DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns everything but my imagination. No infringement
SETTING: Post Nemesis
FEEDBACK: Always! Please?

by Kate

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a tale about the desire for revenge. What happens when Will and Deanna get caught up in an antagonist's efforts to seek retribution? Who pays the price for these efforts?

This story assumes not only all that happened in the TNG series and movies, but also the facts as set out in Peter David's Imzadi.


A Ferengi transport hurtled its way towards Risa. Two humanoids sat behind the controls of the vessel. Their features were barely visible in the dim light cast by the stars flashing by.

"How long before we arrive at Risa? I have matters to take care of there," one of the two growled, a burning anger smoldering in his eyes.

"Soon, soon," the other said in a frightened voice. "You'll see, the planet will have plenty of hew-mans."

"Fool, it's not just any humans I'm interested in. They must be Federation humans," the first snarled. The other more diminutive humanoid cringed defensively. "Yes, yes, there are always Federation hew-mans on Risa."

"There had better be, toad. You have been paid generously," the first said, threat coloring his voice. His fingers curled around the hasp of the dagger sheathed on his belt. Drawing it out enough for it to glint in the starlight, the first hissed, "Failure is not tolerable."

"I'm sure you will not be disappointed," the second quaked obsequiously. The larger humanoid pushed the head of the smaller one towards the view screen. "No more talk. Do your job and get to Risa."


"Bridge to Captain Riker," the disembodied voice rang out over the comm system.

"Riker here," Will responded, straightening up from the suitcase he was closing.

"We have achieved orbit around Risa. Appropriate contact has been made and the hotel is waiting for your arrival."

"Very good. We'll transport down shortly. Riker out," Will said, locking eyes momentarily with Deanna. He smiled broadly, then reached out a hand towards her.

"So tell me again, Deanna. How long do we have by ourselves before your mother and brother arrive?" Although his words seemed innocent enough, Deanna could sense an altogether different intent behind them. She offered him a wry, slightly judgmental look.

"It's not my mother you were thinking of, Will Riker," she admonished him. Will shook his head and threw up his hands in mock-defensiveness. "You know me too well, Deanna," he smiled. He scanned her from head to toe with his sparkling blue eyes. Licking his lips suggestively, he said, "So, how much time do I have to enjoy my wife?"

Deanna smiled appreciatively and touched her fingers gently to his cheek. "Two days, Will," she whispered as she brought her lips to brush lightly against his. Will put his hands around her face and leaned in for a deeper, more sensuous kiss.

"I hope you weren't planning on going anywhere during those two days," Will breathed into her mouth. Then he initiated another tender kiss. Sighing back into Will's parted lips, Deanna said, "No. I can see that there wouldn't be any time for that."

"You can be sure of that, Imzadi," Will grinned. "So, are we ready then?" he asked as he glanced around their quarters. Deanna nodded and picked up her suitcase. Will took her free hand into his and gave it a loving squeeze. "Then let's go. Risa is waiting," he smiled at Deanna. With that, they walked out the door and were on their way to their long-awaited shore leave on Risa.


The more diminutive passenger sitting behind the controls of the Ferengi transport cringed as he felt the dark, brooding eyes of his taller companion boring into his neck. The taller humanoid glowered and idly played with the dagger resting in his lap. He noticed the fear-filled eyes of his cohort fixed on the weapon.

"If you do as you have been paid to do, you have no need to fear," he snarled. Turning to glare at the image of a planet on the navigational control screen, he growled, "So, is that the planet?"

"Yes, Risa. As you requested," the smaller humanoid replied. Anticipating his companion's concern, he reassured the larger humanoid, "You will find all the Federation hew-mans you could want." The knife-wielding passenger grunted, "We shall see. It's Federation or you, worm. You get your money or give me your life."

The smaller individual quaked visibly. In a small, shaky voice, he asked, "Might I ask why you seek Federation hew-mans?" The taller humanoid wheeled around in his chair and boxed his companion in one of his prominent ears. "It's enough you are paid…" But then he grinned evilly. "Pay back. The Federation…," he hissed, his eyes glinting maliciously. "We haven't forgotten what the Federation took from us. It's time for them to be repaid." He paused a moment, lost in thought. Then he added, "And to think that if that bitch had kept her mouth shut all those years ago, the Federation would be kissing our feet…"

The taller humanoid eyed his companion aggressively. "Have you heard enough?" he asked as he slowly polished his dagger on his tunic.

"Yes, yes," the smaller one said as he cringed again in fear. The taller humanoid spat his contempt for his companion. "Spineless money grubber," he sneered. "Still, I suppose you have your part to play. Do it if you don't want to find out how quickly this knife can dispatch you." He made a cutting motion near his companion's neck.

"Yes, yes, Federation hew-mans. You will find more than you could imagine on Risa," the smaller passenger said. Staring fearfully at the dagger, he continued, "Of course, weapons are not welcome on Risa." The larger passenger laughed evilly as he sheathed his dagger.

"I am well aware of that, toad. I'm not so stupid as to jeopardize my mission with a glaring misstep like that. My friend here," he patted his knife, "will stay aboard this ship." He stared out the view screen. "No, you will be my weapon on Risa." He laughed maliciously.

"Me? Use a weapon on Risa?" the smaller humanoid squeaked. The taller companion shook his head. "No, toad. Who said you would use a weapon?" he mused as he stroked his chin thoughtfully. "No, you will be my tool once we are down on the planet." Then, he glared at the smaller humanoid, boxed him yet again in his ear and cackled hysterically.

His companion shook visibly. "You are paying me very generously," he began obsequiously. "But no one said I was to risk my life." The larger humanoid shook his head, contempt written on his scowling features.

"Are all of your species this spineless? No matter. If you do as instructed, there will be no risk to your life. This discussion is now at an end," he roared as he pounded the arm rests of his chair.

"Yes, of course. Over, of course. No more discussion," the smaller humanoid said nervously. He turned to occupy himself with the controls. After a moment's assessment of the display, he said in a small voice, "We will enter Risa's orbit within a day."

"Very well," the taller humanoid said. Then he spun again in his chair to face his diminutive companion. "Are you sure no one will suspect anything with your ship in orbit?"

"No, no. No concern. Risa is open to everyone. My people stop there frequently."

"Very good," the taller companion nodded, a smug grin on his face.


They arrived down on the planet's surface in front of the hotel. Deanna threaded her arm around Will's and eyed the building approvingly. "If it's half as nice inside as it is outside, Will, our rooms should be wonderful." Will nodded, a pleased smile on his face. "Yeah, it looks great." With that, they walked up the front steps into the lobby to check in.

Will keyed in the entry code to their hotel suite. As the door opened, he wrapped his hand around Deanna's and walked in. Looking around approvingly, he asked, "So what do you think?"

"Looks wonderful to me," Deanna sighed pleasantly. "Oh Will, look at the view!" she exclaimed as she walked towards the living room balcony. Will followed her, then pulled her by the hand into his arms.

"That's not the view that interests me, Imzadi," he whispered huskily into her ear. Deanna turned to Will and smiled, desire sparkling in her dark eyes. "What view would that be?" she murmured seductively.

Will grinned broadly and began to unbutton Deanna's shirt. "It's this one, right here," he said softly as he pressed his lips to her exposed chest. "Oh," she purred as she wrapped her hands around his head. She could feel the smile reforming his mouth as he kissed his way up along her neck.

"Wouldn't you like to see what the bedroom is like?" Deanna murmured against Will's cheek. Wordlessly, Will wrapped one arm around Deanna's waist and, while walking her towards the bedroom, pulled her shirt off her shoulder and breathed hot, light kisses along the ridge of her shoulder.

Will bore her down gently to the bed's surface. As he lay down on top of her, he buried his face at the base of her neck. He inhaled deeply, reveling in her intoxicating scent. "You smell delicious," he whispered. "Uh-huh," Deanna smiled, her eyes now dilated by passion. She ran her fingers lightly around the edges of his ears, then traced twin paths down Will's neck towards the front of his tunic. As she slowly unzipped his tunic with one hand, she reached in with the other and lightly raked her nails across his chest.

Moaning with pleasure, Will brought his mouth firmly against hers. He sought entry into her mouth with his tongue. She allowed him in and lost herself to the pleasant sensations generated by their mutual explorations of each other's mouths.

As their kisses grew progressively greedier, their hands raced to remove their clothes, one piece at a time. Then, they became entranced with creating trails of heated tingling on each other's bodies. Intermittent groans and grunts punctuated their tender explorations.

As their passion increased, they substituted their mouths and tongues for their fingers. Deanna licked and kissed long paths of hot pleasure over every erotic inch of Will's muscular body. Just as he was nearing the pinnacle, Will flipped Deanna onto her back and returned the favor. Exploring Deanna's voluptuous body, Will's tongue left heated trails on each of her sensuous surfaces. As her panting grew faster, matched by his, they joined in a union of hungry, stimulated bodies. As they hit the explosive crest together, waves of electric tingling shot through their bodies. Their minds and bodies were merged in a moment of blinding sensation.

They remained enmeshed in each other's arms as their breathing gradually returned to normal. Deanna looked at Will with eyes filled with love. Beaming at him, she whispered, "I hope there's a replicator in this suite." Will raised his eyebrows in curiosity. "Why is that?" he asked. Deanna planted a gentle kiss on his lips and then said, "Because I don't think we're going to be spending too much time outside of this room over the next few days."

"Is that so?" Will breathed against her mouth as he tightened his embrace around her body. "Uh-huh," she smiled as she pressed her lips to his in a soft kiss. Will smiled his love for her and then rolled off to her side. He leaned on his elbow and traced the contours of her torso lazily. Deanna's dark eyes locked onto his crystal clear blue eyes.
Taking his hand into hers, she whispered, "Have I told you lately how you fill my being, Imzadi?" Will smiled, put her hand to his lips, and sighed, "You don't need to say anything. I already know."

They spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on the bed and basking in the warmth of each other's presence. Without the pressures of dealing with ship-board matters, they both found themselves delighting in the simple pleasure of uninterrupted conversation. Only the occasional sounds of a bird's song or tree branches lightly dancing in the breeze punctuated their quiet exchange. Satiated physically and at loving peace with themselves, they knew that this was what they had come to Risa for.


Will and Deanna spent the next day ensconced in their hotel suite. The only world they were interested in at that time was the two-person universe they created in their rooms. All that they wanted, all that they needed was found there. Food and beverage were a mere voice command away. Sleep was an unscheduled luxury. Clothes were an unnecessary encumbrance. And their enjoyment of each other flowed easily from loving companionship to passionate intimacy and back again. It was a magical time both cherished, all the more so for knowing that it would end in a day's time with the arrival of Lwaxana and Barin Troi.

The next morning, Deanna woke up to find Will leaning on his elbow and staring at her with love dancing in his blue eyes. "Good morning, sleepyhead," he said softly as he planted a gentle kiss on her cheek. Deanna smiled sleepily and stretched her body.

"How long have you been watching me?" she sighed. "I don't know, a few minutes maybe. I sort of lose track of time when I look at you, Imzadi." Deanna reached up to touch his stubbled cheek with the back of her hand.

"Is that so?" she murmured. Will smiled his assent and ran his index finger lightly along her collar bone. Then, replacing his finger with his lips, he placed a series of butterfly kisses along her collar bone.

"When are your mother and brother supposed to arrive?" Will whispered huskily as he kissed his way up Deanna's neck. Deanna wrapped her hand around the back of Will's head and pulled him to her mouth. "Not until noon today," she groaned as she pressed her lips to his inviting mouth. "Oh, I see," he breathed against her tongue. "Then we have more time, don't we?"

"But what about breakfast?" Deanna murmured, only partly seriously. "Umm, I think this is breakfast enough for me," Will responded throatily. With that, he let his fingers tenderly explore the soft skin of Deanna's nubile body, leaving tingling trails behind. At the same time, Deanna stroked light paths of heat along the contours of Will's muscular frame. Slowly, lovingly, their fingers brought their bodies and minds from sensually pleasant sharing to intensely animal hunger.

"Gods, Will…," Deanna groaned as Will ministered to her, now with his hot tongue. As he pressed his aroused body against hers, he grunted, "I want you Deanna…I want you now." With that, he entered her. Moving their bodies now in an ancient rhythm of love and passion, their minds became entwined in the pulses of erotic thought stroking each other's inner beings. Together, they exploded over the crest, sensations and thought a kaleidoscopic blur.

After a few moments, their bodies relaxed. Will threaded his fingers through Deanna's thick tresses and placed a loving kiss on her full lips. "Ah, Imzadi…," he began. Deanna smiled with understanding; she could feel his feelings of satiation and satisfaction. "Me too, Will. There will be little enough time for us once Mother arrives."

A few hours later, Will and Deanna were waiting outside the entranceway to the hotel, wearing clothes for the first time in two days. Suddenly a mere meter before them, three silhouettes began to sparkle into existence. In another instant, before them stood Lwaxana and Barin Troi, as well as the ever-present Mr. Homn.

As soon as they finished materializing, Deanna stepped towards Lwaxana with outstretched arms. Drawing her into an embrace, Deanna said, "Mother, how nice to see you." And then she turned to her younger half-brother and placed a loving hand on his face. "Barin, welcome!" Will stood a step behind Deanna, witnessing the reunion with a bemused smile on his handsome face.

Lwaxana smiled at Will and said melodramatically, "Why William, how nice it is to see you again!" Will smiled and wisely dropped his mental shields in place; he did not want his mother-in-law to catch any stray snide remarks that might happen to wander into his mind. Holding out his hand, he said pleasantly, "And you, Lwaxana."

Lwaxana turned to Mr. Homn and instructed him to take their luggage to their rooms. Will watched in awe as the towering manservant lifted what were obviously weighty suitcases as if they were pieces of cotton.

"Can we take a look around?" Barin asked. "I've never been to Risa." Deanna smiled warmly at her brother, then looked at Will questioningly. "Well, Will, what do you think?" she asked.

"It sounds like a great idea. A walk around the town would be lovely. And then we can come back for lunch," Will said, looking straight at Barin. "You should see the swimming pool they have here, Barin!" he added with a broad smile. Barin's expression suddenly went serious.

"I don't know how to swim," the boy whispered in an embarrassed voice. Will clapped a comforting hand on Barin's thin shoulder and smiled. "Not a problem, my friend. I'll teach you," Will assured him. Barin's face was once again lit up with a happy smile.

"Well," Deanna interjected, "the town center is close by. Why don't we head in that direction?" With that, she linked arms with her mother and began walking. Will draped his arm loosely across Barin's slim back and the two of them followed the women.

Soon, they found themselves in the town center. It was bustling with mid-day activity. Vendors were noisily hawking their wares from road-side booths. The smells wafting from the many restaurants mingled pleasantly in the air. Clumps of people walking at various paces moved along the sidewalks.

Deanna was absorbed in a conversation with her mother when suddenly a familiar form caught her eye. Lwaxana saw him at the same time. "Well, there's that awful toad who kidnapped us years ago," harrumphed Lwaxana. "And to think I even touched him…"

Deanna stopped short. While the sight of their one-time Ferengi adversary, DaiMon Tog, caught her attention, it was something else that caused her to freeze where she was. It was a sudden stabbing sense of malevolence. A familiar anger she had felt once before a long time ago.

Lwaxana then felt it too. Both of them looked around to try to determine the source. There was so much mental activity swirling around them on the busy street that it was hard to pinpoint the source. But for Deanna there was such a familiar feel to that evil anger. Where had she felt that before?

Suddenly, she realized that those feelings were emanating from the tall, cowled figure standing next to DaiMon Tog. As she looked at him curiously, she caught a quick glance of his dark, slitted eyes. A sudden shock jolted her as she realized she was looking at Sindareen eyes. She let out a scream and faltered on her feet.

Will saw Deanna waver and reached out to break her fall. Holding her in his arms, he said, "Deanna, what is it?" Deanna gasped and clutched her throat. An instant later, she pointed shakily towards where she had seen the Sindareen. Will followed where her finger aimed but saw nothing out of the ordinary. The Ferengi and the Sindareen were gone.

"Our past has come back to haunt us, Will," she whispered fearfully. Staring intently into her frightened dark eyes, Will said, "There's nothing there, Deanna." She shook her head.

"No, he's gone now," she said. "But a moment ago, I saw a Sindareen, Will. And he was staring directly at me." Will wrapped his arm protectively around Deanna.

"Let's go back to the hotel now," he said quietly. Deanna nodded wordlessly. Lwaxana did not question Will's decision as she had heard their exchange and had felt her daughter's intense reaction. She remembered in an instant the Sindareen raid on Betazed that nearly took the life of her daughter.

"Why are we going back now?" Barin asked, not understanding his sister's sudden upset.

"Your sister is not feeling well, dear. That's all," Lwaxana pronounced to the boy. Barin nodded, accepting his mother's explanation. As much as he wanted to see more of the town, he also didn't want his sister not feeling well.

They turned back towards the hotel. Walking in heavy silence, they each pondered the events that had just transpired. All that Will could think of was what that Sindareen wanted, and was it something involving Deanna.


The Sindareen paced menacingly around the shaking DaiMon Tog. The cowardly Ferengi did not have a clue as to whether the Sindareen was about to draw and quarter him or praise him for locating Federation personnel so quickly. And so he feared the worst.

The Sindareen, who went by the name of Ger, stroked the nictitating vocal membranes on his long neck. Glaring at DaiMon Tog with malevolent eyes, he mused, "Let's see…the situation is both better than I could hope for and worse. I come down to the planet looking for Federation slime, and who should I find but the very bitch herself!"

"That's good, yes?" the diminutive Ferengi asked in a quavering voice, never taking his eyes off the taller Sindareen.

"Good, yes," Ger said with a sneering smile. "But not good!" he roared as he stabbed a bony finger into DiaMon Tog's chest.

"How…how could that be bad if it's good?" DaiMon Tog squeaked fearfully as he cowered under Ger's piercing glare.

"She recognized me as a Sindareen. Even from our distance, I could see that she recognized me…How I don't know…," Ger growled. Then he paused in his restless circuits of the vessel's main cabin. "I couldn't get near her if I wanted to...," he mused. Then, he wheeled around and snarled, "Who was that man with the Federation bitch?"

"Man? Oh yes, that man…That was William Riker. Word has it he's a starship captain now," DaiMon Tog replied obsequiously. With that answer, Ger's eyes lit up with a murderous gleam.

"Riker. That murderer! Well, well, well! Things just couldn't be better," Ger said softly, now almost oblivious to the presence of DaiMon Tog. Ger dropped himself heavily into one of the chairs by the vessel's controls and steepled his fingers together. "The only thing is how to get them without them suspecting anything…" A malevolent smile crawled slowly across his face.

"Who were those other two people with the murderer and the bitch?" Ger asked, staring harshly at the view screen before him.

"The woo-man…ah yes…" DaiMon Tog smiled as a fleeting memory of the oomox Lwaxana Troi once provided him brought a momentary tingle to his body. Ger smacked DaiMon Tog on the shoulder. "Talk, Ferengi. I want her name."

"Her name is Lwaxana Troi. She is the younger woo-man's mother," DaiMon Tog said quickly, hoping to avoid being hit again. His shoulder still hurt where Ger had struck it.

"Ah, better and better…," Ger smiled. "And the boy?" DaiMon Tog shrugged his shoulders. "I do not know the boy. I have never seen him before."

Ger stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment. Then, directing a threatening glare at the Ferengi, Ger growled, "You will find out who that boy is. If my guess is correct, he is related to those other people. And if he is, he will be just what I need to exact my revenge." Ger smiled maliciously and said through his nictitating membranes, "Yes, this may turn out better than I could have imagined."

"Good, yes, good… it will be good," DaiMon Tog commented nervously. Ger trained his hate-filled eyes on DaiMon Tog. "You will go back down to the planet tomorrow. You will find out who the boy is. If he is related to the Federation slime, you are to kidnap him."

"Me? Kidnap the boy?" DaiMon Tog asked in a quivering voice. Ger gave him a derisive glare and shook the money bag hanging from his belt.

"If you want this, you will do as instructed. Otherwise, I will take my money elsewhere…" At the mention of money, DaiMon Tog's eyes lit up greedily.

"Yes, kidnap the boy. Yes, of course," the Ferengi said. "How do you want me to do that?" he asked. Ger glared nastily at DaiMon Tog.

"You must be as stupid as you look, Ferengi," Ger snarled. "It's very simple. I give you a communicator. You go down to the planet. When you've found the boy, draw him away from the others and notify me. I will activate the transporter here in the ship and beam you back up. Easy," he explained archly, as if talking to a young uncomprehending child.

"Easy, yes. Of course," DaiMon Tog smiled nervously. He knew, in fact, that it might not be so easy. But the lure of money was too strong and his fear of Ger's dagger too great for him to refuse to do as Ger asked.


Will sat with Deanna on the couch in their suite's living room. Lwaxana sat on a chair facing them. An oppressive silence pervaded the room. Will was the one to break it.

"Deanna, tell me again what happened," he said gently. He wrapped a protective arm around her slender shoulders and waited for her response. Shutting her eyes momentarily, she drew in a cleansing breath.

"Just after we noticed DaiMon Tog down the street, my mind was smothered by an overwhelming feeling of anger and loathing," she began. Will watched her with concern written on his features.

"It was so distinct that it stirred my memory," she continued in a quiet voice. "But not enough by itself for me to remember what kind of being had felt that way towards me before." She covered her eyes with her hand as if to shut out the recollection of the hostile sensations that had flooded her mind. Will ran his hand up and down her arm in a comforting gesture.

"How did you know he was a Sindareen?" Will asked softly.

"When I figured out where those feelings were coming from, I looked in his direction. That's when I saw his eyes underneath his hood… Sindareen eyes, Will…Eyes just like Maror's," she whispered, almost more to herself, as she drifted in her memories.

"Maror!" Will exclaimed. It was a name he had not heard in many years. In an instant, a sharp recollection of battling with Maror in the Jalara Jungle popped into his mind. He saw again the cackling form of Maror being swallowed by the sandpit, exulting that he was dying a free man. Will shook his head, trying to rid his mind of the distasteful thoughts.

"What could he want here on Risa, Will?" Deanna asked. Will stroked his beard thoughtfully for a moment. After a moment, he shrugged his shoulders.

"I'm sorry, Deanna. I can't figure that one out now," Will apologized. Lwaxana leaned over from her chair and put her hand on her daughter's knee.

"Such nasty creatures those Sindareens are!" Lwaxana exclaimed. "Still, I came here for a visit with my daughter and son-in-law, and I plan to enjoy it. Sindareen or no Sindareen. Besides, no one would dare lay a finger on the Ambassador from Betazed." She gave Deanna a confident smile.

"Perhaps you're right, Mother," Deanna smiled tentatively.

"Of course I am, Little One," Lwaxana asserted. Will grinned at Lwaxana's brash expression of self-confidence. Her advancing years had done nothing to dampen her zest and single-mindedness, Will thought to himself. But, maybe she was right. Perhaps things would be fine and they should just enjoy their time together.


The next day, they ventured again into town. Lwaxana's enthusiasm for enjoying their time together had run roughshod over Will's normal sense of caution, and so he convinced Deanna to resume their planned activities. Trusting in Will's judgment, she agreed to her mother's suggested tour of the town center.

A short walk from the hotel found the three adults ambling along the sidewalk, with Mr. Homn and Barin right in front of them. They stopped here and there to examine the wares of the various vendors. Goods of all sorts were being sold: fabric, jewelry, food, beverages. It was a veritable feast for the senses.

Barin was awe-struck with the sensory spectacle the vying vendors presented. There was nothing like them on Betazed. On his home planet, goods were marketed in small shops whose owners refrained from the commercial clamor that Betazoids detested. Commerce was conducted quietly and discreetly, so unlike the tumultuous mix of vivid colors, enticing smells and loud voices surrounding Barin presently. He reveled in the pleasant sensory overload the setting afforded him.

Beings of all sorts peopled the sidewalks. Risa had a galaxy-wide reputation as a vacation spot that focused on the sensual side of life. It was an emphasis that appealed to many different species. And many of those various species were milling about Barin and his adult companions as they walked slowly down the street.

Everywhere Barin looked, he saw humanoids of all shapes, colors and sizes. His dark Betazoid eyes were wide with wonder at the spectacle surrounding him. He had never been off of Betazed before, and few non-Betazoids traveled to his planet.

Barin was walking with Mr. Homn a few steps ahead of the adults. With a warm smile, Deanna watched her brother trying to take in all the new sights and sounds he was experiencing. He reminded her of the intensely curious and easily awe-struck child she had once been.

"Will," she said as she tilted her head towards her brother, "can you imagine enjoying this walk any more than Barin is right now?" Will grinned and shook his head. "I don't think so, Deanna." He gave her hand a gentle, loving squeeze.

"Look at him…," she began. "There is something so open and innocent about a child that age," she mused pleasantly. Then she trained her luminous dark eyes on Will's handsome face.

"What were you like as a child, Will?" she asked. Will's face grew serious as he heard her question. Deanna instantly sensed sad feelings emanating from Will. But before she could say anything, Will started to respond.

"I certainly wasn't like your brother, Deanna. Not gentle and easily awe-struck." Deanna looked apologetically at Will.

"I'm sorry I asked, Will. Obviously, I touched on something I shouldn't have," she said.
Will looked at her, a mixture of love and vague sadness written on his features. Tightening his hand around hers, he said, "No, it's okay Deanna. You know there was no lost love between my father and myself." He shut his eyes momentarily, his face briefly contorted in the grip of an unhappy memory from his childhood. Then he opened his eyes and smiled at Deanna.

"But you know, Deanna, I loved being out of doors. That's when I was truly happy. Then I could roam around and be the master of my universe." She nodded and smiled mischievously.

"Oh, practicing to be the master of a starship even at an early age, were you?" she teased gently, finally dispelling the air of sadness that had settled briefly over Will. Will winked at her and said, "You bet!" Then he brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. <<Later, Will,>> she sent to him as she eyed him with a momentary leer, and then they both laughed.

As they continued on their way, Deanna found herself unconsciously starting to search the crowd ahead of her on the sidewalk. For several minutes, she scanned the faces of those approaching them, half expecting to see once again those frightening dark Sindareen eyes glaring hatefully at her. She hadn't forgotten the mental onslaught that hit her the moment she made eye contact with the Sindareen the day before.

Her scans of the crowds became more mechanical and less attentive as they traveled further along the sidewalk. She found herself breathing easier as the feared eyes clearly were nowhere to be seen. Will turned a questioning grin towards her; he had sensed the easing of her lingering nervousness and wanted to be sure she truly felt calmer. She offered him a grateful smile and a reassuring nod.

Just at that moment, Lwaxana called out as she gesticulated, "Well, if it isn't that awful Dooman…oh, what ever he calls himself." And sure enough, the diminutive form of DaiMon Tog was walking towards them. He grinned a crooked Ferengi smile at them, knowing that no Betazoid could read his mind and know why he had returned to the planet's surface. Then he turned and entered a shop a few doors down.

"Why would that terrible creature even think of being anywhere near civilized beings?" Lwaxana huffed archly. Will shook his head as he laughed at Lwaxana's melodramatic outrage. Deanna, not in the mood to deal with her mother's exaggerated outburst, resignedly sent to her, << Mother, this planet is open to all who wish to be here.>>

Lwaxana stopped in her tracks, planted her hands on her hips in a gesture that portended further fireworks, and sent back, <<Well, there ought to be a law limiting admission.>> Her dark eyes burned with indignation.

Then, just as quickly, she resumed walking and mind-casted, <<I shall have to take this up with the Federation!>> Deanna rolled her eyes skyward, shaking her head. Will, who had heard the exchange in his mind, did his best to hide his mirth behind the hand he put over his mouth.

In the next moment, their attention was grabbed by the sound of a child's frightened scream. An instant later, Mr. Homn ran out of the doorway of one of the stores, wildly gesturing and looking very distraught. Deanna and Lwaxana gasped in utter horror; they had both felt Barin's sudden agonizing fear shoot through them and they knew something had happened to him.

Will ran the remaining distance to the store's entrance. When he caught up with Mr. Homn, he stopped to catch his breath. Panting heavily, he asked, "What's just happened?" Without waiting for an answer, Will then asked, "Where's Barin?"

Tears formed in Mr. Homn's eyes. Quickly, he used a snatching gesture to indicate that Barin had been kidnapped before his very eyes. Before Will could insist on further information, Mr. Homn signed the size and identifying features of the kidnapper. Will recognized the gestured description immediately and spun around to find Deanna and Lwaxana.

"DaiMon Tog's kidnapping days have resumed," Will spat angrily. Deanna's hand flew to her mouth in utter horror. Lwaxana wavered on her feet and covered her eyes. Will had to fight a momentary impulse to go to Deanna and comfort her in his arms. But he realized that he had to move fast if he was to be able to follow the Ferengi's trail.

"I need to get back to the hotel, Deanna," he explained rapidly. "I've got to get on a comm link to the Titan and find out if they can spot the vessel on long range sensors."
For a brief moment, he put a comforting hand on her face and looked lovingly into her tear-filled eyes.

"It may be our only chance to track Barin's kidnapper." With that, Will gave Deanna a quick peck on the cheek and turned to run back to the hotel. Deanna and Lwaxana stood riveted to the spot in stunned silence, watching Will's retreating form speed down the sidewalk.


Ger paced tensely back and forth in the main cabin of the Ferengi transport. Periodically, he would direct a hateful glare at Barin. The boy cowered on the metallic floor, overwhelmed by the waves of Ger's murderous anger flooding his mind.

Ger suddenly stopped and dropped himself heavily in the vacant chair by the control console. Eyeing DaiMon Tog suspiciously, Ger asked him, "So how did you find out who the boy was?" The Ferengi, frightened of the Sindareen's unpredictable and explosive temper, did not avert his eyes from the view screen.

"When I saw him walking again with the hew-mans I recognized, I knew he had to belong to one of them," DaiMon Tog responded in a quivering voice. Ger's hands began to clench and unclench around the arm rests of the chair. He shot a harsh glance at the Ferengi.

"So, you grab the boy when you don't even know who he is," Ger growled. He stood up and stared angrily down at DaiMon Tog's visibly shaking form.

"I am sure he belongs to them," DaiMon Tog stammered. He pointed a shaking hand in Barin's direction. "Go ask the hew-man." Ger grasped the Ferengi's arm so tightly he winced.

"If you are wrong…," he snarled. DaiMon Tog did not miss the unspoken threat as he attempted to pull free from Ger's painful grasp. An instant later, Ger let the Ferengi's arm drop from his hand and walked back towards Barin.

A few heavy, intimidating steps brought him to the boy. Barin peered up at Ger with terrified eyes. The Sindareen stared down at him unpleasantly. Barin could feel Ger's hatred and anger rolling off of him in waves. Instinctively, Barin slid himself further away on the floor. Ger chuckled at the boy's obvious fear.

"So you are afraid of me…," Ger sneered. "Very good." Barin stared mutely at the Sindareen. Ger smiled evilly. Then he directed a well-aimed kick into Barin's thin arm.

"You have a name, don't you?" Ger hissed. Barin leaned away from him fearfully. With an annoyed growl, Ger leaned down and spat, "If you don't talk, I'll give you something you'll really be afraid of. Now, your name."

"My name is Barin… Barin Troi," he ventured in a small, tight voice. His answer brought another malevolent smile to Ger's face. "Ah, Troi… Yes, that's the name…" Then he locked his dark, brooding eyes on to Barin's frightened eyes.

"Tell me, boy, who were you with?" Barin stared fearfully and drew himself into a tighter ball. This angered Ger, who suddenly whipped his dagger out of its sheath and waved it near Barin's face.

"Answer me, or I'll give you a real reason to be afraid," Ger threatened. His eyes twinkled maliciously as he glanced from his dagger to the boy and back again.

"I was with my mother, my sister and her husband," Barin responded in a barely audible whisper. Ger glared at the boy, then began to move his dagger around in a fluid stabbing pattern.

"Are all Betazoids this stupid, or is it just you?" Ger growled. "Names, boy, I want the names of who you were with." Tears began to well up in Barin's large, dark Betazoid eyes.

"I…I…I was with my mother, Lwaxana Troi…My… My sister is Deanna Troi. Her husband…her husband… that's Will Riker," Barin stammered fearfully.

At the mention of the names 'Troi' and 'Riker,' Ger's visage took on a satisfied but malevolent smile. He nodded, saying to himself, "Yes. This just couldn't be better." Thoughtfully, he stroked his chin and walked back to his chair at the front of the main cabin. He sat down easily, and began to cackle evilly and rub his hands together in satisfaction.

"You are a lucky Ferengi," he sneered at DaiMon Tog. "This must be your lucky day. Thank your stars you grabbed the right child. Otherwise, you would not be sitting there piloting this craft." The Ferengi began to tremble; he did not miss Ger's meaning.

They sat in heavy silence, staring at the view screen for several minutes. Then DaiMon Tog, without looking away from the view screen, asked," So what's next?" Ger grinned smugly and continued to stare at the view of the stars sparkling in space.

"You take us to Ferenginar," he said quietly, suddenly lost in thought.

"And then I'm done?" DaiMon Tog inquired nervously.

"Yes, you sniveling worm, then you are done. You will receive the balance due to you and you can be on your way," Ger spat at DaiMon Tog. "And none too soon. Your Ferengi spinelessness is wearing on me."

All of a sudden, the communication system lit up, giving evidence that a Starfleet subspace channel was active. "Ah, now the next phase begins," he smiled wickedly to himself. Ger spun around in his chair and pounded a fist on DaiMon Tog's shoulder.

"We leave orbit now," he ordered. As DaiMon Tog's hands flew to the controls, he said, "Yes, yes. We leave orbit now. Setting coordinates for Ferenginar."

"How fast can this bucket fly?" Ger asked as he watched the Ferengi program the flight information.

"Warp 6," DaiMon Tog replied.

"Very good. Do it now," Ger ordered crisply. DaiMon Tog programmed in the warp command. In an instant, the vessel's passengers felt a forward thrust, and then the ship was hurtling into space and away from Risa.


Will ran towards the hotel as fast as his long legs could take him. When he finally arrived after what seemed an eternity, he shot in the front door and headed for the front desk. Once at the desk, he stood panting heavily, his shirt now pasted to his sweaty torso.

"Comm link…," he gasped, sucking in a heavy breath. "I need a comm link." As he leaned against the desk trying to catch his breath, the manager eyed Will with concern. "Captain Riker, is it?"

"Yes," Will panted. "Please, it's urgent." The manager nodded and gestured towards the office behind him. "Of course. This way, Captain Riker." Will strode into the room and went directly to the comm console. Before he even bothered to sit down, he was busy keying in the code that would give him access to a Federation subspace communication channel.

After a minute, Will was able to initiate contact with his ship. "U.S.S. Titan, this is Captain Riker. Respond," he said, his heart still pounding in his chest.

"This is the Titan. How can we help you, sir?" came back the disembodied voice of Commander Robin Leffler, the Titan's first officer.

"Counselor Troi's brother has just been kidnapped. I am certain a Ferengi was involved. You should be within long-range sensor range. How many Ferengi vessels are in orbit around Risa?" Will asked in a voice tight with tension.

"Currently, sir, our scanners are picking up only one," Commander Leffler replied.

"Continue to monitor the Ferengi ship. Inform me if the ship breaks orbit," Will ordered.

"Yes, Sir," acknowledged the first officer. Before Will had a chance to speak again, the first officer then offered, "We are within an hour of Risa at warp 3. I assume that we should return to Risa promptly?" Will grinned as he realized how well his first officer had anticipated his thinking.

"Yes. I will tell the hotel to maintain an open comm link here. Notify me when you are ready to beam us up."

"Very good, sir. Titan out." Will dropped his head into his hands momentarily. His mind raced to plan his next steps. They didn't include the rest of his shore-leave. Risa would have to wait for another time. He shook his head ruefully and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. Then he stood up to leave the hotel's office.

