“Eternal Flame”

Author: Pia Pedersen

Timeframe: Set after “Letting Go”

Summary: Will & Deanna’s paths cross again two years after Will’s wedding. Will their past come back to haunt them?

Usual disclaimers apply.



He missed her.

The pain had trailed him like a shadow over the years. He kept it locked inside the deepest, most private part of his soul. His memories of her were ever present, and even though he had succeeded in blocking them for most of the two years that had passed since his departure from the Enterprise, Will could no longer fool himself. He had married the wrong woman.


It wasn’t that he did not love Sarah, but the bond he and Deanna Troi shared could not be denied, nor should it ever have been.

Will moved from the bathroom back into the bedroom. His wife’s soft breathing was the only sound in the room, and he crawled back in bed to lie beside her, but he made no attempt to touch her, knowing that all advances would be promptly rebuffed. She did not want his attention anymore, and deep down Riker was relieved. It was awful, he knew, and he wished that it were different. But the truth was that his marriage was failing, and that it had been for months, even before he had received the news that Deanna had accepted a position with Starfleet Medical and was now planet side as well. Of course, it had not helped that he had been so surprised at this that he had allowed his feelings to show. Sarah was not too comfortable with his past as it were, and although she did not know the depth of his and Deanna’s past relationship, she did know that the Betazoid woman was special to him.


“Deanna,” he whispered, not realizing that he voiced his thoughts before it was too late. Luckily, Sarah had not woken up; she did not even move, and Will relaxed and closed his eyes to get some sleep. If he was lucky he would be able to get some rest, and everything would look brighter and less complicated in the morning.




There was a hologram of him at the nightstand. It had been there for a long time now, and even if logically Deanna knew it did nothing to aide her in forgetting, it didn’t matter as much as the rush of warmth she felt just by looking at his smiling face. She loved that smile, and the fact that it was probably not the healthiest thing for her to see his face first and last thing every day didn’t matter. After all, she had not actually seen him in person since they had said their goodbyes on the Enterprise on the day of his wedding. She had not been present when he and his bride had disembarked, and she had made no attempts to contact him. It would be too hard having to see him with the woman he had wowed to spend the rest of his life with, when she had been so sure that she was the one Will Riker would eventually marry.


Deanna pushed the thought of him out of her mind, using all of her strength to do so. But her thoughts seemed to go in circles, always returning to Will.


She had been at Starfleet Medical for little more than a month now, and she thrived there, more than she thought she would have. She knew that she would have been completely satisfied with her position had it not been for her knowing that Will was close by. Deanna had tried a few times to reach him with her thoughts, but she had had no luck. Either he was intentionally blocking her, or time and lack of communication had buried their link. She wasn’t even sure if he knew she had left the ship, nor was she sure that it even mattered to him anymore where she was and what she did. In fact she was uncertain that she even wished those questions answered. What if she didn’t like the answers?



It had been a long time since she had spoken this particular word out loud, and it was just as painful as she had known it would be. But for some reason she felt close to him tonight, and Deanna wondered if maybe he was awake as well, thinking as she was of times past. She sighed and turned in bed. Of course he wasn’t. Why would he be? He was the one who had given up on them, and she had no reason to think that he wasn’t happy with his life, even if he had said that he would never be complete without her. But that had been two years ago, and lives had been known to change in much less time than that.


“If only we had been honest with each other … if only …”


But she could not afford to go down that road again, she reminded herself.  It was thoughts like those that had made her life onboard the Enterprise ultimately unbearable. Everything on the ship had reminded her of Will, of their friendship and confidence that had stemmed from the love they shared.


They had loved each other dearly, even if the exact words had not actually been spoken in years, and the pain of knowing that he had lost faith in that love, in the bond they shared, was as present now as it had been then. She had come to terms with it, or so she did her best to convince herself, but Deanna knew that Will Riker would never vanish from her heart or mind completely. The loss of his presence in her life had left a void that was yet to be filled, and she missed him.


She missed him so much.




Sarah Riker looked at her husband from across the breakfast table. He was preoccupied with some data on the padd next to him, and she found herself thinking that it might as well have been a stranger in front of her. They rarely talked anymore about anything important, about their dreams and hopes, and he never held her anymore, let alone made love to her. She realized that her reluctance to let him touch her was as frustrating to him as his lack of any real attention was to her, and she knew it was irrational to wish for him to reach out to her, when she had shun away from him for so long.


“Will?” She spoke softly, and he nodded, looking up at her. “We need to talk.”


He cringed inwardly at the look of dejection in her eyes. She had beautiful eyes, but they were never as vibrant as they had been when he had first fallen in love with her. Will sighed, remembering. He still loved her, and she was right. They did have to resolve this.


“I know.”  He reached for her hand, and she smiled briefly when she placed her hand on top of his. Will smiled as well, knowing that he had to do whatever he could to make this work. He had not taken his vows lightly on their wedding day, and he did not take them lightly now.


“I love you,” she said, for the first time in days, weeks even, and she saw his eyes grow a darker shade of blue before he got up from his chair, went around the table and brought her into a tight embrace. Sarah didn’t object this time, she let herself enjoy having his arms around her again, but even as their lips met softly, and Will let his warmth surround her, was she aware that he had not told her he loved her, too.




 “Sarah?” Will drew back a little, brushing a strand of hair away from her forehead. “You’re so tense.” She only nodded, and he let go of her silently. “Let’s just finish eating.”


“Will,” she said, letting a hand run affectionately down his cheek. “We promised each other to always be honest, didn’t we?”


“Yes.” Riker looked at her seriously. “We did. What are you saying?”


“Nothing. It’s just that we both know that lately we haven’t been … and I …” She swallowed painfully. This wasn’t easy at all. What if he didn’t react the way she wanted him to?


“Talk to me.” He brought her close again, letting her rest against his shoulder. “I never meant for it to be like this.”


“I know you didn’t. Neither of us did. But I miss you, Will.”


His pain was evident, and even if she shouldn’t be, Sarah was happy to see it. It meant that he did still care, about their marriage, about her. She let her hands run through his hair, taking in the sensation of him. They had not been this close in quite a while, and she wanted to savor it.


“We will work it out,” he promised her. “We will.” He kissed her again and felt guilty that he couldn’t give this woman all that she deserved.


“Is that what you want?”


“Of course it is,” he said, but she shook her head and detangled herself from his embrace as she went to clear the table. Will stopped her quickly. 


“Don’t do that,” she said. “Don’t make our problems out to be only my fault. That’s not fair, when you can’t seem to let go of the past.” She looked him straight in the eyes.


“I can. I have,” Will objected. “I don’t know why you have to keep bringing that up.” He was getting frustrated, and she sighed. It was always the same, and they never appeared to be able to get past the point of his past relationships. “It has been over for a long time, you know that.”


“No, I don’t, Will. That’s just it.” Sarah moved away from him, wanting to put some distance between the two of them as she continued. “If you’re really serious about saving our marriage, I want you to ---”


“What?” he asked, softly, urging her to continue and walked to stand in front of her. She was a beautiful woman, intelligent, charming. She was everything he could ever want, except … He cursed himself for even thinking it and vowed that whatever it was his wife wanted of him, he would do it. He owed to her and to himself to focus on what he had instead of remembering what he had lost.


“I want us to go for counseling.” He watched his reaction, and Will hoped he looked less affected than he felt. Counseling. He had not seen that one coming, although he probably should have. Will sighed inwardly. More missed clues …


“Sarah ---“ He began, but she cut him off immediately.


“No, Will. I’m serious about this. If you want to save our marriage, you will go to counseling with me. Otherwise, we are through.”


She locked eyes with him, and suddenly it dawned on her why he had that distant look in his eyes again. Deanna Troi. She was a counselor, he had told her that much.  


 Riker saw the fire in her eyes, realizing that she had probably put two and two together. She backed away when he tried to touch her. 


“Why do we even bother?” she asked him. “Why, Will? When I am so clearly not the woman you want?” Sarah refused to cry even if she felt like her heart had been ripped out of her chest. “Just go to her,” she said, and Will found himself wishing that she would yell and scream instead of regarding him so coldly. “I don’t care what you do anymore as long as you get out of my sight. Right now.”


“Sarah, listen to me,” he asked. “I’m not going anywhere. I do want it to work for us.” He took in a deep breath. “If you want us to get counseling, we will. There are no other women. Okay? None. They are in the past.”


“Except one,” she shot back at him. “She is very much a part of the present, our present. How do you think that makes me feel?”


“Terrible,” he acknowledged. “I know that, and I’m sorry. But my relationship with Deanna was over long before I met you.”


“You don’t even believe that yourself,” she retorted, and he was silent for a second. “See? Get out, Riker! I may love you, but I am not about to stay married to a man who wishes he were somewhere else when he lies down next to me at night.”


“It’s not like that,” Will said. “It isn’t. Yes, she means very much to me, but I haven’t seen her in years, haven’t even talked to her. You’re the one I married, Sarah. You’re the one I spend my days and nights with, and I want you to be happy.”


“But are you happy?” she cornered him. “You just don’t get it, do you? I can’t be happy if I go around wondering if you think about her all the time! Your words are not enough anymore, Will. I need more than that. The question is whether you can give it to me?”


“I will go to counseling with you,” he said. “I will do whatever it takes to make you trust me again.” She nodded, and he continued, a hint of hope in his voice. “Does that mean you’re not kicking me out just yet?” He smiled slightly, and she threw him a glance as he went to clear the table.


“Not just yet,” she whispered behind him and he turned to her. She was still angry, and if Will was honest with himself, he knew that she had every reason to. “Do you realize something?” she continued, and he waited. “You never tell me you love me anymore.”


“I thought words were not important to you?”


“You are this close to being slapped upside the head!”


He threw his hands defensively up in the air. “Sorry! I’m sorry. Come here.”


She stayed where she was, and he went to her, brought her close to him and whispered the words she wanted to hear against her lips. Sarah relaxed against him and locked her hands behind his neck.


“You can’t charm your way out of this,” she warned. “Understood, Commander?”


“Understood,” he answered, and then continued. “Sarah?”




“I have to go. I wish I … but I have to.”


“I know,” Sarah said. “Go ahead.”


Will let his lips caress hers lightly before releasing her. Sarah watched him go and wondered if things were really going to change, or if Will’s attachment to Deanna Troi ran deeper than he was letting on?


He hadn’t told her much, but she had seen them on the Enterprise; witnessed their closeness. They had some sort of connection that she couldn’t grasp the magnitude of, and she knew that she had to know, no matter what it would mean for her and Will.


She had to know what Imzadi was … what it meant.




Deanna stepped out of the shower, wrapped herself in a towel and let a hairbrush run through her dark curls. She was absentminded, lost in memories as she had been all day. It was strange, really, how you can know someone isn’t right for you, and still feel empty without them. Deanna put down the hairbrush and flipped open her jewelry box.


The ring sparkled even in the dim light of her bedroom. It was beautiful, and she had been so surprised when Jared had given it to her. Jared. She closed her eyes briefly, remembered the man she had met upon returning to Betazed after her departure from the ship. She had gone home to visit her mother and to enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful planet, hoping that it would help her heal. It had not been her intention to embark on any kind of relationship, let alone a romance. But then Jared Ryan had appeared, as if out of nowhere.


Deanna walked to her bed, sitting down on its edge. Sadness flashed across her soft, delicate features, momentarily darkening them. Jared had been a good man, she thought, and the more she thought about it, the more sleepless nights she spent alone in this apartment, the more she wondered if she had made the right decision when she ended their marriage.


Marriage … Deanna smiled slightly. She had actually accepted his proposal that day on the beach, one year to the day they had met each other at a social function at her mother’s house. He had been so caring, so understanding, and she had needed it, needed him. He was a good man, and he had brought fun and excitement back into her life. Being with Jared had made her feel that she was a woman again, and whenever he had held her, he had actually succeeded in making her thoughts drift away from Will Riker, at least for a while. For that alone she had loved him, and he had understood the pain she was in.

Being a Betazoid he knew of the Imzadi bond, and he accepted that Will would always be a part of her. He had not tried to compete with it, but he had wowed that he would make her happy. He had kept that promise, but it hadn’t taken them long to realize that it wasn’t enough. Although she cared for him deeply, loved him even, her affection for him could not be compared to the feelings she continued to harbor for Riker, and, in the end, it had proven too big an obstacle. They had parted on friendly terms, however, and Deanna was grateful for the memories and happiness they had shared, however short-lived it had turned out to be.

She held the ring between two fingers for a moment before rising and letting it slip back into the jewelry box, closing the lid on it softly before returning to the bed and turning down the covers.


“Be happy,” Jared had said, kissing her softly on the day she had left him for the last time. It was the exact words she had offered to Will, when they had said their goodbyes. It was ironic, in a way. Deanna shook herself out of the daze of self-pity that seemed to have enveloped her. She was not a weak person; she had always possessed an inner strength, which had helped her through the trials of her own life as well as aided her in fulfilling the responsibilities of her profession. She was not about to change that. After all, her clients depended on her, and her own problems could wait. It wasn’t like she was depressed. She was just a little sad on occasion. It was allowed, especially when she was destined for another lonely night with only her private thoughts to keep her company. Will would probably have labeled it a ‘very human reaction’ had he known.


‘I wonder if he’s happy?’


Slipping under the covers, this was her last thought before she was overtaken by the blessings of sleep, unaware that a few miles away, Will Riker was thinking the exact same thing as he held his sleeping wife close, listening to her breathing slowing down.


Sarah stirred, and he kissed her forehead softly. She smiled, opening her eyes slowly. He smiled back at her, taking in a deep breath when she let her lips caress his chest, much in the way Deanna used to do so long ago …


‘Damn it, Riker,’ he scowled at himself. “You are in bed with your wife, and all you can think about is another woman. You really are losing it, aren’t you?” He shook himself out of it quickly, relishing in Sarah’s touch, and returning her reawakened passion. 


“Mm,” she whispered against his lips as he deepened the kiss. “Nice.” Sarah felt her heart leap at his broad grin.


“Nice?” Will replied. “Just nice?” Her laughter was soft, and he couldn’t help but kiss her again. She hadn’t laughed like that in a while. It was no small relief to Will to hear it. In fact, this entire night had been a relief, in more ways than one. “Let’s see what we can do to improve that, hmm?” She complied smilingly, and Will lost himself in her, intent on banning any other thought from his mind. It wasn’t only for Sarah’s sake, either. Riker was certain that if he didn’t manage to let go of the images of Deanna, he was going to lose his mind.


