Title: 'Winters Solstice'
Rating: R , character death
Paramount owns everything except this idea
Setting: Approx. one week after the discovery of Thomas Riker on Nervala IV
A cold burst of air stung the fair skin of the young woman's cheeks and nose the instant she stepped from the shuttle. Nestling into the fur lined collar of the Starfleet issued coat, she glanced quickly about the landing platform and watched as a hord of employee's franticly worked to keep the falling snow from accumulating on the tarmac. Plows, shovels, blowers circled each other seemingly unable to keep up with the blizzard that raged from all directions.
Had the circumstances been any different, she might have enjoyed this particular view. Not having seen much in the way of winter storms quite like this, the snowfall was stunningly beautiful with flakes the size of her palm covering her head and shoulders in no time at all. She might have even smiled...if given the chance. But the reason for her being here became all too apparent the moment they wheeled his body from the same shuttle she had just emerged from. The nauseous feeling she thought she was over, returned instantly along with the pain and realization of his untimely death.
Maintaining her composure as best she could in the fierce winds, she stumbled towards the entrance to the base, oblivious to the struggles the workers were having with the cart in the deepening snow.
"Counselor, over here!" a deep voice called from beyond the entryway.
Counselor Deanna Troi finished brushing off the flakes from her outer jacket then watched as the cart finally made it inside the building. Unable to tear her eyes away from the reason she returned to Earth, she stood motionless as the body was wheeled into another room and it wasn't until the door closed between them, was she able to turn and face the man who now stood next to her.
Not knowing what to say, the older man simply shook his head and said, "I never thought I'd outlive my son."
Deanna smiled and wiped a tear from her cheek. "I sense your anger, Kyle. Don't allow that to mask the pride you feel for your son. He died a hero."
His head rose back into the position of a proud father and met the dark eyes of his son's former lover. "Thank you for bringing him home." Unable to push the next set of words past his lips, he quickly looked away again ashamed to show his feelings.
Still sensing the pain and anger radiating from the elder Riker, Deanna gently patted her growing belly. "The baby that I carry within me, will know that his father did not die without reason." Deanna reached for his shoulder and placed a gentle reassuring hand there and squeezed.
Still fighting the tears and repressed emotions, Kyle Riker stood firmly and held the tiny hand that graced his arm. "I read the report Deanna. But I need to know the truth. Please," his eyes pleaded with her knowing she would be reluctant to provide more information than allowed, "please tell me how this happened."
~~Two months earlier~~
"Deanna, you've just met the man...and you're talking about marriage already?" Doctor Crusher exclaimed shaking her head. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because I am." Deanna Troi shrugged her slim shoulders and smiled. "And because I've felt this way before." The smile she wore quickly faded as she spoke that last sentence. "Besides...I have not just met the man...I've known him for years."
"But he isn't the same man," Beverly said quietly. "Have you discussed this with Will?"
Deanna shifted in her seat as she tried to control her anger. "Beverly, I thought we were discussing my happiness? Why do you always have to bring him up? I mean, do you honestly think Will comes to me every time he takes someone to bed?"
"This is different! Deanna, listen to yourself! You are talking about getting married to Will Riker's brother for Gods sake!"
"Is it that hard for you to believe that I can find happiness with someone other than Will Riker?" Troi stood up abruptly and uncharacteristicly pushed the chair she was sitting in sideways to the floor. "I don't give a damn about what Will Riker thinks anymore!" She took three steps toward the door then turned on her heal to glare back at her friend. "Why don't you ask him everytime he fucks another ensign, what he thinks of my feelings?"
Beverly sat in shock at the normally demure counselor's choice of vulgarity and watched as she stormed from the office. "Oh, Dee..." Bev said as she burried her shaking head within her hands.
Not yeilding to a single crewman who crossed her path, Deanna Troi marched down the corridor holding her arms rigid at her sides. Feeling angry and betrayed by Beverly, her beautiful face was marred by the trail of tears that poured from her black eyes. Assuming Beverly was the one person she thought would be happy about her relationship with Thomas Riker, she went to her with what she thought was wonderful news. Afterall, it was the doctor herself who encouraged her to seek out this relationship, dammit! She didn't exactly get the reception she was hoping for.
<All senior officers report to the Observation Lounge> Deanna cringed at the voice that came over the intercom. It was Will's, and right now he most definitely was the last person she wanted to see.
Having composed herself the best she could during the lift's trip to the bridge, Deanna entered the lounge giving the impression that all was perfect in her own little universe. And she honestly thought it was, until she saw Will and Thomas talking near the front of the room. Her step staggered a bit before she found her chair and when she finally sat, she discovered her hands trembling and her heart palpating far above its normal rhythm.
Get control of yourself, Counselor.
Deanna glanced up and found Will's eyes upon her as he listened to whatever Tom was talking about. His eyes seemed to crinkle with concern and his brow furrow the longer he continued his gaze. A split second before she looked away and brought a mental block up, a sensation seared through her mind like a bolt of electricity. So fast and sharp, it left her confused and not entirely sure if she truly sensed what she thought she did.
In hopes of confirming the feeling, she tossed aside the block and allowed her empathic ability to reach out and seek the emotions of Will Riker, but it was too late. The sensation was gone and he too was taking his seat next to hers. The door opened one last time and Dr. Beverly Crusher strode in, looking at no one except the captain. Deanna watched the red-head smile warmly at her superior before she sat opposite the burly Klingon at the far end of the table.
Attempting to refocus herself, she stared blankly at her hands that lay clasped on the table in front of her. Her breathing returned to normal as did the thumping in her chest, leaving herself to concentrate on her job. Bringing her attention to the captain, she sensed a mixture of turmoil and apprehension muted by his confidence in those that surrounded him. As was often the case when he was about to inform the crew of an impending mission.
"I have asked Lt. Riker to take part in this meeting because Starfleet has asked specificly for his help." Picard announced.
Deanna gave a quick glance down the table to where Thomas was seated. Instead of the warmth and love that she would have expected, came instead a feeling of excitement and urgency. Picard's voice prevented her from probing any further and she faced the captain once again.
"Starfleet reports numerous air assaults upon our science bases inside the Revelian system."
"I thought all our bases in that system were protected by the Revel asteroid belt. Ships no larger than our shuttles are able to access them," Commander Riker commented.
"Which leads Starfleet to believe that the Cardassian's are involved. They are the only known enemies to have enough small fighter ships capable of this type of assault," Picard said.
"Why would the Cardassians be interested in science bases?" Geordi asked.
With a heavy and burdoned sigh, Picard answered, "Because that is where we have been developing a new weapon system that is said to take down Romulan Battle Cruisers with one blow."
The security chief sat even more rigid in his chair. "Then is it the technology they want...or the fact that we would win any battles with them as well?"
"That is precisely what Starfleet wants to know as well, Mr. Worf. And why we are being sent to investigate." Picard swiveled slightly in his chair to face Lt. Riker. "Starfleet as asked that Lt. Riker be the one to head up this mission."
Commander Riker nearly fell from his chair he turned so quick to look at his
"Me?" the Rikers asked in unison.
"Is there a problem?" the captain looked at each of the brothers.
Will's chest puffed out in an act Deanna seen him do countless times when he was trying to control his anger. "With all due respect, Captain, but why him?"
Deanna cringed at the way Will spoke. Every letter, every articulation, and
especially his tone seemed to bleed with hatred. They had not gotten along at
all since the moment they discovered the freak transporter accident
resulting in the other Riker.
Will could be cruel when he chose to. And for the past week, he had been nothing but a complete asshole toward his newfound 'brother'. Deanna often wondered if it wasn't out of pity that drove her to Thomas in the first place.
"Because he is the best qualified for this mission." Picard argued.
Will stood and pushed his chair back forcefully. "Wait a minute! Starfleet thinks that someone who has been alone for eight years is qualified to lead this mission? This is insane!" Will forced himself to sit back down before he was offered a reprimand.
"I understand your hesitancy, Will, but-"
"But Starfleet sees me as expendable," Thomas interrupted then walked to the front of the room. "They get the best man for the job, without the risk."
"I don't understand," Beverly admitted.
Standing directly in back of Will, Thomas placed his hands on Will's broad shoulders and said sarcasticly, "Starfleet knows I am just as capable as your dear Commander Riker. Therefore, should something go desperately wrong... their poster boy sits safely aboard the Enterprise!" He let go of Will with a short slap to the shoulder that was meant to be playful but openly showed his frustration instead.
Deanna bore a hole into Picard's forehead hoping he'd say something contrary to what Thomas revealed but the captain remained silent far longer than what she would have liked. With a soft humpf, Picard began again. "This is a dangerous mission, Luietenant. You have every right to refuse."
"Ah... the catch." Tom said amusingly. "You see, Starfleet knows that we Rikers never back down."
Will shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Captain, are you saying this is a suicide mission?"
"Absolutely not. Starfleet has the utmost confidence that Lt. Riker will return after having succeeded in his task."
Will stood one last time and took a deep breath. "Then I will ask again...why him?"
Picard looked up at the giant of a man and rose as well. "Because, Number One," he stared at his first officer with ice in his eyes, unwilling to show how much more concerned he was for the young man who would lead the far more dangerous mission. "You will be sitting in a fighter above Starbase 223 awaiting the next round of attacks."
The music was soft but vibrant and in stark contrast to Deanna's mood. As the jazzy number crescendoed into a fast brass lick, she could only laugh as it seemd to mock her emotions.
If life were music, she would have been a post-minimalistic funeral durge. Squirming back into the cusions on the couch, she watched Thomas as he prepared the final touches on the evenings dinner, dancing back and forth from the replicator to the table.
He looked up briefly and saw her watching him. "Wanna dance?" He held his hand out in invitation.
She smiled. "I'm not quite in the mood. I'm sorry."
He mimicked a slow hip gyration and held his hand on his lower abdomen. "That'll change," he tried to say seriously but the glint in his eye gave him away.
Deanna laughed. How could two people who were essentially the same person, be so different, she wondered. Will had become so serious while Tom still retained his youthful comical actions. The same...but different. Will matured into a wonderful, charming, caring individual. And Thomas? Life had been unfair. Eight long years he was alone. Eight years to ponder the future...eight years to ponder the past.
He was by her side now. "Come. Dinner awaits." Grabbing her hands, he effortlessly lifted her to her feet.
For the most part, dinner was eaten in silence save for the few comments of adoration given by Deanna regarding the food. Half expecting him to inquire why she was in such a meloncholy mood, she had to remind herself that he wasn't Will. Tom was unable to pick up on her subtle emotional shifts as Will could and often did.
In fact, it had been well over a week now that she had actually talked to the man she highly thought of as her best friend.
"The captain says it will take another two weeks to reach the Revelian System," she said just to start a conversation.
"Uh-huh. That will give me time to prepare."
"I can tell you're excited about this."
Tom wiped his mouth with the thin cloth napkin. "Its a chance to show Starfleet I haven't lost a thing!"
He really was like a little boy. Excited about anything and everything that came his way. "I can also tell you're nervous."
"A little," he reluctantly admitted. "Let's not talk about this now, okay?"
Deanna felt him close up like a box. "Alright," she answered. Another difference, she noted. Will would have opened up to her, she knew. It was hard to gage Tom as his emotions seemed to be on a neverstopping rollercoaster. "What would you like to talk about?"
