Difficult Decisions
By Lao_Ma

The inevitable day had come right on schedule. Ten years ago, exactly, was the first day they had met again on the Enterprise. Today the crew was to be reassigned to new ships, stations, and for some, even new positions. The captain was to remain on the ship, as well as Doctor Crusher and Geordi LaForge.
Will Riker was one of those few to get assigned to a new position, and a new ship to go with it. He had been promoted to his long-time dream of captain (for the forth time). He was a bit more than overjoyed when he found out, but inside Will knew his new assignment held challenges and consequences he knew he would have to face.
There was one in particular that he was not looking forward to...The consequence of leaving the Enterprise-the ship he had served for the past few years-and the people he had come to know, or come re-aquainted within that time. Especially one person by the name of Deanna Troi.
She had always been there with him, serving by his side as a friend-and a close one at that. But he had never gotten the courage to be with her as they had been so many years ago. Instead, they just kept making excuses, such as 'We can't be involved as long as we serve on the same ship.' He couldn't help but feel a great amount of guilt and regret for not taking advantage of his countless opportunities with Deanna.
Will sat quietly in his quarters thinking, What will I do without you, Imzadi? He found himself surprised that he could even still refer to her as his beloved after all the years that had passed. They had only said the word aloud to each other a few times...but he could remember numerous times when he knew in his soul that they had both felt in during those tense and difficult situations.
But they were no closer to being Imzadi now then they were then. Or so he forced himself to believe. As Riker continued to rethink his history with Deanna Troi, he discovered his heart ached for her more and more. Will stood, and picked up a picture he had of Deanna sitting on his dresser, and stroked the frame as if it were her face. Once he realized he was now in more pain over her than ever, he decided he needed to talk to that someone who might help ease his pain.
The only one that could help him-the very person who had caused it. That unavoidable day had come at the same time for Deanna Troi as well. She remained in her cabin going through various mementos given to her by members of the drew. There was a book of Hamlet from Captain Picard, a copy of Beverly Crusher's version of the play, Much Ado About Nothing, a clay sculpture that was supposed to be a rose (but looked more like a dandelion), from Alexander.
"Well," she said aloud as she looked around the room, "that's one box. What's in the next?" She moved the current container in front of her off to the side, and opened the small one next to her. Deanna's breath caught in her throat. She had opened the box to find a photo of her and Will Riker that was taken a few years ago when they had 'bumped' into each other on Risa. They were standing, with Will behind her, his arms wrapped affectionately around her waist, hands interlaced. Deanna's hands covered his, and they were both smiling.
Deanna stared at the picture in disbelief. She couldn't remember the last time she and Will had looked so happy. "Where have all those days gone?" she said to herself. Where else? she thought. With the rest of the regrets she had in her life. Deanna always knew back then, that somehow, she would meet her Imzadi again-regardless of the years of tears she had wept over him. She had so badly wanted to run into his arms that day they were reunited, and tell him how much she missed, how she never stopped loving him.
Deanna could tell by the look on his face that he was shocked to see her, and that he couldn't find the words he needed to tell her everything that he was feeling in that moment-but she already knew. One of the many advantages of being Imzadi meant sensing the other's thoughts. Another was that the bond could never be broken.
She thought that their reunion would eventually lead to a more permanent commitment, but privately she resolved to believing her duties on the ship were of greater priority than the needs of her heart. Besides, involvement with a commanding officer was not one of the most appropriate relationships to have while serving on the same ship. And now-knowing that he was leaving tomorrow for good-she deeply regretted having made that decision.
As she continued to rummage through the box, Deanna found the handmade guaze headband Will had given her, along with the purple orchid he had picked for her while they were on(or had attempted to take) shore leave on Betazed. There was a smile on her face, as well as in her heart. Next, she discovered a small note he had written (on paper, of course) congratulating her on her promotion to commander.
Deanna remembered going to his quarters, and telling him that she was thinking about taking the Bridge Officer's test. He had warned her of the difficulty of the test, and immense responsibility that came with becoming a full commander, but had-above all-given her plenty of support and encouragement. And sure enough, later that day when she had retaken the test for the fourth time, she finally passed. Will had left the note stuck to her cabin door saying, 'You made it, Deanna. Your determination is truly inspirational. You don't know just how proud I am of you. Keep reaching for the stars. You know I'll be there for you, whenever you need me. Always.' And he had signed it, 'Love, Will.'
Deanna dug towards the bottom of the box and found an older piece of paper. She unfolded it and began reading, "I hold you close to me, feel the warmth of you, and remember a time..." Deanna gasped, "Oh my God...I can't believe I still have this." Written on the paper was the poem Will had composed for her when they had first met on Betazed. Only a few moments after they had... The memories came back to her as if it were only yesterday. Will's Prince-Charming wit, his commanding demeanor, that cocky attitude. His sensitivity to her emotions, his smile, his laugh, and especially...his touch.
Deanna closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then continued to read, "Do you share the memory with me of dark times past...? Do you share the memories of times to come? The future holds such promise..." She paused, trying to contain her emotions the poem evoked from her. Deanna continued, "And just as I cannot imagine how I survived the past without you, I cannot imagine a future...without you." She said the last few words slowly, trying to comprehend them, and found that they were now bittersweet and even hollow to her. Soon, she knew, there would be no more poetry, no more words to comfort her, and her beloved Imzadi would be gone-forever. Deanna held the poem to her chest, hoping to grasp whatever memories she had left of Will, and sobbed.
