Premise: What if?
Disclaimer: I do not own anything of much value, let alone the rights to Star Trek.

"What's this?" Lily Sloane asked in confusion as he handed her the PADD.

"Instructions for Commander Riker. Telling him to find a quiet corner of North America and stay out of history's way." With a tinge of sorrow, Jean-Luc Picard’s blue eyes met hers for the last time as he sent her to the escape pod. Finally he stood alone on the bridge, staring down at the spinning blue-green world that in three hundred years would be his birthplace, his home away from the Enterprise. The prison he had just condemned his entire crew to hide in for the rest of their lives.

Part One

Time: the night of April 4th, 2063

They had missed her death. She was now one with the stars. Her sleek hull, powerful warp nacelles, and the bold letters written across her bow: NCC 1701-E USS Enterprise. She was gone. Gone before they had even gotten to know her. And she had died alone. Only the cold thoughts of the Borg drones as they vaporized had been with her. The rush of joy, the unbridled pride that would come with watching humans make first contact with the noble Vulcans tomorrow seemed hollow.

"Where did they go?" She asks, and places a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"An island in the south pacific. Uncharted. He had to destroy her before Data could take over the main computer. We saved the future, restored the time-line..." He pauses, hands Geordi the padd. "Damn." He sinks to a crouch, staring at the earth beneath his feet. Earth, not deck plating, not some alien soil, just earth.

"You know, if we could find or build a boat, we could join them. The captain gave us the coo rdinates." Geordi adds optimistically.

"I know." William T. Riker, commander of the former USS Enterprise-E, stands up. His eyes flash, determined. "For right now, round up our people. Gather supplies and get ready to move out. We'll probably be camping. We also need to keep a low profile. Phasers, tricorders, tools, anything 24h century- keep it well hidden. Be ready to move out at daybreak, for tonight hit the tents. Get some sleep." Geordi nods and heads toward their team. Eleven of them were stuck here. He reaches for her, and she returns his grasp.

"We'll be all right Will." She is calm, as always. His chest falls.

"I know. We've just got to stick together. We'll adapt. Most of the crew is from Earth anyway."

She laughs softly. "Speak for yourself. I'll have you know I'm half little green alien."

He throws his arm easily around her shoulders. "I wasn't aware that little green aliens had a sacred chalice, much less a set of Holy Ring s."

"You’d be surprised what doesn't make it into Starfleet history books. Like a warning about consuming tequila with a genius of warp design." She winces, laying her head on his shoulder. "I'll never, ever touch an alcoholic beverage again."

"Oh come now Deanna. A hangover is part of the human experience. The urge to vomit your guts out, that's as human as it gets." Her eyes widen in horror.

"I'm going to---?" He smiles, and rubs her back comfortingly.

"Hopefully not."

Through the trees in front of them Geordi is overseeing the impromptu campsite. Five small tents in a loose circle surrounding the pile of Starfleet equipment, covered neatly with a dirty green tarp.

"It's not Risa."

Will smiles. "But, for tonight, it's home. Where should we go?"

Geordi points to the nearest tent on his right. "You and the counselor will have to room together. Space is a bit scarce."

"Aye sir, mister La Forge sir." Will tease s, releasing Deanna and grabbing two sleeping bags from the pile. "See you in the morning." The engineer turns away and fiddles with a tricorder, setting an alarm to go off should anyone attempt to break into their camp.

Deanna's dark eyes blink slowly and swim for a moment. "Are you all right?" He asks, guiding her to the tent.

"Fine." She replies softly, "I guess I'm still having some trouble with the tequila."

"Now what did your mother tell you about drinking with strange men?" He teases gently as he unrolls the sleeping bags. Deanna sinks to the floor, head on her knees.

"I'm dizzy." He runs a hand over her hair.

"I'll get you some water. Lie down. I'll be right back." He disappears into the yawning Montana night. She crawls carefully into the refuge for the sleeping bag. Not even bothering to remove her boots. He returns with a Starfleet canteen. "Deanna. Drink this."

She groans in sleepy annoyance. "Go back to your quarters W ill." He helps her sit up and steadies her hands around the water bottle.

"Drink this now and you'll be far better off in the morning." She's too tired to argue. He holds her close. Closer then a friend might, but tonight she enjoys it. The last thing she feels before the deep blackness of sleep takes her is a single droplet; a tear of his brushes her cheek. He tucks her sleeping body into the sleeping bag and lies awake for a long time. Silently mourning the 24th century.


Part 2

Time: early morning, April 5th, 2063

Deanna's warm body is curled against him as she sleeps. He can feel the rhythm of her breathing even through both sleeping bags. He can't sleep. Unlike the merciful fog of intoxication dulling her mind, his will not cease to wonder. He has read Picard's message so many times that the words blur. The Enterprise-E is gone. The gleaming chrome of the bridge consoles, the pulse of the warp core- his trombone!

He sighs deeply, and rolls again to his back. Deanna readjusts to lie with her head balanced on his chest. Any other night and his heart would be racing and his mind lost in thoughts of her. Zefram Cochrane had struck a chord. For one moment he had paused. "Husband?" It was a simple question; only two syllables and it had plagued him. Only for a moment. Her emphatic (though drunken) denial was reality. Tonight was a moment out of time.

Out of time. He almost laughed at himself. They had an abundance! Over three centuries too much time. He wouldn't even be born for another 300 years. He' be the oldest Starfleet captain in history, 380 years old, give or take a decade. But then again, Starfleet wouldn't exist for another hundred years. Friends, colleagues, even his father, hundreds of years from existence. His family was on Enterprise, but now even that was divided. Worf and Beverly were on Brevet Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They were all right. He could almost see then, unpacking the escape pods. Beverly giving orders, her hair pulled back in a non-regulation ponytail. Worf checking the perimeter through the jungle. The captain-

His mind stopped. Lily had told him that the captain was the last to leave. When she had closed the door on her escape pod, he had been standing on the bridge. Looking around at the empty chairs with a look of serene "acceptance".

She said that he "Seemed to have finally accepted it. Forgiven himself. Done what needed doing. He's a good man. Always looking out for his crew. Like they were his kids or something." Riker's eyes tear up again. Jean-Luc Picard. His commanding officer, the man who was more then a father, a mentor, his guide. Sacrificed. Gone in the line of duty.

"You son of a bitch. I can't picture you going out any other way." He whispers to a memory. Data too, gone, not sacrificed willingly, but taken. Taken in by the Borg. No wonder Picard had stayed behind. If there was one fate the captain would not tolerate for any living soul, it was assimilation.

"It's going to be empty without you Data 'My memory engrams will notice your absence.'" He whispers again to the night. A sharp intake of breath is his reply as the sleeper on his chest sits up with a start.

"Bill?" Years since she called him that. Her voice catches, hesitantly. As she looks past him her eyes are glazed. Deanna drops her head in her hands. She swallows, painfully. She pauses, disoriented and he moves quickly to release her from her sleeping bag. Tequila was one of the worst. (Thankfully Romulan ale was still safely with the Romulans.) He had learned that back in his academy days. One crazy night with his honors flight class and a trio of Orion exchange students- the memory still hurt.

"I'm here Deanna. It's all right." Will grabs her arms and pulls her out of the tent. She resists more out of a lack of coordination then desire. He walks with her a few feet, towards the woods. Deanna falls hard to her knees. He drops next to her, one arm around her back, and the other holding her head. She chokes, and slams her hands into the frigid grass before she vomits. In the chill night air, steam curls up from the ground beneath her.

"It'll be over soon." Will promises gently. She rocks back, sitting on her knees as he supports her. Her body goes rigid against him as she coughs up more of 'the good stuff' Deanna rubs her mouth against her sleeve, and falls forward to vomit again. Her breathing comes quickly, tiny gaps in between the expulsion. Her eyes tear up, her hands starting to go numb from the near frozen dew, but she can't move. Can't breathe, her rib cage closes inward, collapsing her lungs. She chokes again, staring at the black ground as the noxious liquids of her stomach trickle from her mouth. His hand releases her hair and runs a cloth over her face. She gulps again, muscles throughout her body tighten angrily, but her stomach is empty. She hiccups weakly, and turns her face to him. In the weak light her eyes are black pools in the ivory of her face.

"Bill?" He breathing slowly begins to return too normal. As he lifts her he can feel her heart race against his chest.

"It's all right. You'll feel better now." He walks quickly. Her body trembles through her thin shirt as he sets her feet on the ground outside the tent. "Drink." He orders sternly, guiding the canteen to her mouth. Deanna fills her mouth obediently, and spits it to the ground.

"I'm so cold." She pleads. He rests his hand on her cheek, and his blue eyes betray his caring.

"Finish the water Deanna." She gulps the remains of the canteen. A small rivulet trails down her neck. Further dampening her shirt. He guides her stumbling to the floor of the tent. She wraps her arms tightly around her chest. Her teeth chatter vengefully, and she stops fighting her eyelids. Will quickly unzips both of the sleeping bags, and pulls her to him. They lie there, spooned between the layers. Her breath comes raggedly to her lips. He breathes slowly and evenly.

"I'm-" She cuts off, her body shaking.

"What Deanna?" He rolls her to face him. "I need to remove your clothes."

She nods, and releases her arms. He gently starts to slide her shirt over her head.

"-Going to request an addendum to the Zefram Cochrane biography. 'Never ever drink with him'." She snuggles against him. Safe in the warmth that emanates from him. He leans down and kisses her head.

"I'll help you write it."


Part 3

Time: dawn, April 5th, 2063

When she awoke, still somewhat dizzy, she was nearly naked, and wrapped in a more then friendly embrace with Will Riker. His strong arms encircled her body, and she was snuggled up against his chest. She sighs. Wrapped around Will Riker. How many times she had woken up that way? Waiting for the inevitable sign she is dreaming, she sits up slowly. For a moment she thinks he will wake at the motion, but he continues to sleep. His dreams are peaceful, but sad. Off guard she brushes his mind and an outpouring of emotion flows into her. Grief, loss, and pain. Her eyes tear up, and she pulls her shirt down from its place hanging from the center of the tent. She takes a deep breath and seals off her mind. Later, when her mind is a little less foggy, she will deal with his dreams. She unzips the tent and steps out into the bright Montana sunshine.

"Counselor! I’m glad you’re feeling better." Geordi is as cheerful as the daylight, and she can feel the tension in her shoulders ease.

"Thank you. But I don’t remember being ill." She sits down on a tarp next to the small fire Lt. Mason and Ensign Ellix are using for breakfast. The ensign smiles at her.

"You should be thankful for that, sir." She teases, and then pauses, looking back towards Lt. Mason and hiding a smirk.

Deanna watched them with amazement. "Geordi?" She slowly inquires. "What did I do?" Geordi watches her face tighten with apprehension.

"Don’t worry. Someday Starfleet might give you a commendation for your assistance with Mr. Cochrane." He replies his face calm and solemn. "If they don’t bust you down to Lieutenant first." Laughing heartily he finishes, with great will power. "After all, you were on duty."

Her slap across his shoulder rewards her with a comforting thud. "I remind you that I do outrank you Mr. La Forge. And when a superior officer asks you a question…" Geordi, still chuckling, leaps to his feet at attention.

"Yes ma’am. To answer the commander’s question yes, you were drunk, and for some time during the night you were quite ill."

"And caused me no end of trouble." Will’s grin splits his face, even though his blue eyes remain cold. "At ease Mr. La Forge."

"Aye sir." Geordi knelt back down and continues his battle with breakfast. Deanna turns her head and gives Will her best impression of the ‘daughter of the 5th house’ glare. He only joins Geordi and the junior officers in the chuckling. Her face softens, and she crosses to him, taking his arm.

"I’m sorry Will. I appreciate you watching out for me." He pulls her to his side and squeezes her shoulders.

"Always." No one speaks. Their eyes meet, and the spark in his eye does something horrible to her knees. The silence continues, until eventually Ensign Ellix, a short, fiery Bajoran, coughs and she snaps out of it. Er face reddening slightly.

"What are you trying to make?" Will asks lightly. At least, his voice is light, when she catches his eyes again they are icy.

"Oatmeal. We had to trade all of our rations to get maps and some currency." Lt. Mason sighs and hands Riker the dirty leather bag holding all of their ‘wealth’.

"I thought the economy of earth was decimated during this time period." Ellix asks, stirring the gray mush that was breakfast.

"It is." Will replies patiently. "However, some things can still be used to barter with." He dumps the contents of the bag into his palm. Five small, slightly scratched disks stare back lazily.

"What are they? Gold?" Deanna picks one of and holds it up to her eyes. "Who would want these?"

Geordi laughs again, his eyes crinkling up in the corners. "They’re the only thing anyone will trade for, or with. They’re primitive holo-discs. The ones with blue edges are travelogues and worth the least. The two red ones are ‘alternative entertainment’ and we’ll need a lot more of them to get to Brevet Island." Deanna’s eyebrows voiced her disgust.

"I think I’ll go wash up."

Will nods to her and secures them away quickly. "Good. Currency is a start. I think our best bet will be to backpack our way to Northern California. Once we reach the coast we can try to find our way out to the others." Geordi plops a lump of oatmeal into a camping cup before him.

"It’s going to be quite a trek to the coast. Several hundred miles, and then we have to sail the Pacific. I hope you’ve brushed up on your sailing recently." Will nods, unconcerned.

"Sir?" Lt. Mason pipes up. "Why don’t we just head southwest and leave from near San Francisco. Won’t there be a bigger chance of finding a boat where there are more people?"

"Were more people. Now it’s all corpses." Riker replies darkly. Smoothly launching into an explanation. During the third world war Los Angeles and San Francisco were some of the first places to be bombed out. Los Angeles won’t even be inhabitable for another fifty years when the radiation finally dissipates."

"I see." Mason thinks for a moment. "I’ll go check if Solis and Anthony have the Phoenix ready to go." Ellix jumps up and joins him leaving just the senior officers.

Geordi’s smile vanishes. "He’s dead, isn’t he?"

Will takes a deep breath and nods. "I believe he stayed on board to make sure the Enterprise was destroyed."

"Hell of a way to go." Geordi finished. "Data too. And we’re stuck here. Hundreds of years before holodecks, in the middle of a whole lot of nowhere." Geordi throws a rock into the woods next to them.

"I knew I could count on your optimism Geordi." Will gives him a crooked grin, and begins to eat his oatmeal, thoughtfully. "Beverly has things under control on Brevet, she’s a good leader. As for us, Crewman Solis and Ensign Anthony have requested to stay behind and assume the identities of the Kinneys. Two astrophysicists that Cochrane was working with. And according to history, still working with."

La Forge tilts his head in thought. "Do you think that will work?"

"What other choice do we have?" He finishes his oatmeal without tasting it. "We’re going to have to bend the rules, and ourselves if we want to make sure the future, our future, is all right without us there."

That makes the engineer smile. "Our future, going off without us. Silly isn’t it?" Will nods with a ghost of a smile. "But, speaking of the future. Are you making any plans concerning the counselor?"

Riker’s face is awash with shock. "What?"

"You spent all night together. You watch her 79.8% of the time you are in a room together." Geordi laughs as Will raises an eyebrow. "Data kept track. He always believed that you would end up in a ‘conjugal’ relationship one day."

He tosses back his head and roars briefly with laughter. "Conjugal? Data thought we should conjugate?"

"Those were his exact words." Geordi’s white teeth flash in a huge grin. "Seriously though. There’s no more ship. No more protocol. If someone that gorgeous watched me 81.3% of the time. I attempted to ‘conjugate’ a long time ago." He ends his thought with a wink.

As he ran his hand through his beard, he smiles distantly. "That’s the problem Geordi. It was a long time ago. We were different people. We’ve both changed so much. We might be destined for other things. Other people. I don’t want to stand in her way."

Wisely Geordi settles it, as he claps Riker on the shoulder. "The stream is that way. Why don’t you let her tell you who, or what is in her way." And with that, he heads back to the tents. Starting to bring one down for the day’s hike.

For a long moment Will watches the ashes of the fire steam up into the morning air. Finally he stands. "Maybe…" He asks himself, and the question hangs before him, all the way to the river.


Part 4

Time: afternoon, April 5th, 2063

Through the trees, long before he reached the water, he could hear it. The water sings to itself as it tumbles over the rocky bottom. The water is richly golden, and forms a halo of reflection around the dark head sitting near the bank. As he grows closer a sound mingles with the din of the water, he takes several steps, and the sound clarifies into something that breaks his heart.

"Deanna?" She lifts her beautiful face from her knees, her huge ebony eyes wet and over flowing down her face. His hands take her chin, and even without their inherent connection, he could have felt her pain. With it the sensation of her sorrow echoes the river before them as it tears through his heart. His arms wrap around her. Silently, she collapses into him, and he closes his eyes. Reverently he does nothing but hold her. His mind wanders, blank from rational thought, and to his great surprise, her thoughts begin to drift into his mind. Like scraps of cloth, or pieces of paper, they float and dance their way through his head.

Her grief is a dark blue haze, an ocean, pulsing and obscuring her more complex emotions. One thought forces its way through and rears its head. Her father. Ian Andrew Troi. Will had never met him. He had seen pictures, but Deanna's memory had life. The sparkle in his eye betrayed a sense of humor, and an inner strength that might have been a match for Lwaxana. He relaxes into it. The memory of her father feels safe; the warmth in it starts to burn through the fog.

Then the Borg came. Like a plague of locusts they descended through her mind, and a black horror of hatred ripped through her thoughts. Her father turns and looks at her, he smiles, but that warm, cheerful smile is a leer. His one of his warm brown eyes winks at him with a laser sight, as his cybernetic arms reach up to grab him. He releases her, in a state of shock. Her sobs take on a different tone and her fist swings blindly into his chest.

"Why?" She spits the question.

He can’t focus on her face. Her thoughts pour through his head like a torrential rainstorm. Flooding and overwhelming his weak mental barriers. He steels himself against her, and forces his thoughts to converge on peace. Calm and hopeful.

"I don't know why Deanna. Don't give up. He might still be alive." His words are hollow in his mouth even as he forms them. "I think we both know never to underestimate the captain."

Her head pounds with one of those headaches born of sobbing. For her entire life her mother had been in her mind. A warm comforting light, like an earth firefly, constantly a source of love and serenity. Now it was gone, as if it had never been. Her father’s death had been similar, but he was dead. She had been so young. The pain was almost forgotten. Her mother just wasn’t here yet. And that was worse. She gave herself a mental shake, trying to regain her composure. Will is here, she remembered. He was grieving the captain and Data as well. Their loss had reopened the wound left by her father. Picard’s quiet strength and intelligence were a familiar and welcome presence. And Data was so innocent, so curiously exploring his newfound emotions. Now she would never feel that again. This injury was too new not to bleed.

Will’s arms are around her. Without them she would have collapsed to the riverbank long ago, but he holds her. He always ends up holding her. Slowly her tears stop. Halting as she exhausts herself. With her head buried against him, she can feel the steady rhythm of his breathing. Out of all the people she knows intimately, he’s all she has left. She quiets her thoughts and feels. There in the back of her mind, often unnoticed, lies their bond. She reaches for it and it darts away. Just out of her reach, like always. There, but not there. Not forgotten, but sidelined into an inescapable eddy. Insanely, she wants it. Impulsively she wants to reach out and hold so tight that it can never, ever hide again.

Without any higher thought, she kisses him. It’s been some time since she was in his mouth, but the sense of familiarity is so strong that she could be back on the shores of that lake on Betazed. Lying in his arms for the first time as something electric passed between them. His lips don’t fight her, but instead welcome her home. A friendly kiss would be quick, relaxed. This has a mind of it’s own. It continues, breaks into another, and another, like waves. She breaks it off. Panting, eyes locked with his as she traces her fingertip across his wet lips.

"If we don’t stop-" He reminds her gently, but it rips her down. She almost gave up, sinking lower to his chest, and heading back to the safe friendship they had trapped themselves into. Deep within the recesses of her mind something primal, lost and afraid seizes him. Wraps her arm around his neck and rolls him on top of her. She digs her nails into his neck and then reaches into his mind. There, back in his thoughts is their bond. She rips it out from the shadows and pulls it to the front of his mind with a single whisper.

"Imzadi." Then he was there with her. And the 21st century fell away. The Borg vanished. The pain of Picard’s death, Data’s untimely demise, the riverbank, cold and damp beneath her back- were nothing. All of reality was William Riker. His hand on her shoulder, his lips on her neck, his hand brushing across her breast. She makes a small noise in the back of her throat. Her mother used to tell her that no matter how skilled they were, a lover that knew you as a friend, as a confidant, as your full self, was always more ‘worthwhile’. As he ran his fingers delicately under the curves of her breasts, she agreed. Will knew her, he could play her body, and he could make her scream. And regardless of the refugees, the rest of the away team, she would have him. Even if the Vulcans had to make first contact around their writhing bodies.

As he toyed with a helpless nipple through the fabric of her shirt, she knew he agreed. He felt it, just as she did. The isolation, guilt, and the grief that came from the deaths they had been unable to prevent. But with her hands running suggestively down his inner thighs, all was right. Passion, dark and cruel, ate at her. Pushing, coaxing, and ultimately winning.


Part 5

Time: April 5th, midday

He kisses her gently, and she bit him back. Seductively she nibbles the inside of his lip, running her tongue along his lips. He lifts her from him, entwining his fingers in her hair.

"Is this right?" She can’t answer him. Her dark eyes bore through him, sending shivers down his back. Usually so gentle, her eyes only speak of pain.

"Please." The word falls from her lips. Not a plea, but a command. Vital to her survival, at this moment in every sense of the word she needs him.

Throughout their early relationship she had resisted him. Then she had let him in, and they had set the pace together. Through all his life, he had never been able to say no to her. The cold suffering in her eyes told him what he would do. Without another word he pulls her lips to his, forcibly melting her lips together with his. She inhales sharply as he breaks the kiss to trail down the side of her neck. She locks her gaze on his face. Watching intently as those blue eyes took in only her as his fingers nimbly unbutton her vest, and toss it free from her shoulders. She moves to remove her shirt, put he grabs her hands and slides them down her body. Forcing her to feel out the path for him. She closes her eyes as they fill up with tears. Will was here, with her, even now she can feel his hands race across the skin of her stomach, dancing beneath her shirt, and toying with the soft flesh of her breasts, as he plays with her. It is play; desperate, guilty play, born of need . Her need, and his. The intricacy of their relationship, the unspoken debate of friends and lovers, is gone. Once it was only they in the universe, one moment of connection that had spawned a lifetime. His hands ended their play and took her breasts in their strong fingers as she moaned softly and opened her mind.

Slowly at first she reached out from her body. The heat of him makes it difficult to concentrate. As his hands trace down, tormenting the curves of her body she follows the fire back. Tentative, her first brush of his mind is quick. He stops exploring the curve at the base of her spine and roughly cups her face.

"Imzadi.’ He whispers. A quiet nod of permission, and tears run freely down her face. He eyes narrow as she concentrates then the world fades away. A jolt shocks his skull as she slides into his mind. Her blade cuts neatly through layers of thought and finds it’s quarry. There, nestling in the back of his mind is the bond they forged so many years ago. She breathes painfully; his hands have worked their way up her thighs and now reach for her center. She mimics him and plunges into the link. Her powers, all the strength of loss and impotent fury melt and rework their bond from the inside out. Tearing his mind open and crafting it anew. She gasps, air becoming a forgotten necessity. She holds the air for barely a moment when it tears out of her. Deanna cannot control the cry the rips her throat. He had learned a few things since they had last made love. Completely without her notice he is inside of her, and her body, leaving her will to work with him, glides up fiercely. Sh e has no control. He conquers her, and her own body aids him in it. The rough skin of his hands tears the flesh of her back. Abruptly he pulls her to him, kissing with a ferocity that brings the sharp copper of blood to her mouth, and in a moment of insanity she relishes it.

She is dying. Her lungs fight hopelessly for breath, her heart tears from its chest, and vision abandons her to the darkness that must be death. Her own body is gone, merged frantically with Will. She panics, struggling against the inevitable- and she explodes. Abused and forlorn her heart beats it’s last and freezes, lost in a world all it’s own. The darkness wants her and she will go. Eternity ends in a second as light pours into her soul. Lying there, clasped against his chest, her heart beats as his rattles the cage of his ribs. Again, their hearts beat in unison. She buries her face in his neck. Body forgotten, her mind torn asunder, but replaced. Remolded together with him. Her Imzadi.

Her shaking only echoes the trembling of his arms as he grasps her to him. He can feel the strength of his arms. The warmth of his breath across her back, and the prickly tickle of his beard through her hair, all felt not through him, but through the skin of her.

"Deanna" His voice echoes in her ears. "Deanna what have you done?"

She crawls up, kissing the wetness of his tears across his cheek. "We reopened it."

He laughs. "That’s putting it mildly. I can feel my body through your hands." She nods the ghost of a smile flashing across her face.

"We opened it, and forged it again. This time we’re older, instead of young love, we had fifteen years of friends to build on."

Will Riker cradles her against him, sharing her pride. "Is this what the bond between two Betazoids would be like?"

She nods, unconciously rubbing a scratch across her shoulder blade.

"Imzadi…did I hurt you?" Concern softens the legendary Riker eyes. Her own black ones stare back coyly.

"You’ll have to try harder." His eyebrow was up, a real smile lighting his face.

"I sense a challenge commander." Her only response was to roll beneath him. Feeling the comforting weight of his body.

The Phoenix was prepped, and standing by. The counselor and Will only had a few moments to get into position to watch history live itself out. Geordi hurried through the woods, walking quickly along the makeshift path to the stream, and crashing into somewhere he had never imagined being.

His senior officers, his friends were entwined together. Troi straddling the first officer’s waist, her hands protecting her breast, as he laughs and flips her beneath him. Her long dark hair haloes out under her head as she wraps her legs around him. He threw up his hand instinctively blocking the sight of them. His awkward touch caused the ocular implants to respond by politely changing to infrared. They glowed like the volcano he had watched as a kid from a shuttlecraft rounding Io. The sheer fury of that volcano had drawn him in. He couldn’t take his eyes away, just as now, against all better judgment, he removed his hand. Will’s shirt was pillowing her head, and hers was pulled up, exposing a long expanse of smooth skin.

He whirled around, and just started walking. With his advanced eyesight he now knew that a tiny birthmark caresses the upper curved of her hip. He grinned. Everyone knew it would happen. Someday. Unfortunately it would not be until Brevet Island that he would get a chance to see if he had collected on any bets. As he jogged up to the Bajoran Ellix, a white strip of tape obscuring her telltale nose ridges, she gave him a curious look.

"Can’t find them?" Geordi chuckled.

"Oh I found them. They’ve just found something more important then history." On the other side of Ellix, someone joined his chuckling.

"We should all be so lucky."


part 6

Time: April 5th, afternoon

Riker’s hopes of clearing out before the Vulcans landed were dashed. No fault of his of course, women had a way of always being late. The woman in question wasn’t his even, but she could sure cause her own galaxy of trouble. The Phoenix had almost blown her date completely, but Geordi had managed to jury-rig the plasma injections just enough to make sure she flew across the sky and put on a fantastic show for the Vulcans.

"Beautiful." Will whispers to the sky before downing his shot glass. After the Phoenix’s last fiasco, he had agreed with Geordi. She was more important then all of their lives. The Phoenix had risen from the ashes, and successfully attracted the attention of the Vulcans. History was on course and all was right with the world. At least, save the temporal incongruencies of a small team of dedicated personnel from an organization that would take the next 150 years or so to get organized. He swirls his glass, genuine backyard whiskey, vintage 2063. He sighs and winces as it burns down his throat. At least he wasn’t on duty, he thinks wryly, and a small smirk forms. It fades quickly as he suddenly becomes popular. A trim black woman plops down beside him and clinks her glass with his.

"To the Vulcans. Whoever they are." Lily toasts with grim excitement. She had witnessed so much sorrow, so much loss, and all for the well being of some meeting with some aliens who would change the world. Aliens. It was surreal; she would meet aliens, in about 2 hours. For all she knew, they were green.

Beside her, Will Riker chuckles dryly. "They are green. Sort of, with pointed ears, and no sense of humor."

Her jaw tries to jump from her mouth to land on the counter. "How’d you know-?" He answer was past his lips before she finished the question.

"It was clear in your head. So I heard it." She shakes her head in shock.

"I thought you were human. People can’t just do that." She inches away, sliding to the edge of her barstool. In response he slapped his glass down and flagged down the bartender.

"I am 100% human, at least, I was under I met her." He slams down his drink, relishing the pain in his mouth as it momentarily blurs the dull ache in his head. "I guess you could say she has a way of getting under your skin. Deep down to the center of you."

She nods with sudden clarity. "That woman Zee was babbling about. Diane, Dena, Delores…The exotic who had never had tequila." He slaps her shoulder gently.

"Another one for the lady, and leave the bottle. She’s right on the money." His clouded blue eyes met hers, and she had only a second to catch the flash of pain that he hid in a smile. "Deanna. Commander Deanna Troi. The love of my life. The only woman who’s ever-"

She thinks she understands. "Touched your heart?" She tosses her head back in a smooth motion as he empty glass joins his on the counter.

"Worse. Hearts heal. Eventually the bleeding stops. She touched my soul." Lily rests her head in her hands.

"Your soul?" She curiously prods at him. He continues, his voice clam and reverent. Like a teacher explaining the facts of the universe.

"My soul. Happy little thing, floating around, blissful and ignorant, and BAM!" He jumps off his stool and circles behind her, whispering in her ear. "She reaches out wraps her gorgeous fingers around it, and claims me as her own. For eternity my soul only feels whole with her wrapped around it. Thankfully she never let it go. She’ll always have it. She could have it all, but it’s been years since she let herself want anything else from me." He stalks back to his stool. "Of course, until she loses everything she cares about in one big KABOOM!" He hisses, throwing out his fingers in an exaggerated explosion.

"She was a beautiful ship. Like a huge city up there, in space. Lifetimes of titanium…just there." She raises a glass in testament. "Jean-Luc had such a hard time letting her go."

A solitary tear stings at his eye, and he nods his agreement. "It’s not just the ship. It’s worlds, our lives, our friends." He pours clumsily, spilling a few splashes onto the ramshackle countertop. "Hell, I’ll die 300 years before I’m born. Everything I knew would always be there. My life is gone." He runs a hand though his disheveled hair. "But as much as I hate it. It’s a thousand times worse for her." He taps the skin of his forehead. "People, they’re all here for Deanna. Right here, in her mind. Her mother, the captain, Beverly, they all have some kind of voice that’s constant. A continuous background noise."

Lily’s dark eyes only need a second to betray her confusion.

"It’s like-" He pauses, tying to urge his addled brain to feats of thought. "Like suddenly losing color. You know this stuff here-" He downs it, smacking his lips as he sets his glass to the counter. "Is the color of Rigelian slugs…but suddenly they aren’t. For all your eyes can tell you, it could be hot pink."

Lily nods, "So she’s lost." He snaps his fingers.

"You got it."

"She’s lost, and she comes running to you." She continues, piecing it together in her mind.

He smiles, and rests his head in his hands thoughtfully. "She loves me. She just had to lose everything else to realize it."

"That’s what this is about?" Her eyes flash indignantly. You’re mad because she turned to you now? How can you be angry? You just said you loved her."

"Hey…" He holds up his hands in surrender. "Let me finish before you hang me out." He sighs and sets down his glass; suddenly wishing he had a bit more clarity. "It’s complicated."


"Congratulations." Geordi teases with his trademark grin splitting his face. "And thanks. Dr. Crusher owes me 5 bars of Latinum."

"I think she’ll have some trouble finding them." Deanna replies with a shy smile. With Will Riker back, the chaos of her life had one spot of clarity.

"I wonder what the exchange rate would be…" He muses, and then went for the kill. "You didn’t waste any time did you?"

A human would have blushed, but with classic Betazoid composure she smiles, and squeezes his arm. "I glad you were able to share our joy."

He laughs brightly. "I think I’ve heard that before."

"It’s a Betazoid saying. When you love someone, it’s a joyful thing. Anyone who sees you should share your joy, not be embarrassed." She sits down next to him and picks up a plate of rice. Eating it delicately with her fingers, she continues to explain. "But everyone is different. If you were upset I’d apologize."

"I know." He picks up another plate. "So you’re together now?"

She thinks for a moment and nods. "Yes. We’re lovers, again." Geordi’s enhanced vision catches a trace of a blush, and he presses on.

"Counselor?" Those hypnotic black eyes of hers meet his head on, so he finishes his question. "What happened before? Between you and the commander, I mean. I’ve heard a lot of rumors. Mostly from Cr. Crusher, but-"

"It’s better to hear it from the horse, so to speak." She settles back against a tree, and launches into her story. One that she had shared with few people.


"We met on Betazed, her home planet. I was young, brash and concerned with doing my duty and moving up the ranks as fast as possible, I had a penchant for running the gauntlet of beautiful women as I went. I shared their beds and their lives for a brief time. I never shared more then that. She was a very, serious psychology student." He gives Lily a wink, and she smiles.

"Nothing like a good love story." She toasts, and he continues with a twinkle in his eye.


"Will was the Starfleet representative at my best friend’s wedding. It was his first Betazoid wedding, and he became enamored with me the moment he saw me."


"She was amazing. For the first horrible moments I thought she was the bride. Then I figured it out, and I was lost. Her figure, and when she caught me thinking all the things I wanted to do to her-"


"He forgot, or didn’t care that I was, as far as he knew, a telepath, and his mind traversed more sexual positions then I knew of, but I managed to avoid him all of the reception." Geordi presses her on with intrigued silence. "Eventually he found out who I was, and made a pass at me."


"She shot me down so hard that I bounced."


"He was nothing but persistent, but I managed to fend off his advances."


"She wanted me." Lily laughs heartily. He playfully looks wounded. "She did. She just couldn’t admit it. We went a series of ‘dates’ where she endeavored to bring me up to her level. Finally…she came down to mine, and if it wasn’t for a friend, I never would have known." He leans in, whispering to her. "She invented a psychology technique where you lie down naked next to each other and talk. Just talk." He waggles his eyebrows. "We talked all night. I thought the whole thing was


"He even stood up to my mother for me. It was the first time any man had stood up to her."

Geordi nods. "I can believe that."

Deanna relaxes into the tree, losing herself in another time. "It was progressing rather quickly. He kissed me."


Will winces at the memory. "She kneed me in the stomach."


Her face darkens with an old fear. "Then the Sindareen came. They raided our museum, and took me hostage."


He swallows, remembering the knot in his stomach. "I had to give the order to shoot down the ship with her on it. It went down in the Jalara jungle. Gorgeous, hot and wild. Much like Deanna, in the right mood."


"A raider named Maror held me hostage for three days. He was the only one to survive the crash, and every day he threatened to kill me. He had no plan; he just dragged me along. Eventually I was too much of an annoyance, and he was about to kill me. Will showed up exactly in time." Geordi clucks his tongue in sympathy.

"The cruelty of the Sindareen is legendary. You’re a brave woman."

She shakes her head with a wry smile. "The whole time, I thought about Will riding in on a white horse and taking me to safety."


Riker’s eyes grow soft with respect. "She stood up to that bastard for three days. Alone, with no hope." He took a long draught from his water glass. "She was amazing. She didn’t even cry. Not until she was safe, then she let me hold her, and I was gone."


Her eyes closed, she feels the warmth of the memory. "We made love in the jungle, and it just happened. We just fit. Will Riker was my Imzadi, my beloved, and my-"


"Her first. I was the first man to be with her, but she reached inside me and claimed my soul. She fond a part of me I didn’t know was there. A part that needed her more then anyone can need anything. She was me. My other half."


"After that day, he wrote me a poem. I’ve never been able to forget it. He hates it."


"It was terrible, all sentimental and mushy." He shakes his head. "But she liked it. She loved it. I guess, I did to."


"I hold you close to me.
Feel the breath of you, and the wonder of you
And remember a time
Without you
But only as one would remember
A bleak and distant nightmare
And you shudder against me in your sleep
Do you share the memory with me of dark times past?
And you smile
Do you share the memory of times to come?
The future holds such promise
and just as I cannot imagine how I survived the past
without you
I cannot imagine a future
without you."


"That’s beautiful." Geordi smiles again, his mechanical eyes warm with feeling.


Lily nods to him in understanding. "And since then you’re?"

"We’ve always been connected. In our fist days together on the Enterprise we decided it would be too difficult to have a relationship while we were serving n the same ship. We might have been wrong, but neither of us was ready. Eventually we didn’t want to ruin our friendship. It was too precious." He tightens his eyebrows in pain for a second. Lily shoots him a quizzical look. His voice is full of resignation. "Our bond is back. Exponentially stronger. It’s taking my poor human brain some time to adapt to it."

"But…" She interjected.

"I guess I wouldn’t trade it for the world."


"And now you’re together." He mused, toying with his empty plate. "Again."

She nods, curling up and laying her head on her knees. She yawns, and lets the contentment wash over her. "And we’re whole."

Geordi looses another infectious chuckle. "At least you’ve got the one good thing about being stuck here."


Riker set down his glass, and heads out into the sunshine. Lily Sloane was a few steps behind.

"Hey." She calls.

He turns back and smiles. "I know. Remember how lucky I am."

She folds her arms and nods. "You owe it to the rest of us loners." He holds her gaze for a moment, and then walks away.

"Thanks for the story." She finishes, and heads back to Zefram and the Phoenix, silently hoping that these people. Jean-Luc’s people could learn to live with their sacrifices. They would have to.


Part 7

April 29th, morning

“Down in the valley. Valley so low. Hang your head over. Hear the wind blow.” He continues on to hum the end of the verse. The words a bit elusive in the chill morning air. Morning came cold and clear in the mountains. He loved it. It reminded him of the mountains of Alaska, his home. The sun beams down on him and warms his back and he toys with the fire. Will was always the first one awake in the morning. Always an early riser, he found it his responsibility to great the day. Deanna’s dreams usually woke him anyway. Her mind was so vivid. Her dreams were vibrant mirages of color and voices. People he had never met faces he didn’t know but somehow recognized because she knew them. Once a long time past, she had showed him a goopy mass of paint and called it ‘soul music’. He found the concept bizarre, even ludicrous, but now, he understood in that way so fundamental to Betazoid philosophy. She was his soul music. Her thoughts trilling through his mind, her
emotions tingling his body, and her voice echoing through his-

“You sound just like my father.” She crawls out of the tent and into his arms, sleep gone from her eyes and replaced with a sentimental smile. “I didn’t know you knew that song.”

He leans down to kiss her hair. “I don’t. I borrowed it from you.”

Deanna’s smile waxes quizzically. “Bill? You could pull that from my mind? That’s incredible.” Riker squeezes her to him.

“Why did you start using that name again? It’s been ten years, at least.” He steers quickly. The link was powerful, and the most likely culprit of his nagging headaches. Forgetting her question she snuggles against him. Relishing the warmth in the brisk morning.

“You were mine then.” His eyes entreat her onward. She sighs, turning to him, face safely hidden in his chest. “On the Enterprise, everyone knew you as Will. I didn’t want to give away our relationship. I couldn’t compromise it. We weren’t going to be-” He cuts her off, invading her mouth sweetly. He rests his chin lightly on her head.

“Now I’m yours.” She takes in the scent of him. Warm, earthy with outdoor life, and full of promise.

“William Thomas Riker, no mater what anyone calls you, you are mine.” She only half-teases, as she digs her hands into his shoulders and meets his eyes. Blue as spellbinding as ever. She can’t look away. So much power, but loyal, he could never leave her. Could he?

{No Deanna.} He resounds in her mind, feeling how easily it’s grown to speak to her. She nods her head, her face lit softly with new peace.

{You’re getting better Imzadi.} She sends. {Amazing for a human actually. Some humans never pick up any telepathy, even when they share- intimate relationships.} He kneels to tend the cooking fire.

“Should I start the oatmeal for you?” He asks in jest. Supplies were limited. Trading meant contact with people, and every person they talked to was damage to the timeline. It was a constant gamble. One that he found hard to bluff his way out of. A wrong move and they’d all disappear, or vanish, or turn to goo. Something. Temporal mechanics weren’t a thesis subject for him.

“Always double oatmeal for the counselor.” Reg Barclay chimes in. Yawning as he ambles to the fire. “Otherwise she eats my portion.” Will leans to him conspiratorially.

“I think she’s trying to cut out the competition. Starve them out.” Will whispers loudly, eyeing Barclay up and down. Geordi appears behind the lankly lieutenant and bats his eyelashes delicately at the commander.

“And here I thought you only cared for me.” All three men descend into hopeless laughter, and after a moment. Deanna has to laugh. Here, in an alien past on a familiar world Reginald Barclay had blossomed. Joking with two men he had feared like a warp core breach, once. Home, on the Enterprise. She sighs deeply. Will’s hand caresses her shoulder, feeling her melancholy.

“I think I’ll go for a walk.” Will feigns extreme disappointment.

“But breakfast!”

“’Breakfast’” She replies with distaste. “Will still be the same gray mush it is when it’s warm.” He sank to the fire again.

“You know, when I was a little boy, I was glad to eat my oatmeal.” Barclay adds reproachfully. She continues to walk away. He doesn’t have to watch her retreating back to know she’s going, but, then again, he always was drawn to the gentle curve of her spine. An odd itch tickled his mustache and he brushed it aside without a thought. Geordi and Reg started the dreaded oatmeal and all around him his team emerged from their tents. The elegant and composed T’Solen, her hair tied low at her neck to obscure her ears. The eyebrows couldn’t be helped, but she was content to carefully dodge all humans they came across. The young and excitable Heath Mason emerged sleepily from the tent he shared with Barclay. Ensign Heidi Ashom made her presence known with a sneeze. So far nothing in the medkit had been able to assist her allergies. Ellix Jova, her Bajoran nose crudely hidden by some bandage tape, sat down near the fire. Honoring Reg with a fond (Only Geordi caught the blu
sh on Reg’s face) smile. His people were young but intelligent and capable engineers, and he was proud of them. He stands slightly apart, reaching for that right stick of firewood. Their thoughts are comforting. Hope burbling always from the wellspring of the young.

His head throbs violently for a second, then another. He blinks, wondering if it’s the sunshine. Ellix timidly meets his eyes.

“Are you all right commander?” Geordi stands up and takes a step towards him. He forces a smile.

“Just a headache. Maybe I’m allergic too.” He hypothesizes genially, as he rubs that odd wet itch. The junior officers return to their breakfast, calmed by his slightly humor. The questioning hand on his arm is a million light years away as his glance catches his hand. Blood. Brilliant as a Starfleet uniform and just as out of place. Confused, he runs his other hand over it, searching for the mysterious injury. But drops soon join the smear. The dreadful pain in his head directs him upward, and the blood slows in his mustache before trailing down his chin into his beard. His hands cup beneath his nose, as if protecting it will quench the flow.

“Commander?” The Bajoran’s voice echoes dully in a hot, gray world. Pain shoots up as his knee hits the ground, but darkness takes him with strength all it’s own.


Part 8

April 29th, later that morning.

No matter what kind of trees she found, on whatever planet, they always brought her comfort. The bristling pines of the Terran Rockies were beautiful in their stubborn existence. Growing out of solid rock, they still managed to reach their deep green limbs towards the sky. Pines. Bill called them pines. She had seen them only briefly. Huge stands of them beneath a shuttle; a few days spent beneath them during survival training. She sinks to the dark earth, resting back on a giant trunk. The strong, deep aroma of the pines filling her nose and clearing her mind. She closes her eyes, beginning her morning mediation. Slowly she distances herself from her body, forgetting arms, legs and feet. Rising above her physical self, feeling the minds of those near her. The mind nearest to her, Bill, contentedly radiates love. She relaxes further, and reaches out, beginning her search. His mind powering her, centering her, and then vanishing.

A phaser blast in the back would have been less painful. As a shard of ice rakes across her heart, her lungs empty too quickly for her to scream. She gasps, struggling against the shock. Feeling her eyes burn and start to swim. She can’t pass out. She won’t. She reaches down and concentrates on the pain his absence leaves. Dredging it up to force herself awake. Almost in a dream state she pulls her body upright and stumbles into a run. Her hair trails behind her, catching on the occasional pine bough on the path behind her. She ignores it, ignores everything but him. Seeing with her mind she runs out of the woods and wishes desperately that she didn’t see.

Her Imzadi, lying like dead wood on the ground. She shoves through the people and drops to her knees next to him.

"What happened?" Her mind screams, but her voice will only whisper. Geordi kneels next to her, lying a comforting hand across her back.

"He collapsed. Reg thinks that-" Barclay cuts him off.

"His brain is under great stress." He points to a graph on the medical tricorder. "See there, and there. It’s restructuring itself. New neurons, new blood vessels, all right here."

She wraps her hand around his limp one and cradles it to her chest. Her free hand went to her eyes, wiping the tears she hadn’t felt appear. She meets Barclay’s proclamation with only confusion. He points to the tricorder again.

"Here, this scan is that of a normal human brain. Commander La Forge and this one is Commander Riker’s. See the differences?" She forces her eyes to focus, the one on the left, Geordi’s, was a complicated knot of pulsing gold neurons. The one of the right had different connections, included an area pulsating a dark red. She reaches for the tricorder, still unable to form words

"His body is reacting negatively. I think his mind is asking for more blood vessels to supply the new connections too quickly, and the vessels are weak. One of them ruptured. Others may, but I don’t know much about neurology. If Dr. Crusher-" He lets the sentence trail off.

"Thanks Reg. You’ve been a big help." Geordi speaks off softly.

Barclay shrugs. "Us hypochondriacs know far too much about medicine." La Forge manages a weak smile.

"What can we do?" Deanna finally finds her voice, but it trembles. Lieutenant Barclay’s face is a picture of apology.

"I don’t know. The best thing I can think of is to wait. He will come around; the bleeding’s stopped. I don’t know why his brain’s changing-" Deanna’s sob cut him off.

"It’s me. I did it." Her hysterical confession brings only confused glances. "It’s all my fault!" She grabs the tricorder and runs it over herself quickly. Tears pour in a waterfall down her face as she places it back in his surprised hands. "The new blood vessels. That part of the brain is the telepathic cortex. All Betazoids have it, humans, their mind can’t support it." She takes in one sobbing breath after another. Her heart races. Guilt rakes angry claws through her stomach. Lowering her head to his nearly still chest, she misses the fluttering of his eyelids. Immediately struck by her agony, he buries his hand in her hair, and strokes the back of her head.

"Hush." For a long moment she can’t bring herself to breathe at all. A single shuddering breath fills her lungs and she smiles, kissing his hand.

"Imzadi…" She whispers.

"Commander. Your eyes!" Riker sat up with difficulty; Deanna caught his head and pulled him eye to eye with her. The black depths of her eyes greet his with intense sorrow.

"They’re so much darker Bill."

"Almost black even." Barclay adds helpfully.

"Gave us a scare there." Geordi gives him a strong squeeze on his shoulder.

Will started to chuckle softly, but he finished with a cough. "I’m Betazoid now huh? Which house Deanna?"

"Don’t tease." She orders roughly, and chokes out what everyone is thinking. "You could be dying." His lips attack hers viciously, and he pulls her tightly against him.

"Don’t say that. Never say that. I heard Mr. Barclay here." He gives Reg a wink. "Who is an excellent field medic." He sighs, and pulls himself standing. "I’ve got a few blood vessels out of place. I’ll rest, be careful, not do anything exciting or in anyway fun, and I should be fine."

For his part, Barclay shrugs. "That’s about it commander."

Leaning lightly on Deanna, he manages to take a few steps towards hi tent. "Going to bed now sir." He teases, that infamous spark invading his changed eyes. She is having a hard time meeting them. They were so new in his face. His bright and wicked blue eyes were now a deep shade of navy, even edging towards black.

{You’re just being brave Imzadi.} She thought to him, as she settles him in the tent.

He couldn’t help but sense the guilt that ran off of her. "No. I’m not brave." She looks about to speak, so he quickly silences her. "I trust you. You reforged our bond. If my mind needs a little upgrade to go along with it…I trust you, and these-" He rolls his eyes quickly for emphasis. "Are almost like a gift from you." She wants to laugh, but tears win the day and flood out.

{I love you. Imzadi} He silent declaration brought a soft smile to his face, he pulled her in against him.

{Now Imzadi, that’s something I understand.}


Part 9


"He’s been in and out of consciousness since he collapsed. I don’t think there’s anything else I can do. I can’t reach him telepathically. We don’t have any medical recourse. Maybe if we could somehow reach Beverly in time-" Deanna’s voice was full of so much pain, and drifted off into the blackness that was tormenting him now. He wants so badly to reach out and stroke her face, but his eyes won’t even reveal her presence. His limbs refuse to function and he drifts into deep cold water. Sucked down away from the light that was Deanna Troi.


Her hair smells of pine needles and the smoke of the campfire. Her body is soft warmth against him. His face is momentarily cold as a drop of water, a tear, leaves her eye to rest on his cheek. "Bill? I wish you could open your eyes and stare up at me. Laugh at me for being so afraid." She drops her head to his chest. "I wish your eyes were blue again."


When he quiets his thoughts, he can hear. Hear the gentle humor of Geordi cutting the burned pieces off of his dinner. Hear the nervousness that still plagues Reg every time Deanna touches him. Now there was a new thread. A mind he hadn’t felt before weaves in and out of the thoughts of the others. A deep earthy sense of power, honest and uncompromising grew to an even stronger pitch as iron hands lift him and gently throw him over a mighty shoulder. He knew instantly then, only one man could throw his former commander up like a sleeping targ with complete dignity. How, he doesn’t know, but immediately, even with his head upside down along the Klingon’s back, he feels better. Worf’s presence could only mean something had changed. Deanna’s thoughts take a positive leap and his leaps with her. Then the tingling takes him.

The tickling buzz of what he knows shouldn’t be takes him from the cold dry air of the Rocky Mountains to the cold salty tang that could only be the ocean. Voices danced around him, alien to his ears even thought they seem naggingly familiar.

{{Hold on Imzadi.}} Her voice rings through his mind. A foghorn warning of the rocks ahead and shoving him towards safe waters.


"Alyssa- try and find several compatible blood donors. Get him into the unit now!" A female voice barked, commanding, but calm. Filled with purpose and resolve. A cool hand ran over his forehead, and a hiss at his neck brought a new darkness. One of hope.


May 3rd, afternoon

"It’s all right Deanna. He pulled through fantastically. We were able to stop the bleeding, replace his lost blood volume and bolster the new blood vessels. He shouldn’t have any further difficulties. " The ex counselor’s sobbing continued, but her lips turn up in a smile. Beverly leads her out of the tiny room outside their limited medical facilities. She had been lucky, but Will Riker had always been a fighter.

Across a small path, the small building had a tiny flower garden. Beverly smiles apologetically, and opens the door.

""Welcome to my office." She fetches a glass of water from the small pitcher in the corner. "Here."

Deanna takes it without notice. "But his brain. His eyes. What I did to him. Can you change it back?"

Dr. Crusher casts her eyes downward. "I don’t have the technology or the knowledge to restructure his mind." Disappointment hits her brutally in the gut. The doctor rubs a hand across her back comfortingly. "But I have made him healthy again. Only time will tell if he could have developed telepathic abilities."

"Thank you." She wraps her arms tightly around the taller woman. Beverly squeezes back, delighted to have her friend back. It had taken so long to find them. She knew Jean-Luc would have never wasted time and manpower cobbling together a transporter just to retrieve a handful of people. But she needed them. Running the colony was exhausting work. Worf was her stoic protector and a quiet strength by her side, but she needed help.

"Don’t thank me. It was almost nice to get back to medicine." She crosses to a makeshift desk, covered with padds, maps and drawings. Reaching up she looses her golden-red hair from her surgical cap and shakes it free with her fingers. "Community planning was not part of my classes at the academy." Deanna strides slowly over to the window in the wall. The wall itself a neat construction of logs. Carefully notched together leaving a square hole framed with a recycled escape pod window. Out the window she stares in awe at the collection of new buildings. Mostly of logs, metal sheets of the escape pods welded together to form the roofs. Most of them had the same windows, for they had been busy. Among the buildings Starfleet officers went about their business, all dressed like the 21st century civilians that they were trapped as.

"It’s quite astonishing. You’ve done so much." She crosses back, and wipes her face dry with a hand. "I’m very impressed. It’ll be luxurious to sleep in a bed again."

Dr. Crusher throws her feet up on the desk, and smiles wickedly. "And I suppose you’re wondering how long it’ll be before Will shares it with you?"

Deanna’s blush creeps tentatively across her face. "I have every faith in your abilities. I-" She pauses, and Beverly jumps in to rescue her.

"I’m proud of you Deanna." She looses herself in the ceiling rafters. Deanna can sense a bittersweet sensation fill her mind. "It’s an beautiful thing to be in love."

She perches on the desk, pushing a map of the woods out of the way. The sorrow filling her friend’s heart was a palpable pain.

"I’ll save you the trouble of saying it. They’re both gone. The two men I most loved, both dead. My Wesley vanishes into unknown dimensions for years at a time." She lowers her head to her hands. Long fingers entwining her hair. "You don’t need to lecture me." She sighs, her chest heavy with loss. "I know. It’s just unreal to me. It hasn’t even hit me that Jean-Luc’s gone." She tilts her face up to rest only her chin. "I keep thinking he will return with the ship and take us all away." Troi reaches a hand to her shoulder. Feeling the pain radiate from the gaping wound Picard’s death had left in her heart.

"I wasn’t going to lecture. Just offer."

A bolstering breath left her once again in control. "And I appreciate it." Governor Crusher stands regally. Her face again hopeful and calm. "But, I have a colony to run."

Deanna nods with excitement. "I’m looking forward to exploring it." Crusher leaves her desk to walk her returned friend to the door.

"Dinner? In the galley around sunset?"

"Not 1800 hours?" Beverly shrugs.

"It doesn’t seem to fit. We don’t have a duty rooster. Just a ever growing list of things to do." Deanna could sense the resolve in her companion. Even in grief, the indomitable Howard spirit had found a place in this difficult existence.

"I’ll be proud to work for you. Governor." Beverly curtsied elegantly and disappeared back into her office. Leaving Deanna to wander the many dirt and stone paths of the Brevet Island colony. A path to her left led to the sea, where the cobbled together transporter had wisked them away to safety with their shipmates. Here, on a small rocky isle in the middle of the Pacific, the crew of the Enterprise-E would have to make a new home.

She walks down to the rocks over looking the blue sea below. The gentle swish of the waves is hypnotic and comforting. She spreads out over the warm rock beneath her and closes her eyes. Without even noticing, she is asleep.


Will Riker awakes slowly. His eyes finding first color. Red, brown, blue, the golden of sunlit, and a pale white that drags itself into the shape of a face.

"Hello Will." Her voice is gentle, almost too soft for his ears.

"Beverly…" His lips form her name instinctually, and he jolts completely awake as he realizes that his head is clear. "Amazing." He comments as he runs his hands around his head. Testing it out. No pain. For the first time in weeks, he has no pain. "I think I’ll wait on how we got here. I don’t think I’m ready for a long story just about yet. She laughs cheerfully.

"It’s actually quite simple. We managed to build a transporter with enough power to carry almost a thousand kilos. And then I sent a Klingon into the woods." She declines to make eye contact. In the sharp sunlight of the medical center, her skin looks incredibly pale assisted by the bright flash of red-gold wreathing her face. He’s never noticed how pale her skin was. He sits up, cautious, but wanting a better look. It’s not just her hair. Her face is white, even gray.

"Beverly?" His query startles her, and thought brushes it’s cobweb touch across his mind. An unintentional thought, but one requiring of his total attention. Their eyes lock. Riker’s midnight blue faces off with the bright blue of Dr. Crusher.

"You know." She responds incredulously. A long silence follows, she paces back and forth nervously. "I had to think about it didn’t I?" He chuckles, leaning back against the wall.

"I bet you wish now you had cured my telepathy." She starts to laugh; her voiced tinged with a hint of hysterics.

"I spent hours with Deanna at dinner tonight, but even she didn’t guess. I thought I was safe." He smiles at her, and she collapses inwardly. Wilting like a dying flower. "I haven’t-"

"Told anyone. I know. I’m so sorry." He reaches out a hand to her, and his honest sympathy tears into her. Without thinking she sits down on the bed next to him. Leaning her head on his shoulder, she curls up tightly. She takes her time, working up the courage to begin. "Thanks." He says suddenly, and she turns her head to stare at him in confusion. He smiles apologetically. "You’re family to me too." She sighs and snuggles into his arms.

"Deanna’s very lucky." He nods absently and strokes her hair, waiting for her patiently. She closes her eyes, but the tears well up anyway.

"I just never thought-"

"None of us did." He finishes, feeling the guilt and sorrow diffusing into their embrace. The turmoil in her mind boils like an unruly river. Tearing at her control. He relaxes and empties his mind, unconciously becoming a center. A single point of stillness as he opens his heart and welcomes her agony with peace.


Part 10

Stardate 50792.8

Jean-Luc Picard stood in the weak starlight pouring through the window of his quarters. Waves of pain rattle the set of canopic jars from Uteri Seven as the final aria from "Il Trovatore" fills the room with pure anguish. The opera is overwhelming, spilling out from his quarters as the door opens, revealing a tall, elegant redhead. Long legs lead up to a simple wine colored dress, cut diagonally to drape down to her left knee, but still tease with a glimpse of the slender thigh that hasn’t changed at all in the decades he’s known her. But, he isn’t looking at the dress. Nor at the neat knot of that contains the sunset gold of her hair. No, after all these years it’s those dammed dimples. Faint; just beneath her cheekbones, but there. Especially now, as she smiles and strides in, comfortably. No hesitation. No one else ever walked into his quarters that way. She sits down on the couch, crosses her legs gracefully, and waits for the baritone to finish.

"Il Conte di Luna" Picard explains as the last note dies away. "He’s mourning his brother."

She nods grimly. "It’s beautiful, but so sad. So much grief." He avoids her gaze and pours the wine.

"Chateau Picard, 2281" He sighs, and pours the deep crimson, watching it slide into her glass. "Not as good as the ’79 I’m afraid, but still a respectable year." He releases the bottle and lifts his glass.

She raises her own and toasts. "To Rene and Robert, may they find peace." They drink, Picard with an uncharacteristic hurry. Not savoring, but quickly downing the wine. He sets down his glass and heads for his bedroom. He emerges after a quick moment with a bottle of the bright blue Romulan ale.

"He would have been 17 this year. Heading off to Starfleet academy." He replaces their wineglasses with two small tumblers. "I would rather not savor this moment." She lays a hand over his, the gesture laced with the old intimacy of friendship. He takes it and holds it delicately, something other then friendship burns for a moment in his eyes, and then they are gone. Lowered to the glasses in front of them.

Shattering the silence, she lifts her glass and gulps it cleanly. She breathes in quickly. "I forget the bite." He empties his glass and refills it without a second thought. He stands, pacing back to his window.

"Sometimes, I think if I stare long enough, out at the stars-"

"Your loved ones will stare back at you." She finishes, coming up behind him. Her glass half-full in her hand. "When Jack died, after Wesley was in bed, I used to sit up and watch the stars all night. Just waiting for that one that could fall out of the sky and bring him back. Prove it was all just some horrible nightmare." She sets the empty glass on the table, where he refills it quickly. Their hands brush, and the spark threatens to ignite. They quickly break the eternity between their eyes and stare uncomfortably out of the window.

"Thank you." He whispers, never taking his eyes off the starlines outside the window.

"No one should remember alone." She sinks deeply into the couch, leaving her glass on the table and waving off his attending hand. "Wait. It’s been some time since I’ve strayed from synthehol." His weak smile is at least a small victory.

"Maybe you should drop by more often." Her mischievous blue eyes taunt him as she toys with the stem of her forgotten wineglass.

"Only if I’m invited." He knocks back the Romulan ale and joins her on the couch. Silence, welcomes them both to just to sit. To leave all that has never been said comfortably buried, but he toys at the earth.

"You’ve always been welcome-" A stray tear irritates her eye and she instantly stops him.

"Jean-Luc." Her voice is a fragile warning, but like the crystalline glass on the table, it trembles. Her uncertainty carries to her hands, which she can only hold still by folding tightly in her lap. He calls her bluff and gently takes her hand. She jumps, knocking her knee against the coffee table. Time slows to a crawl as her wineglass tumbles in a slow arc, throwing off a few lonely ruby droplets of wine. The glass itself impacts solidly with the edge of the wall and shatters. The gentle tinkling of glass is lost, as she breathes quickly. Deeply unsettled, she tries to stand, but he halts her with the offending hand.

"Sit. It’ll be there later." She obeys, staring pointedly out of the window. After her silence has reached his breaking point he finally asks. "Why?" The question hangs, like so many others throughout the years. She dodges slyly.

"I didn’t like the twist in the stem." He shakes his head, and lets a small smile transform his face.

"I’ll have to replicate a new pair next time." She can’t lift her eyes from the floor.

"Because I’m afraid." His hand finds her wrist and guides her hand to the safety between both of his.

"Of us?"

