Death would come easily now. It is such an obscure idea to many young cadets, but at a
young age Will Riker vowed to face death without blinking. Now several years later, his
composure did not surprise him. He was ready to conquer the knowledge that over a thousand
of his fellow crew men would be killed under his command. A small second and then there would
be nothing but death. He waited. Everything was swirling, falling into the depths of the abyss, but
nothing touched the poise of Will. It was not a facade or an attempt for the commanding officer
to hold everything together. He simply did not feel anything sitting in his captain's chair. A small
absurd thought came across his calm mind. This is easy. He waited for the turbulence of rage,
pity, God, maybe even poetry, but it did not come. A vacuum. He had no demons to control or
emotions to repress. Nothing.
As soon as he became accepting of his emotionless existence, a jolt struck; a small, female hand
clasped around his wrist. The touch was not a light movement he was used to from her body, but it
was a demanding grasp. For an instant, he thought, no, this is not right. She should be telepathically
relaying something to my mind. Then he knew. She didn't have to. It was not necessary. They were
connected by her fingers moving from his wrist to the top of his hands. His eyes completely focused
on her hand until his vision became blurred. Then he responded by turning his hand so their fingers
interlaced. Now the feelings came: the sorrow, the pain, the anger and most of all the regret of things
not said. They all rushed in reaching a depth he had never experienced. The panic reached him.
This, I cannot control.
He flew upright in his bed. A dream. Will Riker now remembered it was a dream. He wanted
to go back to it. He couldn't really explain it to himself, but Will merely wanted to be back in the
dream's reality. Why? He questioned himself. That was not a pleasant dream, but a nightmare.
Then he realized, it may have been a hellish moment, but at least in that world he felt all emotions.
Will felt alive and ironically, he felt real.
A quote echoed in his head "Time is a companion who goes with us on our journey, and reminds
us to cherish the moments of our lives--because they will never come again." Will needed to feel
these emotions. He needed to feel these connections. He needed to feel her fingers interlaced with
Riker thought, I have walked this path before. How can I control the emotional turmoil that
affect your mind and soul? How can I recover from the abyss that I face every time I think of her
walking out that door?
He suddenly remembered a personnel file he recently reviewed about a young ensign's
promising career severely hindered by his inability to act. And he smiled, as much as Riker hated to
admit it, he was stricken with the same disease: an inability to act.
He laid back with his fingers interlaced behind his head. A silent room made him nervous.
Now, there were no distractions. He had to deal with the idea of her. Usually, he would brush it
aside and work on reports or assignments until sleep came to him. Tonight was different. His
dream forced him to face possibilities. He wanted her in his life, part of his spirit, part of his being.
Separate individuals, but always together. Always connected. Riker was surprised by the clarity of
these thoughts. These were not simply convoluted, abstract ideas or even capricious feelings.
No, it was painfully a lucid statement of truth. Truth that encompassed the center of his being.
Words were echoing in his head. His words. Believe blindly. Truth. Risk everything. Leap of
"Computer, locate Counselor Troi."
Deanna Troi was not on the ship. With a brief conversation with Captain Picard and an
equally succinct message to Starfleet command, Deanna Troi was on her way home. She knew it
was hardly becoming of her role as Counselor to avoid say goodbye, but most would understand.
Most would understand, echoed in her mind. I didn't say goodbye to him the first time and I'll be
damned if I do it now.
Besides, she reasoned, for all of them, it was a time of decisions and relocations. Worf made
his decision. He was taking Alexander home. Worf's government needed him and he needed to
be around the community his heritage provided. She remembered the awkward scene when he asked
her to come with him. She did not immediately answer, but she had chosen to examine Worf's
feelings. Deanna sensed his sincerity, his need for her. But she also sensed Worf's defensive nature
takes over. "You are probing my feelings, Deanna." Worf immediately felt invaded. She was not
surprised by his feelings, Klingons often reacted defensively to this form of her empathic ability. She
smiled to put him at ease and answered, "You know before I begin speaking. I have a life I need to
find and so do you."
She was simply tired. Not tired of her work, but a draining of her spirit. Her sense of center
was beginning to fade and she needed to be rejuvenated. A homecoming, the most basic of all
therapies would bring her in alignment. By no means was her Starfleet career over, at the end of
her hiatus, she planned to request assignment with Captain Picard. He was comfortable and she
had learned to rely on the easiness and respect of their working relationship.
I'm avoiding the question and the answer is subconsciously, at least, woven into all my
decisions she thought. Where will you be? Will, where will you be?
Last night, she dreamed of the time Romulans locked phasers onto the Enterprise. A simple
twist of fate landed Will in the Captain's chair next to hers and Captain Picard leading the away
team. She remembered how quickly she accepted the certainty that death was seconds away. As
destruction approached, she almost unconsciously, placed her hand onto Will's wrist.
She could feel nothing from Will until she touched him and then she read the intense surge of
all his emotions he had held in check. An overwhelming feeling of regret engulfed his spirit. She
felt the panic of his mind frantically search for words, thoughts, actions anything that would touch
her. Make her understand his need for her. She sensed his sharp pain of regret for not saying it all
before. Suddenly, peace came and he felt balanced. The search was over and there was need for
only one word, Imzadi.
Deanna knew that everything would be right again. She couldn't explain it to a logical soul,
but she understood. Imzadi was the one of the few words that would bring peace to death.
As the danger passed and the phasers failed to destroy their ship, Deanna could not pull her
hand away. Will looked at her hand and slowly raised his head. She knew it was okay. She knew
and after a lingering pause, he removed her hand.
Last night's dream made everything real again. She relived that moment on the transport ship
as she closed her eyes and rested. It's strange, she thought, Will and I have so many memories of
each other and I choose to think about that particular one. Why? Deanna questioned. Perhaps, it
was because that memory was one pure thought and one pure emotion. At other times, Deanna and
Will both had a multitude of emotions running though their souls, desire, love, jealously, lust. But
in this one moment when death was near, their spirits cleared away the temporal and left the eternal.