“Will?” Sarah whispered later, when their passions had subsided again, and she rested his head on his chest, teasingly playing with the hairs on his chest. “Are you sleeping?”


“No,” he answered, his eyes still closed. She raised her head, silently savoring the sight of him. “What?” He opened his eyes, finding her looking down at him.


“Nothing,” she said, finding that she did not remember what she had wanted to say. She wondered if he knew what he did to her? If he was aware that just looking into those blue could take her breath away? Somehow she didn’t think so.  She settled into his embrace, and Will’s arms tightened around her slender form. “Good night,” Sarah said, the smile never leaving her lips as she drifted off to sleep.


“Good night,” Will whispered to her softly, closing his eyes as he offered the same words mentally to another woman, hoping against hope, as well as his better judgment, that she was still able to hear him.


Deanna sat up in her bed, simultaneously confused and elated as she heard a very faint, but still distinct whisper in her mind. Will. It was Will. He was sending to her … She listened intensely, focused all her energy on making out what it was that he was trying to pass on to her. Then a smile spread slowly across her lips, and she felt her heart stop briefly before beating faster than it had in a long time.




Sarah was about to begin her lecture at Starfleet Medical when she spotted a beautiful brunette at the door. She gave a friendly smile and noted the woman’s apprehension, but she wrote it off as mere nervousness. She did not remember seeing the woman before and assumed she was a new doctor, or just one of the several who used to politely stay away from her lectures. Sarah smiled. Some doctors felt that psychology was for counselors, not medical officers. They were certainly entitled to their opinions, as she usually said, but the truth was that not all starships had a counselor onboard, and that was why she was there to introduce some basics of psychology to the assembled men and woman.


She stole a glance at Will, who had decided to sit in for the first time. He was really trying, Sarah thought. These last weeks had been happy ones, and she recognized his old flirtatious ways. They were able to relax in each other’s company again, and she was relieved and happy at the return of the passion he had once felt for her, even if she did feel that he was holding something back. There was something he wasn’t sharing with her. But Sarah was optimistic that when they began the counseling sessions in a few days those hidden secrets of his would be uncovered. She looked away from Will, down at her notes and took in a deep breath before introducing herself to her audience.


Will watched and listened in silence as his wife began to present her paper. To think that he had ended up being a doctor’s husband, after all … it seemed a twist of fate that he would let go of one only to promise to share his life with another.

All right, so Deanna was a counselor, and it wasn’t exactly the same as the research that Sarah worked on, but with the two women’s shared interest in the secrets of the mind and all that, it was close enough. Close enough for certain people to wonder if the similarities between the two had caused him to rush into a union with Sarah at a time where he had been convinced that Deanna had not only closed the book on the two of them for good, but also that she had moved on with someone else.


He had told Beverly to let it go, when she had first brought it up during one of their talks, just as he had politely asked that his former superior officer please mind his own business when Picard had proposed it during the Rikers last visit on the Enterprise. It had been six months ago now, and Will recalled his surprise when he had found that Deanna had resigned her position on the ship.

Beverly would not tell him anything except that Troi had returned to her homeworld, and Will had come to his own conclusion: she had left the ship to settle down on Betazed, and for all he knew she was married and raising a family by now. She was probably carrying someone else’s baby … He felt the frustration rise again and fought to keep it in check, while cursing himself for the opportunities that he had let pass. It wasn’t fair. It just was not fair, but he only had himself to blame. Deanna had been right. He should have known that she felt the same as he, he should have understood, but he had been too preoccupied to pay attention and take note of the signs, which, in retrospect, appeared so clear. He had missed one too many opportunities, and now she was out of his reach.


Deanna had decided to attend the lecture due to a recommendation from one of her colleagues and because she was curious to hear more about Dr. Phillips’ theories. The last thing she has expected was to come face to face with the woman Will had married.


But it was she; Deanna had recognized her immediately. Through some stroke of luck, though, Sarah seemed to not remember her, and Deanna thanked the gods for that. She found herself sensing Will’s presence before spotting him among the listeners. The sight of him made everything come to a standstill for the counselor. She froze briefly before experiencing a mix of heat and cold flow over her. She was positive that her feelings would be apparent in her face and glanced quickly at Sarah. Fortunately, she appeared not to notice, and Deanna’s eyes wandered back to where Will sat.

He had his back to her, but that didn’t prevent Deanna from imagining those warm, blue eyes, his handsome face, and the broad shoulders and chest, against which she had so often rested and found comfort in the past. Finding herself helpless to resist, she opened up her mind and focused on sending to him, hoping that the incident that had appeared several nights ago meant that he was be able to sense her thoughts, still.


~ Will. ~


Riker jumped slightly in his seat, quickly masking his stunned surprise when Sarah caught his eye. He hoped that his smile was enough to keep her from suspecting that everything was not as it should be. It appeared to be the case, and because Sarah returned her focus to her paper, she didn’t see the expression of deep concentration on her husband’s face as he closed his eyes and visualized Deanna’s face. She had whispered his name in her thoughts, he was certain of it. But where was she? Was she really here, or was it just a very vivid figment of his imagination? Will didn’t know, and he didn’t care, either. The only thing he cared about was that he could hear her soft voice in his mind again. Finally, after so long, he felt the velvet tones of her words brush his mind and leave him with a feeling of calm he had not experienced since the last time she had touched him. It was an utterly inexplicable feeling.


~ Deanna? ~


It took every ounce of his concentration and energy to respond, but in that moment Will felt that he would gladly have given much more than that. He waited, but there was no response, and he tried again, softly, almost pleading. He wanted to hear her; he needed to be assured that it really wasn’t just his mind playing tricks on him because he missed her so much.


Deanna sensed his conflicting emotions, but because of the time they had spent apart she was not in tune with his emotions and reactions the way she had once been, and due to the fact that her own feelings already clouded her empathic sense, she misinterpreted his reaction to mean the opposite of what Will had intended. Therefore, she silently rose from her chair and slipped out of the auditorium before her colleagues would discover the tears glimmering in her dark eyes.


Will turned in his seat in time to see her leave, but because she had her back to him, the only connection he made was that this stranger had the same beautiful hair as his Deanna. Quickly, he turned away and refocused his attention on Sarah. She was the one he should be worrying about. After all, Deanna was not his anymore, nor had she been for years prior to his relationship with Sarah. He had no claim on her, even if they were still Imzadi, and even if his love for her had never ceased, or diminished.


Suddenly, Riker was struck with an alarming thought. What if she was in trouble? What if Deanna was in some sort of danger, somewhere, and she was trying to reach him, but couldn’t? In his mind the thought grew along with the fear, and Will knew that he had to find her. He had to do whatever he could to make sure that Deanna was safe. The question now was where and how he should begin?




Will had been unable to shake the thought of Deanna all day, and when they had finished dinner, he had told Sarah that he had something to finish at the office. Unfortunately, the solitude had done nothing to cease his doubts. He had replayed the events of the morning over and over in his mind, trying to figure out if it really was Deanna who had been in the auditorium earlier. He hadn’t been able to come to any conclusion, and he told himself that even if it had been her, even if she was safe and happy with her new job, it didn’t explain why she would suddenly reach out to him after two years of silence. What did it mean? He had no idea, but he knew that he had to find out.


Will leaned back in the chair, watching the night sky. Sarah had been sleeping for a few hours, and he had been careful not to wake her when he had gotten up, deciding that he might as well give up on sleeping altogether. The only thing he could think of was Deanna’s voice in his mind, and the mix of happiness and worry it evoked in him was quickly driving him insane. Riker sighed, closed his eyes and, for the first time in years, allowed himself to remember every moment he had spent with the beautiful dark eyed woman, who had captured his heart the day he had first laid eyes on her. He opened his eyes to see his wife turn in her sleep and walked to the bathroom. The water was cool against his skin, and he watched his reflection in the mirror. He breathed a low curse and decided that it was time for him to get a grip on his life. But he realized that before he could move on, he had to know if Deanna was okay. Otherwise the doubts would kill any chance he had of salvaging his marriage, and he could not do that to Sarah, or to himself, for that matter. Will returned to the bedroom and lay down next to the sleeping woman. She moved close to him, and he lay awake listening to her breathing while memories of the past continued to haunt him. 




Dr. Beverly Crusher looked at the screen in front of her and let out a soft sigh before offering her friend a reassuring smile. It had only been a few days since she had been called upon to appease the worries of another of her dear friends. Sometimes she really wished Will and Deanna would just stop pretending that they belonged with anyone but each other - everyone knew they were meant for each other, anyway. Of course she didn’t say that to Deanna when she had confided in her about seeing Will in San Francisco, and she knew better than to say it to Will now.


“Deanna is fine,” she promised. “She’s fine, Will. Last I heard she was settling in at Starfleet Medical. You know that. I told you.”


“So, what you’re saying is that I should stop acting like an irrational fool?” Riker offered a slight smile to Beverly over the vast distance.


“I don’t remember saying that.” Beverly noticed the signs of fatigue on Will’s face. “But now that you mention it, you might want to give it a try. Stop worrying, Will, there’s no need.”


“Bev,” Riker begun, and Crusher nodded, waiting. “I don’t know what to do.” She was surprised at the seriousness of his words, but it was impossible for her not to believe that he was sincere.


“You told me to stay out of it, Commander.” There was a brief silence between them before she continued. “I can’t make that decision for you. No one can. But I do think it’s time that it is made.”


“Well, thank you, Doctor.” This time his smile was bright. “I see you’ve been taking lessons from Deanna. That was quite a cryptic answer.” 


“I know,” she joked. “I’m getting quite good at them, too. Jean-Luc says I’m driving him crazy.” She watched as Riker’s smile turned into that trademark grin.


“I bet,” he said, raising an eyebrow suggestively. “How is the Captain?”


“Stop it.” Her smile took the edge of her retort. “The Captain is fine. We’re all fine. But I would be better if I knew you two would patch things up.”


“Beverly,” he warned. “I don’t want to talk about that. I’m just … worried, that’s all. We’re friends, and I want her to be safe.” Crusher watched the resignation in his eyes as he went on. “But I guess that’s really not my place anymore, is it? She leans on someone else now, just as I have someone leaning on me … “ He sighed. “I better go. Sarah is waiting.” He found it hard to articulate the last words. “We’re going for counseling. Quite appropriate, isn’t it?”


“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” Crusher was unable to hide her surprise. She wished that she could set him straight where Deanna’s marriage was concerned, but she had promised her friend not to tell, and Deanna had been quite adamant in her request, so Beverly didn’t say anything. “Will?” He nodded. “Take care, and get some sleep. You look terrible.”


“Thank you, Doctor,” he teased, admitting to himself that Deanna wasn’t the only one he missed. He missed everyone from his years on the Enterprise. Hell, he missed the ship. He was no more fit to be stationed planet side now than he had been twenty years ago. But he had made a promise to Sarah that they stay on Earth for a few years, until she had finished her current research project, and then she would go with him, wherever he wanted to go. Riker returned Crusher’s smile and her goodbyes before ending the transmission.


For a minute he just sat there in silence, looking around his office before getting up and out. It was a nice office, and he had a comfortable job. Which was the problem. Will Riker didn’t go for ‘comfortable’ - he wanted to feel the adrenalin pumping through his veins. He wanted adventure, danger even. But his life had changed, which meant that his priorities had to as well, no matter what he might think about it.




Sarah looked up as Will walked through the door of the café where they had decided to meet for lunch before going to their first appointment with the counselor. She smiled and returned his light kiss, before he flipped the chair around and straddled it.


“Are you sure you want to do this?”


“Yes,” he promised and reached out for her hand. She let him. “I said I would, didn’t I?”


“I just don’t want it to be for my sake,” she objected. “I need you to want this for both our sakes, Will.”


“I know,” he replied. “I don’t want a divorce, Sarah, but the things that have gone wrong with us aren’t going to be changed in a day, in a few weeks, or even months. Which is why this counseling may be a good idea.” He squeezed her hand lightly before waving for a waiter and then continuing. “I can’t promise you more than I have already.”


“I know, and you have been trying. We both have. I’m not blaming you ---” She trailed off as the waiter appeared, and they placed their order. When he was gone, she spoke again. “ --- I just needed to know that I won’t be alone in there today.”


“You’re not alone,” he said. She smiled, and Will leaned in to let a finger run down her cheek, reminding himself that this beautiful, caring woman actually loved him. She deserved that he at least make an effort, no matter how nervous he was that these counseling sessions would reveal something that would make their problems even more difficult to overcome.


“Will?” She called him back softly. “Are you all right?” He nodded reassuringly and was relieved when their food arrived, and they moved on to talk about different, lighter topics. He didn’t want to get into something that he had no idea how to finish.


The couple enjoyed their meal, and when they left the café together Will and Sarah was both optimistic about the upcoming session.


“Do you know him?” Will asked as they made their way to the counselor’s office. Sarah shook her head and walked into the secretary’s office first. The young woman smiled her greeting and let them know that it would be okay for them to go in. Will read the name on the door before knocking softly. There was no response, and he pushed the door open, making sure that Sarah was right behind him as he proceeded cautiously into the office after an acknowledging nod from the secretary.

The counselor was nowhere to be seen, and Will and Sarah stayed right inside the doorway. “Are you sure that this is the right guy?”


“Of course I am. Relax, Will. He won’t hurt you.” Sarah smiled, as she called out to make the counselor aware of their presence. “Doctor Ryan?”




Deanna had been in the next room when she heard Will call out her name, and she had been listening in on his and Sarah's conversation, unable to move or breathe. She had frozen to the spot upon hearing his voice, and she knew that her shock was written all over her face. She had taken over this appointment from a colleague, not realizing whom she would be counseling. Will. He was right here, just a few feet away … Her heart was pounding, and she closed her eyes. Sarah called out for her again, and the truth hit Deanna like a jolt of lightning: Will might be here, but he wasn’t alone, and he didn’t come to see her. He didn’t even know that she was here. He and Sarah had come to see Dr. Ryan, and he had no idea that she was the one who would counsel them. Deanna swallowed painfully. It was a cruel irony, and she couldn’t imagine Will’s reaction when he found out. But she couldn’t keep stalling, either.