Beverly shakes her head, her eyes betraying secret amusement. "Of myself." His hands are maddeningly warm against her skin, and they distract her for a moment. She pulls out of it, barely.

"When Jack died, I would have gone with him."

He finishes knowingly. "But you had Wesley."

A smile of nostalgia lights her face. "I had Wesley. Wesley is so much of my life." He awkwardly places an arm around her.

"He seems happy. I envy him. Exploring the universe without even a ship to confine him." She relaxes into his arm, her guard down. Her hands meet in his lap.

"You’d go with him without a thought wouldn’t you?" She nods, and answers herself. "You would. You’d love to flit all over the universe."

He agrees with a nod of his head. "Nothing to tie me down. No family." He stops instantly. The old agony of his loneliness melds with the fresh pain of loss.

"Nothing gold can stay." She whispers, echoing his sentiment perfectly.

"Jack, Robert, Rene…" He fills his glass with the bright blue of Romulan ale and raises it in a toast. "All the good that has gone on to that final journey. May we someday be worthy to join them." She blinks back tears and lifts her hardier glass to him.

"Hopefully not to soon." He drinks, keeping his eyes locked with hers. He fidgets with his glass.

"There you go again. Hide behind a joke. A smile." The tension builds between them like a growing thunderhead. "What are you hiding from now?" His fingertip brushes away the tear she pretended not to shed.

"Don’t." Her forehead leans against his, their lips mere centimeters apart. Centimeters become a breath and then no space at all as their lips melt together. Guilt, foreboding and pain all forgotten in that moment of insanity. Insanity builds, and then rages. Her blood pumps through her ears, echoing the pulsing she can feel in his neck. Her mind immediately raises the specter of Jack, never long gone from her heart. Would he? Could he let her find comfort in the arms of his best friend? But he is the one to break the kiss. He can only pull his head back to its resting-place against her forehead.

"What would Jack say now?" His voice is filled with irony. He stands quickly, leaving her proximity. He paces anxiously. Lost in the past, and terrified of the present.

"I think-" She starts without conviction. "I think he would wish us happiness." With that she is committed, she stands and falls into his arms. All the loss of their lifetimes, forgotten in the fulfillment of the new. She is surprised to find herself the aggressor. Easily backing him towards the bedroom, while his hands trace the long line of her spine through her dress. His gentleness shocks her at first. Until she realizes his reluctance is born solely of curiosity. His explorer’s desire for the unknown is driving him to commit every inch of her to memory. Smiling at his appreciation, she removes the elaborate clasp holding her dress in place. It falls to the floor, a dark stain of wine colored fabric. He sits on the bed, staring up at her nude form with patient eyes. She ran her hands over his head, tracing an invisible line from his eyebrows to the base of his neck, pulling his head to rest against the smooth skin of her stomach. When he kisses her again, there is only a single emotion. No guilt, no pain, there is only the old love between friends.


May 4th, dawn

Will Riker absorbs the story with a sense of awe. He knew some of the history, and he had seen the looks that more then occasionally passed between his friends, but Beverly’s grieving disclosure was a bit of a shock. He calmed his mind. Relying on the tranquillity that was Deanna’s constant presence to guide him. Her story had lasted well into the night. The first fingers of daylight caressed the windowsill across from them. She is quiet now, curled catlike against him.

"Deanna owes me a week on Risa." He remarks triumphantly, drawing a raised eyebrow from the nearly unconscious doctor.

"A whole week?" He nods, victory filling his face with the infamous Riker glow.

"She was convinced that if anything ever happened between you and the Captain, she’d find out before I did." Beverly manages to giggle quietly.

"But the bet was before your telepathy." He laughs, pulling up the blanket with his free hand.

"Hey! Who’s side are you on?" He replies indignantly.

"Jean-Luc would owe me a role in my next production." She counters, bravely dredging up his memory.

"Oh, make it Shakespeare!" Will suggests in fit of inspiration. "He has such shapely legs." She laughs heartily. Her eyes sting slightly and she yawns, her face grayer still in the weak light of morning.

"You should rest." She orders feebly.

"Yes ma’am." Riker strokes her head protectively. "You really didn’t have to go to all this trouble. I would have been fine without all of this personal attention." She finds the energy to smile before sleep takes her completely. "Pleasant dreams." He whispers, searching out Deanna’s mind before he too looses himself in sleep.


Part 11

May 3rd, evening

“Counselor.” Worf shakes her shoulder gently. In front of him, the sun continues to set into the waves. Lighting the sky pink and gold, as the water began to darken with the encroaching night. Deanna Troi lies curled in a ball on the warm rock. He sits down beside her and shakes her shoulder more urgently with a strong hand. “Deanna?”

She stirs slightly. Reaching up an arm to touch his wrist. “Bill?” She lifts her hand to his face and caresses him. Confusion flares up. The beard is all wrong, the skin beneath too rough. “Worf.” She acknowledges warmly, rolling over slowly to face him.

“We should head back to the barracks. It gets very dark here.” He gives her a hand up and she stretches indulgently.

“Why does it get so dark?” She asks as he leads her to the thin dirt path. He laughs with hearty Klingon vigor. Surprising her slightly. “What?”

“We have no lights.” He replies simply. She shoots him a look of confusion, wondering if the stoic Klingon is joking. “We have no power. All the power cells from the pods are used to replicate food, clothing and tools. Except for a few Dr. Crusher required be saved for medical resources.”

Deanna nods with a smile. “Always practical.”

“Indeed.” Worf replies with his usual firmness. He takes her arm gently, steering her away from unseen danger on her left. “Careful. This is a treacherous path when you cannot see.”

She pats his arm thankfully. “You can see for me.” He nods.

”Honor would dictate nothing less.” They walk in silence. Worf is completely correct about the darkness. It falls quickly. As the great velvet cloak descends, soon she can see nothing but the stars above her. Alien stars, cold and unforgiving. Soon the faint smell of smoke drifts through the trees. She smiles to herself, wondering if Worf can already see the encampment in the dark, but his thoughts are contemplating something else. Her throat makes a choked noise involuntarily as her breath stops.

Worf is startled away from his thoughts. “Counselor?”

“Forgive me. I didn’t intend to hear your thoughts.” She stops walking, raising a hand to her forehead. “Wait.” His huge hands close solid on her shoulders.

“I forgive you.” He smiles, always a slightly awkward gesture for a Klingon, but his thoughts intend to reassure. “Sometimes I think quite loudly.” She tries to return the smile, but her breath still catches in her chest. Worf’s mind calmly reasons with itself. The thought that made her lose her footing as it crossed his mind, only calms him. Giving him a sense of purpose.

“It’s true?” He doesn’t have to answer. Her stomach twists, and a new grief wells up through a single tear. She has her answer.
There is no more talking. Tears run slowly down her face all the way to the barracks. The barracks are two long buildings, rough logs form the walls, and the welded metal of escape pods form the roof. Worf leads her to the left building, and silently turns to enter the right. She catches his arm, and meets his eyes briefly. She smiles. It’s weak, and barely visible in the fading light, but he understands her meaning.

“Goodnight Deanna.” He offers before disappearing behind the doorway. She enters the barracks alone. Stacked beds line both of the walls. Officers from the Enterprise fill the bunks. She walks quietly, recognizing faces as she passes. Dr. Selar, Alyssa Ogawa, Ellix Jova hears her footfall and waves sleepily.

“Here. This one’s empty.” The bed beneath her is the same as all the others. Built from rudely felled timbers, and padded only with scraps salvaged from interior of the escape pods. She lies back, pulling the shiny Starfleet blanket tightly around her. She looks around, trying to find comfort in her surroundings, but her eyes are futile open. Letting them close she reaches out with her mind, feeling her Imzadi’s quiet presence. He’s still unconscious, sleeping peacefully for the first time in nearly a week. The nagging headaches that tortured him, the pain she caused him, the agony that almost destroyed him- gone. Forgotten, and already forgiven in the heart of the man she loves. The man who loves her enough to forgive the loss of his solitude, she knows his mind will never be silent again.
She continues to search his feelings. Looking for those hints of bitterness that will make the stone of guilt lodging in her stomach belong there. But his heart, his heart is peaceful. His heart holds only love for her. ((Goodnight Imzadi)) She whispers to him softly. Hoping that one word will communicate everything she cannot say.
Deanna Troi sleeps restlessly. Her dreams are disconcertingly full of odd memories. A woman’s leg knocks over a wineglass. It shatters on the wall. A warm gray wall, a Starship’s quarters. Captain Picard’s eyes meet hers passionately. Fire licks it’s way up her belly and he kisses her, running his tongue delicately along hers. She throws her head back, and her hair flashes before her eyes. Her long red hair curls around his fingers as his tongue continues to toy with her neck. His hand traces the curve of her breast, spiraling gradually inward. His interest completely focused on her.

Her conscious mind begins to assert itself. The breasts beneath his hands, the long slender legs wrapped tightly around her mentor of so many years. These are not hers. A small voice in her mind wishes those legs were hers. But those are the legs of a dancer and a friend. A friend who went to bed with the Captain, the realization compounds with what she learned from Worf, and she sits up hastily.

“Beverly.” Her blanket falls from her body, and the chill arm of predawn attacks her violently. She pulls it around her chest, and hurries from the barracks.

The first fingers of sunlight begin to glisten off the ocean, and she can see enough in the gray light to find the medical building. The salty dew of the air infuses her hair, and cools her face as she jogs through the village. With her hand on the door, she stops. Listening with her mind as well as her ears.

“It’s all right.” Will whispers, sympathy pouring from his heart. Beverly murmurs softly in response, but is asleep. Her mind a turmoil of loss and self-doubt even in an unconscious state. “The captain would understand. He’d even be happy.”

((He would be happy.)) Deanna replies to him without words. She crosses from the door and sits down on the edge of the bed. Will reaches up his hand and wraps it tightly around hers. She brings it to her chest and leans down to kiss him. His kiss is as it has always been. Warm, and full of promise. “Feeling better?”

He laughs quietly and runs a finger along her nose. “What do you think?”

She sits back in the chair and crosses her arms firmly. “I think it only took a few hours for you to end up in bed with a beautiful woman.”

“She’s a redhead too.” He teases. That indomitable Riker spark alive and well even in his new dark eyes. “Although, I must admit I’ve always been partial to brunettes.” He reaches for her hair, unable to touch it until she leans in closer, and smiles. The smile lights her face and she pulls the chair closer to the edge of the bed.

((She was so exhausted Deanna. All this time, she’s been carrying the weight of the crew on her shoulders.)) His regret travels with his thoughts.

((Now we will.)) She returns with conviction, and he adds his agreement. Beverly would no longer carry the crew alone. The three of them would keep Picard’s crew safe. They sit together in the deep silence. Comfortable with their hands interlaced. Dr. Crusher still sleeping secure in his embrace. The sunlight fills in from the window and glints off a freshly shed tear on Deanna’s cheek. Unbidden, her questions find him. Racing through his mind and demanding his response. He is slower to respond. Telepathy is still a maturing skill for him.

((She didn’t tell me all of it. Only that she made love to the Captain, before he died.)) His sorrow taints his next thoughts. Picard’s loss was hard on everyone, but she had lost something much more difficult. She had lost time. She had let herself love only to lose that which she loved. Losing someone he loved was the fear that twisted deepest in his heart. ((But there was something else; she couldn’t bring herself to say.)) Deanna nods in acknowledgment. ((And you know…))

She lets the question hang in her mind, losing herself in the dark pools that remind her more of a mirror then the bright stare of her Imzadi. ((I found out from Worf. He doesn’t know the story behind it, but he could smell the change in her body chemistry. He’s known for weeks.)) He doesn’t need to respond. In unison they move the knot of their fingers to rest gently on the home of the last Picard, sheltered within the woman who would give him his final gift. The child he had so often wished for would arrive too late for him, and instead be raised by the woman he had loved for two decades. But she would not be alone. His younger friends, who had only now found their way, would be with her, every step of hers.


Part 12

May 4th, afternoon

He can feel Beverly start to wake up. Her faint stirrings of consciousness tickle his mind like tiny fish tickling his feet. He looks to Deanna. Wondering if his new abilities are lying to him somehow. She smiles, and nods to him.

“You’re correct.” She squeezes his hand. “You’re learning so quickly. Things that took me years as a child-” Envy touches her eyes briefly, but it is forgotten as he shakes his head.

“I never appreciated how difficult it must be for you. To be constantly exposed to thoughts, the feelings of everyone around you.” She stands up slowly, leaning down to kiss him, her lips full of their characteristic sweetness.

“I love you Riker.” He closes his eyes appreciatively and licks his lips.

“Whoever this Riker is. He must be a lucky guy.” She ceases his chatter with another kiss. This time longer, her lips parting to allow him into the softness of the inside of her mouth. They lose themselves in the kiss, just as they have lost themselves in each other. Breathing together bodies briefly sharing the unity that rules them. The warm velvet of her mouth beckons him to stay. To remain with her, and he could. He could let go and fall into her too deeply too ever return.

A wave of nausea drives them apart. Their kiss suddenly full of a sour rush at the back of the throat. Will’s eyes echo her own confusion as they turn just in time to watch the ship’s doctor of the Enterprise-E start to roll out of the bed. His arm catches her, keeping her from falling onto the floor. Deanna rushes to the side and adds her hands on Beverly’s shoulders.

“Don’t” She entreaties, vainly hoping they’ll release her, but no time is left for that. Already tiny drops of sweat bead on her forehead. Her skin decidedly gray against her hair. She can’t stop the instinct that spills the contents of her stomach on to the floor. Riker pulls her back into bed. Holding her against his chest as he brushes a lock of red back from her eyes. Deanna smiles wryly as she grabs some water and a bandage from the table in the corner. Remembering when he held her in a similar circumstance. ((Bill, I think she has a better excuse then tequila.)) He smiles, not daring to laugh. She bathes Beverly’s face with it. Stopping as she grasps hold of Deanna’s hand.

“I’m sorry.” She apologizes quickly. “I must be coming down with something.” It’s a weak excuse, and she should know better then to use it on two telepaths, but her mind is elsewhere. Riker pats her shoulder in consolation, feigning ignorance and upholding her lie.

“Physician heal thyself.” He teases, shaking a finger at her. She hits him lightly and Deanna laughs at both of them as she finishes cleaning off the floor. She rinses her hands with the remainder of the water in the corner, and wipes them on her pants.

“I think both of you could use some rest. I’ll go get something to eat.” Beverly’s glare produces a chuckle from Riker. “All right. Just something for you then Will.” She starts to leave, and then snaps her fingers and returns to him. Suddenly hit with a moment of brilliance. “How about oatmeal? Nice, plain mushy oatmeal.” She leans down to kiss the tip of his nose.

“Remind me again why I love you?” He pouts like an abused puppy.

“I’m the only woman who puts up a fight.” She brushes a hand over his forehead. “I’ll be back.”

He captures the hand and brings it to his lips. “I know.”

The door shuts behind her and Deanna walks out into the courtyard. The packed earth beneath her feet makes a soft sound. Footfalls behind her convince her to turn around.

“Counselor!” Geordi’s voice is pleasantly excited as he runs up to her. “How’s the commander doing?”

“Wonderful.” She smiles, gratitude filling her voice. “He’s wonderful Geordi.”

The team of engineers behind him erupts in murmurs of relief. Commander Riker had always been popular among to crew. His ordeal had been grueling for everyone. Yesterday and the day before he had spent 13 hours in surgery while Beverly and Dr. Selar had painstakingly repaired his mind. Nine people had volunteered enough blood to keep him alive long enough for them to finish. She owed them; her entire community had saved him, and in doing brought her hope.

Geordi’s team would spend the day beginning to build a power core. Once they had power, everything could be accomplished. His team is loaded up with what was left of their metal from the escape pods, phasers, hammers, and several of the engineering kits they had used to repair the Phoenix. Geordi was brimming with optimism.

“Wish us luck.” He calls, waving as he leads the group into the forest. She waves back, wishing them luck. If they succeed, the food will definitely improve.

((Missing chocolate are we?)) Will’s voice rings mockingly through her mind.

She shakes her head in annoyance. “You better be careful Bill. Your oatmeal could always be cold…” She threatens under her breath, heading for the building marked with a jaunty sign proclaiming it to be ‘Zero Backward’. Pausing, she stares at it in confusion. A voice from behind pipe up-

“It seemed appropriate. It is at the back of the camp, and we have only one deck…” Turning, she finds Barclay throwing her a happy smile, arm and arm with Ellix Jova.

“I guess it is.” She allows herself the brief luxury of basking in the heady feelings of adoration pouring from them. “Makes it seem more like home.” They both nod to her, and continue on their way. She overhears another sentence before they are out of range.

“It may look like a refugee camp, but at least, there aren’t any Cardassians.” Reg giggles, and they disappear into the woods. Deanna ducks into ‘Zero Backward’ and begins her search for something for Bill.
Will stands, then stretches experimentally. His body is sore, full of the stiffness that comes from lack of use. He runs through a few Mok’Bara moves, working through the discontent reigning in his muscles.

“No, raise your right arm higher.” Beverly critiques sharply. Startling him as she repositions his arm.

“I thought you were sleeping.” He twists around, confronting her critique with a neatly executed block. Stopping with the bar of his arm inches from her face. She drops his arm with a tired hand, weighing his arm down to his side.

“Just resting.” Her reply carries no weight, and in a moment her knees refuse to either. His reflexes keep her standing, but barely. His arms steer her cautiously back to sit on the edge of the bed.

“Beverly…” His eyes meet hers, deep with pleading.

“I’m just tired. I spent 13 hours inside your head yesterday. Must just be getting to old for marathon surgery.” Deftly she raises her shields against his concern.

He jabs anyway, his eyes crackling with humor. “You were in my head that long. Forget marathon. It’s a miracle you’re only nauseous.”

“It’s nothing.” Her eyes find a crack on the floor, and study it intently as he sinks to block her view.

“I haven’t asked.”

She shakes her head, narrowing her eye slightly. “I don’t want to discuss it.”

Her anger radiates outward, and to him it’s a palpable heat. His smile attempts to diffuse the situation. “I just thought you might want to talk.”

Her mind churns chaos of dark despair, reminding him of the heat lightning in the summer sky. Stirring up the sky, but nothing to be afraid of. But she is afraid. Fear forming a still darker bank of clouds, an ominous backdrop of emotion. It gushes into him, filling the center of his stomach with shards of ice. The cold stealing the warmth of his body, the warmth of his heart.

((Imzadi)) His plea flies home. Deanna’s calm mind, slips between him and the torrent of emotion. A great rock wall of stability, shielding him in an eddy of silence as across camp, she stops filling a cup with soup and closes her eyes to concentrate.

((Bill, be careful. I know you mean well but you have to remain separate. You can’t help someone out of their emotions if you’re in the middle of them.)) His gratitude filters across to her.

((Thanks.)) He lets his eyes close, falling into the safety of her mind. Feeling the incredible light of peace at the core of her shine on his face. ((You’re so beautiful Deanna.))

Calmly she accepts his adoration; secretly knowing that the light of hers he finds so fascinating could not exist without him. ((Remember what I taught you. Listen. Don’t judge, don’t try to solve or rescue. Just offer your support. Understand.))

((Rabeem)) He replies quietly, beginning to understand the awesome responsibility of sharing the thoughts of others. ((I’ll do my best.))

Centered, she allows to her eyes to open, and she returns to her lunch. ((Just avoid referring to her feelings as ‘goopy’))

His shock registers as a small jolt of electricity. ((Imzadi I’m appalled. I don’t think I’ve ever used that dreadful, dreadful word.))

Still chuckling faintly to himself, he returns his attention to pained blue eyes of Beverly Crusher. Her control is admirable. The level of emotion he can feel blasting from her slams across his shields, but they’re now bolstered with his love of Deanna.

“I-” She cuts him off, still unwilling.

“Please don’t.” The richness of his laughter surprises her, even surprising himself for a moment as he decides to change tactics.

He throws up his hands, his eyes twinkling as he surrenders. “Hey. I’m a friend here. Let’s go over this again. Deanna is an empath; she did something to me and made me empathic, if you will. But you are still human. Just let me finish a sentence. Please.” He explains slowly, and painstakingly, drawing a frustrated look from her that reluctantly melts to faint amusement.

“All right.” His mind races…what can he say? Caught off guard, he smoothly lets the first thought in his mind roll off his tongue.

“I’m going to marry Deanna.” The air draining from her lungs could have turned to fire and she would have been less surprised. Unbidden, her smile lights her face, bringing a comforting rush of color. Beverly takes a breath, then another. Her exhausted mind taking it’s time to process, but the leap in her emotions is like the sun bursting through the clouds.
Deanna finds him. Her voice carries the seductive tone she so often used to counteract his charm and more then a share of skepticism. ((Marry me?))

He twists her meaning just a bit, and captures her, as neatly as she did so many years ago. ((Of course I will. Imzadi))

She searches his mind for the joke, the telltale signs that he must not be serious, but he broadcasts only sincerity. His mind, his heart is calm, all the bits of thought that float listlessly in the mind of a human being for this moment fall into place. He knows the universal truth. For him, the rest of his life is his imzadi.

Across the endless space between two people her heartbeat ceases. Just as she died as she reached into his mind, Deanna Troi takes the last thread of life, her life, and lets it go. Her solitary journey concluded. Now, and the future are a partnership.

Beverly shakily finds her voice. “What…what does she think about that?”

((It is a pleasure Commander.)) Gratitude warms him to the ends of his toes, as well as a trace of humor. Memory dredges up their reunion on the bridge, so many eons ago.

((Likewise Counselor.)) Just as a fusion of two molecules begins a star, the fusion of souls completes finally creating a chain reaction that they’ve only just started to understand.

“She thinks, it’s the best idea I’ve ever had.” An intense hug leaves her resting her head against his chest. Tears dampen his shirt, and he deepens the embrace. He whispers into her hair.

“I’m inclined to agree with her.”


Part 13

May 11th, afternoon

She stands up slowly, raising her arms over her head in a tentative stretch. The extension sends a flash of pain through her arms. Deanna sighs, rubbing the distraught muscle, and heading back up the path into the woods. She was used to work. Life on a starship meant double shifts, a constant stream of life-threatening situations, but usually a lack of extreme physical labor. Will’s voice laughs through her head.

((It can’t be that bad imzadi.)) She enters the clearing behind him and smacks him lightly across the back.

“You just have to cut it down. It’s a an awful long way back to the camp.” He drops the ax at her feet.

“Feel free.” He mockingly bows before her and gestures to the pine behind him. Beside him Worf joins his chuckling and leans back against his tree. Deanna lifts the ax lightly in one hand and looks at the cut in the trunk. She wraps the fingers of both hands around it, and shoots Will a glare. Harnessing her frustration she slams the ax into the tree, receiving a satisfying crack of wood in return. Her eyes burn into him, and he shrugs. “Everyone gets lucky.” Even Worf was a bit taken aback by the ferocity of her stare, although, he did not show it. The ax meets its mark several more times, and with a groan the pine tree heads for the forest floor. The crash of the underbrush is all the applause she needs. She places her hands on her hips and smirks with pride. Riker nods his head in appreciation.

“Well done.” Worf grunts to her and gives Riker a harsh look. Will laughs, and closes the distance between him and his Imzadi. Wrapping his arms firmly around her, he puts his mouth to better use then speaking.

((Yes imzadi, well done.)) She allows herself the guilty pleasure of the kiss, before staring him down angrily.

“I know why you did it.” The depths of her black eyes hold mocking contempt, but it is lost on him as he runs his lips down the smooth line of her neck. His beard, continually growing shaggier, tickles her neck until she pushes him away, and joins his laughter. “But, I did do a very nice job.” She bends down to the tree, attaching a rope and two hooks to its sides. He runs a teasing hand down the length of her spine, while Worf quietly turns back to his work. His Klingon strength making short work of the tree before him.

She lowers herself to the log, and he sits beside her. Her head finds a home on his shoulder. Both of their moods forgetting the simple joviality of a moment ago, and falling into the slow despair that fills the minds around them. He taps the log with a free hand. “This will be a sailboat someday.”

She mingles her fingers with his. “A sailboat? Shouldn’t we be building more homes? Or storehouses?”

He looks out over the hint of deep blue he can see through the tree line. “But a sailboat will allow us to trade with surrounding islands. Tahiti, Fiji, even New Zealand or Australia. There are some things we can’t replicate. And if Geordi and his team fail-” Neither of them needs to finish his thought. They both understand their responsibilities to the crew.

“It is very beautiful.” She pipes up, optimistically breaking the silence. “A bit colder then I expected though.” He chuckles again.

“It’s not exactly the tropical island I had hoped for.” He relishes one more moment with her there, then stands to get back to work. “But, some things about this place are worth hanging on to.” Kissing her reaffirms why he’ll spend the rest of his life with her. Her laughter starts before she breaks off their kiss.

“You’re marrying me for my tongue?” He winks at her as they part, his eyes lowering to appreciate the finer points of her figure.

“Amongst other things of course.” A low growl finishes his thought for him.

“Good.” She replies. “At least after all that’s happened to you, you’re still the arrogantly obsessed with the physical young man-” He cuts her off abruptly with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

“That your mother adores so?”

“That I fell in love with.” He melts. Something in her smile always had that sot of destructive effect to his knees. Not that he’d ever admit it, but he usually felt his own legendary charm was a pale shadow of the damage she did to his resolve. He thought for a long time, the dusky pathways of his mind searching for the appropriate comeback.

“Always your greatest character flaw.” Now she’s standing on her tiptoes, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, pulling his head down until she can reach the bottom of his ear. Tickling it with her lips.

“I will always be flawed when it comes to you imzadi.”

She walks quickly down the path, dragging the felled tree behind her. Had Worf not been present they would turned on each other in a way most unbecoming of Starfleet officers. Even those who happened to be engaged. And she was engaged. That filling thought helped her forget about the pain in her arms, and the stinging of her hands. She paused, releasing the rope and staring at her hands. A snatch of Lwaxana’s voice found her.

“Betazoid women used to pride themselves on their hands. How white and smooth they were. When I met your father I thought I had perfect hands.” Deanna had been very young, and she remembered her pudgy hands grasping her mother’s hands curiously away from their task of brushing her hair. She had stared at them then, looking for the smooth perfection her mother had described. But Lwaxana’s hands were the same olive as her own skin, faint blue veins marring them like unruly vines. On the back of one was a disappearing line of deep red. A scratch from the Ruvalht tree she had plucked Deanna out of just yesterday. She remembered her quizzical look at her mother, her innocent confusion. “But these Deanna are perfect hands.” Her mother’s eyes were light-years away. Then her father had appeared behind them and ticked her until she screamed.

Deanna shivered quietly out of her memories. Opening her eyes to rejoin the present and the growing pile of logs in front her. People emerged from the forest all around her, dragging what in large unworked pieces what would be a sailboat. She admired Will’s vision. To her it was a great pile of logs, still bearing the skin of bark around them. She leaves her burden by the pile and gives ensign arranging them a smile. His nod was the typical stoic response of his species, and she left the encampment, heading for the ocean. She is now painfully aware of the rivulets of sweat running escaping her hairline and trailing down her neck. Forming wet snakes that hide beneath the fabric of her shirt. She pauses on the rock outcropping overlooking the rocky shoreline. Great boulders, 8 or 10 meters across make up the beach beneath her. She climbs down slowly, feeling the hot afternoon sun burn through to her back. Smaller rocks, none much larger then her fist, crunch beneath
her feet as she heads down the beach farther away from the other refugees.

The ocean is still today. Almost silently lapping up against the grayish red rocks beneath her feet. She sits down for a moment and removes her boots, leaving forlornly awaiting her return on the rock. Her bare feet warm quickly with the sun kissed rock beneath them. She strips off the rest of her clothes. Her one outfit dirty and abused with long hours of work outdoors. A small hole has worn through her left knee. Disgusted and frustrated she threw them back to the rock, and let the warm breeze caress the bare skin of her body. The ocean tingles her feet as it laps up. She can see down to the smooth rock bottom below, judging by the deep green shadows it was at least 3 meters deep. Once her hair was secured tightly in a knot she dived into the water. Warm and comforting it pulls her in she swam down until the pressure in her ears becomes a dull ache, and she heads back to the surface. That first breath above the surface always reminded her she was alive. Alive an
d healthy and able to draw breath. The air is tangy with the smell of sea salt and tiny drops of sea water sting her eyes, but the cool water swells as she treads through it. Her mind drifting as lazily as the sea. Drifting back to the night previous.

May 10th, night

Lying in the arms of her imzadi always made the universe seem small. A tiny place where the light of all the starts burned in the shining black eyes of William Riker, eyes that hungrily ran over the naked skin of her breasts.

“Now this is art Deanna.” He teases, running a fingertip lazily along the hollow of bone between his true goals.

She giggles and deflects his hand from its course. “I think you’re a biased critic.” He lowers his head to follow his hand with his mouth, and the soft bristles of his beard.

“You’re just the only artwork I understand.” Impishly he tickles her navel with the tip of his tongue, and is promptly rewarded with a slight gasp. “You’re also interactive.”

Her patient hand impedes further downward movement. He looks up, mildly surprised. Opening his mind he can feel her questions, but not with any real accuracy. His confused expression brings a slight laugh to her lips.

“I was just thinking.” She curls against him, her head finding the flat place just beneath his collarbone.

“I can hear you, but I can’t tell what.” He draws her too him with a secure arm,

“I’m not sure yet.” Time passes slowly as they both watch the foreign stars of the South Pacific wheel overhead. They had stolen out to lie together in a small clearing almost a mile from the main colony. Here the trees parted around a slight rise in the terrain. It was there that they had spent the last few nights, after Will had been released from under the eyes of the Governor. They are lucky tonight, the sky is a great black tapestry of stars.

He feels the brimming of emotion in her mind. His curiosity hardly did her justice when he plucked finally the image out of her mind. She saw him playing with a little girl. A little girl with a mess of chaotic brown curls and a twinkle in her huge black eyes. She had her chubby hand firmly entangled in his beard, and they were both laughing. ((She’s very cute Deanna.)) He sent approvingly. And then he shared his dreams with her. Something he had rarely done.

She believed in her youth that his dreams had always consisted of the bridge of a starship. The hum of warp engines through the deckplating, and the hiss of phaser fire, glancing through space. But that was not the dream of William Riker. Deanna’s throat suddenly was far too tight. Breathing uncomfortably for a moment, she soon forgot to breathe at all as his dreams filled her mind. As imzadi, they were complete intimates, sharing most of their feelings, but the images that saturate her being were new to her.

A woman’s voice, soft and warm, but on the verge of laughter; a little boy, not even comfortable walking yet, running to her. His bright blue eyes glowing with love. It was the past. Thoughts of his mother that he had never shared with her before. His past fades away, the memories bitter with the pain of growing up without a mother. A short painful childhood with a reserved father had cut deeply. Tears ran unnoticed down her face. Hurrying thoughtlessly to pool in the curve beneath her neck. Will’s pain was hers, but even as it tore through her. He was conquering it. Letting go of the bitterness that had dragged him through childhood, all the way to the Academy. Now she felt only contentment.

Will’s dreams were sunlit. A clearing in the forest where she sees herself, as he sees her. The sunlight pouring through the tree seems to light her on fire. Smiling she kisses him, and he rests his hands on a faint roundness of her belly. His mind races through time, and finishes on a scene so real it starts a sharp pain in the pit of her stomach. She sees herself covered in sweat. Her hair a wet tangled mess, her eyes encircled by deep shadows, but the vision of herself was smiling. Smiling and holding up her arms, reaching for him, reaching for him and the baby he held in his arms. Their baby; a fragile spark of life that would depend on them, and that they would raise in love. For their child could only be love. A ten-fingered, ten-toed, ebony eyed, embodiment of their love.

When she reached for his face, bringing her eyes level with his, it was without surprise that she realized his tears echoed her own. Without words their lips found each other, and through that passionate physical connection their souls met again on the endless path of Imzadi.

May 11th afternoon
Now, as she lay stretched out nude in the warm sun. Feeling the rays caress her skin as the heat of the rock permeates her back. A mind brush over her imzadi found peace, and a sense of hope. A child, their baby was his hope. His pain, his bitterness, and his constant resentment were all fading. Creeping shadows destined to be destroyed by the coming of the dawn.


Part 14

May 11th, afternoon

Striking him as very catlike, Deanna’s mind was a contented knot of joy. Riker could feel her presence some distance away from the camp. She was relaxed, and deeply involved in a meditative centering. He opted not to bother her just yet and set out to walk the shoreline on his own. It required a significant dose of self-control, after all, she was alone and blissfully unencumbered by clothing, but he was newly patient. Patience appeared to be just one of the many differences in his recently Betazoid brain.

Up until a few moments ago he had worked diligently on the sailboat project, but his shift had ended. Functioning on a shift system had at first seemed absurd, but everyone was more comfortable with the structure. And even trapped in the past, Starfleet officers loved structure. He thought sardonically as he looked for a flat rock of the right size. Finding it slightly to the right of his foot, he lifts it, turns it over in his hand and coaxes four neat hops out over the still water. It still amazed him how warm the breeze from the ocean was. How still this ocean could be. He removed his boots and tied the laces together. Stuffing his socks inside he threw them over his shoulder in a manner he had not used in years, and strode whistling through the lazy surf.

The air around him was hot and oppressive. Full of a nagging humidity that brought with it the feeling of being covered in a thin layer of slime. The sweat, dirt and oil of his skin gave it a faintly shimmering appearance as he stripped off his shirt, and added it to the bundle of his boots. The prospect of a swim like Deanna’s seemed more and more welcoming as he continued his walk. He would get to it. For now, the former first officer of the /Enterprise/ wandered, looking for that perfect spot. Like Deanna he had little time to himself now. He had the double responsibility of working like anyone else, and of shepherding the crew. Keeping up morale was a constant struggle.

The captain was dead, and the crew had not yet even had time to mourn. The memorial service or Captain Picard and countless others dead at the hands of the Borg had finally been scheduled, at Deanna’s insistence. Even with his anguish still fresh, he had agreed. Everyone needed closure. He could see it in the haunted eyes of those who had lost a loved one. More intimately he could feel the continuous grating of depression from nearly everyone. Most buried themselves in the endless work of construction, and the struggle to survive here. Survival came first on any mission. But even their prospects for survival were starting to look bleak. Another emergency replicator had gone down, leaving them with a functioning three out of their original twenty-one. One replicator was reserved completely for medical emergencies, and the power cells of another were fading quickly. In a week they would have one replicator to produce food for the 246 survivors of the /Enterprise/, an
d enough tools and raw materials to build a self-sufficient colony. Power cells would be irrelevant if they had a dependable power source, but even with Geordi and everyone else with an advanced engineering background, almost 30 crewmembers, working on a power core…

He ended that train of thought. It was no use to focus on what they didn’t have. One thing he had learned from his friend, and often stoic captain, was that a leader never showed a moments lack of faith. He would have faith. He owed that to the crew. He paused and threw his glance up at the cloudless blue sky.

“I’ll keep my eye on them. Just as you did.” For a second he allowed himself the hope that he would be answered. “I have Deanna now. And she gives me enough to make this easy.” Another break in the one sided conversation where he listened for an impossible response. “I think you’d be proud of us. Or, at least suitably annoyed that it took us this long.” He let himself smile. “I hope you’ll forgive me for telling you this, but I always assumed you’d be the one to marry us, assuming we ever got it together enough to get married.” Riker continues his stroll through the ocean as he talks, the rocky shoreline smooth beneath his feet.

“I had this fantasy, oh, for several years at least. Ten forward would be full of flowers, gardenias. She loves gardenias. Her mother would be blissfully terrorizing my father as the ceremony began, and then she’d walk out of those double doors. Completely nude and utterly breathtaking. She’d walk towards me, those damn eyes of hers full of a secret smile. You’d look down at us and ask us if we were ready to spend our lives together. I’d look at her and…” He stops, looks up again and winks. “Well, at that point the fantasy disintegrates into something a bit too personal, but you get the idea.”

He rounds a outcropping into a tiny cove with a miniature beach of sand. Dark gray, it clings to his feet as he pauses to examine his pants. Finding them almost completely covered in mud and dirt, he tosses down his boots and shirt, and walks into the water up to his waist. Letting the slowly rolling water begin to erode the grime. “You’re memorial service is tomorrow. Came up too damn fast for me, but our wedding is just a few days afterwards. We both thought the colony could use a party.” He ducks under, feeling the water instantly cool his head. Tiny droplets cling to his beard and hair as he turns around and heads to shore to remove his pants.

“I know I could.” Her disembodied voice sent a thrill up his spine, and her laughter headed the sensation right back down.

“Not entertaining enough for you?” Deanna just smiles as his eyes roamed over her body, relishing that she had left her clothes behind. It is an interesting sensation, to share someone else’s complete fascination with every aspect of her body. To feel his eyes roam over the faint shadows beneath her breasts, and share his elation with at the sight of them.

“I’m surprised you remembered gardenias.” Its his turn to laugh as he dives beneath the water, coming up waist deep in the welcoming ocean.

“Sometimes I pay attention.” He teases with a wink. She lifts a hand and runs it in a lazy spiral over the skin of her breast. “Right now for example.”

She can feel it. The slow diversion of blood is causing gentle warmth that licks along his thighs, unchecked even by the water. Her own body begins to echo his sensations. His mind guides her fingertips to her nipple, and it hardens painfully, made worse by his continuous stare. She takes a few steps towards him. The ocean lapping eagerly at her ankles. He pictures his hands continuing to roam her chest in slow, torturous circles, but her hands make the motion. Riker took a slow step towards her, feeling the stinging in her chest as he reaches a gentle hand to her. Taking her hands and pulling them away. They close the distance. Standing hip deep in the quiet cove of water, as he guides her hands with his now. Large strong fingers covering her hands, and chasing them. Trailing behind just a little as he directs her hands down the smooth line of her stomach, dancing her hands dangerously just at the line of the water. Her exhalation ends with a slight laugh. He ti
lts his head for a moment, and then slides forward to cover her mouth with his. Tongues toy with each other with slightly more urgency. Growing faster still as the water surrounding them heats.

His knees brush her thighs, tickling slightly. Deanna’s nipples make contact with his skin next. The warmth of his chest is almost worse the sensation of his hands. The delicious friction as he moves closer to her, flattening her breasts and the rest of her body to him. His body, the crinkling hair of his chest, rushing the blood from her head down to pool right between her hip bones. In one smooth motion he lifts her from the water and carries her back to the sandy beach.

((Romantic of you imzadi)) She teases, enjoying the feel of his arms around her. He lays her back on the beach, gently parting her legs and taking the moment to run his fingers over the smooth wet lips, finding her and running a slow, taunting finger over gently. His lips are hot and vicious against her smooth breast.

((I just like being alone with you. With you in my mind.)) She starts laughing, and finishes with a gasp as he fits within her. In her past some had better, some had fit worse, but Will knew. Knew her all the way through. Making love with him was almost an instinct, something that came as naturally as breathing, gasping and screaming his name.


Part 15

May 11th, night

“When she’s ready imzadi!” Deanna insists tiredly, wrapping the blanket around her naked chest and sitting up. Staring up at the stars.

“You’ve said that already.” Riker snaps. “What if she can’t?” He sighs, lying back on the blanket beneath him. “She’s had time-” He ends abruptly, rage darkening his face.

“Bill.” Her calm contrasts with his anger, and he sighs, feeling it leave his chest. “’Use your mind. Reach out to her. Feel what Beverly feels, then tell me what we should do.” She turns her face to him, and her eyes shine briefly with tears.

He traces a finger gently down the valley of her spine. “You can feel her can’t you?” Deanna snuggles down to his chest. “What about shields?” Her head shakes almost imperceptibly.

“I can’t shield everything. Sometimes emotions wear their way through.” He laughs inappropriately. She slaps him lightly. “What?”

“You were thinking about your mother. You wish she was here.”

She allows herself a weak laugh. “She could help you. She’s a very accomplished telepath. Mother would also be thrilled.” Silence holds them for a long moment.

“I know. She’d be so pleased. Fussing over us. Teasing us about grandchildren.” He kisses her hair, and wraps it around his fingers. “Show me.” He whispers. “Guide me. Teach me how to help.” She sits up quickly, unable to look at him. Her eyes sting sharply. “I’m still unfocused. I don’t know if I can learn without your help.” She can’t bring herself to answer.

He stands, forgetting his nudity even in the night air. He bends down and pulls on his pants, pacing irritably. “I can feel Deanna. Without trying I can feel what everyone feels. But I can’t do anything. Walking past her-“ In the starlight she can see the muscles tense on his back. “Is like stabbing myself in the gut. I don’t know what to do. I can’t shut this out!” She wraps her arms around him from behind. Her breasts pressing tightly into the small of his back.

((Imzadi.)) He lifts her hands, placing around his neck as he turns around, relishing the feel of her skin on his.

((I’m sorry Bill.)) Large and liquid, her eyes glimmer in the light. ((I never meant to-)) He kisses her, distracting her thoughts.

“My dear Miss Troi. You should never apologize to the likes of me.” A tear runs to the left of her nose.

Leaning down slowly, he kisses it away. ((Guide me. Teach me to help. Teach me to take away the pain.)) His eyes, so familiar but so alien, bore into her. They sink to the blankets, and she opens her mind. Reaching out first to Riker, filling his mind with the sensation of her presence. Deanna fills his senses. The smell of her hair, the warmth of her hands, the light of her eyes, the taste of her lips, and her voice, ringing through him, all in the same instant.

((Come.)) She whispers, and the colony opens to their minds as they reach out as one. Together they brush lightly over the sleeping minds beneath them. Deanna guiding, steering him through the cacophony of voices. Thousands of thoughts shoot him at once conquering his mind. Uselessly he claps his hands over his ears. Deanna’s mind calms him. Enveloping his mind as she wraps her arms around him. She prods him on towards their goal. Gently, she settles them on the unaware mind of Dr. Crusher.

He falls into a cold, whirling maelstrom. Water runs into his nose. Stinging and burning it’s way down to his mouth. He chokes, fighting against the flow of brackish water as it threatens to flow into his lungs. Deanna breathes into him. The water recedes, falling away. Her shields close solidly around him.

((What is that?)) He asks, still in panic.

((Guilt. Despair. When we’re sleeping, our emotions run rampant, unchecked by our better impulses.)) He sighs, still feeling the pounding against her shields. ((The better I know someone, the more intensely I feel her emotions.))

((It’s because of me.)) Realization thuds in his mind. ((I’m connected to her.)) For a moment, they lay silently. Feeling the reflection of the endless universe above them echo in their souls. ((Ever since Odan-)) He starts with embarrassment. Unsure and hesitant.

((She loved him. And for a while, he was you.)) She runs her hand lightly over his chest, resting it on his heart. ((Love is what connects minds together. Imzadi binds us together, but love can enhance your attachment to anyone. ))

“Somehow, I’m connected to Beverly?” His voice seems overly loud.

Deanna sighs. “It’s a crude explanation. I’m not completely sure I’m correct. But it has some merit.” Her voice seems suddenly heavy. “You have an incredible sense of what she’s feeling.” She pauses briefly. “Better then I have.”

His heart thumps painfully and he can feel her fear. “What can I do?” He asks calmly, slipping into the familiar persona of command.

Unsteady she responds, “My mother would find the memories triggering the emotion, and read them. Giving herself a clear mental picture of the mind she was working with.”

He makes a soft sound of awe. “I never really appreciated how much I should have feared your mother.”

Deanna manages a weak smile. “You’ll make a good son-in-law yet.” She pulls closer to him. Pressing every spare bit of skin against him. “Just look. Keep an open mind.” He breathes in quickly, and she can sense his firm resolve.

“I remember. First see, then understand.” He replies softly. She squeezes his hand tightly.

And he saw. Will Riker had expected shields. A fight, even barriers that had to be beaten past, but there was nothing. He was in Starbase One. Standing looking over the blue-green curve of Earth, while a young Captain Picard with thinning red hair leaned into to kiss his cheek fondly. He was smiling brightly and wearing the maroon dress uniform of some time ago, and the lines around his eyes were less pronounced. He embraced him heartily and kissed the other cheek, lingering only a moment.

Deanna’s amusement tickled his mind. Will finds himself thoroughly fascinated by the way Beverly sat, crossing her legs neatly under the skirt of the dress uniform. Will stole a look down at ‘himself’. Her deep maroon dress uniform fit tightly over her chest and dived inward at the waist, ending smartly at her hips. His right hand was intertwined tightly with that of the boyish man at his side. He had mussed red hair, brown eyes and a shining smile that never left his mouth. The eyes of Jack Crusher did something to Beverly’s stomach he thought had been unique between him and Deanna.

Her laughter fills his mind again. ((These aren’t your memories. Don’t get to carried away.))

Will quickly ceased his fascinated observation of Beverly’s gently rounded breasts. They spun away from that memory, and for a instant his head pounded white with pain as he felt Jack kiss him, Beverly and Deanna all in the same moment.

Then a dazzling flash of pain ripped across his back and through his stomach. From behind Beverly’s eyes he felt her sobbing on Jack’s shoulder. Jack holding a squirming red creature that could only be Wesley. Warmth ran up his body from the bottoms of his toes. She would do anything to protect that tiny creature. Love like he had never felt poured through him, and he knew Deanna was crying.

Another moment later his tears joined her. They walked down a long hallway. An endless hallway filled with the sounds of their feet. Crusher’s heart was stone. Her voice alien as she thanked Jean-Luc. Picard was decades older. His face lined with new cuts that would never fade. His hair losing the battle. Their eyes met and he saw the painful hole in being that he had seen a long time ago. When Lwaxana Troi slammed a door in his face. When Deanna had given him up for a life of duty. He knew the pain in his former commander’s face. He had felt it blast through him.

A campfire cracked merrily somewhere on an empty planet. Beverly sat across from Picard with her knees tucked up to her chest. He was pretending to be immersed in tending the fire. Will could feel that she had missed it. He felt Deanna’s pang of awareness. The forced distance in the Captain’s eyes carried much more behind it then his usual composure.

He felt her ask; “Why didn’t you every tell me you were in love with me?”

The Picard across from her had never shown defeat before his crew, but he was honest. “You were married to my best friend.” Always the gentleman he paused, and the space tore at the spectators. Riker desperately wanted to shout at them that they had no time for these games. That for them there would never be enough time. He felt himself trembling slightly and he clings to Deanna. Fortune, luck or perhaps the gods had given them a chance.

The campfire faded into the twinkling lights of starlines outside the Captain’s quarters. Once again, he felt himself speak Beverly’s words.

“Perhaps we should be afraid.” She stood, and walked slowly out. Never looking back. She went directly to her quarters, the doors hissing open as memory leapt from D to E.

Gray replaced beige as the walls melted away. She was in the bathroom, the floor hard and unfriendly beneath her knees. Will felt the furious wave of nausea hit him. Deanna sought him and they protected each other. Beverly vomited into the sonic shower. He hair hastily pulled back with a thin piece of ribbon. Her navy blue pajamas were slightly sticky with sweat. She stood with effort. The wall was solid, and she hunched over the sink. Splashing her face with cold water and accidentally catching her reflection in the mirror. He felt the odd duality of emotion. The doctor calmly analyzing the symptoms, but the woman was dreading her diagnosis.

She had just grabbed a towel from the wall when she dropped hard to her knees. He could feel the angry bruise on her left knee. The towel fell forgotten as she wretched again. Beverly’s shoulders shook violently as she activated the unit and it obediently vanished the mess. Her face was ice in the mirror as she started to brush her hair. Irritably she snapped at the computer.

“Time remaining until senior staff meeting?”

Unperturbed the computer responded. “23 minutes.” She sighed heavily, and he felt his stomach sink. She gave up on her hair and headed for the closet and her uniform. She stripped quickly out of her pajamas and threw them in a heap. She started with the gray of Starfleet underwear.

“Computer?” Her voice uneasy, “Tie in with the main database in Sickbay and run a full bioscan of Dr. Beverly Crusher.

“Working.” It replies quickly. He felt her hands tremble as she pulled on the gray tank and long sleeved blue medical undershirt. “Dr. Beverly Crusher bioscan complete.”

She pulled on the black of her uniform and ordered curtly, “Report.” She sat and fumbled with the zipper on her left boot. Only succeeding on the third try.

“Heartrate elevated at 77 bpm. Blood pressure elevated 135/71. Breathing erratic, but not physically distressed.” The computer prattled on into cellular metabolism, and continued to the hemoglobin count. He knew of course, but the bottoming out of her stomach somewhere in her feet sealed it. Deanna’s mind was warm with pity. “Dr. Crusher is suffering from agitation, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, mild anemia-“ Beverly cut off the list. She didn’t need to ask. Her voice was hollow when she did.


“Dr. Crusher is 6 weeks pregnant and should begin prenatal care immediately. “ The computer replied as coolly as if she had ordered a cup of tea. “Date of conception, Stardate 50792.9. Fully human. With a margin of error of .003 percent, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the leading paternal candidate. Probable due date Stardate 51618.3.” She sat completely still on the bed. Her black and gray uniform jacket sat forgotten on her desk. After a long moment she buried her face in her hands. Will and Deanna were filled with the unmistakable sensation of a horrible story being proved frighteningly true. Seconds dragged into minutes, and the door chime shattered the silence. Her feelings crusted over crudely, like hot lava running into a lake and freezing solid. She stood, pulling on her jacket and smiling as if nothing was wrong.

The last sight before the burning in his mind became intolerable, was of Deanna’s peaceful smile haloed in the light from the corridor.

Falling into his body was a rough drop. His head swims, blood running weakly out of his nose and staining Deanna’s cheek. She wipes it carefully with her hand.

“Imzadi?” He nods quickly, calming her.

“I’m all right. Just a bit of a headache.” She kisses him, her lips salty from the tears clinging to her eyelashes. He guides her tears off her face and looses himself in her eyes.

“How’d I do?” She sits up. Her face freshly concerned.

“You were incredible.” Deanna shakes her head and runs a nervous hand through her hair. “The clarity and depth of your perception, the detail-“ He takes her nervous hand and calms it between his. “I remember that morning Bill.”

Curious, he props himself up on an elbow. “Do tell.”

“It was the staff meeting about the Borg. She was very reserved all the way up. After then meeting I just thought the Captain had told her about the Borg first. “ She drifts off.

He finishes her thought. “After that moment, it was chaotic, the battle, time travel, Zefram Cochrane, evacuation-“ His eyes itch. “She just never got a chance.”

Deanna kisses him again, and he pulls her back against him. One misstep and could be either one of them. Left alone, their heart turning to a knot of ice. Their eyes met and they cycled their emotions together. Pity, bitter remorse, and lastly, relief. They had each other. In the middle of all the confusion and doubt they were imzadi.


Part 16

May 12th, morning

Her head pounds. Beverly rolls over and runs a hand over the uncomfortable crust underneath her nose. Dried blood flakes off reddish brown in her hand. She looks at it in confusion, and pulls herself out of bed. A sharp pain drills into her skull right behind her eyes. She stumbles out of bed, trying to shake it off. Using the blanket she manages to get more of the blood off her face. She pulls the blanket around her, morning is chill through her shirt.

She had taken to hiding in the medical building. It was difficult to hide the attacks of nausea that found her at night, and the thought of explaining her pregnancy to the crew just added to her headache. It was fading, but her mouth tasted of blood. She grabs the medical tricorder off the stand. She turns it on herself, closing her eyes as she ran the module around her head. She forces her eyes back open and studies the display. Nothing, just a nosebleed. She sighs, watching the indicator lights on the bottom of the tricorder flash angrily. The doctor notes that her patient is underweight, exhausted and bordering on electrolyte imbalance. The patient does not care.

She lay back on the bed, curling around herself. If she doesn’t move her head seems stiller. The blood rushing through her ears not quite as loud. When she was pregnant with Wesley things were right. She had Jack, and they had all the time in the world. He found so much joy in her body changing, in watching mesmerized as their baby grew. She wasn’t even ill when she carried Wes. Maybe a little tired, but she thought morning sickness was a myth. An exaggeration of women swapping horror stories of being pregnant, most certainly not a constant companion. Between her head and the protestations of her awakening stomach make her wish for her grandmother. Felisia Howard had always had the unique talent of banishing the ills of a little girl. Returning to the status of little girl under her grandmother’s watchful eye, seems like a blissful dream.

Beverly did not realize she had fallen back asleep until the hand shook her shoulder.

“Good morning.” Will Riker’s smiling face looks annoyingly cheerful in the pale light.

She sits up quickly. His hands grip her shoulders to prevent her falling back. “What is it Will?” She asks while irritably shaking him off. “What do you want?” Without waiting an answer she gets up and crosses the room, her back to him.

“I forgot how perky you are in the morning.” He replies sardonically, pulling up a backwards chair and sitting down, arms folded neatly over the back.

She sighs, holding her back rigid. “Do you have a point to make?”

“I just thought you might like to talk.” He rests his head on his arms. Black eyes full of understanding. “Deanna thought you might like to say a few words about the captain. She’s going to give a eulogy for the crew that was lost.”

“That’s nice. “ She responds coolly. “ She’s an excellent choice. Everyone knows Deanna.” She steels her expression and turns to face him, her eyes icy.

“You knew the captain best. I still have trouble calling him by his first name.” He provokes no response, even though he can feel the suspicion radiate off her. “He let you in. You knew him.”

“I knew nothing about him.” Electricity crackles just behind her eyes. “He kept me at arms length. He was the most private, most reserved, most infuriating man I’ve ever met.”

Will smiles softly. “But you loved him.”

“I did.” He can barely hear her. She makes a choked noise in her throat. Part sob, part laugh, but full of desperation. “Not that it mattered.” He can’t help the shiver. Her mind is a cesspool of self-hatred, pouring out into him. His fragile shields surround him like a bubble in a thunderstorm. “I was afraid. I was terrified of what it was to love him. What it was to have him love me.” Beverly holds like a statue. Her body trembling with the effort.

He pulls himself off the chair. Walking slowly, keeping his body neutral. His first impulse is pull her into his arms. To hold her, protect and let her grieve in the safety of a friend. It would work on Deanna, but Deanna’s eyes have never held that anger. “I understand.” He offers delicately.

“Do you?” Her voice is caustic. He lays a hand on her shoulder. Feeling the muscles grow taut.

“I know how you feel. “ He adds another hand to her shoulder. The doctor doesn’t move. The pain in her eyes freezes into something more sinister.

“I had strange dreams last night.”

Will tilts his head to the side curiously. “What about?”

“I dreamt you and Deanna were watching my life.”

The hair on the back of his neck raises quickly. “I’m sorry. She’s been teaching me to harness my powers. We were just trying to help.”

Her eyes narrow, the blue draining, paling into a cold fury. “You read my mind?”

“Yes-“ She throws off his arms, ending the opportunity to finish his thought as she slams her hand across his face. It cracks against his face and stings her hand. Her palm reddens slightly, her fingers tingle.

“How dare you.” No question, no room for reply as she stands there. Her body stone as he stares back. A Ferengi banker could have read the contents of Riker’s mind. Confusion is written boldly in every line of his face. He takes a step backward. She remains rooted to the floor. “My thoughts are mine.” Venom drips from her words, and causes palpable pain in the back of his skull. “Get out.” She hisses, her entire body trembling in rage.

“Beverly-” He starts softly.

Shaking, she wraps her arms around her chest. “Don’t.”

He takes a step towards her. “This is crazy.”

She laughs, tearing the air. “Crazy?” There are tears in her eyes as she shakes her head. “Crazy is being trapped 300 hundred years before I was born.” Anger exhausted, she rests her hand on the table, steadying herself. “I’m carrying the child of a dead man. His only wish was to see his family continues, but it will continue without him into his past. Maybe it’s a predestination paradox. Maybe my child is an integral part of the Picard line. I could be carrying the woman who grows to finish what Colonel Green started. ”

“I’m sorry.” Hopeful but full of regret, he takes another step towards her. She doesn’t notice, a flash of pain inside her left hip softens the anger etched in her forehead. He senses the darting pain, and closes the distance between them. His hand gently finds her hip, and she grasps his wrist firmly. Her hand is surprisingly cold and slightly damp from sweat. “What is that? Are you all right?”

She shoves him irritably away, but weaker then he expects. “It’s a ligament adjusting.” He carefully twists his hand around to take hers.

“It’s painful. Isn’t it?” He realizes bluntly. A sarcastic thought of hers answers his question for him. “Maybe you should lie down.”

Her knees buckle slowly, and her lingering nausea rises in the back of her throat. His hand on her elbow is firm, and frustratingly comforting. Giving up, she allows him to lead back to the bed. The rebellious ligament throbs angrily. He maneuvers expertly to behind her, forming a solid barrier. Keeping up the righteous shield of anger takes much of her energy. Her hand feels safe inside his, and the urge to rage quickly loses ground to the safety of being taken care of.

“On the Enterprise a shot of dopamine would end it.” The wince escapes her guard as she sits on the edge. Without invite, Will sits on the head of the bed, and pulls her head to the pillow balanced on his lap. “Here, I wait and eventually it stops.” He reaches a warm hand down and rests it gently just above the pinching ligament.

“Does this bother you often?”

“Often enough,” she snaps curtly, and removes his hand. “I hate it.” He calmly escapes her grip and rubs his hand over her hip. His mind guiding his hand as if the pain were part of his body. Everything about being pregnant is my constant reminder that Jean-Luc’s,“ she pauses. “Gone.” A breath passes before either speaks.

Riker’s voice carries his smile from behind her head. “I can’t decide if he’d be thrilled or terrified.”

She coughs once, suspiciously. “Definitely terrified. For all Jean-Luc wishes, wished-“ She corrects quickly. “For a family. Children make him nostalgic of the good old days, when starships were clean, sparkling and bereft of families.”

“Do you think he would have ever adjusted?” Will asks.

“When did you get so sensitive?” Sitting up quickly makes her head spin again. “And what did you do in my mind? My head-”

“Human telepathy is unprecedented. No one knows how it effects the minds of others.” Deanna stands in the doorway, eyes only for Will. “Good morning Imzadi.” She crosses to them and kisses him slowly. “I am sorry it hurt you Beverly. I’m afraid it’s my fault. I’ve been teaching Will, but I had no idea he was so powerful.”

“I think you’d learn not to underestimate me.” He winks.

“It’s time.” The telling collapse of her shoulders reminds him just how hard today is for all of them. “The crew is gathered on the beach. They’re waiting.” Deanna stands patient as Will extracts himself from the bed.

“We’re coming.” He reaches a hand to Beverly, who brushes him off.

“I’m all right.”

“You’re in pain?” Shock and concern flooding into Deanna’s face.

I’m just sore.” Her friends are not convinced. “I’m a doctor dammit! I would know if it was serious.” Thoroughly indignant she pushes past both of them and out the door.

The path winds through the trees to the ocean. Beverly walks ahead, her mind a tight knot of determination. Deanna pulls close to him. Leaning into him. She can feel his quiet concern. His profound sense of loss quietly controlled by his desire to help, to shield others from the pain in his heart.

((How is she?)) She accompanies her thoughts with a gentle brush of a hand across his arm. He captures it and kisses it.

((She’s exhausted, mentally and physically. She’s often ill. But she’s fiercely stubborn.))

((You feel more for the captain.)) It is clear in his mind. A deep sense of loss for what will never be.

((I’ve never really seen him love freely. If he was here now with her…)) They both stop, pulling together in a long embrace. Deanna rests her head under his chin. Taking in the calming scent of him. Her eyes already growing full.

((I wish we never had to say goodbye.)) His kiss gently assures her that they will never truly say goodbye. After an eternity of walking they reach the ocean, deep and gray like the eyes of their lost captain. The sky echoes the sea, steadily darkening. The air smells of rain.

Beverly stands slightly to the side, stoic and pale. The faces spread before them are taut, most eyes liquid, the soft skin noticeably pink. The murmuring hush fades into only the lapping of the ocean. All attention turns to the small form of Counselor Deanna Troi. Will’s mind is with her and with him as her strength she begins.

“Good morning. “ She pauses slightly, bolstering her shields against the waves of emotion buffeting her. “I know that many of you have been dreading this day. I found myself dreading it on many occasions. Grief and loss are most difficult of emotions to deal with because we so often find ourselves trapped. Made helpless by circumstances beyond our control. Death is never something we can control.” She’s surprised by the calm in her own voice. Her stomach ties itself into a continually worsening knot. Cramping angrily as the agony forced from her voice finds purchase.

“But we can keep it from controlling us. We can do as Captain Picard would have wanted, as all of those we loved would have wanted and go on with our lives.” Her own emotions tear into her, worse then she expected, her voice threatens to grow tremulous. “We have a responsibility as Starfleet officers, as the crew of the noble Enterprise. We will survive, we will flourish, because the love of those beyond us will hold us. Just as we can never forget, neither will those who loved us, who served with us, and our beloved captain who led us. ” Her vision looses color, everything fading to gray around her. Something hot and liquid pours down the inner skin of he thighs, soaking through her pants and staining her hands dark. An iron hand reaches inside her and pulls her heart down through her hips, clawing at her organs as it goes. Will Riker has never looked so terrified. The murmuring around her must be talking, perhaps even her own screaming, but it’s as meaningless as the sound of the water around her. Just as if the water had reached from the ocean and sucked her down, she fades from life. Her mind mercifully giving out to the pain.


