Time Will Tell - Part Three
Summary: Set immediately after "The Naked Now" . How did Deanna and Bill react to their reunion? How did Bill the ex-boyfriend become Will the friend?
Authors Note: Part Three in my series "Time Will Tell", other installments are "Time Will Tell" and "The Farpoint Encounter", both available at my webpage listed above.
The Starship Enterprise had delivered its report on the Tsiolovsky to Starfleet Command. Once again the Enterprise had been endangered and then saved, this time with not so much a physical as an emotional aftermath. Nearly all the crew had found the incident rather disquieting and some members had found it downright disturbing. An intoxicant, created by the gravity of a collapsing star, had affected the crew by removing normal inhibitions. Many peoples subconscious wishes had manifested themselves and been acted on in a variety of ways. Ships Counsellor Deanna Troi, previously held in suspicion by many of the crew for her Betazoid heritage, found her office never empty.
There were people who had found themselves with the most unlikely (or so they now thought) bedmates, those who had discovered long forgotten ambitions and those who had actually harmed themselves or others and now had to live with the consequences. Deanna herself had been affected fairly early in the course of the "infection" (she still didnt really understand the ins and outs of it) and had found the emotions of the crew overwhelming.
Deanna was also having to deal with her own actions whilst under the influence. Once she had become badly affected by the leaked feelings of her ship-mates she could have taken herself to sickbay. Instead she had sought out Bill to protect her. Was that her overwhelming desire? To be protected by Bill? In the two weeks since he had boarded the ship she had convinced herself that she no longer cared and, more importantly, that he no longer cared. Her subconscious didnt seem to have drawn the same conclusion.
Two weeks. Two weeks and a mystery intoxicant was all it had taken to almost break down her resolve to never embarrass herself in front of Bill Riker again.
Settling in on the Enterprise had not been that difficult. Both the First Officer and Ships Counsellor had been extremely busy. Riker had been familiarising himself with the Galaxy-class ship from top to bottom. He was getting to know the different Department Heads, learning the ships strengths and weaknesses. It was not an easy task but one that only shoe leather and enthusiasm could accomplish.
Deanna Troi had not been idle, either. She was meeting the crew, slowly earning their trust and beginning Counselling sessions with those that had ongoing problems from other ships, other missions. She had begun to liase with the new Chief Medical Officer, a woman with whom she believed she might one day be firm friends.
Deanna had also had extensive discussions with the Captain about her uniform. She had rarely been involved in therapy sessions in Uniform before but had been unsurprised at the barrier it had created between her and her clients. When she went into a counselling session Deanna didnt want the crew feeling that they were there for evaluation by a Senior Officer, instead an atmosphere of comfort and safety was all-important. Initially she had tried to wear her official uniform on the bridge and a more relaxed uniform style off the Command deck unfortunately she also found herself spending almost as much time changing some days as getting her work done. She had been pleasantly surprised to find that the Captain had allowed her the grace of her semi-official uniform on the bridge.
Keeping busy had been an advantage. Deanna was still hurt over Rikers initial coolness and returned it with a wall of her own. She knew that they would have to talk eventually both of them would need to liaise extensively over personnel matters. It was just a matter of deferring the inevitable.
Then that damned intoxicant struck. It had been disconcerting for Deanna, finding first of all that her shields seemed to be failing her and then being awash in that sea of raw emotion that even humans moderated with their intellect. She had looked for solid ground and had found it in Bills arms. His familiar thought patterns and concern had washed over her as he picked her up to carry her to sickbay, even as she had begun to lose consciousness a joyful thought surged through her
"He still cares."
Will Riker had been surprised at the intensity of his own response to Deanna. Yes, there were plenty of other attractive women on the ship, a few he had even set up tentative dates with but when that intoxicant had begun to overwhelm him it was Deanna he wished to turn to.
"Be honest with yourself, Will. You wanted her even before that thing got into your system."
It was true. When Deanna had stumbled into his arms complaining of the voices he had almost wept with fear. A deadly intoxicant for which no cure had been found. After being reunited after all that time was he to lose her now?
Of course Dr Crusher had managed to cure their ill. Wesley had saved the ship from the stellar fragment. Now it was time to deal with what had gone before.
The Captains admonishment still rang in their ears
"I put it to you all. I think we should end up with a fine crew if we avoid temptation "
"Deanna " Riker sounded out of breath as if he had been jogging along the corridor on the deck that housed both their quarters.
She turned to face him, not quite sure what to expect. They had shared a small smile on the bridge after the Captains statement but Deanna had carefully been keeping her distance since.
Will was taken aback. He knew he had started the formality by calling her "Troi" instead of by her rank or by her first name -- he just hadnt realised it might spill over after a mission.
"You used to call me Bill, remember?"
"Im sorry. I wasnt sure how you wanted me to address you in public. You seem to call me Troi, and Im not comfortable calling you just "Riker", Commander."
She said the words, but couldnt meet his gaze. She was confused, afraid. Afraid of what she might see in his eyes, more afraid of what might not be there.
It was a pity she didnt look, for Wills famed poker face was nowhere to be found. Naked concern for her was etched into his expression.