As Will stepped back into the lobby, Deanna and her mother walked in. Deanna spotted Will immediately. Despite the distance between them, Will could sense the anguish strangling Deanna's soul. He immediately pushed his own worried concern deep into the recesses of his being where Deanna could not sense it. Taking a deep breath, he went to her with open arms.

"We need to prepare to leave Risa. The Titan will rendezvous with us for transport within an hour," he said as he wrapped her in his comforting embrace. Deanna raised her worried dark eyes to Will's face in question. Locking his intensely blue eyes onto her depthless onyx eyes, he said, "There is a Ferengi ship in orbit. I'm certain that DaiMon Tog had his hand in this."

Lwaxana bent her head down. Mournful tears began to spill down her cheeks. Shaking her head sadly, she cried, "This is my fault… If only I had had the sense not to insist on going back into town…"

"Lwaxana, we don't have the time right now to think about things like that. Just know that you are not to blame," Will counseled tersely. Behind the mental barriers he had slid into place, he thought ruefully to himself that this probably would not have happened if he hadn't listened to her.

At that moment, the faces of both Deanna and Lwaxana contorted with pain. Deanna clutched her head in agony.

"Deanna, what is it?" Will asked worriedly.

"It's Barin…" she panted painfully. "He's very scared and now he's been hurt… I can't tell how badly…"

"Yes, yes," Lwaxana added as she wavered on her feet. "I feel him, too… Someone kicked him… His arm…" She struggled to contain the waves of pain and fear she was sensing from her son.

Will looked quickly from Deanna's troubled face to Lwaxana's and back. "Tell me, what can you find out from Barin?" Will asked urgently as he placed an attention-getting hand on Lwaxana's arm. Without waiting for her response, Will added, "Can you find out any thing about where he is?"

Lwaxana bent her head down and closed her tear-filled eyes. She focused intently on her son. In as calm a mental voice as she could manage, she sent to him, <<Barin, we're going to find you, but we need your help.>> She waited for his frightened reply to enter her mind.

<<I know you are scared, Barin. Help us get to you…,>> she sent back. << Tell me who you are with.>> Lwaxana wisely perceived that an identification by Barin of the vessel's other occupants would be crucial.

<<There are two people here, Mother,>> Barin sent back in waves quivering with fear. <<One is a very tall being… He's very mean… He kicked me and it hurts…,>> he continued.

<<And the other one? Tell me about the other one, Barin,>> Lwaxana thought-cast.

<<He's the one we saw on the street, Mother. The funny looking one with the big ears…He grabbed me in the store.>> Barin's thought-projections became suffused with frightened worry.

<<Be strong, Barin. We will find you soon,>> Lwaxana soothingly counseled her son. Then she opened her eyes and looked up at Will and Deanna. Her guilt-filled dark eyes glanced from face to face.

"It's DaiMon Tog," she whispered. Will nodded knowingly, then urged her to continue.

"There is another being on the ship. Someone tall. Someone mean," Lwaxana added sadly. Deanna's eyes went wide with fear. "Gods no," she gasped. "It's the Sindareen. I'm sure of it." Will's hands flew to her face. Tilting her face towards his, he said firmly, "We will find your brother." And his eyes poured into hers all the love and comfort he could muster.


The Ferengi vessel swerved out of orbit and hurtled its way into the blackness of space. Ger sat in his chair, his dark slitted eyes locked on the view screen. His mind churned with a mixture of hatred and nervous anticipation. The sound of a soft whimper behind him caused him to whip around in his chair. He stood up and stomped menacingly over to where Barin sat curled up.

"Shut up," Ger snarled. He glared harshly at the boy. Barin recoiled at the sound of his voice. Ger laughed evilly.

"You need to stop that sniveling. No harm will come to you," Ger growled. Barin looked up, his large dark eyes bright with fear. Ger began to stroke his chin as he spoke, now almost more to himself than to the boy.

"No," he mused, his eyes boring right through Barin, "You would be of no use to me dead…" Barin stared at Ger mutely. Ger found the boy's stare discomforting and turned away from him.

Ger walked back to the control console where DaiMon Tog was seated, piloting the ship.
The Ferengi had heard Ger approach and, expecting another violent outburst, shrank as far from the Sindareen as he could in his chair. True to DaiMon Tog's expectation, Ger reached over and delivered an aggressive slap to his head.

"Wh-wh-what is y-y-your desire now?" the Ferengi stammered, rubbing the spot that Ger had hit. "W-w-w-we are on our way to F-f-feringinar."

"Yes, well we've had a sudden change in plans," Ger said tersely.

"A-a-a ch-change in plans?" DaiMon Tog squeaked in a tight voice. The Sindareen smiled malevolently.

"Yes, well let's just say that you are not going to take me to Ferenginar." DaiMon Tog looked up with fearful, questioning eyes. Ger glared back, wordlessly daring the Ferengi to utter another sound.

"No, worm. You will release helm control to me. I will pilot the vessel to coordinates known only to me," the Sindareen explained none too patiently.

At the mention that Sindar was not, in fact, the destination, DaiMon Tog's greed emboldened him to mention his fee. "If we are not to go to Ferenginar…," he began.

"You will be paid when we arrive at the coordinates," Ger sneered. "Now, release helm control." The Ferengi hesitated. Ger saw his hesitation and snarled, "The sooner you release it, the sooner you will be paid.

"Paid," DaiMon Tog smiled obsequiously, "Yes, paid. Of course. Helm control." His fingers flew over the controls of the console. With a grand sweep of his hand, he welcomed Ger to use the controls. The Sindareen pushed him aside roughly to the floor, then dropped heavily into the command chair. Taking a victorious breath, Ger smiled smugly to himself. Then he keyed in a series of coordinates and sat back to watch the stars flash by.

DaiMon Tog got up from where he'd fallen and brushed himself off. He turned to walk aft in the main cabin. As he stepped by Barin, the boy looked at him beseechingly.

"Where are we going?" Barin whispered fearfully. DaiMon Tog looked at the boy disdainfully, then laughed maniacally.

"We're going to my reward! Ah, the thought of all that gold," DaiMon Tog gloated as he rubbed his hands together. Looking once more at Barin, the Ferengi began to cackle hysterically.

Barin felt his heart sink with hopelessness. Leaning his head back heavily against the wall, he let tears of despair spill down his cheeks. "How will I ever get home," he thought mournfully. "I'm so scared."


As soon as Will had finished assuring Deanna that her brother would be found, the hotel manager approached them. "Excuse me Captain Riker, but your first officer on the Titan has contacted us on the comm link. She says she needs to speak with you now." Will put a comforting hand on Deanna's cheek and then turned to follow the manager into the back office.

"Titan, this is Captain Riker," Will said as he sat down before the comm unit.

"Sir, you need to know that the Ferengi vessel we spotted on our long-range sensors has just left orbit. They appear to be traveling at warp 6." Will frowned at the news.

"Hmm, well it seems that they're going somewhere in a hurry," he commented. "Keep monitoring them while they're in range. See if you can determine their travel coordinates."

"Very good, sir. By the way, we should be in transporter range within 15 more minutes. Where should we expect to beam you up from?" Commander Leffler inquired.

"The same coordinates you beamed us down to the other day," Will responded.

"Understood. Titan out." Will stood up from the console and strode quickly back into the lobby. Deanna looked at Will with questioning eyes. He shook his head slightly.

"The Ferengi vessel has just left orbit. It's traveling at warp 6, which suggests that they are in a hurry to get somewhere," Will explained. A look of fear entered Lwaxana's eyes. Deanna fought to keep her own fear from overwhelming her. Placing a calming hand on her mother's arm, she asked softly, "Do you know where it is heading?"

Will shook his head again, saying, "Not yet. But I think we'll get a fix on that pretty quickly. That's the easy part." Then he smiled, trying to dispel the sudden grim air that had befallen them. With a cheerfulness he did not feel, he said, "Now the hard part: Can we be packed and ready for beam-out in 15 minutes?"

Lwaxana knew Will's pleasant manner did not match his inner feelings. Still, she appreciated his effort to cheer her up. She forced herself to put on a smile.

"Why, Mr. Homn already went up to start packing ages ago. Amazing how he knows what to do before any one says anything, isn't it!" Lwaxana said with only a little of her usual vigor. Will nodded, then looked at Deanna with raised eyebrows.

"Well, if you don't care about wrinkled clothing, with your help Will, we can be ready in 10 minutes," Deanna volunteered. Will nodded and said, "Then let's get to it, shall we?"

Fifteen minutes later, the four of them stood outside the hotel. When Will began to feel that familiar tingling that told him he was being transported, he looked at the chronometer he carried. "Precisely on time," he said as his form dematerialized into a shimmering silhouette.

Once they found themselves rematerialized on the pads in the transporter chamber on the Titan, Will stepped off the platform to be greeted by Commander Leffler. Before Will had a chance to say a word, she offered, "Sir, we've determined the coordinates for the Ferengi vessel's course. Its current course takes it to Ferenginar."

"Very good. Set course for Ferenginar," Will ordered. Then he turned from his first officer to face Deanna, her mother and the ever-silent Mr. Homn. Smiling now with genuine warmth, Will gestured towards the door of the Transporter Room.

"We'll follow the ship, rest assured," Will said confidently. "We will find Barin." Deanna stared silently, her mental shields firmly in place. Lwaxana shook her head sadly. Will put a reassuring hand on his mother-in-law's shoulder.

"We will find him, Lwaxana. It may just take some time. And, in the mean time, we may well need your help," he said as he trained his intense blue eyes on her face.

<<Me?>> she sent telepathically. Will had not expected a mental response and his eyes went momentarily wide with surprise. Then he smiled.

"Yes, you, Lwaxana. We know you can communicate with him at a far greater distance than can Deanna. We'll need you to help us find out as much as we can from Barin during our rescue effort. Do you think you can do that for us?" Will smiled encouragingly at Lwaxana. She gave Will a tentative smile

"Yes, I suppose so," she answered quietly.

"Good," Will smiled warmly. "Now, let's see about getting you some guest quarters. I think you'll find them to be as comfortable as what you enjoyed on board the Enterprise."

"The Enterprise?" Lwaxana said. "My, that's a name I haven't heard in a while…," she mused. Then, with an impish smile, she added, "How could things be as good here as they were on the Enterprise? Jean-Luc is not here." Deanna rolled her eyes at that and let out an exasperated "Mother!" Will snickered and offered his arm to Deanna as they walked out into the corridor.

A short while later found the three in front of a cabin set aside for use by guests. Will punched in the entry code and stood back while Lwaxana and Mr. Homn walked in.

"Make yourselves at home," Will said pleasantly. "I must return to duty on the Bridge now. If you hear anything from Barin, I want to know about it immediately."

"Oh don't worry dear, you'll be the first to know," Lwaxana assured him. With that, Will took his leave.

"Well, I must be going too, Mother," Deanna said with a smile.

<<Must you go so soon?>> Lwaxana sent.

"Yes, Mother. I have duties to attend to," Deanna responded pleasantly. "I will check in with you later, though."

<<Dinner perhaps, then? With that nice man you finally had the sense to marry?>> Lwaxana sent back with a knowing smile on her face.

"Mother!" Deanna exclaimed. Then, shaking her head in exasperation, Deanna said firmly, "I will see you later, Mother." And then, without waiting for a further mental assault from her mother, Deanna turned and swiftly made her way down the corridor to the nearest turbolift.


Ger sat in the command chair in heavy silence. His eyes were riveted to the view screen and his hands glued to the control console. Every so often, he would punch in a command to the ship's navigational system requesting an updated readout on the vessel's course and speed. Otherwise, he sat as motionless as a statue.

DaiMon Tog had found a passenger seat in the back of the main cabin to slump into. In short order, he had fallen asleep, lulled into slumber by the constant hum of the transport's engine. Soon after, he began to snore softly.

Barin sat forlornly in a corner. Time seemed to have stopped for him. He no longer had any sense of the time of day. His disorientation was increased not only by the fact that he was in a strange and hostile environment, but also because he did not hear his mother's voice in his mind. The unaccustomed mental silence was unnerving for him, leaving him even more frightened than ever.

For a long time, he sat silently. But after a while, his fear and his overwhelming sense of hopelessness bubbled up from within, forcing a teary whimper to escape his mouth. Ger heard it and spun around in the command chair to stare angrily at the boy.

"Silence!" Ger demanded. "Not a sound, or I might just change my mind about not harming you. Once my mission is completed, I have no further use for you, boy." Ger glowered at him. Barin immediately clapped a hand over his mouth to stifle any further sounds of his weeping, but could not stop the tears.

<<Mother, where are you? I'm so scared,>> he sent from the depths of his frightened soul. He heard nothing in his mind. No voice. Not even a whisper. The empty silence in Barin's mind reinforced his forlorn feelings, causing a new wave of sadness to wash over him. Fresh tears made their way down his cheeks to wet the front of his tunic, but not a sound escaped his hand-covered mouth.

"Will I ever see you again, Mother?...Will I ever get back to Betazed?" he thought sorrowfully to himself. He wrapped his thin arms around himself in a vain attempt to comfort himself.

DaiMon Tog stirred in his seat. Opening one eye sleepily, he spotted Barin sitting in the corner. Thinking of the money he would be earning on account of the boy, DaiMon Tog smiled greedily, then let out a brief laugh. And then he fell back to sleep.


The Titan had been pursuing the Ferengi ship for hours. The Ferengi vessel had gotten a good head start on its journey, and so the Titan was still a good distance behind. Steadily, though, the Titan was closing the distance between the two ships.

Will sat in the captain's chair on the Bridge. He was reviewing some information on a padd. He didn't bother to look up when he heard the turbolift doors swish open; he heard that sound so often that he never paid any attention to it. But the voice that rang out across the Bridge an instant later caused him to jerk his head up immediately.

"William…," Lwaxana shouted, heedless of the crew on the Bridge. She strode quickly over to his chair.

"It's Barin. He's called out to me. We need to do something!" she ordered, gesticulating wildly. Will stood up from his chair and went to place his hands on Lwaxana's arms. The thought of civilians not being allowed on his Bridge crossed his mind in a flash. Before he could say anything, Lwaxana spoke angrily.

"Now don't tell me that nonsense about civilians not belonging on the Bridge, William. Besides, I'm no civilian. I'm a Federation Ambassador," she lectured him imperiously.

Will jerked back involuntarily from the sudden onslaught from his mother-in-law. In an instant, he recovered his senses. Instinctively, he slid his mental barriers in place to protect himself from further prying. Then, he buried his annoyance and forced a note of calm into his voice.

"What did you hear, Lwaxana?" he asked evenly. Lwaxana's face contorted with sadness for her son. In a thick voice she answered, "He called out to me. He said he was scared. He wanted to know where I was." Then her face hardened with anger. "If those horrible creatures so much as injure my son even slightly, I will see to it that the Federation shows them no mercy," she spat, shaking her head.

Her words mirrored the anger he felt in his heart. Still, he managed to keep his annoyance hidden behind his mental barriers and proceed calmly with Lwaxana. He looked at her reassuringly and said, "Lwaxana, you need first to let him know we are on our way." She nodded. Will continued, "Then you need to find out if he can share anything that has been said while on the ship. Can you do this for us now?"

Lwaxana sat down in the vacant chair next to his, the one Deanna usually sat in when acting as his advisor. She closed her eyes and bent her head down in suddenly deep concentration. Will sat back down in his chair, never breaking his gaze at Lwaxana.

After several minutes, Lwaxana looked up. Before she had a chance to speak, the turbolift doors swished open to reveal Deanna. She walked quickly to Will and her mother.

"I heard you, Mother. Here," Deanna said tapping her forehead, her dark eyes full of concern. She took her mother's hands into her own. "I came as soon as I could…" Deanna glanced over to Will, a silent question written on her face.

"Yes Deanna, your mother heard Barin. She's just reached out to him and was going to share the results with us when you walked in," Will explained evenly. Deanna nodded, then looked back at her mother expectantly.

"He's very scared," Lwaxana began. Deanna nodded encouragingly.

"Anything else?" Will asked gently.

"Yes. He said something about changing direction, that they weren't going to Ferenginar," Lwaxana answered. With the mention of the change, Deanna looked at Will with frightened eyes. Will pounded the arm rest of his chair angrily.

"So we have a Sindareen mixed up in this, too," he said tensely. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he continued, "Okay, this gives us a Ferengi and a Sindareen who have kidnapped a Betazoid child. They were on their way to Ferenigar, or so it seemed. Now, there's a change in plans." Will stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"Did he tell you anything else, Lwaxana?" Will then asked. Lwaxana shook her head sadly. Will reached out and placed a comforting hand on his mother-in-law's shoulder.

"Do not worry. We will find him and bring his kidnappers to justice," Will reassured her. "The first step is to catch them before they change headings." With that, Will stood up and turned to face the view screen.

"Helm, increase speed to warp 8." The helm officer turned around to make sure he had heard his captain correctly. Such a high speed was not usually permitted without prior authorization from Starfleet Command.

Will saw the questioning look on his helm officer's face. "Make it so, Helm. I'll deal with Starfleet later," Will ordered firmly.

"Yes sir. Warp 8 sir," the officer intoned.


Ger's fingers punched in commands to the long-range sensor array of the transport ship. His eyes glanced from the view screen to the sensor readout and back again. Uttering indecipherable Sindareen curses, he pounded the control console angrily with his fists.

Again, his fingers keyed in a set of orders to the sensor array. His eyes made another circuit from the sensor readout to the view screen and back. This time, however, a smug smile crawled across his face. One more glance at the sensor screen confirmed what he had been waiting tensely for: an approaching Sindareen vessel.

Ger swiveled around in the command chair. Wordlessly, he arose and walked back towards the sleeping Ferengi. Ger smiled malevolently as he rudely dumped DaiMon Tog from the seat in which he had been sleeping.

"Get up, slug. Your tour of duty has just ended," Ger snarled at DaiMon Tog. The Ferengi looked up at Ger uncomprehendingly. Ger shook his head and grumbled, "Your stupidity goes beyond amazing…What DNA backwater did your species crawl out of?" And then he let fly a well-aimed kick into the Ferengi's stomach.

"Get up, Ferengi," Ger prodded. "Our business is coming to an end." Then he took the money bag from his belt and waved it above DaiMon Tog's face. As DaiMon Tog reached greedily for it, Ger dropped the bag onto the floor next to the Ferengi. As DaiMon Tog turned onto his side to retrieve it, Ger bent down and pressed a hypospray to the Ferengi's neck. In an instant, DaiMon Tog was out cold.

Ger looked down at the unconscious Ferengi sprawling on the floor. Kicking the money bag partially under DaiMon Tog's arm, Ger chuckled, "Keep the change, fool. Call it a small cost of doing business." Then Ger righted himself and turned to face Barin.

Barin had remained curled up in a far corner of the cabin. As he saw the Sindareen approach him, Barin began to shake uncontrollably. Instantly, Barin sent to his mother, <<Help me, Mother. Please come soon, I'm so scared. I don't know what he's going to do.>>

Ger did not miss the boy's quivering. Ger eyed him unpleasantly. "I'll deal with you soon, Betazoid spawn." Then Ger turned to the front of the cabin. As he walked towards the ship's controls, he muttered to himself. The only word Barin could pick out was "lure."

Ger peered at the view screen. After a moment, his eyes were met with the view of an approaching ship. "Yes!" he hissed as he clapped his hands together victoriously. Then he shot up out of his seat and wheeled towards Barin.

"Alright my little Betazoid bastard, it's time to move on to our next step." Ger glared at the boy. Barin recoiled from the waves of aggression radiating from the Sindareen. Ger caught Barin roughly by the arm. "You are coming with me," Ger snarled as he yanked Barin to his feet.

Instinctively, Barin struggled against Ger's iron grasp. Ger tightened his grip on the boy's arm. "Struggle as you wish. In a moment, it won't matter," the Sindareen laughed evilly. With that, he reached into his tunic and grabbed another hypospray. Before Barin even had a chance to notice the instrument, Ger pressed the hypospray to the boy's neck. In an instant, Barin fell to the floor, unconscious.

"This is Sindareen ship Zera," called out a disembodied Sindareen voice over the comm system. Ger wheeled around and walked to the control console, leaving Barin crumpled in a heap on the floor.

"Ger here." He watched the ship continue its approach.

"We are ready to beam you aboard. Was your mission successful?"

"Very successful. I have the lure. Give me a moment, and we will be ready to leave this garbage scow." Ger stepped over to Barin's collapsed form.

"Ready to transport," Ger called out.

"Acknowledged. Transporting now." With that, Ger and Barin slowly dissolved into shimmering silhouettes. In another moment, they were gone.

Once they materialized aboard the Zera, Ger went directly to the ship's small Bridge. As he walked onto the Bridge, he was greeted by Ganav, the captain. Slapping Ger's back, Ganav smiled and said, "So, any problems with the Betazoid?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle," Ger sneered. "He will be sleeping a very long sleep," He added before breaking into maniacal laughter. Nodding with understanding, the captain joined his evil laughter to Ger's.

"And the Ferengi ship?" Ganav asked after the laughter subsided.

"Well, how do we feel today?" Ger glinted at the captain. Ganav stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment. Then a malicious smile lit up his pale features.

"Sitting dead has its appeal, doesn't it?" He eyed Ger meaningfully. "If, as we intend, the Federation scum are tracking your trail, then imagine their surprise when they find a powerless Ferengi vessel floating in space." The captain cackled with glee at the thought.

"Ah yes, and by the time they revive the Ferengi slug, we will be well on our way home. But not so far that they can't figure out where we are going," Ger mused. "Which will only draw them into our trap."

"And that," the captain added, "will usher in our retribution." He turned to face the Weapons officer.

"Hit those engines, Nahar!" the captain roared. Instantly, the Weapons officer fired upon the Ferengi vessel, knocking out the engine nacelles.

"It's amazing what one can do with contraband weaponry, isn't it?" the captain snickered.

"And the Federation thought they could keep such things out of our hands," spat Ger. "Well, a little gold goes a long way in the universe!"


"Picking up a vessel on long-range sensors, sir," announced Ensign Bates, the officer at the Helm position. Will jerked his head up from the padd he had been reading.

"Can you identify it, Helm?" Will inquired.

"Yes sir. It's a Ferengi vessel, sir," Ensign Bates replied.

At that moment, the doors to the bridge swooshed open. Will knew immediately who it was without turning around to look. A moment later, Deanna sat down in her customary seat next to him. She touched his arm lightly to draw his attention.

"I'm glad you're here, Deanna. It seems we may have found our vessel," he said quietly to her, putting his hand on hers.

"Will, Mother told me she heard Barin again," Deanna said, her voice laced with concern.

"Is he alright?" Will asked, locking his eyes onto hers.

"He seems to be," Deanna sighed. Will nodded.

"That's good. Did he manage to communicate anything further of substance?" Will asked softly. Deanna shook her head. "No, only that he is very scared," she said sadly. Will gave her arm a comforting squeeze. Then he looked towards the view screen.

"Sir, we are closing on the vessel awfully fast," the Helm officer remarked. "She seems to be dead in the water."

"We need to move in carefully, then. Ensign, slow us down to one-third impulse," Will ordered. Wordlessly, the ensign implemented the speed change.

"Scan the ship for life signs, Commander," Will said to the Tactical officer.

"Sir, scanners are reading one life sign, a Ferengi," the officer at Tactical replied.

"Well, well. And who do you suppose that would turn out to be?" Will asked sarcastically. Deanna gave him a wry smile.

"Sir," Ensign Bates said, "we have the ship on visual now." Instantly, an image of the Ferengi vessel appeared on the view screen. As the Titan drew closer, the damage to the Ferengi ship's engine nacelles became apparent to everyone.

"No engine breakdown caused those nacelles to look that way," Will commented ruefully.
"That's weapon-induced. But where the hell is the ship that caused that destruction?" Will stared thoughtfully at the view screen mulling over the next course of action.

"I want a sensor sweep for known engine particles, warp or otherwise." Will stood up and surveyed the crew on the Bridge. "I need an away team to beam over to the Ferengi vessel to retrieve the survivor and to see if the perpetrator left any clues." Will pointed to the Security Chief and the Tactical officer. "Obtain phasers and meet me in Transporter Room 2 in ten minutes."

Will felt a hand on his arm. He turned to find Deanna's dark eyes boring into him. "I think I should be on this team," she said quietly. "If this was indeed the ship my brother was on, he may have left some sort of empathic image behind."

Will looked at her skeptically. "Besides, Captain, another set of eyes might spot something missed by everyone else," she argued gently. Will's face broke into an appreciative grin.

"Correct as always, Counselor. Would you care to accompany me to the Transporter Room?" he asked as he gestured towards the turbolift doors. Deanna nodded, a determined look on her face.

"Bridge to Commander Leffler," Will called out over the comm system.

"Leffler here, sir."

"Number One, I need you here on the Bridge to assume command," Will ordered.

"Might I ask what the circumstances are for this change in duty?" Commander Leffler asked. Will filled her in quickly on the need for the away mission.

"Very well, sir. I'm on my way. Leffler out."

A short time later, the away team materialized inside the Ferengi ship's main cabin. Deanna spotted the prostrate form of DaiMon Tog first. She pointed to him. Will nodded and drew his phaser out. The rest of the away team did the same.

Will swept his eyes around the cabin carefully, looking for any sign of a booby trap. When he was satisfied it was safe to move about, he motioned for the team members to spread out and look for any clues as to what had happened on board the Ferengi ship. Then he and Deanna approached the unconscious DaiMon Tog.

Will knelt down on the floor next to the Ferengi. After glancing at Deanna to make sure she still had her phaser drawn, he put his fingers on DaiMon Tog's neck. Will nodded as his fingers felt the familiar rhythm of a pulse. Will looked up at Deanna and said, "He's just out, not dead." Deanna nodded.

An instant later, she spotted a bag on the floor, partially hidden from view by DaiMon Tog's body. She reached over and picked up the bag.

"Will," she said as she stood up, "look at this. I found it almost buried under his body." Will nodded and watched as Deanna carefully opened the sack to view its contents. The glint of gold caught their attention immediately.

"Gold and a Ferengi…," Will mused. "So, DaiMon Tog was paid to travel this far." Will smiled ruefully at Deanna.

"You were right, Deanna. Yours were a helpful extra set of eyes," he said as he looked around the cabin. Deanna nodded, saying simply, "I'm glad I could help."

At that moment, the Tactical officer spoke up from his location in the front of the cabin. "Sir, I've found something up here." The officer bent down to pick up the object he had spotted. He stood up and held the item out for Will to see. It was a small dagger, somehow familiar to him but he couldn't place it.

Will took the dagger into his hand to examine it. Deanna came to his side and looked at the dagger. As soon as she did, she gasped in shock. "It's Sindareen…," she whispered in a tight voice. "It looks just like the one Maror had." Will jerked his eyes up to hers, staring at her wide-eyed.

"Are you sure?" Will asked softly. Deanna nodded as a wave of unpleasant memories washed over her. For a moment, she was lost to the recollection of a near-fatal past. Will sensed her momentary agitation and draped a comforting arm around her shoulders.

"Deanna, it's okay," he murmured as he tried to bring her back into the moment. She looked up, focusing her frightened eyes on Will's face. "It's alright. This is not then," he reassured her. She took a deep cleansing breath, then forced herself past the fear now churning inside her.

"So," she said, taking another deep breath, "we know a Sindareen is definitely involved here."

"Yes, and I'll bet he provided the gold that you found, Deanna," Will said. Then, looking once more at the dagger, he said, "Deanna, can you tell if Barin was on this ship?"

Deanna bent her head down and closed her eyes. Will watched her intently as he felt her inner being search the space they were in. After a few minutes, she looked up and nodded.

"Yes, Will, he was here. I'm certain of it," she said sadly. Will motioned to the two other officers to approach him. "We need to beam this Ferengi directly into the Brig," Will commented. The officers went to pick up the still-unconscious Ferengi by his arms and bring him back to where their captain and ship's counselor stood. Will hit the comm badge on his chest.

"Titan, this is Captain Riker. Lock onto the Ferengi life signs and beam him directly to the Brig. And have the doctor there as soon as possible to check the prisoner out. Then, lock onto our signals to transport us back to the Bridge," Will ordered.

"One Ferengi to the Brig, four crew members to the Bridge," came back the Transporter Chief's voice.

"Riker out." With that, the form of DaiMon Tog began to disintegrate. A moment later, the bodies of the away team shimmered, then disappeared.

Will approached the holding cell in the Brig that contained DaiMon Tog. The Ferengi sat on the padded platform attached to the far wall. Will motioned to the Security officer to remove the force field blocking the entrance to the cell. Instantly, the field disappeared and Will entered the cell.

"Well, well, if it isn't our old friend DaiMon Tog," Will uttered sardonically, training his angry blue eyes on the diminutive humanoid. DaiMon Tog scrambled to his feet and sputtered, "I did nothing wrong… Just offered transportation…Perfectly legal."

Will pushed DaiMon Tog back down onto the platform. "Legal by whose standards?" Will sneered. He towered over the now-cringing form of DaiMon Tog. Will took one look at the cowardly Ferengi and shook his head with disgust.

"I want to know what happened, DaiMon Tog," Will boomed at the Ferengi. "And do not conveniently leave out any important details." Will glared threateningly down at DaiMon Tog. The Ferengi nodded his head mutely.

"Now, tell me, who hired you?" Will demanded. DaiMon Tog instinctively inched away from Will's towering form. Will stared at him intently, his hands clenched at his sides.

"A Sindareen hired me… Transport, you know… A perfectly legal transaction… money for services rendered," the Ferengi answered obsequiously. At the mention of the word 'Sindareen', a dark look crossed Will's features momentarily. "Ah, the Sindareen are back in business," he murmured to himself. Will trained his intense blue eyes upon the Ferengi once more.

"How did you come to be hired by a Sindareen?" Will asked. DaiMon Tog quaked and swallowed deeply.

"The Sindareen are merchants, just as we are," DaiMon Tog began. "More like thieves," Will muttered under his breath. DaiMon Tog continued.

"Recently, I met one of them at a bar on a planet near Feringinar. We got to talking…"

"Haggling over a price, more likely…," Will uttered, shaking his head. DaiMon Tog continued as if he had not heard the remark.

"The subject of the Federation came up, and the Sindareen asked if I could transport him to Risa. We agreed on a price for the trip and I transported him to Risa. Now," the Ferengi said with an unctuous smile, "if I could just have my gold, I'll be on my way."

DaiMon Tog began to stand. Will grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him back down onto the platform.

"Not so fast, DaiMon Tog," Will said firmly. "You left out a few details. Now, try this again and tell me why this Sindareen wanted to be taken to Risa and what you did while there." Will glared at the Ferengi and squeezed his shoulder tightly. DaiMon Tog winced in pain and gasped, "You're hurting me…"

"You're damn right I'm hurting you. Now, if you want that to stop, you'll tell me the truth," Will growled at the Ferengi. Looking up fearfully at Will, DaiMon Tog began to speak again.

"The Sindareen said he wanted Federation officers…He said he wanted revenge…Then he found out that you and your family were on the planet…"

"Found out?" Will hissed as he dug his grip even tighter into DaiMon Tog's shoulder. "Don't you mean you told him?" DaiMon Tog winced again and nodded.

"Yes, yes, I told him you were on the planet…," the Ferengi uttered in a shaky voice.

"And then?" Will said as he jerked DaiMon Tog's torso harshly.

"He…he… he told me to find out if the boy was related to either of the Troi woo-men."

"And if he was?" Will glared at DaiMon Tog.

"Then I was… to…to… kidnap him," DaiMon Tog muttered almost inaudibly. When Will heard those words, a wave of anger surged through him. It was all he could do not to strangle the pitiful humanoid right then and there. He closed his eyes momentarily and took a steadying breath.

"Where are they now?" Will asked, staring intently at the Ferengi. DaiMon Tog threw up his hands defensively, fearing another assault from the man towering over him. Shaking his head, DaiMon Tog whispered, "I don't know…" Will glared at him harshly.

"I've told you all I know," DaiMon Tog insisted. Will released the Ferengi from his grip and turned to the cell's opening. Shaking his head with disgust and anger, he spat back over his shoulder, "The Federation will be dealing with you soon." And before the Ferengi could utter another word, Will added, "Oh, and don't count on seeing that gold any time soon. The last time I checked, kidnapping was still a crime." With that, Will motioned to the Security officer to reinstate the force field at the cell's entrance.


Shortly after his unpleasant interview with DaiMon Tog in the Brig, Will convened a small meeting in his Ready Room. In attendance were Deanna, Lwaxana Troi, Commander Leffler, Ensign Bates and Commander Saron, the Vulcan Security Chief. Will sat on the edge of his desk, his arms folded across his muscular chest. He took a moment to collect his thoughts, then began to speak.

"The situation, as best I can determine, is this: DaiMon Tog was hired to transport a Sindareen to Risa. It seems this Sindareen is out for some sort of revenge against the Federation. When DaiMon Tog discovered we were on Risa, he was ordered to kidnap Barin, if he turned out to be related to either of you." Will glanced from Deanna's face to her mother's. They both stared at him sadly.

"Do we have any idea why the Sindareen would want revenge?" Commander Leffler inquired. Will stroked his beard thoughtfully, then nodded.

"I think I can take a good guess as to why…," Will began to respond.

"I can too, Commander," she interjected softly, her voice laced with concern. "Many years ago, the Enterprise hosted a peace conference between the Sindareens and their opponents, the Cordians, the Luss and the Byfrexians…" For a moment, Deanna's thoughts turned inwards as images suddenly sprang into her mind. A memory of an older Will Riker who had came back in time to save her life. Her sitting at the conference table and suddenly sensing duplicity in the minds of the Sindareen delegates…

Will sensed Deanna's inward shift and picked up the narrative. "My counterpart traveled back in time from an alternative time line. We learned from him that in his time line, the Sindareen used this conference to trick the Federation and ultimately strike back successfully against the Federation. Counselor Troi was the focal point."

"I'm not sure I understand, Sir," Commander Leffler said. "Very little about this incident was taught at the Academy. What did Counselor Troi have to do with all of this?"

"In our time line, Commander, Counselor Troi detected the duplicity of the Sindareen delegates and the conference ended then and there. This meant that the Sindareens were not able to take advantage of our resources to build themselves back up," Will recited. Commander Leffler nodded, watching her captain intently. Commander Saron looked on impassively, waiting for the story to continue.

"In the alternate timeline, Deanna… Counselor Troi… was killed before she could uncover the Sindareens' true intentions," Will said softly. "And it was only because she was not there to discover the plot that the Sindareens succeeded…" At that moment, an additional thought sprang into his mind: "And I also killed one of their leaders years before that…"

Deanna heard the thought as if he had spoken out loud. She looked into Will's clear blue eyes and was instantly drawn into his memories of what happened after the death of Maror. In that moment, she relived with him their passionate discoveries of each other's bodies and souls in the Jalara Jungle. Their hungry bodies entwined, repeatedly reaching new heights of intimate pleasures. Their minds melded, as the first inklings of their Imzadi bond sparked in their souls. And then, Will gave Deanna a slight, knowing smile and turned his eyes back to Commander Leffler.

"Ah, I see," Commander Leffler said, understanding lighting up her eyes. "So the Sindareens would blame her for the failure of their plans." Will nodded somberly.

"Given the belligerence of the Sindareens, we can assume that they would wish to target their wrath on Counselor Troi," Commander Saron commented.

"And they are using Barin to get to her," Will added. "It's my guess they want to lure us to them. And the only way to retrieve Barin is to go to them…Wherever it is they are holding him."

"Indeed," commented Commander Saron laconically. "The next logical step is to determine the direction the Sindareen is traveling in and the probable destination. Perhaps Ensign Bates has useful information in this regard from the sensor sweeps she has undertaken thus far."

