Above and Beyond
Author: IzzY and Sarajayne
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the names

Setting: During First Contact, the movie


CH 1.

The bright blue cloudless sky slowly gave way to darkness as the rocket ship ascended through Earth's outer atmosphere and past the planet's lone satellite. Though he'd lived among these very stars for well over half his life, nothing could have prepared Will Riker for such an experience as this.

Ever since he could remember, he pictured himself as an explorer and an adventurer; living his life as only he knew how to live it. And of all the places he been to, of all the aliens he'd befriended, of all the battles he'd won...this single moment in time would stand out above them all.

Once the Pheonix screamed past Earth's gravity field, Riker was finally able to move his head side to side and took a quick glance at the other co-pilot sitting next to him and  knew immediately the grin on Geordi LaForge's face undoubtedly mirrored the one smeared across his own. 

"Warp field looks good,"said Geordi, looking at the readouts.

Riker flipped on the speedometer and announced, "Speed: twenty thousand kilometers per second."

The man seated in the pilot's chair looked out the window to his right. "Jesus!"

Zephram Cochrane; the inventor of the warp engine, the first man in history to make contact with an alien race, the man who would be worshipped as a hero for centuries to come, sat in awe at the grandios site laying framed outside the starboard window.

Both Riker and Geordi grinned as the Enterprise E came briefly into view. The massive starship looked so peaceful, quiet, and beautiful that Riker had not noticed the missing deflector dish, nor the missing escape pods. To him, she looked like she was standing guard: watching as history was made before her eyes.

"Relax, doctor. They're just here to give us a send-off." Riker beamed.

The archeic ship, by 24th century standards, pitched forward as they crossed the threshold that would take humanity into a world it'd never imagined. The warp barrier was broke, and by Riker's estimation, they had made it with but a few minutes to spare.

Cochrane looked out the window and shook his head in disbelief that his idea, built solely for the purpose of self-wealth, actually accomplished as it was built to do. Thankful that they were not now miniscule particles blown to pieces by some defective valve, he happily backed off on the throttle as per Riker's command and pointed the ship back towards the blue dot far off in the distance.

"Is that Earth?" Cochrane asked, still utterly astounded.

"That's it," LaForge answered.

"Its so...small," the scientist shook his head.

"It's about to get a whole lot bigger..." Riker breathed.

"Let's go home, Doc." LaForge keyed in a few numbers and they weren't a minute into their trip home when something unimaginable began to take shape.

The Pheonix rocked back and forth as if it was being belted by a thousand little meteors all at once.

"Hey, I don't see your ship," Cochrane careened his neck to look out all the windows of the small cabin.

Riker wasn't sure if he'd heard Dr. Cochrane correctly over the engine noise and the pings of whatever hitting against the hull. "Come again?"

"Your ship. I said, I don't see it? Maybe it left without you?"

Riker unfastened his harness and pulled himself forward toward Cochrane. After a careful scan of the debris and a frantic glance out each window, Riker, absolutely horrified, twisted to look back at his engineer and silently shook his head in disbelief.

"It's gone", Riker said, slumping against one of the panels.

"Gone? Gone as in, back to our time line, or..." Geordi didn't want to think or even say the other option. But when something large and metallic sounding hit the hull, he knew immediately what Riker was trying to say. "Gone," he whispered in confirmation.

"What happened?" Cochrane asked innocently, but neither starfleet officer's were able to admit what had indeed happened.

From the silence and from the sickening look on the commander's handsome face, Cochrane simply assumed the worst and gripped the controls a little more tightly and readjusted his harness a little more securely and flew the Pheonix back home to Montana.



The silo crackled with electricity as soon as word had gotten out the Pheonix had just re-entered Earth's atmosphere. Deanna Troi sat idely at her station at mission control slightly bewildered by the different sets of emotions she was sensing. All around her, crewmen congratulated each other on what they assumed was a successful mission, only because they were ignorant about what had  happened in the sky only minutes earlier. And yet, there was a distinct sadness that seemed to drown out the jubuilant celebrations going on around the empath.

Will? she thought.

Accepting a brief hug from Lt. Bartles, her mission control partner, she stood from her chair and was  nearly overcome by such distress, she slumped back down again.

Somethings happened.

Forcing herself to rise once more, Deanna  hurried to the field where the ship was to have landed and gazed out into the bright sunshine.

The top hatch on the ship blew open and a tall lanky man stepped out onto the hull and gazed with pride at the throng of curious individuals who'd come to see his newly christened spaceship.

Careful to not bring attention to herself, Deanna moved around the mass to the backside of the cylidrical vehicle to see Will and Geordi slumped to the ground against the hull. Both men looked like they had recently been sick to their stomachs.

"Will?" Deanna walked closer and saw his pale, alsmost ashen face. "What's wrong?"

The big man pressed against the former missle silo housing and slowly stood. "Gather up all our people and--"

Deanna moved closer, her voice more demanding. "Will, what happened?"

He couldn't look her right now. Not yet, it was too soon. Bottling up his emotions like he'd learned to do so long ago, he practicly slammed a wall down between them and tried to focus on the next task. He didn't need nor want her to burdoned by what he was feeling when she was about to have an entire team to console.

But one accidental look into her beautiful, onyx eyes almost made him fall to his knees by the sheer concern they showed. "Can you get everyone gathered up for me?" He swallowed hard and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly.

Without another question, Deanna nodded and turned to walk away when another crewman came running up to them from beyond the treeline.

"Commander!" he panted, nearly out of breath. "A pod....an escape pod landed just on the other side of the clearing!" He pointed in a direction that appeared to be out of site from the village.

"Escape pod?" Deanna questioned and looked to her commander for an explanation.

Will rushed to the other side of the ship to make sure no one from the village had seen it come down and began heading in the direction the ensign had pointed. "Geordi, Deanna...get everyone together and meet us by the creek. You know the place, right?" He looked to Geordi and saw the engineer shake his head.

Without further explanation, Commander Riker took off running into the trees and it wasn't until he'd completely disappeared before Deanna moved another step. It was obvious the Riker had not wanted to tell her what happened yet, so she was not about to ask Geordi. However, the engineer did not have the same control over his emotional output as did Riker and what she sensed scared her to death.

Fear, sadness, loss...

She knew right then, something terrible had happened to the Enterprise. And as she attempted to gather her composure and fulfill her orders, another thought crept from the darkness into the light of reality:

They were stranded...


ch. 2

Without giving it a thought, Riker presumed it would be the Captain that would step from the small vessel.

Instead however, he immediately recognized the small woman that had just crawled from the open door of the escape pod as the woman Beverly had beemed to the ship moments before he was summoned to the surface.

"Commander William Riker," he announced giving her a hand as she stood from the door.

"Lily Sloan," she immediately handed him the PADD that Picard had given her moments before she was jetisoned out into the blackness of space. "Did he make it?" SHe looked around.

Riker heard her question and instantly became nauseous. "Who?" He knew whom she was referring but he needed to here his friend's name.


Riker gripped the PADD tightly as he read:

By Starfleet Regulation 997.46 and Federation Code 45.2:
You are hereby ordered that contact with the existing
culture will be as minimal as possible. Extensive contact will
 jeapordize the Prime Directive Order and would constitute
a court martial offense
. No further information regarding
Starfleet and its technologies is to be communicated.

Commander Riker,
All surviving crewmen of the USS Enterprise, including Doctor Crusher and Lt. Worf, have been ordered to Gravett Island in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The Cultural Non-Contamination Laws are now in effect for the next two generations. At that point in time, it should be safe to integrate fully into the society as it exists. And it is of utmost importance to keep the course of history in mind at all times.

I bid you farewell my friend.
I consider it an honor to have served with you. May
you live your life as courageous and productive as you have done so thus far.
Pass my goodbyes on to the rest of the crew and may you together make the most of history.

Jean-Luc Picard, Captain USS Enterprise  NCC-1701-E


Riker reread the entire letter one more time before he allowed his hands to fall to his sides.

"He told me to tell you to 'find a nice little corner of North America and  stay away from history' ", Sloan said.

Conceiling his true devastion, Will allowed a brief smile and nodded. "Can you give me anymore information as to what happened?" He sat on a fallen tree and motioned for her to do the same.

"I think he called them the Borg," She waited for Will to nod, "Anyway, they'd apparently taken over your ship. He tried to fight but they'd gotten too far...disgusting creatures..." she shivered at the recollection of first seeing how roughly the tubing penetrated the victims skin and the way the laser beam eye seemed to scan straight to her soul.

"They'd gotten to a lot of your crewmen," she said sadly. "He told me he was going to help out a friend. That was the last I'd seen him."

Still unable to grasp the seriousness of what happened, he swallowed hard and felt a comforting hand on his arm. "He was a brave man, Commander."

"I know," Will said softly and placed a hand over hers. Attempting to not show his emotions, he scanned the treeline, wishing that at any moment Picard would step from the forest and tell him he'd found a way to stop the Borg and that everything was going to be just fine.

"Look, if you guys need help...anything, just let me know. I know you'll be needing places to stay, food-"

Will released his grip and stood. Glancing down at the woman, he smiled thoughtfully. "Thanks. But you've done more than you'll ever know already."

Lily Sloan gazed up at the big man and for the first time, was able to appreciate his handsome face and his bluest of blue eyes that seemed to sparkle despite the world of worry she knew was hidden behind the gleam.. "Listen Riker, this world isn't as nice as what you're accustomed to. We have some real lulus out there."

Lulus?  "Thanks again but I'm sure we'll be fine. We can be pretty inventive when we need to be." He glanced back at the pod and was sincerely glad they'd have use of the replicator for a short time. "Give Doctor Cochrane our congratulations when you see him," Will said as he walked away. "Oh," he retreted a few steps, "we'll take care of the escape pod in a day or so, but until then, is there anyway-"

"We could keep people from seeing it?" She smiled. "Don't worry, Riker, no one from our village travels this far into the woods, even if their life depended on it. Like I said, its too dangerous."

"But what about those not from your village?"

"The trouble-makers? Oh, they're usually too stoned or drunk to see it. Just cover it up a bit." Eager to congratulate Zefram herself, she stood and gave the big man a gentle hug. "Take care, Riker."

After she'd left, he glanced at the lone pod nestled within the brush. He was going to have to do something he did not want to do right at this moment: contact Beverly and the others. He was no more prepared to deal with her loss of the captain as he was dealing with his own. He wished now he'd have asked Deanna to accompany him so that once he delivered the bad news, she'd be there to offer the comforting words that he knew he'd never choke out.


The thought flittered through his mind and for just a moment, he was unsure if he'd thought it or if...


He turned in the direction from which he heard her soft voice. "Over here, Counselor."

Deanna found him sitting inside the small vessel looking at the blank video screen. "Everyone is gathered..."

She stood in the doorway and propped herself against the opening with her arms outstretched. Will slowly turned to look at her and when his eyes met hers, the emotions poured over her like a dam that had just burst.

"No," she breathed and fell forward into his arms.

Will held her tightly and began to feel guilty for allowing her so much pain all at once.

"I'm sorry," he buried his face in her hair. "I didn't mean to do that."

After a moment, she finally pulled back and wiped her eyes. "How many?"

"All the lifeboats but this one were ordered to an island far from here. I'm not sure yet how many made it." He looked away quickly, hoping she didn't see his own suppressed tears. "I was getting ready to contact them. I'm glad you're here," he squeezed her hand as she drifted into the adjacent seat.

Will inhaled deeply as the screen turned from black to fuzzy static. "Damn."

"Whats wrong?"

He touched a few more buttons. "The existing radiation in the atmosphere is reeking havoc on the communication waves. I need to--there. Got it."

A second later, Beverly Crusher's saddened face appeared against a backdrop of a bright, cloudless, sun-filled sky. "Hello Will," she paused as she appeared to collect herself. "Please tell me he made it?"

Will's teeth grinded together and he swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, Beverly."

The doctor's head dropped and they could see her shoulders rise and fall with each sob. Deanna reached for Will's hand and clutched it tightly, feeling her own tears falling freely again.
They gave her a few more moments before he spoke again. "Beverly, how many are there with you?"

She shrugged. "Three hundred and twenty-two crewmen are here on the island."

It didn't take long for Will to compute the number they'd lost. Fifteen crewmen including he and Deanna here in Montana, three hundred and twenty-two on Gravett Island, meant six-hundred and forty, including Captain Picard and Data, were unaccounted for.

"Christ," Will sighed and cupped a hand over his mouth. "Do you have a manifest ready?"

"Yes. I'll relay it over to you. I'm sure those there are anxious to see who survived." She restraightened herself in her chair and tried to appear calm but Deanna could sense the anger in the doctor for showing her weakness.

"Beverly, its all right to feel this way. You shouldn't feel like you have to hide your emotions," Deanna placed her hand on Wills shoulder and leaned in to the screen.

Beverly rubbed her tired eyes. "The crew is scared. They've realized there's no chance of getting home. I have to be strong for them."

"Their reaction is normal...as is yours. Grieving is not a weakness." Deanna glanced quickly to Will, hoping he was listening as well. "And it doesn't mean you've lost your control..."

Beverly smirked. "I wish you were here."

Deanna sighed heavily. "As do I."

"We'll see about getting everyone together but I'm not sure how that'll be possible. It will take time to seek out transportation options," Will said.

"I understand," Bev frowned. "We'll do the best we can."

"In the mean time, you have your orders?"

"Yes. Between the rations, the replicators and all the fresh fruit on this island....looks like we'll be set for some time."

"Fresh fruit?" Deanna sounded envious. "I might just hop the next boat there."

Will smiled, realizing how good it felt even if it was only  for a moment. "We'll check in every twelve hours to keep you updated."

"Thanks. Be careful guys. I don't want to lose-" she stopped as the words choked in her throat.

"Good-bye Beverly." Will flicked off the monitor and looked to Deanna with a loathing sigh."I guess its time to inform the crew," he said softly.

She reached for his hand and followed him back to the creek where everyone was waiting.




The crew took the news surprisingly well but Deanna knew the emotional devastation would hit everyone at different times and she had to remain prepared. Assuming Reg Barclay would possibly have the hardest time adjusting, she kept a close eye on his reaction as she moved about the crew, waiting to see if anyone would approach her to talk.

There were quiet mumblings of sadness for those who were lost, questions being asked amongst each other as to where each might go, and yet above all, a sense of comaraderie and loyalty.

"Captain, how long before we can see the other crew?" A young ensign Deanna recognized as James Ballows, spoke up.

He might have ignored the question out of practice but what caught Riker most by suprise was the hushed silence that fell over the group.  His eyes fell for a moment, trying to grasp the fact that they all still considered him their leader even though none of them belonged to the oranization known as Starfleet any longer.

"W-we'll know more in a few days. But for now, we're going to need firewood cut and the tents from the lifeboat set up." He stood and looked towards the setting sun. "Let's get moving."

An overwhelming sense of sorrow blanketed her heart as Deanna took a long gaze at her imzadi.
He was trying his hardest to not look at her, she knew. The inability to mask his frustrations and pain only meant he was beyond exhaustion at this point.
She followed him back into the woods and called to him as soon as they were out of sight from the others.

"Are you okay?" she saw him lean heavily against a tree and bury his head in the crook of his arm.

"Captain," he laughed sarcasticly. "He called me 'Captain' for Christ's sake!"

"By order of Starfleet Code four four two-"

"There is no Starfleet, Deanna! Or haven't you noticed?" He turned sharpley and glared at her, ignorant of how angry he sounded. "We're nothing more than a bunch of commoners trying to fanagle our way through the day. Starfleet doesn't mean shit down here!"

"Listen to yourself, Will! Just because Starfleet doesn't exist yet, doesn't mean you can throw away everything we stand for! Like it or not, we are all still Starfleet officers," she grasped him by the arm and swung him around to look at her, "and they are still your crew...looking to you as their leader!"

"Deanna, how can I-"

"How many times have you been put in this position? Three...four...five? Will, they trust you, I sense their desire to stay together. They don't want to separate from you." She grabbed handfuls of his leather jacket for emphasis. "They still have hope...don't you see it?"

Gods, how he wanted so badly to believe her; to believe as they did. To believe there truly was hope.

"I'm sorry," he exhaled. "I shouldn't have yelled."

Deanna let a faint smile penetrate the seriousness of the moment. "You can yell all you want, Captain...but you can't get rid of us that easily."

Lured by the gentleness of her voice, he pulled her to him in a bear hug of an embrace. "Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you for being here."

"I'm not going anywhere," she answered and then thought, not now...not ever...without you.


The chill of the evening came as the sun went down, bringing with a darkness casting eery shadows across the entire campsite.

It would soon be time and every few seconds, the crew seemed to all scan the sky at once in hopes of spotting the Vulcan vessel as it approached Earth.

 Riker volunteered to stand guard of the escape pod just in case one of the drunkards decided to check it out. Or at least thats what he told everyone. The real reason was because he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. Decisions would have to be soon made regarding their presence here and how they would try and meet up with the rest of the survivors.
He thought briefly of Worf, and other non-human survivors who'd have the tuffest time of all fitting in. In about another thirteen years, Will remembered, Klingons would be considered enemies. Which meant Worf would be unwelcome everywhere.

A loud crack of a tree branch interrupted the silence and he quickly spun from his seat to see the counselor emerging from the trees. "Hi," he said smiling. It was always good to see her, no matter the circumstance.

"Thought you might want a little company." Deanna stood outside the door and leaned against the opening.

"You should have stayed by the fire," he watched her breath rush from her mouth. "Its going to be a cold night."

"Well, once all five tents were put up and bed partners chosen, it was either share one with the other four females...or move in with Reg and Geordi," she laughed. "This was my better option."

His face twisted into a crooked grin. "I'm not sure, but I think there was a compliment in there somewhere." He slid over so that she could sit inside. "Welcome to my humble abode, Counselor."


Deanna found the chair terribly uncomfortable and the more she wiggled to find a spot, she'd caught Riker's attention.

"Forgotten your survival and lifeboat training?" he asked and upon seeing her brow furrow in confusion he added, "These seats do fold down, you know?"

Will reached around the rear of the seat and gently laid the chair back. And as the chair fell, his face came within centimeters of her own and he suppressed a desperate urge to kiss her right then.


His desire did not go unnoticed by the empath and she layed there for a moment staring at him as he slid back into his own chair. Trying to figure out her own emotions, she watched him play with a few of the controls for a moment when a low thunderous noise began to rattle the entire woods.

He turned towards her and grinned like a young child who'd just awakened Christmas morning.

"Its beginning," he announced and grabbed her hand, pulling her with him out the door.


ch. 4

Riker pulled Deanna through the woods  to a high cliff overlooking the village and carefully sat them within inches of the rocky edge. After a brief search through the gravel he found her hand and gripped it tightly as they watched the Vulcan scout ship land just outside the main buildings.

"He must feel like the king of the universe," Deanna said as they spotted Cochrane stepping forward out of the crowd to meet their guests.

"Rightfully so," Riker agreed. "Let's just hope he doesn't welcome them in the same fashion he welcomed you," he chuckled.

Deanna cringed at the thought and opted to not offer a comeback. Instead, they sat in companionable silence and watched everything happening down below with revered awe.


Sometime later after the Vulcans followed Cochrane into The Crash & Burn, Deanna leaned her head against his shoulder and shivered.
Moving back away from the edge slightly, he wound his long arms around her small frame and pulled her close.

"Its a shame we can't ask them for help," Deanna said wistfully.

"I know. I've thought about that a hundred times over." He felt her shiver again. "Maybe we should go back now." He looked back to the Vulcan ship with a longing gaze. "We know what happenes next."

Before they stood, Deanna reached up and touched Will's cheek, feeling the rough stubble outlining his thicker beard. "I have no doubt, Will, that you'll make the right decisions..."

"But...?" he said when the corners of her mouth curled up into a smirk.

"But...just so that you know where I stand on the subject..." she stood and yanked him up as best she could. "I'd be a much happier woman if we settled on the tropical island."

The ironicy of the situation stopped his movement for a moment while he thought about Cochrane's earlier comment regarding his own desire of 'being surrounded by naked ladies'.

Then he briefly pictured Deanna standing naked on the beach.

"I'll keep that thought in mind," he said with a lascivious smile that she did not see and followed her back to the lifeboat.



The following morning, Riker awoke to the sound of knocking coming from the closed hatch on the escape pod. Sliding it open a crack so that they did not lose their warmth in the tiny vessel, he caught a glimpse of Geordi's smiling face.

"Good morning, sir."

Riker opened the door the rest of the way and immediately felt the morning chill. "What time is it?"

"0700." He looked inside and smiled at the uncomfortable looking Deanna, who was slowly stirring. "You know, Counselor, you could have slept with Reg and I in the tent. I promise you, we don't bite."

Riker placed a hand on the engineer's shoulder and nodded toward the semi-conscious Betazoid. "But she does. I think she was just protecting you," he whispered.

"Very funny," Deanna tossed Will a scathing look then began to stretch out the soreness from her muscles.

"Barclay and I will take  watch tonight," Geordi offered.

"Its all yours," Will grumbled and slid his leather coat back on. "Did you see it?" he asked, smiling.

Geordi grinned from ear to ear. "Wouldn't have missed it. We all watched it come in! So tell me, did you ever consider-"

"Yes. Over and over and over again. Sorry Geordi, but the consequences..."

"I know, I know." He patted Riker on his beefy shoulder. "Breakfast is ready if you two want any?"

Deanna pushed the men aside and started to squeeze through the door when she stopped and looked at Geordi. "I'd rather you tell me you built a bathroom, complete with hot running water?" she smiled but the men knew she wasn't entirely joking.

"Sorry, Counselor. Maybe in my spare time today," he mused and watched her march back towards the camp.

Riker shrugged. "She gets a little testy in the morning."

"I see that," Geordi nodded, making a mental note to tread carefully from now on.


The morning dew slowly dried as the temperature began to warm from the bright sunshine.Thankfully, Riker thought, they were in the middle of the springtime season here and were headed for much warmer temperatures. At least it wasn't fall moving into winter, he sighed as he removed his coat and vest. Deanna should appreciate that, he hoped, because it appeared it was going to take some time finding a way to get to Gravett.

He'd met with Cochrane and was now on his way back to the camp carrying, among other items, a bottle of Zef's finest liquor, a gift for Deanna...and he couldn't wait to see the look on her face when he presented it.

Riker's thoughts drifted back to two nights ago when Deanna lay in a drunken stupor in his arms. He'd managed to carry her limp body out of the bar and to the main silo where she finally woke completely dazed and utterly embarrassed.

He was going to have to give the gift in privacy, he decided quickly. She would certainly not approve of the crew finding out about her session with Cochrane.

Hoisting the large axe and shovel Lily had given him on to his left shoulder and a duffel bag containing various gifts and necessities that the replicator was unable to reproduce onto his right, he began tthe slow climb back to camp, all the while, letting the memory of lost friends occupy his thoughts the rest of the way.



"Will went to meet with Doctor Cochrane this afternoon," Deanna said with hopeful jubilance to the red-headed woman on the video monitor. "We should know a little more once he returns."

"From what we've been able to find out....it looks like this part of the world faired pretty well during the war," Beverly sighed. "We spotted some pleasure yachts anchoring not too far away and a plane or two fly overhead."

"Oh?" The dreaded look on Deanna's face caused Beverly to quickly interject.

"But you can tell Will, the lifeboats were sunk yesterday as ordered." She smiled. "We removed what we could from them first."

"Sounds like the technology wasn't so hard hit as it was here and in the European areas."

"From what I can remember from my history lessons, it was the major cities like Washington D.C,  Los Angeles, Paris, London, Tokyo, and countries in the Middle  East that were obliterated."

"Is that island completely unoccupied then?"

"I believe it was used once as a naval military base for the United States. And since its now deserted, we've gladly taken use of the buildings. Quite facinating stuff we've found!"

"I bet Worf's having a blast with all the antique weaponary then," she chuckled. "No pun intended."

"Yes." Beverly looked back over her shoulder for a moment to make sure she was alone. "Speaking of Worf...Deanna, he's not dealing with this well."

Deanna's playful expression faded as she held the doctor's attention. "It hasn't been easy on any of us."

"No," Crusher's voice faded and she looked away. "It hasn't. But he feels more out of place than any of us here. He understands what history has in store for Klingons, so between that and the fact that he misses Jadxia, well... I'm just not prepared to deal with him right now. Its just not like a Klingon to be so pessimistic."

Deanna breathed out a long sigh. "He's completely out of his element. Klingon honor doesn't mean anything here. I'll talk to him soon?"

"I think that would help," Crusher said, obviously relieved. "If you don't, I'm afraid he's going to hijack one of those boats or shoot down a plane just to get to you."

Deanna laughed even though the idea wasn't all that absurd. "Beverly, how are you doing?" Her voice returned to the somber timbre Crusher was well used to hearing when her friend was in the counseling mode.

"Time. I just need some time," she shrugged.

"You didn't exactly answer my question...but I'll let it slide this time," she said warmly to her best friend.

"I'm sure you've had your day full of counseling sessions. You don't need another one."

"But its still my job."

"But even a doctor knows when enough is enough and call it a day, Deanna. And quite frankly, I've thought about it so much, I'm not sure I can stomach it to speak about it as well."

The picture began to phase out and Deanna hit the side of the console. "Beverly, the radiation's affecting the communication! We'll contact you again soon!" The screen went blank and Deanna flopped back to the chair frustrated.



Riker tossed the various items Cochrane had given him, save for the liquor, on the ground in a heap and looked around at the crew. Surprisingly, even after informing them it would take weeks to gain transportation to the nearest functioning city, they still looked hopeful.

"We'll have enough firewood tonight, but be prepared to begin chopping wood tomorrow," Riker picked up the long handled axe and used it as if he were leaning on a walking cane. "They tell me there's a storm front moving in bringing rain, so I want as much wood as we can, chopped, and placed under the tarp."

"Looks like we'll have another hour or so of daylight left, so let's do what we can before dark," he finished and looked around again, realizing a few members were missing. Most notably Deanna. "Where's Counselor Troi?"

"She went for a walk with Lt. Barclay," Geordi answered. "Down along the creek."

For just a moment, he must have looked panicked because Geordi went to him immediately. "Is there a problem?"

Riker quickly moved to the gravely edge of the creek and looked both ways, hoping to spot them. "Cochrane told me they had trouble last night in the village after the Vulcans left. There was a major fight and some of the drunks ended up wandering out this way."

Geordi, using his occular implants for a closer look spied them walking back toward the camp. "Looks like they're on their way back."

Relieved, Riker turned to the crew. "No one is permitted to leave the camp area alone. Not even to use the bathroom. We don't need anyone asking questions...which means I want everything we can use from the escape pod removed tonight. It gets destroyed in the morning. Let's move."

Expecting that one of the men would offer to chop wood, he was more than sursprised when the entire crew walked off towards the pod without a second thought about the firewood. "How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb?" he mused, picked up the axe and headed to the edge of the trees.



Perched on a small outcropping overlooking the camp, Deanna couldn't help but admire the view framed down below her.

Swinging the axe high above his head, she watched every muscle in Riker's back flex as he landed blow upon blow to the fallen tree. She knew just from the casual touch and the far too occasional embrace, that he'd gained much muscle since the last time she'd seen him shirtless.

Gods, that was eons ago...she wondered to herself.

Taking the quickest trail down, Deanna gathered up a canteen and filled it with water from the replicator and made her way to where she'd seen him.

Walking up behind, she waited until he took one last swing at the large log and split it in two before she came any closer. Using the handle once again like a cane, he leaned against it took a moment to catch his breath.

"I brought you some water," Deanna said, holding out the canteen and taking a seat on one of the unsplit logs.

"Thanks." Will took a long gulping drink then poured some over his head to cool his heated skin before he too sat down.

Flipping the handle of the axe away from him, Riker looked at his palms and grimaced. "I guess its been awhile since I've done this."

Deanna immediately noticed the blisters that had already formed along his palm. "Let me look," she said and crouched down in front of him. "I guess if Beverly can play Counselor, I can play Doctor."

Riker bit back a sarcastic remark and simply sighed as he felt her gently massaging the tender skin. "They just need need new callus' to form," he said and pulled them away before her ministrations stirred emotions in him he hadn't the time for right now.

"Well, I think we have enough wood for the next week," she looked over his shoulder at the pile of cut lumber. "Let someone else cut next time."

Will retrieved his shirt from the ground and tossed it over his shoulder. "Cochrane is leaving for California tomorrow but said he'd try and figure out a way to help us," he tried to sound hopeful but he knew Deanna saw right throught the facade,

"He won't be back, will he?"

"No. He'll stay in California now. The scientists there will be eager to learn of his accomplishment."

Deanna moved back the log and fumbled with her hands for a moment. "Of all the worlds we've ever explored...this is by far the most frustrating one of them all."

Seeing her frustration and sadness almost as if it were the first time since they'd been stranded, he could have kicked himself for being so selfish and careless of the counselor's needs. It had not occured to him any of the times when she came to him alone, that she might have wanted to talk about her. He simply assummed she wanted to know about his feelings, not to discuss her own.

"Imzadi...?" He placed a hand on her shoulder. "I know this place can't be easy for you. You've done well keeping the crew's spirits up but I'm afraid you haven't had any time to think about yourself."

"They'll be time later," she sighed and stood to walk back to the camp.

"Deanna?" he called out after her. "How about tonight? Dinner, in the tent?"