Deanna smiled. She remembered first explaining the meaning of Imzadi to a young Lt. Riker.
She did the best she could by explaining the literal meaning of beloved. Then trying to describe
the layers this word portrays, but it was difficult because an one word definition does not cover
the vast connections this word is to Betazoids.
It is a difficult concept for any other race to understand and many Betazoids believe that
humans could never understand. But Deanna knew this belief was untrue, for her human father
understood. He was her mother's Imzadi.
Deanna remembered as a young girl asking her mother, "How could Daddy be your Imzadi, he
wasn't a Betazoid?" Deanna recalled her mother's usual jubilant facial expression change to
something she hardly saw. It was a seriousness that Deanna only experienced a few times with
her mother. She recalled Luxanna's slowly delivered words. "I will tell you the story and you will
remember it. When you fully understand it, the meaning will be obvious and you'll never ask that
question again." Her mother paused and probed the young girl's focus.
"Your father and I had just met at a Betazoid delegation dinner. I was feeling
restless that night. The chaos of emotion he evoked in me was at war and I could not find any
peace. I became angry. Angry at him for creating all these conflicting emotions. As I was about
to excuse myself from the table to get away from this man, something stopped me. His eyes.
Little one, you have those eyes. Those eyes gave me a sense of calmness, a peace that I had not
experienced before. In my mind, I called to him. Imzadi. His expression changed slightly, if you
weren't paying close attention, you have missed it. He gave me a soft questioning look. I
dismissed it, because I had always believed humans could never understand such a Betazoid
concept, much less hear my telepathic call. Your father silenced my doubts. A minute after the
dinner ended, he walked up to me and asked me what the word Imzadi meant. He heard me in his
mind. He heard me. I took his hand in mine, and he forgot his question, and then he knew."
Just as her father knew thirty three years ago, Will Riker knew. He heard Deanna the first
time her conscious and unconscious merged to call him Imzadi. To Will, that Betazoid word
was not merely referring someone as beloved, but it was a permanent state of being sealed to her.
She closed her eyes and sought Will's mental state. She could sense his anger, hurt and, yes,
amusement all mixed in a final resolution of acceptance. He found out I left, she thought. He
knows I can never say goodbye.
"Come." Picard stated without lifting his eyes from his computer screen.
"You requested to see me, sir" Will began without waiting for Picard to acknowledge his
Now, Captain Picard did look up and slightly frowned. He did not like losing officers, Worf,
Deanna and now, Will. "Starfleet has issued your orders, Number One" Picard was used to Will's
easy going nature, but it was not present in this conversation. Something's wrong, Picard knew,
but respected his first officer enough not to ask.
"It seems Starfleet reassigned you to a station just outside the neutral zone. Your assignment
will be to establish and oversee a new security team while a permanent officer can be found. This
colony is vulnerable to Romulan attack and they have no defense system of their own in place."
"Grounded." Will sighed. "Not exactly a promotion, is it?"
"Not exactly permanent, Number One." Picard said poignantly.
"Understood, sir." He could not help feeling a sense of failure. Crashing Starfleet's prize ship
was not one of his best career moves.
"This too will pass, Number One." He recalled his own experience when he was not in the
good graces of Starfleet. It was remarkable how similar their situations were. He felt as he was
watching himself after the Stargazer incident.
Will straightened out immediately, he did not intend to show his emotions to his Captain. "I
know, sir. Patience has never been my strong point." He smiled.
"We will meet again, Will." Picard thought of the many futures that Q allowed him to
experience, the one constant was the his crew was in every scenario. Picard did not know if he
believed in fate, but it seemed his future was determined to cross paths with Will again.
"I will count on that, Jean-Luc." Will gave him his child like grin and stretched out his hand.
Picard shook it and Will turned and strode out the door.
Changes cannot happen without pain. Deanna told him that once. Deanna. He knew Worf
had left for his home land, but he did not know how Worf and Deanna had left things. Could
Worf and Deanna now be together in every sense of the word? Will's mind suddenly flashed with
an answer, No. The quick response shocked him and he had to question it immediately. Was the
definitive answer in his mind a form of denial, an intuitive feeling he had just experienced or was it
Deanna's answer he heard in his head? Impossible. He and Deanna had not communicated on
that level for a long time.
Despite its infeasibleness, he stood for a moment and savored the feeling of having her
telepathic reply. He missed having Deanna silently enter his thoughts. She once told him many
non-Betazoids feel violated when telepathic communication is used. That surprised Will, it was one
of the few times he felt at peace. A pure sense of Imzadi.
"No" Deanna said. A few people on the shuttle craft turned and looked at her. Her smile
quickly put them at ease. She said nothing else to Will. A few minutes earlier, she had cleared her
mind and tuned completely into Will's thoughts. It was not difficult. After spending seven years
in close proximity with Will, it was second nature to her to be feeling his thoughts. She rarely
noticed it and often she had to block his feelings because they were so pervasive and complete
that she found it difficult to concentrate on anyone else's.
Strange that she could still "speak" to him telepathically. She never could explain why and how
it worked, but in some rare moments, she was able to reach Will's mind. Mostly, it had been when
they first connected on Betazhad, but at times, she found on the Enterprise that she could reach that
part of Will's spirit. As a trained psychologist, Deanna should have analyzed why could still use
telepathy with Will now, but she choose not do so and simply savored in the fact that she could.