"Deanna, Im sorry. We didnt start off again on the right foot. Cant we catch up? Get to know each other again?"
Still she could not meet his eyes.
"I suppose so. Perhaps in Ten-Forward. We could start on the official crew evaluations."
It wasnt quite everything Riker was hoping for, but it was a start.
"Ill meet you there, then. 1930."
"1930". This time she did look up and she almost smiled.
Ten-Forward was busy, as expected. Deanna had got there early. She had carefully left her hair up and her uniform on. She hoped to create the very barrier she usually sought to disintegrate. Unsure of herself, Deanna was unwilling to let her guard down.
Will, in contrast, had dressed in the fashion he knew she found most appealing. The loose blue tunic over tight-fitting pants was in a similar style to that which he had worn during their courtship. When getting dressed he had admitted to himself that he did want Deanna to still care he knew now that in the intervening years he had suppressed his feelings, that they had never truly gone away. Now that they were on the same ship perhaps an old mistake could be corrected maybe they hadnt met on the Potemkin for a reason, but now they were to be together for quite some time.
He found her sitting in a corner, still in uniform. She obviously didnt realise how good that skant looked on her, showing off her shapely legs. He quietly observed the intent look on her face as she scanned the reports. Everything looked as though she expected nothing more than a professional meeting. Obviously things were not going to be as easy as he had hoped.
He almost laughed at that, she had not called him William since they had first met at the Federation embassy on Betazed all those years ago.
"Actually, my friends call me Will, now. Captain DeSoto started it and I kind of liked it. I hadnt been called it since I was a kid."
Deanna looked slightly more warmly towards him after that revelation.
"So how have you been?" Will almost kicked himself with the inanity of the question, fortunately Deanna was not out for blood.
"Ive been well. Here and there, mainly involved in recruiting for the Counselling Service." She sipped her drink.
"I read all about it. On your record, I mean. Youve done some excellent work. It was no fluke that they assigned you to the Enterprise." Will paused. "Youve certainly made an impression in Starfleet Command."
They began to relax and discuss career and Command, a conversation that had flowed on to their shipmates and back again to past experiences. Eventually the manner of Wills promotion to the First Officer of the Hood came up.
"You know, Deanna, I never really believed when I wrote that letter that you wouldnt be joining me eventually."
She looked at him in disbelief
"Oh Bill you thought no such thing. Be honest with yourself. You had to make a decision between your career and me and you made it. I am not saying it was easy, but it became very clear I would never be a priority while your career was."
It was his turn to look surprised:
"You knew? I never wanted it to turn out that way between us, I hoped that one day we could be together. Then as time went on your letters became more distant, you seemed so settled in your career one day your letter came in the midst of a battle, I kept putting off replying till I felt more ready to write. Then time dragged on and I still hadnt written. I didnt have that much to say."
This revelation made the tears well in Deannas eyes, it was one thing to suspect how the distance had grown, it was another entirely to hear him confirm it. Seeing the brown eyes he loved filling with moisture Will realised that he had hurt her once again. Hoping to comfort her he gently moved around the table and took her in his arms, grateful for her discretion in choosing an out-of-the way spot.
His arms felt good, so warm and so strong. To know that he had cared, that it really hadnt just been a fling to him had taken away a great burden Deanna hadnt even known she was carrying. She could feel his concern as she opened her empathic senses to him.
"Oh Deanna, were together now. Maybe we could try again."
That brought her up short. One evening of reconciliation wasnt enough to convince her of his sincerity.
"This evening has been going so well, I think it shows we can build on this relationship, as friends."
He couldnt hide the disappointment he felt.
"Just as friends? Why not more?"
Deannas tears threatened to flow again, but her determination dominated instead:
"Have things really changed? What if you were offered a Captaincy tomorrow, would you take it? Bill, I mean, Will just because we are on the same ship doesnt mean we should be together. What if it didnt turn out well this time?"
Will looked hurt he had hoped for a warmer reception to his idea.
"Were professionals, we could cope. If not one of us could leave."
"And which one would that be? Ive worked hard for this position, just as hard in my own way as you have for yours. Im not willing to sacrifice that."
"Why would it have to be either of us? Imzadi I loved you."
"And I loved you but I think that whilever we serve on the same ship we should just remain friends."
"But its because were on the same ship that we can try again."
"I dont agree and I think the Captain would disagree, too."
"The Captain? What would he have to do with it?" Wills puzzlement was genuine; it was rare that the Captain would step into such a relationship.
"You heard what he said on the bridge about avoiding temptation."
"I dont think he meant us specifically."
"Well, even so. We both have a lot of new responsibilities, new things to learn. The stress of a non-platonic relationship could only add to that. Lets just nurture this friendship."
Will knew he was backed into a corner from which he couldnt escape. Deanna really did know him too well. Honestly he did wonder how being involved with her again might affect his performance he already knew that her very presence and his concern for her altered his actions on that first mission. Besides it was her right to question him he had left her, after all. Maybe, given time, they might get back together. It was obviously just too soon.
"All right Deanna. Whatever you say. I guess only time will tell the rest."