Ties Of Time

By Michele (IceSlivers)

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to the Star Trek Universe, characters, ships, etc. I'm just messing with their minds, however, the story line and characters of Marrisa Warren, Christopher Watson, Steven Dyal, and any other character springing from my imagination are mine. Do not reproduce without permission.


Chapter One

The dazzling view of space from the observation ports thrilled her senses. With childlike wonder, she watched the stars drift by at warp speed and pressed her hand to the glass-like panel that separated her from the vacuum of space with a longing to touch what she could only see. She knew every nuance of space. Her mother, her Starfleet training, and subsequent career in Starfleet saw to that. Being the youngest person to graduate from the Academy at nineteen, she was an incredibly sought after officer. Now, she was twenty-two and a lieutenant on the Flagship of the Federation. It was her newest assignment, her most important assignment, and the only assignment she wanted. This assignment put her in the big leagues, so to speak, and assignment would make or break her career. It was a challenge she welcomed along with the opportunity to serve among a veteran crew whom she deeply admired. She knew they were waiting for her to make a mistake and be demoted, and she was determined to not let that happen. Marissa Warren would not let that happen. She would not disappoint her mother, misuse Starfleet's confidence in her, or fail her new captain. He took an extreme risk in accepting her into his crew, much less his senior staff as the system operator, a position usually reserved for a higher ranking officer. She would not flounder and cause him embarrassment. That was not an option.

Here in the lounge of the ship she could access nearly the entire crew at various points of the day. It allowed her to get a feel for the crew, the atmosphere of the ship, and essentially how she would be expected to act, as a member of the senior staff. So far, she had managed to meet most of the bridge crew. Now, all she had to do was meet the senior staff. Those were the people she wanted to impress…needed to impress. And, her chance was coming with the hiss of the doors and the sound of boisterous laughter. Alpha shift was coming off duty, which included most of the senior staff. So, patiently, calculatingly, and shrewdly, she waited.

After Alpha shift settled in and sat down, Marissa slid into a chair near the observation port and sipped her hot chocolate. It was a taste she inherited from her mother and her grandfather before her. Watching out of the corner of her eye, she observed the interactions of the senior staff with each other. They were jovial, cheerful, even pleasant. Marissa smiled to herself and shoved a wayward lock of her curly auburn hair behind an ear. Then, she sipped more of her hot chocolate until a crewman interrupted her. "Excuse me," he said, tapping her shoulder. She turned around in her seat and looked up at him with sparkling blue eyes. "Yes?" She asked rather coolly, cocking one eyebrow at the rather handsome, brown eyed, lieutenant commander.

"May I join you?" He inquired in an equally cool tone. She smiled and nodded, continuing to sip her hot chocolate. "You must be the new lieutenant," he observed, leaning back in his chair and studying her intently. The rumors were true. She was quite likely the most beautiful woman he'd seen in a very long time with her lightly tanned skin, startling blue eyes, and long, curly, dark reddish brown hair.

She studied the lieutenant commander in a similar manner and with a grin replied, "Why must I be?"

"Because I've heard the new, quite attractive, lieutenant has spent her entire first day in the lounge. You definitely fit the bill," he commented to her with a grin. He nodded to a near by waiter. "Water," he ordered, then the waiter drifted away. She grinned impishly and replied, "All right. I concede. I'm Lieutenant Marissa Warren, and you are…?" Her voice trailed off for him to fill in the silence.

"Lieutenant Commander Christopher Watson, Chief Engineer," he smoothly completed. They shook hands, and then he took a sip of his glass of water that the waiter left. "Would you do me the honor of allowing me to introduce you to the captain and senior staff?" He inquired. She studied him for a moment then slowly gave him a dazzling smile and nodded. He grinned and stood up, and she followed him to the center of the lounge where the senior staff occupied one of the larger tables. Christopher placed a hand on her back and introduced her. "Everyone, your speculations were right. This is the newest lieutenant." Marissa smiled almost shyly in the moment she had waited for all day.

A man with a slow, lazy white grin looked at her and asked, "Does the newest lieutenant have a name?" She returned the grin and replied, "Yes, she does."

The other occupants of the table burst into startled laughter and Marissa blushed. When the laughter died down the man cocked one eyebrow at her and she nervously replied, "Lieutenant Marissa Warren." He gestured to the two unoccupied seats and said, "Why don't you two join us."

Christopher sat in the chair closest to the man while Marissa took the other empty seat across from him. Christopher caught her attention and told her, "By the way, this is our captain, William Riker." She fought back a blush. I will not show my unease, she thought to herself and the captain looked at her rather sharply. "Did you say something, Lieutenant?" He asked curiously.

"No, Sir," she immediately replied. She looked at him with confusion, for Riker was positive she had said something. Christopher looked back and forth between the two and observed, "Captain, are you related to Lieutenant Warren?"

"Please, we're off duty. Call me Marissa," she quickly interjected while the captain replied, "Related? No, we're not. I've never met her before. Why would you ask something like that, Chris?"

Chagrined, Christopher mumbled, "No reason, Sir." Yet, something nagged him. Maybe it was the similarity in their appearances. Both had dark auburn hair, but hers was curly. Both had clear blue eyes, but his were narrow set while hers were a tad more wide set. Her skin was the same olive tan color, but her facial features were aristocratic while his were not. He noticed Marissa studying him rather oddly. It almost made him uncomfortable, and he was missing what the captain was asking Marissa.

"I was born on Earth, but both my parents were from Betazed," she answered the captain's question on where she was born as she took in Christopher's apperance and studied his conflicting emotions. He was rather handsome. His brown eyes reminded Marissa of her mother's eyes, large and expressive. His dark blond hair lay in perfectly cut layers and his skin was tanned and toned. There was little doubt in her mind he was athletic. He had a well-built body that only came through vigorous athletic training.

"You're a Betazoid?" Several occupants of the table said at the same time then laughed at each other. She nodded and Chris mumbled into his water, "Great…a mind reader…just what we needed on this ship."

Unable to contain her laughter, Marissa burst into great gales of laughter while the others looked at her curiously. "You'll be delighted to know, Commander, I am not a telepath."

"You're an empath?" The captain asked. She nodded and said, "My mother is only half Betazoid, so I have limited abilities as a telepath. I can send and receive thoughts, sense emotions, but I cannot read minds."

That's why I thought she spoke outloud! Will thought to himself. She must have projected her thought without realizing it, he rationalized. After all, the only other person whose thoughts he could sense was light years away. There was no way he was sensing her thoughts.

"Captain?" Elizabeth Shelby, the Commander and First Officer, of the Enterprise got his attention. He looked, distracted, towards her. "You have experience with Betazoids," she recalled.

"Yes," he nodded. "I spent a few months there as a lieutenant." He quickly took a gulp of his Synthehol. It burned a path down his throat and he tried to ignore the way Marissa's eyes had lit up at the mention of her home planet. Fortunately, his attention was directed to a tall redheaded woman who entered the lounge. He waved to her and she walked over to the full table. "Well, I see no one saved me a seat," she commented lightly.

"I was just leaving," Lieutenant Commander Peterson, chief of security, said as he stood up, nodded to the table, and left. Gracefully, the lovely red head sank into the chair and for the first time, Marissa saw her. Her face lit up and she exclaimed, "Beverly!" The woman looked over and her eyes lit up with equal brightness.

"Marissa, what are you doing here?" She asked in a delighted voice. The two women grinned at each other, and then Beverly noticed the pips on Marissa's uniform. Shocked, she looked up to Marissa and said, "Surely, you aren't the new lieutenant I've heard so much about?"

Grinning broadly, Marissa nodded and said, "Yes, Ma'am. I came aboard this morning."

"Why didn't you come see me?" Beverly asked, trying to mask her shock from the young empath.

"I didn't know you were the CMO here," she claimed, finishing off her hot chocolate. "I thought you were still serving at the medical facilities on Dyson." Will's eyes registered what the contents of her glass were and another look of surprise crossed his face. Marissa felt his surprise, but she didn't comment on it. "Anyway, I should go get settled in my new quarters. I have a ton of unpacking to do and should try to get some rest," she announced, rising to her feet. The remaining officers at the table agreed it was time to return to their quarters, with the exception of Will and Beverly. They watched as the young lieutenant left the lounge, escorted by the handsome lieutenant commander that introduced her.

In the silence, Beverly stared at her hands, the designs on the table, even around the room. Anything to avoid Will's piercing gaze. She waited until the tension was thick and he could no longer wait for her to speak. "Beverly, how well do you know her?" He asked tautly.

"Marissa?" She asked, playing ignorant. She met Will's eyes and saw blue fire leap into them. "I've known her since she was born. I delivered her," she answered quietly. Will nodded and said, "I figured as much."

"Really? And, how did you figure that out?" She asked mockingly. "Are you a mind reader, now?"

Having a long and good history with Dr. Beverly Crusher, he let her insolence slide as he replied, "Only when it comes to one woman," he answered unemotionally.

"Touché," Beverly said, looking away, then in a softer voice, "Will, it's obvious you have something on your mind."

"And, you know what it is," he countered smoothly, his blue eyes studying her intently. "Is Marissa who I think she is?"

"Who do you think she is?" She retorted easily.

"Is she Deanna's daughter?" He asked. The words stuck in his mouth and left a bad aftertaste. Even his nose wrinkled after he said the words. Beverly waited a moment then admitted, "Yes, Marissa is Deanna's daughter."

Will squeezed the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "Damn," he whispered softly. Then, he rested his head in his hands and thought to the last time that he saw Deanna for longer than a brief, stolen moment. It was just before he left the Enterprise to take command of the Excalibur. Nearly twenty-three years ago, and yet it felt like yesterday. "Who is her father?" He asked quietly.

Beverly blanched then hastily replied, "Deanna never told me and I never asked."

Will smiled. He almost believed her.

"So, how old were you when you graduated from the Academy?" Christopher asked Marissa as she sorted through boxes. Distractedly she replied, "Nineteen. Where did I put that book?" Christopher laughed and suggested, "Marissa, you've been shuffling through boxes for over an hour. Sit down and take a break."

With a laugh, Marissa conceded and collapsed in the nearest chair. "Ugh. I forgot how impossible it is to get settled into a new place all in one night." She stretched her long legs out in front of her and crossed them at the ankles, then leaned her head back on the wall behind the chair. Her eyes slowly closed and Chris chuckled as she calmed herself. "Betazoids have always fascinated me," he admitted, watching her intently.

"Really?" She asked, opening her eyes and looking at him. "Why do we fascinate you?"

"I don't know. I guess it's the telepathy and empathy your people possess. And, your powers to 'center' yourself." He leaned forward with his arms resting on his thighs. He grinned conspiratorially. "I guess it's because I'm just a lowly human." Marissa laughed at him. "Chris, you are the most facetious chief engineer I've ever met. Most are so serious…all the time."

With a mischievous grin he leaned forward and said, "Because most of them are old fogies who can't remember what it was like to be young." Marissa burst into startled laughter. Her eyes sparkled when she laughed and impishness hid in the depths. He was pleasantly surprised his preconceived notions about Betazoids were wrong. She was not haughty or overbearing as he once thought Betazoids were. He was also immensely pleased she could not read his thoughts. The idea of being around someone who knew his every thought made him extremely nervous. However, someone who could sense his emotions he could handle. He could keep his emotions under a strict hold.

Marissa yawned without warning and Chris grinned at her and rose to his feet. "You're obviously tired, Lieutenant. I'll let you get some rest." Slowly rising to her feet, Marissa gave him a look of gratitude and walked with him to the door of her quarters. It hissed open and he stepped into the opening. "I'll see you in the morning, Lieutenant," he said, leaving, then the door hissed closed behind him. She smiled and walked into her bedroom. Sinking onto her bed in exhaustion and exhilaration, she thought over the day's events. With a smile she laid back and relished every moment, then slowly drifted off to sleep.

"You're unusually quiet tonight, Captain," Commander Shelby murmured as she snuggled under the covers of her bed. She studied the man lying beside her with his hands folded up under his head, staring at the ceiling. When he offered her no reply, she propped her head up with one hand and let her other hand rest on his chest. "Will?" She asked him quietly to get his attention. He took a deep breath and looked over at the lithe blonde beside him and offered her his most charming smile. "You were a million miles away," she commented with a smile.

"I apologize, Liz. I've got a lot of things on my mind. You know how it is after a crew rotation," he claimed, turning onto his side to face her. He reached over and brushed a wayward lock of her shoulder length, wavy, blonde hair from her face. She smiled ruefully at him and said, "Will Riker, I have known you for over twenty years. There is more on your mind than crew rotations." He sighed heavily and turned back onto his back. "Liz, I really don't want to talk about it right now," he said tersely. She stared at him for a brief, hurt moment, then lay back down beside him. If there was one thing she had learned in their torrid, five-month affair, it was there was no talking to him in his present mood. He would talk to her when he was good and ready. If he chose not to talk to her about it, there was truly nothing she could or would do about it. Their relationship wasn't committed. They still saw other people from time to time, but never slept with anyone else, or as far as the other knew. Will certainly didn't. Elizabeth suited him as well as anyone else on the ship. Granted, when he had first met her all those years ago, her attitude and demeanor put him off, but time mellowed her. She was still as ambitious and as determined, but she was easier going now. She made him laugh, and he enjoyed her company. Yes, they suited each other well, but she wasn't his soulmate. He knew that as surely as he knew whom his soulmate was, and knew he would never be with her.

He felt Elizabeth's breathing change and he knew she was asleep. Silently, he moved from her bed, slid on a robe, and padded over to the computer console in the living room. Sitting on the couch, he leaned forward and said, "Computer, display all information on Marissa Warren."

Within seconds the computer complied and before him was all the information he desired on the beautiful, young lieutenant. Marissa Whitney Warren. Born on Earth to Commander Deanna Troi. Father unknown. Youngest graduate of Starfleet Academy. Assigned to USS Hawthorne for first assignment. Promoted to lieutenant junior grade after one year. Currently assigned to the USS Enterprise with a recent promotion to lieutenant. He skimmed over the other personal information, then turned off the computer screen. He slouched back against the couch and closed his eyes in deep thought. For a while he wondered who Marissa's father was, then his thoughts drifted to Deanna and whether she loved Marissa's father. Finally, his thoughts rested solely on Deanna. She was still on Earth as Picard's advisor. He sighed and ran a hand over his face. "Computer, record message for Commander Shelby. Please notify her of message after 0800 hours." Quickly, he recorded a brief message for Elizabeth explaining he couldn't sleep and retired to his quarters. Then, he went back into her bedroom and quickly changed back into his uniform. He exited Shelby's quarters silently and padded down to his quarters.

Meanwhile, on Earth, the sun began peaking into the dark night. Her favorite time of the day was Dawn, watching the sky turn purple, pink, and orange, then finally a glorious blue. It fascinated her. Her home planet's sky remained orange with pink clouds or a deep bluish black of night. There was no true in between like on Earth. Even after being on Earth for over twenty years, she still found herself awake at dawn, standing on her balcony, watching the sunrise. Today was no different, yet she looked to the ever-changing sky with a longing absent from her life for years. She leaned on the metal railing of her balcony and reflected thoughtfully on her life. A voice from her past came teasingly into her memory. You over intellectualize things. She smiled ruefully to herself as she recalled herself replying, Not when I'm with you. "Dammit!" she hissed to herself, shaking off the memory, then walked back into her apartment.

"Good morning, Deanna," Jean-Luc Picard intoned as his advisor joined him in his offices. She smiled serenely at the man she had now served for over twenty years. Deanna thoroughly enjoyed being his advisor, just as she had enjoyed being the counselor on the Enterprise all those years ago. That was before Marissa was born, before Deanna felt she needed to provide her child with a stable life, and before Will Riker left her. When Picard was promoted to admiral he offered Deanna the chance to become his top advisor. She accepted his offer and never regretted it. "Something wrong, Admiral?" She asked, sitting down across from him and noting his peculiar expression.

Frowning, Picard placed the PADD on his desk and sighed. "Nothing I hadn't expected. It seems there will be a reception for the Bajourian ambassadors on Starbase 74. I am expected to attend." He despised formal receptions. Not only did they require he wear the dress uniform he loathed, but it took him away from other duties he deemed more important. Deanna grinned at his look of distaste and changed the subject.

"Well, I have some wonderful news," she said with an enormous smile. He leaned back and waited. "Marissa was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to the Enterprise!" Deanna exclaimed proudly. Picard laughed at her exuberance, but he was equally as proud of Marissa as her mother. He had the pleasure of watching Marissa grow up and thought of her as a close relative. Often, Marissa teasingly called him her uncle, and with an uncharacteristic fondness, he sometimes referred to her as his niece. She had been a delightful child and was a wonderful young woman.

"That's wonderful, Deanna! I shall have to send Marissa a congratulatory greeting. I'm sure she'll love serving on the Enterprise. Beverly can keep an eye on her, too," he said as an afterthought, remembering Beverly had recently transferred to the flagship.

"Oh! That's right! Beverly did send me a subspace communication to tell me she was going to the Enterprise," Deanna recalled, then she wrinkled her forehead and asked, "Who is the captain? I can't remember!"

Picard looked at her strangely then told her, sending a surge of fear through her like no other. "Will Riker."


Chapter Two

After checking her appearance for the thousandth timethat morning Marissa pressed a shaking hand to her churning stomach and exited her quarters. "Computer, lock door," she called, then turned to walk to the turbolift. Waiting for the turbolift only allowed time for her nerves to grow shakier. She sensed someone behind her. "Ready for your first day?" A familiar voice asked.

"I'd face a Klingon firing squad with less fear," she confessed cheerfully.

The turbolift doors hissed open and the two walked it the compartment. "Main Bridge!" Christopher called out. The doors closed and hurtled them to the bridge. He looked to Marissa and reached over with a comforting hand. "Hey! You're going to be great, Lieutenant,"he assured her, squeezing her hand. She uneasily smiled at him as the turbolift stopped and the doors hissed open. They snapped into command mode and walked onto the bridge. Chris walked to the Engineering console while Marissa walked down to the command center. The captain and first officer rose to their feet and Marissa paused beside them. "Lieutenant Marissa Warren reporting for duty, Sirs," she said in a voice far more sure than she felt. Both smiled reassuringly at her and Riker motioned towards the empty CONN.

"Lieutenant, I believe we need someone to monitor ship's systems," he instructed her with a smile in his eyes. She nodded and slid behind the CONN and looked at the readings before her. "All systems operating normally, Sir," she told him as he and Shelby sank back into their seats.

"Good, Helm, set a course for Tarsas III, warp five," he ordered.

"Course set, Sir."

"Engage," Riker commanded. A broad grin slipped across his face. After more than two decades of commanding the best ships in the fleet, he was still exhilarated when everything worked right. It was a thrill almost like no other. Although, no thrill had yet to match some of his experiences on Betazed with a certain young empath half his life ago. He pushed the thoughts aside. Having Deanna's daughter on board was almost too much for him to handle. Lately, his thoughts seemed to constantly gravitate towards her. Amazing, after twenty something years she still has the monopoly on me, he thought with a rueful smile. His gaze drifted to Marissa. Wearing a concentrated frown, Marissa intently studied the CONN, watching for abnormalities, anomalies, and irregularities. Nothing would go wrong on her shift, or so she was convinced. Will grinned at her determination. It reminded him of the young lieutenant he once was.

"Captain, we have an incoming distress call from the USS Mississippi," the security officer informed him.

"The Mississippi?" Riker said with surprise, rising to his feet and looking at his security officer. "That's a transport ship," he said slowly. "On screen!" He called.

"It's audio only, Sir," he was told, then the bridge was filled with the sound of a battle.

"This is the USS Mississippi. We are under attack by Romulan raiders and…" The transmission ended abruptly and the security officer said, "I'm sorry, Sir. I've lost contact with the ship."

"Helm, set an intercept course," he ordered. "All senior staff report to the observation lounge!" Riker stalked to the observation lounge with Commander Shelby on his heels. The security officer followed, and Chris walked down to the CONN. Whispering in Marissa's ear he told her, "This includes you too." She flushed a deep red and slid out of her seat. They entered the lounge together with Beverly behind them. Once in the lounge each person took seats at the long table with Will at the head.

"All right. Options?" He asked, looking from person to person. Shelby was working a PADD and the rest appeared lost in thought.

"Oh no," Shelby whispered, looking up at the rest of the officers. "Captain, the Mississippi was on its way to Starbase 74 for a reception with the Bajourian ambassadors."

"That doesn't tell me why the Romulans attacked them," Riker said concisely. He folded his hands on the table in front of him and stared at Shelby.

"I believe this will," she told him, sliding the PADD over to him while the rest of the crew looked on with fascination. Riker skimmed the PADD and his face turned pale. The change in emotions Marissa sensed from him was incredible. Whatever was on that PADD scared him to death. He put the PADD down and looked to the faces of his crew, momentarily letting his gaze rest of Beverly, then Marissa.

"It appears the Mississippi is carrying one of Starfleet's admirals, along with several other dignitaries who have at one time had run-ins with various Romulans," he told them.

"Run-ins, Sir?" Christopher asked, leaning forward. Marissa was leaning back in her chair with an intent expression on her face that Christopher reminded himself to ask her about later. She was studying the captain's emotions. There was something Riker was not telling them.

"Yes, run-ins. Like impersonating members of the Tal Shiar." Beverly's eyes shot him a disbelieving look and he imperceptibly nodded at her. She sank back in her chair. Chris raised his eyebrows and sat back in his chair. "It will be a while before we can intercept the Romulan raiders, much less the Mississippi. Everyone return to their stations. Doctor, I need to see you in my Ready Room," he said to Beverly. She nodded and followed him out, across the bridge, and into his office on the bridge. She sank onto the couch beside him.

"Deanna and Jean-Luc are on that transport, aren't they?" She asked bleakly. Will nodded at her and she sighed. "Oh God."

"That's one way of putting it," he said quietly. "Do you think Marissa knows?" He asked. Beverly sighed and looked down to her hands. "I honestly don't know, Will. She is an empath, and a very good one, at that. But, I don't know. There are a lot of things Deanna never told her or taught her."

"What do you mean?" He asked her sharply.

"Well, Marissa is an accomplished empath, but she doesn't have the training her mother had in deciphering emotions. However, her psychological training at the Academy gave her a slight edge, but she just isn't the empath Deanna is. If she has sensed something, it's most likely confused her."

"Confused her?"

"Confusion in why her mother evokes such a strong reaction in her captain," She said quietly. "Will, Marissa has no knowledge of your relationship with her mother." His eyes darkened and he sighed heavily. "I'm not surprised, Beverly."

"Really?" She asked sharply. "I was," she admitted. "Will, the two of you…"

"Are over," he said emphatically. "We have been for over twenty years." He stood up and walked over to his desk, picking up various PADDs. He looked at them, then placed them back on his desk, and leaned over it, placing his hands on his desk. He heard the door hiss closed and knew Beverly had left him alone to sort out his emotions. She was right, he was stunned that Deanna kept their relationship from her daughter. However, after the note they departed on, Will wasn't angry. If anyone had been angry, it had been Deanna. Riker winced and rubbed his cheek, remembering the powerful right arm she possessed.

"Enter!" She called to the doors of her office, and they hissed open to reveal Will standing there. She smiled broadly at him and walked slowly over to him. "What can I do for you, Commander?" She asked as he came in and the doors hissed shut. Wordlessly, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. They separated and she grinned impishly at him. "That was unexpected."

"We need to talk," he told her, taking her hand and leading her over to her couch. They sank down on it together. He was distressed, obviously. She would know that without being an empath. After a few moments passed, he took a deep breath and said, "Deanna, I've been offered command of the Excalibur," he told her. He felt her sharp intake of breath.

"Are you going to take it?" She asked softly, already knowing the answer. He squeezed her hand and looked over at her. "Yes, Imzadi. I am."

Sighing, she leaned back against the cushions of the couch and closed her eyes. "Should I even ask the obvious question?"

"No, because I am," he said, startling her. "Deanna, I want you to come with me."

Her musical laughter filled the room, and her hands went to wipe away the tears at her eyes. "You know I can't do that, Will," she said quietly. "Gods, I want to, but I can't. I'm happy here. I love you, but I love it here, too. Will, you left me once for your career, but never gave me the option to leave you for mine. This is my career, and I love it. I want to be here," she said, hitting herself on the chest for emphasis.