"Are you cooking?" she tossed back over her shoulder.

"Of course."

"Then I'll be there."


Deanna silently poked at the rehydrated pasta that sat untouched in her bowl. Sitting cross-legged in the tent, she tensed again as another bolt of lightning lit up the night time sky knowing full well, the monstrous roll of thunder would soon follow.

"So much for dinner," she mumbled and pushed the pasta to the farthest corner away from her.

The second the first rain drop hit the ground, Will was out the door in a flash to help the engineers cover what they had removed from the pod. And she'd not heard from him since.

Happily following his orders to stay where it was warm and dry, she dredged up one of her PADDs, turned up the illumination and began to scribble in her personal log when the tent opened a pinch.

"Is it safe to come in?"

It was Will's voice and it sounded dreadful. "That depends," she answered. "No muddy boots in here!"

A few seconds later, the opening widened and Will cautiously stepped inside, crouching down slightly so that his head did not hit the roof. "Its a little cold out t-there."

Dripping wet from head to toe, Deanna decided he looked like the sadest thing she'd ever seen. "Oh, Will...you're freezing! Get those clothes off."

Frozen fingers fumbled with the zipper of his coat then the buttons of his shirt. Tossing the drenched garments to the side, Deanna picked them up as he removed each peice and wrung them out. "I didn't know it was so cold out there!" Other than hearing the thunderstorm, the walls of the tent were fairly impervious to the outside elements.

"As soon as the rain came, the temperature dropped." He turned around as he unclasped his trousers. "But at least we got everything stored before it poured." His pants fell in a heap around his bare feet and he kicked them to the side. "Blanket please?"

Deanna wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and a second later, his boxers lay next to his pants. "I guess this is one way to wash clothes," she mused as she picked up his underwear, smiling as she fondly remembered his affinity for boxers rather than briefs.

"Sorry about dinner," he apologized and crawled on top the sleeping bag. "I didn't know the rain would come so quick."

Deanna finished with the clothes and layed them flat along the floor. "I wasn't hungry anyway." She looked to the bowl of pasta. "Can I get you something?" she asked as she rummaged through the container of rations stored in their tent.

Riker shivered and he ran his hands over his bare arms, trying to bring warmth back. "A hot cup of coffee?" he teased. There wouldn't be anything hot tonight.

Deanna smiled at him and at his pathtic state. "Sorry, no coffee, but I seemed to have found this," she pulled out the bottle of whiskey Cochrane had given him, "when I layed out your sleeping bag."

Riker grinned. "Cochrane wanted you to have something to remember him by", he said and watched her roll her eyes before he added with a smirk, "and he also told me to remind you that 'his bed was warm and comfortable', should you ever decide to venture into the village."

Deanna let out a faint exasperated sound as she crawled  next to him on her own blanket. "I think I'll pass."

"Just think, Dea," he continued to tease, "you could have sex with the most influential man in modern hisory!"

"Keep it up Riker, and you'll find your boxers buried in the mud in the morning."

Will laughed and leaned back to his elbows. "You play too rough, Counselor."

Deanna caught and held his gaze. "You haven't seen anything yet."

For just a moment, the air inside the tent seemed equally as charged as the thunderstorm outside. The air was heavy and heated and seemed to be on the verge of exploding within itself.

Riker watched her sultry dark eyes travel down his torso and settle on his abdomen where the blanket had fallen away just a bit.

Her gaze lifted back to his face at the same time a warm hand pressed firmly on his belly.

A clap of thunder directly overhead sent her diving towards him where she quickly found herself safe and secure in his arms.

 The exact place she always seemed to find peace. The exact place where she always pictured herself to be. Forever.



Deanna buried her face into his shoulder when another crack of thunder shook the walls of the tent.

"I forgot you didn't like thunderstorms." Will tenderly smoothed her hair out with long, slow, caressing strokes.

"I don't remember the thunderstorms on Betazed ever being this loud," she might have laughed at her childish actions but quickly decided it felt far too nice to be held by him again this way.

"Too bad they're not as warm either." He grinned, remembering the time they made love outside her mother's home on Betazed during one of those such storms.

Deanna must have sensed his emotions because at that moment she looked up into his eyes and blushed. "We were so young."

"So naive!" he added, laughing. "I remember thinking the whole universe had stopped and there was nothing but the two of us."

"Yes," she said curtly and sat up. "How foolish of us."

Will sat up as well and wrapped the blanket around them both and pulled her backwards into his chest. "I'm sorry," he whispered into her hair. "I'm so sorry for what I did to you."

The moment seemed to demand more from him and when she made no effort to respond, he continued, "I was such an idiot, Deanna." He cupped her chin and turned her so thast she could see the sincerity in his eyes. "What I did was unforgivable...and I can't blame you for not wanting to put yourself in that position again."

"I tried hard to forget that day." Deanna pivoted around so that she rested on her knees in front of him. "I wanted to forget you ever existed. But then you came into my life again. Will..." tears cascaded freely down her cheeks and dripped on his exposed thigh, "I don't know what I would have done if it had been you on the Enterprise..."

She looked up into his face, mesmorized by what she saw. His own eyes were wet with unshed tears and as she reached out empathicly to him, she knew she had to tell him. "Now...I can't imagine you not....in my life."

Deanna dove back to his chest. Back to the place where she knew she could find comfort. Warmth. Love. And cried.

She cried openly for her lost friends. She cried for the captain and for Data. And she cried for her own selfishness when she realized how thankful she was that it was someone other than Will who had died.

"Ssshh. I'm here, baby. I'm here to stay." Again he pulled her chin up to look at him and he grinned the grin that she fell in love with that fateful afternoon of Chandra's wedding. "And right now, I want to kiss you so bad that it hurts..."

Deanna felt her pulse quicken and through the tears, she smiled. Searching his face she saw his expression turn to one she knew bordered on dangerous. "You know I don't like to see pain..."

Without another beat passing, Will took her face between both hands and his lips closed over hers with a passion he had not shared with anyone else. Ever.

Pressing into her body fully onto his, they fell backwards onto his sleeping bag. Will was quick to remove her vest and he might have uttered a protest when they broke apart to remove her shirt if wasn't for the immediate feel of her bare breasts against his chest.

His hands, now unobstructed, moved slowly over the delicate skin of her back towards her belly where he felt her trimmer slightly from his touch. Riker then rolled them both over, trapping her beneath his strong arms and stared with boyish wonder and fascination at her chest.

"You are so beautiful," he whispered as he tasted the skin surrounding her nipples, teasing one of the tips with his tongue.

She arched under him and raked her nails up along his arms, feeling his biceps and then the muscles of his shoulders quiver.
Between the soft moans and gasps of desperation, Deanna turned her head as if she'd heard something.

"Will?" she sighed out of frustration rather than passion. "Do you hear that?"

He reluctantly stopped his progression and looked up. "What?"

He then heard it too. It was a voice calling his name and it was growing louder by the second. No sooner did he untangle himself from Deanna's body when the door to the tent flew open.

"Captain...I mean, Comman...I, I mean....!"

Will moved quicker than humanly thought possible and shielded Deanna from the intruder with his body and the blanket. "Spit it out, Barclay!"

"I'm sorry, sir..."

"What do you need?" Riker almost growled, gathering up Deanna's sleeping bag to cover himself.

"Geordi...I mean, t-there was a group of men....th-they took some of our equipment. Lt. LaForge followed them in-into t-the woods!"

"A group? How many?"

"About five, I think."

"What did they take?"

"I was too dark to tell for sure, but it looked definitely like the communication monitor. Maybe more."

"Damn it!" Will looked down and made sure Deanna was completely covered before he stood up. "All right, wake Ensign Munoz and get him to meet me at the life boat. Then I want two more keeping watch of everything else until we get back."

"Yes, sir." Barclay moved out of the tent and re-latched the door.

Deanna removed the blanket from her face and watched Will grimace when he picked up is wet clothes.

Sliding the cold, damp underwear up to his thighs, she saw him take a deep breath.

"This is absolute..." he wimpered as the garment was drawn into place, "...cruelty," his voice raised to a pained high pitch.

"What should I do?" Deanna asked, tugging her shirt back over her head.

"Stay here." He fastened his pants and looked at her and winked. "And keep the bed warm." He pulled his wet shirt over his head and opened the door, frowning when he saw the rain coming down harder than ever. "We don't need anyone getting lost out there so just keep everyone calm. I'll be back shortly," he said smiling then closed the door behind himself. "I hope."


Crawling up the muddy, rain soaked mountain side, Riker pulled out a tricorder and scanned once more. "Over there," he pointed into the darkness. "Let's hope Geordi's okay because I sure as hell can't carry him down."

He caught Munoz's arm as the young ensign slid against the wet rocks. "Watch your footing," Riker instructed. "If I can't carry Geordi...I can't carry you out, either."

Munoz nodded and readjusted his grip. Hailed as the youngest ensign assigned to the Enterprise, he knew full well Riker had not chosen him to come because of intellectual and engineering skills. He was a large man, almost as large as Riker, and was highly skilled in boxing. Months ago, he'd lost track of the number of times people asked him why he chose engineering over security. The answer was simple; because he'd killed his last opponent. And he'd not thrown a punch since.

Riker knew of Munoz from the stories Geordi had told him. A cocky fellow with biceps as large as his head and an ego to match, he was told more than once. But regardless of his personality, Munoz was here for one reason only. He was muscle.
And if these men were the ones described by Cochrane as instigators and rebel rousers, then there was bound to be some fighting.

"They're holed up under those rocks," Riker poked his head around a large tree and squinted against the driving rain. "Shit. Geordi is laying face down in front of them all."

Gripping a tree branch, Riker positioned himself to begin the slight descent towards Geordi when he felt something cold against the back of his ear and heard a distinct clicking noise.

"You boys up here for any particular reason?" a voice snarled.

Riker slowly turned his head towards the voice only to see Munoz laying face down with blood oozing from a gash along the side of his head.

"One...I can handle. But not the two of ya," he seemed to laugh as he kicked the young ensigns head. "Get moving," he ordered and pushed Riker down the hill, careless of how he might have landed.

Sliding sideways, Will made it to the bottom without incident and when he re-gripped the small palm phaser he'd been clutching, he felt the antique metal firearm pressing against his temple. "Drop whatever it is you have in your hand, or I put a bullet through that guys head." He pointed toward Geordi.

Riker tossed the phaser far into the woods hoping no one would be able to find it.

"Now, get inside."

Riker ducked past the small opening then stopped dead in his tracks. The group of men were all sitting around in a small circle gawking at the women who was on the video screen.

~I demand to know what happened to the owners of this machine~ Beverly pleaded.

"You tell me where you are, baby, and I'll tell you everything," one of the men laughed. "how 'bout you show us a little incentive..."



Just before she severed the connection, Riker watched Crusher's expression on the monitor turn from horrific to one of repulsion at the man's suggestion.

"Hey!," one of the men yelled. "Get her back!"

"You shouldn't take what doesn't belong to you," Will said calmly.

"And you should not speak unless spoken to." The man who held the firearm to the commander's temple moved quickly and  whacked him in the mouth with the barrel.

Will felt his bottom lip break open and the immediate warm trickle of blood running down his chin into his beard.

The group of men who were surrounding  the now blank video screen turned and looked at the new comer.

"You're just findin' all sorts of things in them woods, ain't ya, Jimmy? More friends of that crazy Cochrane?"

Pushed forward from behind, Riker caught his footing and raised himself up to appear as tall and as menacing as he could. Turning around, with his fists clenched to his side, he glared at the man they'd just called 'Jimmy'.

"Are my friends okay?"

"You must be dumb!" Jimmy raised the gun once more and shoved the barrel against the bridge of Riker's nose. "Or maybe you're just hard of hearin'."

"Look, I don't want any trouble," Will backed off slightly. "Just tell me if my friends are okay?"

Jimmy gestured out into the rain. "If he doesn't suffocate in the mud, he'll live."

A sudden feeling of relief washed over him but he wasn't about to show it. "Then what do you want with us?"

"We don't give a damn about you, or your friends." Jimmy looked at the monitor and smiled. "But if you stand in the way of us gettin' the rest of your stuff, then we might have a bit of a problem."

The lanky man walked over and picked up the monitor, closing it within its case. "You see, all this stuff is worth money. All this hi-tech shit ain't been seen since the war. People will be paying high prices to get their hands on it."

"You don't even know what most of it is or how to use it!"

"Don't matter." His yellow teeth appeared behind a thin lipped smile. "It'll sell. See that computer," he pointed to the monitor, "them's a hot commodity. If you get it to a city."

Will wiped the blood from his beard with the back of his hand and winced when he inadvertantly touched his swollen lip. "So what's it going to take to let us go?"

Jimmy ran a hand over his stubbly beard and laughed. "You are dumb. We want it all, boy!"

"Not possible." Riker kept an eye on the hand that held the gun. "There are others who won't let you take anything else."

He waved the gun infront of Riker's face. "We ain't scared."

Riker took another quick glance around the room: five against one. He's had better odds, and he's had worse. The one thing he was counting on was the fact that most of the men looked like they were about to pass out from their drunken state.

"Someone's liable to get hurt if you continue to wave that thing around like that," Riker said and watched as the gun was placed directly bewteen his eyes.

"You ain't the first man, I've ever killed," he sneared.

Riker moved his eyes toward the door of the cavern and appeared to be surprised by something in the darkness. The expression on his face caused Jimmy to follow his gaze and when his head turned away, it was all the time Riker needed to take action.
Bringing his hand up, he caught the older man's wrist with a vice-like grip forcing him to drop the weapon.

When the man struggled against Riker's grasp, he used his other hand and dealt him a bone-crunching blow to the nose and let him slump to the floor writhing in pain. Wiping away the splattered blood from his face, Riker bent down and retrieved the gun well before any of the other men were able to stagger to their feet.

"I think I'd sit right back down, if I were you," he said pointing the weapon directly in the face of one of the approaching men.

"You ain't me," he said confidently. "And thats a damn good thing 'cause your ass is about to get kicked."

Will pointed the revolver into the rear of the cave hoping he'd scare them into cooperation but when the weapon simply clicked without firing, his gut twitched into a nervous painful knot.

The man laughed. "That thing ain't held a bullet in years," he said and closed the circle of drunkards leaving Will in the middle, surrounded.



The incessant pelting of rain hitting the tent made it impossible for Deanna to sleep. Though the thunderclaps and lightning all but ended, the rain still poured and was now accompanied by punishing winds and bone-chilling air.

Bringing her knees up to her chin, she wrapped her arms about her legs and sat in the dark thinking of Will; hoping he was safe, smiling when she thought of the way he looked at her when he removed her shirt, laughing when she remembered his reaction to his cold, wet underwear.

~Be safe, Imzadi~ she sent, though she knew he was unable to hear her.

Her thoughts continued, albeit, in a more intimate way when she recalled his naked body wrapped in the blanket, hiding the single thing she desperately desired.

For how long, she wondered. How long had it been since she felt such passion from a single kiss?
Since the Jalara Jungle, she answered for herself after a moments thought.
And ever since, no one ever compared to Will Riker and the way he consumed her with such fire. And she also knew that no other man ever would make her feel the way he could.

Deanna stirred in her sleeping bag, unable to pin point a sense of urgency she suddenly felt. "Will?" she whispered.

In an attempt to reach him, she closed her eyes tightly and sought out his presence. Something she'd been unable to do for some time.
After a few moments, however,  her trance-like state was broken when a rush a cold air blew through her hair.

"Commander?" it was Lt. Barclay again. "I-I'm sorry to disturb you."

Deanna opened her eyes to see the dripping wet engineer's head poking past the door. "What's wrong?" she asked quickly, fearing he'd say something happened to Will.

"Its the river. Its rising quickly!"

Deanna jumped to her feet. "Are we in danger?"

He nodded and looked back over his shoulder. "A few more meters and the first tent will be lost."

Deanna yanked her coat over her shoulders and stepped out into the freezing deluge. Judging from the rate of the downpour, it would only be a matter of minutes before the tent would be devoured by the intense rushing water.

"Wake everyone! Get the tents down and moved higher up the mountain!" Deanna ordered, then ran to the next tent and conveyed the urgency of the situation.

By the time all the tents were down and the crew was standing atop a ledge overlooking the river, the rapid murky water had indeed overtaken the previous campsite.

Trying to shield herself from the driving rain, Deanna leaned against a large tree and called out towards Barclay. "Lieutenant? Is the equipment safe?"

Barclay nodded. "It seemed far enough away and sheltered against a cliff," he stated confidently.

"I want to check on it," she said and flipped away a soaked lock of hair from her face.

Deanna followed Barclay's lead back through the woods and when they were about 10 meters away from the tarp covered stacks of another lifetime's electronics, a horrible crackling sound began high above their heads.

"Whats that?" she asked, narrowing her gaze as she looked up the mountain side, unable to focus on anything in the pre-dawn hours.

"I-I'm not sure."

Deanna felt something scurry past her feet and when she looked down, she saw the first of many pebbles sliding down the mountain side. "Reg?"

"Yes," he answered.

"I think we're in trouble." Deanna's voice shook as did her entire body.

Reginald's eyes widened in horror as he looked up the mountain, understanding immediately what she was trying to say.



Ch. 8

A mere quarter of a kilometer up the mountain side from where Troi and Barclay stood, trees snapped like twigs creating a thunderous echo as the mudslide forged downward consuming everything in its path.

"MOVE!" Deanna cried, pushing Reg in front of her.

Feeling the earth below their feet quake as it approached their vicinity, the two officers ran as fast as they could, sliding down a ravine then clawing their way up the other side before they finally stopped and watched in horror the remnants of the life boat being swept away in a ferocious mixture of earth, water, and trees.

"Its all gone," Reg gasped.

Unwilling to watch the carnage pour into the rapidly growing river, Deanna closed her eyes and bent over at the waist to catch her breath.

"Commander...Lieutenant, are you okay?" it was Ensign Camphrey's voice. The young female ensign placed a hand on the counselor's shoulder then gripped it tightly as the severity of the situation became known.

"Oh, God..." she whispered.

Deanna straightened up and flipped her wet hair back from face and when her eyes focused onced again through the wetness, she was staring face to chest with a very bruised and battered former Starfleet Commander.

She tried to remain calm, even as all the pain and hopelessness that radiated from the man who stood in front of her caused her knees to buckle. 
Torn between her officer's duty of responsibilty and wanting desperately to embrace him; to take away the despair he felt, Deanna remained where she stood and withstood the full force of the myriad of emotions he spewed.

Will stagggered when he took a step and caught his balance against a tree before his knee that he knew was swollen, gave out completely. 
After fending off the drunks, he had been able to revive Geordi and Ensign Munoz minutes before the mudslide began.
And in the attempt to outrun the disaster, his footing gave way when he stepped on wet rocks and fell almost the entire way back down. And if it weren't for a large tree stopping his descent, he would fallen in the black, log-filled, rushing river.

"Will?" Deanna was by his side. "I think you need to lay down," she said softly not wanting anyone else to know exactly how much he was hurt. Physically or mentally.

He shrugged off her hand that she'd placed on his shoulder, wincing from the pain that the little movement caused. "The medical kit?" he asked, still staring at the place where all their technology once rested.

For him to ask about medical supplies meant he was in far worse shape than she thought.

"Gone," she breathed.

He took a shallow breath and closed his eyes. "The monitor slipped out of my hand when I fell," he said, trying to get control over his emotions. "We have nothing...now."

Deanna felt his disappointment in himself for allowing such a mistake. "Will, we're all still together, and we will all learn...and adjust. It will just take time-"

"Time?" he said sarcasticly and shook his head. "Take a look around, Deanna. Time has just kicked my ass!"

He pivoted around on one leg to look at her and when she regarded him mutely, studying him with those damn eyes that pierced to his very soul, he knew she was waiting to take what ever else he was going to lash out.

"I'm sorry," he said humbly and broke their gaze. "You don't deserve this."

Deanna glanced back over her shoulder and made sure the others were making their way back to the tents before she gripped his arm. "You're hurt badly, Will. You need to lie down."

She wrapped her arm around his torso only to feel him flintch back in pain.

"My ribs are bruised...if not broken."

She readjusted her grip and tried to brace for the weight he was about to place on her. "Geordi?" she asked, suddenly remembering again why it was he went up the mountain in the first place.

"He'll have a headache for a while, but he'll live. Same with Munoz."

By the time the hobbled their way back to the rest of the crew, they'd reassembled the tents in a thicker part of the forest.

"Lie down," she eased him to the ground inside one of the environmentally safe huts and helped remove his wet garments, tossing them to the side with a loud splat.

Taking a quick assessment of his injuries she noted the purple mottling on his left side, various other scrapes and bruises, and his swollen left knee. "I'll see what I can do about getting some help."

"Deanna, I don't have to remind you about our orders..."

"No, Imzadi, you don't." She placed a gentle finger on his cut lip. "Try and get some sleep. I'll be back soon."

She tossed another blanket over his shivering body and fought the urge to crawl inside with him.

"Famous last words," he mumbled just before his exhausted body succombed to the needful sleep.


Riker rustled in his sleep and kicked off the top blankets when he felt his skin slick with sweat.

His body ached in places he'd forgotten existed when he tried to sit up. "Shit," he groaned in agony.

Raking his nails across his scruffy beard, he found the strength to pull himself toward the door to look out. Delightfully, he saw the sunlight cascading through the trees and felt the warm, muggy, humid air. 

"From one extreme to the other," he grumbled and looked around for his clothes.

After a brief, yet exhaustive search through the small tent, he poked his head back out when he couldn't find them. "Deanna?" he called, then listened for a response. When his question came back answered by the chirping birds overhead, he called again, "Hello? Anyone out there?"

Will caught a faint whiff of fire in the distance and presumed everyone was probably gathered around that. Wrapping a blanket around his waist, he lumbered to his feet in groans of pain and staggered outside.



"...well I'm glad you all were safe. I guess we picked the right side of the mountain to settle on, huh?" Lily Sloan shrugged as she spoke to Deanna Troi.

Troi, Sloan and the other women of the group sat on logs just outside the roaring fire, draped from view by clothes drying on the nearby branches.

All, except Sloan of course, had been covered at one time by blankets but because of the warm air and the heat of the fire, they now sat in their undergarments relaxing and enjoying each others company for the first time.

"As for extra clothing, I'll see what I...can...gather...up," Lily said slowly,  distracted by something or someone she saw through the hanging clothes.

Deanna turned around and parted two pair of pants just in time to see Will, wearing his own blanket, limping his way toward them.

"He certainly doesn't look so terrible," Sloan smiled appreciatively as the near-naked Commander approached.

Deanna frowned at the earthling and at the immediate response she sensed in all the women of the group. Despite their efforts to cover themselves, they made it quite clear, to an empath anyway, they were more than anxious to see him as well.

"Counselor Troi?" Riker called and stopped his progress when he spotted clothing too small for men to wear, dangling from the nearby branches.

Deanna gripped the blanket around her torso and stood.

"Commander," she said, and slipped out from behind a shirt.

Frustrated by the amount of pain radiating from his knee, he slid down along a trunk of a tree to wait.

"Should have told me you were starting a nudist colony," he smiled as she approached, followed closely by Lily.

"Your clothes are washed and drying...thank you very much," Deanna said proudly.

"I understand you've had quite a night?" Lily kneeled down next to him.

"Does this place always get this much rain?"

"Only in the springtime," she answered and pulled away the blanket from his knee. "Does this hurt?" she felt him jerk back as she applied pressure around the joint.

"A little," he hissed.

Lily delved deep into a pocket and pulled out three tiny chalky tablets. "Here, take these."

Riker held the small items in his palm. "What is this?"

Lily looked between Riker and Troi. "You guys don't take pills in the twenty-fourth century?" After the blank stare she received from them both, she added, "Its aspirin, and it will hopefull take away some of the pain before I aspirate."

"Aspirate?' Will frowned. "Surely your not going to do surgery on my knee, are you?"

Lily chuckled. "A big strong man like yourself, isn't scared of a little needle now, are you?"

"I thought you were an engineer?" Deanna noted and immediately sensed Will's hesitation .

"I am. But when you're stranded hundreds of miles away from the nearest hospital, you tend to learn a few things here and there."

The small woman looked at the knee again. "I'm going to aspirate off some of the fluid then tape it up. I think its only a sprain so you should be good to go in a few days."

"Swell," Riker sighed, feeling not quite as confident as his make-shift doctor. And for the first time ever, wished for a hypospray.




Filling yet another bucket from the cold, mountain artesian spring, Deanna dipped in a rag she'd been given and soaked it with the frigid water.

"You must be numb because you're not complaining anymore," she said as she applied the cold wet cloth to Will Riker's knee. "Can you feel any more pain?"

"No. But ask me again after she sticks that needle into my joint," he joked, trying to hide his apprehension.

The dark skinned woman turned from a table where she'd been preparing the minor surgical instruments and held up the syringe. "You can't tell me that a big strong fellow like yourself is scared of this little thing, are you?"

He nodded his head slowly as he eyed the elongated 'spear'.

"I promise to be gentle," Lily said. "But you will feel a pinch then some pressure."

"You sure you know what your doing?" Will asked nervously.

"You'll know shortly if I don't. Now hold still," she placed a hand just above the joint and with the skill of a surgeon, easily pierced the skin next to the patella.

Light amber colored fluid quickly filled the syringe and she pulled out to aspirate from the other side.

"The fluid doen't look too bloody. So, I'd feel safe to say you haven't ripped any ligaments." Using gentle movements, she tenderly pressed around the knee, feeling for more soft spots.

Deanna stood back away from the crude imitation of a surgical table and watched Will's reaction, waiting for his pain to invade her thoughts, preparing to brace herself from the full force of the impact if need be. But when she sensed nothing but affection and admiration directed toward to the woman either hardly knew, she found herself drawing deeper into his emotions

Unable to discern if his feelings stemmed from everything this woman had endured the last few days or if it was a genuine attraction to the lady, it made Deanna slightly unnerved.

Lily Sloan was a product of her time. A bold yet compassionate woman who had conquered the Captain's eyre at one point, saving the crew when he, Will Riker, hadn't been able to.
She wasn't a lusty blonde like some of his previous women , but her brash courage was enough to earn Will's affection in terms of a friend, not so much like with Soren, though that affection had taken another path after some time.
She was confident and strong and in another lifetime, might have made men swoon. Riker understood perfectly, why Cochrane found it so necessary for her to be around.
Another pinch brought him back to the present to see the look in Deanna's face, tracing it's path to the woman he had just been thinking about.

Purging the viscous fluid into a separate container, Lily set the syringe downand met his gaze. "Feel any better?"

Knowing enough to not try and bend the joint just yet, Will gently rubbed the area, glad to be free from the pressure. "Yeah, it does," he said, sounding surprised.

"Good. Now I'm going to wrap it up to try and immobilize it as much as possible." She easily lifted his leg up and placed a box under his foot and began to wrap the knee in a sort of elastic tape.

"I figured you'd be in San Francisco with Cochrane," Will asked, trying to ignore the slight pain when she adjusted the wrap tighter..

Lily ripped the end of the tape and allowed herself a deep, thoughtful sigh. "Answer me this Riker...do you recall ever seeing my name in any of your history books?"

Giving Deanna a quick look, he suddenly felt ashamed for bringing it up. "No," he answered.

"Then I guess that would explain why I'm here." She turned away sharpley leaving Riker to believe he'd hurt her feelings.

"Look...Lily, I didn't-"

"Don't apologize," she said, and raised up a hand. "For some reason, I always knew in the back of my mind that he'd take off without me someday." And laughed sarcasticly. "I just didn't realize it'd be literal, though."

"I suppose, in a way, that is our fault," Deanna stepped forward. "With all the information given to him about his future-"

"He saw no need to take me with," Lily gave Deanna an understanding, yet saddened look. "Just call me Paul Allen."

"Who?" Both Deanna and Will asked in unison.

Lily shook her head. "Nevermind."

Removing another roll of gauze from a drawer, she held it up. "Time to wrap your ribs." She gave him a playful slap on the shoulder. "And don't worry, this won't rip off your hair like the other stuff  I used will." She pointed at his leg.

Will cringed as he looked at his leg, wrapped from mid thigh to mid calf in a thick white tape. "Swell," he breathed and heard Deanna chuckle in the background.


Will tried to get down off the table himself and nearly fell over due to the lack of range of motion from his bandages.

"You can breathe, can't you?" There was a lightness to her tone when she came to his aid.

"Just don't elbow me if I start to turn blue."

Deanna handed him a cane made from a piece of steel they'd found and reached around his waist to help him balance.

"You need to keep him off that knee as much as possible," Lily instructed and watched the Betazoid roll her eyes. "Is there anything else I could do for you?"

 Will scratched at his beard and mumbled something about a shave at the exact time Deanna wished for a hot shower. 

Lily smiled. "Would you believe me if I told you I could arrange for both?"

Deanna nearly dropped Will. "Really?"

"The silo where the Pheonix is kept has one working shower. Complete with hot water! Well, enough for a short one anyway." She scruntched up her nose and whispered, "But thats our own little secret."

"Absolutely!" Deanna was amazed that they would have such a thing.

"And if you'd like, Commander, I'd be happy to trim your beard for you as well."

"You do that too?" Will smiled.

"After my brother was injured in the war, I was the only one left to take care of him." She shrugged. "Like I said, you learn quick when you have to."

Once again, Deanna immediately sensed Will's pleasure when he heard her offer and her arm slowly, though very intentionally, slipped from his side.

