After the Kiss
by Imz

The images swirled around her, bringing with them the sensations; the smell of him, the feel of his touch, the taste of him in her mouth...
It was her dream again-or rather Jev's interpretation of a dream. She was far enough along in her recovery to be able to recognize it now when it came to her in the middle of the night, but not quite far enough to resist it's pull when it threatened her sleep.
She awoke gasping, clutching the damp sheets close to her; trying desperately to fight her way back to reality. Resisting the urge to call Beverly, she lay back against the pillows. She definitely didn't need to bother Beverly with this, she tried to convince herself.
The CMO of the Enterprise had fought her own battle against the nightmare images that Jev had implanted, as had her closest friend, Will Riker. But as she lay awake trying to rid herself of the final ghosts of the dream, she couldn't help but feel the familiar pang of guilt that always accompanied her thoughts of Beverly and Will's journey of recovery from the Ullian's attack on them.
Guilt over the fact that, had it not been for Jev's obsession with her, Beverly and Will would have been spared this devastating experience. Jev had, after all, only subjected them to his false memories in an attempt to "cover his tracks", as it were, over what he had done to her.
It was this fact that hindered her recovery so much more then her friends. They had both faced their fears and demolished Jev's attempts to control their memories, but Deanna, faced not only with Jev's violation, but the guilt she felt over what had happened to the others, was still far from complete recovery.
To make matters worse, she had been both unwilling and unable to tell anyone how she felt and had not even been able to discuss with Will exactly what Jev's memories had been. She had told Beverly, but only in the strictness of confidence.
Now in the darkness of her empty cabin, she wept for what her friends had been put through as much as she wept for herself.
A few days later, Will's voice startled her from her troubled thoughts as she gazed out the forward window of Ten-Forward. "Deanna, may I join you?"
She looked up, slightly disturbed by his nearness, before smiling and gesturing to the empty seat across from her. "Yes, please, Will, sit down."
Taking the offered seat, he sat down, placing his drink on the table in front of him. In a lowered voice he began, "Beverly mentioned you were having trouble sleeping. I was wondering if you needed to talk?"
Looking down at her own glass and then momentarily closing her eyes, she exhaled, "Yes, I suppose we should." She had hoped Beverly wouldn't tell Will anything when she had gone to see her about the sleeping difficulties, but understood that her friend was only trying to help. He let his hand reach out and take hers across the table. He thought he felt her tense, but looking at the woman he felt more for than anyone he had ever known, he ignored it. "You can trust me, Deanna."
Nodding slowly, she let her eyes meet his and felt the sting of tears coming. "You're right, Will, we do need to talk, but not here and not just yet, " she explained.
Not taking that for an answer, he pressed, "When Deanna? If something is effecting you enough that you need Beverly's help just to get to sleep, don't you think it might be better to get it out in the open?"
She understood his words, and the meaning behind them, but couldn't bring herself to tell him why she was so affected.
"This has to do with Jev, doesn't it?" he asked, quietly letting his gaze drop to the small hand he still held in his own. "I know you've talked to Beverly about it, but it obviously hasn't been enough. "
She looked away, not wanting him to see the tears that threatened to spill at any moment. "I'm fine, " she told him, still unable to face him.
"Deanna, you are most definitely NOT fine. You can't sleep, you've locked yourself away, and whatever strain your under...well, it's beginning to show."
Horrified, her eyes snapped back to his, meeting his concerned gaze. Had it really been that noticeable? Did he know? Pulling her hand from his, she stood. " I have to go now, I have appointments, " she managed to get out before turning towards the exit.
She felt his hand gently on her arm, "No, Deanna, we need to talk. If not here somewhere else and NOW, before this goes any further."
Unable to stop him as he guided her out of Ten-Forward and towards the safety of her cabin, she began to prepare herself for what was to come.
"Now, we're alone; talk to me, " he said as they entered her cabin, his voice sounding the strain of the past few months. He had talked with the Captain and with Beverly immediately after Jev's capture, but they had both been unwilling to divulge anything about Jev's attack on Deanna. It had steadily been driving him crazy not knowing what it was that was putting his Imzadi through such Hell.
He watched as she stood facing the window, bringing her arms up and quietly holding herself. He went to her and gently wrapped his arms around her. But this time when she tensed from his touch, he couldn't control the anger that welled up inside him. "What?! What is it?!" he said spinning her around to face, his anger over her exclusion of him over the past months when she should have been confiding in him, overshadowing what he had set out to do which was get to the bottom of this, melted away as soon as he saw the fear and panic in her wide eyes. "Deanna, " he began softly now, "please you have to tell me what's going on," the look of fright diminishing somewhat, but not completely disappearing.