"Yes, sir. The sensors have picked up a faint trail of warp engine particles," the Helm officer commented.

"Does the direction of that trail take the Sindareen close to any planets?" Will asked, already suspecting what the answer would be.

"Yes. Assuming the Sindareen's course remains unchanged, sir, the projected path will take him right to his home planet," Ensign Bates said quietly. At that, Lwaxana's eyes went wide and she threw her hand over her mouth. Grim-faced, Deanna placed a comforting hand on her mother's arm. She then looked at Will.

"You are going to need us, Will, if we are going to find Barin on that planet," Deanna said tensely. "Only Mother can find him from afar. And only the two of us will be able to sense him on the planet." Will nodded.

"I know that, Deanna. In fact, I was counting on taking advantage of your mother's skill to get us to our destination," he responded. Deanna bowed her head in agreement.

"And once we are there?" Lwaxana asked in a voice thick with fear. Will offered Lwaxana a comforting smile and slid his mental barriers in place. He did not want her knowing at this point that the next step did not include her.

"Once we are there, Lwaxana, we will decide what makes sense to do." With that, he swept his eyes from face to face.

"Any questions?" Will asked. When he saw that no one had anything to ask, he ordered his staff back to their stations. "We know what we need to do now. Let's get to it."


On the bridge of the Zera, Ger sat in the seat next to Ganav, the ship's captain. A smug grin spread across Ger's narrow face as he watched Sindar grow larger with the vessel's approach. He turned his head from the view screen as he suddenly rose.

"Ah, home sweet home," he snickered as he winked evilly at Ganav. "If you could ever call us 'sweet', that is!" Ger chuckled and turned towards the doorway to the access way. "Time to wake our little prize and take him planet-side," trailed behind him as he stepped off the Bridge.

A short time later, Ger entered the cargo bay. He walked over to the corner where Barin lay crumpled and unconscious. Ger bent over and wrapped his hand tightly around one of the boy's thin arms. Pulling Barin up, Ger shook him roughly.

"Time to wake up, Betazoid," Ger snarled. "Our trip is over." Barin hung limply in Ger's hand. Seeing that the boy had not yet awakened, Ger slapped him hard across the face.

"Wake up, child. Now!" Ger barked as he shook Barin again. Slowly, the boy raised his head and opened his eyes. He looked around in total confusion. He had no idea where he was or what had happened. But as soon as Barin saw the face connected to the hand that was gripping his arm so painfully, he remembered his kidnapping instantly. Though he remained silent, his dark eyes went wide with fear.

Ger saw that Barin was now awake. He pulled the boy to his feet and started walking out of the cargo bay. With his hand wrapped tightly around the boy's arm, Ger virtually dragged Barin behind him.

Barin was still groggy from the hypospray injection. It took all of his attention to put one foot in front of the other without stumbling. His brain was still too clouded for him to think of trying to send thoughts to his mother.

They walked for a seeming eternity first down one passage way, then another. Every so often, the still-sedated boy would stumble. Each time, Ger hauled him roughly back to his feet and continued on. Barin wimpered softly with each yank on his arm, feeling it ache blindingly in Ger's vise-like grip.

Finally they arrived at a small room with some controls and a demarcated area along one wall. Barin had no idea what this room could be, but Ger immediately strode over to the control console and slammed his hand down onto several keys. He tightened his grip on Barin's arm once more and dragged him to the demarcated area with him.

In an instant, their bodies began to dissolve into sparkling silhouettes. As Barin felt the familiar tingle of a transporter beam, he instinctively thought-cast to his mother.

<<Help me Mother. I'm being transported…I'm scared,>> he sent as he disappeared.


The Titan was still following the barely traceable path of warp engine particles left by the Sindareen ship. The longer the Titan pursued the vessel holding Barin, the more obvious the destination became: Sindar.

Will sat in the captain's seat on the Bridge, his eyes trained intently on the view screen before him. He was trying to think through a strategy for saving Barin. Will knew this meant they would either have to get the Titan within transporter distance or send down a shuttle. Either way, he realized, they would be detected by the Sindareens. And the Sindareens were legendary in their hostility to anyone not expressly invited to their space, let alone their planet. The question then was, he understood, which approach would entail the smaller risk to his crew and ship. The answer was clear: using a shuttle.

Will stood up from his seat. First Officer Robin Leffler looked up as Will arose. Glancing first at Commander Leffler and then at Saron, the Vulcan Chief of Security, Will said, "Commanders, please join me in my Ready Room." Saron looked up from his console impassively, crooking one tapered eyebrow in a facial gesture reminiscent of another legendary and revered Vulcan once in the service of Starfleet. Silently, he left his station and walked over to the now open door of the Ready Room. He was joined by an equally silent first officer.

Once inside the Ready Room, Will pressed the comm badge on his chest. "Counselor Troi-Riker," he called out. At the same time, he gestured towards the couch, indicating to his officers that they should have a seat.

"Troi-Riker here. What can I do for you Captain?" came back Deanna's disembodied sultry voice.

"Counselor, you are needed here in my Ready Room," Will said. He made no effort to hide his racing thoughts about Barin's rescue from her. She sensed Will's tension and heightened alertness, and so knew the meeting had to be important.

"Very well, Captain. I'm on my way," Deanna responded instantly.

A short time later, the door to the Ready Room swished open and Deanna walked in. A quick mental probe of Will's mind told her what the meeting was about. The smile that had graced her features when she entered disappeared instantly.

"You're going to plan Barin's rescue, aren't you?" Deanna asked, her even voice masking her own concern. The thought of dealing with Sindareens again made her shiver involuntarily.

"That's right, Deanna," Will sighed, as he rubbed away the tension in his neck. "We know now that his kidnapper is taking him to Sindar. I have no doubt that they will end up planet-side," Will began.

"And that means going down to the planet's surface to rescue him," Deanna said, finishing Will's sentence. Will nodded grimly.

"That presents us with a choice, doesn't it Captain Riker?" Saron asked. Will turned his gaze to the Vulcan's face. With raised eyebrows, Will silently encouraged Saron to continue.

"We need to get to the surface. We can either beam down or we can take a shuttle down," Saron recited. Will nodded and added, "Right. Those are the options."

"Sir," Commander Leffler interjected, "the first option places too many people at risk. To beam down, we would have to enter orbit. We have no idea what contraband weaponry the Sindareens have accumulated that could be used against the Titan."

"Indeed, Captain," Saron picked up where Commander Leffler left off. "The only logical approach would be to take a small away team on a shuttle. We would risk capture under both approaches, but the shuttle option affords minimal threat to the Titan and her crew."

Will nodded. "That's just what I thought. Now the question is who comprises the away team?" He glanced from face to face, waiting for further opinions. Before anyone else could respond, Deanna looked up at Will.

"I'll go," she said in a tight voice. Will began to open his mouth in protest, but Deanna put her hand up to silence him. "Once you are down on the planet, you will have no way of finding Barin. But I would be able to sense him," Deanna said firmly, locking her dark eyes onto Will's face.

"Deanna, that is just what they want you to do. They want you on their planet. And make no mistake, Deanna, they want your life. You go down there and you are dead," Will argued back, his voice laced with concern. In that moment, a sudden memory of an enraged Maror nearly killing Deanna all those years ago sprang into his mind. He drew in a sharp breath, then shook his head.

<<I heard you, Will. I too have not forgotten,>> she sent to him. Will trained his troubled eyes on her depthless Betazoid eyes. With the barest of nods, she acknowledged the fear and worry she sensed swirling inside Will's being.

<<I, too, am afraid, Imzadi, but there is no other way.>> A look of resignation crawled across Will's features. He stared into her dark eyes. <<I know.>> Then Will looked to his Bridge officers.

"I will lead this mission," Will announced firmly. Commander Leffler began to protest, citing Starfleet regulations about captains not going on away missions. Will shook his head.

"Commander, this boy is my brother-in-law. I am partly responsible for his current predicament, and I intend to remedy the situation," Will spat angrily. Deanna shook her head sadly at Will's self-accusation. The two Bridge officers looked to their captain in surprise.

"How could that be?" sputtered Commander Leffler.

Deanna came to Will's side and put a comforting hand on his arm. "This is in no way your fault, Will. You no more had control over what DaiMon Tog was going to do than I did," she said firmly.

"But…," Will began. "No, Will. It is obvious they wanted to get him. If it hadn't been then, I'm certain that Barin's kidanappers would have found another opportunity." Will looked up at her. He reached gently into her mind and sensed the conviction behind her words. He mouthed a silent 'thank you' to her.

Commander Leffler looked from the Counselor to the Captain. She knew some sort of unspoken exchange had just transpired between the two. She realized it was due to the special bond they shared. She knew, though, that she would never understand it.

"Captain, I would like to be part of the away team," the Commander offered. Will shook his head and smiled slightly. "No, Number One, your place is here. I need an expert hand at the helm in my absence," he said.

"Very well, sir," Commander Leffler said. Saron stood up from the couch. "What do you suggest I do?" he inquired of Will.

"I want you to stay ship-board, Commander," Will responded.

"Indeed?" Saron responded, crooking up his eyebrow again in that most Vulcan of mannerisms.

"If you have not heard from us within 12 hours, you are to do two things. First, contact the nearest starships and have them rendezvous with the Titan. Once you have done that, you are to initiate contact with the Sindareens and let them know what they will be facing if the Counselor, I and Barin are not made available promptly." Will stroked his beard thoughtfully. "One starship they may think they can take on. More than one will be another story."

Just at that moment, the door to the Ready Room swished open and in burst an agitated Lwaxana Troi. Gesticulating wildly, she cried, "They're beaming him down to that horrible planet..." Deanna went to wrap her mother in a comforting embrace.

"How long ago did you learn this?" Will asked tensely.

"Not 10 minutes ago…I heard Barin…," tumbled out of Lwaxana. "You've got to do something!"

"That's just what we plan to do," Will asserted firmly. He hit his comm. badge.

"Helm, how much more time before we reach Sindar?" he asked.

"One hour, Sir," responded Ensign Bates.

"Very good, Helm. Easy shuttle distance." He turned to Deanna. "Counselor?" he said as he gestured to the door.

"Don't tell me she's going too?" Lwaxana wailed fearfully. She bound Deanna's slight form up in a tight embrace. Deanna looked calmly into her mother's distraught face and gently unwrapped her mother's arms.

"Mother, I have to. It's the only way we can find Barin," Deanna said evenly, looking her mother earnestly in the eye. Lwaxana closed her eyes as tears rolled down her cheeks.

"And what happens if I lose you, too, Little One?" Lwaxana said between sobs. Deanna wrapped her hands around her mother's.

"You won't," Deanna assured her, offering her a warm smile. Then she promptly put her mental shields in place to hide her own anxiety and fear from her mother.

"Very well, Little One," Lwaxana sighed heavily. Deanna gave her mother's hands another comforting squeeze, then released them. With a look of firm resolve on her face, she followed Will out of the Ready Room.

A short time later, Will and Deanna were seated in the shuttle, waiting for clearance to leave the shuttle bay. Each had not only the standard-issue phasers strapped to their waists, they also had a slim weapon and a communicator shoved deep down into their boots. In anticipation of the flight clearance, Will powered up the engines.

"This is the Minotaur requesting flight clearance," Will said as he trained his eyes on the control panel in front of him.

"Flight clearance granted." With that, the shuttle bay door retracted and the force field disappeared. With a forward push on the throttle stick, Will directed the shuttle carefully out of the bay. An instant later, they were free of the Titan and hurtling towards Sindar.


The figures of Ger and Barin materialized inside a cavernous room filled with piles of assorted artworks, bric-a-brac, and precious jewels. As soon as they appeared, a Sindareen female approached them. Ger spotted her and smiled broadly as he lifted Barin up off his feet by the arm. Ger held him suspended as if he were a game bird felled by a hunter.

"Well, well, well, and what have we here?" the female Sindareen sneered, an evil grin on her face. She leaned over and peered closely at Barin's face. Noting the boy's distinctive eyes, the female nodded smugly.

"Ah, Betazoid bait. Why this just couldn't be better. And you say this is a Troi, related to that bitch who ruined everything?" she asked, glancing back at Ger.

"Yes, sister, this is her brother," Ger gloated. "And they are on their way… I made sure I left a trail for them to follow. And I left that idiot Ferengi to make sure they didn't mistake who took this Betazoid spawn." Ger shook the still-suspended Barin roughly.

"Very good, very good," the female mused. "Now, how to make sure they fall into our trap..." Ger looked to her in surprise.

"Why you, dear sister, should know the answer to that. After all, it was your emotions the Betazoid bitch sensed at that conference table so long ago, Nici." Nici remembered instantly sitting years ago at the conference table on board the Enterprise as part of a two-person delegation from Sindar. Then, the Betazoid Ship's Counselor screamed about their true intentions. Duplicitous, the bitch had called them. That unwelcome intervention from that Betazoid ruined all their plans for a shining and greedy Sindareen future. Nici's rage and embarrassment surged within her as these memories flashed through her mind. No, she would never rest easily until she had wreaked her revenge on that Betazoid woman. Nici's slitted eyes sparkled with deadly intent.

"I need no reminder, brother," she hissed angrily at Ger. "But you answered my question." She flashed an unpleasant glare at Barin. "We keep him awake and let one Betazoid lure the other." Nici's anger was so potent at that moment that Barin felt it burn painfully into his soul. "And then we kill them both."

"No, sister, we kill the three of them," Ger said breezily. Nici's eyes went wide.

"Three? What do you mean three?" she hissed.

"We have an added bonus, dear sister. Not only will we be graced with the bitch's presence, we will also be visited by her husband," Ger sneered.

"And why should I care about her husband?" Nici asked suspiciously.

"Because her husband, one William Riker, was our brother's murderer on Betazed," Ger said quietly. At the mention of Will's name, Nici's already pale face went as white as a sheet. She staggered momentarily on her feet.

"Maror's murderer…," she whispered. Ger nodded triumphantly.

"Yes, dear sister, we get two for the price of one," he said, then began to cackle wildly. At that moment, Ger's communicator began to chirp. Ger dropped Barin to the floor and then sat on the boy to prevent his escape. Then Ger took his communicator out from his tunic. Pressing the 'on' button, Ger waited for the message.

"This is security station one reporting an approaching space shuttle. It appears to be Federation," conveyed the voice on Ger's device.

"Yes, you might say we are expecting it. Continue monitoring it until it lands. Allow the humans to find their way here. When they arrive, capture them and bring them to us," Ger replied. "Ger out." He put the communicator back into his tunic, then grabbed Barin by the hair and yanked his head up. "Get ready to say your goodbyes to your family, Betazoid brat. When they get here, this will be the last time you will see each other," Ger hissed and then shoved Barin's head back down onto the floor.


Will sat behind the shuttle's control console, watching the planet grow closer through the view port. Deanna sat in the seat beside him with her eyes closed and head bent. She had turned her awareness inward to search for hints of feelings from her brother. Suddenly, she jerked her head up.

"Will, I felt him," she said urgently. He turned in his seat to put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Looking intently into her worried eyes, he said, "What did you feel?"

"He's terrified… and pain, I feel pain, Will. He's been hurt somehow…," she uttered in a tight voice, her breathing spasmed into rapid panting and hands clenched into tense fists. Her internal tidal waves of pain and fear suffused Will and twisted his gut in a tight knot. After a deep breath to clear his mind, Will forced himself to push those feelings away and calm himself.

"Deanna…," he began. Seeing that she was still awash in the flood of emotions emanating from her brother, Will put his hand under her chin and quickly turned her face to his.

"Deanna," he said sharply. "Deanna, look at me." Slowly, she clawed her way out from under the onslaught of her brother's feelings to focus on Will. As her eyes stared at his, Will realized she was reemerging. He offered her a brief but warm and encouraging smile.

"Deanna, I need your help. Can you use your sense of him to help direct us to him?"

"Yes, I think so," she whispered as she sat back limply in her seat.

"Can you tell if we are headed in the right direction?" Will asked, never releasing the hold he had on her arm. Deanna nodded silently. After a moment, she offered, "This is definitely the correct heading, Will. My sense of his fear and pain is growing stronger by the minute."

For a short while, they continued on in silence. After a few minutes, though, Will started scanning not only what he could see beyond the view port but also all of the sensor displays on the console. What he saw began to trouble him - because he saw nothing at all.

"This is not right, Deanna. We are in orbiting distance to Sindar. And yet, not one Sindareen vessel is within sight," he murmured tensely. The concern Deanna saw playing across Will's face was mirrored by her own.

"Yes, that is strange, Will. Normally, we would be getting a taste of Sindar's legendary hostility to strangers by now," she commented. Will nodded, his intense blue eyes now trained on the view screen before him.

Then, seemingly out of no where, two Sindareen ships registered on the shuttle's sensor screen. "Well, I guess I spoke too soon, Deanna. Prepare for evasive maneuvers," Will said as his hands flew over the controls. With the push of a switch and a twist on the throttle stick, the Minotaur dipped sharply off to the right.

"We're losing Barin, Will," Deanna yelled. Without averting his eyes from the view screen, Will shook his head and said, "We'll have to find Barin again later. If we don't hide from those ships, we are dead where we sit." With that, Will quickly programmed in a higher warp speed. In an instant, the Minotaur shot off rapidly on a new trajectory.

As they traveled on their new course, Deanna remained tensely silent. Inside her, a conflict raged. On the one hand, she was afraid of losing her sense of her brother. That sense was the only way they had of finding him. And yet, she also understood that they could not leave themselves exposed in space. The two of them were no match for the crew of a Sindareen ship. A tight sigh escaped her mouth as she resigned herself to the need for secrecy. She simply hoped, she thought tensely, that she would be able once more to pick up her brother's feelings strongly enough to home in on.

Will sensed the conflict tumbling inside of Deanna but closed himself to it. He had to remain focused on the task at hand: avoiding the Sindareens in space. He kept his eyes moving in a circuit between the view screen and the sensor read-outs. But after twenty minutes of close monitoring, Will finally let himself lean back in his seat. Kneading his tense neck muscles with his hand, he said, "The coast is clear. It looks like we lost them, Deanna. Let's try to return close to our original heading, shall we?" Deanna nodded her assent. Will cracked a small smile and said, "Let's do this."

Instantly, the shuttle swerved around as Will manipulated the joystick and controls. In another moment, the Minotaur was speeding back towards her original path. As the ship did so, Deanna once again closed her eyes to focus on detecting her brother's feelings. Will stole periodic glances at Deanna, noting grimly to himself that she gave no indication of having sensed the boy. Though he was normally a man not easily moved to despair, the longer Deanna remained silently turned inward, the more his heart sank. The hope of picking up Barin's trail again seemed to grow dimmer by the minute. As Will felt his desperation begin to swell within, he dropped his mental shields into place. He did not want any of his own feelings to interfere with Deanna's possibly hopeless task.

After a seeming eternity, Deanna once again raised her head suddenly. A relieved smile spread across her face. "I've found him again, Will," she sighed. And then, as Barin's pain and terror once again suffused her being, the smile fled from her face. Her face contorted in pain as his feelings grew stronger within her.

Will looked immediately at Deanna when she spoke. He watched as her brother's emotions swallowed her up. He reached over quickly and touched her face. "Deanna, I know this is hard for you…But you've got to stay with him. It's our only chance," Will coaxed urgently. Deanna nodded, conscious now only of the waves of pain and terror seeping in from Barin. "This is the right course, Will," she hissed through clenched teeth.

"We'll be landing soon, Deanna. Are you going to be able to manage down on the planet?" Will asked, his voice laced with concern.

"Yes, Will," Deanna responded. She knew that it was time to gain control over the feelings flooding her mind. She forced herself to breathe deeply and then focus on the breathing itself. It was a meditation technique she had often prescribed to patients, and she knew it was the one she needed to use now. As she listened intently to her breath moving in and out, she felt the intensity of her brother's feelings ease to the point where they no longer crippled her. At that moment, she looked over at Will, who had been watching her intently. She gave him a smile. He then knew that she was in control again.

The shuttle entered the atmosphere of Sindar. As the ship drew closer to the planet's surface, Will turned to Deanna and asked, "Are we still on target here?" Deanna responded, "Yes. My sense of him is stronger than ever." Will marveled at her ability to modulate what had to be overwhelming feelings that she was presently receiving from Barin.

The shuttle continued its slow descent towards Sindar. As the surface grew closer, Will was increasingly able to make out details. It was becoming clear that the boy's emotive emanations were drawing them right into the planet's capital city, Habirah.

Will scanned the increasingly detailed terrain. On initial inspection, all he saw were buildings. Damn, no space for a shuttle to land, Will thought in frustration. But then, a swatch of green caught his eye. Will watched as their continued descent brought that area into greater clarity. A green clearing. A park, Will wondered idly. Could the Sindareens even care about such a thing? No matter. That clearing offered the only viable spot in which to land the shuttle.

Will leaned over in his seat. "Deanna, we can't land exactly where your sense of Barin is taking us," he said as he watched for her reaction. Deanna had been watching the same topical features and she, too, had seen the green expanse. Now she looked at Will and responded, "I know, Will. You can't very well land on a building, can you? Land where you must, Will. I know I won't lose my sense of him."

"That's my girl," Will winked. "Okay, then. Strap yourself in, Deanna. I don't know how smooth the ground will be in the spot where we'll be touching down." Will reached for his own seat belt and buckled it. A quick glance at Deanna told him she was ready for touch-down, too. He keyed in the landing command in the control console and then braced himself in his seat. In another instant, the Starfleet shuttle shook heavily as it landed on the surface of Sindar.


As soon as the shuttle landed, Will shut down the engine. Turning to look at Deanna, he asked, "Are you ready?" Deanna nodded, her face an impassive mask. Despite her calm exterior, Will knew that she was anything but calm. Will gave her hand a supportive squeeze and then rose from his seat.

"I'm glad you thought ahead on this one, Deanna," he said as he bent down to retrieve two articles of clothing from behind his seat. In his hand were two Sindareen-style cloaks, one larger than the other. Deanna had had the foresight to recognize the need for some sort of disguise if they were to have any chance of reaching Barin without capture. Because of his height and solid build, Will would especially stand out if not disguised.

"Okay, this one must be yours. It's the smaller of the two," he said as he handed one of the garments to Deanna. Deanna smiled grimly as she took it from his hand and began to wrap it around her shoulders. After she buttoned it at her neck, she drew the hood over her head and pulled it as far down her face as she could; she wanted her face to be as hidden as possible. Then she turned to face Will for his inspection.

"That's good, Deanna. You are totally unrecognizable. Now, you've just got to remember to keep your hands hidden. Your Betazoid skin color would give you away in an instant," Will advised. Then he donned his cloak. After wrapping it around his body and hiding his face and head under the hood, he looked to Deanna for her appraisal.

"That's as good as you're going to be, Will. Just keep your head down so your beard is not so noticeable. I don't think extensive facial hair is a Sindareen feature," Deanna commented.

"Good advice. Now, are we ready?" Will inquired tensely. Sensing her readiness, Will did not wait for an answer. "Let's do this, then." First, he looked through the view port. Seeing no one in front of the shuttle, he then pulled out his tricorder to scan for life signs around the sides and rear of the vessel. Nothing registered on the instrument. Motioning Deanna towards the rear of the shuttle, he turned to walk to the hatch. Will hit the hatch release button. The door slowly pivoted upward as it opened.

Will nodded at Deanna as he grabbed his phaser. She did the same. Together, they cautiously disembarked from the Minotaur. They both scanned their surroundings carefully before stepping down from the shuttle.

Once they had exited the shuttle, Will leaned towards Deanna. "Where should we be headed now, Deanna?" Deanna pointed to a cluster of buildings in the distance. "He's that way, Will," she said quietly, her voice slightly muffled by the thick fabric of the cloak.

"Very good. Let's hope these cloaks disguise us well enough so we can do what we need to do," Will said flatly. "And keep that phaser set at just below 'kill.' As I recall, it takes nearly a ton of photon torpedoes to fell one of these Sindareens." At that moment, a quick memory flashed through Will's mind: the melee that ensued just after the Sindareens' duplicity was uncovered at that peace conference so many years ago. The regular stun settings on their phasers had barely stopped the Sindareen Eza.

As they walked out of the clearing, they approached the edge of the capital city, Habirah. Will noticed a roadway that seemed to end at the edge of the clearing. Speaking quietly to Deanna, he suggested they follow the road into the city. She agreed, noting that it would take them in the right direction to Barin's location. Cautiously, they made their way slowly down the street, passing first one building, then another.

So far, the street seemed deserted. They encountered no one. If Sindareens were in any of the buildings, they weren't making their presence known. Will counted themselves lucky not to have to be testing the effectiveness of their disguises just yet.

They traveled on for a few more minutes in tense silence. Then Deanna stopped. Putting a cautionary hand on Will's arm, she sent, <<We are quite close, Will. It can't be much further. His feelings are nearly overwhelming me.>> Will nodded in silent assent.

Just at that minute, a pair of Sindareens rounded the corner and came walking towards them down the street. Will's heart started pounding painfully in his chest. A wash of panic flowed through Deanna. They both kept their heads bent down and continued on their way slowly in an attempt to not draw attention to themselves.

The Sindareens drew closer. Despite Will's and Deanna's body-length cloaks and oversized hoods, they both felt totally exposed. Charges of intense anxiety pulsed across the bond they shared. A sudden desire for total invisibility shot from Deanna's mind to Will's.

The Sindareens were now within a meter of Will and Deanna. Will's heart pounded so hard he was certain the Sindareens could hear it. Instinctively, he tightened his grip around his phaser. Deanna did the same. <<Just keep walking. And keep those hands hidden under your cloak>> Deanna heard in her mind.

Time seemed suspended as Will and Deanna waited for the Sindareens to walk past them. In an instant, the Sindareens were by Will's left. Deanna's breath caught in her throat. Will bent his head down as far as he could into the hidden recesses of his cloak's hood. Would they be found out?

And then the Sindareens were gone. Will stopped walking and drew in a deep, calming breath. He waited as his heart rate slowed to normal. Deanna bent her head, focusing now on releasing the tension that clenched her muscles like a coiled spring. <<It seems our get-ups worked,>> Deanna sent. <<Thank goodness for small miracles!>> Will sent back.

They resumed walking. Slowly, they traveled past one nondescript building after another. Apparently, the Sindareens didn't care about architecture, Will thought to himself. Deanna heard his musings and replied in thought, <<Or they're just too busy robbing the galaxy to have time to build anything more than the basics.>> Will's quiet chuckle told Deanna he had heard her response.

They came to the end of a long block. A side street forked off to the left. A huge, block-like building, larger than all the other they had seen so far, stood on the corner. Deanna stopped and pressed her hand against Will to stop him.

<<This is it, Will. He's in that building,>> she sent tensely. She resisted the temptation to hold her hand out and point. She remembered what Will had said about her obviously non-Sindareen skin color.

"Are you sure, Deanna?" Will whispered back. Deanna nodded, then said softly, "I'm certain of it." Will pulled his hood back slightly so he could get a better look at the building. Turning his head to look at the expansive depth of the building that ran a block's length, he noticed a doorway in the building's windowless wall.

"Deanna," he hissed, "there's a door halfway down the side of the building. We need to see if we can get in through that door."

<<You have no idea what or who is behind that door, Will,>> she sent back, her thoughts tinged with nervousness. She watched his hooded head nod. Then a tricorder appeared in his hand from under his cloak. After a moment, the instrument disappeared back into the folds of Will's garment.

<<Deanna, this appears to be the only entrance to this building,>> Will thought-cast. <<I know there's a risk we may be walking into a trap, but this is our only way of getting into the building that holds your brother.>>

<<Very well, Will. But let's be careful,>> Deanna responded. <<Always>> came back to her from Will. With that, they turned the corner and walked down the side street. Slowly, they came to the large door that Will had spotted a few minutes before. Will paused to look around him and then reached for the door handle. He gave it a firm twist. The door opened a crack. Will glanced at Deanna. <<Okay, here goes. Draw your phaser.>>

Will pushed the door slowly open. The entrance way was lit only by the ambient light flooding in from outside. Will swallowed deeply, and then opened the door further so he and Deanna could walk in. He gripped his hand tightly around the handle of his phaser and poked the weapon's tip out from his cloak. Deanna instinctively did the same.

The two Starfleet officers entered the Sindareen building. After they had walked a mere meter in semi-darkness, the lights suddenly came on. Will and Deanna were blinded by the sudden bright lights. An instant later, incredible pain shot through the backs of their heads and they collapsed, unconscious.


Two prostrate forms lay on the concrete floor. Their hands were bound tightly behind them and their ankles tied in front. Neither of them moved.

Slowly, Will became aware of the coldness of the concrete beneath his face. Through closed eyelids, he gradually perceived light. His face was contorted by the incredible pain that pulsed savagely across his scalp and down his neck into his shoulders and back.

As he tried to stretch out, he realized that his hands were tied behind him. He attempted to open one eye, only to have a new spasm of pain shoot through his head. Fighting a sudden wave of nausea, he closed his eye and yielded to the need to lie still.

What had happened? He fought to remember. His head, why did it hurt so much? Why was he bound? As his mind began to race through a flurry of panicked questions, another wave of nausea flowed through him, forcing him to let go of all thought and try to ride out the urge to vomit.

<<Imzadi?>> weakly entered his dulled mind. "Deanna," floated lightly through his consciousness. He could barely stand to move his head, but he knew now that she was nearby. And he realized again that any effort to actively think was more than his bruised body could handle right now.

A few meters away, Deanna lay motionless on the floor. The coldness of the concrete pressed into Deanna's face and seeped through her clothing. As she regained consciousness, the harsh ambient light stabbed through her closed eyelids and magnified the throbbing pain in her head and neck. Like Will, she found herself the victim of surges of nausea. Unlike Will, however, she knew not to open her eyes or try to think. Not yet. Not until the pain and nausea receded. Only the word "Imzadi" worked its way outward from the recesses of her mind.

They lay like that for an untold amount of time, both bound and left like pieces of cargo on a cold concrete floor. Both struggling against blinding pain and frequent surges of nausea. Neither able to manage enough coherent thought to remember what had transpired to bring them to this place.

With the passage of time, their pain slowly eased enough for one to thought-cast to the other. Verbal speech was beyond the strength and ability of both at that moment. <<Will, what happened?>> Will heard waft into his mind. <<I don't know…I think we were hit from behind,>> he sent back weakly. <<I should have set the tricorder to check for life signs when I scanned for doorways…>> The relative complexity of that final thought was too much for Will and his stomach expelled its contents. Deanna heard him retching and sent back, <<Breathe deeply…no more talking,>> as she struggled to keep herself from likewise falling prey to the urge to vomit.

Both struggled to focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Deanna hoped to ease her nausea. Will wildly sought to avoid another episode of vomiting. Slowly, each felt the sickening feelings in their stomachs and chests lessen. Feeling less compromised, Will tried once again to thought-cast to Deanna.

<<What do you remember?>> he sent. Before she had a chance to respond, they both heard the creak of an opening door, then the sound of footsteps approaching them. In an instant, someone was standing between them. Will struggled against the pain in his head to open his eyes and see who had come to them. Through barely opened eyes, he looked up into the face of a sneering Sindareen.

It was Ger. He looked down at the expelled liquefied stomach contents pooled on the floor around Will's face. Disgusted, Ger gave Will a sharp kick in his abdomen. Though his feet were bound together, Will instinctively swung them at the feet of the Sindareen in a feeble attempt to hit him. The look of disgust on Ger's face was quickly replaced by one of anger. "You don't do that, Federation scum," he snarled, and delivered another swift kick to Will's stomach. This time, Will only curled up in pain and groaned.

"Ha!" the Sindareen spat nastily, "You hurt now? Don't worry, your pain will be short-lived." He turned to Deanna. "Well, your boyfriend there is awake and alive. What about you, Betazoid?" He hooked his boot-tip under Deanna's arms in an attempt to turn her onto her back. The contact of hard leather against her arms caused Deanna to open her eyes slightly. The view that met her eyes sent a shiver of horror and utter despair through her. Despite the pain that still radiated through her head and neck, she knew with a certainty who stood above her and his murderous intentions.

Ger cackled maliciously. "Not ready to open our eyes yet, are we? Well then your little farewell will have to be delayed. Family partings are so touching. I wouldn't want you to miss yours." And then he turned on his heels and walked away. And instant later, the click of a closing door could be heard.

<<Deanna?>> Will sent. <<You heard what he said. Barin must be close by.>> Deanna did not respond immediately. Caught up in the overwhelming feelings of fear and despair that Ger's appearance had triggered, she struggled to take in Will's thought-cast message.

"Deanna," Will now spoke out loud. "Talk to me if you can hear me." He resisted the impulse to sit up and look around. His nausea had not yet fully passed and he didn't want to trigger another round of vomiting. Instead, he lay quietly, waiting for her voice to come to him.

Will's voice acted like a tonic for Deanna's terrified mind. Focusing on the sound of his voice, she forced herself to claw through her physical pain and push past her debilitating fears. "Will," was all she said.

"Deanna, can you feel him?" Will asked softly as the pain continued to pulse through his head. "Yes, I can," she answered weakly. Though her nausea had eased, her head and neck still pounded painfully. Still, she struggled to hang onto the sound of his voice.

"We need to get to Barin…You heard that Sindareen. They intend to kill us all," Will uttered. "I've got to get free some how…" he added as he began to twist his hands against the cords that held his hands together. Opening his eyes slightly, he looked at his chest and noticed that both his comm badge and phaser were gone. Then he remembered the contingency units he had insisted they hide in their boots. He slowly wiggled his ankles and realized that the flat, old-style phaser and communicators were still safely hidden.

"Deanna, they took my phaser and comm badge. But they missed the units I hid in my boots," Will whispered loudly. He didn't want to be overheard if any Sindareens were nearby. "Do you still have yours?"

Deanna forced herself to crook her eyes open. Looking down onto her chest, she saw that her comm badge and phaser had been taken, just as Will's had been. But a slow rotation of each foot brought to her an awareness of the auxiliary units surreptitiously stowed in her boots.

"I have the ones in my boots," she breathed painfully. "They took the others."

"Okay," Will said, with a note of hope in his voice. "If we can just figure out how to get our hands free…" With that, Will focused again on trying to loosen the bindings around his hands.


"Well," Ger sneered as he gazed malevolently down at Barin, "it seems you have visitors. Your sister and her scum husband couldn't resist following the path I set for them." Barin looked up at Ger in utter horror. He had been around Ger long enough to be able to sense exactly what the Sindareen was feeling. And at that moment, Barin was overwhelmed by the murderous anger seething from Ger. A pair of tears spilled from Barin's dark Betazoid eyes. Ger did not miss the tears or the terrified expression on the boy's face.

"Oh, afraid for your family, are you?" Ger let out an evil laugh. "Well, Betazoid brat, you needn't worry. It'll all be over soon enough for all of you."

"And then justice will be done," came a voice from the entrance to the room. Ger looked over to find his sister standing in the doorway. "Indeed, dear sister. All debts will be paid, will they not?" Nici walked over to where Barin huddled against the wall fearfully.

"So, do we kill them now? Or do we let them see each other one last time?" Nici asked, sneering at Barin. The boy whimpered as he heard Nici's true intentions made clear. She glared angrily at Barin. "If you don't stop that noise now, boy, your sister will be saying goodbye to a corpse," she thundered at him. Quickly, Barin slapped a hand over his mouth, though his wide dark eyes still screamed his terror silently.

Ger spoke up. "No, let's let them have their final moments together. I shall enjoy their deaths and my sweet revenge that much more if we do," he smiled evilly. He gazed down at Barin, then began to laugh hysterically. "I can't believe how incredibly stupid they are! They followed the path I set for them just like Sindareen game birds following a trail of bird food. What DNA backwater coughed them out?" His laughter came so hard he had to grab his sides. In an instant, Nici was caught up in her brother's malicious mirth.