Serves him right to be confused, she thought. Deanna smiled one of her greatest pleasures
came from throwing the first officer of the Enterprise off guard. He didn't ask when I was with
Worf, why is he asking now? Because, I left, she thought. It was fine when they were working
together, because although they hide behind the guise of friendship at least they were connected at
some level. Even when she was with Worf, Will's pain was eased by the fact that Deanna was still
around him. But now, their relationship was not clearly defined. It could not be altered at the
whim of either one of them. Now, there were obstacles each had to face to reach each other.
The carrier would be provided her transport back to Betazhad. She would have to make
several stops along the way, but Deanna did not mind. She did not intend to spend much time
socializing on this trip. This was journey of spirit to find her center of calmness. Will and his
devilish grin tended to disrupt her sense of peace, lightening in her calm skies. She recalled a fellow
classmate words when a young Deanna asked advise about the Lieutenant Riker. "A sense of
calmness is contrary to really living life. Only the chaos makes you acutely aware of how precious
life is. The battle, the struggle, the pain makes the love you feel alive and real." Maybe, I don't want
to feel alive now, she answered back to her memory. Maybe, I just want to be.
Deanna stepped off the deck and found her assigned quarters. She needed to remove herself
from others. Clear your mind Deanna. She heard the voices in her head. Clear your mind. Find
your center. Find your calm. She found a comfortable place in her quarters and sat completely
upright. Deanna tuned her physical sense off self for several hours and intensely focused on her
Riker flipped his screen away from him. He was in no mood to concentrate on studying a new
culture. Zoenia. His new assignment. Starfleet sure knew how to "punish" you. Will thought.
This was a job an ensign could handle. There was no threat from anywhere specific and the only
reason Starfleet was posted there was because it was a planet on the corner of one of Starfleet's
protective Zones. There was no movement in that area for the past sixteen months and the threat
was minimal. This "temporary" assignment was designed for the sole purpose of keeping Riker
within arm's reach until Starfleet wanted him or more specifically, until they could convene his
court martial hearing.
Zoenia. The computer described its philosophy in one phrase "feeling is first." According to
the computer, the Zoenians lived every moment based on feelings. No logistics or intellectual
thinking. Feeling is first. Great, Riker thought, sounds like a bunch of unruly children. Their
language was minimal and they communicated through some form of telepathy.
Riker stepped out of his briefing room and went to find the Ensign that escorted him here.
"Ensign Wilson, ready to escort you to the conference room, sir." announced a young voice.
Will stepped back. He did not expect this young petite girl to speak so firmly and loudly. Riker
had forgotten the loud eagerness of a young Starfleet Officer. God, he was never that young.
"Ensign." Will acknowledged with a quick nod. He followed the slim girl down a long white
nondescript corridor. The girl had a long stride despite her petite size and his tall frame, he had
trouble keeping up.
The door hissed open and Will entered a small conference room similar to the one on the
Enterprise. As Riker walked in, a uniformed officer stood. He seemed a bit shaky and hesitant as
he tried to straighten his shoulders and looked Will eye to eye.
"Lt Commander Dexter, sir."
"Mr. Dexter, what is our security status?"
"At this point sir, no new threats have been made. The Zoenian head council has been briefed
on the threat, but frankly sir, they do not seem to care or at least they do not seem to pay much
Will's brow arched. "Do not care?"
"Yes sir." Wills surprised reaction left Lt. Dexter nervous. The young Lt. did not know how
to adequately describe the Zoenian race. They needed to be experienced and not described, he
Will waited for the Lt. to go on and realized he had to be coaxed to do so. Riker sighed. He
was used to the Enterprise style of management or, more accurately, Picard's style of
management. Will had come to expect his fellow officer to freely offer their opinions and theories
and not have to be prompted to do so. "Why do you suppose they do not care, Mr. Dexter?" Will
said in a very Picard-like voice.
A surprised Dexter began, "It is part of their philosophy sir. They do not like to plan for the
future. Carpe Diem, I believe is the Latin phrase."
"Do not like to plan? How did they survive as a race?"
"I do not know in the years before space travel, but now they are mostly an outpost for
travelers. Some come to get their energy read."
Will's eyes demanded some sort of explanation.
"Most Zoenians communicate only through touch. The have to be holding your hand and I
suppose it is a combination of empathy, telepathy and, if you ask me, mysticism. But many
believe that Zoenians have the unique ability to answer all questions."
Will grinned. "Sounds interesting, Mr. Dexter."
"It certainly is."
The transport ship had to make an unexpected stop on Zoenia. Repairs they said.
"Computer, give me what information you have on the Zoenian." Deanna had never met
people like the Zoenians. Their whole philosophy was based on living for the moment.
Deanna then turned her attention to case studies. A lost Zoenian was once placed in a
Starfleet holding facility until transport could be found. The next day, Starfleet officers found him
dead. The Zoenian simply could not fathom the idea of tomorrow. He only knew what he saw
and felt in that moment. He could not understand that he would be sent home soon. Today, he
was imprisoned and today, the Zoenian decided, he would die.
Feeling is first. This philosophy was not easy on an empath like Deanna. She hoped that she
would have the skill to filter out their intense emotional patterns.
Strangely, there was a sense of order on this planet. To anyone but the Zoenians, this world
was constant turmoil of feelings, but to the Zoenians this turmoil created harmony. Deanna could
sense this, this world found its place and existed in an order of chaos.
Wonderful, Deanna thought I wished we had stopped on the Vulcan's home land. There at
least all their emotions where under strict control and I could relax. Here all I will be doing is
trying to tune out these people.
After hours of reviewing and repositioning of the security teams, Riker found himself with free
time. Time. The enemy of a man who is not at peace with his life. He need to get her out of and
maybe explore Zoenia. He needed to do anything to occupy his mind.
Curiosity had been one of Riker's most appealing qualities when facing new beings. He
constantly wanted to learn about new cultures. Perhaps, that was one of the reasons he never
accepted the constant offers of promotion. Accepting the captain's seat meant not leading the
away teams. He knew that Starfleet was not happy with him. Denying promotions is a kiss of
death for many officer's careers, but to him a chance to seek new cultures was just as important.