"And, you want me," he observed quietly.

"And, yes, I want you. That's no secret, Will. Not after last night," she said with a faint blush. Will gave her his famous grin and for a brief moment she was tempted to give up her entire life for him. Again. But, she was older and wiser, now. She knew what she wanted from her life, and what she wanted was something he would never give her. That much she knew for a fact. If he were ready to settle down and commit to her, he would have done so years ago.

He grasped her hand tightly and asked one last time, "Come with me?"

A tear slid down Deanna's cheek. "I can't. I just can't."

And, suddenly, she felt unexplainable anger from him as he rose to his feet. "No, Deanna, you can. You just won't," Will said with resignation, then walked to the door.

"How dare you!" She hissed, walking over to him and grabbing at his arm. He turned around and was startled by the anger in her ebony eyes. "How dare you! How many times have you walked out on me, Will? How many? Do you even know?" She yelled. "How many times have I been left to pick up the piece of my heart after you've trampled it? I can't remember a time in my life when I haven't loved you, and yet you've always hurt me. I can't live like that anymore, Riker. I won't," she said with finality.

"What more do you want from me, Deanna?" He shouted? "How many times have I asked you to come with me and you refused? First, it was because your mother made you. Then, it was because you weren't ready for another relationship. Now, it's because of your career. Did it ever once occur to you that maybe I wanted you to come with me because I love you? Maybe I want to spend the rest of my life with you? Tell me something, who is it that won't commit, Counselor? Me or you?"

His words hit her like knives. There was a pain in her chest she could not explain, but she was furious enough to ignore the pain. In a moment of sheer anger, she swung and caught him full across the face. His head snapped around, then he reached up and rubbed the spot. He looked at her with an unidentifiable look and left her office. The moment the doors hissed closed, she sank to her knees and sobbed.

Of course, Will had no knowledge of the events after his departure that next morning. Deanna did not appear in the transporter room to see him off, like the rest of the senior staff. There was a faint bruise on his cheek that only Beverly noticed as she hugged him. Then, he stepped to the transporter pad, lifted his hand in a final farewell, and shimmered off the ship. From the transporter room, Beverly had immediately gone to search out her best friend and find out what transgressed between her and Will. He had no idea that Beverly found Deanna sitting in her quarters with a vacant expression. He had no idea of the words that passed between the two women and the tears Deanna cried. Furthermore, he had no idea Deanna became Picard's advisor because of her pregnancy.

I don't want to deal with this, Will thought to himself as he paced his Ready Room. 'Why do we have to be the nearest ship?' He sat down in his chair behind his desk and leaned back in it letting his eyes close. He saw Deanna in his mind after he rescued her from Sindareen raiders on Betazed, or after they escaped Sela and her Romulan henchmen. He saw her face, calm and serene, but felt her fear and terror at each time. Will remembered the first time he made love to her, after rescuing her from the Sindareen, and everytime after that. Her voice still echoed through his mind from time to time. It was memories of good and bad times. Suddenly, he came fully erect in his chair and his eyes flew open. He wasn't hearing her voice from memories. It was ripping through his mind with an intensity he had felt only once from her.

Help me! Deanna screamed out with her mind to anyone she thought could sense her. In her brief moment of terror, she even sought out Will. A Romulan advanced towards her with a phaser extended. "Sit down," he ordered her. "You've caused us enough trouble today," he hissed. She shrank back from him until she was up against the wall. He reached out and touched the porcelain skin of her cheek and she flinched. He grinned and walked off. Gratefully, Deanna slid down the wall until she was sitting on the cold metal floor. She watched the guard with a probing gaze. To her frustration, she couldn't read him at all, and he found a perverse pleasure in that. She dropped her head into her hands and thought, Gods, I hope someone got the distress call and finds us soon. I have no idea where Jean-Luc is or anyone else. Maybe they only kept me.

The door chime rang to his Ready Room and Will said, "Come!" The doors opened and Commander Shelby walked inside. "Will, we've reached the last known coordinates of the Mississippi."

"And, it's not there," he finished for her. She nodded and sat down in the chair opposite him. "Is there a warp signature of the Romulan raiders?"

"A brief one. They cloaked nearly immediately."

"Damn," he sighed. "Contact Starfleet Headquarters. I'm sure they already know of the incident. We need our orders."

"Of course, Captain," she said, rising to her feet and turning to leave.

"Elizabeth," he said. She paused and turned around to face him. "I need some advice, and I don't really want to go to Steven with this…"

She smiled and sat back down in the chair and looked at him expectantly. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "There is every chance the people aboard the Mississippi are dead."

"And, you need to know whether to say anything to Marissa," she concluded. He nodded and said ruefully, "It's her first day and she gets news like this."

"Will, I think you should talk to Beverly about this," she said rising to her feet. "She knows you and Marissa better than I do." He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "You're right. I'll go talk to her. You have the bridge, Commander," he said, standing up and leaving his Ready Room. Elizabeth stared at the closed door and sighed, then walked out onto the bridge.

When her shift was finally over, Marissa retreated to the safety of her quarters. She collapsed on her couch and propped her feet up on the small table in front of the couch. Slowly, the quarters were beginning to echo her taste. There were glass tables here and there and splashes of bright blue and violet. It was starting to feel like home. She sighed deeply and closed her eyes and found her center. "Computer, music!" She called out. "Early twentieth century Jazz. Half volume" she specified. Obligingly, soft jazz music filtered throughout her quarters and she leaned her head back against the wall, enjoying the solitude of the moment until the sound of door chimes cut through. She sighed and stood up. "Come!" She called, and the doors of her quarters opened. Beverly stepped through the door followed by Christopher. They both grinned at her, but she sensed sadness from the doctor, but she couldn't ascertain the source. "Well, well, to what do I owe this honor?" Marissa inquired in a light voice.

"Congratulations on surviving your first day!" Christopher handed her a wrapped bottle that was obviously champagne. Marissa grinned as she unwrapped the gift. "Why Commander! How did you know I love Dom Perigon?"

He shrugged his shoulders with a mischievous grin on his face. "Lucky guess."

"Right," Marissa scoffed, then turned to Beverly. Beverly wore a far away and worried look. Marissa placed a hand on Beverly's arm. "Beverly, are you all right?" She asked with concern.

"Hum? Oh! Yes, I'm fine, Marissa," she said offering Marissa a warm smile. Yet, the look on Marissa's face never changed. She knew the doctor was lying. "So, how was your first day, despite the episode with the Romulans?" Beverly quickly changed the topic.

"Better than I hoped it would be," Marissa confessed, sitting down on her couch. She gestured for Beverly and Christopher to sit down, which they did. "I was so nervous this morning," she admitted and Christopher laughed. "You looked terrified this morning on the turbolift," he told Marissa.

"I was!" She exclaimed with a laugh, then waved her hand. "Oh well. It's done and over with. At least now I know the routine. Tomorrow will be better," she concluded.

"Or, so we can all hope," Beverly quietly agreed. Marissa was about to ask her again if she was all right when the chimes of her door rang again. "I must be popular tonight," she mused. "Enter!"

The doors hissed opened and to her surprise Riker stepped through the doors. He smiled at the trio and said, "I just stopped by to congratulate Marissa on her first day," he said, standing by the doors as they hissed closed. Marissa rose to her feet and awkwardly asked, "Would you like to join us, Captain?"

"If I wouldn't be intruding," he said. The trio agreed quickly he was most definitely not intruding. "Have a seat, Will," Beverly invited, patting the cushion beside her on the couch. "Any news on the Mississippi?" She asked.

With a long sigh he shook his head. "Nothing. And, our orders from Headquarters are to stay put. They're hoping the Romluans will contact the ship investigating the disappearance."

"Is that a possibility?" Marissa asked, her blue eyes sparkling intently. Will shook his head and said, "I don't know. If we knew which Romulans we were dealing with, I would be able to hazard a bad guess. Until we know more, I just don't know."

"Do we know who was aboard the transport?" Christopherasked, leaning back in the chair where he sat.

"Yes, we have the ship's manifest," Will slowly answered.

"Who was the admiral on board?" Christopher asked.

Will was silent for a long moment before he answered the question. He gave Beverly a long, searching glance and she gave him a slow nod. "It was Admiral Picard," he finally answered. No one needed to look to Marissa for her reaction. It was an audible gasp and she sank back into the cushions of her chair. Her hands flew to her face. She took a moment and recovered her composure. Christopher stared at her oddly while Beverly and Will looked at her with obvious concern. "Marissa?" Christopher ventured.

"My mother is Admiral Picard's head advisor," she whispered. She gave Will a long, pleading gaze and falteringly asked, "Was my mother aboard?"

"Yes, Marissa, she was," Will replied, watching her carefully. Her face crumpled and she whispered, "Oh Gods." A tear slipped down her face and Beverly reached over and pulled her into a tight embrace, soothing her as she once had with Wesley. Christopher quietly stood up and nodded to Will, then he left Marissa's quarters. Will walked over to Marissa and knelt before her. "Marissa, we will find your mother. I promise you that," he told her quietly.

"But, will she be alive?" Marissa asked sadly with a tear-streaked face. He placed his hands on top of hers and promised, "I will do everything in my power to see that your mother is alive."

For some reason, Marissa drew comfort and strength from the determination in his words. She reached up and wiped her face and laughed, feeling silly. "I'm sorry," she apologized.

"Don't be sorry, Marissa," Beverly admonished her still with her arm around Marissa's shoulders. "I know how close you and your mother are." Unexpectedly Marissa's face crumbled again and a tear slid down her face as she whispered, "She's all I have left." Beverly felt a vise grip her heart as she pulled the crying girl back into her arms. Will looked ill at ease, kneeling on the floor in front of the sobbing young woman, but he felt he needed to comfort her in some way. Possibly make her believe everything would be all right. He needed her to believe it so he could believe it.

Marissa continued to sobbed and Beverly held her tightly. Will rose to his feet and looked down uncertainly at the doctor. A silent message passed between them, then he nodded and quietly left Marissa's quarters. He headed for the nearest turbolift and went down to the floor where his quarters were located. Lost in thought, he padded down the hall to his quarters and gave the command codes to unlock his door. Silently, he entered his quarters and called out, "Computer, lights!" The lights came on and to his surprise Elizabeth sat on his couch. "Why were you sitting here in the dark?" He asked in an uncharacteristically rude tone. She raised her eyebrows at him as he stalked into his bedroom.

"I was waiting for you," she answered simply. Drawers slammed in his bedroom, and then he reemerged wearing a more comfortable black shirt. His hair was tousled from changing shirts. He leaned against the door jam that separated his living room and his bedroom. "Why were you waiting for me?"

"Need you ask?" She replied coyly. He sighed and said, "Liz, no offense, but not tonight. All I want to do tonight is relax. This has not been the best of days."

She walked over to him and stopped directly in front of him, placing her hands on his chest. They briefly kissed and she whispered, "I know, and I'm sorry. How did it go with Marissa?" She asked quietly, leading him over to his couch. They sat down and he sighed heavily. "Not good. Beverly is with her right now. She's understandably upset."

"Poor kid." Elizabeth ran her hands through her longish wavy hair. Her scalp ached from wearing it up all day. "Hopefully the Romluans will contact us."

Will laughed sardonically and said, "You know as well as I do the Romluans will not contact us." She nodded her head in agreement. "I know, but I can hope. I know how much Picard means to a lot of people, including you and Beverly."

"It's not just Jean-Luc, Elizabeth," he admitted, kneading the sore muscles of his neck. He knew it hurt Elizabeth for him to admit he still cared about Deanna, but somewhere in the back of her mind she must have known. He was bonded to Deanna for life. Nothing and no one could change that or his feelings for Deanna.

Elizabeth sighed deeply then resignedly said, "Will, I'm going to go to my quarters. I'll see you later." He let her walk away from him as he had Deanna and countless other women in his life. It wasn't that he couldn't commit to them. He didn't want to commit to them. He wanted Deanna but he knew there was little chance of his wishing coming true. Even if she was alive there was her daughter, and Marissa was living proof of her love for another man. The knowledge seeped through his blood with a burning fire.


Jumping sky high, he sat up ramrod straight and saw Beverly standing there. "Where the hell did you come from?" He asked irritably.

"You didn't answer your door, so…"

"So you overrode the lock and came on in," he finished for her. She nodded and walked over to a chair and sat down in it. "How's Marissa?"

"Sedated. Chris is with her right now," she answered with a tired sigh. "I've relieved her from duty for tomorrow."

"That's fine," Will said with a nod. "I'll stop by and see her tomorrow."

Beverly studied him curiously and wrestled with her conscience. She knew he was concerned about Marissa, but his concern was more than that he had for crewmember. She also knew he wasn't sure why he cared so much…whether it was because she was Deanna's daughter or because she was so young. With a deep sigh and silently apologized to her best friend for what she was about to do. "I contacted Lwaxana. She's going to leave on the next ship out of Betazed and meet us at Starbase 74." Will nodded and she continued ahead in a wavering voice. "Will, I lied to you."

Rising and walking over to his replicator he asked, "About what?" Then to the replicator he said, "Scotch. Terran." It appeared quickly and he took the glass. He turned around and watched Beverly obviously struggle with her emotions. While she struggled, he took a long swig of the Scotch. It burned a path down his throat. "Beverly?"

When she looked up and met his inquiring gaze, he noted her eyes were brimming with tears. "After you left the Enterprise I went to speak to Deanna. I knew something had happened since she wasn't in the transporter room when you left. I found her in her quarters very obviously upset. We talked for a long while and she told me what happened after you informed her of your decision. She was so upset, Will. She wanted to go with you."

"Then why didn't she?" He asked harshly, taking another long swallow.

Beverly shrugged. "She never understood why you only wanted her when you were leaving. You asked her to leave Betazed when you left, then when you left the Enterprise. She was afraid that if she gave everything up for you she'd get hurt again."

"I never meant to hurt her," he whispered sadly before he took another long drink of the burning liquid. Beverly smiled sadly at him and said, "I know you never truly meant to hurt her and I think she knew it too. Anyway, a few weeks after you left it seemed as if she had recovered fully."

"When did she meet Marissa's father?" He inquired, finishing off the glass and placing it back on the replicator. Then, he slowly walked over to the couch and sat down. His head was starting to pound. The stress and alcohol was beginning to get to him. He looked at Beverly and raised his eyebrows. "Well, do you know?"

"Yes." She sighed another heavy sigh, but when she opened her mouth to speak again her communicator beeped. She tapped it and said, "Crusher here."

"Doctor, you're needed in Sickbay."

"I'll be right there. Crusher out," she said, rising to her feet. "Will, I have to go." He rose to his feet and walked her over to his door. It opened and she stepped out. Absentmindedly as she walked off to the turbolift she said, "Please don't forget to check on your daughter tomorrow." Then the turbolift doors closed. Will stared at the doors dumbfounded, uncertain his ears were working right. His whole head was ringing and his heart beat furiously. "Oh my God."

After finishing with her patient in Sickbay, Beverly collapsed in her office. She sat in her chair and leaned back, kneading her temples. Exhausted from worrying about Jean-Luc, Deanna, and Marissa she stifled a yawn and slowly stood to her feet. Stretching then checking the chronometer for the time she decided to head to her quarters to rest for a few hours before her shift began. As she walked out of Sickbay to her quarters she thought about her conversation with Will and just how close she came to telling him that Marissa was his daughter. At her quarters she gave the computer her code to unlock her door, then it hissed opened. She stepped in her quarters and the doors closed. The sound struck a cord in her causing a brief moment of déjà vu, but she shrugged it off as she walking into her bathroom and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Dark circles rimmed her lower eyelids and her face was pale proving the stress of the day. She grimaced then turned on the water and splashed her face with it. Closing her eyes just as the cool, refreshing water hit her face she saw herself walking to the turbolift from Will's quarters. In her mind she heard her voice reminding Will to check on Marissa tomorrow. Suddenly her eyes flew open and she gasped outloud. "Dear God!" She heard herself say to Will, Please don't forget to check on your daughter tomorrow. "Oh my God!" She exclaimed in full realization of what she had said. She turned off the water and ran from the bathroom to the door to her quarters. The doors opened and she found herself face to face with Will Riker.


Chapter Three

Deanna wasn't positive of how long she had been a guest of the Romulans who attacked the Mississippi. All she knew for sure was they had blown up the transport ship after all passengers were off and accounted for on their ship. Then, the ship had cloaked and gone to warp. Each passenger had found themselves in cells, alone, under the frosty glare of a Romulan guard. After an initial struggle with the guards had earned her a mild concussion, she silently did as they ordered. Yet, her defiance in not answering their questions was a growing frustration for her captors. She now knew they were holding her for impersonating a member of the Tal Shiar, and she knew they were holding Picard for his roll in exposing the Romulan government in their attempt to overtake Vulcan. However, why they were holding the other dignitaries was a mystery to her.

The door outside her holding cell opened and she saw three Romulans enter the room and speak with the guard, then the forcefield barring her escape disappeared. She briefly considered running, but a familiar voice warned, "Don't even try it, Counselor." Deanna's eyes widened in anger and annoyance. She placed her hands on her hips and said, "I should have known."

A tall, blonde Romulan stepped into the light of the room and smiled at her. "It's always a pleasure to see you again, too."

"Go to hell," Deanna spat distastefully then she turned her back on the Romulans, angering them. A hand clamped onto her shoulder, forcing her around to be face to face with the blonde Romulan. "Don't do that again, Counselor. You may find yourself dead if you do." Deanna grinned at her.

"You wouldn't kill me, Sela. You only kidnap. When the time comes, you'll do what you always do. You'll run. But, why don't we make this easy on all of us and tell me what you want with all of us?"

It was Sela's turn to grin. "You'd like to know, wouldn't you?"

"Personally, I don't care, Sela. We'll be found eventually, and you'll either run or be dead." Sela stepped closer to Deanna, who didn't flinch. "You dance too close to the line, Counselor. See that you don't cross that line. I'd hate to see something horrible happen to you."

"Really? And why is that?" Deanna asked, crossing her arms over her chest. Her dark eyes glittered in mutinous challenge.

Sela grinned evilly and said, "Because then I'd have to go after your daughter."

Without a second thought, Deanna reared back and slapped Sela across the face with all her might. A Romulan guard approached with his disruptor extended, but Sela waved him away. She touched her cheek and stared in shock at Deanna who said, "Cross that line, Sela, and you'll wish to any god you worship you were dead. Touch my daughter and you will live in fear the rest of your life because you won't know when and how I will get you back, but I will."

"And, what will her father do?" Sela asked, her eyes glittering dangerous. Deanna paled then disdainfully replied; "He will seek you down and kill you if it takes the rest of his life." Sela nodded then backed off in deep thought. She ordered the forcefield be put back in place and began to leave. Before she left, she looked back over her shoulder and said, "Then I shall have to find the good Captain Riker before he finds us." Then, the doors closed and Deanna collapsed against the wall and thought again, Imzadi, help me.

"Will!" Beverly exclaimed in startled surprise. She sank back into her quarters and noted the confused anger in his eyes. "What are you doing here?"

The doors closed behind him and he stalked into her quarters, then he rounded on Beverly. In a barely controlled voice he dangerously asked, "Care to repeat for me what you said when you left my quarters?"

"I…I have to go?" She repeated, knowing she was treading on extremely thin ice. The anger in his eyes doubled and he silkily replied, "Try again."

"Will, I…" She began, but had no idea where to go from there. He crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his booted foot. "Will, I didn't mean to say what I said."

"Is it true?" he asked quietly, studying her expression intently. She motioned to the chairs in her living room. "Can we sit down?" She asked, walking over to the chairs and sitting in one before he said anything. He shrugged and followed her over to the chairs and sat in the other unoccupied one.

"So, is it true?" he asked again, still watching her carefully.

Miserably, Beverly nodded and looked down at her hands. "Deanna found out she was pregnant with Marissa a little over two months after you left the ship."

"Why didn't she tell me?" He demanded, his voice rising to a yell. Beverly flinched and replied, "She was afraid."

"Afraid of what?" He yelled. "Afraid that I'd be happy? Afraid that I'd ask her to marry me again? Afraid that we'd be happy together? What was she afraid of, Beverly?" He demanded in a tone she'd never heard before. He was so angry, his hands were shaking and his face was red.

"Afraid that you would be angry with her," Beverly answered lamely. It was the truth. Her mind drifted back to the day she informed a shocked Deanna of her pregnancy.

"Deanna, you're pregnant," Beverly told her. Deanna's eyes widened in shock and she whispered, "But, that's impossible!"

"When was the last time you had sex, Deanna?" Beverly asked, sitting down beside her shocked best friend. Deanna hung her head and miserably whispered, "The night before Will was offered the Excalibur."

Beverly sighed and sat down next to her best friend. "So, Will is the father?"

"He has to be," she said as a tear slid down her face. She brushed it away angrily and sighed. "It just happened. We didn't plan it."

"That's usually the way these things happen, Deanna. Neither one of you have come in recently to update your inhibitors," Beverly informed Deanna, handing her a tissue. Deanna blew her nose and said, "Well, that explains it."

Giving Deanna a minute to calm herself Beverly walked into her office and retrieved a PADD. When she walked back out where Deanna was sitting, she found her best friend much calmer. She sat back down beside her and handed Deanna the PADD. "This has the last reported location of the Excalibur. I suggest you arrange a shore leave and go tell Will."

"And ruin the rest of his life? Beverly, are you crazy!" Deanna incredulously said as she stood up and placed the PADD on the biobed. "Sorry, I've never been more to Will Riker than a convenience. Come on, Beverly! You and I both know he's going to be angry and I refuse to be on the receiving end of that anger again. I'll raise this baby on my own," she said definitely, but not believing a word she uttered. And, had her eyes not been sparkling with tears, Beverly might have believed the determination in Deanna's voice. It was obvious Deanna was dangerously close to tears.

"Deanna, you have to tell him. You love him," Beverly said gently, taking one of Deanna's hands in her own. "And, above all that, he is the baby's father. He has a right to know and that child has the right to know its father."

"No," Deanna affirmed again. Snatching her hand from Beverly's, she stalked from Sickbay and presumably to the Main Bridge for her duty shift. Sighing, Beverly picked up the PADD and considered telling Will, but what she knew fell under doctor/patient confidentiality and telling him risked her entire career. Deanna would have to handle this on her own, and Beverly knew handling it the way it seemed Deanna was determined to would blow up in her face.

"That still doesn't tell me why she didn't tell me!" Will exclaimed furiously. "What was she thinking? Was she trying to get back at me for something?" He asked, rising to his feet and stalking around Beverly's living room. "My God, Beverly, I've missed twenty-two years of Marissa's life. Twenty-two years!" He emphasized. "And, just to make things better, she thinks her father is dead!"

"Deanna never told her you were dead. No one ever told her that. She assumed her father was dead…"

"And, no one ever corrected her." The look of hurt on his face and the pain in his words cut Beverly deep. No one had ever corrected Marissa in her assumption. At the time, it seemed kinder to let Marissa think her father was dead than to try to tell her that her mother never told her father about Marissa. All those times Beverly pleaded with Deanna to tell Will the truth about Marissa came roaring back in her ears, flooding her mind with the memories. All the times that Deanna refused echoed through her mind and the anger Beverly had felt each time seeped through her veins with new vengence. No amount of apologies could erase the pain Beverly saw on Will's face, and no amount of explanation would save anyone from Marissa's wrath. Marissa had her father's temper and her grandmother's exuberance. The combination made for a deadly and inevitable explosion.

Beverly raised her eyes to meet Will's and with deep and sincere sorrow, she simply apologized. "Will, I am so sorry."

After laughing a short, sardonic laugh Will smiled and said, "Deanna thought I would be angry before. She has no idea what anger truly is." Then, he left Beverly quarters leaving a chill to seep through her veins.

Incensed, Will stalked around his ship. Night passed into day without his observing. He took no notice of the crewmembers that greeted him or of the time. Eventually, he found himself on the floor containing the holodecks. He smiled sadly and walked up to the nearest holodeck and saw a program, one of his programs, was running. Curiously, he entered the holodeck and found himself immersed in the steamy, fragrant, and beautiful Jalara Jungle. Water roared nearby and he realized this was his program of the Janaran Falls on Betazed. He ran the program when he needed to be alone and think. Obviously, someone else had discovered the solitude of his program. He turned to leave when a shadow drifted across the ground and a voice asked quietly, "Please stay. I don't want to be alone right now."

