Spookysgirl  spookysgirl@earthlink.net


~insert cute disclaimer here~              


                  "They loved each other, not driven by necessity, by the "Blaze of passion" often                    falsely ascribed to love. They loved each other because everything around them willed it, the trees, and the clouds, and the sky over their heads and the earth under their feet."

                                             Boris Pasterake.....Doctor Zhivago


"So, do you think it will work?" Beverly Crusher looked across the table at her friend. To a casual observer it would appear the ships Counselor Deanna Troi, had her eyes set on the red head across from her. But Beverly had known her long enough and well enough that she was very aware that Deanna's sights were set on the couple behind her. Deanna's sudden eye movement as she looked uncomfortably down at the glass dish in front of her, caused Beverly to turn her head. The ship's first officer, looking more then slightly handsome in his pale blue shirt and lose fitting pants, leaned down to kiss the petite blond woman who had just arrived. She may not have been an empath, but she was sure she could feel the wealth of conflicting emotions that were swirling around her friend. Turning back to face her, Deanna still studied the melting dish of Maurivan chocolate ice cream in front of her.

"I've always heard ice cream is better if eaten with a spoon, not lapped from a dish" Beverly raised an auburn eyebrow, and watched the rich brown chocolate drip into the plate below it.

"I'm just not in the mood for chocolate." Deanna lifted her eyes from the dying dessert only long enough to answer Beverly's question. Beverly leaned back in her chair, tapping her fingers on the small table. "Ah huh, not in the mood for chocolate." She said warily. "Then I say, you admit to yourself what you ARE in the mood for....like Commander Riker ala mode." Beverly was not disappointed with the response she received from the counselor.

"Beverly, keep your voice down. He'll hear you." Deanna's dark scolding eyes met with Beverly's contemptuous blue ones. "So what if he does. You two are both too stupid to speak." The contemptuous sparkle in her eyes changing to an almost bewitchingly sinister twinkle. "Are you trying to tell me Riker ala mode doesn't appeal to you in the least?" Beverly waggled her eyebrows suggestively, Deanna losing her battle with seriousness'.

"OK.... I can't say the thought hasn't crossed my mind once or twice lately." She giggled. "But I'm surprised it's one of YOUR fantasies." Deanna knew she now had the upper hand, the doctor shifting uncomfortably in her seat. "I didn't mean I'd ever thought......." Deanna wished at that moment for an ability to hold on to a poker face like Will Riker, but her lying, even in fun was too easily read. Both women broke into a fit of laughter, pulling the eyes of many in ten forward to their table, but none as quickly as the bearded Commander. Shifting in his chair, and doing his best to avoid looking at the women, he had a nagging suspicion he was somehow the brunt of their laughter, and for some reason it made him extremely nervous.

{All senior staff report to the captain's ready room immediately.}

Riker almost breathed a sigh of relief, it was not often he looked forward to being pulled from what he had predicted to be a night of extreme pleasure. But somehow escaping the laughter of the brunette and the redhead at the table beside him made it all worth it.

<Or not> he thought as the two woman eyed him as they passed, both looking far too provocative for his taste. He gave them a head start, and prayed they wouldn't hold the turbo lift for him.

He straightened his tunic, hesitating before entering the conference room...his suspicion of being tricked by Deanna, and Beverly stilled instantly by the deep lines of concern on his captain's face. Taking his seat beside Deanna, he rested his eyes on her for a moment.....He was way out of practice reading her, but the expression on her face told him this news the captain was about to share was beyond serious.

The captain stood at the head of the table, Riker felt the tightness in his shoulders intensify in anticipation of what the Captain was about to say.

"The Enterprise has been summoned to the planet Risa, to investigate a series of unexplained deaths." Will felt his shoulders relax.. <Risa> he thought. <nothing ever happens there>.

Captain Picard cleared his throat, Will had never seen his Captain struggling for words as he seemed to be now.

"Perhaps deaths is not the appropriate word....murders seems more suitable." Resting his hands on the conference table he continued. "Eight women have been brutally murdered on Risa in the last twelve months. The risian officials have forwarded ahead the evidence they have collected so far."

Will massaged the arm of his chair thoughtfully. "How does this involve the federation?"

Behind Captain Picard, the badly beaten bodies of the slain women projected themselves.

"Apparently number one, all of the victims were on their honeymoons. But most importantly they were all starfleet medical officers." Picard turned toward the screen. "This is the latest victim, Commander Jayna Thomas of the Ghandi."

Will's eyes met with the screen, and turned quickly away. He swallowed several gulps of air, doing his best to stop the sweeping nausea that threatened him. Standing on wobbly legs he looked closer at the image, she was beaten and maimed beyond recognition, but even through the deep cuts, and bruises that covered her once perfect face, he knew her.

"Son of a bitch." He choked on the words, not caring who heard the breaks in his voice. Picard looked at the ashen face of his first officer, the expression he carried causing an unforeseen chill to tickle his spine.

"I'm sorry Will. Did you know her?"

Will heard the Captain's question, and for some reason at this moment he was unable to deny what he had for so many years.

"Yes Sir...She was my x-wife"

Riker bit down hard on his lip, in one insane moment of shock and grief he had blurted out the secret he had spent the better part of his life trying to hide. Keeping his eyes forward he was unsure who to look at first.....his captain, though he had never seen him at such a loss for words, he was sure his steady blue gaze would be nonjudgmental ....Maybe Doctor Crusher, he had no doubt about the fire that would be shooting like darts from her reprimanding eyes, or perhaps the Chief engineer, at least his feelings wouldn't be as blatantly read as the others.

He would have to face them all sooner or later, and he assumed he'd have a lot of explaining to do. But there was only one thing at this moment he was absolutely sure of, and that was he had no desire to turn to face the deep onyx windows of the ships counselor. He could only guess how the others would react to his hidden past, but he had deliberately deceived Deanna, the one person in the world who had always accepted him for what he was. Of course what he was, was a lying son of a bitch, and he had become so accomplished at it he had managed to fool even the one person in the world that loved him unconditionally.

He hadn't realized how hard he'd been biting his bottom lip, he tasted his blood, considering the pain a welcome distraction.

"I believe a recess is called for. We will reconvene in two hours." His captain's voice was steady, and controlled but Will still was too much of a coward to face him.

"It's not necessary Sir." His voice still cracked with emotion. Picard had terminated the images of Jayna upon Will's admission, but the bloodied pictures of her still floated in front of his eyes. He was sure the pictures of Jayna he had kept tucked away in his mind would be forever replaced by the mutilated body he had just seen.

"I believe it is necessary number one." Picard's voice contained the decision has been made tone Will had grown to accept. He nodded, and listened to the sounds of the others filing from the room.

Picard rested a hand on Will's shoulder, Will swallowing the fear he was feeling, so afraid he might be met by disappointment in his captain's eyes.

Amazingly enough, he found no signs of disappointment in the somber face of Jean Luc Picard, only an incredible look of sympathy and understanding.

"I'll be fine Sir." He was quite sure that was one of the most insincere lines he had ever spoken, but Picard massaged his shoulder firmly and left him alone with his thoughts.

Now that he was sure he was alone he turned to the chair that Deanna had just vacated running his hand over the subtle fabric. It was still warm where Deanna's hands had gripped the arms, massaging it gently he wished he could take back the hurt he was sure he had caused her.

Sitting in the chair he rested his elbows on the hard table, and buried his face in his hands.....In only a heartbeat his 'perfect' life had been shattered, starfleet would undoubtedly want to know why he had hidden his past, he was sure the inquiry would put his career on hold indefinitely, if not permanently. He also wondered if any of those who called him friend would be able to trust him as they had..

Ironically in Jayna's death his dark secrets would have been safe forever, but not even he was heartless enough to feel relief over her death. After all he had loved her once, by all counts he guessed he always would....they had shared a bittersweet moment in time he was sure was burned permanently into his soul. A burn he had managed over the years to reduce to only smoldering ashes, but Jayna's death had rekindled the flickering embers, igniting his need to avenge her unnecessary death, and prevent any others. Deanna would never forgive him for his deception he was sure of that, he only hoped they would still be able to serve together, and that someday she could overlook his cowardliness and be his friend again. Without shedding a tear he accepted his fate, once again his life had been blown to kingdom come, and once again he would bury his loses in the small hell that burned in his soul.

A few decks away Deanna Troi's emotion also rained havoc over her soul, but it was not only her own emotions that plummeted through her heart. Will Riker's overwhelming guilt, and grief, pulled unmercifully at her own feeling of dejection, and contempt. A large part of her felt hurt and betrayed by the man she had trusted enough to call imzadi, but a tiny piece of her felt his pain as if it were her own, a pain that went much deeper then just the loss of his wife.

When Will had blurted out his dark secret, she had wanted to crawl in a hole, hide from the eyes of the others at the table who had all turned their sympathies to her. But instead she ignored the slap of emotions that had cracked over her and focused all of herself on Will. The shock and remorse he was feeling towards the images of Jayna were genuine, but another form of grief, a much deeper hurt had inched its way over him. Deanna was sure in that instant that Will Riker's secret wife was only a small piece of what he was feeling, whatever had happened between Jayna, and Will Riker had left him with an open wound that had never stop bleeding.



Deanna looked to the unopened doors of her quarters, the chimes sounding impatiently. Empathic awareness had nothing to do with the response she called to the closed doors, honestly she was surprised her visitor had been able to stay away this long.

"Come in Beverly." Deanna pulled the pillow beside her over her chest, a comforting shield from the questions she was sure to be faced with.

"Thought you might like some company." The tall slender ship's doctor stood framed in the doorway, Deanna could tell attempting to gauge her emotional state.

"It's all right Beverly....Come sit down." Deanna patted the couch cushion beside her, and curled her legs under her making room for Beverly.

Beverly settled in beside her before speaking. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Deanna hugged the pillow tighter, raising her eyes to meet the concerned look in her friends face. "I'm not sure there's a lot to talk about Beverly....We all have secrets we'd rather not share." Deanna amazed herself with the calm she was able to keep in her voice, inside her emotions were cascading relentlessly over her jagged nerves.

"Deanna, this must have stirred some sort of reaction from you. It was a shock to all of us, but you...you and Will have a past."

Deanna shifted slightly at the question, knowing Beverly could never fully understand the bond she shared with Will, nor the fact that his feelings right now were causing her more pain then her own. In that thought she found the answer she had been looking for all along, removing the pillow from her chest, she inhaled deeply and spoke softly to the doctor. "Do you consider Will your friend, I mean even now, in spite of what he kept from us?"

Beverly looked genuinely shocked at the question, exactly the reaction Deanna had hoped for.

"Of course I do. I wouldn't be much of a friend if I gave up on him because of a past mistake....God only knows I have a few skeletons in my own closet. But your relationship is different...." Deanna interrupted. "Is it? Will is my friend too Beverly. By all rights that's all that he is. Will is hurting right now, more then I have ever seen him hurt. He needs us, all of us. Our past as lovers is just that the past....but right now in the present, and hopefully well into the future I WILL be is friend, and as his friend I will help him through this." Deanna could see the glimmer of skepticism that shined in her friends blue eyes, more importantly she felt her own lack of conviction creeping over her heart. More then anything she wanted to feel the words she had just spoken absolutely, but she couldn't. A childish question kept screaming in the unwanted sector of her mind...."Why could he commit to her, and not to me."


"Sir!" Will Riker stood immediately, stunned his captain had entered the room without is knowledge.

"I'm sorry Will, I didn't mean to startle you. Please sit down, I'd like to speak with you before the others return." Picard gestured to a chair, and waited for Will to sit before taking the chair beside him. Will rolled his shoulders wondering how long he had been sitting with his face buried in his hands....his neck was stiff, his elbows numb, his fingers seemly locked in a curled position. His body slowly began to wake up, the pins and needles ran through his arms, massaging them firmly he waited for the bomb to drop.

"Will, again I am very sorry about the unfortunate way you learned of Commander Thomas's death...."

"You couldn't have known Sir." Keeping his rigid posture he continued. "If this about your report to head quarters, I'm prepared to face the consequences of my deception."

Clearing his throat the federation captain leaned thoughtfully back in his chair. "Actually number one, I haven't had time to file a report. Right now I'm more concerned with your ability to carry out this mission we've been assigned."

Will was speechless, and more then a little moved by the captains gesture of faith....Will Riker may be liar, a cheat, and a sorry excuse for a human being, but one thing he wasn't, was stupid. Captain Picard had had more then enough time to make a report to headquarters, he was sure he knew he had used illegitimate means to delete his past from his records....but instead he had chosen to ignore it, or at least delay it. Either this man had more faith him then he had in himself, or he wasn't as great a captain as he had always thought.

"I would like nothing better then to play a part in the capture of this lunatic. Thank you Sir." Will moderated the eagerness in his voice, curbing the vengeful emotions that churned inside him.

"Very good, because under the circumstances Starfleet has requested You protect there bait, so to speak."

"Bait?" <circumstances?> Will's question to the captain and to himself left unanswered as the others flooded into the room.

Deanna took her seat beside Will avoiding his persistent gaze, she couldn't do this....more then anything she wanted to help him, why couldn't she swallow her own hurt and be there for him just as he had always been for her. When she had almost married Wyatt, though he had struggled over his feelings, he'd been there, when she had lost her empathic sense he'd stood by her, God, when she gotten involved with Tom....Will Riker had put his own feelings on hold for her, he always had...was she too selfish to do the same.

"Star fleet has devised a ruse to trap our killer." Deanna stopped her battle with herself, knowing the Captain's words were going to cause yet another severe reaction from Will.

"Thanks to two of our officers who have agreed to step away from their usual duties, I believe we stand a good chance of catching our killer."

Will looked from Doctor Crusher to counselor Troi, knowing one of them must be the bait the captain had spoke of.

"Counselor Troi has consented to work with the profiler Risa has commissioned for this case....Commander Riker will accompany her."

Will shot instinctively to his feet, hovering protectively behind the counselor's chair. "Sir, with all do respect I hardly think Counselor Troi is qualified as a profiler, or trained well enough to go up against something as serious as this!"

The words leaving his mouth, he was certain this was the second time in as many hours he was going to regret what he'd said. More then anything in the last few hours he had wanted to look into the eyes of Deanna Troi, she granted his wish, springing to her feet and facing him head on.

Riker gripped the back of the chair and assumed his classic 'go head try to defy me' stance, Deanna opened her mouth to speak, closing it immediately. To everyone else in the conference room Will appeared as he always did, prepared to face whatever Deanna was about to throw at him. But Deanna saw more, not only the sorrow of seeing Jayna beaten and mutilated, but a tremendous fear of seeing her the same way stormed over his blue-gray eyes.