He would have never said that as a junior officer, but a lot has changed since then. At this age,
Riker was starting to feel that priorities were shifting. The problem he faced was where to go
now? What was important to him now?
He stepped out from his compound to kill time by meeting and mingling with Zoenians. This
should be interesting. Who knows, maybe he could scrap up a poker game.
The first thing he noticed was the silence. It wasn't and eerie mysterious silence, but it was
part of the daily environment. The silence somehow fit in perfectly almost like a church session
with no preacher. He looked around and spotted a man at what seemed like a musical instrument.
However, Riker did not hear any sound. The Zoenian's eyes, mouth, face looked as if he was
completely concentrating on playing his music, but there was no sound.
No one seemed to pay any attention to him. Riker slowly walked up to him with the intention
of discussing Zoenia's form of "music" and then he stopped dead in his tracks. The man was
entirely naked. Okay, Riker smiled, so this is how they are. He was amused at the picture he was
seeing a naked man with his eyes closed and pounding what Riker assumed was a key board.
They don't pay me enough to figure this one out, he thought to himself. Then he decided to
step into what he supposed was a local cafe and there he was happy to see that many Starfleet
personnel were there spending the afternoon.
"Commander Riker, over here." He was surprised that anyone knew who he was, so he
walked over to the young ensign that called him.
The young ensign answered Riker s questioning look. "You don't know me, but I recognized
you." The ensign quickly stood up and shook Riker s hand, "I'm Ensign Tommahan, please join
"Ensign, good afternoon." Riker sat comfortably in the unoccupied seat.
"Cmdr. Riker this is Jimilli."
"Jimilli." Riker tried to pronounce his name as the ensign did and as he looked down at the
table Riker noticed that Jimilli had his palm on top of the young ensign's forearm. He
remembered Zoenians communicate through touch. He reached out to shake Jimilli's hand, but
the Zoenian did not respond to Will's gesture, instead, he quickly placed Riker's hand on top of
the table and Jimilli placed his hand on top of Riker's.
Ah, this is one is too old to live and young to die. It was a strange sensation. Riker never saw
this Zoenian's lips move, but he felt the words.
"Makes sense." Riker replied under his breath.
Duality, never does, said the Zoenian again in his mind.
Riker looked at Ensign Tommahan. "I know its strange at first, but you will get used to it.
Listen, I have to go on duty. Goodbye, Jimilli and Commander it was my pleasure finally meet the
first officer of the Enterprise." He shook Riker's free hand.
"Good luck, Ensign."
"You re going to need the luck, Commander." The ensign laughed as he walked away.
Riker turned back his attention on the Zoenian. " How do you know what I am saying if you
can't hear me?" Riker remembered his research included the fact that Zoenians did not possess
auditory or vocal senses.
That is easy, replied Jimilli. You see every word and thought has an energy. A distinct
energy, as distinct as what you humans call DNA. I read these energies by touch. Some Zoenians
can pick up these energies by merely being in your presence, but most need to touch the person.
There is never a language barrier, because what you hear in you mind is a sort of energy wave that
your thoughts can convert into language.
"Can you pick up all my thoughts?"
Some, but my focus is on the thoughts you want to communication. You humans convey one
sentence, but I can read the layers and nuances that the sentence implies. You have experience
with some sort of telepathy before, you are very receptive to it.
"Yes, I have". Riker said simply
It was a pleasant experience. One full of meaning and light. Full of promise. Did that promise
come to pass?
" No, it has not."
Ah, petty details get in the way.
"I wouldn't call a career a petty detail."
There are feelings there William Riker. Feelings are first. Do not slight them. When you can
feel, at that moment, you are nobody but yourself. Pure. Nobody else. You can live again work
again breathe again. You have no one else's life. When you feel, you are an unique spirit. Seek
to break that wall and kill the enemy you call strength. It fools you. It is not strength at all. The
wall makes you weak and hidden. You create the wall when someone asks for a your raw and
whole feelings and you deny them entry. You can see for the wall is glass, but yet, you deny them
an entrance, a crack. Give your soul. It will never to be returned, but it will thrive. Otherwise, it
will be destroyed.
Will looked decidedly uncomfortable. Yeah, this was all interesting and beautiful, but what the
hell was this Zoenian babbling about? I am fine. There was nothing wrong with me, Will
defensively thought. "Look Jimilli, I don t mean to be rude, but I did not come here for a reading.
I came on assignment."
Too old to live; to young to die. Then, the Zoenian made a very decisive and abrasive move.
He broke the connection with the human and walked away.
Will felt the cold shudder come to his toes and slowly crept its way up his body. "A spirit has
walked over your grave, Will Riker." He remembered that saying from the old self-proclaimed
guardian of his village. His father called the guardian a crazy man. Stay away from him Will, his
father constantly said, he is full of insignificant nothing. That warning intrigued the rebel side of a
young twelve-year-old and he never missed a Sunday afternoon with the old man. "Spirits
walked besides you everyday, Will. Do you see them? They are alive and dead. Looking at you.
Breathing your air." In the old guardian's hovel, the boy was sure he saw his mother's spirit
holding his hand, breathing his air, kissing his cheeks. The old man knew the need in the young
Riker was strong and consumed him. The guardian made sure the spirits danced around boy's
presence. And the young boy's need never went home unfulfilled.
Will felt a touch at his fingers. He glanced down at the table and he saw a hand barely touch
the tips of his fingers. Deanna's hands. He knew them anywhere. Just when he was sure her
hands were solid, alive and real, they disappeared.
A strong sensation that happens to only the very well-trained empaths engulfed his mind. In
some place beyond logic and reason, he knew its meaning instantly: Deanna is here.
