Commander Riker sat at the desk in his quarters, glancing over the padd in his hands. There was a soft jazz tune playing in the background, but his ears had fallen deaf to the music hours ago. His eyes scanned the information on the padd, but no matter how many times he read it, he felt there was something he wasn't seeing. Something he needed to see.
A chime sounded through the room, indicating there was someone at his door, but he didn't hear it. It wasn't until the third chime that he looked up and registered there was someone waiting to come in.
"Come," he said, and then doors swished open in response.
"Mind if I visit?" Deanna Troi asked as she stepped into the room.
"Come on in, grab a seat," the commander told her, gesturing to a chair nearby.
Deanna walks over to the chair and sat down, brushing her ebony curls out of her face. She looked over at Will and could see the stress in his blue eyes.
"How're you feeling?" she asked, crossing her legs to get comfortable.
"I should be asking you the same thing," he replied, glancing once more at the padd before tossing it on the desk to give Deanna his full attention.
"Yes, but I asked you first," she replied.
"I've been better," Will answered as he leaned back in his chair. He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair and let out a long sigh as if to emphasize the point.
"Your turn," he said with a smirk.
"The same," Deanna told him. "I've been talking with the Ullian doctors. And they tell me that you haven't been talking with them."
"I don't need to be poked and prodded by their doctors again," he told her, a bit of defensiveness creeping into his voice. "I'm fine."
"That's why you haven't been sleeping much at night," Deanna said.
"How'd you- Oh, of course you'd know."
"Will-" she began, rising from the couch, but he cut her off with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Really, Deanna," he tried again. "I'm fine. I'm just a little stressed with work. Once I get through the personnel evaluations, I'll be getting more sleep."
Deanna walked over to his chair and put her hands on his shoulders. She gently began massaging, not surprised that the muscles in his shoulders were extremely tight with tension. At first Riker seemed to resist the massage, but soon he began to relax, and eventually he leaned back into it, sighing at the release of some of the tension. Deanna continued massaging his shoulders and neck while she stole a glance at the desk to see what he had been reading when she came into the room. Will closed his eyes and leaned his head back against her stomach as she worked her hands up and down his shoulders and arms.
"Thanks Deanna, I needed that," he said, eventually pulling away from her.
"You looked like you needed it," she replied, moving around the chair to lean on the desk in front of him.
Before he could stop her, Deanna grabbed the padd and looked at it to verify what she had already seen.
"You're reading this again? Will, you've been over this a million times. The information hasn't changed."
"I know that," he sighed, rising from his chair. "But I still feel like there's something that I'm missing."
Commander Riker began moving around the room, casually picking things up and neatening up the room. Deanna knew it was a classic avoidance for him, that when he felt uncomfortable or unwilling to talk, he would busy himself with something else. She could sense the tension coming right back to him, but she wasn't willing to let this go.
"There's nothing you've missed, Will. Why can't you see that? You did everything in your power to save Ensign Keller. There was nothing you could've done differently to save her," Deanna told him.
"There are always things that could be done differently," he replied as he moved into the other room, putting away some clothes he had left lying around.
Deanna rose from her perch on the desk and followed him into the other room, leaning against the doorframe to effectively trap him in the room, and trap him into having this conversation with her. They had been at the Ullian planet for three days, and Will had made every effort to avoid seeing their doctors. Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi had more than cooperative, but Commander Riker had been fighting with all of his power, and that was something Deanna just couldn't understand.
"Not in this case," she said, crossing her arms. "You did exactly what you had to do."
"How would you know?" he asked bitterly. "You weren't there."
Riker looked up at her with a glare in his eyes, hoping that would scare her off and end the conversation. She met his gaze and was not affected by the glare of his blue eyes. At least not in the way he had hoped. Deanna found herself moved by the intensity of his eyes, but quickly dashed those thoughts out of her head because they were inappropriate for the moment.
Will glared at her for a moment, but when she didn't back down, he realized the stupidity of his anger and his gaze softened.
"I'm sorry, Deanna. I'm not mad at you."
"I know that," she replied. "But you're still angry. At yourself?"
"Yes," he snapped, walking around the room like a caged animal. He paced around the bedroom, looking at everything except Deanna.
"That's a pretty stupid-" Riker's voice faded when he realized he was lashing out at her again. "Sorry."
"It's okay to feel angry, Will. Anyone in your position would feel the same way," Deanna said.