Marissa stepped out of the shadows and smiled sadly at the captain. "I was rather surprised to find a program of the falls on file. I couldn't resist running it. When I was younger, my mother took me to the falls on shore leave. When I was older and at the Academy, I created a program of the falls and ran it when I wanted to be alone, needed to think, or just to get away. I guess I knew the program was yours."

"How did you know that?" Will asked with a strange constriction in his throat making his voice sound more gruff than usual. He stepped closer to Marissa and noticed the tear stains on her face.

She shrugged and disappeared around the bushes and he followed her to the edge of the falls. "Commander Shelby said you spent time on Betazed," she answered simply. She sat down at the edge of the water and raised her knees, then rested her head on her knees. Will sat down beside her and also drew his knees up, locking his arms around his knees. "I discovered the falls while on a rescue mission in the jungle. I thought it was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen," he told her. Marissa said nothing back to him and he realized her slender shoulders were shaking with repressed sobs. Gently, Will slipped an arm around Marissa's shoulders and drew her near to him. "We're going to find your mother, Marissa. I don't make promises I can't keep," he told her quietly.

"Why do you care?" Marissa asked disconsolately. Her words were muffled against his shoulder and her tears scalded his upper arm. Inexplicably, Will's arm around her shoulders tightened. She turned her head so that the side of her head rested on her knees while she looked at Will with tear filled eyes. For a moment, she appeared like a young child frightened by the dark and inconsolable by anyone except her parents. Will sighed and looked away briefly before replying, "Marissa, I knew your mother a long time ago…on Betazed. We also served on the Enterprise together. I…I cared deeply about her." He measured his words carefully. The last thing she needed was to find out he was her father. Not now. Not after all she had gone through her first day aboard his ship.

"Oh." Marissa knew he was holding something back. Besides her empathic abilities to decipher emotions, the look in his eyes told her he was keeping something back. However, she was too caught up in her own suffering to care about what he was not telling her.

They sat quietly for a long time with his arm around her and both of them staring at the falls as if searching for an answer to an unspoken question. Eventually, Marissa's tears stopped but Will kept his arm around her shoulders. She didn't mind. In fact, she welcomed the comfort it brought her. They sat there, silent and unmoving, until his communicator beeped. He cleared his voice and tapped it. "Riker here."

"Captain, we need you on the bridge," came Commander Shelby's voice over the comm system. He sighed and said, "On my way. Riker out."

Loathing, he took his arm from around Marissa's shoulders and stood up. Regretfully, he said, "Marissa, I have to go to the bridge." She nodded and he fought an urge to gather her in his arms and tell her everything. "You need to get some rest," he told her before he left. "That's an order, Lieutenant." Again, she nodded and then he left.


Chapter Four

Outside the holodeck video screens flashed red signaling the ship was in some sort of danger. Will hurried to the nearest turbolift and once inside ordered, "Main Bridge!" He wondered what was going on and why he hadn't been informed immediately. The turbolift stopped and the doors opened. He stepped out and strode purposely down to the command center. "Status?" He asked Shelby.

"We've received a communication from the Romulans."

Will raised his eyebrows and said, "Well, let's see it," he said authoritatively.

The view screen kicked on and Will found himself staring into the face of an unknown Romulan. Will nodded to the Romulan and politely said, "Captain William Riker. USS Enterprise."

"Minister Tolkv," the Romulan intoned. "Captain, let me get straight to the point. We have a situation on our hands."

"As do we, Minister," Riker said impatiently.

"Our situations coincide, Captain Riker," Tolkv informed him. The Romulan folded his hands into a prayer clasp. "Recently, a former government operative commandeered a Warbird and fled Romulus with a small crew. The Warbird taken was an older ship, no where near the armament current Warbirds have."

"Why are you telling me confidential Romulan information, Tolkv?" Will demanded.

"Because your captured Federation staff is being held hostage by this former government operative on this particular Warbird," Tolkv told Riker.

Will fought off a growing feeling of dread and asked, "Who's the operative?"

"Must you ask?" Tolkv returned with a menacing grin. Will shook his head and sighed. "Sela?" He asked. Tolkv nodded. "Very astute, Captain."

Will walked over to his chair and sat down, deep in thought for a moment. "All right, Tolkv, how do we help each other?" The idea of an alliance with any Romulan shook Will, and the fact that Will was offering the alliance irked him.

Tolkv smiled and leaned forward on his desk. "I help you find your missing Federation friends and the Federation prosecutes Sela with no interference from the Romulan Star Empire. We don't want her back in the empire."

Shelby spun around in her seat and made a cut throat gesture to the communications officer. She stared in horror at Will. "You cannot trust him, Will," she said. Riker stared at his first officer and simply asked, "Why? He made the offer. He made the initial contact."

"Tell me you aren't this dense, Riker," Shelby shot back at him. He opened his mouth, prepared to give her a speech on insubordination, but Shelby kept running her mouth. "Will, come on! Romulans don't do things out of the goodness of their hearts!"

"Elizabeth, do you have a better idea? A different suggestion?" Will demanded. "Right now Tolkv is the best shot we've got at finding them!" Elizabeth leaned back in her chair with a defeated look. She knew Will was right, but the idea of trusting the Romulans irked her just as much as it did him. "Back on screen!" Will called out. Tolkv reappeared.

"I trust you've reached a decision, Captain." Tolkv studied the strained look on Riker's face.

"You've got a deal, Minister, but at the first hint of deception from you, and this is over," Will warned him. Tolkv raised his eyebrows and said, "You will be receiving a communiqué shortly on a secure channel. It contains our most recent data of where Sela and her crew is hiding."

Will nodded. "Riker out."

The view screen switched to the view of space and Will sighed heavily, then he hit his communicator. "All senior staff report to the observation lounge immediately!" He called, stalking to the lounge. Shelby followed him into the lounge. The doors closed behind them and Elizabeth seethed, "Will, I hope you realize what you've done. You've just entered into an alliance with the Romulans! Romulans, Will!"

"That's enough out of you, Commander. If you don't feel you can do your duty on this mission, then relieve yourself of duty," Will advised her as the doors opened and Chris walked inside the lounge. He was in a deep conversation with the ship's counselor, Steven Dyal. Both men stopped and stared at the captain and first officer. The emotionally charged air and the tension between Shelby and Riker were the first thing Marissa felt as she walked into the lounge, accompanied by Beverly and the chief of security.

Beverly raised her eyebrows, walked around the throng of people, and took her seat at the long table. She waited for the others to do the same. Will immediately took his seat at the head of the table with a chagrined look. Beverly always managed to make him feel two feet tall. The other officers took their seats and stared at Will…except Marissa. She sat down and stared off into space with a look Will easily recognized. Often, Will had watched Deanna wearing the same intense expression. Deanna picked threads of emotion out of the air and studied them until she found something there to make a judgement upon, and her daughter sat doing the same thing. Will smiled despite the seriousness of their circumstances.

"We've recently received a hail from a minister of the Romulan government," he began. The officers traded looks and sat up a little straighter. The tension in the room escalated to the point where Marissa looked pained. "Minister Tolkv informed us that an older Warbird was taken by a former operative of the Romulan government. He has reason to believe, as do I, that this operative has a vendetta against the people taken off the Mississippi."

Beverly leaned forward and asked, "Are we dealing with Sela?" Will nodded and placed his head on his fists. Beverly sighed. "Oh boy."

"Oh, it gets better," Shelby promised Beverly. It earned Elizabeth a dark glare from Riker.

"Tolkv offered me a deal. He'd help us find Sela if I promised him that Sela would be prosecuted in the Federation. The Romulan Star Empire promises not to interfere with the Federation's actions against Sela."

Beverly laughed and commented, "Tolkv must really want her off his hands."

"I get the feeling she's a blight on his career," Will comment thoughtfully. "After all, she's bundled the last major campaigns the empire has trusted her with. He wants her gone and she wants back in the empire."

"What are our options, Captain?" Chris asked looking over with concern at Marissa.

Will shrugged and said, "At this point, we have to trust Tolkv. We should be receiving the last known coordinates of Sela's vessel along with information on probable locations for her."

Everyone at the table slouched back in despondency. Will looked around and said, "Hey, this is still a mission and we have a duty to do. If anyone here feels they cannot do their duty, I suggest you relieve yourself of duty. Until another options comes along the only option we have is to trust Tolkv."

"What an option," Chris commented.

"That's all! Dismissed!" Will called out. He rose and stalked from the lounge and went straight to his Ready Room. He collapsed in his chair and kneaded his temples. He felt just as unsure about this arrangement as his staff, and he knew Starfleet Command was going to have a field day with this decision. Leaning back in his chair, he closed his eyes and slightly prayed that he made the right decision for all involved.

His door chimed and his eyes opened. Sitting up in his chair he called, "Come!"

The door opened and Steven Dyal walked in with the amused expression he perpetually wore. Even in the midst of battle while the rest of the crew was consumed with fear and determination, he exuded calm reserve with his nonchalant expression. He made the crew feel secure and they found him easy to talk to. Will was grateful to him for that. "What can I do for you, Steven?" Will asked as Steven sat down in a chair across.

"The crew is very…nervous…about this 'friendship' with the Romulans," Steven began carefully. "As are you, but your mind is not on this mission as much as it should be, Will," he observed astutely.

"You know, sometimes I think you are a telepath and just kept that out of your records," Will kidded. Steven looked intensely at him until Will admitted, "You're right, Steven. I am preoccupied."

"Why?" Steven probed.

Will sighed and stared at one of his closest confidants. "Steven, nothing we say leaves this room." Steven nodded and Will informed him, "I found out some rather disturbing information last night."

"Are you going to keep me in suspense?" Steven dryly asked, folding his hands under his chin. Will glared at him then said, "I found out that Marissa Warren is my daughter."

"Excuse me?" Steven disbelievingly asked. His amused expression changed to one of skepticism. He then laughed and said, "Wow, Will, you really had me going there for a moment."

Allowing Steven to laugh for a few minutes before Will interrupted his mirth. "Steven, I'm telling you the truth. Marissa Warren is my daughter. She doesn't know."

"Good God!" Steven burst out. "No wonder you're…distracted."

Will nodded. "And, to complicate things, Marissa's mother is one of the Federation hostages." Steven looked down and his shoulders shook with silent laughter. "No wonder you'll do anything to find them. You must want to wring her neck."

"No, I just want to find her," Will resolutely replied. Steven nodded and stood to his feet. "You know where to find me if you need me, Will," Steven told him, leaving Will's Ready Room.

"Commander, we're receiving a coded message from Minister Tolkv," Marissa told Shelby as she read the output on her screens.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Shelby said. "Captain, we're receiving Minister Tolkv's message," Shelby informed Riker via the communications system.

"In my Ready Room!" Will called back from his Ready Room. He turned pulled the computer on his desk towards him and typed in a series of words and numbers. The information Tolkv promised appeared on the screen. Will read it then sat back in his chair and reflected on the data before he headed out onto the bridge to alert the crew. Purposely, he stood and walked out onto the bridge. "Helm, set a course for the Neutral Zone at Warp eight," he ordered. The helmsman took a deep breath and laid in the course. "Course set, Sir."

"Engage," Will commanded. Shelby looked at him with apprehension. "The Neutral Zone, Will?"

"Sela's forces are supposedly located in orbit around a planet in the Neutral Zone," Will told Shelby in a low voice. She nodded and looked away from him. "Projected ETA?" Shelby asked.

"Three hours, fifty minutes, Sirs," Marissa replied, quickly doing the calculations.

The slowest three hours of Will's life began then. It seemed to take days to reach the coordinates given to them by Tolkv, and when the coordinates were reached no ship was to be seen anywhere. Shelby sighed and tonelessly replied, "How are we suppose to locate a cloaked ship?"

Marissa screwed her face up into a look of deep thought and remembered something she once heard a former officer of the Enterprise tell Picard on a rare visit to Earth. "Sir, how old is the Warbird?"

"It's not the new calibrations," Shelby replied. "Why, Lieutenant?"

Shelby watched in fascination as Marissa jumped from the CONN and virtually ran to the security console. Lieutenant Commander Peterson, Chief of Security, looked at her rather oddly as she gently pushed him aside. Marissa made a few modifications then whispered, "Yes!"

"Lieutenant?" Riker asked, standing up, turning around, and looking at her. "Care to share with the rest of us what has you so excited?"

"I overheard a conversation with Admiral Picard and a former officer of his a few years back on Earth. They were discussing Romulan technology and this office told Picard that Federation security specialists had found that their cloaking technology could be disabled with a wide spread, modified phaser beam. I just made the necessary modifications." Marissa was rather proud of herself.

The skin at the corners of Will's eyes crinkled as he smiled and asked, "Well, then, why are you waiting? Fire!"

Marissa's fingers flew over the panel and a phaser burst came from the ship. To the right of the ship, a sudden light shimmered and a Warbird materialized. "Yes!" Marissa said louder this time. Will nearly laughed at her exuberance. "Hail them," he told her. Seconds passed and Sela's face appeared on the video screen.

"Ah, Captain Riker," she said with great satisfaction. "I should have known it would be you."

Will smiled at her and said, "Sela, I knew there was no other Romulan stupid enough to do something this foolish. Why don't you make it easy on yourself and turn out people over to us?"

She laughed, her eyes twinkling, and for a moment, she resembled her mother. Only for a moment, though. She was too calculating, too cold, and too cynical to be like her mother. She was too much a Romulan. "Why don't you make it easy on everyone aboard this ship, Captain, and prepare to be boarded ?"

"When hell freezes over," he smilingly replied. "Sela, you know you aren't going to escape this time. Either my people are returned to me…now, or I'll blow you out of the sky. Your Warbird is old and you don't have anywhere near the weaponry our ship does."

Smilingly winningly at Riker, Sela reached to something off the view screen, then yanked Deanna into view. Will repressed a gasp. Time had been kind to her. Even after twenty-three years, she was still tall and graceful and beautiful. Her hair had no streaks of gray and there were few wrinkles on her face. Only the ones outside her eyes gave the tale-tell sign of her age. She looked plaintively at Will, then glanced away. He had rescued her too many times from captors. She would not influence him this time, but her very presence was influence enough for him. "Now, Captain, are you really ready to kill the only woman you've truly ever loved?" Sela asked coldly.

Will raised his eyebrows and pleasantly replied, "Nothing would make me happier at the moment, however, I know you Sela, and I know you will not kill anyone aboard that ship. You can't. It's not in your nature. You can blame that on your mother." He turned from the view screen and glanced back to his security officer. "Shields up and lock phasers," he ordered. Then, he turned back to the view screen and said in a deadly soft voice, "Don't try my patience, Sela. I'm just angry enough to keep my word."

On her ship, Sela turned to her communications officer and made a cut throat gesture. Audio sound was cut off so nothing could be heard over the comm link to the Enterprise. She stalked the bridge then turned to stare thoughtfully at Deanna, who was studying Will's face. Anger emanated from Sela, filling Deanna's empathic senses. However, Deanna was fearless, knowing that at the first sign of trouble the Enterprise would save them. She was sure of it. If anyone was going to kill her, it would be Will, and at this point, it looked like a job he would relish. From Deanna's vantage point of the view screen she could see the officers on the Enterprise in a heated conversation.

"Captain, we can't lock onto our people over there," the transporter chief informed Riker, who shook his head. "Damn! Can we disable their shields?" Riker demanded.

Commander Peterson studied the panel before him and made some adjustments. Slowly, he stroked his chin and thoughtfully said, "Maybe. If we fire on them enough to puncture the shields…" his voice trailed off as he studied the readings.

"We don't have to fire phasers on them," Marissa interrupted, folding her arms over her chest. Marissa studied the same panel and made a few more adjustments. "A modified phase pulse should also disable their shields. Warbirds that old have shields that are easy to penetrate with our current technology." She looked at the view screen. Seeing her mother she smiled briefly, then concentrated on the panel. "Adjustments made, Captain," she told him. He smiled quickly at her, then ordered, "Fire at will! Commander Shelby, prepare an away team!"

Taking a deep breath, Marissa steadied herself, then her hands quickly flew over the panel. A phaser burst hit the Romulan vessel, and Shelby called out, "Warren, Watson, Peterson, and Crusher to Transporter Room Three!" Will shot a look to Shelby before he slowly nodded. Marissa followed Shelby and Peterson to the turbolift. When the doors hissed closed, Will sank slowly down in his chair and whispered a silent prayer for his daughter.

Aboard the Romulan vessel, the away team drew phasers and assumed an defensive stance, yet no Romulans were waiting for the Starfleet officers. "All right! Peterson and Watson get to Engineering and disable this ship," Shelby ordered. The two men nodded and headed off to find the Engineering section of the Warbird. "Beverly, Marissa, you're with me. We need to find the hostages and secure the bridge," Elizabeth told them. Beverly and Marissa nodded, setting their phasers to stun, and they followed Shelby to the bridge.

Pandemonium reigned on the bridge of the Romulan Warbird. Sela shouted orders to her shaken crew, and one by one they informed her that her orders could not be done. When Shelby appeared on the bridge with Marissa in tow Sela knew she was whipped. In Engineering, Chris managed to disable the engines while Peterson managed to disable the forcefields keeping the Federation dignitaries hostage. With news of the hostages freed, Beverly beamed back to the Enterprise along with the Federation representatives to oversee their examinations. Sela drew her disrupter and grinned wickedly at Shelby and Warren.

"Get off my bridge," Sela hissed, pointing her disrupter at Shelby. Shelby drew her phaser and pointed it at Sela. The two women were at a standoff.

"Lower your weapon, Sela," Elizabeth said ominously. "You're caught and you know it. Give in gracefully and I'll convince the Federation to go easy on you," she bluffed.

Sela laughed and softly said, "I'd rather die than be a Federation prisoner."

"Keep pointing that disrupter at me and you're going to get your wish," Shelby promised.

From Sela's left came a Romulan male, her first officer, with his disrupter armed and aimed. He had a clear shot at the unsuspecting Shelby and he wasn't going to miss. Marissa sensed him and looked right at him as he prepared to fire. "Commander!" Marissa yelled, shoving at Shelby who fired at Sela as Marissa screamed, taking the disrupter blast for Shelby. Marissa sank to the metal floor of the Warbird with a gaping wound on her side. Shelby looked and saw Sela in the same position with the Romulan man beside her. With her phaser trained on him she hit her comm badge with her free hand and yelled, "Transporter Room, beam Lieutenant Warren directly to Sickbay!" Within seconds, Marissa's body shimmered away to the Enterprise and Shelby stalked over to Sela's unconscious form and the other man. She glared at them and hit her comm badge again. "Peterson, get to the bridge and get these people out of my sight!"

"On my way!" Peterson called.

Shelby kept her phaser trained on the first officer until Peterson arrived and took the man and the rest of the crew into custody, then she put her phaser away and leaned against a railing. She took a deep breath to steady herself before she hit her comm badge again and called, "Watson! Report!"

"Warbird is secured, Commander!" Chris called back. Shelby nodded and said, "Beam back to the Enterprise, Chris! I'll meet you there!"

"Understood! Watson out!" Chris was grateful to get off the Warbird. He hated Romulans, he hated their technology, and he wanted to speak with Marissa about her obvious expertise on Romulans.

"Where is Admiral Picard?" Deanna asked for the third time, and for the third she was brushed away. "Dammit!" She yelled, stalking out of exam room she was in to find the admiral then page her daughter.

The door opened and chaos greeted her on the main Sickbay. She heard Beverly barking orders to her staff, so Deanna stood out of the way until she saw Will. He was standing not too far from the biobed where Crusher and her staff worked feverishly. Deanna drank in his presence and sensed his agitated emotions. She knew he had sparse control on the emotions coursing through him as he watched Crusher work. Will? She thought to him and his eyes flew to hers. Deanna saw the pain and fear in them and felt alarm grow in her as he walked over to her. He took her arm and led her out of the main Sickbay. "Will, what is it?" Deanna asked now terrified by the fear she felt from him.

"It's Marissa," he said in a rough voice. "She took a disrupter blast at close range. Beverly is taking her into surgery as soon as they stabilize her."

"No!" Deanna whispered, covering her mouth and closing her eyes. "No!"

"Deanna, she saved my life," Elizabeth said quietly, entering the Sickbay. She stood to the side of Will and Deanna. "She saw the Romulan who fired on us before I did. Had she not pushed me out of the way, I would have been killed."

"So, now my daughter is going to die!" Deanna shouted at Shelby as tears slowly coursed down Deanna's face. Will grabbed Deanna by her upper arms and shook her lightly. "Don't think like that, Deanna," he coarsely told her. "Marissa isn't going to die, dammit. Not now!" He exclaimed, feeling his own eyes sting. I'm not losing my daughter before she knows she is my daughter, Will thought to Deanna. Her eyes raised then she slowly nodded in agreement and pulled away from Will.

"I'm sorry, Elizabeth," Deanna hoarsely said. Shelby nodded and reached out a hand to Deanna. "It's okay, Deanna. If it were my daughter, I would react the same way. I'm going to go to the bridge. Please, let me know what happens," she said, walking out of the Sickbay.

Deanna turned to Will with wet eyes and asked, "How did you find out?"

He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "Beverly told me," he informed her. "Can we do this later, Deanna?"

"Of course," she said quietly, following him into Beverly's office. Marissa was now in surgery and the longest hours of Will and Deanna's lives followed. They sat in silence, lost in their thoughts of the daughter they shared and the things they needed to say.


Chapter Five

"Captain's Log. Stardate xxxx.xx. The retrieval of our abducted personal was successful and the offending Romulans are now in custody, however one of my crewmembers, Lieutenant Marissa Warren, was critically injured during the retrieval. Minister Tolkv was most helpful and seemingly relieved to have the renegade operatives off his hands. The entire episode took a little over twenty-four hours. We are now back on course to Starbase 74 and should arrive towards the end of the week barring no further complications. Sela and her crew remain in our brig under close guard. Upon our arrival at Starbase 74 they will be taken into custody and face trial before a Federation tribunal. As for Lieutenant Warren, her condition remains critical but stable. Dr. Crusher is cautiously optimistic about her recovery." Will ended his log then leaned back in his chair. He had a roaring headache and wanted twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep. No wonder Jean-Luc is bald, Will thought to himself with a small smile. The sleep would have to wait. He still had a number of things to attend to, and the top thing on his list was tending to Deanna.

Deanna had yet to leave Marissa's bedside since coming out of surgery. Beverly warned Will and Deanna that Marissa's condition was stable but could take a turn for the worse at any moment. Consequentially, Deanna stayed at her daughter's side. Will appeared calm on the outside, but inside he was coming apart. Every moment he stayed on the bridge was a moment he longed to be in Sickbay with his daughter. He spent most of his time sitting in his Ready Room staring off into space while Deanna sat, clutching their daughter's hand, willing her to live.

"Deanna," Beverly said, gently touching her best friend's shoulder to get her attention. With a weary smile, Deanna looked up at Beverly and slowly placed Marissa's hand back on the biobed. "What is it, Bev?" Deanna asked quietly as if she were afraid of waking her healing daughter.

"I need to talk to you. Come with me into my office." Beverly walked to her office not too far from the critical care area of Sickbay and sat at her desk chair. Deanna sat in the chair across from Beverly's desk and stifled a yawn. Days had passed without her having any notable sleep. Deanna caught quick naps here and there, but never the long hours of uninterrupted sleep her body craved.

"Deanna, I owe you an explanation," Beverly began, leaning back in her chair and studying her fatigued friend. Deanna held up a hand to interrupt, but Beverly doggedly continued. "The night I told Will that he was Marissa's father was crazy…God, Deanna, it just slipped out. It was a complete accident," Beverly strongly told her.

Deanna sighed and closed her tired eyes. "Beverly, it doesn't matter how it happened, all that matters is that it did happen. You and I both knew the truth would come out sooner or later, but right now it isn't my main concern, and I'm willing to bet it isn't Will's main concern either. My main concern is Marissa, and I think she's probably Will's top worry right now, too." Deanna paused for a minute to calm herself then asked, "How is she doing?"