Part 17

The shuttle tumbles erratically through space, the stars outside the window arcing and curving in dizzying spirals. The cabin is dark, filled with smoke, and without light from anything but a burning conduit under the navigation console. Across the cabin, sprawled on his back, awkwardly coaxing a few more hours of life out of the failing life support system lies the distinguished Captain Jean-Luc Picard. His uniform stained with smoke, dirty with burns, and grime of the destroyed shuttle.

He had been too late. Data was fully seduced by the Borg queen. Joined with the collective, a perfect android lap dog. The self-destruct was deactivated. The Borg would take his ship and destroy his people, then the Federation. He had done the only thing left to him. He ran. He ran through the bowels of the ship those only ensigns on the worst of terms with their commanders’ saw. And he fought. He used the rifle until they adapted, used it as a club until it shattered on the body armor of a drone, then he kicked, punched, and tore his way through to the shuttlebay. Adrenaline was still pouring through him when he blasted his way out of the shuttlebay, pulled back and started dodging torpedoes.

Data was an excellent shot, nearly perfect, but the Picard maneuver wasn’t just any old fluke of flying. He pulled the shuttle into a nearly impossible dive, bounced it off the structural integrity field, and ended up precisely where he wanted to be. The /Enterprise/ soared above him and filled the window of the tiny shuttle. His hand flew over the panel in front of him. He fired and the graceful curving hull of the /Enterprise-E/ exploded inward. Shards of hull disappearing and reappearing molten with anti-matter; it was incredibly beautiful. The blossom of white-hot fire bloomed outward to violently caress the shuttlecraft.

When he came to the shuttle was a smoking cave. His body ached from a hundred untended injuries, and shook from leftover adrenaline. That was several hours ago. Maybe even days. He fell in and out of consciousness. When he was awake, he worked. He ate emergency rations and left the wrappers to join the debris on the floor. He clumsily patched his body together with the medkit. His uniform crunched with dried blood, but he could function without thought. Picard was still fighting. And he would fight until the shuttle caved in around him.

The gentle humming noise that bathed the cabin in a warm blue light was certainly the afterlife coming for him. But that tingling feeling was unmistakable as the transporter. The whine was a slightly different pitch. The ride smoother, and the room he rematerialized into smaller and more streamlined.

A solitary woman stood in front of him, smiling. Her red hair piled neatly on her head, and something oddly familiar in her eyes. She wore an odd uniform. A dark blue tunic clings tightly to her figure then cuts down to black pants and tall black boots. A deep maroon sash reminiscent of Worf’s baldric went from her right shoulder to her hip. Four gold stripes matched the four silver pips on her collar.

And there, just above her left breast, gleaming with hope was the familiar golden delta of the Starfleet. It brought him a sense of peace, even her strange welcome could not destroy. “Captain Jean-Luc Picard, welcome to the future.”

He takes a slow step off the transporter platform, and she meets him, hand outstretched in welcome. He shakes it with more shock then anything. “The future you say? Last I knew, I was in the past.”

She laughs, a warm rich sound with a hint of mischief. “You never did have a strong grasp of temporal mechanics.”

May 12th, 2063
Late morning

It replayed over and over in his mind. The images burned into his eyelids. Torturing him, reminding him that death is only a heartbeat away. Deanna calmly speaks at the memorial. The blood pours onto the stone beneath her feet. Pooling in a grotesque mockery around her boots. The transparency of her skin matching the whites of her eyes as they roll back into her head. She makes no sound as she falls. The blinding pain that fills her mind abruptly gone from his as she collapses, unconscious.

He leans back against the rough wood wall of the medical building. The bark still on the crudely hewn longs digs into his back through his shirt. He doesn’t care. Her blood stains his shirt, the front of his pants and even the toes of his boots. The bright red dries slowly without sunlight. The black of the cloud overhead hints at his mood. Will Riker can’t feel anything, even the huge droplets of rain that pour from the abused sky don’t induce him to move. He waits.

Lighting arcs between thunderheads. The rain falls harder, running off his clothing in stained pink rivulets. Even the storm smells iron like her blood. It is still in the lines of his hands. His hands that couldn’t carry her fast enough to prevent her blood spilling on to the ground. Dr. Selar, Nurse Ogawa, and Beverly had run around him, all their faces chalk white. None as white as Deanna. When he had held her, his heart was racing too loudly to hear her breathing. Maybe she wasn’t.

The rain continues, soaking the ground beneath him. His clothes stick dully to his skin. Deanna is still missing from his mind. He wonders bleakly if he would know if she died. How advanced is his telepathy? No. Even without telepathy he would know when Deanna died. His heart would stop. A new sense of exhaustion touches his thoughts. He stands quickly, whirling around to face Beverly Crusher.

“Deanna.” His voice cracks more then he intended it too. Her hand is faintly warm on his wet shoulder.

“She’s going to be fine. Dr. Selar and Alyssa are repairing the vascular damage while she sleeps.” Professional confidence can only do so much to disguise the guilt. Her eyes are pink. With the rainwater, it’s impossible to tell if she is crying. “Deanna was pregnant. “ She could knocked him down for less impact. Beverly’s hand brushes her dripping hair hurriedly from her eyes, and her voice breaks. She can’t speak.

Before he realizes what he’s doing, Riker’s holding her around the shoulders. His hands clamping down on her, and he shakes her. Beverly’s teeth snap together, and pain stabs into his mind. “Beverly,” He growls, and stares her down.

She’s sobbing freely now, leaning into his grasp for the support her legs don’t want to give. “She didn’t know. Deanna had no idea. She was only a few weeks along Will.” She starts to shiver, words tumbling freely from her mouth. “Early pregnancies just fail sometimes. Betazoid-human genetic makeup is more complex then human genes. Almost half of all fertilized eggs don’t make it through the first month and Deanna hemorrhaged. Her body didn’t stop the bleeding when it should have. But we got to her in time. She’s going to be all right. She’s going to be all right Will.” He doesn’t release her.

“Well there’s an irony isn’t it?” His tone laced with bitterness. “Deanna and I want a child. So did Captain Picard. But he dies without ever knowing he has one. She looses our baby and almost dies.” His fingers cut into her shoulders, iron with rage. “But you, you’re fine. You don’t even seem to care enough to tell anyone that you’re pregnant. I don’t know if it’s guilt, or some kind of noble self-sacrificial silence. But you could give our people hope. Hope that even here, life goes on.” He releases her. With the sudden loss of his supporting arms she falls. Her knees smack into the mud, and she falls forward. Her hands sink up to her wrists.

Will kneels next to her, ignoring the softness of the mud. His eyes are black ice. “All we have left of the Captain is within you. He meant so much, to everyone.” His hands fall defeated in his lap. She cannot bring herself to speak around the stone in her throat. “We’ve all lost. But you don’t see that.” His hands wrap around hers. “Pain is lesser when shared.”

“It’s so damn easy to say isn’t it?” She pulls her hands angrily away. Drawing a line of mud across her forehead as she pushes a sodden lock of hair out of her eyes. Fury rises in her throat, dragging her stomach up with it. “Not now.” Dr. Crusher whispers violently to herself.

Will Riker doesn’t need to hear. He can feel the churning beneath her diaphragm, and the sickly sweet taste in the back of her mouth. “Grief is never easy. “

“So they say.” She glares, and lets her words bite into him. “You and Deanna certainly found a convenient way to forget. Why bother with loss? Sex makes it all simpler.” Dumfounded, he stares at her. “Don’t lecture me on pain.” She continues viciously. “When you’re ready to discuss something you understand, we’ll talk about lovemaking.”

Anger pulses through him, running like fire out to his hands. His hands grab her roughly, one under her arm, and one threatening to close around her neck. The fire begs him to close his fingers, bring fingertips together through the smooth skin. Punish her for being unable to help Deanna; for being too weak to save their child. Anger finding an ally in desperation. Both vying to expel the pain, to force the stone out of his heart and somewhere, anywhere, else. Choking, she cuffs him across the face and he drops his hold watching in horror as she stumbles a few steps away, coughing, and struggling for breath.

He closes to her. Taking her shoulders softly as he feels the tears start in his eyes. She whirls around, hands up and muscles taut. Ready to fight him off. A trickle of blood runs red from the corner of her mouth. “Beverly… I’m sorry.” She looks up into his eyes. Those terrible black eyes soft with regret. A sharp wail escapes her control, but he muffles it with his chest. Embracing him tightly, something cracks within her.

Her tortured voice is barely audible, even next to his ear. “In there. I watched Selar and Alyssa working on her. Repairing the veins, patching her uterus and replacing her blood. I kept thinking that it could be me. It should be me.” Sobbing burns her throat.

“Beverly, don’t.” Her forehead rests heavily on his shoulder. Her tears adding to the rain. The sky booms almost sympathetically. Pent up emotion rules her. Forcing it’s way out as she exhausts herself. An unseen smile passes across his mouth. After her sobs have stilled, he raises her face gently. Staring into her bloodshot eyes. Tears on his cheeks are mirrored as he lowers his lips and kisses her. Still startled as their lips part, she lets him speak while exhaustion tries to shut her eyes. “We need you here.” His hand is incredibly warm through the cold fabric as it caresses her stomach. “Both of you.”

“Thank you.” His beard is soft as she kisses his cheek.

Impressively calm, Will manages a smile as he addresses her belly. “Deanna and I are young yet. I don’t think either of us will let you go without a playmate for long.” She smiles weakly, and her eyes roll back as she starts to lose consciousness. Her body goes quickly limp, folding in on itself. He secures her arm around his neck and lifts her.

Her mind is a patch of gray fog. As he walks back to the medical building she mumbles. “I mustn’t fall asleep. I must keep conscious.”

“It would be useful.” He retorts, hiking her body up in a better hold so he can open the door. The warmth of the building reaches out to him, welcoming him inside.

He sets her on the wooden floor gingerly and hurries to the closed door on the other side of the entry.

“Dr. Selar? Nurse Ogawa?” He knocks lightly, relishing being able to do something. Dr. Selar’s voice, calm and commanding, cuts through the door.

“Commander, this a difficult and demanding procedure. We cannot allow you to see the counselor. It is illogical for you to distract us further. Dr. Crusher will answer your questions. Please desist your attempt immediately.”

He sighs deeply. “I guess it’s just the old academy training. “ He visually inventories his surroundings. Beverly’s desk and three chairs, one behind it, sit in the corner. Across from the doorway obscuring his imzadi, a sheet forms a makeshift barrier. He heads for it, pulling it aside to find a rumpled cot, complete with a lumpy pillow and two blankets. He grabs one and heads back to his charge.

Dr. Crusher has her arms wrapped tightly around her chest. Her entire body shivers as she mutters intelligibly to ghosts of memory. He strips her clothes gently from her body. Peeling the dripping fabric from the wet skin. A salvaged plasma coil provides some weak heat from beside the desk, and he drags it to next to her. Her shivering only increases even as he wraps her in a blanket. He drapes her clothes unceremoniously over one of the wooden chairs. The trail of droplets he’s leaving behind convinces him to strip off his clothes as well. Standing nude, but wrapped in the other blanket. He feels rather foolish as he ties it like an ancient toga. With his hands free he rescues her from the floor and carefully settles her on the cot.

Still she shivers, her lips a pale shade of lilac. He sighs again and runs a hand over her forehead. “I suppose we are both adults. You just better not kill me when you warm up.” He climbs into bed with her. Securing her tight against his chest and leaving her blanket around her as he covers them with his. He didn’t intend to close his eyes, but hours later they flew open to meet the only set of irises on Earth that match his own. And Deanna’s eyes could have been cut from marble as they stare unblinking at him as her voice cuts sharply into his mind.

((Well imzadi. Once again it only takes a few hours for you to find a suitable warm female to cozy up with. But Beverly? Why not just torture my mother with a salad fork?))


Part 18
Stardate 83271.6

It had only taken a few moments walk through the corridor to see how much the universe had changed. Klingons and Romulans, both wearing versions of the same uniform and working together. The Romulan uniform is slate gray, and the Klingon uniform rich brown trimmed with leather armor. All the crew they pass nod deferentially to the captain. He misses command. Not the incredibly responsibility, but the feeling of being useful. On this ship he’s a curiosity, even a hindrance. He nameless rescuer has a well-trained crew. There is barely an odd look in his direction. Maybe a flicker of the eyes here and there, but no prolonged staring.

Without conversation the Captain leads him to sickbay. His respect deepens as he notes the technology of this vessel. The holographic interfaces spring to life at the touch of a Betazoid nurse on his left. Three biobeds line the far wall, and in the far corner next to the surgical suite is the small office of the petite Romulan CMO.

“Hello Captain Picard.” She begins warmly. Jean-Luc begins to reply, but the Captain speaks first.

“This is my ship’s doctor, Veddra. Doctor, this is captain Jean-Luc Picard.” She sizes up his injuries with a practiced eye.

“It is pleasant to meet you.” This doctor was all business. She advances to his side, and a hypo hisses at his neck. The cries of his aching muscles are quickly silenced. She hums to herself quietly as she sees to his injuries. Steering him to sit on the biobed as she patches him up.

His rescuer sighs and answers his question before he can ask. “The temporal prime directive requires me to tell you nothing. But you know as well as I do that rules only work perfectly in the room they are drafted.” She crosses her arms and gives him a hard look. “I’m going to tell you what you need to know about the future, but, if you use it to damage my past-“

“I understand.” He starts to nod, but the Romulan doctor turns his head to treat a lump on the back.

“It’s stardate 83271.6, in the old Terran calendar it’s the year 2407. You and the Enterprise-E disappeared 36 years ago, while fighting a Borg sphere. One year after that the Borg attack the Gamma Quadrant with devastating new force. In 2 years of horrible bloodshed, the remainders of the Dominion will fall. Then they came for us. The Cardassians are almost completely wiped out. The Klingons, the Romulans and the Federation will take such extreme casualties that they will join force to stay alive. The Treaty of Vulcan will unite the UFP and both empires into the Triumvirate Alliance. ” She sits on the biobed next to him. Her face is grim, and looks much older. “Your crew will miraculously return. Restoring and continuing this timeline.” She sighs deeply. “However this timeline is fluid, and constantly shifting around many points. A mission specialist has been brought in to help us navigate this sensitive situation.”

“My crew returns. But I do not?” He asks wryly. Feeling the odd itching as his broken rib knits back together.

“This is the first time I’ve seen you.” Her Captain’s control slipped only enough to let him see the pain lit through her eyes. “I’ve heard stories of course. But until a few days ago you were dead.”

“Dead?” He was suddenly thankful he was sitting on the dammed biobed. “I’ve been dead thirty years?” She nods weakly in response. “My crew? Will? Geordi?” Shock had made his body numb. “Beverly- What have they done by this time? Are they even still alive?“

“It’s complicated Jean-Luc.” He recognizes the softness in her voice for the defeat he’s felt on far too many occasions.

“How many will die?” He asks softly.

“One or a thousand, it’s always too many.” Her communicator chimes brightly, disrupting the grim silence.

“Bridge to Picard.” He reaches instinctively for his own commbadge and he gapes at her when she answers the page with an apologetic smile.

“Picard here Bridge.” She leaves the bed and takes a few steps toward the surgical suite. “Has the mission specialist arrived?”

“Yes captain. He will lead a briefing at 0800. Will our other guest be in attendance?” The voice from the bridge is harsh, and unmistakably Klingon.

“He will indeed Korvash.” She turns back to Jean-Luc and smiles. “Oh, and ask the mission specialist to join me for breakfast. ”

“He has already suggested Vulcan omelets and toast.” The sneer in Korvash’s voice conveyed his opinion of Vulcan cuisine.

“Tell him it’s a date.” This Captain Picard patted Dr. Veddra on the shoulder in gratitude and the Romulan disappeared into her office without a word. “Come Jean-Luc. Let’s go break the temporal prime directive.”

May 12th, night

He stands up slowly, careful not to wake the sleeping doctor. Deanna wishes she had woken up. She wanted to tear them apart. Both of them. She knows it’s an illogical impulse, but she wants to rake her nails across his bare chest. Her mind burns with anger and her body still aches. Tears run down her face as she glares at him. He wasn’t there. When the blackness faded into the worried face of Alyssa Ogawa. Who had the distinct misfortune of explaining why her body had bled the unformed baby of her imzadi on to the ground. Why the outfit she had been wearing since she had beamed into the past was being scrubbed in the hopes of removing the bloodstains.

Dr. Selar had quietly explained that pregnancies sometimes failed for reason no logic, medical or otherwise could explain. She had asked them to leave. Dr. Selar had added that Will was with Dr. Crusher. That Dr. Crusher was ill, but recovering. Will Riker. Her imzadi was with Beverly, because Beverly was ill. And he wasn’t there. He wasn’t with her as she sobbed her eyes raw into the pillow. When she lost Ian something within her had been ripped out. But deep down she had never really doubted she would get another chance. Now that chance had failed. Something of her and Will had died, and it was maddening that she was still living. Worst still that he obviously hadn’t cared. She was the worst kind of fool. Anger got her to her feet. The medical room was cold and drafty. A fact made more apparent by her nudity.

Her clothes lay forlorn on the chair. Someone, most likely Nurse Ogawa, had managed to coax most of the bloodstains out. Deanna stood and headed for the pile. Her thin blue shirt had grown threadbare. A small hole adorned the left elbow, and all of the hems were fraying. Her vest had survived remarkably well, and she clutches it closed over her chest. Now no longer concerned with dressing, her mind registers the soreness behind her navel. When she stands still it lessens, and her brain realizes numbly how exhausted she is. Her vision blurred slightly, and all her muscles seem slow. Weaker then usual, and full of the same fuzzy white exhaustion that filled her mind.

Painfully she crossed the room, and then through the door to the next room. Following the thread of life that was her imzadi. Her feet were slow, and numb to the floor beneath them. He was there, and that drove her to the bed. Anger almost gone, faded behind the fog the filled her mind so effectively.

Beverly’s head was nestled between his head and his shoulder. A lock of reddish blonde lying across his shoulder shockingly bright against his skin. His bare skin, for his clothes were hung carelessly over a rafter of the low ceiling. Beverly’s were neatly on the chair beside the bed. Her thoughts crawled at a minuscule fraction of impulse. Bringing her to a dragging conclusion. They were both naked, lying there together.

Someone had ripped her exhaustion from her. Her muscles tensed, and returned the dull cramping to her stomach. ((Well imzadi. Once again it only takes a few hours for you to find a suitable warm female to cozy up with. But Beverly? Why not just torture my mother with a salad fork?))

He was instantly awake and staring up at her with confused eyes. ((Deanna?))

She turns her back, hearing the floor creak slightly as he extracts himself out of bed and heads for his clothes. ((Why weren’t you there?))

Silently he turns her around with a hand on her shoulder. His eyebrows up in mild surprise, but he ignores her question. ((Aren’t there better ways to torture Lwaxana then cutlery?))
She almost smiled. There he was, barefoot and shirtless, looking innocent. He took a step closer. His skin smells clean like rainwater. Will stilled his mind and reached for her again. Deanna allowed him to caress her cheek.

((I’ll be more careful choosing my words.)) She sent quietly. Then he kissed her. She was struck with the unfairness of it all. No matter what happened between them. No matter what he did, his lips ended it. He was smiling gently as he held her face next to hers. She wanted to cry. Her eyes hurt from the effort of holding back tears, but he was still smiling. Deanna’s thoughts couldn’t make sense of it.

((Don’t cry imzadi.)) That was enough. He might have gone insane, but Deanna Troi understood the cruel facts he refused to feel. Her nails rake across his chest, leaving thin lines of blood in their wake.

Her breath hurt, and burned hot and ragged through her chest. She can’t feel his thoughts anymore. She had pushed him so far away that her mind was alone. Which is what she wants; to be alone. She turned her back. One step and she turned to him. Her eyes cold, but defeated. ((Don’t you understand?)) With the second step her hand was on the door. Then she was gone.

Will Riker took the chair, removed Beverly’s clothes and set them folded on the end of the bed. He dragged it to the window, threw his legs over it and rested his head on his hands. Deanna’s long hair fanned out behind her head even though she walked slowly. Predictably, she didn’t look back.

Stardate 83271.6

Captain Jean-Luc Picard sat across from the young woman who shared both his name and rank. His tea cup rested untouched between his fingertips. The hot earl gray steaming gently. Blue gray eyes bored deep into hazel and conversation began haltingly.

“At least you don’t have my hair.” He finally said dryly. Words had been few since sickbay. Is body was whole again. Stiff in places, but whole. His mind was another story. For the eternity of the walk to her quarters he had been unable to take his off this woman. The resemblance was there in her legs, in the gentle curvature of the spine, and in the grace that permeated her every movement.

“Mama always said it was too much like yours. Too red and unruly for it’s own good.” She smiled almost shyly as she shook it out of the tight knot and it cascaded down her shoulders.

“Only a few people remember that I even ever had hair. Your mother met me then, but it was already on it’s way out by the time we spent any time together.” He shakes his head. Amazingly he wanted to cry, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard had not cried in a very long time. “Why didn’t she tell me?” He wonders aloud. “I never knew. Never suspected.”

“We have so many reasons to hide things, even from the people we love. Sometimes we just can’t find the words in the time we have.” Her tea warms her hands, and he saw Beverly’s hands across from him at so many breakfasts, so long ago. She took a deep breath like a storyteller beginning her tale.

“Will Riker told me that she didn’t have time. Mama would never discuss how I came to be, but to say that I was conceived in love, and that my father would have loved me more then any father had ever loved a little girl.” He set down his teacup and folded his hands to stop the trembling. This was his little girl. Grown up elegant and composed. A proper and intelligent Starfleet officer, and a Captain at that.

“I would have loved to see you grow up.” Jean-Luc’s voice was soft. Softer then he remembered hearing it, and tears were becoming more urgent. “I’m afraid I haven’t even learned your name.”

“Felisa Bette Picard. Felisa for my great grandmother. Bette was Will’s choice, after his mother. Your number one was my surrogate father. He used to pick me up, put me on his shoulders and take me on lone walks through the woods.” Her face beamed with memory. “He told stories. About how you saved the alien creature at Farpoint station. How Q could never beat you, no matter how often he tried. And about how much you loved your crew. Loved them enough to sacrifice everything so your crew would live.”

This beautiful, fascinating woman was his daughter, and she had grown up without him simply because he put his crew first. He hardly saw how that was worth the admiration in her voice. He drank his tea slowly, and made sure it was still before he spoke. “Did she ever forgive me? Did Beverly understand?”

Felisa smiled gently. “Of course she forgave you.” Her hand is surprisingly strong as she grasps his hand tightly. “You had a greater responsibility. Starship Captain’s are the duty before they are themselves.” She released him. Refilling their cups and sitting back in her chair. “I know she forgave you, but she never stopped loving you. Even when she remarried.”

He had just taken a sip when this newest bombshell connected with his heart. He swallowed his tea quickly. Ignoring the stinging in his throat as he choked out his question. “Remarried? Remarried to who?

Her blue eyes are unreadable, and her face apologetic. She sighs quietly. “To my step-father. William Thomas Riker.”


Part 19
June 7th, midmorning

Will sat quietly, legs folded beneath him and eyes closed. Beverly lay back on the ground nearby. Riker mused a moment on how quickly she gravitated to him when he meditated. Deanna on the other hand, avoided both of them as if they had both become infected with Terellian Plague.

Even today, as he reached for her mind, he could see the wall. The stony shields his imzadi held stubbornly in place. Deanna was an accomplished and excellently shielded empath, and there she hid. The queen protected by the walls of her castle. Waiting for Riker to ride up his white horse and knock on the gate. Waiting for him to lay siege, to beg, to apologize, to do something that he, admittedly stubborn, had no intention of winning. She must expect him to give up and wait. The gallant knight, defeated, but patient on his valiant steed.

But Riker had wings. It was incredible how easily it came to him now. As a young man he had once through an amazing effort of mental heroics, touched her mind. The flame of that potential had been caught in the whirlwind of emotion and exploded. Now, sitting in the confines of his mind of his mind, Riker fully appreciated how different he had become. Instead of the quiet, solitary darkness of the cave of human intellect, he had the smooth glass of a telepath.

From the center, the thoughts of others darted around him, as if he were sitting in a bubble of air in a fishbowl. Deanna’s mind taunted him, like the moon above the surface of the water. Closer at hand, Beverly’s mind moved sleepily, but she was starting to reach a feeble acceptance of Picard’s fate. The dark cloud that covered her thoughts was weaker, even broken by points of light. He brushed it aside, and joined her thoughts. Crusher’s thoughts drift lazily like leaves on a pond. Too tired to move quickly, and reaching a slow, lazy state of chaos. Will listened, something he had not understood until a few weeks previous. He had never really heard anything before he had shared. No pithy conversation, no gasp of air in throat could ever compare to the simplicity that was sharing thoughts. Thoughts required no grammar or explanation, because thoughts just existed.

Beverly’s were painful. Her emotions spotted and stained with loss. Missing faces danced slowly around him. The mother she barely knew, a father that she didn’t, Jack who she loved, Nana who loved her, Wesley who had vanished and Jean-Luc… Memories of Jean-Luc hurt physically, like a slowly bleeding gash across his chest. Something was missing, and Will knew that feeling. Remembered that sensation from the years of separation, and Deanna’s time with Worf. When she had turned away from him for the touch of another man. An ugly desperation propelled him across Grevette island into the mind of Deanna Troi.

It was so simple to fly over her defenses. Dodging the towers of thought and barrier. Riker observed passively, a silent wraith in her mind. Allowing his thoughts to blend with the flotsam of her mind. Worf was speaking to Deanna now. The deep bass of his voice was unmistakable as Will heard it drift through her ears. Deanna’s own voice echoed oddly as she spoke, but what she was saying was immaterial, because nestled in the center of her being, was him. Will’s mind leapt so violently that he was certain she’d feel his presence and find a way to cast him from her mind.

He stared into the depths of her mind and found Will Riker staring back. In the great hall of Deanna’s mind, filled with thousands of well-ordered thoughts careening about like so many fireflies in summer, in the center was the calm and stoic figure of him. Something inside felt suddenly justified. He had always carried her, the breath and beauty of her, since their time together in the jungle. Now he allowed himself the revelry of superiority because Deanna Troi carried a scorching torch for him. And in that awestruck moment, he erred, and revealed to his imzadi that he had invaded.

Across the forest, Deanna Troi poured her heart out to a stoic Klingon for distinctly calming reason that he was there.

“I can’t understand him Worf. He’s so arrogant, egotistical, and completely shut off. The entire crew watched me lose his child, and he doesn’t want to talk about it.” Her black eyes full of that half-moon line of tears, threatening to overrun her eyelashes. “And he always with Beverly! Maybe he should just marry her.” She finished spitefully and Worf stared purposely at his sword.

He had managed, through a feat of blacksmithing that surprised many, to pound out a functional bat’leth. Now he sharpened it. Rhythmically running a flat stone along the edge while he listened. “I do not believe that is what you want Counselor.”

Troi’s rage did not allow her the luxury of a comeback, and he continued uninterrupted. “You have always been in love with Commander Riker. I have recently become involved with Jadzia Dax, and now I understand that kind of love. Something we never had together.”

She started to speak, and her entire face was a question, but Worf placed a huge hand on her shoulder and stopped her. “I do not regret our relationship Deanna. It was an excellent learning experience. I am just trying to give you my opinion of your current situation.”

She smiled. Full of renewed respect for the gruff Klingon. “And what would you do in my current situation?”

Internally Worf doubted he would ever be put in that position, however, he gave it serious thought. Finally he concluded, “I would be direct with commander Riker. Although he is often a frivolous and jovial man, he would not contemplate a lasting relationship with you unless he was serious about it. Especially if he values his body parts.” He added the last as he stood and tested his new edge on a young sapling. The sapling obediently halved along the edge of the sword, and for a moment, Deanna wondered if Worf had winked at her.

She stood, finally noticing as she relaxed, the knot of excitement hiding in the depths of her mind. Deanna studied it cautiously. Will was far more advanced then she had given him credit for being, but he was after all, only human. She carefully sealed him away safely, and thanked Worf for his ear.

“I am glad to be of service. However, I must return to my team. Excuse me.” Worf walked quickly out of the clearing and headed for the deep forest, where his carefully assembled team of hunters waited for him. She watched his back retreat into the trees, and stood up. Will’s mind called to her so that even if she closed her eyes, and put her hands over her ears, she could find him. Due to the trees, neither action seemed like a good idea, so both hearing and seeing, she set off for him.

“Will? Will!” First it was Beverly’s voice, and then her hand on his shoulder, finally it was the sudden urgency of her mind swelling up like cold water thrown against him that brought him out of his meditation. She was kneeling in front of him, her face pale, and her free hand wrapped across her belly.

“What? What is it?” She seemed to be having trouble forming words, and her blue eyes were wide with shock. “Relax.” He caught her shoulders and Beverly’s free hand fell to his arm. “What?” Her head fell to his shoulder, and she moved his hand to rest on her stomach.

“Can you feel that?” His eyebrows flew up in amazement. Beneath her skin something tiny fluttered against the palm of his hand, like a trapped insect. Beverly was breathing quickly, and her hand trembled against his arm. Calmly, he stroked her hair and waited.

“I hoped- I mean- I thought- it wasn’t real.” Riker chuckled and hugged her. Something she never would have allowed a month ago, but now it brought a feeling of safety. “Don’t laugh. It could have been something else. I’m almost 49 years old. I could have been insane. For that matter, I am, I am insane. ” Dr. Crusher’s rambling would have continued, but Riker hushed her.

“You aren’t insane.”

“I’m having a dead man’s child while trapped 300 years in the past.” She added quickly, her voice threatening to break. “Hell, I could be his great-great-great-great-”

“You’re not.” Riker interrupted.

“You’ve experienced our advanced medical resources. What if I die in childbirth?” His tactics, though simple, were actually taking some steam out of her sarcasm.

“You won’t.” Will said softly.

Her tongue was quick, far quicker then her mind as; “You’ve never had a child. How can you be so confident?” left her lips. Beverly was instantly sorry, and pulled away from him. Giving him the space to retreat.

When lined with sorrow his face seemed 10 years older, and he sighed deeply. "Because enough horrible things have happened. Because I need to hope. And you and this baby rascal of a bastard frenchman, give me an excellent excuse to be optimistic.” Riker settled back against a tree. Beverly nestled against him, both of their hands waiting for the baby to move again. “And in this god-forsaken paradise, we all need every excuse we get.”


Part 20

June 7th,

Deanna Troi looked in on her amazed and felt like she was watching a painting. It was a completely intimate moment. Beverly lay across his lap, her eyes closed. Troi couldn't hear them speaking, but she pictured their voices rising and falling with the gentle cadence lovers use. Will was toying with Beverly's long golden-red hair, and his hand moved with his knowledge. The way it always did when he was lost in thought.

Deanna Troi, who was always conscious of her emotions. Who spent years of her adult life immersed in the study of thought and feeling, was caught. Trapped in a whirling dance of grief, anger and love. Love kept her dancing, but grief dogged her feet. Before her in the clearing, her amazed found comfort talking to someone else. He was still speaking, but his lips barely moved, and someone else lay in his arms. On the deepest most primal level of thought that she rarely admitted to herself, she hated Beverly Crusher.

The dance called her, and she stood on the crumbling precipice of choice. She took a step toward them. Then she paused. In that moment the universe paused with her. A quiet, collective wondering of all the infinitely diverse parts of the universe stopped in the intricate dance to acknowledge Deanna Troi's next movement.

Deanna Troi walked into the clearing and managed to smile.

Deanna Troi turned and let grief lead her away.

The universe obliged. Infinite divided and infinite grew larger as reality provided two partners for Deanna Troi. Somewhere in the cosmos, and everywhere at once, the universal dance gained one more step.


June 7th,

Deanna Troi walked into the clearing and managed to smile. Her reward was just as immediate. Her amazed, for whom she held so much doubt, filled her mind with warmth. She shivered involuntarily even though that was the incorrect response.

((Imzadi?)) His mind trailed languidly across hers.

((I'm here.)) She sent back quickly. After that her mind became less coherent. Thoughts flew from her like stray bits of energy escaping a star. ((I'm sorry-I'm never leaving again-I hate Beverly-I love you-I'm frightened-I'm guilty-It's my fault-It's yours-I hate you-Do you love her?-Do you love me?))

Deanna was failing. She always had control. Now only the strength of his mind kept hers from falling apart. Will's eyes were closed as she drew within a few steps. His mind was quiet, even serene, and without moving he responded completely with his mind.

((I asked you to marry me Imzadi.)) His mind held nothing back. None of the roiling torrent of guilt that ate at her touched him. He was free. No questions. Dumbfounded and confused she reached for him physically, wanting to take his hands, to fall into his arms and be safe. Protected from herself.
A mental hand stopped her gently. ((You’ll wake her Deanna.)) As much as she tried to hide it. He felt it. Felt the sudden change in her mind as if she had slapped him across the face. Will let it go.

Deanna couldn't. ((Do you love her?)) She had the sudden image of him laughing, but he remained still.

The moment dragged, became a pause and continued to stretch. He sighed audibly, but not loud enough to wake the sleeping doctor. ((Of course I do.)) He betrayed no shame, no hint of remorse. Honesty and a sense of duty stained his thoughts, but he didn't stop. He didn't release the hold he had on her mind. ((I love Beverly. She's like a cross between my sister and a step-mother. She's my friend. She's alone and the Captain would want-))

((The Captain.)) She echoed, and Raker's resolve shattered and drew her in with the shards. Imagery, random, but united with a thread of pain. The Captain fading into the green of the Borg transporter as he was kidnapped away. Captain Picard broken and grizzled when he returned from the Cardassian torturers.

"It's always been about the captain." Her voice was incredibly loud as it echoed in his ears.

"I failed him." Will admitted softly. "It should have been me Deanna. It's the first officer's job to throw himself in the line of fire. I should have been on the Enterprise. I should be scattered across the universe right now and he should be with the woman he loved and their child."

Deanna actually laughed. Something tickled her mind in just the right place and she continued laughing. Riker raised an eyebrow but watched with amusement. Her eyes glistened but with a light he clung to. A light he needed to feel whole. ((Listen to your logic imzadi.)) She took a slow breath and caressed his mind. Feeling his confusion as she let herself go. ((I believe that Captain should be here.))

Riker stiffened instantly. Her laughter had been hysteric and his imzadi actually wanted him dead.

But her face betrayed no anger. ((But so should you. You should be with the woman you love.)) She closed the distance between them and leaned over the sleeping doctor to kiss his forehead. ((I love you imzadi.))

Riker's heart reached warp 9 in his chest. He was dumb, both mouth and mind refusing to speak for him. Deanna leaned closer still to him, letting her lips tickle his ear. "Dammit Riker. I'm not going to let Starfleet's most eligible bachelor remain that way."

Deanna's smile was the most beautiful act ever committed by a living being. And Riker chuckled. The infamous Riker luck had won out. His imzadi nudged Beverly awake. The doctor responding slowly and even recoiling from the brunette leaning over her. Will stood and pulled her into a tight hug. Released but staggered Dr. Crusher could only continue to be confused as Deanna caught her with tears in her eyes.

"Marry us Beverly." She suggested impulsively. Will grasped Beverly's hand enthusiastically.

"Today." He added.

"Right now." Deanna affirmed.

Beverly Crusher backed away from them both, shaking her head and trying to regain her footing. "How long have I been asleep?" With a joy that could have filled several starships Riker caught Beverly in a short and irreverent kiss.

"Eternity." He chortled gleefully and Deanna wrapped her arms around his waist and matched his smile.

"You're both insane." Her voice was serious but she too couldn't help smiling.

"You'll be all right." Deanna assured the stunned doctor. "Shock wears off in a few hours."

Will lost his hand in Deanna's hair. "Besides," he teased with a mischievous wink, "I'd save some of your annoyance for how you're going to look nude." Beverly could have sworn they were skipping as they left her and headed for camp. Alone by the ocean she tilted her head skyward and shook it in disgust.

"This is your fault Jean-Luc. And I'll never forgive you." Whether it was to agree, or to defend her father, the life within her turned sharply. She let herself smile. With right hand against her stomach she followed the path back to camp.


June 28th, 2063

Deanna Troi turned and let her grief lead her away.

As is the case of the universe, it was easier to slip into a dull sort of ignorance. Will let her avoid him, and Deanna had no desire to speak with him. A kind of dull haze settled over her and clung to her heart like frost on a winder morning. Like a tropical flower caught in that frost her heart withered. Something changed within her.

Deanna bathed in the calm seawater. Letting it run off her nude body as she dried in the sun. She swung her hair over her head and picked out the snarls with her fingers. After a few minutes she stopped. There, between strands of rich black, was silver. She shook it away, but there was another. After the seventh or so she stopped counting. For the first time since landing in this forsaken place, she was glad there was no mirror.

Troi dressed quickly once she was dry. For the past few weeks she had dived into work. Counseling the crew members more distraught then she. Out of their almost three hundred many hearts were broken, and even a few marriages had fallen in the face of a separation of centuries. She lived for others, thriving on pain because she was too numb to feel any more.

The path to the ocean was starting to become worn, and was easily trod by her uncomplaining feet. Ensign Lauren Harrison and Ellix Jova passed her on their way to the ocean. Jova radiated her typical cheer and waved happily to the counselor. Harrison was coughing as she passed and couldn't acknowledge her. Deanna smiled. It was becoming fairly easy to smile without meaning it. Her muscles becoming accustomed even as her emotions forgot the gesture.

Will Riker stopped at the edge of the ocean and stared at himself. His eyes were fading. The black that had shocked him so for the weeks he had been here was fading. Only slightly but his eyes know hinted more of stormy blue then of the Betazoid onyx.

"You're right. They are fading." He conceded wearily to Beverly Crusher as he caught his reflection in the back of a knife.

"Your brain might be returning to normal. You haven't used your telepathy for awhile." She sat beside him at the long table and stretched her hand towards his half-empty plate. "Going to eat this?"

Will pushed the fish and rice towards her. "Don't tell me you like this?" He teased, raising an eyebrow as she quickly attacked it.

She chewed for a few moments and then tried not to sound defensive. "I'm hungry and there isn't much of a selection."

He nodded absently. "If it weren't for Worf's hunting parties we probably would have starved by now."

Beverly paused between mouthfuls to reply. "Some of the farming is working. We have rice."

"And urhati. Don't forget that." He teased and reached for a basket of rolls in front of Barclay. Urhati was a Vulcan tuber that seemed to be capable of growing anywhere. Although they looked faintly like malformed potatoes, they tasted more like weak cinnamon.

She glared, but Barclay laughed. "I don't mind it. It's all right once you get used to it."

"I'd rather not be used to it Reg." Geordi added as he sat down on Beverly's other side. "You and the Vulcans seem to be the only ones who will eat it without a fight."

Barclay laughed and was off guard as Ellix Jova caught him from behind. He turned to kiss her lightly, and Beverly shot Riker a knowing look. Reg Barclay's fledgling relationship was one of the biggest surprises of Gravette Island, but from time to time Will claimed to have predicted it.

Behind them Dr. Selar stopped Lauren Harrison, who was still coughing, and lead her off to the side. Riker watched her study her medical tricorder and look serious. Although Vulcans typically looked serious, he was uncomfortable. Beverly was still eating so he leaned to her ear and whispered.

"If you keep eating like this everyone will know." Her face threatened to blush but she kept h
er composure by hitting his shoulder with a free hand.

"Careful doc. Osteoregenerators are still a bit down the list." Geordi teased, but kept a hopeful tone in his voice. "We should have indoor lighting tonight however." A rash of applause broke out down the table. The engineering crew, the hardest workers since they had arrived, smiled and relaxed for a moment in the flush of gratitude.

Riker looked to his left and caught Lieutenant Bragan coughing into his shoulder as Dr. Selar pulled him aside. Uneasy, he searched the people eating lunch beside them and counted the people he saw coughing. At least 6 or 7, a few more were reaching for their water glasses as the came to the end of a fit. "Excuse me for a moment." He stood up, handed his untouched roll to Dr. Crusher and headed for Dr. Selar.

Her eyes registered his concern. "Commander, I require your assistance in the medical building." She requested sharply and they walked away from camp. They walked in silence for several long minutes. No one was behind them.

Riker dived into it immediately. No reason to hold back with a Vulcan. "Is it some kind of outbreak?"

"I've been scanning the crew and 14 show identical symptoms. Coughing, inability to draw a full breath, lightheadedness- I believe it is some kind of viral infection and I would like to begin quarantines procedures immediately."

"That serious?" He asked softly but his question needed no answer from Selar as Geordi ran down the path toward them.

"Doctor, commander Riker, we need you back at lunch. People are collapsing." Selar and Riker ran back to camp.

Six people were on their knees on the ground, forming knots of activity as friends and shipmates crowded around them. Ensign Harrison was the first they reached. She was coughing violently now, blood trailing from her lips and covering the back of her hand and she choked against the liquid in her lungs. Lt. Voes was unconscious and Alyssa Ogawa was struggling to empty his lungs.

"What happened?" Riker demanded. Andrew Powell looked up at him helplessly from nurse Ogawa's side.

"They can't breath. Most of them have been coughing all day, and they just started collapsing." Dr. Selar knelt next to Jacob Voes who was starting to turn blue, tricorder immediately in hand.

"His lungs are liquefying. Move on to the next patient." Ogawa's eyes filled with tears for a split second, but she stood and jogged over to the next knot of people. Dr. Selar paused a moment to close Voes' eyes and then stood up. "Get all non-medical personnel out of here now commander."

Riker nodded leaving her to deal with her patients. He jumped on the bench and bellowed over the crowd. "Anyone who doesn't have advanced med training, let's get out of the way. Now!" Even off ship for months, the first officer was still the first officer and the crew jumped to obey. "Clear out! Let's go!" From nowhere Worf was at his side.

"I will take them to the beach commander. We can regroup there." Riker nodded briskly.

"Everyone hear the Klingon? Head for the beach!" People drained from the clearing but a flash of red hair still in the clearing stopped him from following. Riker turned to Worf. "Keep them calm. Remind them they are Starfleet officers and they will follow orders. I'll be right behind you." Worf nodded and headed to the column of retreating crew.

Riker ran across the emptied clearing. Nine people lay on the ground. Some were moving but one or two were completely still. He buried the sense of failure and caught Beverly Crusher roughly by the arm. "Let's go Beverly."

She whirled on him, her eyes burning. "I am the chief medical officer. You cannot order me around nor can you manhandle me into doing what you say. Do you understand?"

Riker was ice. He leaned close to her, his voice low and cold. "If you put the captain's baby in danger I will knock you senseless and carry you out of here. Now. Let's go."

Dr. Crusher's face went white and all the fight drained out of her. She lowered her head and took his hand, silently letting him lead her away. Dr. Selar was assembling her teams. Deanna Troi, the love of his life, stood beside Alyssa Ogawa. Her clothes were spattered with blood, but her face was defiant.

((Imzadi?)) He sent towards her, hoping vainly that she would respond. She met his gaze and their eyes locked. There was a coldness in her eyes he had never seen. An edge to her beauty like a rose made of razors. ((At least be careful.)) She did not care to respond or even give him the satisfaction of letting him know she heard. Will turned from her, wrapping an arm around Beverly's back as she craned her head to look back at the patients she was abandoning.

Deanna Troi watched her imzadi retreat into the forest. His mind still echoing in her ears. Her eyes stung but she locked them on Dr. Selar and listened. As she bolstered her shields her mind hardened once more against her imzadi.


Part 21

Stardate 83271.6
UTF Wells

In thirty years briefing rooms hadn’t changed. The glass table still started with the captain and pulled back away in a graceful arc. And Captain Picard sat at the head. Her red hair pulled tightly back in sharp contrast to her mother, who had worn hers loose, and she sat rigidly upright, avoiding Dr. Crusher’s tendency to fold inward. Jean-Luc stood in the shadows looking over her staff.. He looked over her senior staff, an unfamiliar Klingon with a brooding expression, a Vulcan engineer nodded his head, Dr. Veddra smiled, but it was the woman next to her that stopped his eye.

She was small, delicately boned and featured. Her huge black eyes were smooth and cold in her olive skin. Her face was still smooth and seemed ignored by age. Her black hair was streaked heavily with silver, but it only made her appear more elegant in the simple knot on the back of her head. After thirty years Deanna Troi was still a distracting woman. Instead of age she had gathered dignity, and a sense of quiet refinement that seemed unable to come from the genes of Lwaxana Troi.

“Still takes your breath away doesn’t she?” A quiet voice startled him and he turned slowly. A man deeper shadowed then he stood behind him. Middle aged with a touch of gray in his hair, but his eyes were young. They held the soft innocence of a perpetual child. The hand on Jean-Luc’s shoulder was warm and heavy, but the speaker seemed almost insubstantial, as if something could pass through him. “I used to have this crush on her. I know she was way out of my league, but every once in a while she’d smile at me on the bridge, and I’d match my uniform.”

Captain Picard caught the hand on his shoulder and shook it warmly between both of his. “Wesley! I- I never really thought I’d see you again.”

His face seeming older, Wesley Crusher sighed. “Neither did mom really.” He kissed his former captain on both cheeks and paused for a moment with his hands on the shoulders of the older man. “But that’s a long tale for another time.” On the other side of the room, Captain Felicia Picard began the briefing. Jean-Luc headed for the table, but Wesley shook his head.

“Private briefing for you captain. I can only tell my sister so much of the past, but you will have to know everything.” Wesley’s hand rested on his shoulder again and the briefing room dissolved into horizontal lines that faded to black. His sight came back much the same way and he was standing on a small hill, overlooking a wild looking vineyard in France. To his right a stand of Irish roses seemed as wild as the vines and the smell made the air thick and sweet.

“She’s only your half sister.” Picard correctly automatically as he turned in a slow circle to take in the grounds.

“Felicia and I are close. So it’s sister. Half-sister sounds somewhat inhuman to me.” Wesley replied cheerily, leaning back against a spreading tree.

“Tell me about her.” Picard voice held command.

“You mean tell you about mom.” Wesley corrected with a wink. “Maybe you should be telling me about her. After all, can you imagine my shock when I sensed her go into labor?”

“Shock is learning that your previously unknown daughter is the captain of a starship.” Picard crossed his legs in the grass and sat.

“Timeship captain. The UTF timeship Wells to be exact. Designed by yours truly. Capable of traveling through time and space. Maximum cruising speed of warp 9.69 and temporal drive capable of a single jump of 1.2 thousand years.” Wesley cautiously plucked a rose and sat rakishly next to the captain.

“UTF?” Picard queried.

“United Triumviate Fleet. Mouthful isn’t it?” Wesley handed Picard the rose. “Aren’t they lovely? Precisely the right shade of golden red. It will take you years to prefect these. You named them after mom too. She hated that. “ He laughed lightly. “Don’t make such faces captain. You won’t settle down to a life of horticulture until after you tire of a long and distinguished career in Starfleet.”

“You shouldn’t tell me what will happen in the future.” Jean-Luc couldn’t risk the timeline. Even if the Borg overran the quadrant.

“I wouldn’t worry so much. The future is incredibly malleable, more so then any of you realize.” Wesley stood and began pacing. “You saw Deanna Troi.”

Picard nodded. “I’m not sure I follow, Wesley.”

“She is a focal point.” Wesley plucked another rose. This time his hurry caused him to prick his finger. He held up his hands. One rose in his left, and one in his right. The right dripping with blood. “They come from the same starting point; the ground, and reach the same place; an encounter with my hand. Except one caused me pain, one did not. I made the choice of which rose to pick, and when. Changing the timeline. Deanna, without any knowledge of what she was doing, made a similar choice.“

He began to pace faster, tossing the roses to the ground at Picard’s feet. “You see captain, I started studying the experiences of the crew on Gravette Island. Fascinating stuff really. Temporal causality and fractal space can create infinite variation from on simple event. This one only created two distinct timelines. One of which you’ve already experienced.”

“Which one is correct?” Picard asked quietly. Picking up the discarded roses and musing.

“Not the one you know. At least, that’s my hypothesis so far.” Wesley threw himself to the ground next to Picard. “You’ve been there.”

Jean-Luc nodded slowly. “I don’t have grandchildren.”

Wesley laughed. “The great and lonely captain Picard concerned over grandchildren.”

“What’s the use of Felicia continuing the Picard family name if my daughter lives the same life of solitude that I did?” He wondered seriously, but his voice continued a deep hint of bitterness.

Wesley leapt up, his face suddenly energized. “Let’s find out. “ Before Jean-Luc had a chance to comment, time and space moved past him without noticing or acknowledging his astonishment.

Although he had enough time to speculate as to where Wesley Crusher would take him. Jean-Luc would not have guessed what he saw first with any kind of accuracy. Not even if he had all the time in the universe.

June 7th, 2063
Gravette Island

The air was hot and heavy. Even the wind blowing lazily across the ocean was warm and smelled of flowers. Geordi was for the first time since she had arrived in this quiet corner of the south pacific, glad for the heat. Without it, it would have been a bit to cold for Will and Deanna’s plans. Worf stood at one side. His muscles were tensed and tight under his skin like a crouched predator. The crew was arrayed in clumps. Some were blushing and nervous chatter filled the clearing.

Geordi coughed dryly to hide a snicker as Worf fumbled with his hands for a long moment, before settling them tightly at his sides.

“I do not find this amusing.” Worf rumbled.

“They’re our friends. So we forgive them and let them take our dignity for awhile.” He smiled weakly, and wondered if he would have been less uncomfortable if he still had his visor. Behind it the nude bodies around him would have at least not be in full and vivid color. He tried to focus on faces, and not to let his eyes drift below the collarbones on most of the very lovely young junior officers. For his part, Worf kept his eyes above the crew, aloof and removed. Though this was not a battle, Worf had found few situations in life that did not benefit from being treated like one.


The scene before him, the several hundred nude bodies nervously together in the wet heat, were nothing more then background dressing. A young Jean-Luc had manipulated, even toyed with woman. An older Jean-Luc finally understood why Will Riker could not enter a room without scanning it for Deanna. From behind the blur of Geordi and Worf, her pale skin gleamed against the backdrop of green.

Her hair was down, free and longer then he remember, but only long enough to tease her shoulders. Beverly Crusher diverted and swallowed his attention with the ferocity of a black hole. Her collarbones arched and elegant against the curves of her chest. Hadn't it been yesterday when she had offered those breasts to him in his quarters? But her body was different now, the curve inward between ribs and hips less strict as her stomach rounded outward faintly. Reluctantly, and with a trace of chagrin he raised his eyes to Beverly's face.

She was speaking. Her blue eyes soft with emotion. "It is my privilege as your friend, and my duty as ranking officer, to summon you to be married."

"Married?" Picard's face echoed the question. Wesley smiled pragmatically.

"In this timeline, what I believe is the right timeline. Riker and Troi were married." Something dark haunted Wesley's face for a moment before he continued. "You need to see this before I show you the timeline you know." Jean-Luc would have pried, but Wesley joined the crew in applause as Troi and Riker emerged from the crowd.

"'ll ruin the ceremony." Wesley ordered and pointed to the couple emerging from the crowd.


Deanna's hair was bound in a wreath of flowers. Pink and red bright against the flowing black. They were also nude. Maybe it was something about the way they held hands, but a sense of contentment visibly calmed the shuffling people. All eyes joined Jean-Luc's on Beverly.

Dr. Crusher smiled and alternated her gaze from Will to Deanna as she spoke. "My friends. Although marriage ceremonies were no covered in the bridge officers exam, I have a value recollection of the ancient history where I was once married, to draw on for reference."

It was Deanna who caught her eye and winked. Will seemed completely lost in the moment and in the part of his soul standing next to him.

Beverly continued, hope adding a richness to her voice. "Betazoids attending joining ceremonies nude, indicating that there is nothing to hide. Although this makes humans, myself included, more then a little nervous, I- And yes, those of you who are red in the face can blame me- I believed that the Betazoid tradition was the only fitting way to honor the bond between these two people." She raised her hands slowly. Placing one on each shoulder of the couple before her.

"Commander William Thomas Riker. Born in the frigid wilderness of Alaska, you found the other part of yourself dwelling near the jungles of Betazed." Will's face lit with a devious grin.

((Actually, I found her most intriguing *in* the jungles of Betazed.)) Deanna kept a straight face, but her musical laughter made a repeat visit to his mind.

Beverly lost the struggle to control the corner of her mouth and smirked in unbridled satisfaction. "Commander Deanna Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, you brought the calm humor of your father and the strength of your mother to an ambitious young officer who was more the willing to trade your knowledge for a sense of adventure."

Deanna was crying. Tears unhindered on their trek from eye to the valley between her breasts.

"Through the years I've known you both, I've watched you grow together and grow apart. Though I've lost more then you know betting that someday you'd both live up to your reputations as intelligent people and concede to the inevitable, I am only mildly surprised that it took 300 years to figure it out." She gestured for them to turn to each other.

"Will, Deanna- may you have the passion of youth, the wisdom of age, and the experience of every moment together. Just as all of us can hide nothing as we stand with you, so may it be between you as you let all the universe bind you together."

Will was convince his voice was off planet somewhere until he heard the words from his mouth echoed by Deanna.

"As it was with our souls imzadi, let our lives be one." Then he found a much more familiar use for his mouth as he melted into Deanna. Cheers, whistles and wild applause filled his ears, but could not be heard over the insane beating of his heart. When they parted, onyx eyes locked with onyx eyes, his mind was hers.

When she spoke, "I love you Bill." He knew what she would say, as he had always known that this moment existed. Will did not have to reach for her mind, nor would he ever again, because she was there. Deanna was his mind as she laughed at his astonishment. Her words, the only words that ever meant anything because everything else he had heard was noise, lodged in his mind and would stay there.

((Yes imzadi. I understand.))


Part 22

Gravette Island,
July 23rd, 2063

"How many does this make?" Will Riker's voice cracked with strain.

Dr. Selar sighed deeply. For a moment despair boiled up behind the mask of her face. "One hundred seven including the nine today. Almost one third of our numbers."

His hand shot into the tree quickly enough to hiss through the air. The wood thudded deeply and echoed. The branches shook leaves whispering peacefully. A sob choked his throat. "How many are testing positive?"

"An additional 51 have tested positive for the virus. Thirteen are in comas in the encampment."

He had the sudden urge to slam his throbbing hand into her stoic face. "All human?"

Selar nodded. "It is difficult to tell with only one tricorder still functioning, but I hypothesize that someone became infected with it after coming in contact with dead tissue."

Will folded his hands behind him. His swelling right hand burned against his left. "When I was at school. We read about the Third World War. The catastrophic death toll in battle, the collapse of infrastructure, and the plagues that swept through the population afterwards."

At her sides, Dr. Selar's hands trembled slightly. "I believe that we are facing a mutated, antibiotic resistant virus. After coming in contact with individual humans mutated by radiation damage, it mutated as well. I also believe that this virus was irradicated to long ago for humans to retain any lasting immunity. The virus however seems unable to adapt to non-human genetics. Counselor Troi-"

Something kicked his gut. Deanna had not spoken to him for weeks. His eyes were bright blue again and she held no sway in his mind. But her name stung fresh.

"Ellix Jova, Retyaw, myself and the other Vulcans all show no sign of the virus."

"Any chance we can use that to help us?" Fragile, but beautiful hope drifted down to him like a fat Alaskan snowflake. "I do not have the equipment necessary to modify an individuals genome. Perhaps if the power core had been a success-" He waved a hand rudely and cut her off.

"Get some rest doctor. If they are all comatose, there's nothing else you can do." It hurt to smile, but he had to. Even if the gesture was lost on a Vulcan, something inside of him had to keep of his poker face. Almost as if he had pulled it out of his aching heart with bloody fingers. "The rest of us will still need you."

Again she nodded, and she acknowledged her own exhaustion by crossing her arms in front of her chest tightly. "Dr. Crusher?"

"She's tired." Will shook his head slowly. "But it keeps her away from the plague victims. I think she'll feel better when Worf's team returns. He promised us carnivore’s fish. And I think Reg will make sure even you vegetarians get some seaweed or something."

She raised a stoic eyebrow. "Indeed commander."

He was shocked to feel himself chuckling. "Good luck doctor."

Selar nodded her head and disappeared into the trees. "One hundred seven..." He whispered to himself. The number lost had on this mission become unfathomable. He had tried to send as many humans as he could away with Worf.

While his mind wandered, his feet brought him back to camp. From this rocky rise in the coastline long shadows covered the ground. The sun had set without ceremony. The real nightly ceremony began on the beach down from him about 40 meters.

A small knot of people pushed a crudely and hastily constructed barge of wood out into the water. The retreating waves caught it and it slowly drifted out away from the cluster of mourners. Without a word a phaser blast shot through the darkness and illuminated the bodies on the raft. Covered with dry wood, they burst into flames. The people parted into darkness and the fire burned on unheeded.

"Will?" The voice behind him was insistent. Beverly came willingly to his arms. She buried her head on his shoulder. "How many more?"

"Nine." He responded softly. Beverly lifted her head, and Will's eyes found the familiar angry tears adorning her eyelashes.

"Deanna?" She pressed on. His arm swung around her back, stabilizing her against him.

"Is still alive."

"Will." She reprimanded harshly.

"Dammit Beverly!" He released her roughly and stomped towards the edge of the cliff. "She doesn't want to see me. That's it. She may never want to see me again. But I think it's the least of my problems." Will grabbed a rock off the ground and pelted it as hard as he could into the water. Watching it sink as he balled his anger away. He let the anger go. Feeling it float out of his body and return it to the deep feeling of emptiness. He watched the water in silence. Waves lapping back and forth on the rocky beach, whispering and clinking through the growing darkness. "I'm sorry." Her hand was on his shoulder, soft and light compared to the weight of his guilt.

"Come on Will." As he stood he brought the hand on his shoulder to his chest and held it quietly. She smiled weakly in response, and hand in hand they walked to the tents. Just outside of earshot of camp he stopped suddenly.

"Geordi, when he died, he talked about the captain." Beverly's eyes filled with tears incredibly quickly. "Jova said he talked as if he were there."

"Maybe he was. Maybe he's waiting for all of us." Will noticed that unlike Deanna, when Beverly cried her chin didn't tremble. Her face grew rigid, tightly controlled, but upset so deeply within that tears ran into the worn shoulder of his jacket. The baby, now large enough to deform her figure, jabbed twice into his stomach. "Seeking revenge on the man who made mommy cry?" Will’s voice wondered.

"I didn't know her opinion of her mother was that high." Beverly managed bravely. Will's eyes roamed her face. Even in the weak light her cheekbones seemed very sharp, her eyes very bright against the dark circles marring her pale skin.

Riker decided to dodge the subject. "Worf's team should be back tomorrow. Good food. Maybe even a little party. Get our spirits up."

"Maybe we can move morale up to wretched instead of morbidly depressed-" Beverly winced, dropping his hand and placing both hands on her lower back. "Damn." Will helped her to the ground and listened to her breathing slowly.
"It's that thing again isn't it?"

She rolled her eyes. "I've explained it twice." Her breath hissed in her teeth.

"Third times the charm." He winked rakishly and turned her away from him so his strong hands found her aching lower back. "Maybe I just like making you explain it."

"Maybe you're an idiot." She bit back, digging her fingers into the backs of her knees as he kneaded the frustrated muscles at the base of her spine. Riker placed two sets of knuckles on either side of her spine and pushed, digging into the stiff fibers and feeling them slide under his hands. Beverly gasped sharply, her breathing taking on a pained edge.

"Maybe I'm a sadist."

"You ARE a sadist." He stopped his hands, and she turned with a pitiable expression.

"That doesn't mean you should stop." She reached back a hand. Her fingers found his and Riker brought her cold fingers to her lips. He closed her fingers into the warmth of his hand. Beverly's soft blue eyes were very close. She turned to him, her pregnant belly brushed gently against his knee.

His free hand ran over the fullness of her belly. "What’s it like?" Her eyes searched his face. It held an innocence the calmed her. A tendency for youth that hid behind the fine lines at the corners of his mouth suggested an odd sense of hope. Beverly leaned marginally closer.

"Having something move inside me?" Will watched her hair spill over her shoulder. It was down, free and curling gently around her face. An odd memory, a memory that wasn’t his, broached a fondness for burying his hands in that hair. It was soft, silky and cold, running through his fingers like droplets of water. Sliding as easily as the tears in her eyelashes. Her lips were cold. His mouth was warm and comforting. He wasn’t hers, but she kissed back. Will’s lips were heated, blood racing to the thin layer of skin. Heat racing against the thin lay of her skin. His tongue was practiced, roaming, teasing, filling her mouth and darting away.

She felt her breath quicken. The hand on her stomach was drifting- his fingertips grazed the shadowed curve of her breast. The sensation magnified by the soreness of pregnancy, and her skin grew more alert. Riker’s other hand was on her back, fighting the distance between them.

In the words, something snapped with the crack of dead wood. Will held a finger over his lips, hushing her as he stood and faced off with the trees. "Hello?" He took a step closer. "Is someone there?"