Clearly annoyed, he slammed his fork down to the table. "Do we always have to talk? I mean," he rose from his chair, grabbed her hand and pulled her close. "Silence does have its advantages."
He bent down to kiss her but was rewarded with the soft skin of her cheek. "Tom..." she warned but he wasn't daunted. Holding her face within his hands, he held her still and kissed her fully.
"Tom," she tried again but it was hopeless. She could not deny him any more than she could have denied...Will. She was thinking of Will now. His hands, his mouth, his...
"Sshhh. No talking," he silenced her once and for all as he carried her to the bedroom.
The moment he walked into Ten Forward, he instantly spotted her sillhouette set against a backdrop of blackness and bright racing stars. A beautiful picture, he thought and watched her for a moment.
"What a shame," his baritone voice announced his arrival even though she probably already knew he was there.
"What's 'a shame', Commander?" Deanna asked without turning around.
"Oh...I thought I'd have Ten Forward to myself, this late and all." Will moved closer.
"Would you like me to leave?" She mused.
"Not a chance," he whispered into her ear, startling her with his speed. "I've been wanting to talk to you."
Deanna smiled at the prophesized revelation. "Its been crazy around here this last week. How are you holding up?"
"Fine," he shrugged.
"Liar," Deanna faced him for the first time and marveled at the way his blue eyes still lit up despite the lack of immediate light.
"Can't get anything past you. Can I?"
"Nope." She chuckled. Gods she had missed this. "So talk, Riker."
He began telling her about the controls of the new fighters, the toll on the crew, the impending dog fights, everything, except what he truly wanted to discuss. She knew he was holding back from what was really on his mind, and in a way, was glad that he was hesitant to bring it up. She was too confused herself to even began to try and sort out all the conflicting emotions.
"...it will be like the dog fights during World War one," he said and the grin that graced his lips proved his excitement.
Deanna smiled back, enjoying the warmth of the friendship that had grown over the years. "Sounds like you're looking forward to this?"
"Sure. A chance to fly the new fighters and dance around asteroids at almost warp speed? I'm not I'm going to want to come back to a bigger ship."
The immediate silence that followed guaranteed that the two of them understood the dangers and the chance that neither Riker might not make it back.
"The captain seems to think you have the harder job," she said softly.
"In space or on the ground, both missions will be dangerous."
"But you're glad Thomas will be on the ground."
Will sat back in chair and rubbed his forehead. "He's had the short end of the stick, Deanna. I like to think I'm watching over him a bit." His hand moved to his beard where he scratched lightly. "Besides...he has a reason to come back." Riker's eyes met and held the Betazoid's penetrating glare.
"And you don't? Will, thats-"
"The truth. I know his intentions, Deanna. And I know that you two will be happy together."
She wanted to scream NO! YOU DON'T KNOW! She had left Thomas' cabin tonight more confused than she had ever been. The entire time they made love, she envisioned it was with the man sitting in front of her now, and not the younger version. Damn, this was all too confusing!
"Our future is not set, Will. You may think you know his intentions," she stood, unable to neet his gaze any longer, "but you don't know mine."
She left silently and knew that he was just as confused. At least I won't be alone, she thought and headed for her quarters.
"For a weapons research facility, the base's defense system leaves a lot to be desired," Tom noted as he scanned through the pile of PADDs on the desk.
"I guess they assumed that hidden within the asteroid belt was all the defense they would need." Will tossed another PADD to his sibling.
"Yeah, well...you know what they say about 'assuming'."
Will laughed. "You sound like Mrs. O'Reilly in tenth grade! Remember her?"
"How could I forget? She's the one that sent me to see Principle Jones after she caught me and-and-" he paused unable to remember the name he wanted.
"Jennifer Connoly." Will remembered fondly.
"Yes, Jennifer...back behind the shelter with her dress up and my pants down!"
Both men chuckled. "She had the biggest set I had ever seen!" Tom went on.
Will sobered up slightly. "I don't remember that, but I remember her smile. Used to send me to my knees."
"Its funny how we can remember things so differently even though we lived the same moments?"
"Yes," Will answered. "Deanna told me you thought the last time you saw her on Betazed was at the falls."
Tom rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "I think I blotted out a lot of bad memories when I was down there," he admitted softly.
"I don't doubt it. Eight years alone is a long time."
Tom let his hand fall back to his lap with a gentle thud. "Tell me, why is it you've never tried to get back together with Deanna? I mean, how can you see that body of hers every damn day and not wanna grind her into tomorrow?"
He looked at Tom and gave him a wry smile. "It isn't that I've never tried. We both knew it just wasn't our time...yet," he added pointedly.
"And thats supposed to mean...?"
Will stood to leave. He already allowed the conversation to get out of hand, he didn't want it to get any worse. "I need to go. I've got some work I need to get caught up on." He felt a hand clamp down onto his shoulder and spin him around.
"I asked you a question, Will."
Will brought his arm up and knocked Tom's hand away. "You don't want to get into this, Tom!"
"Why? Are you jealous?"
"Jealous? Of you? You've got to be kidding!?" Will smirked. " I just don't appreciate the way you talk about her, thats all!"
Standing directly in Will's path, Tom folded his arms across his chest and smiled. "You are jealous. You can't handle the fact that she practically fell right into my bed after only a little persuasion, can you?"
"Stop it right there!"
"It pisses you off to no end that I'm the one fucking her every night, and theres not a damn thing you can do about it!"
"Thomas! Back off, I'm warning you!"
"Ooo. Now you're warning me! What are you gonna do...send that Klingon after me?"
"Enough!" Will pushed Thomas out of the way to walk out but Thomas grabbed Will by the hands and pulled him down as well.
Both men crashed against the floor with a thud and began wrestling each other, trying to pin the other down. Minutes passed and as it appeared the slightly thicker Will had the advantage, Tom brought his knee up and thrust it into Will's solar plexis, knocking the wind out of him.
Will lay gasping for air when Thomas kneeled over him. "Had enough yet?" he panted.
Will tried to speak but his lungs hand't quite enough air yet so he could only mouth the word...asshole.
Tom grinned and held a hand out to help his brother up but Will knocked it away and sat up on his own. A split second later, Will's fist collided with Tom's jaw and both men fell back to the floor. "Now...I've had enough," Will sputtered.
After a few minutes, Tom rolled to his head to the side, still rubbing his swollen jaw. "You remember Heather Tomlinson?"
Will grinned and faced his brother. "Never-say-no-Heather? You bet'cha."
Tom looked at the ceiling and nodded. "Good. At least I know I wasn't dreaming the whole time I was down there."
Deanna stopped in mid sentence the instant she felt intense anger rising out of Will. Unable to concentrate and give her patient her full attention, she rescheduled the appointment and walked out of her office in an abrupt haste.
"Computer, location of Commander Riker?"
<Commander Riker is located in room eleven-zero-eight, deck twelve>
Deanna recognized the room number immediately as Thomas' and rushed to the nearest turbolift.
The closer to Tom's quarters she got, her paced slowed and she began to wonder if she was doing the right thing. She couldn't read Tom at all so the only sensations were from Will. And what started out as anger now resolved into jealousy, and she was even more uncertain if she should enter.
Half expecting to hear crashing of bodies coming from the opposite side of the door, she was surprised to find only silence. Will's mood had turned somber and whatever had rattled him earlier had dissapated to a general feeling of contentment.
She quietly entered Tom's code and stood back slightly as the doors opened. The room was dark save for a bright sparkle coming from the corner of the room. Deanna took a cautious step inside.
"Tom?" she called out.
Two identically attractive heads popped up from behind the couch and smiled. "Hey!" Tom said warmly. "I thought you had to work late?"
"I did, but my...my appointment was cancelled." She walked closer. "What are you two doing?"
Emitting from a 3D player was an old video Deanna recognized as something Will liked to watch, prefessional wrestling. "Oh no," she groaned.
"Want some?" Will offered her the bowl of popcorn he held in his lap as he scooted to the edge of the couch, making room for her to sit next to Tom.
She maneuvered around Will's long legs and sat down, feeling Tom's arm immediately around her shoulders, almost like he was laying claim to her as she sat. "Thanks," she reached for the bowl and accidently swiped against Will's hand and felt an intense tingling sensation run down her spine. Shaking it off, she felt Tom pull her in close. "Mmm, who is that?" she asked as a rather buff and nearly naked wrestler appeared in the ring.
"I think I'm in trouble," Tom laughed.
"Thats Bruno the Basher. He's wrestling the Dynamic Dan for the title," Will answered and as he looked at Deanna, he couldn't help but notice Tom's hand inching its way down to her chest. He placed the popcorn down and stood. "I...I need to be going."
"And miss the fight of the century? Come on, Will, stay?"
Will felt like he could have thrown up. Somehow managing to swallow the lump in his throat, he shook his head and said more bluntly than he would have liked, "No. I can't."
Deanna shrugged away Tom's hand and moved away as she sensed Will's pain and jealousy.
"Besides," he said more jokingly, "I already know who wins." He took two steps toward the door when the intercom went off.
<Data to Lt. Riker>
"Riker, here. Whats up Data?"
<I have the information you requested from earlier. Would you like to go over it now or in the morning?>
Tom stood excitedly. "I'll be right there! Thanks Data!" He faced his brother and Deanna. "Gotta run. Please, stay and finish the match. Keep an eye on Deanna for me? I'd hate to see her drooling all over the place when I leave, and no one here to witness it!" He winked at the Betazoid and walked out.
Will bit the inside of his cheek and wished like hell he was a slug and could slime his way under the door and into the safety of the hallway. He clasped his hands in front of him and rocked onto the balls of his feet waiting for her to begin.
It didn't take long.
"So, Riker....are you going to tell me what happened or do I need to ask Tom?"
Will nervously pulled at his uniform jacket and sat back down. Placing his elbows on his knees, he cocked his head to look at her. "It was just a little argument, thats all."
Knowing that she was more than likely the center of that argument, Deanna really didn't expect to hear the whole story. "All right then," she said surprisingly and let the issue drop.
Stunned at how easily she gave up, Will watched her a moment longer, studying the way the illumination from the recording danced across her face like the way the Aurora Borelias of his homeland would dance across the night time sky. Beautiful, he marveled. Readjusting his jacket once more, he stood abruptly breaking the awkward silence. "I really do need to go." He reached the door and pivoted around, wishing like hell she'd ask him to stay. "Goodnight, Deanna."
Deanna watched him disappear through the door before she felt her mouth open and release a long soothing deep breath.
"Another week? This is ridiculous!" Thomas slammed a PADD down onto the desk.
"Orders are orders, Lieutenant! No matter how ridiculus they seem," Commander Riker growled in a tone void of his own annoyance at Starfleet's new order.
"And if the base gets attacked again?" Tom asked.
"Then Starfleet will accept complete responsibility. But because of the nature of whatever it is they are developing, they can not allow anyone into their facility as of this moment," Captain Picard informed the entire senior officers.
Before either Riker could offer another protest, he raised his hands to end the argument. "That will be all. Dismissed. Number One, might I have a moment please?"