Sighing, Beverly pulled up the latest information on Marissa's condition and quickly read the screen. "The same, Deanna. There's no change."

"Dammit!" Deanna slammed her hand down on Beverly's desk and Beverly jumped slightly. "Deanna, I know you're frustrated. I am, too, but at least she's alive."

"She's in a coma, Beverly!" Deanna yelled. "A coma!"

"And, you've been in one before, and so has Will, and both of you are fine!" Beverly yelled back. "Have a little faith in your daughter, Deanna. She's a fighter, and if she's made it this far, then she's going to make it. I believe that and you need to believe it too, Deanna. I still don't know too much about the way a Betazoid brain functions, but I think Marissa can still sense the people around her and probably sense their emotions. If she can, then she needs to feel that the people around her have faith in her ability to recover. Now, I'm going to offer you a piece of friendly advice; Go get some rest. You're exhausted."

"I'm fine," Deanna shot back.

"That's an order, Commander," Beverly returned with a dismal smile. "I didn't want to make it an order, but you have to get some rest or you're going to wind up in Sickbay, too. I don't want that, you don't want that, and Marissa doesn't need it. Go get some rest!" Beverly stood up, walked around to where Deanna sat, patted her shoulder, then walked back out into Sickbay. She was checking on Marissa when she saw Deanna walk out of Sickbay. "Your mother can be so pig-headed at time, Firefly," Beverly softly said, pulling the covers back up around Marissa. A faint smile touched her lips as Marissa's childhood nickname slipped out for the first time in years. She laughed lightly then she went to check on her other patients.

The doors from Sickbay opened and Deanna stepped out into the hallway. She strode to a turbolift and stepped inside with churning nerves. The look of pure hatred Will gave her while she stood on the bridge of the Warbird stayed vividly in Deanna's mind. Never had he looked at her like that before. "Main Bridge!" She said and the lift complied. Closing her eyes, she fought to center herself as the lift stopped and the doors opened to the bridge. She stepped onto the bridge and strode to the door of Will's Ready Room. Before pressing the button to announce her arrival, a voice stopped her. "He isn't there, Commander."

Deanna spun around and found herself face to face with Elizabeth Shelby. "Where is he?" she asked, crossing her arms and locking gazes with Shelby.

"He said he had personal matter to see about and we traded bridge shifts," Shelby informed Deanna. "I thought he was with you."

Shock hit Deanna as she slowly deciphered Shelby's mild jealousy towards Deanna. "Thank you, Commander," Deanna said as she walked back to the turbolift, then she stopped. Shelby eyed her curiously and asked, "Is there something else we can assist you with, Commander?"

"No, Elizabeth. There isn't," Deanna said brightly as she tapped her communicator and said, "Troi to Riker." A long moment passed before Will's strained voice answered, "Riker here."

"Captain, could you please meet me on the bridge?" Deanna asked "Acknowledged," he replied. "Riker out."

Deanna didn't have too long of a wait before he appeared. The turbolift doors opened and she found herself face to face with him. Her breath caught. Yesterday, she had been too frantic and frightened to note much about him. Today, she realized how much more handsome he'd become over the years. Gray peppered his hair and beard now, but it only added to his allure…that and the fact he was the father of her only child. "Will?" She asked questioningly. He stared at her peculiarly, then he grasped her by the wrist. "In my Ready Room, Commander," he said, releasing her arm. Deanna followed him resolutely. She had this coming.

"Have a seat, Commander," Will said once inside his Ready Room. The doors closed behind them and he walked over to his desk and sat down, sorting through the various PADDs and such he needed to look at. Deanna sat in a chair across from him and patiently waited. She knew him well enough to know why he was doing this. He was gathering his thoughts, figuring out what he wanted to say, and most of all, he was trying to center his emotions just as Deanna had taught him long ago. She decided to take the first step and try something unexpected, if for nothing else to throw him off guard.

Trying to center yourself? She thought to him. His eyes jerked up and met hers. Fire burned in the blue depths. He glared at her then looked back to his work, saying nothing. Deanna smiled a small smile and cast another thought into his head. Will, talk to me, dammit. We have to talk about this. She flinched as his eyes met hers again. She had crossed a line.

"You're right. We do have to talk about this, Deanna," he said in a low, furious voice. "Amazing. I spent the past two decades wondering if you were happy, if you had married, or had kids. And, you were happy, hadn't married, but boy, did you have a kid. A beautiful young woman," his voice softened slightly as he talked of his daughter. "Intelligent, lovely, poised… everything anyone could want in a daughter." Deanna repressed her tears at the wistful tone of his voice. She had deprived him of so much…deprived all of them of so much.

"Will," Deanna began in a halting voice, "Marissa was and is a wonderful child."

"I can see that, Deanna," he snapped. "Obviously, you did something right with her," he conceded. "Let's see…Beverly said you refused to tell me because you were afraid. Afraid of what?" He asked coldly, pinning her with a stare. Deanna tried not to squirm from his glare.

"Will, Gods…I don't know. We had such a horrible fight…I was afraid. I had made such a show of wanting to live my life without help from you no matter how much I loved you. Then, I came up pregnant with your daughter. It was stubborn pride…wrong, stupid, stubborn pride. I know how wrong I was and how wrong I still am for what I did to the three of us." A tear slid down her face. Will fought not to care that she was in pain. She deserved some pain after what she put him and their daughter through. "You're right. I do deserve some pain, but dammit, I did what I thought was right, Will!" Deanna yelled, picking up on his thoughts. "I didn't think you wanted to be a father! Hell, I didn't think you wanted me anymore!" She stood from the chair and raged at him. Will was stunned.

"Not wanted you? Deanna, there hasn't been a single day I haven't wanted you!" He told her. "I begged you to come with me to the Excalibur. You're the one who refused to come with me."

"And I was wrong!" She shouted. "Like you've never made a mistake that you regret and will regret for the rest of your life!" A tear slid down her face and she whispered, "I lost the man I loved and I'm going to lose my daughter."

"You aren't going to lose Marissa, Deanna. She's not going to die," he said assuredly, "Why are you so sure?," Deanna sighed, sitting down on the couch in his Ready Room. She covered her face with her hands and her shoulders shook. Will resisted the pull to go and put his arms around her as he had with Marissa. He walked over to her and sat down beside her but didn't touch her. "Because she's our daughter," he replied simply.

Deanna sighed noisily, and looked over at Will to found him studying her. "What?" She asked testily. A small smile touched his lips and he stunned her saying, "You know, you haven't changed too much. You're still as beautiful, if not more so, but you're definitely more temperamental. What happened to the serene Betazoid I met half my life ago?"

"She grew up and raised a head strong, belligerent, and incredibly temperamental daughter who reminds her mother of her father more and more everyday," Deanna admitted. A touch of pride lit Will's smile. "She is definitely her father's daughter," Deanna told him, watching his entire face light up with pride.

"When she first came aboard, people asked me if she were my niece…I guess they knew about Tom and assumed Marissa was his daughter. I never saw the similarities the others saw between us until the night Beverly told me she was my daughter." His face seemed to glow as he drifted back over his thoughts. "Marissa is an incredible officer, Deanna," he said.

"She ought to be," Deanna smirked. "Look at her bloodline."

Will laughed and nodded his head in agreement, then became serious. He was worried about his daughter. He knew she was a fighter, but the injuries she suffered were so severe. His unspoken fear was that she would never coming out of this coma.

"Will, would you do something for me?," Deanna began hesitantly. He raised his eyebrows. "What?"

"Would you stay with Marissa for awhile? Beverly ordered me to go get some rest or she's going to admit me into Sickbay. I don't want Marissa to be alone if she wakes up," Deanna told him, standing to her feet simultaneously with Will. He nodded and cleared his throat. "Of course, Deanna." She smiled at him and left his Ready Room with him on her heels. "Commander Shelby, I'll be in Sickbay. You have the bridge."

Elizabeth nodded and he headed into a turbolift and went immediately to Sickbay. Beverly smiled widely at him. "Hello Captain," she said.

"Hi Beverly," Will said warmly, albeit, nervously. She motioned for him to follow her into the critical care area where Marissa lay still and pale. "How is she?" Will asked in cracked voice.

"Her external wounds are healed, but her internal wounds are still healing," Beverly answered, checking the monitor then made a note in Marissa's chart.

"Deanna asked me to come stay with her, if I could. She doesn't want Marissa to be alone when she wakes up," Will quietly explained, his eyes still locked on his daughter's still form. Beverly nodded and said, "I'll be in my office if you need me, Will." He nodded, sat down beside his daughter, took her hand in both of his, and he said nothing.

Chapter Six

Five days passed with any change in Marissa's condition. Will came to spend most of his free time in Sickbay, relieving Deanna and giving her a chance to get some rest. Will caught quick naps here and there, most of the time falling asleep as he sat holding Marissa's hand. Sometimes he talked to her about inconsequential things, about things that had happened that day on the bridge or things of interest. Most of the time, though, he sat just staring at her, willing her to awaken.

When Will arrived to relieve Deanna after his bridge shift, he was pleasantly surprised to find Picard sitting in the seat Will usually occupied. Admiral Picard was chatting quietly with Beverly, every now and then Picard cast a concerned eye to Marissa's still form. Beverly laughed at something Jean-Luc said, then she noticed Will standing at the entrance to the critical area. "Will!" Beverly called, waving him over. He strolled over and leaned his hip against the corner of his daughter's biobed. Jean-Luc rose to his feet and extended his hand to Will.

"It's good to see you again, Will. I wish it were under different circumstances, however," Picard said as he and Will shook hands.

"Same here, Admiral." Will released Picard's hand and looked around the Sickbay. "Where's Deanna?" Will asked Beverly as she picked up Marissa's chart and made a notation.

"Jean-Luc convinced Deanna to go to Ten-Forward and get something to eat…get out a little while," Beverly informed Will.

Will looked with surprise to Jean-Luc who just shrugged. "I have the same affect on Marissa. Usually, when Deanna couldn't do anything with her, I could convince her to do whatever it was Deanna desired."

"It must be the fear you instill in people, Jean-Luc," Beverly dead-panned, then to Will she said, "Jean-Luc and I will be in my office if you need anything." Will nodded and sat down beside Marissa as Beverly pulled Picard into her office and closed the door. Grinning, Will took Marissa's hand in both of his and began what was becoming a daily ritual. His grin smoothed into a more serious mien as his eyes swept over his daughter's pale face. "We're due in at Starbase 74 within the next twelve hours," Will quietly told Marissa. He firmly believed people in comas could hear what went on around them. "We'll be in dock for two weeks, a week for repairs and a week for upgrading. I've agreed to give everyone shore level while we're in dock, but no one is going to be allowed to leave the starbase or Tarsas III. You've had a stream of visitors today…Jean-Luc…your mother…Chris…they're all worried about you." Will stopped and squeezed her hand a little tighter. "Actually, everyone is worried about you. Commander Shelby stopped by yesterday to see you, but she couldn't come in here. She feels guilty, but you did what you felt was right, Marissa. That's what matters, and Starfleet has issued you a commendation of bravery. Your mother has it." Will fought back a wave of sadness and softly said, "Don't make me a liar, Marissa. Don't you dare die."

Exhausted, Will rested his forehead against the knuckles of her small hand clasped in his much larger ones. Weariness overwhelmed him and his eyelids slid closed. Just as he was giving into sleep, a faint fluttering of Marissa's fingers brought Will's head up and disbelief into his eyes. "Marissa?" He released her hand and touched her forehead. "Marissa!" He said a little more strongly, her eyelids opened slowly, and she looked around.

"Where…where am I?" Marissa asked in a low, scratchy voice. She tried to sit up, but Will pushed her down.

"Easy, Marissa," Will told her. "You're in Sickbay. I'll get you some water." He walked over to the replicator and ordered a small glass of cool water, then took the glass to Marissa. "Drink it slowly," he advised. She nodded, held the glass in her unsteady hands, and took a small sip. Will took the glass from her and smiled down at her. "You've been a very sick young woman."

"What happened?" She asked in a little stronger voice.

Will laughed, bringing Jean-Luc and Beverly out of her office and into the critical care area. "Well, look who's awake!" She exclaimed, approaching Marissa with a wide smile. "How do you feel?" Beverly ran a tricorder over her patient and smiled at the results.

"Disoriented," Marissa answered, reaching for the glass that Will held. He handed it to her and she took another small drink. "What happened to me?" She asked again.

"You were shot by a disrupter," Beverly answered, leaning against the biobed. "Sela's first officer fired his disrupter at Commander Shelby. You saw him and pushed Shelby out of the way and took the blast for her."

"What about the hostages?" She asked even stronger, slowly sitting up. "Easy," Beverly cautioned her patient as Will placed a hand on Marissa's shoulder to help her.

"The hostages were all recovered. They're fine. Sela and her crew are in the brig under close scrutiny," Will informed her. She sighed. "Good."

Will backed away from Marissa's biobed. Beverly and Marissa looked at him curiously. "I'm going to go find Deanna," he told them. Beverly nodded and with a final look back at Marissa, Will headed out to find Deanna.

A long break in Ten-Forward was exactly what Deanna needed. As much as she hated to admit it, Jean-Luc was right. She did need to get out of Sickbay, stretch her legs, and eat a decent meal. She was finishing her meal when a handsome lieutenant commander approached her. Deanna smiled quizzically at him as he stopped in front of her and crossed his hands behind him. "Can I help you?" Deanna asked him, noting his obvious discomfort.

"I'm Lieutenant Commander Watson," Chris said. "I'm a friend of your daughter's."

"Oh!" Deanna exclaimed. "Would you like to join me, Commander?" Deanna invited, motioning towards the empty seat across from her. Chris nodded, sat down, and asked, "Has there been any change in Marissa's condition?"

Deanna smiled sadly and shook her head. "Not that I know of. Dr. Crusher convinced me to leave Sickbay for awhile, but if there were any change in Marissa's condition they would…have let me…know," Deanna said in a trailing voice as Will entered Ten-Forward and spotted her. He strode purposely over to her table with a large smile on his face. Deanna half stood, half sat and asked, "Will?"

"Marissa just woke up, Deanna." A grin split Will's face as Deanna leaped to her feet. "Beverly said Marissa's going to be fine, and I think Marissa would love to see her mother." Deanna nodded and quickly hurried from the lounge. Will laughed softly and sank down in the chair Deanna had vacated. "Captain?" Chris ventured as the older man laughed.

"Yes?" Will asked, looking at Chris with relieved eyes.

"Are you all right?"

Will nodded with another laugh. "I'm fine, Chris…Just fine. Why don't you go to Sickbay? I'm sure Marissa would love to see you," Will told him. Chris nodded and hurried from Ten-Forward. Will smiled and rubbed his temples. Time to get some rest, Riker, Will thought to himself as he stood up with a stretch. He sighed and headed out of Ten-Forward and to his quarters where he fell into an exhausted slumber.

"Mother!" Marissa exclaimed as Deanna hurried into Sickbay. The two women hugged lightly, then Deanna released her and smiled. "You look wonderful," Deanna told her, sitting down and tightly grasping one of Marissa's hands in one of hers. With her other hand, Deanna brushed Marissa's hair back from her face. "How do you feel?"

"Better," Marissa answered. "Beverly said that I should be able to leave Sickbay in a couple of days."

"That's great!" Deanna beamed at her daughter with a sense of relief previously unknown to her before. Unexplainably, tears welled up in Deanna's eyes and one threatened to spill down her face as Marissa's eyes lit up. Quickly, Deanna wiped her face and glanced over her shoulder. The concerned lieutenant commander from Ten-Forward stood several feet behind Deanna with a smile on his face. His hands were locked behind him and he smiled at the two women. "I didn't mean to intrude," he said.

Deanna smiled and rose to her feet. "You're not intruding, Commander. I have some things I need to attend to, so feel free to visit with my daughter." Deanna smiled down at her daughter and said, "I'm going to go talk to Beverly and Jean-Luc, then send a communiqué to your grandmother. She's going to meet us at Starbase 74." Marissa nodded and Deanna left. Chris walked over to Marissa's biobed and smiled down at her. "I'm glad you're going to be okay," he began. She laughed lightly and replied, "So am I!"

They laughed together for a moment, then Chris unclasped his hands and brought them forward. In one hand he held a bouquet of African Violets, and Marissa's eyes widened as he handed them to her. "Chris! They're beautiful," she reverently said as she inhaled their intoxicating fragrance.

"I found them in the arboretum," he said, sitting down with a smile. "I noticed you have a lot of purple and blue in your quarters, so I thought you might like these." He motioned towards the flowers she held.

"They're my favorite," she admitted, inhaling the sweet aroma again. "I'll get a vase from Dr. Crusher and have them placed in water so they don't die."

"How…How are you feeling?" Chris asked uncomfortably. Marissa placed the flowers on the table beside her biobed and sighed. "I feel fine. Dr. Crusher says I should be out of here in a few days, but I have to take it easy." Marissa's face darkened and she tersely said, "I hate 'taking it easy.'"

"You've got to give your body time to finish healing," Chris echoed Beverly's words and Marissa laughed. "What?" He asked.

"Dr. Crusher said the exact same thing to me a little over an hour ago." Marissa eyes gleamed with laughter, then she reached over and covered Chris' hand with her own. "I'm glad you came to see me."

"I'm glad you're going to be okay," Chris quietly said again, covering her hand with his other one and they shared a briefly intense moment…until Chris let go of her hand and stood up. "I should go. I'm suppose to be in Engineering in ten minutes." Marissa sighed almost sadly and nodded. "Will you come back?" She asked in a low voice. Chris smiled down at her and grasped her hand again quickly as he promised, "Of course." She gave him a brilliant smile and her eyes slid closed. Chris bent down and tenderly pressed a kiss to her forehead, then he left. Once out in the hallway, he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. He offered a silent prayer of thanks to God for Marissa's recovery before heading to Engineering.


Chapter Seven

"Shelby to Riker!" Elizabeth's voice came over the comm system, rousing Will from a deep sleep. He fumbled for his comm badge, found it, and tapped it. "Riker here," Will replied in a deep, groggy voice.

On the bridge, Elizabeth smiled, recognizing Will's tone. She knew he had been sleeping. "Sorry to disturb you, Captain, but we've reached Starbase 74."

"On my way!" Will said, sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of his bed. He yawned and stretched. "Computer! Lights!" He called and the lights immediately illuminated his quarters. Checking the chronometer on his night stand, he was stunned to discover he had slept for nearly ten hours. Quickly, he washed up and donned a new uniform, then headed to the bridge.

Starbase 74 loomed on the view screen as Will strode onto his bridge. Shelby smiled at him as he stood in the center and said, "Hail them."

Within seconds one of the commanding officers of Starbase 74 came on the screen with a large smile. "Captain Riker, you are permitted to dock at Port 23-A," the commander said. Will nodded with a smile. "Understood." The video screen flashed off and Riker ordered, "Helm, take us in."

Soon, the Enterprise docked and the bridge officers powered the great ship down. Will smiled and activated the comm system. "All hands, this is Captain Riker. The Enterprise has arrived at Starbase 74 and put in for repairs and refitting. For the next two weeks, all hands aboard the USS Enterprise are officially placed on shore leave. However," Will said in a stronger tone. "This shore leave pertains only to the starbase and Tarsas III. Only," he emphasized. "Riker out."

A jovial air permeated the ship as people began disembarking the Enterprise for the starbase. Even Will felt rejuvenated by the cheerfulness of the crew. Shelby sidled up beside Will and whispered something to him. His face turned a slight red and he turned around. "I have a few more things I need to take care of before I can begin my shore leave, Commander," Will told her firmly. Shelby frowned momentarily but Will assured her, "I will meet you in the gym as soon as I finish. Give me about two hours, Liz." She smiled and said, "Of course, Captain." Will offered her a brief smile, then he walked off the bridge and headed straight for Deanna's quarters. With Marissa on the road to recovery, Will and Deanna had much to discuss.

Outside Deanna's quarters, Will waited almost uncomfortably for her to allow him in the guest quarters assigned to her. He unconsciously locked and unlocked his knee while preparing himself for the scene he knew would follow. However, no amount of preparation could prepare him for what he saw when the doors of her quarters finally slid open. "Will!" Deanna exclaimed, leaning against the doorframe with a flushed face and wet hair. He blushed and backed away muttering, "I'm sorry, Deanna. I'll come back later."

"No!" She exclaimed, stepping away from the door and inviting him inside. "It's okay. I was just reading, Will."

The doors slid closed behind him and he asked amusedly, "Reading?"

Deanna laughed as she walked back to her sofa. "Well, I just got out of the shower a little while ago. I wanted to relax a little before I headed back to Sickbay."

"I checked in with Beverly a little while ago. She said Marissa was sleeping," Will informed her. Deanna smiled and offered another silent prayer of thanks. She waved towards the chairs in her living room. "Have a seat, Will," Deanna invited.

He sat in a chair adjacent to the sofa. Deanna probed his emotions gently and found him apprehensive, confused, and angry. His anger towards her was diminishing, but it was still palpable. "Will?" Deanna leaned forward to get his attention.

"Sorry," he quickly apologized "I seem to be doing that a lot lately."

"Doing what?" Deanna asked, switching into counselor mode.

"Drifting off…In fact, I've been doing that every since Marissa came aboard," Will told her, looking down at his hands. "Actually, I've been drifting off like that ever since I found out she was your daughter."

"You didn't know?" Deanna asked with surprise.

"How could I know?" Will laughed, lounging back in his chair with his eyes sparkling in amusement.

"Didn't you study her profile before you approved her transfer?" Deanna leaned back into the couch with the tension between them easing.

"Of course, but I wasn't particularly interested in knowing who her parents were. I was interesting in her accomplishments…her service record," Will elaborated. "But, when I saw her and talked to, I knew she was your daughter."

"And, it never crossed your mind that she might be yours?" Deanna quietly asked, studying him intently. "Not really," Will answered. "Maybe briefly, but I figured it was wishful thinking."

"I never told her that you were dead," Deanna said quickly. Will flinched slightly before replying, "I know. Beverly told me."

Deanna sighed, stood up and walked over to observation port in her living room. She stared out into the void of space and attempted to reconcile her mistakes as a young woman with the woman she had become. Her choices had made her stronger. Had she not defied her mother all those years ago and joined Starfleet, Marissa would not exist. Her decision to leave the Enterprise and raise Marissa alone had taught her more than she believed possible…and cost her more than she could have ever imagined. Every milestone in Marissa's life had been a knife in her heart. As proud as she was of her daughter, knowing that she was depriving Marissa and her father of celebrating in Marissa's achievements together had stabbed her conscience. "Will, what I did was so wrong," Deanna admitted in a voice so soft Will strained to hear her. "At the time I thought I was doing the right thing for all of us, but it was so wrong. There is no amount of apologizing I can do that would express how sorry I am. If I could go back in time and change things, I would in a heartbeat."

"You could go back in time and change things, but what would the point in it be, Deanna?" Will asked, slipping up behind her and placing a hand on her shoulder. "I know you're sorry, Dee. I could be blind and still see how sorry you are about this." His hand tightened on her shoulder. "Deanna, we have to tell Marissa," he said softly as he turned her around to face him.

"I know," she whispered, unable to meet his eyes. Will tipped her chin up so her eyes met his. "I'm afraid," she admitted as tears formed in her eyes.

"I know you are, Deanna. I am, too," Will told her, mesmerized by the sadness in her eyes. "Marissa will be furious with both of us, but if she's half the person I think she is, then she will forgive us."

"Half the person you think she is?" Deanna repeated trying to fight the growing attraction between them.

"Your half will forgive us…it's my half we have to worry about," Will told her with an impish grin. Deanna burst into laughter and pulled away from Will, leaning against the observation port as she laughed. "You're right," she agreed when she managed to stop laughing.

Will grew serious and said, "We can't tell her until she's out of Sickbay and Beverly gives her a clean bill of health." Deanna nodded her head in agreement. "However, I would like your permission to tell someone." Deanna stared at him and asked, "Who?"

"Elizabeth," Will stated as a faint gleam of jealousy glowed in Deanna's eyes.

"Why?" She asked, moving away from him and back to the sofa.

Will followed her and sat down beside her. "Because she's starting to ask questions about the amount of time I've been spending with Marissa. In fact, several of the crewmembers have noticed, but Elizabeth is the only one with the nerve to ask me about it."