Death permeated her clothing. When her hair hung in her face, it smelled of decay. Death hid beneath her fingernails when she ran her hands over her face. The salty vague smells of her own sweat were almost comforting as she walked through the lines of the sick. Death had a distinct sweetness that lingered in the back of her throat, hiding behind the nausea that came with the blood.

They coughed up blood. Droplets foaming on their lips as their eyes rolled frantic in their heads. Bright red arterial blood full of oxygen that would never reach the heart was wasted. Life that would never run through beneath the skin and perpetuate ran onto the ground. Coma was the calmest state of dying. Deanna Troi, the woman who calmed the souls of the dying relished comas because they brought the calm she could not. Coma held a dark and shadowed peace she coveted.

The crew died quietly. Most now were comatose when their lungs spat themselves to the ground at the side of their cots. Some spoke in broken sentences. Geordi had talked to the captain. He had smiled. Smiled with blood running down his chin. Smiled when his lungs gasped wetly and his words gurgled in his throat. Smiled up at her when she closed his eyes. Smiled as Retyaw and Elori came to help her add his body to the pyre. Geordi La Forge was still smiling as Deanna kissed his forehead and pulls a rag over his face. Covering his smile forever.

She had been past retching. In the last weeks she had moved past the desperate sobbing that left bitterness in her stomach so great that it must rise out of her throat. Deanna wiped her mouth on her sleeve, wiped her eyes with her thumbs and looked down at the hard metal that cut into her knee. A crushed, dirty fragment of another life where she had been happy felt gritty as she lifted it from the ground and stared at it. "Zero Backward." Reg Barclay’s cheerful face on the shack where food was served had been a hovel a month ago. It was a relic now.

"Counselor?" The tentative voice of the young Bajoran was light-years away. "Counselor? Ensign Elvarez is –"
The metal clattered dully on the packed earth floor. Deanna rubbed her hands briskly together, watching as the dust settled in the air. Her head was held high as she strode out of the doorway. Her hands at her side, the latest bloodstain on her pant leg drying slowly in the darkening light.


Jean-Luc held his head in his hands. The muscles in his neck seeming wholly inadequate for the task. His head was heavier then it had been watching the wedding, but his heart was lodged somewhere in the pit of his stomach. Silence walked a long while with them. Wesley’s face was empty and inscrutable. He had not spoken since he had held the hand of his mentor and watched him cough the tissue from his lungs. Jean-Luc had no words, but his mouth opened and closed once as he looked up from his perch on a dead tree to look up at the timeless young Crusher.

"How many?" He croaked dryly. "How many will never return?"

Wesley was a grim statue at his side. "More then half. Without Geordi they will never scrape together a stable power generator. Without power even an unexpected storm can be fatal." He collapsed down next to the captain. "I will enter this timeline to return the survivors home almost a year from now. "

"Why so long?" Picard asked with genuine curiosity. "Why not before this plague?" His voice rising quickly to a crescendo. "Why not prevent this?"

Wesley shook his head. "I can’t."

"You can’t?"

Wesley dropped his arms to his knees and his head to his arms. "I don’t know how."


Part 23

Stardate 83271.6
UTF Wells

"Thank you. That concludes the briefing. We'll convene again at 21:00." Her senior officiers stood and left wordlessly. Deanna Troi stood, but turned to watch the cold stars of space. Felicia Picard frowned as an instubstantial memory insisted that Deanna Troi belonged to the stars.

Stardate 55218.6
USS Enterprise-F

"She was a brilliant part of my life. She burned me, consumed me and spit me out." Captain Riker's calloused hand touseled the child's unruly red hair. "But I would do it all again if she asked me too." Her tiny hand had pulled on his uniform, and her huge gray eyes drilled into his face. Full of questions. "But she never will darling. She's cold now. Just like those little bits of light. It must be where she belongs." He pounced on her, scooping her up and carrying her crazily across the room as she squealed with happiness. She had immediately gone for her toys in the corner.

She did not watch him sit on the sofa on her mother's quarters lower his head and sob freely. It was only after a few long minutes that Captain William Riker looked up into the deeply serious face of the child before him. Concern made her seem decades older, and in that moment her gray eyes held a depth he had only seen in her father. He scooped her up. She curled in his lap without complaint. Riker's lap was safe. He was a refuge from nightmares and closet monsters. His tears feel freely in her hair, and she explored the mountains of his shoulders with a tiny wooden bear cub no bigger then her fist.
That afternoon Deanna had stopped by the nursery school and picked up Felicia Picard early. They had gone to the officer's mess and Deanna had passed on the wisdom of chocolate sundaes to the younger generation.

Felicia was four years old, shy and slow to speak. Her head topped with a mass of rambunctious red curls, and penetrating gray eyes betrayed her constant search for knowledge. She was unnatturally quiet, ignored other children and had a precious understanding of computer terminals. Dr. Crusher had gone over her daughter many times in sickbay after their return, and there was no medical reason for Felicia's behavior. Deanna was one of few people she spoke freely too. The Betazoid was one of her favorite people. It was something about Deanna's easy manner. Her willingness not to talk. The way Deanna could wait patiently for hours had endeared her deeply to the child. Counselor Troi had eventually decided that Felicia did not speak until she had something to say, and considering the enormous stress of her early childhood, she was not surpised.

Deanna had given in and now she sat across from a four year old girl spattered with chocolate ice cream as she giggled cheerfully through Deanna's story. "And your father, Jean-Luc, quoted poetry to the Ferengi." Felicia cocked her her in a question.

"Ferengi." Deanna replied, cupping her hands around her ears and wrinkling her nose in an exaggerated expression of disgust.

Felicia nodded, patting her hair down on her head and pushing back her hairline with her hands. "No hair." She answered. "Like latinum."

Troi smiled brightly. "Exactly." She paused to run her spoon around the outside of her sundae. "Jean-Luc told the Ferengi that if he couldn't have Lwaxana, no one would! So he had Worf power up all the phasers and photon torpedoes and started counting down from ten."

This was the best part of the story. Felicia was kneeling on her chair, spoon forgotten as she hung on Deanna's words. Deanna's voice dropped almost two octaves, and she adopted a clipped english accent. "If Lwaxana Troi is not in my arms in ten seconds, throw everything you've got at them. Nine, eight, seven-" She wrinkled her nose and did a remarkable impression of a sneer. "But a battle would destroy Lwaxana as well!"

"Six, five-" She continued in her Picard voice, unconciously straightening her uniform and narrating the actions in a stagewhisper. "He turned his back on the screen and threw up his hands."

'Picard' continued the charade. "Tis better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all!" She sat regally back in her chair as if it were Picard's throne of command. "Three, two-"

"Lwaxana beamed onto the bridge." Felicia finished, settling back to her ice cream.

Deanna nodded happily. "The Ferengi beamed her back over. And she flounced right up to the captain and sat down in his lap. And your father turned bright red like his uniform."

Felicia crowed with laughter. She had heard the story before. She had met the infamous Lwaxana Troi, who sent her gifts on her birthdays and often sent long communiques that Felicia would watch and rewatch with great interest. She had once confided in Deanna that she liked watching Lwaxana talk because she was always so interesting. Their relationship brought Deanna a strange kind of peace as this little girl inherited her long suffering nickname. Deanna would never be able to have children. The miscarriage back on Gravette Island had destroyed her chances of ever being a mother. She often mused that it was just another addition to the insurmountable stack of odds against her imzadi. Against her own happiness.

The psychiatrist inside told her this was a defeatist line of thought, but some part of her had changed. Some part of her heart was so worn by time and death that she no longer cared for love. Her heart had hardened on Earth. Something had been lost and it was useless to search for it. Maybe, a small voice wondered, maybe if Will was with me. But that was impossible. Will Riker was as far from her as she could have pushed him, and she had pushed him right into the grieving heart of her best friend. Will hadn't been there when she wanted him, but he had been by Dr. Crusher's side when she needed him. Will had even delivered the child holding her hand as they walked to the turbolift. He was the man who filled the absent role of father, and it somehow seemed right.

She had always been deeply in tune with the thoughts of Will Riker. When his thoughts on the bridge drifted time and time again to thoughts of red curls, she knew it was time.

Deanna brought her charge to the ready room, her hands still sticky from ice cream. Will was pleased to see them. He always was. She watched with unshed tears in her eyes as he took Felicia to the bathroom to wash her hands. A sharp twist of regret tugged at her heart, but Deanna Troi no longer had the strength to fight for her heart. The pain was easier to live with.

Will's hair was only faintly gray. His eyes and face were still young and vital. His laughter infectious as he made a towel attack Felicia's hands with great gusto. His beard was neatly trimmed and his mind calm. Of all the minds rescued from the Gravette Island tragedy, his had rebounded. He was Captain. He was a charasmatic and capable leader that any crew member would follow to the death. He would be an excellent father. A caring and loving husband.

It was the boyish smile that she etched in her mind. Carving every feature of his face into her memory. She walked with him to Beverly's quarters. The CMO was in surgery and Will would be watching Felicia until she returned home. She paused in the doorway. Will's eyes had returned to blue. His mind had recovered and he was once again fully human. All that had been required was a lack of her intrusion. That was all his life really needed.

She would take her heart and bury it in work. Betazed had asked her to become it's first ambassador to Romulus. A whole new culture, an empire of people with a vast and unstudied history, a planet light years away from tall, handsome Starfleet captains. Her heart deserved it's rest, and without her, his life would continue. His heart would heal as her own never could.

"Goodnight Bill." Unexpectly he hugged her tightly, noting for the first and last time that her hair no longer smelled like flowers.

"Goodnight Deanna." His first officer, a young man with a brilliant Starfleet record had come to Dr. Crusher's quarters not even an hour after she was gone. Harry Kim had handed him the PADD with an odd look on his face.

"She asked that I deliver this personally. After her runabout left." Captain Riker nodded dumbly, and his first officer exited quickly. Safely on the other side of the door Harry shook his head in pity. Captain Riker was a good man. An amazing leader, but it seemed that much like his previous captain, all the odd in the universe were stacked against him.

The PADD was short, impersonal and contained only one line from Deanna. "Forgive me, but I couldn't say goodbye imzadi." The rest he barely comprehended. When he set it down on the table, small hands found it and she read through it slowly. He was lost in a dark fog when Felicia tugged his hand and demanded his attention.

"Where's Rom-u-lus?" She asked slowly, guessing the pronounciation of the unfamiliar word. He lifted her up and carried her to the window.

"See all the stars?" She nodded, and he pointed with a free hand at a tiny one lightyears away. "It's that one."

His solemn pronouncement won him several minutes of silence. Finally, "Deanna's in the stars now?" she asked.

He nodded, feeling like his head was moving without him. "That's where Deanna belongs baby. She's always been like a star."
When Dr. Beverly Crusher arrived exhausted to her quarters, her daughter was fast asleep in the arms of the Captain. His eyes were red and abused. Without a word she stripped off her labcoat and curled catlike at his side. Searching fingers found her hand and she squeezed his back. The warmth of his body suffusing her hand. He stood, carrying the sleeping girl to her room. Still silent he returned to the living room and Beverly caught his hand again.

"I read the transfer." She offered weakly.

"Romulus." He replied with a long sigh. "She thinks it's for the best." Beverly didn't ask how he knew. She had come to accept that when it came to Deanna Troi, there were somethings he just knew. They stood, hands clasped lightly in the center of her quarters. Time left them alone. Her mouth was warm, her lips supple and welcoming. She wrapped her arms around his neck and the full length of her body pressed against him.

Kissing Beverly was becoming familiar. A stolen moment in sickbay late at night, a lingering pause in his ready room; they had been in a slow spiral of doubt since that first kiss in the woods of the island.

Spirals had an inevitable conclusion. Deanna Troi knew that perhaps better then either of them as the runabout flew through the lines of light. She felt the heady rush of blood throughout her body. The echoing of Will's heartbeat in her ears found her across the space between them. Her imagination added the rustling of uniforms and the dull thud of a commbadge tossed to the floor. She left her pilot to his boredom in the cockpit and turned out the lights in the rear cabin. Curled into a ball in the corner Deanna listened to the quickness of his breathing. Deanna felt the cold fingertips run across his back and tasted the sweat in her mouth.

She could have shut it out. Deanna could have closed her mind and meditated herself to a blissful state of calm. Instead she shared in the inevitable she helped create. She shared the building intensity, the pounding in her head, the burning along her thighs, the stinging tightness that begged for Will to join with her. To fill her body and spill over into her soul.

But Will was somewhere else. Someone else was running her toungue across his neck. Someone else was straddling his hips and he buried himself inside of her. Someone else was being torn inside out as his hands tortured her breasts as they made way for his mouth. As his teeth grazed her skin ever so gently underneath her nipple she came for the first time. Will's sense of pride flashing momentarily through the sensations he unknowingly shared with his imzadi. Beverly's back arched, the muscles of her body growing taunt through her pale skin as Will's eyes feasted on the sight of her. Will's own orgasm blasted through Deanna's mind as if one of the lines of light outside her cabin and broken in and pierced her soul.

Covered in sweat, exhausted and trembling, Deanna stripped off her uniform and climbed into the dark sonic shower. There in the blackness of the runabout she sobbed silently against the cold metal until Will Riker's mind had been relagated entirely to memory.

Covered in sweat, exhausted and trembling, Will and Beverly found each others arms for the first time. They talked in whispers of many things, but love was unspoken. As friends they had been lovers, and now they would stay. Loneliness played a far better matchmaker then logic. When Felicia Picard woke and came sleepily out of her room, Captain Riker stood by the table, dressed only in a pair of loose pajama pants. He pulled out her chair and set a plate in front of her. Beverly got out of the sonic shower and sat beside her daughter. Laughing and joking as he coaxed omelets from a set of eggs from the replicator, Will made breakfast. He made breakfast the next day, and the next.

A week later Felicia had a new room in a larger set of quarters, and breakfast every morning. One night, after her mother had rescued her from the nursery, she watched her mother and the captain make dinner. While Will argued with the replicator her mother made faces at her from behind his back, and when he turned around and caught her, he kissed her firmly on the mouth. Felicia smiled as she watched them. Her mother was happy. The captain was happy. When she had the nightmares she didn't understand and ran to the safety of her mother's bed, the captain moved over and let her sleep between them, with their arms protecting her. That morning, her mother had asked her to call him Will, or even dad if she wanted too. And quietly the serious man that she knew only from the holodeck and a holo her mother took out only when she thought Felicia was asleep, remained her father, but Will Riker was dad.

"I thought you might not come Ambassador." Felicia ventured bravely. As much unwelcome discomfort as the surprising return of Deanna brought. It was her ship, and she could talk to anyone however she wanted on her ship.

Deanna Troi, Senior Romulan Envoy of the Triumviate, wore simple black beneath her regal gray robe of office. Silver medallions, some from the old Federation, some from the Empire, and some from the new Triumviate, made the robe heavy. Metal clinked against metal as she raised her right hand to her head. Felicia Picard felt embarassingly plain. Even the envoy's hair was metallic silver against the ebony black remaining from her youth. A delicate filagree tiara encircled her head, and the great bird of Romulus clutched the twin planets in the backdrop of her hair. Deanna removed it with a sigh. Setting it to gleam on the black glass of the conference table. She ran both hands through her hair and it fell in long ribbons past her waist.

"Forgive me my familiarity, but my hair can be very heavy on my head." A gentle smile had no impact on those deep black eyes, but softened the stiffness in Felicia's posture and she smiled in return.

"I understand. It's still very beautiful. I hope I've that much color left when I'm-" She caught herself to late. Felicia's carefully controlled blush only had time to grace her cheeks before Deanna laughed musically.

"Seventy." She sat easily in the chair. A ghost of a smile hovering around her eyes. "I'll be seventy next month, not that I think about it much." Felicia nodded and titled her head in awe of the etheral legend before her that had haunted her youth. She went to the replicator.

"Hot Chocolate. Two." She set the teacup before Deanna and sat uneasily next to her. Words eluded the normally articulate Captain, but Deanna looked over her cup in amusement.

"This isn't the usual starfleet glass."

Startled, Felicia bumped her cup and had to use a second hand to steady it. "'s a china pattern my namesake had. Commander Barclay reprogrammed my computer to use them as a gift."

"Reg always was sweet." Deanna sipped her drink gratefully. "The Romulan Senate caterers have been kind enough to attempt hot chocolate on a few occasions, but I do miss a good old Starfleet replicator." Felicia nodded distractedly, and Deanna answered the question she hadn't asked. "I'm smaller then you remember. But you were very young when I last saw you, Captain."

Felicia nodded quickly. "I was four. You told me stories in the officer's mess. About Jean-Luc and Lwaxana." She swirled the liquid in her cup. "She still writes me. Even calls me little one. Wants me to get married."

Deanna laughed again, and this time there was a tiny spark of life in her eyes. "She still hasn't gotten over me. Seventy years old, and not even one marriage. I'm afraid I've lost count of hers."

"I went to Barin and Inora's anniversary last year. Mom and Dad came with. Betazed gets more lovely every time I visit."

Deanna's voice was calm with years of control. But 'Mom and Dad' brought an odd look to her face. "How many years has he been married?"

Felicia shook her head slowly and set down her cup. "12 years. To the same person. Lwaxana swears it's an accident that he's her son. Must have been switched at birth because no child of hers would stay married that long or get married at all. Do you ever wish-?"

The older woman cut off the question with a wave of her hand. "I always wish. Wishing keeps the past in perspective. But I'm not lonely, if that's what you're wondering. I have myself, and that's all I've needed."

A captain's instinct sensed the lie as well as a Betazoid could, but a captain's diplomacy hid her knowledge. "The same thing I tell my mother." Felicia agreed quickly.

"How is Beverly?" For the first time, Deanna's voice sounded aged.

"Lovely as ever, and just as stubborn. Dad, I mean, Will, finally got her to retire to Caldos. They moved into my great-grandmother's house." Deanna raised an eyebrow.

"What about the ghost? I thought she hated that house."

Felicia smirked mischeviously. "D- Will threatened to move to Alaska, and she compromised with Caldos."

"And Will agreed to live there?" She asked with equal surprise.

"It's not too much of a loss. Caldos agreed to host Deep Space Seventeen, and he gets to head up construction and a whole host of officers. Not to mention the entire Gaukora fleet."

Deanna nodded knowingly. "He'll make an excellent fleet commander. Just as long as he understands the Romulan sense of humor." The silence was as comfortable as Felicia remembered it.

"You met your father yesterday didn't you?" The question hung in the air, and Felicia noticed for the first time how piercing the gaze of the Senior Envoy could be.

"I did." She took a calming breath. "We rescued him about 24 hours ago, Wes showed us where to find him."

"Does Beverly know?"

Felicia shook her head. "Radio silence. We're skirting the edge of Borg space as it is. If they got their hands on the Wells." She made a quick gesture of a knife across her throat. "The end of us and everything we know."

"Jean-Luc tried to die to prevent that." Deanna added softly.

"And I would." Felicia finished firmly. "Nothing we have ever faced is more terrible then the Borg. That's why this mission is so important."

Deanna stood slowly and walked back to the window. The stars looked oddly washed out through the cloaking device the Wells used. "A universe without the Borg. With a free Terra." Her shoulders slumped in defeat. "It seems like a fairy tale."

"Interstellar travel was a fairy tale. The moon was made of cheese and Terra was flat." Captain Picard stood and walked to behind the elderly betazoid. "Our ancestors believed, and went against terrible odds to expand the universe. We owe them at the very least the courtesy of not giving up until the last human heart ceases to beat. We will beat the Borg. One way or another."

"Is it really worth all of that?" Deanna mused softly.

Her voice was far away, and as the young Captain Picard spoke. Deanna's ears heard the voice of an older Picard. Years and a lifetime away. "Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end." Felicia said quietly. "Forgive me if I want my minutes to mean something."

Deanna reached over and took the hand of the amazing young woman she had known only as a child. "Ever since your mother called you Picard. The minutes of your life could do nothing else."


Part 24

Gravette Island
July 23rd, 2063

Captain Picard's voice was incredulous. His back was straight and his eyes glinted with the inate fire that made him seem so much larger then his stature.
"What do you mean you can't?" His voice was calm, but sharp edged with threat.

"I can't." Wesley repeated impatiently. "I can't move hundreds of people through time. I can't move people through time."

"Mr Crusher, need I remind you that you have brought me back to this rock and here I stand in the past, watching my crew die around me." Picard's face was

"We are out of time. YOU are out of time." Wesley laughed, almost hysterically. "You're a man out of time ever since I sent my sister to save you." His eyes
glinted with the cold frustration of a teacher with a very inept pupil.

Picard's anger faded in his confusion. "Explain that again please, Mr. Crusher."

"You were supposed to die captain. You were supposed to die with your ship. I couldn't let that happen. I thought-" He ran a trembling hand through windswept
brown hair. "I thought you were the key. I went to Starfleet in my time. In 2401, I told them I could build a timeship. That I would oversee the project. We
built it, the Wells was sent to save you, because I told Starfleet Command that it was absoutely vital to the timeline." He was pacing again, hands fluttering
like misdirected shuttlecraft.

Jean-Luc calmed his voice, hoping it would diffuse to the younger man. "You can't move others through time." Wesley nodded. "You had the Wells built to save
me." Another nod and Wesley's eyes soared with hope. "Why don't we just take the Wells back and save the crew?"

His face crashed and he exhaled with sharp frustration. "I did, and they came forward and the universe imploded. The Borg invaded. Billions die."

"Why not try another point?" Picard suggested, drawing on his infite reserve of calm.

"I bring the crew forward and they carry the disease that killed so many of them to Earth. A plague that spreads to every corner of the Federation before I can
ask Starfleet to build the Wells. With the people who will help me design it dead, I can't build it and then go back to save the crew to bring them forward
to kill." He shook his head ruefully, shaggy brown hair obsecuring his eyes for a moment. "Tampering with time leads to paradoxes which in turn lead to headache
and nosebleed. The timeline you saw. The timeline where Felicia rescued you works. It is continuous. Gravette Island and your crew are a vortex of
possibilities, most of them worse then the Borg."

Jean-Luc returned his head to his hands. When he looked up at the wild eyes of Wesley Crusher his gray ones held resignation and understanding. "We can't
affect this timeline. No one can see us. No one saw us at the wedding, and only Geordi saw me here."

Wesley's face crumpled with grief and his voice caught, "The dying are literally 'out of time' and can see with eyes unclouded. Unveiled."

"Like you." Picard observed softly. There was a dark hint in Wesley's face that disappeared beneath the surface before Jean-Luc spoke again. "So what can we

"We have to find the focal point. Figure out how to change it." His voice quavered, but his body language was resolute. "There has to be a way."

Jean-Luc reached across the years and held his shoulder like a father. "There is always a way Wes."

Wesley's eyes seemed to shine up from the depths of a lake. Wet and cold in his lined face. "Yes sir."


August 11th, 2063
Gravette Island

"Two weeks is the absolutely the bare minimum anyone should ever be allowed as a honeymoon." Will Riker's eyes danced mischeviously over the curves of his
imzadi. She stood a meter in front of him on the deck of the small sailboat. Her body dark against the starlit waters. Black curves silhuetted with glistening
sea. His fingertips tingled, wanting to leave the wheel and return to their homes on those curves, caressing the long line of shoulder to hip.

She laughed and it echoed, blending with the whispering water in the symphony that was their time together. "You could turn us around, sail us back out into
the water." She suggested softly. Deanna's voice held more then impish glee and increased the restlessness of his hands.

Will swallowed quickly and found his voice unresponsive to his body's true needs. "It's going to rain. I can smell it in the air." She turned and walked to
him. Her body gradually gaining color as she closed the distance in the waning light. Black faded to gray, and gray gave way to the olive of her skin. The deep
brown of her hair as it hung down over her shoulders, caressing the spots of pink that brought the tingling of blood to another part of his body. Her hair
was curly in the humidity.

"And the boat can't get wet." She teased effortlessly as she slipped between his arms to lean back against the wheel. His efforts to steer the vessel now
hampered by the pounding of blood in his arms whenever they brushed her nude body.

Only the grim feeling in the back of his mind kept his hands on the wheel and his lips forming words instead of kisses. "We need to get back." Riker replied
simply. "I can feel it."

Deanna nodded, her eyes drinking in the muscles of his arms, tightened by hard labor. The darkness in his skin and the way it drew taunt over much used muscles
was completely distracting. She appreciated the distraction. He turned the boat as the dark line of Gravette Island came into view. His arm left a fiery trail
along her side. ((I know.)) She whispered in his mind, ((There's something coming.))

Riker appreciated again what it was not to have to explain his fear. She knew as surely as if the premonition had been her own dark warning. "So we go back." Her hand trailed from his shoulder to his arm, fingers cool against his skin. Will stared at it, wondering if the sensation she left behind was visible on his

((We have to.)) His heart and mind warned at the same time. Her mind was quiet with understanding. The wheel of the boat warmed to the skin of her back. The
wood smooth and nearly living. The sailboat was Will's pride and joy. It had taken weeks to complete it. To sand every surface smooth, to coat the hull with
pitch, to protect the gleaming wood from water and wind with resin. Their honeymoon had waited for the madien voyage of the Enterprise-F. Will had
insisted that the name should never be off a vessel, even if she only sailed a sea of water. It gave the crew a renewed sense of hope. They and the Enterprise,
went on.

Deanna turned her head to look over her shoulder at the approaching land. The motion pulled her hair across her bare chest and ever the faint friction brought
increased sensitivity to her nipples that her imzadi watched with increased interest. "It's a straight line to the island." She purred gently in his ear. He
took his eyes from the horizon and ran his tongue in a straight line from navel to throat.

Riker was rewarded with her short gasp. Her lungs filled with air and raised her breasts to brush against his chest. "Just like that." He replied gruffly. Deanna
nuzzled his neck, standing on tiptoes to run her tongue over his lips.

((There are better uses for these then speaking.)) Deanna reminded him as Riker lowered his mouth to hers to allow her better access.

((So I've been told.)) He replied as he eagerly fumbled his hands with a rope, binding the Enterprise on her course home. Will's hands then found the soft
playground of his imzadi, running down her back to cup the roundness of her butt. Her hands in turn were deftly freeing him from his only clothes, a loose
pair of pants, recently strained by his desire for her. They fell to the deck and nothing else was between them.

Deanna's breathing was fast on his neck as he turned her, placing her back against the mast. She wrapped her slender legs around his back, locking her
ankles as he found his home within her body. In a fit of retribution Deanna gave him the sensation. His eyes shot open wide as Riker understood what it was to be
filled. He breathe with her, feeling his hands on her breasts. Her mouth was twisted mischeviously. He reached for her mind but was unable to form words as
his body drove her madly towards orgasm.

Will would have bet an Enterprise full of latinum that he knew Deanna's body better then any other woman he had ever known. uring their honeymoon he had
learned that it was a useless bet. He couldn't know her body. She was an nessecary part of his existance.

Shared climax brought trembling to his hands, and a deeper shaking all through his body. Deanna's eyes were soft, and sweat added an extra dimension of curl to
her hair. Her quiet concern was understood unspoken, but her voice was gentle in his mind. ((And you didn't believe me when I told you what it was like.))

The lay on the warm wood of the deck. Stars smiling down their silent blessing on their frequent explorations of each other. He ran a lazy hand over the smooth
skin of her belly. ((I think this could be bad for my ego. I mean, now that I understand what it is to be made love too by myself.))

Her laughter echoed over the water. Her hands were a bit more adventurous, warranting a raised eyebrow as she stroked his damp skin. ((Somehow I think
you'll get over it.))

"Will I?" Riker's voice fell out of teasing pitch. "I don't think I'll ever get over you, imzadi." His sudden melancholy stopped her and she rolled onto his
chest, her hair curtaining her beloved's face as she bored into his eyes. Deanna kissed him, commiting him forever to memory.

"You know how I am at goodbyes." Her cheeks were wet beneath his fingertips. Her dark hair was haloed by the moonlight. He paused for a moment, drinking in
to radiance that was his imzadi. His goddess was glowing with more then moonlight, because there was no moon. Shock flew through her eyes. They stood
quickly, hands linked.

Warm light caressed even the shadows of Will's body. Deanna noticed with some amusement that even the fine hairs of his stomach were visible. The cove that
berthed the Enterprise was full of light. Three floodlights poured light from the treetops to the ocean surface.

Worf's deep laughter boomed like a war drum acorss the night stillness. "Welcome back commanders." Will met Deanna's gaze. Completely unabashed, she
shrugged and headed to the bow for her abandoned clothing. He pulled on his rumpled pants quickly and in his state of half dress leaped to the dock to help
Worf secure the elegant craft.

"Power?" He asked, completely intrigued. The path behind Worf was also lit. Worf was dressed in a simple black sleeveless tunic and what looked like
starfleet special ops trousers. The outfit was new, clean and undamaged. The burly Klingon nodded curtly.

"We now have a functioning power core. Both you and the counselor have new uniforms waiting for you."

Will whistled in awe. "Geordi just needed us gone to work a miracle." Deanna joined them from a few steps back. Her threadbare clothes made Worf look even
more intimidating and she smiled as she toyed with a whole near her elbow.

"It'll be a miracle to have a shirt without holes." Tiny white lights lined a path through the woods. A glowing through the trees called them. Deanna
squeezed his hand tightly as the instinctual thought teased his mind. ((Home?)) He wondered to Deanna.

((I understand.)) She responding soothingly. ((It is almost home isn't it?)) His arm encircled her, pulling her the inches closer. The refugees fallen from
the stars were gone and a colony stood in place of the crude camp.

The clearing was encircled with light. A large, even patch of ground formed the center. It was no longer bare packed earth, but held a ring of wildflowers.
Paths were lined with stones and each of the buildings were straight and built solidly of Federation duracrete. The infirmary was directly to their left. Next
to it a large building of many windows introduced itself as the mess hall. The male and female dormitories remained, but there were showers behind the
buildings. A large warehouse staked out the woods behind an elegant wooden building.

Will Riker's eyes paused on a smaller duracrete building spilling light into the clearing. Hand in hand with Deanna he strode towards it.

She squeezed his fingers and whispered, "Do you hear that?" Will did. As they got closer, it was impossible not too. Music and voices even a human would
recognize as happy, carried on with abandon. With left eyebrow raised, Will pushed open the swinging double doors. The building was a large rectangular
room. A circle of replicators owned the middle, but the rest was open, filled with stools and counters. Along the walls, hanging canvas formed chairs that
several crewmembers lounged in. The crew were all dressed similarly to Worf, but unlike the faded clothes they wore, the crew was clean.

Their appearance brought a hush, and then a rousing cheer. Geordi ran up to them, flanked by Andrew Powell and Alyssa Ogawa. "Welcome back." Geordi
offered with a facesplitting grin. "And welcome to the party."

Andrew and Alyssa chuckled. "Core two was finished today." Alyssa brightly continued. Deanna was deeply impressed. Will shook his head in amazement.

"You've really outdone yourself Geordi."

The good-natured engineer waved the praise off with a hand. "It was my crew, and everyone pitched in."

Andrew raised a steely gray mug to Geordi. "Here's to the most successful Starfleet colony in the 21st century!" Sarcasm drew scattered laughter and many
more cups were thrust into the air. With a final squeeze of his hand, Deanna parted, allowing herself to be pulled away to examine the replicators with Reg
Barcaly and Ellix Jova.

Worf joined the officers, pressing a mug of something aromatic into Riker's hand. "Drink." He encouraged firmly. "It is a glorious day. The hunting
parties were especially successful, tommorrow's dinner is already roasting outside."

Riker took a sip. The liquid was spicy and had the tang of hard cider. He swished it around his mouth, and then downed his glass. "I should go away more

Worf laughed dryly. "I should think you'd need some time to recover."

Geordi's eyes twinkled with good humor. "We've all heard the horror stories of insatiable Betazoid women." Will bellowed his laughter and threw his arms
around his companions.

"Buy me another one of these and prepare yourself for a truly chilling tale." And the three men joined the fray.


Part 25

Stardate 83272.3
UTF Wells

Jean-Luc felt the conference room welcome him back to his daughter's vessel.
Beside him, Wesley faded into view with the odd horizontal lines of his adopted
culture. Wesley stood for a long moment with eyes closed and face calm,
listening. Deciding it best not to disturb him. Picard turned his attention to
the other people in the room.

Felicia stood with her back to them as they appeared, and now she faced him.
There was a grimness in her face that vanished as she saw his smile. She had his
control, but he had more practice. Her eyes darted to her left. Where a slight
but regal woman darted forward with a youth that defied the years written into
her hair.

Jean-Luc found himself wrapped in the fond embrace of Deanna Troi. Feeling
awkward he sheepishly returned the gesture. He squeezed her a touch tighter.
Remembering that though he had just seen her wedding, she had thought him dead
for thirty long years. "You look well Deanna." He began quietly, ending the

Bottomless eyes met his and she laughed. "No matter they say, you can be
charming, Captain." She stroked his arm, reassuring herself that he was real.
"But, need I remind you not to lie to an empath?"

"It's been awhile since I've met with one." He pointed to a seat across the dark
table. "Please, sit and tell me-"

Deanna interrupted him with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "My entire life
for the last 30 years." She shook her head in mock annoyance. "I'm sorry, but
much of that is classified information of the Romulan government."

His face was alive with skepticism. "The Romulans?" Felicia came to his rescue
with a cup of Earl Grey.

"Deanna is the Senior Romulan Envoy to the Triumviate. You and I should both be
saluting her." Her father raised an eyebrow and Deanna nodded dismissively.

"Though she is as correct as I would expect a Picard to be, I think I began this
meeting on a casual note."

Felicia's unformed thought was ended as her commbadge chimed, "Captain to the
bridge." She hit it with a quick hand, "On my way Korvash." She patted Deanna's
shoulder fondly, and her father was privy to another of those amazing smiles she
seemed to save for the most private of moments. "Forgive me, but I must leave
you to your own devices."

Deanna nodded, and Jean-Luc experienced again the aura of command his former
counselor expressed. He was impressed. Deanna had always held an aura of
mystery, even quiet power, but this Deanna was an aristocrat in the oldest
sense. He missed Felicia's exit, but heard the gentle swish of the doors behind
her and knew she was gone.

"It must be rather disconcerting to be a man so far from his own time." She
observed quietly.

Picard agreed with a tilt of his head as he took a sip of tea. "You must be
almost my age Deanna." He gestured to the door to the bridge, "I have a
beautiful daughter, complete with her own vessel. Not to mention the fact that
her mother married a man I consider to be like my son?" He shook his bald head
ruefully. "I don't know what it was like on Gravette Island, but disconcerting
is a weak explanation." His words fell too quickly. Picard's uncensored thoughts
had brought a darkness to Deanna's face that passed with the speed and intensity
of a summer storm.

He opened his mouth again, to apologize for his thoughtlessness. Deanna raised a
hand slowly. Her face was a sudden map of lines. "It was hell captain." She
continued in a whisper. Her perfect posture struggled with an old agony in the
set of her shoulders. "When the Wells reached us, less then one hundred of us
were alive." Their eyes locked. The captain's disbelief meeting it's match in
Deanna's cold regret.

"A viral infection decimated the crew the first summer. By late summer it had
begun to rain. We ran low on food. We began hunting on the surrounding islands."
She trembled in an involuntary shiver. "I grew up on a jungle planet Captain,
but I had no idea Terra could be that violent." A puzzled look ran over his
features. She pushed up the sleeve of her black under-tunic. A long, wicked
looking scar curved in a semicircle from just above her elbow, to almost to her
wrist. "I was lucky." She explained darkly.

Watching the look of old hatred spread over her face he wondered what kind of
creature did such a thing.

Troi shook her head slowly, emotion ripe and heavy in her throat. "It just kept
raining..." She pulled her sleeve back down formally, and adopted a lighter,
more reminiscent tone. "There are few large carnivores on Betazed. I've actually
only seen them in zoos. When I returned home, my mother asked me to take Barin
to look at them. He'd been wanting to go for a while and it seemed like a good
way to bond with his mysterious sister." Picard knitted his hands on his lap,
and watched her eyes take on an ugly glint. "It was all I could do not to attack
them. I stopped myself with my hand searching desperately for my knife." Shaking
her head, she left the tale unfinished.

"I could have had it removed of course. I just never felt like parting with it.
Once I reached Romulus it was normal to keep your battle scars. To treasure that
which made you who you are." She toyed with her hot chocolate, it was growing

"You aren't a killer Deanna."

The reassurance drew a chilling smile from his gentle counselor. "Yes, yes
captain. I am."

August 17th, 2063
Sovelle Island

Deanna swept sodden hair out of her face and tried to add it to the heavy braid
down her back. Her hair was probably rotting anyway, she thought darkly.
Squishing in the mud, her feet were also heavy with the load of soil. Small
creatures fled away, and she shuddered and as something brushed against her
foot. Exhausted and bone-weary, she continued her trudge through the woods.

Trying to think positively, she realized that the heavy rain was probably the
only think keeping the smell of raw meat from completely permeating her skin.
She straightened the straps of her backpack, watching Worf continue to slash
their way through the trees. They had been hunting for five days on this island.
24 km southwest of the colony. Branching out their territory was a necessity in
the search of food. Fishing, gathering what they could and stalking the
occasional larger animal, they had enough food to return.

She enjoyed the hunting treks. There was very little talking, and the minds of
the hunters were focused and driven. Not distracted by the inevitable despair
that filled everyone else, but focused on the task at hand. The plague was
winding down. One hundred seventy-three crew members were ashes in the sea. One
hundred seventy-three minds had gone silent forever. Her mind echoed with that
silence. Reg Barclay, Alyssa Ogawa, Geordi La Forge, Lauren Harrison, Andrew
Powell, Kellen Mitchell... She knew the faces. Those smiling faces from so many
crew evaluations, were slackened by death.

Worf placed a hand on her arm. The large fingers strong like the branch of a
friendly tree. Troi wondered if anything on this island was friendly. She
wouldn't be surprised if all of Terra was out for their blood.

He was watching a large animal move through the underbrush. Something huge and
unseen beneath the wet green shook small trees as it slipped by. The Klingon's
eyes flared in anticipation. Pointing to the left with two fingers, Jerat Velen,
a Bajoran security officer, and Soreth, a lean Vulcan science officer,
disappeared into the underbrush.

Without a sound she dropped her pack to the mud. Relishing the freedom in her
shoulders as she alternately tensed and relaxed the muscles. Deanna opened her
mind, feeling out for the simple knot of need that signified an animal mind.
Squeezing Worf's arm just above the elbow, she pointed one finger to the thick
brush in front of them. He nodded agreement, and she felt the muscles tense
beneath her hand.

As the creature burst from the underbrush, she saw the flash of a knife in
Worf's hand. The handle of her own knife felt heavy and secure as she wrapped
her fingers around the blade.

Worf roared, and the dragon echoed his fury. It was almost 4 meters long, huge
with thick legs and heavy muscular body. Circling it warily, she watched for
it's heavy tail. It flew towards her feet and she leapt over lightly. Snapping
at Worf, it was ignoring both her and the quickly approaching hunters from
either side. Worf was the largest and the most threatening. The fury towards
Worf was palpable. A burning running along her skin, and electrifying her

When it was distracted was her moment. It moved quickly and her hand brushed the
gray-green hide. The scales scraping the skin of her left hand. Vengefully, she
dragged the blade of her knife in a long crimson arc along it's side. The
creature roared it's pain and whipped around it's huge head to face her. Cold
yellow eyes sized up it's combatant. She was smaller, a less threatening target.
Deanna knew instantly as it decided to come after her. Dropping her mental
defenses she poured her essence into it's mind, feeling the raw power of the
great beast.

Searing pain and blinding triumph coursed through her and a bellowing cry rent
her throat. Snapping it's jaws back, the creature shut them again as a forked
tongue flicked out to smell her blood in the air. Deanna's left arm was useless,
so ripped that it was cold with lack of sensation, and hot as blood ran from her
fingers to adorned the leaves beneath her feet.

Troi reveled in the creature's triumph, pulling it deep within herself, sucking
the power from the very mind of her prey. She would be the killer. It would be
the prey. The heavy braid of her hair slapped her face as she spun around for
the killing blow. Her knife cut deep into the thick flesh of it's throat. Yellow
eyes rolled, helpless as she forced the already mutilated left arm up against
the wicked head, hard. Breath gasped from the gash in the throat, bubbling the
blood that rand freely to the ground. Muscle function ceased, and the enormous
weight of the thing fell squarely on her injured arm.

Deanna screamed her agony to the jungle. Gnashing her teeth together to end the
sound as strong hands ripped her out from the mighty corpse of her prey. Worf
leaned over it and watched the yellow eyes cloud with death. He grinned
wolfishly at the blood soaked Betazoid.

"Well done."

Deanna looked at her kill, and let magnitude of it sink in. Soreth knelt beside
her, removing a long strip of cloth from his pack. He started pulling the ripped
cloth of her shirt away from her arm. She watched him dumbly, adrenaline still
numbing her arm. The blood running down it didn't seem like hers.

"It is a Komodo dragon. A native to these islands." Soreth recalled with
pristine Vulcan memory. "They were almost wiped out in the 20th century, but
after the conflict killed so many, they must have flourished."

Deanna curled her lips into a half smile. "Obviously." He tightened the bandage
without warning and she shuddered.

"That will do until we return to the colony. As I suggest we do immediately."
Soreth stood and reached a hand down to help Deanna to her feet. She grasped it
with her good arm and staggered to her feet. Slightly woozy from blood loss and
adrenaline she gratefully took his arm. After a moment she pushed off him and
lurched towards her kill. Worf knelt on the ground next to it, a contemplative
look on his face.

"Truly an honorable battle." His sincere admiration warmed her, and Troi replied
with a cold smile.

"It was a good day to tempt death." Worf nodded and handed his pack to Jerat to
distribute between himself and Soreth. He returned to the creature, neatly
slicing it from neck to tail, eviscerating it easily with his hands and several
large leaves.

"Can you carry your pack?" He asked thoughtfully as he lifted the tail and the
head, judging the weight.

She experimentally rolled her shoulders. "It's just my arm. If someone helps me
get it up-" Soreth crossed to her side. Guiding the heavy pack over her good
arm, as she gritted her teeth in preparation for the bad. Pain ripped through
her flesh as if the dragon's teeth were still buried in her arm. Worf watched
the color drained from her face like a hole in a tankard of bloodwine. She only
grunted, and gingerly pulled her arm to her chest, standing with the force of

"Let's go." She ordered grimly, and she started following Jerat through the
jungle. Thinking only of the the next step on the muddy jungle floor, Deanna
felt her entire consciousness narrow in the singular goal of reaching the.
Behind them Worf hefted the huge corpse on to his shoulders, the tail made a
wide swath behind him in the jungle. He was not willing to let the trophy, or
the hundreds of kilos of food it represented be wasted on the jungle floor.

August 12th, 2063
Gravette Island

The dormitories were larger, more permanent with room dividers and bunks built
into the walls. It resembled the special forces barracks Deanna Troi had spent a
month in during her Academy years. She left her imzadi contentedly asleep on the
bottom bunk. Judging from the spicy smell of drink that still clung to his lips,
he would be asleep a while longer. Deanna lingered just long enough to press her
lips to his forehead, just below the hairline.

"Sweet dreams, imzadi." Will only snored softly. She brushed a hand through
his beard. Wondering what this moment would be like without him. Without her
husband. Despite herself, she wore a grin matching the brilliance of the
morning sun as she looked over the colony.

Gravette Island deserved the title of colony now. Crewmembers were awake and
cheerfully going about their business. A small crowd was filing into the Zero
Backward for breakfast. The replicators were not in use, but tables were piled
high with fruit, rice and kajolnes, a type of Bajoran pastry. She joined the
milling people around the table beside Alyssa Ogawa. The cheerful nurse was
loading a plate with fruit, kajolnes and a hot bottle of coffee. Her husband
Andrew held two plates that were already full of food.

"Good morning." Troi began, "May I take that to Beverly?" Slightly startled,
Alyssa paused only a moment.

"Of course counselor. She's probably in the infirmary already. She was asleep
before you and the commander returned. I think she'll be very happy to see
you." Deanna smiled her thanks, taking the plate and the coffee. She grabbed a
kajolnes and was about to eat it when she paused, puzzled.

"Should she be having coffee?"

Alyssa looked somewhat chagrined and Andrew jumped to her rescue. "She's fairly
disagreeable without it."

Deanna's smile blossomed again. "So I see." She carried the plate outside into
the tropical morning. Munching the flaky kajolnes as she walked. The sun was
warm and friendly on her face, even though the sky was full of white clouds like
Drezzelian cream puffs. She paused, tilting her face up to the sky. Sunlit
poured through even closed eyelids, turning them a brilliant shade of orange.

Outside her mental barriers the colony was a bustling mass. Contented and
humming together like the familiar knot of bees sensation on a Starfleet vessel
in peacetime. Deanna lowered her eyes back to the broad path to the infirmary.
It wasn't the first time a small voice had whispered that she would never return
home. But it was the first time the voice carried no dread.


Part 26

August 28th,
Gravette Island

Will Riker crossed the muddy ground in front of the crude tent again, and then again. His feet slogged through the mush of he had paced up. He could no longer feel Deanna's pain. He hadn't felt anything of hers for weeks now. However, one did not need the telepathy of a Betazoid, or the understanding of imzadi to know Deanna's pain.

The gash on her arm had seemed to be healing well. At least, as well as it could be expected to be considering the temporary nature of their surroundings. Dr. Selar had painstakingly stitched together the torn muscle fibers and blood vessels. The nerves would never regenerate, but she had grafted them around as best she could. She had even sounded optimistic, for a Vulcan. But two days ago the neat stitching was red along the edges, yesterday angry streaks raced along her arm and she had gritted her teeth in pain at the doctor's gentle fingers. Now she was delirious, babbling inane words to the ceiling of the tent as they took turns standing vigil.

He hadn't volunteered. It seemed wrong to intrude upon her illness, to insinuate his presence where it did not belong. Where it was unwanted. Ruefully he realized that her feelings had not stopped him from circling her tent. From lying with eyes wide and mind unfettered by sleep all of the previous night. Without question he loved her. Deanna Troi was as embedded in his consciousness as his love for Jazz music, his commanding presence and the twinkle in his eyes. Taking that away would be removing something as inherent to his personality as the infamous Riker charm.

A hand, soft, and feminine with tapering fingers, embraced his forearm and distracted his attention.

"Will?" Beverly's eyes seemed so liquid, so full of sorrow that they brimmed the lids. He smiled at her; taking her fingers in his and feeling the warmth of his hands infuse through hers.

"What's for dinner?" Will asked lightly, starting to walk slowly towards base camp. After they burned the settlement to the ground, no one had wanted to rebuild. It seemed sacrosanct, as if they were building over a graveyard. Instead a scattering of tents, tarps and hovels had sprung up in the woods. A chaotic community echoing the misery of it's people.

"As if it changes." She replied darkly, taking his arm as her guide through the trees. Not that she would have admitted to needing it, or asked for his assistance. Though she still maintained the maddening grace that betrayed her years as a dancer, her feet grew slower as her body demanded more from her legs. "That lizard thing again. Maybe Worf killed another one, or it could be fish. Or seaweed." Her left hand brushed her cheek as if removing an invisible insect, or perhaps it was the just the damnable rain. Riker's quick eyes caught the tear of frustration, but he did not comment. Lately their conversations would have sparked a warp core injector, and inevitably he would apologize. Dr. Crusher would fight tooth and nail, tearing at him with her words, but she never cried. She hadn't cried in weeks.

He slid his arm around her back. She didn't shake it off, and Riker allowed himself the ghost of a smile. That was no small victory. As much as she fought him, and as far as Beverly could drive him away, she always sought him. Needing the company as much as the comfort of a friend. Will often wondered where her mind placed him. A friend? A brother? A surrogate father would take the place of his captain? Beverly shivered suddenly. More water cascaded down from her hair to further drench his arm. Silently Will wondered when the rain had grown so strong.

"The sun was almost out this morning." Beverly complained, angrily wrapping her arms around her chest.

"It was probably just lightning." Will responded sardonically as he quickened his pace. "We should get you out of the rain. How long have you been out here?"

A harsh reply stung in her throat, but the bitterness stayed in her mouth. "I'm just cold." Riker didn't sigh or even argue. His fingers tightened briefly on her side. Her head brushed his shoulder; the wet tendrils clinging to his shirt as she left it remain there. "Do you remember atmospheric controls? And senior staff meetings where we'd discuss whether or not the heat should be raised when we conveyed the Vulcan ambassador?"

He grinned impishly. "Vulcan. There's a lovely planet. Hot and dry. No trees," He released her to clear an arm of vine from their path. "No vines." She stumbled and her face flushed red with embarrassment. Will's hands gently caught her forearms and he winked a blue eye her way. "None of these damn roots."

Even though she smiled, a droplet of moisture on her cheek seemed oddly solitary before new raindrops joined it. He kissed it away. Lips warm and soft against the cool damp skin of her face. Beverly was so still in his hands. Her face turned to him, her nose bushed his chin, then her mouth teased the corner of his mouth, and then Riker was in that no man’s land found only in the wrong woman. But she didn’t feel wrong as she folded into his arms, as his hands ran across the muscles of her lower back.
Stardate 83272.3
UTF Wells

“I think your quarters are larger Deanna.” Captain Picard teased with a touch of sarcasm in his voice.

She laughed lightly from the bedroom. “I outrank you Captain. Normally I travel with an escort.”

“The infamous Romulan guards?” He asked without much thought as he examined a replica sculpture from the third dynasty of Prototerrilian culture.

Deanna emerged from the bedroom, her hair down and dressed only in the simple black tunic and pants she wore beneath her heavy robe of office. She smiled indulgently at the Captain. “The fleet.”

The Prototerrilian relic fell from his hands to the thin carpeting of her quarters bounced once and lay still next to his left foot. “Oh,” He swallowed and caught her glance with new respect. “I see.” She waved to the couch and he sat down a meter from her, back straight and hands folded primly in his lap. “Well now, that does put things into focus doesn’t it?’ His eyes held a trace of a smile.

Deanna pulled her hair over her shoulder and began to braid it methodically. “She never stopped loving you. Will was-“

Picard raised a hand to stop her and replied quietly. “I was not.” Troi’s eyes seemed so large in her face, so soft with echoed pain. It was the first time anything in this Deanna seemed soft. He looked away from her, turning his face to the stars outside the window. “Wesley showed me some of the past, the plague victims and some of the aftermath.” He sighed, as his hands seemed to take up too much space in his lap. “I saw them kissing. Will and Beverly.” The sudden flood of emotion had a palpable intensity, like a wave crashing ashore at last after its journey. Deanna pulled a leg up beneath her; she seemed so small without her regalia. Just the counselor again.

“How did you feel Captain?” She prodded softly.

He shook his head, hysterical merriment in his hazel eyes. “I hated them both for finding happiness in each other I could never be a part of.”


“And I was thrilled.” He finished shyly. “I mean, out of all the men I know, I have only the greatest respect for Will Riker. I love him as if he were a brother.”

“And he has always treated her with love and kindness.” She offered gently. “They’ve been happy, it’s obvious when you look at your daughter.”

“My daughter.” He echoed dully. “I’ve just met her. She seems more like a niece I never knew.”

“But she is a Picard, down to the shape of her nose. “ Deanna leaned forward, her voice almost a whisper. “And to be honest, she always has been, even as a toddler she was giving orders and dreaming of starships.”

He sighed himself deeper into the sofa. “I would like to know her better.”

“You will.” Deanna comforted.

“I won’t.” He stood suddenly as the sofa became uncomfortable. “I don’t belong here. I belong in my time Deanna. I belong dead.”

She laughed and he glared at her impropriety. “I’m sorry. But I find that hard to believe Jean-Luc. After all, it took centuries for Kirk to die.”

He let the pause grow into a silence, and his words seemed to defile the peace of it. “Wesley also showed me another timeline, and in it a beautiful wedding ceremony with hundreds of survivors I was also absent from.” He paced the room, turning only when he reached the wall near the bedroom. “Will and Beverly seem happy, and are I am sure. However it strikes a cord with me. I would like to give myself the benefit and say it is not all the broodings of a lonely and jealous man. But the ceremony I saw was lovely. Life and happiness spilling out into the hearts of all that surround them.”
Breathing had become quite difficult, as if the air itself had thickened as it passed her lips. “But time space is infinite. Millions upon millions of universes could exist, and Wesley could have stumbled into any one of them. We also have no way to judge what is correct. Without Beverly by his side Will may not sign the final peace accord between the Romulus and Quonos. The universe as we know it will not even miss the paltry events of our sordid history, but we will not be around to see its ambivalence. ”

He sat down again, his hands clasping his in the warm grip of emotion she dared not share. “Deanna, I am a man of science. Logic and reason are my touch stones and careful thought my guide, but those glimpses, those timelines only required what the intellectually starved can muster to know that this is wrong, and that was right.”

Troi squeezed his fingers, her voice light as if the pain in her eyes meant nothing at all. “I suppose at the very least, it can’t be more wrong then this one.”

Picard's face seemed lighter and his smile easy. "Perhaps so."


Part 27

September 21st
Gravette Island

"She said yes?" Will's eyes rolled wild in his head.

"She said yes Bill." Something electric about his excitement dashed up through her fingertips.

Being left without words oddly suited him. Will could only stare at her with wonder.

Deanna laughed and it lit her eyes from within. "I was thinking that we've risked our lives on odds far worse then that."

"Of course we have." She leaned back against his knees, and he ran his hands through her wet hair. Removing the knots from the damp curls. "But maybe we'll have to stop living like that."

"Maybe we have." She turned to face him, pulling her hair free from his hands. "We might live out the rest of our lives on Earth. Here in paradise."

Will raised a mocking eyebrow as he looked up at the gray sky. "This is paradise Deanna? It seems wetter then I expected."

Her black eyes seemed in that instant to continue beyond the back of her head. He was reminded of the bottomless expanse of the viewscreen, the endlessness of his old life. "Sometimes you can be so shallow imzadi." Her fingers traced his beard. It was longer and shaggier then he usually let it be. Deanna thought it looked rugged. His eyes seemed brighter as they twinkled above the brown curling beard.

"It served me when I met you." Will teased, brushing his lips against her cheek.

"I know you understand how I feel. Deanna retorted with slight exasperation. "You share my thoughts." Will contentedly nibbled up her neck to whisper into her ear.

"But I still like to hear you speak." His beard had an amazing capacity to tickle her neck.

"Is telepathic communication still to complex for your mind?" Her cold fingertips made their way through his hair.

"My mind had no knowledge of complex." He swung her above him, and watched as her hair curtained her face. "It was after all, only human."

"Not anymore." Deanna replied dryly. Will caught the trace of bitterness in her voice. Felt the taste of it in his mouth as her guilt ran through her mind.

"I haven't lost anything Deanna." His human blue eyes held so much more sincerity then she thought possible. "And I've gained." His mind found her. Warmth filling the icy guilt. "I have you. My imzadi. My wife. All that I have to lose would be worth that. Everything." Riker quieted her last protests by sealing his lips over hers. There was no more argueing.

((Imzadi.)) Was his invitation, her plea for forgiveness and his acceptance of all that had befallen them. They danced aparted and spun together, but always, inexorably, they had been driven closer. Now there was no distance between them, their bodies were together, their minds had never been apart. Deanna sought and Will found. Will breathed in and she screamed into the night. Sweat met flesh, and flesh rose to return to it. Time went on without them.

Stardate 83294.5
UTF Wells

Captain Picard met her mother and stepfather in the transporter room. Her mother, though over 80, still stepped gracefully from the platform. Her deep navy tunic and gold sash accentuated her height and her slimness. Neither had changed, as long as Felisia had known her. The young Picard noted quietly that though Deanna was quick to release her hair, her mothers was tight in an elegant twist. Admiral Beverly Crusher was all business until step father's cheery face burst into a grin, and the proud captain was smoothered in hugs.

"It's so good to see you." Her mother paused to toy with the sash of honor. "Captain's colors suit you so well." Will's bear hug lifted her feet a few centimeters from the floor, and he set her down and kissed her forehead affectionately.

"It's a shame this is the first time we've seen them my dear Lissie." The transporter chief coughed slightly and ducked behind his console.

"He's right darling. It's been almost a year. You can't just leave your first officer in charge for a week to visit your aging parents?" Beverly patted her shoulder fondly, and Felisia lowered her eyes.

"You know the Wells project has been completely sealed."

Will laughed heartily as they started down the corridoor to the turbolift. "But even your father let me run the ship once in awhile." His hand tightened on her arm, and her fingers whitened momentarily around his. As the lift doors hissed shut, she seemed paler in the new light.

"Mom, dad, I'd like you to have dinner in my quarters. We have much to talk about. Admiral Riker met her eyes and Felisia caught the conflict in it that Beverly missed, but Will had known since the beginning. Beverly nodded and hugged her daughter again.

"I hope we get a tour of this ship." The captain smiled proudly and nodded.

"A personal one, I promise." Beverly ducked into the guest quarters. Riker paused a moment as the door shut after her.

"Jean-Luc will be there." His statement held no question. He knew.

"So will we."

September 21st, 2063
Gravette Island

"Deanna?" The betazoid stirred as the voice brought her from the dreams in Will's mind. She brushed the sleep from her own and looked up into Beverly's pale smile.

"I'm awake." She yawned slightly and pulled on her shift from the previous day. She crawled from Will's arms to lift her pants from the floor.

"Will you walk with me?" Beverly asked weakly. "I can't sleep."

Deanna stepped into her boots. They were still stiff from the replicator, but she smiled as she took an extra blanket from the chair and wraped it around her shoulders. "Of course. Will can keep bed warm for me."

The house, barely bigger then their quarters on the Enterprise, stood a bit apart from the settlement and the path was hung cheerily with globes of light. Beverly's mind was cold, sending rippling shivers up Deanna's neck. She didn't speak, and they made slow progress. Deanna still had the chill fingers on her arm, but she placed her over them and enjoyed the night. Even with the light on the path, the surroundings seemed darker and more consuming as they went father from the settlement. Even the low hum of the jungle seemed to be waiting. Occasionally the sharp sounds of night birds caught Deanna's attention, and she minded little keeping Beverly's pace. It surprised her how much grace the doctor maintained, even as her child swelled within her. A jealous dart warned that Deanna's slighter figure would not be so forgiving.

The path ended. Sea lapped gently on the leeward side of the island. The sky was completely black, and no stars winked at them. Beverly's voice seemed lost in the heavy air. "I dreamt of Jean-Luc." She sat slowly and leaned against the rock. "I was back on the Enterprise, I was in the ready room. I didn't mean to tell him. He gave me a cup of coffee, and I told him I was pregnant."

Deanna crossed her legs on a sandy patch and listened as Beverly continued. "He just sat there. So calm, so damn composed. I kept thinking that he should hold me and kiss me and tell me how much he wanted a child. He was quiet when I told him I had already raised a son alone. That I couldn't do it again. I told him how I needed him, but he was so quiet Deanna. So still. I can't do it again. I gave everything I had to Wesley. I don't know what's left."

"You still worry about Wesley." Deana offered gently.

"I never see him. It's been almost four years since he left and I haven't heard anything from him. Even when he was at the Academy he'd write once in awhile." She trailed off, watching the black water. "I never wanted him to suffer for Jack's death. I wanted to love him enough for both of us. Maybe I pushed him away." Her cracked, and Deanna took a settling breath.

"Wesley is an intelligent, well adjusted and extroadinary young man. He always spoke fondly of his childhood and I think he's an exceptional individual, both thanks to you and in his own right." She paused, and followed Beverly's gaze over the sea. At the edge of her vision the water was burry. It must have been raining, and the wind smelled wet with it. "Sometimes I catch my mother wondering what my life would be like if my father was still alive. Maybe I'd have a brother or sister. Maybe I would have married Will 20 years ago, when we met."

Dr. Crusher nodded, but tears still threatened her eyes. "Walter almost introduced me to Jean-Luc first." She sighed deeply, leaning her head back into the rock. "How would life be if I were Beverly Picard?"

"Somewhere you are." Deanna ran the sand through her fingers slowly. "There are as many paths of time as grains of sand. Somewhere we're sitting in the lounge talking about our grandchildren."

"I am not old enough for grandchildren." Will Riker's bass voice rang through the clearing. "And neither are either of you lovelies. He emerged from the trees in the dark like a pagan god, shirtless and grinning. "The weathernet says that-" He pointed the closing patch of black on black. "Is not something we want to be outdoors for." Deanna stood quickly and Will's arms encircled Beverly as he helped her to her feet.

((It's a hell of a storm Deanna. We've got to get her inside.)) His face kept a jaunty smile, but his mind was taunt and ready. ((Worf was goind to send his teams out for you, but I knew where you were.)) Deanna kissed his cheek.

((I'm with you. You're learning to use that.)) She wrapped her arm into his.

"I was wondering where the moon had gone." Beverly remarked to herself.