Deanna did not feel comfortable exposing her empathic abilities on this planet. She completely
blocked them until she could establish a painless link between her empathic abilities and the
intense feelings emulating from every being on this planet. It was as if every emotion was more
vivid and felt for all its nuances and depth. No feeling was brushed aside nor one not fully
A chime that sounded like Mr. Homm's dinner bell went off in he quarters.
"Who is it?"
"Ensign Brook." She recognized name of the young officer with a boyish grin on the
transport with her. Deanna sensed his eagerness and she was sure that he wanted her to recount
stories of the famous Enterprise.
"Come." Deanna said softly.
"We wanted to invite you to have a drink in a small cafe There will be a handful of us
together and we would be honored if you would join us. I know it is short notice and I'm sure
you have other plans, but just on the chance that you didn't, I thought, I should stop by and ask.
But I'll understand if you say no. I mean being the, an officer on the Enterprise, I'm sure you have
a lot to do."
Deanna had to smile. "Slow down, ensign. Slow down." She thought for a brief instant.
Why not? Being in the company of such young officers might lift her spirits. She surprised
herself, "All right, ensign."
"Thank you, counselor. I'm sure that they will all be thrilled that you're coming. Thank you."
He started to walk out of her quarters.
"Can you tell where the cafe is, Ensign Brook?" Deanna smiled.
The ensign was thrown off by Deanna remembering his name. "Oh, um, I'm sorry. I know I
seem a bit nervous. I will wait outside until your ready and then I'll take you there."
"Perfect. Thank you for the invitation."
"No, thank you. See you soon."
He walked off and Deanna smiled after him. He reminded her of so many young officers she
had to evaluate. This ensign would make it far, Deanna knew. She recognized the look. She saw
it in the Captain and she saw it in Will Riker. He would sacrifice a lot and this young man would
Will wasn't sure of what to make of it. He knew what he felt, but was it Jimilli manipulating
his thoughts and feelings? Will distrusted himself now. He was seeing things. Wasn't he? How
can he see Deanna's hand if they were not there? To Will, that hallucination proved he couldn't
trust his feelings. How could he sense that Deanna was here? It was impossible she was on her
way to Betazhad now. She was not here. He was sure or more accurately, his logical side was
sure. The sense that Jimilli called pure was whispering, shouting, praying in Will's mind. Listen.
Jimilli had thrown his sense of balance off. It wasn't his intention to go find out if his intuition
was accurate. He decided to stay in the cafe and he motioned for a drink.
If Will wasn't sitting squarely, he would have fallen from his chair. I was right. He thought, as
his eyes followed her movements. This was not a hallucination, she was real. She was here.
Those three word continued to repeat themselves in Will's mind. He needed to be convinced.
Deanna could not block the emotions that Will was experiencing. She looked up and saw him.
There is a moment that silence fights with the chaos of the world and wins. This was that moment
for Will and Deanna. Silence. A secret world of silence where two souls stand facing each other
in an unsheltered plane.
If someone had asked, Will could have sworn that it took Deanna a whole earth hour to
walked over to his table, but it merely took a brief explanation to her companions and a short
stride to his table. He stood.
"Hello." He said simply.
"Hello, Will." She smiled. It was absurd that they could be so simple and unamazed at the
fates that turned to bring them together. "What are you doing here?"
"A temporary reward courtesy of Starfleet for destroying their prize toy."
Deanna smiled at his sarcasm. "I'm glad to see there is no resentment in your voice, Will."
"None. I've always had the highest respect for Starfleet's disciplinary actions." He paused
and marveled at her face. It had been a week since he had seen that face. "What are you doing
"My transport had to land for unexpected repair. They should be off soon."
"Then you are off to visit Luxanna? She should be very happy to see you. I'm sure the
reports that reached her were somewhat exaggerated."
"Yes, I know she's anxious to see me. I've contacted her several times since the accident, but
she still wants to see me. We should have a nice quiet visit."
"With Luxanna? She will have every available bachelor on Betazed waiting when you arrive at
Deanna smiled. "I can handle my mother." We sound like polite strangers, she thought.
"I know you can."
The conversation had died leaving Will with a choice. Should he ask the question? Should he
break the wall of politeness and ask? He was sure Deanna felt the uncomfortable air between
them. This tension was never there before Worf. He wanted to blame Deanna for the strange air
that existed between them. His mind and anger was rising. What did the Jimilli say? Feeling is first.
What can I do? What can I change? Nothing. She left Worf. When all was said and done, she left
Worf and Deanna's choice to leave killed his rising fury. He did not need to know why and how
Deanna and Worf were together in the past. That question did not need an answer.
But a question still lingered. To ask it would surely mean a shift, a change, an exposure. He
wanted to ask so many times before, but didn't. His voice sounded to him as if it was heard
through a com badge, slight, deliberate and distant. "Why did you let him go, Deanna?"
"You let him go for the same reasons I let you go. A Starfleet career. Don't you see
Deanna?" He paused and then decided to go on. "It was me. Tom Riker was me."
She turned her head and looked straight ahead. This is ridiculous, he is blaming me for
leaving Tom Riker? Absurd.
"You can't answer me. Can you?"
"You re blaming me for leaving Tom?" She asked incredulously. "I always thought you
wanted me as far away as possible from Tom."
"I know this sounds illogical. I've always wondered what would have happen if I met you on
Risa. You must know that. Tom Riker was my answer. At every major point in our lives, we
have paths to choose from. Most of us never get to see the life of the untaken road. Tom Riker
let me see that life. And he answered the question, what would have happened if I came to Risa?
You made the same choice I did. You left Tom Riker for a career."
She understood now. "And in some way, you feel as if I left you." She did not know how,
but it made sense. "It leaves us where we started. Back to Risa, only I'm not there now."
"You can be there." A plunge into the abyss breaking the darkness that seared through his
mind and traveled to his soul.