Grateful for the excuse to not witness Deanna and Tom walking out together, Will turned in his chair placing his back to the door. "Yes, Captain?"
Picard waited for the doors to close before he began. "When we first heard of this mission, we were informed that there was to be back up in the way of eight small fighters, correct?"
"Starfleet is reconsidering that plan."
Will's brow furrowed with concern. "Why? Are they sending more?"
Picard shook his head regretfully.
"Less?" Will gasped as he watched Picard's head move up and down. "How many less?"
"We will be rendezvousing with the USS Lincoln in two days. They will be transferring us their lone fighter at that time."
"Lone, fighter?" Will's mind stumbled over the understanding. "Why just the one?"
"Because, to quote Admiral Reynar, 'We are unwilling to trust too many people should information leak out regarding the development'. They are placing all their trust in you, Will, to make sure this mission succeeds. They are allowing Commander Data to accompany Lt. Riker, but that will be it."
Riker's shoulders fell and he slumped back into his chair. "And if I can not hold off the Cardassians? Its not like the Enterprise can come to the rescue within the asteroid belt."
"They will be sending a coded message to Lt. Riker shortly with the security clearance to activate the bomb they have developed should something go wrong."
"This is a suicide mission," Will said softly.
Unable to defend Starfleet's orders, Picard continued, "Starfleet has requested that only the immediate personnel know of these changes."
Will nodded though he could not understand Starfleet's desire for this to remain that secretive. "Understood, sir."
Picard felt sick as his burly first officer left the observation lounge. Will's acceptance of the change in orders was exactly as he would have expected. A brief outrage followed by complete willingness to follow through with the orders, no matter how dangerous they were. Starfleet knew what they were doing when they chose the Rikers for this mission. Thomas was right, Rikers never back down.
Other than the occasional time on the bridge together, it had been nearly three days since the episode in Tom's cabin. She wanted desperately to sit down with him and just talk like they used to but it seemed something always came up, preventing her from her goal.
Not this time, she decided. Evenings together with Thomas were nice, but quiet. Too quiet. He never wanted to talk much and getting him to open up was near impossible. Unless, of course, it involved sex. Then it seemed as if he could spew out an entire dissertation on the subject, especially if it involved what was between his legs. Being alone for so long, Deanna couldn't exactly fault the man for being as aggressive as he is.
Walking past one of the many meeting rooms on deck five on her way to a lift, Deanna let out a small yelp as she felt a hand reach around her middle and pull her into one of the darkened rooms.
Heated lips upon hers prevented any further screaming and she felt her body wanting to melt into the arms of her lover. "Thomas!" she finally hissed and backed away.
"Its not easy to fool an empath," he grinned and even in the darkness, she could see the whiteness of his teeth. A quick slap on the shoulder was his reward. "What? You don't want to kiss me back?"
"What if someone saw us?" Deanna motioned out into the hall.
"No one saw us! Don't worry, I checked." He pulled her close again. "I thought maybe, we could get a little quickie in before I bury myself in preparations these last two days," he said hopefully. "We're not going to get to see each other again before I leave."
"I know," she replied softly. "Its just...well, I was on my way to see someone."
He nibbled at the base of her jaw. "Who can possibly be more important than me?"
Will's name was on the tip of her tongue but she bit it back just in time. As
her body began to succumb to the powerful pull of his passion, something
occurred to her just as she felt his hand unzipping her uniform.
She wasn't in love with this man...she was in love with his body!
In an instant, her revelation began to take shape and despite her body's strong desire to mold into him, her mind would not allow it.
Gods...she was still in love with Will!
And because she was unable to take pleasure with him, she used the next best thing. His exact body duplicate.
In a panic, Deanna stepped back suddenly again only this time she stumbled against a chair and fell backwards hitting the corner of the table on her way down.
"Deanna? Computer, lights!" Tom kneeled down and cradled her bleeding head in his hands. "Sickbay, this is Lt. Riker. Counselor Troi has hit her head and she's out cold!"
<We've got you located and will be there shortly, Crusher out>
Tom continued to hold her head until the medical unit arrived. "We've got her now," Dr. Crusher said as they moved Deanna's body to the gurney. After a quick scan with the tricorder, Beverly announced, "She'll be fine. We'll need to keep her under observation a while though."
"Thanks," Tom breathed a sigh of relief. "Can you let me know when she wakes up?"
"Sure," Crusher patted the Tom's back and followed the gurney to the lift.
Minutes after they arrived in sickbay, Doctor Crusher walked into her office and smiled at her visitor. It was almost as if she knew he'd be there.
"She should be waking up any minute. Alyssa is finishing up one last scan, then you can see her," Crusher said.
"Thanks," the big man said and walked out.
It felt as if she'd been hit with a brick. Deanna tried to open her eyes but the moment the slightest bit of light came into focus, she slammed her lids closed against the pain.
"We couldn't give you any pain killer yet," came a soft voice. "We needed to see you conscious first."
"Well...here I am," Deanna moaned and finally willed herself to open her eyes. After the room stopped spinning, the first thing she noticed was a bright blue-eyed man smiling warmly at her. "Haven't you better things to do, Commander, than to see after a clumsy counselor?" Deanna groaned.
"I'm taking a break," Will answered. "How do you feel?"
"Like a complete idiot. I can't believe I fell," she said, cautiously shaking her head. Then, as though she finally realized the circumstances involving how she fell, she looked about the room. "Where's Tom?"
"He said he had to catch up a report and that he'd see you later."
Deanna didn't have the strength to mask the disappointment at first but when she looked at Will again and remembered her last thoughts before she tripped, she took his hand and smiled. "Thanks for coming."
From the instant her fingers laced within his, it seemed as if an electrical current raced up his arm and straight to his heart, leaving him momentarily speechless...and breathless. Its not like they had never touched each other the entire time their relationship turned plutonic, either. This was different. Far different.
Will brushed a lock of hair from her face and leaned a bit closer. "Anytime," he exhaled softly, reveling in the firm grip of her hand.
Deanna would have given anything for him to bend down slightly further, close enough to feel his lips against hers. And from the look in his eyes, it appeared he might just do that. Until...
"Deanna, I need to speak to you," Doctor Crusher made her way back into the room. "Alone."
Deanna released her grip and looked from Doctor Crusher to Will. He was turning away to walk out when she reached for his hand again. "No. Don't go." Her eyes appeared to be begging him to stay. "If theres a problem, I'd rather Will be here," she said looking at Beverly.
The doctor stood in the doorway contemplating Deanna's wish. This was going to be hard enough to tell her friend, let alone doing it in front of the man she knew this woman loved.
"Well," Crusher sighed, "its your choice, Deanna."
"What could be so bad? Its not like I'm dying or anything, is it?" the empath tried sense what it was that Beverly wanted to say but the throbbing in her head prevented much concentration.
"I never said it was bad," Beverly walked up the side of the biobed. "I just thought you might want to hear this...alone."
Deanna looked to Will and saw that he was equally as confused. She gripped his hand tighter. "What is it?"
Crusher smiled. No reason to beat around the bush, now. "Congratulations, Deanna. You're pregnant."
Deanna rubbed her brow. "I must've hit my head harder than I thought. Did you just say...I'm pregnant?"
Beverly glanced quickly at Will who looked about as ashen as Deanna. "Yes."
"How?" Deanna exhaled and released her death grip on Will's hand. Both hands flew to her mouth in disbelief.
"I think you know how. But if you're referring to how it got past the prohibitors, I haven't a clue."
She raised her eyes toward Will only to see him staring off into the vastness of space. "I...I'm not feeling well," Deanna admitted as she tried to bury herself into the blanket covering her.
"You have a mild concussion and I repaired a small laceration to the back of your head. I was going to release you, but if you feel that sick..." Crusher touched her friends shoulder and squeezed gently. "Maybe, Will can get Tom to help you back to your room. Besides, I'm sure he'd like to know."
Deanna nodded absently, completely aware that Will had yet the courage to look at her. "Thank you, Beverly."
Riker watched the doctor leave and caught the look she gave him just before the door closed. It was filled with sympathy.
Finally, after a few deep breaths Will reached for her hand and gazed at the woman whom he always assumed would bare his children.
"Are you okay?" she heard him ask.
She couldn't look him. There was no way she was prepared to deal with his disappointment, let alone her own. Her mind was swimming with a myriad of feelings, none of which seemed describable.
"I-I think I just want to go back to my quarters," she finally sputtered.
"I'll help," Will offered, supporting her as she kicked her legs over the side of the bed.
"No, really. I can do it, Will." She shrugged away his assistance but the moment the room began to spin around her, she felt his arm slide back around her waist. "Thanks."
"Sure." Will swallowed hard when her body gave in to his strength and she accepted the proferred embrace. "Let's go," he said softly and led her out of sickbay.
They had made it around the final corner near her room and Will could
tell she found her balance once again, but she still seemed to accept his
They stood in front of her door and he punched in her access code. Leading her to a chair, he stepped aside and leant against the wall. "Can I get you anything?"
Bending over with her elbows against her knees, she ran her fingers through the her mass of hair and felt the small amount of dried blood near the top. She frowned just before she moved the heels of her hands over her eyes.
"Dea?" Will kneeled down and placed a tender hand on her knee. "Would you like me to get Tom?"
"No," she said suddenly and straightened up. "Not yet. I'd like to sort things out..first."
"Sort out? Deanna, you're pregnant! Whats there to sort out? I thought you'd be ecstatic?"
Warm tears collected in her long eyelashes, refusing to fall. "Ecstatic? Oh, Will," she sobbed and wiped her cheeks as the wetness finally dripped.
He moved closer to hold her, tucking her head under his chin and wrapping his long arms around her entire torso. "I don't understand. Tell me, please?"
"How can you possibly not understand?" she said quietly, her voice muffled by his uniform jacket.
Holding her by the shoulders, he backed away just enough to look into her eyes. He couldn't help but brush away some of the tears with the pads of his thumbs. "Dea..."
"Hold me...please." She practically dove back into him. "Just hold me."
Will did as she asked and just held her, rocking back and forth, attempting to sooth her anyway he could.
After a long few minutes, his knees began to ache but he refused to complain or readjust. He would stay in this position forever, if she asked him to.
Deanna found comfort within his embrace, just as she knew she would, just as
she always did. Life dealt them a cruel blow, almost as if it was mocking
at all the lost chances they could have had together.
But 'what-might-have-beens' lay in the past, she had to look at her future now.
Straightening up, she placed her hands against his chest and pushed away lightly. With a simple nod, she offered an answer to his first question. Touching her badge, she spoke, "Troi to Lt. Riker..."
<Riker here. Hey, how are you feeling?>
Deanna smiled, and watched Will stretch his body as he stood. "Better. Thank you. Do you have a few moments, Tom? There's...something we need to talk about."
By the sound of his voice, she knew she caught him at a bad time. <Not really. Can this wait? I'm sorry its just Data and I are going over some last minute details.>
"I see," Will winced when he saw the hurt in her eyes. "We'll talk later then. Troi out."
Will extended his hand and placed it in view of her downcast eyes. "Come on. I'll draw up a bath for you."
Grateful that he was still here, she accepted the invitation and reached for his hand. "You're a good friend, Will."
He grinned and led her to the bathroom.