"Sought shelter I believe." Will teased. "We'll be inside soon. the whole crew's in the zero backward and the mess hall. I think Worf was a starting a typhoon party. You know how Klingons are, any excuse and they bring out the drink and the songs of glory." Beverly rewarded his efforts with a small laugh.


Part 28
September 23, 2063

Rain, again the rain poured out of the sky, cold and unforgiving. Driven horizontal by the force of the storm, the drops sounded like pebbles thrown against the wall of their shelter. The wall shuddered beneath the onslaught
and the door struggled against it's confinement. Worf stood before it, holding the door against the force of the storm. Occasionally the Klingon's lips parted enough to show his teeth in fury, but he stood fast. Deanna stood at his shoulder. Her back was soaked with water. The wall had numerous places where water could find it's way. Selar stood to her left, and another body was beyond her. In front of her were more people. They were packed in, even with the chill of the rain and the daggers of wind, she was warmed by the heat of a hundred bodies. Before her and around her they were a seething, soundless mass. Only the wind had voice, the rustling of bodies brushing against each other in a continuous shuffling dance of exhaustion was completely silent beneath the howling of the wind.

And they waited, like a single being, they could only wait. Sometime during
the blackness of the night she had fallen asleep, only to wake again sometime as the angry gray announced the cruel daylight. She hadn't fallen down because there was no room. Everyone sleep standing. The restless fevered sleep that brought no peace to anyone, because even with eyes closed the storm filled every sense. Ears rang with the constant sounds of the storm. Deanna felt as if the trees all around their fragile encampment were screaming in pain. The air was heavy and ripe with the scent of human, and various alien fear. The minds around her were joined in the white fear of penned animals. The exhaustion that only came with constant pounding terror. A tree could fall, the ground could erode, the eye of the storm could settle over them and then the wall would tear their impermanent home to shreds.

The storm came without warning. A rain storm, like the myriad of others
that had plagued them for the last few months, had descended from the sky
and stayed. Will Riker had seen the black fade to gray, and the gray
disappear into more blackness twice, and he guessed it was the third night of the storm. How long could it hold sway over them? How large was this
behemoth above them? He remembered a vague history lesson about the
environmental upheavals the had followed the third World War. As a cadet
he had thought that was just what the violent people had needed, a fierce kick back in their place. Nature teaching them that violence only beget more death.

He sighed without hearing it, and leaned back into the wall behind him. It
was a leeward wall and almost dry through his shirt. Beverly leaned into his
chest. Her arms wrapped around his back. Her head on his shoulder. She
was warm, and her skin slick with sweat. She had been out since the second
dawn. When the water bucket passed through the crowd again he would
have to wake her to drink. She was dreaming, and he felt it with her. Will
watched her lips move as she spoke to people only in her eyes. Her belly was round and hard against him. The child within turned and writhed in it's own nightmares. He wanted to comfort it. To reassure the little being within her that he or she was safe. That they would survive.

Through the mass of pinched, wan faces, he could just make out Deanna
across the room. Her black hair blending into the wall. Her shoulders
squared against the storm, and her eyes set like black stone. She would
survive. They had fallen into an uneasy friendship. Feelings could be
ignored even as they screaming through his mind. Eventually, he supposed
that just like the howling of the wind, the pain in his heart when he looked at
her would be part of the background of his life. He closed his eyes.

When he opened them again the rain had slowed. It pattered, but did not
pound the roof. His ears rang with the fierceness of the wind, but it was an
old echo. Someone cheered with a hoarse throat. Worf opened the door and the mob poured into the fresh wet air.

Like a serpent curling out of it's den, the crew poured out of the Zero
Backward, the only building still standing on the muddy hell that was
Gravette Island. Around them green and brown and back and gray were a
mangled palette of fallen trees, turned up roots, and mud. Everywhere there
was mud. But the air was sweet and clean, as it can only be after a storm.
After the air she had shared with a hundred others it was the sweetest thing
she had ever tasted. Someone pressed something into her hand. It was sticky and juice ran down her fingers. Selar had picked the fruit off the ground, it was bruised, but she tore into it. It exploded in Deanna's parched throat. She gestured to Worf, and he bellowed out to the crowd.

"Anyone with strength left. We need food, fresh water and shelter. Much
has been knocked to the ground collect it and return here." He nodded
grimly to Deanna as he picked a stout branch from the ground and split it
with a deft motion of his arms. He handed her a sharp, if crude spear.

"Fruit will hold us, but meat will sustain us." He reminded her with a glint in his warrior's eyes. She nodded quickly, feeling her fingers tighten over the familiar feel of a weapon. Soundlessly, they both disappeared into the
woods. The creatures of the island would also be emerging from shelter,
hungry and vulnerable. She ran her tongue over parched lips. At times like
these, it was good to be the predator.

Stardate 83294.7
UTF Wells

Will Riker was on this ship. There was no mistake in his presence. The
quiet knot of self-assured command was his mind, and he was near. He was
within reach. Her heart pounded in a way she thought it had long ago
forgotten. Blood hissed through her ears. The face in the mirror, her face,
was red with emotion. The gentle chime of the door startled her. In a
moment she was across her quarters, back to the wall just centimeters from
the doorway. The dagger of the Romulan Senate's cold, comforting handle
wrapped tightly in her fingers.

"Yes, I'm coming." She called calmly, and the door slid open.

"Good, I hope you're ready for dinner Deanna." Jean-Luc Picard's patient
voice and his well ordered mind struck her at the same instant. She slid out
of her predatory stance and smiled as he walked into the room. The dagger
disappeared into her tunic before he had a chance to see it.

"Just about." She answered lightly, surprising him slightly as she spoke from
behind him. "I was just going to do something with my hair."

He gave her a wry smile. "Thankfully that problem has never made me late
for a dinner engagement." He looked over her dress with a practiced eye.
Jean-Luc had a way of seeing all of a person without ever taking his gaze
from her face. He was, after all, a gentleman even in this century. Deanna's tunic was black as was the skirt beneath it, and she wore a simple silver sash with the designation of her office. She paused in front of the mirror and experimentally lifted all of her hair, then the left, then the right. Picard sat on the sofa, watching her with a small smile. "You could just leave it down Deanna. It is very lovely."

"I may decide too, however, I should at least run through my options first."
She smiled apologetically. "I'm fairly efficient. Don't worry." He nodded.
For a moment Deanna felt a pang of jealousy. It was strange to look at his
reflection in the mirror next to years. The Picard of thirty years ago, and
herself, old er then he was. She had always been beautiful, and even 30 more years of life did nothing to change that, and Will Riker was a married man. She sighed finally and left her hair on her shoulders. It was just dinner, after all. "All right Captain, and thank you for your patience."

He took her hand and graciously draped it over his arm. “My pleasure.”

As they made their way to the turbolift it took him a moment to realize that the respectful nod-and-look-away was not directed to him. In fact, it was Deanna who garnered all of the attention. In his civilian clothes and escorting the senior Envoy of the Romulan government he was probably just her consort, or at best a senior aid. He smiled softly to himself. Everyone had moved on and gone ahead with their lives. They all had new stories. Some of Deanna’s were etched into her face. Jean-Luc allowed his mind to wonder how he would feel watching Beverly Crusher marry someone so close. Part of him bristled at the thought of her marrying at all, but Will Riker was a special circumstance. How would it feel to see him arm in arm with Beverly? Knowing he slept in her bed for thirty years.

“Halt turbolift.” Deanna ordered softly, and Picard waited with patient eyes. “Jean-Luc,” She paused, tumbling her words in her head. “Beverly and Will are going to join us for dinner."

Again he nodded, imperturbably calm in that maddening way he had. "I thought so."

Deanna smiled ruefully. "Are you sure you haven't picked up any telepathy in your travels through time?"

"I think I would have noticed." His eyes flashed impishly. "I have known you for sometime now Deanna, but I've never before seen you worry about your hair. It had to be Commander Riker."
Deanna patted his arm gently. "He's been an admiral for some time now."

"And a good father to my daughter." He turned back to the door. "Computer, resume." The hum of the lift returned. "I must admit though, that I'm at a loss. I've met with many old lovers in my time, but none as close as Beverly." He sighed, and lost himself in the space of his thoughts. His searching rewarded him and he quoted, "But our old love made a peculiar force, and made us speak as friends."

The lift stopped and Deanna started out of it. "It always seems to come down to friends."

"Starfleet officers all take vows Deanna. Very rarely are they to each other. We should be happy for Will and Beverly. A family is something that's eluded both of us." Jean-Luc's struggle was an internal one. She wasn't going to fight him. She had too strong a demon in her own mind. The closer they came to his quarters, the louder his presence became. Will was whispering just outside her ears. She could close her mind. Deanna could shut him out so that nothing, not even that damn lingering bond could torment her. She exhaled a breath she did not mean to be holding.

Neither of them had unpacked. Their satchels lay neatly against the wall in the bedroom. Beverly had replicated a maroon dress. She was pulling it across her shoulders, when Will had walked into the bedroom and started to do up the back.

"I like this color on you." He murmured appreciatively and ran a warm hand up the back of her neck.

"I know." She replied softly, but her voice was far away. "You've always been honest with me."

"Is that a question or an accusation?" His tone was teasing, and his hands rested comfortably just above her hips. She didn't respond, and she did not turn to meet his eyes. He moved closer, resting his head on her shoulder. He was only half dressed, and his chest was radiantly warm against her back. "Of course I have."

"Do you love Deanna?" Riker sighed, and toyed with his beard. It was almost more gray then brown now, but the feel of it in his hands always helped him think.

"You know what I'm going to say-"
"Because you always say the same thing." She shot back harshly. Admiral Riker flopped unceremoniously onto the bed and stared at the ceiling.

“We haven’t had this conversation since Felisa learned to read.” He complained melodramatically, and she stubbornly crossed her arms over her chest. "Some things never change Beverly. Some things do. I love you, and I love Felisa and I've spent 30 years with you. We've continued our careers together. We have a house and Data."

A small smile graced her face, and she turned and reached a hand to him. "Data should have been a cat."

Will raised his eyebrows. "We don't need one of those demons in our house. And he looked like Data. The eyes, the wagging tail-"

She ran her free hand through his hair and smiled indulgently. "I suppose. Just don’t name a dog after me when I’m gone." Will watched as her eyes changed from the hard blue to the tenderness he had only come to know as her husband.

“You will definitely be a cat.” He caught her hand and kissed it just above and inside her wrist the way Odan had. "I married you, Beverly Howard, not because I was spurned by my true love and on the rebound, but because I loved you and do love you." She bit her lip and he thought of how many times he had given her that speech. How many times he would say it.

"I'm not jealous of Deanna." Her eyelashes were wet. "We had good years together, and I'm grateful everyday I wake up with you, but maybe-"

He put a finger over her lips and winked impishly. "But maybe Will-the-Thrill Riker is never content to stay in one place, even now that he's old and decrepid, he still wishes for the moderately younger Deanna Troi, love of his life?" She tried to argue with him and he grinned wickedly and kept his finger over her lips. "Even though I hasn't seen her since she walked out on me, and I've devoted my life since then to you. Even though I was starting to fall in love with you the first time my telepathy let me into your mind. I would throw all of that, and you away because Deanna Troi is back on the same ship that I am."

Beverly nodded slowly. Her face was flushed slightly with embarassment and relief. Will Riker kissed her with the passion of a man 30 years younger. His hands ran wickedly along her hips before he tilted her back to the bed, his fingers warm against her knees as he slipped them under the soft fabric of her dress.
"We'll be late for dinner." She protested, but Will pressed his advantage as he kissed her neck, running the tip of his tongue down across her collarbones.

"Felisa can keep it in the replicator for us." He suggested, but he could feel he was winning. She allowed her legs to fall apart enough to let him between them. He continued to push his opening with a teasing hand on her thigh. "It's a good thing I watched you put the dress on." He whispered even as he distracted her as his hand ventured farther up towards her hip.

She had to breathe in slowly just to calm herself enough to question him. "Why would that be?" She purred as he unoccupied hand slid beneath her back to toy with the catch at the nape of her neck.

"I know exactly what you have on under it." She choked into laughter and hit him lightly on the shoulder.
“Starfleet standard issue. And you see them every day.” Will Riker winked rakishly and deftly undid the clasp of her bra with his usual flare, his fingers dancing lightly along the bare skin of her back.

His face was the picture of sincerity. “Every time you pass a window to the stars you don’t look out in wonder?”

“But even the stars grow commonplace after as much time in space as we’ve logged.” She rolled to her side and watched his hands gleefully slip her dress off her shoulders.

He made a sound in his throat that sounded distinctly like a snort of disbelief. He twisted his body beneath hers, freeing her arms, and the tops of her breast from the maroon fabric. It would never cease to amaze her at the poise Will had as a lover. “I still enjoy them”. He sat up slightly, sliding her body to the point he wanted her. His questing hands found her breasts through the dress and started slow torturous circles. Her breathing was quick again in her throat.

“Which?” She taunted impishly as the dress finally slid from her chest to pool on the bed around her. “The stars or my underthings.” He was quiet, almost contemplative, but his fingers remained dedicated to their task. She closed her eyes, fled his hands momentarily and raised up on her knees to be truly free of the dress. When Beverly straddled him again unencumbered, he was ready for her.

“I think I’ll let you guess.”
Felisa set out the wine glasses on the table, and just as she suspected, almost exactly on time, Jean-Luc escorted Deanna into her quarters.

“You look lovely.” The elder Picard began gracefully, but she brushed him off.

“I look off duty.” She had on a dark sleeveless tunic of Romulan cut, and her hair was released. “But it is kind of you to pretend.”

Deanna annexed the wine bottle and started the glasses around to the three of them. “You’ll forgive us if we couldn’t come by Chateau Picard. In this part of the quadrant, if it’s not Romulan it’s replicated.”

Deanna sat neatly across from him in a single chair. Feeling slightly, if unreasonably nervous, Felisa stood. Jean-Luc took his glass and contemplated it slowly. The women gossiped lightly about a Romulan senator who had been a guest lecturer at the Academy, but they trailed off, and the room was quiet. After a long silence, he voiced the question he had been twirling around his glass for the last several minutes. “Why haven’t you told Beverly I am alive?”

Felisa shifted her feet uncomfortably. “It’s complicated.” She replied with more command tone then she intended.

Deanna was more subtle. “Will wasn’t sure if she’d believe it unless she saw you.”

“It was pointless to upset her when we were still days away from Caldos.” Felisa downed the wine quickly, and relished the slight bite at the back of her throat. “If circumstances were different I might not have even told her.”

This brought a frown to Jean-Luc’s brow. “Why would you keep that from her? By what logic?” Deanna started to speak, but Felisa waved a hand impatiently.

“The logic that says in a universe capped with a finite amount of time, you do what is necessary to survive.” Felisa finally sat on the shoulder of the chair next to her father. “We are running out of time. As soon as Wesley returns I will have to set in motion events that will complete alter the timeline.”

Realization was cold in his stomach. Felisa took the bottle from Deanna to refill her glass. “If mother wasn’t crucial to the mission, she would never know I had pulled you from the shuttle. 90% of the Triumvirate doesn’t even know we’re out here.”

Deanna set her glass down. “Captain, Felisa has a mission that must be completed. We did not originally intend to include Will and Beverly, but recent events have changed the scope of what we have to do.” Felisa was nodding impatiently.

“I know you’re curious.” She added wine to his glass sympathetically. “I’d be ready to break into my computer system with a hammer if I were you, but Vice Admiral Janeway will be issuing our final orders tomorrow morning. If you can survive dinner- I can give you my word that you’ll understand soon. Otherwise, you’ll just have to considerate my Captain’s perogative.”

His hand was too tight around the stem. He made a conscious effort to relax his fingers. “I guess I’ll do as you suggest. Captain.”

She nodded approvingly. “You can kill me later.”

“To surviving dinner-“ Jean-Luc lifted his glass to his lips in tribute, and behind him the door hissed open.

Will’s face was inscrutable, and his eyes roamed all three of the toasting figures. Beverly looked relaxed and smiled at her daughter before turning her head towards Deanna. She stopped. Heartbeats could have echoed through the captain’s quarters. Her face was a sudden chalk white, and her hand was instantly ice on Will’s wrist.

“You can’t be-“

Jean-Luc Picard set his glass down and got slowly to his feet. He nervously grabbed the hem of his tunic and tugged it straight. “I assure you. I am.” He held out his hand slowly towards her.

Will Riker’s gaze was on the woman perched behind his former captain. Her black eyes were on the doctor, but somewhere, in the back of his mind a whisper stirred.


Part 29

October 4th,
Gravette Island, Earth

Timespace tore reluctantly. The fabric of the universe and the interwoven strands that held it together parted with an angry rumbling. Even in the tropical sun of the afternoon light struggled away from the wound. Darkness bled outward and the rumbling continued to build desperately. The walls of the buildings shook. The trees shied away and bent back out of the darkness. In the forest of the island a bird screamed in terror. The sound echoed until the rumbling grew too loud for any other noise.

The blackness reached outward with tentacles of nothing. The tear blasted cold like a Breen winter morning. It gave way. Rumbling ceased in a pop. Light flooded back like blood coating a wound. In the middle of the center square of the Gravette Island colony Wesley Crusher stood for one instant, haloed by light and heralded by sound. He collapsed, falling hard and lifeless to the dirt.

Worf reached him first. Unfased by the anomaly of the moment, and unconcerned with the random elements around him, Worf lifted him up easily and gently placed him across his shoulders. The body was slight and had no resistance. The medical hall was a few Klingon strides from him. Crewmembers flitted around anxiously. Dr. Selar was coming through the crowd with Deanna beside her.

Worf strode through the open doorway to the medical building. Many sets of hands helped lower Wesley to the improvised biobed. Dr. Selar had point, tricorder out and already scanning. Worf backed out of the group, standing guard by the doorway. Deanna joined him.

"Where did he come from? Some kind of temporal anomaly?" She asked almost rhetorically.

Worf stood firm against the wall. "He has aged considerably since he left the Enterprise." Deanna watched through the flurry of blue lab coats, and caught the gray hair.

"What has happened to him?" She wondered aloud as she folded her arms. The hairs on the back of her neck were on end, as if she were waiting for an electrical storm. Unease was palpable in the air around them.

He had touched the skin of the aged Wesley Crusher. Worf had felt the energy of his body, and breathed in the acrid burning that surrounded him. "Much that we would not understand." He finished prophetically. "There is something changed about him. He looks like Wesley, but he has changed in essence since we saw him last."

Deanna nodded. Wesley's mind, at least the traces of it she could feel, was completely alien to her. Even the sense of it wasn't a mind at all to her Betazoid reflexes. It felt like a computer or an open plasma coduit. Pure energy coursing outward, barely controlled and fighting containment.

((Is he all right Deanna?)) Will's mind quested into hers. ((He's alive?))

She smiled instinctively and relished the familiarity of Will's mind. ((He's alive but unconscious. I can't sense anything from him. His mind is so different from the Wesley I remember. Selar is doing everything she can. How's Beverly?))

((Sitting down.)) His mind was blunt and Deanna felt his worries as tiny bits of ice. ((The noise and the lightshow did something to her head. She's confused, disoriented, and I don't think she knows where she is.)) Will waved his hand in front of Beverly's face slowly. Her pupils didn't react. He snapped his fingers and she sat like a statue. There was no instinctual response.

((Can you get anything out of her?)) Deanna pressed, and Will's mind instantly pulsed with frustration.

((I told you, she's incoherent Deanna. As soon as the rumbling started she started fading out. I don't think she can hear me. I can't get her to respond to anything I do.)) Deanna's calm poured over him. Easing his annoyance like a blanket of snow.

((You're not just human Will. Reach for her mind. She'll hear you.)) Riker caught the underlying despair in her mind.

((What's going on Deanna?))

((Wesley's dying. There's nothing we can do for him.)) Will's thoughts ran through confusion to grief, but her concentration was lost when Wor'fs hand closed on her shoulder.

"Counselor." Her eyes focused suddenly on his face. "We're losing him." She looked instantly to the Vulcan doctor however over the biobed.

Dr. Selar shook her head. "I have never seen this kind of phase variance in human tissues. His body is losing cohesion at the quantum level. There is nothing I can do. I will not even be able to wake him. You might still be able to reach him telepathically, but he has little time."

The medical staff parted and Deanna took a step forward. Worf filed in behind her as a silent wall of strength. She reached out and took Wesley's hand.

His fingers were cold and tiny jolts of static electricty tingled across her hand. His eyes were open, but glazed and unseeing. Dull marbles in his face. Fine lines creased outward from his eyes, looking oddly grotesque over the smooth skin of youth. His hair was completely gray, even white. His eyebrows, the creases of his forehead spoke of age, of experiences beyond the 26 years of his life. Age was a parody on this Wesley's face. A mockery of the bright child of the Enterprise she knew. He did not return her squeeze of his fingers. Deanna sought Will's mind, finding her center in him and rising from their joined thoughts to find Wesley.

"Are you sure about this?" Geordi warned skeptically as Riker sat cross legged on the floor at Beverly's feet. "Shouldn't we just bring her over the medical hall?"

"I don't know if we should move her." Sensing Geordi's apprehension Will shot him a very weak grin. "Wesley's dying in medical. Deanna thinks that it's doing something to her." He straightened his back and looked up at her face. Her eyes were glazed, and he reached up to rest his hand on her knee. "She says I might be able to reach her."

Geordi sighed deeply. He had no great understanding of telepathy, and less of an understanding of the complex relationship that bound Will and Deanna. However, he had faith. Anyone who could spend years in a constant relationship of unasked and unanswered questions must have something going for them if it had worked out so far. "I'm going to keep an eye on you."

Will winked cheerfully. "By all means. Tell me if I talk in my sleep." He closed his eyes. His mind spun beneath him, a tilting planet of thoughts and memories, feelings and desires. He flew above it, leaving it behind him in a flash of warp speed. He knew where he began. He knew the boundaries of Will Riker. Like a beacon, Deanna Troi shone through all of his thoughts. His imzadi, omnipresent and his sole constant in the universe.

Stardate 83294.7
UTF Wells

The chime of a communicator echoed through the silence of Felisa's quarters. The gruff voice of Korvash bounced from the walls, but was only selectively heard. Dr. Crusher continued to stare at the ghost of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, her eyes fixed in disbelief.

"You can't be alive. I watched you die. The Enterprise-" Will took his wife's arms as she shook her head, still shocked.

"I made it to a shuttle." Jean-Luc explained weakly. She was still so beautiful. The white in her hair only adding to the elegance he remembered.

"Felisa saved him." Will added. Beverly whirled on him, suddenly furious as she shook free of his grip.

"You knew!"

Will put up his hands in defeat. "Only barely. Felisa thought you would need to see him."

"You blame our daughter? How can you blame her? You were just as involved as she was..." Beverly cut herself off. She was physically struck with realization. She stepped away from Will, losing her anger and the color in her face. "Oh god, Jean-Luc, I didn't tell you. I never told you." Awkwardly he took a step forward, and she was in his arms. His chest burned with emotion, but she was in his arms. Her hair cascaded over his hands on her back, and Beverly was real. Thirty years of grief exploded from her heart. Will's hand squeezed his arm, and Jean-Luc opened his eyes to see his friend smiling at him. He broke the embrace. Beverly had a hand on each of them, and as one they crossed to the table.

Will filled the wine glasses. "To old friends." Beverly's had shook on her glass and Jean-Luc used his formidable control to still his own.

"I'm sorry I missed the wedding." He offered quietly. "I hope you've been happy."

Will's arm went around his wife's shoulders. "It wasn't a big wedding. Tiny actually. Admiral Janeway did it at Starbase Montgomery, my first officer, Harry and one of his shipmates-" Will snapped his fingers, trying to remember.

"Tuvok. His name was Tuvok." Beverly reminded firmly. "Felisa was four, she was fascinated by his ears."

Jean-Lic was surprised by how badly his eyes could sting. "It's so hard to imagine her being young."

Felisa retreated from the group and spoke quietly to her first officer over the comms. Deanna crossed to behind her, placing a hand on her arm.

"What is it?"

Felisa's voice was grave and Deanna felt something cold come over her. "Three listening posts have been destroyed in the Vortien sector. A mixed fleet went to investigate. The Qa'vIn, the Freyja, and the D'lata are out of contact. We're going to investigate."

Deanna lowered her voice to a whisper. "Just us?" Felisa shook her head darkly.

"The Tal'-sha-ja and the Qav'bech fleets will meet us and the Terran 3rd fleet at the Vortien sector."

Deanna's eyes widened. "The Tal'-sha-ja represents the strength of Romulus."

Felisa picked up her uniform sash and through it over her shoulders. "And the Qav'Bech is the fastest Klingon fleet. Vice Admiral Janeway is taking charge of the mission. She'll be on the Bilire-ahi."

The Betazoid smiled humorlessly. "That's my ship."

"I'm sure she'll keep it in one piece. Are you coming to the bridge?" Felisa started towards the door and Deanna nodded.

"I'll be up. I want to see that they're all right." Regret flashed across the captain's mind, but Deanna felt her dismiss it into the future.

"Keep an eye on mom?"

"I think she'll be all right." Deanna gestured to the table. Beverly sat between two men who radiated love for her. Will was smiling and Jean-Luc had tears in his eyes. Felisa smiled thinly and disappear into the corridor. Deanna walked towards them, staying just out of the conversation, before she was satisfied and left for the bridge.

Will chuckled as he watched the Captain throw on her sash to head to the bridge. "She was never young. Just smaller." He lifted his wine glass and took a long sip. "Always as ornery, smartest little kid though."

Beverly dried her eyes with her napkin and agreed. "Went off the Academy when she was 15. Promised us she'd be the youngest captain in starfleet history."

Jean-Luc raised an eyebrow.

Beverly smiled and nodded. "28 years old. Beat him by three years. She was the second Picard to serve on an Enterprise. She was Harry's first officer for 5 years before she got the Las'-harkan."

Confused, Jean-Luc turned the word over in his mouth. "Las'-harkan is a Vulcan word. She was captain of a Vulcan ship?"

Will shook his head, "After the invasion it didn't matter whose ship it was, or whose crew it had. We all had to work together to survive." His voice held a harshness of old grief, and Beverly's face was suddenly hard. "The Borg invaded in 2373. We didn't even see them coming. They decimated everything we had. The last stand of the combined forces of the Federation, the Romulans and the Klingons turned them back in a suicide mission. Over 7 million dead in one conflict, in one moment."

Jean-Luc swallowed in a dry throat and Beverly continued hatred discoloring her eyes. "The Borg almost destroyed everything. Earth was enslaved, Qu'nos was wiped up with atomics. The Breen and the Ferengi tried to take over what was left. We were looking at extinction. Deanna, Admiral Janeway, Worf, Ambassador Spock and Martok met on Vulcan and signed the treaty of the Triumviate government."

Will nodded as he refilled his glass. "We fought for survival, but we fought together. After the absolute destruction the Borg left behind, the Triumviate decided that the only way to survive was to forget species differences. Romulan, Klingon, Terran, it didn't matter. If the Borg came back we would all die."

Jean-Luc understood that coldness. He knew what it was to hate the Borg. Beverly's hand closed suddenly on his arm. He turned to her in surprise. Something was wrong. Her eyes were out of focus and her hand was ice.

"Wesley, Wesley- where are you?" Will caught her head as she lost conciousness suddenly. Her skin tingled his hands, like a million tiny electric shocks.

"Beverly?" Jean-Luc shook her shoulder and looked at Riker as he pulled his hand back as if stung. "Do you feel that in your hands?"

Will nodded as he scooped his wife into his arms. "Let's get her to sickbay. Something is very wrong about this."
The Bridge glowed amber in the flashing yellow alert. Korvash jumped from the center seat and crossed to the Turbolift and Felisa stepped out of it. "Your brother has missed his rendevous. We can't detect him on temporal sensors."

Felisa crossed to her chair and glared at the starlines of the viewscreen. "And the fleet?"

"We will join them in 58 minutes." Korvash's voice held anticipation. Felisa slammed a fist on her chair.

"We don't have time to look for him." Dr. Veddra voice was calm from her left. "He knew what kind of danger he was putting himself in."

Felisa blinked once, squeezing her eyes shut until she was sure she could control them. "I know."

The commbadge on Veddra's chest flared to life. "Dr. Veddra, we have an emergency in sickbay. Admiral Crusher has collapsed."

Felisa's jaw was set, and her hands were tight on the arms of her chair. But no shock registered in her face. "Go, take good care of my mother."

"I will keep you updated of course Captain." Veddra left in the turbolift that had brought Deanna to the bridge. Deanna crossed to the vacant chair and sat composed next to the captain.

"I heard about your mother." Deanna offered quietly. An ensign brought a PADD and Felisa glanced at quickly before she handed it back. "And Wesley."

"I have to be on the bridge Deanna. We'll be in battle in less then an hour."

"And Dr. Veddra is an excellent physician." Deanna added comfortingly.

Felisa nodded quickly. "I choose her myself." Deanna's empathy registered the wall of stone that reminded her so much of the previous Captain Picard. "Mom will be all right. And Wesley knew what he was doing."

Deanna squeezed her hand fondly. "We all do." The viewscreen continued to show their dash through space. Felisa swallowed and felt the stone in her throat lodge in her stomach. The Borg had returned.


Part 30
October 22nd,
Gravette Island, Earth

Power crackled in her mind, as if she had jumped into a lake of electricity. Her ears hissed with static and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end with energy. Wesley's mind was alien. His thoughts were barely within the threshold of her abilities, barely close enough to resemble the human he had once been. She started at the surface, fighting her way through the strangeness, and pushing through the lancets of energy that tore at her mind and snapped against her shields. She struggled until she could hear the first layer of thought.

Need, his entire mind was consumed with need. He desperately wanted completion. Something demanded his attention. Something had demanded too much and he was too weak to do anything about it. The imagery, the voices, and the emotion directing his thoughts were too buried, too alien to make out. Her heart raced in her chest, but she left it behind. Pushing herself aside and going further into his mind. His mind burned, stinging her head with energy. It was as if she was banging her head against a forcefield. Deanna centered herself, gathering her strength as she forced herself through the field of energy.

"Mom? Mom where are you?" Wesley's voice echoed from a corner of his mind sounding tiny and lost in void. Deanna stood in the center of an empty field of blackness. Energy raced around her, dancing ribbons of light chasing each other around in a circular barrier. The child's voice screamed again for his mother, but Deanna fought past that. She forced through his defenses ordering his mind to let her in.

Energy permeated every pore of her body, stinging as it fled outward. In the medbay her body glowed with blue white energy, and she started to fade. Her body disappearing and reappearing in horizontal stripes.
Then he was there, she was inside and he stood before her. Pale and faded to a weak wash of color, he was barely visible in the darkness of his mind. "Hello counselor." He whispered calmly. "I'm sorry it was so difficult for you to get to me. I-" He shook his head sadly, slipping to his knees on the black floor. "I can't control it anymore."

"Wesley-" Her hands cradled his head. "What happened to you?"

"There's no time Deanna." He pulled her down beside him. "You're hundreds of years too early, but even if you weren't it's too late. I can't stop him, and so many will die." He closed his eyes in a great effort of concentration. Wesley's face faded to a ashen pale and his forehead contorted with effort.

The dark surroundings flared with light suddenly as a hundred silent explosions erupted all around them. A fleet of starships glowed tiny and many colored about their heads. A great battle raged the green of Romulan Warbirds, the darker green gray of the Klingons, and the familiar silver of the Federation danced through space. Bolts of light flew from their bows as they fought in their yet unseen assailants. Deanna watched awestruck as a plague of larger ships, the menacing gray cubes of the Borg, descended from transwarp and surrounded them. The angry red of shipboard decompression ran ribbons of death across starship after starship. Warp core breeches flared in white blossoms as thousands of lives blinked out of existence.
Speechless, she watched as the memory faded back into blackness. Wesley's labored breathing echoed in the silent void. "That's the future?"

"The future, the present and the past. But the past is changing. Your past is different then hers, still more so now that I'm here, it won't make any sense to you, but you must understand." His hands held hysterical strength on her shoulders. He pressed his forehead to hers and his mind was open. All barriers were gone as she was Wesley Crusher.

Her mind expanded thousand-fold as time became endless, every moment occurring simultaneously as the universe began and imploded in a single instant in the center of her mind. Her head snapped back hard enough to knock her into Worf. A hot trail of blood ran down her face just below her nose. Deanna’s eyes were wide and the moderate lighting of medical stung them. Wesley's icy fingers squeezed hers weakly, his whisper fading with him. "Now you understand." He fought to keep his eyelids up. "I wanted to see mom again. But I- I pushed to hard."

Silently Deanna let her tears begin. Worf's hand was firm on her shoulder. Dr. Selar's eyes were grim as she took Wesley's wrist in her hand. His eyes drifted closed as the fight left him. Deanna had to lean over him as his lips moved again stubbornly. "When Felisa asks you, you must." Only she heard, and she had barely enough time to register that she did not know Felisa. His thread of consciousness snapped. It reverberated through her mind in a single low note of sorrow. Selar laid his hand by his side.

"Death occurred at 16:42. Dr. Crusher must be informed immediately." She said softly as she took a med kit from a side shelf. "Has the commander been able to contact her mind?"

Deanna paused, still reeling from her moment of omniscience, and centered herself enough to reach for Will.
Will Riker pushed the envelope of his ability slowly, reaching out with his infantile telepathy. Geordi was the knot of worry that felt warm in the center. The crew outside were a hush of shock. Beverly’s mind was a maelstrom and she was lost in it. Her mind was overwhelmed and she was gone. Something had removed the barriers, memory spilled unchecked into her thoughts and emotions. Like an invading virus, something foreign entered each thought and remade it. She had been struggling, fighting against the current, but like a drowning swimmer she had run out of strength. The dark waters closed over her head and she was gone. He would have to go under to find her.

Will pulled himself tighter, closing himself around what he knew. Clinging to the thoughts that made him Will Riker like a huge lungful of air. Riker, William Thomas. He could find her. Commander, USS Enterprise-E. He could wade through the mire of memories and bring her back. Serial number SC 231-427.

Beverly set a book on Jack’s pillow. Her hand brushed the cover slowly, enjoying the feel of the old fashioned raised lettering on the hardcover. It had taken her and Jean-Luc all day to find a suitable book in the quaint bookshop in Indiana he liked to frequent. She had felt like she was somehow being unfair to Jack, as if she was ruining her secret by sharing it with Jean-Luc. But if she couldn’t count on their quiet best friend to keep secrets, who else did she have? Walter would have thrown a fit. Jean-Luc had kissed her cheek and told her that he should have guessed by the new radiance of her skin. He was always a such gentleman. “Working Parents: Raising a Child Without Losing Yourself,” sat neatly on the bed. He wouldn’t read it of course, Jack Crusher had never taken advice from anyone.

Born in Valdez, Alaska, Earth, August 19th, 2335. The memory he had seen sank into the chaos of a million other thoughts.

The tiny Starfleet issue satchel would be all Wesley needed for the next four years until he left the Academy. He probably wouldn’t come back to the Enterprise. He would meet some lovely young girl and transfer himself halfway to the Gamma Quadrant to be with her. Maybe he’d even get out of his books enough to get married. Beverly sighed deeply and shut the door to his room. She would go wait for him in the transporter room. Eventually he’d come running down from the crisis on the bridge and leave her and his last remainders of childhood behind.

The Xerx wedding on Betazed. Deanna gloriously nude and laughing silently at him. Finally he felt it. Terror and confusion welling up from somewhere inside the storm.

He was quiet in the turbolift all the way back down to their quarters. “I thought Jean- Luc would be more like Dad.” Wesley said dejectedly. “He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.

“Captain Picard has never been comfortable around children.” She touched his shoulder, trying to reassure him. “You used to cry when he held you as a baby. Besides, it’s his first mission with his new ship. Someday, when you have one, you’ll understand.”

“Remind me to be less jumpy.” Beverly laughed indulgently and tussled his hair. He dodged the affectionate gesture as best he could, but she had him.

That final damned jump to the high B in “Nightbird.” He was close now. Somewhere behind all the images of Wesley as a toddler, Jack fishing Wesley out of the lake, and Wesley painstakingly finishing a model of Kirk’s old constitution class Enterprise, he knew then she was hiding from something. Something was horribly wrong and Beverly Crusher was not going to deal with it. He would have to force her. Will sighed deeply and gritted his teeth. His disdained forcing women to do anything, but she knew something she wasn’t going to tell him under any circumstances.

He remembered his original herculean effort at the University on Betazed. He had reached Deanna’s mind as a human. He had the benefit of Betazoid brain chemistry now. He just needed to find that strength. He had to find that place within himself that most wanted to help others. The core of self-sacrifice that every Starfleet officer developed in their earliest days at the Academy. Will put all his strength into his mind. Every stubborn fiber of his being was put to use in a single act of will.

He brought order to chaos. The storm stopped dead, the memories drifting slowly down to place like dead leaves. Her mind stopped whirling, and the confusion that kept her safe from the truth was gone. Stripped of her defenses she stood naked before his searching eyes, and she screamed.

Geordi had been starting to get worried. Beverly’s face was impassive and completely blank. Riker’s face had started to sweat, his effort obvious in his clenched hands and crinkled eyes. Then she screamed. She threw her hands up over her face, sobbing as she tried to fight him off. Will wrapped his arms around her silently. Geordi quietly backed away. He wasn’t sure what had happened, but he knew the kind of terrible intimacy that came from the deepest loss. He backed out into the sunlight and Deanna’s hand caught his arm.

She too had been crying, and her distracting Betazoid eyes were still wet in the corners. “Wesley died a few minutes ago.”

Geordi stopped and felt the stone settle into his stomach. That was it, somehow the doctor had felt him die. Her son, the last family she had left. Deanna was trembling. She laid her head on his shoulder, and he shyly put an arm around her. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. He looked older. He was tired, worn out somehow as if he had been trying to do something beyond his abilities.” She shook her head regretfully. “His abilities were so amazing. I only saw a little of his power, but he knew so much.”

“When he left us with the traveler, we knew he would see things beyond our imagining.” Geordi was surprisingly rational, but Deanna found it rather comforting. “Did he suffer?”

Deanna shook her head, tears moistening her face again. “I don’t think so. He knew, he knew it was his time. I think he just wanted- he didn’t want to leave his mother without saying goodbye.”

He felt her trembling increase and instinctually he found her hand and squeezed it gently. “What was he trying to do?”

Deanna’s body tensed suddenly. She started pacing, something wasn’t making sense. Something wasn’t right with this. “I don’t know. The traveler had almost complete control over time, maybe Wesley was trying to change the past.”
Will emerged from the mess hall and went straight to Deanna. He half collapsed into her arms, and buried his head in her hair. “She knew, somehow he reached her and she felt him die.”

Deanna hushed him. Sharing his pain and replacing it with her own quiet strength. “How is she?”

“Alone.” His voice was strangled, and his eyes found hers desperately as if the answers to everything could be found in her face. “God Deanna, she’s so alone.”
Stardate 83294.9
UTF Wells

“Captain Riker. We’ve received transmission from the fleet. They’ve engaged the Borg in the Vortien sector. We’ll be within range in 58 minutes.” Korvash, her first officer, abandoned the command chair and the captain of the Wells sat down.

She smiled with grim anticipation. “Good, go to yellow alert and prepare for battle stations. Today is a good day.”

Korvash bared his teeth and nodded as he headed for tactical. “Yes captain, it is a good day to die.”

The turbolift on the right of the bridge hissed open and Vice Admiral Deanna Riker entered and crossed to the chair on the captain’s left. She sat easily, the regal baring of the 5th house making it seem more like a throne. “Your father’s staying with Beverly for awhile. She felt Wesley’s death.”

Captain Riker shook her head and her short black curls bounced slightly. “It seems dammed unfair that she has to go through that twice.”

Deanna squeezed her daughter’s hand and let herself enjoy the wonder that was her child for a moment. “No parent should have to go through that at all.”

The younger woman watched the viewscreen with trepidation. “Is Felisa coming to the bridge?”

“She was finishing her calculations.” Deanna answered with a tiny smile.

Selari laughed with her father’s humor. “Trust my wife to miss the battle because she was locked in the temporal laboratory.”

“You could find her and ask her to come to the bridge.” Deanna suggested helpfully.

“Yes, and she would never forgive me. If it weren’t for the boys, she’d leave me and start a mutiny.” She winked at her mother scandalously. “This is supposed to be a science vessel after all, what does a swashbuckler like me now about science?”

“Very little I’m sure, judging from your barely passing astrophysics grade.” Deanna teased dryly.

“I passed the second time.” Selari shot back nochalantly. “Besides, that’s why captains have science officers. So they can make up for their barely passing astrophysics.”

Deanna raised a hand in defense and changed the subject to something more neutral. “I still can’t believe my mother let the boys get a betazoid kitten. She hated mine.”

“But you don’t have Robbie’s eyes, or Luke’s smile.” Selari’s eyes were briefly soft with longing. “I’m glad they can stay with her. They’re safe and loved, and far away from the Borg.” The turbolift hissed again and the infamous Felisa Picard entered, data in hand. Distracted, Selari turned to watch her science officer cross to her seat on the right.

“Captain, I have finished the calculations, I can increase the efficiency of the temporal sensors 21 percent.” Selari raised an eyebrow and nodded appreciatively.

“Impressive, even by your standards.” Felisa smiled and only one corner of her mouth moved, as usual. Deanna had often wondered in the grief of her mother’s life had profoundly affected her daughter. Pale, with distracting hazel eyes and a neat mane of red hair, Felisa was beautiful the way a winter morning in Will’s Alaska was beautiful. She was a sharp contrast to her imzadi. Selari Riker was dark, with her mother’s olive skin, and the black eyes of both of her parents, and her hair was short, a mess of black curls that echoed her constant good humor. She was the embodiment of her mother’s love and her father’s lust for life.

Deanna mused quietly that it was surprising that the children had succeeded so easily with love and family, when it had been so painful for their parents. Felisa took her chair and the silent exchange across their bond brought a rare, full smile to Felisa’s face. Selari got up and paced her bridge, the commander readying her troops before battle.


Part 31
October 9th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

"Wesley's dead." Deanna's voice was cold and as tired as her face. "Don't ask me again how I know. I just do, I can feel it. I can hear him dying in the back of my mind."

Will Riker reached tentatively for her, touching her shoulder gently. "I know. I'm sorry Deanna."

She shrugged, but didn't remove his hand. He hid his surprise. "I've felt pain and death before. I'm starting to get used to it."


"I know it hurts you Will. I know you feel- but dammit, it's useless. It's all useless." She stood, angrily trashing out against a tree trunk, her fist thudding hollowly against the tree. "We fight, and we struggle, but where are we going? How do we get home? What was Wesley trying to do anyway?" She turned back to him, fire in her black eyes. Her knuckles bloody and dripping to the earth. "He was so old. His mind was ancient, older then anything I've felt, but he was just Wesley. He's-"

"Barely 25." Will offered gently, taking a scrap of cloth from his pocket and dabbing at her hand.

She didn't flinch, but watched his ministrations with haunted eyes. "But he wasn't Will. Something was different. Something was wrong."

"We couldn't even see him." He argued with weak optimism.

"But we felt it. I felt it. You can't tell me Beverly didn't feel it. Something in her face died today. You saw it." Will's hand brushed her cheek, and for a moment she felt his mind, warm, wounded but fighting for hope.

She smiled and her face felt stiff. "I'm going to talk to her. Maybe I can do something."

His smile was real and bright even in the twilight. "I'm sure you can counselor." Deanna walked away from him without replying, but somewhere within her hope leaped and she couldn't bring herself to force it back down.

October 9th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will picked at his food, even in the Zero Backward dinner tonight was quiet. "It reminded me of how I felt when you were gone."

She brushed her hand across his knee. Her head on his shoulder. Deanna wasn't even pretending to eat. "I came back. I'll always come back to you."

He gave up, leaving his food in a haphazard pile on his plate. "What was he trying to do?"

She sighed deeply. Her head still ached and thinking only made the swollen feeling of her eyes worse. "I think he was trying to get us home. Wesley tried to show me the universe through his eyes. The past, the present, some of the future." She stared at the far wall, as if the answers would materialize there. "I was in the future, I saw starships, the Borg- some kind of battle."

She paused, and he prompted her to continue. "Do you remember anything specific?"

She closed her eyes, rubbing her hands across her temples. "Temporal displacement warheads," She said finally. "Multi adaptive chroniton based shielding, some kind of warp drive that could travel through time."

Will's eyes crinkled in bemused surprise. "Well look at you, miss engineer."

She sighed quietly. "I don't know what any of it does. I don't know what any of it means. It's all jumbled in my head, and probably won't ever make any sense to me. I'm not a starship designer."

He kissed her forehead, bringing a moment of calm to her chaotic memories. "You don't have to be. Concentrate on what made sense to you. What did you feel?"

She turned her head, resting her forehead against his cheek. "You, you more then you are now. I loved you."

He chuckled dryly. "Good, we know we'll make it a few years." Cheered slightly, he retrieved his plate and gave it another hard stare as he started to eat again.

Deanna's eyes were angry enough to glint, but Will felt the trace of mischief behind them that made that all right. She dropped her voice to a whisper and lost herself in the deep navy blue-black of his eyes. ((We had a child.))
He dropped his fork, it echoed loudly in the reigning silence. Unable to look nonchalant he ignored it and stared directly back at her.((How do you know?))

((I just knew.)) She surprised herself by leaning forward to kiss him. Pausing for just a moment, she stood to leave.

"Deanna, where are you going? You haven't had any-" He looked down at his plate and tried to place what it was he was eating. "Of this." He finished lamely.

"I need to see Beverly. There's something she needs to know."

He followed her a few steps to the doorway. "What?"

She turned back to him, her face full of confusion, but he saw the familiar determination in her eyes. "I think I'll know when I get there."

Stardate 83294.9
UTF Wells

Dr. Veddra shooed both men into her office and sat them down across from her. She leaned back in her chair and planned her words. "The captain and I have discussed this at length, and we both believe that Admiral Crusher coma is a result of the death of her son."

Riker nodded, his memories of the time paradox and the last time Beverly had turned that white were painfully recent in his mind. Jean-Luc looked from the Romulan to his former first officer in confusion. "How would she know Wesley had died? How did Wesley die? I just saw him-"

Will rested his head in his hands and sighed deeply. "30 years ago, Beverly slipped into a kind of coma. She was completely incoherent and partially delirious. Deanna felt the same thing she did. Deanna felt Wesley die, and somehow that event did serious harm to Beverly's psyche."

Dr. Veddra set a cup of tea in front of the elder Picard. "Wesley Crusher died 30 years ago. He knew his death was coming in our present, and for some reason he traveled to our past and died there. Felisa thinks he was trying to help the former crew of the Enterprise-E, your crew, but something must have gone wrong."

Jean-Luc took the tea cup, but was too distracted to drink it. "But Will was there 30 years ago, and he just said that Deanna only felt him die. There was no temporal event that corresponded with Beverly's illness?"

Will shook his head, and quickly emptied his cup. "No, she just collapsed one afternoon. We weren't able to do anything for her until-"

Deanna arrived silently behind them and finished his thought. "Until I was able to reach her telepathically." She nodded to the Romulan, who replicated another cup. "Felisa and Will both believe that I will have to reach her telepathically once more, that somehow this moment and the moment of Wesley's death are connected."

Will nodded and took Deanna's free hand. "You remember what happened."

Her eyes were suddenly grave, but she kept his hand. "Yes, yes I do."

Dr. Veddra stood, lending her chair to Deanna, as she perched on the edge of her desk. "You'll have to elaborate for Captain Picard."

"Please." He begged anxiously. Deanna sat down across from him and gestured to his tea.

"Drink it. It will calm your nerves Jean-Luc." She order, and then waited, seeming to search for the correct words. "When I tried to bring Beverly out of her delirium, I felt something of myself in her. I know it sounds strange, but I felt myself reaching back to me. And for a moment, I think I saw through my own eyes, in the future."

Dr. Veddra looked through the glass wall of her office at her patient, deathly still on the biobed. "Admiral Riker, the captain and I all agree that the only way to deal with this is to ask Deanna to reach into Beverly's mind. She has to somehow complete the paradox."

Deanna finished her tea and set down the cup on the desk. "If there are no more explanation, I would like to begin. We still have half an hour before we arrive at the fleet, and I'd like to be on the bridge."

"Of course, Dheyyan, we can begin immediately." Dr. Veddra led Deanna to Admiral Crusher's side. Jean-Luc and Will Riker hung back a polite distance, Riker placing a comforting hand on the arm of the younger man.

"She'll be fine. Bev's too stubborn to give it up like this." Silently, Picard agreed with him.

Stardate 83294.9
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Deanna left the bridge and met her husband just outside sickbay. He took her hand, entwining her fingers around his in their familiar fashion. He did not speak, for he never had to with his imzadi. ((Are you ready Deanna? She stayed with me the best she could, but Wesley's pull was too strong.))

She snuggled closer to him, her head finding it's place against his arm. ((Don't blame Wesley. He never wanted to hurt her.))
He nodded his agreement and the door of sickbay hissed to welcome them. The Romulan doctor stood vigil silently in at th head of biobed three. She inclined her head politely, and little emotion showed on her face.

"She entered a comatose state 7 minutes ago. She expressed her confidence that you could find her, before succumbing." Dr. Veddra gestured to a chair by the side of the bed. “I brought this for you, I’d like to observe if you do not mind. I rarely get chance to study telepathy.”

Deanna smiled and gratefully took the chair. Will’s hands caught her shoulders protectively and she relaxed, knowing he was there with her.

Across time

Deanna Troi reached out her hand to Beverly Crusher across many universes of time and place. Steady fingers found flushed unresponsive ones, and Deanna’s mind extended beyond herself into that of her friend. She began tentatively, unwilling to damage an already fragile psyche. Tendrils of thought reached out gently, full of care and warmth- she touched, and something hidden within her exploded.

Energy, somehow alive within her, burst outward in a flood of power. Pure and unchecked, the strength of the dead burst out of her. Somehow Wesley had used her as a gateway, a vessel for the message he desperately needed to send. Deanna had carried it across time. The seeds of his final deed sowed so deep within her that she had not even known. She had only felt the vague sense of purpose, the unexplainable knowledge that she had to reach Beverly, that she had to touch her mind. Even in the distant timelines where she had not come in contact with him, his message had carried to her. Rooting itself inside of Deanna, so that it could remain the 30 years it would take to be active.

Two William Rikers watched Deanna’s body illuminate with a fount of blue-white energy. Jean-Luc Picard watched Beverly’s body jolt with the flood of power as the energy engulfed her, covering her body with a halo of current. Twice, an unborn Felisa Picard turned inside her mother as the knowledge of a thousand memories, and the power of her brother’s mind filled her forming consciousness. In one baby, the full weight of his knowledge of time descended into the depths of the infant mind, burrowing itself into the instinctual memories that carry themselves across the generations in genetic code. Terrified, the mind of the baby lashed out, and for the briefest instant it touched the mind of Deanna, finding solace in her calm, and in the love in the center of her soul. Deanna fought with the power coursing through her, trying to control it enough to ease the pain it created.

Deanna was more then herself, her soul held more memories, more strength then she had ever had. Twice she sought solace in the warmth of Will’s concern, but twice she found the strength alone. She felt the pain fade slightly. The pain wasn’t hers, her mind was bolstered, it was Beverly’s voice screaming as the echo of Wesley’s mind surged through her. She extended her shields, drawing on the might of her mind, the comber force of will she had in this moment where she met herself again and again.

In sickbay and on Earth, Beverly’s body contorted, trembling as torment in her mind overwhelmed the fragile defense of the untrained human mind. Sweat broke onto her forehead, and it made rivulets down Deanna’s face, but they stayed locked together, chained by Wesley’s last act.

Finally Deanna knew where to place her shields. She struggled to control the flood of energy, using herself as a wall, a floodgate against the torrent of knowledge. Beverly stopped screaming and went still, her heart slowed to a more normal rate. She was immersed in Deanna’s soul, and all around her Deanna’s mind defended her. Forming a barricade against the full weight of Wesley's mind. The envelope of energy around their motionless bodies snapped out of existence.

Deanna fell forward. Her muscles were spent, and they dropped her head near Beverly's shoulder. For a long moment the air around them hissed and popped with dissipating energy. The small hairs on the back of Will's neck twitched excess static. An older Will Riker reached out to stroke the head of his wife, and for an instant her hair was jet black again, loose and free on her shoulders. He drew his hand back, and for an eyeblink, her hair was tight in a single braid, theen it was the black and silver he remembered.

Jean-Luc's voice was the shock it took to shake Beverly from her unconscious state.

October 9th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will watched in the medbay as Deanna's face became a washed out gray and her head dropped lifeless to Beverly's shoulder. Selar stood a step closer then him, and she got to Beverly first when she struggled to sit up. Deanna's head was knocked off the biobed and he caught her. His touched seemed to jostle her out of her sleep.

"Jean-Luc?" Dr. Selar's hands were firm as she held Beverly to the bed.

"Beverly. You need to remain still. You have had a shock. You must stay still." Selar's voice was firm, but she continued to struggle against her.

"No, he's here, I heard his voice." Beverly pleaded. "I heard him-" Her efforts were wasted. Selar's arms were a solid restraint and Beverly's fight was feeble, her strength was gone. Will Riker placed a still hand on her forehead. Deanna was supported by his other arm. She was starting to regain her equilibrium, but she too was exhausted.

"Please don't." Will entreated. "You need rest." Deanna agreed with him silently. Drawing on his reservior of energy, and feeling it revive her slightly.

She managed to shake off Selar. Who stood back only a half-step and looked on patiently. "I can't stay here." Beverly beseeched weakly. "Wesley died here." She faded into herself. Wrapping her arms around her chest in a pitiful gesture. Even with her stomach swollen by her unborn child, she looked tiny.

Deanna smiled. ((Will, she can't be alone.)) She sent to him urgently. His fingers closed on her shoulder, and his lips brushed against her head.

((Bring her home. Let her cry herself out.)) He suggested as he nodded purposely to Selar.

Deanna's cheerful front brightened the room. "You can come home with us."

Will followed her lead smoothly, "I promise to keep an eye on both of them." Dr. Selar raised her hypospray to Beverly's neck.

"Indeed, Commander." She raised an eyebrow to him thoughtfully, then gave the injection and helped Beverly off the biobed. "I will examine you in the morning Dr. Crusher."

With one Riker on either side of her, she didn't argue. Deanna gave Selar a silent smile of thanks, and they left the medbay. Twilight had given way to full night. The floating globes of light that lit the path were silver in the cooling air. Will chuckled to hiimself softly as they turned slowly off the main path to the duracrete and wooden home that he shared with Deanna.

Deanna's curiousity floated across his mind like a feather caught in a gust of wind, but she spoke aloud. "What?"

"My roommate, junior year at the academy lost one hundred credits because I never ended up with two women in our room." He was reassured when Beverly managed a partial smile.

"I'm not sure if I want to be known as a conquest of Will-the-Thrill Riker"

Deanna laughed impishly and left the two of them for a moment as she opened the door. "Under an old Betazoid law, a husband is the property of his wife." Will helped a barely awake doctor into the small front room of his house. A few more steps and he and Deanna had her sitting on the bed. Deanna steadied her hands as she finished a glass of water. She set down the simple cup on the window sill and bent to kiss Beverly on the forehead. "You'd be my conquest." She finished in a whisper.

"Sleep," Will suggested as he pulled the shimmering Starfleet blanket over her.

Beverly opened one eye and met Deanna's wink. "Would I be above Will?" Deanna sat on the bed and thought for a long moment, her hand running back and forth over Beverly's shoulder.

Across the room, Will was taking off his shirt and getting ready for bed. Deanna leaned in conspiratorially. "As long as you don't tell him."


Part 32

Notes: Bilire-ahi means "shield of light", Dheyyan means honored one. Both are Romulan words that I found using the universal translator project.

Stardate 83294.9
UTF Wells

Red light pulsed through the room once. Then it was dark. Then the red light pulsed through again. There was a sound with it. An accompanying wail of warning and a voice. The voice was harried, anxious and for some reason she was drawn to it. Her mind trying to make sense of it. Her mind was empty. It was small and alone. So many voices had been there, and now it was quiet. Terribly quiet.

"Am I dead?" Something tickled her face as a familiar man kissed her cheek.

"Oh no, not even close." Faces came into focus. At first alien shadows in sharp relief against the pulsing red light, then eyes, lips and concerned lines on their foreheads. "Deanna brought you back to us." Hands held hers, hands wanted her to sit up, and to her surprise she was. Her feet hung over the side of the biobed and Jean-Luc touched her shoulder tentatively.

"I'm sorry." He offered quietly. She stepped off the bed and had the momentarily intense memory of being heavily pregnant. Her balance was slow to adjust and strong hands caught her from all sides.

"Slowly Admiral." Dr. Veddra's cool hands brought a hypospray to her neck. It hissed obediently and the room grew a shade brighter. "I want you to go back to your quarters. Have something to eat, rest." Beverly turned instantly to her husband, fighting something internally.

"Don't let her-"

He squeezed her arms gently and leaned in to kiss her again. "I'll go to the bridge. Jean-Luc will take you back to your quarters." She hugged him tightly, resting in the safety of him for a moment.

"Keep her alive Will." He winked, all optimism in his blue eyes.

"I'll do my best, but you know she argues like you do."

She sighed and Jean-Luc took her arm to guide her. "That's what worries me."

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will was up and gone just before dawn. It was his turn on the breakfast rotation and his urhati pancakes were legendary. Deanna didn't have to wake to hear him leave. His mind brushed hers lovingly. He promised to save them some pancakes, and check to see when Deanna's next cooking stint was scheduled. She thanked him sleepily, and was momentarily surprised to roll over into another warm body. She let her mind wander to Beverly's. Her mind flashed with the complex patterns that signalled consciousness.

Tentatively Deanna rested a hand on Beverly's arm. "Would you like to talk?"

Beverly sighed, pulling herself up to sit with her back against the wall. "I don't know. I'm not sure what to think." She took Deanna's hand and placed it on the hardness of her stomach. "Feel that."

Deanna's eyes widened and she sat up quickly. "Why didn't you say something? That's not normal-"

"No, no it's not." Beverly closed her eyes and sighed heavily. "When you were in my mind, could you sense her?"

"Only vaguely." Deanna hesitated just a moment and Beverly pounced on her. "Infants have very limited emotions. I wouldn't know what I was feeling."

"Deanna please." She was tired and her voice exhausted. Her eyes stung as she wiped at them with an angry hand. "I remember pain- lightning running through my body. Tell me what happened, please Deanna."

Deanna took both of her hands and stared her down with unblinking, inky black eyes. "Wesley used me as a messenger. He buried something in my mind and it exploded when I tried to contact you telepathically. I don't know what it was, but it burned through me. I tried to protect you and the baby, but I've never felt anything like that. I didn't know Wesley could do that."

The tears on Beverly's face tore at Deanna's heart. "What happened to him? He was human. He had my blood, Jack's blood, and neither of us were extroadinary."

Deanna leaned back into the headboard. "Most people who choose to live like we do are extroadinary. Th ere are huge parts of the human mind that no one understands. Maybe you and Jack were the right combination to open them to Wesley."

"Look where it got him." Beverly's reply lashed out. "Whatever it was that made him special got him killed."

Deanna's eyes were aching. "Nothing hurts more then losing a child."

"How would you-" Beverly bit her lip painfully. "I'm sorry."

Deanna closed her eyes for a moment, tears running freely down her face. "I've never had one very long, but I know what it feels like. I know how it feels to have your heart ripped out and replaced with empty space. To wonder every night where he would have been if he lived." Impulsively Deanna hugged her tightly. "Wesley gave her something." She whispered as they broke apart. "Something she needed to have. For all of us."

"What if that takes her away again?"

"When my mother remembers my sister, she always tells herself that no matter how short a time they had together, it was good. And it does nothing for her memory to dwell on why she isn't here, but to be grateful that she was." Deanna's hand was warm against Beverly's stomach. As she waited, she extended her mind to the being beneath her hand. Searching for emotion in the unfocused spark of life there.

Beverly's chest was tight with effort and her eyes stung painfully, but she was beyond crying. Inside of her, the baby twisted continuously. "She's been at it all night. I couldn't sleep. It's like she struggling against something."

"But she's safe. You know she's safe. Whatever happened can't be changed now." Beverly turned her face away. Deanna would have let her be in silence, but the muscles beneath her hand tightened suddenly. "Beverly?"

Her reply hissed slightly through her teeth. "It's nothing." She turned back smiling weakly. Deanna's concern softened her eyes and she opened her mouth to argue- "Just talk to me." Beverly interrupted. "What were you telling me last night?"

"Beverly-" Deanna appealed nervously. "We should-"

"About Betazed." She finished defiantly. "Tell me about Betazed."

Deanna complied reluctantly. She knew Dr. Selar would make a better arguement then she could, and she didn't want to fight. "For the last millenia Betazed has been ruled by eleven main houses, and many secondary ones, with a representative of each serving on the ruling council. Many thousand years ago all property was passed from mother to daughter. Only women served on the council. Sometimes, when a woman of a noble house had no daughters she would wed a woman in addition to a man."