"You would know," he sighed, some of the anger gone from his voice when he realized she knew exactly what he was feeling.
"You're right, I do know," she told him, walking over to him and taking his arm. Deanna guided him to the bed and sat down on the edge of it with him. "I know how you feel, Will. I'm just as angry about what Jev did to us. He had no right to violate us the way he did."
"That's not the only thing I'm mad about," Will growled, jumping up from the bed and pacing again.
"Will, why are you so mad at yourself?" she asked, sensing where his rage was focused. "You didn't do this, Jev did."
"But I let him do this," he said, pacing in longer, heavier-footed steps. "I should've seen it! He was the last one with you that night. When I talked to him the next day, I should've seen how he was acting. He was so suspicious a first year cadet would've seen it!"
Will turned and punched the wall, cursing when his hand exploded in pain. He swore a few more times, shaking his hand to alleviate the pain, then cradling it gently.
"Feel better?" Deanna asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
"No," he replied. "Now I'm mad *and* my hand hurts."
After a minute of silence while Commander Riker calmed down slightly, Counselor Troi decided to continue.
"We had no reason to suspect the Ullians," she explained to him. "All Beverly knew was that I was in a coma with no known cause. You're not a doctor, Will. And you're not a telepath either. So there's no way you could've known, stop blaming yourself."
Riker looked up at her, gazing into the depths of her dark eyes. He knew she was right, but it still frustrated him so much that he hadn't seen it.
"You can't do everything," she said.
"I should be able to do everything," he shot back at her, the anger saturating his voice. "I'm the first officer of the flagship of the Federation. I can't let things get by me. Over one thousand people are trusting me to keep them safe."
Deanna knew where this was going, but was glad the topic had come back around to Ensign Keller. She could sense this was where most of his anger was focused, and it was something he needed to get off his chest before he could fully heal. Deanna watched him pace, but didn't say anything, wanting him to guide where the conversation went.
"People on this ship trust me with their lives," he said, staring at the floor as he paced and spoke. "And I let them down."
"You haven't let us down, Will," she said gently.
"Oh yeah? Tell that to Ensign Keller's family."
"You had to make a decision that day. There was a matter-antimatter leak, and it was either isolate the engine core or risk flooding all of the surrounding decks with lethal radiation. There was only so much time to get everyone out."
"We still had some time," he said. "I should've gone in to get her."
"And get yourself killed as well as her? What good would that have done?"
"At least I would've made the effort. There would be a chance she'd be alive today."
"No, there wouldn't," Deanna told him. "But there is a very good chance you'd be dead along with her."
Riker sighed in resignation, sitting back down on the bed next to her. Deanna put a comforting arm around his shoulders, hugging him reassuringly.
"Ensign Keller knew the risks when she joined Starfleet. We all know the risks. We're out here exploring the unknown, so of course there are going to be dangers, and there's always the possibility that we could die. It's part of living on a starship."
"Consciously, I know that," he said, looking up into her eyes. "But with all that's happened, it's made me feel. I don't know."
"Vulnerable?" Deanna offered.
"A little," he admitted reluctantly.
"That's what Jev wanted. He wanted to have power over us, and he did it any way he felt possible. He forced his way into something very personal, so of course you're going to feel like you have no control. You can get that feeling of control back, Will, but it's going to take some time. That's why it's really important that you meet with the Ullian doctors again."
Will leaned forward and rested his face in his hands, contemplating her words. The two sat in silence for several minutes, and Deanna rubbed his back gently as he thought. Deep down he knew she was right, but he wasn't sure if he was ready to admit he needed help.
"Needing help is not a sign of weakness, Will," she said, anticipating his thoughts.
"All right," he sighed after another minute of silence. "I'll go, but only because you're insisting."
"As your counselor, I'm ordering you down to that planet to meet with those doctors," she said with a smile.
"Yes sir!" he shot back, grinning.
The two sat for a minute before Will reached over and took her hand in his uninjured one, giving it a slight squeeze.
"Thank you, Imzadi," he said. He leaned over and kissed her forehead gently, and she returned it with a kiss on his cheek.
"You're welcome," she replied, rising from the bed. "Now let's get you to sickbay before your hand swells up. You know, we really need to do something about that temper of yours."
"Temper? What temper?" he said with a smirk, and the two of them left his quarters hand in hand, heading for sickbay.