"Did you have something to say Counselor?" Will's voice contained the unaffected tone of command, Deanna did her best to keep it from escalating feelings in herself that would cause her simmering feelings of hurt to breach the surface.

"As a matter of fact I do Commander." Turning her head to Captain Picard she stated her request. "If I might speak to Commander Riker alone Sir?" Picard's eyes flashed with what Deanna took to be relief....her empathic awareness clouded by her own and Will's off balance emotions.

"Very well, Counselor." He agreed, and with only a look the others filed from the room.

Will waited for the doors to slid shut before focusing his attentions back on Deanna. "I'm sorry Deanna, but your way over your head on this one, and there's not a thing you can say that will change my mind."

"Whether or not you change your mind isn't important, the decisions been made, by me, for me. All you have to do is decide if you can put aside your demons and perform your duties." There was a sting in her voice she hoped went unnoticed, all she really wanted was for him to drop his armor and tell her the prime source of his hurt. She wasn't even sure she could handle whatever it was that seemed to be slowly destroying him, she only knew the hurt, and guilt he was feeling would ruin him if he didn't let it out.

"I have every confidence in my abilities, Deanna."

"Do you?"

He raised his hand in warning. "Don't even try to psychoanalyze me Counselor!"

She drew in a deep breath, gesturing to the chair beside her. "Sit down Will."

He was finding the calm in her voice infuriating, not what he'd expected, and certainly not what he deserved. Reluctantly flopping into the chair beside her he admitted to himself he needed her to lash out at him, reinforce the deep seeded pain he was feeling. But the professional and almost emotionless gaze she met him with, told him she was not going to cooperate.

She held him with that gaze for what seemed an eternity, folding her hands serenely on the table she finally spoke. "When starfleet approached me on this I knew I had to least try to help in the capture of this killer." Brushing a few invisible wrinkles from her uniform she continued. "I feel even more strongly about it now. Now it's personal, this man brutally murdered someone you cared about deeply, and in doing so hurt my best friend more then I've ever seen him hurt.....Please Will, we can do this."

Somewhere around the word best friend Will had found it impossible to look at her, he had looked to his lap, gaining a whole new respect for the brave, and selfless woman beside him. He believed most of what she said, but he was not so far out of touch with her feelings that he didn't know how hard the words had been for her to say. Forgiveness was not a variable right now he knew that, acceptance was more then he'd hoped for. Without looking up he agreed to her decision, after all how could he ever expect forgiveness from her, when he couldn't even offer it to himself.


Behind closed eyes Will Riker's demons vied for control, forcing his unconscious to face that which he had tried for so long to escape.{ the Alaskan sun splashed its warmth over there naked bodies...in this place, in this time, there was only them, surrounded by lush green meadow, and vast blue sky, their vulnerabilities, hopes, dreams expressed with youthful exuberance and no fear of the others rejection. Her auburn hair fell over his face as she pressed her warm body against his. Pushing it back away from her face, he wallowed in the love that sparkled in her vivid green eyes. "Tell me it will always be like this?"

"Always." Her promise coming simultaneously with the dark shadow over head. The huge star ship hovered in the distance, the world changing, darkening, until only the shimmering silver hull of the ship encompassed their perfect world. They ran towards it, hand in hand, the ground becoming soft and wet under their feet, each step more difficult as they sunk deeper into the muddy earth. Riker stumbled, falling into the sea of mud, spitting the dirt from his mouth he narrowed his eyes against the dim lighting, focusing on whatever had stopped him from reaching his goal.} His eyes flew open, the grisly image still hanging in front of him permanently branded in his minds eye. Pushing his sweat ridden sheets to the floor he stumbled to the bathroom, fighting to beat the waves of nausea that coursed over him. Falling to the floor he sur came to his body's need to purge itself of the turmoil that was threatening to drown him.


Deanna Troi paced her quarters, Will's emotions flooding over her with such force they had pulled her from the light sleep she had managed to fall into. Whatever he was remembering, what ever he was dreaming was tearing him apart piece by piece. Sitting down at the computer terminal she decided serial killings were not the only mystery that needed to be solved, Will Riker's buried memories may have been stirred by the images of Jayna, but it was not Jayna that was destroying the man she would always love, it was something deeper, an underlying guilt that stirred a kind of emotion she had never felt from him before. What she was thinking was impossible, but if she had been asked to pinpoint the type of emotion she was sensing from him right now, there would be only one she could equate it to.... Parental grief..


For hours she punched commands into her computer terminal, and for hours she was met with the same results....nothing. All she had learned was what she already knew, Jayna had grown up in Valdez Alaska, her father was Admiral David Anderson, one of the most highly regarded officers in the federation, everything in the records was superficial and useless.

It had been over an hour since she had felt the enterprise slow to impulse, soon it would be time for her and Will to leave on their "honeymoon from hell", as Beverly had so eloquently put it. And unfortunately she was no closer to unraveling this mystery now then she had been when she started.

Flipping the switch she watched the image of Jayna Anderson Thomas fade to black replaced by the mutilated victim of a twisted crime. She shuttered, thinking of the days of torture these young woman had had to endure before being allowed to die. The Risian officials profile listed all the classic earmarks of a person bound to dominate, not an unusual characteristic for someone able to carry out such a crime. Theoretically the personality lacked control of his own life and felt dominated by all around him.....having power over these women, giving him at least momentarily what he lacked in his own existence.

But Deanna did not believe the evidence to be as cut and dry as they would have liked her to think, normally in a case of dominance there would always be indications of sexual abuse, the ultimate form of control. Yet none of the woman had been violated in that way. Shifting in her chair, she magnify the image, zeroing in on that which troubled her most.....The women's faces. All cut and bruise beyond recognition, their heads completely void of hair and according to the autopsy reports all facial wounds were inflicted after death.

Terminating the disturbing images she wondered how Will had reacted to the graphic descriptions in the autopsy reports. Perhaps she had overreacted to his overpowering emotions earlier in the evening, the images, and cause of the deaths were more then a little distressing to her...if he had been accessing the information provided by Risa earlier, it might explain the broad scope of emotions she had felt from him.

. Pushing up from the desk she massaged her stiff muscles, admitting even under the circumstances there was no one else she would rather have on this mission with her. Will Riker was the best, and even now if she had to trust anyone with her life it would be him. Smiling inwardly she also felt the time they would have to spend it such close proximity to each other may afford her the opportunity to solve the other mystery she was not about to give up on.

Deanna jumped as the door chimes sounded through her quarters, it was not so much the sound that had startled her, but the visitor she knew waited behind the closed doors. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror she stopped to see if there was anything she could do about the way she looked at the moment. Running her fingers through her tousled hair she decided he had seen her look much worse, and the only cure for her beauty flaws would be the sleep she had deprived herself of.

Releasing the lock on the door it slid open obediently, Will leaning impatiently against the frame.

"I was getting worried....are you all right?"

"I'm fine, just had a lot to do before we leave....didn't get much sleep." She watched him as he surveyed her jumbled appearance, in awe of how stable and calm he appeared. The man who had openly displayed his emotions in the conference room just yesterday, the man who she was sure had spent the better part of his night battling memories now stood in front of her in complete control, everything he had been feeling, tucked safely away in his back pocket.

"I'd like to talk to you before we go. We are going to have to depend on each other in this, I guess under the circumstances I'd like to make sure you can still depend on me. And, and I'd like to say I'm sorry, Deanna." In his last words his facade slipped for an instant, unveiling only a whisper of his vulnerabilities. Deanna did her best to lock on, but just as quickly as his mask had slipped it was replaced.

"Your the best at what you do Will....I wouldn't want anyone else to accompany me on this mission." He was relieved at the conviction in her words, her next words on the other hand were not so believable. "You have nothing to be sorry for Will....Sometimes the past is best if left where it belongs."

Moving closer to her, he took one of her hands in his. "I wanted to tell you so many times, but no time seemed like the right time. It just kept falling further and further into the past until I'd almost convinced myself it never happened. We were young and maybe a little wild, we made some rash decisions ....I don't know how else to explain it Deanna. But I hated lying to you."

She watched his thumbs stroke gently over her hands, her heart and soul surrendering their forgiveness, but her mind shouting the warning.. (he hated lying to you, but he's doing it right now). She sequestered the thought until another day, speaking instead the words he needed to hear. "I do understand Will.....it's not like the subject of our previous marriages ever came up." .

Even now, in the midst of her conflicting emotions she felt a loss as he let her hand fall from his. His strength and acceptance of her was always willingly bestowed, she wondered if he had any idea how much those simple things meant to her..

"The captain says anytime we're ready our shuttle awaits. Just let me know." He turned for the door tossing a look over his shoulder. "Deanna, we're posing as a honeymoon couple....are you going to be able to act like your in love?"

<Act like I'm in love?! Do birds fly, does Data ramble?....is it possible he is so naive he has no idea how I feel>

"It will be fine, don't worry." Was all she spoke aloud. His grin broke easily over his face, but sadly never touched his eyes.

Deanna waited for the doors to close behind him before falling like a rag doll onto the couch. <God, he's a stupid man!>


Will regarded his surroundings, he had spent more then his share of time on Risa, but he had never ventured to the side of the planet that played only to honeymooners. He had to admit it was beautiful, a vast expanse of perfectly groomed gardens encircled the secluded cottage that would be their home....though cottage would not have been the word he had would have used to describe the structure, no, he immediately decided gingerbread house was much more suitable. The cottage was not small by any means, but still it held almost a fairy tale element of charm. White lattice work held perfectly bloomed roses, their colors encompassing all the shades of the rainbow, Large spiral pillars framed the front entrance. The door itself made of stained-glass, etched with detailed pictures of hearts and flowers. Pale pink pebbles made up the walkway that lead to the house, The pathway dusted with an assortment of petals, the wind that blew off the crystal blue lake causing them to spiral in welcome. The entourage of people that had escorted them to their sanctuary pushed them hurriedly forward.

"I thought honeymoon couples liked to be alone.....why do we need all these people here?" He slipped his arm around Deanna's tiny waist, enjoying the tickle of the silk blouse she wore against his bare arm..

Deanna shifted what Will had surmised to be at least five dozen flowers in her arms. "They're here to mark this moment, offer what we will need to begin our lives together."

"And what do we need?"

She rolled her eyes, still wearing the same playful smile that had blanketed her face since they'd arrived. "Just carry me over the threshold, then they'll all go away."

He stopped at the doorway, moving his eyes to the sky, ironically it seemed the only cloud that hung in the vast blue heavens, loomed threateningly above their sanctuary. Waiting for the last of their escorts to vacate the cottage he swept Deanna in his arms.

"Kiss me." She whispered. He smiled awkwardly at the people who stood waiting, before catching Deanna's lips with his. The instant his lips met hers, the others broke into some type of chant, petals falling over them.

"More petals?" Will mumbled without fully releasing her lips, Deanna smiled against them, he was sure he did not like the look that had ignited in her eyes. Before he had time to react to the sinister twinkle water fell in icy buckets on top of them, Will stepping back at the shock and falling over the luggage that stood inside the doorway.

"Well that was very gallant of you" She laughed, waving off the concerns of their escorts.

"You knew that was going to happen....You could have warned me!"

Looking at her, in that moment, time stood still for him. She looked more beautiful then he'd ever seen her, her face sparkling with her laughter, drips of water running seductively down her glistening neck, pulling his eyes to her breasts, her nipples hard and erect under the wet silk of her blouse.

"I thought about warning you, but changed my mind." She pushed up from her place on top of him where she had landed, pulling Will Riker from his inappropriate thoughts.

"And that was significant ...how?" He asked, getting to his feet and scolding himself for the crack of arousal he heard in his voice.

"The petals represent purity of thought, the water cleanses our spirits so when we enter our sanctuary both our lives will start anew, fresh, untouched by another."

"Be nice if that's all it took." He grumbled the comment under his breath, picking up a piece of luggage and carrying it up the winding stairway to the bedroom.

He inhaled deeply, the familiar scent of Risa filling his nose, he had never been able to put his finger on the aroma that filled all the bedrooms he'd ever been in on this planet. He only knew it seemed to intensify every nerve in your body, and more then once he'd wished he could bottle it. Not surprisingly the four poster bed was the center piece for the plush bedroom....The satin bed covering also dusted with petals. Picking up a few he ran them through his fingers. "God, more petals....seems like an inappropriate place for pure thoughts." He dropped the luggage where he stood, flopping on the bed and covering his eyes with his arm.

"Your getting the bed all wet." Pulling his arm from his eyes he bit back the crude remark that had floated into his mind.

"I'm sorry I wasn't thinking." He got to his feet, Deanna brushing the petals off that had stuck to his wet clothes.

"Ok, I've formed an opinion on this petal thing....." The look in her eyes as he spoke told him play time was over.

"What is it Deanna?"

"It's Jayna's husband, he's downstairs waiting for you."

Will's shoulders drooped. "Great, the perfect end to a perfect day."


"Wait." Will stopped on the first step turning to Deanna. "I want to come with you."

He nodded, watching her as she dropped the bouquet of flowers she was holding to conceal her now see through blouse. Digging through her bag she disappeared into the bathroom, emerging seconds later in an oversized sweater. "Now I feel a little more presentable, the other was a little too revealing."

"Really, I hadn't noticed," Will said raising his brows innocently.

"Yea, right." She snickered following him now the winding staircase. He stopped short, peeking through the wide railings at Commander Thomas. Deanna waited for him silently, knowing he was mentally preparing himself for an awkward meeting.

He had seemed like a nice enough man to Deanna, and an extremely handsome one.....flashing blue eyes, charcoal hair, and a mustache that fit perfectly with his roguish good looks. One deep breath and Will finished his trek down the stairway, extending his hand before he spoke. "Commander Thomas, I'm Com......"

Commander Thomas turned to the voice, ignoring the outstretched hand.

."The legendary Commander Riker.....We finally meet." The man's voice was dripping with hostility. Will may have chosen not to share his relationship with Jayna with anyone, but from the sound of Officer Thomas's voice Jayna had shared too much.

Will dropped his hand to his side and fought his need to act on his own feelings, "I'm so sorry about Jayna, but I have every confidence we'll be able to catch her killer."

"I'm sure you do Commander.....Tell me, is there anything you don't excel at?" Deanna watched as Will clenched and unclenched his fists at his side, she was sure if this had been the old west he would have drawn his gun.

"Do you have a purpose for being here Commander, because I really don't have time to exchange Insults with you." Will kept his voice steady, never wavering his eyes from the venomous stare of Commander Thomas.