Beverly smirked coyly. "I wonder what the men thought about that?"

"If most of the women back then were like my mother, I imagine it didn't matter much what they thought." Deanna retorted quickly, but she continued in a more diplomatic tone. "Our anthropologists believed it was an excellent way to ensure genetic variance among the houses and prevent the houses from being isolated."

"So the second woman's children would inherit the titles of the house?"

"It's called the right of Lithucara. Often it was just a way to designate a heir. It's not in practice now, but sometimes-" Deanna looked out the window at the rain, her mind far away for a moment. "I'll bet you, that my mother will find a way."

The tightness in Beverly's voice was subtle, but her discomfort blossomed like a weed in the finges of Deanna's mind. "Find a way to do what?"

"Will and I might never have children. Mother's always been fond of you, and we know her feelings about the captain." That drew a smile from the doctor. "How would you feel being the mother of the future heir to the fifth house of Betazed?"

Beverly's eyes twinkled with amusement. The lingering vine of discomfort across her mind faded slightly. "As long as I have time to recover before I have to be nude again."

Even through her nagging seriousness, Deanna chuckled lightly. "All right."

Stardate 83294.9
UTF Wells

"Red alert!" Probably the two of the most nervewracking words spoken on a starship, but even the reknowned Admiral Riker was surprised at how well is step-daughter's crew stood to their task. The helm was steady in the hands of a surprisingly young Andorian. Tactical was firmly in the grip of Korvash, the dark Klingon he had heard so much about. The bridge of the Wells was tiny compared to either Enterprise, but it was streamlined. Every person on deck had a face intent on their duty. Even Deanna was conferring with a science officer and looked deep in her duty. She sat at Felisa's left. That left the empty chair on her right, the same one he had occupied for her father.

He sat easily, in that lopsided way he had, and she gave him a wry smile. "Glad you could join us Admiral."

"I've heard a lot about this little ship. Thought I'd see what she can do for myself." Will offered with a half-smile. Deanna caught the gleam of pride in his eye and she smiled to herself.

Captain Picard watched her viewscreen stoicly. Behind her Korvash announced "2 minutes to the combat zone," and anticipation was ripe in his voice.

Deanna could feel the anxious wish to "get this over with" that was so common to Federation vessels. Romulan minds were more ordered, but the young Picard's crew had remarkable discipline. "I hope the Admiral has kept my ship in one piece."

Felisa shook her head in admiration. "I've been looking forward to seeing the Bilire-ahi in action for months."

"Who would have ever thought you'd be in care of the Romulan Flagship?" Will teased as the starlines drew them ever closer to the chill space of the battleground.

"Well, whenever anyone mentions it to my mother, you'd think it was the right of the Daughter of the Fifth house to have her own vessel." Deanna replied with equal sarcasm.

"I have heard that last time you returned to your homeworld that the entire fleet escorted you and your vessel." Korvash jumped in, surprising them momentarily. Will's face was all grin, and Felisa's eyes twinkled.

Deanna was too controlled to blush, but she nodded regally to the Klingon. "All right, perhaps she has a point."

"Dropping out of warp Captain." The Andorian piped up with professional control.

"Activate the shields, first and second tier. Prepare quantum and chorniton torpedoes, ready phasers, set phase variance to .006 seconds and continue to change at your discretion Mr. Korvash." Captain Picard's voice was firm, and her fac set. the starlines on the view dissolved into the multi-colored chaos of battle. Three colors of vessels swarmed a pitted Borg cube directly in front of them. Two others hung in space on either side, with similiar fleets of attackers. "Signal the Bilire-ahi for instructions and prepare all weapons for the cube directly ahead."

Craters in the hull of the great gray-black monstrosity opened under a new barriage of torpedo fire. The Romulan warbirds flew in swift attack patterns, like the raptors they represented. The Wells was a tiny addition to the fleet, but Will was impressed by the agility of the vessel. They dove in and about the green disruptor blasts of the Romulans. They flew around Klingon barrages of torpedos that exploded into flares of death. A Borg cutting beam, white with intensity glanced of the shields and then anticipated their diving loop and followed them through it. It stained the shields with a seething glow of distructive power.

"First tier shielding is down to 17% Captain." Deanna reported steely. "The Borg cube is down to 58% of it's initial mass." Will had to remind himself that this Deanna Troi was a leader in battle. A ship captain and a rising strategic genius. Smoke startd to pour from the back of the bridge.

"The Vice Admiral is requesting that we throw everything we have at them on her mark." Korvash shouted over the sudden burst of sparks that flew from a shield conduit behind him. The smoke increased as a haze filled the bridge.

"First tier shielding is gone Captain. Second tier at 37%. Engineering is sending all repair crews to the shield emitters." Deanna reported with stone underlying her words. "Captain, the last Klingon cruiser has been destroyed. We are the only ship in range of this cube."

Felisa jumped from her seat and strode to the helm. "Engage this on the Admiral's mark. How many torpedo launchers are still functioning?"

Korvash smacked his displays angrily. "Two."

Will turned to his daughter. "That won't make much of a bang."

Disgust was dark on her face. She whispered to the ship as she returned to her chair. "You have't let me down yet." She sat ramrod straight in her chair. Her mind working furiously. She leapt from her seat again and jogged to stand beside her first officer. "The shuttles."

He grinned wickedly. His pointed teeth flashing in the red of the alarms all around the bridge. "Could be coaxed to a warp core overload."

"How many to we have?" Deanna asked with a cold gleam in her eye.

"Four." Korvash replied with a growl on the tip of his tongue.

"Can the shields take that kind of abuse?" Will asked uneasily. "You won't be able to get clear in time." For a long moment blue eyes met gray as father and daughter stared each other down. Will knew that look. He knew what it was to know that you were expendable as long as your people lived. As long as the Federation lived.

"They'll have too." Felisa replied without emotion. She returned determinedly to her chair. "New course ensign, get us as close to the far side of the cube as you can. Korvash, signal the Vice Admiral that we can destroy the far side of the cube whenever she is ready."

Deanna's pale hands danced over her console. "Warp core overload in 90 seconds."

"Ensign Ekrit, you'll have to get us right on top of the Borg, I want the shields skimming what's left of that behemoth." Felisa ordered with the fire of battle tinging her voice.

"Aye Captain." The Andorian's hands were a blue blur across the controls and the ship dropped like a stone. The Wells dove beneath and came up along the far side of the cube. One Klingon vessel hung above them like an eagle over a falcon. The Federation ship whirled in space, turning so her belly was mere meters from the Borg.

Deanna shouted over the whine of the engines echoing through the deck. "21 seconds to warp core overload."

"Korvash, dump the shuttles." Felisa ordered and turned to her viewscreen, trying to make out her adversary through the black smoke filling the air.

"Mark!" He howled passionately as each of the shuttles tumbled free of the Wells. Like an ancient bomber plane, the shuttles fell towards their target and exploded one after the other in a miasma of destructive energy. Each one spewing forth the most dangerous force Starfleet had harnessed, pure antimatter ripped into the Borg's very heart.

On the Wells, the universe exploded into a mass of light, initial dampeners exploded all over the ship. Plasma conduits ruptured and superheated energy ran rampant through metal, leaving an inferno behind it. The viewscreen went pure white and then was only a wall as it burned out completely. Ceiling, walls and floor were each other as the bodies inside tumbled like so many loose stones along the seashore. Only emergency illumination filled the bridge, and everyone lay still on the floor. the ventilation system hissed angrily. Lost carbon dioxide blanketed the floor in a deep coating of fog. The fire supression system formed weak forcefields around the worst of the blazes.

In space the Wells pitched sickly to starboard and drifted dead among a thousand shards of black metal. Rire raged as escaped gases fed it enough to light the blackness of space. The remaining Klingon ships drew back respectfully and shields went down as repair crews and medical teams were shared from vessel to vessel. The remaining deep green of the Romulan warbirds also drew back to regroup as the blue-silver of the Federation vessels clustered in the center.

The largest ship, a great bird of prey larger then even the Vor'cha class destroyers of the Klingons, and with a wingspan that covered even the sleek Sovereign class vessels of Earth, the Bilire-ahi flew smoothly into the new wreckage of the three deceased mammoths and reached a long green tractor beam out to the mutely drifting Wells.

On it's bridge a sense of quiet triumph filled the Romulan crew. A darkly skin Vulcan of middle age was at the tactical station. He turned to the commander and waited for her orders. She was a small figure in the command chair. A white haired human with a few remaining streaks of auburn. She sat with legs crossed easily, and one hand supported her head thoughtfully. "They did well Tuvok."

"Indeed Admiral, a most ingenious use of limited resources." He stood just behind her with his hands at the ready on his console. "Their warp core is intact, as is most of the hull. Artificial gravity is functioning, though life support is at minimum levels.

"It's a tough little ship." She said with admiration and winked at him dryly with her left eye. The right one sported a surrounding half-circle of the same gray-black metal of the Borg vessel that formed the debris field surrounding them. A wicked looking scar also ran up the the right side of her face. Many of the Romulans crewing the vessel also boasted the white of battle scars.

"In my experience captain, most ships are as tough as their captains." Tuvok replied enigmaticaly. A Romulan advanced on command and bowed slightly.

"Dheyyan, I will lead the medical teams personally." Taev announced with the anxious hurry often food in medical officers.

"How many life signs over there Tuvok?" The Vice Admiral's face hid the despair she felt at his reply.

"56 Admiral." He replied with impervious calm.

"Let's keep all those 56 with us Dr. Taev." He nodded again.

"Yes Dheyyan, what repair crews we can spare will accompany us. Fortuituously we have suffered few injuries." He shifted on his feet, ready to get to work.

She waved him off. "Good luck doctor."

Captain Jean-Luc Picard found it slightly amusing to be banished from the bridge in a moment of crisis, but from what he had seen of his daughter, she could handle herself.

"Thank you for staying with me. I know you'd rather be on the bridge." Beverly apologized quietly as they entered the guest quarters she shared with her husband.

He led her to a chair and crossed to the replicator. "Tea, earl grey and one bowl of chicken soup." He carried both to the glass coffee table before her. "I am grateful to have this time with you Beverly." He set the soup in front of her, but awkwardly remained standing. "I have so much I wish I could say to you."

She leaned down to blow on the surface of her soup. "It was a long time ago that I forgave you." She picked up her spoon and stirred it thoughtfully. "Took me a lot longer to forgive myself."

He tried again to sit, but he couldn't. His feet were too nervous. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you about the baby?" She leaned back. Her voice heavy with regret. "What could I have told you? That our one night stand had left me with child? I didn't want to face that I was pregnant." His gray eyes were deep with pain. "How could I? I couldn't admit it to myself. I thought I was just getting old. The vomiting was a touch of the Velcaran flu that was going around the ship."

He stopped pacing and cut her off. "Vomiting?" He pressed, with a new guilt in his eyes.

She swallowed her first bit of soup and laughed. "It's a fairly common side-effect of pregnancy. One of life's little quirks that we still haven't managed to clear up, even in the 24th century."

"I see." He replied quietly. "I don't remember you being sick when you were pregnant with Wesley."

She paused and then agreed. "No, I wasn't. Felisa was a different situation. I was stuck in the past in the middle of nowhere. I was almost 50. It was a more stressful situation." He had wandered over to the window. The starlines still raced past them, but soon they would end and the battle would begin. A battle he had no part in. "You'd rather be up there, wouldn't you?"

He returned to her, sitting down uneasily across from her. He watched her eat for a few moments. "It's not that I don't want to be here Beverly."

She waved off his guilt. "Once a captain, always a captain. Unfortunately you're stuck here."

"Were you sick the whole time?" He asked finally. She stopped with the spoon half way to her mouth and set it back down.

"Oh no. I was sore, irritable and exhausted the whole time but only sick for a few weeks." He winced simpathetically and she smiled around her spoon. "You asked."

"I'm curious. Felisa is biologically my child, but she's barely more then a stranger to me." She started to laugh and almost choked on her supper.

"You shouldn't say that. She's a lot like you." He shrugged and she continued, "Though she has a better sense of humor. I could tell you about her."

He smiled softly. "To keep me from running up the walls?"

"That's it." She agreed with that dammed impish smile of hers.

"From the beginning?" He suggested and she raised an eyebrow at him.

"I know you've been pulled from your time, but Jean-Luc, I'm hurt. I thought that you would at the very least remember that." Her sarcasm won a faint blush and a mortified expression from her old friend. "But, I suppose if I must-" She sighed melodramatically. "I came to your quarters for drinks and you-"

"There's no need to remind me of that. It's one of the more vivid memories I have." That was enough to quiet her. Their eyes silently made a truce and she smiled gently.

"Did she tell you who delivered her?"

His face was openly curious. "She joked about it being my number one but he never seemed like the medical type."

She curled her legs beneath her. "He has remarkable patience, and a surpringly strong stomach."

Jean-Luc sat back across from her and gave her his full attention. "She did say it was a good story."

"It is now." She headed for the replicator and put away her empty bowl in trade for a cup of tea. "At the time I felt differently."

"I can imagine." He finished his tea and set the cup down.

"It was raining. It rained most days on Gravette Island. But the weather was bad and I wasn't in the mood to put up with it." His raised eyebrow made her pause. "All right. I was miserable, it was pouring rain and I was restless. So Will and I went for a walk..."

Stardate 83295.3
UTF Wells

"Captain's Log." Selari began as she tossed her feet up on her desk. "Stardate 83295.3. After joining the fleet we fought a pitched battle, but thanks to the newest weapon of our arsenal, time-based phaser modulation, we were able to destroy the three cubes before they had a chance to adapt. Vice Admiral Janeway has put the entire fleet on alert because she expects, and I agree, that these were just a scounting party and that greater assualts await us. However, we may have just the lull we need to begin our more important mission. The mission that might prevent the coming storm." The door to her ready chimed, and she ended the log. "Come."

Felisa Picard hurried into the room. "I think I've got it Captain." Her face was flushed with excitement. Selari threw her feet off her desk and leapt to them.


She grinned broadly at her imzadi, easily in the best mood she had been in years. "I think I've cracked the temporal fingerprints." Selari dropped her aura of captaincy and ran her hand along her partner's cheek.

"I love it when you're smart." She teased and Felisa took her hand.

"We should get the senior staff and the admirals together." The captain nodded quickly.

"Right away. Except my engineer of course. He needs to finish fixing my ship." Felisa smiled indulgently.

"Of course." Together they exited onto the bridge and Felisa headed for the observation lounge.

The captain headed for the center of the bridge. Korvash stood as she approached her chair. "Korvash, I want a senior staff meeting in the observation lounge right away. Get the Admirals as well."

He nodded obediently. "Right away Captain."

She grinned brightly and turned to head for the lounge. "Ensign Ekrit, you have the bridge."

Felisa was still toying with a PADD while the staff assembled. Korvash and Dr. Veddra sat on her right down one side of the long table, and the three Admirals filled in the left. The Captain took the head of the table and the meeting began. "This is really Felisa's meeting so I'll just let her get started."

Commander Picard folded her hands on the table and began. "As you all know, this ship was designed by me and completely last year. Many people at Triumvirate headquarters believe that the Wells was involved in the timespace paradox that was responsible for bringing the crew of the Enterprise-E, the Captain and myself forward to the present."

Will Riker smiled mysteriously. "That's the great ghost story of this century. The whole crew of a starship goes missing, presumed dead, and then they reappear more then a year later. Unconscious aboard an ancient Vulcan freighter in orbit of Earth where they disappeared."

Deanna met his gaze for a moment and turned to the surrounding staff. "With absolutely no memories of how we got there."

"We just went to sleep." Admiral Riker snapped his fingers.
"And there we were in the present again."

"Are we going back to rescue ourselves?" Deanna wondered for all of them.

Felisa shook her head. "Maybe, in a manner of speaking. What some of you may have already suspected is that this ship wasn't my design at all. It was implanted into my mind when I was still in utero, by my brother, Wesley Crusher."

"That's why he used me as a messenger? He wanted to teach you how to build a timeship?" Deanna wondered curiously.

"I think that was part of it." Felisa waited for the eyes of the room to return to her, then she continued. "Wesley gave me as much of his knowledge of time as he could before he died, and I believe I have finally figured out what he wanted me to do." She activated the holoviewer in the center of the table. A tangled knot of multicolored lines appeared and hovered in over the black glass of the table. "This blue line here is our timeline." The other colors faded, leaving a single pale blue line that curved and twisted in on itself before forking and becoming two wandering ends.

"This point here is where our timeline loses coherence." She looked up from it and instead into their faces in turn. "All of timespace vibrates with a unique frequency. Each timeline has it's own note. All life in that timestream vibrates with the same pitch, just minor variations of it. Each person in it, each grain of stellar dust has it's own unique fingerprint." She touched the table controls and the blue line began to shift in and out of itself, the two forked ends writhed over and around each other.

"Something happened at this point that divided the timeline into two parts, and after it divided it slowly started to lose integrity."

Korvash curled his lip slightly. "And this means what to us?"

"It means that eventually our timestream will become so distorted that it will collapsed in on itself." Felisa replied seriously.

"I thought that it would take thousands of years for that to occur." Dr. Veddra disagreed.

Selari leaned forward and rapped the table once with a finger. "It won't take thousands of years for the Borg to overrun the Triumvirate." The whole room went silent. "You all can feel it coming. We repell scout force after scout force, but they control every other quadrant of the galaxy. At this point it's only a matter of time before they come for us in force."

"This timestream is wrong." She changed to the display to a flurry of tiny waves. "Each of these represents a individual fingerprint." They started to find pairs and fade out. Faster and faster they disappeared until the display was down to two. "Each of these is an individual unique to one side of the timeline. The other side is incomplete without them."

The captain spoke up again. "Felisa and I believe that if we can complete the timeline it will result in a stable, and ultimately more positive final result."

"Who do they represent?" Dr. Veddra asked softly. "Can you tell?"

"This one is Captain Selari Riker. She does not exist in the other timeline. In that version of events she was never born." Felisa replied with a subtle darkness in her voice. Will and Deanna looked at each other and then took hands, drawing solace in their bond as they always did. Selari herself only looked vaguely amused.

"And the other?" Beverly spoke up for the first time this meeting. Her face was still, but there was expectation in her voice.

"My father, Jean-Luc Picard." Felisa said quietly, unable to meet her mother's eyes.

"But he's been dead for thirty years." Beverly said with anger flashing on her cheeks. "How can he be alive there?"

Felisa reactivated the display of the blue line. "He disappears from the timestream while it is still intact here." She touched the display and a portion of it turned red. "But he reappears thirty years later here in the other timeline."

Korvash jumped in. "Our counterparts must have rescued him."

She agreed. "I believe it might even have been me in the other timeline who brought him forward."

"Are we going to rescue the captain?" Will began with disbelief in his voice.

Selari shook her head. "We would if it were that simple."

Felisa pointed to the forked line writhing over the table. "Even if we rescue him only our side would stabilize, and we would still have the Borg to deal with." She zoomed in on the point of division. "What we need to do is to prevent this from ever happening. We need to right both timelines by keeping them from ever splitting apart."

Beverly laughed dryly in the back of her throat. "I'm sure it's that simple."

Selari smirked back at her. "We have a general idea where to start. We have to return to Earth."

"No Triumvirate vessel has been to Earth in over ten years." Korvash said darkly. "It is deep within Borg space."

"We will use our temporal drive in conjuction with our warp core. We'll shoot diagonally through both time and space, missing the Borg and reaching the Terran year 2063." Captain Riker explained with a twinkle in her eye. "We haven't tried it, but our resident timespace expert thinks it is theoretically possible."

Will reached for Deanna's mind. ((What did we do back then that could have changed the entire timeline?))

She shuddered mentally. ((I don't like the idea of a timeline without Selari.))

He caressed her mind gently. ((I don't either imzadi.))

"I think it's worth a try," Veddra was saying cheerfully. "A galaxy without the Borg in charge would be worth it."

"Then it's settled, as soon as repairs are completed on the engines we're going to Earth." Selari stood and called over her shoulder as she headed back to the bridge. "Thank you for your assistance, you are dismissed."


Part 33
October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

It was almost 3 hours after sunrise by the time the last breakfast stragglers dragged their feet into the Zero Backward. Will was all genial smile and twinkling blue-black eyes. "You sleepy heads are lucky I'm still here. Lieutenant Barclay's famous macaroni is next." He whispered conspiratorially, "And I heard that the lovely young Bajoran has an engineering shift, so he'll be on his own." That drew an appreciative shudder from the small line in front of him.

He finished his coffee and started bringing his dishes back to the kitchen where eager young hands (senior officers had so far managed to dodge dish duties) waited for his modest stack of bowls, spoons, whisks and spatulas. "I'm taking these with me for Deanna and Beverly." He announced to them as he started to leave. One bowl full of pancakes, covered with two plates and silverware.

"As long as your wife sees that you return them." A brave and anonymous voice shot back out of the kitchen. He chuckled and started the walk through the colony. He had taken a few steps, and enjoyed the warmth of his pancakes through his borrowed metal bowl on his arms. Dr. Selar fell evenly into step beside him, seamlessly matching his rhythm.

"Good morning commander." She offered impassively.

"And a lovely morning it is." He replied sarcastically, "The sky is a beautiful shade of overcast gray isn't it?"

"The human predilection for sarcasm and for false optimism are well represented in you commander." Her retort would have been scathing in a human voice, but from the even voice of a Vulcan it was almost a compliment.

"You can call me Will doctor." He glanced up at the sky again, just as a single raindrop brushed the top of his left ear.

She nodded coolly. "Will, you may then cease to use my professional epithet as well." He smirked good-naturedly and nodded his agreement. "How is Dr. Crusher?"

He paused for a moment, letting his abilities wander to her mind. "She's awake." Deanna's mind was a knot of frustrated concern. "I think she's arguing with Deanna."

"For all her skill as a physician, she is a most disagreeable patient."

"Too stubborn?" If a Vulcan could return a smile he imagined a raised eyebrow was as close as he would ever see.

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Morning came dull and ominous, as it had the last few days. By midmorning the rain had come as a steady drizzle. Beverly was braiding her hair, getting it as much out of the way as possible. Will Riker, her bodyguard and near constant companion hovered just at arms reach. Her hair resisted being bound. The humidity assisted it as it tangled around her fingers. Her arms started to burn slowly with the strain of keeping them up. Finally His hands closed over hers and started to take over.

"Just don't move your head." He whispered just next to her ear.

"You don't have to." She retorted spitefully.

"I think I remember how to do this." His fingers moved slowly, but with a comforting rhythm. "Have a little patience."

She swatted his hands away irritably. "I can do it."

He caught her hands effortlessly. She struggled against him trying to fight him off. At the risk of losing her balance she slammed her knee into the side of his leg. "Hey!" He said firmly. "I'm on your side here."

Her breath caught painfully, and she couldn't look at him. She would have turn her back to him, retreated to the relative safety of solitude, but the sudden tightness of muscles across her stomach stopped her effectively. Will had spent too much time looking into her eyes recently to misunderstand what pain looked like. "Beverly?"

She shook her head and half-braided hair tumbled in loose strands around her face. Some of it caught on her cheek, which was abruptly wet. "It's nothing." His arms were strong around her, and as much as she wanted to fight their presence, they kept her standing.

"All right. It doesn't have to be anything." Gentle concern softened his face through his beard. Seconds, and then minutes spun by past them. Even though she bit her lip hard at it's coming, her felt the stiffening of muscles all down her back. Warm hands closed on her shoulders as he sat her down on the bed. "How long?"

She swallowed and looked down at him. His eyes held nothing but patience. No commanding arrogance, just patient concern. "I don't know."

He smiled and his lips turned at a jaunty angle. "That's a start I suppose." The skin of his fingertips was rough on her cheek as he chased the fresh tears off her face.

"I'm not ready." She admitted in wilting defiance.

Will found his mind on Deanna. Drawing on the full volume of everything he had ever heard her say. Everything he knew about loss, every agony he felt, and what he remembered. What Deanna had taught him. Understanding. It came down to understanding. He got up off the ground and sat down beside her. He draped an arm loosely around her back.

"It's not fair." She said finally. "How can I- He just died yesterday." Her strength, her continuing will to fight were fading. Even with his telepathy gone, he knew it. He could sense it. "Why did Deanna bring me back?" Her face tightened. The almost invisible wince was most evident in the stress of her eyes. The tiny muscles just beneath her eyebrows growing tight with pain. Her words hissed only a little, but he had his entire body alert. He heard the hiss of clenched teeth. He saw the despondent fear in the growing pall of her face. All his senses focused on waiting. This was Captain Jean-Luc Picard's child, and he would be first protector, first defender, and everything he owned the man who had died to save him. "I could have slept through this."

Before thought formed, he was kissing the side of her head. "That wouldn't be right." He said softly, and her eyes were cold accusation. They were mere centimeters apart, her eyes icy with buried emotion, and his soft. Softer then he would have let them be. Softer then he intended, because he had never intended to let her in. He didn't mean to intrude into her heart. To tread over the graves there and insinuate himself into the pain that tore at her. He cupped her face in strong hands, keeping the intimate distance between them. "She needs you." She tried to turn her head away, but she gave up partially into the attempt. Beverly wondered somewhere in the storm of emotion how Will Riker had grown so close, and why his hands on her face meant more then friendly concern.

"Wesley’s gone." The sobbing agony she dreaded rose in her throat.

"Shh-“ He comforted. “He's gone, but that doesn’t mean you can go with him. You have to stay here Beverly.” That broke her defenses at last, and she crumbled. She collapsed into him, and she cried. He couldn’t know what it was like to lose a child. The baby Deanna had lost wasn’t a child he had held, or nurtured, or even a child that had been his world for as long as Wesley had been all of hers. He could just listen. He couldn’t fathom what it was to have your world close in on you and implode. Deanna had been his world, and she lived. “You have to stay with me.”
She slowly stopped her tears and took a long breath, lifting her head to meet his eyes. “With you?” Beverly searched his face, and not finding what she sought- she stood. “Someday your guilt will run out Will Riker. Then where will you be?” Turning her back to him, she walked out into the rain.

Stardate 83294.9
UTF Wells

“And he followed you?” Jean-Luc set down his teacup and looked at the racing star lines in the window. Racing to a battle for his people that he had no part it.

“He’s always been a bit of a white knight.” She lifted her teacup to her lips and smiled over it. “And at that point, I’ll admit I needed rescuing. I was nearly hysterical and mostly out of my mind.” The ship shook suddenly, bucking in space and a Borg cube loomed like a wall of conduits and gray metal outside of her window.

“There they are.” She said bitterly as she took their cups to the replicator and vanished them. “We’ve been fighting them almost constantly since you died- disappeared. Every several months, maybe once a year, they send a scout force at us. Always weak, just a few cubes, but it’s enough to knock our defenses back significantly before we beat them.” They watched in silence for a moment. Then twisting of the deck beneath their feet knocked her into him and they both fell to the couch. “Mind where you put your hands now Jean-Luc. I’m a married woman.”

He couldn’t smile at her jest. The Borg’s reappearance and imminent threat just reinforced the futility of his actions so many years ago. “I can’t believe we’re still fighting them.” He pulled back from her slowly, trying to ignore the sensations triggered by her flesh against his.

She pulled her knees up and curled them underneath. “Neither can I sometimes. If it wasn’t for the Romulans and the Klingons all of the Federation would have fallen. All of our ships have cloaking devices now. Our best minds all build new weapons.” The communications system flared to life.

“All hands, brace for impact.” Instructed the anxious voice of Deanna Troi. He threw himself over her, knocking Beverly on her back on the couch as the world exploded around them. Fire flared white and orange in the blackness of space as the Borg cube died in a flaring blast of antimatter against matter. Matter collapsed and gave way to energy, and energy raced to escape any confinement. The bulkhead in the corridor came down with a bang, and the hissing roar of a plasma fire exploded from the conduit hidden in the wall behind them.

They fell, rolling onto the glass coffee table as it shattered. The crack of bone, the thud of muscle and the grunt of air fleeing lungs filled there ears. Skin parted as glass cut into his back, and when the light of the burning Cube faded, the only light left was the faint flicker of a dying plasma fire in the corridor.

“Are you all right?” He asked when breath returned to him. Beverly closed her eyes and ran a silent inventory of her body.

“I’m going to be sore tomorrow, but I’m all right.” She slowly lifted herself off his chest, reaching her knees gingerly on the glass covered floor. “You?”

He propped himself up on one elbow and the dull ache on his left side burst into a red agony. “I think one of my ribs is broken.” Her hands were quick on his side, touching just lightly enough to diagnose him.

“Third one on the left, but it hasn’t dislocated so count yourself lucky Jean-Luc.” She stood carefully, willing her eyes to adjust to the darkness around them.

“I don’t suppose you travel with a medkit.” It was too dark to see her smile.

“I do actually, but there’s a bulkhead between us and my bedroom.” Her hand returned to his shoulder. “I can help you sit up.”

Her hands locked behind his shoulders, and working together the pain of protest from his rib was brief. “I thought I was supposed to be watching over you.”

She swept away the shards of glass from beside him and sat at his side. “Once a mother, always a mother.”

Jean-Luc sighed heavily. “How long before emergency teams reach us?”

“As someone who once ran emergency teams, they will be here as soon as they can.” Beverly replied haughtily. “But, I’ll finish my story if it’ll keep you quiet.” Her fingers closed around his, and old love brought him calm.

“How much trouble did you cause for poor Will?” She leaned close to him, close enough for him to see her infectious smile.

“Enough that he had to marry me.” He chuckled for the brief moment until his broken rib protested.

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

“Have you ever witnessed the birth of a child Will?” He missed a step on the path and garnered the typical raised eyebrow.

“No, I can’t really say that I have.” He replied as he sheepishly found his footing again. “I saw Deanna after Ian was born, but I wasn’t asked to be present.” Regret flashed through him quickly.

Selar looked at the impending rain with an expression that, for a Vulcan, echoed distaste. “Perhaps you will find it an informative experience. Most humans find it a very emotional one.”

Riker remembered how serene Deanna was with Ian in her arms and he allowed himself to wonder how he would have felt if it was his child, not the alien being. “Not fond of the rain?”

“Few Vulcans are. Our respiratory systems are not acclimated to the amount of moisture present on this planet.” She explained firmly. Changing the subject, Selar reached into the pocket of the blue lab coat she wore, much like the one Beverly was so fond of, and removed a loaded hypospray. “I have prepared this for you and Deanna. It is a serum of adaptive cells that should diminish or eliminate the effects of her scar tissue on a second pregnancy.”

He took it reverently, and slipped it his own pocket. “Adaptive cells?”

They turned a corner and headed deeper into the trees. Around them, the woods whispered with a growing anxiety. The sky had grown progressively darker since that gray morning. “I used Vulcan cells slightly modified to accept your wife’s genetic code. They will repair damaged cells and prevent another lost pregnancy.”

Through his bubbling excitement, his curiosity continued to lead him. “Why Vulcan cells?”

She used a strong arm to hold an errant branch as she ducked underneath. “Vulcan’s have superior regenerative qualities. It was a necessary adaptation when trying to procreate in an environment as harsh as Vulcan. Any loss of blood or resources could doom an individual. I used some of my regenerative cells to prepare this treatment.”

Will grinned brightly and unsure what to say only sputtered- “Thanks.”

She nodded her acknowledgement and pointed to the small house on the rise above them. “I believe Deanna is waiting for us.”

Slightly surprised, he stretched his mind to her. ((Deanna?))

Her relief washed over him like a cool breeze. ((I was started to be concerned. Is that Dr. Selar?)) Hope overtook worry as she hurried down to meet them.

“Doctor,” She began quickly. “Beverly’s in labor. She hasn’t admitted it, but-“

Selar cut her off with a quick hand motion. “She will not be cooperative. She never has been.”

Will smiled in polite agreement, “Please, after you doctor.” Selar went to the doorway and ducked into the house. Deanna moved quickly to follow, but Will held her for a moment. “Selar gave me her answer.” He pressed the hypospray into her hand. “We can have a baby.” Deanna’s mind answered for her in a rush of emotion that brought tears to his eyes. He took her hand and kissed it. “I love you.” She snatched her hand away and kissed him with every emotion she had. For eternity they stood with arms entwined, and his chin on her head. Deanna speechless and Will quietly enjoying the new peace in her mind.

Stardate 83295.1
UTF Wells

The Bridge was a smoking ruin when the Romulan emergency teams from the Bilire-Ahi beamed aboard. Fire spat and crackled in the corners, but it was quickly running out of fuel. Dr. Taev had his tricorder instantly in his hand but one of his nurses beat him to the first victim. The blue blood of the Andorian coated the twisted remains of a console. She shook her head and moved on. Dr. Taev knelt behind an elderly human male. His tricorder reported a mild concussion and multiple bruises, but he was in good shape. He signaled to an aide and moved to dig out a slender arm from beneath a broken ceiling strut.

He touched his disruptor and vaporized it into a cloud of molecular dust. The crushed torso moved slightly with the struggle of breathing and he tilted the head up, moving the long silver and black hair and recognizing the face of his commander. The Dheyyan Envoy Troi. The tricorder had only bad news, multiple crushed ribs, a collapsed lung, a ruptured spleen, minimal brain activity and massive blood loss. He reverently placed one of the emergency transport beacons on the undamaged skin of her forehead. "Transport to surgical, priority one."

She faded from the bridge, leaving the dark and ominous pool of dried blood where she had lay. A Klingon grunted his way to consciousness behind him. Ryk'va, his second in command, nodded with satisfaction. She had always admired the recuperative powers of their former enemy. Taev watched his people work, smooth and efficient. The human male was already rising to his feet and coming to him for answers. He brushed the blood of his beloved Dheyyan from his hands and met the human with palm extended.

"I am Dr. Taev, of the Bilire-Ahi." The returning handshake was strong for a man who had only recently regained consciousness.

"Admiral Riker. How's the bridge crew?" Will glanced around the wreck of the bridge in quiet awe. Anyone still alive was lucky to be so.

"The Andorian is dead. The Klingon-" He paused, waiting for a name.

"Korvash, he's the first officer." Will filled in as he searched the bridge again. His mind was foggy, but he knew faces were missing. "Where's Deanna?" He took a step and the sole of his boot stuck in the sticky pool of blood at his feet.

The Romulan's face went suddenly dark. "The Dheyyan is in the surgical bay on the flagship. She was badly injured."

His first impulse was an old instinct to beg to join her, but another face interrupted his thoughts. "Felisa? The captain, human, red hair." He turned to look behind him at the smoking mass that had been tactical. "Have you found her?"

"She was in her chair?" Taev asked with almost Vulcan calm.

"She was." Riker replied as an icy hand closed around his heart. Taev gestured quickly, and two aides and Korvash turned on the pile of rubble.

"Don't risk disruptors; we will have to dig her out." Torn deck plating, part of a plasma conduit, more ceiling struts and shards of metal moved from a central pile to another forming by the remains of the wall.

Emergency lighting suddenly snapped on, and a creaking in the ceiling provided enough warning for Will and the Romulan doctor to jump out of the way as a body fell from a crawlspace in the ceiling. Felisa Picard tucked and rolled as her body impacted with the floor. Taev's quick hands had her on her feet and she dropped all grace of command and hugged her stepfather. "Sorry dad."

"Just as long as you're all right." He said softly, but he released her to shake hands with Taev.

"I'm Captain Picard. You must be the Envoy's prized physician." She said with bitter cheer. "I had hoped to meet under better circumstances."

"As did I captain." Pleasantries completed, he went back to business. "Damage control teams are in engineering, and working along the hull on the worst of the breaches. Medical teams were beamed to Deck 1, 5, 11 and to sickbay."

Felisa crossed to Korvash and clapped his shoulder with pride. "Another victory my friend." He nodded slowly and returned to assisting as the Romulans dug out the shield controls. "Has sickbay reported in?"

"Sickbay suffered little damage. Your own Dr. Veddra has been most helpful." Taev smiled slightly, and Felisa winked at him.

"I'm sure she will be most glad to hear that." She turned and headed for the bulkhead between her and internal sensors when Taev caught her arm and held it as he examined the badly burned stretch of skin from her elbow to wrist. "Plasma fire caught me off guard."

He lifted his medkit and started a dermal regenerator. He dropped his voice for only her ears. "The Bilire-Ahi was only able to detect 56 life signs Captain." She balled her free hand into a fist and bit her lip, leaving an angry spot of blood.

"Damn the Borg." She whispered bitterly.

Dr. Taev ran his dermal regenerator across her arm with a practiced hand. New pink skin formed over the crisped flesh. "Your ship seems salvageable though Captain. The Admiral was quite impressed at how your crew handled the cube."

She tentatively ran her fingers over the newly healed skin. "They were an excellent crew doctor. A most excellent crew."

"Of course Captain." He replied diplomatically. "My team will begin a survey of your ship, the most severely wounded are being sent back to the Bilire-Ahi." She nodded quickly.

"Admiral, if you will be so kind as to watch my bridge, I'd like to accompany the doctor's team." Riker sensed the quiet despair in her voice. She was burying more then half of her crew, provided they could find the bodies.

"Certainly. I've been missing starships." He smiled as cheerfully as he could and turned to assist an ensign in a smoke stained golden tunic. Dr. Taev's medical team led the way into the darkened Jefferies tube.

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

The rain had already started in earnest when Riker found Dr. Selar treating one of Worf's hunters. He ducked out of the down poor into the central building. The hunter, a Vulcan deep in a healing trance, was laid out on one of the tables. His blood had coated the table and puddled green on the floor. Selar's hands were also coated with it. She barely acknowledged him.

"Doctor? What do I need to know to deliver a human baby?" She stood for a moment, handing him a cloth she had cleaned her hands with.
"Clean your hands and hold this wound tight so I can suture it." He obeyed quickly, trying to ignored the deep coppery smell of the Vulcan blood covering the nasty gash on her patient's side. She took a curved needle from a dish of clear liquid and started to the tedious process of rejoining muscle and skin. "I assume Dr. Crusher had been less the cooperative."

Riker nodded, watching her hands fly through the complex motions. "She's disappeared. I'm fairly certain she was in labor before she left, but she's been-"

Without looking up from her work Selar finished his thought. "Extremely irrational. I had hoped that she would find time to speak with Counselor Troi about her loss, but the emotional strain on everyone here has been intense."

"Whatever happened between her, Deanna, and Wesley really tore her apart." She guided his fingers into the hot flesh of the wound and she worked deep inside the abdominal cavity. He tried not to think about what organs his fingers were holding together. "I'm not even sure what it was, but I can't imagine loosing anyone like that. No proof, just knowing in your heart that they're gone and there's nothing you can do to get them back."

She placed his fingers back on the surface of the skin. "Hold here." She changed to another slightly larger needle, and returned to her ministrations. "You must be patient, firm and calm. Dr. Crusher is an excellent physician, but she may not care to know or explain what is happening to her body. She may even wish to die in the process."

It took great effort to not consider Selar the coldest heart he had ever heard speak. "How do I keep her from that?" The voice that explained was soft and measured, but it held even less warmth then the Vulcan.

"Sometimes humans just need to work through things in the most painful way possible. Beverly may be punishing herself for failing to protect Wesley. She may also no longer wish to live and see this as a way free." Deanna stood with her arms folded tightly across her chest. Her face showed no sign of distress at the blood and was impassive as Selar's quiet expression. "She will decide Will, one way of the other. I think you're the best one to reach her."

Selar met his eyes with the infinite calm of her people. "I have attended over 400 human births in my time in Starfleet. Though often painful, it is a fairly simple process. One that rarely requires true medical intervention." He was about to argue, to demand that she come with him.

"Will, look around you. We're using archaic methods of medicine; we're running out of supplies. We're all dying slowly. If something went wrong there's nothing Selar can do that you can't. Right now, she needs you, and you are the only one she will trust." For the briefest instant, he felt her touch on his mind. "She's by the boat landing." Her face softened and she looked like the woman he loved again. Eyes soft and almost wet with tears. "I can feel her pain." She allowed him to touch her shoulder to share in her strength. Then she hardened her face again and sat to assist Dr. Selar. "Go Will, protect life. It's all we have left."


Part 34
Stardate 83296.6
UTF Wells

"It will take three jumps to complete our journey." Felisa stood at the arm of the engineering chief and spoke through her comm to the bridge. "We could to it in less, but-"

T'Moren, the Vulcan engineering chief, finished her thought, "We believe this is the safest way."

"Acknowledged engineering, good work." On the bridge, Captain Riker held the throne of the center seat. The Admirals Riker flanked her on either side. Will hadn't noticed his hands were tense, but Deanna's teasing mindbrush caught him off guard.

((Are you going to be white knuckled all the way to Earth?)) His reply was rueful, but unease was underneath his easy grace.

((It's been lost for such a long time. Maybe we weren't meant to go back.)) Deanna's surprise was a cold shock across his mind.

((When did you start being afraid imzadi?)) There was a teasing lilt in her mind, but he felt the underlying serious tone. Selari left her chair to watch the engineering station at the rear of the bridge, and over the space of her chair Deanna and Will shared a long look.

He answered for both of them, taking her hand for an instant over the command chair. ((As soon as we had something to lose.))

Selari's voice carried over the bridge. "Engage." The warp drive came on first. The ship filled with the familiar growing whine of the cascading energy. Then it took on a counterpoint note. A chord built within the walls of the ship, humming with energy as the viewscreen filled with rainbow lines, then spiraled, becoming a vortex of blinding light. "Dim viewer." The captain ordered softly. She returned to her chair, finished pacing for the moment. "We're jumping into a nebula, no one will detect us."

"Even they do, our warp signature should be so alien that most ships would consider us a sensor blip." Deanna added confidently.

"Our cloak is up, no one in the past should even dream that we exist through that." Captain Riker watched her viewscreen like a ancient seafarer on the prow of her ship. The starlines slowed, the vortex of light stopped in a deep purple mist.

Before Felisa's eyes in engineering, her panel blurred for a moment. She raised a hand to her forehead, rubbing at her temple irritably as the itch just behind her temple flared up. For years it had been a minor problem, now it was a constant companion. With it came the nagging feeling of unfilled purpose that had haunted her life. She clenched her hands for a moment. Feeling the hardness of bone beneath the flesh of her hands. She turned her mind back to warp plasma and chroniton wakes.

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will Riker had long ago traveled through the woods alone. He had spent many days camping by himself in the wilds of Alaska. He felt comfortable with the rain on his face, but the smell of the trees was different. The air was spicy with the wet rot of the tropics. The mud reformed on the path too quickly in the rain to leave any tracks, but something led his feet. Will had little faith in fate. Fate had both given and taken away Deanna Troi. Fate had brought him love, but fate was cruel.

The docks were ahead on his right. The path snaked down to the edge of the ocean. Through the trees the waters sighed softly on the rocks. Starfleet training reminded him that no matter what happened, she was an adult who made her own choice. The constant scraping of their group to survive brought a cold knot to his stomach. If she choose to be free of this clinging mockery of life, Will could not find fault with her. The cold knot expanded up to his throat. "Yes, Beverly, I understand that life is horrible. I understand what it is to have to most important person in your life walk away and take the best of you with them." He ran a hand through his beard, trying to remember what was good of life. He drew a blank and then it was too late for thought.

Beverly had made it much farther then he expected, and she was still standing but only barely. Her hair was drenched into a snaking mass on the back of her neck. Both hands braced her against a tree, and her shoulders trembled. Will Riker's heart leapt to his head and took his better senses in a strangle hold. Of course he loved Deanna. Loving Deanna was as much a part of the universe as gravity. But Deanna didn't need him.

He crossed the distance between. Riker circled her tree, and ducked under her arms. They slipped to his neck, and even as his own arms caught her, they both sank to the muddy ground.

Beverly whispered something to his chest, and Will lifted her head. "Just go away." She pleaded without meeting his eyes. Her face was white. Skin translucent enough for him to see the delicate blod vessels that pulsed beneath it. Blood ran down her chin, sharp red as he used a corner of his sleeve. "I don't want you."

Her hands spasmed against his neck, and her eyes grew dull as her breath caught in pain. He held on. Ignoring the rain as it ran cold across his face and forgetting the mud as it soaked through to his skin. She kept her breath in check, holding back her pain until it released her to speech again. "Please Will." Without answering he got carefully to his feet. He wiped the mud from his hands onto his legs, they were already a mess, and reached down to her.

Beverly shook her head. "Just go away." His hands were almost harsh as they dragged her to her feet. She was heavy against him.

"You can't stay here." He told her and took up her legs to carry her. The skin of her forehead was cold against his neck. He footsteps were slow. To keep his footing on the soggy ground he felt every place before he shifted his weight. If Beverly had fought with him they may have never gotten back to the path, but she was quiet. The path stretched off into the endless stretch of woods before camp, but on his right, the sailboat was tied to shore today. The injuries suffered by the last hunting party had kept them home. He reached the dock, and returned her gently to her feet.

"Beverly, we have to get out of the rain." Her hand shoved hard against his shoulder.

"No 'we' don't." Her eyes were pain, echoing it so loudly they screamed. "You can go wherever you wish. Just let me be Riker." She took a step back from him and found the railing of the dock solid behind her. "What do you think keeping me alive will do? Keep me here so I can watch my child die?"

His hands were iron as they closed on her shoulders. "It won't die."

Her blue eyes grew dark with pain. The long muscles in her neck tightened as her knuckles whitened as they gripped the railing. "How can I know that?" She paused to gather enough breath. "How can I trust that? Everyone I love is dead Will." Beverly swayed slightly and Will caught her, steadying her. "I can't believe."

"You have to give her a chance." He pleaded. She shook her head weakly, too distracted by the contraction ripping across her belly to respond. "She'll die if she's born out here."

"I don't care." She screamed bitterly and fought out of his grip. She went almost a step, but lost her balance and tumbled. Riker caught her and fell with her, hitting the dock hard against his back, but keeping her from it. She landed on top of him, hitting flesh instead of hard wood. Very slowly, he guided her to a sitting position.

He would have a hell of a bruise tommorrow. "Are you all right?" Will asked softly, almost tenderly. She held her face away, but he turned it back. "Stay with me." No answer, but he stood up and lifted her to her feet. Beverly pulled away again, desperate for anything to stop the pain. Almost viciously, he caught her and held her tight against his chest. "I'll promise you. I will let you go if you just don't take the baby." He dropped his voice to a whisper, but he kept his arms steel around her. "Let her stay- I can't stop you, but let her stay."

"Why do you care?"

He knew that question. He had asked himself, but the answer surprised him. "I need you."

Stardate 83296.6
UTF Wells

"Thank you doctor." Dr. Veddra smiled softly in response. Her uniform was a wreck, and green blood marred the side of her cheek, but she seemed completely calm. Jean-Luc got to his feet with the help of a strong Romulan arm. "I brought this for you Admiral. We could use your assistance." Beverly took the offered medkit and they followed the emergency team to the destroyed corridor.

"Have you been to the bridge Doctor?" Beverly's voice was anxious. Jean-Luc was unused to worrying for his daughter, and his lack of concern for her whereabouts brought a new guilt. Beverly touched his arm lightly, reminding him to forgive himself.

"The Captain is fine. Admiral Riker has command. The Dheyyan Troi was injured and beamed aboard to Bilire-Ahi. Dr. Taev has been coordinating our retrieval with the flagship." Veddra had with held information, and it only took Captain Picard a moment to demand it.

Jean-Luc's aura of command had stayed with him through time, even on a ship that wasn't his own. "How did the crew fare? Is the rest of the ship this badly damaged?"

"The crew-" Emotion showed as a brief flaring of her eyes from black to green, something he had never seen in a Romulan. "Suffered heavy losses. We will need assistance to return to starbase, Admiral Janeway remained to bring us home."

Jean-Luc watched as Beverly's face grew a shade harder. He wondered how many times she had been in this situation. Ship nearly destroyed, barely enough lives left to run it. His throat stung for a moment as he watched Veddra's eyes return to black.

"I want to go to the bridge, we'll see what we can do to help Will put things back together." Jean-Luc fell in step behind her as Veddra turned to issue instructions.

"Don't take any Jefferies tubes below Baker 2. That part of the ship is held together by "a forcefield and a prayer." As the Captain said." Beverly smiled, but Jean-Luc saw the hardness remain in her eyes.

"Got it. Thank you doctor." Veddra ducked into a hole in the wall, following her team through the maze of bulkheads to the next lifesigns.

The climb was long and silent except for the hiss of the ship's conduits. The sound of the ship bleeding slowly to death around them. They stopped under the emergency hatch to the bridge. Together they knelt beneath it, forcing it up and to the side. It went up easily and they collided with each other. Jean-Luc found his hands on her lower back, very low indeed. She said nothing, but he was thankful the darkness hid the blush that flew across his face.

Strong arms reached down and pulled her out first, then him, setting him on the deck to blink in the glare of emergency lighting. Korvash looked down at him and bared his teeth in what he assumed was a grin of victory. "We have gained much honor today. Your daughter serves you well Captain Picard of the Enterprise."

He futily brushed at his uniform, but it was hopeless. He turned to the back of the bridge in time to watch Beverly Crusher embrace her husband. Will held her face close to his, kissing her forehead and whispering. Jealous coursed it's way through him, burning like acid. Jean-Luc barely had time to acknowledge the feeling as someone shocked him out of his thoughts. "Care to help me see if we can reinitialize the veiwscreen? It would be nice to see what's going on out there." The younger Captain Picard was still too young to have let the loss of her crew leave her unscathed, and he was relieved to see the tracks of tears in the dust on her face.

"Are the conduits intact?" Jean-Luc found solace in work, and together they coaxed life back into it in time to see hell open wide for them.

Flickering as the power fluctuated wildly, the viewscreen still managed to show the glistening green of the Bilire-Ahi and the shadow that fell over it. A Borg vessel, not a cube, but a sphere, bigger then any they had seen before. It passed the Bilire-Ahi and came at them, turning in space to present the great glowing opening on the side. Burning in space like the eye of demon. There was no time.

Had there been, the Wells had no power. The Wells had no defenses. The Wells had no shields. The whine that heralded the appearance of the Borg echoed like a death knell through the bridge. Jean-Luc slammed his arm as hard as he could into the milky gray face of the Borg in front of him. It went down, incapable of surprise as he tore the tubes from it's neck. It twitched once and was gone. He heard a scream choke into a gutteral moan behind him. Jean-Luc Picard turned around.

The assimilation tubules pulled out of flesh and retracted into the hand of the Borg. The soft pink flesh started to turn gray. A plague spread through cells, from tissue to organ as he watched in impotent horror. The gray-blue eyes of his daughter clouded over as the technology stopped her humanity to erase it forever. Beverly screamed as if her heart had been torn beating from her chest. Riker's response was to take the Borg and break his neck. The snap of bone briefly covering the gasping as Felisa Picard's body lost it's battle centimeters at a time. They circled around her. Her parents, Riker standing with his face torn between hatred and despair, Beverly cradling her, tears falling on a cheek already turning gray. Korvash held a torn peice of the bulkhead like a dagger.

Riker knelt, kissing her forehead and running a hand through her hair as he had just done to her mother. "Keep watch for us. We'll be home soon." Beverly couldn't breathe. An implant erupted from Felisa's side and she bit back her scream.

"Mama, just end it." Bevrly shook her head, even as Korvash pressed the dagger into her hands. "Mama please don't let me go to them. Felisa's eyes stopped watching her mother as the internal battle began in her mind.

"We are-" Her body seized as her spine was reinforced with a metal casing. Her lip ran with blood, but some of it was already black with nanoprobes. "I-" Her mouth twisted as she fought with the last of her strength.

"I love you."

Jean-Luc shut his eyes, and something hot sprayed his hand. Beverly's hands were covered in blood. Blood poured out of the body that had been his daughter. Blood coated the deck. Korvash pushed her mother aside to throw back his head and howl. Felisa's eyes looked to Stovelkor.

"Escape pods. The port hatch still works." Beverly's voice was dead. It grated against his ears as Korvash grabbed his arm and dragged him and Will to the back of the bridge. Will Riker was in shock. He walked like a zombie, Korvash shoved him through the hatch and he stood facing the wall. He had no fight left in him. Forgotten on the viewscreen the demonic eye glowed as it became it's own star. It filled the screen completely. "They will rebuild us into them. I'm going to stop them. Get Will back to the ship. The ejection of the pod should trigger the rest." No emotion. Nothing was left in her face. Her eyes were black. Korvash had his arm again.

"Yes Admiral." He was dragging him to the pod. He ws taking him away. Jean-Luc shook himself free and he knew what he had to do.

"I'm staying." There was no arguement. Korvash caught the hatch nodded. "There will be songs of her Captain."

Then they ran. He stayed at her heels as she threw herself down a gap in the floor to deck below. "The torpedo bay. Any of these should destroy us completely." Without speaking they threw open the repair plates on the first torpedo they found on the floor. Her fingers moved without her watching them. As if she had been born an engineer, the torpedo flared to life. On Picard's side an indicator started at 100 seconds and started to tick down. He crossed to her, kissing her as he had wanted to since the moment he had seen her again. Melding flesh to flesh as they had once so long ago.

"Why?" She asked quietly, as he sat behind her. Jean-Luc wrapped his arms around her and watched the indicator reach 46. 45.

"I should have chosen to go with you." 33. 32. 31. "This time I couldn't let you go alone." Her hair smelled the same as he remembered.

28. 27. "Deanna will help him now." 26. 25. He nodded and was surprised as she took his hand and kissed it.

23. 22. "She'll be waiting for us."

A tear on his face was hot against his cheek. 19. 18. 17. "Jack, Robert, Rene-" 13. 12. 11.

She squeezed his hand. "My grandmother." She turned in his arms, staring into his eyes. "Are you afraid?" 9. 8. 7. 6.

"Of the unknown?" Jean-Luc lost himself in her eyes. Blue to gray and realized for them this was the end of the cycle. The circle was about to stop, and they could walk away. "Death is the ultimate mystery."

5. He took a breath, marveling at the sensation of air filling his lungs for the last time.

4. She kissed him and rested her forehead on his. "Jean-Luc, there's something I have to tell you."

3. "I know Beverly." He smiled peacefully and she let herself relax.

2. 1- "I've always known."

The Wells lit up the sky. The Borg extraction sphere followed shortly aferward. A fitting requiem as the debris spun into a glowing mass. Fueled by residual antimatter and fed by the mass of the sphere it spun into a nebula. The command crew was silent. Korvash stood at the arm of the Admiral as the crew stood at attention beside them.

"And return to dust." The admiral whispered to herself. She waited for the tears to die in her eyes before she turned to communications. "Warn the Triumviate council. An extraction sphere was used in this sector. Tell them the invasion has begun."

In the Romulan surgical bay, Will Riker wandered lost. Many people stopped to see if he would speak, but he had only one goal. He pushed aside, stumbled and fought his way to recovery. He stopped next to the bed and collapsed over her. Whatever had been driving him had ended as he reached her. Two nurses lifted him, and without a word lay him on a bed next to her. Whoever this human was, he seemed to belong with the Dheyyan, and there were too many casualties to worry about one man.


Part 35
October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Deanna’s head rested on Will’s shoulder as they watched the rain drip off the roof. They waited, anticipation gnawing at them even from under the dull sky. ((What do you think it’ll be like to have a baby around?)) Will wondered softly.

Deanna’s mind was quiet, and her introspection was almost too deep for Will to make sense of. ((I can’t see it as being a negative thing. We associate children with hope and you can feel as well as I can how much we need hope.)) She kissed his cheek gently. “Hope keeps us going.”

He picked up a leaf, still green, and started toying with it in his fingers. Deanna could share the turmoil of his mind, but he was holding back. He let the leaf fall to the ground. “Is it worth it?”

Deanna snuggled closer to him, wrapping her arms around his. “Hope often comes from pain.” She replied simply, even though she could feel her reply do nothing against the wall growing in his mind.

“I’ve never felt anything like this.” He lowered his head and kissed the top of her head. Deanna’s hair smelled like the ocean in the morning. “How does one person live with that kind of despair?”

She ran her fingers slowly over his arm. “Few people do. Many people choose to simply abandon their lives when it grows to painful, but Beverly won’t.”

He smiled wistfully. “You feel confident imzadi.” Will’s eyes softened in appreciation. “You always are when others need you.” She didn’t respond, but instead snuggled closer. Adding her shields to his, she wondered how much he felt. Something in his eyes was dark and it bothered her in the pit of her stomach.

She fell into his eyes. “What is it?” He shook his head, knowing it was futile because she could sense his struggle. “Will- please.”

His voice was hollow, like rotten wood. “She wants to die. The thought of it’s been taunting her for months, but now she listens to it. Beverly’s gotten so tired that it’s all she wants.

Dr. Selar surprised the Rikers when she emerged from the house behind them. Her footsteps were soundless on the wood. “I require your assistance.” She announced quietly. “I had to sedate Dr. Crusher.”

They jumped to their feet. “Why?” Will’s voice was unreadable, but cold ran through him suddenly and Deanna shivered in response.

Dr. Selar let out a slow breath of resignation. “She needs to rest. She will need strength.” She stopped, and both of them could sense the cool Vulcan calm that obsecured her feelings. “Help me bring her to medical.” Will wanted to argue. Deanna could feel the fire rising within him. Selar halted him with a gentle hand. “We can discuss later.”

“She will be all right?” Deanna’s voice was soft but it echoed in the rain.

Selar nodded once. “I believe so, but we will let her rest while she can.” Acceptance was a gray fog across Will’s mind, but Deanna could only watch him as he disappeared into their home.

Beverly was flushed even in her sleep. Her hair was damp as he smoothed it back with a gentle hand, but her eyes were closed. The muscles in her face were relaxed for the first time he had seen them. He slipped his arms underneath her back. The thin fabric she was wearing clung to her skin, catching on the sheen of sweat. Selar’s strong arms helped him steady his burden. Deanna hung back a moment as the hypospray beside the bed caught her eye.

That hypospray was her chance. Tiny pieces of genetic material that could somehow repair the demage within her. A few days ago it hadn’t matter. She had been at peace. The pain was a part of her, as regret always played companion in her journey, but it was background. It had been. Now Deanna’s heart seemed to vibrate with the idea. She let them leave without her and sat down on the bed. It was still warm from the heat of Beverly’s body.

Beverly. It had something to do with Beverly. Her mind insisted that it couldn’t. That she was being irrational, but her heart argued. Her heart fought. Something insisted that she have a child now, because now when it was most needed. “Hope.” It was about hope. For a moment a voice beyond herself spoke. Reminding her of her promise, of her duty-

“When Felisa asks…you must.” Wesley smiled sadly for a moment in the corner of her vision, but the wraith disappeared when she turned.

Deanna took the hypospray lightly in her fingers, turning it around itself. Feeling the insignificant physical weight as lead in her fingers as her heart dropped to her stomach. “Felisa?”

The afterimage of Wesley shrugged in the far periphery of her eyesight. “Because she can’t be alone.” His ghost was fading, the memory becoming a mist. “Because it’s the last chance. Can’t you see that Deanna?”

She didn’t think anymore. Fear left her, and her hand was light as she brought the cool metal to her neck. The hypospray hissed at her neck and she amost expected something unwordly to take her. She felt nothing. Deanna replaced it and stood up. She was only a few minutes behind.

Selar moved a branch from in front of Will, clearing his path. “The child arrives earlier then I hoped.” She admitted softly.

He paused a moment, shifting Beverly’s weight in his arms as one of her arms swung limply free. “We’re lucky she didn’t come yesterday.” He replied darkly. Selar caught it and tucked her arm back across her chest.

“She William?” They started their slow progress again.

He looked down at the woman in his arms. The reddish brown eyelashes curled upward from closed lids. “She’s lost too many men.” Selar almost smiled, the glint of understanding in her eyes was close enough for Riker.

“Isn’t hope an emotion?” He teased lightly as they neared the edge of their encampment.

She steadied his steps with a strong arm on his shoulder and responded cryptically. “For humans.”

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

“It’s a fairly shallow cut.” Denna offered softly. “You could take a break. I won’t bleed to death.”

Selar nodded in apreciation. “I will then counselor.” She stretched her hands slowly, taking careful time with each of her fingers. “Rivek’s injuries were severe.”

Deanna nodded, the room still smelled coppery with blood. “But he fights well.” She retorted with a dark smile.

“He will heal well.” Selar answered as she stood, relaxing the muscles that had held her over her patient. Her physician’s eye saw that Deanna had been truthful. With her arms uncrossed the dark stain of blood was apparent on her worn shirt, but it was not gaining size. She waited another moment, taking the time to stretch each muscle of her body, then she motioned to Deanna. The Betazoid sat down at the table, removing her blood stained shirt and setting it beside her. The three gashes on her upper right arm were claw marks, deep but bleeding slowly. “Do you believe in the commander?”

Watching with cold detachment as Selar’s needle entered the flesh of her arm, Deanna smiled grimly. “More then anyone I know.”

“You loved him.” Selar’s hands were cld on her skin, but the needle was hot as it brought angry flesh together.

