The Road Forward

by Kate

RATING: Teens and Above
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns the characters; Idan Raichel owns most of the song.
SETTING: During Insurrection, after the kiss in Deanna's office but before the tub scene.
FEEDBACK: Whatever you want to share works - even flames.


Come, give me your hand
And we will go…
Don't ask me where.
Don't ask me about happiness.
Perhaps happiness will come too.
And when it does,
It will pour down like rain.

Come, we will embrace
And we will go…
Don't ask me when.
Don't ask me about home.
Don't ask me for time,
Time neither waits, stops nor remains.

"Bo-ee (Come)," Western music and Hebrew lyrics by Idan Raichel (the translation is mine)


The door chimes rang out, startling Counselor Deanna Troi out of her review of patient files. She had been so absorbed in her reading that she failed to sense any presence outside her office before the trilling jerked her attention towards the door. Within an instant of hearing the chimes, she knew who stood beyond the entrance. And before she could even call out an invitation to enter, the doors slid open to reveal the tall First Officer of the Enterprise, Will Riker.

As soon as the petite Betazoid focused on the man standing in her doorway, a sudden memory of his earlier sensual kiss flooded her mind. A second later, her inane response of 'yuck' to that kiss popped into her thoughts and reminded her of the visitor at her doorstep.

"Can I come in?" Riker asked hesitantly, his eyebrows arched high in question.

"Please do," Deanna's voice was equally unsettled. Will walked in, his gait uncharacteristically measured and subdued. He pointed to the end of the couch on which she was seated. "Can I sit?" Offering a nervous smile, she answered, "Of course, Will." Patting her hand on the cushion's surface, she added, "Please, come sit."

Riker stepped over to the couch and sat down. Leaning his elbows on his thighs, he picked imaginary lint from his sleeves. After a moment of heavy silence, Will looked up and locked his sky blue eyes on the dark ones of the Counselor.

"What happened today?" His words were pointed but his voice was gentle. Deanna cast her eyes downward. Riker leaned over and touched his fingertips to her arm. "Talk to me, Deanna." The Betazoid looked once again into Will's questioning eyes.

"I'm not sure I really know what happened here, Will," she admitted. Deanna drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Resting her head on her knees, she sighed, "It's been on my mind ever since you left my office this afternoon."

"Mine too," Will revealed, running his fingers through his hair. Then he shook his head and once again directed his piercing stare at the woman before him. "And I know that you have kissed me before with this," he said, tapping the whiskers on his face.

"I know I have, Will," Deanna agreed. "That 'yuck' of mine was just about the lamest thing I have ever said." She locked her depthless dark eyes on the serious visage of her visitor. "And it really had nothing to do with how I really felt when you were kissing me."

"Well that's a relief," Riker joked nervously, pretending to wipe sweat off of his forehead with the back of his hand. "Imagine how I'd feel if you really *did* think that about my kisses!" The petite Betazoid giggled at her companion's humor. A second later, his laughter joined with hers.

After a few moments of shared mirth, the two of them fell back into silence. Feeling a bit more relaxed, Deanna dropped her bent legs off to the side and tucked her feet under her. Riker too felt more at ease and so leaned back and draped his arm along the top of the couch.

"You know," he resumed, "during the kiss, all I could think about was how much I've wanted to do that, to kiss you like that again…" He focused his blue eyes, full of yearning, on the face of the woman beside him. Without conscious thought, Deanna's fingers flew to her lips. For an instant, she was lost in her own remembrances of the rightness and sensuality of the kiss Will had begun. And then the common-sense part of her mind took center stage and she shook her head, dispelling the pleasant memory.

"Will, I won't deny that I enjoyed your kiss," Troi began. Riker looked at her with eyes full of hope. "But you know that we…," she started to recite.

"..We can't do this while we are serving on the same ship," Riker mimicked, rolling his eyes in annoyed exasperation. "You know, Deanna, that line is wearing really thin these days…" He sat up and pointed an accusatory finger at her. "And you know what?" he challenged in a growl.

Troi opened her mouth to respond, but before a sound could come out of it, Will supplied his own answer. "I don't even think you *really* believe that yourself, Deanna Troi." The Betazoid stared at her now irritated companion, her face a blank slate.

"In fact," he started up again after a moment of heavy silence, "if you really do believe it, what the hell were you doing to my neck in the library?" An embarrassed blush stole over the delicate features of the counselor. Will's eyes glazed over momentarily at the pleasant memory. Then, an instant later, he returned to his attack.