Imzadi. Deanna never knew who said it first, but it was there. She reached her small delicate
hand and placed it palm up on the tiny table that separated them. Will Riker without a moments
hesitation put his palm to her palm. Fingers did not interlace, but rather it was the soft sensation,
soft pressure of things to come.
Will slowly brought his gaze up from her hand to her face. Those eyes. Nothing matters, but
those eyes. He heard that. Where did it come from?
It came from her atoms mingling with his atoms, as basic as that. Were words needed? Yes,
but not now. The moment between two souls coming home transcended vocabulary.
Reality began charging into the space of silence they had created for a moment and then the
secret silence was broken by Will's voice, "Why do we make things so difficult, when the answers
should be so easy?"
He didn't want her psychological answer. Deanna knew that, so she didn't answer him
knowing it was entangled in the complexity of their lives, in the goals of their careers.
Somewhere, Will knew that Tom Riker had the answer. He knew priorities were changing in
his life. Today, Will Riker would have been on Risa. Worf made him face that. A Klingon, a
friend, brought him closer to valuing connections.
Deanna sensed the shift in Will's emotions and finally said with a half smile. "Things become
Riker gave her his roguish smile. "They do?" he asked with a sarcastic smile. I've never heard
that one before, counselor."
Deanna said immediately. "It wasn't a psychological response, Commander Riker."
It was difficult not to fall back to the easy casual roles they were familiar with. Friends. But,
Deanna broke the easy routine they were about to embark on. She casually lifted her hand away
from his and placed it on her lap.
"Sometimes I wish I never saw you again. Remember those first days we met. If I never met
you again, those moments would be clear and pure, frozen in my memory. We should have left it
that way. A memory intact with the intense passion of those first moments we had together.
Nothing would have contaminated that memory for me. Not Risa nor the Enterprise. Not Tom
Riker. Not Soren. Our relationship would not be convoluted with the realities. I could hold to
our pure state forever. Perfect without the reality of this world. Remember that time, Will?"
Deanna paused and looked up to meet his eyes. "It was like we were the only two in the world.
Oh, I know that is an ancient concept, but it felt like only our universe and time stood still for
those few days. Our secret world colliding with no other reality"
"Now. It is so mixed Will. Our lives have overtaken that reality. We know each other so well
now. It is not a pure moment in my mind. It is mingled with every other moment, both good and
bad, we have spent together."
"I don't think that is a terrible thing, Deanna. We cannot live in that one particular moment.
Time passes and destroys perfect moments."
"Don't you sometimes wish we parted without promises to see each other again?"
Will paused and studied her face. He didn't need to be an empath to understand that Deanna
was sincere in her belief. "I couldn't do that Deanna. I meant what I said." He stopped. She
needed to understand. "I wanted to marry you."
"I do not doubt that Will. I know you did. It just would have been easier."
"Okay, what do you want to do?" he asked incredulously. "Pretend we never met? Pretend
this is our pure undiluted moment? No history. No past. We meet now for the first time and
Deanna smiled. She played with the idea in her mind. It would end up the same. "We can't
play games, Will."
"So, what do we do?"
"Part." Deanna subconscious refused to met Wills eyes. The counselor in Deanna forced her
to look back into them and convince him of the validity in her reply. Was that her truth? "My
God, you're serious?" At that moment, more than any other, Will knew just how much he had
hurt Deanna. "I can't do that. I am not the same man that hurt you. Things changed for me. I
am not the 27 year old Lt. who wanted to beat Kirk's record. I know the importance of people
and friends. And I want more than that now. I want more. Don't you?"
"Of course, I want more."
"I should say, do you want more with me?" Will saw Deanna's hesitation. "You don't believe
me because of Risa?"
"I thought I was the empath."
"Not this time, Deanna. Don't avoid the question."
"I can't answer, Will."
"If not now, when? When? Fate has brought us together, not once, but twice. It absurd, but
you are here. I knew you were here, Deanna. You know what that feels like." He paused. He
wanted her to understand. He, knew that an empath always understands, but Deanna was
different. He needed to say the words. "I can't rely on fate again. I want to know. When can I
ask the question, Deanna?"
"I know that you are ready for more, but just because you're ready Will Riker, doesn't mean I
am. You have had some sort of enlightenment, but I haven't caught up. I mean less than three
weeks ago I was with Worf. Give me a time to breathe."
"You don't need to remind me of that, Deanna. I knew that every day for the last year and a
half." He wanted every sharp word to cut. Rationally, he knew she felt his pain, but he couldn't
resist reminding her again. You need to calm down, he told himself. He took a long breath, "You
decide. I want you in any way, even as friends." Just as Will had convinced himself that he could
handle Deanna as just a friend, he heard something. In the back of his mind, in the depth of his
bones, he heard it. Crack the glass.
In a matter of seconds, Will's look changed from a soft request to an intense demanding stare.
"No. No, Deanna. I am wrong, I don't want you as a friend. I want you body and soul. I'm
sorry you can't deal with that now, but I know. I know. I want an answer ever time my spirit
calls out to you. I want to be able to see you laughing at me when I try to play "Night Bird." I
need to be there to protect you when you're scared and stand by you when you're strong. I want
to wake up in the middle of the night and reach next to me and kiss your sleeping eyelids. I want
to dance with you at our wedding. Our wedding. I want to hear you sing to our children the
songs your father sang to you and hold you when the memories of him become too strong.
Deanna, you already have a part of my soul, why can't you take all of it?"
The sound Will heard was the glass wall chipping and falling in pieces around him. Each piece
making a clear, distinct, deep sound as it hit its reality. The truth as plain to see. He stood in this
unsheltered place waiting for her to choose to be there with him. Choose Deanna, he silently
Deanna did not want to choose. "Please, don't do this."