“I still love him.” New blood trickled down the underside of her arm, Deanna grabbed her already stained shirt and held it to her skin. “I will always-“ She broke off and stared at the crude window. The rain was coming down too quickly for her to see the trees. “But Beverly needs him.” She turned back to watch the patient calm on the Vulcan’s face. “He can keep her with us.”

Selar paused briefly and watched the icy black eyes across from her. “That is a very logical response, but love is -“

Deanna waved her free hand to stop her. “Love is never a logical emotion.” She sighed heavily, the grim acceptance that had settled in her heart in the months since Will had been with her felt especially heavy this afternoon. “I can share their emotions. He does love her. He will protect her and the baby. Will can keep her safe, and she will give him what he needs.”

Selar had moved on to the second gash. Mercifully, Deanna’s arm was going numb. “What does the commander need?”

“A mission, a purpose-“ Her eyes stung with the forgotten sensation of tears. “A family. Beverly’s lost the captain. Her love, her baby’s father, and Will can fill those gaps. He’s warm and patient. He will show her the affection she needs to stay.” Her tears had triumphed over her control. Her free hand dashed them off her face, but Selar said nothing. “We have to think purely of survival now. Life over death. All emotions are secondary. The entire crew would lose something if Beverly succeeded. If she died, and the child died…”

Alchohol stung sharply, but Selar’s hands held her firmly in place. “Morale would be damaged.”

“Morale would be destroyed.” Deanna’s free hand gripped the table until her knucles were white with tension. “That child is the last link to the captain. Without her, that piece of hope is lost.”

“Many people would not do what you have.” Selar wiped the blood from her hands, and Deanna pulled back on her shirt, favoring her right shoulder. “They can be removed in three days. Do not reopen them.”

Deanna replied almost meekly. “Yes doctor.” She was almost to the door when Selar responded.

“I wish your plan well Deanna. I can not understand what it is to give up someone you love, but Dr. Crusher would be a great loss. Even if she wished it to be so.”

Turning slowly back to the Vulcan, Deanna wondered, “Do you have a mate doctor?”

“Tekket. He serves on Vulcan, though I cannot logically expect to see him again.”

Deanna smiled softly, but her eyes were sad. “I think you can understand my position more then you know.”

Stardate 83298.2
RSW Bilire-Ahi

Deanna Troi had always felt death beside her As a little girl, death had taken her father and left a cold hole in his place. But death held her now, warmth and comforting. The blackness reaching out with a father’s arms to take her and make the pain go away. Death was a gift. Warmth and peace, two things missing so long from her life were coming for her and she was ready to welcome them.

But he wouldn’t let her go. Will clung to her and he couldn’t let her go. As rusty as it had been allowed to grow, the core of their bond held them together. If he held her, she could not release it. She sighed heavily and allowed her body to cooperate with the surgery. Laser scapels, dermal regenerators, vascular reconstruction, all working in harmony to raise her from the dead. To breathe life into her body again so she could open her eyes.

The light above her eyes was green. Soft and familiar, as was the hum and pulse of the vessel that held her. This was her ship and she was home. Dr. Taev’s hand was cool on her shoulder. “Dheyyan, we are honored again to have you with us.”

She smiled weakly, her dark eyes still clouded with sleep. “I trust this is your work doctor.” Her chest bore the silver patches of regenerators under the green recovery robe. “I approve.” She sat up slowly, feeling the gentle pulling of healed skin.

“You will be sore, but it will pass.” He asured her as she sat up and took the cup from his outstretched hands.

Deanna nodded slowly, bitterly wondering how her new scars would blend with the old. “What is it?” His mind whirled beneath his doctor’s calm. Taev’s eyes flashed green, and then returned to black. His smile crumbled into despair.

“He will tell you. He saw it, I- was already back on board.”

Even beneath Romulan calm he was cold, desperate, and it froze her heart. “Who saw it?”

“An extraction sphere arrived.” He said softly, his hands falling limply to his sides. “The Wells sacrificed itself to destroy the sphere. We found the admiral in an escape pod, along with a handful of others.” Taev indicated the sleeping body on the bed. “He came here of his own violition. He wished to be nowhere else.”

His omissions echoed the dullness in his heart. Death had clamed someone else and left her to pick up the pieces. There would be no peace for Deanna Troi. At least not today, she thought as she crossed to Will. His face in sleep held none of the pain that ran through the minds on the ship all around her. She envied the quiet of his sleep, but it would not hold him for long. Even against his own wishes to the contrary, Will Riker was a survivor and he would have to endure this unendurable with her. As she settled herself on his bedside, she wondered how long either of them would hold off the insanity of grief. Even as the fleet burned around them, as long as they had breathe they could fight. Deanna had clung to that for thirty years. Now he would learn.

October 10th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Something built upon itself. In the back of his mind, Will sensed the rushing power before she screamed. For all she had held back, Beverly’s screams were few and she despised the weakness as much as it tore at him. She had only barely agreed to seek shelter inside the sailboat. It was dark but dry as the rain poured down over them. She had retreated to a corner, and she curled there. Her hands alternately gripping the ribs of the boat and fighting with the muscles of her stomach. She was gray, fading even in the wan light of the cramped space below deck.

Will sat across from her, never too close, but always within reach. She couldn’t look at him. Sometimes, while he watched the faintest of light sneak across the floor, he knew she was watching him. Wondering what flew through his mind. Apart, but together they both lived in the slowly increasing rhythym of birth. Her breath came quickly as she regained her strength, slowed as she waited for the inevitable and became choked as she fought through the pain. He had no concept of time. The light through the clouds was so weak that the light would never reliably show him the passage of hours. Eventually he had just counted contractions. The pauses in her breathing where she struggled with control. Her hands biting into the wood as it tore at them. Her hands were raw now, one had left a spot of browning blood on her sleeve. But she kept away. Determined to suffer through as alone as she could possibly be.

Finally he broke the stalemate. He lacked Deanna’s infinite patience and he was getting desperately sick of the tearing feeling in the pit of his stomach every time she bit her lip to stop herself from making a sound. Silently he crossed to her, breaking the shield of distance. She put up her arms defensively, as if he were coming to hurt her. Still Beverly would not meet his eyes. She would not look at his face, even as he forced her arms down to her sides and pulled her protectively to him. She fought against him, and then fought against herself until she lost, and started to sob into his chest.

She forced down the tears.“Why is this happening now?” Her eyes were so wet as they looked at him. So soft as he stared back at her.

“Because it’s her time.” She shook her head, and her hand tightened on his shoulder, nails sharp through the fraying fabric of his shirt.

“It’s not. Wesley-“ She lost her breath for a moment. Her teeth gnashed fiercely, and he winced for her as her body trembled with effort. “Wesley did this to her.” She finished, gasping around her words as she allowed her head to rest on his chest. “Wesley took her time from her. He remade her life.”

“Hey, you can’t know that.” Riker replied firmly.

“I’m not due for a month Will.” She shot back hotly. “Ever since Deanna was in my head something’s been wrong.”

He tried to sound reasonable. “Beverly, you’ve lost a lot, and Wesley’s death was just-“

“Too much for my poor little mind to handle.” Her tongue left acid behind it. “It’s not right Will. She’s not- I’m not ready for this.”

He sat back against the wall, settling her in his lap, forcing the ontact she was avoiding. She gave in. Will could feel it in her hands. “You will be all right. The baby will be all right.”

“How can you promise that?” She tilted her head back and watched the ceiling in morose silence for a moment. “Will you be there?”

His voice was barely more then a whisper. “If you’ll have me.” Beverly kissed his cheek, and slowly nodded her head. Speech escaping her as her muscles clamped down again. He took her hand from the rib of wood on the floor and put his fingers in the middle of hers. Her hand was slick with sweat, but she squeezed it gratefully. Taking it as her lifeline, just as she was slowly taking him into her heart.

October 11th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will’s hands shook her gently awake. Deanna lifted her head slowly from the pillow of her arms and blinked at him sleepily. “Is it my turn already?” He nodded, leaning down to kiss her cheek. She stood up from the side of the table where the medical tools had been pushed away to made room for her head.

“Selar thinks she’s getting close. Apparently the snappier she gets, the sooner we can expect the baby.” He yawned and thumped into the chair she had just vacated. “I wish I had Vulcan stamina.” Deanna ruffled his hair fondly, and spent a moment with her arms around his shoulders. His shirt was damp with sweat, his and Dr. Crusher’s mingled in the fabric.

“I’ll see you in an hour.” She turned for the door he had left slightly ajar. He looked up at her with a pleading expression and was about to interject when she added- “I’ll wake you sooner if anything happens.” After midnight they had started to take turns. One awake and assisting Dr. Selar and the other regaining the energy to take over at the end of the shift. Alyssa Ogawa had come and gone. She had duty in the main medical hall, but she appeared every hour or so to check on her friend.

But it was Worf who’s strength she felt as she turned to the doorway. Deanna turned and found him standing at attention just outside in a corner of the hall. “Worf?” She gave him a knowing smile, and he flushed dark for a second. “What are you doing here?”

“It is Klingon tradition to guard the birthing chambers of family.” He said gruffly as he toyed with the points of his batleth.

“Do you think we’ll be attacked?” Deanna teased cheerfully. Worf watched her eyes flash and smiled stiffly.

“Of course not. But it is tradition." His expression changed to one of begrudging admiration. "Jadzia believes that it gave the men something to do.” Deanna brushed a hand across his shoulder.

“I see.” Her eyes twinkled with warmth. “It seems like a good tradition. Beverly will be pleased.”

Across the wall Beverly’s control slipped and her scream cut through the air. “You may tell her later.” Worf admended quickly. “I will remain.”

Deanna nodded, but her smile faded as she headed back to Beverly’s side. Ian had been born in less then two hours. It was not painful. She had been utterly consumed by the experience, but there had been no pain. Not like this. All of Beverly’s skin was pink, flushed and glazed with exertion. Her hair was plastered back with sweat, individual droplets falling periodically to form wet patterns on the floor.

Selar’s hand fluttered across her body. Confirming for herself with a fingers touch, the tricorder readouts on the table beside her. Deanna shut her mind as Beverly’s eyes fixed on her. She had to block it out. She had to protect herself if she expeced to be any help. The pile of wet towels had been pushed to the side, awaiting recycling. For now she gave Beverly her eyes. Blue eyes diluted to gray with pain, focused desperately on her. Deanna was calm. She held her shoulders solid as she lent her support. Selar wanted Beverly kept standing through her contractions, and Deanna was the pillar that held her up. They spoke little. Just as the conception of life required little more then a few choice words, so it seemed did it’s arrival into the world.

Time was lost in the seconds between breath, in the moments between pain. When Selar returned with Will, Deanna hadn’t seen her leave. When Worf came with a stone face and eyes full of caring, she knew. Worf took Beverly’s left arm, and Will her right. It took no strength of her legs to remain standing, not that any remained. Deanna held Beverly’s face in both hands, keeping her eyes up. Keeping her eyes open as Selar fought the bleeding that heralded the end. Beverly was out of her mind. Deanna saw it in her eyes as they drained into the back of her head.

“I need her conscious.” Selar ordered curtly. Deanna’s heart lodged firmly in her throat in cold response. Will’s mind was with her, even through her walls. It was his suggestion she followed as she dropped her shields. Deanna gave of herself. The quiet inner strength that had kept her alive in the Jalara jungle. The courage that had allowed her to foil even the Romulans. The passion of her mother, the patience of her father, and the love of Will Riker poured out of her and into the vessel that was Beverly Crusher. The veseel that finally released her daughter into the waiting Vulcan hands.

Will Riker rarely cried, but as the sun came rose to caress the red down of the newborn head Deanna shared his tears. “Hope?” He asked simply, and she nodded slowly in response. Watching as the bright blue eyes of Felisa Picard took in the sunrise for the first time.


Part 36
Stardate 83300.6
UTF Wells

“One more jump and we’re home. Blue water, green continents, no Starbase One of course, but no Borg.” Will Riker pronounced cheerily. “I could live with that.”

Deanna voice from his side was dry as she joined him at the observation lounge window. “We did. Or are you getting too old to remember?” She fingered a lock of gray hair just above his temple. He returned her teasing with a deeply wounded look.

“You mean-“ He shook his head melodramatically. “I know we’re a year apart Deanna, but I never thought it would make so much of a difference between us. I guess I understand, you need someone young and virile. Someone…”

She winked at him and took his hand as they watched the starlines race by the window. “Maybe I can live with your obviously advanced age. You do still have a bit of your rugged charm left in you somewhere.”

Will pantomimed biting her ear and then bared his teeth in a mock growl. “Rugged enough for you?” She laughed musically, and Will continued to wonder what part of the universe had favored him so that this woman loved him. “Will our house still be there?”

She sat and turned her chair to the window, titlting her head in thought. “I suppose so. It depends on what time we end up in. Our house might not be built, or we could have already left it for the future.” He joined her on her left, pulling a leg up to his lap rakishly.

“I’d just like to see it again.” Again his eyes twinkled with barely controlled mirth. “I’ve some excellent memories of that house.”

Deanna tried to seem nonchalant. “Oh? Do you? It was just a crude shelter-“

He kissed the back of her hand and his mind turned serious. “But it was where we started again. Where Selari-“

“I was there Will.” She finished calmly. His mind brushed hers inquisitively, catching the lingering doubts that had been with her for so many years that had only now started to surface.

He turned her to face him, taking both of her hands as his black eyes turned deep. “What is that Deanna? That place.”

She looked pointedly out of the window into the rainbow of stars. “Nothing.”

“A nothing that you keep hidden from me?” She turned to his face in time to see the hurt in the set of his brow. “Deanna, it’s the only part of your mind you keep separate from me. It’s the only part that isn’t us, imzadi.” Riker was right, and she knew it. Deanna sighed and she leaned back into her chair, trying to find the words she had avoided for so long.

“I didn’t understand it at the time. I don’t know if I understand it now.” She took a deep breath and took the comfort she found in his love. “I’ve tried to forget it, and for a long time I did.” Deanna swallowed slowly. His hand was warm as it caressed her face.

“Take your time.” He waved to the window as the starlines twisted into spirals of white-blue light, tangles of light fading away as the Wells leapt through time and space. “We have it in abundance on this ship.”

She almost laughed at his jest. He waited, and Deanna began. “Right before she went to the Academy, Felisa came to me as asked me what I knew about telepathic echoes.”

Will nodded quickly. “I remember, she wanted to know if she could somehow know Wesley through you.”

Deanna figeted uncomfortably with her fingers. “Right, and we both thought it was possible that something of him was with her.” Confused, Will pursed his lips slightly, but he held his reply as she continued. “I started wondering about Selari.”

Shaking his head, Will looked at her baffled. “What about Selari? She doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of quantum mechanics. Felisa’s tutoring barely got her through quantum theory. She can’t have any sort of echo of Wesley she’d be-“ The hiss of the door had been lost on both of them, but their daughter’s irrepressible laughter was not.

“Much much smarter then I am, sad to say.” Selari balanced on the edge of the table and watched her parents with an odd amusement in her distracting black eyes. “Please, continue.” She requested with a wave of her hand, obviously immune to the conversation she had walked into.

“I don’t think it was Wesley. Selari didn’t have anything to do with Wesley.” Deanna finished as something in her mind started to tickle her memories.

Will looked from one woman to the other still obviously confused. “Then what is this about? I don’t see how you can be worred at all if you both know there was no residual from Wesley.”

Selari acknowledged his confusion with a understanding smile. “But she thinks something happened to me. Perhaps my conception was too much of a miracle. My birth too perfectly timed. My relationship with Felisa too strange.”

“Not strange.” Will said forcefully and then smiled softly, trying to break the tension. “It just surprised us. You were so young.” Selari nodded in agreement as she stood to pace the bank of windows.

“I didn’t really understand it myself. I wouldn’t have know what was happening if I hadn’t already known what imzadi was.” She toyed with her unruly black hair absently. “She was just there. In my mind, and that’s what it was. What it has been ever since.” She shrugged lightly and turned her attention to her mother. “I could only think of one explanation.”

“You were born for her.” Deanna finished simply. “That’s it, isn’t it?” To her daughter, her black eyes were cold and unreadable, but Will shared in her helpless sorrow. Somehow, unwittingly, Deanna had allowed the most important part of life to be taken from her daughter. Where was her choice? Her experimentation with other relationships? It had been Felisa on the Enterprise, Felisa at the Academy… Their first assignment was together on Starbase 11, and then they were married. Will voiced her concerns for her, because her throat was suddenly tight.

“I think your mother is trying to ask if you had a choice.” He began slowly, watching as Selari drank in his words. “If you ever felt trapped in your fate.” Will sighed heavily, and Selari’s crooked smile reminded Deanna so much of a younger Will that she almost laughed.

“When you two looked at each other, you knew.” When her parents drew breath to interrupt she held up both hands to hush them, and continued. “You both knew that you were for each other. That you completed each other. I think it’s the same thing for me. I was just younger.”

Deanna’s voice was calm, but Will felt her shoulders shake with fury. “You were just a baby.”

Selari leaned rakishly against the glass of the window and smiled patronizingly at her mother. “But I’m happy. I have a career. I have a wonderful family in the two of you, in Beverly, in my little boys. Something it seemed to take the two of you 15 years to figure out, came to me when I was a child, and I’ve held on to that.” Her eyes softened and Deanna remember fleetingly that she shared her parent’s gifts. “I know you’re angry mother, but if you’re going to be angry at yourself, be angry that dad got away from you for so many years.” She held her mother’s shoulders for a second and kissed her cheek. “I’ll be in engineering.”

October 13th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will’s voice was gruff, even in her mind this morning as he teased her awake. ((You know Deanna, there’s something about waking up next to you I’m never going to get over.))

For her part, she rolled with her back to him and pulled the blankets with her. ((You can wake up all you want, but your little fantasy has nothing to do with me being awake.)) She shot back, feeling fairly grumpy that morning had arrived for her while it was indeed still becoming light out. Will’s mind chuckled and he snuggled closer to her wife. Placing himself in the middle of the bed, with her precariously close to the edge.

((What I have in mind is more fun if you’re awake.)) He pulled lightly on the blankets and she moved towards him in the middle of the bed. Deanna kept her eyes closed, unwilling to give him the satisfaction of being awake. Will got his revenge by finding the delicate line of her neck through her hair and running a single fingertip down it sadistically. She ignored him, and snuggled deeper into her pillow.

He sighed softly, and sat up, defeated.“All right.” He crawled out of bed, pulling shirt and pants of the shelf on the wall and tossing them easily over his body. “You win. I’ll bring you back breakfast.” Before disappearing from the room he kissed her forehead lightly. She stirred to see him off, but he was already gone.

Will wandered cheerily through the colony center, geading for Zero Backward and breakfast. He stopped short and ducked into medical. Alyssa Ogawa looked up from a sheepish ensign with a broken ankle sitting in front of her. She grinned and nodded. “Go ahead. They’re awake, and I bet they’d love to see you.” He nodded politely and patted Ensign Gates shoulder.

“At least we have osteoregenerators now.” She smiled slightly and he winkled before vanishing into the small hallway. Beverly’s lazy humming carried gently throuhg the doorway ahead of him. She sat up in bed today, and the baby lay on the covers in front of her, watching her with vague blue eyes. He leaned against the door and watched her. Marveling at how much a short time could change a person. The dispair, and the guilt that had overwhelmed her mind were gone. He could still feel the sorrow just below the surface, but it was passing. She felt peaceful. Will listened to her humming and wondered if Deanna would do the same. Finally, feeling somewhat guilty, he cleared his throat, warning her of his prescence. She looked up, startled, but then beamed at him.

“Will!” She pointed to the chair by the wall and he pulled it over. Sitting backwards with his arms balanced on the back he studied her face, and relief filled his heart. Her eyes had life in them again.

“You look great.” He began, his eyes twinkling. “Both of you.” He touched a tiny fist with a curious finger and it closed solidly around his pinkie.

“I guess I just needed to see her.” She admitted softly. Will stroked an incredible soft cheek with his free hand, and the intensity of the baby’s unfocused blue eyes seemed to read the depths of his soul.

“I can believe it.” Will replied, awed by the warmth in his chest. “She’s lovely. Looks nothing like the captain.”
Beverly laughed sadly. “Which could be good for her.” She leaned back against the wall, finding solace in the window to the trees. “Do you think-?” She started slowly.

“Of course he would have.” Will finished surely and caught her with his teasing. “Even with the panic of the birth and the blood and the screaming-“ She raised a warning look, and he clarified. “His screaming.” The baby caught his other hand and he lifted her from the bed. Watching her face scrunch up in surprise at the warm sunlight. “I think he would have been thrilled. At least when he recovered.” Something in her face wasn’t convinced, and his free hand found her arm and squeezed it. “Ever since his nephew died he’s been thinking about children. He finally realized how alone he felt.” One tear found it’s way down her face, and Beverly brushed at it angrily. He left his chair to sit next to her on the bed.

“She would have been the most important thing in his life. I know that.” She nodded slowly, and her handed rested on his shoulder in thanks.

Beverly ended the silence. “So, what about you and Deanna?” She took her daughter from him and smiled down at her. “Felisa is going to be awfully bored without anyone to play with.”

Will dodged the question quickly. “Felisa?”

If she noticed his dodge, she didn’t press the issue. “My grandmother’s name. She was very important to me.” He touched her shoulder again, calming the old grief he felt in her.

“She’d be very pleased.” Riker assured easily. “Well I don’t know about you, but I was going in search of breakfast and I could definitely use the company.”

Beverly smiled wryly. “You mean you’re allowed to break me out? Or are you just teasing?” He winked and replaced his chair by the wall. He lowered her a hand but was surprised when she handed him the baby, and slowly got to her feet. “I’m really all right. Just a little sore.” Will held Felisa to his chest. Wondering how anyone ever learned to care for something so small. His surprise continued as he realized she was telling the truth. He felt only the dull tugging of healing when he brushed her mind, but he galantly offered her an arm. Together they ventured into the sunshine.

Stardate 83299.2
RSW Bilire-Ahi

Will couldn’t feel anything anymore. It seemed that all parts of his body capable of feeling had died with Beverly. He had never meant to lover her the way he had. So his heart no longer cared if it beat now that she was gone. Now Felisa was gone. His soul was gone, and his body continued to live out of a stubborn refusal to accept death. Will Riker was dead as far as he knew, but Deanna was holding his hand.

He shouldn’t have known it was her. He shouldn’t have remember what her hand felt like, but the feeling of those slim fingers was etched into his nerves. Will knew and the only reason he opened hi eyes was because he could sense that Deanna wanted him too. Deanna wished him to be conscious again, and that was enough of an incentive. However, even as her gentle face came blurrily to his view, the lines of exhaustion more apparent then he remembered them ever being, he was speechless. Words failed him for no physical reason, but simply because his mind lacked the ability to voice them. His throat froze. Desperation boiled within him until his mind finally exploded outward. Like a dam stretched to it’s breaking point, Will’s mind found the weakest point and exploited it. Deanna’s mind had remained close to his. Rust had overtaken the path between them, but years had only made the wall between them weaker. The seperation between them was ended.

Twice she had reached into his mind and met him reaching back. Twice love had made in them something unbreakable. Smithing something eternal that prevented them from ever being alone again. Now grief overwhelmed him and in turn Deanna felt the horror pour out of him. Pain brought their minds together now. She saw with his eyes as the black tubules retreated from the already changing flesh of his daughter. Flesh that was already tainted with death, started to turn gray. She heard with his ears as Felisa fought with the changes in her mind and pleaded desperately for her mother to end it. She felt the blood spattered up to his face, felt as the heat poured out of a Felisa’s body and took her life with it. She couldn’t only watch as he had watched as death came where he had no right, and stole what had just moments before been certain.

“I’m sorry Will.” And Deanna was here. She was around him, and somehow his heartbeat hurt less. Somehow it seemed that much less futile to continue breathing.

Stardate 83301.3
UTF Wells

Felisa opened her eyes slowly as the pain receded back into the depths of her mind. He fingers returned to her console, adding to the calculations she had been fighting with for the last 20 hours. She drank her coffee quickly, it was cold and bitter but she choked it down. There wasn’t time to get more. The replicator was up the Jefferies tube ladder, and across engineering, and she couldn’t leave her console. Somehow if she stared at it long enough, it would solve itself. The answers would come. She knew that instinctually, but she couldn’t understand why they came with her headaches.

The timeline had diverged. Changed somehow so that an entire universe mirrored theirs in most aspects, but Selari didn’t exist. She had never been. It was rather sentimental of her to be so bothered by it. After all, if she had never met Selari, how could she miss her? She shook that thought off and studied the temporal variance. She knew when now. She had pinpointed the moment of creation, but she still could not find the cause. Whatever the catalyst was, it eluded her.

“I wish you wouldn’t hide in here. I do have a fairly able engineering staff, and an excellent sciencentific staff. It would be nice if you would let them at least feel useful.” Selari’s voice conceded behind her gently. Felisa turned and immediately held a warm cup of fresh coffee. “I thought you’d be out by now.” Felisa smiled and let the cup warm her fingers. It was that rare smile that always let Captain Riker feel she had been part of a great secret to see it. “Any luck?”

Felisa took a slow sip of her coffee and sighed in annoyance “No. None at all.” She indicated a complicated knot of equations and probabilities. “I can’t find the catalyst. Something triggered all of this, but it was somehting so small that I can’t find it.”

Selari’s hand on her arm was forgiveness and encouragement without a word between them. “But we know when?”

Nodding slowly, Felisa indicated the stardate in the lower left corner. “That’s it. June 7th, 2063 on the old Earth Calendar.”

Riker turned and caught a rung of the ladder out of Felisa’s haven, a grin reminescent of her father’s lighting her face. “I haven’t ever been to Earth since I was four. I’m looking forward to it.” Felisa hesitated slightly, but Selari gave her an evil wink. “That is an order, commander.”

Felisa’s voice was grim as as she began the briefing in the transporter room. Captain Riker and Dr. Veddra both wore armbands identical to hers. “These are temporally enhanced shields and they are very sensitive. We need them to create time pockets so we can exist in this period without being able to change it. If they are damaged the residual chroniton fields of our bodies will try to replace us in time.”

Veddra raised an eyebrow in confusion. “I thought we had successfully traveled to 2063 with the Wells? Why would we need any shielding at all?”

Felisa sighed patiently. “The Wells uses a version of the technology we used to wrap space to travel and faster then light speeds. We warp time, and can exist at any point in it. However, this does not change our own individual signures. Each person has an individual temporal figureprint that is unique to them, these shields mask that, and let us exist in any time period without having an effect on it. It is the only way the Federation could allow time travel. Shielding prevents us from existing in this timeline, because according to the universe- we never left stardate 83301. Therefore, we cannot change anything. Allowing time travel without altering history.”

The captain patted Veddra’s shoulder reassuringly. “Best not to think about it. Shields protect us and the timeline. If we break it we go catapulting back to when we left. So-” She grinned wickedly. “Don’t break it.”

The Romulan smiled and followed the captain onto the pad. “Sounds simple enough.”

Behind them both, Felisa shook her head in exasperation. Muttering to herself under her breath. “The most sophisticated temporal device in federation history and the best my wife can come up with is ‘don’t break it’.”

The Admirals Riker stood by the transporter chief. Watching their daughter assemble her team. “Everyone ready for a little picnic on scenic Gravette Island?” The Romulan nodded elegantly as she adjusted the armband that would keep her from altering history. Her medkit hung over her left shoulder. Felisa had a tricoder at her hip, and a complicated device in hand that neither of them recognized.

Selari nodded to her parents. “We’ll be back shortly. I’m looking forward to seeing both of you running around the jungle.”

“Good luck.” Deanna said simply as they faded into the sparkles of the transporter effect. Will kissed her cheek, and wondered in her mind. ((Tell me if you feel like you’ll never see them again.))

June 7th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

They materialized a few feet from the ocean. Boots coming into being on the gray rocks that surrounded the seashore. “Everyone’s shields are operation?” Selari asked lightly as she jumped down to the small stones of the path leading into the trees. Felisa nodded and started recording. Veddra took a deep breath of the warm sea air and smiled cheerily. “It is a very beautiful planet.”

Selari entered the trees a few steps in front of them. “It’s really a shame the holodeck doesn’t do it more justice.” She led the way down the path into the dappled shade of the forest in front of them. “It’s so much more beautiful then I remember it being. The ocean is the same though.” She added with a longing look towards the beach.

“I have lifesigns. Two humans about 40 meters to our left, and one half-Betazoid, approaching their positions.” Veddra indicated a bend to the left, Felisa and Selari fell in step behind. “The humans are Admiral William Riker and Vice Admiral Crusher.”

Selari chuckled. “They’re both just commanders now.” Felisa watched her temporal monitor so intently that if Selari had not guided her feet carefully through their link, she would have tripped over the roots of the path. “Why aren’t you excited?” Selari asked suddenly, breaking Felisa’s concentration.

“My mother was pregnant with me. She had only just started to get over my father’s death. I don’t know how exciting of a situation you could possibly think this is.” Felisa mind was tinged slightly dark with guilt.

Selari’s mind was all good natured excitement, and Veddra at least seemed to be enjoying it. “You can be excited with me.” She teased airily. “I think I remember mom talking about when she married dad.”

Instinctually Veddra hushed them and looked warily at the path out of the woods. “Someone’s coming.” All three of them watched in silence as Deanna Troi walked out from around the corner. Her hair was still black, her eyes were unlined, but there was a sadness in her eyes that was absent in the future. Felisa’s tricorder wailed a warning. Hurried, she flipped it open.

“This is it, the timeline’s about to divide.” She announced slowly. Selari walked up the path towards the younger version of her mother.

“Right now? Where?” She looked all around her, wondering why she could sense such indicision from Deanna. Her mother never felt that unsure about anything. Felisa followed her.

Her forehead tight with concentration. “Right in front of us.” She said quickly, without looking up from her tricorder. “Whatever it is. It’s right here.”

Oblivious to the future standing mere meters before her. Deanna Troi’s mind whirled in a tempest of choices. Will was a few steps away. He was waiting for her, just as he had always been waiting for her. She wanted to run to him and explain how she couldn’t think, how confused she had been, how she loved him.

Part of her burned with the guilt of it. The selfishness in taking him for her own. Beverly was asleep, her face pale with exhaustion. Her cheekbones sharp beneath her eyes. A voice in the back of her head insisted that she needed him, that she needed him more then Deanna ever could. Deanna was strong. She had fought grief before, and she could fight it again. Why shouldn’t she fight it alone?

Deanna didn’t need him. Her life would continue to grow and unfold without him and her gut told her Beverly’s might not. She couldn’t explain the feeling, but it ran rampant as ice down her spine.

Deanna wanted him. She craved his smile in the morning, his soft breathing at night, and his touch in her mind.
In that moment, the universal dance waited, allowing Deanna to take the next step, waiting for her to lead the course of events.

In that moment, Felisa Picard was watching her tricorder. Her temporal recorder ran unnoticd at her side. As she watched the spiraling line of time split and fork and remake itself, she did not look up.

In that moment, Dr. Eirai Veddra had entered the clearing, watching the woman she knew only as the firey head of Starfleet Medical, sleep peaceful in the sunlight. This was the side of the dominating Vice Admiral she hid so well. The quiet radiance that came from the slight swelling of her belly, almost diminished the wan look of her face and the dark under her eyes.

In that moment Selari Riker was standing within a meter of her mother. Trying to figure out what was troubling her so that her eyes seemed so deep. Her parents rarely spoke of their time here and she had no memory. She made a mental note to ask her mother what was going on today in the woods.

The moment changed. Time followed Deanna’s lead by taking two steps with her. Dividing itself in order to partner both of her choices. Deanna felt nothing as she walked towards Will and Beverly, smiling bravely. Deanna felt nothing as she walked away, hoping that the stone in her stomach would disappear as she got farther away.

June 7th, 2063
Gravette Island

Dr. Veddra watched as Will Riker’s face lit with a smile. His eyes finding Deanna’s as she knelt next to him. Felisa looked up in triumph. She was not yet sure what had happened, but she had watched it, and it had happened. Selari was gone.

June 7th, 2063
Gravette Island

When the dance stopped to wait for Deanna, Selari had been a woman out of time. An invisible visitor to the past who had watched without knowing as history refolded. When it continued in duet, she was on the wrong side. While Veddra watched Deanna come to Will in understanding, Selari watched her walk away. She took a step after her, then another as Deanna headed into the woods. Completely without her notice, Veddra and Felisa vanished behind her. When she turned around to see them- they were gone. A warning came from the silver device on her left arm. She touched it just as a bright blue indicator went out.

If Deanna had turned around exactly at that moment she would have seen the daughter who would never exist in this timeline.

Selari vanished from Gravette. She vanished from 2063. The universe searched in vain for the place her body insisted she belonged. Being unable to find it, it compromised in the only way it knew how.

Stardate 83301.3
RSW Bilire-Ahi

Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway was turning from her replicator with a fresh cup of Liivena, the closest Romulan replicators could get to coffee, when she appeared. She was a good deal taller then the admiral, wearing an odd uniform, though still with Triumvirate communicator pinned on her left breast. She had fairly unruly black curls, startling black eyes, and a deeply confused expression that the admiral had no choice but to share.


Part 37
Stardate 50983.1
Starfleet Command, San Francisco

"Commander Riker, please stand." Admiral Alynna Nechayev commanded
silence impressively for her small stature. The room hushed around
her, and the only sound was Will slowly getting to his feet. For a
man facing the entire fleet command, he seemed remarkably relaxed.
His face was still tanned from his time in the tropics, and Deanna's
silent encouragement bolstered him from within. The admiral's face
was inscrutable as she continued. "This has been a long complicated
hearing, and you and your crew have conducted yourselves with
exemplary patience that is a credit to your former commander. Jean-
Luc Picard's death has made him a hero to all the Federation, but it
has left us with a hole in our infrastructure. A hole that will not
be easily filled in this time of crisis. However, we have been
blessed by the experience you have obviously absorbed in your years
service as a most capable first officer."

She smiled only slightly, the tinest hint of amusement in her
eye. "I know you have turned down the rank of Captain many times in
the past and this time the council has made it unable for you to do
so." She picked up a data padd and read it aloud to the hearing. "By
order of Starfleet command you will be promoted immediately to the
rank of captain, and you will oversee the construction and then
assume command of the next flagship of the Fleet. The Enterprise-F."
She sat back down, aware of the cheers and applause barely contained
by the Gravette Island refugees. "We had hoped not to require
another one so soon, but Starfleet hopes it is in good hands." She
lowered her crystalline gavel to the desk, and the hearing was

Deanna left the audience and was in his arms before the final
dismissal had left Nechayev's throat. She snuggled into him, taking
comfort from his arms around her. This hearing had been the last in
almost a month of deliberations. All of Starfleet had seemed to be
torn on whether to elevate or crucify Picard's surving crew. What is
the proper thing to do with almost 300 people who appear in orbit in
a Vulcan freighter over 300 years old precisely where the Enterprise-
E had been? And to make matters worse, everyone on board could
personally testify to passing almost a year of time in the past. 18
crewmembers had requested to have their marriages recognized. There
was the baby Felisa Picard, and four additional pregnancies that
verified that time had indeed passed. Will reluctantly let go of
Deanna as Admiral Nechayev and Vice Admiral Henry approached.

Alynna held out of her hand and standing on her tiptoes, added the
fourth rank insignia to his collar. "Allow me to congratulate you
Captain Riker, on your many professional," She paused and smiled
almost warmly as her eyes found the rounding of Deanna's
stomach, "And personal accomplishments."

Deanna's smile made the admiral's seem pale. "Thank you Admiral, we
are have been very blessed."

"I see you will not be falling into Picard's bachelor life then?"
Vice Admiral Henry teased with a good-natured chuckle warming his

Riker nodded in agreement, and kissed Deanna's cheek lightly. "The
Enterprise will just have to learn to share her captain."

The business was back in Nechayev's voice as she continued. "We will
be placing all of your crew on leave or on temporary assignments.
Medical believes that they will need some time to reacclimate to
this time period after their experiences, but you will have the
first chance at your previous command crew when the Enterprise is

Riker nodded and shook both of their hands. The Vice Admiral paused
to give him a wink as he left. "You've got big shoes to fill on the
old girl Will, but we think you'll treat her right." Deanna hugged
him again, and the crowded room started to clear.

Geordi clapped him on the back. "I've been offered the chance to be
there for the construction, but I'll be ready to head down to
engineering if you take me, Captain."

"I wouldn't take anyone else Geordi." Will said gratefully. "Make
sure they build us a good one."

"It has be worthy of Enterprise after all." Geordi finished as he
gave them both a beaming smile and disappeared into the crowd.

Worf's deep voice carried over the confusion of the milling people
as he crossed to them. "I will be returning to Deep Space 9 in a few
hours, but I approve of Starfleets descision. You will be an
excellent Captain, sir."

Overcome with emotion, Deanna hugged him as Will watched, bemused at
the Klingon's darkly flushing expression. "You'll have to bring
Jadzia to Betazed Worf, we'd love to meet her."

"We shall the next time we have leave, I assure you." He agreed as
she released him and let Will shake his hand.

"It's been an honor living in the past with you, Mr. Worf." Riker

Worf surprised him with a firm hand closing on his shoulder. "Be
careful not to lose your nerve command. You have undertaken a trying

"I'm sure Will can lead the new Enterprise-" Deanna interrupted, but
Worf silenced her as he finished.

"-in your marriage to Deanna, but I believe you have the fortitude
to survive." Deanna's eyes blazed momentarily, but then the three of
them shared a laugh.

"Take care Worf." Deanna said finally. "We'll see you again." He
nodded, and they watched him disappear down the hallway.

"It's almost unbelievable Deanna. A year on Betazed, just you and me
and the baby."

"And my mother." She added darkly, but he laughed.

"I think she'll be so shocked to find out that we're married, and
pregnant and planning to spend a year in her house that she
shouldn't be able to speak for at least half of that time." He
wrapped an arm around her back and stayed silent in thought for a
long moment. Deanna's mind met his in a question and he replied
aloud. "I wonder who I should choose as first officer..."

Back in their temporary quarters at Starfleet Headquarters, Will
threw his dress uniform jacket over the back of a chair and tossed
himself onto the bed. He stared at the ceiling, wondering how he
could make it through the service tommorow. The state funeral of
Jean-Luc Picard had drawn diplomats from every corner of the
quadrant. The Klingon Chancellor Martok, the Vulcan High Priestess
E'Liaerin, the Vulcan second of IDIC command Saavik and of course,
Lwaxan Troi would be representing Betazed.

It had taken some time to explain why Deanna had burst into tears
upon seeing her mother's face on the communications screen. Will had
ended up doing most of the talking. Explaining gently how they could
have been gone for nearly a year and not by missed by anyone still
in the timeline. They had both saved their marriage, and the baby as
a surprise for Lwaxana's arrival. Will wanted to see the look on her
face, and Deanna couldn't muster the energy to explain how different
they were now. She was responding to Lwaxana's last letter in the
other room and he could feel the exhaustion bleeding off of her.

Eventually she curled next to him on the bed. "She'll be here
tommorrow morning, right before the ceremony. We won't have time to
tell her until afterwards." He rubbed the slight roundness of her
stomach and teased the back of her neck with his beard.

"We'll have to make sure to be seperated by the crowd. Otherwise
she'll be suspicious and miss the ceremony." Deanna rolled to face
him and curled a leg over his.

"She'll probably do something elaborate to react." She replied as he
watched her close her eyes. They opened again, black and softly
accusing, as she returned from his mind. "You're worried about her."

"Your mother?" He asked absently. "She'll probably throw a party, or
insist on joining our crew to keep an eye on the baby."

Deanna's forehead pressed against his and she sighed. "Beverly
missed the hearing."

He rested his hand against her face. "She was happy before we left."

"The captain died again when we returned to the present." Her eyes
overflowed down her face onto the bed. "I don't know how
I'd go through something like that. I don't know what I would do if you


"If you died," She continued forcibly. "And I had to
bury you twice-" Will stopped any further discussion by holding her tightly
against his chest.

"Let's take her to Betazed." He suggested finally.
"We can just tell her we want her to keep an eye on our baby." Will succeeded
in making her laugh as she wriggled out of his arms and set up on the
edge of the bed.

"The entire medical staff of Betazed is not sufficient?" He
rolled over, grinning wickedly as he looked up at her in false sincerity.

"It is just a planet after all." Her laughter echoed softly
from the walls of their quarters. More seriously now, he found her eyes
and lost himself in them. "Can't you see Felisa playing with
a Muktuk flower?" The infant mind of their child stirred from
sleep and sought Deanna's mind for comfort. Will joined her in
reassuring it that they were both here. She toyed with a free lock of hair
over his forehead.

"Mother's going to love Felisa."

Will wrapped his fingers around her wrist, and spent a lazy moment
feeling the pulse of her blood. "Maybe Lwaxana can find out her

"She is one of the best telepaths on Betazed." Deanna said

"Perhaps the quadrant." Will added cheerily. "She might
be just what they need. It is damn impossible to be depressed with her

"Annoyed, flustered, irritated…but never depressed."
Deanna leaned down to kiss his forehead. "All right. We'll bring them to
the Betazed." He again reminded her how much he loved her, and was
rewarded with a kiss on his lips this time.

Stardate 51345.7

Lwaxana Troi had always been incorridgible, perhaps even a swollen
with her own importance, but lately she glowed. Her daughter was
home, married to the Captain of the flagship of the fleet, and
expecting a child. Will came and went as his duties overseeing the
new construction of the new Enterprise called him back to Utopia
Planetia, but he was around often enough to charm Scoria Xel of the
Second house at dinner and serve as Deanna's escort to the great
Ball that ushered in the Betazoid new year. And he was telepathic,
at least as telepathic as any half-Betazoid which made him an even
more appealing mate for her daughter. Then there was Beverly.

Losing a husband and raising a child alone was something Lwaxana
unfortunately had great experience with. She had taken great care
getting to know the reclusive doctor. Sharing with her stories of
Deanna and Kestra's babyhood, taking away Beverly's fears of
vulnerability by sharing her thoughts first. Deanna initially had
her doubts about the counseling abilities of her mother, but after
Beverly routinely came to meals, and even started to regain the
ability to laugh at Felisa's comical attempts to master walking.
Lwaxana often disappeared with her for entire afternoons, walking
the shores of Lake Elnar and guiding Beverly through her grief with
the quiet knowledge of one who had already walked that road.

It was Felisa who was now took most of Deanna's worries. She was
almost a year old now, but completely devoid of the usual babble of
a growing toddler. Speech seemed to hold no interest for her, and
she barely looked up from her play when an adult came to pick her
up. Lwaxana was the only one, besides her mother, who could get a
smile out of her regularly. Mrs. Troi could naturally find all she
needed to know with a brush of her mind, but she had been remarkably
cryptic about her findings.

"When she's ready Deanna." She said with exaggerated
irritation. "I don't know who has been teaching you the
finer points of parenting, but I hope you gain a great deal of patience
before my granddaughter enters your world."

Lwaxana's granddaughter grew slowly. Making her prescence known
late at night with wild sommersaults and changing her mother's
body to suit her own needs. Deanna slept afternoons unless Will was home
from the Enterprise, and she constantly joked that she was already
losing her husband to another woman. Dr. Selar and her mate Tekket
visited from Vulcan to examine Deanna and review her findings for a
research paper on the subject of the use of hybrid genetics in
fertility treatments.

Selar would not be returning to the Enterprise. Her work on
Gravette Island, andher years of service to Starfleet had won her a
promotion, and over dinner Tekket quietly informed them that they
would be serving on a new Vulcan ship with a mixed crew.

"Starfleet and Vulcan High Command have been discussing using a
mixed crew under joint command. We will serve as part of it. Selar
as chief medical officer, and I as the science officer. We believe
it will be an interesting experiment." Tekket explained evenly.

"And we wish you luck." Will congratulated heartily as he
raised his glass to the Vulcans. "Beverly will just have to learn to
manage without you." He added with a wink to the doctor. It was
a definite sign of her recovery that she smiled back indulgently.

"I'm sure you will do very well Selar." Beverly added
sincerely. "You have the background to deal well with

Selar raised an eyebrow and responded, "It was Surak who said
even the most scattered chaos has it's own logic. You must learn to
understand it in all forms." This brought laughter to Lwaxana.

"Ian could have been a cleric of that type of logic." She
offered chuckling. "He would always insist that even though I
couldn't make a Jalaran vine rat's worth of sense out of his study, all those
padds of data, it didn't mean he didn't have it completely

Tekket nodded serenely. "That sort of logic agrees with that
theory of Surak."

Lwaxana took a bite of her salad, and paused in thought. "I will
have to read more of Surak." She muttered to herself as she
continued with her salad.

October 13th, 2063
Gravette Island, Earth

Will made no attempt at quiet as he whistled his way through their
house. He set down a tray melodramatically on the table by the
bed. "Breakfast!" He announced cheerfully as Deanna threw a
pillow in his general direction. "A little to the right Deanna."

She opened her eyes suspiciously. "Whatever is under there,
better damn well be worth it."

He sat down next to you, faking a hurt look. "You don't
trust me imzadi? You who can share my innermost thoughts?" Deanna sat up
to pull him down to the bed, filling his mouth with an adventurous

"That's why I can't trust you." She replied with her
voice deep in her throat. He remained in his position of conquest, enjoying the
feel of her body beneath him.

"I thought Betazoid relationships were based on trust." He
whispered as he explored the hollow of her neck.

She wriggled out of his grasp and headed for the breakfast
tray. "I'm only half Betazoid, and human relationships can
be based on anything." She shot at him as she examined his idea of
breakfast. Shocked, she forgot to resist as he pulled her down onto
his lap.

"If it's going to be human, I have a few ideas on what we can
base it on." Will's hands were warm on the tops of her thighs.

Deanna stood up, forcing her way out of his grasp. "This is

Will looked at her, stunned. "Oh no.." He used a finger to
taste the brown mush that had given her such a disgusted look. "This
is urhati. Oats aren't adapted to such poor soil. It's really
not bad." He took her spoon and took a larger bite. "Once you
get used to it. Beverly said she liked it."

She shook her head at him. "That's not fair. She was
probably starving." She took the juice from the corner of the tray and
sniffed it, making sure it wasn't another trick.

"She was." He agreed with a soft smile. "But happy

Satisfied that the juice was safe Deanna drank it slowly. Musing
through her imzadi's mind. "Lunch is something better?"

He nodded, admiring the way the simple grayblue pajamas everyone
wore, looked so much more exciting on her. "Lunch is far better.

Alyssa and Andrew are cooking." Deanna set down her empty glass
and returned to him, inserting herself between his knees as she stood in
front of him.

"Then I can wait."

He leaned up and waited for her to kiss him. "Good."

It began as he started with the buttons of her shirt. He seemed to
be unable to hear anything but the beat of their hearts, and the
slow pleasure of her breathing. She guided his hands to the cool
skin of her breasts. Resting them there as she pushed him back to
the bed. His flesh grew hot just from the touch of hers, and as she
settled her hips over his, he was already growing tight. Together
they slipped off his shirt. Her hands gliding underneath it as they
tossed it to the floor. Deanna started to kiss her way down his
chest, and his pants followed to the floor. He ran a searching
finger across the thin fabric of her pants, and toyed with her
ruthlessly through them. Deanna's eyes were starting to bore
into him and Will opened his mind she so could look through. He shared
the pleasure of his hand slipping under the fabric to meet wet
anxious flesh. She silently invited him as she slid out of her
pajamas and let them fall to the edge of the bed. She rose to her
knees as Will let both hands tease her. One finger entered her
while another teased. Her breath came faster, and Will could feel
his own heart start to race along with her. She forced him away as
the sensation started to overwhelm her, and she teased him once with
a quick lap of her tongue, before she let him home inside of her.
Their breath was lost together, as heat radiated through them.

Deanna rocked her hips as she started to build towards climax. His
hands found her breasts and squeezed almost violently. She gasped
and rewarded him with a wicked stare as she lowered her head to
start kissing him. Will could barely breath as their shared
sensations pounded through him. Deanna gave as he moved within her,
and instinctually he found a neglected nub of flesh and as he barely
grazed it she groaned. Will forced his body to ignore the desire to
explode as he waited for her. Her hands dug into the sides of his
chest and something electric tingled, and then burned as he finally

She cried as they lay there, and as Will held her, he shared her
confusion. Deanna could find no reason, but her body shook heedless
of logic. When they reluctantly prepared for lunch something was
different as they kissed. Neither of them said anything about it.
It was something too insubstantial to be put into words. Something
silly that the other would laugh at. By the time they reached Zero
Backward and the laughter of the rest of the colony, it was

Stardate 83301.3
RSW Bilire-Ahi

"It's stardate 83301.3. My name is Selari Riker. I was born
on Stardate 51862.3 at my mother's home on Betazed. My parents,
Will and Deanna Riker, my grandmother Lwaxana Troi and Dr. Beverly
Crusher were there." Selari folded her hands in her lap to keep
herself from figeting. The Admiral offered her a cup of coffee and
she took that with relief.

"Liivena isn't quite good black coffee, but it isn't
bad." Vice Admiral Janeway explained with a wry smile.

Selari took a sip and continued. "We transferred to the
Enterprise-E when I was a few months old. When the Borg attacked on stardate
Stardate 56235.2, Felisa Picard and I were sent to grow up on
Betazed where it was safe. We lived there until after the
Triumvirate was formed. When we were 13 we were allowed back to the
Enterprise, and we remained there until we went to the Academy.
Felisa studied science, and I went command. Our first assignment
was the D'yakorg, a Klingon vessel. When I was 19 we became
mates. We served on the Dublin until she was destroyed, then I
became first officer of the Enterprise-F under Harry Kim, and then
Captain of the Las-harkan, which was a mostly Vulcan ship. Felisa
and I have two children together. Luke is nine and Robbie's seven,
they live on Betazed with my grandmother. Three years ago Felisa
went to Vulcan and began the Wells project. When that was completed
I was promoted and took command of the Wells." She set down her
coffee cup and let the admiral refill it.

"I recognize you as Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway. You promoted
me to captain 2 years ago. You said that it was about time a woman
beat Jim Kirk at something." Janeway's face was marble and
Selari could only sense the calm of an organized mind, but when she
menioned Kirk she got a slight smile.

Selari stood and paced the room. "This is the Bilire-Ahi, the
Romulan Flagship but I don't know what I'm doing here."
She sat back down apologetically. "I'm not much of a scientist, but
I'd guess that it had something to do with my temporal isolator."
She removed the malfunctioning armband and set it on the desk.

Janeway folded her fingers in thought. "You're right about
the stardate, and the ship." She turned a data padd she had been
studying to Selari. "And I thought your story sounded
familiar." She pointed to a picture of a smiling Captain Felisa Picard at the
top of her service record. Selari smiled softly as she studied the
picture of her imzadi. It was the same, but the smile on her face
was less forced, and her eyes were tougher. "This is Felisa
Picard, Captain of the Wells."

Selari nearly laughed. "Captain?"

Janeway nodded. "Her service record, and the one you just
repeated for me as exactly similar." She took the padd back from Selari
shocked hands and set it down. "Except that Felisa Picard was
never married. Deanna Troi was never married, and Admiral Will Riker has
been married to Beverly Crusher for thirty years."

"Dad was married to Beverly?" She interrupted, slightly
amused. Janeway nodded again, and it was her turn to pace the room.

"I'm going to assume you are familiar with Wesley Crusher and
the origins of the Wells project." Janeway paused. "In your
universe, do you have a temporal clearance code?"

Selari spoke up quickly. "Hera-one-one-two-seven."

"Level 2 clearance." Janeway affirmed, and Selari started to
realize that the admiral was hiding something. The coldness in her
eyes was that of fresh pain, but she said nothing.

"I am captain of the Wells, I would have to have it." Selari
said hotly, but Janeway's hand on her shoulder calmed her instantly.

"Hera-one-one-two-seven was Felisa's access code." That
was it, Selari realized. Was her access code echoed in Selari's head.

"Was? Where is Felisa Picard?" The silence was deafening
and it filled the office. Janeway sat on the edge of her desk right in
front of the young captain.

"Felisa Picard died when a Borg extraction sphere attacked us two
days ago." Selari felt her heart wither in her chest. Her
imzadi bond was gone as if it had never been when she felt for it and her
heart had rotted away. Her face turned to stone but Janeway
continued, using the same soft voice. "Captain Jean-Luc Picard,
and Admiral Beverly Riker gave their lives to save this ship and the
crew of the Wells." Selari was beginning to cry but she had no
reserves left to fight against it. "Admiral Will Riker is in
medical. He hasn't spoke since his wife and step-daughter died.
The Senior Envoy of the Romulan fleet is with him. Her name is
Deanna Troi."

"No." Selari said curtly. "This-"

Both of the elderly admiral's hands closed on her shoulders.
"This is another timeline, one very close to yours, all the players are
the same, but the parts are different."

Selari took a slow breath and remembered Felisa's briefing. She
concentrated on the single thought that somewhere, Felisa was
alive. Slowly, she pulled her world together around that
thought. "There was a point, when the stranded crew of the
Enterprise-E was on Gravette Island where the timeline diverged. We
knew-" She paused to slow her heart. "That in one timeline
Captain Jean-Luc Picard was alive, and I had never existed."

Janeway's smile was amazingly calming but there was a flash of
determination in her eyes. "I'll call for some dinner and
you can tell me everything you know about temporal mechanics."

Selari laughed sardonically and her stinging tears retreated back
into her eyes. "I failed it at the academy." A Romulan aide
entered and disappeared again as Janeway asked for lunch.

Kathryn turned back to her errant young visitor and winked. "So
did I."


Part 38
Stardate 67015.4
Triumvirate Joint Academy
Gah'Veh, Qo'nos

Selari sat on the muddy ground of the side of the hill and stared down at the Academy buildings as she waited for her team to return. The Klingon branch of the Academy had a reputation for being the poorest kept, the most utilitarian. Cadets came here to learn how to survive in a galaxy dominated by the Borg. If they survived their first year, they could move on to KiBaritan, where the Romulan instructors would take their turns with them. Then the cadets went to Vulcan for a year's immersion in science. The final year was devoted to mental readiness. The strength of mind to resist the Borg and the emotional control to remain living in a galaxy destroyed by war was taught in the tranquil atmosphere of Betazed.

Selari barely remembered Earth. Earth was a pleasant story that her parents told when she was a child. The jungles and flowers of Betazed were home. The Troi mansion where she had grown up was home. Earth was the collective dream of the human refugees. She had heard on the Klingon instructors, Behtag, say with begrudging admiration that only humans could keep smiling when they had no home. Only humans would cling to the feeble hope that someday they would get it back.

Terrans were a refugee species. They lived on worlds all over the Alpha and Beta quadrants. After the decimation of Starfleet, and the subsequent conquering of sector 001, humans had fled. Fleeing their home in broken ships, the generosity of their fellows had astonished even the optimistic Terrans.

Betazed had offered almost a third of their landmass as colony space to the people who had long been their allies and protectors. Vulcan sent supplies, medical teams and builders. Refugee camps were constructed in the Vulcan desert, and on Bajor where the people knew all too well what it was to lose a home. The Klingons came in their warships to defend the fleeing remnants of Starfleet. Terrans were welcomed to Klingon colonies as brothers-in-arms, and songs were written about the little warriors with the indomitable spirit. Even the Ferengi made concessions and allowed for goods to be sold at cost to any Terran colony.

Most surprising was the aid that poured from the long distant Romulans. Warbirds fought beside the Birds of Prey as warriors gave their lives to protect the Terran families. One Romulan had snidely called the exodus from Earth a true defeat for the Borg. Less then one quarter of Earth's population was assimilated, and Starfleet command was reassembled on Vulcan. After that battle the peace talks began in earnest. Peace between the multitudes of races at the simple table in the Vulcan Science Academy had never been more the glimmer of a wish.

The Vulcan ambassador Saavik had explained quietly the simple logic of it all. Divided the separate species of this galaxy would fall before the Borg. She acknowledged that it would not be in her lifetime, but she affirmed that everyone in that room was a member of a dying race. Her father had told her how it felt like his heart had dropped out of his chest, and that it wasn't until he sat there that the chill of knowing death replaced the warmth of the Vulcan desert. Death was done toying with him, and that it was ready for him, his wife and his daughter.

"I would have signed any treaty they put in front of me if it would have saved you." Will had admitted to his wide-eyed daughter. "As I looked around that table, I saw the fear I felt in the eyes of everyone around me. Even the Vulcans. We all had to sign that treaty. If we hadn't, the Borg would have won right there."

Kieran Marshall sighed heavily and thumped down beside her. His cheek was a purplish bruise, and his right eyebrow bore a new batleth scratch. He didn't speak immediately, but allowed Selari to return from whatever daydream she was lost in. She smiled at him in thanks and he took his cue to speak. "I don't know how you make it. You're the only one Behtag doesn't manage to clip in the face."

Selari laughed and pulled down the neck of her gray training suit. A deep purple-green bruise marked her collarbone. "Just because I duck faster doesn't mean I don't get hit."

Kieran nodded and whistled appreciatively. "That's a good hit."

Selari winked at him. "You should see some of the bruises Felisa's has. Her skin shows them better. Dad says that Betazoids have to be more resistant to bruising, because they're fragile."

Handing her his water bottle for a drink, he looked at her in disbelief. "I'd guess that didn't go over well with your mother."

Chuckling, she hit him on the shoulder. "Dad slept on the couch for a few days. Then they both had to go back to the Enterprise."

"Do you ever wonder what it was like when they let kids grow up on starships?" He wondered as she gave the water bottle back.

"Mom says it was wonderful. That it reminded the officers what they were fighting for." Selari wrinkled her nose and disgust and looked at him as she finished. "But now-

"It's just too dangerous." They finished together. Kieran understood her chagrin. His mother had been captain of the Lexington all of his life, and he had heard every lecture about the duty of an officer, Starfleet or Triumvirate. He tried to look innocent and asked. "I know you're here because you always go first. But where is your bunkmate?"

"Felisa?" Selari's empathy prevented in pretense from the young man, but she kept her smile hidden. "She always goes last in fighting practice. She likes to figure out what kind of mood Behtag is in before she plans her strategy."

"Strategy?" Kieran was incredulous. "No strategy can defeat that woman. She's almost a half-meter taller then Felisa, and about 50 kilograms heavier."

Selari stood up and started down the hill, with the young man right behind her. "I guess you don't know Felisa very well then."

He caught her arm and stopped their progress. "I'd like too." The softness in his eyes turned to impatience. "Why else would I put up with you?"

Selari patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. "I won't kill you for that, because I enjoy your company. I've told you everything I know about her."

"Like that's helped any." He muttered darkly. "I know her mother's Dr. Crusher, though I've never seen her. I know she grew up with you on Betazed. I know she likes to take apart tricorders in her spare time. I should just ask you on a date. Your parents at least like me."

Selari grinned wickedly. "That's because Dad doesn't see you as a threat and Mom doesn't believe in preemptive strikes." A gong of assembly sounded from the central compound and they turned to head in that direction.

He looked hurt, and pulled himself up to his full height, running one hand lazily through his shaggy brown hair. "I wish the Klingon's would let us cut our hair."

"A warrior does not tame his animal instincts, for they may save his life." Selari quoted lightly. "You'll get over it. The Romulans will probably give us Imperial cuts next year."

Kieran shuddered. "I hope not." A young Romulan woman with an unkempt version of the haircut they had just been discussing fell into step next to Selari.

"I think you'd look adorable Cadet Marshall." She assured him seriously. He looked so stricken that Selari couldn't help collapsing into giggles.

"Eirai, you can be downright cruel." She took a breath and composed herself to an acceptable Klingon level as they entered the compound. "But you do have a point."

"Of course I do." The Romulan cadet replied. "He has the right kind of cheekbones." Kieran's face was a red as bloodwine as they joined the throng of cadets before the line of instructors. An especially tall Klingon woman banged her bat'leth on a support pillar for silence. Her hair was loose and wild, and a fresh line of blood ran down her right cheek.

"Cadets!" Her voice rang out deep and commanding. "One of you has proven that your weak, cowering bodies may someday become strong. One of you has the warrior spirit and has proven it by bloodying me in battle." The other instructors cheered heartily, as did the bravest of the cadets. "This means that you all have earned a night in the streets of Gah'Veh, may you listen well to her story, and the stories of the warriors there. May they bring you courage." Behtag bared her fangs at the cadets, and Eirai grabbed Selari's hand and whispered into her ear.

"I think she's done it." Selari didn't have a chance to reply before the two massive bodies part behind Behtag and pushed forth a young human woman. Her bright red hair was also loose and added to the wild appearance of her flushed face. She looked almost ready to snarl back at Behtag who laughed and continued her announcement.

"Felisa, daughter of Beverly. You have earned your rights today." She tossed a traditional Klingon dagger to the ground at Felisa's feet. Kieran was about to cheer when Eirai and Selari hushed him.

"Wait. She knows better." Confused, he waited with the rest of the crowd.

