high places,"
"We're down for twelve months, at least,"
"It could be worse," she said tenderly, one hand reaching up
to cup his bearded face.
"Yes, it could," he alowed smiling before leaning over to
kiss her.