He didn't change his tone. He simply said, "I have to."
Deanna sensed his vivid and intense direction, "I know you do and I can't."
"So that's it?"
She heard herself say it, but at that moment she wasn't sure it was her voice. "Yes."
"I will not stop you, because I know."
What did he know Deanna instantly pondered? She dismissed that question as quickly as it
can to her. Of course, he knew. Will Riker always knew Troi, Counselor Troi, Cmdr. Troi, Little
One and simply, Deanna. He always knew.
Will decided to grant Deanna's unspoken wish and he smiled to lighten the mood. "For being
an empath, I am doing pretty good tonight A new career, don't you think?"
"You couldn't handle it. All you senior officer want a room with a view."
"Ah, the sacrifices we counselors must endure." He smiled and allowed the silence to finally
come to the table. He sat directly in front of her and stared into those eyes that had so often
taken him away from reality, but not this time. This time even her eyes couldn't save him. The
chaos of emotion rose in him and just when he was sure he couldn't take it anymore, he stood.
Deanna eyes moved up to see his face. The pain he was feeling began relentlessly pounding on
doors deep inside Deanna. She refused to hear the knock. She tried quickly to surmise some
center of control. Dammit, she cursed, I am a highly skilled empath, I can filter out Will's
emotions. His feelings. She tried and failed. To break this bond, Deanna would have to undue
layers of spiritual connections they had shared. For a brief instant, she recalled a quote she read in
a Starfleet text, "You can never fully appreciate the strength of anything until you try to destroy
it." More than ever, Deanna now fully comprehended the intense connection Will shared with
her. And as impossible as it seemed to her, tonight, her sense of Will Riker became stronger.
And even the highly specialized Lt. Cmd. Counselor Deanna Troi couldn't severe the connection.
He needed to touch her and with one ever so slight movement his hand barely skimmed her
face. He looked at her one last time and then walked out of the lounge.
He didn't turn back to see her.
Deanna's movements were slow for there was no need to move quickly. She slowly placed the
tip of her fingers on the rim of her glass. She stared at her hand and asked herself, how do I feel?
Good, her defenses instinctively answered, Good. I can handle this. This will not overtake me
and create panic in my life. Being with Will would bring chaos and changes, now without him, I
can have peace. It s better that he's gone, now everything is clear and defined. No, ambiguity or
risks. With Will gone, I can be in complete control of my future.
Will walked into his cabin and instructed the computer to luminate the small quarters. He did
not feel like sitting in the dark, as he usually did when he spent time thinking. He wanted a
well-lighted room. He remembered how he instructed Data that love always held risks: risk of
loss, risk of annihilation of who you are. A part of Riker was missing tonight and he tried to
connect it again, but now, he had to reconstruct a new place where he could live without her.
He knew it was his gift to her to walk away. His natural instinct told him to stay and fight for
her. He knew if he pushed hard enough, Deanna would have chosen, but he gave her the gift she
wished for; he walked away without forcing a choice from her voice. His mind was filled of
images of her: Deanna sitting demurely in her counselor pose, Deanna trying to suppress a grin at
his Captain Picard impression, Deanna concentrating on Will s face to see if he was bluffing at last
month's poker game, Deanna's hands, her hand as she softly touched his hair, the side of his face,
his eyes, his lips.
Will Riker suddenly was aware that he had never spoken those two words in the same
sentence. It wasn't right. It wasn't the way it was suppose to be. That phrase felt like a weapon
he turned on himself and it produced unforgiving waves of pain. With every emotion crashing
down on his mind, he completely breathed in the intense pain those words carried. You asked for
this, he told himself, now deal with it.
If Deanna heard him, her subconscious suppressed the words entering into her thoughts. The
farewell to her Imzadi was never felt. Her wish came true and she did not hear the power of that
tiny six lettered word.
Deanna did not want to be around this public areas in case she ran into him. Better to leave
with the last impression implanted in our minds than to create a scene, she thought. She slowly
stood and was surprised at how disconnected she felt to her own body. She was an entity trapped
inside a body, watching herself standing, putting one foot in front of the other, and walking to her
Deanna wanted a dark room where she could find some peace.
"Computer, lights off."
Deanna assumed that this was a typical Zoenian morning. She stepped into the daylight and
was accosted by many male and some female Zoenians. Some grabbing her hand, but most
communicating telepathically and asking her strange requests. Can I kiss your fingertips? Can I
sing a song to your mind? Tell your demons to please be quiet?
Garbled messages entered her mind all morning. Deanna cleared it and concentrated on her
mission. She needed to find the quickest transport to Betazed. According to her communique
this morning, her original transport was going to be grounded until further notice. So, this meant
a different way home. The bureaucracy of Starfleet requested that Deanna go to the nearest base
and take the next available transport back home. Of course, that meant she might see Will, but at
least they could be civil to each other.
She entered the compound and found a young ensign manning the post. "Ensign, do you know
where the next transport to Betazed leaves."
"Yes, Lt. in about an hour. You can wait here." He motioned to a room full of
approximately 20 people. There were mixed races and cultures all trying to find a way home.
"Thank you." Deanna walked into the waiting room. The only seat left was next a window
that faced one of Zoenians suns. She did not want to be blinded by the sun, so she sat down and
turned her head away from the window. The feeling that something was wrong laid deep inside
her and overtook her physical self. Saying goodbye to Will. He would be here. No matter what,
he would be here to see me one last time. Why am I leaving? She questioned herself. Because
he left me no choice. It was all or nothing last night. And I don't think I am ready for it all.
Deanna was so deep in thought, she did not realize that an old Zoenian had come to sit next to
You are a telepath, he said
Deanna was shook into reality by his interruption. "No, I am an empath." She replied
verbally. At that moment without Deanna realizing it, the Zoenian placed his hand on her hers. "I
am half Betazoid. So, I am very receptive to telepaths."