Felisa looked to the dagger and spat at Behtag's feet. She stood in a proper Klingon fighting stance and glared in contempt at her instructor. When she spoke, her voice was far larger then her frame would allow. "I am a warrior of the Triumvirate and the Klingon Empire." She reached forward suddenly and ceremonially grabbed the bat'leth from Behtag's side and held it to her throat. "I am given no honor by you or anyone else. I take what is mine." The crowd of gray training suits erupted into cheers as she held the batleth aloft. Not even a Klingon could have been heard above the din. Combat instructor Behtag nodded her approval and congratulated the young woman with a rough hand on her shoulder that almost knocked her down. Laughing, she turned away with her fellow instructors and left Felisa to the crowd.

Kieran pushed his way through. He impulsively tried to hug her, but she held the batleth to her chest and he settled for an awkward pat on her arm. They stared at each other until Selari and Eirai elbowed their way through and grabbed them. "You heard the old hag. We're going to the city." Selari told them, as they were all dragged in the swell of cadets out into the late afternoon sun. "I don't know about you, but I could use some bloodwine."

Stardate 83301.5
UTF Wells

Janeway paused in front of the door of the observation lounge. “I know this will be strange for you.”

Selari stopped at her elbow and tried to smile. “Probably stranger for my mother- Dheyyan Troi, I mean.” Running her hand through her hair and sighing she managed a whimsical smile. “Can you imagine? One day some strange woman shows up from another timeline, has your DNA and thinks of you as her mother?”

“Deanna is a very reasonable woman.” The admiral reassured her. “She was intrigued to meet you. After all, you might be the only key we have to a vast mystery.” Captain Riker nodded as an ensign passed her. Hiding his astonishment at the differences he saw. Her uniform was very much like that of the admiral, but brighter. The cut was not as stark, the color a touch more cheerful. Janeway’s annoyance was brief with the ensign's obvious staring and never touched her face. Selari just took a deep breath.

“I’ll meet with Deanna while you figure out what to tell the Triumvirate about me.” The stark face of the older woman brighten briefly.

“I think I’ve gotten the short stick in this deal.” Selari touched a hand to her shoulder, surprising the Admiral with the warmth of her touch.

“But you’ve made me feel better Admiral. That has to count for something.” Selari faced her fears in front of the green-gray door of the Romulan lounge and Kathryn Janeway headed back to her office, already writing a proposal for the Triumivrate that would probably land her in sickbay for insanity.


It was funny how a culture completely alien to her own could become home so quickly. The Romulans were in many ways opposed to Betazoid teachings, believing in violence and structuring their society around their warriors. She drank her Romulan ale quickly and savored the stinging blue liquid. Betazed would be better off if they had more warriors. She toyed with her vienareen. Deanna Troi knew the Admiral was bringing that woman. The woman she hd left Will’s side to meet. Logic told her the sleeping Riker would have another two hours of chemical induced rest before she would again have to tackle his mind, but she wanted to be with him. It felt wrong to leave him alone.

She pushed away the vienareen, feeling slightly nauseous. Will’s mind was shattered. Broken to the point where she had contemplated that which he sought most. Within the borders of Romulan logic it was perfectly legal. The final honor was often given to heartbroken survivors, lest they seek it in other ways. People without the will to live were a liability to those around them. Will was a liability. She didn’t want to think that, because that lead her increasingly numb mind to the next conclusion. Will wanted to die.

She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. How was it that no matter how much she gave to this world, it was never enough. When Will and Beverly needed each other she had put them together. When Beverly needed a father for her child, a lover- she had given away her lover and sealed her heart to prevent his return. Here he was. Asking her what he should do. Asking for her love in order to live again. Asking her to breath her fractured life into him so he could continue to live.

The door hissed open.

Deanna leaned back so abruptly that her hands slammed into the table. The sound echoed, faded, and disappeared. The new woman, this visitor from another time, stood with light from the hallway framing her body. She wasn’t very tall, in fact, as Deanna stood they were almost the same height. Her hair was dark, black or at least dark brown. Her eyes were black, and she had an empathic presence unlike that of anything Deanna had felt before. She was familiar in a deep maddening way that had no place in this universe. Worst of all she was smiling, only in the barest way, but the curve of her lip was undeniably that of Will Riker.

The door shut behind her and Selari’s eyes were slow to adjust to the darkness. She wondered how long it would take her eyes to stop showing the wrongness in her mother’s face. But her mother’s face was right for this part of the cosmos. The scar above her right eye, the fading scar on her left cheek, those were acceptable, it was the way her eyes seemed to be made of ice that hurt in the pit of her stomach. Those eyes were hers on the worst days of her life. Hers when the Borg had taken the Las-Harkan from underneath her feet, but Deanna’s eyes were permanently pained.

Deanna brushed her mind and found nothing. A smooth expanse of mental shielding stopped her brush and turned it aside easily. She would find out nothing that way. She returned to her chair and indicated the empty glass next to hers. Selari sat down and took it. Without pause she downed it quickly at set it down. Her eyes were studying Deanna’s hands as she found the remnants of her in the alien face. The cheekbones, the set of the eyes, even the curling eyelashes must be hers. It brought the nausea back to her stomach.

“The Dheyyan Deanna Troi.” Selari began softly. “I know the Dheyyan, her daughter is my chief medical officer.”

Deanna nodded and concentrated on keeping her face even. “T’Kiere Veddra was my mentor. She was promoted to Triumvirate command thirteen years ago, after Senator Riaireth was killed in Borg raid.”

“Senator Riaireth and her crew were saved.” Selari contradicted sharply. “At least…” She reached for the decanter of Romulan ale and refilled her glass. “In my timeline they were.” She finished her glass and tried to figure out what she felt. Her mind twisted under the shield, and she wondered if Deanna could sense her unease.

Deanna caught the sudden flash of emotion. “Eirai Veddra was Felisa Picard’s chief of medical.” Selari caught her glass with her left hand seconds before it smashed onto the floor. The shield was struggling now, and Deanna knew it. From the odd look on the face across from her Selari knew it too.

The captain stood, walking to the window. “Felisa Picard has always shared my life. Even in the timeline without me, we share the same experiences, the same crew.” Deanna waited for her next move, but was wholly unprepared when Selari turned her chair and looked into her eyes. All of Selari’s shields were down, and the brute force of whatever telepathic abilities she had were rallying against Deanna’s own shields. “Forgive me.” Selari wispered as she placed a hand on each of Deanna’s shoulders. “I have to.” Surprise registered for the briefest of instants on Deanna’s face. “I need you to trust me and I know of no other way.” If Selari was her daughter in another timeline, a daughter with Will Riker, her empathic abilities should have been far inferior, but there was a strength in Selari’s mind that went completely without explaination.

Then they were together. In the most intimate of Betazoid rituals, Selari had laid her entire psyche bare, and forced Deanna to disrobe hers in return. There were no shields between them, no protective shadows, only their thoughts. And their thoughts raged.

Stardate 67015.6
Triumvirate Joint Academy
Gah'Veh, Qo'nos

Selari was supposed to have control. She had promised to have control. It was too early, they were too young and it was not their time to be together. It was a really a stupid idea to come here. To sit around the fire with her. To watch the firelight glint in her hair, as if it too was on fire. Kieran sat behind Felisa, and Selari could feel her hands wishing to tighten across his throat. She could still blame the bloodwine.

Felisa knew Selari's suffering. She knew how it was to have the object of everything you seek, the one person who would complete you as a person, within and yet without of your reach. Eirai, walked by with many tankards of bloodwine balanced in her arms. Kieran took two and shyly handed one to her. Eirai laughed as Kieran tried to imitate Felisa's fearless gulping of the burning liquid and choked. Eirai looked elegant as she turned to head to Selari. Her training suit fit the slight curves of her form especially well in the waning light. Felisa stood, leaving the puzzled Kieran for a moment, and whispered to her Romulan friend. Eirai's green blush was lost in the firelight, but she nodded. She crossed to Selari and they spoke briefly. Felisa watched the lust in Selari's body language find a responsive audience in Eirai. They both emptied their cups and disappeared into the night.

They had only walked a few hundred meters when Selari tripped her companion and began their mock combat. Eirai rolled up and hit her sharply in the side. Hand to hand, flesh to flesh, the air of the Klingon world seemed to lend itself to battle. They fought wildly, sweat building inside their uniforms. Their hearts pounding as breath came faster. They could explain it in the morning as a crimson dream of too many ballads and far too many empty tankards. But it was still night and Selari was enjoying the feel of victory far too much to let logic get in her way now. Now was what mattered. Now meant the rich taste of bloodwine in her mouth and the sensation of warm lips against hers.

“Well?” Eirai waited as they stared at each other, still breathing quickly.

“Well what?” Selari teased back. “Aren’t you supposed to say something romantic?”

“You were the aggressor.”

"Maybe I was just bored." Selari grasped the hands of her target around the wrists. “But, you were fairly easily conquered.”

Hands pushed back against hers, and then broke free. Hot blood pounded in her ears and they started to circle each other. Each of them already breathing as if they had run kilometers to get here. Bloodwine sang in her brain, and preceded to drown out her better reasoning. Behind them, in the city of Gah’Veh the party continued. Now relaxed from it’s status as a riot, the ballad of Kathless and Lukara rang out over the shouts of combat, and the cheers of victory. The sound carried well even to the scrubby woods where they circled each other. Selari lunged, and her quarry backed away quickly, but not perfectly. Bloodwine slowed both of their movements, and Selari knew she was faster.

Speed wouldn’t stop the brute force that brought her down however. She hit the ground and kept her head up she twisted free, and with a sharp turn of her hip, she was above. She took her advantage and leaned down to kiss the mouth that growled at her, but a hard skull knocked into hers and they went rolling through the underbrush. When they stopped she was underneath again, pinned completely this time. Struggling made her blood boil, and when her captor leaned down to kis her this time, she nipped and copper blood mingled with bloodwine in her mouth. Maybe it was the atmosphere, the bloodwine, the stress of near-continuous combat training, or the culture around them, but her body burned in ways she had never before awknowledged. “Now you are conquered.”

Selari continued to struggle. She enjoyed the way she was caught, the way every avenue of escape was blocked by warm flesh. “I am.”

A tongue ran experimentally down the side of her neck, and she knew her captor was as drunk as she was. Both of them might barely remember in the morning, but for now it was night and morning was a dream. They had just left the group when lust had taken over her better reasoning. The firelight flickered off of the gray training suit, accentuating curves she had eyed before in her friend. Eirai was very lovely, more so at night when her eyes seemed to go on forever. Selari knew the curves of her body, she knew how her breasts fitted into the training suit. Tonight she knew how she felt, and reason was the last thought in her mind.

Feeling made sense in the heady fever of the bloodwine. Lust, pure and as young as they were, pounded through them both. One hand escaped and turned aside the head near her ear. Selari bit where the neck met the shoulder, leaving green marks in the pale skin. Slightly shocked, Eirai’s grip released enough to free her other hand and with both she tore the fabric of the training uniform with her training dagger. Splitting it from neck to sternum. Smooth skin, marked with the occasional bruise from combat training met her searching hands. Breasts swelled beneath her hands and her breathing rang in her ears. Eirai’s eyes had begun to turn a shade of purple, faded from black to a livid violet. Selari’s distraction was enough for Eirai to split her uniform with her boot dagger. Neatly slicing through the fabric until they were barely separated.

The night air was heavy, but warm and welcoming. Their bare skin met and sweat transferred bodies and mingled in the deep scents of the woods. Kissing was a new adventure every time they started again. Selari tore, even clawed at the last shreds of offending uniforms until they both entwined, completely naked, and already dirty from the mud beneath them. Eirai hissed, and then swore at her violently in a tongue of Romulan so ancient that it was almost understandable. Selari hit her across the face, and then they were kissing again. Kissing, biting, rolling over each other as the branches of the scrub left tiny scratches on naked skin. But they were numb to the environment, only sensitive to each other. Wet hands searched and found, though clumsily at first. One of them laughed, and then gasped as clumsiness vanished into realization. Culmination was violent. As violent as their coupling had began, and it pounded through Selari’s mind as they watched the Klingon moon rise red in the distance. The lingering pleasure in her mind drowned out the voice of panic. The disappointment that the connection hadn’t taken her mind with it.

They snuck down the hillside in the predawn, and were herded into a tent for new clothing by a laughing Behtag who checked them both for serious injuries before sending them home. They dressed together silently, and before they left the tent for the barracks, Selari kissed her again.

Gently this time, sweetly Eirai kissed her back and smiled. She took the dagger from her boot again, wiped it against her palm and handed it to Selari. “Rhehu’Fir?”

Selari nodded and agreed without a pause as she took the dagger. “Rhehu’Fir.” Out of what little Romulan she knew, that was something she could live with.

Kieran Marshall was deeply shocked when, after never saying more then a few words to him in a row during their entire time at the academy. Felisa Picard sat down next to him at breakfast a few days later. She delicated dropped a few struggling ‘rahct into her mouth and smiled at him. “I would like to have dinner with you tonight. Meet me in Gah’Veh just after sunset.” His confusion only deepened as she continued. “Selari and Eirai have become involved. I am free to explore a relationship with you if you wish.” She finished her ‘racht and stood up to leave, glancing meaningfully to the smiling Romulan at his side. “I believe Terek can explain it to you before bat’leth training if you hurry.” Felisa walked away. Her long hair flaring out behind her like the firey trail of a meteor. Kieran continued to stare at her back until it was no longer visible. Terek slapped him on the back.

“Well congratulations my friend. Picard’s are legendarily hard to date.” Kieran reached for his water glass and downed it quickly.

“I think it’s going to be a long explaination.”

Terek picked up his empty plate, and took Kieran by the arm. “Fairly simple actually. Even for a human.”

Stardate 83301.5
UTF Wells

Korvash’s expression was caught somewhere between stone and a growl as he faced down Admiral Will Riker. “The captain has vanished from this timeline. Sir. We do not as yet know how to retrieve her. We will inform you as soon as we know anything more.”

Will’s fists were clenched tightly at his sides, but his black eyes were devoid of malice. His face was tired, and the first officer wondered internally how old the Admiral really was. “How can she just vanish?” He asked dully. “How can my daughter just disappear?” He ran a hand through his gray hair and the Klingon watched as a tear Riker had been fighting off, escaped down his cheek.

Korvash’s shoulders slumped slightly, which was the closest a Klingon could get to a sigh of defeat. “Her mate may yet be able to save her. If not, we will see her again in Sto-Vo-Kor.” Will knew that was all the assurance a Klingon needed, even one who had the greatest respect for his captain. The hand on his shoulder was too cold to be Deanna’s, but he turned around anyway. Veddra took his arm.

“Come on Admiral. Your wife’s already interrogating our science officer, and Korvash needs to rescue her.” Something in the back of her mind reminded him of the pain in his heart. “Maybe you’d have a drink with me?” Thirty years ago he would have only seen a Romulan on the other side of a viewing screen, with great starships holding them uneasily apart.

Today he sat down on the couch in her quarters as she took the bottle of bright blue liquid from the shelf on the wall. “This is a vintage bottle, 2357 I think. My mother gave it to me when I graduated the Academy.” She poured the blue liquid reverently and handed him a glass.

“I graduated from the Academy, the original back on Earth, in 2357.” He swirled his glass and wondered if his life could now share the designation of vintage. Will began the conversation bitterly. “Is it your turn to comfort the doddering old admiral? Keeping him away from the crew and their duties so he can’t mess anything up?”

“Just because I look like a Vulcan doesn’t mean I have the emotional range of one.” Veddra snapped back, and Will noticed the skin around her eyes looked greener then usual. “Perhaps I need someone to drink with.” She raised her glass. “To the safe return of our Selari.”

He nodded quietly, swallowed and winced. “It’s been awhile since we’ve had the real stuff on Deep Space 17.”

The same smile as the captain, she thought. “My mother’s a thoughtful woman.” Veddra sat across from him, rather jauntily for a Romulan. “Do you speak Romulan Admiral?”

He managed a dry chuckle. “Barely any. My wife is fluent so I’ve never had to learn. I speak serviceable Klingon.” Some of his grief faded from his face. “I’m from the old Federation, before languages were mandatory.”

“Have you ever heard the term RheHu’Fir?” There was something sentimental in her well ordered mind, a softening of thought that came from memory.

Intrigued, he waited for her explaination. “No, I don’t think I have.”

Veddra looked away from him, fixing her gaze on an old dagger on table between them. “Romulan’s have fairly strict bonding customs. Before the unity, Romulan children went to the War Academy early in their teens. It was necessary to find away to fit early relationships into our customs. RheHu’Fir means the early bonding. It’s a probationary period were both parties have each other’s unquestionable trust and loyalty.”

“That sounds like it would lead to marriage.” Will speculated.

“Very rarely.” She corrected lightly. “Most relationships of that nature keep the calm between the young at the Academy. A gift is exchanged, usually a dagger like this one.” Veddra removed the dagger from the table and turned it over in her hands. “This was your daughter’s gift to me on Qo’nos. “ There were tears on the Romulan’s face as she handed it to him. “The symbol on the handle is one you should know.”

He smiled lopsidedly. “The house of Troi.”

She let her tears continue down her face, but she smiled. “It was a long time ago, and we were both very young. We were never as she is with her wife.”

“Imzadi.” He sighed and ran his finger over the handle of the dagger, wondering how his name had become forever lost to the Troi legacy. “Not everyone is. I had many lovers before Deanna. But Deanna was-“

“The first one to touch your soul.” Veddra repeated with him. “Felisa touched her soul the day she was born.” Will sighed and set the dagger on the table. “Selari knew in every moment of her life that she would be with Felisa. We used to talk about it back then.”

Will’s confusion was obvious. “Then why did she become involved with you?”

“They weren’t ready. Imzadi is the ultimate commitment. Selari believed that once she was bonded her life would be Felisa’s. They both thought it was an inappropriate commitment to make at the Academy.”

“They used you. You and that boy Beverly hated.” He relaxed into a grin. “What was his name…Matthews? Mitchel?”

“Marshall.” She filled her glass again. “Kieran Marshall. We didn’t mind. They were extroadinary. I-“ She finished the glass for courage. “I love your daughter.” She took his hand, surprising him with the strength in her fingers. “They married on their first assignment. I met Taev at medical training on Vulcan. When this is over-“ Both of them paused, but determinedly she continued. “We plan to have children. They may even grow up on Betazed with your grandchildren.”

Grief boiled up and suddenly he was angry. “Why tell me all this?”

Veddra sighed and she leaned back in her chair, drained of the energy her admission had taken. “Felisa asked me to explain it to you. It’s about Admiral Crusher.”

Will lifted his head from his hands. “Beverly? How could she have anything to do with this?”

Her voice almost sounded as cold as a Vulcan. “On Gravette Island, you and Deanna grew distant for a time. What would have happened if you had not come back together? Can you tell me you don’t have a similar love for Beverly?”

Realization dawned hard in his eyes. “In the other timeline, I never went back to Deanna. That's why Selari-”

“Never was.” She finished for him. His fingers grew tight against hers. “Felisa believes that may be part of the answer. That timeline needed Selari Riker, and now she’s there.”

His tone was explosive. “That's great for that timeline, but what about this one? We're missing her now. What do we need? Who do we get in return?”

Veddra sighed again as she leaned back against her chair. "I don't know. I assume Felisa does and we'll have to trust her."

"Do you?" Will's question was heavy.

"Of course I do." Veddra said bluntly. "And so did your daughter."

Riker seemed distant, and lost in his own thoughts. "They were imzadi..." He whispered, partially to her, but mostly to himself. He knew what it was to transcend time and space with the bond between two people. But it was just one word. How much faith could he put into it? Apparently it was not enough to live his life on that faith. It was not enough to live and die by what that word meant. He knew how much faith he needed, and how much he had. The disparity made him nauseous.


Part 39
Stardate 83301.5
UTF Wells

Admiral Deanna Riker’s empathy was barely functioning. She wasn’t sure how the crew looked at her as she stormed through the ship. She didn’t know how she was going to react when she got to that woman, but it was not going to be graceful. It would lack diplomacy. She lacked diplomacy. Her heart hurt. It pounded agonizingly because her baby was no longer in it. The tenous cord of connection that bound every Betazoid child to it’s mother and had since conception was gone. Not by death or anything she could fathom, not through anything she could feel, just gone. Stolen, and all because of that woman.

The security seal on the door was half-hearted, and Deanna’s access code brought it obediently open. The science lab was dark, quiet and seemingly deserted. No spark of life met her mind, but her mind was beyond listening. Even though she could feel Will’s dispair, and his fragile optomism begin to overcome it, Deanna could barely breathe through the pain. Pain burned in harmony with anger. Dischordant and dominating in the peaceful Betazoid heart. She was on her way to the door, maybe Korvash could find Felisa so she could-

The dagger was cold on her throat. Felisa had moved too quickly for her to hear, and her empathy was interested only in Deanna’s own anger. Her daughter-in-law’s voice was as cold as the metal against Deanna’s throat. “It is not my fault. I can sense your anger Deanna-“ Deanna struck back into the space behind her where Felisa had to be. It was empty. The dagger flicked out and left a red line on her cheek. “I can even give you pain if that’s what you wish of me, mother.”

Disdain rang from Deanna’s voice in the darkness. “I am not your mother.”

“Not by blood.” Felisa returned, and Deanna felt the emptiness in her vaguely through her furious haze. “Though I love you, I have no time for this.” A hand on the panel brought the lights into blinding focus. “If you will permit me the courtesy I can tell you what we need to do to get your daughter back.”

“So you know a way?” Her head quieted suddenly. Her heart even quieted as her body waited for the answer.

Felisa laughed, and the room seemed to drop a few degrees. “Of course there’s a way.” She tossed Deanna a small armband. “Put this on. We’ll need your access codes to beam down to the surface.”

Deanna threw the armband to the ground and glared at the pale blue eyesacross from her. “Selari’s not down there. If she were I could feel her, and I can’t!”

Felisa shook her head again. “It’s all about you admiral. We have to get Selari back, and only you can do that.” Deanna’s heart skipped and her hands grew cold. “Look at this Admiral.” She offered venomously. A holographic poject of a multi-colored knot of light hovered about the console in the center of the room. As Felisa spoke, she manipulated it, isolating colors, bends and loops. “I’ve been working on this since Selari disappeared. This is a representation of the lives of everyone on Gravette Island. I know it had to be someone on the Enterprise-E. Someone trapped in the past changed the future-“ Her blue eyes started to glow icy white. Deanna took a step backinstinctively, almost stepping on the temporal armband. She bent to pick it up, and Felisa continued, unaware of the changes in her body.

“But who? My mother? Will Riker? Maybe it was Worf.” Lines of color began to disappear from the knot. Felisa’s hands were no longer moving over the panel. Her fingertips were starting to turn white. Finally one line of light remained, pale lavender and bright enough to cancel the light of the room. Deanna was too entranced to notice the darkness that crept around her. Felisa’s voice had gained momentum, her words seemed to come from the walls behind the admiral, the console beneath her hands, everywhere but her mouth. “It all came down to a choice someone made. I don’t know how I never saw it before.” The display started to change, twisting in on itself. “Then I found this.”

The twisting stopped, the line of light shuddered, vibrating like a string until it split. Fraying outward in two separate lines. Felisa turned to her in triumph, her eyes fading to a normal, human blue. “You did it. This line, that choice. It was you.” She added a color back in. A deep green, part of one branch and painfully absent from the other. “This is the truly amazing part. Right here-“ The display slowed, and the green disappear from the left line where it had began, and found the right. Arcing between them like a sudden flash of lighting, or the instant of warp plasma infusion. Deanna felt as if the air was crackling around her, and with dull terror she noticed Felisa’s hands no longer needed to touch the console. She conducted her lightshow of time with thought itself.

“Right here she leaves us and jumps to the other line.” Grief hit Deanna hard enough to knock her to her knees. As if she had been struck with a physical blow to the head, grief poured out of the alien woman who was imzadi to her daughter. “And it hurts, doesn’t it? I’ve been able to feel her since she was conceived. Her mind and mine, grew together. And now…it’s as if all that was good in me was cut out and laid to rot in front of me.”

Deanna pulled herself to her feet, wondering when she had become old enough where that was difficult. “What happened to you Felisa?” No anger raged within her anymore. The darkness threatening her was the familiar guilt that had plagued her since-

“Wesley.” Felisa slumped back against the wall behind her. The light from within her was gone, and the lighting of the temporal laboratory was harsh in comparison. “My dear brother knew something had gone wrong. He knew and he told you when you were locked together. As he tried to find my mother in his dying moments he told me everything.” The harsh dispair in her made her seem decades older then Deanna. She was thin and hard as Deanna hugged her. As Deanna Troi found her inner guidance again through her calling. Her self-induced mission to live for others, and she gave Felisa her strength.

“I knew he did something. But I -“ Felisa’s response almost choked her as it forced it’s way from her throat.

“You won’t know unless I show you.” She sighed heavily, and it took her almost a minute to breathe again. Deanna remembered the life slipping from Wesley’s body as the air slipped from his lungs. Silently Deanna offered all she had. Her protection and her strength. Her forgiveness-

Light started in Felisa’s chest, radiating outward through her body like a transporter beam in reverse. Heart, then chest, then shoulders, hips, and her hands grasping Deanna’s arms. Deanna’s arms filled with something beyond sensation. Soemthing so alien her nerves couldn’t understand what was happening to them. The formless light took her and made her anew. Felisa opened her eyes to reveal white light that sank into Deanna’s eyes until she saw the fluididity of time as Felisa did. She felt the universe as a composer feels the music. She was everywhere and she hadn’t left the science lab on the Wells. Deanna felt every instant of time as a single breath. Every thought as the pause before a heartbeat. Understanding found her as she found it within herself. Where it had always been.

Omega Time
Infinite Space

He should never have watched. He should never have interferred. The travelers were just observers. Watchers from after, catalogers of history who never participated. It was easy for them after all, their familes were travelers. Their familes were immortal and unchanging. Their families would always be part of the network of minds that formed their world. Dissipating only to be reborn as travelers, cycling forever. Never alone.

His mother was human, as fragile as a warp bubble and just as insignificant. She would leave no lasting imprint on the universe. She would die and the energy of her body would be reborn as something new. A star, or a comet, or a racer cat on Bajor. She would cease to exist in a way he never could. She would disappear in a way he couldn’t follow, and she would be gone. Gone the way of his father. Gone the way of his humanity, and he knew when. The exact date. The exact time of her last breath. The moment were the energy of her heart dissipated into her surroundings. Where that power ceased to be and became again.

The universe was beginning to tangle in ways he could never undo, and his death was coming. He could feel it as the intangible cold crept up on him. His own energy was slipping away. Wesley went to Earth, hoping he could explain what had happened, hoping he could explain how they could fix it. How they could rescue themselves from the exile of the past, but it was too much. An overestimate, a touch of overconfidence, and the death he feared was his gift as it took all other thought away. Everything he had tried to do. The people he had tried to help-

Dissipation. The ending and the beginning of someone else. The passing of the burden of time occurred through Deanna as forces beyond even Wesley Crusher’s enlightened existance planned the dance they all would follow.

Stardate 51632.9

Deanna seemed to be blessed by her pregnancy. Instead of Beverly’s despondence, she glowed. Something lit her from within, and like a lantern surrounded a candle, she sheltered their child. Will watched and his appreciation grew. They took long walks through the Jalara Jungle, and with a patience that he had never seen in her before, she held no fear. What he knew of childbirth was limited to a holographic simulation, and the birth of Felisa on Gravette Island. He remembered the fear in Beverly’s face, and the way her terror seemed to eat her from within.

Deanna seemed to hold only peace. He had leave for the next month, the Enterprise-F would be complete in 6 months, and their child’s birth neared. Somehow, he felt Deanna knew, but like so many other things about her recently, it was a secret. Even Lwaxana seemed content, her interference, and her constant advice was gone. Will had dredged up the nerve to discuss his fears only after she had found them. She sat back against a tree, an data padd in her hand, and the toddler Felisa asleep in her lap.

((Will. You must cast out fear, There is no room for anything else until you cast out fear.)) She advised him sagely, and patted the ground next to her.

((More Surak Lwaxana?)) He asked lightly and she set down the pad, nodding.

((Much wisdom in that man.)) She acknowledged. ((I can see it in your mind. You should listen to Surak. Beverly’s labor terrified you and you fear the same for Deanna.))

He knew better then to argue and sighed. ((Shouldn’t I?))

((Ian felt the same way.)) She clucked her tongue in silent annoyance. ((I don’t know what they teach you starfleet types about childbirth, but it must be all rubbish.)) She smiled at him gently and started her story. Sharing her feelings with him in an intimacy she hadn’t yet used. ((Ian was convinced horrible things would happen to me when Kestra was born. Death, dying, destruction, hysteria- He was too afraid to realize what he was even afraid of, poor man.))

He stroked one of Felisa’s red baby curls and listened. ((What did you do?))

She set down her teachings of Surak and looked directly into his face. ((I gave birth as Betazoid women have for centuries. I’ll always been a bit of a traditionalist.)) His confusion brought her silent laughter. ((I don’t expect you to know ancient traditions, but for thousands of years before tricorders and biobeds Betazoid women gave birth in the jungle, and most of us still respect the tradition.))

He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. ((The jungle?))

((The jungle William. I snuck out when Ian was sleeping, and Kestra was born in the morning. Only the sunrise and I were there to meet her.)) She took in the scadalized look on his face with her usual candor. ((Ian was absolutely furious with me when I walked back home with her in my arms. Furious enough to be over his fear when Deanna was born in that little pool beneath Jarnaran Falls.))

((So he was there that time.)) He finished for her, and she nodded, smiling.

((I wouldn’t tell Beverly if I were you. She might not understand, but Deanna knows what she’s going to do.)) Closing her eyes for a moment in the warm sunshine. ((There is no other wisdom, and no hope for us but that we grow wise.)) She touched his cheek and met his eyes. Letting him share the love for him she had in her heart. ((Grow wise with her Will. Don’t wait for her to walk up to you and introduce you to your child.))

When he suggested to her that they pack up for their trip to Janaran Falls that night, Deanna had kissed him with tears in her eyes, beaming with pride in his understanding. It seemed that Lwaxana had a bit a prophet in her after all. They left in the sunset and the early twilight. Listening to the forest, and following the path they knew so well without light because their eyes didn’t seem to need it. Deanna led with her hand on his arm. Her mind was with his and her sense of peace was overwhelming. She even laughed as he realized her first contraction brought no pain. The jungle air was hot around them, and the water down from the falls sang against the rocks. They followed the river.

She settled on the bank, with her feet in the water. Silently he sat down next to her, and they shared. The sky, the perfume of the night, the sound of the hugari beetles, the rocks under their feet, and the slow tightening of her belly were all part of the jungle. Will found his breath lost in the air of the jungle. Deanna’s hair was full of the smell, and he shared her thought. They had come full circle, rounding the passionate beginning of their lives, the slow growth apart, the passion that had brought them back together, the slow growth of their child and this. The changing of their lives from couple to family. The changing of their minds and their bond. Their breath and their baby, as tied to each other as they were tied to the wilderness.

Deanna’s contractions rippled across her mind. Waves ebbing and flowing through her thoughts and his. But her ocean was smooth, like water she was always moving but unchanged. This was the culmination of their existence as one. The continuation of their hopes, the embodiment of their love for each other, and he was crying. His tears landed in the slow Janaran river. Becoming one with the water. Her hand on his arm was steady and unflinching. Together they watched the slow progression of the night, and felt the slow progression of their child. The glow around her, weither real or imagined, echoed the light of the moon as it came through the trees. Silently adding it’s presence to the night. The rhythym of her contractions was the rythym of the night. The sound of their breathing was one with the wind, and the water that sheltered their child joined the waters of the river. Becoming one with his tears, the sweat on her forehead, and the moisture in the air.

He stood and helped her to her feet. They walked into the pool and joined the water. Will removed her clothes, and threw them to the bank to lay beside his and flesh to flesh they stood in the water. Walking out until it covered the swelling that sheltered their child, she put her head on the warm skin of his chest and they waited. The hugari beetles rustled in the trees, and the Janaran falls rumbled on. The moon came and went between the leaves of the huge trees. The white moonblossoms opened and conquered the air, and all of them waited. Deanna opened her eyes and guided his hand to the round bulge of their child’s head between her legs. His hand covered it, completely encircling it. Deanna kissed him, and he felt the sigh of release go through her body.

Their baby’s cries frightened the beetles for only a moment, and she too became part of the jungle. Tasting the air of her home planet for the first time. Deanna was laughing as clearly and as musically as the day he met her, and Will cried into the river. This was love and family. This was the completion he had sought angrily in his youth. This was all he needed in the universe to be happy. The three of them lay on the bank as the sun rose, their daughter attached firmly to Deanna’s breast. His hand was on her shoulder, but his mind was completely lost in her. Above reality, as the moonblossoms closed in the sunrise, he spoke to her. The single word that bound them together, the understanding that had brought them here with their child.

Stardate 83301.5
UTF Wells

Three decks away, Admiral William Riker of Earth went with his wife. Bound by thought it ways beyond physics, beyond theories of light and matter. Dr. Veddra was too surprised to catch the glass of Romulan ale before it shattered on the table as it fell from a formless hand that could no longer interact with physical matter. He looked at her, a smile softening his face as the sorrow in him seemed to melt away. His questions, his doubts were gone. Swallowed into the truth of his existence. “I should have known.” He whispered softly. The hollow pit in his stomach was gone. Forgotten as he smiled at the awestruck Romulan as he began to fade from her quarters. The explaination he sought, the one he found but couldn't quite bring himself to believe was on his lips as he vanished.



Stranded Finale
Omega Space
Infinite Time

Selari Riker had more experience with time travel then most starfleet captains, even including her father. But to her, time travel was wrought with a ship. Molded and allowed through the laws of science. Now she suspended time through the effort of only her mind. It was an odd experience, but she was. She had no when, no where, but she was as she had always been.

Deanna Riker found the absolute, and immediately Will Riker was with her. Their minds together as he smiled at her across the edge of the universe and from within her own heart. Speech remained unnecessary to them as it had always been because here in this place of nowhere, and caught without time she had her love and his. Without place they were together, and without time they lived forever in this moment.

Will wanted to laugh or cry or rejoice that finally he knew truth. Though part of him insisted on having knowledge of the truth all along. The truth of his soul in the sharing. The sharing with her, the glorious being who echoed his own light. She who had showed him the beauty of her soul, and explained how the reflection of himself was what gave her that beauty. She who had taught him to love without want, had found the ability to need without envy, to love without restraint and to be without remorse. Love without compromise, beginning or end. Love that existed in full palpable reality around them, and hid in intangible ways deep within them. Will settled for laughing. This was a happy peace.

Deanna Troi felt at once that she did not belong. This place was not of her, and for her, but she was. The stranger who had brought her had tears on her face as she continued their sharing. Selari, the daughter she had never known through the man she had given away, gave her the part of her soul she had lost. Somewhere and nowhere Will Riker laughed, and the daughter that wasn’t hers held her as she cried.

He had fully expected death to be warm. Will Riker who found in death the peace that had abandoned him in life. Found warmth in nothing, found life in a memory and saw his daughter again. The woman who had none of his blood, but all of his hope was alive again before him. Relief greater then he conceived washed over him as he knew peace and he cried.

Beverly Crusher reflexively reached for the data padd she had just dropped and found it gone. When she reached across the nothing around her, she found her own fingers reaching back. Someone laughed, and someone sobbed wildly, and it was all around and within her. She turned and found herself staring at her.

She watched herself and wonder how the years could have been kinder to this woman then they were to herself. The self across from her reached out a hand, and Beverly let herself touch the fingers seeking her. It seemed deeply odd that in the time after death she would see herself. The white around her fit with the explosion, but Felisa was standing in front of her. Felisa had been waiting.

Jean-Luc Picard knew nothing of where he was. He remembered little of where he had been, but he was surrounded. A young woman with dark curls held an aged Deanna as she wept. A Will Riker with his face darkened with despair, had the eyes of a young boy again as he cried in release. Deanna and Will held hands and smiled in peaceful surrender. Beverly Crusher touched her own hand as she reached towards herself across the expanse of the universe. Together they found Felisa and stared as he did at his daughter.

The people of her life formed a circle around her as she drew them in. Echoes of their joys and fears tickled her mind, but she was tired. The hair that hung into her eyes was white. The hands that Selari reached for in desperation were old. Older then the versions of her mother that stared at her. Older then the despair in Will Riker’s face, older then the grief in Deanna’s eyes as she watched them and even older then the omniscience that brought Will and Deanna such peace. She sighed with empty lungs. She was not afraid.

Stardate 83301.6
Vulcan Medical Academy

Vice Admiral Beverly Crusher stepped up to the podium to begin her speech of benediction. On the Apollo, a message from the Wells blinked urgent on the monitor in her ready room. T’Shora, her first officer and assistant for many years debated the interruption the message would cause to the Admiral’s speech and decided the message could wait the few minutes it would take the Admiral to give the final instructions to the newest group of Triumvirate medical doctors. It was only going to be a few minutes.

Beverly looked down once more to her speech, and wondered briefly where her daughter was. It had been a few days since her last message. The data padd fell from her fingers as they became insubstantial, and the message of warning went unread as Vice Admiral Crusher vanished into the dry Vulcan air.

Stardate 83301.6
RSW Bilire-Ahi

Their conversation had required some thought. Deanna’s mind was full of foreign memories from that woman who was not her daughter. Memories of birthdays and celebrations and love. Wonderful encompassing love that burned out the pain in her. Deanna wondered with deep guilt what it was like to feel that kind of love. What it would have been to share that with her imzadi, but there was one last thing they would share.

He was waiting for her in her quarters. The dagger, this one bearing the hybridized crest of the House of Picard, sat on the table in front of him. The dagger Will had brought had come from Felisa’s things. Korvash had given it to him without a word as was the way of the Klingons. Deanna’s quarters on the Bilire-Ahi were spacious and spartan. Harsh with the lines of Romulan architecture, but softened only slightly by remnants of Deanna Troi of Betazed. The smoke came from ejhoi d’lata. A Romulan incense with deep meaning that she understood immediately as she entered the room.

Selari’s memories were fresh in her mind, and old, nearly forgotten love flourished in her heart. Will’s mind was calm. Resolute in his descision. Deanna would of course have to deal with Admiral Janeway, but her status as a diplomat of the highest respect in the Romulan government would make that a simple conversation.

“This is what you want Will?” She asked formally, but her voice was empty. Less of a question and more of a final statement, it required no answer as he stood to face her.

“Please Deanna.” His thoughts, so long parted from her own, found her again in a final plea. And in that moment she hated him. Deanna hated him for the happiness he had lost. She hated him for the peace he had known, and the rest that he would find in a way that he had taken from her. Death was no option for Deanna, but it could be her tool.

Kissing Will had once held promise of the future. Of a life of great joy and peace where anything was possible. Kissing Will know was goodbye, and she had never been able to say goodbye. His eyes met hers, and his plea was there. The emptiness was there as an echo of her own life. What she had never had, he had lost and he could not live without it. The family she couldn’t allow herself to have, the family she had feared was gone. Any happiness she had shared unknowingly throughout the years he had apart from her was gone. Emptiness consumed them both, but only she had to live with hers.

The taste of his pain was on her lips and she curled her fingers around the dagger. The leather warmed to her touch, the metal glinted in the weak light of her quarters. The smell of the smoke bid good journey to the soul that wished to leave, and he was inches away. The metal was cold on the back of his neck. He didn’t close his eyes and Deanna watched as realization dawned and life faded away. Blood ran down her arms and spilled over the deck beneath their feet. Red blood contrasted with the green of the furniture. Blood was warm as his body began to cool.

She removed the dagger from between the third and forth vertebrae of his neck and leaned down to kiss him again. Her mind was completely empty now. The dull nothingness where the bond had been was intolerable. Furiously she kicked her foot into his chest. A rib that would never have to heal broke under the force of her anger and she let herself cry. Deanna Troi collapsed sobbing to the body of the man who was gone. She cried in a way she hadn’t allowed herself in over thirty years.

Selari couldn’t help sharing their thoughts. Even as she tried to meditate as Felisa had taught her she felt the pain that drove them both. She hadn’t interfered, she could begrudge neither of them what they did. It did not matter. Felisa called to her and she could feel the pull in the back of her mind. As nothingness replaced the flesh and blood of her body, she looked forward to it as it embraced her as fondly as her imzadi.

Stardate 70126.3
KDF D’yakorg

Selari had been in a violent mood for the last week. Felisa didn’t know how the fire that drove her managed to drive her to such distraction sometimes. Selari had returned from another training session bruised and exhausted, but unfulfilled. She paced the tiny room that was their quarters. She hit the wall and rejoiced in the pain it sent up her arm. Felisa sat on the edge of the hard meta bunk that was hers and watched.

For months they had both watched. Felisa watched Selari at the constant battle drills the Klingons put them through, and wondered if a finer female form had ever existed then that of the young Ensign Riker. Selari had watched Felisa in the science lab while she was supposed to be recalibrating the disruptors. Wondering how it would taste to kiss the lips Felisa pursed when she was deep in thought. Their past threads were tied. Eirai had found a mate on Vulcan and Kieran would understand. He would have too, because Selari was getting beyond understanding.

Lately Selari was edgy. Snappy, even harsh when ever she opened her mouth. The Klingons glared, and a few times she was slapped in the face for her efforts, but that only seemed to inflame the issue. Whatever it was inside her that was eating at her control was starting to win. Felisa sighed heavily.

“We should have never agreed. It’s too close.” Their room assignments as the only humans on board had been each other. It was like putting warp plasma in a torpedo and hoping it wouldn’t destroy itself. Felisa knew what she was. Selari couldn’t know. She couldn’t understand the burden that went with her. The weight that Felisa carried was hers, and should be hers alone. Love had no place in her life. She lay down and faced the wall. Selari contented herself with throwing her boot, and the thud that accompanied it.

“Of course we shouldn’t have agreed. Every time I look at you-“ The other boot flew after its companion and joined it in a heap. “Well, you know how I feel. Even without Betazoid DNA.” Felisa said nothing. Selari knew what she would say if she did and it didn’t matter. “I don’t hate you.” Selari clarified. “I couldn’t.”

“I am your death and I can’t let it happen.” Felisa rolled to state up at the cold metal frame above her head.

Selari dropped to the floor beside her. Her damming Betazoid eyes were centimeters away. “That’s pretty selfish of you.” She tilted her head, laying it down on her hands. “It’s fate if you meet your death, but you can’t let me.”

Felisa’s eyes were completely devoid of emotion. “Don’t.”

“I know I’ll die someday, I can accept that.” Her fingers were warm under the sleeve of Felisa’s tunic. And Felisa couldn’t bring herself to pull away. “I can’t accept this. You were in my mind the moment I was born. I don’t think my mind will continue without you. Whether or not you let me in.”

“It’s not your fight.” She argued weakly. “This is my responsibility.” She sat up, leaning on her elbow. “Why would you choose to die with me?” Felisa couldn’t help thinking how much Selari looked like Deanna when she cried. Her eyelashes brushed her cheek as Selari kissed her.

“I would. That’s all that matters.” Selari climbed into the bunk next to her and started the sharing of minds they had been avoiding all their lives. Felisa’s fear and her stubborn dedication to her inherited responsibility were forgotten in Selari’s enthusiasm. Her mouth was warm, but her body burned against Felisa. She flipped Selari off and they hit the floor. The black Betazoid eyes flashed wickedly with Riker charm and their hands worked together on the complicated Klingons tunics. Felisa could already feel the tendrils of emotion binding them together. The thoughts that weren’t hers beginning to come to her mind. The strength and humor of her lover infusing her with hope. As Selari’s patient fingers roamed the skin of her body, in hot contrast to the cold metal deck, Felisa saw for the first time in her life the beauty of the moment.

Felisa Picard had been born with a mission, and every day of her life she had lived for that mission. She knew what she had to do, and she knew her end. There was no mystery of the future, and no joy in the present as it continued towards the one moment that mattered. The only moment that meant anything in the world. Selari nibbled her side, just above her hip, as her Betazoid mind entwined itself into her own. For an instant the light of death was gone. For an instant, the future was lost to her and there was only Selari’s flesh against her own and the desire in her mind. Death loomed into Selari’s vision, dark and patient. It was waiting for her moment. The moment Felisa had always known. Fear rushed through her and even with the heat of Felisa’s presence she was cold. Her life had been a blank, but now it had an ending. There were a set number of pages, and after that it would just end. They cried out- in fear- anguish- and triumph. In their shared life, two
doomed lives could be whole. Two lives shortened by responsibility. Selari whispered in her mind, and Felisa responded.


Omega Space
Infinite Time

Felisa reached her hands across all the nothingness that separate them and Selari met her. Felisa smiled as Selari’s hands aged at her touch. The strength coursed through them, pulsing as they lit the white space around them. Light surrounded them, light filled them and raced along Selari’s arm to her shoulders, then across and down to her feet. She smiled at her parents, and the skin around her eyes grew lined and ancient. They nodded as one being, and the white of their hair began to glow.

Deanna Troi watched astonished as the young women transformed in front of her. Deanna Riker clung to her husband’s hand. Will Riker tried to comfort her mind and the other Will Riker took a step towards them and joined the light. Jean-Luc Picard followed his second in command as did one Beverly Crusher. The other symbolically took the hand of the Deanna who was alone.

The glow overtook their bodies, and in the eternal moment they existed with the light of the universe and the universe welcomed them home. The timeline sighed and slid back together. Disparate choices and different lives merged. Fusing back into a single future.

On a tiny planet, in an insignificant moment of time, Deanna Troi walked into the clearing and managed to smile at the man who would be her husband. The man who had always been her destiny. Will Riker, her past- her future- her imzadi.

And for the infinite moment of nothing that they passed in a fraction of an eyeblink, the universe smiled at them.



Stardate 50973.5
USS Enterprise-E
Earth Orbit

"What's this?" Lily Sloane asked in confusion as he handed her the PADD.

"Instructions for Commander Riker. Telling him to find a quiet corner of North America and stay out of history's way." With a tinge of sorrow, Jean-Luc Picard’s hazel eyes met hers for the last time as he sent her to the escape pod. Finally he stood alone on the bridge, staring down at the spinning blue-green world that in three hundred years would be his birthplace. His home away from the Enterprise. The prison he had just condemned his entire crew to hide in for the rest of their lives.

He watched his crew disappear in the escape pods. Lily was going with them, back to the world she belonged too. She had her own destiny. His was to go down with the ship. He would hold vigil with the Enterpise as she gave her life for the future. Jean-Luc owed her his presence and part of him knew his crew wasn't gone. One of his crew still needed him. Data was alive, and he would have to find him, because Data was family. His crew and his ship were all the family he had.

Beverly Crusher watched Lily Sloane's escape pod disappear down to Montana. Now hers was the only one left. Worf had gone first to secure Gravette, and she would be last. She turned and watched hopefully down the hallway. Jean-Luc could still change his mind, but she had seen his eyes. His eyes were set.

Omega Space
Infite Time

Selari had once been her name. Names now held little significance, only her imzadi remembered. Felisa was imzadi to her, and that was the beginning and end of the universe. How silly it had been that she hadn't understood that all her life. They drifted, watching linear time as it continued forward and backward without them. They watched their sons grow and bring children into the world to teach about the extraodinary lives of their ancestors. They watched the birth of their mothers, of their fathers. They watched the first contact between Betazed and Earth. They shared the first bonding of imzadi. The first time two souls had found the universe in each other. Felisa's memory of life was better. She knew that they had a few threads left in the tapestry that could be whole and she guided Selari.

Her lover had not been born to the knowledge of a traveller, but she was learning. Selari was startng to understand the weight of Felisa's burden. The price of their death had been trancedence. The end of one existence to begin one of still greater importance. That of the watchers, the chroniclers of time who were no longer part of a segment of the eternal line. They had responsibility for the universe they could never again share.

Within the confines of linear time, Felisa Picard would again be born, but she would be allowed to live her life as a human being. A simple player on the vast universal stage. Selari still held deep nostalgia for the romance between two people. Felisa thought it was too much. What right allowed the twisting of the universe? Selari thought love was the ultimate right, and she cajoled her lover until she agreed.

Stardate 50973.5
USS Enterprise-E
Earth Orbit

Beverly rested her hand on the edge of the escape pod. The air was hot enough to make her head swim. Her vision flashed white for a moment. Jean-Luc was going with his ship and her stomach turned in horror. Her senses were too slow to see the beings that passed by her. Her perception was just a touch behind their movements. Selari's hand passed through Beverly's stomach. Touching for a moment the beginnings of Felisa's human life. Selari smiled lightly in an unseen apology. Something in the back of Beverly’s mind urged her to get into the escape pod. Her heart insisted she couldn't leave Jean-Luc.

Impulse won her over. She reached into the escape pod and passed up for the phaser for a laser scapel. The Borg could adapt to the energy weapon, but as far as she knew, they had not yet become inpenetrable. She crossed the bridge and started to follow Jean-Luc's trail through the Jefferies Tubes. She climbed down the first ladder with the scapel between her teeth. She took two steps towards the door into the next crawlspace when the atmospheric conditioning pump exploded. She had ducked out of the way, but the air hissing from the break in the wall was sour. Beverly took a step forward and something acrid bit the back of her throat. Her knees buckled, and the air in her lungs turned her stomach. Coughing uncontrollably she stumbled out into the corridor. Selari stood next to her for a moment. Intagibly touching her forehead as she kneeled behind her. "You'll forgive us," she whispered as she faded into existence behind Dr. Crusher.

Selari borrowed Picard’s features and stepped into his body like a uniform. The phantom Jean-Luc’s hand closed on Beverly’s shoulder. Surprise flashed through her, but it was quickly replaced with relief. Beverly found his hand reassuringly solid as she struggled against the burning in her lungs. “You got a few lungfuls of gaseous deuterium.” His arm closed around her back and the hallway seemed to clear slightly before them. “There’s a medkit in the escape pod.”

Beverly shook off his arm and continued on her own. The damage to her lungs must have been far more serious then she was willing to admit. In her blurring vision Jean-Luc seemed to be glowing slightly. “No tri-ox.” She muttered to him as he pulled her through to a safer Jefferies tube.

Selari sighed through her disguise. She knew why Beverly would avoid tri-ox, but it was unlikely the real Picard would catch the obscure medical logic behind it. She concentrated harder on maintaining her illusion, wondering how Picard would respond. Counting her blessings that Beverly was too distracted to notice the imperfections in her assumed form, Selari wished she had Felisa’s skill at maintaining a humanoid form. “Hopefully the medkit will have a subsitute.”

Beverly nodded and instantly regretted it as her dizziness increased. “Melorazine will-.” Her response was lost in another coughing fit. Selari patted her shoulder sympathetically and leaned close to whisper into her ear.

Selari’s whisper was a command that buried itself into Beverly’s consciousness

Felisa appeared in the Jefferies tube, standing behind her father as he fussed with the manual door mechanism. He was going after Data as he had before Wesley's intervention. Her intervention was simpler. When Jean-Luc looked down the corridor he saw Beverly Crusher turn a corner walking away from him. It was almost effortlessly easy to take the form of her mother, and she watched the shook of seeing her overtake his grim desire to see that the ship exploded as it ought. His ship was almost closer then family, and he owed her a great debt. However, as much as he hated to admit it, he was still a man under his uniform. That man couldn't let her be assimilated. She was going in the wrong direction. Away from escape pods and safety and directly into the hands of the Borg. No matter what was actually between the two of them, the Borg were a fate he had to protect her from. Especially her. In the moment where the phaser rifle clunked against the deck he had made his choice. Felisa smiled sadly as her father climbed up the Jefferies tube to his manufactured fate. She had expected more of a challenge.

Felisa continued to lead him through the darkened hallways of the ship. Stumbling into the walls as she went. Mimicking the stride of her wounded mother slowed her down and Jean-Luc was gaining on her through the smoke, finding his way back to the bridge. He could smell the residue from the ODN line in the atmosphere. Felisa calmed walked into the bluish cloud of smoke. She sank to the ground and remembered for a moment what it was to breathe in the air around her. She was surrounded by the toxic cloud. If she was human, she would be lucky to still be breathing at all.

He filled his lungs and dived into the junction. Felisa started to cough immediately as she hit the clear air of the corridor. She almost smiled as she realized it was almost harder to fake a coughing fit then it was to live through one. Her father was remarkably attentive, tilting back her head to make it easier to breathe. Picard’s love for her mother was obvious, though still subtle in his eyes. She contented herself in knowing that they had made the right choice, this change in the timeline would be for the good.

“That’s more then a few lungfuls of deuterium gas.” He swung her arm around his shoulder and began to partially drag her to the safety of the escape pod. “But there’s tri-ox in the med kit.” Felisa shook her head in the guise of her mother.

Her voice was an exact duplication. “No- no tri-ox. Melorazine.”

Jean-Luc’s expression was as confused as she had expected. “I thought-“
She took a deep breath and continued to shake her head. “Tri-ox would have side effects.” She added the emphasis of her powers to her words, letting the fact slip into his mind. Felisa then pretended to have lost the ability to speak, letting him wonder as he led her to through the last door to the bridge.

At the same time Selari led the real Beverly Crusher across the bridge. Selari and Felisa passed within inches of each other and altered the perceptions of Felisa’s parents just enough so that they saw only each other. The travellers faded out of existence as subtly as they had arrived.

Sixty seconds were left on the countdown as Beverly stumbled against him and they tripped into the escape pod. A mirror image of each of them faded into the smoke of the bridge and they lay panting in the escape pod alone. The self-destruction sequence stopped as the escape pod jettisoned. The flashing red lights ended as the Borg took over the computer.

The coup over the computer was lost to Jean-Luc. He missed the ceasation of the self-destruct protocol. Beverly's head was against his chest and he was trying to coax her back into consciousness. She was breathing slowly and her lips were blue. The escape pod took them into the atmosphere and started to shake with turbulence. He opened the rations and took out one of the water pouches.

Holding the water against her forehead, he felt his heartrate slow as she came back to consciousness. "You must have burned your lungs fairly well." Jean-Luc informed her as he put a hand awkwardly on her back. To his surprise she curled up against him.

Coughing, she nodded. "I heard the line rupture, but I couldn't get out of the Jefferies tube."

He opened the water and handed it to her. The tenderness was gone from his voice as he chastized her. "You should have left with the crew. You could have been killed-"

Beverly smiled wryly. "I almost was." She continued coughing and gingerly filling her lungs. "Did you check the medkit?"

Picard hadn't thought of the medkit and sheepishly took it out from the side of the pod. He responded just as Felisa had planted in his mind. "There's hypo of tri-ox here, but that would have side effects." He dug through a moment longer and found the melorazine she has suggested earlier. “Here’s the melorazine.”

Silence reigned heavily between them as he discharged the hypospray into her arm. She concentrated on her breathing. As she willed the drug to heal the burning in her lungs, Beverly wondered how he had known. Her secret was obviously naked to him now. She wouldn’t have to tell him because somehow he had seen right through her.

“How did you-“ Beverly began weakly but then she lost the ability to speak as her lungs struggled against the damage. Her lips were starting to look more pink, but each breath still rasped.

He touched her head gently, holding out the water to her. “I did have elementary medical training at Starfleet Academy.”

Jean-Luc’s eyes seemed so calm. The secret she had barely managed to admit to herself had been so obvious to him. “This is wrong. We can’t talk now.” She said softly, leaning her head against her knees.

"We can’t?" Jean-Luc asked slowly as his hand stopped in the air between them, holding out the water.

Beverly drank the water, and handed it back to him as she coughed into her arm. She looked like she was about to cry and Picard became more confused. "I was going to tell you.” He ran his left hand uncomfortably over his forehead and swallowed. The knot bobbed harshly in his throat. The only part of his being not frozen in horrorstruck realization leapt somewhere in his chest. The Borg attacked, then we had an away team. It just slipped my mind." She took a breath and sounded apologetic. "I was just so caught up." He opened his mouth and shut it again. She started to laugh and began coughing again. "I thought you'd look like that." She ran her hand along his chin and smiled again, mysteriously. "I was going to tell you after the staff meeting. I'd corner you in your ready room and tell you where you couldn't get away. I'm still not sure what I want to say. Or how it would matter" She stared at the rushing atmosphere through the one small window. "Last time you helped me with this. It's was your idea to steal Jack's method."

He withdrew his hand and set down the water. He reached for her and caught her arm. "Beverly." His hand was gentle, but she felt like the universe was collapsing in around his fingertips. She drew breath too quickly and sent herself into a coughing fit. Picard returned to the medkit and took out the hypospray again. He stared at it in his hand, trying to remember something that was dancing around his thoughts.

In the end Felisa nudged his mind, adding the last piece of information he needed. "Tri-ox inhibits fetal lung development." Jean-Luc repeated aloud as Felisa added the thought to his mind. "My god." The pieces of a nearly invisible puzzle fell together in his headShe lifted her head, and he couldn't be sure if the tears on her face were from her difficulty breathing or the fear the emotion the clouded her eyes. Picard couldn't intuit how she felt, but his own thoughts were tangled beyond recognition.

The escape pod tilted abruptly as it made it's final approach by the coast of Gravette Island. The jolt threw him to her side of the pod and the rudimentary artificial gravity kept him over her body.

"You'll-have to-double the dose of melorazine." She ordered without feeling as she struggled with the words. "Until-Selar-" Beverly squirmed beneath him, trying somehow to clear her lungs by altering her position. "Can put my lungs back together." Her lips were starting to go blue again from lack of oxygen. "Don't look like that Jean-Luc," she ordered sardonicly. "It is really your fault I can't take the tri-ox." The escape pod twisted again and the medkit came within reach. No reply came to him and he gently shot the rest of the melorazine into her neck, but this time there was no noticable improvement.

The escape pod was slowing down. The landing thrusters had started to come online. The lone window showed the minute pinpoints of light, and the faint reflection of moonlight off the ocean. The thrusters hit the shallow water with a sudden angry hissing of steam. The pod came to a halt and and Beverly slid to the side so he could open the hatch. The navy blue water of the Pacific at night greeted him on the other side.

Picard peered out, wondering how deep the water was. Beverly was certainly in no condition for a swim. The shore was a mere 5 meters off to the left. He jumped and found the cool water up to his waist. "Once we get to shore we can use the tricorder to find Selar and the others." Slowly she lowered herself into the water next to him. The temperature seemed to bother her more. He kept her close against his body and guided her footsteps as they made their way. She lost her footing in ankle deep water and he pulled her to the shore.

The wind was high and she started to shiver almost immediately. Picard pulled her to her feet again, smiling to keep her calm. The tricorder was out in his free hand and a large group of human biosigns was only a few hundred meters away. Beverly lowered her head, unable to watch the horizon. "I'm starting to get dizzy." She admitted.

"Two hundred meters." Jean-Luc told her firmly. Progress through the underbrush was slow and several times he was almost certain she had lost consciousness. "Beverly," Her name drew her waning attention. "How long- have you known?"

Her next coughing spell sounded a little like laughter. "I ran the bioscan this morning. I was going to ask Deanna.” She stoppped, leaning against a tree to catch her breath. “We shared the turbolift up to the observation lounge.”

Jean-Luc steadied her and bent the underbrush out of the way. “She didn’t sense it?”

“Six weeks of consciousness isn’t enough to tip off an empath.” She explained, feeling the complete ridiculous calm guide her. “Lwaxana on the other hand-“

His involuntary shudder of horror was immediate. “It would have been all over the ship.”

Beverly stumbled and they collapsed against the side of a ravine. “I can’t keep it a secret.” Picard’s attention was fixed on the tricorder, but she apologized anyway. “I am sorry. I know it’s not-“

“No.” He interrupted simply. “You don’t know.” He rested his head in his hand. For a long moment the only sound between them was her rasping breathing. “How can you? You wander through my life with no idea of the effect you have on it. The way everything I see reshapes itself to reflect you.”


“No.” He kissed her. Bruising her lips as he fought through years of denial. “You will not apologize. It doesn’t suit you.”

Beverly let herself smile. “I guess it doesn’t.” He helped her again to her feet. Effectively ending the moment as he followed the tricorder signal. Step after step they continued through the darkness in awkward silence.

Again Beverly stopped and even though she stared at the ground he felt her reach for his heart. “I love you.”

Picard stopped midstride and squeezed her hand as he searched for the courage to respond to her. The silence of Gravette’s wilderness was broken as the woods erupted with movement. Worf stepped out of the woods directly on her left. Keeping her balance with a strong arm. Geordi appeared on Picard’s left, flanked by Dr. Selar and Alyssa Ogawa. The Vulcan crossed quickly to Beverly’s side, and the voices of a relieved crew covered the silence between them. Though she smiled as Worf swung her up into strong Klingon arms there was a sadness in her eyes. One Jean-Luc had no right to leave untended.

“Wait Mr. Worf.” The Captain of the Enterprise took three quick steps and closed the space between their faces. “I love you Beverly.”

She kissed him as the look of shock and surprise went from face to face of the crew around them. Geordi hooted with joy, someone else clapped and the whole party exploded with cheers. Picard had lost his battle with the blush that crept across his face, but he did manage to hide the tears in his eyes. His crew had shared the most intimate admission of his life, but even that couldn’t diminish the feeling in his heart.