"I think I over did the bubbles," Will laughed as he glanced back at the tub which was now overflowing in a pink billowy foam. "Sorry."
Deanna looked around his large body and chuckled. "Just so long as I don'l slip and hit my head again!"
Will's face turned serious and he rushed back in to throw down a few more towels to gather up the drips. "There," he said proudly.
Deanna stood up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek, longing to veer off and kiss him fully on the lips instead. "Thank you, again."
The seriousness remained as he spoke, "I'll be here for you..anytime you need anything. Don't ever forget that."
Deanna moved to the side as he walked toward the door. "Will?"
If it wasn't for his slight pause at her door, he would never have had heard her. "Yes?"
The words she wanted to say hung in her throat. It was wrong for her to
even think them now. All the opportunities she had, they had...
were long gone now.
The pain returned to beautiful face and for some reason he felt as if his feet were cemented to the floor. It no longer was his job to offer comfort, that obligation now fell to Thomas. Where was he?
"Everything will work out, Dea. It always does," Will winked and gave her the most warming smile he could, in spite of his own doubts.
She sighed heavily as he walked out, knowing she didn't believe his words any more than he did.
"Shields up!" Commander Riker ordered. "Red Alert!"
Picard stood behind the operations officer. "Any contact from the base yet?"
"No, sir," the young ensign replied. "But there is significant feedback from the asteroid field."
Picard nodded. "Is there anyway our torpedos can break through the field to reach the attack vessels?"
Worf frowned from his tactical station. "No sir. The field is too thick and the distances-"
"Get Lt. Riker and Data up here!" Deanna felt Picard's apprehension the moment he called out his last order. She had known for days that there was something going on among those immediately involved with the mission but it was not her position to delve into what she knew was classified.
Commander Riker glanced at Deanna and did his best to shield his emotions
from her. Of course that alone was a beacon of concern for her. She watched him
nervously pace the floor in front of her.
Then, it her like a ton of bricks. Why were there no other ships here yet? She knew of the lone fighter in the shuttle bay, but of the others? Her nails dug into the armrests of her chair.
Will might have been able to shield his emotions from her, but the captain couldn't. To say he was his usual calm, confident self would have been a lie. He was nervous and she have even dared to say scared. He was truly scared for Will, she surmised.
"Captain, whats going on?" Deanna finally rose and walked toward her captain.
Orders or not, she had the right...hell, the entire crew had the right to know now. "The Federation has ordered a smaller," he frowned, "a much smaller away team to retrieve the weapon."
Deanna looked to Will who now stood at the top of the ramp, appearing to be waiting his order to man his ship. NO! her mind cried.
Data and Thomas emerged from the opposite lift and looked to their captain for instructions.
"Prepare the shuttle. Commander Riker will provide cover as you enter the field," Picard said.
This can't be happening! Deanna thought. He's ordering Will to certain death!
Thomas looked straight ahead. "Aye, sir." He followed Data to the ramp.
Every set of eyes turned to watch the three officers enter the lift. Deanna took a step toward them then stopped. This was what they were trained for and as they all stood proud in the liftcar, it was Will who looked at her and smiled before his eyes locked with Picard's.
~Take care, Imzadi~ she heard in her head. And as the door began to close, Tom finally looked at her and simply winked.
Captain Picard watched the lift doors close before he turned to face his security chief. "Mr. Worf, be prepared to take another shuttle in should they run into difficulty."
The burly Klingon nodded. "Aye, sir."
When the away team first entered the lift, Deanna immediately sensed jealousy raging from the warrior. If he wanted to die so badly, why didn't the captain send him, instead?
Because Will Riker was the best pilot on the ship and Starfleet knew it. If anyone could fend off the attack ships, it was he. On countless occasions, Will Riker proved he was more than an adequate pilot and fighter. He cheated death far more times than what could be considered fair. And if Deanna knew anything about that man, it was his desire to survive.
<Riker to Enterprise>
"Go ahead, Commander."
<We've just entered the field. No signs of the Cardassian figh-oh, wait. Here they come. Data, hang back off my starboard side!>
Despite the calmness of his voice, Deanna knew his adrenaline was pumping. This was the kind of pressure he thrived in; split second, gut reactions with no time to think of the consequences. His kind of show.
"How many are there?" Picard inquired.
<I see five fighters, but there might be more hanging out behind some the bigger rocks>
"Good luck, Commander." Picard looked quickly to the counselor seated to his left and whispered, "It might be best if you weren't on the bridge, Deanna."
Troi shook her head. "Thank you for your concern, Captain, but I think I'd rather stay here." At least I would hear his last words, she thought.
Picard nodded and focused his attention back to the battle that was beginning.
<Data, use defense form gamma-theta! Five minutes until you can land> Bringing all the attention onto himself, Riker's fighter veered off and began firing its phasers toward the attacking ships. <Now, Data!>
The shuttle began its descent toward the weapon base secluded in a crater of one of the larger asteroids. <Commander, we're in> Lt. Riker announced.
<Good. Get that weapon and get the hell out of there! I can't hold these bastards off much longer!> Will said as he rounded an ill-shaped rock, allowing it to take the blast rather than his ship.
Deanna gripped the arm rest of her chair in a futile attempt to keep from showing just how close he actually was from splattering across the face of the rock. Picard saw her reaction and caused him to wince as well. Not only was his first officer wrestling to keep away from the phasers, but the asteroids as well.
<Captain, two ships just followed the shuttle down. I got one of them before it made it to the surface. But the other one is attempting to land>
Picard stood from his seat and nervously pulled at his jacket. "Let Data take care of the pilot. You just see to it our shuttle gets away cleanly."
<Aye, sir. Data, talk to me...>
The android's montone voice suddenly cracked staccato. <We. have. landed. but our post nacelle. has been. hit>
<Are you okay?> Will asked.
<Will, Data looks a little fried. We had a burst of energy come up through the opreations console>
<Can you complete your mission?>
<You just worry about those fighters, brother. Gimmee ten minutes, and we'll be back home sipping champagne with that sexy psychologist in no time at all>
Deanna could almost imagine the smirk on Thomas' face when he said that. She allowed herself a faint smile as she realized Thomas had more than enough confidence to make-up for what she lacked.
<Thats fine, Tom. But is the ship operational?>
<Affirmative> Data answered back.
Will found a fighter directly in his sight and fired. <Two down, Captain!>
Picard looked down to Deanna and grinned, suddenly regaining much of his own confidence back. "Looks like we'll all be sipping champagne shortly, Commander."
<What happened to that other fighter, Data?>
<Landed. on. other side. of base>
<Shit! Then he might have gotten inside?>
<Affirmative> Data crackled.
Thomas entered the base and found four members of the facility waiting for him. An older Bolian scientist walked up to him and grabbed his arm.
"They've entered the base using the venting tubes!"
"Where's this so-called weapon?" Tom asked as the blue-skinned hand held him even tighter.
"They have it!" he said urgently. "If they get it ahold of this technology-"
"I know, I know!" Thomas yanked his arm back. "Then there must be more than just the one pilot I saw."
"They landed minutes before you did. There were five of them!"
Thomas motioned back to the shuttle. "Is this all of you?"
"Yes. Two others were killed in the attack."
"Get back to the shuttle and wait there!" Tom said as he was running down the corridor. He tapped his communicator, "Will, we have a problem!"
<So I've heard.> he said gravely.
"Will, under no circumstances can this weapon leave with the Cardassians!"
<Understood> Will Riker's body rocked from a phaser blast against his hull. 'Dammit!'' he muttered. Hitting the throttle, his fighter jutted upward into a spiral before he turned it back toward the opposition. He fired a continous round from his phaser bank and hit another ship. 'Take that, asshole.'
Will began to announce to to Picard that he felled another ship when he felt three blasts from another ship, smoldering his controls.
Instead of announcing his victory, Riker voiced his doom. <Riker to Enterprise. I'm going down!>
Tom entered the area the housed the weapon only to find the room was completely empty. "Shit." Running back down another corridor, he spotted the large body of the reptilian warrior. Lifting his hand, he fired two shots toward the Cardassian but missed.
The hallway curved into a cargo area and Riker spied the small weapon being wheeled into an awaiting shuttle. "Stop! Or I'll fire on that bomb!"
The largest of the four Cardassians turned and smiled at the officer before he raised his own rifle and shot, hitting the very bottom of a stack of metallic cargo boxes.
Tom tried to jump out of the way but the boxes fell quickly and pinned him by the legs.
Unable to twist around enough to aim his gun, he simply held it over his head and fired. From the sound alone, he knew he had hit one of the men but within the next second, he found himself surrounded by the other three.
The apparent leader stepped on Tom's wrist and crushed his hand until the phaser fell from his grip. "Kill him," he said coldly and walked away.
Deanna Troi could remember with eerie accuracy the precise moment her
father died. It was a moment simply remembered as a spine-chilling, gut
wrenching, blood curdling scream that echoed about the house, and still haunted
her to this day in her dreams.
It simply took finding her mother's unconscious form lying in a
heap in the middle of their bedroom for the young Deanna to confirm what
she had sensed. She could remember falling to the floor beside Lwaxana and
weeping for hours as her mother lay there.
And now here she stood, on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, feeling the same dread as when she first heard her mother's scream.
She often wondered what her reaction would be if Will ever--God forbid--perish. Would she be able to share in his pain, in the realization of his last breath, or his last thought.The imzadi bond she shared with him, she always felt, was much stronger than between her own parents. Though they were not married, she knew without a doubt it would difficult to cope without him. The thought alone was unbearable.
But there was always, of course, Thomas.
Thomas...the one who confessed his love for her. Thomas...the one who managed the courage to act on his feelings. Thomas...the father of her unborn baby.
Deanna sensed a chill run down her spine. There was so much to think about, so much to say for it all to end this way. ~Imzadi...don't leave me now........~
Not wanting to admit that the sound of Will's voice was scaring the hell out of her, she drew a deep breath, gathered up her courage and waited for the inevitable.
~Deanna...I love you~
Will Riker swatted at the fire that was beginning to engulf the controls in front of him. Blisters formed on his bare skin as he quickly put the fire out. He tried one last time to steer the ship, but the instant he touched the helm control, another fire erupted, this time, just below the console and above his thighs.
Unable to move his body from the narrow cockpit, he could only hope the fire-retardant uniforms would do their job. Then again, he thought, it wasn't really going to matter anyway because in about thirty seconds, he was going to smeared across the face of the asteroid that loomed directly in his path.
He felt the heat from the flames begin to seep past his uniform. <Riker to Enterprise>
His communication came back in a wave of static. "Dammit!" His hands, that lacked anything better to do, slammed against the melted console and much to his surprise, the helm lit up! A ray of hope instantly etched across his features.
Afraid to activate too many buttons, he touched just enough to steer away from the rock and head for the base.
Data, completely paralyzed on his entire left side, lumbered his way down the corridor and followed the sounds of the three phaser blasts. Dragging his injured limb, he entered the cargo area and spotted Tom underneath the crates with a lone Cardassian standing over him. After a quick evaluation of the situation, the android raised his right hand and fired, hitting the warrior in the back.
Another quick burst of fire sent the android falling to the floor in a heap.
"Data! Can you get to the bomb?" Thomas grunted.