My name is Jimilli. I know you. I have felt your name in another's soul. Another human's soul.
"That could only be Will Riker." She said without any emotion.
The Zoenian ignored Deanna's answer. Suddenly, his face completely changed and he looked
off into the distance. The change in his face was amazing as Deanna observed. His eyes glazed
and his whole body looked relaxed. He slowly turned his head to face her and Deanna was not
sure what she recognized in his eyes. Was it a face of a man facing a final demise or was it a face
of someone who saw a peaceful sunrise? The ambiguity was striking. Can you hear the spirits
sing? Jimilli asked her.
Deanna knew that questions were the best way to confront a person not based in reality. "Do
the spirits sing to you?"
"What do they sound like?"
They are silent.
How can I explain? The demons sing to me silently. You can sense the highs and lows. Your
breath is pulled inward as the melody reaches full climax. But there is no music. Silence. Your
eyes close and the demons dull all senses. Only the part of the soul you call hope knows the
music is there in the dark abyss of silence.
Deanna knew this was a word game full of innuendos and misconceptions, but her curiosity
was peaked and she decided to play, "When do the lyrics become audible?"
When a small fracture in the glass allows strains of notes to be heard through the silence. He
looked at Deanna knowing he had her undivided attention.
"Then, shatter the glass wall." Deanna reasoned.
You think to big. All of you think too big. You believe that big bangs are what changes the
world. For you, there needs to be a death, an explosion, a massive force to break the wall. But
that is not so. Small moments. Small movements always crack the glass wall. It all begins there.
She thought of the image of the glass. She knew what it meant. The sides where drawn. The
wall blocked Deanna's deepest fear to lose control to love. To allow another to completely hold
you with no inhibitions, no restraint. So pure. The wall that kept herself away from vulnerability.
How many times has she said to others that vulnerability is the beginning of love?
Listen, Deanna. Came the plea. She wasn't sure who said that. Was it the old man or her own
spirit pleading she would listen?
You see now? From the chip comes the shattering of the wall. You must allow the crack, but
you can never break the glass alone. This world is made up in pairs. My half must shatter the
glass. That clear plane is where love resides. One's not half two. The two are halves of one when
the glass breaks. The music makes them one.
Deanna was frozen in a memory of her father sitting comfortable with a old book in his hand.
How did he know? "My father used to quote that from an earth poet. The two are halves of one.
" She wanted to hear the music. "What do the lyrics say?"
Let your mind go and your body will follow.
To any logical soul, Riker could never explain why he needed to find Deanna and say
goodbye. They had said their peace last night, but his feet carried him farther than his mind. And
he did not think. He simply felt. He felt ever atom of his being propelling him forward. He was
nobody at that moment, but himself. Only a Zoenian could understand how Will Riker walked
straight to that room and found Deanna.
"Deanna, I couldn't leave without saying goodbye." He smiled as a memory echoed in his
mind. "I've said that before to you, haven t I?"
Deanna moved her head away from Jimilli and slowly looked up. She felt as if she had been
woken abruptly from a dream. A heavy drunkenness had evaporated and all she could see was his
face. It was Will.
"Deanna, what s wrong?"
"Nothing, I m sorry Will. It s nothing. What did you say?"
Will would not let it go as nothing. "Deanna, what is it?" He looked next to her and then he
noticed Jimilli. As Will was about to ask him a question, Jimilli stood and walked away.
"Yes, I m okay."
There was nothing else to say. Will did not feel like filling up the silence with meaningless talk
and Deanna seemed to be in her own reality. So, he simply sat next to her and did not say a word.
They sat there for almost ten minutes without a word spoken or a thought communicated.
Shoulders were slightly touching, but no more and no less. She did not look into his eyes, but she
closed them and turned to face the blinding light of one of Zoenia's suns. She did not turn away
this time, but rather made sure her whole face was feeling the sun's warmth. The sun's strength
went beyond warming her face, it went to the deepest part of her soul. Every pore drinking the
warmth and Deanna simply concentrated on the sensation that enveloped all her senses.
Now, the sense of dread hand been evaporated. Will was sitting next to her. In that world, in
that plane, Will's presence was all that mattered. What did Jimilli say? This is where love resides.
It surprised Deanna because it was not an overwhelming powerful surge of love, but rather, it was
a lucid, undiluted feeling. The purest thing that came close to it was the day that Deanna spent on
the beach of France. One early moment on a deserted beach, she took off her shoes and began
walking barefoot on the sand. All other senses, sight, sound, emotions merged and concentrated
on the feeling of the sand. It was if her whole body and mind existed to only feel the sand, the
caress, the quiet peace. Nothing else was alive.
This is the same plane Deanna now existed, except the singular sensation she felt was the love
concentrated on one man sitting next to her, barely brushing against her shoulder.
Will noticed that people were moving onto the transport. "Deanna, you have to go now."
Every word he spoke was like a bell that rung her into reality. As she stood to get onto the
transport, she felt a slight pressure of Will's hand on the small of her back. Ever so slightly, his
hand gently directed her to the transport.
Will's hand guiding her.
You already have a part of my soul, why can't you take all of it?
Two are halves of one.
The next sound she heard was the glass breaking. A truth spoken in the spring as the music
kissed her lips. Her mind slipped and glided against her other halves soul. Then she heard the
Then tears now came. She stood in this unsheltered place that love called its home. Will was
waiting for her here.
"I'm not going, Will." In the fraction of a second, a simple statement spoken changing the lives
of two people forever.
Will recognized it and didn't say a word. She was where she belonged. Facing Will Riker in a
plane without any walls. The future was clear now, he didn t have to ask why, where or how. He
did not have to ask any questions. They both knew the important answers. He stood facing
Deanna as people walked past them boarding a transport headed for Betazed.