"You've been such a help, Lily, I hate to impose any further..."

"Nonsense. Besides, that will give me a good excuse to keep him off his feet a little longer." Lily began to pull Riker back toward a cot in the corner.

Deanna tried to smile but her top lip that pulled upwards into a scowl forbid it. "Great. Just great," she said and headed toward the silo alone.



 As nervous as he was about Lily Sloane poking around his knee with a needle, Will Riker was oddly quite cool when she came at him with a straight razor.

"Lean your head back," she instructed and palmed a bar of soap in her free hand.

"Exactly how long has it been since you've done this?"

Lily cast her head back and thought for a moment. "Probably been about three years now, I guess." She smiled down at him. "But its like riding a bike."

Will found her smile contagious and he grinned as she applied the bubbly soap to his cheeks. "Is your brother still alive?" he asked .

"No. The radiation finally got to him just before we found the clean air up here."

Riker had read plenty of history books, as well as horror novels about what the survivors went through immediately following the bombing. Those killed instantly were the lucky ones while those that were left struggled against disease and famine.

"This place was a blessing," he heard her say as he felt the first swipe of the sharp blade against his skin. "Zef and I hit it off right away," she quickly cleared her throat and amended with a bitter tone, "yep, he suckered me right into his plan."

"He must be coming back. I'm sure there will be other scientists wanting to take a look at the Pheonix," Will tried to offer some hope.

"Oh, I'm sure he'll bring his financiers to take a look. The Indonesians that backed this whole plan will definitely want to see their investment."

At the mere sound of the country that financed everything for Cochrane, Riker felt his stomach grow nauseous as he thought of how close Bev and the others were to that very country and yet no way of contacting her. So close, yet so far...

Lily placed a hand on his forehead and gently pushed his head back so that she had access to his neck. A few swipes later, she flicked the blade clean and grinned. "All done."

Riker took a towel she'd offered and wiped his face clean. "Feels good. Thanks."

The smallish woman pulled up a stool next to the cot and sat. "Tell me something, Riker? How exactly did you guys travel through time?"

Time travel? He couldn't even think of where to begin. Basicly because he didn't entirely understand it himself.

"Or, rather," she frowned and reformed the question, "how exactly would you be getting back to your own time, providing you still had your ship?"

Riker sighed. "We would have to reconfigure the warp field to match the chronometric readings that the Borg used and follow that back through the temporal vortex."

The look on her face was exactly as he would have predicted. "Its complicated," he acknowledged. "The computers do a lot of the work for us."

Lily pursed her lips together and let loose a long exhale. "But, would it be possible by using a ship like the Pheonix?"

For the first time since he found out the Enterprise was scattered about the atmosphere in minute particles did Will Riker feel any sort of hope. "Possibly," he said. "But we can't use the Pheonix-"

"Screw the Pheonix!" Lily exclaimed and waved her hand through the air. "I'm talking about building another ship!"

Riker considered her suggestion but not before a hundred reasons why it wouldn't work flashed through his mind. "Money," he said simply, knowing it was the biggest obstacle that they would face. "We don't have any."

"If a drunk like Cochrane found investors, then surely we-"

"Can't!" Riker shook his head. "We have nothing to offer them in return, Lily. I can't just take their money and run!"

Lily stood abruptly and kicked the stool away in frustration. "Then stay here. I don't give a shit," she muttered as she headed for the door, walking slowly in hopes that he'd ask her to stay.


With her back to him, she allowed a quick smile to grace her face before she replaced it with the frown she was wearing earlier. "What?" she asked gruffly.

"Do you think there are any buyers for antique military equipment?"


Rather than putting back on the grimy clothes she'd been wearing for the last three days, Deanna found a fairly clean jump suit in a locker near the shower and yanked it on. Cuffing the legs and arms of the overly large suit, she pulled on her boots and peeked in a broken mirror that hung near the door.

Frowning at the exhausted image that peered back, she ran her fingers through her wet hair in a last ditch effort to control the tangles and walked out, feeling just slightly better than she did before.

Walking past the villagers without garnishing even an extra glance, Deanna came upon the path that would take her back to the tents but she stopped and looked back toward the infirmary where she assumed Riker still lay.

It was quite clear that he was left in the capable hands of Lily Sloane and would undoubtedly be safe until he could walk back on his own. But what exactly those hands of hers would be doing to him at the moment kept her from stepping foot onto that path. With slightly more hesitation than determination, she reversed direction and headed back toward the small building at the edge of the village.



A scant amount of sunlight slipped between the closed shutters of the infirmary but was enough for Deanna to see Riker's sleeping body propted up on the same cot where she'd left him.

Gathering up the thin shirt he'd worn here, she shook it out and began to fold it when she heard a low, grumbly voice.

"Have a nice shower?"

Without turning to look at him, she answered with a simple, "Mmhmm." Deanna then flipped out his pants and snapped them with quick jerk. "Have a nice shave?" she asked, showing a little more annoyance than she might have preferred.


His answer certainly sounded a lot more satisfying than hers.

She couldn't hold back any longer. With a slightly wry grin that she was almost certain he couldn't see, she asked, "and I suppose she offered you a bed bath, too?"

Riker smirked and hoped she was in as a playful mood as he thought.  "How'd you know?" He said as he eyed the blue uniform that donned her body, imagining what lay underneath the thin material.

She turned quickly to glare at him as he continued, "but I told her I wanted it from my nurse, not my doctor."

"Liar," she grinned.

"Damn those empathic skills." He reached for her arm and pulled her toward him, sitting her down on the edge of his cot. "We might have a chance to get home, Deanna," he announced full of enthusiasm, searching her eyes for an equal response.


"Lily has offered to help us build another ship!" When her gaze dropped, he lifted her chin up so that she looked at him again. "Whats wrong?"

She offered a weak smile and gripped his hands. "I'm sorry, Will." Forcing away the anxiety and hesitation, she drew her lips back into a bigger grin. "I think thats great."

"And thats not even the best part," he beamed.

"What could be better than going home?"

Had he felt any better, he might have answered with an off-handed remark, but instead he just shrugged and said, "well, okay...maybe not better than going home. But better than being here."

She threw her arms up and let them fall back into her lap. "I give. What?"

"Lily can get us to Gravette Island!"

"How?" Her distrust of Lily Sloane was becoming more evident. "And why didn't she tell us sooner?"

"I don't know," he said, trying to keep his eyes from following the contours of her slim neck downward to the exposed skin of her upper chest. He finally broke away when he realized she seemed distant and unwilling to share the same enthusiasm.

"You don't like her, do you?" he asked softly. 

With a gentle sigh, Deanna felt almost guilty about voicing her concerns."Its not like I'm not grateful for what she's done..." She leisurely caressed his side, acknowledging the bandage covering his bruised ribs. 

"...but she's driven by self-motivation, Will. Almost to the point that it seems devious to me."

"But if it wasn't for that self-motivation, she'd be dead, right along with the majority of the population!" The tone in his voice and the way he seemed to want to defend Lily surprised even himself. A little more gently, he added, "I do value your opinion, Deanna, and I think you know that?"

After he saw her give a faint nod of her head, he continued, "but I'm willing to take this chance to get back to our time. We don't belong here, Imzadi."

She felt his strong arms pull her body forward to the point where her head rested against his chest and for the moment was perfectly content to lay there and listen to the soothing rhythmic beating of his heart.




Carrying the thin black case in a protective embrace within his muscular arms, Geordi LaForge found his way to the edge of the village and to a small building he'd been told was the 'hospital'.

After opening the door, he allowed his eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness before he caught site of two figures sleeping peacefully in the back on a small cot. And not surprising at all to the engineer, was the way the larger figure held his bed partner in such a loving yet protectful embrace.

If it was for any other trivial reason, Geordi wouldn't have had the heart to wake them, but given the circumstance, he figured they would quickly forgive.

Opening the case to reveal the screen, he punched in a few buttons and held it in direct view of Riker.

"William Thomas Riker! Who'd have guessed you would be the the first one to discover the practice of ancient medicine!"

Riker's eyes shot open, as did Deanna's. A moment later, he smiled at the red-head's picture before him.

"Next time, Riker...keep two hands on me at all times!"



Pulling open one of the few duffle bags that somehow managed to survive the mudslide, Riker yanked out the last remaining PADD and with a long, burdensome sigh, began his log entry:

Acting Captain's Personal Log...
After a thorough search of the banks of the receding river,
I have concluded that all technology belonging to our 24th century
lost. We have only this PADD and the communication
monitor left. I only hope that this will be enough to help
get the crew to Gravette Island where we will attempt to
build another ship similar to the Pheonix. The near proximity of
Indonesia, Australia, and other existing governments will
aid in financial and material needs.
Lily Sloane has offered to take us to house about thirty kilometers from
the village where we will meet two brothers whom, she says, will
be willing and able to help us out on our journey.
We are to hike down the mountain in the morning and try to hook up
with a transport vehicle along the highway.

The crew is weeried and frustrated but I feel they still
have the stamina and determination to make this work.
I'd like to say that I share in their optimism however I
can not...at least not yet.

Riker rubbed his eyes and after tapping the off button, tossed the PADD to the side of the tent. It was late and they had a long hike ahead of them in the morning. For the first time in a few days, he was able to bend his knee and he curled onto his side into his favorite sleeping position.

After a brief time of excruciating pain earlier in the day, Lily removed the tape from his knee--along with a great amount of hair--just as promised. From about mid-thigh down to about mid-calf, his leg was as bald as a Betazoid's. The redness and swelling at the joint had gone down considerably and it looked almost normal, save for the faint purplish mottling that still remained.
Thankfully, his chest did not suffer the same punishment and managed to maintain most of its hair.

Hearing the door to the tent open, he glanced up into the darkness to see Deanna's slim form entering and gave her a warm, slightly mischievous smile.

"Hi," he said and began to scoot over in his over sized bag, patting the now unoccupied space.

Deanna's features warmed at the gesture and was able to give him a fleeting smile back just before she was pushed to the side by Reg Barclay and Geordi.

"Sorry Captain, I hope we didn't wake you," Geordi said as he layed out his bag. "Everythings done for the night."

Will's shoulders slumped and he moved his entire bag over to the side to allow space for the others to sleep. "Wonderful," he tried to hide the frustration from his voice.

Before Reg could unroll his own bag, Deanna quickly staked out her territory next to Will and unfolded her own bag before the engineer could usurp that particular spot.

Reg never gave it a thought and layed lengthwise near the door. Moments later his soft snores, in combination with Geordi's, filled the small tent.

Propping herself up on one elbow, Deanna felt Will's hand snake around her neck and pull her to him. "I think I'm getting used to having you in my arms at night," he whispered and kissed the top of her head.

Deanna ran a hand down the top of the material that separated their bodies and allowed it to rest on his stomach, dangerously close to his loins. "Me too," she answered softly. "Will you be all right tomorrow?" she asked, knowing his body wasn't quite back to one hundred percent.

"I'll be fine."

She sensed a bit of hesitation in his answer but knew when the time came, Will Riker would do whatever was called upon him to do, despite the objections from his body.

"You always are, Imzadi...you always are," her voice drifted off, along with the rest of her body into a much needed rest.


"Don't worry, Riker! Not much farther to go now!" Lily Sloane called back over her shoulder.

Using Geordi as a crutch, Will felt the engineer's grip around his waist tighten as they came to a steep drop along the mountain side.

"Let me go, Geordi. I'm gonna have to go this alone," Riker eyed the path the rest of the crew was taking. "No need for you to fall as well." He sat down at the edge and began to slide, catching rocks and tree trunks along the way to help slow his descent.

Already at the bottom of the cliff, Deanna turned around to watch Will's descent and held her breath. Knowing it was his pure athleticism that kept him from tumbling head over feet, she felt his confidence as he made his way to the bottom. Once there, she walked up to him and swiped the dirt and mud from his butt.

"Not bad for a lame horse," she smiled.

Riker opened his mouth to remark about just how lame he actually was when he felt his body being pulled away.

"Quick! There's a truck coming!"

It was Lily and she seemed almost frantic as she pulled him through some bushes and onto the shoulder of a road. "See?" she said pointing down the highway at the old troop transport vehicle coming their way. Albeit still a fair distance away.

A few minutes later, the army-green colored truck slowed and pulled to the side. "Need a ride?" the driver asked.

"The Brussau Ranch," Lily had climbed onto the step leading to the cab. "There's about fifteen of us." She gestured back over her shoulder at the rather pathetic band of hitchhikers behind her. "We can pay you once we reach the ranch."

The driver scratched his thick beard before nodding. "All right," he agreed and reached over to open the passenger door. "Two can ride in here, the rest will have to hop in the back."

Deanna caught a glimpse of the driver and immediately felt his compassion and willingness to help the strangers. "Thank you very much!" she heard Lily tell him. "Everyone in back! Riker, you're up here with me!"

Will glanced at Lily then to Deanna.

"Go ahead," the empath frowned slightly. "I'll see you at the ranch."

Will hesitated a moment before he saw Lily standing by his side again. "I want to look at your knee."

She lied, Deanna thought. And she was certain now it was jealousy she sensed earlier when she was caught swiping the dirt from Will's rear.
Taking a step toward the back of the truck, she took one last look at Will as he climbed in the cab only to see the glare of the dark-skinned woman boring a hole directly into her.

Deanna stood there for moment completely aghast by what she sensed. Not entirely sure if the reason for such an indignant look was caused by actual jealousy over her relationship with Will or if there was an underlying intent that had yet to surface, Deanna tried to shrug it off and hope it was neither. Afterall, it wasn't like Lily Sloane would have been the first person she'd ran across that felt intimidated by the empath.

"You coming, Counselor?" Geordi reached out from the back of the large troop transport truck to offer her a hand up.

With a slight shake of her head, she grabbed the proffered hand. "Thanks," she said and pulled herself into the vehicle.


"So what is it that these men do?" Will adjusted his position again, trying to and find a comfortable position in the cab but it seemed as though his legs kept tangling with Lily's.

"They sell solar energy. Back before the war, it was a cattle ranch that was soley ran by harnessed solar and wind energy." She shifted slightly and more or less seemed to plant herself on Will's lap.

"And the sons," she continued, "took over after their parents death. Now, since the dust clouds have all settled, they supply energy to the nearby towns. Zef and I got to know them quite well."

"And what makes you think they're going to help us?"

"Because they owe me a favor or two. And..." she paused.

"And, what?"

"It won't be long before they'll be needing more solar cells. And the only place to find them now is-"





Standing on the clean, white painted porch of the huge ranch house, Deanna felt anxious and totally out of place. Normally accumstomed to the finer things in life, she suddenly like a vagabond in her muddied clothes and dirty boots. In a desperate attempt to make herself more presentable, she franticly pulled her fingers through her hair and wiped away the dust from her face all the while garnishing an amused look from Riker.

"You look fine," he leaned over and whispered. "I think they're going to understand anyway."

With a frustrated sigh, she cast her hands down to side just as the door opened.

"Well I'll be damned! Lily Sloane!" The young man who stood just inside the house threw the door wide open and gathered up the small woman in his arms. "How the hell are you?"

Lily graciously hugged him in return and grunted out "Fine, Nate. I'm fine."

Once she was back on her own feet, Lily stepped aside and grabbed ahold of WIll's arm, holding it to her closely. "Nathan Brussau, I'd like you to meet some friends, Will Riker and Deanna-" she stopped and suddenly realized she did not the know the woman's full name.

Deanna saw Lily's hold on Riker and barely caught her tongue before any expletives exploded out. Shoving her anger to the side for a moment, she, in a true dignified and eloquent manner, stepped forward and extended her hand. "Troi. Deanna Troi. Nice to meet you Mr. Brussau."

"You may call me Nate," he said, still staring Deanna. Taking her hand in his, he politely shook it but not before spotting the full entourage standing in the driveway. "I see you brought a lot of friends!"

Lily nodded. "I'm sure you've heard of Zef's success by now?"

"Sure! Who hasn't? Well, I mean, anyone able to get the news has definitely heard!"

"Well," Lily swiped her arm on the air, gesturing to everyone, "these are the people that truly made it happen!"

"Then congratulations are in order. Please, everyone," he called out, "come in inside. I'm sure you all are hungry and thirsty."

Will nodded to the group and everyone quickly filled into the foyer.

Taking a quick peak about the entryway, Deanna imagined what a beautiful house this must have been before the war. Not that it wasn't now, but the effects of the war and probable quakes left their toll in the walls and infrastructure. It looked like there had been attempts at fixing the holes and cracks but overtime, the scars had returned.

"Well I must say..." Nate ushered everyone into the large kitchen, "that you all came at the most appropriate time."

"Way is that?" Lily asked.

"We've been having problems with some of the energy repacitor storers. They don't seem to want to work simultaneously and we're having bad leaks right now.""

Will looked to Geordi and the former chief engineer stepped forward. "We'd be happy to take a look for you."

Nate looked very grateful. "Nicholas, my younger brother, usually handles all the technical stuff but he's away right now and won't be home for another couple of days."

Pulling out several glasses from the cabinet, Nate offered them to the crew to fill with water. "I'm sorry, there's not much else I can offer you now, " he said. "The wine cellar was destroyed a few years back."

"The water is very generous of you, Nathan. Thank you," Deanna said as she accepted her glass.

Just then, a little girl rushed into the kitchen and hid between Nathan's legs sneaking a peek at the guests from between them.

"Shay, can you say hello to everyone?" Nate tried to coax his daughter out of hiding.

The girl hid her face in his thigh and squeezed tightly. "She's a little shy. We don't get to meet too many people anymore," her father explained.

Deanna stooped down until she was at eye level witht the tiny blonde headed girl. "Hello, Shay. My name is Deanna. My, what beautiful hair you have! Can you tell me how old you are?"

The girl slowly uncurled four of her fingers from her tight fist.

"Four? Well, your practicly a grown up! Would you like to show me some of your toys?"

The girls face immediately lit up and a smile grew from ear to ear while finally nodding her head. Grabbing Deanna's hand, Shay let out a squeel as she led the counselor out of the room in a dead run.

Watching his daughter depart, Nate sighed gently. "Its been a while since she's had anyone to play with."

"You and your brother run all this yourselves?" Geordi asked.

"Sometimes. Once in a while we'll get visitors passing through who will work for a few weeks then take off again." He shrugged. "People are still too afraid to be in such a highly targeted area such as this. They hang around just long enough for a few paychecks--then split."
Taking a seat at one of the kitchen's barstools, he glanced at the group. "We have plenty of work for everyone, if you'd like to stay? The guest house hasn't been used in a year!" he sounded hopeful.

"Actually, Nate," Lily sat next to him and found it hard to come up with a good explanation for what she was about to ask him. Luckily for her, Will must have sensed her hesitation and jumped in.

"We'd love to help you, Mr. Brussau. But you see, we all are trying to get to Australia. Well, an island not too far off the coast to be specific."


"We have friends there that are working on another project," Will added truthfully. "But no way of getting there."

"And I suppose Lily mentioned that we have a boat...still in working condition?"

"Sort of..." Lily smiled. "I thought that it would be a good chance for you to purchase some more of the solar cells that I happen to know you will desperately be needing soon."

Nate chuckled and shook his head. "And you wonder why I tried to recruit you for my project. But noooo, Zefram Cochrane had to get to you first!" He walked around to stand next to Riker and slapped him on the shoulder. "You have a smart lady here. You're a lucky man."

Riker's eyed grew wide at the assumption that he and Lily were...well, were together. But now was not the time or place to set him straight.

"Listen, Nate..." Lily looked at the overfatigued crew. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to suggest you give these ladies and gentleman a day to recoup. We've all been through a lot the last couple of days?"

"Sure. Absolutely. Let's see...we've got three empty rooms here in the main house, and the guest house can sleep fifteen. I'll let you all decide who gets what," he grinned, feeling good to be able to share his blessings with others.

"We don't want to impose, Mr. Brussau...we have tents and food-"

"Nonsense, Riker! I won't allow you to sleep anywhere else!" He looked around for his daughter and Deanna. "But might I suggest that the Ms. Troi take the room next to Shay's. She seems quite taken with her."

"I think that can be arranged," Riker smiled.

"Well then," Nathan grinned, "I'll be off, while you get settled."

Nathan Brussau, the one-time stock broker turned business owner left the room.

With question or argument, Geordi took his crew of engineers and headed back out the door toward the guest house. "We'll begin in the morning then, Cap- er, Will?" Geordi covered up the potentially alarming official rank designation.

"Sure," Riker tried to ignore the fact that he and Lily were left alone. "In the morning," he said and looked about the large room, avoiding eye contact at all costs.

"Come on," she pulled his arm, "I'll show you the other rooms."

Riker gently pulled his arm back without letting his irritation show and followed the woman past a another large room with a fireplace and down a long hall.

She opened the first of several doors that lined the hall. "I'm assuming Nicholas still has his same room, so that leaves this one...and the last one down on the left." She pointed. "Each room has its own bath."

"He must really owe you some favors if he's letting all us strangers in his house?" Riker had a thousand questions running through his mind but opted for just this one. For the moment anyway.

"He and I go way back. Let's just say that he'd be dead if it wasn't for me," her voice dropped to a low whisper. "Its not something he likes to discuss."

Riker nodded and then stepped forward into the room. "This will do nicely. Thank you, Lily."

"Oh my! I still haven't looked your knee!" She said quickly and followed him in.

Riker turned and faced her, stopping her progression. "Really, it feels fine. Maybe in the morning?"

She retreated back to the doorway stopping to look at him. "Morning then," she said smiling and closed the door behind her only to see the counselor leaning against the wall in the entrance to her room.

"I think you and I need to talk."


Ch. 13

Looking straight ahead to her destination, Lily Sloane sountered down the hallway toward the counselor and tried to mask her nervous emotions with a sweet innocent smile. She had no idea of the Betazoid's talents.

"Is there a problem?" she asked.

Deanna took a deep breath and tried to figure out where to even begin. Which truly was quite difficult because she didn't know where exactly her relationship with Will stood at this particular moment.
She would like to have claimed him as her own, but that wasn't entirely true. So instead, she decided to try and figure out Lily's plan.

"You seem rather taken by the commander?" she said simply.

Lily erected her body up in a tense, intimidating poise and with not a hint of her previous smile remaining, said, "Let me ask again...is-there-a-problem?"

Deanna folded her arms across her body if only to restrain from slapping the arrogance out of the woman. "Not yet," she feigned her own smile and saw Lily staring poignantly at her left hand.

"Good. Because I don't exactly see any symbolism of his eternal love for you. And besides...I'd hate to see your plans to go home ruined just because I felt a little...jealous."

Bitch! Deanna's mind screamed but her voice fell silent.

And Lily's haughty smile returned. "Now then, if you'll excuse me..." she pushed her way past the empath and into the bedroom before the door slammed closed behind her.


The evening hours grew long and the more Deanna stared out the window at the mountains in the distance, the more she found herself looking up into the twilight sky, wishing desperately she could return there--to her home.
Thoughts of her mother were quickly brushed aside as she realized that by now, the Troi matriarch had probably heard about the battle...and the Federation losses and was undoubtedly in mourning right now over the death of her daughter.

Deanna felt her eyes burn with tears from the pent up frustration and sadness over the loss of her friends. Will had tried a couple of times to get her to talk about her own feelings and each time, she'd managed to defer to a different subject.
But now, as she finally managed to lay across the double bed in physical exhaustion, did she wish he were here to listen to her...to hold her...to tell her everything would be just fine.

Pulling back the slate blue comforter, she slid her legs underneath and felt the coolness of the sheets when she heard her door begin to creak open. With her mind in a whirlwind of tumultuous emotions, she was unable to discern the caller and quickly covered up her near naked body within the blankets.

"Hello?" she called out.

A large shadow appeared, back lit by the dim hall lights and stumbled forward.

"Can I help you?" she asked the intruder.

"Damn!" The man sighed and leaned his body up against the wall. "I got a stranger in my bed....and it ain't even the right sex!"

The man was obviously drunk. "I'm-I'm sorry. I was told that this room was unoccupied." Deanna pulled the blankets a little tighter around herself.

"Don't worry darlin'." He risked falling over by letting go of the wall and holding up both hands as a sign of peace. "I ain't gonna hurt-"

Another shadow stood in the doorway and thankfully looked a lot familiar.

"Is there a problem, Deanna?" The shadow's baitone voice asked.

"No. No, its fine, Will. I think this is Nate's brother."

The drunk turned around as fast as his wobbly legs could move and eyed the large man.
Standing in nothing but his brown pants, Will couldn't dismiss the lascivious look he was gathering and wished he'd taken the time to pull a shirt on.

"Nic...Nichol...Nicholas at your service," he offered a wavering hand shake and a subtle belch.

Will limped forward, favoring his bad knee, and accepted the proffered hand. "William Riker."

"Nice to meet you, William." He smiled again.

The shake lasted a tad longer than what Will would have liked and he forcefully withdrew his hand.

"Maybe we should all get back to bed," Will said, hoping Nicholas would leave.

Looking from Will to Deanna, then back to Will again, Nicholas grunted. "Just my luck. Guess I'll leave you to play white knight with the beautiful lady whilst I find my real bedroom. Unless of course...you'd care to help me?" he added suggestively.

"No thanks," Will hobbled out of the way--far out of the way-- and let Nick pass by then closed the door.

Deanna wiped the remaining wetness from her eyes and sat up slightly, still holding the blanket around her. "I don't think I'd be very good company tonight, Will." She hoped he'd understand. The last thing she wanted was to turn him away.

He smiled and cocked his head. "That's not why I'm here."

Trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his knee, he drug his body closer to the bed and sat at the foot, purposely avoiding anything she might construe as flirtation.

"I felt you crying," he tapped the side of his head, "in here."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"No. I was just laying there...thinking."

"About what?"

He grinned and shook his head. "Oh no you don't. No changing subjects again."

Deanna returned his smile. "So you caught on to my scheme, did you?"

"You can't fool me all the time, Counselor."

Then their eyes locked and in one simple, fleeting moment, she felt from him everything she ever needed to feel. Any uncertainty she had earlier regarding his love for her was cast away by his simple yet penetrating gaze.

Feeling her cheeks blush, Deanna quickly looked away. "Maybe its best that we continue this in the morning."

"You are good, Ms. Troi. But try again."

With a long, drawn out sigh, she gave in. "Its just...well, I think that we all need a time to grieve. Up until just a few hours ago, no one had time to do anything except try and find a way to live. Now, in the midst of this oasis, I think a lot of us are coming to grips with what really happened." The tears began to fall again and this time, she didn't bother to wipe them away.

Will slid around the edge of the bed and saw her scoot over to make room for him. "You feel everyone's anguish?"

She nodded. "Their's....and mine."

"Come here." Will wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him, very mindful of her modesty and kept the blanket between them. This wasn't the time, he thought. It never is...

He continued to hold her, though at an awkward position for his knee, and tried to offer comfort.

"Maybe once we reach the island, when we're all together, we can have a ceremony," Will suggested.

Deanna nodded and pushed away from the warmth of his chest. "I think that would help." She saw him cringe as he readjusted his position. "You hurt your knee again?!"

"I hit the the damn thing on a chair when I got out of bed. I think I just bruised it, is all. I'll have Lily look at it in the morning."

The moment he said the woman's name, he saw Deanna's whole posture tense.

"Or not," he ammended quickly and she smiled.

Laying atop the blankets next to her, Deanna nuzzled up to Will with her head on his chest. "How do you think we'll all get to the coast?' she asked, avoiding the conversation about Lily that begged to be started.

"It looked like there were transport vehicles behind one of the barns in back," he said softly. "But it might be a couple of days before we get their energy storage units back on-"

He looked down and saw that she'd fallen asleep. With a gentle kiss to the top of her head and one last soft embrace, his eyes closed as well.

~Goodnight, Imzadi~


The early morning sun shined brightly through the closed blinds, illuminating a small part of the bedroom in a beautiful orange glow.

Deanna stretched her body lengthwise and sat up. It took a moment to remember the night before and when she saw no sign of Will, she frowned. Across the room, the bathroom door was outlined with even a brighter light than what the sun could offered at this time of day and she heard water running.

Hoping it wasn't Nicholas who had returned, she pulled on her shirt and knocked softly. "Will?"

"Come in."

With a sigh of relief at the sound of his familiar voice, she cracked the door open and peeked inside.
Will, standing in front of the vanity in his tight, black Starfleet issued briefs and a face full of shaving cream, smiled.

"Good morning," he said cheerfully. "Have a nice sleep?"

She watched him rinse the razor under the steaming flow of hot water. "Yes. Very." She walked in and shut the door.

Much to his surprise.

And satisfaction.

"What...no assistance needed today?" she said sarcasticly and gestured to the razor.

"Are you offering?" He held the razor out.

"I've never shaved anyone before," she admitted.

He quickly recalled his hand. "On second thought...I don't think I want to be a guinea pig."

She brushed past him, purposely skimming his backside with her hand. "Please tell me there's hot water left?"

"Of course," said Will as he resumed his shave.

From the corner of his eye, he saw her strip off her shirt and toss it to the floor. And when he turned to get a better look, he felt her panties hit his bare feet just as her body disappeared into the stall.

"Uh-maybe I should-"

"Come here." she finished for him with utmost confidence.

"Well you know I'd never disobey an order like that?" he smirked.

Poking her head out of the stall, she smiled. "I didn't think you wo-"

There was another knock at the door.