 “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.” She held her head up high as she entered her office and extended a hand to Sarah, being careful not to look at Will. It didn’t make any difference. She didn’t need to see his expression to know how he was feeling, and Deanna acknowledged that being empathic wasn’t always a blessing, especially when the one hurting was the man she had loved her entire adult life.  “I’m Doctor Ryan.”


Will was stunned. Deanna. She was their counselor. He watched as the two women shook hands. Apparently, Sarah did not recognize the doctor in front of her. Maybe it was because Deanna had slightly shorter hair now that when she was on the Enterprise, he didn’t know. All he knew was that to him she was as beautiful as she had ever been. Perhaps even more so, he thought as he masked his astonishment and closed his hand around hers.


“De … Dr. Ryan,” he greeted and lost every sense of time when her eyes met his. God, he had missed her, everything about her, and here she was; so close and yet so far away. He smiled slightly at the cliché and noticed now her eyes grew even darker than they already were.


“Welcome, Mr. Riker. Please sit down.” Her hand slipped out of his, and his heart crumbled at the feeling of loss that gripped him. His beautiful Deanna was safe, and Will was relieved beyond explanation, but she was not the woman he had left behind. She was someone else’s wife - another man held her and kissed her … another man woke up every morning blessed with her presence, her smile …


Deanna watched Will as he took his place next to his wife. She watched their intertwined hands and tried to steady herself. Distance, she told herself. She needed to distance herself from the situation, or she wouldn’t be able to keep her emotions hidden, and she couldn’t risk that. Her job was to help, and she would. Her eyes moved to Will again, and she drank in his presence, letting the warmth in his eyes fill up the void in her soul, even if she was aware that it wasn’t meant for her.


“This is not easy, Doctor,” said Sarah, causing Deanna to tear her eyes from Will’s and offer a supportive smile to Sarah.


“I understand, but coming here is the first step, and I am confident that if you take time to talk things through …” The words felt much too big in her mouth, and Deanna struggled to sound as neutral as possible. “Is there something you would like to tell your husband, or ask him, that you haven’t been able to?”


“Will …” Sarah turned to face him, and Riker felt like screaming. This was surreal. There were certainly things he wanted to say, but he wanted to say them to Deanna. He had to talk to her. “There is something that I have wanted to ask you for a while.” He nodded and had never felt as torn as he did in that moment. The last thing he wanted was to hurt Sarah. Riker sighed. “Will, I need to know …” Sarah was cut of by the sound of the secretary’s voice through the intercom system.


“I’m so sorry to interrupt, Doctor,” she said, and Deanna looked at both Will and Sarah apologetically. “But Mr. Ryan is here to see you.”


“Jared?” Deanna asked, a surprised look on her face. “Tell him I’m with patients, please.” She smiled briefly. “I’ll be with him soon.”


“Yes, Doctor,” came the reply, but Will didn’t hear it. The only thing he could focus on was the fact that Deanna’s husband was on the opposite side of the door waiting for her, and that she was smiling at the mere mention of him.


“I’m very sorry.” Deanna gestured toward Sarah. “Please continue.” Sarah nodded and caught Will’s eye as she spoke again.


“I need to know what Imzadi is,” she said, silently. “What does it mean to you?” Sarah swallowed hard, relieved to have finally voiced the concern, which had been on her mind for so long. Will and Deanna, on the other hand, were both having trouble breathing. Deanna focused her attention solely on Sarah, finding it impossible to look at Will, but she wasn’t able to block out his confusion.


“Sarah,” Will said finally. “I … it’s complicated.” Deanna listened, and Will caught her eye briefly. She didn’t flinch, and Riker took her lack of reaction to mean that she had indeed moved on. Whatever her calling out for him had meant, it obviously didn’t matter anymore. He let a finger caress wife’s cheek, soothing the pain he recognized in her eyes. Her eyes were a bright color, a slightly darker shade of blue from his own, and so different from Deanna’s onyx ones.


“I realize as much,” Sarah answered. “But if it really is in the past, you should be able to tell me!”  The anger in her voice was more than Will could take. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand that she wanted to know; it was just that this was exactly what he had been afraid would happen. It would have been difficult to talk about with anyone, but now that Deanna was actually right here, it was impossible.


“It is in the past,” he said, knowing that she would no longer be satisfied with that. He would have to say something. Will felt trapped, out of control with the situation, and he hated it. He hated that he was even here in the first place. If he had just admitted that he still loved Deanna, instead of letting his pride get the better of him, maybe there would still have been a chance for them. Instead, here they were - she was his marriage counselor, and he was going out of his mind wondering what kind of man he was, her husband … what kind of name was ‘Jared,’ anyway? Riker looked at Deanna again before finally offering Sarah the answer she wanted, or at least part of it. He only hoped it would prove to be enough. This wasn’t a conversation he wished having to revisit. “Imzadi means ‘beloved,’ ‘soulmates,’” he explained, adding, almost as an afterthought. “At least that’s what I thought.”


“What do you mean, ‘at least that’s what you thought’?” she asked, and Deanna wondered the same thing, especially because he now avoided eye contact.


“Nothing,” Riker answered, getting slightly defensive and thinking what the hell he had ever done to deserve this. All he had tried to do was move on with his life - why did it have to be so hard … and why did he have to love Deanna so much? Sarah reached up to take Will’s hand, removing it from her face but still holding it in hers. Deanna watched in silence, and her heartbeat quickened as she imagined that it was her hand in Will’s, her hand that caressed his face and tracing his lips … She could not withhold a soft sigh at the feelings the thought stirred up.


“Doctor Ryan, is everything all right?” Sarah looked at her worryingly, and both Will and Deanna wondered if she would regard her with the same sympathy if she remembered who she was. It wasn’t likely.


“Yes. Yes, I’m fine.” Deanna smiled. “I’m glad you managed to communicate,” she continued in her best ‘counselor’ voice. Will’s wry smile did not escape her attention, and her own smile widened a little. He really did know her too well. Sarah was more right than she thought. This was not going to be easy at all. But Will was in love with this woman, and she sensed his desire to resolve their problems, so all she could do was try to help. No matter how much it hurt, and no matter how much she still loved him. “I’m afraid we’re out of time for today.” She rose from her chair, and Will noted how graceful she had acted through it all. It was one of the things he had always admired in her. He offered Sarah his hand, and she took it, saying her goodbyes before slipping out of the room to schedule a new appointment with the secretary.


Will stayed behind, not wanting to leave and desperately trying to find a way to prolong the moment. Deanna and he stood silently in front of each other, both wanting to say something but none of them knowing the words that would express what they felt. So they said nothing. Instead, he reached for her hand and let his lips brush softly over her skin. The feeling was incredible to both of them, and Deanna held her breath when he moved closer to cup her face in his hands the way he had done so many times before.


“Will …” The sound of his name on her lips was wonderful, and he smiled before he caught a slight movement out of the corner of an eye and withdrew from her abruptly. No one was there, when he looked, but the moment had passed, and he stepped away.


“I hope he makes you happy,” he whispered, remembering that her husband was waiting. She nodded, and when he turned to leave Sarah had appeared in the doorway. She wasn’t alone. Will nodded politely to the man he figured was Jared Ryan. He felt like he had been kicked in the stomach. For some reason the fact that Deanna had married a Betazoid highlighted every insecurity he had ever had about their relationship, and suddenly Riker felt very inadequate. Deanna sensed the change in him as he went to Sarah, and Jared stepped into the office, dropping an affectionate kiss on her cheek. She reached out to Will with her mind, unable to stop herself, and she was graced with a shadow of a smile as he disappeared out of sight, and she turned to face her ex-husband, wanting to find out the reason he had turned up so suddenly and without a word in advance. 


Before she had a chance to form the question, Jared spread out his arms to her, and Deanna rested in his embrace, thankful to be able to let down her guard and let her emotions flow to the surface.


~ It’s okay, Deanna. ~ Jared soothed her mentally, and she withdrew a little to look up at him. He smiled, and Deanna realized that she didn’t have to tell him anything. He already knew. “He feels strongly for you as well,” he said, but she silently shook her head.


“He’s determined,” she countered, backing away from Jared. “He doesn’t want his marriage to end. He is in love with her …”


“That may be true,” he agreed. “But, Deanna, I saw the way he looked at you, and the way he looked at me. He doesn’t love her the way he loves you, and he never will. Just as you couldn’t love me the way you love him.”


“Jared, I did love you,” she said. He only smiled and led her to the couch. She sat down before repeating what she had just said.


“I know you did. But I also know that no one can replace Will Riker in your life. Deanna …” He reached for her hand as he continued. “You need to tell him.”


“No,” she argued. “I can’t do that, Jared. I won’t.” Deanna rose and walked to her desk. “What are you doing here?”


“I am here as a representative of Betazed,” he answered. “Your mother asked me to go in her place.” Deanna looked up at his words, worry shining in her eyes. Jared calmed her down quickly. “She’s fine,” he promised. “But she’s worried about you, and so am I, so when she asked me to ---“


“I don’t need you looking out for me!” she interjected. “This is so typical. Look, I have patients waiting.”


“I didn’t come here to argue with you.” Jared got up from the couch and went to stand behind her, his hands resting on her shoulders. “I care about you, Deanna, and I know you. Maybe not as well as Will Riker does, but I do know you, and I can see through those shields that you’ve put up.” Deanna turned around to face him. “Tell him. Pride is one thing, but stubbornness is quite another.”


“Jared, I’m not stubborn … okay, so maybe I am,” she allowed at his amused look. “But that’s not the point. Will and Sarah came to me for help. What kind of counselor would I be  … I couldn’t do that. “ Deanna sighed. “It’s too late for Will and I. I just have to accept that.” 


“Deanna, you are one of the best counselors I have met, and by far the most incredible woman I will ever know, but sometimes you need to put yourself first.” He held up a hand in the air to stop the protest that he knew would be sure to follow. “All I’m saying is that you should focus on your happiness for once, instead of everyone else’s.”


“Will isn’t just anyone,” Deanna objected and sighed audibly, conceding that that was exactly the point Jared had wanted to make. “All right, maybe you’re right. I will talk to him.” She smiled, and Jared knew that he would treasure the sight of it forever. She was exquisite. How Will Riker had ever been able to stay away from her, he would never understand. “What? You got that look.”


‘What look?” he asked, kissing her forehead softly. “I just remembered how beautiful you are.” He smiled, when she blushed lightly. It was a rare sight, and it just made her even more beautiful. “I should go, let you work.” Deanna watched as he went to the door. He really was a wonderful man. “Thank you,” he smiled. “Does that mean that you will accompany me to the dinner at the Embassy tomorrow night?” He paused briefly. “For old times sake?”


“For old times sake,” she agreed, and he left. Deanna fell down in her chair and took in a deep breath to clear her mind. It had been quite a day, so far. She glanced at the padd with Will and Sarah’s data on it, adding a few sentences. But she had trouble concentrating. The brief moment she and Will had shared preoccupied her thoughts, and she wondered if Will might actually still love her, just as Jared had suggested? For an instant she had felt the distance between them subside, and when he had touched her, Deanna had felt a spark of the connection that had existed between them for so long, and it had been amazing, even if it had been brief.


“Doctor Ryan, your patient is here.” Her secretary disrupted her thoughts, and Deanna quickly composed herself. She had a job to do, and she had to focus on that instead of on Will, at least for right now.  She went over to the door and opened it silently.




Will had walked with Sarah to her office, promising that he would pick her up when her lectures were over. None of them had felt like talking, and Will had been walking around the city for the last twenty minutes, trying to sort out his thoughts. He had not been able to, so he had decided that there was only one thing to do. He had to go back, had to see her again. It didn’t matter if he knew it was the last place he ought to be, and that it would ultimately make matters worse. He needed her, and he couldn’t deny it any longer.


So here he was, waiting for her to open the door and let him in. Riker looked at his wedding band, remembering the day Sarah had slipped it on his finger. He also remembered that he and Deanna’s eyes had met across the room before she had turned her attention to the man she had brought with her to the ceremony, and he had focused on Sarah. It was the last time Deanna had looked at him like that, until today when he had held her face in his hands, and she had made him feel like they were the only two people in the Universe.


“I love you, Imzadi,” he whispered, speaking to the image of her that he saw as he closed his eyes.


“Will?” Deanna stared at him while trying to comprehend the words she had just overhead him say. Will opened his eyes and looked at her.


“Deanna,” he said, shocked to see her there and uncertain of how much she had heard. “I didn’t think that you  - I’m sorry, I …”


“If you’re going to tell me that you didn’t mean the words you just said …” Her eyes met his, and Will was the one who eventually had to look away. She took his breath away.


“I wasn’t,” he replied. “I can’t say that, Deanna, and you know it just as well as I do.” He followed her into the office, and Deanna closed the door, resting her head against it. Will went to her, gently turning her around and enveloping her in his arms.


“We shouldn’t,” she whispered but was unable to resist the warmth of his embrace and ultimately relaxed against his chest. “Will …”


“Yes,” he said, his emotions evident in his voice. “I just want to hold you for a moment. Just let me hold you.”


She didn’t answer, and they just stood there, each feeling the essence of the other fill up the emptiness in their hearts.


She had spent countless hours imagining this, remembering how it felt to be in his arms, but no memory compared to this, and nothing could have prepared Deanna for the rush of feelings that came over her. Coupled with the emotions she sensed from Will, the only word that seemed adequate to describe it was ‘chaotic.’


"Will," she said softly and withdrew a little from the embrace to look up at him. He tightened his arms around her, and she smiled.

"Yes?" He returned the smile, and they stood there silent once more, until Riker let go of her gently. She was free to move away if she wanted to, but she didn’t; she stayed inside the circle of his arms. "How are we supposed to get through this, Deanna?" he asked, willing her to provide answers she didn’t have. "How am I supposed to sit here and work through the problems in my marriage … " He trailed off, sighing, and she put a hand on his arm in comfort. The gesture was one she had offered many times before, and they both seemed to remember it as their eyes locked briefly. However complicated their lives might have been over the years, they had always had their friendship, and they had leaned on each other for support and solace more times than any of them cared to remember.


"We will," she promised him, feeling her heart twinge. "You and Sarah will be fine, Will." She moved away a little, finding that she could no longer stand to be this close to him. "I’m proud of you."


"Don’t say that." He closed his eyes and turned away from her. Her hand rested against his chin when she turned his face and forced him to look at her.