"Oh," Deanna said tonelessly. "Go ahead, just make sure she doesn't spread it around yet. The last thing we need is for Marissa to hear it from someone other than us."

"Agreed," Will said, standing up and heading towards the door. She slowly followed him to the door and waited as the earlier uneasiness permeated her quarters. "I'll stop by Sickbay later and see Marissa," he said as the doors hissed open.

"She'd like that," Deanna assured him as he stepped through her doorway and out into the hallway. He offered her one last smile before the doors closed and he disappeared down the hallway. In her quarters, Deanna leaned against the doors and allowed her tears to slid down her face. They were tears of relief for her daughter's life, tears of pain for the life she had denied herself with Will, and most of all, tears for a romance gone wrong with a man she still loved.

"Captain! Enough!" Shelby shouted, dropping her racket on the ground and wiping her brow. She blew out a short burst of air and leaned against the wall. "Will, I can't keep up with you today!" Elizabeth was out of breath after their hour or so of playing a fast and furious game of racquetball. Usually, they played for fun and exercise, but today it seemed Will was playing to draw blood. He continued to hit the ball ferociously against the wall. Elizabeth stood to her feet and slung a towel around her shoulders. She approached Will cautiously and touched his shoulder. "Hey, talk to me," she requested.

After leaving Deanna's quarters, Will went to his, changed clothes, then headed to the gym. He and Elizabeth tried to work-out in the gym everyday. It gave them a chance to be together without having the worry of ship's business, and to take out their frustrations on something unfeeling. Elizabeth knew Will was doing that now. Whatever was wrong with him, he was taking it out on the ball. Catching the ball, Will placed it and his racket on the floor then turned to face Elizabeth Shelby. For a moment he yearned to be in love with her so Deanna Troi would no longer matter in his life, but he knew that was not and would never be the case. He cared deeply for Elizabeth, but loved…no, he only loved two women, and Elizabeth was neither. His tormented blue eyes met with her concerned brown ones and he sighed. "We need to talk," Will admitted to her.

"Then talk to me," she softly beseeched him. He nodded and leaned back against the wall of the gym. Elizabeth took the towel from around her shoulders and tossed it to him. He wiped his face the dropped it on the ground at their feet. "Liz, I found out something a few days ago I should have told you. I didn't because I needed some time to get my bearings about it, plus, I needed to make sure it was true before I told you about it."

"Well, what is it?"

"It's Marissa…Ever since she came on board I've felt a connection to her I couldn't explain. So many people asked me if she were my niece, but I never saw the commonalties those people saw…until a few days ago." Will paused and took a moment to regain his composure then continued. "Fairly late a few of nights Beverly came to see me about Marissa and how she was handling her mother's captivity. Then, we began talking about the relationship Deanna and I had all those years ago. Beverly was tired…I was tired then she got paged to sickbay. As she was leaving she asked me to check on Marissa in the morning."

"So?" Elizabeth was becoming impatient and doing her best to keep it in check. "Will, I don't understand what this has to do with us."

"Beverly didn't asked me not to forget to check on Marissa in the morning, she asked me to check on my…daughter." Will watched her carefully. Elizabeth sucked in a deep breath and closed her eyes. She wavered slightly and opened her eyes, then she moved to lean against the wall. "Your…what?" She asked slowly.

"My daughter," Will repeated. "Marissa is my daughter." The sentence sent a thrill through Will like no other thrill. Finally, it was sinking in. Marissa was his daughter and he was damned proud of her. Will had accepted Marissa into his crew, initially, because he was impressed with her service record. He wanted to see if she was as good as purported, and he was pleased with her service as a member of his crew. However, his pleasure now gave way into pride for his daughter.

"Your daughter…yours and Deanna's?" Shelby asked inanely. Will nodded and Elizabeth sighed. "Oh my God." She kneaded her brow and fought back her anger. Never had she imagined of Will falling in love with her, but never had she imagined he had a child with his…soulmate. The word galled her spirit. At one time, Elizabeth had wanted nothing more than everything Deanna Troi had. Deanna had a highly coveted assignment on the Enterprise. She was a prized officer with an excellent service record. And, she was the soulmate of the most handsome man in Starfleet. His Imzadi…whatever the hell that means, Elizabeth maliciously thought.

Will carefully placed his hands on her shoulders and shook her gently. "Elizabeth? Talk to me."

Elizabeth laughed cynically and raised her eyes to meet Will's. "Talk about what, Will? There's nothing left to say. I've been competing with a ghost the entire time I've been with you, and that ghost is the mother of your only child," she accentuated. "Now, that ghost is back and you still love that ghost. Why aren't you with her instead of me? Surely the two…excuse me, three of you have tons to catch up on," Elizabeth said spitefully.

"Liz, first of all, Deanna is in Sickbay with Marissa. Secondly, Marissa doesn't know I'm her father, and lastly, I thought you had a right to know," he told her quietly. "I'm going to my quarters. I'll see you on the bridge later." He sighed and picked up his racket then walked to the doors of the gym. They opened and he passed through them while Elizabeth stood, watching him leave with a lump growing in her throat. No, she didn't love Will…She only felt a deep hole of nothingness for what had been an ardent and torrid relationship.


Chapter Eight

The sounds of laughter greeted Deanna as she walked into Sickbay. Beverly was no where in sight, but her young assistant stood administering a hypospray to a crewmember. The assistant smiled at her then patted the shoulder of his patient. "You're done. This time, be more careful when you go rock climbing," he sternly advised his embarrassed patient as they existed Sickbay. Putting away the hypospray, he called to Deanna, "You must be Lieutenant Warren's mother." Deanna smiled and replied, "What was your first clue?"

"Your smile," he returned, walking over with his hand extended. "Dr. James Havens."

"Deanna Troi," she said with a wide smile as they shook hands. "Has my daughter given you too much trouble?" Deanna asked as he led her to the private rooms of Sickbay. He stopped in front of the one where laughter drifted out.

"Nah. We're just glad she's okay," Dr. Havens answered, pressing the door chimes. The doors hissed open and Dr. Havens led Deanna into Marissa's temporary quarters. A smile lit Deanna's face as she observed her daughter and the lieutenant commander from Ten-Forward dissolve into laughter. "Glad to know my apperance is so hilarious," Deanna commented, walking over and pressing a kiss to her daughter's forehead.

"Chris owes me ten credits," Marissa informed her mother with a gleeful smile.

"Betting on your visitors?" Deanna correctly surmised. Marissa nodded and Deanna grinned. "Chris, learn never to bet against empaths and telepaths," Deanna advised the handsome engineer. He chuckled and nodded his head. Deanna turned back to her daughter and said, "We've arrived at Starbase 74. Your grandmother should be coming aboard shortly."

Marissa groaned and closed her eyes. "I feel a headache coming on," Marissa feigned. Deanna laughed lightly. "You may be able to get away with that on me, Firefly, but your grandmother wouldn't fall for it."

Darkly, Marissa glared at her mother and tartly said, "Don't call me that. You know I hate that nickname!" Deanna smiled nonplussed and said, "You earned it, dear."

"Firefly?" Chris asked with an irresistible grin. It earned him another dark glare from the lovely lieutenant.

"As young child living on Earth, Marissa became obsessed with fireflies and what made them light up the way they did. When she learned the theory that fireflies control the on and off patterns by controlling their oxygen intake, she thought if she did them same thing, she might become luminescent." Deanna's eyes glowed with the memory and a smile touched her lips. The smiled faded and she somberly made a mental note to share the story with Will sometime. Chris laughed and Marissa glared first at her mother then at Chris.

"It's not funny," Marissa complained.

"No, it's not. It's cute," Chris told her. Marissa raised her eyebrows and mocked, "Cute? Great…I get shot by a Romulan, nearly die, spend a week in a coma all to be told that I was a cute child."

"Well, at least your sense of humor survived," Deanna remarked dryly, patting her daughter's shoulder. Deanna! She heard echoing through her mind. Marissa heard the thought also and met her mother's gaze. In unison they said dismally, "Grandmother." The two women laughed while Chris looked utterly confused. "I'll go find your grandmother and try to keep her away from here until you're released. After that, I make no promises." Deanna smiled and pressed another kiss to her daughter's forehead. "Get some rest."

"I will!" Marissa called as her mother left, then she looked back to Chris who shook his head. "What?" She asked, crossing her arms and leaning into her pillows.

"How did you know your grandmother had arrived?" He asked casually.

"I heard her," Marissa answered quizzically.

"In your head," Chris finished and Marissa nodded. He grinned and said, "I just don't understand that!"

Marissa laughed lightly and commented, "It's not easy to understand until you can do it, Chris. I speak from experience. I wasn't born with telepathic abilities."

"You weren't? I thought all Betazoids were telepath." His eyebrows knitted together in lines of confusion. Marissa smiled and explained, "Chris, I'm only partially Betazoid. I am an empath. My mother is an empath. Neither of us can read minds unless it is the mind of someone we're extremely close to."

Chris grinned at her and said, "So, you can't read my mind?"

"Do you want me to be able to read your mind?" Marissa returned with a coy smile. Chris laughed. "You're obviously feeling better, Lieutenant."

"What makes you think so?" Marissa asked trying to ignore the dull ache throbbing in her side. Her pain medication was wearing off.

"Are you feeling okay?" Chris asked with immediate concern. He leaned forward and took her hand in one of hers. She nodded and squeezed his hand. "I'm fine. My painkiller is wearing off, I think."

"Should I go get Dr. Crusher?" Marissa squeezed his hand, keeping him in his seat. "I'm fine," she assured him. She took a deep breath and separated herself from the growing ache. So, do you want me to read your mind? Chris heard Marissa's voice echo through his mind and he looked to her with shock. "How did you do that?"

"It's a technique," she explained simply. "Thought casting involves expanding your mind and learning to center yourself."

"Expanding your mind?" Chris repeated. She smiled at him and her eyelids slid closed. "I'll explain it to you later," she promised sleepily. Chris squeezed her hand and assured her, "I'll be waiting."

Lwaxana Troi glanced around the sparse quarters given to Deanna for her brief time on the Enterprise with a critical eye. Lwaxana harrumphed her disapproval before sitting down on the fairly comfortable sofa. Deanna grinned at her mother. "It's not that bad," Deanna told her as she walked to the replicator. "Would you like something to drink, Mother?" She asked politely.

Hot chocolate, Lwaxana thought to her daughter.

"Two hot chocolates," Deanna directed the replicator. The drinks appeared and Deanna carefully carried one of her mother. "There you go. How was your trip?"

Terrible. How is Marissa? Lwaxana thought as she sipped the luscious drink.

"Recovering. Beverly is considering releasing her sometime tomorrow or the next day as long as Marissa promises to take it easy," Deanna replied verbally. Lwaxana wrinkled her nose and thought, Little One, why do you insist on speaking outloud? There is no one else in here who might be offended by telepathic communication. Deanna sighed. This was an ongoing battle between mother, daughter, and granddaughter. After living on Earth for over twenty years, Deanna and Marissa were accustomed to speaking verbally instead of telepathically unless it were an emergency of some sort. Living on Betazed her entire life, Lwaxana saw little point in speaking verbally unless she was around off-worlders, yet the older she became, the more set in her ways she became. Speaking telepathically was now Lwaxana's preferred form of communication, and it drove Marissa crazy. Marissa only spoke telepathically when absolutely necessary, and with her grandmother she deemed it unnecessary. Consequently, Deanna constantly ran interference between the two head strong women.

"Mother, you know why I insist on speaking outloud. I've lived on Earth for over two decades and I have a daughter who has only known human life. She despises communicating telepathically. You know that and I know that. I speak outloud to humor my daughter, and I hope you will humor Marissa during your visit too. This hasn't been an easy time for her."

"When did William discover he is her father?" Lwaxana suddenly asked, outloud, as she skimmed thoughts off Deanna's mind.

"Mother!" Deanna exclaimed, tempted to throw her arms up in annoyance. "I hate when you do that. We've been arguing that since I learned to talk. Would you stop reading my mind? I will tell you things when I'm ready to tell you!"

"Oh Little One, stop," Lwaxana said with annoyance. "Does Marissa know?"

I feel a headache coming on, Deanna thought to herself far down in her psyche. She kneaded her forehead with one hand and centered herself. "No, Marissa doesn't know yet. Will and I are waiting until Beverly gives Marissa a clean bill of health before we spring this on her."

"How did William take the news that he has a twenty-two years old daughter?" Lwaxana asked, taking a sip of her hot chocolate.

"He was angry, of course…and worried. With Marissa recovering, his anger has subsided slightly. He's more concerned about telling her the truth."

And you? Lwaxana thought, probing her daughter's mind. How do you feel about this, Little One? You've waited twenty-two years to tell him you two have a daughter. Now he knows.

"I don't know how I feel," Deanna replied with a sigh. Lwaxana smiled at her daughter. Liar. You still love him, Little One. You always have.

"Mother, there is nothing left between Will and myself besides Marissa. Yes, I may still love him, but he has moved on with his life."

"Really?" Lwaxana finished off her hot chocolate and smiled wickedly at her daughter. "So, why do you suppose he never married, Little One? Perhaps he never stopped loving you, either. It was perfectly obviously to everyone how deeply you two cared for each other."

"Mother," Deanna said warningly. "Stop."

"Stop what, Little One? I'm only pointing out the obvious," she claimed. A poisonous glare from Deanna convinced Lwaxana to change topics. "However, I'd like to go see my granddaughter."

"Marissa needs her rest, Mother," Deanna informed Lwaxana. "I'd prefer you'd wait until she's out of Sickbay."

"Oh Little One! If I promise to be good…" She teased, rising to her feet. "I'll only stay a moment, Deanna. No need to worry too much." Lwaxana pressed a kiss to her daughter's cheek. "Get some rest, Little One."

Dismayed, Deanna watched Lwaxana leave her quarters on her way to Sickbay. She sighed and hoped grandmother and granddaughter would get along with Deanna mediating the visit.

"Captain," Chris greeted Will quietly as he entered Marissa's quarters in Sickbay. Will smiled at his Chief Engineer and looked over to his daughter. Marissa slept soundly and Will smiled. "She just fell asleep," Chris informed Will as he sat down in a chair across from Chris.

"Good. She needs it. How long have you been here, Chris?"

"Since you placed us on shore leave," Chris replied. Will glanced around the small room and noted the flowers on the night table. "Violets," he said in a surprised voice.

Chris blushed slightly. "I thought her room needed some color." Will smiled remembering past times of bringing Deanna violets. Marissa shared her mother's love of the color purple. A familiar essence invaded Will's psyche and he groaned. "Captain, is something wrong?" Chris asked, noting the pained expression on Will's face. Will opened his mouth to reply as Lwaxana walked in the room. She smiled at the thunderstruck men. "Gentlemen," Lwaxana greeted, sweeping to Marissa's bedside.

"Lwaxana, it's good to see you again. You look wonderful," Will said, rising to his feet.

"Sit down, William. After all these years, there's no need to be formal," Lwaxana informed the chagrined captain. "How is my granddaughter?" She asked, leaning over Marissa and infusing the girl's dreams with warmth. Marissa's eyes fluttered open and she smiled sleepily at Lwaxana. "Hi," she punctuated with a yawn. "Wow, how long have you three been here?" She asked, slowly sitting up.

I just arrived a little while ago, Firefly, Lwaxana thought to Marissa, who bristled. "Grandmother," she warningly intoned. Immediately, Lwaxana did something unprecedented. She apologized. Will fought off a grin.

"I just came by to check on you, Lieutenant," Will said, trying to sound more officially than fatherly.

Chris shrugged and grinned at Marissa. "I kept my promise and never left," he told her. She smiled sweetly at him and thought, Thank you. Chris' eyes widened. He had no idea why he could hear her voice in his mind, but it was a sensation he was beginning to enjoy.

"Captain, I would like a word with you," Lwaxana claimed while she thought, I promised Deanna not to stay too long with Marissa, and it's obvious she is in good hands here. Will nodded and gestured to the door. "If you would come with me, Mrs. Troi."

"I will visit you later, Firefly." Lwaxana kissed her granddaughter's cheek then followed Will into Main Sickbay. "When is Dr. Crusher planning on releasing Marissa?" Lwaxana asked as they left the Sickbay and into the hallway.

Will sighed and pressed the button to signal a turbolift. "Hopefully tomorrow or the next day." The lift doors opened and Will stepped aside to allow Lwaxana inside then he walked inside. "Deck 23!" He called. The lift headed for the guest quarters. "Marissa is a lot like you, William," Lwaxana said quietly. He raised his eyebrows at her. "She is very determined and very head strong."

"Maybe she also gets that from your daughter," Will suggested as the lift stopped and the doors opened. Lwaxana exited with Will behind her. "Are you planning on staying on the starbase or here, Mrs. Troi?" He politely inquired, pausing in front of Deanna's quarters.

"The starbase," she replied. "Tell Deanna I will see her tomorrow," Lwaxana requested, then returned to the turbolift. Will smiled and pressed the chimes to Deanna's door. After a few minutes the doors slid open but Deanna was nowhere to be seen. "Deanna?" He called, walking in. She slowly walked out of her bedroom, stretching and smiling.

"Good. It's you and not Mother." Deanna smiled at Will and leaned against the door to her bedroom. "She went to visit Marissa."

"I know. I ran into her there. Marissa was sleeping. She looks much better," Will told her while he sat in a chair. Deanna continued leaning against her door but a sudden rush of emotion from Will brought her ramrod straight. Will, what's wrong? She thought, walking over to where he sat and placing her hands on his shoulders. Gently, she massaged the tense muscles of his shoulders. An understand smile came to her lips and she thought, I understand, but Will, Marissa is going to fine.

"I know, I know," he said quietly. "I'm worried about how she'll react to finding out I'm her father."

"She'll be furious," Deanna assured him. "But, then she'll understand and accept the truth."

"How can you be so sure?" He asked, his head hanging slightly as she continued the ministrations. Because she's our daughter, echoed through Will's mind. Deanna's hands stilled on his shoulders as he turned around to look at her. Something akin to an electrical current passed through them and all reasoning flew from Deanna's mind. She slowly lowered her head and his lips caught hers in a violently sweet kiss. Suddenly they were twenty years younger and had all the time in the world together. One kiss healed the mistakes of youth and the pains of present. The attraction and desire first stemmed from that one look at Chandra's wedding had blossomed into a relationship they denied themselves for too long. That one look became an unbreakable bond, cemented by the birth of their daughter, and reaffirmed with just one kiss. Gently, she pulled away from him, their gazes never breaking as she moved around to stand in front of the chair. He reached up and cupped her face in his hands, studying the contours as he once had in a steamy jungle half his life ago. Her eyes slid closed and she sank to her knees. He leaned forward and caught her lips with his once again, reclaiming what had always been his. I never stopped loving you, floated through his mind in her melodious voice. I couldn't stop loving you, no matter how hard I tried.

"You tried," he murmured against her lips. "I never saw the point in trying. I knew I could never forget you."

Deanna pulled away from him and offered a sad smile. "Everyday when I looked at Marissa, my feelings for you grew stronger. She's so much like you…so headstrong and determined, and she resembles you so much, physically. I convinced myself her resemblance to you was my punishment."

"Was it a punishment?" Will asked quietly. He reached down and brushed a few strands of her hair back. Deanna shook her head and caught his hand with hers. "No, it wasn't a punishment. It was a daily reminder of how much I had loved you at one time…" She softly kissed his hand. His eyes closed and he quietly replied, "At one time?"

"Do you have to repeat everything I say?" Deanna tersely asked. Will opened his eyes and grinned in answer. She sighed and stood up, "You haven't changed a bit! You're just as incorrigible now as you were then!"

"And, that's a bad thing?" Will's gazed insinuated things that made Deanna tingle. She moved to the couch and he followed. "No, it's not a bad thing," she replied softly, leaning over and kissing him lightly. He groaned and pulled her against him. Deanna melted against him as their kiss grew more passionate, then he scooped her up in his arms and carried her into her bedroom. She slid down his body to stand before him. He reached behind her and unsnapped the fastenings on the back of her uniform then unzipped it. It fell to her feet and he lifted her from it then lay her on the bed. She watched as he undressed and came beside her on the bed. They kissed longingly, and their hands explored familiar territories. For hours, it seemed, they relearned the other's body. Each lesson was punctuated with gasps or groans, and finally they came together forming the perfect union that created their indestructible bond. Sometime later the pressure built beyond their abilities to contain and they were spent, exhausted, sweat glistening, and joined physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Will moved to his side, taking her with him, and he brushed a piece of her hair from her forehead. She smiled at him and gently they kissed again. No words passed between them. None were needed. After a time, she fell asleep with her head on his shoulder. He delighted in the opportunity, watching her sleep until he gave into the temptations of slumber and drifted into a deep sleep.


Chapter Nine

Morning came slowly. Deanna awakened languidly and stretched with a sleepy sigh. She turned over on her side but found the other side of her bed empty. Touching the sheets she felt a coolness. She knew Will wasn't far away. Deanna still had an awesome sense of his presence. "Will?" She called, sitting up in her bed and clutching the sheet to her body. No response came, so she swung her legs over the side of the bed and sought out her silk robe. After slipping on the robe and tying the belt she padded out of her bedroom into the living room. Her eyes glittered with amusement. "Do you know how long it's been since I had a home cooked breakfast?" She asked, sauntering over to where he stood holding a pan. He grinned at her as she wrapped her arms loosely around his torso from behind.

"You're going to distract me," he told her in a semi-serious voice.

"I thought I always distracted you," she returned teasingly. He placed the pan on the counter and turned around in her embrace. "You do," he told her then kissed her lightly. "I didn't think you were ever going to wake up."

"Someone wore me out last night." Her dark eyes passed a smoldering look over him, sparking a flicker of desire in him.

"Keep looking at me like that and you're going to have to take a nap," he informed her as he picked the pan back up and scooped the contents onto two plates. Passing beside her with the plates he grinned and placed them on the small dining table. He cocked an eyebrow at her and nonchalantly asked, "Hungry?"

She offered him an evil smile as she sat down. "Always," she told him, taking a forkful of his cooking into her mouth. He sat down with a faint blush on his cheeks. They dined in silence. Deanna chewed with a thoughtful, far away look on her face. Before Will could inquire as to what she was thinking, her voice echoed in his head. So, where do we go from here?

"How many times have we asked that question?" He placed his fork on the table and propped his head on his hands. Studying him, she reflectively commented, "Too many times. Is the answer still the same?"

Will smiled sadly and shook his head. "It can't be the same. It's not just us we have to think about here." Deanna nodded and asked again, "So, where do we go from here?"

"You could transfer here," he suggested.

"You already have a counselor," she reminded.

That briefly stumped him until he remembered Steven complaining about the constant workload. The Enterprise contained over fifteen hundred crewmembers. During that conversation, Will recalled Steven asking if it were possible to get another counselor on board to assist him. Still, Deanna had a prestigious position as Picard's advisor. Coming back to the Enterprise might seem as a step down to her. He chewed his bottom lip for a moment, carefully considering the offer. "Will?" She reached over and touched his arm. He jumped slightly. "What is it?"

"I was remembering a conversation I had a few months ago with Steven Dyal, our counselor. He feels there are too many crewmembers for him to adequately handle. How would you feel about helping him out?" Will offered.

Deanna sighed and leaned back in her chair. "An assistant? No thanks."

"Not an assistant, Deanna. Another counselor. You wouldn't be assisting Steven. You would be opening a new practice here," he explained intently.

"Will…I don't know." A thousand thoughts ran through her mind, but only two truly stuck out. "Will, why do you want me to come here?" She asked, studying him closely. He sighed then smiled to himself.

"I love you." Her eyes widened and he laughed. "Don't look so surprised, Counselor. You've known me over half my life and my feelings for you have never changed. I loved you then and I love you now."

A tear splashed down her cheek and she laughed lightly. "I honestly believed you would never say that to me."

"You had to know," he said quietly.

"Of course I knew!" she exclaimed. "But, there's a difference between knowing it and hearing it."

Will slid out his chair and over to where she sat. He knelt down beside her and took her hands in his. "I love you, Deanna. I want you to stay here. I don't want to lose you again," he told her sincerely. Her eyes glimmered with tears again and he reached up and wiped them away. "So, what do you say?"

