CHALLENGE RESPONSE: THE LOSS
Disclaimer: Bow down to almighty Paramount. No infringement intended.
Author's note: This story was written as a challenge response to add more Imzadi content to one of several episodes. I chose "The Loss." In the beginning of my story, I quote some of the dialogue and summarize some of the scenes from the actual episode. This is as a setup to my part of the story, which takes place after the material from the episode.
Deanna had been finishing a session with a patient when it happened. She experienced the sudden onset of a blinding headache, enough to double her over. And then, without warning, it was gone. Her empathic sense had disappeared.
No one had any explanation for it. Not even Beverly. And worse than that, it seemed a wholly untreatable condition.
It was a terrible blow to Deanna. She had been so used to having the feelings of the surrounding crew members as her constant internal companion. She had always counted on being able to sense the essence of the individual she was focusing on. This was particularly true of her empathic bond with Will Riker, her Imzadi and best friend aboard the Enterprise.
Now it was all gone. She felt as if she had gone deaf, which, in a manner of speaking she had. She was now, in fact, internally deaf to all the emotions of the crew.
The effect on her was traumatic. She felt disoriented by the loss of her empathic abilities. Additionally, the thought that she might never regain them left her frightened and feeling vulnerable. She was by turns grief-stricken and angry and alienating. Her anger at her circumstances caused her to lash out at those who cared about her and to push them away.
Beverly had been her first target. She had also turned her grief and rage against Will. She had even trained her sights onto herself: she had insisted to Captain Picard that she resign as Ship's Counselor, knowing that her claim of inadequacy to perform her job was just a cover for the anger she was directing at herself.
She had stormed out of a staff meeting, leaving the other senior officers reeling from her rage. She stomped into her cabin, then collapsed to her knees as her feelings of loss and grief overcame her yet again. Hot tears began to fall down her face as ragged sobs left her mouth. She felt so lost and helpless.
After a few minutes, her crying ceased. She stood up and hugged herself, feeling only numbness inside. "I really don't know how I'm going to get through this." she thought to herself sadly.
Then he walked in. The one concerning whom she'd felt most keenly the loss of her empathic sense. Her Imzadi, Will. He walked towards her and stopped a few feet away.
"I'd really rather be alone right now," she said in a tired voice.
"Too bad," Will replied, watching Deanna intently. He held out his arms towards her, beckoning her to him ever so slightly with his hands. She came to him slowly. As she came closer, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him.
There was such comfort in those strong arms, in that warm embrace. Her crying started anew as she pressed herself into his arms. "Is this how you handle all of your personnel problems?" she sobbed.
"Sure," he said in a gentle, soothing voice, "You'd be surprised how far a hug goes with Geordi. Or Worf."
"Will," she cried, "I don't know what to do "
"So you resign. You walk away from all the people who care about you," he said.
"I look around me and all I see are surfaces without depth, colorless, hollow. Nothing seems real," she said sadly.
"I'm real," Will said, eyeing her with concern.
She disagreed, tearfully commenting that he was no more real to her than an image on the holodeck. She tried to explain how he seemed to have no substance to her because she couldn't sense him.
At this, Will's demeanor changed. His compassionate expression was replaced with one of challenge as he said, "That's it, isn't it." His sudden shift in manner caught her by surprise. "What?" she asked, taken aback.
He proceeded to tell her that her empathic ability had always given her an edge in their relationship. Now, he indicated, the playing field was leveled. She stared at Will, shocked at the provocative manner he had taken on.
He didn't stop there. He then began to suggest that she had always been a little aristocratic, as if being Betazoid was more important than acknowledging her human half. She was stunned by what he said.
He walked back towards her. Gone was the provocative expression from his face. Gently placing his hand on her shoulder and tenderly stroking her collar bone with his thumb, he said, "I'll check in with you later."
"Really, you don't have to," she said despondently.
"I will check in with you later," he assured her, a concerned expression
on his features once again. And then he was gone.
Deanna's mind swirled in confusion. She had not been prepared to hear Will's accusations. And yet, the twinge of guilt she felt told her that there was truth to what he said. But she was still so disoriented by her loss that she still could not accept his reality or the truth of his words. To her, he still did seem two-dimensional, like a soulless computer creation.
Later that day, Deanna had tried to conduct a counseling session with a patient. This was the first patient she had tried to deal with since the loss of her empathic capability. The experience was demoralizing and deflating. It just drove home to her how integral to all aspects of her life her empathic sense was. No longer could she bring to bear her empathic skills in analyzing and assessing patients. Her loss cost her, as far as she could see, in both her professional and personal lives. She felt totally useless and depressed.
A few minutes after the patient left, the chimes to her door rang. "Yes?" she said flatly. In walked Will without waiting to be invited in.
She looked up at him dully, saying nothing. He came over without uttering a word and sat down on the couch next to her. He reached out to cup her face with his hand and looked at her lovingly.
"I came to check on you," he said quietly. She continued to watch him silently.
"Imzadi, do you feel my hand on your face?" he asked softly. She said nothing and looked down.
"Deanna, look at me. Please?" She raised her eyes to gaze at him, her face now a mask of suffering.
"I'm here, Deanna." He stroked her face gently. "Not to me, you're not," she whispered disconsolately.
"Imzadi, take my hand." She stared at him. "Take my hand, Imzadi," he repeated. She put her fine-boned fingers around his large hand.