"Oh, and Counselor," Riker sneered, his blue eyes glittering dangerously, "when did resting your breast on my shoulder become part of your professional body language?"

Deanna stared at her visitor in utter shock. "What?" she breathed, barely able to speak.

"You heard me," Will pressed. Wagging a provocative finger at her, he added, "That's not the body language of someone who wants to remain just friends." Will locked his sparkling blue eyes on the large ebony ones of his companion. "Is it?" he goaded.

A dense silence filled the room once again. Troi swallowed nervously as she tried to bring order to the chaotic mass of thoughts swirling around in her mind. He was absolutely right, she realized. Gods, why did he have to be so right? She *had* intended to be seductive. At that moment, at least. And it had felt good. In that moment. And his kiss earlier had felt so good. Was it so wrong to want to feel that way with him again?

"You really don't believe that any more, do you?" Riker prodded yet again, now in a softer voice. He leaned over, placed his finger under her chin and tilted her head up so he could stare into her depthless eyes. "Do you?" he whispered.

Deanna's eyes slid shut as she shook her head. "I don't know *what* I believe, Will," she sighed. "Not any more." Her tall companion slid over to her side and wrapped a comforting arm around her slim shoulders.

"Well," Riker began, "you may not know what *you* believe, so let me tell you what *I* believe. No, better than that, let me tell you what I *know*." He brought his lips to her ear and murmured, "I love you, Deana Troi. I've never stopped loving you. And this line that we've drawn is driving me crazy…" And then Will breathed the lightest of kisses on to the edge of her ear, causing an involuntary shiver to race down her spine and a warm tingle to flood outwards from her groin.

"I know what I just did to you, Imzadi," the tall man whispered, still within mere millimeters of his companion's ear. "Tell me you didn't want me to do that." With the lightest of touches, Riker traced a sensual path down Deanna's neck with his fingers. "Tell me you haven't missed this…"

"Gods only know how I have missed it, Will," the Betazoid sighed. Then turning to gaze into the oh-so familiar blue eyes of the man at her side, she averred, "But we both agreed to remain friends."

"I only did that," Will responded, caressing her cheek, "because you were so insistent on it." He removed his fingers and brushed his lips where his hand had been. "It was never what I *wanted*." Kissing her ear once again, he murmured, "And I don't think it's what you wanted either, Imzadi."

Troi shut her eyes for a moment and tried to center herself. Fighting hard to ignore the burning hunger that Will's kiss had ignited in her body, she tried to focus on what drove her ambivalence about yielding to her desire and, yes, her deep love for him. Yet she could no more analyze her chaotic feelings than she could ignore the now insistent throbbing in her gut and between her thighs.

In that instant, all she could think of was trying to distance herself physically from the source of her confusion. And so Deanna arose from the couch and walked to the view port. With her back turned to the seated man, she leaned against the cool glassine surface and locked her gaze on some nameless star cluster in the inky distance. As she stared, her mind drifted away from her surroundings, leaving her visitor in the world of the tangible.

Aware now of Will Riker only by his muted empathic emanations, Troi focused instead on his provocative words and her mantric response to them. His utterances rang out in her mind…he wanted her…loved her…kept the relationship at the friendship level only because *she* wanted it…And yes, she *did* miss what Will's touch had done to her…But they *had* agreed that going beyond a platonic relationship would be fraught with difficulties, even dangers…

Dangers? What dangers? None serious enough to stop her with anyone else aboard the Enterprise, the Betazoid admitted to herself ruefully. Hell, she had had a number of intimate relationships with other officers on the ship. And not once did she have any trouble keeping her personal life apart from her professional duties…Ever.

Yes, other men on board the Enterprise had brought her pleasures, made her feel desired and loved…Ah, Deanna thought to herself, but none of them was Will Riker. No one else had his mysteriously magnetic attraction for her…filled her soul as he did… knew her better than she knew herself… was Imzadi….

How could a deeper relationship with such a man be dangerous? Troi had no answer. For seemingly endless minutes, she stared into the ebony void beyond the transparent skin of the view port. Her fingers rose to touch the glassine surface as if to capture the elusive answer from the inky abyss. The port's coolness reminded her, though, that what she sought was not to be found beyond the walls but within herself.