Barin stared at the two of them, his heart sinking through the floor. He knew now for certain that his sister and brother-in-law were finally nearby. But he realized sadly that they were just as much prisoners as he was. All hope seemed gone. Without thinking, in his despair Barin sent out, <<Please don't let me die here. Gods, don't let me die…>>


Will remained lying on his side on the concrete floor. He had spent untold minutes trying to work loose the cords binding his hands together. After a while, he realized that he could not do it alone. Then it occurred to him that if he were to work his way over to Deanna and lay with his back to hers that she might be more able to at least loosen the bindings if not actually untie them.

<<Deanna,>> he sent. He did not speak out loud, for though his nausea had eased, he still had shocks of pain coursing from his head down into his shoulders and back. <<Can you hear me?>>

<<Yes, Will,>> she sent back weakly. She, too, was still suffering intense pain in her neck and head. Still, she struggled to push through her pain to communicate with Will.
<<How are you feeling?>>

<<My stomach seems to be better. Still have one hell of a headache, though.>>

<<Me too…I'm having a hard time trying to get past it…I'm not sure, but I think I may have heard Barin call out…Or maybe I'm just hallucinating because of the pain.>>

<<Yeah, that could be. Damn, what I wouldn't give for a hypospray right now... I think I've found a way for us to get our hands free.>>


<<Yeah. We need to be close to each other, but with my back to yours. Then, we'll have a better shot at working on each other's bindings. Do you think you can work your way partway towards me? I'll do the same towards you...>>

<<I'll try. My head is still pounding and moving doesn't help it any.>>

Just as Will and Deanna finished sharing these thoughts, they heard the creak of an opening door. Then they heard booted footsteps approaching them. Deanna gasped; she was flooded with Ger's hostility, which then flowed through their bond to Will, as well. "Oh shit," Will thought to himself, "there goes that chance." He steeled himself for whatever was going to happen; he knew for certain that the Sindareen didn't come in for a friendly visit.

Ger walked over to stand behind Will. "Well, are we up for a little family visit?" he asked evilly. Will and Deanna remained silent, not sure if words would anger Ger more. The Sindareen angrily kicked Will in the back, hitting him squarely in one of his kidneys. Will groaned with the sudden pain that radiated through his back.

"I can't hear you," Ger taunted. "Let me ask again. Are you ready for a family visit?" Ger spat the words 'family visit' out, and then glared at the pair of humans at his feet on the floor.

"Yes," Deanna virtually whispered. Ger walked over to Deanna. He bent down and yanked her head up by her hair. She let out a sharp yelp of pain. "Was that a 'yes' I heard?" he sneered as he brought his head close to hers. "Yes, it was," Deanna responded shakily. "Ah, that's what I thought," the Sindareen replied and then shoved her head back to the floor. Deanna whimpered as her head hit the hard concrete.

Will watched the Sindareen manhandle Deanna, but knew it would be folly to utter a word. But inside, he seethed. "When I get my hands on you, you bastard, you are going to pay," he vowed silently to himself. "I will personally beat the living daylights out of you."

Ger stood up straight and eyed his quarry. "Well, since we're in such a warm and friendly mood, I can see it's definitely time for you to visit that Betazoid bastard brother of yours. And I wouldn't want to stand in the way of such a sentimental reunion," Ger hissed unpleasantly. "So, I'm going to remove the ties around your ankles so you can get up and go see the boy. But," Ger warned ominously as he drew a disrupter - no doubt, contraband and illegal, Will thought - from his belt and waved it in Will and Deanna's field of vision, "if either of you makes one wrong move, you will be dead. Do we understand one another clearly?" Will and Deanna nodded their heads.

With that, Ger pulled a dagger from his boot and cut the ties that bound their feet. "Now, stand up!" Ger ordered them. Will attempted to stand. As he did, spasms of pain shot through his back and pulsed in his head. He wavered momentarily, then collapsed onto the floor.

"Not going to happen, eh?" Ger cackled maliciously. "Very well, we'll bring the boy to you. It doesn't make any difference to me." Ger spun on his feet and then strode to the door. In a moment, he exited the room.

Will struggled to think through the pain that surged through him anew. <<Deanna,>> he sent out between shallow gasps, <<I can barely stand up, but I'll try to act as quickly as I can. When I think the time is right, can you send to Barin what we need to do?>>

Deanna was struggling with her own suffering. Ger had shoved her head hard against the floor, and her headache had been magnified with a vengeance. She barely heard Will in her mind.

<<Deanna?>> Will sent worriedly. No response. But he could hear her breathing, gasping in pain as he was, so he knew she was still conscious. <<Deanna?>> he sent again, his increasing anxiety intensifying his own pain. <<Deanna, focus on me…Come to me. Come past the pain,>> he coaxed. Deanna whimpered softly, then weakly sent back, <<I'm here, Will.>>

<<I know we are both in terrible shape right now, Deanna. But we've got to get our wits about us as best we can. Once Barin is here, can you send to him my instructions?>> Will asked. Will heard Deanna fight to even her breathing out. Then she sent back, <<I'll do the best I can, Will.>>

Will was silent for a few moments. Then he mused, <<If I'd only scanned for life signs inside the building before we entered.>> Deanna let out a painful sigh. <<Will, you know that wouldn't have made a difference…We still would have gone in…We had our phasers drawn… Knowing would not have changed a thing we did…>>

<<You're probably right,>> Will sent back resignedly. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe deeply to block out the pain that suffused his body.

The sound of the door opening again caught their attention. Before anyone set foot in the room, Deanna excitedly sent to Will, <<It's Barin. He's here.>> Will forced himself to be as alert as he could manage. <<Okay Deanna. Just be ready for anything.>>

Footsteps could be heard approaching, one set heavy and the other barely audible. In another instant, Ger stood within Will's and Deanna's line of sight. Wincing in Ger's tight grasp was Barin, his hands tightly bound behind his back. The boy's face contorted with the onslaught of the waves of pain emanating from his sister and brother-in-law.

Ger did not miss Barin's change in demeanor. "Too much pain for your tender sensibilities, Betazoid?" Ger sneered. Upon hearing the Sindareen's taunting of her brother, Deanna sent to Barin, <<Barin, listen to me, not to him…We are hurt, but we will manage. We will get out of here.>> Barin looked down sadly at his sister. <<How? You hurt so bad I can barely handle being near you.>> Deanna opened her eyes to look up at her frightened brother. <<Barin, you need to trust me. Trust Will…he'll find a way.>>

Ger was well aware that no words were being spoken. He eyed Deanna and Barin suspiciously. "Well, where are the happy words of reunion? Surely you have something you wish to say?" Ger fingered the butt of the disrupter shoved behind his belt. Waiting for another silent moment, Ger finally spat, "Very well, have it your way. Silent or spoken, this is your last time together. Make the best of it." Then he spun on his feet and walked towards the door.

Barin sank down onto his knees between Will and Deanna. He began to cry softly. The sounds of his quiet weeping wove their way through the fog of pain that had enveloped Will and Deanna yet again. Will opened his mouth to speak quietly.

"Barin, we will get you out of here. But we need your help. Can you do that for us?" Will inquired gently. As much as his dulled instincts told him to switch to command mode now, he knew that Barin needed to be handled like the very frightened young child that he was and not like a Starfleet officer. So, Will forced himself to wait patiently for Barin's answer.

"I think so," the boy whispered back.

"That's my boy," Will acknowledged warmly. "Now, let me tell you what you need to do."


Will had Barin come sit on the floor next to his foot. Barin knelt down as instructed, but wrinkled his nose in disgust as the odor of Will's vomit assaulted his senses. Will opened his eyes and looked apologetically at the boy. Barin wasn't sure he wanted to know why his brother-in-law had thrown up and so did not ask. Trying to breathe only through his mouth, Barin waited for Will's next instruction. Will winced in pain but forced himself to continue speaking.

"Okay, Barin. I need you to help me get my left boot off. I have a small phaser tucked inside," Will said as evenly as he could manage. "But how can I do that with my hands tied?" Barin asked hopelessly. Will saw the resignation written on the boy's face.

"Barin, listen to me," Will urged with a calm he did not feel. Barin looked at him sadly. "You need to trust me… Do you trust me?" Will asked, aware that the Sindareen could return at any moment. Barin nodded solemnly. "Good, then work with me. Together, we can get my boot off. Okay?" He stared pleadingly at Barin.

"Okay," Barin murmured in a frightened voice. "Okay, then," Will grinned. "Now, you need to hook your arms around my boot as tight as you can." Barin sat down on the floor before Will's foot and placed his bound hands as Will had described. "That's good," Will commented. "Now, I'm going to pull my foot back as hard as I can. I want you to keep holding the boot when I do. Don't let it move." Barin nodded, waiting for Will to act.

In an instant, Will began to wiggle his foot and pull it towards him. The effort caused a new surge of pain to race through his head and body, and he groaned. Barin was nearly knocked over by the intensity of Will's suffering at that moment and shut his eyes tightly to focus on holding Will's boot. Will's pull was so strong that it nearly drew Barin over with it. Barin anchored his shoe heels against the floor to help him counter Will's weight.

In another instant, Barin tumbled over as the boot suddenly slid off. He turned and offered Will a broad smile of victory. Will smiled back. Taking a deep breath to help him think beyond his pain, Will then said, "Excellent. Now, reach inside the boot. You'll feel something thin and metallic. That's the phaser." Barin smiled confidently and reached his slim hands inside and felt for the weapon. Triumphantly, he pulled the phaser out.

"Okay Barin, now I want you to check to make sure the phaser is set on stun-narrow beam." The boy nodded and quickly put the weapon down beside him to examine the dial. "It's what you wanted," Barin reported. "Great. Now, you need to seat yourself so your back is to mine. Then I need you to press the phaser up against the binding between my hands and fire," Will instructed.

At the mention of him firing a weapon, Barin dropped the phaser as if it had become red hot. Shaking his head, he stared at Will wide-eyed. "I can't…I can't," the boy began to cry. Will felt his heart sink. He won't shoot! How was he going to convince Barin to use the weapon, he thought.

Deanna knew that her brother had never fired a weapon. She understood that doing so went against everything their mother had taught him. But she also knew this would be their only chance.

<<Barin,>> she called out to him mentally. Barin looked at his sister, a look of utter horror on his face. <<Barin, know that it is also the Betazoid way to take whatever measures are necessary to save a life,>> she counseled urgently. She, too, knew that they had very little time before Ger would return. <<Mother would tell you to do what Will is asking.>> Barin stared questioningly at Deanna. <<Are you sure?>> he sent uncertainly. <<Absolutely,>> she sent back.

Barin looked down at the phaser as if it were an exotic creature. Slowly, he turned and picked it up with his bound hands. Then he went over and sat down with his back to Will. Barin felt for the cord binding Will's hands and pressed the firing end of the phaser against it. Taking a deep breath, Barin muttered, "Here goes," and pressed the trigger switch. A bright red beam shot across the infinitesimal distance to Will's hands. The air was suddenly filled with the smell of burnt fiber and the sound of Will screaming an expletive.

Barin dropped the phaser again, horrified that he had injured Will. A moment later, though, Will pulled his hands apart and the shredded cords dropped to the floor. Despite the pain in his wrist where the weapon's beam had hit, Will smiled. "It's okay, Barin. You did great," he assured the boy. Barin looked unconvinced. "It really is okay, believe me," Will insisted, flexing his injured wrist to prove his point. Then he reached over to pick up the weapon where Barin had dropped it. He quickly upped the setting to the highest stun level.

Will grimaced as he stood up, and then faltered on his feet. Taking a few stumbling steps towards Deanna, he wiped the perspiration now beading his forehead. "Deanna, hold your hands out," he breathed. Deanna rolled painfully onto her stomach and raised her hands. Will took aim and shot. In an instant, Deanna was able to move her arms and hands freely.

"Your phaser, Deanna…," Will said quietly. Deanna nodded. <<Barin, come help me with my boot. It'll be easier than it was with Will,>> she thought-cast to her brother. <<Will I have to shoot yours, too?>> Barin sent back fearfully. <<No, you won't,>> she assured him. With that, Barin sat on the floor and helped Deanna remove her boot. She was right; it was much easier to get off than Will's. Without being asked, Barin reached into the boot, retrieved the phaser and handed it to his sister.

"Can you stand?" Will asked quietly, looking down at Deanna with concern. "I don't know," she responded weakly. "Let me see…" With that, Deanna struggled to sit up. A wave of dizziness swept over her and she wavered. Will leaned down to catch her, but she put her hand up to stop him. "Give me a moment," she murmured. She took a series of deep breaths to steel herself against the pain coursing across her scalp and down her back. And then she slowly worked her way to her feet.

She wavered unsteadily on her feet for a moment. Wincing with pain, Deanna said, "I'm as ready as I can be, Will. What do we need to do?" Will eyed the door for a brief instant, lost in thought. Then, forcing himself into command mode, he instructed, "Okay, we need to station ourselves on either side of that door. It seems it's the only entrance. And then we wait for the Sindareen to come back. When he does, we stun him and exit the room. Got it?"

"Yes, I do," she replied. She walked slowly to one side of the door. She grabbed her brother and pushed him protectively behind her. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around her, seeking comfort.

Will stationed himself on the other side of the door. Leaning against the wall for support, he listened attentively for sounds of approaching feet. He didn't have long to wait.

Soon, they heard the sound of several pairs of footsteps drawing nearer beyond the door. Will caught Deanna's eye and jerked his thumb towards the door. She nodded, acknowledging that she, too, had heard the footfalls outside the door. At the same time, Will and Deanna raised their phasers and waited flat against the wall.

The door flew open, completely hiding Deanna and Barin. In walked Ger. In an instant, the Sindareen saw that his prisoners appeared to be gone. In the next moment, Ger let out a scream of fury, then faltered as the beam from Will's phaser hit him square in the chest. But, with the Sindareen near immunity to phaser-stunning that Will had remembered from years ago, Ger quickly righted himself and, before Will could react, let swing his arm right into Will's stomach. Groaning loudly and bent over from the impact, Will was an easy target for Ger's next blow. Ger's fist slammed into Will's back and collapsed him to the floor. Ger lunged to reach for Will's weapon, which had fallen onto the floor in front of him.

At that very moment, Deanna spun around from behind the door that had temporarily hidden herself and Barin. Taking quick aim at the Sindareen, Deanna fired her phaser at him. Again, the beam only made him falter. And this just enraged him further. With a blood-curdling growl, he spun around to tackle Deanna by her knees. Quickly he had her down on the floor and was starting to go for her phaser.

Barin watched the unfolding battle in utter horror. His feet were riveted to the spot. But when he saw the Sindareen take down his sister, a child's angry protectiveness arose in him and pushed him to act. In an instant, he was on Ger's back, pounding him with his small fists and yelling, "Let her go! Let her go!" Distracted from getting Deanna's weapon, Ger twisted and turned his long back in an attempt to knock the boy off. With one sharp jerk, Barin went tumbling.

At that moment, Will retrieved his weapon and lifted it to aim at the Sindareen. In the same instant, Ger wrapped his arms around Deanna and rolled so she was in front of him on the floor. "Go ahead, fire!" Ger taunted. "It'll be her, not me that you get."

Will sat up slowly with a painful groan, never putting his phaser down. As he continued to aim it towards Ger, Will demanded through clenched teeth, "Give her up. Starfleet starships will be entering orbit shortly. If we are not returned to the Titan promptly, you will have far more than you bargained for." Will stared as he panted; his lower back was throbbing painfully from the impact of Ger's fist.

"Ha!" Ger spat, tightening his hold around Deanna's body. "No matter. By the time they get here, we will have gotten what we wanted." He glared malevolently at Will.

"What is it that you want? If you let her go, maybe we could help you get what you want," Will asked. Seeing at the same time Deanna's wide frightened eyes, Will sent, <<Don't fight him now, Deanna. Just be ready to act when I say so.>> Deanna offered a nearly imperceptible nod. Then Will noticed Barin slowly approaching Ger from behind.
<<Deanna,>> Will sent frantically, <<tell Barin to make no noise! Tell him to sit behind the Sindareen!>> Will knew the message had been transmitted when he saw Barin silently squat down just behind Ger, unbeknownst to the Sindareen.

"What do we want?" Ger began to laugh hysterically. "Surely you know the answer to that one, William Riker!" At that moment, another Sindareen walked in through the open door. She had a disrupter in her hand. With a quick sweep of her slitted eyes, she took in the scene before her. Barin curled up tightly behind Ger's towering torso, hoping he hadn't been spotted.

"Well, well, it's the mighty Will Riker and his Betazoid bitch of a wife. Long time no see!" Nici sneered. Will looked up at her. A look of horrified recognition appeared on his face as he remembered her from the ill-fated conference years before. And in that moment of recognition, he knew for certain that the Sindareens would not let Deanna out of there alive.

"Let her go!" Will demanded in a shaky voice. His head still pounded and his back throbbed. "You can take me, instead." Nici glared hatefully at Will. "Oh no, my fine Captain," she spat. "No, that won't do. You see, you are both here to pay for what you've done." Will stared at her uncomprehendingly. "For what we've done? What did we both do?" he asked in a tight voice.

"Ger, would you like to tell the Federation scumbag what he did, or shall I? It is, after all, only fair that he know why he's going to die." Nici looked evilly at Will. Ger growled, "No, be my guest dear sister. You always were the better speaker." Nici nodded with satisfaction.

"I could see that you recognized me, Riker. That means you must already know why we want to kill the Betazoid bitch." Will flinched internally when he heard Deanna referred to that way. He vowed that when he was through with that Sindareen, she'd wish that she'd never said anything at all. Externally, Will's face remained impassive.

"But you have no idea why we want you, do you? Hmmm, let's see," Nici said condescendingly. "Let's try this: does the name 'Maror" mean anything to you?" Will gulped visibly at the mention of that name. "Yes, I see it does," Nici said as she saw Will's reaction. "Well, he was our brother." Will's eyes went wide. "Your brother?" he breathed. "That's right. Our brother. And you, William Riker, were his murderer."

Will gasped in horror. "No! That's not so," he hurriedly insisted.

"Oh but it is, Riker. Three of you went into that slime pit of a jungle. Only two of you came out. Our brother wasn't one of them."

Will shook his head vigorously, despite the pain doing so caused him. "I didn't kill him. Maror sank in a sand pit!" Will explained desperately. Nici shook her head angrily. "A sand pit or your weapon. It makes no difference. If you hadn't intervened, Maror would be alive today."

With that, Nici raised her disrupter. Aiming first at Will, then swinging it towards Deanna and back towards Will again, Nici mused out loud, "So who dies first?"


Barin had remained squatting tightly behind Ger the whole time Nici had carried on her murderous ranting. Because of Barin's slight size and Ger's large torso, the boy had remained unnoticed by Nici. Ger was so busy restraining Deanna that he totally forgot about the boy's presence. And so it seemed to Barin that it was almost as if he was invisible.

While hiding behind Ger, Barin noticed Deanna's phaser sitting on the floor; the weapon had been knocked from her hand when Ger tackled her. Barin realized that the phaser sat a foot away on the floor, seemingly forgotten. The sight of the weapon brought back to mind his sister's earlier words about self-defense. Nodding grimly to himself, Barin knew he had to get the weapon and use it; it was just a matter of waiting for what seemed to be the best moment to do so.

Once he heard Nici issue her threat to kill Will and Deanna, anger finally impelled Barin to act. He peered stealthily around Ger's shoulder and saw that Nici was aiming her disrupter at Will. Like a released spring, Barin quickly pounced onto the phaser, grabbed it in his hand and shot Nici squarely in the chest. As tears of rage began to stream down the boy's face, he kept his finger on the 'fire' button, subjecting Nici to a continued assault from the weapon. Nici wavered with the impact of the non-stop beam.

Will saw his opportunity when, at that very same moment, an enraged Ger unwrapped one of his arms from Deanna's body to grab his disrupter. Before the Sindareen could raise the weapon, Will fired off a shot with his phaser at Ger's migrating hand. The impact was just enough to cause Ger to drop the disrupter. Instantly, Will fired again, this time at Ger's other arm. Reflexively, Ger loosened his grip on Deanna.

"Now!" screamed Will. Despite her considerable pain and weakness, Deanna sprang out of the Sindareen's lap and rolled onto the floor. In a flash, before Ger had the chance to react to Will's newest assault, Deanna grabbed the dropped disrupter. She aimed the lethal weapon at Ger and yelled out angrily, "Give up your disrupter Nici, or your brother is dead."

The continued assault that Barin had subjected Nici to with the phaser had immobilized her. Only now did Barin's weapon stop firing, having used up its power source. Will knew immediately what had happened when he saw the boy suddenly drop the slim weapon onto the floor. Instantly, Will aimed his phaser at Nici.

"You heard the Commander!" Will barked. "There will be more of this" - Will let fire a brief shot at Nici - "if you don't drop it this minute." Though his head still pounded painfully, Will maintained an outwardly commanding manner. Nici faltered and fell to her knees. Clearly injured and addled by the phaser fire, she looked at Will with glazed eyes. Stiffly, she let the disrupter drop.

Will kept his eyes and weapon trained on Nici, but spoke to the boy. "Barin, I need you to come over here and pick up this disrupter." The thought of approaching the Sindareen who had nearly killed his sister and brother-in-law was too much for Barin. With wide, fearful eyes, he mutely shook his head.

Instantly, Deanna saw her brother's reluctance and sent to him, <<Barin, do as Will asks. Trust him. He will keep you safe.>> Barin looked at Deanna with questioning dark eyes. She nodded encouragingly. <<Help him, Barin,>> she thought-cast firmly. The boy nodded hesitantly.

Now locking his frightened eyes on Nici, Barin slowly inched his way over to the disrupter at her side. Glancing briefly at Will for reassurance, Barin knelt down, gingerly picked up the weapon and stood up to walk away. At that moment, a Sindareen hand snaked out to grab Barin's wrist. An instant later, Nici screamed in utter frustration as the beam from Will's phaser struck her hand.

"That was not one of the smarter moves to make," Will growled at the Sindareen. Will continued to aim both his eyes and his phaser on Nici, but spoke once again to the boy. "Well done, Barin. Now, bring me the disrupter. I'm going to give you my phaser, okay?" Barin did as he was instructed. Will gave the boy a brief but warm one-armed hug.

"Now, this is what is going to happen from here on out." Will stood up slowly, fighting hard not to reveal to the Sindareens how much agony he still was in. Aiming his disrupter at Nici, Will continued in a tense voice, "We are going to walk out of this room. You will get us out of this building so that we can return to our shuttle. And then, you are both going to be taking a little trip, courtesy of Starfleet."

"No!" screamed Nici. She understood clearly the implication of Will's words. "I will not leave this planet to stand trial for anything. You murdered our brother, and vengeance was ours to have!" The Sindareen's loud outburst caused Barin to hide fearfully behind Will's solid frame. Will jutted his jaw out angrily and poised his finger on the disrupter's trigger.

"You will do as you are told or you will die here and now!" Will insisted authoritatively. He raised the weapon as if preparing to fire it. Nici swallowed once and for the first time, fear began to fill her slitted eyes. Her own death had not been part of the scenario she had planned. Will noticed the change in Nici's demeanor.

"I see we understand each other now. Good," Will said curtly. Without breaking his gaze at Nici, Will said, "Commander, please stand up." Then he sent to Deanna, <<I know you hurt like hell, Deanna, but fake it the best you can. The less they know how much we both hurt still, the better off we'll be.>> Deanna nodded and responded in as even a voice as possible, "Of course, Captain."

Deanna stood up very slowly, and fought to stifle a groan. Once upright, she forced an impassive expression on to her face to hide her pain. She aimed her disrupter directly at Ger's chest and pronounced, "Captain, I'm ready when you are."

"Very good, Commander. Now, we will walk out of this building. Don't think of trying anything. My trigger finger might just accidentally slip, and I guarantee that the Federation will accept my word at face value," Will said grimly, still struggling to hide his continuing suffering. "Now, I want you two Sindareens in front of me."

Ger remained motionless on the floor, his face a mask of smoldering anger. "That means you," Will barked at Ger. The Sindareen barely even raised his eyes. "Commander, I think our friend needs a little convincing." Deanna understood Will's meaning and fired a shot from her disrupter a mere centimeter in front of Ger. Seeing that, Ger's eyes went wide with shock and he jumped to his feet. Glancing fearfully at Deanna's face and then at Will's, Ger cautiously walked the door way where his sister stood.

Will approached the two Sindareens to within inches of where they stood. He beckoned Deanna to do the same. Then, with a firm but loving push of his large hand, he shoved Barin protectively behind him.

"Now, turn around. Slowly!" Will ordered. As soon as the two Sindareens complied, he and Deanna shoved their disrupters into the Sindareens' backs. To guarantee that neither would attempt to escape, Will grabbed one of Nici's arms and pulled it behind her back. Deanna did the same with one of Ger's arms. Seeing that they were as ready as they could be, Will gave a grin of grim satisfaction.

"Now, we go out," Will commanded. "And don't think of trying anything," Will growled as he jammed the muzzle of the disrupter firmly into Nici's back. "Let's go." And with that, Will pushed Nici forward out of the door. Ger followed with Deanna right behind, her disrupter pressed snuggly against the bottom of his back.

They turned out into the corridor. To Will's great surprise, they were within a few meters of the doorway through which they had entered the building untold hours ago. How long had they even been there, Will wondered. If he had only known how close they were to freedom the whole time... Deanna heard his train of thought and counseled back softly, <<You had no way of knowing, Will. Let it go.>>

In another minute, they were at the exit to the outside. They stopped. Poking his disrupter uncomfortably in Nici's ribcage, Will insisted, "Open the door." Nici chuckled to herself evilly; she knew that as soon as she opened the door, their former victims would be blinded by the sudden change in ambient lighting. She reached for the door handle and opened the door quickly. Then she wheeled around to see, just as she expected, the Starfleet officers squinting tightly against the sudden onslaught of the sunlight from outside. The sudden brightness sent bolts of new agony shooting through Will's and Deanna's heads. Gasping in pain, for a brief moment they were oblivious to their surroundings. Nici saw her chance, twisted out of Will's grasp and attempted to grab Will's weapon. She yelled that Ger should try to retrieve Deanna's.

They both had forgotten about Barin who this whole time had walked behind Will. As soon as the door was opened, Barin found himself shadowed by Will and so the boy's eyes were not as affected by the change in lighting. Barin saw the Sindareen's sudden movement and realized instantly what was happening. He remembered once again his sister's earlier words about self-preservation, and set the phaser on 'kill'. A split second later, Barin leaned around Will and fired at Nici's arm. She let out a loud angry wail of pain as blood suddenly spurted heavily from the wound he inflicted. The boy then squeezed off a quick shot at Ger's arm. Ger too let out a bellow of pain and then a scream of horror as he realized that the boy had nearly shot his hand off altogether.

By the time the scream left Ger's mouth, both Will's and Deanna's eyes had adjusted to the sunlight. Immediately, Will realized what had transpired and firmly parked his disrupter once again against Nici's back. Then, Will quickly looked at Barin with amazement. "Well done, well done!" Will said rapidly as he clapped the boy on the back. <<Barin, you probably just saved our lives!>> Deanna sent excitedly. Clearing his throat, Will announced, "Now we will leave."

The five of them stepped out onto the walkway. "We go this way," Will ordered as he pointed to the left. Nici and Ger nursed their seriously wounded arms and, wincing painfully, silently fumed.

"Just how far do you think you'll get now, Riker," Ger hissed. "You've got wounded Sindareens dripping blood, followed by three humans. Every Sindareen in the vicinity will come crawling out of the woodwork to avenge themselves upon you."

Nici groaned, then added, "Yes, and you know there are plenty more disrupters where those came from." Will blanched at what they were saying, but realized they had no choice but to keep going. They were not far from the clearing where they had landed the shuttle. With any kind of hope, they might make it back to the vessel before encountering too many Sindareens to manage.


Slowly, they rounded the corner onto the main street. Will drew in a tense breath. He darted his eyes to his left and then to his right. So far, the street seemed empty. <<The coast seems clear, Deanna. But be ready for anything,>> Will warned telepathically.

In between the intermittent groans from the two injured Sindareens, Will caught the sound of a ragged breath from Deanna. A quick glance at her face told him that she was still in agony; her face was pale and contorted with pain. <<Can you make it, Deanna?>> he queried, turning his eyes back to the Sindareen in front of him. <<My head feels like hell. That slam onto the floor brought my headache back tenfold. But I'll manage,>> she sent tiredly. <<I won't let him have that victory.>> Deanna felt Will's admiring grin.

They continued cautiously down the street. In the distance, Will and Deanna could see the edge of the clearing where they had left the shuttle. Will still scanned their surroundings steadily as they walked on. <<So far, so good. I can see the edge of the clearing now,>> he sent encouragingly. <<I don't know, Will,>> she sent back tensely. <<I'm sensing something more than what these two are generating. There are other Sindareens nearby. I'm certain of it.>> Without averting his eyes, Will nodded in silent acknowledgement of her warning.

Then he happened to look momentarily down at the pavement. He saw sizeable splotches of green liquid beneath his feet. Sindareen blood. They were leaving a clear trail of the Sindareen liquid behind them. "Damn," he thought. "We've just announced our situation to everyone."

An instant later, they could hear the sound of steps behind them. A chill ran through Will. <<This is it, Deanna,>> he sent tensely. Instinctively, Will pulled Barin in front of him so he was shielded from behind by Will's body. The steps drew closer and came more rapidly. <<Deanna, keep walking as you are. I'm going to turn myself and this Sindareen around to shield us from behind. This may protect us,>> Will sent urgently. <<And keep your brother between us,>> he added. Will grabbed Nici by her shoulder and spun her around facing backwards and then stepped behind her, holding her arm tightly.

There were three Sindareens approaching them now, with weapons drawn. Will watched them tensely as he tried to walk backwards without tripping over Barin's or Deanna's feet. Unbidden, Barin turned to face the closing adversaries. Still partially shielded by Will's large frame, Barin aimed his phaser at the Sindareens.

"How far do you think you'll get, Starfleet man?" yelled one of the Sindareens threateningly.

"Yes," the second one chimed in, "looks like we've got you out-gunned."

The third one could not resist adding tauntingly, "You didn't really think you could get away with this, did you?" With that, the third Sindareen fired his disrupter. The beam hit the pavement a mere inch from Will's slowly retreating feet. <<Just keep walking Deanna. Just keep walking,>> Will ordered, desperation now creeping into his mind-casts.

"What, you didn't find my friend's gesture convincing?" the first Sindareen sneered. "You are not going any where Starfleet man." He shot his weapon at the toe of Will's boot. Will let out a yelp of pain; the beam had sliced right through his shoe to his toes. Wincing painfully, Will attempted to continue to step backwards. The pain in his foot caused him to limp. Glancing momentarily to the ground at his feet, he noticed smears of red. Distantly, as if seeing someone else's foot, he realized that was his blood on the pavement, intermingling now with that of the Sindareens.

"Ah, so now you know how our friends there feel, eh Starfleet man?" the first Sindareen laughed evilly. "Stop now or you'll find out what real suffering is like."

"Only at the cost of this Sindareen here," Will yelled back with a confidence he did not feel. The throbbing from his foot, his lower back and his continuing headache clouded his mind, making it nearly impossible for him to think clearly. Deanna felt Will's increased agony and, despite her own pain and intermittent vertigo, sent him as much calm as she could manage. <<Just think of making it to that shuttle, Imzadi. Focus on the shuttle,>> she thought-cast to him.

"You think that protects you, Starfleet man?" the first Sindareen shouted back. With a sudden nod first to his left and then to his right, the other two Sindareens separated themselves from the first. Walking rapidly on the pavement, they came to Will's unprotected side. They raised their weapons and aimed them casually at Will and Deanna.

"Stop and drop your weapons," rang out a familiar voice from the top of the building across the street. Will looked up to see Saron, his Chief of Security aboard the Titan, standing on the roof top, aiming his weapon at the two Sindareens in the street. The two stood frozen to the spot, but did not drop their disrupters.

An instant later, three forms materialized, one behind each of the Sindareens. The first form belonged to a very familiar former colleague from the Enterprise. It was Commander Worf. His totally unexpected appearance took Will and Deanna totally by surprise.

"I suggest you do as the Commander ordered," Worf growled unpleasantly at the Sindareens as he readied his phaser for firing. Stiffly, the Sindareens dropped their weapons onto the ground. With the sound of the weapons hitting the pavement, Nici screamed, "Noooo! I will not be taken!" She attempted to turn around, but Will had her firmly by the arm. Still, she twisted and turned, her face contorted with pain and hatred.
And though she was in agony from the wound on her wrist, she reached over with that hand and weakly tried to grab at the disrupter in Will's hand. She was met with a blast from Saron's phaser. Instantly, Nici fell to the ground.

"Perhaps you could now join us down here, Commander," Worf yelled towards Saron.

"Indeed. I shall relocate immediately," Saron shouted back. He requested a point to point transport to avoid having to go through the building and possibly confront more Sindareens. Within seconds, his form dissolved on the roof top and then rematerialized next to where Will and Deanna stood. "You are a sight for sore eyes, Commander," Will grunted as he winced in pain.

"Are you alright, sir?" Saron asked, his laconic manner masking his very real, if also logical, concern for his captain. Upon hearing that inquiry, Will shook his head and then groaned with the pain that shaking his head had caused him.

"You should be seen by our doctor," Saron remarked as he viewed the pale and pain-filled faces of his captain and the ship's counselor. Then Saron glanced at the collapsed Sindareen on the walkway in front of Will. "Are these the Sindareens who plotted the kidnapping?" he asked coolly.

"Yes, and who injured us all and terrorized Barin," Will answered, now grimacing with an increased awareness of the throbbing in his lower back and the burning pain in his foot. Cupping the small of his back with his free hand, he pointed down at Nici's crumpled body.

"If I could bend down to check her pulse, I would…," Will began.

"You needn't cause yourself undue discomfort, Captain. I will check that for you," Saron said impassively. He bent down and placed several fingers against the Sindareen's neck.
Standing back up, he shook his head. "She's dead, Captain."

At those words, Ger cried out, "You murdering sons of bitches! You killed my brother. You killed my sister!" Sliding down onto his knees into a sorrowful heap, Deanna let go of his wrist. "This will not be!" he growled as tears of rage slid down his pale face. No one noticed that as Ger wept his bitter tears, his good hand wandered unobtrusively to his boot top. He let his hand rest there for a brief instant. Then suddenly, before anyone could even react, Ger yanked a dagger from inside the boot and plunged it into his chest. As green blood gurgled from the fatal wound, Ger laughed crazily and spat, "She told you you'd never take us from this planet!" And then he fell to the pavement, dead like his sister.

Will stared dully at Ger's fallen body, an ever larger circle of green blood pooling underneath it on the pavement. Cradling his painfully pounding head in one hand, Will sighed softly, "It seems we are done here." Deanna suddenly wavered as her face turned even paler than before. "I don't think I can hold up much longer," she whispered as her knees buckled. Her eyes rolled upward and the disrupter fell from her hand. An instant later, she fell unconscious across Ger's prostrate corpse.

Saron took charge of the situation immediately. Turning to Commander Worf, Saron said laconically, "We need to get these" - Saron waved his phaser from one Sindareen to the others - "into the Brig, would you not agree?" Saron waited for Worf to acknowledge his statement with a nod. "And our captain and counselor need to be transported immediately to Sick Bay." Saron paused to look searchingly at Barin. At that moment, Worf interjected, "The boy needs to be reunited with his mother. I will be happy to do that honor."

"Indeed, Commander. Let us make all due haste in implementing this," Saron agreed. He took out his communicator and initiated contact with the Titan. A few moments later, his captain and the ship's counselor shimmered into invisibility as they were beamed directly to Sick Bay. A moment after that, the three Sindareens who had attempted to assist Nici and Ger were transported to the Brig on board the Titan.