"I say I have to discuss this with Jean-Luc and Marissa. Jean-Luc may not be willing to let me go, and Marissa may not be happy about her mother being on board."

Will's face darkened momentarily and Deanna quickly amended, "Marissa may not be happy about serving aboard the same ship as both her parents." He smiled at her and quickly kissed her hands, then rose to his feet. "I'm going to go take a quick shower," he told her as he headed towards her bedroom. Deanna nodded and looked at the unfinished breakfast on the table. Then a grin grew across her lips and she stood up from the table and headed for her bedroom. Her robe landed in a puddle of lavender silk in the doorway of the bathroom.

"Hey beautiful," Chris said quietly as Marissa awakened. She smiled sleepily at him and he squeezed her hand lightly. "You look awful, Lieutenant Commander," Marissa told him as she swung her legs over the side of her bed and sat up. The room spun crazily. She closed her eyes and waited for the spinning to stop, then she stood to her feet.

"What do you think you're doing?" Chris asked as she walked into the bathroom.

"I think I'm going to close the door then take a shower," she called to him as the door slid shut. He laughed and stood to his feet and stretched. His body was stiff from sitting too long. "I can't believe I'm spending my shore leave in Sickbay," he muttered to himself.

"No one told you to stay here, Chris," Beverly commented as she walked into Marissa's room. "Where's my patient?"

"Taking a shower," Chris said with a yawn. "And, you're right. No one told me to stay in here. I'm here because I want to be in here." Beverly smiled knowingly at him.

"When Marissa is through with her shower, tell her I'm springing her today." Chris smiled broadly and Beverly laughed. "I'm springing her, but that doesn't mean I'm releasing her fully. She needs to take it easy for the next day or two, so I suggest nothing too strenuous for the remainder of this shore leave."

Chris smiled at her and nodded. "I understand."

"Good," Beverly said then walked from the room to check on her other patients. A funny look came over Chris' face. True, he wanted to be with Marissa. Ever since she came aboard and he first met her there was an instant attraction. Other women held his interests, but there was something about Marissa that he couldn't ignore. Maybe it was the way she literally got into his head, or the way she made him feel comfortable. He felt as if he could talk to her about anything. He felt as if he'd known Marissa for his entire life, but in actuality, Chris had known her for barely two weeks. He saw something of himself in her…he felt something of himself in her. That scared him. As a teenager his father told him that Chris would know when he met the woman he was destined to be with forever. You just feel it, his father had said. Chris knew he felt something different with Marissa than he did any other woman. Maybe this feeling was the mysterious "it." The mysterious sign telling him that she was it.

"Hey, what's on your mind?" Marissa asked, coming out of the bathroom, drying her hair with a towel. He turned around to face her and his breath caught. Even with the fading cut on her forehead she still looked beautiful. He walked over to her and took the towel from her. Her eyebrows widened in bewilderment. "I need that!" She exclaimed, reaching for it. Chris grinned and held it behind his back, then he dropped it to the floor when she stepped closer to him. He wrapped his arms around her waist, surprising her. "Chris?"

He smiled gravely at her and tightening his arms around her waist, drawing her even closer to his body. "I was thinking about you," he whispered to her, inches from her face.

"Oh," she breathed just before his lips brushed lightly over hers. A tingling sensation shot through her body and she leaned into the embrace. He pulled back and grinned at her. "Dr. Crusher will not be happy if she walks in here and finds us kissing," he told her quietly.

Marissa returned his grin and unhappily pulled out of his embrace. "You're right. She'd probably be angry to find me out of bed," she commented dully.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Chris asked, catching her arm and turning her back to him. She smiled and confided, "I hate Sickbay and I hate having a reason to be in here."

"Then, I have some good news for you," he told her. Her eyes lit up slightly. "Dr. Crusher came in here while you were in the shower and asked me to tell you that she's springing you today. However, you have to take it easy for the next day or two," he emphasized. Marissa waved her hand dismissively and walked over to the replicator. Quickly, she replicated a casual outfit to wear the walked back into the bathroom. Just as quickly she came back out dressed and ready to leave. Chris laughed at her exuberance. "I'm ready!" she exclaimed. Chris shook his head and gestured towards the door.

"Then, by all means, after you," he said with a smile. She laughed, walked by him, and entered the Main Sickbay. Beverly looked up and frowned. "I didn't expect you to leave so soon," Beverly said as Marissa walked over to her.

"You said I could leave," Marissa replied as Chris walked up beside her and slipped his arm around her waist. Beverly nodded affirmatively. "You can leave, but Marissa, you have to take it easy for the rest of the day," Beverly told her sternly. Marissa nodded and Chris spoke up.

"I'll stay with her today and see that she doesn't do anything to strenuous," Chris promised Crusher, who nearly rolled her eyes. "All right. Marissa, I'll stop by and check on you tonight."

"Fine." Marissa's voice held an annoyed tone and Beverly hid a grin. Marissa hated being fussed over and pampered. She was very much like her father in that respect.

Smiling, Chris led her from Sickbay to her quarters where she flopped down on her couch. "Gods, it feels good to be home!" She exclaimed, leaning into the cushions.

"Shouldn't you contact your mother?" Chris suggested, sitting down beside her. Marissa nodded. "In a minute," she told him as her eyes slid closed. Her pain medication was still affecting her. It made her sleepy and before she knew it, she was asleep.

Will and Deanna strode into Sickbay wearing solemn looks. Surprised to see them together, Beverly walked over to them with a concerned frown. "Is something wrong with Marissa?" Beverly asked quickly. Will cocked and eyebrow and Deanna gave her best friend a confused look.

"Aren't we suppose to ask you that?" Deanna asked.

Beverly laughed in relief. "You don't know! I just released Marissa. Chris escorted her back to her quarters."

Will chuckled and Deanna sighed in relief. "Then, we'll go to her quarters," Deanna said, turning to leave. Beverly's voice stopped her in her tracks. "Deanna…Will, there's something we need to discuss in private." Her voice held a note of censure in it. Shrugging, Will and Deanna followed Beverly back into her office. The door closed behind them and they sat in the chairs and Beverly perched on her the corner of her desk. "What is it, Beverly?" Will asked authoritatively.

"If the two of you were planning to tell Marissa about Will being her father today, you can forget it. I may have released her from Sickbay, but that doesn't mean she's fully recovered. Tomorrow, maybe, but today is not an option," Beverly informed them. Deanna felt a surge of anger from Will and she placed a calming hand on his arm and squeezed it. Beverly noted it with surprise. "You two…Are you…?" Words escaped the doctor.

"I don't believe I've ever seen you so flabbergasted before, Doctor," Will commented with a wicked smile. Beverly glared at him. "Save it, Riker," she said with a scowl. Will laughed and Beverly continued glaring at him until Deanna intervened.

"All right, you two, enough." Deanna laughed lightly to herself. Beverly swung her gaze to Deanna. "Are you two together again?" Beverly demanded. Deanna felt a faint blush stain her cheeks and she nodded. "Yes, we are."

"Will, Deanna and I need to talk alone," Beverly immediately said. Will raised his eyebrows and said nothing. "I'll be in my quarters," he told Deanna, who nodded. He left and Beverly glared at Deanna.

"Beverly, what's wrong?" Deanna asked, bracing herself for Beverly's anger.

"Why ask? You already know!" Beverly exclaimed. "How many times are you going to let him do this to you? Don't get me wrong, Deanna, I love Will. He's a great guy and one of my closest friends. Still, you're only on board for another week and a half. Then what's going to happen? You're going to leave and be heart broken…again," Beverly finished.

"I'm not leaving," Deanna quietly said. "I'm requesting a transfer."

"Why?" Beverly asked. Deanna raised her eyebrows and observed, "You don't seem thrilled by that."

"I would love having you back on board, but Deanna, what good is it going to do? Will and Elizabeth Shelby have been seeing each other for quite awhile."

Deanna frowned. "I know, Bev. I also know it's over between them. He told her about Marissa and ended it. I asked him about it last night and it's over."

"Last night?" Beverly grinned. "That didn't take long," she commented.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Deanna asked.

"It's just you and Will…when the you two decide to get back together, it just happens. There's no questioning, no worrying, no what-ifs, no nothing."

"Sure there is, Beverly, but I've known for over twenty years I was suppose to spend my life with Will Riker. He and I have spent over twenty years fighting a loosing battle. We're meant to be together. There's no escaping that." Deanna smiled and quietly said, "I love him, Beverly. I always have. And, I know he loves me. It's taken a long time, but we're both ready for this. Finally."

"If he hurts you again…" Beverly's voice trailed off and the smile on her face betrayed the serious tone in her voice.

Deanna grinned and rose to her feet. "If he hurts me again, you'll have to stand in line because I'm going to kill him if that happens," she promised. "Now, I'm going to go see my daughter, then go see Will. Let's meet for dinner tonight in Will's quarters," Deanna suggested with a gleam in her eyes.

"Are you sure he won't mind?" Beverly asked. Deanna laughed and shook her head. "No, he won't mind. Bring Jean-Luc, too," Deanna said as she turned on her heel and left Beverly's office. Beverly laughed and shook her head.


Chapter Ten

The turbolift stopped on Deck Ten and a tall man entered the lift with a calm smile. Deanna nodded to him. "Deck Twenty!" The man called, then looked to Deanna with an admiring glance. "Have we met before?" He asked. She looked vaguely familiar to him.

"Not that I know of," Deanna replied, extending her hand. "I'm Deanna Troi." The man's eyes widened as he took her hand in his and lightly squeezed it.

"Nice to meet you, Deanna Troi," he said, releasing her hand. "I am Steven Dyal."

Deanna smiled serenely at him. "You're the counselor on board?" Deanna asked and Steven nodded. "Yes, ma'am, I am."

The turbolift stopped at Deck Eighteen where Will's quarters were located and he looked to her questioningly. Deanna blushed and moved to step out of the lift when she stopped. "Counselor Dyal, would you mind coming with me to the captain's quarters?" Deanna asked. Now was as good a time as any to see if Steven was receptive to having Deanna aboard as another counselor. Steven looked nonplussed and nodded. "Of course," he said, following her from the lift to Will's quarters. To her surprise, the doors slid open for her. A small smile touched her face. He had reprogrammed the doors to recognize her. She walked in with Steven behind her. "Will?" She called as the doors closed behind them.

"Right here," he said, coming out of his office with a smile. "Steven, what are you doing here?" Will asked, surprised, but not upset. Steven shrugged and Deanna interjected, "I asked Steven to join me."

"Ah," Will said, knowing what this was about. He walked over to his couch and sat down. Deanna and Steven followed him. She sat beside Will while Steven took a chair across from them. Steven watched them closely then commented, "You must be Lieutenant Warren's mother."

Deanna looked over at him and probed him lightly and to her surprise found him to have telepathic abilities. A smile touched her lips. "I would ask how you know that, but I have a feeling I already know."

"Really?" Steven asked, staring her directly in the eyes, then he realized why she thought she knew. "You're a Betazoid," Steven said and Deanna nodded.

"I'm half-Betazoid," she informed him. He nodded.

"Well, I knew you were Marissa's mother because you look so much like her, and since the captain informed me several days ago that Marissa is his daughter."

"You told him?" Deanna looked incredulously at Will.

"Confidentially, Deanna," Will assured her, then changed the subject. "Steven, there is something I need to discuss with you…an addition to personnel," Will said, leaning forward. Steven raised his eyebrows and waited. "I've asked Deanna to come aboard as another counselor. You've said the crew is too big for you to handle alone."

"Good," Steven said with a grateful tone. "I'm sure she can appreciate how difficult it is for one person to handle the problems of nearly two thousand people." Deanna laughed and nodded. Steven smiled at her. "It will be a pleasure to work with her. I assume she'll be opening her own practice?"

"Yes, I will, but this is very preliminary," Deanna cautioned. "First, I need to discuss this with my daughter, then I need to discuss this with Admiral Picard. He has to approve the transfer."

"Which he will," Will said with confidence. Steven nodded again and moved to stand up when Deanna inquired, "Are you Betazoid or Vulcan?"

"What?" Will shot her a look and Steven sat back down with a smile.

"I'm Betazoid," he told her. "That's why you look so familiar to me, Deanna. Not only because of your resemblance to your daughter, but I've attended several functions where you or your mother was in attendance."

"You're of the Eleventh House," she recalled. "I attended university with your sister…Karina Dyal," Deanna remembered slowly and Steven nodded.

"You are a telepath!" Will exclaimed almost angrily. "Why the hell did you keep it out of your records, Steven?" He demanded and Steven shrugged.

"Why broadcast it? Telepathy makes people nervous," Steven reasoned. "Will, I did nothing out of malice. In my experience, however, when people find out someone has telepathic abilities, they feel as if there is no place inside them that is safe. It makes my job more difficult, and my job is difficult enough as it is."

"Steven's right, Will. Think of how uncomfortable you used to be around my mother," she reminded him and he grudgingly admitted that they were right.

"Uncomfortable is an understatement," he muttered. Deanna smiled and Steven chuckled, rising to his feet. "I have an appointment," he said. Will and Deanna stood up with him and Steven smiled at them. "Deanna, it will be wonderful having you aboard." She smiled at him and he left. Will turned to her with a laughing smile.

"What?" She asked, turning around and wrapping her arms around his neck.

"I've suspected for a long time he was telepathic. I hate it when I'm right," he said, wrapping his arms around her waist.

"No, you don't," she replied, kissing him, silencing him. He groaned and pulled her closer to him. She smiled against his lips, then gave into the wave of passion that washed over them.

"I must be pretty boring," Chris commented when Marissa finally woke up from her nap. "Everytime I'm around you fall asleep on me." She smiled at him and sat up on the couch.

"No one told you to stick around," she echoed Beverly.

A frown came to his face and he looked down at his hands before saying, "Marissa, I want to be around."

"I know." He looked at her in surprise. "The question is, why do you want to be around me?" She studied him intently and he met her unyielding gaze.

"I don't know how to explain it." He looked back down and began playing with his fingers. "Something just clicked when I saw you…something felt right. I don't want to let that go."

Marissa smiled softly and placed a hand on his knee. Her unexpected action sent a thrill through him. Her hand seemed to burn a hole through his pants to his skin. "Betazoids believe that people are fractured and when people find the missing half they feel whole, or as you put it, something just clicks."

"What do you believe?" He asked softly, covering her hand with his. Her smile softened further and she replied, "I believe I've found my missing half."

With a strangled breath, Chris leaned over and caught Marissa's lips with his. She sighed and leaned into his embrace. When he broke the prolonged kiss, her breathing was short and he was shaking. Never had Chris experienced a feeling this intense, and for that matter, neither had Marissa. He ran his shaking hands over his hair and looked around her quarters. "Dr. Crusher said you have to take it easy," he said dumbly. Marissa nodded. The things going through her mind were strenuous activities, not the nice easy activities Beverly would prefer. "Chris, you should probably go and get some rest," she suggested to him. He looked at her and nodded. "You're right," he said, leaning over and kissing her once more, then he stood to his feet. "I'll see you tomorrow," he promised. She smiled brightly at him.

"Meet me at 1100 hours on Holodeck Three," Marissa told him with a faintly mischievous look in her eyes. Chris nodded and left wondering what the young lieutenant had in store for him.

"Will, we should tell Marissa tomorrow," Deanna said quietly, propping her head up on her hands. She lay on her stomach in his bed. He lay on his side next to her, playing with a strand of her hair. "We can't put it off much longer."

He sighed in agreement. "You're right, and I'm going to have to tell the crew that Marissa is my daughter. Rumors are flying all over the ship with the extraordinary amount of time I've spent with her," Will said resigned.

Deanna nodded and looked down. For the first time in a very long time she was saddened by her actions. "Who all knows?"

"Beverly, obviously," Will began. "I told Commander Shelby and I'm assuming Marissa told Commander Watson. It won't take long to spread throughout the ship."

"Will…is it going to be a command problem for her to be here?" Deanna raised her glistening eyes to his intent blue ones. He shrugged a shoulder and honestly answered, "I hope not. I'm going to give it a few months and see how things work out. I hope Marissa and I can work together as officers and as father and daughter. I don't want to have her transfer. She's worked very hard to get here," he admitted. "Deanna, what is it?" He asked softly as the tears she tried so valiantly to hold back burst forth. They fell down her face in small streams. Will reached over and wiped her face.

She bit her trembling lip and sought to regain her composure. "I just don't want to lose my daughter forever, Will. I know I deserve that much after what I've put the two of your through, but Gods, Will, I did what I thought was right at the time."

"And, eventually, Marissa will see that, Deanna. Trust me," he told her sincerely. Her glittering, tear filled eyes met his concerned blue ones and each felt a jolt go through him. With their connection reaffirmed Will could sense her pain and temporarily lost himself in that pain. He reached over and pulled her to his chest. "Deanna, Marissa will forgive you. I forgave you and think of how angry I was," he reminded her.

"At least you had some warning," she said, her words muffled by his chest.

"Eh, that just gave me time to become more angry. Once I was able to talk things over with you, I wasn't as angry. You did what you thought was best. Eventually, Marissa will understand that."

She raised her head and smiled at him. "You always know what to say, don't you, Captain?"

"Yup," he arrogantly told her and she laughed.

"We should get out of bed," Deanna regretfully said, moving farther away, but Will clutched her shoulder and turned her back to face him.

"Deanna, we're on shore leave. Trust me, we've earned the right to spend the rest of the day in bed," Will told her.

A mischievous grin lit Deanna's face and she moved closer to Riker. "I was hoping you'd say that," she said as she began an assault on him. He gasped and rolled onto his back, taking her with him, and losing himself in her torture.


Chapter Eleven

Tomorrow came much too soon for Will and Deanna, but it could not come soon enough for Marissa. After receiving Beverly's permission, Marissa headed to the Holodeck and programmed it with her favorite program. She was waiting, crouched behind a rock when Chris strode onto the holodeck. He wore a curious smile and looked around for her. As he passed the rock where she hid, Marissa picked up the bucket beside her and threw its contents on him. "What the hell!?" He exclaimed, swinging around and seeing Marissa. She grinned merrily at him and he stalked over to her with glittering eyes. "Why?" He asked simply.

She shrugged her shoulders and dropped the bucket. "We're on shore leave. We're suppose to have fun and relax."

"So you throw water on me?" He asked incredulously. She nodded and laughed musically.

"Lighten up, Watson," she said playfully. A devilish spark came into his eyes and Marissa backed away from him. She stumbled and fell onto the rock. Chris picked up the bucket and leaned over Marissa. "You're going to pay for that, Warren," he promised just before he kissed her quickly. She grinned and struggled to her feet and replied, "You have to catch me first!" Chris looked momentarily confused until Marissa bolted across the holodeck. Chris laughed as she ducked into the greenery and disappeared from his sight.

"I'll find you," he promised, then went in search of the errant young woman.

"Wake up," Deanna sing-songed to Will, who groaned and turned away from her on his back.

"Do I have to?" He asked groggily.

"Yes," Deanna replied, getting out of bed and putting on her robe. "I'll make breakfast. You get dressed."

He murmured something incoherent and Deanna smiled to herself. After she left the room her words hit Will and he sat up in his bed like a shot. "She's cooking breakfast? Oh no!" He exclaimed, leaping from the bed and finding some clothes. He stumbled out of the bedroom to find Deanna perched on the couch with an evil smile on her face. He sagged against the wall in relief while she looked at him. "Something wrong, Captain?" She asked nonplussed as he stalked over to her.

"Just didn't want you to start a fire on my ship," he commented. She frowned and he held up his hands. "It was a joke."

"It was a bad one," she informed him primly. He laughed as a grin slipped across her face. He held out his hand and helped her to her feet. "I'll cook breakfast," he told her. She laughed and nodded.

"As you wish, Captain," she said as he led her to the table. While he assembled his cookware Deanna somberly asked, "Are you ready for today?"

His actions stilled and he looked at her. "Are you?" he asked. Deanna smiled and shook her head. "Same here," he told her. "But, we have to get it over with. It's only going to get harder."

"I know," she said quietly. "Computer locate Marissa Warren!" She called out.

"Marissa Warren is located on Holodeck Three," the computer promptly replied. They exchanged looks and Deanna rose to her feet. "I'll get dressed. I'm not very hungry, anyway."

Will nodded and admitted, "Neither am I." Deanna smiled sadly at him, then disappeared into his bedroom. Will sighed and walked to the replicator. "Coffee. Black," he ordered. It shimmered into existence and he carried it to his dining table, sitting in the seat she had vacated. There were few times in his life Will Riker had dreaded doing something, but this was something he dreaded more than anything. God, please don't let her hate me or Deanna for this, Will thought as he sipped the warm liquid.

When he finished his coffee, he drifted into his bedroom and got dressed. Deanna sat on the bed and watched him, and when he was dressed they left his quarters. Once outside his quarters Deanna tapped her communicator.

"Troi to Warren."

After a moment, Marissa breathlessly answered, "Warren here. What's up, Mom?"

"Marissa, I need to speak with you immediately. Are you going to be on the holodeck for awhile?" Deanna's voice shook slightly. She tried to mask it from her daughter.

"Sure," Marissa replied.

"Good, we're on our way up. Troi out," Deanna said, ending the communication.

Marissa stared off into space with confusion on her face. "What is it?" Christopher asked, coming up beside her and putting an arm around her shoulders. She smiled brilliantly at him and said, "My mother is on her way up to talk to me, but she said 'we're on our way up.' I guess Beverly is with her." Chris shrugged and threw her a towel to dry off. They had spent the past hour swimming on the holodeck. She grinned back at him and began drying herself off.

"Why is Marissa's last name Warren?" Will asked suddenly as they exited the turbolift on the holodeck and walked down to Holodeck 3. They paused outside the holodeck and Will looked to Deanna expectedly. She colored slightly then replied simply, "It was your mother's maiden name."

Will's jaw dropped. It was his mother's maiden name, but how…"Deanna, how did you know that? I never told you that," he asserted strongly. She nodded in agreement. "I know you didn't. Your father told me once…a long time ago."

"Did he know that Marissa is my daughter?" Will asked, swallowing over the lump in his throat. His father died nearly three years ago. A brief moment of regret passed through him for the granddaughter Will's father never met.

"Actually, your father did meet Marissa," Deanna said, picking up on his thoughts again. He looked at her with surprise. "Marissa met him one day when she sixteen…a first year cadet at the Academy. Marissa has been determined to beat your record for youngest Starfleet captain," Deanna told him with a rueful smile. "Anyway, she was attending a seminar on warp drives and such and your father was one of the speakers. Meeting the father of the youngest Starfleet captain was an honor for her. She came home that night speaking of nothing else, and I invited your father over for dinner. Marissa was dumbfound, but I knew Kyle was ill and I wanted him to have the chance to meet his granddaughter. After the relationship you and he shared, I wanted him to know your daughter, Will. I don't know why. Anyway, after she went to bed that night, Kyle stayed for a little while so we could catch up on things. He asked me point blank if Marissa was your daughter and I admitted it to him. Will, he was so proud of her…and of you. He encouraged me to tell you she was your daughter…I promised him I would tell you soon, then I heard he died…" her voice trailed off and she sighed a long and deep sigh.

"At least he knew," Will said slowly and sadly. He missed his father from time to time. Before Kyle died, he and Will had come to a better understanding of each other and even came to appreciate the other's company. "Well, shall we?" He asked, motioning towards the doors. Deanna swallowed hard and stepped forward. The doors to the holodeck opened.

Will and Deanna stepped curiously onto the holodeck and looked around then looked at each other oddly. The holodeck mapped out a beautiful beach area Will hadn't seen before. Deanna smiled at him and said, "It's the Darja Beach on Betazed. Mother kept a house there and I use to take Marissa there on shore leave."

"It's lovely," Will said, surveying the greenery around him and the water before him. No wonder Deanna liked the place. It exuded peace and serenity. Suddenly, a startled laugh cut through the air followed by a shriek. "Christopher Watson, don't you dare!" Marissa shouted then ran into view of her parents. The sight of Will brought her up short and Chris threw cold water on her. She yelped and gasped. Christopher ran up to her and threw her a towel. "Now, that will teach you to play nicely, Marissa Whitney Warren!" He shouted smugly, then he saw the captain and gaped. The captain looked to the two young people with amusement while Deanna looked sadly at her daughter then at Christopher. "I see the two of you are enjoying yourselves," he commented wryly. Marissa giggled and Chris poked her in the side.