"I am," she maintained. "The fact that you came here shows how committed you are ---"


"Deanna, I can’t talk about this with you," he interjected. "I just can’t." He took a step back, letting a hand run through his hair. "This isn’t going to work. Today was hard enough - what happens when she …" He took in a deep breath before finishing the sentence. "What happens when she realizes who you are? How the ---"


"Calm down, Will," she asked. "Anger is not going to solve anything." He agreed silently and took a seat at the couch.


"This is insane. Can’t you see that? I can’t sit here and discuss these things with you. Especially not after what I just said."


"Will, listen to me. I know this is the last thing any of us suspected, and of course it will be hard, but we can do it." Will felt like he wanted to grab her when she looked at him with those dark eyes. She didn’t understand, and he wondered how she couldn’t know.


"How?" he challenged her, and Deanna cringed. "How do you propose I tell my wife that the reason I can’t give her what she wants, what she deserves, is because I keep thinking how everything could have been so much different if I had just told you that I still love you?” Deanna sensed how he battled with his temper. She wanted to reach out to him, but she knew that that would be the last thing he would want right now, so she did nothing.


"Will, that isn’t ---" She began, but he cut her off quickly as he got up and started pacing the floor.


"What? It isn’t the point? Then what is?" He stopped suddenly and caught her eye. "What is the point, Counselor?"


"She loves you so much, Will, and you ---" Deanna found that she had difficulty forming the words. It hurt to even think about it, and having to admit it only made the pain worse. "You love her too, otherwise you would ever have agreed to come here, and you would never have given up your dreams of your own command."


"Who said I did?" He looked away from her. "Look, I should go. If you insist on continuing this … whatever it is … I guess I will have to live with it, but --- Deanna, please, I can’t do this with you. If you ever loved me …" He never finished the sentence, and he was in such a hurry to get out of the office that he didn’t see how she fought to keep her emotions in check.





"How come you didn’t tell me?" Sarah turned to Will as they finished their meal. He looked up as a thousand explanations ran through his mind in a matter of seconds. She had been silent all evening and reluctant to discuss the counseling session, so he had been wondering if she had remembered about Deanna and when she would tell him. Now it seemed the wait was over, and Riker had no idea how to respond to her questions or the accusations that might follow.


"Told you what?"


"About the reception at the Betazed embassy tomorrow night," she said, and Will was grateful for his poker face, because that was the last thing he had expected her to say. "I just heard about it from a colleague earlier." She paused briefly. "You are going, right?"


"Yes, I am. It’s expected, but I knew that you are going away for that symposium, so I didn’t want to mention it."


"Well, all right, but won’t it be awkward going alone? I mean …" She stopped herself. "Will, please tell me, you aren’t going there to see her."


"I’m not," he said, truthfully. "I hadn’t even considered that. Come on, Sarah, it’s an official dinner." He rose and went in the direction of the bathroom. Seconds later she heard the sonic shower, and a faint memory of the two of them in there together brought a smile to her face. This would be her last night home in a week. Maybe she should give him a little something to remember her by, something that would remind them both not only of what had been, but also of what could be again, if they worked on it.


"You seem shocked, Commander?" Sarah looked at his stunned expression as she joined him in the shower. "Is something wrong?"


"No." He smiled at her. "Everything is fine. You just surprised me." He returned her kisses almost without thinking.


"Good," she said, relaxing against him. "That was my intention."


Will couldn’t help smiling, and he wondered if he was kidding himself? Was he holding onto a memory that had no chance of ever being more than that? Would he ever be able to recapture what he and Deanna had shared? Did she want to? He wasn’t sure. The fact that she had let him hold her didn’t mean that she wanted more, he had to remember that, and before he tried to figure out what she wanted, or didn’t want, he knew that he had to figure out things for himself. It wasn’t a question of loving Deanna, it never had been. He knew that he would have loved her even if the bond between them hadn’t existed, and his feelings for her now had little in common with those of the lieutenant he was all those years ago. It wasn’t just about sex anymore, and it hadn’t been for a long time. He needed her, needed to feel that special connection that made just being in the same room with her extraordinary. He longed for the friendship and confidence they had shared, knowing that without those aspects of their relationship the bond would have never become as strong as it was. It may have been created in the Jalara Jungle, but they had made it what it was now; it had developed as they had grown closer, until toady when it was an undeniable part of who they were, no matter if they were together or apart. Riker did his best to clear his mind as he looked at Sarah and tried to disregard the fact that even in their most intimate moments something would always be missing. Deanna would always have a part of him that he could never share with anyone else - not even his wife.




Deanna had been sitting in front of her mirror for what appeared to be hours, absentmindedly brushing her hair. It wasn’t that she was too wired up to concentrate - the soaking bath had taken care of her stress and eliminated most of the thoughts of Will that had been on her mind since he had left her office the second time. But she could not forget that he had said he still loved her, or that he had called her Imzadi. Deanna couldn’t remember the last time he had done that, and it would probably not have mattered so much if she hadn’t sensed the emotions that coursed through him when he had spoken the word that carried such significance for both of them. His feelings had been so powerful, such a mix of love, pain, and guilt. She had felt the same way when she had allowed herself to feel the warmth of his embrace.


‘If you ever loved me … ‘


How could he not know that she still did - that she needed to be close to him? How could he not know how she ached for that part of her soul that he carried with him? But he didn’t, and she couldn’t tell him. Not now ... not yet.




Riker had never cared too much for these official functions, and tonight he wished himself to be anywhere else. He had known she would be here, of course, but Will had not anticipated that she would look so radiant, so beautiful that he had felt his heart skip a beat when he had leaned in to kiss her cheek, and now he could not seem to take his eyes off her. All through the dinner he had watched her silently as she had engaged in conversation with the diplomat seated next to her, and he had wanted nothing more than to be that man, whoever he was. He had been so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t see the pair of eyes so intensely focused on him, much in the same way that his own had been focused on Deanna.


Now, thankfully, the evening was drawing to a close, and Will nodded politely to Deanna before heading out of the building.


“Commander Riker?” Will turned to find Jared Ryan behind him. The man was smiling, and Will nodded in acknowledgement. “We have yet to be properly introduced.”


“I’m sure we both know who the other one is,” Will found himself smiling slightly. There was no anger in Jared’s eyes, Riker noted, nothing to suggest that he harbored any ill feelings. “It’s a pleasure, Mr. Ryan.” The two men shook hands, and Deanna, who was standing in the doorway, unseen by any of them, was struck by how men seemed to insist on acting like everything was perfectly all right and natural, even when it was far from that. It was endearing and frustrating all at the same time.


“Is it really, Mr. Riker? The first time we met you seemed to not think so. In fact, you seemed very displeased with my presence then. Or am I mistaken?”


“I suppose not,” Will reluctantly allowed, trying to figure out what it was Ryan wanted. “If you would excuse me, sir, I was just heading out.”


“I’m not trying to be rude, Will,” Jared said now, and Riker couldn’t hide his surprise at the other man’s use of his first name - the abbreviation of it no less, something that only his friends did. Ryan was not among them, and so Will could only assume that Deanna had spoken of him to her husband. “But I noticed how you didn’t take your eyes off Deanna tonight, and I ---“


“Mr. Ryan,” Will interjected. “Deanna and I have been friends for years, and I haven’t seen her in a very long time.” He wanted to smile, but found that he wasn’t able to. “I apologize if I made you or she uncomfortable. It was never my intention.”


“No apologies necessary,” Jared answered and paused for a moment before continuing. “She’s right. You’re very good at hiding your feelings.”


“It comes with years of prac ---“ Will abruptly stopped himself. He hadn’t meant to say that at all. He swallowed hard, trying to find a way out of this. When he saw Ryan’s smile and finally noticed Deanna standing in the doorway, he knew there wasn’t one. “What I feel or don’t feel is not important, Mr. Ryan,” he managed to say. “I want Deanna to be happy. That’s all I ever wanted. She knows that.”


Jared watched the tall man in front of him, sensing the same pain from Riker that he himself had felt when he had watched Deanna leave for the last time. He also sensed Will’s sincerity and nodded.


“I understand,” he said. “I do, even more than you know.” He extended his hand to Riker, and Will took it with a hint of hesitance. “Good night, Commander.”


“Good night, sir.” Will managed a slight smile before looking past Jared to the door. Deanna was no longer there, and he breathed deeply. This didn’t escape Jared’s attention, and he found himself sympathizing with the man. It wasn’t an altogether comfortable feeling, he thought, because even if they were no longer married, he did still love Deanna as well. He knew the pain, the frustration - the longing, even.


“She needs you,” Jared said, before heading back where he had come from, throwing the last words over his shoulders as he disappeared from Will’s view. “Don’t let her convince you otherwise.”


Will stood there for a moment, stunned, and when he left the embassy, Ryan’s words followed him home. What had he meant? It didn’t make any sense, none at all. If he loved her, and Will was sure that he did, then why would he say something like that? It was almost as if Ryan wanted him to go to Deanna … but why would he want that? 


Before he knew where he was going, Will was back at the embassy. He found her there, she was getting ready to go, and he looked around to see if Ryan was anywhere to be seen. But no one else was around. They were alone.


“What are you doing here, Will?” she asked, locking eyes with him. “Where’s Sarah? I didn’t see her all night …”


“She’s at a symposium,” he explained, not able to stop the next words as they rolled off his lips. “You look absolutely breathtaking, Deanna. That dress … my God … I …”  


“I noticed.” She smiled. “Did you come back just to say that? I’m flattered.” She was teasing him, he knew, but in that moment Will didn’t care.


“I miss you,” he admitted to her for the first time. “I miss everything about you, about us.” He watched for her reaction, but she only looked at him, nothing in her expression revealed the joy she felt, and Deanna was grateful for it. She was afraid that he might have been surprised by the strength of the feelings that threatened to overflow her senses. But she couldn’t deny her own longing anymore, nor could she continue to overlook his.


“Me too,” she said. “But, Will ---“ She went silent when he shook his head and took one step closer to her … and then another one. Deanna held her breath, waiting.


“No.” His voice was soft, the softest it had ever been, perhaps, as he continued. “Not this time, Deanna,” he reached out for her, and she let him bring her close. She could no longer remember all the reasons why they shouldn't be here, alone and seconds away from kissing. But then, suddenly, Will drew back from her. She looked at him, finally letting him see what was in her heart, but it wasn’t enough. She knew that she would have to say it, to tell him that it was okay, and that she wanted it, too.


“Will,” she whispered, releasing her breath. That was all he needed, and when it happened, when their lips met, both forgot about everything else in their lives and gradually deepened the kiss until they clung to each other, finding it impossible to let go. They fit together so perfectly, and Deanna felt herself react to his closeness. Eventually, that was why she ended the kiss, and Will noticed the change in her immediately. It might have been a while since they had shared any kind of intimacy, but Will remembered every little thing about it, about her, so even if the only visible sign of her beginning arousal was that her eyes had gotten even darker, he still saw it.


“Do you even know what you do to me?” She was surprised by his words, but she said nothing, and he continued. “Of course you do, you always knew. I was the one who didn’t know, didn’t see, and now …” He trailed off when she reached up to let a hand run down his cheek. “Deanna?”


“Walk me home,” she asked. “Please?” He nodded, and she let her hand slip into his. Will had trouble comprehending how affected he could be by just the touch of her hand. Deanna thoughts were very similar, and she looked up at him and fed off the warmth in his bright eyes, knowing that this time it was for her. Somewhere in the back of her mind the thought of Sarah emerged, but Deanna managed to push it away, explaining away the guilt by rationalizing to herself that Sarah would have Will for the rest of her life, she only had these few moments. It didn’t matter that she knew she ought to know better, or that up to this point she would have sworn off ever behaving like this. The only thing that mattered was that she was finally where she had imagined being for so long … everything else seemed to just fade away.




They didn't speak as they made their way through the city. The feeling of the other filled both their minds and hearts, and there was no room for words. When they reached the house, Deanna felt Will let go of her hand, and she didn't need her emphatic sense to pick up on his apprehension. He smiled in an attempt to brush off her concern. He had completely let go of her hand now, and they just stood there, letting the calm of the evening wash over them. Will had never seen a woman so beautiful, and he found that just looking at her made all the sense in the world. They didn't have to speak, didn't even have to touch ... it was all there, in her eyes.


Will looked to the side and saw the light in one of the windows. That could only mean that Ryan was there, waiting. Riker felt like he had been kicked in the gut as the bubble burst. Despite the emotion he saw in her eyes and had felt when she had responded to his kiss, Deanna was a married woman. 


"I should go," he whispered, finding it hard to speak. Deanna looked at him, surprise in her eyes. Will only wanted to hold her and keep her in his arms - where she belonged. How had they ever let it come to this?


"Go?" She reached out for his hand without realizing it. "Will ... no. I ... come in for a minute. It's been so long."


"He's waiting for you."


For an instant she said nothing. It broke her heart to keep up the appearance of being married to someone else, when all she wanted was to tell him how she really felt, how she longed for him, loved him. She couldn't do it anymore. It was too hard.


"Will ... I need to tell you  ---"


"Deanna, there's no need. Really. I'm happy for you." he interjected, hoping that he sounded at least a little sincere, and that she would be kind enough not to point out how his emotions betrayed him. "But I have to go. It's getting late, and ---." Will gave up trying to find something to say and settled for a soft "good night" as he walked away.


"Will!" she called out, watching him stop and turn around. "We have to talk." Deanna saw him hesitate for a moment before he came back to her.


"What's to talk about?" he whispered, resisting the vulnerability in her eyes. "Haven't we talked enough?"


"Please, just listen," she asked. "Jared is ---"


Riker closed his eyes only to open them again quickly. Deanna was silenced by the discomfort so evident on his face. He really did care, still. It was obvious now - even more so than it had been when he had kissed her.


"I don't want to know," he said. "Don't tell me." He had never looked at her that way before, and Deanna stepped closer to him, wanting nothing more than to remove the pain from his features. "What?" he continued, no longer able to keep the strain out of his voice.


"Will, there's something you have to know about Jared and I ---"


"If it's that important to you," he sighed, stealing a glance at the window. He saw no one there and returned his attention to Deanna and waited. 


"We're ... not married anymore."


He couldn't speak. Her words were so unexpected; so incredible that he had to hear them again, just to be sure.


"What did you say?"


"I'm not married anymore," she said, again. "You heard me, Will."


"I did, but I --- Deanna?"


"I know it doesn't make any difference," she continued. "But I had to tell you."