Worf approached Barin. The boy stared at Worf with eyes wide with fright. Barin had had enough of strange looking aliens he did not know. Worf saw the fear on the boy's face. Walking slowly to Barin, Worf said in his gruff Klingon voice, "You needn't fear me. I am a Starfleet officer." Worf held out his hand invitingly. "It would be my honor to return you to your mother. She is waiting for you on the Titan." Barin shook his head mutely, fearful tears rolling down his cheeks. Worf realized why the boy was so hesitant. Barin did not trust him. Kneeling down in front of the boy, he urged him, "Look at my uniform. Look at the insignia. It's just like the one Captain Riker wears." Barin peered suspiciously at the Starfleet symbol on Worf's uniform. Then he nodded solemnly and timidly reached his hand out. Worf smiled and took Barin's hand. Tapping his comm badge, Worf pronounced, "Titan, this is Commander Worf. Two to beam up."


Barin and Worf materialized on the transporter pads, the boy's small hand still wrapped in the Klingon's large fingers. Waiting for them in the Transporter Room was Lwaxana Troi. As soon as they were fully materialized, Worf caught Lwaxana's eyes and nodded warmly. Her face was filled with a mixture of relief, love and exhaustion.

As soon as Barin espied his mother, he raced down the few steps from the transporter pad and into his mother's waiting arms. Burying his head deep into her chest, his body shook with audible sobs. "Mother," he cried, "I thought I'd never get back to you…" Lwaxana knelt down and wrapped her son in a loving and protective embrace. Her voice caught in her throat and for a brief time, she was uncharacteristically speechless. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks to wet her son's curly hair.

After a moment of shared tears, Lwaxana sent to Barin, <<It's so good to have you back…>> Barin hugged his mother even tighter. Responding in kind with her own arms, she added, <<But I knew if anyone could get you back, it would be William Riker. He saved your sister. Now he saved you.>> She put her hands gently on Barin's face and turned it to face hers. Locking her piercingly dark eyes on his, she offered him a warm smile and projected to him all the love she was feeling. Barin returned a tentative smile.

Worf quietly stepped down from the transporter. Standing off to the side, he watched the touching reunion that unfolded before him. He could appreciate what they were feeling, for he was also a parent. He knew that despite his Klingon warrior value of stoicism, he too would be touched to have his own son return from the clutches of death.

Lwaxana looked up from where she knelt with her son. "Thank you, Mr. Woof…er Worf," she said seriously. "Thank you for bringing my son home." Worf shook his head.

"I did little. You should thank Commander Saron for making his retrieval possible. I merely assisted," Worf responded in his gravelly Klingon voice. Looking gratefully at Worf, she mouthed the words 'thank you' and offered a gracious smile.

At that moment, something hard slipped from Barin's grasp and thudded softly as it hit the floor. Up until then, Lwaxana had been too lost in their reunion to pay any attention to the fact that Barin's hand had been tightly wrapped around something. The sound the object made as it hit the floor drew their attention to it immediately. Lwaxana looked at it curiously. Picking it up, she turned it over in her hand.

"And what is this, Little Man?" Lwaxana asked. Barin swallowed nervously, his eyes now glued to the phaser in his mother's hand. Lwaxana's eyebrows drew together as she sensed his reluctance and nervousness. Barin looked down, struggling with the conflicting feelings he had about having used a weapon aggressively. Lwaxana read his thoughts immediately. Her eyes went wide with shock.

"You *fired* a weapon?" she asked in a stern and accusatory voice.

"Yes, Mother," Barin mumbled. Lwaxana shook her head angrily. "I thought," she began to lecture sharply, "I taught you clearly that using weapons of any sort is against the Betazoid way of life."

Barin stared at his feet and remained silent for a moment. Then, in a tight, small voice, he ventured, "You did, Mother. But I had to do it." Tears began to trickle anew down his cheeks. "They were going to kill Will and Deanna…" He began to weep again, lost momentarily to a memory of the hell he had just lived through. "And Deanna told me in my mind that it was okay to use a weapon to save a life." He locked his pleading dark eyes on his mother's face. Then he added beseechingly, "And she told me you would say the same thing." And then he looked down again, suddenly ashamed of himself.

Lwaxana shook her head ruefully. "What hell did those horrible creatures put you through down there?" she asked. Once again, she drew her son into her embrace. "What a price they made you pay," she sighed sadly. And it was at that moment that she realized that though he seemed largely unscathed externally, he had deep psychic wounds that would require careful and lengthy treatment. It would be a long time before he would be healed, if ever.

"Would you like to see Deanna and William?" she suddenly asked, changing the subject. "They're in Sick Bay now. I'm sure they would like to see you." She smiled warmly at Barin as she helped him stand up. As he did so, he winced. Lwaxana saw his face contort in pain. With a voice full of concern, she said, "You're hurt. You need to be seen by a doctor." Barin nodded tiredly. Silently, she took his hand in hers and together, they exited the Transporter Room.


Will and Deanna were beamed directly to Sick Bay. Deanna materialized in a crumpled heap in the floor. Will materialized hunched over, his hand cupped on his lower back, in obvious pain. The tip of his left boot was charred and bloody. Quickly, two attendants gently picked the still unconscious Deanna up and laid her carefully on the nearest biobed. Despite his own agony, instinctively Will walked towards where Deanna was lying. A familiar hand came from behind to stop him.

"Let's get you checked out, Captain," ordered a familiar voice as Will felt a hand pushing him gently towards a neighboring biobed. Will grunted, then turned to see someone he had expected to see even less than Commander Worf down on the planet: Beverly Crusher.

"What are you doing here?" Will asked in a tight voice, his face contorted by pain. Beverly gave him a quick smile, then responded, "There will be time for explanations in a bit. Right now, we need to check you and the Counselor out." Will began to open his mouth in protest. "That's an order, Captain. And if you won't accept an order from me, then I'm certain the Titan's Chief Medical Officer will be happy to issue one you can't ignore." Beverly trained her piercing blue eyes insistently on Will's face, her arms folded across her chest in a defiant pose. Will shook his head to indicate his submission, then grabbed his head in response to the sudden stab of pain that the movement sent through his head.

"You need to lie down now, Will!" Beverly commanded. Will slowly worked his way onto the biobed and then groaned painfully as he stretched out on the bed's surface. At that moment, Beverly noticed Will's left foot. She shook her head judgmentally as she eyed the evident wound. Then, she picked a tricorder and scanned him from head to toe with it.

"Hmm," she muttered as she watched the readings on the instrument. Then she checked his pupils. They were not reacting normally. "No doubt about it…A concussion…And judging from the smell of you, I'd say your head injury didn't agree with your stomach…" Beverly shook her head as she wrinkled her nose. Will rolled his eyes up in mild embarrassment. Beverly ignored Will's reaction and kept scanning.

"Your right kidney is quite a mess. And that foot…What the hell did they do to you down there, Will?"

"Knocked us out cold from behind, I think," he answered weakly. "And then I guess I ticked the Sindareen off… Later, he gave it to me in the gut, then added a sharp one in my back." His eyes were now closed tightly against his pain.

"And your foot?" Beverly asked softly.

"A Sindareen threat…," Will murmured painfully.

"Well, you're safe now. My guess is that there's nothing here that can't be healed with good medical care and some bed rest." At the words 'bed rest', Will groaned. Beverly snickered; she knew how Will detested having his activities restricted. No better a patient now on his own ship than he was on the Enterprise, she thought to herself. It was good to know some things never changed.

"Okay," Beverly said, "Let's take a quick look at that foot, shall we?" She turned Will's foot towards her to get a look it. "Hmm, a lot of blood here. Seems to be localized bleeding, though," she related quietly. She released Will's foot and then leaned closer to his head. "Will, I've got to get your boot off so I can examine that injury," she indicated.

"Like hell, you're not," Will groaned as he grabbed Beverly by the wrist. He shuddered with the thought of how painful removing his boot would be.

"Will," Beverly said as she tried to work his fingers loose from her wrist, "Will, don't worry…We'll use a laser knife to cut your boot off. You'll hardly know we even touched your foot." Will sighed with relief and nodded. Only then did he release her wrist.

Beverly smiled as she asked for a laser knife. A moment later, she was slicing Will's boot slowly but carefully into small pieces and then removing them from his foot. Once the piece of footwear was gone, Beverly inspected Will's foot closely. The ends of his toes were dark with drying, crusted blood. Lucky for Will, she thought. It looked like the fleshy part of his toes took the brunt of the disrupter beam. Lots of bleeding and some soft tissue damage, but probably very little in the way of a truly serious injury. Still, to be certain, she scanned his foot carefully with her tricorder. The resulting readings verified her on-the-fly judgment.

At that moment, the Titan's Chief Medical Officer walked into Sick Bay. Beverly turned to him. "Doctor," Beverly said, "What perfect timing! Your captain has sustained a number of injuries, not the least of which is a concussion." The Titan's doctor, a Vulcan not given to emotional display, nodded laconically and commented, "I am prepared to take over the captain's care if you wish."

Beverly smiled and held out the tricorder with which she had scanned Will. "All of the data are there. I think that neural and conventional regeneration is in order."

"Indeed. It would seem so," said the doctor as he began to scan the instrument's readings.

Beverly stepped over to the biobed where Deanna lay. She was just beginning to come to. Squinting her now-open eyes against the bright lights of Sick Bay, Deanna saw Beverly looking at her with concern written on her features. "Am I on the Enterprise?" Deanna whispered painfully. Her head still throbbed.

"No, Deanna, you're on board the Titan. I'll explain everything later." Deanna nodded weakly, her face contorted with the pain she could no longer suppress. Beverly took Deanna's fine-boned hand gently into her own.

"Will…?" Deanna began to ask. Beverly brought her face close to Deanna's. "Will is a few feet away, Deanna. He's had a concussion and his kidney is badly bruised. But he'll be fine, don't worry." Deanna murmured a 'yes' so quietly Beverly almost didn't hear it.

Beverly put Deanna's hand down carefully, then began scanning her with the tricorder. Because Will mentioned that they had been knocked out, Beverly fully expected to find evidence of a concussion. But she wasn't expecting to find other head injuries. And yet, the tricorder clearly indicated the presence of another injury to Deanna's head.

Beverly leaned close to the prostrate counselor's face. "Deanna, what else did they do to you down there?" Beverly asked in a quiet but concerned voice. Deanna's face contorted even more painfully as the memory of Ger slamming her head to the concrete floor came back to her.

"Threw my head against the floor…," Deanna whispered tightly. Beverly shook her head in consternation. "Damn those Sindareens… Not hard enough to cause a second brain injury. But clearly enough to aggravate the existing one…," she muttered angrily.

"Okay, Deanna, here is what we are going to do. I'm going to treat you with a neural regenerator. That should help speed the healing of your brain injury…" With the words 'brain injury', Deanna grabbed Beverly's hand.

"How bad…?" Deanna asked, never opening her eyes. Beverly placed a comforting hand on Deanna's shoulder. "It doesn't appear to be too serious, Deanna. Nor does Will's. But still, these are brain injuries. We're going to have you both monitored carefully for the next several days after we're through treating you. A stay in Sick Bay is the best thing for you now."

Deanna nodded, then mumbled, "Hurt…" Beverly gave Deanna's shoulder a loving squeeze. "As soon as we're done treating your brain injury, we'll treat your bruises and strained muscles. You'll feel loads better after we do. Some bed rest will do the rest."

Beverly stood up and then called out to one of the nurses for both neural and conventional regenerators. The nurse placed both on the biobed next to Deanna. Beverly picked up the instrument and ran it back and forth carefully over Deanna's head for several minutes. After that, Beverly picked up the conventional regenerator. She made several slow and deliberate sweeps of the instrument along the whole length of Deanna's body, from her head to her toes.

Beverly turned towards Will's biobed. "Are you done treating the captain yet?" Beverly asked the ship's doctor. Without averting his eyes from Will's lower back, the doctor answered, "I will be shortly. I still have yet to address this bruised kidney of his."

"Very good. I have finished with the counselor for now. I think it would be a good idea to move them both to a more private part of Sick Bay while they convalesce," Beverly commented.

"A good suggestion. We'll put them in the two rooms just beyond Intensive Care," replied the doctor. "Separate rooms for Will and Deanna," Beverly murmured to herself with a knowing smirk. "We'll see just how long that arrangement lasts!"


Just as the ship's doctor finished treating Will's kidney injury, the door the Sick Bay opened. Though Will and Deanna could not readily see the entrance way from where they lay, they both knew immediately who had just walked in. Before she even spoke, Lwaxana's mental emanations washed through them. "Just what I need," Will thought to himself, not caring if Lwaxana heard his thoughts or not.

"Where's a doctor? My son needs a doctor!" demanded Lwaxana melodramatically as she pushed Barin in front of her. Beverly drew in a calming breath to steel herself for dealing with Deanna's mother. Putting on as pleasant a smile as she could, Beverly approached Lwaxana and Barin.

"And who needs a doctor now?" Beverly said pleasantly, guessing that it was not Lwaxana.

"Why my son, of course," Lwaxana answered, placing her hands on the boy's slim shoulders. "And Doctor," Lwaxana huffed, eyeing Beverly judgmentally, "you needn't pretend with me. Your feelings are as clear as the comm badge on your jacket! Just see to my son." Beverly looked down, shaking her head but smirking; Lwaxana was one of the phenomena in the universe that would never change.

Beverly knelt down in front of Barin. Training her concerned blue eyes on his troubled dark ones, she asked gently, "What seems to be the problem?" Barin answered timidly, "My arms and shoulders hurt. The Sindareen was very mean to me. He hurt me."

"Well, Barin, no one will hurt you here," Beverly said in a soothing voice. "Now, how about my checking you out?"

"Will it hurt?" Barin asked fearfully; he'd had enough pain over the last few days to fill a lifetime. Beverly smiled warmly and shook her head. "Not a bit," she assured the boy. "We'll let this tricorder do the checking," she explained as she held the instrument up for Barin to see. "You won't feel a thing," she assured him.

"Can my mother stay with me while you check me out?" he asked in a small voice.

"Of course," Beverly smiled. "Now, let's see if we can get you up on this bed so you can lie down. Your mother can stand right next to you." Barin nodded solemnly, his large eyes locked on Beverly's face. Beverly gently wrapped her arms around the boy's thin waist and lifted him easily onto the biobed. Then, she picked up the tricorder and used it to carefully scan Barin from head to toe.

"You are a lucky young man, Barin," Beverly remarked as she viewed the scan's results. "You've got yourself some nasty bruises on your arms and back, but nothing more. Let me give you something for the pain. Then we'll treat you with a regenerator. After that, you should be good as new."

After Barin was treated, Lwaxana said, "Now, I want to see my daughter. Where is she?"
Beverly looked up from the padd on which she was entering Barin's medical information.

"Mrs. Troi, before you go to her, you need to know that she's had several head injuries and a concussion. Though she's been treated, it's absolutely necessary that she be kept quiet so she can continue to heal. Please be gentle with her," Beverly advised.

Lwaxana was uncharacteristically silent for a moment. Then she locked eyes with Beverly. The doctor saw for the first time how truly haggard Lwaxana looked and realized how agonizing the experience must have been for her. Beverly offered a comforting grin. Lwaxana nodded back, her face still a sad mask.

"Doctor Crusher, I understand," Lwaxana said quietly. "Now let me see her." Beverly pointed to the biobed where Deanna lay. "Thank you, Doctor," Lwaxana acknowledged quietly as she and Barin turned to walk to Deanna's bed.

As soon as Lwaxana reached the biobed on which Deanna was lying, she gently touched her hand to Deanna's shoulder. Deanna turned her head to gaze up at her mother's concern-filled face. Instantly, Deanna felt herself filled with waves of warm love that caressed her mind gently. Managing a small smile, Deanna said, "Hello, Mother."

<<Don't talk, Little One.>> Lwaxana sent. Deanna nodded.

<<I was so worried I'd lose both of you, >> Lwaxana sent sadly. A lone tear trickled down her cheek.

<<I know, Mother. But I had to go,>> Deanna sent back weakly.

Lwaxana closed her eyes and shook her head sadly. Deanna reached out for her mother's hand. Lwaxana closed her fingers around her daughters'. No further words were necessary. The feelings of fear and also of relief and love flowed mentally from mother to daughter and back again.

While they were silently engaged in this way, Beverly came over. "I hate to interrupt you, but it's time to take Deanna back to her room," Beverly said. Lwaxana looked at the doctor in nervous surprise. "Don't worry," Beverly assured her, "we just want her to have some quiet bed rest for a day or two. Keeping her here will allow us to monitor her recovery."

Just then, an angry voice exploded two beds away. It was Will. He had just been told that he would be placed in a different room than his wife's. "It's bad enough you have to keep me here," he bellowed, despite the residual pain in his head. "But now you tell me I can't be with my own wife?" Heads turned all through the main room of Sick Bay to witness Will's outburst. Then the laconic voice of the ship's doctor was heard. "That is not optional, Captain. That is an order!" Beverly snickered and winked at Deanna. "I knew this was coming," she whispered laughingly.


Later, Beverly came back to Will's room to check on him. As soon as she stepped in, he shot her a pleading look.

"Sorry Will, you've got to stay here. Doctor's orders," Beverly said.

"But…," Will began.

"Not negotiable, Will. You've had a concussion. Your kidney was bruised. Your foot was injured. You've been treated, but we want to make sure that your healing continues as it should. That means staying here," Beverly explained. She gave him one of her trademark "brook no nonsense" looks. Will sighed, then dropped his head back against his pillow in resignation.

"Stuck in Sick Bay…," he muttered. Then he turned his searching blue eyes to Beverly's face.

"So tell me, Beverly, how is it that you and Worf are here?" Will asked.

"Well, that's due to your orders, Will," Beverly responded. Then, with sudden concern she quickly asked, "Don't you remember the orders you gave before you left for the planet's surface?"

"Oh right…," he recalled. "If they didn't hear from us in twelve hours, they were to contact any nearby starships…Have them join the Titan…" He ran his hand absent-mindedly through his spiky hair. "And the Enterprise was the closest, right?"

Beverly smiled with relief. Will's memory was still intact; the concussion was not worse than they had thought.

"Yes, Will. And I happened to be on the Enterprise on one of my periodic rotations out of Starfleet Medical. When I heard what had happened, I volunteered immediately to come and assist here."

"And I'm glad you did, Beverly," Will smiled tiredly. "It was good to see a familiar face after the hell we went through down there." Beverly placed a comforting hand on his arm.

"That's done with now, Will. Just focus on getting better," Beverly said as she stood upright. "And stay in that bed!" she smiled. Then she turned to leave.

"I'm going to check in next door with Deanna," she said as she stepped out of his room.

A moment later found Beverly walking into Deanna's room. Lwaxana and Barin stood by the side of Deanna's bed, apparently engaged in silent communication.

"I'm sorry to be interrupting," Beverly said quietly, "but I wanted to check with our patients here." Three pairs of dark Betazoid eyes turned to look at Beverly. She smiled, then approached the bed to check the biomonitor on the wall. Beverly nodded with satisfaction as she noted the normal readings on the monitor. Then she looked down at Deanna.

"How is that head feeling?" Beverly asked softly.

"It's much better. But I am really tired," Deanna responded weakly. Beverly smiled and patted Deanna lightly on the shoulder.

"That's to be expected, Deanna. You've been through a lot." Beverly gave Deanna's shoulder a friendly squeeze. "With a bit of bed rest, you should be good as new."

Beverly turned to Barin. "And you, Barin? How are you doing now?" she asked. Barin responded with a smile that was so like Deanna's, Beverly nearly did a double take.

"I feel much better, Doctor," he said readily. Beverly smiled at him. Then she glanced meaningfully at Lwaxana.

"You know Barin, I know where you can get a great old-fashioned chocolate sundae. It's a great follow-up treatment for bruises," Beverly said as she looked back at Barin and winked at him. Barin looked hopefully at his mother. <<Can I, Mother?>> he sent pleadingly.

"Well, if Doctor Crusher recommends it so highly, then I must agree," Lwaxana smiled. <<Enjoy yourself, Little Man, >> she added mentally.

Once Beverly had left with Barin, Lwaxana turned to Deanna. Training her dark eyes on her daughter's, Lwaxana sent, <<It must have been horrible for you down there, Little One.>>

<<It was, Mother. Especially because it brought back memories of such a frightening experience…>> Deanna closed her eyes and sighed sadly. Lwaxana stroked her daughter's arm gently.

<<Deanna, when Barin returned to us here, he had a phaser in his hand…He said he used it…>> Lwaxana sent, dark feelings suffusing her message.

<<I know that, Mother… If he hadn't, I wouldn't be here now with you… Will and I would probably be dead…He saved our lives, Mother,>> Deanna sent, her feelings now intense. Before Lwaxana had a chance to digest what Deanna had just communicated, she added, <<Any Betazoid would have done the same.>>

<<I know, Little One,>> Lwaxana sighed heavily. <<I just wish he hadn't had to learn that sad fact at such a young age.>>


It was late at night. Sick Bay was bathed in the soft pastel color of the night lights, transforming the otherwise clinical appearance of that area. A thick silence blanketed the suite of rooms that made up Sick Bay.

Will and Deanna were the only patients who were staying through the night in Sick Bay. Will had resigned himself to remaining separated from Deanna, at least for the night. And the fact was that he was too exhausted to put up much of a fight beyond his initial outburst earlier that day when they were about to be moved to their separate beds. He had been through a harrowing ordeal that had taken a major toll on him, and when night time came, he did not find it difficult to fall asleep. And now, late at night, all that could be heard in his room was his soft snoring.

Deanna too had paid a tremendous price physically during their capture. Sleep in the safety of a sick Bay on a starship was a welcome opportunity to begin to leave some of the horror behind. She did not find it hard to lose herself to sleep's soothing embrace.

Once asleep, Deanna's mind spun dizzily with rapid-fire images. Ger sneering at her. Ger slamming her head against the concrete floor. Ger's scowling face. Over and over she heard his guttural, snarling voice and evil laugh. Then, she saw again the Sindareens in the street. The words 'Starfleet man' echoed in her sleep. Seeing and feeling her brother's abject fear. And then finally, watching the Sindareen take aim at Will's foot. The sound of the disrupter. Her brother's terror…

She woke with a scream. Whether it was her own nightmares that woke her or emanations from elsewhere, she could not say. But her gut-twisting fear brought her sharply awake, a terrorized scream springing from her mouth.

Deanna's loud scream brought Will out of a heavy slumber immediately. Instantly, he felt Deanna's fear and jumped out of bed. Hitting his newly healed but still tender left foot hard against the floor, he stumbled to his knees. A dull pain radiated in his lower back. "Damn it," he moaned, then grabbed the side of his bed to pull himself back up.

Once he stood up, he held on to the side of the bed to get his balance. Then, taking a deep breath to try and ignore the pain in his foot and lower back, he limped from his room into Deanna's. In the reduced lighting, he could see her sitting up in bed, trembling. He went to her instantly and pulled her into a tight, protective embrace.

"Shh, it's okay, Deanna. I'm here," Will murmured in a soothing voice. Deanna buried her head against his chest, tears making jagged paths down her troubled features.

"They were everywhere…They shot at you," she wept. Will tightened his arms around her. "You're in Sick Bay on the Titan, Deanna. No one can hurt you here," he said softly. He rocked with her gently. Gradually, he could feel the tension and fear ebb from her tired body.

"Better?" he murmured into her hair. She nodded silently against his chest. He placed a light kiss on her head, then began to stroke her hair gently.

"Bad dream?" he asked softly

Deanna whispered, "Yes…Though whether it was just mine or not I don't know…"

"Just yours?" Will inquired as he pulled back to look at her face.

"It was so intense, Will…Barin may have been projecting his own dreams…" she explained tiredly. Will nodded with understanding. "Of course…" he acknowledged.

Suddenly, Deanna bent over in a spasm of terror and her hands flew to cover her ears. It took Will one panicked instant to react. Then he quickly drew Deanna into another tight embrace. "Deanna, what is it?" shot out of his mouth.

Deanna was breathing rapidly, as if in great pain. She did not respond immediately to Will's concerned question. Instead, she turned inward to mediate the source of her sudden discomfort. Will watched as once again she slowly relaxed. After another moment, she looked up at Will. "Barin…" she said quietly.

"Gods," Will began, "what he must be going through...And he's only a child."

"Yes," Deanna acknowledged softly. "He sustained the worst injuries of all, injuries to his soul. His healing will be a long time in coming…" Will nodded silently. Deanna buried her face in the crook of Will's shoulder.

"Stay with me, Will," she whispered against his chest. Will silently unwrapped his arms only long enough to lie down next to Deanna. He pulled her once again into the comforting shelter of his arms. And in this way, they found themselves yielding to the draw of healing slumber.


It was still the wee hours of the night. In the Brig, the three Sindareens sat huddled together in a holding cell. Their continued presence there was ensured by a force field across the entrance to the cell. A security officer, armed with a phaser, sat at the control console that faced the cell.

One of the Sindareens, who went by the name Ra'ah, elbowed the neighbor to his left. Once Ra'ah knew he had his attention, he began to whisper to him.

"Starfleet officers are the scourge of the universe," Ra'ah hissed angrily. "First they kill two of our leaders, then they have the audacity to put us in this infernal holding cell…"

"Scum!" his neighbor chimed in. Then he added, "So what are we going to do about it?"
Ra'ah laughed evilly. "Oh there are ways…"

"Do tell!" said the other Sindareen who had been listening in quietly.

"No one, but no one catches us up on our own damned planet and puts us in prison," spat Ra'ah. His two colleagues nodded vigorously.

"You have a plan, no doubt," one of them cackled. Ra'ah nodded smugly, his slitted eyes full of malice. "Indeed I do…One that will get us off this god-forsaken ship and wreak a little revenge on those meddling Starfleet officers. I'll just bet my shot at that one's foot put him into this ship's Sick Bay. So here's what we do…" With that, in a series of hissing whispers he shared his escape and revenge plans with his cohorts…

A short time later, two of the Sindareens got up to sit in different parts of the holding cell. Their movement caught the security guard's attention, but once he saw that they were merely relocating, he returned his attention to the console before him.

Suddenly, Ra'ah fell off of the bench and began moaning loudly. The security guard stood up, his expression a mixture of concern and skepticism. He stared at the Sindareens, waiting to see what would happen next. An instant later, Ra'ah's cohorts stepped quickly to the force field, wildly pointing to their fallen comrade.

"We need a medic here. Our friend has fallen ill!" yelled one of the two. The other one screamed, "Now. We need help now!"

The security guard approached the force field and peered towards the back of the holding cell, where Ra'ah was curled up and groaning. It looked to the guard as if Ra'ah was in great pain. The guard nodded his head and said, "I will summon assistance from Sick Bay."

He walked back to the control console and pressed to switch for the comm system. "Lt. Simmons to Sick Bay, we have a prisoner in the Brig in apparent pain. We need a medic or doctor down here now," he said quickly.

"Sick Bay to Lt. Simmons, we will send someone down shortly. Sick Bay out."

Lt. Simmons walked the short distance back to the holding cell. "Some one from Sick Bay will be here soon," he informed the prisoners. Looking again at Ra'ah, who was still curled on the floor and moaning loudly, Lt. Simmons asked, "How is he?"

"How is he?" snapped one of the Sindareens standing by the force field. "What kind of idiotic question is that? Is everyone in Starfleet as stupid as you? Use your eyes, Starfleet man!" Lt. Simmons jerked involuntarily, taken aback by the extreme hostility of the Sindareen before him. Shaking his head in mild embarrassment, he walked back to the control console and waited for the medical assistance from Sick Bay to arrive.

A few minutes later, one of the nurses from Sick Bay walked in the doorway to the Brig. Lt. Simmons spotted her the instant she came in. Unholstering his phaser, he gestured towards the holding cell. The nurse nodded and stepped over to the cell. She waited while the security guard lowered the force field. Once the field was gone, she looked to Lt. Simmons for assurance that he was ready to protect her, should the need arise. He returned her unspoken question with a quietly confident nod.

The security guard waved his phaser at each of the standing Sindareens, motioning them away from the entrance and the nurse. The Sindareens took a couple of steps backwards, to allow the nurse to pass. She stepped over to where Ra'ah lay on the floor, groaning painfully. Kneeling down next to the recumbent Sindareen, she began to monitor him with her tricorder. But as soon as she began to move the transponder over Ra'ah, one of his hands snaked out and grabbed her harshly by the wrist.

As soon as Lt. Simmons saw that Ra'ah had gone for the nurse, he fired his phaser at the Sindareen. Unfortunately, because Brig protocol required it, his phaser was only set to "stun." This was not enough to stop Ra'ah from springing quickly to his feet and pulling the nurse up in front of him.

Instantly, Lt. Simmons sprinted back to the control console to try and resurrect the force field to prevent their escape. But before he could get to the unit, he felt one pair of hands grab him from behind by the knees and another pair wrap themselves around his neck. Quickly, the hapless officer was brought to the floor and his phaser popped out of his hand. A second later, he felt two booted feet pin him firmly to the floor. Before he could try and twist himself out from under from the feet, everything went black. "My phaser…," was the only thought in his mind as he lapsed into unconsciousness.

Ra'ah smugly walked out of the holding cell, the fearful nurse still in his grasp. "See," he gloated nastily, "easy as can be. Stupidity must be a requirement to be in Starfleet…" His cohorts laughed maniacally.

"Okay, my fine fellows, now to phase two," Ra'ah said malevolently as he shot a meaningful stare first at one of his cohorts, then at the other. They nodded in conspiratorial agreement. With that, Ra'ah pushed the nurse in front of him towards the corridor.

"Alright medical lady, which way to Sick Bay? I need medical treatment, remember?" Ra'ah chuckled evilly. "And don't even think of trying to trick us. If you do, you will be dead. Is that clear?" he snarled at the nurse.

As Ra'ah pushed her into the corridor, she made a decision: she would not aid these criminals in their acts. No matter what the cost to her. She felt that her loyalty to Starfleet demanded no other course. With a sad sigh, she nodded to herself. She took a couple of seemingly compliant steps down the corridor. A moment later, she suddenly shot her hand onto her comm badge and yelled, "Nurse Burns outside the Brig. Intruder aler…" She fell dead to the floor before the last word had fully exited her mouth, a victim of the phaser the Sindareens had wrested from the security guard.

Ra'ah glared angrily at the crumpled body of the nurse, then shook his head dismissively. "Oh well, no loss there," he said airily as he began to walk down the corridor.

"So, how do we get to Sick Bay?" asked one of the other two Sindareens.

"Easy, stupid. This is a Starfleet vessel…The computer knows everything!" Ra'ah sneered as he directed a derisive glare at his colleague. Then, craning his head, Ra'ah asked, "Computer, location of Sick Bay."

"Follow the blue lights on the wall to your left. They will direct you to Sick Bay," the ship's computer intoned mechanically.

"Now we wreak our revenge," Ra'ah mumbled as he eyed the guiding blue lights.


The three lanky aliens strode quickly down the corridor. After a few moments, Ra'ah broke the pensive silence that had overcome them.

"We need to move quickly and act smartly here. That nurse bitch hit her comm badge before she went down. We've got to assume someone was alerted on this rust bucket...," he explained in a voice laced with annoyance. "Any questions?"

"Remember, Ra'ah, you've got the phaser from that pitiful excuse for a security guard," one of the other two Sindareens began to advise Ra'ah. Ra'ah smiled sourly, a malicious glint in his slitted eyes. "Oh, don't worry about that, my friend," he responded as he rubbed his thumb along the hard surface of the weapon, "I have every intention of making ample use of this little piece of technology." His two cohorts acknowledged Ra'ah's comments with silent nods.

They traveled stealthily down the corridor. Every few minutes, one or another of the Sindareens would stop and listen. When he was satisfied that they were not yet being followed, he would resume walking and quicken his pace to catch up with his colleagues.

After a short time, their cautious travels brought them close to the doors of a turbolift. Ra'ah held up a cautioning hand. Glancing tensely at each of his cohorts, he raised his phaser. "How many bars of gold do you want to bet there are security guards waiting for us in that turbolift?" The other two Sindareens nodded their agreement.

"Think we can handle them?" Ra'ah asked sarcastically. His sneering inquiry was met with soft guffaws. "Well then, let's have at them!" he spat.

With that, he stepped close enough to the turbolift to trigger the automatic door mechanism. In an instant, the doors slid open to reveal the anticipated security guards. The two officers immediately raised their phasers and fired at the three Sindareens. The aliens, being largely immune to the stun setting on the weapon, wavered momentarily and then as a unity set upon the two hapless Starfleet officers.

Within a minute, Ra'ah and his two cohorts beat the two officers senseless and confiscated their weapons. Kicking at the fallen body of one of the security officers, Ra'ah hissed evilly, "The doors won't close. Something's in the way…" Laughing evilly, his fellow Sindareens easily lifted the two prostrate forms and sent them flying out of the turbolift. A second later, the doors slid closed.

"Sick Bay," Ra'ah called out. The movement of the turbolift was gently evident. As they waited for the turbolift to deliver them to the correct deck, they grinned gloatingly at each other. "Soon, Riker, you will meet your judgment…" Ra'ah mumbled malevolently. Once again, he ran his bony thumb along the smooth surface of the phaser that rested in his grip.

After a seeming eternity, the turbolift perceptibly slowed down. Ra'ah looked meaningfully at each of his cohorts and said quickly, "Be prepared for anything that might be beyond these doors...This ship may be crawling with security. Ready?" They raised their phasers, thumbs on the trigger switch, just as the doors slid open to reveal a vacant corridor. Just opposite was the clearly marked entrance to Sick Bay.

Ra'ah motioned his colleagues forward after glancing furtively up and down the corridor. Quickly, they made their way to Sick Bay. The doors whooshed open automatically, granting them immediate access. The apparent nearness of the object of his revenge caused a surge of giddy eagerness to shoot through Ra'ah.

Once they stepped through the doors, the three tall aliens silently surveyed the main bay. No patients were present, and the lights were turned down to a nocturnally low level. Ra'ah whispered conspiratorially, "We'll have to search the place. That Riker bastard got a good dose of disrupter to his foot, and he looked none too healthy before that. He's got to be here somewhere."

Immediately before them was the Chief Medical Officer's office. Obviously, no patients would be found there. After a moment of silent contemplation, one of his fellow Sindareens spotted a sign off to the right that read 'ICU AND PATIENTS.' Grinning with evil satisfaction, he elbowed Ra'ah and motioned towards the hallway above which the sign hung. Ra'ah nodded, thoughts of mayhem glinting in his eyes.

Slowly, silently, they made their way down the hallway. A quick glance in each of the ICU cubicles revealed no patients. With each empty space, their frustration and anger increased measurably.

Finally, they came to the patient rooms at the end of the hallway. They immediately spotted the patient's name on the entry way to the first room: "Riker, W. T., Captain." Eagerly, Ra'ah elbowed his companions, pointed to the name and hissed, "Now!" As one, they raised their weapons and fired towards the bed in the room. Then, Ra'ah called for increased lighting in order to view his prey. What he saw instead was the burnt bed coverings of an empty bed.

His fury surged within him and a frustrated cry flew out of his mouth. "No! I will not be robbed!" As he shook with nearly uncontrollable rage, one of his companions grabbed him hastily by the arm, and pointed to the remaining room and the name on the entry way: "Troi-Riker, D., Counselor." Nodding angrily, he stepped towards the doorway, his weapon raised…

The sudden brightness of light entered Deanna's sleeping mind. Then the sound of "No! I will not be robbed!" drew her out of her light sleep. She squinted her eyes groggily to see three very tall forms standing just outside her door. In an instant, she recognized them. Her eyes flew open and her hands shot into Will's side to wake him. "Will!" she hissed urgently, "Wake up. We're in trouble!"