Will froze as did Deanna. But just for a moment. "Who is it," she called out.


Grabbing Will by the arm, she pulled him into the steamy shower stall with her and silenced him with a hand over his mouth.

They were still too far away and needed her help desperately andldn't risk losing what little hope they still had over a lover's spat.

"Come in." Deanna poked her head out of the stall to see Lily. "Yes?"

"I was looking for Will. I thought that maybe-"

"Sorry. But he's not. Maybe he's outside already?"

Lily scowled and looked very unbelieving. "Whatever," she mumbled and walked out, slamming the door.

Deanna ducked back under the hot water and saw Will looking absolutely astounded.

"What?" she huffed.

"You lied!"

"I did not," she objected.

"Yes, you did!" he smirked.

She stepped into the water and let the heat penetrate her tense shoulder muscles before looking at him again. "Okay. Fine. One little lie."

Her expression lightened considerably and a very salacious grin appeared. "Let's not waste it for nothing then."

Will couldn't have agreed anymore.
Especially when her lips earnestly sealed over his.



The first time that morning they made love, it was a quick satisfaction for them both. Built upon a hunger that raged for years, neither had the willpower to slow the inevitable explosive climax. In a matter of minutes they'd reached their peak while standing beneath the rhythmic pounding of the hot water shower.

The second time that morning they made love was considerably slower and a lot more...sensual, Deanna thought. This was what Will excelled in, she remembered quickly as his body teased her as only he knew how--rendering her to a spasming heap with so much as a flick of his tongue in that certain place.

She'd cried out his name in the shower, but now as they lay on the bed--completely open to whomever should walk in again-- she forced herself to bury her face into his body in a futile attempt to quell her fervid shouts of passion.

Laying a top her body, Riker pulled back slightly to gather one last look before he entered her again.
With a burning passion that exploded through to her soul, she saw in his eyes the look of a man in love. The look of a man with such desire that he'd gladly give his life for this one moment.

She smiled.

Because with that look that seemed to ask permission for him to continue, she knew there was no turning back. There would be no going back to being just friends.

She nodded.

And he gratefully complied.


"So what do we tell Ms. Lily?" Deanna asked as she lazily drew her fingers through the hair on his chest.

"The truth," Will answered.

"But she said she'd stop helping us if she became jealous!"

Will sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "We do need her."

"I know."

"Then...let's hope I never have to set her straight."

"Can we keep this a secret?" Deanna asked with a proud smirk on her face.

Will turned to his side and slipped the comforter below her breasts. "You mean, can I keep from ogling you and touching you in public?"


It was his turn to trace a path around the softness of her breasts. "It might be the hardest thing anyone has ever asked of me....but I'll try."

"You've managed before," she smiled.

And he chuckled. "Well, that was before I had permiss-"

They heard the creak of the bedroom door open and Deanna quickly flung herself over Will, bringing the comforter up to her chin so that he wasn't visible. Hearing a sharp intake of breath, she realized quickly that her elbow was digging directly between his previously bruised ribs.
Unable to shift positions for fear of him being seen, Deanna lay motionless and waited for her visitor to enter.

"Ms. Deanna?"

"Good morning, Shay!" Deanna felt a scant amount of relief it was the little girl and not Lily again.

"Daddy told me to wake you. Breakfast is ready." She remained in the doorway, thankfully not moving in any further.

"Thank you. I will be there shortly." Deanna watched the door close before she quickly removed herself from him. "I'm sorry!"

"Ow," he gasped and clutched his side.

"Are you alright?" she nearly chuckled but his shallow breaths gave her some concern. "Can you breathe?"

He nodded and gingerly sat up. "I'll be fine," he said rubbing the afflicted area. "Just don't tell Lily!"

Will walked around the room and found his pants. "Damn," he muttered.

Deanna yanked her shirt over her head. "What?"

"I forgot...my underwear is soaking wet!"

Deanna laughed. "I'm sure Nicholas would let you borrow a pair," she said teasingly.

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," he pulled on his pants and very carefully fastened them.


Will had left the house by exiting out a back door and returned through the front, making sure Lily saw him enter.

"Morning!" he said cheerfully.

"Good morning. Have a nice walk?" Lily asked, her voice sounding slightly suspicious.


"You're just in time. Breakfast is ready," she gestured toward the dining room and he followed her in.

Deanna entered about the same time as they did and took a seat opposite Will, between Shay and Nathan.

"Fresh eggs and bread. I hope you like it!" Nate said and passed a bowl.

"This is very generous, Nathan. Its been some time since we've eaten a home cooked meal," Deanna scooped out some scrambled eggs and a piece of toast.

"I was told your co-workers found their kitchen adequate and opted to eat in the guest house."

"Really, Nathan...you're generosity is overwhelming," Will was truly grateful. "I hope we can repay you by getting the storage units back on track!"

"I hope so too," he stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth. "I understand you met my brother last night?"

Lily carefully watched Will's reaction and was disappointed when he simply shook his head.

"Yes. He seemed a bit..." Will stopped when he wasn't sure if he should inform Nathan of his brother's inebriation.

"Drunk?" Nate asked.

"Just a little," Will admitted.

"Yes, well...despite his faults, he's a tremendous worker."

"I'm sure he is," Deanna remembered Nick's large stature, thinking that he was equally as big as Will.

"Ah, speak of the devil," Nathan was looking past Lily at the person standing in the doorway. "Morning, Nick."

Nick wiped his eyes and smiled. "Morning."

Deanna sensed his embarassment for the previous night as his looked at the visitors, specifically Will.

Will met his gaze for only a moment before he looked back down at his plate.

Deanna smiled inwardly when she sensed the man's attraction to the commander.

~I see I have more competition!~ she sent to Will and when he gave her a suprised look quickly followed by one that might have burned a hole clear through her skull, did she realize he could hear her telepathicly once again.

"So, what's for breakfast?" Nick sat down next to Will who blindly passed him the bowl of eggs.

Deanna watched the younger man for a moment and had to admit how handsome he was. Confident too.
Well muscled from what she could tell, and definitely as big as Will with green eyes and a wonderful smile. He looked to be quite a catch for any woman...or man.

"Could you pass the milk, please?" Nate pointed to a container on the counter behind Will.

Will reached for the container and felt a sharp pain. Wincing, he grasped the jug and passed it along.

"Are you hurt?" Nick asked.

"Just an old injury."

Lily looked up and saw him trying to mask his pain behind his smile. "How did you re-injure yourself?"

"Its nothing really. I just strained my muscles."

Frowning, Lily looked to Deanna then back to Will. "I'll take a look after breakfast."

"So, Nicholas..." Deanna cut in. "Nathan tells us you're quite a mechanical genious?"

"Out of pure necessity, believe me, beacuse it certainly wasn't out of choice!"

"Oh? What did you do before?"

"I went into modeling straight out of high school." He looked around the room, "But as you well know, there's not much need for that now."

"Perhaps someday," Deanna smiled, knowing that there would indeed come a time when commerce would once again have the need for that particular profession.

"Would you like to see pictures of my work?" he asked eagerly.

"Sure." Deanna said and heard Nathan laugh.

"Just be warned," Nathan said.

"Why?" Deanna wondered as she saw Nathan whispering to his daughter, urging her to go play outside.

Lily smirked and was anxious to see the woman's reaction. "You'll see."

Nick returned carrying two magazines and handed them off. "Page forty-two in this one. And...the center-fold, in that one."

Will opened the magazine, took a quick look before he promptly closed it back up. Sliding it across the table back to Nick, he apologized. "No offense. But its really not my style."

"Suit yourself," Nick shrugged, dismissing it with a wistful sigh. "Although, I bet there would be plenty of people who'd love to see you strip and pose."

Will looked back to Deanna for help when he saw her staring wide-eyed and turning the magazine sideways.
He cleared his throat.

Deanna felt her cheeks blush and she quickly folded the magazine back up. "Thats...um, well its..."

Nick laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment." Looking back to Will, he smiled. "Bet you couldn't guess my trade name?"

"Ahh, you're probably right." This was terribly uncomfortable for him and yet he could hear Deanna chuckling in his mind.

"They used to call me Nick, the Exceptional D-"

"Thats enough, Nick!" Nathan jumped in laughing. "I'm sure Mr. Riker would rather be outside working on the solar cells."

Riker nearly jumped from his seat. "Yes. The Solar cells! I, uh....I'd like to start working on those!" He moved away from the table and smashed his knee again, this time into his own chair.

Cursing under his breath, he began to limp towards the door but Lily had caught him before he could escape.

"I saw you limping earlier and you just hit it again!"

"I'm fine, really!" He backed away.

"But it might be swelling again!" Pulling him by the elbow, she ushered him into another room.

Kneeling down, she started to pull his pant leg up but again he backed away.


"Then pull them down." She reached for the fasten at the top of his pants.

"No!" He said more forcefully and grabbed her hands. "If it still hurts tonight, you can look then. Right now, I just want to get outside!"



Surrounded by thousands of photovoltaic solar panels in the largest of the four fields, Will Riker stood beside his former chief engineer and watched him finish re-wire one of the collectors.
Feeling the coolness of the evening beginning to creep in with the darkness, Riker glanced around at the other engineers as they began packing up their barrowed tools to head back toward the house.

"How long is it going to take to fix the storage problem?" he asked.

Geordi frowned. "I'm guessing about four days. The glycol tubes from each panel need to be checked for leaks before we can even begin to find out why the generators are losing energy."

Riker nodded. "I'll need to talk to Beverly tonight, tell her its going to be at least a week before we head out."

"Have you talked to Nathan about how we'll all get to the coast?"

Riker glanced back over his shoulder. "By those trucks. Nick said he'd be the one to take us to Astoria where their boat is--or was, rather. They can't be certain that its even still there."

"Wonderful," Geordi grumbled.

With a smack on the man's back, Will stood. "But its better than the mountain, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess there's something to be said about running water," he laughed.

"I'm heading back to the house. You coming?" He was anxious to see Deanna again and couldn't wait to thank her properly for the early morning present.

Geordi rose to his feet. "Right behind you."

They walked a short distance in silence before Geordi gathered his courage to mention Riker's particularly pleasent mood. "If you don't mind me saying so, sir, but it seems as though you've had a huge weight lifted from your shoulders."

Riker grinned. "Is it that obvious?"

Tapping his temple, bringing notice to his occular implants, Geordi laughed. "I'm not as blind as I used to be. You've had a grin on your face all day!"

Riker felt himself swagger a bit before he stopped moving all together. "Its a fine day! Can't a man wake up in a good mood once in a while?"

"Sure." He cleared his throat. "Especially when you wake up next to a beautiful woman." Geordi took a chance by saying exactly what he thought and when Riker's face couldn't contain the exuberant expression, he knew immediately he was right.

Giving Will a token smack on the back, he too grinned. "Well let me be the first one to congratulate you."

Will placed a hand on the enigineer's shoulder. "Listen, Geordi...."

"Don't worry, Captain, I won't tell a soul." Leaning in, he whispered jokingly, "It is, Deanna, right?"

Will took a step back and glared at the shorter man as he laughed.

"I mean, I it could be Lily." Geordi watched Riker's eyebrow narrow in mock anger. "Or maybe not!"

"That woman has too much animosity." They began walking again. "Deanna feels as if there's something else she's hiding behind her motivations."

"Jealousy and resentment can be strong motivators."

"Yeah, she's not too happy with Cochrane thats for sure."

"To leave her high and dry was pretty cheap."

Will shrugged. "She has a lot too offer. Shame Cochrane can only see dollar signs in his eyes right now. Well, that and naked ladies," he laughed.

Geordi's eyebrows rose in amusement before he said somberly, "Better than the nightmares Lily's having about the Borg."


"I overheard her asking Lt. Ryan if there was any chance that any of them escaped to Earth."

Will stopped walking for a moment and considered everything that she'd probably seen on the Enterprise before she was jettisoned back to Earth. "Frightening for anybody. Let alone someone tossed into a hellish war."

Geordi moved beside Will and with a bit of hesitancy, spoke. "About the Borg, Captain...I was thinking..."


"What if some did escape? What if they made it to Earth?"

"How? Scanners only picked up a transport back to the Enterprise. Not to Earth."

Geordi sighed and nodded, but still couldn't dismiss an ill feeling he had. "Will, what if a crewman, infected only minimally by a Borg, had gotten into one of the escape pods with the crew?"

Will felt his stomach twist. "But I talked to Beverly just yesterday and everything was fine. In fact they were working on dismantling a missile!"

"But we also know that Borg nanoprobe's assimilation slows when they aren't connected with the Collective."

Will ran a hand through his already unruly hair. "Shit! Do we know how fast they can finish their assimilation?"

Geordi shook his head slowly.

"For all we know, they might have already put out a homing beacon!" Will felt all his muscles tense.

"If...this truly did happen."

"Yeah...if." Taking as long and as fast a stride as his knees would allow, Riker quickly made his way back to the house.


"Hello, Will" Beverly smiled. "Please tell me you're on your way?"

Ignoring her plea, he tried to hold back any horror from his expression as he asked, "Are all the crew accounted for?"

"Do you mean do we know where everyone is?"

"Yes. Yes, can you tell me that every crewman that escaped the Enterprise is there with you? No one has gone off to be alone?"

Beverly's confusion increased. "This is a large island, Will. Some of the civilians have tried to find homes on the other side-"

"Shit." he lowered his head.

"Will, whats wrong?"

"Did you examine everyone after you settled?"

"No, only those who were injured. Will you're scaring me. Tell me, what is wrong?"

"We've never considered the possibility," he paused for a moment, "that a crewman...a Borg crewman might have escaped along with you!"

A look of horror etched across Beverly's features. "Oh god."

"Has anyone acted out of the ordinary in anyway?"

"I-I don't recall. There are over four hundred people here! I can't be sure!" Beverly tried to calm herslef but that panic in her voice wouldn't subside. "Gods, Will, how can I be sure?"


"Her name is Penelope," the little girl held the doll tightly to her chest. "My mommy gave it to me."

"I bet your mommy loved you very much if she gave you such a beautiful dolly."

Shay nodded slowly and looked up to Deanna. "She had hair like yours."

Deanna smiled and gently ran her hand down the length of Shay's blond hair. "Would you like me to braid your hair?" she asked.

The tiny girl beamed and nodded eagerly. "Daddy doesn't do it very good."

Deanna scruntched up her nose and said, "Boys don't know how to do hair, do they?"

Shay mimmicked Deanna's scowl as best she could and shook her head. "Nuh-uh."

Unclasping the barrette that held her hair away from her face, Deanna began to weave and mold the yellow locks until she had a tight, twisty braid.

"I wish you could stay with me, Ms. Deanna."

She suddenly felt guilty for wanting to leave. "But this isn't my home."

"Daddy would let you stay."

Deanna laughed and suddenlt sensed someone else in the room with them. Turning around, she heard Shay squeel before she even caught site of who it was.


"Hello, pumpkin. My, doesn't your hair look beautiful!" Nathan was careful as he gently touched the braid.

"Deanna did it! Can she stay? Can she stay here...please?" Shay giggled into her father's neck as he tickled her side before putting back to the floor.

Glancing quickly at Deanna, he suddenly felt his cheeks grow warm in embarrassment. "Honey, she's not a stray animal. We can't just keep her here," he laughed. "But if she wanted to stay," he offered Deanna a quick wink, "then thats a whole different story!"

Shay ran back to Deanna's lap. "Told you you can stay!"

Again the guilt crept in. "But I'd really like to go home," she said honestly.

"Speaking of 'home'," Nathan sat down on the bed next to Deanna just as Shay got down and ran off through the door. "I haven't been able to pinpoint your accent. Its very unique."

Trouble. She knew enough about Earth to know that her Betazoid accent was very unique indeed and she wasn't quite sure how to answer.

"My father was European. And my mother, well...you'd just have to meet her to understand.You might say I'm just a mix-breed," at least that wasn't a complete lie.

He leaned a bit closer, capturing her gaze with his own. "And your eyes....they're simply exquisite. I've never seen eyes so dark before."

Deanna sensed where this might be going and quickly stood.

"I'm sorry," Nate apologized. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"No. Its just...well, maybe we'd better finish the dinner before they get back." She began towards the door.

"Deanna?" he called out, halting her progression and when she turned around to face him, he couldn't help but smile. "Perhaps we could go for a walk tonight, after dinner?"

His smile was invigorating and quite alluring. And terribly contagious. "Perhaps," she answered and quickly left the room.


Darkness now prevailed in the late evening hour and Deanna had yet to see Will. Unable to keep his dinner warm any longer without risking some sort of illness from it going bad, Deanna tossed the plate into what she'd heard Nathan call the refrigerator and stepped out onto the porch.

The lights of the guest house were on and she wondered if he might be there. As she stepped onto the gravel driveway, her first reaction was to glance up to the star-filled sky.
It was simply beautiful, she thought, as clear as she'd ever seen a night time sky. Sparkling like diamonds, the stars beckoned to her as if they were calling her home. WIth a gentle sigh, she pushed away the thought that there was a distinct possibility that she might never return to them.

The crisp cool air brought a shiver to her body as her gaze returned to the the guest house. She knew now with certainty that Will was there, inside, as a sense of panic overtook her.

Quickening her pace, she rapped on the door before she entered.

Seated at the large kitchen table, was Will, Geordi, and handful of the crew all looking saddened and very worried.

Will glanced up from the communications monitor that sat in front of him and took a long, hard look at her as she she stood in the doorway. He was bound and determined more than ever to get to Gravette Island, but how could he risk taking her with him now?

"What's going on?" she asked.

Will looked so dejected, making her want to take him in her arms and rock him like she just did with Shay as she put the girl to sleep. "Will?"

He looked away but finally moved from the table toward the door. "Let's go for a walk," he said and opened the door that she'd just closed.

Taking her arm gently, he ushered her back out into the cool night air.

"Has something happened to Beverly?" They stood on the much smaller porch of the guest house staring at each other.

"No." There was fear in his eyes when he continued. "Geordi thought of something today," He took a deep breath. "And its looking like he might be right."

"What?" She urged.

"One of the survivors that ended up on Gravette Island, might have been attacked by a Borg moments before he scurried into an escape pod."

Deanna's hand went to her mouth as she gasped. "And this has been confirmed?"

"Beverly and Worf took a headcount of everyone on the island. Three people were found missing." He found an old rocking chair nestled in the corner and sat with his head in his hands.

Deanna stood in front of him and tenderly lifted his chin.

"Deanna, one of the bodies was found with a broken neck...and a Borg implant in one eye."

She felt her knees buckle and he quickly pulled her onto his lap. "I'm so sorry," he whispered and kissed her head. "I'm so, so sorry."

She held him as tight as she possibly could, ignoring the fact that her nails were digging painfully into his back. "No. Please tell me they're mistaken?"

He took her arms and pushed her back slightly, glad to have his back free from her hands for the moment, and looked into her eyes. "They've confirmed it."

Sobbing, she fell back into him and he cradled her, rocking back and forth in the ancient chair.

After a few moments, she pulled back, holding herself up with her hands on his broad chest. "Will, they have no way off the island, do they?"

Again he sighed heavily. "No, Imzadi, they don't."



Riker leaned against the door frame and watched for a moment the interaction between Deanna and the little girl, marveling at how natural she was with children.

He knew it wouldn't be long before she felt him standing there so he took the oppurtunity to imagine her with her own children...their children.

Deanna felt a warmness come over her and without turning around, she knew Will was in the room.

"I think we're being watched," she whispered to Shay.

The girl looked around Deanna's body and giggled when she saw the tall man in the door. Ducking safely back to her spot on the bed, Shay threw herself into Deanna.



Crickets chirped in the grass behind them but they heard nothing except the soft sounds of each other's breathing. Seated on the rocking chair, locked in an embrace that neither wanted to move from, Will and Deanna nestled closer together as the chilly night time air seeped around them.

Deanna readjusted her position and caught a glimpse of Will's eyes: tired and worried, they lacked the sparkle that she'd grown used to seeing.

He saw her watching him and he tried to smile but the weight of the new situation prevented any such show of emotion. Instead he looked away and pulled her even closer still.

"Talk to me," she said softly. "Tell me what you're thinking."

He shuddered beneath her. "I don't know. I don't know, Deanna, what we're going to find if we even get there."

"You're frightened." She noted.

Will nodded. "I've lost too many friends already..." He tenderly caressed her cheek, holding on to this moment as long as he could. "Deanna, I don't want you to go."

"Will, I-"

He silenced her by placing a finger over her lips. "Please...hear me out?"

She nodded and he moved his hand back to her waist. "This is a wonderful place for you. I can see the way Shay has gotten to you and-"

"Don't do this," she wrapped her hands around the back of neck and gently toyed with the hair at the nape of his neck. "Will, we just found each other again, I can't just say 'the hell with it'!"

"Deanna, please....I'm going to ask a couple of others to stay behind should somethi-."


"Pardon me?"

"I said_no."

Finding it a little hard to believe she was willingly disobeying him, he took a deep breath and tried to relax. Looking back to her, her jaw was set as tight as a clam shell and her muscles felt rigid against him. This wasn't going to be a quick argument and the way her piercing eyes locked with his own with such determination, he doubted very much if it was even worth the battle.

Until he he felt her hands against his face and remembered just how much he loved her.

"I don't believe I gave you the option," he said coldly.

Her eyes widened and her hands dropped. "Are you ordering me not to go?"

He met her gaze head on if for no other reason than to emphasize his answer. "Yes."

She scooted from his lap and walked across the wooden porch, the sound of her footsteps silencing the crickets, making the moment all that more tense. Resting her hands against the railing, she looked out into the darkness of the fields.

"They're my friends too."

He barely heard her. "Excuse me?"

Crossing her arms against her chest, she turned and faced him. "I said...they are my friends too."

"Look, I know you feel-"

"Like hell you do!"

He took a few steps toward her. "I don't want to fight."

"Then tell me I'm going to help!"

Riker's shoulders dropped. "I can't." From the corner of his eye, he saw Geordi standing in the doorway a split second before the inner stormdoor thankfully closed. The rest of the crew didn't need to hear this.

Deanna faced the field again and he watched for any sign of concession on her part but her body was just as rigid as it was moments earlier.

Will walked up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist and leaned his chin on her shoulder. "I can't because I love you too much."

He thought he heard a laugh when she removed his hands from her body and slid away from him.


"You love me?" she questioned and glared at him now.


"You love me?"

Was it that hard to believe? "Yes," he repeated, clearly annoyed.

"Yet, your willing to just hand me off to some man...to some stranger to be the mother of his daughter?!"

"I don't want you to be hurt!"

"Damn you, Will Riker!" she exhaled, shaking her head. "Always taking the easy way out."

"There is nothing easy about what we're about to do!" Now he was mad. Mad because of her non-chalant attitude toward their mission and mad because deep down he knew she was right; they might need her extra hand in battle.

"I'm not talking about the mission, Will."

"Then just what in the hell are we discussing then?"

"US!" She screamed. "I'm talking about you tossing me to the side again...just because you're afraid."

"You're damn right I'm afraid. I'm afraid as hell that you'll become a Borg!"

She exhaled loudly. After another long pause, she asked him, "What happened this morning?"

"What do mean, 'what happened'? If I remember correctly, you were there."

"No, Will," she was frustrated beyond description. "I mean...what_happened? Was it nothing more than just another lay for you?" She tossed her hands out in aggravation. "Or did it have meaning?"

"You know damn well it meant something! And don't try and tell me I thought otherwise, Counselor!"

The use of her professional title sounded like an obscenity when it rumbled past his lips.

She almost laughed. "Well...I guess I stand corrected then. It truly was more than just a fuck for the great Will Riker!"

"Hey!" He moved towards her again but she stepped to the side and walked down the stairs to the gravel driveway.

He faintly heard something that vaguely resembled a Betazoid curse as she walked toward the house but he wasn't about to ask her to repeat it.

The screen door to the main house slammed shut and the last remaining light turned off.
Riker slapped his hand hard against the rail of the porch. "Damn it to hell. I don't need this."

He felt a hand on his shoulder and heard footsteps behind him. "Where are all you going?" he asked, seeing the entire engineer group heading out toward the fields with a handful of flashlights.

Geordi shrugged. "Going to work. I think we can get this done a little quicker..."

Riker pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes for a moment. "All right. Just tell me where you want me."

Geordi shook his head and pointed toward the main house. "There. I want you to go fix the problem in there, Captain."

Will glanced back to the other house and shrugged. "I don't think I can."

"I've never seen you not fix a mistake that you've personally made."

"Geordi, I did not make a mis-" He stopped what he was saying and let out a soft sarcastic chuckle. "You heard all that?"

The engineer nodded. "And just so you know, there's not a single one of us who isn't planning on going with you. We're in this together." He slapped the big man's back.
"Besides, I think we've come up with a way of finding the problem a lot sooner than planned. Hell, we might even be done by morning."

Geordi took Riker by the shoulders and faced him toward the larger house. "See you in the morning, Captain." And gave him a not-so-gentle push.


The house was dark save for a outline of a light around the door to Nathan's room.
He'd seen Lily and Nick leave earlier in the evening to get supplies and they hadn't returned yet.

He paused at the door to Deanna's room and felt stupid to knock, especially since she'd know full well he was right there. But he did anyway and was answered only by silence.

"Deanna, I know you're in there. Can I come in?"

A few seconds passed and he finally heard a muffled 'yes'.

He opened the door to the dark room to see her standing at the window, looking out at the team of flashlights heading to the largest field. "What are they doing?" She asked quietly, not turning around to see him.

Never before had he felt so awkward around her. Well, excpet for the first time he layed eyes on her naked, beautiful body.

"Geordi thinks they can correct the problem by morning." He remained near the door just in case he needed to make a hasty exit.

Her head bobbed up and down. "Look, Will, its been a long couple of days and I'm really tired so you don't mind I'd like to get to sleep." She still refused to look at him.

"Actually, I do mind."

That got her to face him.

With both fists clenched to her side, she walked to the chair in the corner and sat. "Is there nothing I do that can appease you, Commander? Oh, wait, thats Captain, now."

"Thats not fair, Deanna, and you know it."

Deanna crossed her arms to her chest. "I guess there's a lot of things that just_aren't_fair."

"Damn it Deanna, I came to apologize!"

"Well you've certainly started off with a bang!"

"Okay. Fine. Forget it. Forget I ever came." He walked to the door and opened it. "Just forget all about us," he said as the door slammed closed behind him.

With one long stride, he opened the door to his bedroom and proceeded to slam that one closed as well.
Flopping down to the bed, he pulled a pillow out from under the blanket and held it over his face and let out a long, frustrated sigh.

Not a minute later, the pillow was removed from his grasp and he was staring up into the eyes of a very annoyed Betazoid woman.

"Let me remind you, Riker, that I'm the one who didn't want to forget about us!"

He remained silent, captured by her intense gaze.

"I see this is going no where."

Deanna turned to leave when she heard his voice. Standing with her arm outstretched for the door, she asked, "What was that?"

"I said, I love you and...I'm sorry."

Her arm fell back to her side and with feet that felt like titanium blocks, she turned to look at him.

Propped on his side resting on one elbow, he repeated it again. "I'm sorry."

He went to her then and though it took only a second to cross the room, it felt like an eternity. Taking her face in his large hands, he rsaid it once more for emphasis. "I love you, Deanna Troi. And I'm sorry."

She didn't budge but he was able to her eyes slightly glistening. "Do you even know what for?"

She wasn't going to make this easy.

Taking her hand he led them to the edge of the bed and sat down, noticing that fact that she positioned herself farther away than what he would have liked.

"For being an idiot."

A faint smile graced her lips then making him feel slightly more at ease.

"And for assuming that you'd just accept what I had to say without question."

"And...? she said with a slight smirk now.

"And for ignoring the fact that you are a trained Starfleet officer...with a terriffic shot." Will heard stories about her markmanship from Worf and Alexander.


With a long sigh, he continued while moving towards her. "And for thinking I could live without you."

Despite the darkness of the room, their eyes locked on one another and he saw the pent up tears begin to fall down her soft features.

"I'm such a fool," he breathed and felt her lean into him. "Can you forgive me?"

Deanna wrapped herself around him and cherished the feel of his arms surround her. "I'm sorry too."

They fell backwards to the bed and Deanna nuzzled against him, happy to just be held for the moment.

Then the moment was over.

Raising up to her side, she began to tug at the buttons that held his shirt together. One by one, they fell open revealing the muscular expanse of his chest and she preceeded to kiss every square inch of it until she felt the muscles of his abdomen quiver.

Drawing her close, he bushed her hair aside, exposing the length of her slim neck to him.
With searing heat, he suckled the near her jawline and moved downward until her shirt prevented him from continueing.
With one quick jerk, the shirt flew across the room, followed closely by her undergarment.

A large hand slid up the length of her arm and captured a breast, pulling it toward the heat of his mouth.

Stroking his erection with her leg, Deanna whimpered when she felt him bite the tender nipple before a swirl of his tongue created an entirely different feeling.

Within minutes, they were both rendered helpless, completely lost within their desire to fullfill each other.

Will, now completely as naked as his partner, pulled himself up from between her legs and held his body over her: taunting her with all that he had to offer.

"By the way, counselor..." he panted. "You're a hell of a lot more than just a good lay." He recalled her earlier argument and wanted to make sure she knew she was wrong.

He bent down and ravaged her mouth with a deep, searing kiss.