"I don't know what to say." He honestly didn't. This was so ... it was everything he had asked for, and now he was at a loss. She was not married. Not ...  Riker smiled, and when he looked at Deanna, he saw that she did the same. "I thought ---" he stopped mid-sentence as she nodded.


"I know," was all she said. "I wanted you to. It was ... easier that way." She let a finger trace his lips, knowing that she should let him go, but at the same time wanting him to stay. She wanted ... him. 


"Easy?" Will captured her hand in his and kissed it, oblivious to the fact that they were still standing outside. "Nothing about us has ever been easy."


"Maybe not," she agreed, slowly melting into him as he drew her into his arms, holding her close. "This is not making it less complicated." He smiled.


"You're right. I ---" He looked into her eyes, losing himself in them for the thousandth time. "I really should go now."


"Not again," she asked. "Not like this." She held his gaze, and he gave in. After all, the last thing he wanted was to walk away from her.


"All right," Will said. "I'll stay."




Moments passed by in silence as the words he had spoken manifested themselves. This was a crossroad, and suddenly decisions were forced upon them.


“Let’s go inside,” Deanna suggested, and Will followed her into the house. He felt like he was trespassing, and she flashed him one of those incredible smiles. “Relax.” He nodded and sat down on her couch when she went to replicate drinks. He took the beverage from her, smiling as he saw her sip the hot chocolate. It was such a well known, comforting sight in a situation where he was fighting to do the right thing. The fact that he now knew Deanna was free changed everything, on the one hand, but on the other everything was much the same as it had been before she had told him. He was still bound to Sarah, and he wanted to spare her as much pain as possible. He had already hurt her enough.


“She trusts me.” He hadn't realized that he had been speaking out loud before he saw Deanna's darkened expression. “I’m sorry, I ... it is complicated.”


“I don’t want us to make any rash decisions.” She looked down on her hands, wrapped protectively around the mug.


“Look at me, Deanna,” he asked. “Open up your mind.” He leaned in closer and kissed her. “You should know that I’m right where I want to be?”


“Yes.” She kissed him back, gently letting her lips capture his. “But,” she continued as they withdrew from each other, “if you would rather  ---“ He stopped her from finishing the sentence as he took the still hot beverage from her and put it down on the table. Deanna watched as he sat back on the couch, pulling her with him and letting her rest against his chest.


“There’s nothing I would rather do than this,” he whispered, and she turned her head just in time to see that special light in his eyes. 


“Not a thing?" she teased. He held her tighter, and she gasped lightly.


“Well, maybe one or two,” he conceded. “But for right now ---” He smiled, and she loved him so much it hurt. “For right now, this is just fine with me.”  


“Mm.” She snuggled in closer, and minutes later Will could hear her soft breathing. She had fallen asleep, and he felt a rush of contentment. There would be time to talk in the morning. He kissed her lovingly and smiled as she shifted in his arms.




“How long have you been looking at me like that?” They were still on the couch in her living room, and Deanna had no desire to change that anytime soon. She hadn’t felt this good in a long time.


“Not nearly long enough,” he said, letting a hand run through her soft curls. “Good morning.”


“It is,” she nodded. “Are you okay, Will?”


“How couldn’t I be?” He caressed her cheek. “I love you, Deanna. When I'm with you, nothing else matters.”


“You’re such a sweet talker, Will Riker.” She laughed softly, and Will didn't realize how much he had missed it until now.


“Me?” He feigned hurt, and she slapped him on the arm. “Ouch! What did I do?” Their laughter mingled, and for a while they just lay there, enjoying each other's closeness.


It was Deanna who broke the silence between them.


“When will she be back?” The flash of guilt she sensed from him, made her detangle herself from his embrace and get up from the couch. “This isn’t right, Will.”


“It’s the one thing that is absolutely right in my life, Deanna. Please don't withdraw from me again. I will talk to Sarah.” He sat up and reached up to bring her back into his arms. She couldn’t find the strength to resist and let him. “This time you and I will make it work; we have to.” He paused and was relieved, when she smiled. It was all the reassurance he needed.


“I’m late,” she said, reluctantly. “I have patients in an hour.”


“Hurry up and get ready. I’ll make you some breakfast.” She didn’t move, and he rose, bringing her with him. Deanna waited a second to step back from him; not wanting to ruin what had turned out to be a wonderful start of the day. “Go,” he smiled. “I won't go anywhere.”

“I’m so weak around you,” she whispered, almost inaudibly, and Will didn’t say anything, because he wasn’t sure that she had wanted him to hear. When she was out of sight, he went to find the kitchen, mumbling his own concession under his breath. He had always been weak where Deanna was concerned, and he knew it would never change. That was why this time he had to make sure that he wouldn’t lose her again. He had to. There would be no more chances.




“Shh.” Will put a finger to her lips, effectively stopping the question burning in her eyes from being put into words. Deanna smiled, stole one last kiss and slipped into her office. “Dee?” he said, and she appeared in the doorway.


“I’ve missed that, too.” For a minute he wondered what she meant, but then she explained. “I like it when you call me that.” She blushed ever so slightly. “I know; it's silly.”


“Not at all,” he disagreed. “You are a lot of things, Deanna Troi, but silly is not one of them.”


“Really?” She felt as giddy as a schoolgirl, and it was a little scary. But at the same time it felt very invigorating, and she decided that it was okay. She would not allow herself to feel guilty for loving him. She had tried that, and where had it gotten her? “Would you care to enlighten me as to what I am, then, Commander?”


“I would love to, Counselor,” he answered, and then he sent her crashing to the ground. “But I can’t. I have to go, and you ---“ He wanted to kiss her, hold her … he wanted to do a lot of things. “ You have patients to see.”


“You are my patient.”


“Don't remind me.” He took in a deep breath, letting his eyes caress her face. “Have dinner with me tonight.” It was almost an afterthought, but when he had said it, he knew that it was what he wanted. He wanted to spend as much time with her as he possibly could. “Please.”




The door slid shut, and Will was left standing there, wondering what he was getting himself into, and how he would ever explain it to Sarah.





In the course of the next days, Deanna and Will found their way back to each other, rebuilding their close relationship, one step at a time. They would spend the evenings together, having dinner out or just relax at home. Home. Will smiled as he grabbed his jacket from the back of a chair and headed outside with one last look at the house he had lived in for the last two years. He could stay here for the rest of his life, and it would never be the same again. 'Home truly is where the heart is,' he mused, and for Riker that meant that home was wherever Deanna was.


“Mr. Riker,” came the voice of Jared Ryan when Will reached Deanna’s house. “Deanna told me to let you know that she would be running late.”


“Thank you,” Will said, smiling. “Mr. Ryan, I --- hope you understand?” Jared nodded reassuringly, looking at the man in front of him.


“I only ask one thing of you.” He eyed Will seriously. “Make sure she’s happy, and don’t let go of each other again ... Imzadi is your destiny, Will, yours and Deanna’s. It should not be taken lightly.”


“I know, and I will do my very best to ensure her happiness,” Will promised and shook Jared's hand. The two men parted, and Will went to punch in Deanna’s code before going inside. Jared watched him from the distance and silently wished them both well. It was time for him to return to Betazed.




“A penny for your thoughts?” Will inquired, smiling at her puzzled expression. “An ancient Terran expression,” he explained, continuing. “You seem preoccupied?”


“I am,” she allowed. “I was just thinking how easy I could get used to having you in my life again.” She paused, removing an imaginary fiber from her dress. They had just returned from dinner and had been indulging in old memories from their time onboard the Enterprise.


“I don’t intend to disappear,” he whispered, offering her a warm smile. None of them said anything for a while as they both attempted to disregard the need that had been building between them. It was getting still harder.


“What will you tell her?” Deanna asked, breaking the tension. He shook his head and got on his feet.


“There’s nothing I can do except tell the truth. She deserves that, Deanna, but it’s --- why do I have to be such a coward?” He almost spat out the last word, and Deanna cringed at the self-disgust she sensed from him.  


“You’re not a coward, Will,” she said. “You’re one of the most courageous men I know.” He turned to her, an ironic smile playing his lips.


“I’ve always been a coward with you,” he maintained, “and now Sarah ... “ He began pacing, and Deanna rose to stop him.


“We can’t change what has happened, and you don’t have to feel bad that you love her, Will. I know you do." She looked his eyes. “I want you to do what you feel is right, Imzadi. No matter what that might be ...”


“I want you so much.” His words were forced, and the desire in his eyes took Deanna's breath away. “I need you, Dee.”


“Will ...”


The tension between them was so strong that for a few moments none of them could speak, and then they found that words were no longer important, or sufficient.


Between heated kisses Will searched Deanna’s face for doubt or unease. He saw neither. Her eyes shone with the love and desire he had longed for, but hadn’t dared believing that he would ever see again. He was lost in her beauty, and Deanna feasted on the feelings radiating from him. He was as handsome as any man she had ever met, and in that moment the memory and anticipation of his touch filled her mind completely.


Deanna protested, when he ended the kiss and took a step back from her, but Will smiled, offering a hand to her. She took it, gently probing his mind, and he let her. There were no longer any reason for any of them to hide what they thought or felt. Will lifted her up, feeling inexplicably happy when she let her arms slide around his neck. The gesture assured him that she felt safe, and that she trusted him. Given their history as well as the present circumstances, this was as important to Will as anything else.


The sheets were cold against her skin, and she shivered briefly. But the discomfort was quickly expelled when Will showered her with tiny kisses, ignoring her pleas to hurry, to not make her wait any longer. Instead he lifted his head, looking into her eyes.


“I want to love you,” he said, and Deanna was struck by his soft tone. She kissed him, and Will held her close, slowly removing her dress, revealing her nakedness. She was magnificent, he thought, and his hand ran down the curve of her breast, cupping it gently. “Perfect,” he whispered against her lips, stealing her breath with a kiss so intense that Deanna felt its effects all over. “So absolutely perfect.”  He let his lips move lower, feeling her warm skin under his touch, and she let out soft sighs that turned into needful gasps as he added pressure and rediscovered all the secrets of her body.  His lovemaking was unique, and she let herself enjoy every touch, every kiss, and every emotion burning in his eyes as he held her gaze and watched her surrender. It went on and on, and Will felt his desire heighten with each crashing wave of her pleasure. She looked incredible.


For a moment none of them moved, then Deanna kissed him, and Will’s reaction was immediate.  He brought her with him as he shifted in bed to lie on his back, and Deanna gasped as she felt him push against her thigh. She wanted him as much as she ever had, but she also wanted to prolong his pleasure, their pleasure. She had waited so long for this, and she didn’t want it to end. Not ever.


“Deanna,” he groaned when she touched him in much the same way he had done with her. Her touch set his soul on fire, and Will called out her name again, almost like a plea.  He had never felt like this before, not even with her. It was almost too powerful, too intense. “No more,” he asked. “I can’t take anymore.” Will caught her eye, unbelieving. “You’re smiling?” he managed. She only nodded and let her lips capture his with a force he didn’t know she had.


“I’ve always wanted to hear you beg,” she answered, teasingly. Will’s eyes widened. Then a broad smile spread across his face.


“You’re wicked, you know that? Oh, God!” Her lips enveloped him, and Will had to use all his strength not to lose it right there. Then she stopped, and he bit back a frustrated scream. “Deanna, please …” She smiled again; a smile unlike any he had ever seen from her … she was in control, and she knew it.


“Please?” she whispered, and he nodded, certain that he would go out of his mind if she kept this up even a minute longer. She was right above him now, so close. But not close enough.


“Yes,” he said, his voice strained. “I need you. Now.” She moved against him, fixed her eyes on his face, and, then, finally, they came together, initiating an intimate dance before finding their ultimate release. She rested in his arms when they relaxed, and he held her close to him, listening to her heartbeat as it slowed down. Deanna smiled in her sleep when he covered them both with the blanket.  Will brushed his lips over hers before he drifted off as well.




Sarah was in a hurry. The symposium had ended early, and she couldn’t wait to get home. The time away had done her good, and she approached life with a new energy that was sure to surprise Will. She smiled a little. She couldn’t wait to see him again. But first there was someone else she had to see.


 “Dr. Phillips?”


Sarah nodded, smiling at the man who approached her.


“Dr. Jameson,” she acknowledged. “I was told you wanted to speak with me?”


“Yes.” Colin Jameson looked at the beautiful woman in front of him. She was something else. “Yes, I do.“ He smiled, gesturing for her to follow him. “I have the information you requested.” He stopped, pushed open a door and let her step inside.  Sarah sat down and reached for the padd he had picked up from the desk. “Just let me see it.”


“What is your connection to Dr. Ryan?” Jameson asked again. The first time he had asked, she hadn’t answered him, and he wasn’t sure she would now. Actually, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to know. He had only agreed to help her because she had seemed so insecure.


“She’s my marriage counselor,” Sarah said. “I just want to know who I’m telling my secrets to.”  Jameson handed her the padd, wondering why she hadn’t just asked the counselor or at least had conducted the background check herself. Something was amiss, but it wasn’t really his concern, and he only nodded.


“Well, I would say you’re in luck. Deanna is very competent …” He watched her expression change immediately and decided that it might be best to just get himself out of there. He put a hand on her shoulder as he moved to the door. “I’ll see you back in San Francisco, Sarah.”


“Yeah.” She turned to face him. “Thank you, Colin.” She looked at the padd and then at him. “For this.”


“Sure. I hope you find whatever it is that you’re looking for.” He smiled. “Tell the Commander I said hi.” 


“He has a name, you know,” Sarah said, also smiling. It was the thing with Colin Jameson. He always managed to make her smile. That hadn’t changed since Medical School.


“I know,” he answered, and then he was gone, leaving Sarah alone in the office. She glanced briefly at the padd in her lap:


‘Deanna Troi, Betazoid. Occupation: Counselor. Previously assigned to the USS Enterprise, now working at Starfleet Medical. Marital status: Divorced. 


It was all here, confirming the nagging suspicion in the back of her mind; the one that been there since she and Will had been to that counseling session. There was something there, a chemistry that couldn’t be denied. She had felt it, and she had seen the looks they had exchanged, even if she was certain that neither Deanna nor Will realized it. But she hadn’t been sure at the time. Sarah hadn’t recognized the counselor, and it hadn’t occurred to her that the friendly woman could be the one causing the strain in her marriage. Her husband’s Imzadi. No wonder Will had been reluctant to let her know about the bond. Sarah slammed the padd down on the desk. Damn Deanna Troi. Damn the both of them. She took in a couple of deep, cleansing breaths. It didn’t help at all. She was shaking and fell back into the chair, trying to steady herself while all kinds of images flickered through her mind. Tears glimmered in her eyes.