The instant he opened his eyes, he saw the horrifying sight before him: three Sindareens with phasers. Instinctively, Will pushed Deanna off the bed and away from danger. At that very moment, Ra'ah shot his phaser directly at Will, getting him square in the chest. With an animal scream of pain and his pajama top now rapidly becoming soaked with his own blood, Will tried to reach for the comm link next to the bed to summon help. In the next instant, another shot from Ra'ah's weapon got Will in the arm, triggering another yelp of agony. And then Will fell back onto his back, unconscious and an easy target for the weapons of three revenge-thirsty Sindareens.


Ra'ah strode over to the bed which bore the unconscious Will Riker. The Sindareen stared down hatefully at Will's slack-jawed face. Then, grabbing Will's blood-soaked pajama shirt, he yanked Will's upper body off the mattress. Ra'ah bent down and placed his ear against Will's chest. "The bastard lives yet," Ra'ah screamed in rage. He threw Will harshly against the bed's surface. Then Ra'ah raised his phaser and aimed it at the middle of Will's chest. "Now you will pay, Starfleet man...You took out ours, now we take out you. A simple and fair exchange," the enraged Sindareen snarled.

Just before he pressed the trigger switch on his weapon, a sudden movement off to his right caught his attention. Keeping his phaser trained on Will's chest, Ra'ah looked to see what had distracted him. Instantly, he saw the edge of Deanna Troi-Riker's body jutting out on the floor from under the bed; her left arm and leg were just visible beyond the bed covers.

"Oh yes, I forgot. We have a little bonus here," Ra'ah growled as he stepped over to the right side of the bed. Kneeling down and grabbing Deanna harshly by her leg, Ra'ah pulled her out of her hiding place. "Now we can even the score completely," he growled. "Two of yours for two of ours."

Deanna struggled in his grasp. Her efforts merely angered him further. "Alright Betazoid bitch…" Deanna stared at him in shock. "You're wondering how I knew, are you? Your name is legendary in my planet. There is not a Sindareen who doesn't know how you stole victory from us." Deanna gulped fearfully. "And now, as an added bonus, you duplicitous bitch, you're going to watch me kill lover boy over there…"

Deanna twisted in his vise-like grip and screamed "No!" Ra'ah shook her violently and then threw her over to the waiting hands of one of his cohorts. "I didn't ask for commentary, bitch!" he snapped. Then he turned back to face Will's prostrate and bloodied body on the bed. Raising his phaser once more, Ra'ah hissed, "And now, lover boy, vengeance is mine."

At the very instant those words left Ra'ah's lips, all the lights through out Sick Bay were shut off. Before he could get a shot off, Ra'ah felt himself being grabbed and tackled from behind. He heard bodies falling around him and the movement of feet. The voices of his companions yelled, "No!" Then he heard a commanding voice yell out, "Drop all of your weapons. Now!"

Ra'ah screamed in fury and twisted his lanky body out of his captor's grasp. "You will not get me. Vengeance is mine!" tore angrily out of Ra'ah throat. He then heard his adversary stand up. Quickly, Ra'ah scrambled to his feet and raised his phaser. In the next instant, the lights came back on.

The three Sindareens found themselves facing down three security guards who were aiming not phasers but disrupters at each of them. Then a Vulcan stepped forward. Reaching out calmly, he offered his hand to Deanna. Grabbing on to his hand gratefully, Deanna shakily but quickly stepped away from the Sindareens. Then she said in a panicky and urgent voice, "We need medical assistance here. The Captain has been shot and he's bleeding heavily." The Vulcan nodded impassively and tapped his comm badge.
"Saron to Dr. Rofay. Medical emergency in Sick Bay."

"Rofay here. On my way." With that, Saron turned his attention to the three aliens standing before his security team. "I see our prediction was correct. You did indeed seek out Captain Riker," Saron commented laconically. "It is now time for you to be returned to the Brig, where you will remain until we turn you over to Starfleet." Ra'ah and his cohorts let out screams of furious frustration. "And may I remind you," Saron added calmly, "that these are disrupters we have aimed you. We are aware that you are fully vulnerable to the effects of such a weapon. Therefore, it would be unwise for you to resist."

Ra'ah shot meaningful glances at each of his companions, his slitted eyes full of venomous rage. A raised eyebrow from each one was the only silent acknowledgement they gave him. "You will leave now," Saron ordered. The security guards motioned the three Sindareens to move towards the main room of Sick Bay. At the very same moment, Dr. Rofay and two nurses sped through the doors, down the hallway and into Will's room.

The doctor took one look at Will's blood-drenched pajama top and his deathly pallor, and then yelled out harshly, "We need a cart in here. Now!" The nurses stared, shocked at the doctor's seemingly emotional manner. Never had they seen the Vulcan Chief Medical Officer betray any hint of emotion. But an instant later, they ran down the hall to grab the nearest anti-grav cart and bring it to Will's room.

Ra'ah and his cohorts were being walked out in the midst of the flury of activity in Sick Bay. He shot a knowing glance first to one of his companions, then to the other. His subtle eye movements were met with slight, nearly imperceptible nods. A second later, the three Sindareens spun around and attempted to knock the disrupters out of the hands of the security guards. But the officers had been told to anticipate sudden aggression from their alien charges and so had firm grips on their weapons. An instant later, the Sindareens were swinging their other hands, clenched into tight fists, at the jaws of the security guards. But a split second after they let loose their fists, the officer in the center squeezed off a series of shots across their feet, causing them to stumble painfully to the floor.

"You will not take us! We will die before you imprison us again!" Ra'ah barked hoarsely, gasping painfully as he spoke. Suddenly, his hand snaked out and around the ankle of the nearest security guard, who had underestimated both the reach of a Sindareen and the Sindareen determination to be free. In a flash, the security guard was jerked off his feet and fell backwards, losing hold of his disrupter as he went down. Painfully but doggedly, the three aliens scrambled for the weapon. A second later, three shots fired forth from one of the other disrupters, hitting each of the Sindareens squarely in the back. With a final rattling breath, they collapsed on the floor, dead.

All of this had taken only a couple of minutes to transpire, just long enough for Dr. Rofay and the nurses to get Will on the anti-grav cart and speeding his way to surgery. When the doctor espied the bodies of the Sindareens on the floor, he yelled out, "Move them out of the way!" Quickly the security guards grabbed the feet of the large aliens and, with some difficulty, managed to pull them to the doors to Sick Bay and then out into the corridor.

Will was brought directly into the surgery bay. With a laser scalpel, Dr. Rofay cut away Will's pajama top. Will's chest was covered in blood, and more of the life-sustaining fluid was oozing out of the wound in the middle of his chest. Yet more blood was dripping slowly from the wound inflicted on Will's arm.

The doctor grabbed the tricorder off of the tray of surgical tools. A quick but thorough scan confirmed what was already obvious: Will was in shock and losing blood. The scan provided additional diagnostics: that Will's heart beat was rapid, his respirations were shallow and rapid, there was blood throughout his chest cavity and his left lung was partially collapsed. Throwing the instrument down, Dr. Rofay barked out his next orders, "We need to get the Captain started on an IV transfusion and an anesthetic. He should be intubated for oxygen delivery. We need to prep his chest for surgery so I can get in there and determine the source of his bleeding. We also need to close up that wound on the Captain's arm. Now."

One of the nurses crooked Will's mouth open and carefully threaded a tube down through his trachea and then turned on the oxygen supply imbedded in the wall next to the biobed. Then she stepped over to the computer console to request blood matching Will's blood type. Within moments, several bags of the essential red liquid materialized in the replicator next to the computer console. She snatched the bags out of the replicator and hung one on the IV pole at the head of the biobed. Then she expertly inserted an IV needle into Will's arm, hooked the IV tubing up with the needle and tapped the IV line to start the flow of blood through the line and into Will's body. Finally, she administered a hypospray of a general anesthetic.

At the same time, the other nurse quickly bandaged Will's arm to stop the bleeding long enough until a regenerator could be used to heal the wound. Then she picked up the razor and began to shave Will's chest. Within a few short minutes, she had Will's chest ready for the doctor to begin his work.

Dr. Rofay picked up the laser scalpel and carefully excised the burnt skin at the site of the wound. Then, with several sure slices with the tool, he substantially widened the opening made in Will's chest by the phaser fire. Once done with that, the doctor quickly trained a critical diagnostic eye on the mess before him: blood oozing steadily from numerous tissue wounds.

"I need the regenerator now," he demanded as he held out his hand for the instrument. Once he had the desired tool in his hand, he turned it on to the highest level and carefully began measured sweeps over the exposed tissue. The two nurses watched intently as the Vulcan Chief Medical Officer methodically treated the injured tissue with the healing rays generated by the instrument.

Finally, after a seeming eternity, Dr. Rofay stood up, placed the regenerator back on the tray of tools and silently rolled his shoulders to get the kinks out of them. Wiping his arm across his sweaty forehead, he said tiredly, "I need the tricorder again. The tissue must be checked once more for bleeding. If I have missed any bleeders, I will have to go back in again." The nurses nodded silently, fighting hard to manage their own fatigue.

Dr. Rofay took the proffered tricorder and carefully scanned Will's chest. Nodding impassively, he shut off the instrument and placed it on the tray of instruments. Looking up, he said simply, "There is no detectable hemorrhaging at this moment. However, the regenerator can only heal the damaged tissue up to a point. Until that healing occurs, he is at risk for new hemorrhages." He stared silently at Will's unconscious form for a minute. "I have done all I can for him at present. I will therefore close."

The tall Vulcan turned to the tool tray and picked up the laser scalpel himself. "Assist, please?" he asked, requesting that one of the nurses hold the edges of the incision together with a clamp. As soon as the clamp was in place, Dr. Rofay carefully moved the laser scalpel slowly along the now-joined edges, leaving a red, scar-like line in its wake.
After a couple of minutes punctuated only by the sound of the oxygen pump, the doctor turned the laser scalpel off and stood upright.

"I want Captain Riker put in Intensive Care. After the anesthetic has had a chance to wear off, the Captain should be given a hypospray of oxycodone to manage his pain. This can be repeated every 6 hours if he requires it. Are there any questions?" The nurses shook their heads and set about readying Will for transfer to his bed in the ICU.

A few minutes later, Will was laid out on an anti-grav cart, his breathing tube temporarily connected to a portable oxygen pump and his IV bags now resting beside him. Only then did the attention of the doctor and the nurses turn to the entrance to the Surgical Bay. The three were met with the sight of one very exhausted and nervous-looking Betazoid.

"Counselor, how long have you been here?" one of the nurses asked.

"I don't know. I haven't really been aware of the time," Deanna responded in a quiet, sad voice. "You worked on Will…on Captain Riker for a long time...How is he doing?"

"Counselor Troi-Riker," Dr. Rofay said as he stepped towards her. "There were numerous hemorrhages and an injury to his lung. He lost a lot of blood. We have repaired as much as we can for now, but for the next several days, he is at risk for more hemorrhaging. We have done all we can for him. The rest is now up to him."

"I see," Deanna said softly, a lone tear making its way down her cheek. "May I sit with him?

The Vulcan doctor eyed her impassively and then responded, "You should be in bed, Counselor. You are still recovering from the head trauma." Deanna stared at the doctor with pleading dark eyes. "But, it is logical to assume that even were I to order you to bed, you would be driven to disobey that order. So, I will let you sit with the Captain, provided that you sit quietly."

"Thank you, Dr. Rofay," Deanna murmured gratefully. The doctor nodded his acknowledgement.

A short time later, they had Will lying in a biobed in the ICU. The biomonitor display above his bed flickered with a myriad of data. The oxygen pump whooshed hypnotically. Deanna sat in a chair next to Will's bed. She had her petite, fine-boned fingers wrapped around his large hand. Despite her own now mind-numbing fatigue, she focused her inner being on their bond. Resolutely, she sent as much healing and loving energy as she could. Now, only time would tell whether the combination of her ministrations and the medical interventions would be enough to heal him.


Malevolent Sindareen eyes glared. Disrupters fired, their payloads singing through the air. Angry voices screamed. The words "Betazoid bitch" and "You will not take us" chorused repeatedly…Slowly these images and sounds gave way in Deanna's sleeping mind to the calming sound of an oxygen pump, reliably providing air to the intubated Will Riker.

Deanna opened her eyes slowly. Her hand was still wrapped around Will's. "I must have fallen asleep," she thought to herself. She looked up and saw Will's mouth with the tube taped in place. In an instant, the frightening events of just a few hours before flashed through her mind. Shuddering momentarily at the horrifying memories, she took a calming breath. Then she took her hand from Will's and placed her hand instead on his cheek. Stroking his face tenderly, she whispered, "Come back to me, Will…"

At that very instant, she heard foot steps approaching from behind. Deanna turned in her chair to be greeted by the sight of Beverly Crusher. Beverly walked quickly to Deanna's side and wrapped her arm around her friend's slim shoulders.

"Do you know…?" Deanna started to ask sadly. Beverly gave Deanna a concerned smile and responded as calmly as she could, "Yes, I do. I saw Dr. Rofay in the Forward Lounge. He filled me in." Beverly turned her eyes first to the biomonitor screen and then to Will's intubated visage. "Well, you've really gone and done it this time haven't you, Will Riker?" she muttered ruefully. Looking once again at Deanna's exhausted and worried face, Beverly gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze and told her, "He's in very capable hands, Deanna. Dr. Rofay is one of Starfleet's best physicians."

Deanna nodded absently and turned her attention back to Will. Tiredly, she gently probed Will's mind. A tenacious spark of energy still burned weakly in his core. She smiled slightly. "That Riker fortitude…" she sighed. Beverly grinned and nodded in agreement.

Once again, Deanna was overcome by the gravity of his situation. Wrapping both of her hands around his once more, she sent, <<Hang in there, Will. Come back to me…I'm waiting for you.>> Beverly watched mutely; though she did not fully understand the Imzadi bond between her best friends, she did know that Deanna had shared something somehow with Will just then.

After several silent moments, Will started to stir. Deanna sat bolt upright and trained her eyes intently on Will's face. In another instant, his eyelids began to flutter open. He looked around in groggy confusion. Deanna reached out and touched his face. Instantly, his half-opened blue eyes focused on her. <<I'm here, Will. Let me be your strength,>> she sent softly to him. He nodded mutely.

Beverly spoke. "Welcome back, Will," she said with a warm smile. She took a quick look at the biomonitor on the wall, noting that all the readouts were within normal parameters except for his temperature. His temperature was slightly elevated. "Not surprising," she thought to herself, "but still something to watch…"

Beverly addressed Will. "The doctor put a tube down your throat to help you breathe while you were unconscious, Will." Will raised his eyebrows in curiosity; he could not use his voice because of the tube. "You took a couple of bad hits from that Sindareen, Will," Beverly began to explain. He nodded, then waited expectantly for her to continue.

"You had a fair amount of internal bleeding and a collapsed lung. Dr. Rofay operated to repair the tissue damage and stop the hemorrhaging." Though not wearing her lab coat, Beverly began out of habit to shove her hands into non-existent pockets. Snickering in mild embarrassment, she said, "Force of habit." Will and Deanna both grinned.

Beverly's expression became serious. She stared intently at Will's questioning eyes and then continued to speak. "Will, the doctor repaired as much as he could. But regenerators can only do so much healing. This means that until you have recuperated further, you are at risk for further hemorrhaging, not to mention other complications."

With those words, Will's eyebrows shot up in shock. Deanna wheeled around and sputtered, "Complications? The doctor didn't mention any complications…" Beverly looked at Deanna's distraught expression. "Deanna, don't be alarmed…You now as well as I do that there is always a risk of post-operative infection. But Will is strong and in good health." Beverly smiled at Will again, then concluded, "He will probably recover quite uneventfully."

Deanna nodded, letting out a sigh of relief. "You know, if I weren't so tired and battered myself, I would have remembered that," she said, shaking her head. Beverly wrapped her arm around Deanna's slim shoulders once again. "Don't judge yourself harshly, Deanna. You've been through a major trauma and are not yet up to snuff yourself."

At that moment, another set of footsteps could be heard in the hallway. Within a minute, Dr. Rofay stepped into Will's room. Impassively, he surveyed the data on the biomonitor screen. He noted with undemonstrated concern the slight elevation in Will's temperature. Still, he kept his observation to himself. It seemed to him to be unwise to mention that harbinger of trouble at the moment, especially since the elevation was so slight.

"Good morning, Captain Riker. I see that you are awake and breathing normally," the Vulcan related quietly. Will nodded his head and watched the doctor intently.

"Is your breathing painful?" he asked. Will nodded and held out his thumb and index fingers to indicate the small amount of discomfort he was experiencing. "That," said the doctor, "is to be expected. Though we repaired your collapsed lung, the tissue is not fully healed. Until it is, you will feel some pain with your respirations." Will leaned his head back on the pillow tiredly.

"Is there any other pain, Captain?" Will pointed to his chest.

"You may be given pain medication if you desire," Dr. Rofay commented as he leaned forward to lift Will's shirt. The Vulcan scrutinized the red scar on Will's chest. Then he touched the skin around it. The tissue seemed to be slightly swollen. Without comment, Dr. Rofay pulled Will's shirt back down and straightened himself. When his eyes met Beverly's, he understood that she had seen exactly what he had. They both recognized the signs of a possible infection.

At that moment, the sounds of a major commotion in the main room of Sick Bay reached them. Deanna immediately closed her eyes and drew in an exasperated breath. "Mother!" Instantly, she slid her mental shields firmly in place, blocking all entry to her mind. She did not want her mother digging about inside her just now.

A few seconds after that single word left Deanna's mouth, they heard Lwaxana Troi's loud and piercing voice say, "I want to see my daughter and son-in-law. Why are you keeping me from them?" A harried -looking nurse slipped into Will's room and began to explain apologetically, "Ambassador Troi is here with her son, demanding…"

They heard the sounds of her feet and Barin's as they walked down the hall to what had been Deanna's room. "Where is she? Why is she not in her room?" Lwaxana asked imperiously. Then she turned and walked back towards the main area of Sick Bay. On her way, she noticed the open glass door to one of the ICU rooms. This brought her mental focus on the people inside that room. Immediately, she clearly sensed the presence of Drs. Crusher and Rofay. That was enough to cause her to poke her head in the room. As soon as she did, she drew in a shocked breath at what she saw: Will Riker in the biobed, intubated and hooked up to an IV.

"What is it Mother?" Barin asked in a concerned voice. He had been walking behind her as they came back down the hallway and so had not entered Will's room when his mother did. As soon as she heard her son's worried question, she yelled, "No, don't come in" and attempted to block Barin's passage into Will's room. Her effort came too late: Barin screamed in horror as he saw a clearly injured Will Riker lying in the bed. Hot tears of sheer terror and pain began to flood his thin cheeks. "Noooo, not again!" he cried loudly. Then he collapsed to the floor in a heap, his body wracked by sobs.

Deanna spun away from Will's side and ran to her brother. She fell to his side and drew him up into her arms. Then Lwaxana dropped to her knees beside them. She placed a comforting hand on his back. "Shh, Little Man, it will be alright," she soothed.

"Mother," Deanna said softly, "he shouldn't have seen this."

"I know Little One," she said mournfully as she stroked Barin's shaking back. Deanna looked meaningfully at her mother. "You need to take him away from here as soon as possible. He needs a healing environment and help he can only get on Betazed." Lwaxana nodded sadly.

Deanna bent her head down and rested it against Barin's. "It's not as bad as it looks, Barin. Will got hurt last night, but he will get better soon," she murmured soothingly.

"Who hurt him?" Barin asked in a small, timid voice. "Was it those bad people from the planet?"

"Yes, Barin, it was," she answered quietly. He curled up even tighter in Deanna's loving embrace and began to cry with renewed fear. Deanna sensed the shift in her brother and reassuringly told him, "They are gone, Barin. They cannot hurt anyone ever again." Her brother pulled his head away from her chest and looked up searchingly at her face. "Truth?" he whispered. "Yes, it's the truth, Barin. You know I can't lie to you."

At that moment, Beverly stepped into the hallway. "Hello again, Barin," she smiled. He focused his large dark eyes mournfully on Beverly's face. "You know, Dr. Rofay was just going to remove the tube from Will because he's breathing so well now. Would you like to watch?" She instinctively understood the boy's need for reassurance about a man he clearly hero-worshipped. She held out her hand and waited for Barin to wrap his small fingers around it. Wordlessly, she helped him stand. Wrapping her arm around his shoulders, she walked with him into Will's room.

"Captain Riker," Dr. Rofay said, "when I begin to pull this tube out, you should breathe out. It will make the passage of the tube less uncomfortable." Will nodded his understanding. "Are you ready?" the doctor inquired. Will looked at him attentively. "Very good. Now breathe out as hard as you can." As Will breathed out, the doctor pulled the tube deftly from Will's throat. In an instant, the tube was gone and Will was left gagging slightly.

Beverly looked down reassuringly at Barin. "See, Barin? No more tube. See how well he is doing?" The boy nodded solemnly.

Lwaxana gently took her son's hand. Looking first at Beverly and then at Deanna, she said in an uncharacteristically quiet voice, "It's time to go find out about getting transportation home." Deanna acknowledged her with a knowing smile. She knew their mother would now pull every string she knew of to get them both back to Betazed in record time.

"We will come say goodbye when we are ready to leave," Lwaxana said. She smiled gently at Barin and then at Deanna. Deanna smiled warmly at them both and said, "I'm sure you will, Mother. I will see you both later." She watched the two of them walk to the main area of Sick Bay. Then she turned and stepped back into Will's room.

She sat once again in the chair by Will's bed. "Hey," she said lovingly as she wove her fingers among his. "Hey yourself," Will responded in a hoarse voice. A silent moment ensured where depthless onyx eyes locked onto crystal clear blue ones. And in that silent connection flowed wordless feelings of love and caring.

The silence was broken by Dr. Rofay. He touched Deanna's shoulder gently, drawing her attention momentarily away from Will. "And how are you, Counselor?" he asked quietly as he switched on his tricorder.

"If you must know, I'm exhausted beyond belief and my head hurts. But otherwise, I think I'm alright," she answered.

The Vulcan remained silent as he swept the tricorder in circuits up and down Deanna's head and torso. Clicking the instrument off, Dr. Rofay commented, "Indeed, Counselor. Your recovery has proceeded well, surprisingly so given the circumstances. However, your current fatigue is taxing your ability to sustain the recovery. You should be in bed."

"But Doctor…," Deanna began to protest. Dr. Rofay raised his hand. "I understand your desire to remain with the Captain. I will therefore recommend a compromise. We will exchange that chair for a recliner. In this way, your can remain at your husband's side and I will be satisfied that you are resting comfortably." He crooked one eyebrow in typical Vulcan fashion and waited for her answer. Deanna smiled widely and said, "An excellent solution!" The doctor simply nodded and started for the door.

"And Doctor?" Deanna said. He stopped and turned around, looking at her quizzically. "Thank you," she smiled. "Indeed," he replied and left the room.


Deanna had been sleeping in the recliner beside Will's bed. Despite her best efforts to remain awake, the comforting arms of slumber had finally begun to capture her. Finally, her body and mind yielded to the healing relaxation that only rest could offer.

After she had been asleep for an indeterminate span of time, painful moans began to cut into her dreams. Will's face, contorted in pain, floated in her sleeping mind. Slowly, as Deanna drifted towards consciousness, the moans grew louder. That voice…Will's voice. There was suffering in his voice. Will was in pain. With that semi-conscious realization, Deanna sat bolt upright in her chair.

Wide awake now, she focused immediately on Will. As in her dream, his face was twisted in pain. Deanna immediately arose and leaned over to put a comforting hand on his cheek. His skin was hot to the touch. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Her eyes went wide as a charge of concern shot through her. Just as she reached for the comm button on the side of Will's bed, Dr. Rofay strode in.

"You came just in time, Doctor. He's burning up and pain," she said urgently. The Vulcan nodded impassively and stepped to Will's side. Quickly, he looked to the biomonitor screen. The number 101 flashed on the readout for body temperature.
He shook his head slightly, then focused his attention directly on Will.

"Captain," Dr. Rofay said as he placed his hand on Will's shoulder, "are you in pain?"
Will nodded his head. His eyebrows were knitted and his eyes clenched shut in an effort to keep at bay the throbbing pain in his chest and the general aching that suffused his body. Deanna fastened her concerned gaze on the doctor.

"He's feverish. It's a post-operative infection, isn't it?"

"Yes, Counselor, it is. I will have a nurse bring a hypospray to administer an antibiotic." He pulled a hypospray from his lab coat pocket. "I surmised that the captain might be in discomfort by now, so I brought a dose of oxycodone." With that comment, the laconic Vulcan administered the pain killer. "This should also address the discomfort he is experiencing from the infection." Deanna nodded, worry etched onto her features.

Dr. Rofay tapped his comm badge. "We need the hypospray of the broad-spectrum antibiotic for the captain now," he said.

"On its way," the nurse responded.

Within a few minutes, a nurse appeared at the entrance to Will's room, hypospray in her hand and ready to go. Dr. Rofay nodded a silent acknowledgement and took the instrument from her hand. Turning back to face Will, the doctor injected the medicine in Will's neck.

Before Deanna had a chance to ask any questions, the Vulcan began to speak. "Normally there is a very small risk of post-operative infection. However, in the captain's case, there was a gap in time between the injury and our surgical intervention. Moreover, there may have been bacteria intrinsic to the Sindareens that got into the wound. Did anyone of them touch the captain?"

A sudden memory of what Deanna heard while attempting to hide under the bed flashed through her mind. "Although I didn't see what happened, I could tell from what I heard that the leader must have touched Will." Dr. Rofay nodded grimly.

"Our transporter biofilters are not 100 % effective, Counselor. They generally remove any obvious surface bacteria. But internal bacteria, even pernicious ones, can be carried past the filter. It is thus my guess that the Sindareens harbored internal bacteria that escaped the filter. And though hand-to-hand contact with Sindareens has not yet proved harmful, the captain had an open wound which permitted bacterial entry into his body. It is thus logical to conclude that the Sindareen's proximal contact with the captain permitted the bacterial contamination that has resulted in his current infection."

"Do we even know what we are dealing with?" Deanna nearly whispered.

"Unfortunately we do not, Counselor. We have very little medical data in our computer concerning the Sindareen race."

"Then the antibiotic is just a shot in the dark, isn't it?"

"A crude way to characterize his current treatment, but yes, Counselor, this is a guess. Only time will tell us now if the antibiotic will treat his infection adequately."

Deanna dropped heavily back into the recliner. She shook her head, tears born of exhaustion and fear trickling down her cheeks. Then, she sat up straight, took a deep breath and tightly replied, "Thank you, Dr. Rofay."

The Vulcan nodded his head imperceptibly. "I will return later to reassess the captain," he commented. Then he turned and walked out of the room.

Deanna leaned over and wrapped her fingers around Will's hand. Leaning her head against the mattress, she let her mind wander briefly. "Is this how it is going to be? Am I going to lose him to a rogue bacterium?...Gods, it is so hard to believe that this all started with a beautiful shore leave…" She turned her head so she could see his face, so flushed with suffering and fever. Stroking his hand gently, she focused her mind on their bond. <<Draw from me, Imzadi. I'm here…Let my love heal you.>>


Several hours later, Lwaxana and Barin found Deanna sitting on the side of Will's bed. Her back was to them and she was intently focused on Will. As they stepped closer, they saw her wiping his flushed cheeks with a cool, wet rag. Lwaxana immediately sensed Will's compromised condition. Instantly, she clamped her mental barriers in place to protect Barin; she knew an awareness of Will's suffering would only upset Barin yet again.

Lwaxana stepped to Deanna's side. Gently, she rested her hand on her daughter's slim shoulder. Deanna turned her head, her face a mask of deep concern. The instant Deanna saw Barin standing behind their mother, she quickly closed off her mind and put the calmest smile possible on her face.

"Hello, Little One," Lwaxana said quietly, her dark eyes filled with understanding.

"Hello, Mother," Deanna replied tiredly. "Oh, and hello there, Barin. Are you getting ready to leave now?" Barin smiled back timidly and said, "Yes, Mother got a transport to come pick us up and take us home…"

"It will be nice to be going home, won't it?" Deanna asked, trying hard to maintain the pleasant tone in her voice despite her fatigue.

"Yes," he responded simply. Lwaxana looked down at her son and gave him a loving smile. Then Barin noticed the feverish tint to Will's face. "He's not well, is he?" Barin asked, panic creeping into his voice. Lwaxana pulled him to her in a comforting embrace and waited for Deanna to ease his anxiety.

"No, Barin. He is a little sick right now, but the doctor is treating him to help him get better." Barin stared at her uncertainly. "Barin, you know what it's like to get sick, don't you?" He nodded solemnly. "Well, then you know that you can get a fever." He nodded again, waiting for her to continue. "Well, Will looks so flushed because he has a fever. But just as your doctor and Mother take care of you when you are sick, we are all taking care of Will here."

"Will he get better?" the boy asked in a worried tone. Deanna hesitated a brief instant and then responded with a forced smile, "That's the plan." Lwaxana looked at Deanna meaningfully; she had not missed Deanna's hesitation. Then in her most breezy and grandiose manner, Lwaxana announced, "Well, it would hardly do for us to miss that transport!" Deanna smiled gratefully. "Be well Mother."

Barin twisted out of his mother's embrace and ran to Deanna. She rested her hand against his soft cheek. "Take care of yourself, Barin. Have a good trip home, okay?" He smiled and threw his arms around her. After a silent moment filled with his concern for Will and his love for her, Barin pulled away. "We've got to go now," he whispered. Deanna nodded and smiled lovingly at her brother. With that, Lwaxana took Barin by the hand. Looking pointedly at Deanna, Lwaxana said simply, "Strength, Little One." And with that, Lwaxana and her son stepped out of Will's room.

Deanna turned her attention back to Will. She pressed her hand against his sweaty forehead. It still felt as if he was burning up. Shaking her head, she looked at the temperature readout on the biomonitor. Desperation shot through her as she realized that his temperature had climbed even higher, to 102°. Was there no way to stop this infection?

A moment later, the sound of footsteps greeted her ears. She turned to see Dr. Rofay walking into Will's room. Offering her merely a curt nod, he studied the biomonitor intently. One pointed eyebrow crawled up his forehead as he noted the increased temperature and then Will's flushed and sweaty face.

The Vulcan did not even bother to call for a nurse. Quickly, he reached into the supply cabinet and took out a fresh IV line. Turning to the computer console imbedded in the wall, he typed in a request for the antibiotic. Instants later, it materialized on the replicator pad next to the console, in a clear bag and ready to be hooked up to the IV line.

Dr. Rofay hooked up the medicine and the IV line to the needle still stuck in Will's arm. Then he turned to Deanna. "It is clear that intermittent doses of antibiotic are not going to be effective. I have switched the captain to an IV. It is my hope that the constant dosing an IV affords will be more effective."

"Your hope?" Deanna asked dully. She knew what the answer was going to be.

"Yes, Counselor, my hope. It would not be productive for me to lie to you. We are dealing with unfamiliar bacteria." The laconic doctor folded his hand in front of him. "But I assure you we will do everything we can to help the captain recover."

"Yes, I understand," Deanna sighed tiredly. She turned to look sadly at Will's feverish face. Shaking her head, she picked up the wash cloth and once again began to wipe his sweat-covered forehead and cheeks.

"One final thing, Counselor," Dr. Rofay said.

"Yes?" Deanna responded, not moving her eyes from Will.

"I have a technician working on a genetic analysis of the bacterium. Perhaps this will yield useful treatment information."

"Thank you," Deanna uttered mechanically, not really focusing on his words now.

"You should know that Dr. Crusher has offered her assistance in this effort. She is highly qualified in this area of research." The mention of Beverly's name caught Deanna's attention. A small spark of hope ignited in Deanna's heart. "Maybe," Deanna thought to herself, "Beverly will find something. If anyone can, it'll be Beverly."


Early in the evening, Beverly sat in the biolab, hunched over a keyboard with her index finger touching the computer screen. She was reviewing the results of the testing she and the technician had conducted on the Sindareen bacteria they had isolated from a sample of Will's blood. Intently, her blue eyes scanned the information before her. Then she sat back and absent-mindedly attempted to knead the tension out of her taut neck muscles.

"Computer, medical log entry, dictated and stored in directory CrusherCMO," Beverly requested of the ship's computer.

"Ready to receive verbal log entry," the computer's feminine but mechanical-sounding voice responded.

"Crusher, Beverly, Head of Starfleet Medical, reporting findings on the Sindareen bacterium that has invaded and infected Captain Riker," Beverly began.

"Please proceed," the computer intoned.

"The bacterium, now named Sindarinsis, is genetically not dissimilar from typical bacteria found on earth. However, those minute differences make Sindarinsis unique in its behavior. First, it produces an agent that causes red blood cells to clump together, much as they would in natural clotting. Once the red blood cells are clumped, the bacterium draws its nourishment from those grouped cells. In addition, the outer cellular membrane is far thicker than any currently on record. The membrane's permeability appears to allow only slow absorption of external substances.

What does this mean as far as treatment options for Captain Riker are concerned? One of the most obvious interventions to limit the spread of the infection, if not arrest it, would be to thin his blood and begin to break up the clumped red blood cells. This would effectively starve Sindarinsis of its food source and ultimately begin to kill it. However, this is not an option for the captain. We cannot risk reducing his clotting ability further by thinning the blood and compromising his recovery from his injuries and the surgery.

This leads us to consider antibiotic treatment. We are currently in the middle of assays to determine the most effective medication. However, because of the slow absorption rate of the bacterium, it will be another day before we can have a definitive answer in that regard.

Crusher out."

At the same time that Beverly was making her report, Will was battling against the infection now raging inside his body. Deanna had remained at his side, periodically wiping the sweat from his face. From time to time, she would glance at the biomonitor to see the temperature readout confirm what she already knew instinctively: his fever was on the rise.

Dr. Rofay stepped into Will's room to check on him. He found Deanna sitting on the side of Will's bed, watching Will intently. The Vulcan took one look at the biomonitor screen and hit his comm badge.

"I need nurses in the captain's room," he barked. Deanna jerked back involuntarily at the sound of his voice. She had not heard him enter.

"It was not my intent to startle you, Counselor," he said laconically.

"That's alright, Doctor," she replied tiredly. With concern etched on her care-worn face, she locked her dark eyes onto the doctor's. "He's getting worse, isn't he?" she uttered quietly.

"Let me check the captain," was his reply. Deanna nodded sadly and slid off the bed. Dr. Rofay stepped to the side of Will's bed. Bending down, he pulled Will's shirt up to examine the surgical site. The doctor shook his head at the sight that greeted him: the area surrounding the incision in Will's chest was puffy and an angry red.

Dr. Rofay pressed his comm. badge once again. "Rofay to Dr. Crusher," he called out.

"Crusher here. What can I do for you?" came back Beverly's disembodied voice.

"What have you found out about the Sindareen bacterium?" he inquired as he stared at the biomonitor screen.

"I just downloaded my medical report," she replied.

"And?" he asked.

"The long and short of it, Doctor, is that we will not know until well into tomorrow which antibiotics are most effective. This bacterium is one nasty piece of work…Doctor, how is the captain?"

"Right now, his fever is over 103° and shows no sign of abating," he responded. At that very minute, two nurses appeared at the doorway to the room.

"Rofay out," he said quickly. "We must cool the captain down. I want him stripped of his garments. We will begin to wipe him down with cool water," he told the nurses. They nodded.

"Can I assist?" Deanna asked plaintively. The impassive Vulcan looked at her in silent consideration, then nodded. "Very well, Counselor." With that, the nurses stepped to either side of Will's bed and carefully removed first his pajama shirt, then the pants. In deference to his modesty, one of the nurses placed a towel over Will's crotch.