The petite Betazoid rested her head against the smooth bulkhead and closed her eyes.. "Not while we're serving on the same ship" wafted into her thoughts, a taunting counterpoint to her internal chaos. But there *was* a good reason for that rule, another part of her screamed back. At one time, at least…

Years before, when they found themselves stationed on the same ship, she quickly realized that Will Riker was the same self-absorbed if superficially charming smartass she had known on Betazed. With his ambition locked on pushing his way up the command ladder and his libido driving him into the beds of nearly every woman on board, Will appeared to be as impervious to her feelings as he was when he stood her up on Risa.

And now? What of the man now? A heavy sigh escaped Troi's lips. Her long-lashed eyes slid open to find Riker's standing reflection staring back at her on the mirror-like skin of the view port. Yes, she asked herself, what of him now?

In that instant, a vivid memory pushed its way into her mind. Deanna remembered another time of indecision and questions, only then those were Beverly Crusher's, and the doctor's anguish centered on whether to embrace Will Riker as the Trill Odan, who was embedded within the First Officer's belly. Troi had urged her friend to turn and look into the face of her fellow officer to find her answer. And now, the Betazoid knew she needed to do the same.

With hesitation slowing her movement, Deanna turned to look at Will's face. In heavy silence, she studied the man before her. Gone was the combative prosecutor of a few minutes ago. Instead, Riker's demeanor bespoke a whole different persona. His oh-so-blue eyes were wide with question and longing, his mouth half-open with an unspoken plea on his lips. Waves of profound love interwoven with naked desire radiated off of him.

In that endless moment of scrutiny, the past decade of their time together on the Enterprise flashed by in Deanna Troi's mind. How many times had he been there for her when she needed a friend to lean on - often without her even saying a word? Was there anyone else aboard who cared for her almost more than she cared for herself? Or who made her laugh as heartily as he did?

No, she realized, this was not the same Will Riker she had known so long ago. That narcissistic, conceited young ensign had grown into a caring, considerate adult. One who could complete her as no one else could. The one who stood before her now in painful silence, awaiting her answer. And in that instant, she knew what the answer had to be.

The Betazoid ran a nervous tongue over her lips. "You are right, Will," she whispered. "It's not what I want." Will's eyebrows rose in hope. Deanna took a hesitant step closer to the man facing her. "It might have been at one time…"

Riker took a step towards her. "I know that, Deanna…And I know why." He inched closer. "But I haven't been that man in a long time…" His crystal blue eyes burned with utter sincerity. "I've changed…"

Deanna offered a tentative smile. "We've both changed, Will." Riker nodded in agreement. Then, locking his eyes on hers, he inquired, "So what *do* you want, Deanna?"

The petite Betazoid extended her hand towards her visitor. "Us, Will. I want us."

A brilliant smile of exuberant joy exploded on Will Riker's face. Instantly, he grabbed Deanna's hands and pulled her into an embrace of love and thankfulness. Beaming at her up-turned face, he murmured, "Gods, how long have I waited to hear you say those words, Deanna Troi!" And then he brought his lips to hers to initiate a hungry kiss.

The kiss lasted an eternity. When they finally broke apart, Deanna stared solemnly into Will's passion-filled eyes. "I don't know what might happen over time, Will."

Riker smiled and cupped her face in his hands. "Deanna… Imzadi… As long as it is with you, I could care less…" His words of seeming to care less suddenly hearkened back to a Will Riker she didn't want to remember. Damn it, had he just fed her a line to hook her in, just as he had tried with her so long ago and with countless women on board the Enterprise? A familiar feeling of judgmental anger erupted in her. Her sudden annoyance pushed the smile from her face and she began to pull away from his arms.

Will shook his head and sighed as he saw the change in the Betazoid's mien. He drew her firmly back into his arms. "Shhh, Deanna…" Riker ran the pads of his thumbs gently along his beloved's lips, smoothing the frown away. "I know what you just thought. How could I not?" He locked his earnest blue eyes on her depthless ones. "I am *not* him anymore."

Deanna studied Riker's face while allowing his feelings to wash through her. All she sensed was undiluted sincerity, honesty and profound love. Once again, she realized that this was not the old Will-the-Thrill Riker. That man truly had been left behind. The man holding her in his arms was indeed who she had thought.

"We *will* find our way, Imzadi," Will assured her. "We always have. And we always will." And with those words, Will Riker sealed his avowal with a kiss of promise. It was in that moment that Deanna Troi knew they would indeed find their way, for now she truly, finally knew they were meant to be. And for the first time in many years, she felt supremely at home, wrapped in the arms of the man who loved her more than life itself.