“He’s mine,” she whispered as anger and sadness welled up inside her, and she let the tears flow. “You had your chance, and you didn’t take it.” Sarah felt the frustration build, and she knew she knew she had to get out of there and go home. She sighed. Whatever that meant. Suddenly she wasn’t sure of anything anymore. Except for one thing. She was not going to just back down from this ... Imzadi or not, if Deanna Troi wanted Will, she would have to fight for him, and Sarah had no intentions of making it easy for her.




Deanna woke up slowly and smiled, when she felt Will tighten his grip around her waist, pulling her back against him.


“Mm.” She turned around to face him, and Will kissed her gently. “It’s late. You should ---“ The rest of whatever she had wanted to say was forgotten when he kissed her again, this time with so much passion that Deanna felt like she was going to burn up inside.


“I know,” he whispered when the kiss ended.  “But let me hold on to this a little longer, let me hold on to you. I’m still trying to figure out if you’re real or not.”


“Oh, I’m real, Riker,” she smiled. “I’m very real …” Deanna looked down at him, wondering if it wouldn’t be easier to just pretend that this wasn’t real. That way the pain their actions would inflict on Sarah would not be real, either, and then she wouldn’t have to feel so guilty.


“Where’d you go?” he asked softly. She smiled faintly.


“Somewhere not so pleasant,” she said. “Will, I love you, and I don’t regret what happened between us, not for a minute, but I do feel  ---”


“Guilty?” he offered, and she nodded, silently. “Deanna, don’t. It’s my responsibility, my marriage, and I’m the one who should ---“


“And you do,” she said. “You do. I can feel it, Will. I have felt it throughout the week, how conflicted you are …”


“Of course, I’m conflicted.” He smiled ironically. “How fitting a word. Conflicted.” He swallowed painfully. “It isn’t your fault, Dee.”


“Don’t. Don’t free me from this responsibility, Will. I knew what I was doing when I told you about Jared, I knew where it would lead, what it would mean. But I didn’t care. I didn’t. I wanted you.” She took in a breath. “She didn’t matter to me when you kissed me, Will, and when you … when we made love, it was like she didn’t exist.”


“Deanna,” Will said, but he didn’t know what to say, how to admit that he had felt exactly the same way. Because if he did, he would also have to admit that he had failed. He had screwed up, again. Only this time it was Deanna who was in his arms, in his bed … He groaned under his breath. 


“I know,” she whispered, sensing his thoughts. “Don’t you see? That’s why I feel so awful, because as much as I want to block out the truth, I can’t. Sarah does exist, and she didn’t only trust you. She trusted me as well.”


“I don’t know much of anything right now,” he allowed. “Except this: I want you in my life, Deanna. I want you more than anything else and more than I ever have before.” She smiled and let his words warm her heart. “I love you.”


“I love you too,” she said, pausing briefly. He waited. “Will?”




“Stay with me? I don’t want to let go just yet.”


He smiled, taking his time to answer as if he was really giving thought to her suggestion.


“I’m not going anywhere.”


She smiled, looking into his eyes. They were filled with sincerity. He really meant it, and as wonderful as it made her feel, it also complicated things even more – if that was possible. She leaned in to kiss him, and Will held her close as they expelled reality yet again, losing themselves in the love that they had never been able to free themselves from and now no longer wanted to deny.




“Commander Riker is has not been in this morning, ma’am,” replied the young lieutenant when Sarah inquired as to the whereabouts of her husband after realizing that he was not in his office. He hadn’t been at the house, either. By the looks of it, he hadn’t been home for days. Her blood was boiling, and her heart fell with every word he spoke. “He should be here shortly. The were some matters that needed his attention.”


“I’ll bet,” she mumbled under her breath.




“Never mind, lieutenant,” she dismissed him. “I think I know where to find him.”


“Yes, ma’am.”


The young man disappeared, and Sarah stood there for a few minutes. She knew where she should go to find Will. She just wasn’t sure she was ready for it yet, to actually see them together.


“Yet?” she whispered to herself. “Like I will ever be ready for that. How could you do this to me, Will? How could you?”


“Are you all right? Sarah?”


She closed her eyes for a second, opening them slowly as she turned around.


“Colin. Look, I’m … late,” she said. “I have to find Will.”


“He’s at Medical,” Colin answered. “I just saw him there.” He looked at her seriously. “Are you sure that’s all? You’re pale.” He stepped closer. “Sarah? Talk to me.”


“I’m tired. Can we do this another time?”


He smiled. How was it that he had known she would say that? Not something like that … but exactly that. Sometimes he wanted to kick himself … and she wondered why he wasn’t thrilled about the good Commander? For an intelligent woman, she could be very … He stopped himself. There was no reason to make things harder than they already were. 




“Yes, this.” She sighed. “Don’t do this to me right now. I can’t deal with it.”


“I wasn’t aware that I was doing anything to you,” he said, “except voicing my concern. But all right, I will go.” 


“It was a long time ago, Colin. We talked about it, we ---“


“Settled it? Yes, I suppose we did. But you know, Sarah, sometimes things ‘unsettle’ themselves.” He smiled, knowing what she was thinking. “Yes. I know it isn’t a word, and I also know that I don’t care.”


“You wouldn’t, would you?” she smiled. “You’re right. Things change, but not … I don’t … “ She was searching. “You know that.”


“Go find him, Sarah.” He looked at her face, into her eyes and knew that even if she would never feel the same way about him, he would do his best to take away the sadness he saw there. One way or another he would would do that.


“We’re ---?”


“Yes,” he said. “We’re fine. I have to go back there anyway, as a matter of fact. I’ll walk with you.”

“That would be nice,” she smiled, feeling a little calmer as they walked together in the direction of Starfleet Medical.



They had made the trip in silence, but when they entered the building and Sarah headed to Deanna’s office, Colin stopped her, putting a hand on her arm.


“Don’t do it,” he whispered, surprised that he hadn’t understood before now what exactly was going on. He had had an idea when she had come to him for help. But it had only been a feeling, and he had pushed it away, because it wasn’t his place to get in the middle of it. But, as they had just determined, things change, and he had promised himself years ago that he would take care of her.


“He’s in there, Colin. I know he is. He’s with her.”


“You don’t know that,” he tried, catching her eye and keeping the contact. “Look, I’m not crazy about Will, and I care more for you than I should, so I’m clearly not the most objective person, but he does love you, and if you are getting counseling, it must mean ---“


“Deanna Troi is not just any woman,” she interjected, “they served on the Enterprise together, and he knew her before then as well.” Sarah paused. “They share some kind of bond.”


“Bond?” he asked, but then it dawned on him what she might mean. Deanna was Betazoid. He had read about the Betazoid culture; he had even dated a Betazoid woman once. It was a while ago, but Colin still remembered much of what she had told him about the different bonds that Betazoids could share. He hadn’t known that it could happen with someone outside of the race, though, and he was astounded. “’You mean Imzadi?”


“Are you telling me you know what it means?” Her surprise was apparent.


“Well …” Colin wasn’t sure he was the one who should tell her this, and, amazingly enough, he felt sorry for Will Riker.


“Well, what? If you do, tell me. Will is being less than cooperative. The only thing he’ll say is that it is like soul mates.” She sighed. “I don’t know what to think; what to believe. He tells me he wants to work it out, but the minute I leave he’s all over her!”


“I’m not the one you should talk to about this, Sarah,” he looked at her seriously, “and you shouldn’t jump to ---“


“Oh, please! It isn’t like it’s a stretch.” She walked away from him, but he followed. She turned quickly. “Colin, he is my husband, and I will not give up on him. There is no way that I will just let her have him. No way.”


“I’m not saying that you should,” he replied. “But don’t do something that you will regret, either. Sarah, he isn’t worth what this is doing to you.”


“Yes,” she argued, “he is. I have to make this right. You don’t understand.”


“No, I don’t.” He shook his he ad. “I suppose I’m not meant to, but it seems that for a long time the two of you haven’t been happy.“ His voice fell to a whisper. “You’re not happy.”


“I shouldn’t have turned to you.” She was speaking more to herself than to him, but Colin listened anyway. In all the years he had known her, she had never needed him, not like he needed her. Not before that night and even then she had drawn back. In the last minute she had left him there alone, and they had only spoken of it once since then – when she had told him that it had been a mistake, and Will Riker was the one she was supposed to be with. “I was --- you know how vulnerable I was. It was wrong.”

“Wrong?” Colin was relieved that they were alone in the corridor. “You want to talk to me about what’s wrong? I don’t think so. Believe me, you’ll lose.”


She only stared at him, surprised at the force of his words, and Colin went on, suddenly not caring anymore that it wasn’t his place, because, whether she chose to acknowledge it or not, they were not just friends. Not anymore. “You should ask yourself something, Sarah.”  He looked into her eyes, bracing himself for the impact of her cold stare. It didn’t help, and he was left momentarily breathless. “Ask yourself why you want Will,” he said. “Why it is that you are so determined to hold on to him.” He paused briefly, reaching out to her as his voice softened. “Is it love, or it something else? You owe yourself to answer that question, before you take on Deanna Troi.”  


“You sound like some damn counselor,” Sarah shot at him as his words sank in and stirred up uncomfortable questions in the back of her mind. “I don’t need that. I need a friend.”


“Sometimes friends are the best counselors.”


He was smiling, and it annoyed the hell out of her.


“Thank you very much, Doctor. I believe this session is over.”


“Think about it,” he only said as he left, walking away slowly, “for your own sake.”


When he was gone, Sarah took a deep breath, her eyes falling on a door no more than ten steps away. She wanted to go in there and offer some few choice to Troi – in fact, there was nothing stopping her from going in there and telling the esteemed counselor to stay away from Will … nothing. Except …




She snapped out of her thoughts and spun around, surprised to see him behind her. Her eyes flew to Deanna’s door. It was still closed. Of course it was. She would have heard it, if it had opened; she would have seen him. But she hadn’t, and here he was.


She tried to breathe normally, knowing that she was not ready to face him yet. He came close enough for her to touch, and she let a hand run down his cheek, wondering if Deanna ever did the same thing, and if he was thinking of her now, and Sarah silently resolved that she no longer had a choice in the matter. It was time for them to talk.


“Hi, Will.” She hoped she sounded better than she felt. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard, was it? He was her husband, the man she had promised to share the rest of her life with, and she was unable to even look him in the eyes. “I didn’t hear you coming. You surprised me.”


“I can see that.” He caught her hand in his and held it to her lips as a wave of guilt overwhelmed him and left him feeling numb. “I’m sorry.”


She felt tempted to ask him what it was exactly that he was apologizing for, but she kept silent. After all, she didn’t know … Sarah sighed inaudibly. Who was she kidding? Of course she knew.


“Are you free for some late breakfast?” She tried to smile, but wasn’t sure if she succeeded. Will saw her struggling, and he wondered just how much she knew. He had never meant for it to turn out like this, and even if he knew that hurting her was inevitable, he still felt like scum for treating her like this.


“Sure,” he answered, “let’s go.”


“Will?” Sarah asked as they walked to the nearest café. His arm was draped casually around her shoulder. She knew she ought to move away from him, but she couldn’t. She loved him.  He turned to her, and her courage faltered. She wasn’t ready to talk about this, wasn’t ready to see him walk away, and she was sure that he would.


“Yes?” he realized that he was whispering. He cleared his throat and waited for her to continue as he let her walk through the door first.


“Never mind.” She slid into a seat. “Let’s just eat.”


“Are you sure?” He avoided eye contact as he gestured for the waitress. Sarah watched him from across the table. He looked different. Her heart ached when she realized that he was happy. Sure, she saw the guilt in his eyes, it was impossible to miss, but underneath it … there was happiness, contentment. He was happy, but it wasn’t because of her. It was because of Deanna. Sarah muttered a low curse under her breath. Will raised his head. “Sarah? Something is wrong. Tell me what it is.” Will had never felt more disgusted with himself in his entire life. No, that wasn’t exactly right. He pushed the memory of Deanna’s shocked expression out of his mind.


“I know,” she said, the words rolling off her lips before she had a chance to stop them. It was just as well, she resolved, that they got it all out in the open. That way she would know what she up against. Sarah had made up his mind. She was not going to just give up.


“Sarah ---“


He looked tortured, and she almost felt sorry for him. Almost.


“I know about Deanna, Will,” she went on, watching him go absolutely pale, “about Imzadi.”




His eyes clouded over as he repeated the word. Sarah tensed in her seat. The way he said that word … it sounded like a caress. She shuddered. He had never spoken to her in that way, and she had to admit to herself that he never would.


“How?” he asked, the thought of denying it was quickly abandoned. He couldn’t deny his love for Deanna anymore than he could deny his need to breathe, and he didn’t want to try.  Not anymore.


“Does it even matter?” Her eyes met his, challenging him. Will shook his head. She was right. It didn’t matter how. He sighed. He hated the mess he had managed to make of his life, but there was nothing he could do about it now. All he could do was to be honest with her, and she deserved as much.


“No. It doesn’t.” He looked at her now, and Sarah battled her conflicting emotions. One part of her wanted to cry, while another part wanted to scream and let him know that she wasn’t going to back down. This was the part that won.


“I don’t care,” she said, noticing his shock as it registered on his face.


“You don’t care? Sarah, what ---?”


“I don’t care about Imzadi, Will,” she said in an even tone that Will had come to know very well. Sarah didn’t often yell or scream. She expressed her anger differently. She turned cold and distant. “I don’t care how much you love her, or how you are bound to her through some bond. It means nothing to me.” She paused, but only briefly, and, Will was sure, only to put extra emphasis on her last words. “I’m the one you married, Will, not her. Do you remember saying that to me? Well, you were right, and I am not letting you go.”


“I ---“ he started, but she cut him off before he had a chance to form a complete sentence. 


“I mean it,” she said, getting up from the chair. None of them had touched their food, and Will watched Sarah as she left. Her words hang in the air as a warning long after she had disappeared out of sight, and Riker found that he had no idea what she was planning to do, or how far she was willing to go. He didn’t like it, not at all.