Without hesitation, Data began to claw his way toward the shuttle while Thomas worked his way free from under the cargo. It didn't take long for the lieutenant to pass by the dysfunctional droid.
The precious explosive device that Starfleet deemed such a high priority was slowly being loaded into the awaiting shuttle by the remaining two Cardassians. Though appearing half the size of a photon torpedo, it appeared bulky and terribly heavy as the thieves struggled getting it up the short ramp.
Tom ran and slid along the buffed floor, nearly toppling the larger Cardassian. Reaching up, he grappled with the warriors leg and brought him crashing down on top of him as the other drew his weapon and fired.
The large Cardassian Tom held in front of him went limp after just one blast. Continuing to use the man as a shield, he made his way to the bomb. Just after the last button was punched, a searing pain began to course through his body. Glancing down, Tom saw the tattered hole in his uniform the phaser blast had just left and felt the warm trickle of blood as it began to seep through t he opening. Tossing the charred warrior's body aside, he fell to his knees.
"You want the damn bomb, take it," Thomas Riker grunted just before darkness over took him.
"Counselor, what is it?" Picard looked over to the pale-faced women that sat next to him. He saw her flinch and saw her knuckles turning white. "Is it the commander? Is he..."
"No," she said with little relief, sinking back into her chair slightly. "But he is in pain."
"Mr. Worf, take the other shuttle in, and take a medical team with." The klingon was already in the turbolift before Picard finished his sentence.
"Captain, sensors have picked up a large explosion within the asteroid field." Ensign Beloit announced from her position at ops.
Picard stood from his chair. "On screen."
The view screen focused on a giant fireball engulfing at least three larger asteroids. From what Picard could tell, there were no visible signs of any ship or ships within.
"Do we have contact yet with the base?" he asked.
Picard glanced back over his shoulder and looked at the trembling woman who was still seated in her chair. Tears streamed from her eyes and when she finally met his questioning gaze, she could only shake her head slowly. "Something's wrong," she gasped.
Will Riker felt his body being pulled out of the wreckage and lowered onto the cool floor of the cargo bay. Having lost all landing control at the last second, he remembered bracing himself for impact before he blacked out. Luckily, he crashed through the forcefield at an angle that was semi-compatible with survival. When his ship came to a dead stop against the titanium bulkhead, his face smashed into a console, breaking his nose and cheek instantly.
"Where's Commander Data and Lieutenant Riker?' he grumbled as the scientists worked to clean the blood from his face.
"They went after the bomb. Probably down at the other end, in Cargo Bay number two." It was the Bolian scientist he recognized as Commander Reginald, who spoke.
"Can you take me there?'
Bracing the commander gently around his scorched waist, they headed down the corridor in search of his comrades.
"Tom? Thomas! Look at me!" Will screamed as he cradled his brothers head.
In a slow, pain-filled move, Thomas opened his eyes. "Damn Will...you look like shit!"
Will grinned. "You don't look so hot wither, asshole."
Thomas smiled, smearing blood all across his teeth as he did so. "Looks like--universe--will have--to settle-- just one Riker--again."
"Oh, no you don't!" Will struggled to his feet with his brother still in his arms. "You're not getting away that easily!" He staggered a few steps before he found his balance and began to follow the Bolian who was helping Data back to the other cargo bay. "Its time to go home."
In a rare moment, Thomas actually agreed with his brother. It was time to go home
Will layed Thomas down on the floor of the shuttle and took the helm. "Let's hope that bomb took care of all our little friends out there."
Commander Reginald took the opposite seat. "Its supposed to stop any and all dilithium reactions within a thirty kilometer area."
"Good. Because this ship is going to have to limp home." Will heard a pain-filled moan and turned around to see his brother's eyes rolling back in his head. "NO!"
Will jumped from his seat, allowing the Bolian to fly the shuttle. "Thomas! Don't even think about it!" He said as he administered another hypospray.
Cradling his head once again, he held Tom firmly against him. "Don't do this Tom. Deanna needs you! You have to survive, do you hear me?"
Will saw eye movement underneath the the thin skinned surface and felt him take in a short haggard breath. "Tom?" he said softly. "I wasn't supposed to tell you this, so I hope she forgives me. You're going to be a daddy!"
A faint grin grew on the lieutenants face. "Thats right," Will continued, "Deanna's pregnant. She found out just before we left. So you see, you can't die!"
A blood stained hand reached up and softly gripped Will's wrist. Feeling tears burn the corners of his eyes, he moved his arm so that he held his brother's hand tightly.
Tom's eyes opened as a sharp gasp of air accompanied the slow
tortuous movement. Focusing in on the identical set of eyes that was
studying his own, he croaked. "Will...i-its your baby now. T-take care of
And with that last word, the light in blood-stained blue eyes, went out, and Thomas Riker took his last breath.
Bright decorative lights adorning the many houses they passed contrasted brilliantly against the freshly fallen snow. In the darkness of the night, the illuminations outlined the roof pitches as well as the windows of most of the buildings giving every indication that earth's holiday, Christmas, was near.
Deanna remembered her father decorating their home on Betazed, despite the protests of her mother. Wrestling with strings of lights on an oversized evergreen tree in the middle of the family's livingroom had become a tradition. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the last year of her father's life, did Lwaxana offer to help in the trimming. For a young child, it was one of the most happiest times of her life.
Now, Deanna realized sadly, Christmas was going to have a different meaning that she dreaded someday, would have to be told to her child.
"You look tired," Kyle Riker noticed and reached for Troi's forearm.
"I am," she admitted. "Its been a long week."
"I'm sure," Kyle acknowledged. "How--how is Will holding up?"
Deanna smiled, realizing it was the first time Kyle had even asked about his other son. "Slowly recovering. His injuries were more considerable than what was first believed. It was unclear whether or not he'd be able to make it here."
Kyle slumped to the back of his chair, looking quite uncomfortable. The empath sensed his uneasiness and leaned forward. "I understand you had a chance to talk to Thomas in great length?"
Staring at hands, the elder Riker's eyebrows rose and he nodded solemnly. "Will convinced him I wasn't such an asshole afterall, I guess. He seemed quite civil."
"Eight years alone, I'm sure he had time to think about things."
Kyle looked up with a definite smirk. "Somehow, I don't think I was the one whom he was thinking about."
Deanna grinned and felt her cheeks grow warm moments before the corners of her eyes began to burn with tears. Feeling them collect in her eyelashes, she graciously accepted the offered handkerchief and dabbed away the wetness.
"Everything will work out Deanna. It always does," Kyle said warmly.
Deanna smiled at that for it was the exact words Will had said to her only two weeks prior. "Thank you."
The following was as emotional as the day Thomas died. It was decided by his father, that Thomas would be buried next to his mother in a cemetery just outside Valdez. Answering an uncomfortable question presented by Kyle, Deanna admitted that she overheard William say that he wanted his body to be jettisoned into space. Therefore, Kyle decided that one boy would be buried in the family's plots.
The casket was chosen, as was the ceremony. Thankfully, Captain DeSoto was in orbit around Earth and was willing to perform the service. Afterall, he was probably Tom's closest captain and friend.
And as the first signs of morning sickness shown itself, Deanna was happy that at least she was alone in the large house. Kyle had left for the remainder of the day, leaving her to moan in bathroom unwitnessed.
After a small dinner made up of a simple sandwich and soup, Deanna felt a
hundred times better. Gently rubbing her belly, a faint smile grew into a
full blown grin as she thought of her belly growing with another baby.
Unlike Ian, who was born in a matter of days, she would have a full ten months to
experience the entire pregnancy...alone.
Once again, she would be alone, just like with Ian. Will had been in the room during her labor, and the look of love shown brightly in his eyes when he kissed her cheek. She knew he was disappointed then that he was not the father. What would he be thinking now, she wondered.
Did he consider her a whore, for jumping into bed so quickly with Tom? Did he think less of her now?
Still not quite sure how she came into this predicament, she shook her head in mild disgust. "Oh, Will...." she whispered in a quiet sob.
Wandering the silent house, Deanna tried to envision a young Will running up and down the spiral stairwell, sliding down the banister on his rear, terrorizing the nanny's. The A-frame home sat nestled against a cliff side with three stories of windows to overlook the Sea of Valdez. Spacious and modestly decorated, it was exactly how she pictured it to be from Will's descriptions. Glancing in one of the bedrooms, she laughed when she came upon one of the few pictures in the home. It was of Will, when he was about ten, Deanna guessed. Dressed in fishing gear, he was stepping foot into a canoe. He was a beautiful boy, even then, she thought.
A tingling sensation coursed down her arms and she quickly glanced back over her shoulder as if someone was there. "Kyle?"
Her voice bounced back in a soft echo and with a shrug, she continued her exploration. After a short time, she discovered herself back down stairs and standing infront of two glass doors leading out to the first floor balcony. Deanna buttoned her long leather coat and placed her slim fingers in the gloves she recently purchased before stepping out.
The blustery wind provided quite a shock as her body, completely unaccustomed to this type of weather, longed to go back indoors. Forcing herself to lean out over the railing, she could see dozens of smaller houses, all lit up wondrously with brilliant lights. Facing back toward the house, she wondered if this house had ever been decorated. Will loved Christmas-time, but whether or not his father ever allowed him to celebrate it as a boy, she honestly did not know.
When she turned back around to look out over the sea, a brilliant light show began to flash across the nighttime sky. She had seen pictures of the Aurora Borealis and heard Will describe it, and yet nothing prepared her for such a magical display. As she gazed out into the aray of dancing colors, she couldn't help but think of Will. As soon as she was back inside, she decided, she was going to contact the Enterprise for an update on his condition.
Will Riker tossed his coat down on the couch and watched for a few minutes, the woman who stood on his balcony. Set against the wondrous gaseous spectacle, he had truly, in all his years in space, not seen a more splendid sight.
Unlatching the door, he slowly opened it and stepped out. "The ancient Inuit believe," he saw her shoulders rise just before she turned to face him, "that the aurora are torches held in the hands of spirits to guide the souls of the dead to a land of happiness."
"Is that what you believe?" she asked, taking a few steps toward him.
"Its a nice thought," he shrugged just before his arms opened wide to accept her body against his own.
"Will, I'm so glad you came!" She gripped him tightly.
"I am too," Will whispered into her hair. "I am too."
The thumping of his heart was all she needed to hear. Pressing her cheek into Will's broad chest and feeling the warmth radiating from his heated flesh, made the bitter cold that surrounded them disappear.
"You were still sedated when I left. I felt terrible that I hadn't even talked to you," Deanna said, stepping back enough to look into his lovely blue eyes. "How are you?"
"A little sore yet," he winced slightly when her hand moved up to caress his still bruised cheek, "but I'll recover."
Sensing his tremendous guilt which she presumed to stem from not being able to help Thomas, she watched his eyes suddenly drop to the floor.
Holding her gloved hands infront of him, he apologized. "I'm so sorry, Deanna. It shouldn't have been him..."
"It shouldn't have been anybody," she corrected. "It wasn't your fault he died, Will."
"But if I'd-"
"Sshh," she placed a finger over his lips to silence him. "I don't want to hear that you think there was something different you should have done. It happened, and it was no one's fault," Deanna repeated for emphasis. "Let me find joy in the fact that at least you made it?"