Part II
A few moments later, her door chimed. She already knew who it was, and was afraid to let him see her in her current state. Deanna hesitated for a moment-the chime rang again-then wiped her eyes and said, "Come in."
Will stood in the doorway and asked, "May I join you?" His voice was quiet.
"Sure," Deanna sniffed.
He observed the items scattered about her, then looked at her face. Her eyes were red and swollen. Will could already conclude what she had been doing. He approached her slowly and said anyhow, "You've been crying, haven't you?"
Deanna looked down at her hands, knowing very well she couldn't lie to him. "Yes," she said softly.
He knelt down next to her and asked, "Deanna, what is it?" As if he didn't already know what was bothering her. She looked up at him, the pain pasted on her face, and said, "You...You're leaving the ship." Deanna spoke so quietly that Riker thought she was purposely making it so he couldn't hear her-or she was doing it to prevent herself from crying in front of him. His second guess was correct. Deanna was still looking at him helplessly. Her lips quivered, and her entire body was trembling.
Will put one of his hands to her face, "Imzadi," he whispered, "Please... talk to me."
Tears ran down her cheeks as she went to him, and he wrapped her in his arms. He rocked her gently back and forth. "I knew this day would come," Deanna said through her sobs.
"We both did," Will told her as he held her in his embrace. She pulled back a little and spoke through her tears, "You know how I feel. I don't want you to go...but I refuse to be the one to interfere with your dreams, and destroy your hopes of ever becoming a captain." She paused as she sniffled, "It's all you've ever wanted, Will, and I won't take that away from you."
He took Deanna by the shoulders and spoke softly, "That's not all I want." She bowed her head. He continued, "You have only become apart of my dreams and hopes, Deanna. You could never destroy them."
She turned away from him a little and said, "I could if you stayed here."
Will sighed heavily, "Deanna, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't as ambitious about becoming a captain as I was ten years ago..."
She looked away still and went on before he could continue, "But you wouldn't be lying if you admitted that even after all these years, I'm still not a priority to you." Fatigue and despair were now catching up with her. Her tone was sharp, and the hurt rang clearly through her words. Deanna got up and turned her back to Will as she headed towards the window.
Will was desperate, "What do you want me to do?" he demanded, "I can't just go to Captain Picard and tell him that I want to take you with me! He wouldn't even think of letting you go. You're too valuable to him."
"I don't know what to say!" she cried. With tears of frustration flowing from her face, she went on, "All I know is that when you're gone..." she said, quieting a little, "there will be an empty place not only next to me on the bridge, but here," she pointed to her chest, "inside of my heart and soul..."
With that, Will went to Deanna, turned her around to him, and kissed her deeply. In it, she felt his sorrow, and his desperation, as he tried to make her feel the love she so desperately needed. After a few moments, he said, "I'll never leave you, Deanna. I'm with you always. In mind, heart, and spirit."
"And most of all," he continued, as he held Deanna's face in his hands, "I'll never stop loving you, Imzadi. Never. No matter how far apart the stars seperate us." Her tears stopped as they held each other close, but the pain inside remained. They stayed that way for another hour, holding one another, hoping to stop the hurt and agony they were both feeling, for they knew tomorrow would be the last day they would see each other for a long time.
The next day...
The entire senior staff appeared in dress uniform, and were all lined up in the transporter room, preparing to bid farewell to their former first officer. All of course, but Deanna.
"You know she wanted to be here," Beverly Crusher said to Will as she told him her good-byes.
He couldn't hide the pain he was feeling. He thought that maybe afterall, it really was just too much for her to see him leave. Will sincerely hoped that after yesterday, she finally knew how he felt.
"Take care of yourself while you're out there on your own," Picard said, "and be sure to send us a line every now and then."
Riker tried to smile, "I'll be sure to do that, Sir."
The captain gave the signal to the crew to give the departing officer the customary farewell salute, and then cheered, "To the best Number One I've ever had!"
With that, the staff gave the salute and cheered on. Will picked up his things and moved onto the transporter pad. But before Picard could give the order to energize him, the door of the room opened. It was Deanna. Will was speechless. She had come to say good-bye after all. Her face was unreadable to the crew, almost stoic.
She approached the pad slowly. When she got to him she spoke through her mind, *I'll miss you, my beloved.*
He whispered his reply softly, for her ears only, "I'll miss you too, Imzadi.
Deanna put her hand to his bearded face, and stroked it one last time. Will put his hand to her cheek and lovingly wiped a tear that had made its way from her eye. And regardless of what the people in that room might have been thinking, saying, whatever, he didn't care. He was sharing his last moment on the ship with the one person he truly loved, and who loved him. That was all that mattered.
The transporter chief gently interuptted, "Your ship is waiting for you, Captain."
But before he could leave, Will looked into Deanna's eyes and kissed her with all his heart and soul. It was deep and promising. They stayed embraced for a moment, and then held each other before parting. As Deanna hesitatantly stepped away from him, she sent, *You are in my thoughts, always, Imzadi.* It was a Betazoid phrase that held the equivalent to the human phrase, 'I love you.'
As Will shimmered away, and Deanna's face disappeared, he sent back to her, *May time be kind enough so that I may see you again soon, my precious Imzadi. You are in my thoughts, always, Deanna. And you always will be from now until eternity.*

The End