As soon as the other nurse ordered up wash cloths and basins of cool water, each of the four people present grabbed a cloth and wet it. With slow, gentle strokes, they wet Will's body down with the cooling liquid. Deanna, who had stationed herself near Will's head, also wiped Will's face tenderly with the cool, wet cloth. As she did so, his eyes fluttered open slightly and he moaned.

The sound of Will's voice caught the doctor's attention immediately. He focused his dark Vulcan eyes upon the flushed face of his captain.

"Captain, are you in pain?" Dr. Rofay asked softly. Will nodded almost imperceptibly. The Vulcan physician turned to the nurse at his side. "Administer another dose of oxycodone. Then, administer a hypospray of an anti-pyretic. We need to do as much as we can to get this fever down or, at least, to prevent it rising further." The nurse nodded and turned to the computer console to request the medications. An instant later, two hyposprays materialized on the replicator pad next to the console.

Dr. Rofay administered each of the doses. Then he glanced yet again at the biomonitor screen. The data was unchanged. Looking intently first at his captain, then at Deanna, the Vulcan said quietly, "Let us hope we can hold things as they are for the next day."

The nurses pulled the bed sheet and blanket up over Will's body and then left the room. Dr. Rofay nodded at Deanna, then turned to leave.

Deanna sat once again on the side of Will's bed. Pulling his hand out from under the covers, she wrapped her fine-boned fingers around his large hand. As she had before, she closed her eyes and focused her mind on Will. She reached deep inside of herself, past the thick fog of fatigue that shrouded her inner being, to find a pool of healing energy to give to Will. Silently, lovingly, she emanated that energy across their bond. His soul was bathed in the healing warmth of her gentle ministrations. She picked up his hand and brought it to her lips. Kissing it lightly, she murmured, "Fight this Will. Fight this."


Late that night, Beverly returned to the ICU. She wanted to check in on Will. And she had a strong hunch that Deanna would still be there. Beverly knew that Deanna would need some moral support.

Beverly walked into Will's room. The sight of Deanna clearly asleep, her head resting next to Will's hand on the bed greeted her eyes. Beverly stepped quietly over to the bed and gently touched Deanna's shoulder. Deanna slowly raised her head, blinking the sleepiness out of her eyes.

"Hi," Beverly said softly.

"Hi," Deanna said in a drowsy voice. Beverly smiled at her friend, then scanned the data on the biomonitor. Her smile fled when she saw that Will's temperature had climbed to 103.5°. Deanna did not miss either the change in Beverly's demeanor or the direction of her stare. Keeping her dark Betazoid eyes trained Beverly, Deanna asked grimly, "What is it now?"

"It's gone up to 103.5°," Beverly responded impassively. She gripped Deanna's slim shoulder sympathetically. At that moment, a nurse walked in with a hypospray.

"It's time for the captain's next dose of the anti-pyretic," the nurse reported as she leaned over to administer the dose into Will's neck. A quick scan of the biomonitor data brought a frown to her face. Quickly, she ordered up wash cloths and basins of cool water. Then she turned intense eyes upon the two friends. "Can you assist?" Beverly and Deanna nodded silently, and took wet cloths from the nurse.

As was done earlier that evening, the three women pulled back Will's bed clothes and began to wipe him down. Carefully but quickly, they placed wet, cooling strokes on his face, neck, arms, legs and finally, with infinite gentleness, his chest. A soft moan exited Will's mouth, though his eyes did not open. Deanna stopped to place a comforting hand on his cheek and then lovingly brush away the pain lines etched into his face.

Once they had finished wiping Will with the cool water, the nurse collected the cloths and water basins. Tossing them into the recycler, she then turned back to pull Will's covers back up. Deanna gently blocked the nurse's hands with her own. She smiled slightly and told the nurse, "I'd like to take care of that." The nurse grinned pleasantly and replied, "Of course. I will return later to check on the captain."

"Thank you," Deanna said appreciatively.

"Certainly, Counselor. Oh, and Counselor?"


"You should be in that recliner. Dr. Rofay will be none to happy if he finds you still sitting on that bed." This brought an amused smile to Deanna's face. A brief spark of animation entered Deanna's eyes as she remarked, "Thanks for your concern. But don't worry, I can handle the good doctor." The nurse snickered as she stepped out of the room.

Beverly looked at Deanna intently. "She's right, you know. You should be in that recliner," Beverly said.

"But…," Deanna began to protest.

"Excuse me? There're no 'buts' about it. Now sit in that recliner, or I'll put you there myself!" Beverly commanded firmly. "Now!" she added as she pointed at the chair. Without a further word of protest, Deanna dropped herself tiredly into the comfortable cushions of the recliner.

"Now, have you even bothered to eat anything in the last day?" Beverly asked in her sternest mother voice. Deanna shut her eyes and shook her head. "I haven't been hungry…" she whispered.

"I might have guessed you wouldn't bother," Beverly harrumphed. Deanna crooked open one eye to look at her friend, waiting for her next barrage. But Beverly offered her nothing more than a sympathetic smile. She reached out and placed her hand on Deanna's arm. "There's never a bad time for some hot chocolate," Beverly remarked with an impish wink. Deanna opened her eyes and sat up. Grinning slightly, Deanna said softly, "How well you know me, Beverly!"

In short order, Beverly replicated a cup of tea for herself and a mug of hot chocolate for Deanna. For a few moments, they sipped their steaming beverages in silence. Then Deanna put her hands in her lap, cradling the mug between her hands.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Beverly inquired softly.

"It's been barely a week since we beamed down to Risa for our shore leave," Deanna began.

"And some shore leave that turned out to be," Beverly commented wryly. "That's when this all started, isn't it?"

"No, Beverly, actually this all started years ago," Deanna sighed.

"What do you mean?" Beverly asked, somewhat surprised at what Deanna had just said.

"Revenge, Beverly…At what cost does revenge come?" Deanna remarked absently.

"I'm not sure I understand," Beverly replied, mystified at her friend's words.

"Beverly, this all began on Betazed nearly 20 years ago…When a gang of Sindareens robbed our museum. The leader of the gang, Maror, took me as hostage and escaped into the Jalara jungle. Will, who was stationed on Betazed at the time, rescued me…"

"This is when you two became Imzadi, isn't it?" Beverly asked.

"Yes, it is," Deanna replied. She lapsed into a moment of silent reminiscence. Then she began to speak again.

"In the course of that rescue attempt, Maror died through his own carelessness. The Sindareens have always thought that Will killed him and have nurtured a grudge over the years against him." Beverly let out a horrified gasp.

"And they never forgave you for revealing their duplicity at that conference years ago, did they?"

"No, Beverly. So they really had both of us in their sights. It was an unfortunate set of fortuitous events that gave them their chance for revenge," Deanna commented softly. "And if Will dies now…" she whispered.

"Then they will have gotten part of what they wanted," Beverly said. Deanna nodded sadly, a lone tear rolling down her cheek.

"Well," Beverly said brightly, "if I know Will, he'll be damned if he would give them that satisfaction." Beverly smiled warmly at Deanna. "He's one scrappy fellow, Deanna. If anyone can pull through this, it is Will Riker."


Early the next morning, Beverly sat in the Forward Lounge, the Titan's equivalent to the Enterprise's Ten Forward. She was absent-mindedly stirring the eggs on her plate around with her fork. Her mind was anywhere but on her breakfast. Visions of Will Riker, his face flushed with fever, and Deanna Troi, looking pale and care-worn, danced before her eyes.

The sound of approaching footsteps broke her reverie. She looked up to find the towering figure of Commander Worf standing next to her, his dark penetrating eyes boring into her.

"I did not mean to disturb you, Dr. Crusher," Worf apologized.

"That's alright, Worf," Beverly smiled tiredly.

"Might I join you?" Worf asked.

"Of course," Beverly replied. "Have you eaten yet?"

"Yes, I ate earlier, Doctor," he said as he sat down in the chair to her left. Then, after a moment of awkward silence, Worf asked, "How is the captain doing?"

"He is not doing well, Worf," she answered. Then she locked her intense blue-eyed gaze onto his craggy Klingon features. "Why haven't you been to visit him?" she asked pointedly. Worf drew himself up in an erect military posture.

"It would not be seemly for me to see the captain in his weakened state," he replied gruffly. An exasperated sigh escaped Beverly's lips as she eyed the burly Klingon judgmentally.

"He is your former commanding officer and he is your friend, Worf. Doesn't that count for something? You know he would visit you if the tables were turned," she exclaimed.

"He is not a Klingon. Further more, Doctor, I do not think he would want me to see him in a compromised state," Worf insisted firmly.

"Well then, how about visiting to give some support to Deanna? She could use all the support she could get right now," Beverly argued. Worf opened his mouth to reply, but Beverly interjected, "It would not have to be a long visit, Worf. Just a few minutes…I know you'll be leaving the Titan to return to your normal duties later this morning. Please…for Deanna." She stared at him with gently pleading eyes.

"Well, I suppose that would be acceptable," Worf conceded. Beverly saw the reluctance reflected in his face. Nodding pleasantly, she said, "Deanna will appreciate this, I know." She patted his arm warmly and gave him an encouraging wink.

"I was just about to go to the biolab to check on the results of the tests we ran on the Sindareen bacteria. I can walk with you to Sick Bay," Beverly said brightly.

"Very well, Doctor." Worf stood up out of his chair and waited for Beverly to do the same. Together, they walked out of the Forward Lounge and towards the nearest turbolift.

A few minutes later, they exited the turbolift and walked into Sick Bay. Smiling at the nurses who were working in the main area of the medical facility, Beverly walked straight back to the ICU with Worf at her side.

A short walk brought them to the entrance to Will's room. The sight that greeted their eyes brought a renewed surge of urgency and fear in Beverly. Yet again, Will was being wiped down in an effort to control his fever. Deanna, her face a mask of contained suffering, was swabbing his forehead tenderly. Instantly, Beverly scanned the biomonitor screen. Will's temperature had gone up another half a degree. "Good lord," Beverly thought to herself, "how much longer can he take this?"

Worf took in the scene before him and said quietly to Beverly, "Perhaps this is not a good time, Doctor." Beverly placed a cautionary hand on his arm and murmured, "Worf, it will be fine. Once they are done with the captain, we can go in." She watched Deanna's care-worn face intently for a moment, then continued, "Deanna needs support now more than ever." Worf whispered back, "As you wish, Dr. Crusher."

When the two nurses and Deanna were finished in their latest efforts to cool Will down, Deanna straightened up to stretch and pull some of the tense kinks out of her back muscles. She happened to look towards the doorway, where she saw Beverly and Worf standing, waiting expectantly. Deanna offered them a sad smile. Tiredly, she welcomed them in to the room.

Worf walked over to the bed stiffly; it upset his Klingon sensibilities to see a fellow officer so weak and helpless. "Thank you for coming, Worf," Deanna murmured in a voice laced with fatigue and worry. Her smile was forced, but her eyes spoke of her appreciation for his visit.

Beverly stepped to Deanna's side and said, "I would stay longer, Deanna, but I must go to the lab and check on the cultures. They may just be far enough along to tell us something useful." Deanna nodded dully. Beverly gave her shoulder a friendly squeeze. "I'll return when I have some news." With that, Beverly strode quickly out the door and down the corridor to the entrance to Sick Bay.

"Deanna, I…," Worf began. Deanna looked up at the towering Klingon's piercing dark eyes. Seeing both concern and embarrassment in their depths, Deanna grasped his large hand in a gentle grip full of genuine affection. "Worf, you needn't say a thing," she said softly. "I know this is not easy for you. And I do appreciate you coming to see me." Worf placed his other hand on top of hers, encasing it between his own large hands. He gave her hand a gentle, comforting squeeze, and then pulled his hands away. She nodded a silent thank you.

Worf stepped back and unconsciously assumed a military stance. Trying hard not to stare at the fallen form of his former commander, he cleared his throat nervously and began to speak.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Counselor?" Deanna looked solemnly at Worf and then shifted her gaze to Will lying beside her. "Thank you, no," she murmured sadly.

"I am sure the captain will make it. He is a strong man," Worf assured her. Deanna shut her long-lashed eyes for a moment, allowing two orbs of moisture to crawl down her cheeks. "I hope you are right," she whispered brokenly. Then she opened her eyes and wiped the tracks of her tears away with the back of her hand.

"Well, I must go now," Worf announced. Deanna nodded silently. Worf closed the distance between them, leaned over and placed a light kiss on Deanna's cheek. It had been years since they had been lovers and he knew that she was happily married to Will, but he still harbored a reservoir of affection for her. "Take care of yourself and the captain, Deanna," he said in his gruff baritone voice.

"Thank you Worf," she said as he turned to walk out of the room. In another instant, she was alone with Will. She stared at his fever-stricken form, at the angry red scar on his chest. A wave of mournful grief washed over her. She buried her head against Will's arm on the mattress. "Is your life going to be lost to meaningless vengeance, Imzadi?" she murmured between sobs.


Beverly quickly bridged the distance between Sick Bay and the biolab. As soon as she entered the lab, she went directly to the technician who was busy examining cultures of the Sindareen bacterium isolated from Will's blood the day before. Resting her hand gently on the technician's shoulder, Beverly leaned over and gave her a hopeful smile.

"I don't know if you want to be smiling or not, Dr. Crusher," the technician commented quietly. Beverly's smile fled instantly.

"What have you been able to find out so far?" she asked tightly.

"Well, given the captain's condition, nothing optimistic," the technician replied sadly. "Here, see for yourself," she added as she handed a data padd to Beverly. Beverly took the padd from the technician and scanned the information. The more she read, the more concerned she grew. The data confirmed that lessening Will's clotting ability would inhibit the bacterium's ability to feed and thus, ultimately, would kill it. But reducing his clotting ability would also dramatically increase his risk of hemorrhaging internally.

"You're right, Lieutenant, this is not good news for the captain," Beverly murmured ruefully. "If only he weren't so at-risk for post-operative hemorrhaging… Well, any luck on the antibiotic front?"

"The only antibiotics that have any effect are the aminoclycosides," the technician responded.

"And what exactly is the effect?" Beverly pressed.

"Well," the technician began, rubbing her forehead tensely, "as one would expect, this antibiotic does cause the bacterium to develop and attempt to synthesize abnormal proteins."

"But?" Beverly interjected impatiently.

"But the problem is that the bacterial membrane is so thick, it allows only minimal amounts of the drug into the cell's interior…"

"Thus limiting the amount of abnormal protein production…," Beverly concluded.

"Exactly," the technician chimed in.

"And greatly slowing the bacterium's demise," Beverly added.

"Yes, Doctor. And given Captain Riker's already compromised condition…," the technician began to comment.

"…it may be too little too late," Beverly sighed. She rubbed her hand over her eyes, trying to think through a treatment protocol that might kill the bacterium without also killing Will in the process.

At that moment, the biolab doors whooshed open. Beverly and the Lieutenant turned around to see who had entered the lab. They both watched as the ever-impassive Dr. Rofay stepped in.

"Good morning, Dr. Crusher." He tilted his head towards Beverly. "Good morning Lieutenant." They stared at him, waiting for the inevitable questions about the research.

"Well, what have you found?" the Vulcan asked. Quickly, tensely, they filled the Titan's CMO in on the information gleaned from the cultures. Dr. Rofay's face betrayed no emotion as he listened to the dispiriting news.

"It seems we have come to the point where the only beneficial treatment may be just as bad for the captain as not treating him at all," he commented. "However, as the captain's physician, it is my obligation to take what ever measures are necessary to save his life." Beverly and the technician stared mutely at the Vulcan, waiting expectantly for his pronouncement.

"It seems that the aminoclycoside antibiotic has at least a minimal toxic effect on the bacterium. And it is clear that reducing the clotting ability of the captain's red blood cells will shut off the bacterium's food supply. And it is also clear that if we do not intervene aggressively, we will lose the captain. It is thus logical to conclude that aggressive intervention is the only option available to us."

"What are you suggesting, Doctor?" Beverly asked, guessing she already knew the answer.

"That we start the captain on both an IV dosing of Gentamicin and a regimen of an anticoagulant now," he answered flatly. Beverly looked at Dr. Rofay questioningly. As if reading her mind, Dr. Rofay then offered, "I know that this approach will put the captain at great risk for internal hemorrhaging. But we have no other options available. The only other choice is certain death."

"Very well," Beverly conceded.

"I will go inform Counselor Troi-Riker now of our recommendation," the Vulcan announced.

"I'll go with you, Doctor," Beverly said. He nodded his head impassively and turned towards the entrance to the lab. Wordlessly, he and Beverly exited the lab.

A few minutes later, they entered Will's room in the ICU. As had been the case numerous times over the last day, Will was being swabbed down with cooling water.
His face was still flushed with fever. His chest looked puffy, the incision scar swollen and red.

Deanna was gently wiping Will's face, neck and one arm. Her exhausted eyes were trained intently on her husband. Though Deanna said nothing out loud, it seemed to Beverly that she was again communicating something to Will.

Beverly cleared her throat gently to draw Deanna's attention. Deanna paused in her ministrations and turned towards the door way. Tiredly, she scanned their faces for any hint of news.

"Counselor, may we have a word with you?" Dr. Rofay asked quietly.

"Of course, Doctor," Deanna replied. She carefully laid down the washcloth she had been using and stepped over to them.

"Counselor, based on Dr. Crusher's findings about the Sindareen bacterium, we have determined that there is only one course of treatment available to him," the Vulcan began to explain.

"Yes?" Deanna murmured, shooting a questioning glance from Dr. Rofay's face to Beverly's and back again.

"He must be started immediately on a blood thinner and on a new antibiotic." Deanna's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "A blood thinner? Won't that dramatically increase his chances of bleeding internally?" she asked in a worried voice.

"Yes, it will, Counselor. But this is the only way we can interrupt the bacterium's behavior quickly enough to help the captain. The new antibiotic itself is neither effective enough nor fast-acting enough. With the two treatments together, however, we will be able to halt the bacterial infection," he explained patiently.

"Unless he bleeds to death…," Deanna muttered. Beverly put a comforting hand on Deanna's shoulder. Eyeing her intently, Beverly said, "Deanna, the alternative is his death." Deanna focused her sad dark eyes on Beverly's concerned face.

"Very well. Do what you have to do," Deanna whispered. Beverly gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

Dr. Rofay stepped to the computer to order up an IV bag filled with the new antibiotic and a hypospray of warfarin. Nearly instantly, the two requested items appeared on the replicator pad. He grabbed the hypospray and injected the anticoagulant into Will's neck. Then he picked up the new IV bag and connected Will's IV line to it. Giving the line a tap to start the new liquid flowing, the Titan's CMO nodded nearly imperceptibly. Turning then to leave the room, he said to Deanna, "We will monitor him closely."
Deanna nodded tiredly and sat down in the recliner.

Beverly waited until the Vulcan physician and the nurses were gone. "Would you like me to stay, Deanna?" she asked gently. Deanna whispered, "That's not necessary," and wrapped her petite hand around Will's larger one. Beverly leaned over, gave her best friend a gentle hug and said, "If you need anything at all, just let me know."

Deanna rested her head on the mattress beside Will. Staring lovingly at his flushed face, she sent to him, <<Hang in there, Will… We still have a shore leave to finish…And many more to come.>> A single glistening globe trickled down her cheek. <<Come back to me Will. I miss you.>>


Will floated in a drug and fever induced haze, the one he'd been in for much of the last day and a half. He felt himself suspended in some unknown place where time and place had no meaning. A kaleidoscope of images floated on the periphery of his awareness: nurses… Deanna's care-worn face… snarling Sindareens…the Vulcan ship's doctor…Beverly Crusher. Beverly…why was she here?

The infection-driven ache in his body made him feel as if his bones and muscles had been crushed by a ten-ton weight. Unbidden, moans periodically escaped his mouth, inarticulate testament to the overwhelming pain that suffused him.

The fiery heat of his fever threatened to consume him. Could no one put out the conflagration that raged through his body? Only occasionally did he gain a brief respite from that consuming fire. At those times, he was dimly aware of deliciously cooling moisture spreading along his body, a stroke at a time. And voices…he would hear voices. There was one among them that seeped into his mind, gently caressing and soothing him…Deanna's musical voice…And though he could not make out her words, her voice was a healing balm to his soul.

After the ship's CMO left the room earlier that day, Deanna had rested her head on the mattress beside Will. Slowly, the sound of Will's soft breathing lulled her into a much-needed sleep. Her slumber was peopled with a mélange of images of Will…his strong large hand wrapped around her petite one…his sparkling, sensual blue eyes…his full-bodied laughter…his brilliantly joyous smile, all interspersed with whispers of "Imzadi." Oddly, not a single image of Will ill or compromised entered her sleeping thoughts. In a corner of her somnolent mind, a small voice murmured, "What does that mean?"

Slowly, the sound of a plaintive moan wove its way into her sleep. As the sound repeated, it beckoned Deanna from her world of dreams. But it was the sudden rapid slap of footsteps entering the room that jolted her back across the final distance to the waking world. Groggily, she lifted her head to see Dr. Rofay at her side, scanning Will hurriedly with a tricorder. Though the Vulcan doctor's chiseled features betrayed no emotion, the rapidity of his scanning bespoke his deep concern.

Now fully awake, Deanna quickly looked at Will's face. What she saw shocked her. Instead of bearing a flushed appearance, his skin had gone deathly pale. Instinctively, she reached out to take Will's hand into hers. The unexpected coolness of his hand sent shivers of panicked worry through her.

"He's bleeding internally, isn't he?" she whispered, locking her concerned dark eyes on the impassive visage of the Vulcan CMO.

"Yes, Counselor, he is," he responded as he wheeled around on his feet to the computer console. He spoke to her as he quickly typed in a request for blood. "Clearly, some of the damaged tissue was not healed enough to endure the anticoagulant effects of the warfarin." He took the bag from the replicator pad just as a nurse walked in. He turned to the nurse and brusquely instructed her to begin transfusing Will. She nodded and took the blood from the doctor's hand.

Deanna grabbed Dr. Rofay by the arm. Before she could utter another word, he answered the unspoken question that blazed in her troubled eyes.

"We cannot stop the warfarin at this time, Counselor. Not until his fever breaks. And I cannot risk opening the captain up again and creating yet greater more internal sites that could hemorrhage." He turned his eyes onto his captain for a moment. Sighing tiredly, he looked once again at Deanna. "The best we can do right now is to continue to transfuse the captain and hope we are replacing enough of what he is losing internally."

Deanna fell back heavily into the recliner. A strangled "Oh gods" escaped her lips as she covered her mouth with one hand and took up Will's hand with her other. Once again she looked desperately at the ship's doctor. "How long?" she whispered tightly.

"I do not know, Counselor. This is our first experience with Sindareen bacteria. I can assure you of one thing, though," he answered quietly. A tiny note of hope lit up in Deanna's dark eyes. "What is that?" she asked?

"Once the fever has broken, we will be able to withdraw the warfarin. By that point, the antibiotic alone should be adequate for the task. This should give the captain the opportunity to resume a more normal recovery."

Another low moan slipped from Will's now pallid lips. Deanna instantly arose from the recliner and leaned over close to Will's face. "Shhh, Will. I'm right here," she cooed soothingly. She stroked his stubbled cheek tenderly.

Dr. Rofay heard Will's soft groan. Turning momentarily to consult Will's record of medication, the ship's physician pulled a hypospray out of his lab coat pocket. "I was reasonably certain the captain would be due for another dose of his pain medication," he explained. Deanna nodded mutely. Dr. Rofay held the instrument against Will's neck and then injected the contents.

Deanna's soft, musical voice had worked its way once again into Will's dulled consciousness at that moment. The sound was soothing, but the words were lost as if muffled by gauze. Why couldn't he make out the words? Then he vaguely sensed a momentary pressure against his neck that rose above the constant aching in his body. Any further awareness was lost to the blanketing darkness induced by the drug's sudden entry into Will's system.

"I will return later to reassess the captain," Dr. Rofay remarked, observing the easing of the pain lines in Will's face. "Until then, I have instructed the nurses to check his IV's regularly. Captain Riker will continue to be transfused as long as he needs it. This is all we can do for him now."

"I only hope it is enough," Deanna whispered mournfully as the Vulcan physician turned to leave the room.


Beverly had hoped to stop by to visit Will and Deanna sometime during the afternoon. However, an accident in Engineering sent a crowd of injured crew members, some ambulatory and some on hovercarts, into the main area and the Surgical Bay of Sick Bay for treatment. Even with a full complement of nurses combined with herself, Dr. Rofay and the junior Ship's Physician, the sheer number of injured crew kept the whole staff of Sick Bay busy in a non-stop assembly line of triage and treatment.

Beverly gave herself to trying to treat and heal the injured. But she found it hard to maintain her focus completely. Thoughts of the man fighting for his life in Intensive Care and the suffering woman at his side popped unbidden into her mind with disturbing regularity. In those moments, she would hiss to herself, "Don't die on me, Will Riker." Then she would force her attention once again to the patient before her.

It was not until early evening that all the casualties from the Engineering accident had finally been treated and either sent to a bed in Sick Bay or released. Only then was Beverly able to do what she had wanted all afternoon: visit Will and Deanna. Beverly was so tired, however, that she did not even bother to change.

A short walk took her to Will's room in the ICU. Though she had heard from Dr. Rofay earlier that Will was hemorrhaging internally, she was unprepared for the deathly pallor that had settled into his skin. It had been a long time since she had last seen Will with internal bleeding, and she had forgotten just how white he went.

A sudden jolt of shock shooting through Deanna alerted her to Beverly's presence at the door. But by the time Deanna looked up at Beverly's face, Beverly had plastered on a pleasant though transparent smile. Deanna shook her head sadly.

"I know how you felt just now, Beverly. Don't pretend with me," Deanna sighed sadly. Beverly walked over to Deanna's side and put a comforting hand on her friend's sagging shoulder. Then she looked up at the biomonitor.

"Well," Beverly said, a small note of hope tingeing her voice, "I don't know when his fever will break. But it does look like we've finally stopped this thing from getting any worse." Deanna lifted her fatigue-filled eyes to Beverly's face in an unspoken question. Beverly offered her a small grin and pointed to the monitor.

"Look there, Deanna. His fever has finally stopped increasing. It's just what it was several hours ago," Beverly explained.

"Could it be…?" Deanna whispered. Beverly knelt down next to the recliner. Stroking Deanna's arm gently, Beverly shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't know, Deanna. It may yet be some time before his fever breaks." Deanna let out a frustrated groan. Beverly smiled and shook Deanna gently by the shoulder.

"Deanna, this is the first piece of good news Will's had in nearly two days." Beverly's voice rolled through Deanna, spreading a blanket of reassurance lightly on her heart. Deep gratitude filled her dark Betazoid eyes as she looked once again at the face of her best friend. Beverly encircled Deanna in a warm, comforting hug. Then she stood up. Deanna watched her face intently.

"You have to leave, don't you?" Deanna asked unhappily.

"I thought you weren't telepathic, Deanna," Beverly snickered.

"No, but I felt sudden sadness and nervousness. I guessed that could only be because you had to leave," Deanna explained quietly.

"That Betazoid empathy of yours…," Beverly teased pleasantly, trying to take the edge off of the gloom that now seem to fill the room. Deanna shook her head as a lone tear blazed a trail down her pale cheek. Beverly leaned down and gently wiped the moist path from Deanna's face. Then she pulled her up into an embrace filled with comfort and the love of a friend.

"I wish I could stay, Deanna…But I can't…," she whispered soothingly to Deanna.

"When do you leave?" Deanna murmured against Beverly's chest.

"Tomorrow, very early in the morning. A transport ship will be taking me back to Earth," she responded softly. Deanna pulled herself gently out of Beverly's embrace.

"Will you stop by before you go?"

"Of course. You don't think I could get off this ship without saying goodbye to you, do you?" Beverly smiled. "Besides, I want to check in and see how Will is doing before I go."

"Alright," Deanna said simply, taking a cleansing breath.

"Say, I'll bet you haven't eaten dinner yet," Beverly said brightly. "What do you think of my ordering something for us to eat here in the room? I'm sure the Forward Lounge could send someone over with some food." For the first time since Beverly walked in, Deanna's face wore a genuine smile. "Consider it a done deal!" Beverly exclaimed as she reached for her comm badge. "Forward Lounge? Beverly Crusher here in Sick Bay. I want two meals brought to Captain Riker's room in the ICU. Here's what we'd like to eat…"


Deanna and Beverly took their time eating the food that had been sent over from the Forward Lounge. It was the first real meal that Deanna had had since returning from the surface of Sindar two days before. And just as the meal was food for her body, Beverly's loving companionship was manna for Deanna's soul. For the first time in several days, Deanna felt herself suffused with the pleasures of friendly company. It was a welcome if brief respite from the gut-wrenching worries about Will's survival.

The two women savored their time together. Bites of food were interspersed with soft-voiced confidences, murmured gossip and gentle laughter. Animation lit up their faces as their gesturing hands added to their words. Happy words of times gone by punctured the ponderous gloom spread by Beverly's and Deanna's concerns for Will's outcome.

In this intimate way, the sharing between two best friends suspended time. When Beverly next happened to look at the time on the biomonitor, she realized that several hours had gone by. Turning gentle blue eyes onto the face of her former colleague, Beverly sighed pleasantly, "I stayed far longer than I had realized."

The smile that had been dancing on Deanna's features wilted. "Do you really have to go?" Beverly leaned forward in her chair and put a comforting hand on Deanna's knee.

"Yes, Deanna, I do. I have reports to finish up before I turn in for the night, and the transport is leaving very early. Besides," she added, staring at Deanna's suddenly haggard face, "I can see one patient who should be going to sleep soon if she is to continue her recovery." Deanna nodded resignedly and dropped back against the cushions of her recliner.

Beverly stood up and took their trays to the recycler. Then she walked the few steps back to the recliner. She touched her fingers lightly to Deanna's arm and murmured, "I'll check in before I leave." Giving Deanna a warm smile, she added fully, "That's a promise!"

Deanna returned the smile, "In the morning then." She reached up and wrapped her fingers around Beverly's. "Beverly, thanks for everything," she added in an earnest whisper. Beverly gave her hand a gentle squeeze and then turned to leave the room.

Once Beverly had left, Deanna turned her head to glance at the biomonitor yet again. She noticed that his fever still had not risen. "Gods," she murmured to herself, "could this really be it? Are you really turning the corner, Will?"

She reached out and took his large hand into her gentle grasp. His hand still felt cool and clammy. "Are you still bleeding internally?" she whispered. "Please beat this before…" She could not finish her utterance. Unshed orbs of sadness stung her eyes.

She tiredly rested her head against the mattress. Almost immediately, a flood of bone-numbing fatigue washed through her. Every fiber within her felt worn to the core. She wrapped her hand tighter around Will's for comfort and found herself slowly mesmerized by the soft sound of his breathing. Little by little, the continuous tone of Will's quiet respirations drew her into the welcoming arms of slumber.

Her dreams were again peopled with a swirling mélange of images of Will. Breaking through this kaleidoscopic mass, his solid arms reached out to embrace her…His knowledgeable fingers sensuously stroked her most sensitive spots…His deep blue eyes gazed at her with heavy-lidded passion…His warm lips and tongue were everywhere: on her mouth, her neck, her breasts, her womanhood….

Deanna let out a stimulated sigh as she moved in her sleep. Then the erotic fantasy playing out in her dreams was suddenly replaced with a very different dream-world Will Riker. In an instant, Will was mouthing something. Though the words were garbled, the desperation in his voice was clear…Sweat poured down his contorted face…His hands were fiery to the touch…They stretched out towards her, begging her to…To do what?

Will groaned painfully in his sleep. Deanna's eyes flew open instantly at the sound of his voice. She looked groggily at his face and noticed that though his mouth had fallen open, he was still in fact asleep. Glancing at the biomonitor, she saw no change in the readouts. Shaking her head sleepily, she rested her head once more on the mattress and quickly reentered the world of dreams.

The combination of Will's pain medication and his fever still kept him trapped in a dimension somewhere between normal time and space. Dull, heavy pain threatened to crush him in its merciless vise. Around him swirled a dense fog…Where was up? Down? He could not tell…Waves of fiery heat, then clammy cold rolled through him…

At some point, a loving voice gently pierced the thick mists dancing around him…It soothed him and beckoned him softly to her…Towards healing calm…To Deanna…
Then her voice was joined by another familiar one…He could not understand the words, but the concern and affection in the voice gently attracted him…He knew that voice…Beverly! Why couldn't she make this burning heat, this chilling clamminess, this pain go away?

The whirling miasma around him began to change. Now denser, it pulsed as it pressed against him and threatened to engulf him. Gel-like tendrils snaked up his legs, shooting rapidly towards his waist. He was becoming enmeshed in burning, pulsing slime…Gods, this stuff was going to cover him…The heat was almost unbearable…What was it?...It seemed so alive, it was throbbing with life…Gods, it was like protoplasm…Something living was eating him alive… Somebody! Help me!

A loving inchoate presence gently summoned him. "I'm here…Come to me," it called. The thick tendrils inched further up his body…Reaching out desperately, he sought to move towards the presence. In that place was healing and freedom... "Come back to me," the soft voice intoned... "How can I? I can't even move." … "Focus on me and I will give you strength."

The word "Imzadi" floated in his drug-hazed mind. Desperately, he latched onto that word with all the strength he had left… "Imzadi...Imzadi," he whispered weakly. Gradually, the hot, pulsing mass began to recede down his body…In its wake his skin felt the comforting touch of cooling air…He reached out towards the source of his rescue and murmured once again, "Imzadi."

In her slumbering mind, Will suddenly touched her. Though his face was still etched with the remnants of suffering, his body no longer radiated fevered heat. The word "Imzadi" floated gently out of his mouth and thankfulness poured out from his core.

The vividness of that image brought Deanna out of her slumber immediately. With hopeful eyes, she stared at Will's face. Something seemed different about him. There was an air of calm about him. Tentatively, she reached for his forehead and touched her fingers to his skin. She felt no more fire beneath the clamminess. Could it be that the fever had finally broken?

Nervously, she trained her eyes on the biomonitor screen. Immediately she looked at the body temperature readout. It was normal. It took a moment for that fact to register. Will's temperature was normal! Normal! The fever was gone!

Deanna flew out of the recliner, a joyous smile spreading across her features. Exulting momentarily in Will's apparent defeat of death yet again, she then bent her head down to offer a silent prayer of thanks to the gods of Betazed. Then she leaned over and planted tender kisses first on Will's stubbled cheek, then on his mouth.

She rested her head gently on Will's shoulder. Quietly, she whispered, "Welcome back, Will. I missed you." Then she took his hand in hers and simply stared at him, the knowledge that he had beaten the infection bringing sheer joy and profound thankfulness to Deanna's heart.

A short while later, one of the nurses walked in to check on Will. She noticed that Deanna was standing against the bed and gazing at the captain. Not wanting to disturb Counselor Troi unnecessarily, the nurse silently glanced at the biomonitor to make note of the captain's vitals. As soon as the nurse saw Will's normal temperature readout, she let out an excited, "He did it!" Her happy outburst startled Deanna, who stood up with a momentary look of disorientation on her face. The nurse smiled broadly as she hit her comm badge to summon the ship's doctor.

"ICU to Dr. Rofay," she called out, her excited pleasure dancing in her eyes.

"Rofay here. Is there a problem?" came back the doctor's disembodied voice.

"Hardly a problem, sir," the nurse replied happily. "The captain's fever has broken."

"Indeed. Check the telemetry record to determine when his fever ended," Dr. Rofay instructed laconically. The nurse stepped over to the computer console to request the temperature record. Instantly, the sought-after information appeared on the screen.

"Dr. Rofay, the fever appeared to break at 0600 hours this morning," the nurse recited as she scanned the record.

"Very good. We can dispense with the warfarin as of now. I will be in shortly to write new orders to that effect in his chart."