Glancing over his body, she suddenly realized he was only wearing a thin button down shirt and black pants. Raising an amused eyebrow, she grinned when she saw his cheeks reddening from the blustery wind. "So, are you going to tell me that you still think this balmy weather?"
He chuckled. "Honestly? I was just thinking that its pretty damn cold out here."
"Let's get inside," Deanna held his arm and lead him back into the house.
Will placed the final log inside the fireplace and closed the guard. Pushing a button, the fire lit up immediately into a roaring blaze, lighting up the entire downstairs. Still feeling chilled from being outside, Deanna kneeled in front of the hearth and held her hands out to warm them. But when a mug of hot chocolate appeared in front of her, she gladly removed her hands from the warmth the fire offered to warm them around the cup of her most treasured drink instead. "Thank you."
Sitting down on the old couch, Will gingerly kicked his feet up onto the nearest table and stifled a groan. He was still hurting, but for fear of being sent back to a medical unit, he managed to hide his pain-filled expressions behind a more than casual teethy grin.
What seemed like hours, though only minutes, passed, the smallest of the logs that Will had put into the hearth cracked and fell, sending burning embers scattering in all directions. Deanna jumped back as a few of the glowing pieces flew past the gate and into the air. Glancing back to Will, she saw he was fast asleep with his head hanging off the back of couch.
Quietly pulling the afghan blanket from the wooden rocking chair she tossed it over his large frame. Tucking an edge just underneath his chin, she came tantalizingly close to his face and pressed her lips tenderly against his. "Good night, Imzadi," she whispered and walked up the stairs to the guest bedroom.
Will turned over and watched her shadow make its way to the next level. Unsure if it really was her kiss or just another cruel dream, he decided it was best to let the moment drop. This was hardly the time to even think about such matters. No matter what his heart, or other parts of his body told him.
Bright sunshine began to break through the curtains of the bedroom
waking the lone occupant.
Deanna rolled over and let out a heavy burdened sigh. Each day seemed to grow longer than the previous, and though she tried to prepare herself for this particular day, she knew it would feel like an eternity before it would end. But the second she heard the deep voice coming from beyond the bedroom door, it seemed as if she could make it through anything.
"Dea? You awake?" Will called.
Deanna pulled the blanket up tight to her chest and rubbed away the sleep from her eyes. "Yes. Come in."
Dressed in his formal uniform already, he looked devastatingly handsome.
However, seeing him this way simply solidified in her mind the day's morbid
significance. She sighed inwardly and did the best she could to fight away the
There will be plenty of time for crying later.
Drawing her focus back to Will and how the deep red coat fit tightly around his strong shoulders and chest, she couldn't help but want to bury herself against him; to be able to draw from his strength and his love.
Sitting at the edge of the bed, he gently pushed back a lock of her hair behind her ear. "I need to leave now to meet with Captain DeSoto and Captain Picard." He smiled but Deanna could feel his anguish. "There are few last minute details we need to discuss."
Deanna nodded and leaned into his hand that moved to cup her cheek. "I'll be back to pick you up before the fu--" Will swallowed, unable to say the word just yet. "Before. Beverly mentioned she'd be available should you need someone here with you."
She should have known Captain Picard would come through and bring the Enterprise back home. He had told her before she left that losing Thomas was like losing a member of his family. She was happy they'd all be there.
"I'll call her in a bit," Deanna reached up and took his hand, threading her fingers within his. "Will, I don't know how I'd make it through today without you."
He placed a petal soft kiss against her forehead. "You're strong, Deanna. Probably the strongest person I know. I'm sure you would make it through just fine." He rose then and headed for the door. "Dad will be here for a bit longer before he's to meet up with us. If you need anything..."
"Thank you," she said and turned to watch him leave. Just as the door closed a thought entered her mind but she questioned whether it was hers or came from Will. Regardless, she sent back...~I love you too, Imzadi.~
Pinning the small corsage of flowers that Kyle had bought for her to the lapel of her dress, Deanna stood back and looked at her reflection in the mirror. She never did look good in black, she thought. It was a simple dress, nothing extravagant. But nevertheless, it was almost precisely how Tom described her to look from his dreams. Only her eyes were not wet with tears. Yet.
Readjusting one last hair pin, she glanced at the clock. Will would be back any moment and they would leave for the chapel. Putting her on her coat and gloves, she heard the door open.
"Dea?" came his soft soothing voice.
"I'm ready." Deanna exited from the hallway.
Offering his arm out for her, she graciously accepted it as he lead the way to the transport. "You look beautiful," he whispered as they stepped inside.
Deanna gave him a brief smile and reached for his hand. They remained silent the rest of the way.
Deanna sat in the first row of pews, flanked by Kyle and Will. Behind them were their Enterprise family; Captain Picard, Beverly, Data, Geordi, and Worf, with the rest of the seating taken up by various crewmen from both the Hood and the Enterprise.
Deanna slid her arm under Will's and leaned into him as soon as Captain DeSoto moved to the podium. The service was simple and terribly uncomfortable. Deanna felt Will shiver as Desoto listed off Thomas' achievements, which essentially of course, were Will's as well.
It was hard to not picture this as Will's funeral in the future. The same words would undoubtedly be said, only it would be Captain Picard standing at the podium.
When it was Will's turn to speak, he gently layed Deanna's hands in her lap before he stood. Speaking for the first time as a brother rather than Tom's commanding officer, he spoke from the heart and left a lot of the visitors in tears. Including Deanna.
"I often wondered what people would think once they found out there were two Will Rikers in this universe," he began. "The look of fear on my father's face alone told me that you all were in a lot of trouble." Will waited for the chuckles to stop before he continued. "I knew my brother for two months. And over those two months, we lived as though you might think two brothers should. We argued, we laughed, we challenged each other, and even, fought over the same woman." He glanced directly at Deanna and smiled. "Though we were the same person eight years ago, our lives dictated that we would grow to be quite different. Thomas was as a unique individual as I have ever come across. He lived his short life to the fullest, and I envied him. I envied him for his courage and his strength to not back down; to say what was on his mind, to pursue his most passionate desires." Again, he looked right at Deanna and when her glistening eyes met his, he continued on, holding her gaze the remainder of the time he spoke. "Today is the day our seasons here in Alaska officially change. Today is winters solstice. An end for some, a new beginning for others. And if there is anything that I will take away from today, it is the reaffirming knowledge of how short our lives truly are. And for this, I thank you my brother."
Will turned around and placed his Academy ring on Tom's lifeless hand. "Take care, Tom," he whispered and moved to sit back down.
Looking into the darkened sky from the balcony of the Riker house, Deanna found herself once again drawn to the colorful displays of lights adorning the homes in the area. How happy and proud each of those families must be, she thought. Such a peaceful site to behold; it was impossible to not sense the warmth and love put into each and every decoration.
The abrupt end to the day's sunlight caused her to remember Will's description of his homeland, The Land of the Midnight Sun. Unfortunately, this time of year, he could have called it the Land of Midday Moon. It was only two o'clock in the afternoon and yet it looked as if it were midnight. This would have been a hard place to adjust to if she and Will ever--
Deanna quickly banished that fleeting thought from her mind. How could she even think about a future with him when not more than an hour ago, they buried her baby's father?
"Here you are," she heard a soft voice coming from behind her.
Turning around, Deanna saw the warm and loving face of her best friend. "Hello, Beverly."
The doctor quickly wrapped her arms around her torso in hopes of trying to retain some sort of comforting warmth and stepped out onto the balcony. "Absolutely beautiful," Beverly exhaled as she took in the view of the Prince William Sound and the Sea of Valdez beyond. "No wonder Will talked so fondly of this place."
Holding onto the railing, Beverly leaned out over the balcony and looked straight down, and down, and down. "I didn't realize we were so high on the mountain."
Deanna smiled. Beverly's friendship was always comforting, especially during the bad times. Like now.
"How are you feeling?" Beverly straightened herself up and when she faced Deanna, she looked absolutely chilled to the bone, causing Deanna to smile even broader.
"I think this place is getting to me," the empath said. "Its taking me longer to feel the cold." She walked the few steps back to the door and opened it. "Shall we?"
"By all means," the doctor said past chattering teeth.
The women walked toward the fireplace but upon finding Will, his father, and Captain Picard standing nearby, Deanna veered off and led them to the kitchen where they could have some privacy.
"Can I get you anything?" Beverly asked when she saw Deanna weerily slide into a chair.
Holding her face in her hands for a moment, Deanna inhaled slowly in a pathetic attempt to center herself. "No. I'm fine," she finally said.
"Now, I'll ask again...how are you feeling?" Beverly pulled out the chair opposite the Betazoid and reached for her hand.
"Tired," she answered truthfully. "It will be nice to be able to get some sleep tonight."
"Are you staying here?"
Deanna's head cocked to the side in thought. "I hadn't thought that far ahead."
"Well, I'll let you in on a little secret." Bev leaned closer over the table. " With Christmas only three days away, Captain Picard is granting everyone one week shoreleave. Sort of a present from him."
Deanna grinned. It would be nice to allow those from earth to be home for the holiday. "Thats nice," she said. "And you? Where will you go?"
Beverly's ears turned bright red and as the color slowly spread to her cheeks, she whispered, "Jean-Luc has invited me to go with him to France for Christmas."
"Oh?" Deanna's eyebrows arched up in amusement. "Thats wonderful, Bev."
"Yes." Beverly's smile faded into concern once again. "Please tell me you will stay?"
"Stay?" Deanna shook her head in confusion.
"Here. With Will. Please tell me you'll stay with him?"
"I--I don't know. It would be nice for him to spend time with his father and-"
"Kyle is leaving."
"Yes. I understand he's leaving tonight for Rigel Four."
Deanna folded her hands in her lap and looked down. "Then maybe I shouldn't..."
"Then maybe you should," Beverly leaned over the table again. "You need some time away. And quite frankly, this is as beautiful a place as any holodeck scene."
"I don't know. It seems too awkward."
"Awkward? I hope you aren't talking about the accommodations," Will's voice came from behind her. "Because if you even think about going back, you'll force me to tie you to the this chair." Will gripped the back of her chair tightly for emphasis.
"I'll talk to you before we leave." Beverly smiled up at Will and patted Deanna's shoulder before leaving the area.
Deanna bent her neck back so that she looked straight up at Will's tall body and smiling face. "Hi."
"Hi." He slid into the recently vacated chair and tiredly scratched his beard. "Some day, huh?"
Deanna merely nodded and held her hands tightly in her lap. "Some day."
"How are you doing?"
Deanna snorted softly. "So many people have asked me that in the last four hours...that I don't even know anymore. Sad, tired," she shrugged, "comforted."
"Have you eaten at all today?" Will asked the moment he saw her hand move to her abdomen. And almost as if he had forgotten all the day, he suddenly remembered she was pregnant. And it wasn't his.
She tenderly rubber his outstretched hand. "We're fine, Will."
"I really would like for you to stay here." He laced his fingers with hers. "The thought of celebrating another Christmas alone in this house would be unbearable."
Deanna felt his emotions tumbling, making it difficult for her to read him very well. She grinned, "But only if-"
"Sorry to interrupt, but we are leaving," Beverly stuck her head back into the kitchen.