"As a matter of fact I do, Admiral Anderson is waiting to see you.....We've set up a base in the back of the emporium of Lust, there would be nothing out of place about a newlywed entering that type of store, seemed liked the perfect cover." Will nodded, turning to Deanna. "Commander Thomas may be able to enlighten us on the threats Jayna received before she died, I suggest you talk to him. I don't want you alone, if you finish up with the Commander before I get back, have him escort you to the emporium" She walked with him to the door, Commander Thomas's voice causing them both to turn back.

"Now I thought for sure you'd need directions.....Hard to believe a lover boy like yourself would ever find the need for artificial apparatus." Will shook his head and closed his eyes, focusing on the one nerve in his body this bastard hadn't gotten on.

"Lock the door, Deanna." He said, leaving without looking back to Commander Thomas.

Deanna sealed the door, and leaned against it, "I understand your grieving right now, but your comments to Commander Riker were way out of line. I suggest you drop this unwarranted jealousy you seem to be dripping with, and pay him the respect he deserves"

Her voice had elevated more then a few pegs above where she had planed, in this little twist of personality traits she was amazed she had lost her temper where Will had managed to hold on to his.

Commander Thomas shifted his weight, meeting Counselor Troi's reprimanding glare. "I know, I'm sorry.....But you have no idea what it's like to have Riker's ghost sharing the bed with you and your new wife. I guess over the years I built up more resentment towards him then I even knew."

"I don't believe I'm the one you should be apologizing to." She folded her arms across her chest, focusing on this man's feelings of inadequacy, instead of her own anger.

"Your right....I'll apologize to him when I see him. But I can't believe you've never felt like you were playing second fiddle to Jayna."

She chewed on her lip, not wanting to admit that that was exactly how she was feeling right now. "My relationship with Commander Riker is purely professional .....his past has absolutely no bearing on me."

The expression of guilt that had encompassed his face since Deanna began her verbal thrashing changed quickly to confusion. "I'm sorry, I thought you were the betazoid Jayna had spoke of....Please forgive my assumption."

OK, she had lied, and from the tone of the Commander's voice not very well, she knew he didn't believe her, but her relationship with Will was not the issue.

"Maybe we should start over, I'm Deanna Troi." She held out her hand, a feeble attempt at a smile crossed her lips.

"Good idea." Relaxing his guard he took her hand in his. "I'm Commander Kevin Thomas....it's a pleasure to meet you."


Will Riker carried on a rather heated conversation with himself as he flew to the emporium, venting most of his anger on the unsuspecting controls of the land shuttle. "Arrogant son of a bitch...what the hell is she doing marrying a guy like that!" Pulling the shuttle in front of the emporium he smashed his hand into the controls, the controls stood up to the blow, which was more then Will could say about his fist.

"Shit!" Massaging his stinging fist, he looked out the portal at the brightly lit emporium. "Using artificial apprentice does not make you less of a lover, only opens up new possibilities." He expressed his opinion to no one in particular, choosing to manually close the shuttle door taking great pleasure in slamming it has hard as he could. "Guy probably sucks in bed." He grumbled to himself until he was well inside the emporium.

Will had hardly made it through the large doors that led to the inner sanctum of the emporium when he was approached by a beautiful woman, "Can I help you fulfill your pleasures?" Her voice was thick with suggestion, under normal circumstances he would have found time to appreciate the tall, scantly clad blond.

"No thank you....another time."

Normally the women who worked in the emporium didn't waste time on a second attempt, Will was surprised when instead of leaving the woman pressed closer to him. "I insist you let me help you. I have just what you need." The sexy lilt in her voice changed, meeting her eyes he understood. She must have read his understanding, before he could agree she was pulling him toward the back of the store.

"Wait here." She ordered after pulling him through several doorways. Will nodded, and began pacing the thickly carpeted floor, seeing Jayna's father again was going to be hard, and under the circumstance he predicted very painful. He didn't have to wait long to find out if his predictions had been correct. "Will Riker.....It's so good to see you my boy."

"Admiral." The Admiral took Will's outstretched hand and pulled him into a tight embrace. "I always new you'd outshine even your own aspirations .....Flagship of the federation." Slapping Will a few times on his back, the pride that sounded in this man's voice far surpassed his own father.

"Not a captain yet." Will offered, the admiral leading Will deeper into the back rooms.

"No, but you will be...time that old coot Picard stepped aside. Get some young blood at the helm of the enterprise."

He smiled at the admiral surveying him closely....he certainly had aged well, a few extra pounds, a few less hairs, but his voice and his eyes still held the sparkle of youth.

"I'm very, very sorry about Jayna, sir." Will offered his condolence while the admiral accessed an almost invisible doorway in one of the walls. Gesturing for Will to move inside he faced him, the perpetual fire that burned in his green eyes snuffed out at the mention of Jayna's name.

. "So am I son, so am I." Resting his hand on Will's shoulder he continued. "But my little girl would be more then happy to know that your the one that's gonna nail this SOB's ass to the wall.


"I'd like nothing more then to get my hands around this guys throat." With the Admiral, Will had no reason to conceal his feelings of vengeance.

"You might have to stand in line for that opportunity, after Kevin and I finish with him don't think there'll be much left."

Will considered asking the Admiral exactly what Kevin Thomas's story was, but stilled the question, figuring the Admiral certainly didn't need to know what an idiot his son in law was.

An awkward silence fell over the two, Will looking for anything to break it.

"How's Julie?" He had tried not to think about Julie Anderson, Jayna's half sister....case and point her image held more pain for him then Jayna's.

The Admiral released a deep sigh of frustration, yet a soft smile played at his mouth. "Probably just as you remember her, stubborn, independent, and just as unbridled as she always was. Tried to contact her about her sister, but the universe is a big place, not having much luck locating her."

"Nice to know some things never change." He rolled his eyes at the Admiral. Julie was one of a kind, there was no doubt about that. In contrast to her sister's beauty she would have been considered plain, short brown hair, brown eyes, average built...the kind of person who would get easily lost in the shuffle. But Julie had never allowed herself to be, she had something he could never put his finger on, Jayna had dubbed it bewitching charm, and he had known more then a few men that had fallen under her spell.

"Nice for you maybe, your not her father." He wholeheartedly agreed with that, if Julie had been his daughter he would have thrown up his hands years ago.

"I'd like you and Counselor Troi to keep a high profile while your here, so spare no expense, the Risian authorities will provide you with anything you need."

The Admiral pointed to a desk beside his and settled down at his own. Will sat down and accessed the information admiral Anderson obviously wanted him to study. Basically the same gruesome information he had already read displayed itself on the screen. He stared at it for awhile, eventually moving his gaze over the top of his terminal to study Admiral Anderson. The man had been more of a father to him then his own, looking back on it he had spent more time at the Anderson's then his own lonely home.

"I had to leave Sir, I couldn't stay after...." His voice trailed off, the admiral meeting him with gentle understanding.

"I know your still blaming yourself for what happened, but I want you to know, she never did." Pushing up from his chair, he moved to stand beside Will. "What you did for my daughter was one of the most selfless acts I've ever known. I'm not so sure I'd of been able to give up so much for anyone."

Will looked to his lap, feelings he had not heard from in years screaming through him. Shutting them down one by one he raised his eyes to the admiral. "I did love her, Sir."

"She loved you too, Will" Unlike Will, Admiral Anderson made no attempt to hide the tears that slipped from his eyes. "I don't think she ever stopped."


Deanna stepped back from the partially open door, she hadn't meant to eavesdrop on Will and Admiral Anderson's conversation, but she had, and her punishment seemed to be the intense pain in her heart. Of course Will had loved her, but for some reason hearing him say it aloud, and with such conviction, the words had sliced through her heart like a dagger. Leaning back against the wall she stilled what she knew to be an unnecessary feeling of jealousy. When she and Will had been together on Betazed she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he loved her in a way he had never loved another. And she knew it just as well now, but hearing him profess his feelings about someone else, especially someone he'd been married to....She shook her head, doing her best to shake the thoughts from her mind. Straightening her shoulders she moved into the doorway, from the looks on the two men's faces she secretly wished she'd heard more of the conversation.

"Am I interrupting?" Admiral Anderson wiped the remains of his tears from his eyes, and extended his hand to the counselor.

"You must be Deanna Troi. I'm Admiral David Anderson...it's such a pleasure to finally meet you," The friendly lilt in the admiral's voice brought an immediate smile to her face.

"It's a pleasure for me as well Admiral." He held her hand tightly in both of his. "She's a beauty isn't she Will?"

Deanna followed the Admiral's eyes to Will, who was still sitting at the desk, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"Yes, she's very beautiful." Will answered the question distractedly, never taking his eyes off Deanna. If she hadn't known better she would have sworn Will was the empath, and he knew exactly what she had overheard.

Clearing her throat, she averted Will's persistent stare."I was told the coroner did a follow up, is there anyway I could have a look at his findings."

"Of course right through those doors you should find everything you need."

Deanna headed quickly to the doors, looking more for an escape from Will, then the information she had originally sought.

"She looks like she could keep you on your toes Riker....Got a fire in her belly just like Jayna."

Will continued to stare at the now closed doors. "She's got more then fire in her belly, I think."


Deanna looked around the makeshift office, PADDS were strewn all over the surfaces of the shipping crates that were scattered around the room. She randomly sifted through the PADDS, wondering who was in charge of this mess. Kevin had offered very little information about the events that led up to Jayna's abduction, and subsequent death.....she needed more information, something that would substantiate her theory that this was not your run of the mill serial killer. Her eyes were drawn to the small hand held computer unit on the tiny table beside her, the starfleet emblem on the cover promising it might hold the answers to the other secret she craved to solve. She looked to the closed door behind her, wishing it had a lock..... what she was about to do was highly unethical, could warrant a court martial, but most importantly bring the wrath of Will Riker crashing down on her. Hoping she would not have to face any of the aforementioned consequences she tucked the personal computer in her bag.


Will shifted on the small couch he had been forced to sleep on for the last three nights....three days and three nights of dancing, drinking, and participating in every sport known to Risa, he was totally spent. He and Deanna weren't even engaging in the more enjoyable aspects of a honeymoon couples and yet every muscle in his body ached, his eyes seemed to be retaining the glassy look of too much imbibing ....He was sure if he never saw another glass of champagne again he would be a happier person.

Pushing his blanket to the floor he sat up, rolling the stiffness from his shoulders. Massaging the back of his neck he glared at the spiral staircase that led to the bedroom, knowing little Deanna Troi was probably sprawled out in the four poster bed, a bed large enough to comfortably sleep the entire bridge crew.

She had offered to share the bed with him but he'd found he'd been looking at her a little unprofessionally lately, that combined with the aphrodisiac scent that floated through the bedroom told him he'd save himself a lot of sleepless nights if had chosen the couch. Now he wasn't so sure, getting rid of his stiff and sore muscles seemed far more important then doing the gentlemanly thing.

<No, I can't just crawl in bed with her....Can I?"

"No, no you can't" Leaning forward on his knees he realized his mind was turning to jelly...not only had he been talking to himself, now he was answering himself.

"OK, that's it." Standing up, he threw a dirty look to the tiny couch. "Sorry, your gonna have to sleep alone tonight."

Moving up the stairs quietly he stood beside the bed, Deanna smack dab in the middle, her head cushioned by the large satin covered pillows. He watched her for a moment, the light from the bathroom casting deceiving shadows over her sleeping form.....the champagne colored chemise she wore made it hard to tell where skin ended and it began, Riker taking some time to decipher the puzzle.

He moved his eyes over her slightly parted lips, down her long ivory throat, to the gentle raising and falling of her perfectly curved breasts, by the time he had moved to her tanned thighs something woke inside him. Not something, Riker knew exactly what was waking, and he also knew if he didn't remove himself from the temptation it would soon be on full alert. Slumping his shoulders he went into the bathroom and closed the door, mentally reconfiguring the transport buffers and anything else he could think of that had nothing to do with sex.

Eyeing the gigantic marble bathtub he punched in the water temp he desired, and watched the water spill from the large ivory faucet. Spotting Deanna's bag, he knew she would have an assortment of smelly bath items inside, right now he needed to do anything to get rid of that Risa scent. Reaching for the bag he knocked it to the floor, Deanna's things spilling out over the dense lavender carpet. He looked to the door before knelling down to pick up the contents, he had picked up only the first bottle when he saw the med PADD that had also fallen from the bag. Sitting cross-legged on the floor he accessed the PADD, narrowing his eyes at the contents.

<Why would she want this?> He was pleased he had only thought the question and not verbally communicated with himself again.

He felt his stomach clench as he read the notations Deanna had written. Tossing the PADD to the floor, he dug through the remaining contents of the bag, finding the small hand held computer zipped into a compartment on the side. He ran his fingers over the starfleet emblem, and the initials etched on the side of the computer.

"What are you doing?" He hesitated before raising his eyes to meet hers.

"I think a better question is what are YOU doing."

He dropped the hand held at her feet, and pushed himself off the floor. "When did my past become part of this assignment, because I wasn't informed!" He made no attempt to keep his anger from his voice.

"I was concerned about you, I ......"

"Don't give me that crap Deanna, you were concerned. If you were concerned why didn't you just ask me?!"

The question struck a nerve, she found herself speechless, and questioning her own motives.

"Just once in your god damn structured life why don't you just admit the truth......your mad, and your hurt. Your hurt because I lied to you, and your mad that I was able to commit to a woman, and it wasn't you! Deny it Deanna, I dare you!"

Each heated word he spoke lashed over her, leaving another stinging wound..

"You spend your whole life forcing people to be honest with their feeling, for once in your life why don't you be honest about yours!"

He fled the bathroom,, Deanna running behind him, catching him at the top of the stairs. Grabbing his forearm she met his fiery gaze. "Will, wait......... I know about your son."

Will jerked his arm from her grasp. "You don't know shit Deanna!"

She watched him through tear filled eyes as he disappeared down the stairway, and slammed the front door.

Silent tears fell unbridled from her dark eyes, standing perfectly still she reflected on his harsh words. Why hadn't she ask him, had it been her feelings, or his, she had really been concerned about. Ever since Will had not shown up on Risa, she had used the excuse that his career was what had kept him from her, had she been fooling herself....maybe he was right. Maybe knowing that he'd been able to commit to someone else shattered the reasoning she had always used to protect herself. Looking out the window to the vast expanse of stars she watched the moonlight shine it's eerie glow over the lake and the heartbroken man who stood in front of it. She wondered what he was thinking about as he paced the shoreline....was he thinking about her, or Jayna, or maybe the child she knew he had somewhere in the galaxy. She couldn't go to him now, she would be the last person he would want to see.....and probably the last person he expected to be deceived by..