When she didn't say anything, he continued, "You've been avoiding me for weeks, you're barely sleeping, and what little sleep you are able to get is plagued with nightmares from what Beverly told me. What are the dreams about, Deanna?" Still there was silence.
"Have I done something, Deanna? Have I not done something? What?" the frustration of not knowing building inside him again.
"It's about Jev," she said quietly, still standing before him, but unable to look at him.
"O.k. Let's talk about it, " he said guiding her to the couch. He had assumed that Jev's assault on her had been similar to the ones on himself and Beverly; forcing her to relive a painful memory in a more twisted and horrifying form. But whatever Deanna's memory had been it obviously was causing a great deal more harm then what Jev had inflicted on them.
"It's not that simple, Will. I can't just "talk" about it and make everything better," she said lowering her face to her hands, tears starting to fall.
Looking down at his own hands clasped tightly in front of him, "What did he make you see?" She stood, the close contact with him suddenly becoming too much for her once again. "Will, you have to leave," she pleaded.
"What did he make you see?" he repeated.
"You don't understand, " she whispered.
"Make me understand!" his voice exploding in the quietness of her cabin.
"I can't!" she screamed back at him, her fear fighting against her desire to fall into his embrace and tell him everything.
"Why?! Deanna, I am closer to you then anyone. I want to help you, I want to take you in my arms and chase away the monsters, but I can't DO that if you won't let me."
The tenuous grasp she had on her emotions faltered and tears spilled unbidden. "You...he made me see you," gasping and trying to regain control.
"Me?" his puzzled expression urging her on.
She turned away from him, unable to let the words come if she was looking into those eyes. "It was...that night...after the poker game; the night we almost..." her voice trailed off.
Coming to stand behind her, he tried to wrap his arms around her, but she pushed them away unable to bare it any longer.
"You can't take the monsters away, Will, because you ARE the monster! You're the one in my dreams; you're the one that holds me down and hurts me, your the one that pulls my dress up and you're the one that...makes...me..."
"Deanna...I never..." his stunned expression giving way to realization over what Jev had done. "In my mind I can separate the memories, but in my dreams it's still you, " she cried while holding herself tightly. "He took the most precious thing I've ever had, Will, he took my trust...my security...in us!"
Unable to stand any longer, the weight of her confession becoming too heavy, she sank to the floor crying in deep, racking sobs.
The anger he had felt for so long...of being shut out of her life...of her pain, disappeared in a renewed blinding flash of hate towards the Ullian. He lowered himself to her and held her tiny body against him. "Oh, Deanna, Imzadi, I'm sorry," he breathed into her hair.
"No!" her anger with herself for her inability to see Jev's attack for what it was, in her inability to separate her love for Will from the horrible image Jev portrayed to her, and her overwhelming guilt over Will and Beverly's suffering, crashed down upon her. "It's all my fault, " she wailed. "Deanna, shhhh, look at me. Nothing that happened was your fault. Nothing, " he cradled her against his chest, rocking her gently.
"No! " she tried to push him away, but failing accepted a small portion of the comfort he offered and collapsed back against him. Taking a deep breath she prepared to release her fears to his waiting warmth. "You...and Beverly...he wouldn't have hurt both of you...if it hadn't...if he hadn't...been trying to protect himself...over what he did to me!" it rushed out in broken thoughts and broken images projected at him. He reeled as the images she sent to him seeped into his conscious.
He had dreamed of this moment for years, when she would open herself to him again, allowing through their bond to let him see things as she saw them again...as she had done before...when they had been so close. But now his happiness at this shared experience was tainted; tainted by the images she projected with such force. He saw their kiss, felt her panic when he wouldn't let her go and then her desolation when he rose off of her and left her there on the floor.
Shaking from the effort of sending her memory to him, she fell into him almost catatonic with disbelief that she had done it; that she had allowed him to see into her nightmares.
The last feelings he grasped at were of her guilt. "Come here, " his voice husky in her ear as he gripped her closely to him.
Both unable to move after the revelation, they held each other for what seemed an eternity. "We will get through this, " he said , bringing her face to look at his. "I don't know how, but we will, Imzadi, " and she buried herself in his embrace knowing that he was right and silently rejoicing that she could finally begin to heal.