Deanna couldn’t concentrate. She let her finger run absentmindedly over the padd on the desk in front of her. Her thoughts were swirling, and she was unable to find her focus. Will had left the apartment late, and they hadn’t really spoken that much. What they had needed to say was already out there, and now they had a to find a way to tell  … Deanna sighed, closed her eyes and saw Sarah’s face. The woman would be devastated; there was no doubt in Deanna’s mind about it. All differences aside, she and Sarah had one thing in common: they both loved William Riker, and that wasn’t something a woman could easily get over, if she ever did. He wasn’t just any man. Will Riker was like a nature force – once he had touched your life, it was never the same again, and if you, like both she and Sarah had, opened up your heart to him, you were all but done for.  Deanna rose, walking aimlessly around in her office. She was anxious. She didn’t know Sarah well enough to predict her reaction. She hadn’t sensed much from the woman, apart from the strength of her feelings towards Will, but it was obvious to Troi that Sarah had been very determined to overcome the problems in her marriage. Deanna remembered how she had taken note of her willfulness. Sarah was clearly a woman who knew what she wanted and set out to get it. It would be foolish to think that it was going to be smooth sailing for her and Will, and Deanna was no fool. She just would have preferred to know more about what to expect. On the other hand, she had no doubt that she would be sure to find out soon enough.


“Dr. Ryan, your patient is here,” came the voice of her secretary over the intercom, and Deanna snapped out of her thoughts, acknowledging that she was ready to see whoever was waiting. She glanced at her calendar, mentally preparing herself.


“You can do this,” she whispered out loud to herself before moving to the door. When she opened it, she smiled at the young lieutenant in front of her and let him in. As he took his seat, Deanna attempted to disregard the fact that she was in no condition to be counseling anyone today. This was her job, and she would do what she had to. There was nothing she could do to control the situation with Will, after all – at least not until he had spoken to Sarah.  So she gathered her strength, drawing on some previously unknown reserve, and focused on her patient.




Colin stepped into the café ten minutes after Sarah had left and found Will sitting alone, staring straight ahead. When he stopped in front of his table, Will barely acknowledged him. His look was empty and uncertain.


“May I sit down?”


Will gave a slight nod, grimacing as he tasted the now cold coffee, and Colin pushed away what he presumed to be Sarah’s untouched plate.


“I don’t like you much,” he said, earning a ‘well, there’s a shocker’ look from the Commander. It made him smile faintly. It had never been a secret that there was no love lost between the two men. They had never said it in so many words, and they acted civil with each other, but there had always been a certain distance between them.


“Did you come all the way here just to say that?” Will’s tone was slightly annoyed. “Or have you been waiting out there, ready to come to her rescue?” The smile playing his lips was ironic as he caught the look of surprise on the other man’s face. Colin quickly recovered. “Did you really think I didn’t know? It’s all over your face every time you look at her!”

“As it is with you when you look at Deanna Troi?” Jameson countered, receiving an icy look from Riker. The force of it shook him slightly. “Look, I’m sorry. It’s none of my business how you feel about her.”


“Finally we agree on something.” Will looked Colin in the eyes. “Why are you here? It seems pretty damn convenient, if you ask me.”


“Maybe it does.” Colin ordered some coffee, as the waitress appeared to clear off the table. When she had disappeared, he continued. “I didn’t follow you here, if that’s what you’re implying. But I am worried about her, Will. She’s crushed.”


“Thank you for your observation,” Will answered, rising from his chair. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my wife.”


Colin saw the anger flash in Riker’s eyes, but he also saw the defeat that Will couldn’t hide. It surprised him. He had always figured Will Riker to be a man in control, someone who could deal with any kind of situation, and he was sure that that characterization was accurate when it came to the Commander’s career in Starfleet. But it was obvious that when it came to Deanna Troi and Sarah things were different. This discovery made Colin see Will in a new light, and even if he would never come to like Riker, he now felt that he at least understood him a little better – and suddenly it wasn’t such a complete mystery why Sarah had chosen to stay with him.


“Will?” Colin got up to follow him outside. “I just want her to be happy. That’s all.”


Will spun around, eyeing the other man seriously. The anger bubbled just beneath the surface. Colin Jameson had always annoyed him, first and foremost because he was so obviously in love with Sarah and apparently was able to give her something, some feeling of safety, that Will couldn’t. Why else would she have gone to him for the information on Deanna? Riker sighed inwardly. He couldn’t be sure, of course, that that was how she had found out, and yet he knew. She could have pulled up Deanna’s file herself, but she hadn’t done that – somehow she had felt that it would be safer to have Colin do it.


“As opposed to what I want?” Riker said, ice in his voice. This was such a mess. “I have always wanted the best for her ---“ Will stopped himself, his anger rising within him. “What the hell am I doing explaining myself to you? You have nothing to do with this!”


“Yes, I do, and you know it.”


It wasn’t a challenge or a threat. Rather, It was a statement of fact, and Will knew that he was right. He didn’t like it, but it was true even so.


“I love her, Colin,” he said without knowing why. Maybe it was because he needed to talk to someone, and Jameson just happened to be there. Riker wasn’t sure, and right now he didn’t care either. “You’re not the only one who wants what is best for her, you know.” Will moved away from the café. “But --- look, I don’t want to get into this with you. I have to find her.” He paused, his eyes meeting Colin’s. Jameson couldn’t find the word to describe what he saw in them. “You think she went to see Deanna, don’t you?”


“Judging from the fact that I had to prevent her from going in there earlier this morning, I’d say it’s a pretty good guess.”


“Oh, no …” Will only whispered and it took him a second to realize what it was Colin had said. “You stopped her?” Colin nodded. “Why?” Riker managed half a smile. “Well, I guess that’s obvious, isn’t it?”


“It should be. But it wasn’t the only reason, Will. I did it for Deanna’s sake as well --- and for you, actually.”


“Me? I find that hard to believe.”


“Sarah told me that you and Deanna are bonded,” Colin said, watching Riker’s expression soften at the mere mention of the beautiful Betazoid’s name. “Whatever my feelings for Sarah may be, that means something.”


“I’m supposed to believe that you give a damn about that?”

Will looked at the man in front of him, and the two of them stood there in silence for a few minutes. Then Will walked back to Starfleet Medical. Colin stayed where he was. He didn’t want to make things more complicated than they already were, and If Sarah wanted to see him, she would know where to find him.






The intense emotions assaulted Deanna’s emphatic sense, and she didn’t need to see her to know that it was Sarah standing out there, and that she was livid. The door opened, and the two women stood face to face. Sarah said nothing; she just stood there for a few expanding moments, trying to control the anger burning inside of her, but she couldn’t.


“I would like a word with you, Counselor,” she hissed, almost spiting out the last word as she threw it in Deanna’s face like an insult. The Betazoid stood tall, but she was far from unaffected.


“Please, come in.”


Sarah stepped inside, watching as Troi closed the door. Her blood boiled. Images of Will and the dark haired woman entangled in a lovers’ embrace tortured her mind. They made her feel sick.


“Bitch,” she said, her eyes on fire. “You bitch! You couldn’t take it, could you? You couldn’t deal with the fact that he wanted to stay with me, so you decided to go after him the first chance you got.” The expression on Sarah’s face was indescribable. “Well, you know what? It isn’t going to work. You can’t have him!”


“He isn’t some prize, Sarah,” Deanna countered, keeping her voice as steady as possible. After all, the woman in front of her had every right to feel betrayed. She searched for the words to explain that neither she nor Will had planned for things to turn out the way they had. But how could she? She wouldn’t be able to mask her feelings, no matter what she said, and that would be like twisting the knife all over again. She didn’t want to do that, because even though Sarah would never believe it, Deanna knew how she was feeling – at least to some extent.


“I could have you reported for this …” Sarah said, either not hearing or not caring about what Deanna had said. “We came here for help, and you …” Deanna’s heart hurt at the pain she not only sensed from the other woman but also saw in her eyes as Sarah looked directly at her. “There are rules, Doctor Ryan.” She emphasized her last name, although Deanna was sure that she knew about her marital status by now. “There are ethics. I’m sure there are people would agree with me that you violated quite a few of them when you took my husband to bed!”


Deanna wanted to protest, to let Sarah know that it hadn’t been like that, but she also knew that there would be no point in trying. However she chose to look at it, it was what had happened. She had not only violated her own personal beliefs but those of her profession as well. Sarah was right; some people would quite surely react to that if it was brought to their attention. They would have to. She sighed inaudibly as her thoughts turned to Will. What had they done?


“What?” Sarah demanded knowing. “You have no answer for that? No excuse or sappy tale about how the two of you are destined to be together? I thought for sure I’d get one of those.” Sarah’s words were cruel and piercing, and Deanna had to use all her self-control not to react in the way she knew Sarah wanted her to.


“Why tell you something you already know?” Troi had not meant to say that, but the look of confusion on Sarah’s face was well worth it. If Sarah wanted a confrontation she would get one.


“Imzadi means nothing to me,” Sarah said, hoping to see the same look of shock on Deanna’s face that she had seen on Will’s not too long ago. But Troi only smiled. She smiled.


“I know,” she said, “but it means something to Will. It means very much to him, and that is all that matters to me.”


“Is that so?” Sarah shot back as she regained her composure. There was no way she was going to back down from this. She had been taught to fight for what she wanted, and she was going to. “Well, if it meant all that much to him, then why wasn’t it more difficult for him to walk away from you?”


That did the trick. Sarah watched as the woman in front of her went instantly pale. The perfect Deanna Troi apparently wasn’t unshakable, after all. “I mean that was what he did, wasn’t it? He walked away from you.” She paused a little, disregarding the voice in the back of her mind saying that this wasn’t who she was or wanted to be. “He chose someone else, Counselor, and it wasn’t the first time either, was it?”


Deanna felt like the air had been punched out of her lungs. How did she know? She couldn’t know. Will wouldn’t have told her about that. She watched Sarah’s expression and wondered if Will had ever seen his wife like this. The transformation was remarkable, and Deanna briefly cursed the emphatic ability, which allowed her to appreciate that Sarah acted like this only because she would do anything to save her marriage.


“Tell me something,” Troi asked, continuing when she received no protest from Sarah, “tell me if Will has ever experienced you like this, because if he has, I can’t blame him for feeling like he made the wrong choice.” 


What?” Sarah found she couldn’t yell. She wanted to, she wanted to scream.  But she couldn’t. Had he told her that? Had Will told Deanna that he had made the wrong choice by marrying her? No. No. “Nice try. But he hasn’t said that to you. I know he hasn’t.”


“You’re right.” Deanna answered, knowing that the satisfied look spreading across Sarah’s face would be gone in a moment. Troi sighed. She didn’t want to be cruel to Sarah; after all she didn’t even know her. But she couldn’t bear losing Will again. She didn’t want to have to let him go again, not after what had happened between them, and how right it had felt, despite the less than ideal circumstances. She just hoped he would understand that. “He hasn’t said it, Sarah, but he doesn’t have to. Don’t you see? I know, because I know him. I know him in a way that you or anyone else never will. That is Imzadi, and no matter what you do, or how hard you try, you can’t fight it. You can’t make it go away. It’s a part of Will that he can never share with you, a part of him that you will never understand.”


“It’s true.”


Both women turned around at the sound of the deep voice. He was standing in the doorway. Deanna knew she should have sensed him, but she had been too caught up in her emotions to be able to. It didn’t matter. She sensed him now, and it was all the confirmation she needed.


Sarah watched her husband’s eyes as he looked at Deanna Troi, and the emotion she saw there was unlike anything she had ever invoked in him. She knew that. She also knew that Troi had been right even before Will had confirmed it, but it didn’t mean that she was ready to accept it.


She regretted her action the second she heard the stunned gasp, but by then it was too late, and Deanna was on the floor looking up at her in shock.








“I’m okay, Will,” Troi promised and let him help her up. Then she returned her gaze to Sarah. The other woman looked away and focused on Will instead.


“Will …”


“We’re leaving,” he said sternly. “Now. We have to talk, Sarah.” Without waiting for her answer, Riker turned to Deanna again. “Are you sure that you’re okay?” She nodded, and Will was hit by a wave of emotion when she looked into his eyes.


Then he sensed her thoughts and couldn’t help smiling. It was still the most incredible feeling he had ever experienced.


~ Imzadi ~


To think that one word could carry so much emotion, trust, and understanding. It still managed to amaze him, even after all these years.


“He’s mine.” Sarah’s words cut through the silence, and Will sighed, his eyes leaving Deanna’s face. “Mine.”


“That’s enough!” Riker’s outburst caused both women to stare at him – Sarah because she had never heard him like this before, and Deanna because the feelings she sensed from him almost took her breath away with their intensity. She smiled when he regained his composure. “Sarah,” he said, turning to his wife. “This isn’t you …”


“Don’t patronize me, Will.”


“I’m not.” He reached out a hand to her. “Look, I can’t excuse this, and you have every right in the world to yell and scream at me. But ---“


“But you don’t want me to do it here,” she interjected, “right? You don’t want me to hurt your precious Deanna! Damn you, Will!” She turned to Deanna, and Troi saw the pain in the other woman’s eyes. It was devastating. “I hope you’re happy, Counselor.” Sarah smiled joylessly. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t recommend you to my friends.”


“Sarah,” Will stopped her. “Can we talk about this?”


“We could, but we aren’t going to.” She lost herself in his eyes once more. Now she was sure he didn’t know how much she loved him. “You want her. I can’t change that, and I won’t settle for being second choice.” She drew in a breath. “I can’t believe you would treat me like this. It’s low, Will, really low.”


“Come with me,” he asked, “please. Let’s talk about this. I don’t want to …”


“Choose?” she offered, “I realize that now, and you know what? You don’t have to. This time I’ll do it for you. Nice and easy.”


“None of this is easy,” he argued, but Sarah just smiled.


“It should be. You’re Imzadi, after all, whatever the hell it means. How could I think I could compete with that? Of course I never realized that marriage was a competition.”


“It isn’t,” Will said, “I love you.” He looked at her. It was true. He did love her.


“But never enough, Will. Never so much that you will give her up.”


“I can’t.”


“You won’t.”


“Sarah, I tried, I did. I wanted to …”


“You wanted to?” Deanna asked, unbelieving. “You wanted to?”


“Deanna, don’t. Please. She’s my wife, and I wanted to make it work. You and I … I thought … damn it, you know what I thought!”


“Well, for those of us who don’t have the privilege of knowing you that intimately, could you please elaborate?” Sarah’s words were cold. “Explain to me why you married me, Will, and please don’t say you loved me, because I have a hard time believing that right now.”