She laid awake for hours listening for the sound of the door to open until finally giving in to sleep.

The dark form emerged from the shadows of the bedroom, standing directly over the sleeping counselor.

"Another beautiful woman." The form blended perfectly into the darkness of the bedroom, only the silver of the knife it waved slowly over Deanna's throat glistened in the light. The unknown gripped the handle of the knife tightly, raising it above Deanna's chest, plunging it downward, stopping just short of her heart.

"Later." The assailant laughed silently, leaving the blood stained knife on the bedside table and disappearing into the night.

A woman's scream echoed through Riker's turbulent sleep, at first it mingled with the sounds of his mind, but moving closer to consciousness it continued to ring through his ears causing him to bolt to his feet.

"Deanna!" He flew to the cottage, leaving the small parcel of grass he had used as a bed. Taking the stairs two at a time he was at her bedside within seconds of his mind registering her distress.

Either she was unaware he was there, or she was ignoring him, he followed her wide eyed stare to the table on the far side of the bed.

For an instant he only stared at the large knife covered with the residue of dried blood that laid threateningly at her bedside, then his mind kicked in.

"Are you all right!?"

Only silence followed his question, her fearful eyes still fixing themselves only on the knife. Moving in front of her, he blocked the table and cradled her face in his now trembling hands. "Deanna."

The horror that filled her eyes played over his already frazzled nerves and personified his own feelings of fear and guilt for leaving her alone.

"I can still sense the hatred." The sound of her voice, hauntingly distant, crawled up his spine like an icy finger. He sat beside her, pulling her head to his chest, she flinched slightly at his touch before relaxing into it.

Stroking her hair, he attempted to offer comfort and quiet her fear, but his own sense of what had happened churned through his mind, increasing his heart, and the knots that had set up residence in his stomach. Amazingly enough her tension eased under his touch, he found it hard to believe he was able to offer her any comfort considering what had just happened, and the fact that he had acted like such an ass.

"I'm sorry.....I shouldn't have left you alone." His words shook as they left his mouth, the realization that someone had been here while she slept, welding a knife, and could have killed her on the spot collided over him. She pushed up from his chest, taking hold of his hand tightly, he wasn't sure if she needed to hold it, or if she was doing it for him.

"You can't stand constant guard Will."

"I should have been here. This would never have happened if I'd been doing my job."

"But this is what we wanted to happen, isn't it."

He hoped she wasn't offering those words to make him feel better, because for some reason he now felt sick. He wasn't sure what he'd thought was going to happen, maybe they stroll onto Risa the killer confesses and they go home, of course that was his best case scenario. But his worse didn't include some lunatic standing over Deanna with a bloody knife. He choose not to agree with her, and changed the subject. "We'll take the knife to the emporium, see if this is the same type of blood found by the other couples."

She nodded an agreement, he felt the pressure increase on his hand, her eyes moving to the knife.

"What is it?"

"I'm not sure, but I have a feeling we're not focusing on the right element in these killings." Moving her eyes back to his, she looked a million miles away. "While you run the scans on the blood, I'd like to reexamine the reports." He could tell by the tone of her voice and the look in her eyes she was not going to elaborate any further, he leaned against the head of bed, and watched her get up.

"Deanna.....about last night." Turning to face him, the expression of confusion she had worn moments ago dissolved into a sad understanding.

"I said a lot of things I shouldn't have said. If the situation were reversed I probably would have taken the same measures you did."

Sitting back down on the side of the bed, she pushed a lose strand of hair from her face. "I'd like to believe that Will, but I don't think you would have. You would have come to me, just the way I should have come to you. I was wrong in the way I handled this, and you weren't too far off the money with your accusations last night." She moved her eyes from his, looking to the bed and massaging the sheets with her fingers. "You were right, I am hurt, but not for the reasons you think..., not because you lied to me, but because I've been lying to myself all these years. I was using your dedication to your career has an excuse for why our relationship ended, but now I know that's not true."

More then anything he wanted to move across the bed, wrap her in his arms and tell her she was wrong, but instead he only stared at her like a cold unfeeling idiot.

"I know you dropped out of the academy to marry Jayna, to be there for her while she had your baby. I don't know what happened to end the relationship, I only know that you loved her and your son enough to give up every dream you ever had."

Her face was hidden as she hung her head, but her tears slipped from her eyes staining the satin of the sheets. To tell her how he really felt would go against every vow he had ever made to himself, he had almost made that mistake once before on Betazed.

Maybe he couldn't allow himself to share his hidden dreams of her, but he could at least tell her the truth about his past.

"Deanna." He didn't move closer to her, or attempt to look into her tear filled eyes. "I didn't leave the academy, I was expelled." He heard the sheets rustle as she shifted her weight, he knew she was looking at him, but he kept his head down. "There was a fight, well not exactly a fight.....I tried to kill someone."

The repressed memory flooded over him recreating the anger he had felt and the pleasure he had taken in squeezing the life from this guys body. "I wanted to kill him." His hands strangled the pillow he was holding, his knuckles turning white with the force he was putting on it.

"Why, why did you want to kill him?" The shock she tried to keep from her voice sounded loud and clear through Riker's mind.

"Because I hated him......I still hate him." Deanna failed in stilling the chill that tickled up her spine as he lifted his eyes to hers. They were black with rage his voice cold and unemotional. She hadn't meant to, but instinctively she turned away from him, the man that sat across the bed from her now, not the same man she knew. A few minutes of quiet passed between the two, Deanna convincing herself that somewhere behind the black anger that seemed to blanket him, Will Riker needed to do this.

"Why....what did he do?" A deep breath and she turned back to face him.

He leaned back hard, the smack of his head against the wall seemingly unnoticed. "He was my best friend......I trusted him Deanna, and so did she."

The darkness in his eyes broke into a distant gray, she could almost see the memories that played behind them. "I asked him to take her home......but she never made it home. And the son of a bitch just left her there,....Just left her in the snow to die." His eyes flew open as he spoke, as if whatever image his mind had just created was too horrible to see.

Deanna's own feeling meant nothing to her at the moment, she silenced them all, allowing Will's overpowering ones to crash over her.

"He took everything she had that night Deanna, I couldn't let him to that." She crawled on the bed beside him, not offering him a touch, but hoping her closeness would offer him the support he seemed to need.

"She ran away, we didn't find her until five months later....she was cold, and hungry, and very pregnant. I'd known her all my life and I'd never seen her so scared....not only of life Deanna, she was scared of me. He took the sweetest person in the world, and turned her inside out. I had to give her back her life, so I took her home, and married her, claiming the baby as mine."

Will's emotions had caused tears to stream down her cheeks, in contrast his eyes remained dry, his voice almost monotone.

"Why did she keep the baby?" She knew it was a cold question, after it left her mouth she wished she hadn't ask it.

"I don't know, but it's what she wanted. And at that time if she had asked me to pull the moon out of the sky I would have agreed."

He slipped his hand under her hair, encouraging her to rest her head on his chest. She laid her head against him, his heart loud and strong against her ear. She knew there was much more to this that he needed to share, but she also knew right now this was all he was willing to offer.


Deanna settled in in front of the computer terminal in the make shift office, the serious voices of Will and Admiral Anderson muffled through the partially opened door. There was a wonderful emotional bond between the two men, similar to the one Will shared with Captain Picard, but much deeper. She was pretty sure they were both devising a plan to protect her from the one the killer had set into motion the night before. The blood on the knife matched Jayna's DNA perfectly, which was what they had expected....each of the victims had found a similar knife at their bedside, all stained with the blood of the previous victim. The thought that the killer was preparing for his next casualty, while still murdering the present one caused her to shutter.

If she were honest with herself she would have to admit she was afraid, and that maybe Will had been right when he had protested her involvement in this, saying she was over her head. She was over her head, in fact she was afraid she might be drowning......her visit in the night had terrified her much more then she had let Will believe, and in combination with what she was learning about his past.....she found it all very overwhelming. Releasing a breath of frustration she accessed the victim's records, bypassing the gruesome images.

Something about these killings had not set well with her from the start, the after death ritual of face mutilation just didn't fit with the need to dominate personality ....it would have perhaps if the victims were still alive, then it would have displayed yet another way for the killer to take from these women. But he hadn't, and from the medical evidence and type of slash marks it had all been done in a fit of rage after he had murdered the women.

OK, he had zeroed in on only starfleet medical officer, but from the residue of hatred she had sensed in her bedroom this morning it seemed to encompass much more. The vile anger she had felt seemed directed not at her, as much as around her. Perhaps it was just woman in general this person loathed, though she found it hard to believe seven medical officers was a coincidence. Flipping through the honeymoon pictures of the loving couples before disaster struck she felt a smile come to her face. The woman all held tightly in their new husbands arms, their faces filled with joy and promise, the men's eyes flashing with an almost devilish twinkle.

"Oh my god! That's the connection." Her stomach clenched as she called for the computer to simultaneously project all the couples.

"Admiral Anderson and Commander Riker would like you to wear this." Deanna jumped at the sound of the voice.

"Commander Thomas, you almost scared me to death."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." He offered the apology still holding out the tiny device in his hand. She took it from him, fingering it lightly. "Is this really necessary?" She knew what it was, though it was the smallest surveillance link she had ever seen.

"They think it is."

"Well it's nice to see your working with Commander Riker now, instead of against him." She smiled, he returned it easily and shrugged. "I don't know about that, I think it was just a way to get rid of me." His eyes moved to the computer screen, Deanna terminating the images.

"I'm sorry, I'm sure you don't need to see that."

"It's all right." He offered, taking the chair beside her. "That's how I'd like to remember her." Nodding understandingly she swiveled her chair to face him. "She was very beautiful, and she looked very happy. how long did you know each other?"

He narrowed his blue eyes warily. "Counselor, if there's something in particular you'd like to know, just ask. I know the psychologist in you is probably dying to know what I have against lover boy out there." He cocked his head towards the door, the venom creeping back into his voice.

"Lets just say his irresponsibility and self absorbed personality created an obstacle for Jayna and myself we almost couldn't overcome. Fortunately I loved her enough to give in to her wishes."

She leaned back in her chair attempting to look unaffected by the bitterness in his voice. "And what wish was that?"

"Jayna didn't want a family, I did. I don't think she ever got over Jonathan's death, and the fact that your hero out there ran out on her shortly afterward just increased the pain." Kevin gestured to the door, Deanna following his hand, eyes widening as they met with Will Riker's steely gaze. She had little time to react to the shock that Jayna's son was dead before Will's dominating presence moved into the room.

"If you'll excuse us Commander, I'd like to speak to the counselor alone." Will kept his eyes on Commander Thomas until he left the room, and closed the door.

"You just can't leave it alone can you Deanna?" The tone in his voice sounded more like disgust then anger, she would have preferred the latter.

"Will wait...before we fight again, I want to show you something."

He ignored her request, circling around her chair like an animal moving in for the kill.

"Tell me Deanna, is this how you treat all your friends....or am I the only one who's not entitled to any privacy? I told you more then I've ever told anyone, and certainly more then you needed to know. But it wasn't enough, was it?." He leaned over her, gripping the arms of her chair, bringing his face within inches of hers. "Are you deriving some kind of pleasure from digging up my past....causing me pain. Because if you are you must be close to euphoria by now." His vicious remark carried over her, his hot breath sweeping over her cheeks.

"Stop doing this. I won't help you." She stayed firm under Riker's intimating form, she was done playing investigator, it was time to cut through the bull.

"What are you talking about."

"You want me to lash out you...you need me to. Well I won't, I won't help you to punish yourself...I won't reinforce the blame you seem to need to carry on your shoulders." He pushed back off the arms of the chair, Deanna steadying it before it toppled over.

"That's a lot psychological bullshit. You have no clue what you talking about."

She got to her feet, matching the fire in his eyes with her own. "I know if you don't face whatever happened to Jonathan it's gonna eat you alive."

He raised his hand in warning. "Shut up! You just stepped well over the line!"

She could see just the mention of the little boys name was breaking him down. "Tell me what happened to Jonathan!? Why is it so important for you to blame yourself for his death?"

He grabbed her by the shoulders. "Damn it Deanna, I blame myself because it was my fault! If it weren't for me and my god damn ambition he might still be alive. Look at me, I've got it all.....and he didn't even get a first birthday."

She ignored the increased pressure he was placing on her shoulders, focusing on the eyes that seemed to be looking right through her, looking through her and into the distant past...... Years of unshed tears manifested themselves in his remorseful eyes, choking his words through his tears, he relived the nightmare he'd sequestered for so long.



Pulling a blanket over him she appreciated the peaceful sleep he had fallen into, it was hard to believe only mere hours ago this same man had been reliving an emotional hell he had created for himself. The bridge that had always held them together was securely bound on either side, but she had always felt the few missing slats that created the wide gaps in their relationship would never be replaced. Today while Will shared feelings he'd sequestered for so long, she was sure the slats had been replaced, now if she could just convince him to tie them down, the deep ravine that separated them could be easily crossed.

His feelings of guilt were unwarranted, but very understandable, he felt guilty for breaking his promise to Jayna who had asked him not to leave an ailing Jonathan, he felt guilty for being gone hours instead of minutes as he had told Julie, but the root of his guilt stemmed more from the reasons he had left, not so much that he had. Admiral Anderson had set it up so Will could be reinstated into the academy, his past mishap erased from his records. All he had to do was sign the psychological profile that had been drawn up for him, and his life would be back on track.. The thirty minute meeting had turned into hours, by the time Will returned home the med techs had given up hope of resuscitating Jonathan, Julie had been rushed to the hospital, and Jayna was hysterical. In attempting to fulfill the dreams he had for himself, he had created a nightmare for those he loved the most.

Fingering a lock of hair on his forehead, she wondered if he would now be able to accept that it was an accident, an accident that could have just as easily happened to him, as it had to Jonathan and Julie. She had tried to convince him that if he'd been tending the little boy he would have chosen the same method to ease his discomfort, a warm bath. She had gotten him to agree on that much, but of course he would never relinquish the burden that if he'd been there, the tiny humidifier would never have been pulled into the water, nor would he have been careless enough to try to retrieve it out of the electrified bathtub.

Though he didn't blame Julie for her act of unthinking panic, it seemed no one, not even Jayna could stop him from blaming himself. Admiral Anderson's attempts to help Jayna and Will bury their secrets, instead of deal with them, the most detrimental thing he could have done. In creating a false past for them, and offering a promising future, he had closed the door for either of them to ever be able to vanquish the demons inside of them, clawing to be freed.