Pushing him over to his back, Deanna smiled mischiveously. "You're not so bad yourself."

And with that, she took him in wholly, rewarding him with every ounce of pleasure she could. Offering herself as an open sacrfice to his ravenous mind.

And as their bodies merged into one, their cries of passion unknowingly filtered into the very next room where the lone occupant sat in the dark: listening to their song.



A soft white beam of light from beyond the bathroom door illuminated just a tiny portion of the bedroom, but was enough for Deanna Troi to watch Riker dress..

Sitting down to pull his boots on, he felt her scrutiny and looked up . "I'm sorry, Deanna. I need to-"

She smiled though she suspected he couldn't see it. "Will, I understand. Don't apologize. Is there anything I could do to help?" Deanna asked, hating to see all the crew except for her working at such a god-awful time of the morning.

He stood up from the chair where he sat tieing his boots and walked to her, smiling when he saw her lying there with only a scant amount of sheet covering her body. He sat at the edge and traced a finger from her jawline down her shoulder and arm.

"There's plenty I'd love for you to do," he offered a smile despite the return of his ill feelings regarding her trip to Gravette Island. "But someone needs to be here to explain to Nick that we're in a hurry to leave.."

Deanna wrapped a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down for a quick kiss. "We'll never have time for us, will we?" she exhaled.

Not satisfied with the brevity of her touch, he leaned forward and captured her mouth in an earth-shattering meld of both body and soul. "I don't know, Imzadi," he broke away and put his forehead against hers, "but for now...I plan on taking advantage of every second from here on out."

Deanna smiled. "Me too."

Trying to ignore the sybaritic pull she was having on him, his gaze lingured just a moment longer before he stood. "If we're gone for any length of time, I've told Beverly that she is to call every few hours."

Deanna's eyes lowered for a moment at the thought of what her best friend might be going through. "I'll keep the monitor nearby."

After one last quick look over his shoulder, Will quietly closed the door and left the house in search of the rest of the crew.


In the pre-dawn darkness, Will carefully dodged the solar panels scattered about the field and headed for what looked like a swarm of lighning bugs in the distance.

Riker caught up to the fast moving group of engineers quickly enough and singled out Geordi with a simple nod of his head.

"Captain!" Geordi grinned. "I see that smile has returned!"

Riker felt his face flush and dodged what would have been an embarrassing answer. "Tell me you've taken care of the problem?"

Slapping a hand on the taller man's shoulder, Geordi smiled. "Captain, we've taken care of the problem. Well, most of it anyway. We're going to have to wait until daylight to finish checking the glycol tubes."

"Wonderful news, Geordi." Glancing back to the house quickly, he smiled. "And...thanks."

Geordi shrugged. "Hey, thats what friends are for!" He picked the last of his tools from the ground. "But if you don't mind, I think we'd all like to get a bit of shuteye before daybreak?"

"No," he almost laughed. Who was he to deny them anything when they were the ones out here working while he was laying in bed with Deanna? "Get some sleep Geordi. Good job."



For the moment, the pleasant sensation of the rich aromatic coffee drowned out all the thoughts of horror Deanna was having about what they would face in the days ahead. She sensed from the entire crew the urgency and desire to help their friends.
But there was also an underlaying fear emminating from each of them.
Including herself.

Her last communication with Beverly was short and was filled with a little bit of hope when the doctor said they found all but one of the missing assimilated crewman and everyone else was accounted for. Deanna had to smile when Beverly mentioned Worf had taken over the security patrol and, at the time, was out 'hunting'. Who better to have heading up the task of security than the Klingon, Deanna thought.

Looking out the kitchen window into the orange glow of the slowly rising sun, Deanna felt a moment of satisfaction followed quickly by the return of the desparate urgency. She was certain it was Will and before she could head for the door, a shadow appeared from the hallway.

"Missed you last night." The tired voice whispered. "I hoped we might have had a chance to take that walk?" Nathan said and reached for a cup of the freshly brewed coffee.

Deanna smiled, basking in his innocence and ignorance for the moment. "Nathan, you've been such a wonderful and gracious host..." she hesitated.

"But..." he knew what was coming next.

"I'm afraid we're going to have to leave as soon as possible," Deanna saw the disappointment in his eyes immediately. "I think they might have solved the problem though!" she tried to sound cheerful.

"Good." He flopped down into one of the kitchen chairs. "Thats...great."

Deanna sat next to him. "Nathan, I'm not certain but you seem to be disappointed?" She couldn't come right out and say exactly what he was feeling so she toyed with the words.

"I am. Sort of, anyway." He looked from his hands that were nervously wrapped around the mug. "I was hoping that...well, that you..."

"Would reconsider and stay behind?" she smiled.

"How is it you know exactly what I want to say?" he laughed. "But yes, I was hoping you'd reconsider? Shay has grown so fond of you in such a short period of time."

"Shay is a wonderful little girl. You've done a wonderful job raising her," Deanna reached out and touched his hand. "And I will miss her."

"Damn," he shook his head and whispered.


"Well, I was hoping you'd say you would miss me too?" The words came out sounding like a joke but Deanna knew there was no humor behind them.

Of the two short days they had been here at the ranch, she had felt a growing infatuation directed towards her. The looks he would give, the subtle brushing against her when he'd walk past, the smiles...all the signs of a man with a crush.
Once again a sense of guilt crept in. She had been friendly with him but managed to keep a safe distance, hoping to not lead him on in any way. But the man was so gentle and kind she found it difficult to turn him down.
This house was a but a mere reflection of its owner; an oasis settled in the midst of turmoil and despair.

"I will miss you too, Nathan," she said reservedly.

This time it was he who reached for her hand. "Then perhaps is still not too late to-"

"Morning," Lily's tired voice grumbled as she entered the kitchen.

Nathan quickly pulled his hand back. "Good morning."

Shuffling her feet, Lily walked through the kitchen toward the coffee pot, tossing an icy look towards Deanna as she passed by.

"You guys must have gotten late. I usually I hear everything in this house," Nathan said as he stood to pour himself some more coffee.

Lily sipped from her mug and fixed her eyes directly on the empath. "Yeah...bad thing about these old house is that you can hear everything...that goes on."

Deanna watch the anger flash in Lily's eyes. What was the old saying...if looks could kill...

"Were you able to get all the supplies?" Nathan asked.

Lily's eyes continued to bore a hole directly through Deanna, even as she nodded her head in answer to Nate's question.

"Good," Nathan headed towards the door. "I'll meet you outside shortly."

The intense emotions assaulted Deanna's empathic senses and she found it difficult to resist the urge to squirm in her chair.

"So," Deanna began neutrally, "is Nicholas still asleep?" She asked, trying to break the unnerving silence with the first thing that popped into her head.

Lily ignored the question and blessedly turned away to face the large window. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret," she said after a moment. "Something that only my mother knew."

Deanna's eyebrows rose with increasing suspicion. Why would a woman, who hated her as much as Lily Sloane did, want to tell her anything? She took another sip of her coffee if only to hide the mistrust etched upon her face.

"I have dreams..."

Yes, we all do, Deanna thought.

"...and sometimes those dreams come true."

The Borg! She had a premonition of the Borg! Her curiosity suddenly peeked.

Lily looked over her shoulder directly at Deanna again. "Well, honey...I had another dream last night. And guess who it was about?" A haughty smile appeared and her eyes narrowed with conviction.

Deanna shook her head. "Who?"

"Loverboy_himself," she said in a mocking, seductful tone.

This time, Deanna did writhe in her chair. "I-I'm not sure who you mean?"

Proud to see nervousness in the otherwise infallible woman, Lily leaned against the counter and crossed her arms, emphasizing her own calm over the situation.

"You see...I learned a long time ago that when these dreams occur, not to push it. Let the situation unfold naturally." She began to circle the table until she stood directly behind Deanna.

Atop of whatever else Deanna was sensing from this lady, it was the sense of truth that stood out above all else.
And it was also this single sense that was scaring the hell out of her the most.

"So when the time comes, and I'm laying in his arms, just as it was in my dream," she placed her hands on the back of Deanna's chair and leaned down to whisper, "its not gonna matter one little bit how many times you fuck him now. Because I know that in the bitter end, he's gonna be with me."



Deanna sat frozen in the kitchen chair long after Lily left the room.

It was at times like this that she valued her Betazoid heritage most of all. Had she given in to her human side--the portion of her that she found most difficult to keep in control-- there was no doubt that Lily Sloane would be laying at her feet this very moment, knocked cold.

For a harsh, terrifying moment, she'd envisioned the dream, just as Lily described; she and Will in a lover's embrace. But with a shiver and a long sigh filled with relief, the thought was quickly dismissed when she sensed Will's approach.

"What's wrong?" he asked, placing his hands on her shoulders from behind.

Deanna tilted her head back against him and closed her eyes, hoping to see his lovely face when they re-opened.

She was not disappointed.

Will stared down at her for a moment before he pulled a chair up beside her. "What is it?"

She smiled. How could she ever feel such insecurity in their relationship when all she ever felt from him since they'd gotten back together was his devotion?

"You'll think I'm nuts," she frowned then.

"I think you're nuts anyway," he jibed. "I seriously doubt this will change anything."

"Thanks," she said dryly.

"Let me guess then...Lily?"

Deanna looked into his eyes. So much courage, so much confidence...so much love. It was if his eyes held the key to the universe.
Her universe. And if those eyes were the last things she was to ever see before she died, she'd die a happy woman.

She sighed again.
Those eyes also showed the worry, right now especially, for the entire world. She would not concern him anymore with such frivolty.

Deanna smiled and faced him fully. "You know...I don't give a damn anymore about Lily Sloane and what she has to say!"

Deanna stood, pushed Will around so that she could sit in his lap. "All I want, is to rid this damn planet of the Borg!" she snarled, feeling completely invigorated.

"Is that all you want?" His breath tickled her skin behind her ear when he spoke.

"I think you know the answer to that one, Imzadi."

"Yes, but I want to hear it."

Her lips brushed against his as she spoke, "I want you. I want every last ounce of...you!"

He groaned. "Is this when we're allowed to take advantage of a moment?"

"I'd say we deserve a lot more than--yeow!," she yelped when he bit into her neck.

"But it is a start?" he said with his most innocent smile.

Deanna captured his face in her hands ansd smiled warmly. "Yes. It most definitely is a start."

Will held her against him in an embrace so tight he heard her expel air from the sheer force. And when he finally released her from the massive bear hold, he said, "I woke Nicholas up and told him that we'll be wanting to leave ASAP."

"I bet he enjoyed that," Deanna said teasingly.

"What...me waking him up?" Will frowned.

"Sure. I can't imagine any other way I'd want to wake up. I sense Nick would agree."

Will dug a knuckle between her ribs and held her tight again as she tried to squirm from his lap.

"Stop!" she wheezed. "Plea-se!" she couldn't push herself away. "WILL!"

"Finished with your jokes, Miss Troi?" In one quick but sly move, his hand left her side and captured a breast.

"Yes!" she squeeled and relaxed back when he relinqished the tickling for a far more intimate caress.

Their lips brushed against each other and before they had a chance to deepen the kiss Will pulled away, albeit with a grin.

"I think I'd better stop here," he said ruefully. "Or else face Geordi's wrath for not getting anything accomplished."

Deanna stood from his lap and pulled him to his feet.
Walking hand in hand outside, Will was pleased to see Nick had already pulled the two trucks they'd be taking, around to the back so they could load supplies.

All the food for the lengthy boat trip and other supllies sat in boxes and satchels on the porch. Without question or instruction, Will began hoisting everything into the back.

Deanna walked around the large vehicle, eyeballing it with curiosity. She had never had the fortune of seeing, let alone riding in, such an archaic land vehicle until three days ago when they made the trip to the ranch. She wondered if Will had either by the look on his face when he first saw the cargo truck.
Stepping up onto a running board, she stuck her head inside the cab and suddenly wondered who the second driver would be.
Hopefully Lily, she thought. Best to keep the earth-woman's mind occupied with thoughts other than that of vengeance.

Muffled voices and light hearted giggling filtered through the open windows of the truck. Jumping down, Deanna walked around the front of the vehicle and spotted Nick and Lily leaning against the house.

Maintaining her stealthy position near the truck, she overheard Lily laugh.

"Not bad for a white boy."

"Mmmm. Not bad at all." Nick smiled as Will bent low and hoisted up a particularly heavy looking crate and heaved it inside the rear of the vehicle. "He certainly has a nice..." the rest of the sentence was hushed as Nick leaned down and whispered into Lily's ear..

Deanna might have chuckled had Lily not been wearing such a lascivious grin. She glanced back to Will and watched him put the last bag inside before turning to see his audience.

With a frustrated, winded sigh, he asked, "Is there anything else?"

Nicholas stepped forward and gave him a speculative look. "Just waiting for your friends," he answered with a smile and a suggestive nod."Will you be riding with me...or driving the other truck?"

Will froze.

He had very minimal knowledge of driving land vehicles that were still controlled by manual transmissions. And the thought of riding ten hours with Nick's advances was quite wearisome.

"Don't worry, William," Nick teased and winked, "I don't bite...that hard." Grabbing Lily by the elbow, he sauntered off back inside the house.

Out of frustration, Will slapped a hand to his forehead and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I don't need this," he groaned.

"Will...he's just teasing you." Troi stepped forward and wrapped an arm around his waist. "He enjoys watching you squirm."

With a nod of understanding, Will looked back to one of the trucks. "Teasing or not, he brought up a good point. Surely, driving this thing can't be as hard as it looks. Can it?"


After about the fifth lurch, the truck began to roll at a steady pace before spasming again at the next gear level.

"Damn it!" Will grumbled and thrust the stick shift into yet another wrong gear.

"Here, let me help." Lily crashed against the dash board as she tried to maneuver herself around Troi and to the middle seat.

Rather than taking the chance of being whiplashed again and for the sake of the crew in the back of the truck, Deanna graciously slid over, vacating her seat to Sloane.

"Now when I tell you, you push the far left peddle, okay? Let me do the shifting." Lily quickly grabbed Will's retracting right hand and gently tucked it under hers, atop the gear shift. "You need to learn the positions."

The tone of her last sentence suggested another meaning and became even more clear when her fingers moved against the top of his hand in slow, gentle strokes.

He heard her chuckle and rather than looking over to her and risk catching the fire in Deanna's eyes, he kept his eyes straight and his mind on the truck.

"Its amazing," Lily laughed. "You can fly a damn spaceship but can't drive a simple truck!"

"So tell us again, why you aren't doing this?" Will answered.

"My legs are too short," she patted the seat between herself and Will. "The seat won't move up." She then layed her hand on his thigh and gently tapped it. "It takes long legs to reach the peddles."

Deanna was not ignorant to the woman's motives and oddly enough, felt unalarmed by her actions. Though a bit annoyed, she scoffed at Lily's advances. Dismissing them as pathetic attempts to anger her and to cause a rift between herself and Will.

Looking past Lily, she saw a smirk on Riker's face as if he knew she was thinking of him. And for just a split second, his eyes met hers and he winked--offering a reassurance that wasn't necassarily needed, but she smiled nevertheless.

Looking into the horizon and to the mountains they were approaching, Deanna settled back into her seat. Nick predicted the trip would take approximately twenty hours but she could tell for the crew, that might as well have felt like eternity.

There was a moment of excitement when they first left the ranch. The general feeling of relief that they were finally moving. But now, as the day they would reach the island approached, she sensed the fear return.

Its was a teary-eyed farewell between herself and Shay. After an emotional hug between the two, the little girl gave Deanna a yellow daisy to wear in her hair.

She reached up to make sure it was still in place .

More than one time she'd caught Will looking at her then looking at Shay. She sensed the same turmoil bubble within him as was the night they'd had their argument. But this time he managed to keep his thoughts, for the most part, to himself.
When it was time to leave, he reached for her hand and she eagerly grasped it, despite the clutch Shay still had on her.
Will then bent down to the little girl's height and whispered into her ear, illiciting a chuckle despite the sobs that occured only moments earlier.

"What did you say?" Deanna had asked, after they walked away.

Will smiled a crooked grin and shrugged. "You'll find out someday."

~Still curious, Imzadi?~

Will's voice in her head startled her from her memories and she quickly looked at him only to see a proud smile grace his features.

~I think I'm I'm getting better at this~ she heard.

~The telepathy, yes. But your driving leaves a lot to be desired!~ She giggled back when the truck fell to the shoulder of the road for a moment.


ch. 19

Riker lay motionles, caught in the realm between reality and the nightmare he'd just awaken from. He slapped a hand to his face and rubbed his eyes, trying to forget the images of half-assmilated crewman laying at his feet.
Feeling the adrenaline seep into his muscles with a dull nagging ache, he turned over slowly on the single cot and felt a wave of nausea stir within his gut.

The cot swayed under under his weight and only when he stumbled to his feet did he realize just how much the boat they were on was rocking side to side.

Catching his balance against the doorway, he looked back into the darkened cabin and saw Deanna, laying on her own cot, staring at him.

"You okay?" she whispered, careful to not talk too loudly and wake up the other members that were asleep.

He closed his eyes a moment and braced himself when he felt the boat list heavily to the side again.


He held his hand up to stop her from getting out of bed. "Go back to sleep," he tried to smile but the boat crashing into the next swell caught him off guard and he stumbled backwards.

Staggering up the stairs to the top deck like a drunkard, he looked to the horizon to find his bearings only to see another large swell rising portside.

The boat handled herself beautifully and slowly fell into the troph.

"We'll be through this soon!" Nick called from his position on the aft deck.

The cool night wind against his skin woke his body and he immediately felt revitalized.

"From the looks of it, I'd say we only have another hour or so of wind before we hit a dead area." Nick locked the wheel and looked at his radar. "See," he said pointing to the back end of the storm on the screen. "Thank God the Indies still have their satellites working!"

Will looked at the ancient equipment then looked into the sky. Towards the stern, nothing but black skies. And towards the bow, stars sparkled against a pitch black backdrop. "Dead area?" he questioned.

"Calm seas," Nick answered. "No wind."

"Damn," he muttered and felt his stomach begin to twist again.

"Why such the rush to get to this island? I mean, is it really that big of a deal that you get there a few days later?"

For the first time, Will saw Lily laying curled up in a blanket on a bench along side the entrance to the cabin watching him. During the lengthy ride to the coast, Will told her what was happening on the island. Afterall, she did have the right to know what she might be getting herself into.

But did Nick need to know?

He'd struggled with that question from the moment he learned of the assimilated crewman. Nick didn't necessarily need to disembark from the boat...so why risk telling him something that might further contaminte the timeline?

"We have very sensitive material that needs to--"

"Due to the timing of the next mission," Lily quickly spoke up, "its imperitive that we get this ship flying as soon as possible. Every minute counts."

Slightly surprised, Will looked at her with an approving grin, glad that her answer satisfied the young man.

Lily shrugged and smiled back.

She understood. She truly understood the importance of what was happening. Then again, the poor thing witnessed the nightmares first hand...how could she not understand?

"You seemed to have learned how to drive that truck quick enough...how 'bout you take over here so I can get some shut-eye? Ever handled one of these before?" Nick tapped the wheel.

'A few times," Will grinned.

"Just keep the bow-"

"pointed into the waves. I know."

"Just holler if you have trouble."

"I will," Will chuckled to himself as he took the wheel.

It was only minutes later when the waves became noticably more calm and he felt secure enough to lock course straight ahead.

"They have sailboats in your time?" Lily asked as she moved over for him to sit.

"Sure. There was even a required class at the academy in basic seamanship."

Lily brought her legs up to her chest and locked her arms around them.

"Its a little chilly out here. Why aren't you down below where its warm?" Will wondered.

Lily smiled, feeling a little embarrassed when she admitted, "I get seasick. Especially down below."

"The big waves have died down. Why don't you try and get some sleep?"

Lily shivered. And it wasn't because of the brisk air.

Will noticed her hesitation and then he realized that he really never has seen her sleep at all. "You do need to rest, you know?"

"Look who's talking," she chuckled. "You don't ever seem to need it!"

"I get by," Will shrugged. He'd learned a long time ago how to adjust his body when he was sleep deprived.

Lily nodded. "Yeah, well...I get by too." She gazed up at him and marveled at the way his eyes sparkled, picking up even the faintest amount of light. "Tell me something?"


"Is your world as messed up...as it is here?"

Will thought about the battle onboard the Enterprise she'd seen, knowing it was her only glimpse into their lives. "No," he sighed. "I mean, there are moments, like you saw, that can be just as horriffic as anything...but we're still learning. It might not be the perfect place...but humanity has certainly come a long way."

He looked at her then and smiled. "Thanks to you."

"You mean thanks to Zefram Cochrane?" the very name came out of her mouth like a snake's hiss.

"Look, Lily...just because his name is the only one highlighted in our books, we know differently now. You played a giant role in our past!"

She shook her head. "You talk like I'm dead!"

"Time travel can be very confusing," he admitted. "We have to be extremely careful with what and who we affect. Which is why I'm glad that you'll be coming back with us."

"To make sure my name never enters those history books?" she said bitterly.

"Is that all you want? To be listed as having a part in building the first warp engine?"

"Is that so wrong? I worked just as fucking hard as that drunk...if not more!" She shot from the bench and walked to the side of the boat, holding on to the wire rail. "A little credit would be nice."

He thought of Deanna for a moment, wishing she was hear to talk to her but knowing that Lily would never open up like she had to him.

"Lily, right now...the fate of humanity rests in your hands! We need you to get back to our time. There's a still a chance to stop the Borg!"

Will walked behind her and stood within arms distance in case she decided to do something stupid. "I need you to be just as brave as you were back on the Enterprise."

She turned to face him, angry at herself that she lacked even the courage to fall into him let alone the bravery he spoke of. "I'm scared," she breathed.

"I know. I am too," he placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "We all are."

Lily relaxed a bit when he touched her. When she looked at the man before her she saw a hero incapable of being frightened. She saw everything she wanted to be. Felt everything she ever wanted from a friend...a lover. Though her mind thought differently, her hands and feet remained still, as if they were cemented to her body.

Will began to offer more encouragement but realized her attention was now drawn to something in the distance. Turning around, he spotted the lights atop a mast belonging to a fast moving boat headed their way.

"They're certainly moving quicker than us," he noted. "How can that be?"

Lily shrugged. "I don't know. But who ever they are, they're in a hurry to reach us."

The moonlight glimmering in the ripples of the now calm sea was quickly broken up when the much smaller ketch came along side.

"Maybe you should wake Nick," Will suggested, feeling the hair at the nape of his neck stand on end.



The deck underneath Riker's feet rocked back and forth as the other boat glided up to its side. Beside him, the latch to the lower cabin opened and without taking his eyes completely off their unannounced guests, Riker caught a glimpse of Nick, Lily, and Deanna emerge from below.

"Do you know them?" Riker asked as he moved along side the others.

"No," Nick rubbed his sleepy eyes then whistled appreciatively. "But thats one hell of a boat."

Looking at the sails, this boat was rigged to be a racer. But it was the sound of the engine that caught his attention more than anything.

"They're using an engine along side the sails?" Nick questioned, impressed by the two large outboard engines attatched to the transom. "Its been a while since I've seen a deisel...oh, shit!" Nick gasped.

"What?" Riker asked.

"This isn't good," Nick mumbled.

"Who are they, Nick?" Riker's voice strained in a hoarsed whisper.

"Pirates," he exhaled out as his legs began to wobble and he slowly sank down to the roof of the cabin.

"Pirates? As in Long John Silver?" Geordi frowned.

"Sorta. Only these guys are about a thousand times as cruel. I never heard of them being this far north though." The taste of bile climbed its way up his throat and he fought the urge to hurl right there.

"How can you be sure? Maybe they need-" Deanna stopped suddenly when a gun shot ricocheted off the deck, sending everyone scouring for cover.

"How's that for being sure?" Nick hissed.

Will stretched around to make sure Deanna and the others were covered when he felt a mooring rope hit his leg.

"Up!" a voice called from the other boat. "Everyone...up!" he repeated after another shot rang through the air.

Will shook the rope from his leg and stood.

"You! Pull ropes in!" the voice nearly fell silent in the sudden rush of waves crashing against the hulls.

Riker kept his balance as he corraled the other boat, tieing the rope to the nearest cleat. Remembering back to his history classes, post-war rogue 'pirates' ravished the land and seas in search of anything of value, taking whatever they could sell to people of the war ravaged countries.
Nick was right in the fact that these weren't the typical pirates of the nineteeth century. Instead of kidnapping their victims for use in the slave trade, they would cast them out to sea in with nothing but life preservers around their middle and a rough incision up one leg to attract the fish and sharks.

In the moment before they were boarded, Troi opened her mouth in an attempt to warn the others but her voice fell silent as soon she felt the cold barrel of a gun pressed to her temple.

They'd come too fast, Riker thought and mentally whipped himself for not being prepared. He struggled against the grasp his own captor held him in until he too felt a weapon cutting into his skin. Unlike the others who were being held at gun point, his assailent obviously preferred the jagged edge of a diver's knife over the sleek surface of lead shot.

"What do you want?" Will grunted and was answered with more applied pressure directly at his adam's apple.

"You tell me what you got!" The booming voice called from the other boat.

In the gloomy shadows of the sea's night, Will strained his eyes to see where the voice was carrying from. "We haven't anything of value," he said truthfully, speaking into the darkness. Other than the single PADD, the communications monitor and a few hand guns, they really didn't have much.

Finally, the man wearing a two holstered guns appeared and jumped suddenly from his boat over to stand next to Will. Tapping the deck with his boot, he sneared, "Then, this will do just fine.

"This boat isn't worth anything!" Nick pleaded.

A tall lanky woman with black hair drawn back into a pony tail now appeared and made the jump over from the smaller boat with considerable ease. Walking over to Nick, she stood directly in front of him and removed a lit cigarette from her mouth and stabbed him in the chest, burning a hole past his shirt and into his skin. When she finally drew it back, she turned away with a satisfied smile.

Walking the deck as if she were some sort of queen strutting amongst her slaves, she brushed past Lily, giving her a simple nod as if she was dismissing the dark skinned woman before moving in front of Troi.

"Save this one," she said to no one in particular as her eyes roamed down the petite Betazoid.

Deanna shivered. She didn't care for the way the woman looked at her and cared even less for the lascivious thoughts that poured from her mind.

"Anyone below deck?" the man asked as he ran a hand over the weathered teak wood door that lead down to where the rest of the crew lay sleeping.

When Will did not answer the woman turned to him and flicked the cigarette butt she still carried into his face. "Kill who ever is down there," she ordered, opening the latch.

Deanna saw Will struggling again with his captor and tried to catch his attention before he was injured severely.


His struggles slowed when the knife was poised just under his left ear, pricking the flesh enough for him to feel his own warm fluid.

~Will~ she screamed mentally and saw his eyes snap up and focus on her. ~They're awake and waiting for a chance to help~

~Are you sure?~ he asked, hoping he'd get through despite the lack of concentration.

~Trust me~ she sent back with sly smile.

Will watched the man disappear into the cabin and a second later, heard three shots fired. Looking back at Deanna, he waited for her answer.

~I think they've knocked him unconscious and fired the shots at random~

~You think?~ his eyes narrowed in irritation.

~I can't sense that man any more so I'd say he's either dead or unconscious~ she spat back slightly annoyed.

Will sighed. One down, four to go...unless of course, there's more on the their boat that we just haven't shown their faces yet.


Lily had been watching Will this whole time, trying to make eye contact so that maybe she'd get some sense as to what was happening. But he keeps staring at that damn woman, she thought angrily. His people are dying down below and all he can do is stare at her!?


"This is insane," Lily mumbled and lunged toward the nearest unsuspecting man, kicking him in the groin and grabbing his weapon.

Fumbling a moment with the grip position of the oversized hand gun, she pointed the weapon directly between the eyes of the tall woman who stood not more than two feet away.

"Drop your guns...or the bitch gets it!" Lily screamed, her hands shaking with fear.

Suprised and angered by the ill-advised move by Lily, Will couldn't ignore the untimely distraction and elbowed his captor in the gut, then whirled around to wrestle away the knife from his cold, sweaty hand only to have it fall into the dark ocean depths.

Before the man that Lily initially took down was able to regain his footing, Deanna stepped down hard onto his head smashing it into the deck, rendering him unconscious.

Riker spun around and stopped dead in his tracks and watched in horror as the man who had held Nick captive, pointed the barrel of his gun into the young man's ear and fired.

Both Riker and Troi watched in horror as a bright flash of light lit up the darkness just long enough for them to see Nick's body slumping to the deck in a heap.

Stunned by what had just happened, Lily staggered back onto her heels, offbalance, giving the woman the chance she needed to regain control of the weapon.

Lily stumbled back into Troi, who caught her at the shoulders and balanced her. Sloane shook herself free and glanced back at Troi with a horrified look.

"Now who's the bitch?" the lady growled and pointed the gun at the women but not before she shot at a crewman who tried to exit the cabin.

Reacting without thought, Lily dove forward again, narrowly missing a fired bullet and hit her squarely in the torso. Both woman landed inches from the edge of the deck as they wrestled for position.

Deanna fell to her knees and captured the dropped gun and aimed at the man who's weapon was trained on Will. And fired.
The backlash from the discharge sent her stumbling back a step but she was able to see the man fall to his knees, gripping his arm in agony.

Will ducked when he heard the shot. He turned around just in time to see his previous captor lunging towards an unsuspecting Troi.