"Yes, Sir, we…ahh…are," Marissa replied with a choked laugh. Christopher flushed pink and looked away from the captain's searching eyes. He locked eyes with Deanna, and Christopher saw a sadness in her eyes that almost overwhelmed him. Christopher touched Marissa's hand to get her attention, and she turned to him with raised eyebrows. "Obviously, your mother has something to discuss with you. I'm going to leave. I'll see you later in Ten-Forward?" Christopher asked. Marissa nodded, then Christopher left the holodeck and Marissa turned to her mother expectantly. For the first time she felt her mother's infinite sadness and Marissa extended her mind. Mother, what's wrong? Marissa walked over to her mother and took Deanna's hand in her own.

We need to talk, Firefly, Deanna replied to her daughter's mind. She gestured to Will and said outloud, "We all need to talk."

Marissa smiled quizzically at the captain and walked over to the large rock where earlier she had hid from Chris. She sat down and Deanna followed her. Will stayed at Deanna's side. The two of them stood uneasily in front of Marissa and appeared to be gathering their collective thoughts. A feeling of impending doom unsettled Marissa. Finally, the silence became too much for her. "Gods, what is it?" Marissa asked in a higher pitched voice than usual. She was picking up on the distress from her mother and from her captain and unsure what was the source of their distress. Will and Deanna looked to each other and seemed to communicate with their eyes. At last, Will spoke to Marissa.

"Do you remember when I told you I knew your mother very well?" Will asked slowly, carefully choosing his words. Marissa nodded, uncertain why this was causing the captain or her mother distress. Will played with his hands and said, "Well, that was a partial lie." Marissa raised her eyebrows and glanced back and forth between Will and her mother.

"So, what did you lie about, Captain?" She asked. Will winced softly. Suddenly, it felt very wrong to be called captain at this moment. Will looked to Deanna who picked up the rest of the story.

"Marissa, Will and I were more than friends," Deanna voiced timidly. "We were…well, we were lovers, Marissa." Her daughter turned a shade of red and looked away from the two adults. She glanced out towards the water and allowed her embarrassment to ease away. In a voice trembling with laughter, Marissa inquired, "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because you need some background into what we're going to tell you, Marissa," Will spoke for Deanna. "I met your mother on Betazed when she was a student at the university. She…she didn't appreciate me too terribly much," Will understated. Deanna laughed softly.

"I thought Will was the most over emotional, raw, and egotistical person I'd ever met. He convinced me to train him in Betazoid philosophies and techniques, so I did."

Marissa's surprised eyes flew to her mother's and she asked, "Techniques? You mean like sending and receiving thoughts?" She looked to Will and he nodded. Your mother is a wonderful teacher, Marissa, she heard his voice echo in her mind. Her eyes widened. "I thought it was impossible for a human to fully understand these techniques unless they shared a strong bond with a Betazoid!" Marissa exclaimed, looking back to her mother. Deanna sighed and looked down at her hands to center herself before meeting her daughter's gaze again.

"You're right. It is impossible unless they share a strong bond with a Betazoid," Deanna acknowledged. "Will does share a strong bond with a Betazoid…me," Deanna admitted to Marissa after a long moment. She met her daughter's gaze then met Will's and she took a deep breath. "Marissa, Will shares an Imzadi bond with me, but he also shares a bond with me through…you." Her voice cracked on the last work and tears filled her eyes. She locked gazes with her daughter and felt the whirl of emotions going through Marissa. The confusion faded away into clarity. Marissa raised her overwhelmed sapphire eyes to meet Will's and said, "You're my father," she stated limply.

"Yes, I am," Will answered plainly.

Marissa's world swirled around her. She felt sick to her stomach and faint at the same time. Unsteadily, she stood up and stared at her parents, then she wavered and Will shot out a steady arm to hold her up. Don't touch me! She shouted in his mind. The intensity of her demand made him instantly drop his arm, letting his daughter sink to the ground. Deanna crouched down beside her daughter and touched the heaving shoulder. Marissa, talk to me, Deanna requested to her daughter's mind. Instantly, a shield went up around Marissa's mind to protect her from her mother. Deanna reacted violently, falling backwards into a sitting position and shook her head, dazed. Usually, Lwaxana was the recipient of Marissa's mind blocks, not Deanna. Deanna looked up into Will's eyes as a tear slipped down her face. She's blocked me, Deanna telepathically informed him. He slowly nodded and held out a hand to help Deanna to her feet.

Once Deanna was steady on her feet, Will looked at her and she heard in her mind, She needs time alone, Deanna. We should go. When she's ready to talk about this, she'll seek us out. Miserably, Deanna nodded followed Will out of the holodeck. The doors closed behind them with a metallic thud echoing the thud Deanna heard from Marissa's mind as it closed shut to her. "Gods, Will, what if she doesn't forgive us?" Deanna asked distraught. Tears slid unabashed down her face and Will pulled her into a tight embrace. Deanna sobbed silently and he held her, letting her cry. Will felt as if his heart was ripping from his chest. My God, this could all have been avoided so easily, he thought to himself. If only I'd told her I loved her all those years ago. Instead I had to wait until the last minute, make one heart felt plea for her love when I could have had her love for over half my life. All this suffering my daughter…our daughter is enduring could have been avoided. He swallowed hard and repressed his own sorrow until Deanna's tears subsided and she pulled away from him. He led her to the turbolift, keeping a steady arm around her. Slowly, he erected guards around his emotions so her pain wouldn't be magnified by his. She lay her head against his shoulder and he felt her tears through his shirt. He squeezed her shoulder and said nothing, just allowing his presence to give her a measure of comfort.

The lift stopped on the deck where his quarters were locate and he walked out of the lift. She stood in the lift and quietly said, "I need to be alone for awhile." Will nodded and walked back to her. He kissed her gently then walked down to his quarters. The lift closed and sobbing, Deanna leaned against the lift walls. When the lift stopped, her tears ceased and she wiped her face. An unhappy smile settled on her face and she entered an observation lounge on the observation deck. This was her favorite part of any starship. She could stand for hours and stare and the stars. However, the observation lounge she entered was not empty.

"Admiral!" Deanna exclaimed in dismay. She hastily wiped at her face as Picard turned to her with a smile. Understandably, Deanna had not given the admiral a second thought since the rescue from the Romulans. She was too preoccupied with Marissa.

"I've been exploring the Enterprise," he told her. He sat down in a chair and gestured for Deanna to join him. She sank down in the chair as she desired solitude to regain her bearings. "How is Marissa?" Picard casually asked her. It was enough to break her slender resolve and she burst into torrents of tears. Picard was stunned. Only once had he seen her cry this hard.

"Deanna?" He asked questioningly. He leaned forward on the table and waited for the commander to compose herself. After a few moments, she raised her red rimmed eyes to his concerned ones. "Deanna, what on earth is wrong?" Picard asked.

"I told Marissa who her father is…she…she isn't speaking to me at the moment," Deanna admitted. Picard sighed in understanding and nodded his head. He pulled his shirt down in a movement teasingly called the "Picard Maneuver."

"She didn't take it well?" Picard asked.

Deanna burst into startled laughter. "That, is an understatement, Jean-Luc."

"Deanna, I've never asked, but if it's becoming public knowledge, who is her father?" He watched her expectantly, but he already knew. Beverly had confided it to him years and years ago.

"Come now, Jean-Luc. You're a smart man," Deanna replied sardonically. He raised his eyebrows and said, "You and Will had a strong relationship. I'm not surprised."

"Neither was he, but Marissa was. My God, Jean-Luc, Marissa won't even allow me to communicate with her telepathically. She's completely blocked me!" Deanna felt the tears coming on again and closed her eyes to center herself.

Picard studied his top advisor for a moment and carefully thought over his next words. "Deanna, Marissa will need time to sort out her emotions. She has endured two major traumas in the last few weeks. Three, if you count her promotion. Give her time to recover. Give yourself time to recover," Picard advised. Deanna nodded and wiped her eyes. "I know you're right, Jean-Luc, but it's hard to accept."

"Of course it's hard to accept. It's even harder for Marissa to accept the things you have told her today. You must let her adjust and not push her into coming to you. When she is ready, she'll find you." Picard smiled at Deanna and rose to his feet. As he passed by Deanna he pat her shoulder and left her to sort out her emotions alone, just as her daughter was doing at the moment.

However, Marissa was not sorting out her emotions in silence or alone. She sat in Ten-Forward with Christopher eating lunch. He knew she had been crying. The tear streaks were evident on her face and her skin was still blotchy in places. She was more quiet than usual, but Chris chose not to push her into talking to him. When she was ready, Marissa would talk to him, so he talked to her about inconsequential things. From time to time she laughed or smiled, but most of the time her eyes were focused right above his head and staring off into space. Chris was informing her of the latest occurrences in Main Engineering when Marissa came up ramrod straight and pale. "Marissa?" He asked with concern. Chris reached over and grasped her free hand. "What is it?"

Her eyes closed and she carefully erected a mental block as a tall, beautiful, and rambunctious woman marched over to where Chris and Marissa sat. "Marissa Warren!" She exclaimed in a loud voice. She glanced down at Chris, quickly read his mind, then dismissed him and concentrated on her granddaughter. Why haven't you come to see me? I know Dr. Crusher released you with a clean bill of health! Her grandmother's voice echoed in Marissa's head. She glared at her grandmother and said, "It is impolite to speak telepathically around those who cannot, Grandmother."

"I detest speaking outloud," she claimed, glaring at Marissa who shrugged. "Deal with it," Marissa told her. Her face turned red as Marissa said, "Chris, this is my grandmother, Lwaxana Troi. Grandmother, this is Lieutenant Commander Christopher Watson. Commander Watson is the chief engineer." Marissa smiled at him proudly. He extended his hand to take Lwaxana's. "I'm delighted to meet you, Mrs. Troi."

"I'm sure you are," Lwaxana said outrageously. Christopher smothered a laugh and asked, "Will you join us for lunch, Mrs. Troi?"

Lwaxana sat down in between her granddaughter and her companion, then she studied her granddaughter. Marissa took a bite of the salad she was eating then said in a low and strong voice, "Get out of my mind, Grandmother."

"Marissa, I'm only trying to find out what's bothering you so," Lwaxana justified.

Glaring at her grandmother, Marissa stood to her feet and said, "Why can't you stay out when you're not wanted!" Lwaxana gaped disbelieving at her granddaughter.

Marissa, how dare you speak to me like that? Lwaxana shouted in her granddaughter's mind. I am a Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed and you speak to me like that? Marissa slammed her hands down on the table.

"Dammit, Grandmother, stop talking to me like that!" She yelled. "Stay out of my mind!" Marissa turned on her heel and began to stalk out of Ten-Forward, then she stopped and turned to face Chris. "I'll be in my quarters, Chris." She smiled at him, then turned to look at her grandmother and cuttingly said, "I hate telepaths." Then, Marissa stalked out of Ten-Forward only to come face to face with Beverly and Admiral Picard. Her face turned a bright and angry red and she muttered, "Is there nowhere I can go to get away from you people on this godforsaken ship?" She flounced past them and nearly ran to the nearest turbolift. Beverly stared after Marissa with her mouth agape while Jean-Luc headed towards the turbolift. Beverly ran after him and grabbed his arm.

"Jean-Luc, what do you think you're doing? Can't you see she's angry? Confronting her now will do nothing but further anger her. Let Marissa go," Beverly said gently as she pulled him back towards Ten-Forward. Jean-Luc sighed heavily and nodded his head in agreement. "You're right, of course. I just hate seeing her hurting like this." He smiled almost softly and said, "She's the closest thing I have to a granddaughter."

Beverly smiled sadly and took his hand. "And, she's the closest thing I have to a daughter, but that doesn't change things, Jean-Luc. She needs time and space to sort out what she's going through. Marissa has had a tough few weeks, Jean-Luc, and we have to remember that." Beverly squeezed his hand and led him into Ten-Forward.

After leaving Deanna, Will took a long sonic shower in his quarters, then changed into a pair of sweat pants and black shirt. He sauntered into his living room and sat down at his computer console to do some work. He needed something to take his mind of Deanna and Marissa. Soon, he was completely immersed in his work and oblivious to the time or the chimes of his door. The chirping of his comm badge penetrated his attention. "Riker here," he said distractedly while he continued work on a report.

"Sir, are you all right?" A familiar voice inquired politely.

"Fine. Why?"

"I've been standing outside your door for ten minutes now but not allowed in." Will sat up and glanced around, then he heard the chiming of the doors and he grimaced. "On my way!" He called. "Riker out." He walked over to the doors and pressed a button. The doors whooshed open and Marissa stood there dressed in civilian clothes. Will's breath caught and he had to make a noticable effort to clear his throat to say, "Come in, please."

Marissa passed him and the doors closed behind her. She noted the clutter of his quarters with a sad smile, then she noticed the blinking of his computer console. "Am I bothering you?" She asked, nodding towards the computer. He walked over to it quickly and pressed a few buttons. The blinking ceased and he shook his head. "Of course not, Marissa. I was just catching up on some work. Today was a long day," he admitted to her.

An awkward moment passed between them, then Will smiled at Marissa and gestured towards his couch. "Why don't you have a seat?" He suggested to break the silence. She accepted his offer almost greedily while Will walked over to the replicator. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Nah," she said, shaking her head and making her auburn curls tumbled around her face and shoulders. Will grinned at her and teasingly offered, "No hot chocolate? I know you're pretty addicted to it."

Marissa laughed and shook her head again. "Seriously, I'm fine…Captain," she added tentatively.

"Coffee. Black," Will said to the replicator. His request appeared within moments. He picked it up and walked over towards the couch and sat down across from her in a comfortable chair. "I didn't think I'd see you anymore today," He commented casually as he took a sip of his coffee. She raised her eyebrows and commented, "That stuff will keep you up all night."

"I know." He laughed and placed it on the table beside his chair.

"Captain," Marissa began and he held up a hand. "Marissa, you don't have to call me captain all the time. You can call me Will….or whatever you're most comfortable," he suggested. She blushed then jumped to her feet and walked quickly to the replicator. "Tea. Earl Grey," she requested. It appeared, she took it, then walked back over to the couch and sat down. It was Will's turn to raise his eyebrows in intrigue. "Earl Grey?"

"Jean-Luc got me addicted to the stuff when I was at the Academy. It's an acquired taste," she admitted before taking a sip. Will laughed in agreement with her. "It certainly is," Will said.

"I figured you wouldn't be expecting me around, but I didn't know where else to really go. My quarters are full of things I don't want to look at right now, I ran into my grandmother in Ten-Forward, and honestly, I need answers. I talked to Steven a few hours ago. He suggested I come and talk to you." Marissa spoke slowly and carefully. Obviously, she had been mulling over what to say for hours. Now, she clasped her hands in her lap and looked down at them. Will smiled at the action. He did the same thing when he was nervous.

"Marissa, I don't know how many answers I can give you," he answered honestly.

"Didn't you ever wonder?" Marissa asked softly. She raised her blue eyes to his similar ones and his heart clenched at the pain in her eyes. He ran a hand over his damp hair and thought back to those weeks after he took command of the Excalibur. Then, he shook his head. "Marissa, I wondered why your mother wouldn't come with me, and I wondered why she took Picard's offer to be his advisor, but I never imagined there was a child."

"Oh," Marissa said dispiritedly. Will stood up and walked over to the couch and sat down beside his disheartened daughter.

"Marissa, I don't know if there's anything I can say that will make you feel better about this. I know, though, if your mother had told me about you, I would have been back on the Enterprise as fast as I could, or I would have had your mother transfer. Marissa, I would have been part of your life," he solemnly promised her.

Tears welled up in Marissa's eyes. All day her anger kept her sorrow at bay, but now she could no longer suppress her sadness. The teardrops rained down her face into tiny rivers. Will slowly slid his arms around her and pulled her to his chest. He rested his chin on top of her head and restrained his own tears while he comforted his daughter. As she cried he rubbed her back and made soothing noises. He smoothed her hair and held her a little tighter. Finally, her tears subsided and she pulled back from him with a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry," she apologized.

"Don't ever apologize for crying, Marissa," Will told her strongly. He cupped her face in his hands and wiped the residue of her tears away with his thumbs. "And, don't ever feel bad for crying in front of me."

"But, you're my captain," she said plaintively.

"I'm also your father," he returned as tears filled her eyes again. Will pulled her close again and felt her cry against his chest some more. When they finally separated the wetness of tears was on his face as well as hers. Marissa took a deep breath and fought to center herself while Will battled to regain his equilibrium. Her anger and confusion magnified his own emotions. He knew it stemmed not only from being her father and her Betazoid heritage, but from the bond he shared with Deanna and the bond she shared with Marissa. All of that cumulated into a near emotional overload for Will. He was completely out of practice with handling just Deanna's emotions and his own, but throwing Marissa's emotions into the mix totally spun is emotional center off axis. He needed time to find that balance again, however, that time was not forthcoming. His daughter needed him and his support now.

Will looked to the chronometer and was shocked to see how late it was. "Marissa, it's late. Why don't you stay here tonight?" Will hesitantly suggested. "I've got an extra bedroom, or you can sleep on the couch, but I really don't think you should be alone."

Before Marissa could voice a complaint a stray yawn of emotional and physical exhaustion forced its way past her lips. Will laughed at the surprise in her eyes then he slapped his hands to his knees. "Well, that pretty much cements it. You're staying here." He stood up and smiled down at his daughter. "I'll put some towels and extra blankets in the guest bedroom and bathroom for you."

"That's really not necessary, Cap…Will," Marissa said almost shyly. His smiled tripled and he left to find the towels and blankets.

Thirty minutes later Marissa was settled into his guest bedroom. She looked around the nicely decorated room and surmised it wasn't used very often. A sonic shower sounded wonderful, but Marissa was so tired. She was simply exhausted from dealing with her own emotions along with those of her mother, father, and grandmother. Sometimes being an empath was a real pain. I'll just lay down for a moment, Marissa thought as she sank down on the especially comfortable bed, and within moments she was sound asleep.

After Marissa was asleep, Will contacted Deanna to let her know Marissa was okay and staying with him. She seemed glad that Marissa was speaking to at least one of them. They talked for about an hour or so, then he went to bed. He tossed and turned for over two hours and sleep would not come to him. He gave in and sat up in his bed. "Computer! Half lights!" He called, throwing back his covers and grabbing his tattered blue robe. He pulled it on and tied the belt and walked over to the computer console in his bedroom. For ten minutes he stared at a blank screen then he cursed and stalked out of his bedroom into the living room. He prowled the living room for another ten minutes until curiosity demanded to be given into and he quietly walked to the guest bedroom. Marissa slept heavily. A smile touched Will's lips as he moved farther into the room. She was still dressed in her civilian clothes and the blankets still lay where he had placed them on the dresser. He took one of the blankets and carefully covered her with it. She stirred slightly, turning onto her side, and a lock of hair drifted onto her face. Will reached down with a finger and gently brushed the lock of hair away from her face and swallowed hard. I wonder how many times I would have stood and watched her sleep? He thought somberly.

In a chair near in the corner of the guest bedroom, Will sat down and put his head to his hands. The waves of anguish overwhelmed him after being repressed for days. He cried quietly with little to no sound, and in a while his grief subsided and he fell asleep in the chair.

Marissa awoke in strange surroundings to the sounds of a man snoring. Briefly, she wondered if she had fallen asleep in Chris' quarters, but Chris was nowhere to be seen. She sat up in the bed and squinted at the person asleep in the chair across from her bed. Recognizing the captain Marissa breathed a sigh of relief and settled back against the pillows allowing herself to wake up slowly. She stared at Will's sleeping form and quietly giggled knowing how sore he would be for sleeping in a hard chair, then suddenly she understood why he was sleeping in that chair. He had fallen asleep watching her sleep. Marissa smiled, profoundly touched. When she first came aboard the Enterprise it was with a determination to make her captain proud, now that desire had vanished and was replaced by a burning hunger to make her father proud of her. She was still staring at him when he groggily woke from his slumber. "What?" He asked in a gravelly voice.

Marissa shrugged innocently then dissolved into fits of laughter as Will tried to stand from the chair he had slept in all night. "Just remember, Lieutenant, I'm still your captain," he teasingly reminded her as he tried to mask the pains shooting through his body.

"Yeah, well, you just remember I'm the young woman whose bedroom you slept in last night. Think of what that would do to your reputation!" She exclaimed laughingly. Will grinned wickedly at her and said, "First of all, you're in my guest bedroom, and secondly, that would be perfectly in line with my reputation."

"Oh…that's right. You do have a reputation for being a ladies man," Marissa casually remarked. He cocked an eyebrow at her and asked, "Where'd you hear that?"

Marissa smiled winningly and replied, "Beverly."

Will groaned. "Don't believe everything you hear, Marissa," he admonished her with a smile as he turned to leave. Then, he paused and turned back around. "What do you want for breakfast?"

"Breakfast?" Marissa raised her eyebrows in surprise.

"Yes. The meal people generally eat in the morning," he sarcastically said. She threw a pillow at him and said, "I'll eat whatever you replicate."

"Replicate? You must be kidding," he tauntingly said as he tossed the pillow back at his daughter. Her eyebrows shot up and she thought, No way…No one cooks food anymore. Reassured, she slid out of the bed and padded into the bathroom and groaned at her appearance. Her curls stuck out and up almost forming a halo around her head and mascara was smudged under her eyes. "Computer, initiate sonic shower and replicate a hair brush." The shower hummed on and a hair brush shimmered into existence on the counter. She brushed her hair then stepped into the sonic shower.

"Feel better?" Will asked as Marissa emerged dressed in different clothes and her hair tied back from her face.

"Much. Thank you," she said, sitting down and looking at the meal on the table. "Toast and jam…scrambled eggs and bacon…Yum." Marissa smacked her lips and Will laughed. "Help yourself," he told her. "I'm going to get dressed."

"You aren't going to eat?" She asked with evident disappointment.

"I'm going to eat as soon as I dress. Somehow, I think it would be highly inappropriate if someone were to come by my quarters and find me having breakfast with a junior officer dressed in nothing but pajamas and a bathrobe," he pointed out logically. "Now, I'll be right back."

He disappeared into his bedroom and the doors hissed closed. Marissa check the chronometer. With no bridge duty until the repairs were complete, she had time on her hands to sort out her emotions and find a plateau. Taking a bite of the toast, Marissa reflected over the past twenty-four hours. Sleep had dimmed her anger against her mother, and the night and morning had allowed her to form a bond with her father. She sighed. Maybe things would work out after all.


Chapter Twelve

"Have you seen Marissa today?" Beverly asked Deanna as they ate a late breakfast on the starbase. Deanna shook her head and took a sip of her hot chocolate.

"She spent the night with Will. I haven't seen or talked to her seen we told her. I guess she feels more comfortable talking to him than me," Deanna said sadly.

Beverly leaned back in her chair and stared at her best friend. "How do you feel about that?"

"You sound like a counselor," Deanna commented with a small laugh. Beverly smiled and said, "You act as though that's something new."

Deanna laughed lightly. "This is true…Honestly, Bev, I don't know how I feel about it. Marissa and I have always been so close and now she won't even talk to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad she feels comfortable enough to go to Will, but…"

"You feel betrayed," Beverly surmised. Deanna looked shocked. "No! It's not that…it's just…"

"Deanna, when Wesley was a baby, I could do nothing right. I couldn't comfort him, make him laugh, or put him to sleep. Jack was the one who got him to stop crying, laugh, and fall asleep. Here I was, a new mother, with a son who wouldn't allow me to get within six feet of him. I had carried him, nurtured him, given birth to him, and he wouldn't let me near him. I felt completely betrayed by this little being."

"What did you do?" Deanna asked, shoving a lock of hair behind her ear.

Beverly sighed with a wistful smile. "Jack went out of town for a week. I was frantic. Wesley cried for an entire day and I was ready to pull my hair out. I tried everything…I sang, walked, rocked…then I talked to him like I would anyone. I told him how afraid I was of being a mother, of having this enormous responsibility…that I was terrified of doing something wrong and screwing up his entire life. By the time I was through voicing all my fears to Wesley, he was sound asleep and I wasn't scared anymore. See, Wesley had been picking up on my fear. He knew I was scared to hold him…scared of him in general. Once I had everything out in the open, things got better. I became a good mother and Wesley became a good son. We kept that open relationship going as best we could. You feel betrayed by Marissa because you've always had an "open" relationship, but Deanna, if you look at it from Marissa's perspective, you've hidden something incredibly important from her while proclaiming to never lie to her."