Looking to the window she noticed the sun was setting over the lake, another fast paced evening of high profile honeymooning was still in store. Tiptoeing down the winding stairway she decided not to wake him, when and if he was ready to continue with their little trap, he would let her know.

Flipping the access switch on her computer terminal she moved to the replicator and ordered herself a soothing Maurivian chocolate parfait. It was the most decadent thing she could think of, and right now she felt she deserved it.

Sitting down in front of the computer she spiraled her spoon through the top layer of chocolate, refocusing on the theory she had been turning earlier.

"What are you doing?"

She jumped at the sound of his voice, turning her head to look up at him. "I didn't even hear you come down. How are you feeling?"

"Drained." He flashed a drowsy smile, running his fingers through his tousled hair.

"I'm sure you are. Would you like to talk some more?"

He shook his head, his eyes fixed on the dessert Deanna held possessively in her hand. "You look like you've got your hands full. That's disgusting, Deanna." He turned up his nose at the seven layers of chocolate. "It's a veritable tower of calories."

"Yes I know....that's part of the thrill."

"Hum, I see....so the forbidden enhances the thrill." His mischievous innuendo caused his eyes to sparkle playfully.

"Something like that." She raised a promiscuous eyebrow and turned back to the screen.

"What are you thinking?" His voice was as rich as the chocolate in her hand.

She stilled the pleasant reaction she was having in response to his voice, and decided she was not about to share what she was thinking, at least not on the subject he seemed to be touching on.

"Do you see any connection in these couples, particularly the men?"

He stared at the screen for a few seconds and shook his head.

"You don't see anything that all these men share?" He heard the frustration in her voice, a lopsided smile playing on his lips. "They all look horny."

She leaned back in her chair, failing to hide the smile his smug remark had caused.

"I'm serious Will. Look at them, they could all be brothers, don't you see it."

He held her eyes for a moment before turning back to the images. "They're all tall and dark....so?"

"It's not just that. Look at them Will, they all look like you."

He narrowed his eyes, moving them between her and the men on the screen. "I think your imagination is working on overtime Deanna. The Risian officials have already found the connection the killer is zeroing in on."

She tapped her fingers on the desk in exasperation, Will's expression a cross between concern for her, and total confusion.

"I think they chose that connection because it was the easy road....three of the women killed had moved from medical to command. The only real constant in all these couples is the positions and the appearance of the husbands."

"Deanna, the victims are the women. Logically it would be what the profiler focused on." He rested a hand on her shoulder, doing his best to see what was spinning behind her wide dark eyes.

"Why...why is that the logical thing to focus on?!" Her voice elevated, she got to her feet, challenging him to defend his statement.

"Because the women are the ones that were hurt. What is going on with you?" He watched her, knowing she was centering her ideas into one single thought.

"Are you sure Will? In death who really carries the pain....the one who passed, or the one they leave behind?"

He wasn't sure if it was the gleam of conviction in her eyes, or the fact what she was saying made perfect sense to him, but he felt his stomach twist. The flashing certitude in her eyes tempered to a soft glow of compassion as she stroked her hands over his arms. "Will, I don't want to upset you, but I have to ask you this."

He wasn't at all sure what she going to ask, but he was positive he did not like where this was going.....Deanna had concluded that all the men shared one thing, a resemblance to him, and now the look in her eyes told him she was about to tie him to these crimes again.

"Go head Deanna."

"I may be way off base on this."

He wasn't sure why she had offered him that little untrue, it was quite evident she had an idea, and thoughts on how to substantiate it.

"Just say it. What do want to know?"

"I don't know anything, I'm only trying to piece this together the best I can." Her eyes grew darker, her grip tightened on his arm " What happened to your friend, the one who hurt Jayna?"

He felt his jaw tighten at the idea, his fist clench at his sides, mental pictures of Eric Mathews ripping through his memories.


Will began pacing the room, Deanna assumed walking off the unpleasant memories that played in his mind. She gave him a minute before pushing for an opinion, "Well, what do you think?"

He stopped his pacing and lifted his eyes from the floor to meet with hers, "Well doll face," He began flicking his finger under her chin. "I think maybe you've been spending too much time on the holodeck with Data."


"Deanna, this is not some whodunit ....we can't just gather the suspects in the library and point a finger at one of them. We don't even have any suspects, and I don't think creating one is going to help us." His tongue in cheek smile faded, "These killings started way before we got involved, trying to tie them into my past is reaching, at best."

Deanna slouched her shoulders in defeat, she guessed what he was saying made sense, though he could have done it without making fun of her. "Maybe your right, but I'm still sticking to my theory that it's the husbands the killer is trying to hurt."

"I'll consider that a possibility, and I think we should mention it to the authorities. But I suggest "Doctor Watson" that we keep your other theory to ourselves." He massaged her shoulders encouragingly, trying to replace some of the wind he had just taken out of her sails, "And if it will make you happy, we can do a private investigation into Eric Mathews."

She smiled up at him before agreeing, "Thanks Will....but for the record, I'm Holmes, your Watson."

"What ever you say sweetheart, but we gotta get going. We'll stop at the emporium before heading to the night club." He rolled his eyes, Deanna fully understanding his sudden distaste for the night life, she had to agree with his unspoken suggestion, the thrill of champagne, rich food, dancing and constant partying was wearing thin.

Will stared out the window and watched the rain dribble down the glass, the fog thickening over the lake. He heard the bathroom door open, instead of turning, he continued toying with Deanna's gumshoe theory ..."The air was dank with suspicion, it hung as thick as the fog that rolled over the lake, the sound of my feet slapping against the wet pavement the only sound on this night, a night not fit for man nor beast."

"Ok Will, I get it....though your rendition leaves something to be desired."

"You're going to love it out there tonight Deanna, only one way to describe it....it's a dark and stor...." He turned to face her, his glib words halted, his eyes sliding appreciatively over her. "mmmmm, you look absolutely ......eatable."

She smiled at the suggestive compliment, and the eyes that looked at her with a hunger she hadn't seen in awhile. "Thank you Commander, you look rather yummy yourself." She had meant to say it with a lilt of humor in her voice, but somehow her voice had betrayed her and it sounded more like a seductive proposition. Will's eyes darkened, his voice sliding like velvet over skin, "Your more then welcome to a taste, Counselor"

He moved towards her as he spoke, rationally she knew this was not a good idea, but when his arms slid around her waist she didn't fight it. His powerful, and what she knew to be skilled hands traveled over the bare skin on her back, his lips moving closer to hers at an incredibly slow torturous speed. He ran a promising tongue over his lips before covering her mouth with his. Her body surrendered completely, his soft tongue moving first slowly, then deepening its thrusts into her mouth, his hands moving over parts of her body that had been untouched for too long. At first she thought the chimes were part of her body's gradual trip to euphoria, but when he pulled his lips away from hers, she realized it was the COMM..

"God, I hate my life." He ran a hand of frustration through his hair, and uttered a few curses under his breath. "Do you think someone is trying to tell us something?"

She could almost see second thoughts veiling his disappointed eyes.

"No, I don't Will. I think we were suppose to be somewhere over an hour ago, and we're not. We are working... remember."

"I do now, thanks to that damn thing." He cocked his head at the COMM terminal in disgust.

She was pleased to see the doubt disappear from his eyes as she accessed the message.

"Hum, two messages...that's odd." She settled into the chair, Will looking over her shoulder.

The first message was just what they had thought, a very dignified "where the hell are you?", the second message caused Will to grip the back of her seat....

{Deanna Riker: You will beg me to let you die.}

She thought she had prepared herself for this, but the message leapt out of the screen and grabbed her by the throat. Will moved one hand to her trembling shoulder, using his other to try and locate the source of the incoming communiqué. With each attempt his fingers slammed harder over the keypad.

"Damn.... origin unknown. How the hell did this happen, isn't someone suppose to be monitoring this terminal!"

Deanna swallowed a few breaths of air, doing her best to steady her quivering stomach.

"Will, calm down.... obviously the killer knows the terminals being monitored, he must have found a way to override the security."

Incompetent idiots, I swear...."He pulled his gaze from the monitor to Deanna's fearful eyes, the flames that burned in the vibrant blue melting away as he pulled her into his arms.

"I'm sorry Deanna....I'm not doing a very good job of protecting you."

"This isn't your fault Will, and weather we like it or not, the only way we're going to get this guy is to draw him out."

He stroked her hair, and rocked her back and forth, his fear for her, far surpassing the fear she felt for herself.


The bar was lit only by the gentle glow of candles, creating a perfectly romantic environment for the couples that filled it. Deanna took a sip of her drink, her other hand not leaving Will's, she was pretty sure it hadn't since they had received the message earlier.

"Are you wearing your surveillance link?" He downed the last of his drink and waited for a reply.

"Yes, though I don't see why it's necessary when I'm not alone. I'm not sure I like the idea of our every word being monitored."

He flashed a grin, "You weren't wearing it earlier were you?"

She felt her cheeks flush at the memory, "No, and I won't be wearing it later either....in case you were wondering."

He ran his tongue over the inside of his cheek, stilling the wicked grin of anticipation that was threatening to break over his face.. "I'll keep that in mind, and now.." He cleared his throat, and shook his head, sentencing his naughty thoughts to the vault in the back of his mind, "I'm going to get another drink...do you want one."

"No, thanks, I'm fine."

She watched him walk to the bar, enjoying how handsome he looked in his casual attire, she couldn't decide if it was the blue shirt that hung open in the front to expose his well muscled chest, or the sleeves he had rolled up to reveal his tanned forearms that stirred her more.

Her pleasant debate interrupted by a slight flutter that started in the base of her spine, burned up her back, and finally spread it's fiery wings across her shoulders.

Even across the dimly lit bar Will could see the shift in her appearance, quickly giving up his place in line he moved to Deanna's side.

"What is it?"

Deanna's eyes glistened with terror, she wrapped her hand around his, digging her nails into his skin. "He's here, I can feel him, the same vile hatred as before."

Her voice caused his own trepidation to escalate... Pulling her protectively against him he surveyed the bar, his own revulsion for this person darkening his mistrustful eyes.



Deanna pulled herself closer to him, he got the feeling she would have crawled inside him if she'd been able. He tightened his hold on her, shifting slightly to adjust himself so that he could shield her completely.

Burying his face in her hair he whispered "Can you tell who it is?".

He felt her head shake a no against his chest, his eyes watching those who had been assigned to protect them discretely search the bar. Her stiff posture relaxed, a sigh of relief blew gently from her lungs, he didn't have to ask, he knew whatever she had been feeling was gone.

"Let's get out of here." Not allowing her a reply, he helped her to her feet and out of the bar.

The ride back to the cottage was silent, Will assumed Deanna was trying to expand on the feelings that had overwhelmed her in the bar. He felt a need to ask her about it, but knowing how difficult it was for her sometimes to put feelings into words, he allowed her the time. Besides, he had something else on his mind, something he should have said at the beginning of their little adventure. Pulling the land shuttle in front of the cottage, he helped her from the vehicle, and ushered her into the cottage. After closing the door and initiating the lock he voiced what he had been contemplating on the ride home.

"That's all she wrote Deanna, we're through with this little ploy." His voice was gentle but very firm, Deanna knew the tone, it meant he'd made up his mind, and changing his verdict now would be virtually impossible.

"Will, your letting your feelings for me interfere, we're so close."

"Too close, I'm sorry but I can't standby and wait for some twisted psycho to make his move....this is far too risky, and so far no one has been able to do shit to protect you." It was evident by the elevation in his voice he had lost his battle to restrain his anger, and his frustration over their situation. She waited while he turned his back to her, giving him the time he needed to regain his control. Without turning he addressed her accusation. "And my feeling for you have nothing to do with my decision, I would have made the same choice if had been Beverly, or any other officer. Look at you, your still trembling."

She wrapped her arms around herself, moving her eyes from his to the floor. She knew she had several choices here, she could remind him he didn't have the authority to just quit their investigation, but she was certain he knew that and going down that road would only push him to contact the authorities sooner. Or she could question his motives on what exactly he was really afraid of, she knew he had only brushed the surface of what was at the source of his concerns, she was also sure that avenue would lead to a heated argument as well.

Straightening her shoulders, she shot for the most gentle expression she could muster and went for her third option, ignore what he'd just said and try to explain the feelings she had sensed in the bar.

"Will, I need you to listen to me, and not say a word until I'm finished." Taking him by the arm he followed her reluctantly to the couch and sat beside her.

"I'm not going to promise, Deanna. Go ahead say what you feel you need to say." She nodded knowing that was the best she was going to get from him right now.

"I know I can't make you feel the magnitude of feelings I felt earlier, I've never felt such a tightly wrapped package of emotions, all negative, and all amplified by the other."

He opened his mouth to protest where this conversation was going, but as she reached for his hand he could almost see the dark fear displayed in her usually soft and gentle eyes. "I'm sorry, Deanna, I wish I could take them away, you should never be the brunt of such feelings."

A tear escaped from her darkened eyes and rolled freely down her pale skin, the look she held him with causing the hairs on the back of his neck to bristle.

"I'm not the brunt of the feelings Will, you are. Watching you suffer, watching you panic, knowing you will replay my death in your mind for the rest of your life is the only thing that will sate this person, it offers him immense pleasure......more then pleasure, he sees it as a flawless revenge ......the thought of your suffering is what excites him, his only motivation is to rip apart the very core of your existence." Her voice held the same hauntingly cold spirit as her eyes, as though she had buried herself so deeply in these vile emotions they had devoured her.

He tried to pull her to him, her rigid body rejecting his comforting offer, "Deanna!" He took her face between his hands, hoping to pull her from this state she'd fallen into. "Imzadi!" He felt unworthy using the term, and he had vowed to himself after what he had done he would never use it again, but right now he didn't care, God, if she hauled off and slapped him it would be better then watching her drown in these detrimental emotions.

Shaking her head roughly in his hands he saw a glimmer of light shine in her dark, eerie eyes, "Will." Her body deflated into him he held her in silence, stilling her horrors as well as his own.


The first morning light streamed through the window penetrating Riker's closed eyes, he opened them slowly and moved them to the sleeping form that was draped on top of him. He smiled to himself, the same couch he had been cursing for days, now held both of them, and he couldn't ever remember sleeping so well. He laid quietly, enjoying the sound of her breathing, and the way her body felt against his own. He had been certain he would never fell these pleasures again, and even though it had been unfortunate circumstances that had let him be near her, he was determined to lock this memory away forever.

He jumped as the Comm terminal sounded, as gently as he could he rolled out from under her onto the floor, amazed he hadn't woken her.