"Deanna!" he screamed and at the same time heard a loud splash. Both Lily and the other woman had finally gone over board.

Turning his attention back to Deanna's plight, he saw the much larger man grapple for possession of the gun. Pressing his entire body down onto her, it didn't take long for her to relinquish the firearm.

Will tried to manuevre his way toward her but was thwarted by another shot. Hiding behind the rolled up canopy, Riker twisted around and saw Deanna laying face down on deck with her arms stretched wide in submission.


"Dammit!" he pounded the deck with his fist.


Out of everything that has happened...

For everything that has gone wrong...

The only thing worse would be...to lose Lily.


Her knowledge of Cochrane's blueprints, her streetsmart intelligence of how and where to find the materials needed...was more precious to them than anything else.

He looked back to where Deanna lay motionless, still pinned by the attacker.

She was safe, he tried to convince himself. The woman leader said to spare her, he remembered.

He heard more splashing and grunts from the women as they fought in the frigid water.

~I'll be back, Imzadi~ he said and slipped stealthily in the black ocean water.



His entire body hurt like hell.
Feeling like his lungs weren't working fast enough to keep up with uncontrollable shallow inhalations in the frigid water, Riker took a moment to calm himself down and shook the leather coat free from his arms. Unfortunately, he could still feel the weighted pull of his boots and heavy pants threatening to take him under.
Treading water, he listened for the shouts of the women before proceeding through the narrow gap between the boats.

With the salt water stinging his eyes, he looked past the foggy blur and saw Lily trying to reach up towards the mooring rope that held the boats together. It was a dangerous position to be in because at any time, a wave could smash the hulls together, squashing anything or anyone in between.

He felt something grab a hold of his legs. Kicking franticly at the unseen assailent, he saw two thin hands reaching up from below the surface, grasping for anything within reach. It was the woman who'd seemed to be the leader of all of this, he realized after catching a glimpse of her face as she struggled in the water for a breath of air. Not less more five meters away from the struggling Lily, Riker hollared for help but his voice was lost in the crashing waves.
Retreating to where he saw her go under again, he dipped below and blindly searched for her body.

After only but a couple of exhaustive tries, he reluctantly returned his focus back to the woman who'd drawn him into her plight.

"Hey!" he sputtered, choking on mouth full of the nasty seawater. "Hey!" he repeated, this time a little louder.

Lily's head snapped around, as did her right fist.
Thanks to a wave, he didn't see it coming and had no chance to defend himself as her knuckles met the cartilage of his nose with a suprisingly powerful blow.
"Shit!" he hollered, feeling the warm splatter of his blood against face.

"S-s-s-sor-ry," her lips were chattering. "I th-th-thought-y-yyou-we-were..." she gave up trying to speak.

Riker felt one of the boats against his back and knew they were about to be pinned. Wedging his body up between the hulls, he stretched out and pushed the smaller boat away.

"Can you reach the rope?" he asked as his muscles in his legs quivered from both the strain and the cold.

"NO!" she shook her head.

Once he felt the boats were at a stable distance apart, he pulled her to him and tried to lift her up by her armpits. Her fingertips numb with cold were unable to grab hold of the slippery nylon rope.

"I'm going to get under you...see if I can get you any higher!"

Lily nodded and watched him suck in a deep breath before he disappeared under the surface.
He felt around for a moment trying to find the best place for his hands when they finally came to rest on either butt cheek. Using all the muscle strength he had left, he placed her on his shoulders then pushed up as if he were lifting a weight above his head.

Still not far enough...and she fell back down on top of him as he surfaced.

She tried to smile but her frozen lips wouldn't stretch across her teeth."Under d-different circum-st-stances...I m-might enjoy-t-this."

He glared at her angrily. Not only did Lily place herself in jeopardy, but he was forced to leave Deanna behind in a precarious situation.
And then there was Nick.
Poor kid hadn't a chance. Why? Because Lily decided to take matters into her own hands.

The boats began to come togather again and once more, he wedged himself up against the hulls.

"Stand on my me!" he grunted as the strain became almost too much.

Lily pulled herself onto him and straddled his abdomen. Using the boats as balance, she stood and pulled her body onto the lower deck of the ketch, hopefully away from the attackers.

Riker felt the heels of her boots digging into his ribs...into his recently broken...and still quite sore ribs. His legs were nearly numb already and he wished the same now for his entire body.

Slipping below the water's surface again as the boats were repelled, Riker felt something hit the back of his head. Shaking the water from his eyes, he looked up and saw the faces of the crew looking down at him.

"Need a hand, sir?" Geordi held tight to the rope ladder and offered a hand to his commander.

Riker slowly pulled himself up, barely able to grip anything now. Once safely on board he guiltily looked around for Deanna, not at all prepared to deal with the consequences if she'd gotten hurt...or worse.

"What happened?" he asked, relieved when he saw her attending to...Nick? "He's alive?!" Riker rubbed the water from his eyes and looked again.

"Bullet skimmed his ear," Geordi said.

Riker looked around the deck and saw all the attackers bound up back to back. "Good job," he patted the engineer on his shoulder before he bent over at the waist to catch his breath.

"You can tell that to the Counselor. She damn near had it under control before we got up here!" Geordi smiled.

Riker glanced at the petite woman and gave her a tired but proud grin.

Deanna caught his stare. ~You look like hell, Riker~ her sweet voice joked.

He shrugged. The energy to answer back mentally just wasn't there as he leant hard against the cabins surface, trying to keep his legs from shaking him to the deck.

Deanna, aware of his current distress went to him immediately and reached for his frigid shivering arm under the wet garments. "You need to get these clothes off!"

Riker spotted Lily standing guiltily off to the side of the deck with her arms wrapped around her shaking body, his own troubles forgotten in anger.

"Will?" Deanna tightened her grip on his arm to stop him but he shook himself free.

"What the hell were you doing?" Riker spat angrily, unable to contain it any longer. "You nearly got yourself killed! Not to mention the rest of us!"

"I'm s-sorry, ok-kay?" she replied, realising the stupidity of her actions.

"No, its not okay!"

"Will?" Deanna touched his arm hoping to draw him away. This wasn't the time for this confrontation.

"What the hell do we do if you get killed?" he continued.

"Look, Riker...if you weren't standing there making googley eyes with her," she pointed at Troi with a shaky finger, "then maybe...just maybe I would have known!" she growled.

"I wasn't--we weren't..." he slapped a hand to his face and winced when he'd hit his nose. Did he really want to get into to this now?

"Counselor Troi and I," he sighed heavily, "have an ability that most humans do not. We can read each other's mind." He instantly regretted the words as they slid out. This was something the remaining crew didn't need to hear. Nor would Deanna appreciate something personal being aired in anger.

Lily glared at the counselor. "I see," she said softly as she shivered violently in more ways than one.

"Captain," Geordi came up behind him. "We can take over up here, if you want to..." he gestured at Riker's sopping clothes.

"Yeah." Riker nodded and moved toward the cabin. "Geordi, is there any way we can fit those engines to this boat?" He was looking at the two outboard motors even as Deanna draped a blanket over his shaking shoulders.

Geordi grinned. "We're already on it, sir."


Lily slowly walked toward the cabin, waiting for Riker to disappear down below first. She knew what had done was stupid...but it was just as stupid on his part to not let her know what was happening, she decided. Thank heavens Nick survived because she wasn't sure if she could handle the death of another friend.

Dragging her lethargic body down the steep stairs to the cabin below, she caught a glimpse of Riker and Troi in the main sleeping quarters. Standing discretely in the room opposite them, she watched a little longer as Deanna helped pull the soggy clothes from his body.

Never before have her dreams been wrong.


And even though she knew there was more to their relationship than just the erotic screams of passion she heard the other night, she felt with such conviction, that the prophecy would still come true.
Jealousy swirled in her gut as she watched Deanna wrap a blanket over his bare shoulders, her caring tenderness too much to bare.

Unwilling to watch any more, she silently closed the door and began to undress herself in the darkness.

"Here, let me help," Deanna offered and helped pull Riker's shirts over his head. "Your skin is like ice!" she said, gently rubbing his back, unaware of their part-time voyeur.

Will fumbled with the button to his pants but his numbly curled fingers wouldn't cooperate until his 'nurse' moved around to his front and undid the button. Grabbing a blanket from the bed, she tossed it over his shoulders then slid his pants down.

"You need a hot shower...and we don't have one," she grumbled, feeling him shake underneath her touch. Running a towel over each of his limbs, Deanna began to check each bruise and gouge before rubbing him dry.

"I'll be fine," he sighed nasely. A raggered cough followed by further droplets of blood.

"Not if you bleed to death first," Deanna grumbled, thrusting one of Riker's shirts into a wet wadded ball and pressed it hard against his nose.

"Argh!" he mumbled at first until she released some of the pressure and let him take over holding it in place.

"I'll be right back," she said and quickly stepped from the room.

Riker sat on the edge of the large bed and wiped the remaining blood from his moustache. Drawing the blanket tighter around his body, he slumped back and closed his eyes as he listened to the crew's footsteps hustling on the deck above him.

Deanna gently rapped on the closed door of one of the smaller sleeping quarters. "Lily?" she called out.

"What?" came the curt reply.

Deanna opened the door to the room that, with every low starboard list of the boat, would catch light from the dawning sun. "I thought you might like some tea?"
She held a cup of steaming liquid out for the woman, burried under a mountain of blankets, to take if she so chose.

"Thanks," she said softly, so quietly Deanna wasn't sure if she'd said anything.

"Are you okay?" the empath almost sat at the edge of the cot but thought twice about it. This wasn't a counseling session and she wasn't here to make Lily talk.

"After I warm up," she said and sipped the hot liquid, "I'll be fine."

Deanna retreated for the door and paused. "If you need anything..."

"Yeah, I know where you'll be," she said spitefully.

Deanna gritted her teeth together as she clamped her jaws tightly closed and shut the door behind her.

"You awake?" Deanna asked the mound of thawing flesh on the bed. "I made some hot tea."

Quivering, a hand reached out for the mug. "Thanks," Will exhaled as he wrapped his hands around it.

Deanna kneeled on the bed and scooted behind where he sat. Slowly massaging the tight muscles of his shoulders, she worked her way around his entire back, waiting for him to say something...anything. After minutes passed silently without even a grown of pleasure, she dropped her hands.

"Seems to be a bit chilly in here still." She wasn't talking about the air temperature.

Deanna frowned when Riker's head dropped to his chest and his eyes closed.

"Will?" she sensed there was something more going on than just the near loss of life due to Lily's error. "Talk to me," she said.

"Not now, Deanna," he said coldly.

Setting the mug on the floor at his feet, he fell back to the bed and rolled over, away from her. "Thanks for the tea," he said and drew the blanket over his head.



Each time the sloop caught the top of a wave, the wanning sun would peak through the single window of the cabin, creating a beautiful ripple of sparkling lines across the walls and cealing.

She layed there for a moment in silence, ummoving, save for the gently sway of the bed and the way her limp body naturally rocked along with.

Deanna allowed herself a long, frustrated sigh when her hand found nothing but the cool sheets of the vacated spot beside her. She rather hoped she would wake up nestled in his strong arms just as she had so many times...so many years ago....she thought, feeling a smile stretch across her face as she recalled the way at least one hand always seemed to be latched to her breast in a protective, yet intimate caress.

A fleeting emotion brushed her mind. Though subdued and very somber, she knew immediately it was Will's.

Kicking the blanket from her body; the same blanket that she'd wrapped around his shoulders untold hours ago, she leaped from the bed and headed up to the deck.

She hadn't one foot yet on the teak planks when a spray of salty sea water showered her across the face.

"Be careful, Counselor," Geordi laughed, "Its gotten a little rough again."

Deanna wiped her face and eyes and nodded, smiling. Expecting the water to be frigid, just as it had earlier that morning when Will rescued Lily, she was extremely pleased to feel the warm wind smack her from behind. "How long have I been asleep?" she wondered.

"Not too long. Nick said we've hit the Tropic of Cancer warm water streams. Good thing too since we couldn't fit the engines to this boat."

Suddenly remembering Nick's near death experience, Deanna looked around for him. "How is he?"

"He's sleeping now. Feeling better, I guess. Looked like hell though," the engineer shrugged.

Deanna thought she saw a glimpse of Riker's shadow through the main sail as he sat leaning against its mast. "Geordi, I can take over for a while...if you'd like to rest?"

A few of the crew members, like Riker, were scattered about the large deck, taking in the last remnants of warmth from the setting sun. "James is scheduled next, in about twenty minutes. Thanks anyway." Geordi held fast to the wheel as another wave approached. "But I'm sure the night watch people would like company later on?" he suggested.

Deanna smiled. "I'll be here," she said, then carefully manuevered her way around the rigging towards Will.

Standing directly behind him now, again she felt a sort of somber, reminiscient mood. Her lips widened into a grin when she approached and saw the way the wind caught in his shirt, creating a billowing effect around him; allowing her to appreciate his masculine form through the opening in the now-stretched out neckline.

Absolutely gorgeous.....

"Red sky at night...sailor's delight," she recalled the ancient poem her father used so many times as he would gaze into the Betazed sunset.

Hearing her musical voice brought a brief smile to his lips. "We're making good time," he said impassively, letting the smile fade.

For all it seemed, she might just as well have been one of the engineers with whom he was having a casual conversation with and not his lover.
There was no warmth, no friendship in his feelings. Only regret.

She remained where she stood not wanting to intrude into his space just yet, even though her body wanted nothing more than to feel his arms around her.

"You're remembering the past," she said, knowing now that he was thinking of Worf's promotion a few years ago.

He nodded. "It seemed all too perfect," he sighed. "Well..sort of. For a little while anyway. I guess I should have learned by now..." he left the sentence hanging for a moment as he scooted over, "that nothing good ever lasts."

She felt an ache growing in her stomach. Surely he wasn't talking about their relationship? Was he?

"Only when certain situations arise that we can not control. Besides, sometimes it takes the 'bad' to know how 'good' you really have it?" She said, finally getting him to look up her.

"Have a seat." He patted the spot next to him but Deanna boldly placed herself between his thighs and sat back against his chest, much to his surprise. "Deanna, I-"

"I see you've dried your pants," she said, rubbing her hands along the outside of his thighs.

"Yes," he grunted when her head nestled up to his chin. "We need to talk," he said quickly, unwilling to be interupted again.

But she had every intention of ignoring him. "Do you remember the look on Beverly's face when she pulled herself back up to the deck," she laughed. "I thought she was going to fry Data right there."

Will couldn't ignore the memory and smiled as she continued. "And for the love of Data, he just didn't understand why it wasn't funny!"

"I laughed," Will admitted for the first time.

Deanna turned slightly to look up at him, glad to see him not so serious. "You would! You were the one who started it all! Worf told me later that had we not gotten called away he was going to hang you from the crow's nest by your briefs!"

She felt his chest rumble with a chuckle. "Ah, yes...Worf. You know why I did that, don't you?"

She leaned into him closer. "I had a good idea why."

But unbeknownst to Will at the time, she and Worf had decided to call it quits days earlier, understanding that thier relationship was bound for destruction.

You can not offer me your heart...when it belongs to another, the Klingon said, making her finally realize that her life would truly be unfulfilled without Will.

"There's something on your mind?" she relented and braced for the worst.

Unwilling to give in to the urge to wrap his arms around her body and forget everything he'd just thought about, he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

"Deanna...do you have any idea what almost happened earlier?"

She thought of the possibility of losing Nick, of losing Lily. "Yes...I suppose."

He banged the back of his head against the metal mast out of frustration, angered by his own ignorance that he didn't forsee this happening. "Forgive me, but I don't think you do."

"Then perhaps you'd care to enlighten me," she said angrily, sitting up straight.

He rubbed his eyes then looked at her. "I had to make a choice, a decision that I don't think I could ever make again."

She shook her head in confusion and he leaned back, banging his head again.

"Deanna, I had to put your very welfare on the line. Your life! I nearly allowed my feelings for you to interfere with a decision that would have cost the entire crew a chance of getting home."

"Will, I don't understand."

He caught and held her eyes and stared at her with as much conviction as he could muster. "Under different circumstances...if I thought your life was truly in danger...I'm not sure I could make that decision again."

Deanna pursed her lips in a crooked fashion and exhaled. "Part of me wants to wrap my arms around you and thank you for being so cute....and the other part is scared as hell that you're telling me that you are unwilling to be put in that situation again."

She waited for him to smile, to take her in his arms and say that he loved her no matter what. But when he looked away out of guilt, she swallowed hard and asked, just for the hell of it, "So which is it?"

He continued to look away. "There's too much at risk right now."

"Can I get a straight answer, please?" He owed her that much, damn it!

Answered by silence, she began to get up but stopped when she felt his hands on her arms, pulling her back. "What?" she said bitterly.

He licked his lips and held her before him. "Tell me...what am I supposed to do?"
The words trembled from his lips. He was completely lost, confused more now than ever.

The tension in her pose softened when she saw his eyes red and tearied.
"We take it one day at a time, Will. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt that you'll make the right decisions. You always do."

She saw his mouth open in protest and she silenced him with a finger over his parted lips. "I don't know why you seem to have so much doubt, so much reservation when it comes to us...but know that no matter what, you haven't been able to get rid of me yet, and you're not about to."

She kneeled in front of him, still between his legs. "But you just keep trying, Will Riker, and see where it gets you," she teased, waiting for him smile.

He did not disappoint her and she playful poked his chest with a finger, accenting each word, "I. Love. You."

Deanna looked over his body and again at the way the wind allowed her to peek at his muscular chest. "Did I ever tell you how good you looked in those white pants?"

His brow furrowed in confusion for a moment as he tried to figure out what she was talking about, then it hit him: the french naval uniform from Worf's promotion.

"I could see_everything," she leaned into his neck and whispered.

Will's resolve, not quite melted yet, tried to hold fast. "Everything?"

"Mmmhmm. Everything." She kissed the deliciously tender spot just below his earlobe then pulled back. "We decided you looked the best."

"We? Whose 'we'?"

With a devilish glint in her eye, she grinned. "Beverly and I."

"Ah. I should have known. Makes her trip in the drink even funnier now."

"Will!" she slapped his chest. "That water was cold!"

"Tell me about it!" he felt her pulling his shirt from his pants. "Deanna," he warned.

"Tell me someting, Captain? Have you ever made love inside a sail before?"

He saw her gesture to the ripped sail they had removed days ago, laying in a heap within some ropes.

All resolve was gone now and he couldn't resist her anymore. As if he ever could! Taking her by the chin, he captured her mouth with such force she fell backwards into his arms.

After a few minutes, Will looked around making sure no one was watching what he was about to do to the counselor, then looked back to her with a hunger. A need. A desperation to feel himself inside of her.

"They can't see us," Deanna encouraged, knowing the darkness and the sails would hide them from any voyeurs on the aft deck. But should anyone wander forward, they'd be a witness to quite a treat.

Will layed Deanna down on the canvas sail and let her remove his shirt.

Spray from the bow cascaded over him, catching within the soft hair of his chest. She shivered when he leaned down over her, touching her with his wet skin.

"I never thought I could admit I was afraid," he said as he moved to her side looking at her.

She propped herself up onto her elbow. "We just have take it one day at a time, Will," she repeated. "You can't be prepared for every situation."

Deanna extended her hand and through the fabric of his pants, felt him harden at her touch. "And there will be times that you will exceed any...and every expectation."

"You certainly know how to encourage your patients, Counselor." He gasped as her hand weaved its way inside his pants.

"Indeed." She grinned maliciously. Seductively. "Now how about a little 'thank you' for your doctor?"

"I think I can arrange that." Will sunk lower, down the canvas.

"I thought you might."


Lily walked around the side of the deck, holding carefully onto the guiderail for fear of falling in again. One trip was bad enough and she knew should a second one happen at this speed the boat was moving would be deadly.

Twisting around the rigging, she stopped in mid stride when she saw Riker and Troi cuddled together in a lover's embrace. Retreating quickly back the way she came, she returned minutes later carrying a blanket she'd retrieved from below deck.

They were asleep as she stood over them. And even though both were clothed, there was no doubt in her mind that they'd made love right there. Maybe it was the quirky grin still plastered on his face or the way her thigh draped sensually, protectively, over his groin...she knew.

With a long wistful sigh, she kneeled down with the blanket in hand and covered them up.

Riker's eyes slowly opened and he saw her turning away. Realizing what she'd done, he called out in a whisper, "Lily?"

She stopped and faced him.

"Thanks," he said, feeling Deanna awaken in his arms.

Lily walked toward them and kneeled back down. "I-I just wanted to apologize for what happened."

"You did what you thought you had to do. Sometimes I forget you're, technically, not one of us," Will said.

"How's your nose?" she tried to focus on the spot where she'd clocked him but it was too dark to see.

Riker touched the tender cartilage. "I've had worse." He faced Deanna with a smile and motioned towards Lily. "She packs quite a punch."

Understanding now that it was Lily who'd hit him, she nodded and grinned. "I'm sure you deserved it then."

Lily stood and started back. With her feet safely on the aft deck again, she gazed at the stars then back to the lovers who undoubtedly returned to their earlier position. "Sweet dreams," she whispered and headed below deck. "I know I will."



The sand was every bit as white as she'd imagined.
Feeling the hot wind blow through her hair as she stood at the stem like a majestic bowsprit, Deanna squinted past the sun's glare as they approached land for the first time in over three weeks.

Like everyone else, she was eager to set foot on the island. Eager to greet her comrades, her best friend, and eager to taste the fresh fruit Beverly swore was manna from heaven.

And also like everyone else, her gut twisted with trepidation and fear.

According to the last communique with Beverly, a civillain scientist was mortally wounded only two short nights ago. Will had described the incident as a sort of 'hit and run'; the Borg were filling their energy needs with fresh blood. Taking only what they needed to sustain them for the next couple days.

Power to the base was now restored and Worf implemented a security detail to each of the generators in hopes of thwarting any theft of energy by the creatures. Unfortunately, just like any other life form they'd ever come across...those closest to being completely assimilated learned to adapt and when in danger, now seemed to feed off the lives of the living, using their bodies as sustanence.

Taking a deep breath, she exhaled slowly and concentrated on the glorious beach to rid her mind of the gruesome thoughts.

The boat gently swayed as it turned inland and Deanna watched as the pristine shoreline transformed into rugged unattractive cement buildings of the abandoned military base.

Her excitement grew when her former colleagues began to run onto the largest pier, waving their hands with overwhelming joy.
By now, the entire crew on the boat made it to the deck and with equal fervor waved back.

Deanna caught site of Doctor Crusher standing amidst the growing crowd. She felt the woman's pain at the bittersweet reunion, sensed the muted excitement overshadowed by personal loss.
And for nothing more than to secure in her mind that Will was here with her, Deanna tossed a look back over her shoulder and sought him out as he helped Nick navigate toward the pier. After a moment and a silent prayer of thankfulness, her gaze returned to her friend.


The hull scraped across the dry-rotted bumpers as it slowed and some of the men leaped forward to grab hold of the mooring lines. A minute later, people were scrambling to get off, anxious to test their wobbly legs on dry land.

"Beverly!" Deanna cried out.

Crusher pushed her way through the joyous crowd and finally found the Betazoid and met her with open arms.

"I can't believe you finally made it!" Beverly exclaimed, and helped balance her friend.

"Neither can I!" Deanna laughed.

Straightening her knees, Deanna managed to hold herself up and stood back a bit to look at the doctor.

"You look fantastic!" Thanks to the natural sunlight, the doctor's normally pale skin tone was golden and the ponytail she wore took even more years off her already youthful appearance.

"And you look like you can use a rest!" Crusher embraced her friend one last time then taking her by the arm, led them away from the crowd to the coolness of the shade.

"Are you hungry?" Beverly asked.

Deanna shook her head. "I think I'll let me stomach calm down first."

Half expecting Crusher to pull a tricorder from her pocket, Deanna blinked twice when she saw she was wearing a wrap around skirt and tank top. No room for the tricorder, she laughed inwardly.

"I think this island life has done wonders for the crew!" Deanna glanced around, noticing the smiles on everyone's face.

"That, and knowing you guys were bringing with you a chance of getting home."

Deanna's eyes wandered some more and caught sight of Lily staggering past the crew. Despite the arguments and jealousy and feelings of dishonesty, deep down Deanna truly felt all their hopes did lie with that one woman.

Beverly recognized her former patient immediately. "How's she doing?"

Deanna shrugged. "Fine. She's taken all this in quite well."

Following Lily through the masses, Will Riker made his way to a clearing and spotted Deanna standing with Beverly. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he continued towards them, stopping for every member that reached out with a welcoming hand.

"Now there's a site for sore eyes!" Beverly grinned and walked a few feet before wrapping her arms tightly around Riker's torso.

Will lovingly squeezed her in return then felt her hands on his face, scratching the tickened and ragged beard.

"You guys look like you've been through hell!" Beverly gave him another squeeze.

Will pulled back, fearing his body odor was becoming too obnoxious. "Hell would have been a vacation," he sighed.

Deanna could sense his urgency and desire of wanting to see the progress they were able to make on the old missile and hoped he would give the crew a day's rest at least. She saw him open his mouth and before was able to utter a word, she caught his attention and silently plead with him to rest.

His brow furrowed and his mouth closed in resignation.

~Thank you~ she sent. "So," she grabbed Beverly's arm, "are you going to tell me where you picked up that dress or do I have to go through your wardrobe closet?"

Watching them walk away giggling, Will shook his head and smiled. Turning back toward the pier, he felt a strong hand grab hold of his shoulder and spin him around. His fists curled up instantly in preparation to strike and just before he let loose, he saw the dark face of a Klingon.

"Worf!" His thumping heartbeat echoed in his ears.

"Commander. It is good to see you!"

His muscles relaxed slightly and he took a deep breath. "Same here."

"I understand you've had a rather eventful trip?"

"You might say that."

"We've assigned your crew to the officer's barracks." He pointed toward a building near the beach. "I can fill you in after you have rested. Running water and fresh food is at your disposal. As are the replicators."

"Thank you Mr. Worf." It was hard to believe he could be so ecstatic about running water but in all honesty, all he wanted right now was a shower. "That sounds terrific."

Will walked a few steps in the direction of the officer's quarters when he stopped and turned. "Worf, I know you've met Lily but we were also forced to bring a long another civillain. His name is Nick and he hasn't a clue as to what really is going on here...and we need to keep it that way. He won't be with us long, so the less he knows..."

Without hesitation and without regard to his own feelings, the Klingon nodded. "I understand, sir. I will stay away from him and order all other 'non-humanoid' crewman to do the same."

"One of the ensigns has offered to help keep him occupied while he's here."

Worf nodded again and Riker tiredly turned to walk away. "Commander?" he called out.

Will stopped again and faced him.

"How...how is Deanna?"

Will recognized the look on the Klingon's face immediately. It was the exact same look he wore when he attempted to ask permission years ago, to pursue Deanna in a relationship. It was a combination of guilt, shyness, and embarrassment. All of which were in direct contrast with the typical Klingon indifference.

Not wanting to insult or demean his friend, he simply shrugged and said, "She's a trooper."

Worf smiled purely out of pride. She was definitely unlike any other humanoid that he'd ever........


The thought of her burned in his heart.
For whatever reason, he felt an obligation to Deanna now. A sort of desperation and desire to keep her safe. And yet, there was still his beloved wife. Alone. In another lifetime.

Will saw the sadness in his friend's eyes before the Klingon drifted back into an alley. He wanted to call after him, to tell him that indeed he would get to see his wife again...but he'd disappeared inside a building.


The sheets were cool to the touch, inviting his wearied body down to rest. But when he stretched out against the mattress, his muscles grew stiff and his mind begin to swirl with a list of everything he wanted to accomplish the next day.

Holding tightly to the towel that was precariously clasped around his middle, he sat up and walked to the lone window of the room, kicking away in utter disgust, his old clothes that lay in his way.

The moonlight glistened off the waves and his eyes instinctively rose to the stars, seeking out all the planets he could. All the while knowing that some of them had yet to be discovered in this lifetime.

A knock at the door took him away from his wistful thoughts and he hid behind a chair.

"Come in?" he said cautiously.

Deanna and Beverly strolled in as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

"Uh, ladies?" He was too far from the bed and the security of its sheets.

"Relax, Will," Beverly grinned. "We brought you something."

Tossing down different articles of clothing onto the bed as she removed them from her arms, Deanna smiled, hiding the affection from Beverly. "Unless of course, you plan to traipse around like that?"

Riker grinned.

"Feeling better?" Beverly asked, happy to see he found the razor.

"Much." He began to paw through the clothes while still managing a tight grip on the towel.

"We use one of the twenty three replicators for clothing only. I doubt though that it will have much juice left after all you new guys get done with it." Beverly gave a quick glance to Deanna who was wearing a skirt similar to her own and a blue bandau top.

Riker held up a pair of flowered shorts and tossed them back down quickly before reaching for the green colored, military styled pant.

"Some things we didn't need to replicate," she added. A number of items were left over and clothing was something they found in large quantities.

"Good," he said and held up a pair of boxer shorts, the exact type he preferred. Giving Deanna a quick inquisitive look, he watched her shrug.

~Some things never change~

He backed into the bathroom holding the boxers and some other not-so-flamboyant shorts and closed the door. "Beverly, I was thinking..." he spoke loudly, "maybe you should check in on Nick?"


