TITLE: Visual Acuity (1/1)
AUTHOR: Leyenn
E-MAIL: Leyenn@aol.com
PAIRING: Riker/Troi
CATEGORY: Challenge answer, for jaegecko's lj secrets challenge. 500 words. SUMMARY: The hardest secrets to see sit right in front of your face.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing here is mine, as usual. I do this purely out of love and respect for the series and the characters, and I wouldn't even *want* to write it for money. No, seriously.
ARCHIVE: If you think it's worth your time, put myname on it and it's yours.

Visual Acuity
By Leyenn@aol.com

To understand how he could not see it before, he tries to understand how he came to see it before him now. He watches the two of them, hunter to prey, stalking. To understand one's opponent is the first step towards victory.

They sit together, side by side, in the morning briefing: early enough that even he is aware of feeling sluggish, and speaking roughly because of it when she says 'good morning'. And yet there is nothing between them to say they spend even a moment of life apart. He reminds himself that Klingon women would *not* say 'good morning', or smile with it so gamely, or wear the dim circles of a sleepless night beneath their eyes as if they barely noticed.

His station gives the perfect position for his hunt; high and empty, with a clear view of the contest already lost to him. This is one of the myriad days when nothing happens beyond the routine - he can only stand and wish for the scent of sudden, unexpected combat, since his warrior's stubborn pride refuses the weak and idle notion of a daydream.

She sits working, and his stance is such that he watches her screen without thought of privacy. He hones his concentration on the brush of her fingertips, the slide of letters beneath glossy black under her command. When he can make out names he permits a rush of satisfaction and tears himself away.

He reminds himself, he *does not care* that he can spot the mischievous corner of her smile.

When she stands, two hours into the duty shift, he stiffens: she doesn't look towards him. Picard's chair is unoccupied, although if it was, he imagines she would have stepped across her Captain just the same.

He *does not care* that she smiles down at her counterpart, her rank equal now as he will never be. That he can watch her fingers brush hardwearing red fabric as they would her glossy screen, as they would satin sheets and naked skin. That more than the edge of that answering grin is visible.

His teeth are a hide from bared in return when he remembers he is Starfleet.

It becomes evening without incident, and the longer for it; the bar is still crowded when he ventures out, only to avoid Alexander's eyes and the way he wants to snarl at the boy. The putrid scent of people wafts all around him, but he sits alone.

They oppose each other at the chess board tonight. He has never attempted to defeat her himself: he sees no glory in the playing of a game. But he still recalls that Riker prefers the old Earth style; even so, fights her to a close finish. The black King falls to her rook after an hour of futile retreat, and he *will not care* that he can make out the touch of fingers as they reset the board to begin again.

He was never a part of this battle.

[END 1/1]