Accessing the terminal he felt a flicker of anger ignite inside him, he shook his head at the reports on the screen. Not only had she done an advanced investigation on Eric Matthew's, but Kevin Thomas, and Julie Anderson as well. He flipped through the images, stiffening as Eric's picture appeared on the screen, "Bastard" he murmured under his breath, an avalanche of memories sliding over him.

"I was going to tell you." He hadn't heard her come up behind him, the fierce stare he had fixed on Eric Matthew's picture didn't diminish as he turned to face her.

"Why, why are you doing this to me!?"



"Will, don't get mad." She felt him wince against her hand as it slipped over his shoulder, "I know you don't understand, but you have to listen to me."

His malicious gaze on her never wavered, it was all she could do not to turn away from it. "Even if you don't agree with my idea, please just let me explain it to you. I'm sure your past is the key to these killings, the feeling in the bar last night, I don't know....I guess you could say they were personal. Will, the hatred was so concentrated, too focused to be......." She was finding it impossible to relay her conviction, and the hurt that shown behind the anger in his eyes was making her rethink her own theory.

"Please just try to understand."

"I do understand, it all makes perfect sense." He replied, his voice drenched with sarcasm, "To get back at me for a yet unknown crime I committed in my past, someone starts torturing and killing women, knowing full well that out of all the starfleet officers in the federation, I'll be sent to stop them. And they can finally get their revenge by killing the one person in the world I've allowed myself to love. What a brilliant plan......it took a god damn mastermind to devise this one." He turned away from her, still grumbling profanities under his breath.

She stood with her mouth open, not sure if she was more shocked that he had just told her he loved her, or the fact that the tone of his voice completely contradicted his words.

"I know how it sounds Will, but it won't hurt to at least look into the possibility."

He stood up slowly and turned to face her, his face completely distorted with fury, "Hell no, it won't hurt!" With as much force as he could he kicked the chair he'd been sitting in, it tumbled across the room, hitting the wall and breaking through the plaster. The intense glare of contempt he pinned her with almost tangible as it hung between them. He held her there until he was sure every shred of emotions he was feeling had painfully lashed over her. And with a release of disgusted breath he moved slowly up the stairs.

His anger hung in the room even after he disappeared up the stairs, she brushed a tear from under her eye and moved closer to the computer terminal. He was mad and hurt, and more then anything she wanted to go to him, but she couldn't. She had to do this, even if it meant Will Riker would hate her forever.

Eric Matthew's smiling face still lit up the screen, she scanned through his records. Will had definitely called him right, he was a troubled man, but he hadn't mentioned Eric was half Maurivian, she supposed he hadn't thought it important, but they were a race that leaned towards violence.

Deanna's eyes widened as she scrolled further down on the screen, two things screaming out to her......Eric Matthew's last known residence was Risa, she felt her heart increase with hope and simultaneously break, Eric Matthew's was sterile.

She stared at the words, wishing she had listened to Will. She knew he had been telling her the truth when he'd told her about Jayna, Eric and the baby, how could she tell him now that Jonathan had really been his son.

<slow down Deanna.> She ordered herself, relenting to the fact that maybe she was jumping to conclusions, Will had never admitted to being intimate with Jayna, or maybe Eric's sterility occurred after Jayna's rape. Slumping her shoulders she vowed to never mention it to Will unless she was absolutely sure. Will had loved Jayna, and even though it hurt her, she would never do anything to ruin the image of her he carried in his heart.

Shaking the thought from her head, she moved to her other two suspects, both of them also had ties on Risa. She was sure none of this would persuade Will that one of them was the killer, after all lots of people had ties to Risa, she would need a lot more then this.

She heard Will's footsteps coming down the stairs, she hesitated before looking up to him. "Will, I....." He shook his head to cutoff her words, "It's all right Deanna, your trying to do your job.....I just don't seem to be able to do mine. I'm sorry, I'm taking my mistakes out on you."

His eyes smoldered with regret and hopelessness, she could almost feel him giving up on himself. She wasn't sure what to say, but she knew she felt responsible in forcing him to face his past, and suggesting it was somehow affecting the present. It sickened her as she looked at him now, she had managed to take a man who had more confidence in his right hand then she had in her entire body, and turn him into only a shadow of self doubt.

"This isn't your fault Deanna. It was all bound to come back and bite me in the ass."

She was stunned that he knew what she had been thinking, but she couldn't think of anything to say to help him.

"The Admiral wants to see us, lets go to the emporium. ....and then I need a drink." He headed for the door, Deanna blocked his exit.

"I love you Will."

He smiled a sad smile at her last ditch effort to help him, "I know....I love you too." Cradling his arm around her shoulder, he opened the door. "Just wish I thought that was a positive thing." He added, without looking at her.


"Under no circumstance is she to be alone. Do you understand?" His voice had elevated a notch above Command, the two ensigns outwardly intimated by Will's voice of authority.

"Understood Sir." Both ensigns answered in unison, Deanna amazed at quickly he'd been able to replace his mask of confidence.

"I'll be just down the hall, keep your link on." She rolled her eyes as he continued his command performance on her.

"I will, don't worry."

He nodded, and sent another silent warning to the two young officers before closing the door. Deanna offered a reassuring smile to the officers, "Forgive him, he hasn't had his coffee yet."

Both officers relaxed their posture, and returned the counselor's smile, Deanna accessing the computer, and going back to her investigation.

Staring at the image on the screen she felt a flutter in her belly, she focused on the feeling, not allowing the discomfort it was causing her to stop her from exploring it. Her sweat trickled down her back, goose bumps sprung out over her tingling skin, "Oh my God! I know who the killer is!"

Will Riker eased down the corridor, trying to discern the Admiral's last message, his mind whirling with scenarios.

"Will, How ya holding up?" Will looked at the admiral, rolling his eyes, summing up his feelings with a single look.

"Well, I wish I could say I'm going to make it better." He gestured to a closed door, Will hesitantly approached it and opened it cautiously. He narrowed his eyes at the guest in the room before speaking, "What are you doing here?" His question lost on the alarm that sounded around them, and the urgent message filling the in store COMM.

"Evacuate!! All personal evacuate NOW!!"

The warning sent him into motion, the smell of the toxin that was billowing through the building pushing him faster.

"Deanna!" She emerged through the doorway with the two ensigns as he approached. "Try not to breath!" He roughly put his arm around her waist, pushing her towards the exit. A small woman stumbled in front of them, Will stopped long enough to help her to her feet, and push them all towards the door.

The sound of the alarm, the hazy mist of chemicals, and the panic ridden voices surroundings them amplified his fear, he moved faster, literally dragging the two woman through the exit.

All three released their breath, filling their lungs with the outside air. "What happened Will?" Deanna choked on the question. He only shrugged, surveying the streets, and the wealth of local authorities that blanketed the area. Deanna turned her head back to the main entrance of the emporium, and the mass of people still struggling through it.

"Will, it's the Admiral!"

Will followed her gaze, seeing Admiral Anderson on the floor being trampled by the mass of panic stricken people trying to escape the fumes.

"Help him!"

He couldn't leave her in this chaos, but he could almost feel the Admiral's life slipping from him.

Deanna immediately sensed his struggle, "I'll stay with the ambulance, I'll be fine." A look of desperation filled her eyes, tugging at Will's all ready scrambled emotions, "Will, please....help him!"

She had all ready moved to the portable med unit, silently pushing Will to make the only choice there was. He nodded, and filled his lungs before heading back into the building, pushing against the flow of patrons trying to escape. He bent down beside the bloodied body of the Admiral, wrapping his arms around his chest and towing the huge man towards the exit. He tried to see Deanna as he burst through the doors, but the anxious crowd blocked his view of the ambulance. Choking and sweating he moved closer to the spot where he'd left her, relief washing over him as she met him at the med unit door.

"He's alive." He answered her unasked question, the med techs lifting the admiral into the med unit.

Will bent over and rested his hands on his knees, breathing heavily, attempting to catch the breath that had been taken away by the fumes in the emporium.

"You need....." Deanna's concerns interrupted by the med tech.

"Will Riker?" He nodded at the question. "He wants to see you, he's very weak."

Will moved on instinct, climbing into the back of the mobile unit. The Admiral held out a shaky hand, his eyes clouded red with blood.

"Your gonna be fine Sir." He tried to sound convincing as he took the surveillance monitor the Admiral was offering him. The Admiral's hand fell weakly to his chest, his eyes slowly losing their focus. Will gripped the link, and offered a reassuring nod to the now frail looking man, before the technician ordered him out of the unit.

"He's tough, he'll be fine." He offered the words to Deanna as he climbed out of the unit, but Deanna wasn't behind him anymore.



That was number five and counting, each unanswered call caused his heart to pound louder his feet to pick up there pace over the pavement.

He looked to the surveillance monitor in his hand, nothing, he slapped it against his palm, and broke into a run. The streets were still busy with the aftermath of the crisis in the emporium, he pushed through the crowd, paying no attention to who he knocked out of the way.


Number eight; his sweat trickled down his back, adhering his shirt to his body. Moving his eyes over the crowd he spotted the two ensigns that had been with Deanna before the confusion had begun.


The two ensigns looked up, straightening themselves to attention as Riker pushed past the last of the injured and moved into the open street.

"I need you to round up everyone involved in this case, now!" He narrowed his eyes at one of the young man.

"What happen?"

"Just shut up and do it!"

The ensign hurriedly accessed his link to headquarters, in seconds he had his superior on line and was motioning to Will. Will didn't noticed the gesture, he was looking past the officer at the vast landscape on the outskirts of town.


Number 9; Who was he kidding, without the monitor they didn't stand a chance of finding her, almost on cue the tiny monitor vibrated in his hand.

<Good girl Deanna.> He watched the screen as it came to life, the audio was still disabled, but the locator was moving at a steady pass.

"Tell your superior to scramble his team, Counselor Troi's been abducted ...... we'll send the coordinates while we're in route!"

He pushed the other wide eyed ensign out of the way, climbing into his shuttle, igniting the controls before the ensign could climb inside.

"Get in!" Riker growled. The ensign stumbled up the ramp, and moved inside, Will accelerating before the hatches had been closed.

"What happen, Sir?" The young man asked, hesitantly raising his eyes to Commander Riker.

Will kept his eyes forward, jaw locked, the beeping of the monitor scraping over his raw nerves.

"He took her out from under our God damn noses, that's what happened!" He slammed his fist into the controls, the transport pattern on the monitor faded. Will kept the land shuttle low, moving towards the now stationary bleep.

"Relay the coordinates, tell them to run a transport sweep over the area!" Riker barked the order, but he all ready knew what the results would be. It hadn't been a malfunction, or a coincidence that the monitor had sprung to life, they were being led here, he was sure of it. And just as sure that the son of a bitch had outsmarted them again.

He slowed the shuttle, setting it to rest in the only sturdy spot he could find. The bleep had led them to the entrance of the P'maran Hatu, the armpit of Risa, endless miles of wetlands, masked beneath a tangle of foliage so thick it was veiled in almost perpetual darkness.

He opened the hatch to the shuttle and stepped cautiously out, his feet sinking in the soft muddy ground. The locator sounded loud and clear as it was freed from the confines of the shuttle, Will moved towards the opening in the trees, using a stick to test the ground before he stepped forward.

"Sir, we should wait for back up!"

"No, we're almost on top of it." He continued to move ahead, the smell of rotting vegetation mixed with the dank, musty odor of the swamp filled his nose, the further he moved into the web of debris, the stiller and darker his world became. A chilling air emanated from the cold ground, playing against the still heat that hung above him, he shuttered at the eerie sensation, understanding why the Risans referred to this place as P'maran Hatu, loosely translated, death's door.

He pushed a large fern out of the way, and heard the ensign gasp behind him.

"Commander" The ensign's dark eyes met his and adversely moved to the ground below him. Will followed his eyes, Deanna's dress lay at his feet, the white fabric streaked with red. He swallowed hard, and picked it up, the locator fell from the folds in the material, pieces of Deanna's dark hair clinging to the sticky drying blood that soaked the dress.

He ran his hands over the fabric, his mind moving to another time, another place, another blood stained dress.


Will's knee's buckled under him, the smell of the blood he held in his hand amplifying the nausea that rushed over him.

His mind lashed his memories over him burning a trail of bloody gashes over his heart mind and soul.


The word caused his blood to run cold, it had been so long since she'd spoken to him this way, reaching into his mind.......And this wasn't how he remembered it, the voice was faint, and terrified, and she seemed to be suffocating in her own breath to call him.

He steadied his own fears, soothing the wounds of the past with the hope that he still had time to fight for a future.

"I want the swamp swept now!" His eye's blazed with determination, a deep voice challenged his order.

"Our sensors aren't able to penetrate the gases emitted by the P'maram Hatu.....There's no way she's in there!"

Will squinted his eyes through the dimly lit surroundings, moving towards the voice.

"I know she's in there." Will glared at Commander Thomas, daring him to question the order again. Both men moved out of the dense foliage into the bright sunlight and the buzz of local authorities that covered the area.

"Contact the enterprise....they'll find a way! In the mean time I'm going in." Will eyed Kevin, in particular the deep scratches on his neck.

Commander Thomas shifted uncomfortably under Will's scrutiny, instinctively moving his hand to the scratches Will was centering on.

"You should have those looked at Commander."

"There nothing, must have happened while I was fighting my way out of the emporium." Kevin wiped the blood that had gotten on his hands on his pants, opening his mouth to speak to Riker's suspicious glare.

"Commander Riker?"

The unfamiliar voice silenced Commander Thomas, both officers turning toward the source, "Yes Sir, I'm Commander Riker." Will bolted to attention.

"I'm Admiral Justin Parks....I've been sent to replace Admiral Anderson, and I believe one of my officers has some information that might help us."

The admiral gestured behind him, Will recognizing the young ensign he was signaling as one of the two officers that had been with Deanna before the incident in the emporium.

"This is ensign Murphy." The admiral nodded to the fresh faced young man, "Go ahead son, tell Commander Riker what you told me."

"Before the alarm sounded in the emporium, Counselor Troi was acting, well....funny." Will tried to hide his impatience, it was obvious the young man felt threatened by him, he held his rigid stance, and did his best to avoid Riker's eyes. Will rested a firm hand on the ensign's shoulder, and tried to soften the fire he knew was burning in his eyes. "Funny how?."

He felt ensign Murphy's shoulder relax under his touch, "She was fine at first, then she started shifting in her seat, almost shivering. It was spooky Sir, she kept repeating she knew who the killer was, but she wasn't talking to us..... she seemed to be talking to the image on the screen."

"And whose image was on the screen?"