After their goodbyes, Will walked everyone to their awaiting shuttle before running back inside from the cold. "Its snowing again," he announced and tossed a couple of more logs onto the fire.
Deanna sat one the couch and watched as Kyle came up to his son and wrapped an arm around the young Riker's shoulder. "I have to leave now."
Will nodded and after a moment, turned and gave his dad a short embrace. "I'll talk to you soon."
"I've informed the housekeeper that you will be here for at least a week, so you'll have to let her know when you've left."
An uncomfortable silence followed, making Deanna wish she wasn't a witness to the emotional display of the two men who only recently began to talk to one another again. And an embrace between the two was definitely an emotional display, far more than what she figured there would be.
Knowing this wasn't going to be a lengthy farewell, she rose and hugged Kyle. The elder Riker caught his son's eye and winked. "You take care of this little lady, you here."
Will smiled. "It'll be tough, but I'll give it my best."
Deanna felt her cheeks grow warm as she backed away. "I'll keep in touch, Grandpa," she nudged Kyle playfully and kissed him quickly on the cheek. "Have a good trip."
"Thanks." He picked up his satchel and walked out, silently praying that things would work out for the two former lovers.
"Wow. So this is the young William T. Riker's bedroom, eh?" Deanna walked in and looked around, running her hand down the shelf holding trophies of all sorts. It was probably the only room she hadn't dared to explore. "I feel as if I'm walking on hollowed ground."
"You should. This place was quite magical in my youth," he laughed.
"I'll bet," Deanna said with a slight smirk. "If only the walls could talk..."
With that, Deanna sensed Will's embarrassment and desire to end the discussion right then. "Hungry?" he asked quickly.
"Will, we just ate an hour ago," she laughed. "Surely you're not afraid of me finding out some deep, dark secret that happened while you were a teen, are you?"
He gently took hold of her elbow and ushered her back out, "Now what would give you that idea?"
The rest of the evening was spent with Deanna trying to get WIll to talk about his childhood. Sometimes they joked, other times she could feel his unhappiness at how his childhood played out. They discussed his trophies and awards and the fact that his father was never there to witness his achievements. And his own fear of being a parent.
"Someday, Will," she answered, "you will know when its time to settle down. And, I happen to believe that you will make a wonderful father when that time comes."
He laughed. "I'm glad someone in this universe has confidence."
"You've never given me any reason to doubt you," she said and when his eyes slowly captured hers, she found it increasingly difficult to now want to rush to him and hold him forever. She cleared her throat. "Its getting late."
Deanna stood from her chair and walked past him to go upstairs when he caught her arm.
"Sleep well," he said softly.
His eyes. Gods, his eyes! She could have swam forever in the love they shown. "I will." Still, she stood there, unwilling to walk away.
He reluctantly released his hold and allowed his fingers to run down the length of her forearm before she finally moved away. And with one last glance from the top of the stairs, Deanna looked down and saw him holding his head in his hands, in utter anguish.
Will was asleep when she went to him. Holding her outstretched hand, she gently brushed a lock of hair from his forehead and bent down to kiss him. Something was wrong. Desperately wrong. His lips were cold and lifeless and when she held his hand, it felt like a wax model. No warmth, no life came from the man she knew she loved with all her soul.
In her dream, she began to scream. And when she fell to her knees from fear in front of the casket that held his body, Deanna bolted upright in her bed, panting heavily.
Kicking the blankets aside, she ignored the chill in the air and ran for Will's bedroom. Tossing the door open, her heart literally stopped when she saw the bed had not been slepted in. NO! her mind screamed and in a moment of panic, she was unable to tell what exactly had been a dream and what was now a reality.
Turning back the way she came, Deanna glanced into the master bedroom. Still no sign of Will. Finally, as though she appeared lost in a world where she did not belong, she called out in a voice filled with panic, "Will?"
A sleepy voice answered from down stairs and she raced to meet it, praying the entire time that this was real and not just another dream. Standing on the last step, Deanna spotted him lazily sitting up from the couch.
"Dea? What is it?" He set one foot down on the cold wooden floor, readying himself to rush to her if need be, when she started walking to him.
In the soft glow from the dying embers of the fire, he could see her sweat-glistened chest rise and fall with each shallow breath she took. It took only an instant for him to realize she'd had a nightmare, and only a second more to realize that it must have involved him.
Will tossed his blanket over the back of the couch and Deanna noticed for the first time he was wearing nothing but a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. Having been with Thomas who was still gaunt from his ordeal on Nervala, she was quite surprised to see how well muscled Will was. His body definitely matured into even a more handsome man than she remembered him to be in his younger years.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Breaking her gaze away from his chest was harder than she would have imagined. But once she felt his hands on her shoulders, her eyes slowly traveled up to his face and the second she met his gaze, she found herself against his firm chest sobbing.
"Sshh. Its okay, Imzadi." His words of comfort fell into her tousled hair and she felt him kissing her head.
Sitting them down on the couch, Will stretched out with Deanna at his side and enveloped her with his body. He held her that way, feeling the wetness from her tears against his skin, until the sobbing ceased and he was certain she was asleep again.
Nothing was said the following day in regards to her nightmare. In fact, Will
found it quite odd that she did as best she could to pretend it had never
happened. She awoke first, and before his eyes saw the first hint of daylight,
she'd showered and dressed.
They went about their day as planned; met some of Will's old friends who were still in the area, had lunch along the frozen waterfront, and even took in a movie.
But when the day's activities had caught up and it was time to go to bed, did she give the first hint of remembrance.
"Will, do you always sleep on the couch?"
He looked away from the concoction he called a submarine sandwich and saw that she was lingering about the foot of the stairs, as if she was afraid to go up alone. "Not always." He shrugged. "I guess I miss the crackling of the fire more than I thought. I've always liked to fall asleep by it."
Seeing her stare at the roaring fire a moment reminded him of one of the few moments with his mother. And whether or not it was a real memory or just something his mind conjured up in a dream, he wasn't sure. Regardless, he wanted to share a time like that with Deanna.
"What do you say if you and I lay together, right there," he pointed to the thick furred rug infront of the fire, "and stare at the fire all night? Or at least until we fall asleep?"
Deanna smiled. "Sounds tempting."
He held up his meat filled, mustard and mayonaisse dripping sandwich and grinned, "I'll even share my prize winning sandwich with you."
Deanna's nose crinkled in disgust but she managed to laugh. "I thought you'd tell me you had some chocolate laying around..."
"Chocolate? In your condition? Why Ms. Troi, I thought you'd be watching your-"
He was unable to finish his sentence because she had come for him in mock anger and was now chasing him around the island. When they both came to a simultaneous standstill, they stood opposite each other and laughed. Deanna reached for the plate containing the messy hero and held it in the air.
"Chocolate. Or the sandwich gets it."
"As serious as my passion."
Will wasn't sure is meant her passion for chocolate or her passion for--he shook his head. It wasn't good for him to think of anything now but an ice cold shower. "Okay. Fine," he conceded and opened a drawer pulling out a box of cream filled fudge. "I was going to give this to you tomorrow, but since you're slightly--"
She snatched the box from his hand and grinned. "Thank you," she placed her hand on his and walked behind him, letting her nails trail up his arm as she went.
His entire body shivered at her touch and when she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind, he heard a soft sigh and her head against the middle of his back. "You're the best friend anyone could ever hope for."
Honestly, he was hoping for a lot more than that, but it would have to suffice. He held her arms tightly against his body and took a deep breath, all the while kicking himself for asking her to spend the evening in front of the fireplace.
If she wanted to, she could have melted him into a puddle of gue simply by
wearing her usual nightgown. But as the circumstances were, she chose a full
length flannel gown instead. Feeling like a teenager getting ready for a slumber
party, she found herself smiling or giggling the whole time she undressed. And
the strange thing was, it wasn't like they've never fallen asleep in each others
arms before. In fact, it probably happened about once a month.
So why was this different?
Because she wanted him. She wanted him so badly it hurt. Running a hand over her still taut stomach, she thought of Thomas. It was so unfair of her to compare them. She had to remind herself more than once that Thomas and Will were very different.
When her thoughts returned to Will's chest, and the hair that
intimately dipped to the area just below the waistband of his pants, she thought
of their beards. How ironic was that, that they even shared the same facial
After kissing Thomas the first time, she wondered how Will's would feel. Will's was definitely shorter, more stubbly. So how would his feel against her skin, against her thighs, against her--Deanna shivered at that thought before sending it to the far recess of her mind. It was enough that they'd lay in each others arms tonight, but to have those kind of thoughts involved would be disastrous.
Coming down the stairs, Deanna was disappointed to see he was wearing a thin T-shirt and the same flannel pants. She rather hoped he'd be bare again. Just so she could feel the heat of his skin next to hers.
Will had layed several blankets on the rug and two pillows. Seeing him
silhouetted against the blazing orange and yellow light was mesmerizing. And she
knew quickly enough that it wasn't the fire she'd want to stare at tonight.
Stand down, Counselor. This is supposed to be therapeutic for Gods sakes!
"Looks cozy," she commented and sat down next to him.
Will shifted so that her head lay in his lap and as he stroked her hair he was glad to feel more tired than he thought. Perhaps this night would go quickly...and painlessly, he thought.
She shifted slightly. Maybe not.
Deanna did that on purpose and luckily she was the only one who knew. She smiled. Testing the tree limb, was how she'd heard Chandra describe it. Afterall, who'd want to fall on their face just in case the limb wasn't prepared.
She didn't have to worry.
Will lifted her head and moved under the blanket with her to a much safer
position. He didn't want it like this.
Oh, he wanted it badly, but not this way. There was a part of him that still felt like he was cheating on his brother and he wanted Deanna to be sure of her decision.
He had every intention of following through with Thomas' wishes, only he had never told Deanna that.
Turning on his side, he gathered her small frame up into his arms and pulled her close. "I think I can get used to this." He was preparing to open himself up completely to her. Laying the foundation for what he wanted to say. But when he glanced down, he noticed that she'd fallen asleep quickly.
"Damn," he whispered as he gazed into the fire alone.
Dark, ominous clouds slowly crept in from the ocean and covered the mountain
peaks overlooking Valdez, muting any hopes of sunshine this day.
He could feel it in the air.
This storm was going to be a big one, he thought as a childish giddiness swept over him--a feeling he hadn't enjoyed in far too long.
Standing on the balcony in his pajamas, Riker crushed an iceball between his bare hands and lofted it over the edge only to see it disintegrate the instant it a branch of a tall spruce tree far below on the cliff.
Hearing the door to the house open, he spun swiftly on the frozen deck and smiled as he saw Deanna Troi standing, with her arms hugging her body, looking absolutely astonished--and slightly miserable.
"I can think of better ways to wake up, than to be standing outside in sub-zero temperatures," she said as her teeth began to chatter.
"Its early yet. I didn't want to wake you," he said guiltily.
"When my heat source left the blankets," she kidded, "it got a little cold."
"I'm sorry," he moved inside and quickly tossed more logs onto the fire.
Deanna reached out with her hands to feel the heat radiating from the hearth when a god-awful sensation stung at the nape of her neck. "Aagh! WILL!" she jumped back out of his reach. "Your hands are like ice!" If he wasn't so damn cute, with hair all tossled and his cheeks reddened from the wind, she'd have decked him.