"Yes, Sir," the nurse acknowledged. She nodded enthusiastically at the doctor's recommendation, then turned to Deanna. "Counselor," she asked, beaming at Deanna, "would you think it terribly unprofessional of me to offer you a hug?" Deanna smiled, "Of course not." The nurse wrapped her arms around Deanna and held her briefly in an embrace of victory. Then she let go and stepped back.

"Thank you," Deanna said, her voice hoarse with a mixture of fatigue and relief. "I needed that." The nurse's grin suddenly fled. Deanna saw the change in her mien.

"What's wrong?" Deanna asked, a sudden surge of new concern charging through her.

"Well, you do know…" the nurse began hesitantly. Deanna had a hunch she knew what the nurse was about to say. She drew in a calming breath and interrupted the nurse.

"That he's not out of the woods yet. Yes, I know that. But he's taken a definitive step towards a real recovery," Deanna said softly, eyeing the nurse earnestly.

"Indeed he has, Counselor. Indeed he has."


A short time later, after the Vulcan Ship's Physician had been in to check on Will, Beverly walked in, a broad smile gracing her features.

"Well, well, well!" she exulted, beaming at Deanna. "Who would have thought it possible? Will Riker beats the odds again!" Deanna stood up and engulfed Beverly in a tight embrace of relief. Tears of joy sparkled in the eyes of both. Then Deanna pulled back and trained her depthless dark eyes once again on the biomonitor, as if to convince herself yet again that Will's fever had truly broken.

While she stared at the temperature readout, a slight movement of Will's head snapped her attention immediately to him. The movement had also caught Beverly's eye. Both turned their heads to gaze at the still-pale visage of Will Riker. An instant later, his long-lashed eyelids fluttered partially open. A low moan escaped his parched lips. Immediately, Deanna leaned down on the mattress, bringing her face close to his. Stroking his face tenderly, she murmured to him, "It's okay, Will. I'm right here."

The swirling miasma that Will had been suspended in for over two days was slowly thinning out. Somehow, the fire in his body had been quenched…The clammy chill that still coursed through him periodically did so less powerfully…And ahead of him, he could actually discern light…a gentle light that beckoned him. From that inviting glow, soft murmurs of "Imzadi" emanated.

Will started moving towards the light. The closer he came to it, the thinner the mist became…What was that light? It was warmth, it was health, and it was love, all calling to him… "I'm coming," emerged quietly from his lips. And as he drew nearer, voices started echoing softly, as if from far away. Closer and closer he came to the warming glow…Those voices! Beverly!...Deanna!...And as he finally stepped into the soft brightness, he heard the familiar sounds of a Sick Bay biomonitor. "I'm finally back…," he whispered inaudibly as he slowly cracked open his eyes.

The first thing that greeted his eyes was the exhausted but loving face of Deanna. "It's okay, Will. I'm right here," was the first thing she said to him. Weakly, he tried to reach for Deanna's hand. She saw his hand move and she immediately encased it in a gentle grip. She brought his large hand to her lips and placed the softest of kisses on it.

"Welcome back, Imzadi," Deanna murmured in a trembling voice. Wet orbs of relief began to work their way down her face. "How do you feel?"

"Hurt…thirsty," Will responded in a raspy whisper. Deanna nodded, smiling through her tears.

Beverly came closer to Will's bed. Offering him a wide, warm smile, she said, "Well, welcome back Will Riker!" He blinked wearily and managed a tiny grin. Beverly saw the pain written in his furrowed brows. "Would you like more pain medication?"

It was all Will could do to touch Deanna's mind with his feeble response. <<No more drugged dreams…Tell her no more…>> Deanna nodded with understanding. She placed a cautioning hand on Beverly's arm and said, "I think Will has had his fill of narcotics." Will bobbed his head slightly to indicate his agreement.

"I could understand that," Beverly responded pleasantly. "Very well, then, no more narcotics. I'll let Dr. Rofay know of your wishes." She studied his haggard features briefly and then offered, "But I can see that you're still experiencing some pain. Let me get you a hypospray of a simple analgesic." Beverly stepped to the computer console and keyed in a request for a pain reliever. An instant later, a hypospray materialized on the replicator pad. She picked up the instrument and, leaning past Deanna, pressed it to Will's neck. With an audible hiss, the hypospray released its contents.

"Well, I'm glad to see you back in the world of the living, Will," Beverly smiled as she righted herself. "That's the way I wanted to see you before I left the Titan."

"You have to leave now?" Deanna asked, muted sadness tingeing her voice.

"Yes, the transport departs in 15 minutes. I'm due back on duty at Starfleet Medical within two days, and I know I have a mile-high stack of padds waiting for me on my desk," Beverly replied, grimacing at the thought of the work awaiting her.

"Well then, it wouldn't do for the Head of Starfleet Medical to miss a transport sent to return her to Earth, would it?" Deanna snickered. Then the transient grin fled Deanna's face. She wrapped her slim arms around Beverly and whispered to her, "Thanks for everything, Beverly." Beverly patted Deanna's back lovingly. "Think nothing of it. You know I'll always do whatever I can to help either you or Will."

With those words, Beverly gave Deanna's hand a friendly squeeze. Looking over at Will, Beverly ordered with jesting melodrama, "And as for you, *Captain* Riker, if I hear that you are not following Dr. Rofay's orders to the letter, I will personally give him permission to shoot you out of the nearest airlock." This brought a weak but genuine smile to Will's face - the first smile that had graced his face in days. Beverly winked merrily at him, and then turned to walk out the door.

After Beverly left, Deanna sat on the edge of Will's bed and intertwined her fingers between his. Dark Betazoid eyes locked onto weary blue ones. Waves of profound gratefulness and healing warmth poured out of Deanna and rolled into Will's being. Weak pulses of love emanated back from Will.

<<Gods, I thought we were going to lose you, Will…We still might.>> she sent.

<<Still might?>> he sent back feebly. His brows knit in concern.

"Will, you developed a post-operative infection," she said, now out loud. "It was traced to Sindareen bacteria." Will's eyebrows shot up at the mention of the word 'Sindareen.'

"You must have been exposed when that Sindareen was man-handling you after he shot you." Will's questioning eyes mutely begged her to continue.

"You have been battling this for two days now, Will. Because of the way the bacteria behaved, the only way they could really combat it was to put you on both an antibiotic and a blood thinner." Will's eyes went wide with utter surprise.

<<Blood thinner?>> he asked, a tendril of worry weaving its way in his thoughts.

"Yes, Will. A blood thinner was the only way to start to kill the bacteria," she explained tensely. He closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh. Despite his still-groggy mind, he did not need her to spell out the risks. Deanna ran her fingers lovingly, gently over the back of his hand and waited patiently for Will to signal his readiness for her to continue. A moment later, he opened his eyes again and nodded wordlessly.

"Will…" Her voice caught in her throat. She took a steadying breath, then tried again. "Will, what we feared might happen…the warfarin…it's making you bleed internally."
Will's jaw dropped and his eyes went wide with shock. "That's why you have the IV," she said tensely. His eyes traveled the path from the needle in his arm, up the tubing and to the bag of blood hanging on the pole next to him. She watched his eyes scan the IV.
"They're transfusing you as fast as you can take it…," she whispered.

<<This is it then?>> he sent weakly. He turned his head away in sad resignation. Was this the end? Had he struggled so hard to free himself of the fever and the twilight dimension he had been in just to bleed to death?

Deanna understood the turn his thoughts had taken. She put her hand, soft and comforting, on Will's stubbled cheek. "Will, they've stopped the warfarin. So, the bleeding should stop. There's a good chance everything will be alright."

<<Good chance?>> he sent back caustically. She leaned over and murmured sadly, "It's all you've got, Imzadi." A lone tear of concern trickled down her cheek. Will reached up and gently wiped the moisture from her face.

"Sorry…," he rasped. <<Please be with me,>> he pleaded mentally. Deanna took one look at Will's beseeching face and then nodded. Without further words, she climbed up onto Will's bed and stretched out next to him. He relaxed in the healing warmth and the intimate comfort of having Deanna's body molded to his. His musky scent and familiar contours were calming salves to Deanna's worried soul. And in this way, for a brief while, they helped each other find respite from their worries.


Later that morning, Dr. Rofay stopped in to check on his sole critical care patient. The sight that greeted his eyes surprised him: Counselor Troi-Riker lying next to the captain on the bed. Judging from the gentle snoring he heard, he guessed they were both asleep. While the Vulcan physician understood intellectually that human love could produce strange behaviors, he still thought the current display of affection totally illogical. "I will never understand the human preference for the irrational and illogical," he muttered to himself. Shaking his head at this thought, he cleared his throat audibly in the hopes of waking the two sleeping officers.

The guttural sound rolling out of the Vulcan's throat woke Deanna immediately. She sat up slowly and eyed the doctor sheepishly. She opened her mouth to speak, but Dr. Rofay held up his hand to silence her.

"There is no need to apologize, Counselor. What you did was, though against accepted medical practice, entirely predictable. No harm was done." Deanna nodded as she stretched. "Now," Dr. Rofay continued, "if I could check the captain…" Deanna smiled and hopped off of the bed.

The Vulcan silently scanned the biomonitor data. Then he leaned over and calmly pulled back the sheet from Will's chest. Nodding as he eyed and gently probed the incision, he then examined Will's pallor and touched his arm. A moment later, Dr. Rofay scanned Will with a tricorder. Then he turned to face Deanna.

"All things considered, Counselor, the captain is doing remarkably well." Cautious hope flooded Deanna's being and a hesitant grin danced on her lips. "He's doing well?" she whispered, hardly able to believe what she had just heard.

"Yes, Counselor. His fever is clearly gone. His temperature has been normal since 06:00 this morning," he explained. "Moreover, his internal hemorrhaging has decreased. It appears that the withdrawal of the warfarin has allowed the captain's body to resume the healing process."

Deanna's heart nearly exploded with unbridled joy. He *was* going to make it! Her beloved Will was on the road to being whole once again. Impulsively, she threw her arms around the impassive Vulcan in an embrace of thankfulness. "Thank you, thank you," she whispered, tears of relief glistening in her liquid dark eyes.

"You are welcome, Counselor," he responded as he gently extricated himself from her arms. Deanna's cheeks filled with a blush of embarrassment. "I'm sorry…," she began.

"You need not apologize. I know it is the human way to become emotional at such times," Dr. Rofay interjected. "So illogical, these humans are," he then murmured to himself.

At that moment, Will stirred in his bed. He opened his eyes slightly and squinted momentarily until his eyes adjusted to the ambient light. "Hello, Doctor," he croaked hoarsely.

"Good day to you, Captain Riker," the impassive Vulcan replied. "How are you feeling?"

"Weak…thirsty…hurt," Will whispered. Dr. Rofay nodded. "Your weakness is not surprising after all you have been through. Moreover, you are getting nothing more than fluid from your IV." Will stared at him, waiting for him to continue.

"How intense is the pain, Captain?" the Vulcan physician asked. Will murmured, "I'll manage."

"Indeed? Captain, to judge from your expression, I would say you are hardly managing. And although Dr, Crusher substituted a simple analgesic for the oxycodone, it is clear that the latter would be far more effective." Upon hearing the mention of the narcotic, Will shook his head angrily. "No more…," he rasped.

Deanna put her hand on the Vulcan's arm to draw his attention. "Doctor, Will…Captain Riker…made it clear earlier that he'd had enough of narcotics. I sensed that he disliked the altered state he was left in by the drug." Will nodded vigorously.

"I see," Dr. Rofay responded. "Well then, we can continue to use a non-narcotic pain reliever." The Vulcan turned his dark-eyed gaze onto Will's haggard face. With one eyebrow crooked up in that most typical of Vulcan gestures, Dr. Rofay added, "But you do understand that your pain level will be greater?" Will nodded tiredly.

"Well Captain, it seems you slept through the good news," Dr. Rofay began after several moments of silence. Will's eyes went wide with expectation. "Yes?" he whispered hoarsely.

"Your internal hemorrhaging is less, and your temperature appears to have stabilized at its normal level. It is clear that your infection has been brought under control, and that your body is starting to recuperate in a more normal fashion." A broad smile spread across Will's face.

"Getting better?" Will asked hopefully.

"Yes, you are getting better. Though I will want to watch your blood count carefully over the next several days, I am prepared to say that I expect a full recovery." Something close to a smile worked its way onto the Vulcan's normally stoic features. Deanna and Will both stared wide-eyed at the apparently emotional expression on the doctor's face. He did not miss their stares.

"You are both staring at me. Why is that?" he asked laconically, his eyes flitting back and forth between their amazed faces.

"Dr. Rofay," Deanna began as Will snickered softly, "if I didn't know you better, I'd say you just expressed true pleasure!"

"Counselor, it was merely my logical realization that soon the Titan would be regaining a superior captain. Nothing more," he explained.

"Uh-huh," Deanna said, trying to swallow her laughter. She winked mischievously at Will. Will gave her an amused and knowing grin.

"As I recall," Dr. Rofay interrupted, attempting to deflect their attention away from himself, "you mentioned being thirsty, Captain. If you would like, we could start you on some liquids, beginning with some water." Will nodded his head eagerly. The Vulcan turned to the replicator and requested a cup and a pitcher of water. Will stared at the water like a man possessed. The doctor handed Will the cup and then poured some of the life-sustaining liquid into it.

"Captain," Dr. Rofay cautioned as he poured the water, "you need to take small sips of the water. Otherwise, you're going to find all of that water coming right back up. Do you understand?" Will nodded as he greedily put the cup to his mouth. The first few drops that rolled into Will's mouth felt velvety and cool. He closed his eyes to savor the heavenly sensation as the water moistened his parched mouth and throat.

"Now, Captain, I will tell you this. If over the next day I see that your blood count continues to improve, we will move you to a regular room for a few days," the laconic physician commented.

"And then?" Will said, his voice now a bit stronger now that his mouth and throat were no longer so dry.

"And then, Captain," Dr, Rofay continued, carefully monitoring Will's sips of water, "barring any problems, you will be released to your quarters under the care of your wife. That is," he said, glancing now at Deanna, "if you think you can handle that responsibility, Counselor." Deanna smiled broadly.

"Of course I can, Doctor. It's a routine that I am *very* familiar with, I assure you," she snickered. Will rolled his eyes up in mild embarrassment.

"Very good. I will return later to check on the captain again," the Vulcan intoned as he stepped towards the doorway. "I trust at that time I will not find you two again sharing a bed designed for only one," he added over his shoulder.

Once Dr. Rofay had left the room, Deanna sat on the edge of the bed next to Will. She locked her depthless onyx eyes on to his glittering blue ones. As she stared wordlessly at him, a shadow of sadness crossed her features.

"What?" Will murmured, running his fingers tenderly along the top of Deanna's thigh. Deanna captured his large hand in her fine-boned one. Unbidden tears traced random paths down her pale cheeks.

"I almost lost you, Will…" she replied in a trembling voice. Will stroked her fingers gently with the pad of his thumb.

"Yeah, I know…," he murmured, watching her intently. He felt a lump beginning to lodge itself in his throat. Taking a deep breath to chase it away, he grinned warmly at Deanna.

"I guess I must have cat genes in me somewhere…," he chuckled softly. Deanna's eyebrows rose in question. Giving her hand a loving shake, Will explained, "Well, that must be at least the eighth life I've used." A bright smile of understanding filled Deanna's face. "I see…"

Will's smile fled. Looking meaningfully at Deanna, he said quietly, "Come here, Imzadi." He loosened his hand from hers and spread a welcoming arm along the mattress, wordlessly inviting her to lie next to him. She hesitated.

"I don't think Dr. Rofay would be too pleased if he…," Deanna began. Will put his finger to his lips in a gesture of silence, then beckoned her again to lie with him. "Please, Imzadi. I need you…" he pleaded softly. Deanna leaned over and brushed her lips gently across his. Then she drew her legs up onto the mattress and laid next to him, resting her head on his arm.

"I missed you, Will," she whispered as she stroked his stubbled cheek. "I'm so glad you're back." Will caught her hand and brought it his mouth. Kissing her fingers lightly, he said, "Me too, Deanna. It's good to be back."


True to Dr. Rofay's prognosis after Will's fever broke and the blood thinner was stopped, the recovery proceeded uneventfully. Each day brought marked improvement. Thus it was that within three days, Will was finally released from Sick Bay and returned to their quarters. His sole physical reminders of his ordeal were the pink scar running down his chest and the bristly new hair growing in where his chest had been shaved for surgery.

When he first arrived back in their quarters, he was so exhausted that he fell asleep on the couch as soon as he sank onto it. Deanna smiled through grateful tears as she took in the comforting vision before her: Will, sprawled across the cushions of the couch, his arms akimbo and his face a mask of innocence and calm. She sensed nothing but comfortable ease and quiet happiness from him.

Deanna went to the desk and picked up a padd. Sitting down in a chair next to the couch, she began to review the contents of the padd. A sudden rebuke sprang up in her mind. "How could you behave as if this were a normal day? How can you just sit here and pretend that this is just business as usual?" her conscience chided her. Without further thought, she threw the padd down onto the floor. She arose from her chair, stepped over to Will's side and slid down onto the floor. She propped her arm on the cushion next to his head and leaned her head on her hand. Locking her ebony eyes on the serene visage of her husband, she reached up and idly played with an errant lock of his hair that had fallen across his forehead.

"Can it be only two weeks ago that this all began?" she mused in her mind. "Gods, how close you came to dying this time, Imzadi…and how close I came to losing you." A lone tear meandered down her pale cheek. "I don't know what I would have done if you… I couldn't go on if…" Glistening orbs of suppressed grief flowed freely down her face now. She cupped his face gently in her hand and softly stroked his cheek with the pad of her thumb. Her eyes drank in his face, so calm in sleeping repose: the laugh lines that were etched at the corners of his eyes, his long dark lashes, the gray that had begun to infiltrate his beard, the boyish quality of his features that belied his advancing middle age. How she loved that face of his.

She dropped her hand from his cheek down on to his chest. Resting her head on the couch next to Will's, she finally let go of the worries and fears that had plagued her since Will's injury in Sick Bay nearly a week before. Silent tears rolled freely, wetting the upholstery beneath her head.

Will stirred in his sleep. His movement caused Deanna to raise her head. As she looked at him with liquid, red-rimmed eyes, his eyes slowly opened. He knew instantly that she was there at his side, though she had not spoken. He turned his head towards her.

"Hey," he said softly, his eyebrows knitting in concern. "What's wrong?" He intertwined his fingers with hers on his chest. Focusing his compassionate blue eyes on her, he awaited her answer.

"I guess I finally let go…," she mumbled. Will began to sit up, never breaking his eye contact with her. Pulling her up gently by the hand, he urged her, "Come here, Imzadi." She allowed Will to draw her to his side on the couch. Then he wrapped a comforting arm around her slim shoulders and silently invited her to rest her head on his chest. Threading his fingers in her thick tresses, he murmured, "It's okay, Deanna." His words triggered a new wave of her tears, which fell and left a wet trail down the front of his shirt. "Shhh," he soothed, "I understand." She nodded mutely.

After a silence filled with the richness of body contact and soul linking to soul, Will began to speak. In a suddenly cracking voice, he began, "You are the reason I'm here now, Imzadi…You gave me the strength I needed to fight." Deanna lifted her head to stare wide-eyed at Will. Training his intense blue eyes on her face now, he continued, "If it had been left to the doctors, I would be dead now…"

"Don't say that," Deanna responded, putting her finger to his lips to silence him. He caught her finger in his hand, kissed it and replied, "It's true, Deanna…It's the bond…You were able to reach into my soul and enable it to fight when my body was ready to give up." Unshed tears quivered in his eyes. "There is nothing in medical science that could have done that, Imzadi." A lone tear trickled down into his beard. "I owe you my life."

Deanna sat up and put her finger under his bearded chin. Staring at him with eyes softened by love, she uttered, "You are my life, Will. Your very presence nurtures my heart and soul constantly. We are Imzadi, and until we die we will always nourish each other." And with those heartfelt words, she pressed her lips softly to his. He returned the contact. Again, she brought her lips to his, this time brushing them lightly. He tangled his fingers in her hair and pulled her to him. Gently tracing out the contours of her mouth with his tongue, he smiled lovingly and waited for her to open her lips. She smiled back and parted her lips, inviting him to partake of the pleasures of her mouth. Gently, his warm tongue stroked hers and explored the interior of her mouth. It was a kiss of love, of reverence and of thankfulness. For so they truly revered one another, and they were filled with gratitude for the new chance at life he had been granted.

"You know," Will murmured a moment later as he tightened his arms around her, "I could get used to this." Deanna pulled back and eyed him with mock severity. "Well, I have no doubt of that, Will Riker!" she harrumphed. Then, shaking a judgmental finger at him, she warned, "This is most definitely *not* what the good doctor had in mind when he released you to my care." A devil-may-care laugh rumbled out of Will as he grabbed her finger playfully.

"So when did I ever listen to any doctor?" he snickered, shrugging his shoulders diffidently. Deanna shook her head in exasperation as she slid off of his lap and on to her feet. Then she trained an intense stare at Will. "Well," she commented, "there is one thing I know we *should* be doing right now." Will's eyes went wide with eagerness, hoping that maybe she'd had a sudden change of heart. Deanna sensed the desire underlying Will's enthusiasm. Shaking her head again, she swatted him playfully on the leg and said, "No, not that! You have an incredibly one-tracked mind, Will!"

"When it comes to you, you bet I do Imzadi!" he chuckled, staring at her somewhat lasciviously. Deanna blushed slightly, knowing just what part of her his one-track mind was occupied with at the moment. She cleared her throat, attempting to steer the conversation away from the provocative tack it had taken.

"You should be eating, Will…That is what you *should* be doing now," she admonished him. The playful smile left his face. 'Yeah, I suppose you're right," he sighed, suddenly not so energetic. Deanna offered him an understanding smile.

"There will be time enough for that later, Imzadi," she murmured sweetly. She reached over to take him by the hand. "Come sit at the table while I get some lunch together." He stood up. Threading his fingers among hers, they walked quietly to the table.

Later, they sat eating a light lunch. Between bites of food, they chatted quietly. They reveled in the delightful normalcy of being able to eat in their own home for the first time in nearly two weeks. Then, over dessert, they discussed the possibility of going off-ship to finish the shore leave that had been so rudely interrupted.

"I really think it would do us both some good, Will," Deanna said, training her mildly beseeching eyes on Will's face.

"You know, you're right. Lord only knows, I've gotten to know the four walls of the Sick Bay far better than I would have liked." He paused and stretched comfortably. Then, crossing his arms lazily across his chest, he smiled and responded, "Sure, why not! So, where do we go?"

"I don't know Will." Deanna chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. Then she ventured, "I don't suppose you'd consider Betazed…" She took one look at the shocked expression on Will's face, then countered, "I suppose not…" Will crooked one eyebrow and peered at Deanna judgmentally. She looked down and giggled guiltily.

After a moment of pleasant silence, Will's face lit up. "Say, you wouldn't consider going back to Risa would you?" Deanna's jaw dropped and she stared at him in utter dismay.

"Look, we are still owed the balance of our stay at the resort…," he began to explain. She continued to stare at him in shocked silence. He leaned over the table and wrapped her hand in his comforting grip.

"Deanna, I'm not a glutton for punishment, you know that. But I truly think that what happened is over and done with. I don't think we need to fear the planet itself. Besides," he murmured as he brought her hand to his lips, "I think we have some, um…unfinished business to take care of there, wouldn't you say?" He gave her fingers a sensuous brush with his lips.

Deanna sighed and gently pulled her fingers from his grasp. Sinking back into her chair, she muttered, "It's something to think about…" Playing now with the fork on her plate, she said, "And the beginning of our stay there *was* so nice…"

Will gave her a wink and said, "That's my girl. Just think about it." He stood up and yawned widely. "Gods, you'd think I never got enough sleep around here, but I feel the need for a nap." Deanna smiled and nodded. Arising from her chair, she said lovingly, "Would you care for some company? That's an awfully large bed for one person." Will smiled widely and gestured towards the bedroom doorway. Arm in arm, they walked together to their bedroom to share their own bed for the first time in two weeks.


True to her word, Deanna did think seriously about going back to Risa for the shore leave they never really got the first time round. While she found the thought of enjoying the sybaritic pleasures of the planet quite appealing, she also had a gut-wrenching fear that they would be threatened or injured again if they returned. It was an irrational worry, she knew, but she couldn't help it. She had nearly lost Will because of what began on Risa, and that left a bad taste in her mouth. And so her thoughts swung back and forth like a pendulum on whether to return to Risa.

In the mean time, Dr. Rofay had insisted that Will remain off duty and in their quarters for a week. The novelty of being out of Sick Bay wore off quickly for Will. And as his strength returned, so did his impatience with having to stay idle in their quarters. In turn, his increasing restlessness started to drive Deanna crazy. She was delighted when she had to see patients; this gave her a much-needed if brief respite from her husband's disquiet.

Finally, after completing the tortuous week of cabin confinement, Will was deemed ready to return to duty. The first morning he resumed his normal duty on the Bridge, he nearly burst out of the turbo lift with joy. Striding purposefully to the captain's chair, he pronounced, "Alpha shift commencing now." Then, with a buoyant smile, he had Commander Leffler update him. Once she was done sharing what little there was to communicate, he vigorously jerked a thumb over his shoulder, silently gesturing for her to vacate the chair and leave the Bridge. Commander Leffler smiled and offered him her hand. "Welcome back, Sir," she said warmly, giving him a firm handshake. "Gamma shift standing down."

Later that day, Will and Deanna met for lunch in the Forward Lounge. After telling her about his first morning back on duty, their conversation turned to the location for the shore leave that they would be having in a couple of weeks. Though normally shore leave was granted on a 'use it or lose it' basis, because of Will's and Deanna's importance to Starfleet, Command had decided to grant them another shot at some time off.

"You know that Starfleet would not normally do this just for anyone, Will," Deanna said, beaming proudly at her husband. "You've built up quite a reputation with the top brass. There are not many starship captains Starfleet Command would do this for." Will smiled; he was well aware of his reputation. "Hey, you're no slouch yourself, Deanna," Will grinned. "I think there are a few people around in Starfleet who know something about you, too!" Deanna grinned and shook her head, mildly embarrassed by the praise he had just offered her.

"So," he said as he took her hand in his, "have you given thought to my suggestion about Risa?"

"Yes," Deanna replied softly.

"Is that a yes to Risa, or a yes to having thought about it?" Will asked, a playful grin dancing on his lips.

"It's a yes to both, Will," she smiled. Will beamed broadly at her and gave her a mischievous wink. "You won't regret it, Deanna," he enthused.

Thus it was that when they were finally able to take the long-awaited shore leave several weeks later, they arranged to stay at the same hotel on Risa. The management of the hotel remembered all too well what had happened the first time the Rikers had been there and insisted that their stay be on the house. "After all," the manager of the hotel chuckled, "we have a reputation to uphold, too, you know."

As he had nearly two months before, Will keyed in the entry code on the panel next to the door to their suite. As soon as the door swished open, he and Deanna stepped in. Will smiled broadly and dropped his bags where he stood. "Don't even bother talking this time about the view out there, Imzadi," he whispered as he drew her into his arms and proceeded to nibble on her neck. "The only one I care about is right here before my eyes." She snaked her arms up around his solid neck and murmured, "But what about all this luggage, Will?" He stuck his foot out against the bags, gave them a hard shove and knocked them away from the door. "What luggage?" he breathed as he traced out the edge of her ear with his tongue.

Deanna placed one of her hands on his bearded jaw and guided his mouth towards hers. Pausing a mere centimeter from his mouth, Deanna coaxed his lips apart with languorous sweeps of her tongue. And then Will met her, moist tongue to moist tongue. Instantly, they became lost in the sensuous duel in their mouths. As the kiss deepened, their moans were swallowed in one another's mouths. Will entwined his hands in her thick tresses as Deanna's hands stroked tingling paths along his cheeks and the edges of his ears.

And then the kiss ended. Gazing at his beloved with eyes dilated by his escalating desire, he bent down and scooped her up into his strong arms. "Shall we check out the bedroom, Imzadi?" he murmured huskily. "What do you reckon?" she purred back, nipping at his neck.

A few steps brought them into the bedroom. Will bore her down onto the bed's inviting surface, then buried his face in her neck. Pausing a moment to breathe in her intoxicating scent, he whispered huskily, "You smell incredible." Allowing his hands to trace out the contours of her breasts, he added, "You have no idea what your scent does to me." Deanna stared up at Will with heavy-lidded eyes. Rubbing his arousal with her thigh, she sighed raggedly, "Oh, I think I know exactly what it does to you."

With that, Will locked his lips onto hers. Again, their tongues partnered in a lover's dance, set to the tune of their passionate vocalizations. An instant later, their moans were punctuated by the staccato sound of zippers being pulled down. Quickly, clothes were stripped and thrown haphazardly about them on the bed and floor.

For a moment, Will rose up onto his elbows and silently devoured Deanna with his hungry blue eyes. As his potent stare consumed every inch of her naked nubile body, Deanna raked her fingernails across his chest. "All healed there," she murmured seductively, fingering the pink scar running down his chest. "Uh-huh," he grunted, "good as new." Deanna pulled his head down and sealed her lips against his as she whispered, "So prove it."

Will proceeded to tease and taunt Deanna's body until she nearly exploded with desperate needfulness. Using his masterful fingers and expert tongue, he worked his way slowly from her neck, to her full, ripe breasts, down her abdomen and along her thighs. Finally, he focused his attentions on her womanhood, where his caresses and tongue strokes brought her to the edge of ecstasy. Her breaths came in short, frantic pants. "Gods…what are you doing to me?" she gasped, nearly delirious with the sexual frenzy he had driven her to. "Loving your magnificent body," Will grunted as he traced a wet trail back up her abdomen and over her breasts with his hot tongue.

Once again, Will crushed his lips against Deanna's. As their tongues dueled once more, Deanna frantically ran wild fingers down Will's torso and sought out his aroused member. Knowing from his sudden heavy moans that her stroking was taking him close to the precipice, she uttered raggedly into his mouth, "Let me…" Between husky groans, Will grunted, "No need...I'm ready right now." He then moved his leg between her thighs, parting them. Instinctively, she reached down to help guide him in. "Gods, you feel amazing," he groaned as he began to thrust. Slowly at first, then more rapidly, Will moved his pelvis in an ancient choreography of pleasuring. Their breaths came more rapidly, interspersed with guttural groans and grunts of ecstasy. And then they hit the acme of their fevered delight, shuddering as their orgasms rippled through them.

And then it was over. Collapsing on top of Deanna's sweat-slicked body, Will buried his head in the sweet-smelling crook of her neck. Deanna wove her fingers into his tousled, spiky hair. And they lay there, tangled in a lover's embrace, their bodies sated and their souls bonded anew. Silently, they let their minds savor the pleasant intimacy of the afterglow.

They lay there like that for an untold amount of time. Then Will extricated himself from Deanna and rolled off onto his back. Deanna turned onto her side and began to trace lazy circles in his chest hair. Parting the hair over the scar on his chest, Deanna leaned over and placed a gentle kiss there. "You were right," she murmured softly.

"About what?" Will asked, training his adoring eyes on Deanna. She smiled, a glint of mischief in her depthless eyes. "You are just as good as new." She chuckled and kissed his chest again. "In fact, you're better than new," she murmured in a sultry voice.

Will smiled broadly and turned onto his side to face her. "Glad you approve, Imzadi," he said. Then he touched his mouth to hers in a gentle kiss. After the kiss ended, they locked their eyes on each other's faces, allowing their love and appreciation to flow potently through their bond.

After a few minutes of silent communion, Will asked quietly, "So, how would you like to spend the rest of the day here?"

"Alone here, Will, with you," Deanna answered as she sensuously traced out the contours of Will's jaw. Will smiled warmly at her, sparks of love dancing in his eyes.

"And dinner?" he asked.

"Well, I suppose we could just replicate something here for dinner…" Will caught her finger in his hand and leaned over for a light kiss.

"Yeah, I suppose we could do that," he responded pleasantly. After a moment's pause, he added, "But I think we owe ourselves a night out, don't you?"

"Yes, we do at that, Will," she agreed, once again running her fingers idly through his chest hair. Will nodded and pulled her into his arms. "So dinner out, it will be. But until then, Imzadi, you're mine and this is our world."

After an afternoon spent enjoying the pleasures of uninterrupted intimacy, Will and Deanna found themselves at a restaurant near the hotel. They sat at an outdoor table, where they could enjoy watching the various humanoids who passed by. As they ate, they chatted and periodically paused to view the activity on the sidewalk a few meters away. Eventually, their conversation turned to a reflection on the events of the last two months.

"It's hard to believe that it's been two months since we first beamed down here for our shore leave," Will mused. "And to think of all that happened during those two months…" His words trailed off as he stared into Deanna's ebony Betazoid eyes. He knew he didn't have to complete the sentence. She already knew what was in his thoughts.

"Yes, Will. And all in the name of revenge..." Her face grew dark with troubling thoughts. "My brother is kidnapped and traumatized…We are captured and injured…You very nearly die." She sighed raggedly. "All of this because I uncovered their duplicity and for something you didn't even do…" She looked up at Will and grinned sadly. "What price revenge?"

"Imzadi," Will said solemnly as he wrapped his fingers around hers, "revenge is rarely worth the trouble it causes…" He brought her fingers to his lips. "But in this case, I hardly think the Sindareens got what they wanted. Besides, I didn't die, despite their best efforts, and your brother is on the road to recovery."

"Thank the gods of Betazed," Deanna murmured. Will offered a comforting grin.

"I'm not a religious man, Deanna, so I don't know to whom I should direct my thanks. Be it a deity or simply fate, I just know I am thankful to be here with you now." Will picked up his wine glass. "I would like to propose a toast." Deanna smiled and lifted her glass.

"I would like to toast us…you and me. Because you are my universe, Imzadi. And every day, I thank the fates for bringing us together." Deanna stared at Will in loving wonder, then slowly clinked her glass against Will's. "To us, then…" she whispered as she put the glass to her lips.

A moment later, Will smiled and surveyed the empty plates on their table. "Well," he said pleasantly, "I don't know about you, but I think I'm done eating." Deanna eyed her plate as she put her hand on her stomach. "I am simply stuffed, Will. I couldn't eat another bite if I tried," she groaned.

"Not even if it was chocolate?" Will teased. Deanna chuckled and threw up her hands defensively. "No, not even if it was chocolate," she snickered. With that, she pushed her chair out and stood up. Will arose from his chair and came around the table to entwine her arm around his. Together, they stepped out onto the sidewalk.

They strolled slowly down the street towards the hotel. The bright lights of nighttime blended with the cacophony of alien tongues and merchants hawking their goods to create a pleasantly bizarre spectacle. Aliens of all shapes and sizes passed them. Will and Deanna found themselves smiling and nodding at the humanoids who walked by them, just as the beings expressed their own pleasantries. The very atmosphere of Risa, it seemed, had a beneficent effect on the dispositions of those who visited.

After a few minutes of sauntering past a series of stores and booths, Will and Deanna paused to admire the flowers that one merchant had on display. Deanna bent down to sniff one pleasantly scented flower. All of a sudden, she jerked upright, a look of utter horror on her face. Will saw the shock on her face and felt her sudden fear stab into his gut. "What is it, Deanna?" he asked urgently as he wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders. Wordlessly, she pointed a shaking finger down the street. Then she whispered brokenly, "It's…it's…I can't believe this…"

"What, Deanna? What can't you believe," he said, looking in the direction her finger was pointing. She gasped and covered her mouth in utter horror. At that very moment, Will spotted a tall humanoid, covered completely in a hooded cape, walking towards them. Immediately, he heard her words echo in his mind:<<It's a Sindareen…He's coming right towards us.>> And then she faltered in his arms. The last words she uttered before she fainted were, "I can't believe this is happening all over again."

The End