"That's the spooky part Commander, there was only one picture on the screen, and it was only a little boy......well, actually a baby."



Will let out a sigh, and flopped his head forward making no attempt to hide his disappointment.

"I take that to mean you don't find Ensign Murphy's observations of any consequence."

Will raised his head, scolding himself for being so obvious about his feelings, and wondering how he was going to respond to the admiral. One thing he knew for sure was he was not going to stand here and explain his past, nor was he planing on dragging this conversation out any longer then he had to.....Deanna was still alive, she was somewhere in the bayou, now all he had to do was explain to Admiral Parks how he knew that.

"Admiral....I'm not sure how much time you were given to familiarize yourself with this investigation before you were sent here."

Parks sent Will a crooked smile and raised his bushy brows, indicating to Will he had had little or no time to study the files.

"Are you aware that Counselor Troi is an empath?"

Parks rubbed his chin, and seemed to be searching his memory, "Counselor Deanna Troi, of course, but until you mentioned it I hadn't put two and two together. So your saying her revelation could have stemmed from many sources, not necessarily the child on the screen."

"Exactly, she could have just sensed the killers presence, and if the killer were close enough she may have been able to lock on the source." Will sent a sideways glance to the now empty space Commander Thomas had occupied. "Where did the Commander go?" Will's gaze moved over the area, the Admiral following his eyes, "I'm not su...."

"Admiral, the enterprise is hailing you."

"Enterprise? Did you contact them Commander?"

The confusion in the admiral's voice brought Will's attentions back to him. "No Sir, but I did...."

"I contacted them."

The delicate voice came from behind him, in all the confusion he had completely forgotten his brief encounter with Julie in the emporium.

"What are you doing here?"

She moved beside him, and looked up at him in disgust, "That's the second time you've said that....it was a stupid question the first time, but asking it twice makes you look completely dense."

Will looked embarrassingly at the Admiral, the admiral stifled a grin and excused himself, moving toward the shuttle and the enterprise transmission.

"I meant what are you doing out here...not on Risa."

"I thought you might like to know daddy is going to be fine, he ask me to contact the enterprise, and fill him in on how your doing......and, I thought you might be need a friend." She looked up at him waiting for a response, he couldn't help but smile at her. She was so small, and yet if one were capable of intimidating the other, Julie would win hands now.

"Your right I could." He agreed, before pulling her into an almost paternal bear hug, she relaxed against him, Will brushed a few long dark strands of hair from her white linen jacket before releasing his hug.

"It's good to see you Julie....I'm just a bit distracted at the moment."

He never thought he'd hear himself say he was glad to see her, but he honestly was, she was a part of his past, the only part he had left.

"I'd say distracted is an understatement .....is there anything I can do?"

"Not unless you can guide me through the swamp."

She arched her brows, "I could guide you through a lot of things Willy, but I'm afraid the swamp isn't one of them."

He hung there for a moment, loosing himself in the bewitching twinkle that shone behind her deep brown eyes before throwing up his hands at her. "Still able to cast your spells I see."

He flicked his finger gently under her chin before putting his arm around her shoulder and guiding her towards the shuttle. "I have to talk to Captain Picard, maybe then I'll have something positive for you to take back to your father."

Outside the hatch to the shuttle she put her hand to his chest, stopping him from going inside. "Why are you so confident she's still alive?"

He was surprised by the question, not sure if she was just unaware of the way this killer did things, or had just read his optimism on his face. If she didn't know how her sister had died he really didn't want to enlighten her, she had her father to worry about, and he was sure she was doing more then her share of worrying about him as well, he wasn't about to add to her load. "Deanna and I share a special bond."

"Well I should hope so, you married her." She pushed a loose strand of her short brown hair behind her ear, titled her head and observed him closely.

OK, he guessed it was a secret that they weren't really married, maybe the admiral hadn't filled her in as much as he thought, and he wasn't about to go against her father's wishes.

"I really can't explain it Julie, it's a personal thing....maybe when we get Deanna back I'll sit down and tell you about it. Right now I really have to talk to my captain."

He saw the protest coming and placed his finger against her lips to silence it, "Please."

She nodded reluctantly, kissing his finger, and leaning against the door frame as Will moved towards the computer terminal.

"Nice of you to finally join us Commander." Admiral Parks said dryly.

"I'm sorry Sir." Will gratefully turned his eyes from the reproving expression of the admiral to the gentle, concerned face of captain Picard.

"Number one, any word on the counselor?"

"No Sir," He shifted uncomfortably, sending an inconspicuous glance to the admiral beside him, and hoping Captain Picard would receive his silent message that he needed to talk to him alone.

Picard cleared his throat, "Admiral, would it be possible for me to talk to the Commander privately for a moment."

Parks narrowed his eyes at Riker before nodding an agreement to Picard, and moving out the door, gruffly pushing his way past Julie. Julie sent a curse to the Admiral before settling against the door frame again, Will almost reacted, but reminded himself who it was, and knew he'd be wasting his breath.

"What is it Will?"

He sat down in the chair in front of the terminal, and drummed his fingers on the desk, "Sir, I need you to convince Admiral Parks to allow me to go into the P'maran Hatu... I know Deanna's in there, somewhere. I just don't have time to explain how."

"Contrary to what my crew would like to believe I am not oblivious to certain ....relationships. Your unusual link with Counselor Troi has not escaped me."

"No Sir, I wasn't suggesting...."

"Of course you were number one, but it's all right, doctor Crusher has informed me on more then one occasion that I need to pull my head out of the sand when it come to the personal, or be it romantic relationships of my key officers. Now, I will not claim to understand this Imzadi bond, but I also will not reject the possibility if it will help Counselor Troi."

Will felt his cheeks burn, how the hell did the captain know that, and how long had he known. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, feeling a bit like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

"Relax number one, I'll talk to Admiral Parks."

He still found himself speechless, and wondering what other secrets Picard knew about and was waiting until just the right moment to spring on him. Picard stared back at him, obviously quite pleased with himself.

"Is there anything else, Will. We should be arriving in Risian space in about twelve hours."

"No Captain, I mean yes Captain, there is one more thing." Will leaned forward on the desk, "If you could find out the whereabouts of Commander Kevin Anderson at the time of the other murders."

"Kevin Anderson...isn't that the husband of one of the woman?" Will could see Picard's eyes light up at the prospect of solving this mystery.

"Yes, but he was also one of the people Counselor Troi held in suspicion." Will heard Julie move closer to him, and sent a scolding look behind him.

"You said one of the people....are there others we should investigate?" Picard's eyes moved to Julie who was now directly beside Will.

"I'm sorry Captain, this is Julie Anderson, Jayna's sister. She was just leaving."

Julie sent one of her award wining smiles to Picard, but made no attempt to take Will's hint. Will intensified the glare he was holding her with, Julie moved her brilliant smile from the Captain to the commander, "Oh I'm sorry, did you want me to leave Willy?"

Will heard the captain stifle a laugh, but ignored it, instead asking if Julie would be kind enough to ask Admiral Parks to step back in the room. After a few pleasantries to the captain, which Will was certain were only spoken to annoy him, she agreed to his request and left the shuttle.

"Charming woman, Will"

<A charming pain in the ass.>

He kept the thought to himself, and returned the captain's smile through gritted teeth.

"Now, the Counselor's other suspects?"

"An Eric Matthews, Sir. We grew up together, the last I heard he was in a psychiatric hospital in Valdez."

Will was relieved when the captain only agreed to the request, and didn't ask for an explanation as to why Deanna suspected him. "Thank you Captain, I'll see you in twelve hours."

Picard nodded, a ghost of a smile played over his lips, "And good luck........Willy."


"You led him here, you must want him to find me." Deanna's voice was weak, she honestly wasn't sure if she had actually spoken or only thought she had. She turned her head to the breathing that sounded through her darken tomb.

"Of course I did, I always permit them a chance. But he won't take it, they never do. They really don't want to." The voice was muffled, and hollow as though it were speaking through a mask or a veil of thick material, but it didn't matter, Deanna knew who her tormentor was.

She felt the pressure of the knife against her stomach, followed by the heat of her blood as it wept down her sides and fell into the cold mud she laid in. This was the third time the killer had cut through her skin, allowed her to bleed, and then treated the wound to stop the bleeding.

"Your feeling weak, aren't you. This is how it feels for him!"

Deanna heard the words, felt the sharp pain of the boot that kicked the side of her head, and felt her mind again trying to escape the pain. The blows lashed over her body, the hatred of her killer lashed even more forcefully over her mind, until finally her world fell dark.


It had been six hours since Admiral Parks had granted his request to search the P'maran Hatu, and he was still sitting in the confines of the shuttle. The Admiral had granted the request with the stipulation that he be accompanied by a local guide, and so far none of the locals were interested in Starfleet's little quest. He had promised Captain Picard to abide by the Admiral's orders, but the sensation that kept creeping over his neck and shoulders intensified with each passing moment. He assumed it was Deanna, or he hoped it was.....there was no voice calling to him anymore, only an uncomfortable fire that raged between his shoulder blades, and seemed to be stoked by each passing second he wasted.

The lights on the computer panel sparkled to life, he wasn't sure what had prompted him to tap into the terminal Deanna had been studying before they had evacuated the emporium, but at least now he would have something to busy his mind while the bureaucrats of Starfleet rearranged the mothballs they wallowed in.

He drew in a deep breath of air, preparing himself for yet another trip down memory lane. He skimmed over the basic content of Deanna's file before accessing the last viewed. He pushed back a few unwanted tears as he looked at the image of Jonathan on the monitor tracing his fingers over the little boys features as if he could reach inside and feel the soft, unforgettable feeling of his skin against his. He pushed his nostalgia and guilt away, the fire that burned over his shoulders heightened, almost as if it were nudging him forward.

He moved to the prior screen and scanned the words, "Why....why is this important?"

The screen was split in two, one side containing the medical reports from the day of Jonathan's death, the other side, information on electrical current and damage to the heart. He flopped back in his chair and just stared at the information, "Help me Deanna, what do you see, that I don't? What's important about electrical current?"

He brushed his hand through his hair, and moved to the previous screen, "Great, more medical reports!"

He moved his eyes over the screen, and instantly understood. "That's impossible .....this must be a mistake!"

Julie Anderson's heart had not been scarred by her electrocution, and yet the reports by the med techs that answered the call suggested the current in the bath water was 75mA, enough to instantly stop the heart. Yet Julie's most recent medical scan clearly showed her heart had never suffered the charge she claimed to have experienced.

He swallowed the nausea and disgust that was threatening to consume him, instead permitting his memories of that day to play out in his mind. The recollections and emotions flowed back to him in vivid detail, every smell, every nuances of it ingrained in his mind. He did his best to focus only on Julie, the memory convincing him this had to be a mistake, she had been devastated, genuinely so, he was sure of it..........and he knew her too well for her to fool him.

"I wanted to wish you luck."

The voice jolted him into the present, he spun his chair around to face her. "Julie...shit! Don't sneak up on me"

"Are you all right, you look really pale."

He looked at her, her dark eyes moving over him with concern.

"I'm just jumpy, I guess." He said, reaching behind him and terminating the image on the screen and the ridiculous suspicions he'd allowed himself to have.

"I suggest you compose yourself before you venture off into the wetlands, you allow yourself to be startled in there and you may not have time to recover."

"You've spent a lot of time in there have you?" He stood up and moved closer to her, pushing a wisp of her hair from her brow.

"Are you kidding, there's bugs in there."

He rolled his eyes as she slipped her hands around his waist and pulled herself to him.

"Your such a girl." He sighed, returning the hug, and allowing the familiar warmth to console him.

He held her longer then he'd intended, he wasn't sure if was the guilt he was feeling about suspecting her, or the fact that she sounded so much like Jayna as she almost purred contentedly in his arms.

"You better get moving Commander." She pulled away from him, and patted him encouragingly on his chest.

"Ok, I'm going." He pushed her hair behind her ear affectionately, "You look like a little pixie with your hair like that."

He could tell she was not amused at his remark, but under the circumstances he was pleased she let it slide without tossing a retort.

"I was finding my hair all over my clothes, couldn't stand it....I thought this would help, but it hasn't." She picked some hair off her shoulder and grinned at him.

Julie's simple words spun through his mind, causing his heart to pound faster, a cold sweat to break over his shoulders, and his memories of earlier in the day to flood his mind. He remembered, the hairs, the long dark hairs he had pulled off of Julie's jacket when she had first showed up at the P'maran Hatu.......Deanna was right.

He swallowed hard, hoping to hide his revelation from her, "See ya later, Julie."

She flashed a smile assuring him she hadn't picked up on his feelings, before leaving.

His hands trembled at his sides, an anger like he had never felt before bubbled inside him, he wanted to kill her, wrap his hand around her tiny throat and squeeze until her neck snapped in his hands. In inhaled a shaky breath, tears of rage and betrayal slipped from his dark stormy eyes....He watched a blurry image of her shuttle take off and head away from the others, the questions that were torturing him would have to wait, as would his thirst for revenge....right now he had only one thing on his agenda, and that was to find Deanna before Julie was allowed to steal another part of his life. As soon as her shuttle had disappeared behind the trees, Will engaged his own and followed.


Will Riker drummed his fingers impatiently on the control panel, it had been two and half hours since he'd started following Julie, and so far all he had to show for it was a stiff neck, and dull headache.

He was beginning to think he'd been wrong in his presumption that she was the killer, after all a few dark hairs on a suit certainly were not the equivalent of a smoking gun.

He straightened from his slouched position as she emerged from yet another boutique, placed her bags in the shuttle and slipped inside. This had been the ninth shop she entered, if she went for number ten he had decided he would move with plan b. Plan b had originally been plan a, the one where he searches the bayou with the guide the admiral had probably located by now. He ran his hands through his all ready tousled hair, not looking forward to explaining to Parks where he had been for the last few hours.

He ignited the controls to the shuttle, allowing Julie enough space that she wouldn't notice a starfleet land shuttle behind her. He felt his adrenaline increase as this time instead of moving over the streets of the city, she maneuvered her craft to the outskirts of town.

It had been easy to remain unnoticed in the confines of the city, but the closer she got to the P'maran Hatu the more conspicuous he became. He dropped back further, until he could barely see her running lights twinkling in the distance.

The Risian sun dropped quickly behind the trees as Julie's shuttle stopped at the west rim of the bayou. He stilled his engines and watched her climb from the shuttle and move into the dense foliage that surrounded the swamp.