"I know," he laughed and tried to block out the fact that her nipples were now in complete view as they stuck straight out from her nightgown. He quickly looked away and cleared his throat. "Coffee?"
Will handed her the mug and watched her smallish hands slowly encircle it before she lifted it to her lips. "Thanks," she said.
"Its starting." Grinning, Will gestured to the windows. "This is going to be a bad one."
Deanna stood and watched the first snowflakes as they begun to fall against the deck. "Thank goodness for transporters."
"Yes. I'm sure Captain Picard would hate to hear that two of his senior officers were holed in because of a snow storm." He raised his arms high above his head and stretched. "Speaking of being holed in...I guess we won't be able to head into town like we'd hoped."
Deanna nodded. "I guess its a good chance then to get back to the ship for some more clothes, I certainly didn't pack for this long."
"I have some shirts here you could wear," Will said, sounding slightly more flirtatious than he would have liked.
"Thats quite a gallant offer, Commander," she stood to get ready and placed her hand on his shoulder, dragging it across his back as she walked behind him, "but I think I'd like something that wouldn't hang down to my knees."
Her touch sent ripples of excitement throughout his body and when he finally had enough sense to speak, she had already left the room.
Slinging the duffle bag over her shoulder, Deanna marched down the corridors of the Enterprise noticing how peacefully silent the entire ship was. Granted the majority of the complement was from earth and were now probably with their families, it still seemed strange that she had not passed even one crewman.
Stepping into Transporter Room Three, she glad to see Ensign T'rer standing dutifully behind the controls. When the young Aldosian stepped forward to help her, she noticed tiny beads of sweat above his brow and sensed incredible nervousness the moment he took her bag.
"C-Counselor," he stuttered.
"Is there something wrong, ensign?"
"Ma'am," he pulled what looked like a scarf, from behind his back and held it up, "in hopes of not being assigned to a garbage scowl..."
"I've been ordered to place this around your eyes."
Deanna's eyes narrowed in confusion."Who ordered you, and why?"
"Commander Riker," he said as if the name alone brought fear into the young man's life.
The corners of her lips tugged into a slight grin. "He did, did he?"
"Don't worry, ensign...I can assure you that your career will be safe." Deanna turned her back to him and allowed the scarf to be placed over her eyes.
Feeling his hands position her body on the pad, she heard him move back to his post. "I don't suppose he said 'why', did he?"
"No ma'am. The only other thing he said, was...that if I told anyone about this, I'll be reassigned to the-"
"Garbage scowl," Deanna understood the ensign's nervousness. Will could definitely be very intimidating when he wanted to. "Okay then," she said smiling. "You may energize."
The first thing Deanna felt was a cold blast of arctic air slamming against her body, creating a chill to her very core. Thinking she'd just materialized onto an iceberg, she reached up to remove the scarf when two hands--two very large and comforting..and warm hands--wrapped around her body.
"Will! I'm freez-"
"Sshh. Just one more second." She felt him release one of his hands before it returned to remove the scarf from her eyes.
Watching her fathomless eyes focusing on him, he wanted nothing more than to
bend down and kiss her. But that was to be later.
Now, he simply placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her so that she faced the house.
The steep pitch of the roof dazzled in a multitude of colors, as did the railing and pillars of the deck. It was by far the most glorious of homes she had seen decorated.
"Will, this is beautiful!"
He smiled. "I thought you'd like it."
For the moment, she was completely immune to the blustery wind as she trudged over the snow covered deck, looking at the spectacle from every angle she could.
Walking back to him, she dove into his arms. "Thank you."
Will pulled her tightly against him and felt her shiver. And it wasn't because of the cold. "There's more," he whispered against her frigid ear.
Deanna was reluctant to pull away from his warm body. Dressed in a turtle-neck sweater and tight pants, she was glad to have him to hold as the wind felt like it ripped through her entire body.
Will kept her tight as they stepped from the deck and into the warm, fire-lit living room. With a snap of his fingers, the corner of the room lit up in a frenzy of colors, all attached to a very large tree stretching far up to the beams in the cathedral ceiling.
"Oh, Will!" Deanna gasped. Holding his hand, she pulled him over to the tree. But upon seeing a smallish colorful box laying below on the floor, her stomach twisted with nervousness and she released her grip.
Will gave her a few moments to sort out whatever it was she was feeling and walked to stoke the fire. He could tell she was tense and nervous, and he hoped like hell it was for the same reason he was. He wasn't prepared for disappointment.
It wasn't until Deanna picked up the present in her hand, did she realize it was slightly too large to be a ring. Unless of course, Will, being the joker he was, was trying to fool her.
"You can open it now, if you wish," she heard him say.
Afraid to look at him, for fear of crying on the spot, Deanna ran a nervous nail under the wrap and tore it away. She was literally shaking when she removed the lid and peered inside. Tears welled in her eyes as she reached in in grasped the tiny gift with her hand.
She remained silent and even though her back was to him, he could tell she was crying. Her shoulders shook with small tremors and when he came behind her, he heard the first sniffle.
Deanna felt his hands at her waist then move under her sweater to her stomach, tenderly cradling the area that would soon swell with her baby. "Imzadi..."
With one hand she held the tiny baby rattle that he had given as a gift, and in the other she held his hand that caressed her abdomen. His breath was hot against her neck when he bent down and placed his cheek next to hers.
"I love you, Imzadi. And there's nothing more in this universe that I want more, than to take care of you and this baby."
Deanna turned in his arms and his hands immediately went to wipe the tears from her face. "I told Thomas, Dea. I told him before he died about the baby. He-he said that I should take care of you."
Pulling her forward to him, he pressed her head gently against his chest. "But God help me, Deanna, you must know that thats not the reason I am doing this. Please, tell me you can sense my sincerity? Tell me you can sense my love?"
Deanna held him so tight her chest hurt from the force. There was not another thing in her life that ever felt so incredibly right. She knew...she knew all along that it was to be Will in her life. Saddened by the untimely death of Thomas, how ironic was it now that he, in the end, be the one to brings these two souls together. She was even more thankful now of the time they had spent together.
"God's Dea..I thought I had-"
Deanna silenced him by placing her finger against his lips. And the moment she did it, she sensed his nervousness even more, almost as if he became suddenly afraid she was turning away from him.
To quell his doubt and rising fear, she quickly replaced that finger with her own lips, capturing his mouth wholly with such a fevered passion it was a surprise the snow outside did not turn to mush.
If he didn't have a hold of her body so tightly against himself he would have jumped with joy. Drawing her closer, if that was at all possible, he brushed her hair aside, exposing the length of her neck to his ravenous mouth. Trailing moist kisses down her skin until he could go no further, she lifted her arms and he gently removed the sweater, tossing it far to the side.
His warm mouth sent waves of ecstasy crashing to her soul as he continued down his path to the flat of her stomach. Kissing the smoothness of her belly, he smiled as if he was saying hello to the infant inside before he brought his attention back to her mouth.
His kisses were painfully erotic and when he pulled away for just the split second, she gasped at the loss of his touch. So much so that when he kissed her lips next, they burned like fire.
She drew him deeper into the kiss, teasing his tongue with her own, nipping his lips until she felt them swell. While her mouth kept busy, her hands moved along his chest until she grasped the top of his shirt and one by one, unbuttoned it.
Sliding her hands within the opening, she pushed the shirt back off his shoulders enough so that she had complete access to the muscular area and began to caress his nipples within her hand.
Understanding that to be an indication and approval for what she wanted, Will slowly walked her backward until her knees bent against the couch and she fell backwards, much to her surprise.
There was a familiar yet mischievous glint in his eye when he kneeled down between her knees. Burying his face within her cleavage, he unclasped her bra and rooted around, much like an infant, until he found her hardened nipple between his teeth.
"Will..." she inhaled at his sensual exploration which was followed by a pleasurable groan when his hands moved below her waistline.
It wasn't long before she lay completely nude on the couch below him. Feeling her softness against his chest, he took a moment to allow it all to sink in. What was about to happen, he knew would undoubtedly be the pinnacle of his life. And he wanted to be sure he remembered every last detail.
Looking up into her eyes, he saw his future layed out. It was what he wanted, what he desired with ever growing passion.
She was absolutely helpless when he looked at her that way. Her whole body was alive and tingling, panting with desire. His eyes darkened slightly when their gaze met, compelling her to arch against his body, begging for him to continue.
"I need to know, Deanna...is this what you want?" His voice was low and husky, and unbelievably sexy. "Because it won't be long before I can't stop."
"Then don't." Her answer was surprisingly simple. And what he heard in his mind next, nearly moved him to tears.
~I am your's Imzadi...do with me what you will~
And as their bodies cried out at times with soft whimpers or in earth shattering screams, both realized their fate was now in the hands of each other. The Imzadi bond became complete the moment he entered her with one powerful thrust.
Will moved against her time and time again, driving deeper and deeper until he was completely sheathed within her wetness. Raising her hips to counteract his pushes brought her quickly to climax, and he shortly thereafter.
They lay still entwined now on the floor in front of the fireplace, each unwilling or unable to move just yet. Deanna reached up and wiped the sweat from Will's brow.
"I love you," he whispered, still panting with spent energy.
Deanna smiled and pulled him against her chest again. "I love you too, Imzadi."
They fell asleep wrapped in each others arms and when morning came, bright sunlight reflected off the fallen snow, awakening Will first.
Without moving from his position on the floor, he could see there was at least two feet of new powder on the deck. Perfect...absolutely perfect.
Deanna layed curled into him with her back to his chest and when she moved backwards with her rear in his groin, a ripple of new passion began to grow. He leaned over and kissed her cheek.
"Merry Christmas, Imzadi," he whispered.
Deanna rolled over to lay on his chest. "Merry Christmas to you, too," she grumbled and he laughed at how even that sounded erotic.
Will gave her a few minutes to wake and when he felt her hand lazily drawing circles in the hair of his chest, he kissed her. "I think Santa left a gift for you under the tree."
Deanna careened her neck to look over his shoulder and spotted a small wrapped box laying in the same spot that she found the baby rattle. "Santa?" she chuckled, remembering how her father insisted on that tradition at Christmas time.
Feeling the morning chill in the air, Deanna quickly crawled on her knees to retrieve the present and just as quickly crawled back into the awaiting arms of her imzadi.
This time, the gift fit snugly in the palm of her hand and she felt her nervousness returning.
"Open it," he urged.
Deanna removed the small red bow from the box and lifted the lid. Inside, was her greatest wish come true. A large cut diamond sparkled in the morning sun and she quickly closed the lid as if she didn't believe what she was seeing.
Will took the box from her shaking hand and removed the ring.
Drawing a deep breath, he gazed into her glistening eyes. "Deanna...I would be very pleased if you'd consider being my wife. I know this is sudden but I want-"
Tears streamed down her face and she took his face between her hands. "I have considered it, William Riker. For ten years I have considered this. And I accept."
The proposal was sealed in an electric kiss that lasted for untold minutes. And shortly thereafter, the same screams that were heard echoing through the house last night were repeated as two souls, once apart, became one again.
The END ;-) Possible Epilogue *might* follow.