Will opened the door and appeared much more comfortable in his new attire. "The young guy whose boat we used?"

"Oh right," she nodded. "He suffered the superficial head injury."

"Yes. Well, he was feeling a bit...depressed about losing part of his ear and I told him I knew a fantastic plastic surgeon who just happened to be on this very island!"

"I'm surprised that he's that concerned over-"

"He's a model," Will interrupted. "Or rather was a model."

"I see." Beverly rose from the bed.

Deanna gave Will a teasing look. "Though I don't believe it was his ears that earned him his money."

"Oh?" Beverly questioned, a mischievous smile growing across her face. "And what exactly did he model then?"

Will frowned. "Bedtime, ladies," he said quickly and ushered them to the door.

"He gave me a sample. Would you like to see it?" Deanna said with all seriousness.

Will promptly closed the door as soon as Beverly was through but not before he pulled Deanna back into his room.

"Goodnight," Crusher chuckled and headed off for a late night housecall.


ch. 24

"Fuck this!"
The woman clamoured her way in the sand to reach the fallen body of her partner. "Gimme the damn gun you worthless piece of shit!"

She snatched the weapon out of the man's listless grip, twisting the fingers free of the trigger, and gaining herself what she hoped was some salvation. Using his overly robust belly for cover, she pounded out round after round into the thick vegetation, shredding the flora of it's cover.

"Where are you now, you bastard?" she wiped her eyes free of their salty sting, only to feel the sand grinding further inside the lids. "FUCK!" she screamed again when her vision blurred with tears.

She looked back over her shoulder, making sure she was still within swimming distance of their sailboat, anchored about fifty yards out from the shore and suddenly wished she'd never followed her vengeful desires. Frustrated, she used the last bullet on her partner as his flesh had rippled and contorted, silencing his agonizing screams. But even with the fire power she held in her hands now, she still wasn't sure if it was going to be enough to stop the evil that pervaded the shadowy interior of the jungle shore.

"Damn them!" she yelled once more. All she wanted was a little revenge--a little compensation for the loss of two of her crew. The beared man's face a fixed target in her mind, simply because he was the last face she saw from her hiding spot aboard her own boat. And because he was the one who ordered them to be left adrift in the frigid temperatures along with their disassembled pair of motors.

Thankfully, or so she thought at the time, they came across their boat anchored on the other side of the this island by pure coincidence.
But now, all hopes of making a surprise attack vanished the moment the first man succumbed to the nauseating death at the hands of those...those...

"What the fuck are they?" she growled.

Slapping a fresh magazine into the hilt of the gun, the pirate captain began to back up, carefully making her way to the waters edge when something--a cold and clammy solid hand feeling hand-- grabbed her by the shoulder, spinning her around so quickly that she lost her footing in the sand, and fell heavily to the ground.

"NO!" she cried.

And before she could raise the gun to at her assailent -at the creature that vaguely resembled her dead partner- she felt two pricks in the side of her neck followed by an intense pressure as if something was boring a hole straight through to her brain.

Her panic-filled body made one last very futile attempt out of pure desperation, to free herself from the creatures hold. But her gun weilding hand was caught as it rose and the gun was pried free from her trembling fingers with incredible ease.

And death could not come quick enough.


The mattress rolled beneath her exhausted body and for a split second, it felt like she was once again aboard the sailboat, floating within the open sea. But the clinging wetness of the sheets twisted around her torso, daring her upward and out of her dreamlike wanderings.

"Are you okay?" she heard her bed partner ask in a deep gravely voice when she rose to a sitting position.

Sleep still clinging to each of his concerned words, he reached up and placed a calming hand on her elbow.

Deanna, ignoring his troubled eyes, looked out the window to view the twinge of orange from the rising sun. "I think so."

It wasn't hard to understand her body language.
The sound of rustling soon gave way to the warm tender feel of Will's hands as he began to gently massage her lower back. "Didn't sleep well either?" he queried.

She sighed heavily, feeling the humidity already beginning to bead her body in perspiration. "Either this island is drifting or I'm going mad. It felt like I was still on that damn boat every time I closed my eyes."

The tone of her voice hinted at the unquenched exhaustion her body was feeling right now. Not only was she was frustrated from the lack of sleep during the last month, but also the stress of what lay in the darkened shadows of their new home also worried her.

Halting his soft circular motions against her lower back, Will groaned in agreement. "It'll get better," he promised, kicking the damp sheet from his own legs. "That is...if we don't die from heat stroke first," he growled out as he wiped his brow free of the pooling sweat. New beads already collecting there immediately.

"Maybe you should take it easy today," Will suggested, pulling his semi-naked body free from the bedding. His intentions hidden from Deanna as she soothed her tired eyes.

But his close proximity soon stalled that idea.

As she opened her eyes, his beautiful blue orbs hovered inches away as he leaned down, stradling her chest between his arms, balancing himself to keep from falling down on top of her. "Maybe we all should." she smiled.

His thoughts drifted away to images of just himself and Deanna, alone, at a secluded beach area. "I wish," he said softly, breaking his wistful dream and kissing her briefly on the nose.

Deanna watched his glorious sunkissed body move to the bathroom to strip away his shorts and step into the shower. Without waiting even a second for the water to warm, Will immersed himself within the refreshing stream.

"I think I'd like everyone to meet in one of the airplane hangers this morning," he called out. "Get a better idea of who and what we have to work with."

Deanna thought briefly of Data, and how nice it would be to have his services at call. Seconds later, she sensed Will feeling the same thing though soon after his thoughts were immediately closed off to her. Struggling up, she fought her way from the confines of their bed, moving to the doorway, accepting its offering of support as she leaned against it.

"Its okay to miss them, Will."

The water shut off sharply and he stepped from the small stall, wrapping the same towel he used the previous night around his waist. "I know," he shrugged. "But wishing them here, isn't going to get us back home."

She watched the emotions struggle across his face, even before he tried to foil her with a blank poker face. "None of us has had time mourn. Perhaps tonight would be a good night for that memorial service we talked about?"

He sighed heavily, rubbing the water from his tired eyes. Time was of the essence and the thought of sparing the evening hours on a memorial service seemed almost absurd. But also necessary.

"Alright," he cursed himself for conceading to her so easily again. That would have to stop. But that wasn't as easy as it sounded. He laughed inwardly and pecked a small kiss to her damp forehead.
Will walked his sluggish body back to the sleeping room and tried to find suitable attire before he was drenched in a sheen of sweat again.

"A small ceremony, no long speeches," he sighed, already fearing the words he knew he would have to say..

Riker slowly climbed down the ladder leading to the bottom of the silo, breathing heavily from the intense humidity, and looked around for his chief engineer.

Finally he spied him, slumped over a mess of control boards, wires, and gauges, before grabbing a hold of a copper fitting. His wide grin brightening Will's mood already. "Found it!" he exclaimed. "Hey, Barclay...it's over here!"

Lt. Barclay squeezed past the throng of crewman in the narrow passageway and grasped the small piece, instantly holding it hard to his chest protectively. "I-I-I didn't think we had one, sir."

"It looks like it's the last....." Geordi halted, catching his first glance at the broad figure approaching. Headed his way, Geordi waited and watched as Riker make his way towards him. Something heavy no doubt on his mind.

"Problem, sir?" Geordi enquired as he rose and met his once-commanding officer halfway.

Riker nodded and gestured to a small alcove off to the side. "Worf's security patrols found another boat anchored on the other side of the island." Riker paused a moment to wipe his brow of sweat. "Its the same boat that tried to raid us out at sea."

Geordi's fists clasped tightly at his side, his eyes hardening as he flashed back to the ruthless boarding they'd narrowly survived. "Did they find the crewmen?"

Riker nodded, one hand already tracing his bearded jaw. "Two bodies so far. One from a bullet wound...the other looked like a gelatenous mess." His voice whispered, unsure of how close any of Geordi's crew might be.

The was only one answer dancing around inside the Laforge's head, one he was dreading as Riker confirmed it.

"Definite signs of the Borg." Riker took in a deep breath, steadying his own dread. "And the weapons are gone, even their boat was empty, as if their newly assimilated prey knew where to locate them."

"Greeeat." The engineer shook his head. "Now they have guns!" Geordi angrily slammed his palm up aganst a close by pipe.

"And an undetermined possible increase in numbers. One more reason to be especially careful," Riker said. "One thing I guess we can bank on, is they're low on energy weapon. If they're resorting to projectiles, then hopefully we're still in a better position with our phasers." He watched Geordi slowly nod in agreement. "We've also sent Nick on his way with the list of supplies you wanted. He should be back in about two weeks if all goes well."

Thinking about the deaths of the unsuspecting visitors, LaForge mindlessly fingered a mess of bundled wires. "We may ned to alternate the frequencies on our phasers in case they've adapted their shielding from phaser burst. We've also been stock piling the projectiles we found boarded up below, and replicating the necessary ammunition in case it does come down to sticks and stones. I guess as long as they don't get a hand on the replicators, we still have a chance."

Riker slapped his friend on the back encouragingly, forcing a warming smile. "Keep working, Geordi. We've got to get this thing up and out of here before the homing beacon they sent out reaches the collective."

"Aye sir." Replied Geordi, moving back off into the corridor, leaving Riker behind to ready himself for the next item sceduled on his busy to do list.


Standing in the farthest corner of the airplane hanger, Lily Sloane regarded the loyal crew before her. All intent on watching their Commander, and now Captain, take his place in front of lecturn.

It was crazy, but she was proud in a way, proud that there was a future to look forward to, one which didn't involve the most debased of humanity ruling the world. And one where the Picard's and Riker's of the universe guarded the rights of freedom for everyone. Just a damn shame that the first one she cared for had just blown himself away, and if she wasn't careful Riker's girlfriend would surely do the same to her if she even came near him again.

She stood there leaning against the corner of the hangar, wedged in the back, away from the Enterprise's abandoned crew. A small smile on her face as she remembered the day she'd chased Riker head long into a wooden beam. He'd been backpedalling on his injured knee when Lily had tried to unzip his trousers to supposedly get a medical look at the now non-swollen knee. Of course, it hadn't been medical, but the girl shy Commander cetianly needed a medic shortly afterwards as he'd dizzily stumbled after connecting with the lump.

The smile soon faded from Lily's face as Riker began his eulogy. She could see each word hurt. Guessing that by giving a eulogy, it was the final nail that made the past few weeks, a reality to him. A vast crew, stuck on a mud ball of an angry planet, and he was responsble for all of them all. Shaking her head, Lily decided that Riker deserved the rank of Captain, no matter how many times he'd tried to tell his crew that he was only a man. Slowly, she pulled forward out of her wedged lean and wandered back outside, to leave these brave people to morn their own.


It was the second time in Will Riker's illustrious career, that he'd informed the crew of the loss of Captain Picard. This time however, there was no hope of him ever coming back.

He looked out, pausing till the tremors in his voice halted. He could feel the eyes of every member of his crew and family as they waited, with tear stained faces looking to him for leadership. Riker cleared his throat and continued on.

"...and I know that the family and friends who were lost in battle, are standing with us this very moment." The moment he glanced down into the crowd and saw Beverly Crusher's disconsulate face, he regretted the action. Thankfully, Deanna was standing with her, but he feared not even the presence of her best friend could offer any consolation in losing ones love in life.

Choking back his own emotions, Riker took in a deep breath and with a tone of utmost confidence, spoke. "And I vow to you, that I will do whatever it takes, whatever is humanly possible, to get you all home. I will not allow the lives lost, to be forgotten in a world unknown to their bravery...and to their courage."

And with those words, Will stepped down from the make shift podium and moved off to the side, waiting for the crowd to disperse before he wove his way to Deanna and Beverly's side.



"You are well?" The quiet chirp of crickets was suddenly dispursed by
the quiet but still booming question.

Deanna pondered her response at first. The seemingly innocent
question seemed to become stagnant the longer she waited to reply in
the humid nighttime air. Unsure of his true intentions, she tossed
aside a lock of her limp hair to view her former lover with great
concern. Stoic, and looking very much the warrior, she pushed her
empathic abilities beyond the faux armor and touched his raw center.

This world was not ready for Klingons, and yet here he was, stuck in
the twenty-second century....a billion miles away from his wife, and
his own people. Her heart went out to him and though he was keeping
an arms distance away, she stepped forward in the sand and wrapped
her arms around his broad shoulders. Resting her head against his
chest, she listened to the twin hearts as they pounded his sorrow.

They stayed that way for some untold minutes until she finally pulled
back to look in his eyes. "I am as well as could be expected," she
smiled. "And you?" she prepared herself for whatever he might offer,
watching his piercing eyes. But knowing he was not one to open up
emotionally, even with their recent courtship, she expected very

He looked past her, to the darkened horizon that hung over the pitch
black ocean. "It is not safe to be out here alone," he said avoiding
the question. "I would be a lot less worried about your safety if you
were to return to your secured quarters." He took hold of her arm
gently before she could reply, guiding her to the door to the
officer's barracks.

Once inside, Worf closed and locked the door behind them, barring
them against any probable intruders. Straightening his jacket, he
once more took her arm. "I noticed you weren't in your assigned room
this morning," he said without accusation. "You shouldn't go for
walks or leave the main buildings alone."

Deanna supressed a faint smile at Worf's ignorance of the fact that
she hadn't even seen the inside of that room yet. For whatever
reason, Will's always seemed much more inviting.

"I'll keep that in mind," she chuckled, rubbing his forearm

"Deanna, I'm serious. I allocated you that room specifically because
it is next to mine."

Deanna's amused expression faded and she felt it was time to explain
her relationship with Will. She stopped and look up, taking in the
huge Klingon and his garb. Being from a warmer climate, Worf
obviosuly did not feel the oppressive heat as she did, as he stood
there fully clothed head to foot.

"Worf, I-" she pulled him arm closer, enfolding it within her own as
they walked toward the stairway. "I think Will would be very
appreciative of your precautions. But I don't think its necessary.
I've taken up occupancy across the hall."

It took only a second for Worf to review the room assignments,
immediately understanding her bashful smile. "I see."

Deanna frowned at the Klingon's immediate reaction of disappointment.
"Does that bother you?"

"No," he answered quickly, looking away and grinding his teeth. He
knew she could see through his bluff.

"Worf, I know you and he have had your differences...." Deanna
shivered when she recalled the bitterness they held against each
other. A bitterness that she herself felt repsonsible for, in
breaking apart what was once a wonderful friendship between them.
She recalled the argument in which her relationship with the Klingon
came to a fateful end.

"Is he good to you?" Worf asked grufly. Bringing the past racing
towards the now and present once more.

Deanna let out a sarcastic chuckle, knowing that Worf was hinting
about Will's promiscuity. "Yes."
And believe me....I'd be the first in line to kill him should he ever cheat on me again.

"He's changed," she said with complete conviction. "He's a good man,

"I never said he wasn't."

Deanna smiled when they reached the door to Will's room. "Thank you
Worf. You're an honorable man." She said before slipping through the
darkened doorway and away from Worf's heartfelt sigh.


Will gently extricated his sweaty hand from Beverly's grip and wiped
it against the fabric of his linen pants. It had been probably only
thirty minutes or so that they'd been walking, but in the torrid heat
with the dampness of his clothing and lethargic limbs, it felt more
like hours since they'd left the memorial service. A service that had
left him drained regardless of heat or humidity.

With most of the crew now dispersed and Deanna off to counsel those
who'd approached her, he and Beverly had snuck away. To do what they
used to do in Ten Forward during the late shift when neither could
sleep, to talk. Though right now silence seemed more fitting. Their
path finally had ended up at the beach, where they now walked
barefoot in the shallows. Will's trousers were rolled up high past
his calves, along with his shirt undone to capture the slight night
time breeze.

Beverly smiled when she saw him wipe his brow again. "It takes a
while to get used to." She said, breaking their long silence.

"Now I know why I liked Alaska so much," he said, kicking at a small
breaking wave, and feeling the coolness of the water as it seeped
past his clothes. The salty taste spraying his lips in droplets.

Beverly sat down, back from the waters edge and dug her toes into the
wet sand, watching the water recede back to the ocean. "If things
don't work out, have you ever considered going back there? To Alaska."

The question startled him slightly. Starring out over the ocean,
watching as the stars danced their trail across the sky, he sighed.
He'd never considered anything except getting back to their own time.
"I don't know," he shrugged before moving back out of the refreshing
surf to sit down next to her. "For some reason I just can't picture
Deanna enjoying the cold weather."

Besides, he thought briefly, seeing Deanna in a lot less clothing
certainly did have its appeal. More so, than if she were rugged up
like a polar bear.

"Is it official yet?" Beverly asked, referring to he and the
Betazoid's current relationship. She'd been meaning to ask Deanna,
but time had gotten away from the two friends. Nothing like asking
the direct source, she thought.

He'd paused, as if weighing it in his own mind. Was he so unsure,
even after what they'd been through? Turning to view her eyes in the
limited moonlight, Will gave a small smile. "Are we officially back
together?" He wanted clarification because the thought of marriage
hadn't even crossed his mind yet. "Yes." He answered after seeing her
nod her head. "At least I think so."

"You think so?" She kidded, sitting up straighter as if to hit him.
"William Riker, if there was one good thing to come of this disaster,
then...," she paused a moment to collect herself, " I'm glad to say
that its....you two..." The words tumbled past her quivering lips.

Will felt a lump in his throat and had to gather up his courage to
meet his 'big sisters' eyes. "I'm going to miss him too, Beverly." He
reached for her hand that was grasping handfuls of sand. "And if
there was any one thing in this universe that I could want
more...then it would be for you to be able to see your son...grow up
to be the man I know he will be."

Beverly lowered her head and let the waves of emotion pour out.
Wes...gods she missed him. Even though it was going on three years
since she'd seen him last, she just always knew he'd come back to
her, in time. Now when he returned, who would tell him? Who would be
there for him when he grieved for his mother?

Will wrapped his arms around her trembling body and held her tightly.
"Ssshhh," he pressed his face into her hair and whispered. "I promise
you, Beverly...I will do whatever it takes...whatever....," he
emphasized, "to try and get you home."

Crusher gripped him with as much strength as she could muster,
fingers pressed tightly against his skin. "If there's one last thing
I have faith in...its you, Will Riker. Thank you." She snuffled.


Lily Sloane walked the beach alone, unwilling to leave the cool ocean
breeze just yet for the stuffy confines of her room. It was dark,
sure, but she'd learnt over the years to enjoy it's solitude.

Moving closer to the water, the waves gently caressed first her toes,
then her legs as she waded out a short distance from the shore.
Turning back around, the lights of the military base one by one
winked out as the officers turned in for the night. Breaking from the
mysterious spell of the salt air and its seduction, she began to head
for the beach when a chill crept up her spine. Looking around in the
darkness she squinted her eyes. Rubbing her hands up and down each
arm she shook her head, ticking it off to just nerves and a sudden
drop in temperature.

As she stood there, the tide rose habitually, the waves now brushing
her knees again. There it was again. An insane niggling at the back
of the skull. What was it?

Feeling as though she were being watched, Lily spun around quickly,
this time glancing further down the beach; nearly losing her balance
in the continuously crashing waves.

Just ahead of her, she immediately spotted two figures walking hand
in hand along the shoreline. A sense of relief replacing the flow of
adrenaline, as she recognized them as Riker and the doctor, no doubt
discussing the evenings service.

Ignoring the voyeuristic nature of what she was doing, she found
herself drawn to watch them, especially as Crusher fell into Will's
embrace like a drowning man grasping for rescue. Lily stopped where
she stood, unsure now if she should interrupt such a private moment.
Slight sounds of sobbing grief filtering down the breeze towards her.

But the sad moment was short lived as again, for whatever reason,
terror gripped her once more. In a moment of panic, she glanced back
over her shoulder, thankfully seeing nothing except the deserted
beach and it's darkened fringe of native growth. But not even that
settled her nerves.

"The hell with it," she mumbled and quickened her pace toward them.
Her desire to reach them as quick as possible, now at the forefront
of her mind.

Deciding that the fringe of water was a safer place to be, she began
to muse about the eerie feeling her legs were broadcasting. Her legs
had become adjusted to the warm water quite easily, though freezing
at first in comparison to the wind, but now when the waves crashed
into her thighs, it actually burned.

With the adrenaline pumping at a frenzied pace, she staggered a bit
turning to get closer to the shore, now realising that with the tide
she was further out than what she thought. Becoming distraught she
cried out "Hey!" But the cascading water drowned out her voice within
each crashing roll.

Exhaustion grabbed her from behind as the adrenaline, that had been
pumping her heart for the last few moments, began to take a toll. She
stumbled into the water, taking a salty gulp before smile in
gratefulness as the waves carried her inland slightly.

"Pap! Pap!" The sound spat around her regardless of her knowledge, as
Lily finally felt the safety of the sand grind against her knees. But
when she tried to stand, an excruciating burning sensation in her
thigh crippled her back down to the soft sand.

Something was wrong, really wrong. "HELP!" She choked out. "Help me!"

Laying now in the shallow water on the beach, her hands shook as she
moved down to feel her thigh, to carefully probe the area that seemed
to burn the most. Oddly, she felt a liquid, far warmer than the ocean
water, gush between her fingers. "Oh god," she gurgled, lying back
into the bloody, watery sand.


Curled up in Will's embrace, Doctor Beverly Crusher caught site of her
Looking over Will Riker's muscular shoulder, she saw the woman wash
in with the surf, struggling to get to her feet. The stumbling crawl
ending soon with her collapse.

"Its Lily!" Will hollered. In a flash, they were running towards her,
Beverly's past tears drying in the breeze. As they ran, Beverly's
mind flashed through her medical background, trying to ascertain what
may of happened until the heavy weight of Will Riker brought her
crashing down into the sand.

Spitting out sand, she tried to scream at him to get off her until
she too heard the popping sound he'd recognised. "What the-" Crusher
angrily began but was silenced when the sound continued, now
accompanied by the spray of sand just in front of them.

"Stay still!" Will ordered, as he grabbed her body and hurled them
both behind a very small dip in the sand. Covering her, Beverly could
see or hear nothing but for Lily's call and the constant pap pap pap
of the shots, this time not aiming for them. "God...noooo!" She
called out in desperation.

Will glanced up to see lily's body jerk one more as her lower body
was riddled with more bullets. His heart aching for her as he
calculated the near impossible distance to her side without getting
hit himself.

"I have to get to her!" Beverly tried to push him off her until Will
harshly shoved her down harder. "Stay put, doctor! That's an order!"
He yelled as the bullets flew past at a rapid pace, Riker burrowing
them further into the sand as he tried to cover both their heads with
his large hands.

"They won't kill her!" Will reasoned out loud. "They need her alive
to feed off!" He kept telling himself this until the anguished cries
from Lily calling for help peeled off another layer from his heart.
She needed him, in fact, expected him to save her. A white knight in
sandy trousers.

The gun fire ceased for a moment and Will peered out over the crest.
Lily's moans quieting. "Fuck it!" He growled when he saw the woman
laying still now.

Will began to rise to his feet, getting his balance ready to sprint,
when a bullet grazed past his back, nicking his shirt, and leaving
behind a small red stain. "Damn it!" He wheezed when he fell back
atop Crusher, dodging another bullet and locking away the stinging
sensation across his back. "I can't let them get to her!"

"Will?" Beverly muffled, her head still shoved against the sand by
Will's broad body.

"Shhhhhh," he whispered, trying to identifying the familiar voices in
the distance. Another shot glanced off the top of the crest, spraying
him with sand until the sounds of phaser fire were finally heard.

Using this as his only opportunity, Will started to make the move
towards Lily, crawling along on his belly. Dodging a few more pap
paps that skimmed by, he sloshed through the wet sand till he reached
her motionless body, gathering her up in his arms. "Lily? C'mon Lily,
let me see those beautiful eyes of your's."

Tired and pain filled, Lily's eyes slowly cracked opened to smile at
her white knight. "Guess I made it," she forced a smile past her
sandy red lips. Her arms too limp to pull herself further against his
warm body.

"You're going to be okay," Will caressed her face, wiping away the
grains of sand. Trying with all his might to avoid the bloodied lower
half of her body for fear of her seeing it in his eyes.

A final phaser fizzed by, the air now filled with concerned calls
rather than bullets. As the voices approached, Crusher rose from the
hidden crest and ran quickly to Lily's aid. The scene, one of
sadness, as Lily's death appeared inevitable to her.



A faint breeze blew through the opened window, gently taunting the
humidty within with it's tingling coolness, stirring the muggy air
just enough to make it bearable. A figure within moved about in the
moonlight, closing the door behind her and taking up residence at the
small un-paned window.

Takig a deep breath, Deanna kicked off her sandals, and tasted the
smell of salt in the air. Holding back the frizzed strands of her
hair as the breeze toggled them back and forth, she gazed out over
the ocean, mesmerized by the serenity of both sight and sound.

Moonlight glistened off the rolling waves, illuminating the surf in
its bright beams. Though she couldn't see the beach below their risen
plateau of land, she knew Will was out there with Beverly, no doubt
consoling each other in the loss of their friends. Each empathic
thread of her friends, crashed against her senses until she built up
a buffer zone from their tide of emotions. Not shutting them out but
muting their sadness.

She too was hurting, and not just from the laborious hours of
counselling she had performed for the shipwrecked crew. Pushing away
the temptation to join them, Deanna decided to head for bed before
the room began to warm again. With the moon fully above them, the sun
would rise soon, well at least a few hours she surmised.

Beginning to slip off her sundress, an intense shiver of cold
traversed her frame. Her entire body beaded with goosebumps as if the
temperature had just dropped twenty degrees. Stepping back to the
window in trepidation, she heard what sounded like the soft paff of a
gunshot echoeing throughout the closely packed buildings of the
military base.

Seconds later as she franticly pulled her dress back on, the sounds
of footsteps racing down the hall outside the door, urged her to
follow. But her feet refused to budge at first as an intense searing
scream of emotion cut into her. Pain, anguish and remorse.

"Gods no....Will!"


The recinding waves, regardless of the emergency situation, rushed
around Will's knees, trying with might to budge him from his kneeling
stance. He panted, griting his teeth against his own injured
shoulder. "We've got to get her inside!" he grunted trying for the
second time to secure her within his grip, the sea water demanding
her back within it's icy tomb.

Crusher knelt down beside them both, as Will hung on tight murmuring,
"hold on lily, you're going to be alright." Each time a wave crashed
and receeded, she was nearly caught off balance by the strong
undertow. Fighting the waters grip, she reached for Will's arm to
balance herself, holding on tightly as she glanced down at the
woman's limp body.

With each wave, the water washed away the blood from the wounds, only
to have the dark crimson liquid return almost immediately. They were
surrounded in an amber aura of death as each wave drained her of life.

"Can you get her inside?" Beverly asked, ignoring the morbid scene,
snapping into action. She knew Lily's chances were slim, but so had
many others in the past, Will Riker a larger than life example.

Will nodded at her request and tried to stand when a much larger wave
crashed over his head, dropping him to his knees again. He released
her legs for a moment to readjust his grip when Crusher spotted the
largest of all her injuries.

It had been pinched closed when Will cradled her body a few seconds
before, but now that her legs lay flacid for just that moment, a
gaping hole within Lily's groin spewed forth a frightening torent of

Using her fist as a dyke, Beverly thrust it into the hole applying
pressure as best she could, fighting to keep it there as Will
straightened his shaky legs.

He looked down at his charge, only able to see Lily's chin as her
head hung back like a rag doll. Staggering out of the surf, he almost
missed Beverly's tirade.

"There's too much blood," she growled in frustration. "I can't stop
it!" Holding Will back before he tried to conconquer the beach with
his determined stride, she reached forth to find Lily's pulse, half
knowing what she'd find. "She's gone," Beverly dropped her hand to
her side and hit her thigh in anger.

"She can't be!" Will twisted to look at Lily's face but brown,
lifeless eyes were all that stared back at him.

"NO!" Will murmured in heart felt grief. He slumped backdown to the
sand still cradling her body closely. "Beverly...she's our only

"She's lost too much blood, Will. There's nothing I can do for her
here." The last word, digging into her heart. If only the Enterprise
was still there. Berating herself, she placed a comforting hand upon
his back. "I'm so sorry." She added before leaning forward to huddle
over them both.

The moonlight of the beach bathing their miserable forms, as the
sound of Starfleet officers secured the perimeter.


The remorse she felt nearly knocked her to her knees before Deanna
raced out the door. Steadying herself, one hand tightly digging into
her temple, she settled her empathic core and set off once more,
taking the same path as Worf and the other security personnel had;
around the buildings, towards the beach.

Her sense of Will was erratic, mostly due to her own panic and fear.
Shutting him out hadn't been the best idea, but if she wanted to be
clear headed enough not to run into a palm tree, then it was

Stumbling slightly went her feet hit the loose, deep sand at the edge
of the beach, she stopped a moment to catch her breath. Deathly aware
of the silence, a few lone security men stalking the edge of the
darkened foliage, she sighted the form of Beverly. And the
frightening scene of her hovering over Will.

Fear gripped her heart and squeezed it hard. Taking a cleansing
breath, she forced her lethargic legs to move at a pace her body
wanted to reject.

The closer she came, the more harrowing the shaking form of Will and
a blood soaked shirt scared her.

"Imzadi!" she screamed in despair, stumbling over the soft foot
plowed sand to sink to her knees at their side. Tears covering her
cheeks, she took in his bloody shoulder first, and only then did she
look further to see the dead wide eyes of Lily below him. She
stumbled back landing flat on her backside in shock.