"I didn't lie to her," Deanna forcefully retorted. Beverly held up her hands in defense. "Deanna, I know you think you never lied to her, but you did. A lie of omission is just as bad as a flat out lie. You kept the identity of her father from her until yesterday. You feel betrayed by Marissa, but Marissa feels betrayed by you. The only people she doesn't feel betrayed by are Will and Chris. Things will get better Deanna, but it's going to take time. It's different from my situation with Wesley. Wesley was a baby…Marissa is an adult. Marissa needs to do with you what I did with Wesley. She needs to talk things over with you. Then things will get better. See, I talked to Jack, his sister, and everyone else I could think of for advice, but I forgot to talk to the one person I needed to talk to…Wesley. Marissa has talked to Will, she will most likely talk to Chris, then she'll realized the only way to resolve this is to talk to you."

Deanna sat quietly, mulling over Beverly's words before slowly nodding her head. "You're right."

"I know," Beverly said, taking a sip of her coffee and deciding to change the topic. "So, how serious are things between her and Chris?" Deanna reached for her hot chocolate and took a long, fortifying drink. "I don't know. She hasn't said anything about it, but he really cares about her."

"And, Marissa?" Beverly's eyes twinkled.

"Marissa is pretty adept at shielding her emotions from me. I know she cares about him, but other than that, your guess is as good as mine."

"Hummm, I hope they don't take as long to figure things out as her parents have," Beverly teased. Deanna glared at her then laughed in agreement.

"I should have followed your advice when I found out about my pregnancy," she said rather solemnly. Beverly waved her hand.

"What's done is done, Dee. You can't change it, and things could have turned out so much worse than they have. Count your blessing," Beverly advised.

"Thank you for breakfast," Marissa told Will as they walked along the promenade of the starbase. They stopped by a window and she smiled at up him. He reached out and took both her hands in his and squeezed them tightly. "I'm glad you came to me. Your mother and I were afraid you…"

"Would hate you two?" Marissa finished his sentence and he nodded. "I did…for awhile," she admitted with a sigh. "My talk with Steven, then with you changed my mind. Mother did what she thought was best at the time…granted, it was possibly the worse thing to do, but in the same situation and circumstances, I might have done the same thing."

Will squeezed her hands again and smiled at her. "You should talk to her." He released her hands and she folded them behind her back. Her eyes squinted as she mulled his request over, then a impish grin lit her face.

"You're right…I should…," she paused and offered him a dazzling smile. "But, I think I'll let her suffer a little longer."

"Marissa!" Will exclaimed, shaking his head and laughing. "I have a feeling there's more of me in you than your mother would like to know." Marissa laughed with him, then tapped her communicator. "Warren to Troi."

A few seconds passed then came Deanna's strangled reply. "Troi here. What is it, Marissa?"

"I'm still with Will, but I want to speak to you," Marissa said.

"I'm in the café with Beverly. Feel free to join us. We'll be here for awhile," Deanna replied.

"All right. Warren out," Marissa said, ending the communication. Will beamed at his daughter.

"I'm proud of you, Marissa. You're doing the right thing," he told her gruffly. She smiled and nodded her head. "Thank you for convincing me to talk to her, and thank you for letting me stay with you last night," she said almost shyly. Will took her hands in his again with a tender smile.

"You always have a place with me, Marissa," he told her roughly, his voice scratchy. Her smile grew and she hugged him, first lightly, then tightly. When they separated, her eyes stung with tears. She smiled back at him as she walked off to find the café. Will returned her smile then leaned against the wall, rubbing his temples with one hand, and from across the promenade Chris' eyes narrowed. He watched the whole scene and misconstrued what he saw.

"Mother?" Marissa ventured tentatively. Deanna smiled at her daughter and gestured to the seat Beverly recently vacated. She sat down in the chair and nervously folded her hands on the table. Deanna gently probed her daughter's emotions. She was still confused, but Marissa anger towards her had diminished considerably. Deanna silently thanked Will for his part in that.

Marissa sighed and searched for a place to begin. Deanna looked at her daughter and thought, The best place to begin is generally the beginning. Marissa smiled wanly at her mother. "You're right…But, I don't know where the beginning is."

"Ah. That can be a problem. Well, why don't you start with last night," Deanna suggested.

Nodding Marissa thought back on last night's events. "After I left the holodeck I spent several hours talking to Steven Dyal…the ship's counselor."

"I know Steven quite well. He's a wonderful counselor, " Deanna interjected.

"Yes, he is," Marissa agreed. "He was the one who convinced me to talk to the cap…Will," she amended. Something inside of her still blanched everytime she said his first name. It sounded so foreign to her. "Anyway, I went to my quarters, but I couldn't stay there and look at all our pictures, so I went to Will's quarters. We talked for a long time about the things that had happened between you two in the past. I cried for awhile and he tried to comfort me. I apologized for crying in front of him and he told me not to be sorry for crying. Then, he convinced me to stay there last night."

"I'm glad you were with him last night. I didn't want you to be alone," Deanna said quietly. Marissa smiled. "I wasn't. Sometime after I fell asleep, Will came in my room and fell asleep in the armchair in there. This morning he cooked me breakfast, we talked so more, and he convinced me I needed to talk to you."

"Will is a wonderful cook, isn't he?" Deanna's eyes twinkled, knowing what Marissa's retort would be.

"Compared to you?" Marissa replied, exactly as Deanna thought she would. Deanna grinned. "At any rate, I'm glad you talked to him and came to me, Firefly. I was so afraid," she confessed quietly.

"I know," Marissa said, staring at her mother. "I was too. I was angry that you had lied to me all these years but not anymore. You should have told me a long time ago, but what's done is done. Somehow, we have to find a happy medium between Will being my father and my commanding officer." She leaned back in her chair, then her eyes widened and stricken she asked, "Oh no…he isn't going to have me transferred, is he?"

Deanna reached over and covered her daughter's folded hands with one of hers. "He knows how hard you've worked to get here, Firefly, and he isn't going to have you transferred. Unless a serious problem develops between him being able to separate being a father and being a captain, you will remain here. And, on that note, there's something else we need to discuss."


Deanna pinked lightly and looked away from her daughter. "Will has asked me to stay aboard the Enterprise. The ship needs another counselor, and he's offered me the job."

"Are you going to take it?"

"How would you feel about both your parents serving on the same ship as you?" Deanna inquired, studying Marissa's emotions. Her daughter took a long sigh and honestly replied, "I don't know. Are you two together?"

Deanna blushed deeply and stared at the entryway of the café. Chris walked in and took a seat near the door. She smiled at him, but he didn't return her smile. Quizzically, she probed his emotions and found him extremely angry, and all his anger was directed at Marissa. She opened her mouth to warn Marissa, but her daughter cut her off. "Mother, answer my question. Are you and the captain together?"

"Yes," Deanna answered, returning her attention to her daughter. "That's why Will wants me to remain aboard."

"Have you talked to the admiral?" Marissa noticed Chris and a wide smile lit her face. He glared at her and she looked away.

"Not yet. I wanted to talk to you first," Deanna explained, sensing her daughter's confusion. "He's very angry," Deanna confided.

"I know, but why is he angry with me?" Marissa asked, looking back to her mother. "I can't stop you from coming aboard, Mother, if that's what you want. If you and Will are going to try and rebuild your relationship, that's wonderful. Truly, I would love for my parents to be together, and if the only way for that to happen is for the three of us to live on the same ship, then so be it. I'll adjust." Marissa smiled at her mother. "I'm going to go talk to Chris. If it's possible, I'd like for to have dinner together with you and Will."

"I'll talk to him and let you know," Deanna promised, rising in unison with her daughter. The two women hugged tightly and Deanna thought to Marissa, I love you very much, and good luck with your young man.

Pulling away, Marissa smiled broadly and thought, I love you, too, Mother, and thank you. Please give Grandmother my love. I know she knows I love her and don't mean the things I say to her, but will you just let her know. Deanna nodded at her daughter's silent message and watched her daughter walk over to Chris. Deanna knew her daughter was falling in love for the first time. I hope he is as good to you, Firefly, as your father was to me.. I hope he loves you as much as your father loves me, and I hope you love him as much as I still love your father, Deanna thought to herself and her daughter. She knew the thoughts would leave a vague imprint on Marissa's subconscious, but Marissa wouldn't be able to place from where the thoughts came.

Marissa reached Chris' table and was surprised to find him nursing a Syntheholic beverage and didn't offer her as much as a glance. She raised her eyebrows and sat down across from him. "Care to tell me what's bothering you so?" She asked, leaning back in the chair and crossing her arms over her chest. He glared at her and continued his drinking. An indulging grin came to her face. "Fine, if you don't want to talk to me, care if I drink with you?" He shrugged and Marissa held up one finger. Soon a Syntheholic concoction was placed in front of her and she took at long swig of it. His eyes widened in amazement. "I bet I can out drink you," she taunted.

"Oh, now why would you want to do that? Surely the captain wouldn't want you drunk," Chris replied, finishing his drink. Marissa's brow wrinkled in confusion. "What does Will have to do with this?" She asked, absent-mindedly using his first name.

"Will? You two sure are cozy," Chris said in a insulting tone. Marissa bristled but said nothing to his provocation. Chris glowered and asked, "Where were you last night?"

"Should I answer that, or do you already know?" She asked discerningly.

"Well, I know that at 0230 hours you were located in the captain's quarters," he said with a bitter tone.

"Jealous?" Marissa inquired, raising her eyebrows and looking unconcerned. She was unprepared with the intensity of his reaction.

Chris slammed his fist down on the table but said absolutely nothing. Marissa shrank back in her chair from the sheer anger emanating from him. "Chris, there's something I need to tell you," she said gently.

"What?" He demanded, rising to his feet. "What are you going to tell me that I haven't already guessed, Marissa? It's a known fact the captain usually gets the most beautiful women on board and since you are the most beautiful woman on board, I'm not surprised you two have become so…close," he said in a leering tone.

Chris began stalking away but froze when Marissa said quietly, "We're close because he's my father, Chris."

"What?" Christ asked, dazed. He turned around and saw the pain on Marissa's face and walked back to the table. He sank, stunned, down in his abandoned seat. "Did you say he's your father?"

Marissa nodded, locking eyes with him. "I found out yesterday…after you left the holodeck. That's what my mother came to talk to me about. I assumed my father was dead," she told him. "I was in Will's quarters all night last night because I needed some answers and I needed a place to stay without constant reminders of my mother or my childhood."

"Wow." Chris knew nothing else to say. Every thought he deemed appropriate had gone through his mind last night as he'd drunk himself into a stupor, but never had he thought of Marissa being Riker's daughter. He chuckled softly and said, "Gee, and to think I was the one who assumed you two were related when I first saw you and him together." Marissa smiled and remembered that day. "Gods, Chris, that seems so long ago," she said, a little stunned at how fast time had gone by.

"I know," he agreed quietly. He blushed lightly and locked eyes with Marissa. "I'm sorry for assuming what I assumed."

"That's okay. I might have assumed the same thing if I were drunk as you were last night," Marissa told him. He glanced up with surprise. "How did you know I was drunk?" He demanded.

Marissa shrugged and looked away from him. "I'd hope the only way you'd assume something like that about me was if you were drunk, Chris," she told him in a soft, hurt tone.

"I'm sorry," he said, chastised. Then, in a brighter tone he asked, "Would you allow me to give you a tour of the starbase?"

Her eyes sparkled as she nearly leaped to her feet. He laughed at her exuberance and slowly rose to his feet. "I'll take that as a yes," he said, offering her his arm. She placed her hand on the crook of his elbow and he led them out of the café.

"This starbase is huge!" Marissa exclaimed in awe.

Chris chuckled and commented, "You act as though you've never been aboard a starbase before, Marissa."

"I haven't been aboard one this big," she answered as they paused by an observation port. Marissa watched in rapture as a starship docked. Chris laughed and stood behind her. His hands went from her shoulders to around her waist, pulling her against his chest. She leaned back slightly, resting against him and Chris felt another current run through him. He knew he was falling in love with Marissa.

"Chris, what's wrong?" Marissa asked, pulling out of his embrace and turning around to face him. She studied him intently and he flushed a slight red.

Clearing his throat he muttered, "Nothing is wrong," and her eyes flashed angry blue fire at him. He flinched as if her gaze burned.

"Let me give you a quick lesson in dealing with telepaths and empaths, Chris. Never, never lie to them because they always know when you're lying," she told him matter-of-factly. He sighed and looked away from her piercing gaze. "Are you going to tell me what's bothering you, or do I get to guess from picking apart your emotions?" She taunted. He almost glared at her, but his resolve faded with one look into her eyes. He stepped closer to her and gently brushed her lips with the softest of kisses. "Does that answer your question?" He asked in a deep voice. She grinned impishly and said, "No, but I'm tempted to let you do it again."

Chris moved into kiss her more passionately when a jesting voice suggested, "Commander…Lieutenant, don't you agree that your activities should be removed from the public eye?"

Snapping to attention, the young couple separated and tried to look casual. Chris' face burned a deep red while Marissa only looked mildly chastised. "I hardly think you're the authority on proper behavior, Captain," Marissa said, crossing her arms over her chest with a devilish grin on her face. Chris looked down at the floor and suppressed a horrified snicker.

"You're right, Marissa," he said with a laughing grin to his daughter. Then, he looked reproachfully to Chris, "However, since the young lady you're attempting to seduce is my daughter, I felt something ought to be said," Will replied, walking over to his blushing daughter and tipping her face up to look him in the eyes. "Have you seen your mother?" Will inquired.

Marissa nodded, unsure of her voice. She and I made up, Marissa thought to her father. Will stiffened imperceptibly then he grinned broadly. "That's good to know. I'll see you two later," Will said with a smile to his daughter then a reproving glance at Christopher. Chris shook his head and Marissa laughed at his confusion. "I wish you wouldn't communicate like that," Chris complained. "It gives me a headache."

Laughing, Marissa slipped her arm through his and lead him away from the observation port. "If you think you have a headache just trying to figure out what's going on, imagine the headache you'd have if you could actually do it!"

"Good point," Chris said with a laugh.

They walked around the entire starbase, then ended up back at the same observation port. "We should probably head back to the ship," Marissa suggested.

"Why?" Chris asked, appalled. "We're on shore leave and you want to go back to the ship?"

Marissa laughed and lifted her face towards his for a light kiss then she said, "I have a few things I need to do aboard ship, and now that we have shore leave I can do them. You're welcome to help."

"Your wish is my command," Chris said chivalrously. Marissa laughed and they headed to the transporters.

"If I'd of known I'd be rearranging your quarters, I would have kept my mouth shut," Chris muttered. With Marissa's quarters were finally arranged to her liking and Christopher collapsed into a heap on the floor. She laughed and sat down beside him as he grumbled, "When you invited me to help you in your quarters I had no idea I would be doing manual labor."

"You can fix plasma coils, warp drives, and avoid core breaches, yet you gripe about moving a few things around," she gibed. Christopher sat up and glared at her. "That's different. That's something I've trained my whole life to do. It's what I was meant to do. I wasn't meant to be a mover!" He exclaimed. Marissa burst into laughter and teased, "But, you're a man. You're suppose to help out us helpless women."

"Someone needs to bring you into the twenty-fourth century," he informed her.

Marissa smiled seductively and leaned forward. "You think so?"

"You're pathetic!" Chris exclaimed with a laugh. Marissa laughed with him, then she pushed him down onto his back. "Pathetic am I?" she said, leaning over him and pinning him to the floor. "I'll have you know I was the best woman in my class at the Academy in self-defense."

Chris reached up and brushed her hair back from her face. "Do you need self-defense, here?" He asked enticingly. Her breath caught in her throat as his lips captured hers in a intense and fiery kiss. When he broke the kiss her breathing was ragged and desire raced through her veins. "So, do you still need your self-defense training?" He asked again.

"N…No," Marissa replied breathlessly as her hair came free from its ties and fell around her face in a auburn halo. Chris ran his hands through the heavy mass then pulled her down for another kiss that grew into something far more passionate than either had intended. Suddenly, Marissa pulled away from him and shrank away from his touch. With confusion, Chris watched her run a shaking hand through her curly hair. "Marissa?" He questioned, moving over to her. "What is it?"

Allowing her breath to return to normal before speaking, Marissa waited a few minutes before answering Chris' questions. He watched her with guarded concern and she offered him a half-smile. "I'm sorry, Chris," she said, her voice still shaky. "It's just…well…" Her face blushed and she took a deep breath. "Chris, I've never done this before," she confessed her eyes arresting his.

His eyes lit with astonishment. "Oh! God, Marissa! I didn't know!" He was at a loss. Never before had he been presented with this type situation. The women he had been with had all been more experienced than he or had equal experience. Unexplainably, he felt immoral for seducing a virgin, yet he felt an equally unexplainable sense of relief at her admission. At least he knew it wasn't something he had done. "Do you want to…" He laughed and shook his head. "Wow, this is awkward." Marissa laughed with him and moved closer to him.

"Chris, I didn't mean to ruin things," she said with rose tinged cheeks.

"Oh, Marissa, you haven't ruined things!" He assured her, reaching over and covering her hand with his. "You haven't ruined things at all! Trust me. I still feel the same way about you."

Marissa studied him carefully and asked, "How do you feel about me?"

Without a second thought, Chris honestly answered, "I'm falling in love with you, Marissa Warren."

A smile lit Marissa's entire face as she moved in to kiss him. Inches from his lips she whispered, "Good, because I'm falling in love with you, too." Then her lips seized his in a burning kiss.

Groaning, Chris forced himself to break the kiss. She looked at him with surprise and he gently took her hands in his. "We're going to do this right," he told her. "Stay out here. I'll be right back," he said letting go of her hands and walking quickly into her bedroom. The door hissed closed and she sat down on her couch with a chuckle. In the ten minutes he was gone she wondered what he was doing and if they were doing the right thing. The doors to her bedroom hissed opened and Chris walked back into the living room and over to where she sat. He held out his hands and she placed her hands in his and stood up in front of him. He led Marissa into her bedroom and she stopped in her tracks and gasped. Candles of all conceivable shape and height adorned her bedroom, bathing it in candlelight and casting a romantic aura in the air. "It was all I had time to replicate," he said apologetically.

She shook her head and softly said, "It's perfect, Chris. Thank you." She raised up on her tip toes and kissed the lieutenant commander. His arms slid around her waist, pulling her closer to him, until she pulled away. "I'll be right back," she huskily told him. She walked into her bathroom and Chris sat down on her bed, wondering how much more of this torture he could stand. His answer walked out of the bathroom in a rustle of iridescent silk and satin. His breath caught his throat and he swallowed hard. He rose to his feet and shook his head. The gown Marissa wore was almost see through and shimmered every color of the prism as she walked to him. "You look incredible," he whispered.

"It's all I had time to replicate," she softly said as their lips caught in another passionate kiss that neither willingly broke. They stood beside her bed kissing and touching through clothes until Chris slid the gown from her slender shoulders and finally touched her satiny skin. His touch sent shocks through her, then kisses rained on her body like a searing summer rain. Finally, he lay her on her bed then undressed to lay beside her. She reached out and explored him with her hands, timidly at first, then boldly when he revealed how much power her touch had over his body. "God…Marissa," he groaned, pulling her up against his body. She gasped as his hands and lips roamed over her body, then she turned the exquisite torture on him and their desire grew beyond control. Chris moved over her body and braced himself above her. His hands cradled her face and he forced her to look at him. Before he could speak her voice echoed sweetly in his mind. I understand, she thought to him with her eyes shining. He nodded and caught her lips in a sweet kiss as he slowly entered her trembling body. His lips muffled the soft cry that escaped and he kissed her gently and slowly in apology. Giving her body time to adjust, he waited, then began a more exquisite torture than either had ever experienced. After a long while she gasped against his lips, then both were spent. As Chris moved off her he heard her voice echo again in her mind and felt her presence all around him. The word filled him with love and a hope for their future together…And, the word was…Imzadi.



An excited air filled Ten-Forward as people milled around, talking and laughing, while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Several people made their way to Will and congratulated him. He smiled, casting impatient glances to the door. Finally a bell chimed and everyone took their seats. Will took his place it the front of the room and waited anxiously. After a few minutes, Deanna appeared on Picard's arm. They slowly proceeded down the aisle to her appointed seat at the front. Jean-Luc patted her arm and Deanna sat down. She and Will exchanged poignant looks, then she smiled at her husband. He winked at her and she smothered a chuckle. Chris came from Will's left and took his place beside Will. Chris' eyes locked on the doorway of Ten-Forward. Marissa appeared with Lwaxana at her side, and his breath caught. In deference to her human heritage, Marissa chose an Earth ceremony rather than a Betazoid ceremony, much to Lwaxana's chagrin. Instead of being nude, Marissa wore a simple, floor length, white gown that shimmered at the edges with iridescent sequins. Her eyes never left Chris' as she reached her place beside him. Lwaxana kissed Marissa's cheek, and briefly, the two women hugged, then Lwaxana sat beside her daughter.

Will beamed at the young couple then in an emotional voice he said, "It is a captain's honor to be blessed with the ability to join two people in marriage. Today it is not only my honor to join Marissa Warren Riker and Christopher Watson in marriage, but my privilege. Very rarely do fathers not only get to give their daughter in marriage, but perform the ceremony."

Deanna's eyes misted over. At her and Will's simple ceremony nearly two years ago, Marissa chose to adopt Will's last name as her own. By then she was ready to admit to everyone that he was her father. Then, he had been touched, but when Marissa and Chris implored him to perform their marriage ceremony, he was astounded. Without a second though, he had agreed, and now, six months later, he stood before the gathering, performing the marriage ceremony. With teary eyes, Deanna watched her daughter commit her life to Chris, then Chris commit his life to Marissa. Then, as a tear rolled down her face, Will pronounced them husband and wife. Deanna smiled a watery smile and she noticed Will swallowing convulsively.

The young couple walked up the aisle and stood to one side and watched their guests mingling among each other. Her gaze settled on her parents. She watched them kiss then her father wipe her mother's tears off her face. Chris' arm came around her waist, pulling her tightly to his side, and her glowing face tipped up to his. I love you, she thought to him. He smiled and prayed to never lose the sensation of her voice in his mind and her constant presence in his heart. She reached up and tenderly brushed an errant lock of hair from his forehead, and he caught her hand in his and held it tightly as their guests converged on them. She smiled tolerantly, graciously accepted their well wishes, then felt her husband's gaze on her body. Inwardly, she smiled while he shook someone's hand. She allowed a provoking thought to drift to his mind and he looked sharply at her while she quietly laughed. He turned his back to the guest speaking to him and grabbed Marissa's arm. She laughed as he drug her off into a dark corner of the lounge. "Shall we go, Mrs. Watson?" He asked, pulling her close to him again. She grinned demurely and said nothing, then in his mind her voice echoed, Anytime, my love. He smiled, kissed her lightly, then led her from the lounge. From the bar, Will and Deanna watched them leave. He covered her hand with his and she smiled dazzlingly at him. In a deep and soft voice, Will echoed the words of his son-in-law, amending the last name, and Deanna smiled tenderly as she thought back the words of her daughter. Anytime, my love. Smiling, Will rose to his feet and offered her his hand.

The ties of time and bonds of passion perpetuated the cycle of love begun by them so many years ago in the jungle. On a deck not too far away, Chris offered his bride his hand, and she took it with a tender smile. Deanna took Will's hand with a smile, and they left the lounge, heading for their quarters to continue the exploration their daughter was just beginning as Marissa allowed Chris to lead her in their new quarters. And, the universe in all its glory could not compare to this exploration of life…of love…and all the other mysteries living entailed. And, in their quarters sometime later Marissa smiled at her sleeping husband, amazed at the blessing the gods had given her. She thanked them silently as Chris woke up. He smiled at her and drew her down to him. He entered her body and they made love again…sometime later Chris heard the words he prayed to always hear from her as he held her sleeping body to his. Welcome home, Imzadi.