He moved in closer before exiting his own shuttle, and he hoped entered the swamp at the same location she had. Dark clouds billowed in front of the sliver of a moon that stood guard in the sky, shielding it's attempt to help him find his way. He waited until he no longer heard the sound of her feet in the mud to pull out his light and shine it over the ground. A sigh of relief escaped him as the light illuminated Julie's foot prints, it would easy to follow them, and it was what he was hoping for.

He moved slowly over her tracks, ignoring the rustling of the bushes and the splashes of the water as the predators and prey scurried away from the intruder that had penetrated their dark world. The eerie blue lights of the swamp danced over the water, Will o' the wisps, his father had called them, the natives referred to them as candles of the dead, either way they were just another haunting addition to the almost tomb like aura that shrouded him.

Julie's footsteps veered to the right, about a half inch of water now covering the rich dark mud that had betrayed her. At first he thought the sounds of the insects were playing tricks on his mind, but the more he moved forward, the more he was certain he could hear a muffled voice ahead. He decreased the brightness of his light, and did his best to hush the water that sloshed below his feet......A soft yellow glow emanated from behind a curtain of green moss that hung protectively over a small ridge. He moved closer, extinguishing his light completely, and pushing the cool damp moss aside.

"You don't understand."

Will pressed himself against the wall of the cave at the sound of her voice unclipping the phaser that hung at his side.

"You murdered his son."

He gripped his phaser tighter, Deanna's voice almost inaudible above the smack of flesh against flesh. He silenced his instinct to lunge into the room, he couldn't see the two woman, and if Julie also possessed a phaser she might have a chance to hurt Deanna before he was even able to fire.

He heard Julie laugh at Deanna's question, she sounded so strange, her voice and her laughter different, but familiar.

"I love Will, I'll always love Will, that's why I protect him from women like you. Jonathan was my son, why would I kill him?."

Will's stomach clenched, his knees grew weak, but he finally understood what was going on. He took a few unsteady steps forward, inhaling a shaky breath before turning the corner to face her.

"Jayna, I'll always love you too." He kept his phaser behind his back, and met the deep brown eyes that turned to him.


He fingered the phaser he held behind his back and tried to appear unaffected by the knife Julie held over Deanna's chest, and the phaser she had tucked safely in the waistband of her pants.

"Did you hear what I said Jayna.....I love you too." He knew his voice was forced, and the longer she held him with her emotionless expression, the tighter the knots twisted inside him.

<I could kill her right now>, the thought repeated itself in his mind, his hands damp with sweat gripped his phaser tighter. Would she be able to bring the knife down before he could fire, was he willing to take the chance. How long would she hold on to representing herself as Jayna before she reverted back to Julie......maybe Deanna had been wrong, maybe in killing all these women, it had been her way of killing herself, her real self.

"Put your phaser down or I'll slit her throat!" Her shrill warning caused him to jump, the look in her eyes shifting to a malicious glare.

"Do it!" She pulled Deanna's neck back and slid the blade to her throat.

"Fine...don't hurt her anymore!" He dropped the phaser he thought he had hidden behind his back, and held both hands out in front of himself. Deanna's head flopped to the side as Julie released her hair and pulled the knife from her throat. He stood rigidly as she moved in on him, unsure of what to say or how to react, or who the hell he was talking to.

"Stop acting like you don't understand." Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, the phaser that had been safely tucked in her belt, now accurately aimed at him. He eyed the phaser and the settings, not surprised it was set to kill.

"This is what you wanted, don't you remember. When you made love to me the night before Jonathan died."

He swallowed hard, a distorted view of the night she referred to played out in his mind. He and Jayna had had a huge fight about his career, she had stormed out of their house, he remembered having a couple of drinks with Julie, and waking up the next morning with Jayna sleeping by his side. Their battles over his career aspirations had become almost a daily occurrence, so when he had woke up and found Jayna sleeping next to him, all he cared about was the fighting had abated for another day. He certainly didn't remember sex, and from what he could remember of the earlier part of the evening he wouldn't have been able to perform even if he wanted to.

"Of course I remember." He lied, "I could never forget that night."

"Then help me kill her." She glided her tongue over her lips seductively, "It will be just like that night. Don't you want to feel that way again."

She moved the bloodstained knife over his throat and down his chest, watching the trail of blood she was leaving on his shirt with a sensuous desire. His breath locked in his chest, his mind spun out of control.......What the hell was she doing.

"Julie stop it!" He lunged for her wrist, the knife slicing over his hand. She didn't react to him, her eyes focused only on the thick crimson liquid that dripped from his wound and down her arm. She willingly dropped the phaser she had gripped in her other hand, and moved her haunting eyes from his arm to his repulsed stare.

She smiled a smile of satisfaction and shuttered slightly. "I've protected you from all of them.....just like I promised. No one will ever hurt you again."

He felt her body weaken in his grasp, her breath quivered from her chest, her eyes dark and veiled with arousal.

"What the hell are you talking about......Your insane!" He increased the pressure on her wrist, the knife fell from her hand, she stared at him shocked and mortified by his words.

"You said I was the only one that understood Will, you said that marrying Jayna was the biggest mistake you ever made.....That's why I killed Jonathan, to help you...so you could get away and never make........" Her words broke off, he released his hold on her as she fell to her knees, crying and pleading with him to remember. Picking the phasers up off the ground he heard Deanna's weaken call..... instinctively he kicked Julie away from the hold she had on him, and moved to Deanna's side.

"Deanna." Her breath was shallow and uneven, her eyes glassy and distant....."Don't die Deanna." His plea left his lips just as the sharp pain pierced his back,

"You liar!" Her voice was as sharp as the blade that she again sank into his back. He struggled to turn to her, choking on the blood that was all ready filling his lungs...his vision clouded, blood filled his mouth and dripped from his nose, his world began to spiral ....Phaser fire his last coherent thought before his world went dark.

"Don't leave Deanna" He stroked his hands over her hair, and stared into her closed eyes. He winced with pain as Doctor Crusher's hand slipped around his neck. "You should be resting too you know."

He ignored her request and the tricorder she scanned over him...."When will we know..if she's going to ...you know."

Beverly Crusher's blue eyes were dulled with sadness. "She's still holding on Will, that's a good sign. Her massive blood loss put a strain on all her organs, I just wish we could have gotten her into stasis sooner. Her body needs time to heal." She ran her hand through his hair. "If I bring another bed in here, will you promise to rest."

She had moved towards the door before he had offered an agreement. "I'll be right back."

"Beverly wait."

She stuck her head back in the door when he called after her, raising her eyebrows in response.


Her brow furrowed in concern, she folded her arms and leaned against the door frame.

"Just tell me doc, I'm not going to track her down and kill her."

"She's very disturbed Will....I think that's all you need to know."

He tried not to let Beverly's condescending tone play over his frazzled nerves. "She killed Jayna, and Jonathan.....and maybe De..Deanna." He stumbled over his words, doing his best to keep the quiver from his voice.

Beverly closed her eyes, releasing a sigh that suggested to him she did not think she was doing the right thing by answering his question. "Julie was a synesthete...but she was also very unstable, she really believed in killing Jonathan she was "saving you."

He swallowed the lump that had lodged itself in his throat...."The blood doc? "

Another sigh escaped her lungs, she pulled up a chair and sat down in front of him. "I've explained Synesthesia, certain people whose senses don't work exactly like ours."

"Yea, yea...taste colors, see sounds....and the blood represented what?"

She slouched in her chair averting his eyes as she continued. "It didn't represent anything...it was something. It's almost impossible for us to comprehend, but with her deteriorated mental state her Synesthesia intensified to a point that blood ...." Beverly raised her eyes to the ceiling. "Blood was the equivalent of...."

"Me." He finished her sentence, more self blame dimming the tiny amount of life that still flickered behind his blue eyes.


<What the hell am I doing?> he had turned the question in his mind ever since the enterprise had docked on Betazed. He hadn't planed on stopping at the institute where Julie was being held, and yet now he found himself staring through the one-way mirror, still trying to understand what had drawn him here.

Maybe it had been his way of delaying his inevitable trip to the Troi estate, he was not looking forward to an encounter with Lwaxana, though he doubted she could possibly make him feel more guilty then he already did. He would have been more then willing to sit through a dozen more bureaucratic hearings just to avoid the day he had ahead of him.

The glass that he peered through had become misted by his breath, the muted image of Julie still caused his skin to crawl. Her dark eyes looked like unpolished gems, dull and lifeless, her arms rigidly wrapped around her knees that were pulled tightly to her chest. It was like looking into the face of a corpse, a corpse that still found a need to breath... and by all counts that's what she had become. Julie had slipped into a deep catatonic state only hours after Data had shown up in the cave to rescue them, and over the past month her state had only deteriorated. Looking at her, her eyes seemed to meet his, though he knew it was impossible, she couldn't see him, but he still had to wonder what secrets she had taken with her, what was going on in her scrambled brain. The doctors had found scarring on her brain, the part of the brain that controlled emotions. It also seemed likely the damage had been done by a large surge of electrical current.

Resting his forehead on the glass, he wondered if maybe she had tried to save Jonathan, if maybe that was the moment in time that had turned her world upside down and created the monster she had become. He guessed he would never know the truth, just as he would never understand why her fixation with blood had dominated her life. The Admiral had given him some of her old journals, and from those he had learned of her jealousy towards her sister, and the fact that she had been in love with him since he was thirteen. Most of the entries in the journals were fabrications, romantic encounters between the two of them that never happened, all but that forgotten night. Her journal entries had ceased the day before she claimed they had been intimate. A Ullian memory probe had been performed on him as a last ditch effort to retrieve the missing hours, but even that had come up empty.....The only recollection they had been able to retrieve was of a small spattering of blood on Jayna's pillow the next morning, why and how only more unanswered questions. Either his memories were buried as deeply as hers, or that night was just another one of Julie's romantic delusion.

Pulling his forehead away from the glass, he ran his fingers through the fog his breath had caused, and said a silent good bye to the woman that had forced him to face his past. His guilt still weighed heavy, but he would never again hide the fact that he had loved Jayna Anderson and that once someone had called him daddy. His unshed tears burned at the corners of his eyes as he moved away from his past and left the Betazed institute ....Tucking Jayna and Jonathan away in his heart, he moved closer to facing his present.


Night had all ready fallen as he made his way up the walkway to the Troi mansion, the full moon illuminating the night and bathing the house with a soft tranquil glow. He stood outside the doors, hoping for a moment to compose his thoughts before he had to face her, but fate and Lwaxana Troi had a different idea.

"Willaim" She spoke his name before the door had been fully opened, then fell silent and observed him closely.

"Mrs Troi, I'm sorry I'm late."

Still she studied him, her dark eyes seeming to look past the stiff facade he presented into the vulnerable interior of his soul. He shifted under her scrutiny, his movement causing her gaze to soften to almost a sympathetic smile. The compassion that shown in her eyes, not what he'd expected, he found himself struggling to form a thought, let alone put it into words.

In the time it took him to scramble his thoughts she had all ready led him towards the back of the house and gestured out the backdoor. He managed a thank you, at least he was fairly sure he had actually spoken it before leaving the house and moving in the direction she had pointed him.

He moved through the well maintained gardens, the sweet smells of the flowers stirring memories of a very young and very beautiful psychology student. Pushing past the last gardenia bush, an even more beautiful woman stood looking out over the rippling water of the lake.

He swallowed his fears and approached her, but still she kept her eyes forward, watching the night as if a miracle was about to happen. He stood behind her in silence, the fragrance of her carrying to him on the warm breeze, the moon's shadows painting her with an almost angelic glow.

"I hear you've been reinstated as first officer." Her gentle voice broke the silence, but still she looked toward the water. He found no reason to respond to her, her comment made it clear she was all ready aware of what happened on his trip to earth.

"Deanna, about..."

Finally she pulled her attention from whatever she had seemed so enthralled with, and turned towards him pressing her fingers against his lips to silence him.

"Shh, she's going to call for him." A faint smile touched her lips, her fingers trailing over his beard and down his chest before she again turned back to the lake.

Again he tried to speak to her, this time she backed into him, instinctively he slid his arms around her waist. She settled back into him, stroking her hands over his forearms.

"You see once they were one, but he listened to the whispers of the gods and fled to the water....leaving her alone among the stars. Even though he loves her, he still fights the pull of her affections."

"Deanna, who...who are we talking about."

" Celandria, the goddess of the moon, can't you feel her pleading with him to come home."

Tightening his hold on her, he chose not to explain away her tale with scientific fact, instead opening himself up to her fantasy.

"Watch" She turned her head and looked up to him, the shadows of this lady in the moon dancing in her eyes. Resting his head on hers he watched as the dark water began to lap over the moonbeams that caressed it's surface. Like two lovers, the creamy moonbeams danced and flirted with the ever increasing current of the rough blue water. The water continued to respond to the kiss of the moon, churning upwards into a waterspout that reached longingly into the sky. The funnel reached higher and higher, the droplets that escaped danced like diamonds in the air before finally disappearing into the outstretched arms of the moonbeams.

"Why doesn't he go to her?" And as if his voice had broken the spell, the funnel sunk back into the indigo depths, and with a final shutter became still.

"He's afraid." He kept his hands on her waist as she turned to look up at him, weather her eyes glistened with tears or only the moonlight he wasn't sure.

"Each time she comes he offers more of himself, tiny pieces that she can take back, and hold on to, until the next time they meet."

He cradled her face in his hands, stroking his thumbs over her silky cheeks before whispering his lips over hers. She answered his light brushing of her lips by pulling herself closer to him, capturing his lips a bit more forcefully. Instinctively he responded to her, his senses surrendering momentarily to the flavor of her mouth, and the smell of her body.

"Why is he afraid Imzadi?" He asked, pulling away from the warmth of her lips.

She held his bearded face in her small hands, "He thinks if he gives himself to her, he may lose himself."

The eyes that met with his now, were no different then the eyes that had met his in the Jalara jungle, the look of love and acceptance in them had never wavered, they were a constant that had become apart of his life years ago, and would remain a part of his life forever.

An unreleased breath slowly escaped his lungs, he shook his head as he spoke. "But he wouldn't, would he?"

"What do you think Will?"

He answered her question with the warm promise of his lips, before lowering her to the ground and surrendering at least a piece of himself to this perfect moment.

The moon moved higher in the sky, bathing their nude bodies with shadows of hopes and rays of promises. The sweet sounds of their lovemaking filled the air, mixing with the world around them The dark blue water stirred slightly, sending a wink of hope to the moon as it slipped behind a cloud.

They loved each other, not driven by necessity, by the "Blaze of passion" often falsely ascribed to love. They loved each other because everything around them willed it, the trees, and the clouds, and the sky over their heads and the earth under their feet."

Boris Pasterake.....Doctor Zhivago


The end