Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.
My mother never read me fantasies as a child. My father had his Westerns, but sometimes a little girl wants the shining fairytale, with its prince and its castle and its happy ever after. It never mattered if they weren't told aloud - I had them there all the same.
When he died, I buried my prince and my happy ending in one empty grave.
When you left, I ran away from my castle and didn't look back.
Everywhere I've lived since then, I've taken one thing with me - I snap hairbrushes and break vases and grow tired of clothes and books, and mother is forever sending me another holo of Betazed. But with every move, one picture is the first thing out and the last put away. You still wear yellow and two pips, and you look too young to be dreaming of the kind of life you wanted: I look truly Betazoid in soft silk clothes and jewellery, but too serious to be the girl I know you remember.
We had two years here before we knew: before I stumbled on you pretending you'd never used the Jalara program I pretended I'd never made. That way lay madness, and we headed for it together.
You still know where and how to touch my body, and I refuse to ever let you forget. You're still the only one I want to come to when my soul needs what you used to give and never stopped; there are still things that only you know about me, even after all these years. I've run from everyone else who asked.
There are things only I know about you, too. Those soft, quiet touches; ways I can look at you that mean the world could come to an end that very moment and you wouldn't notice. There are things the Betazoid mind can do that would make a man forget they ever Fell from paradise, and you learnt of every one of them alongside me.
Semantics say we aren't lovers. Real life says things like this can't be that simple.
I know what they talk about when you're with another woman: I've heard the mutters and the confusion in Ten Forward when you take me back to your table and we both know they're watching. How Geordi tries to apologise, Data tries to understand, Beverly asks more times than I can count why it never hurts.
You say you never compare them to me, and I believe it because I know it's true. You flirt with the pretty girls on pretty planets, but when you go to bed alone it's your mind that reaches for mine. You would die before taking another telepath into your thoughts, and you've told me so.
We sit together for late lunches and later nights; when I wake up in the night and look in the mirror, I know it's you looking through the other side. Sometimes I can even see your face. More nights than not, I crawl back into bed with you in my dreams and live out the kind of loves no one used to question and none of them here would understand.
We play at being friends for an outside world with no words for what we are. Brush minds before we say good morning - practiced now, the way we say only the most private things that private way so that no one knows; look across every table and smile as though your thoughts were never clear as glass to me, and we never made a secret game out of your trying to hide them. Even off duty we don't touch out loud the way they would see, and we let them imagine that means we never make sweet, mindless love late into the morning. It's been agreed for years that they'll never be told the things we can do inside each other. I can lose myself in your mind so easily it takes trying not to, and the secrets I teach you in return are nothing Starfleet knows. No one can share this.
It slipped out years back that you jilted me at the altar and I'm still waiting for someone to ask the question that sits in their eyes when we move our private world around them. They never want to ask if we were happy, those other years together, although my only words in answer are those they couldn't understand.
The times we have to go away, I spend days before just drinking in the sense of you. You went to the Pagh, and then to the Hathaway, to Melkor and Melona and so many missions I forget all the names, and no one knows the night-befores you spent wrapped around me. When Tasha died, only Beverly knows I needed a week to sleep without you holding me when I cried.
When that was me, dead under her hand, even she will never hear about the nights I rocked you back to sleep and kept you from the nightmares.
It shocks them that I'll walk naked in your quarters, that you leave strange and secret gifts in mine for a hundred reasons that are no reason at all. They don't know that I can come to you from ten decks away in the middle of a night shift or a morning briefing, or how often I do. I know they've watched us in the gym together, and that it drives even Worf a little crazy when we spar ten minutes blindfold without a single fall and never tell them how. It's a shipwide inside joke that we never take shore leave apart, but they don't know why that would hurt more than either of us could stand.
I know if you're there before I open my door, and you know exactly when to come over and cook for me because you know how I miss it sometimes. When the door closes on us alone, you're the only one who sees what I can be... what I am, when I don't hold myself back from being me the way I've learnt to with the others. The only one who kneels in front of me in reverence I never asked for, places kisses on bare skin, knows everything it means to be Betazoid and Fifth House and wants for me to know, I'm still all of that to you. I feel it each time you feel me flow through your mind, and it's only ever love in return.
If this was a mistake, if this is a relationship ruined, then for today I want nothing more. This castle has wings to fly between the stars, and my prince now still wears the uniform I remember. Happy ever after is for little girls; in life, I know the best stories have no ending.