"Feel this hand. Do you feel it, Deanna?" he queried gently. She nodded. "Tell me, Deanna, what do you feel?" he asked. "I don't understand," she responded dully. He squeezed her hand gently, then affectionately stroked her arm.
"Did you feel that, Deanna?" She nodded silently. "I am not something from the holodeck," he said. "Could something from the holodeck touch you this way?"
"I don't know ," she mumbled.
Will moved closer on the couch, so that the side of his body was touching hers. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. For a few silent minutes, he sat quietly with her, softly stroking her hair. Then he gently took her chin in his hand and turned her face so that it was against his chest.
"Deanna, I want you to do something," he said. Without waiting for a reply, he continued, "I want you to use your body." She pulled back from him with a questioning look on her face.
"Deanna, put your ear to my chest." She did so. "Now, tell me what you hear."
"I hear your heart beating," she whispered.
"What else?" he prodded. "I hear you breathing," she said in a monotone.
"Yes, Imzadi. Now tell me what you smell." He said. "Smell?" she asked. "Yes, what you smell," he responded.
She closed her eyes and breathed in heavily. The heady mixture of Will's aftershave and his masculine scent entered her nostrils. The aroma triggered a plethora of pleasant memories. She smiled slightly, her eyes still closed. Though Will saw the slight change in her expression, he said nothing about it.
"Now," he said quietly, "Tell me what you feel against you, what you feel with your hands."
Her eyes still shut, she focused her awareness on the pressure of his body leaning against her and on his arm that was still around her shoulders. Then, he took her hand and brought it to his face. She let it rest on his cheek momentarily, taking in the sensation of his warm face against her hand. Then she placed her hand on his beard. She lightly ran her hand over his beard, marveling at the mixed sensations of softness and coarseness his beard generated.
"I feel...,"she began.
"Yes?" Will coaxed.
"I feel the smoothness and warmth of your skin," she replied.
"What else?" he asked.
"I feel the firmness of your chest and arm, the texture of your beard," she said.
"Now, Imzadi, look at my face," he said. He waited until she was making eye contact.
"Look at me, Deanna. Use everything you know and sense now to tell me what you see."
Deanna saw his concern for her in his facial expression. She could see his love for her in the way his clear blue eyes were watching her so intently. His body language - his physical contact, the gentleness with which he touched her - spoke silently yet eloquently of his affection for her and his desire to help her.
"Tell me, Deanna," he prompted gently, his expression at once both serious and loving.
"Your face tells you're concerned about me, Will."
"You have affection in your expression, as well."
"Yes. Anything else? Does my body tell you anything?"
"Will I appreciate what you're trying to do " she sighed.
"Deanna, Imzadi, I am no holodeck image. I am real. Think about what your senses are telling you " he began to plead. He threw up his hands in exasperation when she looked down, clearly retreating into her own despondency.
Suddenly, on impulse, he turned her to face him, cupped her face in his hands, and pressed his mouth to hers. Into that contact, he poured all the frustration and love that he was feeling. As he felt himself express his deep love for her through the kiss, the physical contact with her mouth suddenly triggered feelings he had long kept hidden. Conscious now only of his passionate emotions, he used his tongue to push her lips open and gain entry. Once inside, he reveled in letting his tongue explore her mouth as he had done long before in the Jalara jungle on Betazed. She closed her eyes and attended to the erotic sensations he was producing with his tongue.
He broke the kiss and pulled back. He gazed at her through passion-glazed eyes. "Tell me now that I'm not real, Imzadi. Tell me that an image on the holodeck can do that," he challenged in a husky voice. He held her face between his hands, looked briefly into her large obsidian eyes, and initiated another searing kiss. This time, she responded with her own tongue and began a duel with his.
"Can a holodeck image make you want to kiss someone that way, Imzadi?" he asked, his voice thick with passion. He kissed a wet path down her neck and the part of her chest that was exposed by the v-neck in her uniform. She shuddered and moaned involuntarily.
"Name anything on the holodeck that can make you react the way you are responding now." His face was inches from hers and his eyes heavy-lidded with passion. "Only a real me can do that, Imzadi."
She leaned her head back against the couch, still reeling from the feelings his kiss had produced in her. He was right, she realized. His feelings for her were clear. His body, his face, and most of all his mouth had made his point without her needing to sense him empathically.
"Oh Will, I still feel so confused " He kissed her lips, softly now. "Does that help, Imzadi?" he whispered. He gently stroked her face. "And that, does that help?"
"Will, you've shown me different ways to sense someone," she began hesitantly.
"Human ways, Deanna. You are half human. I just tried to get you to use that part of you," he interjected.
"Oh gods I can't make sense of all of this, except for one thing," she sighed.
"What's that?" he asked.
"You've shown me how to fill myself with a sense of you without my empathic skills. It's not as powerful a presence as before, but it is certainly more than being empty. Thank you, Will." She smiled warmly at him.
"I'm glad you can see that ," he smiled at her. "And if you can't figure it all out yet, don't worry. There's always tomorrow. Remember the old earth saying: 'Rome wasn't built in a day', Deanna."
"But ," she began. Will put his finger across her mouth, saying, "Shhh And don't resign, Counselor." He gave her a wink.
"How did you know I was about to talk about that?" she said, a note of surprise in her voice.
"Let's just say I sensed it, Deanna!" Will quickly dodged the slap he knew Deanna was about to deliver on his arm. His antics brought a laugh from Deanna.
"Welcome back, Imzadi."