Beverly turned to her friend, with her own tear stained face. "He's
okay." Knowing what the Betazoid was thinking. "Only a small shoulder
wound. Lily took the worst from their attack." She swallowed hard
from forcing the dead womans name to her lips.

"No." Will murmured quietly until he screamed out loud. "No! You
bastards!" He stood up shakily and fell back to his kness a few paces
away, thumping the sand hard with his fists in anger.

All three sat still, the waves still lapping back and forth, until
the figure of Worf quietly approached. He stood quietly taking in the
carnage before giving his report. "The area is now secure. They're
tactics were dishonorable."

Will continued to glare angrily at the sand tightly fisted in his
grip. He wanted to yell, he wanted to scream at how unfair this all
was, but all he could do was quietly order the Klingon to take her
away. "And do it gently, Worf. She may be gone now, but her body
should be treated with honor."

As soon as he nodded, Will stood and began wandering back to the
encampment, ignoring Beverly's call. Shoulder dressing be damned. He
was in his own world of hate right now, unaware of Deanna as she ran
to his side, brushing away her caring touch.

Not taking no for an answer, she passed him again, this time standing
in his way. He stood there, his chest rising and falling heavily and
in pain. His blue eyes dark in the moonlight stared at her intensely,
until his knees slowly bent and he found himself holding onto her
waist, his face pressed deep into chest.

Feeling the torent of emotional fill from his eyes and heart, she
wrapped her arms around his head and listened to him cry for the
injustice of what had just been done.

Standing there, she waited, tears of her own rushing down her warm
cheeks as she watched Beverly pass between the palms further down the
beach, with Worf and his deathly still charge.

It would soon be sunrise, but not even the glow of another day would
remove the taint of the nights events. Gathering up Wills' fallen
form, she directed him home to their cabin. Sure that he would prefer
to not be spied by his fellow crew members in the state he was in.


The room remained deathly silent, save for the splatter of wet
clothes upon the straw matting as Will angrily tossed them to the
floor. Each garment removed in haste, and distaste, until they lay
discarded in a bloody wet heap.

Deanna sat upon the bed as he'd undressed, patiently hoping that he
would completely release his emotions once more to her. His brief
moment of tears earlier was just that. Brief.

She knew there was more. Boiling under the surface and ready to scold
anyone within it's reach. She sensed his anger. Felt his frustration
and sadness. But only for a minute.

A wall slammed down. And in that instant she knew she'd been
trespassing. He'd closed her off quickly. No doubt to save her from
the vile hatred that now consumed him.

Deanna didn't know how long she'd been starring at the bloody pile of
clothes, but the now naked man before her, and his piercing blue eyes
said it had been forever. He broke contact and pulled a pair of linen
shorts from the neat pile of garments she'd replicated for him

Not a word said, nor an explanation for why he was shutting her out
now. They were Imzadi. Two souls as one. Surely he knew she wanted to
join him, to help soften the brunt of his pain with him?

Again the silence of the room was deadly. She continued to sit there
watching as he fumbled with pulling on the shorts, his shoulder wound
restricting his movement, making the simple action awkward.

"Will, would you like for me to get Beverly?" she asked softly when
she spied his own wound was still dripping blood down his back.

Mumbling a curse or two in response, he discarded his t-shirt and
pressed a towel to his shoulder instead, wiping away the drips.

Taking that as her answer, Deanna went to him and ushered him to the
bedside. Taking the bloody towel away from his own hands, she
glimpsed at it for herself. "Can I get you something to drink?"

Bending over, his head came to rest in the palm of his hand and
Deanna moved to sit behind him then, slowly pulling him down beside
her. "You need to sleep," she whispered, cradling his back against
her chest, all the while careful of his gun shot wound.

After a moment of gentle rubs and massaging of his chest, she felt
him relax back into her but he was not yet willing to fall asleep.

"She should never have been alone." His voice was barely audible, his
head turned away, and muffled against his pillow.

"Would that have made any difference?" Deanna wondered. "We might
have lost even more than what we have now." She gazed at the towel
covering his wound, it's slow clotting reminding her of how close
Will was to becoming the next victim.

Deanna sat up with her back against the wall, ready to leave to get
Beverly, when he rolled over and wrapped himself around her legs,
placing his head in her lap.

"I don't know." He murmured. "I don't know anything anymore."

Deanna softly stroked his back, taking one last look at his wound.
"Ssshhh. We'll talk in the morning."

Will nodded sluggishly and moments later, soft snores tickled the
inside of her thigh. She waited until his breathing mellowed down
first, making sure he was in a deep slumber before attempting to
extricate herself out from under his body.

But she paused. Cradling his upper body like a baby, a sense of deja
vu began to flash through her mind as she recalled the nights events.
Images blurred and slowed, as if she was seeing them through
melten toffee. Lily's limp body, twisted, as she lay dying in his
arms. Deanna closed her eyes and tried to relax but the images

The shocking colors saturated the image, but her body's placement
kept shouting at her. Lily...in Will's arms!

Every muscle in her body tensed. Her heart beating madly. If it
weren't for Will laying heavily atop her lap, she may have jumped to
her feet in fright.

Gods...it was her own death she was seeing. Lily's own death!

It was now well over a month ago when Lily had first came to her. Her
teasing tones, laced with assured gloating. Her preminition, the one
telling of how one day, she'd be found in Will's embrace.

Deanna glanced down when she felt Will stirring in her arms.

"What is it?" His weeried eyes looked up, filled with even more concern than before.

Deanna quickly turned her head, knowing full well the fear was still very evident in her eyes. "Nothing you should be concerned with now," she said softly.

Will's gaze momentarily settled upon the rapid rise and fall of her chest before he caught her eyes with a demanding, penetrating glare.

Aware that she'd be unable to avoid answering him, Deanna took a deep breath and began to tell of the dream, watching him become even more distressed with every word.

"I'm sorry, Will. I should have told you about the dream long ago. But I thought it was so far-fetched that-"

"It didn't require my knowledge?" Will breathed, disbelieving that she would withold any information from him, even if she deemed it unimportant.

"At the time...yes! There were enough problems for you to worry about. you didn't need to be worn down by some petty accusation of jealousy!"

Will's head hung tiredly. Deanna was right. He didn't need to know every indisciminate detail of the crew's personal life. Including Deanna's.
And with a silent nod follwed by a long sigh, he rubbed his eyes. "It doesn't matter anyway now," he mumbled and sat up.

A faint glow over the horizon caught his attention, taunting him with a promise of a new day.

"Deanna, I don't know how much mo-"

Deanna cursed beneath her breath when a knock at the door interrupted what she hoped was going to be an emotional release by Will.

Riker glanced at Deanna quickly to make sure she was dressed. "Come."


Chapter 27


Trying to forget her own exhaustion, she pushed it away with as much
luck as Riker had with dispensing of medical treatment, the crushing
weight returning regardless. Crusher knocked again and waited until
she heard a very tired voice beyond the door finally bidding her to

"I came to check on your injury," the doctor said as soon as she
cracked open the door to the darkened room, moving poignantly towards
the bed. Her determined pace only halted once beside the large
immobile body before her.

"I'm fi-..." Riker sucked in a deep breath through gritted teeth when
he felt her fingers against his tender shoulder.

"For a grazing wound," she said as she flipped open one of the few
noticeable items of their own time, "this sure looks ugly. It's
deeper than I assumed."

Sliding one of Will's t-shirts over her head, Deanna slipped from the
bed covers to give the doctor more space to lay her equipment. Half
listening to the doc at work, she poured a glass of water for
herself. The covered glass jug, a reminder of how little power they
had left to run the replicators. The majority of water now was
gathered from deeper within the jungle and boiled stringently. The
simple task now performed with armed officers.

Beverly tuttered, drawing her attention back to Will as he sat
heavily upon the bed, head downcast and focused elsewhere.

"It's deep Will. I'll have to pack this and replace the bandages
daily. Too bad we don't have a working regenerator." As the last
words rambled out, Beverly instantly bit her bottom lip, regreting
her flippant comment.

The immovable man, became an awakened giant as Riker stood abruptly,
brushing away the doctors hands. "Don't worry about it then."

Beverly hung her head, disgusted in herself for making such a comment
when she knew he was feeling so overwhelmed with grief and
disappointment. Everyday, the commander had been bombarded with more
and more problems with camp life. Supplies low, malfunctioning
equipment, distraught ensigns. The burden may of been divided between
ex-department heads and senior staff, but in the end, it all came
back to the "captain" of the group.

"Will." Deanna stood near the bathroom door, leaning against the
frame, absorbing his glare. "Let Beverly do what she can."

"She's right, Commander." Beverly moved forward holding out the
hypospray, waiting for him to bolt as if it were a venoumous snake.
"With the moist heat here, it's liable to become infected. Something
we can't afford to take risks with. It's already been open and raw
for a dangerous amount of ti..."

"Save your medicine for someone who needs it," Will interrupted.

Shaking her head at his sheer childishness, she stalked his own
wandering steps and stuck the hypo to his neck. Expecting him to jump
away from her reach, she was pleasantly surprised when his body
didn't even flinch. The hypo's hiss breaking the silence.

"I need to pack and bandage it," Beverly added, turning him around
easily by gently guiding his arm. She led him back to bed where he
sat without any argument. Deanna's eyes shadowing him, no doubt aware
of the stinging wound's pounding pain finally subsiding.

Unwilling to meet the eyes of either woman, Riker continued to stare
out of the window, watching the sky grow brighter with every passing
minute. In a few hours, the entire crew will have heard of the
night's disaster. Meaning, the entire crew would be looking to him
with questions regarding their future, again.

And what would he tell them?

That their future now lay dead, buried in a shallow grave covered by

Riker let out a sarcastic hmpf, and caught the curious glare of the

Surely by now, Cochrane and his blueprints were long gone.
Undoubtedly snatched up by Earth's political leaders, eager to make
their mark in the newly-found universe.

"There. All done." Beverly intruded into his thoughts. "I need you to
come see me every morning for replacement bandages, until I say so."
She didn't add the "OK", knowing that she'd have to locate him
regardless of her orders.

He sighed and looked over his shoulder at the thick padding, gently
smoothing his fingers over it in curiosity. A slight intake of
breathe, indicating that it still hurt. "Thanks," he said, before
grabbing a shirt draped over the chair by the door and bolting from
the room.

Beverly looked over at Deanna, watching as the Betazoid counsellor
shook her head, they both knew it was hopeless in trying to catch up
with the ground eating stride he'd just shown.

"I'm sorry," Beverly apologised.

"Don't." Deanna smiled warmly. "He needs time to sort out what
happened. And a lot of support from us when he resigns to the truth,
that we may just be stuck here forever."

Beverly just nodded, moving forward to pack up her items. "I couldn't
save her. It was just too much..." She paused, sniffing slightly,
before placing a brave smile onto her face. "I'll go let Worf know
that Will's out striding around in an angry mood. Make sure he keeps
the questioning ensigns out of the way before he smites them."

Deanna let loose a small giggle, glad that the two of them were still
able to lighten each others moods with a single word or two.

"And I'll go see about a shower." Deanna wrinkled her nose jokingly,
as Beverly headed out, though underneath her concerns about Lily's
dream were still not buried.


This far in, the jungle green was thick and luscious. In fact the
cloying heat was doing nothing for his mood. But the exertion on his
body felt better than just sitting down and talking.

Swinging his machette side to side, he cleared a path forward through
the twisting, flowering vines and tall banana and palm trunks. Yes
he was alone, regardless of Worf's offerings to follow him. But he'd
needed the solitude to consume and absorb what had just happened. The
tables had been turned away from their favor again. And it was him,
Will Riker, who's duty it was to find results. Results that would aid
them and finally get them back to their own time. The Klingon, his
friend and fellow officer, had seen the darkness lying in Will's eyes
and had acceeded to the Commander's wishes.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Ching!

Brought out of his funk, he paused in shock as the sound of metal
hitting metal schrieked into his senses. Metal? A lost escape pod
maybe? Taking in his surroundings, he viewed the wall of green as it
gave way to the rising line of rock escarpments above. But before
him, once the green leaves were pushed aside, sat an object that sent
jaggered shivers down his spine.

The jutting metal seemed like any other bit of shrapnel from an
escape pod, but this piece bore the distinct design of Borg adaption
and disassembly. The intricate wiring wound around the object in a
disorganised looking jumble, almost covering it's true identity. A
plasma generator for sure.

And not just any generator. This could only of come from The
Enterprise herself. No pod was equiped with a device like this. By
the looks, they'd started to repair it from other scavenged parts.
probably ripped from the ships engineering bay before it'd blown.

The hair rose on the back of his neck. Did this mean that they had
access to other equipment? Brought down from the ship before the
Captain had destroyed it? He took a step backwards and tried to
still his beating heart.

So where were the Borg then? Why weren't they guarding this? Or did
they think the little terror aids they'd performed on the crew had
frightened the puny humans away?

Spying quickly around his vacinity, giving furtive glances into the
green, Riker paused on the edge of his inquisitiveness. Taking a
chance he took one foot forward rather than back to where the safety
of the camp lay. And then another until he could move no further. The
chiling scene beyond the flimsy protective wall before him, routed
him to the spot.

The El Baz. USS Enterprise NCC-1701E. Was emblazoned across what
little remained of it's hull. The majority of it's shell borgified. A
small group of automotons working around and inside it's structure.
Fitting and adapting it's technology to theirs. Riker held back his
next breath as he paused his gaze over the modified deflector dish.
No doubt already modified with the Borg coordinates and settings to
travel time.

Shit! He thought. They're planning to leave. Or are they calling for

Just then the voice of hell spoke up.

"Commander William Thomas Riker. You will be assimulated. Resistance
is futile."


Deanna gave a warm smile, and gently patted Dana Yeates's hand. The
young lieutenant before her, hardly in what one would calla uniform,
had been confiding to her about her interests in a certain young man
on the other side of camp. Her misgivings about carrying out a
romance within such settings was unsettling to her. Her mind no doubt
stuck between duty and the heart.

//Will?//Deanna paused in her duties, as an intense burst of fear
struck her heart.

"Counsellor?" Dana queried. Without realising, she found herself
standing, mouth agape. The young woman already looking nervous before
her. Whatever the counsellor has sensed, had to of been bad news for
such a reaction.

"Get Worf! Now!" Deanna ordered without answering. her gaze turning
swiftly due East.

Moments passed as she tried to untangle the wealth of fear, anger and
pain from what could only be Will Riker. As Worf fell in beside her,
the wall of green before them, only 20 or so metres away broke apart
to reveal their commander in full flight.

"Worf!" He bellowed. "Get armored up! Guard the compound!" Skidding
to a halt at Deanna's side. He leant over, hands on knees as he tried
to gasp in lung-fulls of air. Blood and sweat had saturated his
padded shoulder from the exertion. Finally he stood up, fear
emblazoned across his eyes, as he began dragging her back to the
central post of their camp.

"Will?" She prompted.

"Borg" He replied.


Chapter 28

Trying to match Riker's long strides was difficult enough. But dodging the thick brush and low hanging branches made it nearly impossible for the short Betazoid to keep up with him. Whether it was his sweaty hand or hers, their grip slipped from each other seconds before a giant fern swapped Deanna across the face, sending her flailing to the ground.

Frantically looking back over her shoulder, she heard the crunch of footfalls in the sand not more than twenty meters behind them. In panic she screamed out "Will!" before clawing her way to a small clearing off the beaten path her Imzadi had just made.

Pausing briefly under the nearest fern canopy, she nearly screamed again when, in a flash, two strong arms lofted her to her feet. Catapulting her small frame to safely land over his shoulder, the greenery sped away below her, but the ever present sounds of pursuit were still following.

Will grunted with every step, as Deanna realized she was slap bang on top of his recent gun shot wound. But his tight grasp forbade her to move. With his lungs pumping air in and out, and the harsh slapping of greenery, any request to be lowered was unheard, as he focused on heading back along the trail.

After a few moments Will stopped, dropping her back to her feet, and bending over, hands on knees to suck in huge lung fulls of air. The jungle was quiet…too quiet. Even the birds were silent.

Looking up Deanna spotted their pursuers and yelled "MOVE!" as an assimilated ex-crew member broke onto their path just behind them, pincers at the ready. As they took off, Will thrust a long leg sideways, dropping another assimilated Borg to his back. With the increased sounds gaining behind them, they knew they still had more than one Borg to deal with.

Approaching the perimeter of the base, a figure stood in their way, the sunlight teasing them with relief. Will paused cautiously, until Deanna dragged him onwards, aware that their new foe was one of their own crew with phaser in hand.

"Back about twenty yards," she heard Will’s voice rumbling as he addressed the group of security personnel gathered near the trail.

The group, led by a fully armed Klingon, headed back into the brush, disappearing almost instantly within the green backdrop.

Without a moment's thought, Deanna turned around quickly and captured Will's arm in a desperate attempt to keep him from following the men.

"What?" he growled angrily, sweat dripping freely.

"You can't go back in there!" her voice might have been shaky as she tried to catch her breath, but the seriousness of her desire was extremely clear.

Will ripped his arm from her hands. "I have to go."

In a rush of anger and disbelief, Deanna held him with her gaze for a moment, her dark eyes pleading her case until he looked away from their intensity. A second later, he too disappeared into the dark of the jungle-like verdure.


"It's a transmitter alright."

Riker brushed his hand over the device that once served as the El-Baz's communication center. "How long?" he breathed, then closed his eyes for fear of the answer.

Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge shrugged. "Hard to say. Could be months, could be days before they arrive. But it has been used."

Clenching his fist in anger, Riker slammed it against the inner hull. "Damn it!"

"Do we know for sure this transmitter even works?" Worf said as he fumbled with some of the wires protruding from a hole below the consul.

Geordi held up a much smaller, odd-looking piece of machinery that was connected to the consul by a thick, black wire. "Its not so much that," he pointed to the blinking lights on the El Baz, "but this, that makes me certain their message went out."

Riker recognized the piece of Borg technology instantly and took it from Geordi's open palm, swiftly severing its connection to the transmitter with a single, angry yank.
"An internal homing device.”


A delicate groan accompanied the sound of two greasy hands as reached forth and slapped the sides of the missile's newly cut door. Warm, but cooler air washed over her face immediately as Deanna lay there on her back, looking up past the open silo and into the darkening evening sky.

In hopes of freeing her mind of the worry and thoughts that had been coursing through her mind ever since Will stomped off back into the jungle, Deanna sought refuge in work, taking any job she could just for a moment of peace.

Flashes of anger returned. It was hard to shake off the frustration, and the disappointment that he would traipse off into such a dangerous situation without a plan, and with so few reinforcements. And against her wishes. But these were desperate times, she knew. Skilled tactical planning wasn't always an option.

Smearing a patch of grease across her brow, when she wiped the sweat away, she felt his presence long before his footsteps echoed through the metal halls.

"Need a hand?" His voice was soft, but she could hear the smirk behind it, and a line of uneasiness.

Dragging herself barely from the hole, she looked up, offering no indication of her own emotions. She wanted nothing more than to jump into his arms, but his disregard for his own safety had cut deep.

Will ignored the black streaks of grease running from hand to elbow and gently guided her out of the tiny opening.

"Thanks," she said, realizing for the first time just how incredibly grungy she truly was.
She tried to brush the dirt away from her coveralls only to find that it was smearing even more across the exposed skin of her arms and face. "I think I need a bath." In a frustrated manner.

Ignorant of her anger, he smiled and joked. "I kind of like it."

Deanna shook her head and lowered her gaze, trying desperately not to take the flirtacious bait. But sensing his lightened mood and somewhat encouraging attitude, she couldn't resist. It had been awhile since she'd seen him smile.

Reaching up, she touched a greasy finger to the tip of his nose. "It's not quite my color."

Before she could draw her hand back, he grabbed it, pulling it towards his chest and laced his arms around her torso. "You've found something," she voiced her understanding.

"Mmhmm," he nodded. Hidden behind his own sheen of dirt and sweat, a grin grew. "The El Baz."

"What?" she gasped, all thoughts to his sudden rise in libido forgotten. "But I thought-"

"We did too. Apparently, a few of the Borg escaped via the shuttlecraft and not just the escape pods after all."

Hearing footfalls echo in the narrow enclosure and feeling the shake of the catwalk from where they stood, Will pressed deeper into Deanna, forcing them against the hull of the missile to allow the passing crewman down the narrow passage.

Long after the ensign had gone, Will looked down at her small form pressing into him and smiled. "The El Baz," he whispered again as though he couldn't believe it himself.

A rivet dug into the small of her back and she pushed him away, glad to feel a slight breeze again. "Did you bring it back here?" Placing a errant locks of escaping hair behind her ear.

Will's arms crossed when she slipped from his grasp. "No. There was some Borg technology interfering with the engine controls. We'll have to drag it back somehow so Geordi and his team can work on it."

"And the Borg?" she asked, this time unable to hide the anger in her voice.

Will shuffled his feet to prepare for his well-deserved lecture. One arm now swung up to rest a hand over his sore shoulder.

"You didn't find them, did you?."

"No," he said dejectedly.

“So what happens when they come in search of ‘their’ home once we’ve brought it back here? They’re still out there, waiting to pick us off one by one.” Awaiting his answer, she crossed her arms and moved to lean heavily against a cool concrete column. And when he didn't answer right away, she raised an eyebrow and circled him. "You didn't think of that did you?"

He shrugged. "Look, Deanna..."

She stopped in front of him and glared. "This is not like you, Will. You're flying off the handle, moving without a plan-"

“Maybe because my so-called plans haven't worked!" his voiced boomed, echoing throughout the entire silo. "In case you've missed it, everything I've planned this far has failed!" His last word was punctuated a hand slap against the metal railing, as he turned and looked down to the base of missile.

Realizing she was wrong to burst his bubble like that, she moved forward and embraced him from behind, laying her head against his back. "Not everything has failed, Imzadi."

She felt the anger ebb slightly. "I'm sorry, Will. That was wrong of me."

"No. You aren't wrong, Deanna. It just seems that no matter what I've done lately, it’s been a mistake."

She maneuvered around so that she could try and read the side of his face that wasn’t in shadow. "You can't be held responsible for circumstances beyond your control. Lili's death was her own fault. She shouldn't have been out alone like that."
She took his face in her grimy hands, and turned it to face her. "Not everything comes as a result of one of your decisions, Will."


"But- nothing!" This argument was getting old. Real old. And though she knew she started it, it was time to finish it once and for all. "Just keep doing what you do best. No one has lost faith in you except 'you'."

Deanna silenced any further objections with a kiss. "Now, I do believe it’s time for that bath.” She began to walk away when she glanced back over her shoulder. “You coming?”
Like a hungry puppy trailing his owner, in one giant stride, Riker fell in step with his lover.


Chapter 29

Twigs snapped as the men gave one final tug on the heavy ropes. Now resting at the edge of the dense foliage, just a few hundred feet from its final destination, the El-Baz shuttle gleamed brightly in the mid-day sun.

“That’s enough!” a man shouted. “We’ll finish this up this evening!”

Worf threw his share of the rope down angrily and cursed in his native language.

“You know, Worf,” a bare-chested Geordi smacked the burly Klingon on his drenched back, “you can finish it all on your own, if you’d like?”

The engineer glanced up at the sun and wiped his brow. “Heat stroke doesn’t sound too appealing to me.” Stretching his sore hand and back muscles, he walked away from another low growl of cursing.

Dozens of workers helping to move the enormous machine eagerly headed toward the beach, leaving Worf and Riker to inspect the thick logs it rested on. Each log sunken further into the ground than the last as the forest floor gave way to unstable sand.

“Once we get to the pavement,” Riker glanced over his shoulder towards the buildings, “it’ll be a piece of cake,” said more to himself than a public broadcast. Once they’d spotted daylight from the jungle, their hopes had soared, only to be shot down immediately by the quicksand properties of the ground than had slowed them to a crawl in direct burning light.

“It could have been done now!” Worf grumbled as he stood proudly, enjoying the burning of his own muscles.

“Worf, it’s a hundred degrees out here!” Riker rasped, feeling the dryness in his throat. “I’m not a slave driver!”

“It is too close to where we’ve spotted the Borg,” Worf argued.

“Then you’ll have a security team surround us while we finish the last part of the move tonight!”

“With all due respect, Commander-“

“That’s enough Lieutenant!” Riker’s temper flared. It wasn’t something he liked to show to the crew, but then again, Worf wasn’t exactly under his command either.

Riker sighed tiredly. The day had been a long one. He had fought the heat, humidity and complete exhaustion, he didn’t need to fight a comrade now.

In a low, guttural growl, Worf hissed again a phrase something Riker knew referred to honor.

“To hell with your honor!” Riker yelled. “Is that the kind of stuff they teach you on that god-forsaken station? Disrespect and disobedience?”

Worf snarled and balled his fist. But in direct contrast to his fierce stance, his voice was soft when he spoke, “Honor is all I left.”

Riker felt as if he’d taken a blow to the gut. He stared into his friend’s eyes to see the pain and anguish he couldn’t…didn’t want to ever imagine feeling. He knew Worf had finally found happiness with Jadzia Dax. And now, to be separated perhaps forever, from the woman he’d given his life to….

Fate is just plain cruel, Riker thought.

He had Deanna. And, if it ever came right down to it, his life would be complete if they were to end up here, on Gravette Island, for the rest of their lives. Worf on the other hand, was suffering without his beloved beside him. Forced to watch a former lover and friend move on in spite of him was equal to Deanna being torn away from Will himself.

“Look, Worf…” he began with considerably more control than before, “our men have just cleared a path through a kilometer of dense jungle…tugging a shuttle through the sand in outlandish heat. Losing twelve men to heat exhaustion along the way…I can’t ask them to continue on. We’ll finish it tonight, okay?”

Worf glanced back to the trail they’d just emerged from then toward the beach as if his answer was about to roll in with the next wave.

Seconds passed when Riker scanned the horizon and spotted the object that had caught the Klingon’s attention.

“I will go and make preparations for tonight,” Worf acknowledged the approaching Deanna Troi with a slight nod as he started back down the path to the main headquarters.

As graceful as she could, Deanna shuffled her feet in the hot sand toward the shuttle. “Worf,” she smiled as he passed but the look on her face faded quickly when she sensed his inner turmoil and frustration. And loss. She looked in question to Will immediately and saw him shake his head.

<Not now>, he sent, and she reluctantly let her friend continue on his path.

“Do I want to know what happened?” she asked.

“Probably not,” he shrugged, hoping she’d let the matter drop.

She did. “I finished helping Beverly with the last heat stroke patient and decided I’d better check on you.”

He leaned tiredly against the shuttle’s hull, thankful for the coolness of the heat resistant metal. “I’m still alive. Barely.” A river of sweat poured down his chest, the tank top he wore no longer able to soak up any more wetness.

“Looks like you need a good cooling off.”

Will let his eyes wander down her body and back up again. Her tropical looking outfit consisting of a wrap around skirt and top knotted tight just above her abdomen wasn’t about to let ‘anything’ cool off. She looked more at home on this tropical island than the sand itself with her dark tan and bright spirits.

He laughed. And how many crewmen did she think she helped cool off earlier?
“Looks like our bath tub is a bit crowded now.” Will winked. The water they swam in the night before was now speckled with dozens of swimmers.

Taking hold of his slippery arm, she pulled him toward the beach nonetheless. Glancing at the pinkening flesh on his shoulders. “Looks like I saved you before Beverly needed to mend and lecture you about prolonged sun exposure,” she jibed.

"And for that, I am truly grateful to my Imzadi for,” he grinned tiredly. The distance to the shore thankfully wasn’t far because the ache in Riker’s legs nearly caused him to slip to the ground more than once.

They descended the last small sand dune and with Deanna’s help, Riker kicked off his boots before wading into the surf, still dressed like a shipwrecked survivor.

With a splash, he dove beneath the surface and emerged seconds later, feeling only slightly better from the warm tropical waters. Removing his top, and the drenched dressing, his wounded shoulder smarted as the mixture of left over sweat and sea water quickly covered the fragile new skin.

“Well at least it’s mending,” he muttered in the warm water, continuing to rub his arms and chest to hopefully remove his own stench.

Turning back towards the beach, Deanna sat with her feet dug deep into the cool wet sand. She was smiling, but not at him. With a glance down the water’s edge, he needn’t be empathic to sense the change in mood of the crewmen.

Playful frolic and laughter that had been almost nonexistent before returned, and Riker understood why.

The El Baz.

The discovery of the shuttle had tremendous implications and gave them the most hope yet of returning to their own time.

If they could get the damn thing to fly, that is.

Riker cringed and immediately felt Deanna’s scrutiny.

“You okay?” she questioned as he bent back down to immerse his burnt shoulders into the shallow water. Trying to hide his scowl behind a smile, he wiped the salty water from his eyes and shook away the uncertainty and doubt. “Sure.”

She sat and watched him, carefully monitoring his liquid emotions. Her petite body teasing him as Deanna readjusted her position in the sand, showing him far more inner thigh than she no doubt realized, when her skirt slipped toward her waist.

Borg be damned, he thought. He had Deanna. And they were going home!

Despite the exhaustion, he emerged from the water while she sat turned, watching the crew’s frivolity. In one quick move, and at a moments decision, hoisted her into his arms and raced back into the water.