“You made me feel,” he said, and Deanna gasped.


~ Dee, please understand. You and I – we weren’t … I didn’t know. ~ 


“Feel how?” Sarah inquired, oblivious to the wordless communication between her husband and Troi. “What exactly did I make you feel?”


“Sarah … let’s not … not here.”


“For God sake, Will! You are a decorated Starfleet officer. How hard can it be to answer a simple question?”


Will was struggling. Both woman saw that, but it was Deanna Riker looked at as he finally answered, mentally asking for her forgiveness at the same time.


“Alive,” he said, watching the lights go out in Deanna’s eyes. Her emotions overwhelmed him, and he felt a sob work its way to his lips, but he suppressed it. “Sarah, please. Can we talk later?”


“Yes.” Sarah answered automatically, feeling her anger ebb away slowly. She didn’t want to, by God, she didn’t want to, but she felt for both of them. She had never seen Will so upset. It was almost as if he was feeling Deanna’s pain, as if they were connected … “Oh, my God!” she gasped as realization dawned on her. ‘That’s Imzadi.’


“What?” Will turned to her, worried.


“Nothing,” she whispered, throwing a look in Deanna’s direction. A bruise was starting to show on her cheek. Troi turned to face her. A moment of silent understanding passed between the two women. “I’ll let you … I’ll go.”


Sarah left the room unnoticed, and as she looked back a last time, she saw Deanna turn away from Will. She had wowed that she would make Troi fight for Will, but now that she saw the distance between the two of them, she found herself feeling as empty as she had when she had first confronted the counselor. She closed the door and turned to look directly into Colin’s eyes.




"What are you doing here?"


"Well, hello to you, too." His smile was slightly teasing, but he sobered quickly. "Are you okay, Sarah?"


"I don't know," she admitted. "Did you come here just to ask that?"


"Would it be such a surprise to you if I did?" he asked, reaching out a hand to her. “You know I care for you."


"Colin, don't. Just … don't. I can't deal with that right now."


"I know. You keep saying that, but you have to deal with it, Sarah, because it isn't just going to go away."


"What is it that you want from me?" Her voice was slightly raised, but she didn't look angry. She looked tired. Defeated.


"I want you to tell me what you feel, how you feel."


"I don't know, damn it! Why can't you just leave me alone?"


"Is that what you want?" His jaw clenched. "Is it?"


"Yes." She was surprised at how much his face changed. "Colin … I'm sorry."


"Yes," he nodded, “so am I." For a moment none of them spoke, but then he continued. "If I go now, I won't come back, Sarah. You have to know that."


She didn't answer, didn't know what to say. Colin turned away, and Sarah watched him go. He was almost out of sight before she reacted. When she touched him, he turned around and looked at her. There was an unspoken challenge in his eyes, a demand that she make a decision. "He's gone," he said when she just stood there, a hand on his shoulder. "Sarah, he can't let go of Deanna, even if he wanted to, and he doesn't want to. You know that."


"How can you know? Have you always known?" Her tone was slightly accusing, and he moved away from her touch. She could be so infuriating at times.


"Of course not. Look, this isn't getting us anywhere … I have to go."


"I love him."


"Yes," he smiled a little. "I know. Good bye, Sarah."


"Colin, please, I need time." She caught his eye. "Can you give me time?"


"I thought that was what I have been doing," he said. "Different situation, same words. Remember?"


"Of course I do. But ---"


"No, Sarah. I understand that you're hurting right now, and I'm sorry about that, but I can't keep playing this game with you. I won't."


"I want you." Sarah swallowed. "That isn't exactly a secret, is it?"

"I don't know about that. It's the first time you've said it to me." He looked at her seriously. "You do realize what you're saying, don't you?"


"Yes," she answered, "and I am well aware of the double standard."


"Then why the hell are you acting this way?"


"Because …" She looked away from him. "I don't know."


"Yes, you do. We both know, which is why it will never work for us."


"I hate that he loves her more." She sighed. "God, I'm so pathetic, aren't I?"


"Pretty much."  


"Thank you, doctor. That was compassionate of you!"


"It was honest. I've tried compassion with you, doctor." He smiled. "It didn't work." 


"This isn't going to, either – is it? The two of us, I mean."


"Not if you can't let go of him."


"What if I can?"


He smiled again. If only it was that simple. But it wasn't, nothing was that simple, not when Sarah was involved.


She looked at him, really looked at him, something she hadn't dared to do in a long time. Not since … She cleared her mind. It had been a mistake. But it had forced her to admit some very hard truths about her marriage, about herself. Truths that she didn't want to face, and Colin's presence was a constant reminder. He annoyed her, especially because she knew he was right. But she wasn't ready yet – she just wasn't ready. The worst part was that right now she didn't know if she ever would be.


"Sarah?" She nodded, waiting. "Take care," he whispered, brushing his lips over hers before he turned away and left. In an instant he was gone, and Sarah turned to look at the closed door to Deanna's office, wondering if this was how Will had felt when he had let Troi go? Had he felt the same void that she felt right now, the same darkness closing in on him?


"Will …" The word fell from her lips in a whisper. "Will."




On the opposite side of the door Deanna had backed away from Will, standing with her back to him. The silence was complete, but that didn't mean that nothing was said. Their communication was wordless. It seemed none of them had the strength to say the words out loud, and their recent union had strengthened their connection, which meant that Will no longer had to struggle to cast his thoughts into Deanna's mind. It was a mixed blessing, however, since right now he could feel every one of her hurt, confused emotions – knowing that he was the one who had caused them. Again.


~ You don't feel alive with me? ~


The question floated into his mind over and over, and he closed his eyes briefly. She winched when he stepped forward and touched her shoulder.


~ Yes, I do. You know I do. ~


The pictures flowing from his mind to hers made her shake, and she fell back against his chest. His arms slid around her waist, and she didn't move.


~ God … ~


He knew it would exhaust her, knew it would drain her energy. But he had to show her; had to let her see how his life without her had been. He held her tight.


"Do you understand?" he whispered close to her ear. "Do you see?"


~ So much pain … ~


She turned in his arms, hiding her face. Will just held on, whispering softly to her as he kissed her hair, knowing that she was no longer referring to his emotions.


~ I know. ~ He withdrew a little to look into her eyes. ~ I never meant to hurt you, Deanna, never. Imzadi … ~


The word echoed in Deanna's mind, and she met his gaze with her own. She had never sensed him quite like this before. Will was afraid. He was afraid that she would pull away from him. She smiled despite herself.


"I understand, Will," she said softly. "I just wish you would have realized how much …" She reached up to caress his cheek. "So much time … we've lost so much time."


"We're stronger now," Will whispered, bringing her close again. His lips descended on hers with a gentleness that resounded throughout her entire spirit, and when he reached out to her mentally, Deanna embraced him completely. "God, how I love you," he breathed between kisses that seemed to go on and on.


~ I love you. ~


The look in his eyes took Deanna's breath away, and she felt entirely overwhelmed when he released every emotion in his heart and let it pass through their link. For a few lasting moments they just stood there, letting themselves get lost in each other. But soon reality pressed on, and Deanna looked at Will, the question back in her eyes. He nodded, kissing her deeply for the last time before he stepped back from her.


"I won't be long," he promised, "will you be here?"


"Meet me at home," she smiled, and he returned it. "What is it?"


"Home," he said, tasting the word, "I think I like that."


"You better." She kissed him again. "Will?"


"Mm?" he mumbled, trailing soft kisses down her neck. She smelled so good; tasted so good. "Did you say something?"


"You should go." She let her head fall back a little to give him better access.  "She's hurting …" Whatever she had wanted to say, it was momentarily forgotten as she let herself enjoy his touch.


"I know," he whispered, "and I will. In a minute."


"I won't go anywhere," she said, "just talk to her, Will."


Will watched her silently. How could he live without her? She was such an amazing woman, and he loved her. Deeply. Desperately. Eternally.


"Deanna …" he caught her eye, the smile still on his lips, "it will be all right."


"Yes," she agreed, "it will."





She had wanted to turn this house into a home, but as Sarah
walked through the rooms, she admitted, for the first time,
that she hadn't succeeded. This was a residence shared my
two people, who genuinely cared for one another, but it was
not the home, either she or Will had searched for. They had
failed in making it one, not because they hadn't tried, but
because, it dawned on her, there had always been something
missing in their relationship, even when they had been
happiest, and they had been happy at one time. They had,
just never as much as she had led herself to believe. There
had been too many things unsaid, too many compromises made
on both sides. They had simply developed into different
people than they had been when they had met, and while that
was perhaps natural enough ... in the process she had
become someone she didn't want to be. Sarah sighed,
flattening the coverlet on the bed as she reached the
bedroom. Her suitcase stood unpacked by the side of the
bed. She had left it there earlier when she had returned to
find the bed untouched and Will nowhere around. It was then
that it had really settled with her that Deanna Troi had a
hold on Will that surpassed anything any other woman could
even come close to. It was easier to think of it that way
than to acknowledge her own part in the mess that her
marriage - and, to some extent, her life had become. The
weight of her own failure, her own mistakes, was lighter
when she looked at it in that light, when she told herself
that no matter what she had done, she and Will would
eventually have ended up like this. Imzadi was like a force
of nature ... bringing Will and Troi together despite
everything else in their respective lives, and so what
could she have done? It didn't matter that she had turned
to another man, not really, because Will shouldn't ever
have married her, knowing that he would never be able to
commit to her fully.

"That is biggest cop-out I have ever heard," sounded a
voice behind her, and Sarah realized that she must have
voiced her thoughts. She blushed as she turned around.
Colin's expression displayed anger and disappointment.
"What happened to you that you can't even own up to your
decisions, and the choices that you've made? Will may have
made some wrong choices, Sarah, and perhaps he shouldn't
have married you, but he did, and whatever else I may think
of him, I know that he cares deeply for you. It is just too
damn easy for you to blame everything on Deanna. She
doesn't deserve that, Sarah."

"I find this concern for the good doctor really touching,"
she snapped, "what is it about her that you all seem to
find so damn irresistible?"

"Deanna is an excellent counselor, and I have a great deal
of respect for her." He stepped further into the room.
"Honestly, that's more than I can say for you right now."

"What's that supposed to mean?" She took in a breath,
already knowing the answer. In a last attempt to disregard
his rea-soning she went on. "And what are you doing here,
anyway? What happened to you not coming back?"

"You know what?" He shook his head. "I have no idea." He
paused as if deliberating if he should say more. "You know
what else?"

"Why don't you enlighten me," she said with deliberate

"This victim role does not suit you, and neither does the
bitchiness, for that matter. Why can't you just --- oh,
what the hell!" Seconds passed before Sarah realized that
he was kissing her, and that she was kissing him back. She
pressed into him without knowing how to stop herself.
"Colin, stop ..." Her words were hushed. "Stop ... please

"Sarah," he breathed, "God ..."

"We can't." She found the strength to break away. "We just

"Why the hell not?" He stepped away from her, his eyes
burning into hers. Will had never looked at her like that,
and he hadn't ever made her feel so alive. She wanted
Colin, wanted him with a fierce intensity. Was it love? She
didn't know, and right now she didn't care either.

"Not here."

His expression softened instantly at her words, and he
brought her into his arms again.

"Not here?"

"You heard me," she said, stepping out of his embrace. A
small smile tugged at her lips. "You're enjoying this,
aren't you? Torturing me like this."

"I think I'm entitled. You've put me through hell."

"I don't know what to say." She truly didn't. He meant it;
it was obvious, and she should have realized ... she *had*
known, at least on some level. After all, what man kept
coming back after the way she had treated him, if it wasn't
because ...

"That has to be a first," he smiled, "but then again, I
happen to believe that words can be terribly overrated!"

"Smooth," she retorted, and then she kissed him again,
eliciting a deep groan from him. Her hands circled behind
his neck, and she let herself give in, just as she had that
first time.

Will stopped in his tracks at the sight of the two people
locked in what was unmistakably a lover's embrace. Sarah
was kissing Colin Jameson, and it was obviously not the
first time either, judging by the way they were melted into
each other, and the way his name fell softly from her lips
as he moved to kiss her neck. Riker stood there stunned for
a few seconds, until he turned around and left. It wasn't
until the front door banged shut that Sarah reacted. Colin
hadn't ever seen her like this before.

"Will." She whispered. "He must have seen ... "

"I think that's a pretty safe assumption," Colin nodded.

"I have to ..." she couldn't find the words. "I have to go
after him!"

"Sarah, " he sighed, "it won't help." He spotted the
vulnerability in her eyes along with her need for his
understanding. "I'll talk to him."

"I don't think that's such a good idea," she argued, but
her words fell on deaf ears. Colin was already out the
door, and Sarah wasn't at all sure what to expect when she
hurried to catch up with him.




Colin tracked Will down at the beach. The two men stood
face-to-face, and Riker looked at the man in front of him.
The silence between them became tangible.

"I supposed I should have known. It isn't like you've hid
the fact that you're in love her."

"I am, but it's more than that. I love her. Will ---"

"Don't tell me how long, don't tell me how incredible she
is, or how I'm the biggest fool alive for not appreciating
her. I don't want to hear it! I just want you to get out of
my face before I smash yours in!"

"You're not going to," Colin said, hoping he was right. He
thought he was, but he couldn't be sure. People do a lot of
things in anger that they wouldn't otherwise have done, and
Will was most certainly angry. He was furious.

"Don't bet on it!" Will turned around, looking at the waves
crashing against the rocks. "Is she happy?" The question
surprised both men, and Riker faced the other man again.
"Is she?"

"No," Colin said, "not yet. But I hope she will be. Soon.
I'll do what I can ---"

"It that your subtle way of say that I didn't - that I
haven't?" Will cut in. His thoughts and feelings were a
mess. How could he have been such a complete idiot that he
hadn't realized ... how could he have allowed it to come to
this? Was he really that self-absorbed?

"No." He paused briefly. "You tried, and so did Sarah. But
sometimes it's not enough."

"You sound like you know what you're talking about?" Will
was surprised to feel some of his anger disperse.

"I said I loved her," Colin answered, his own frustration
surfacing. "Not that she felt the same way."

Will just looked at him, and Colin smiled joylessly.

"She came to me nine months ago," he explained, "after you
had been away, remember?" Will nodded silently, and Colin
went on. "She was falling apart. Kept saying how the two of
you were drifting apart, and that she didn't know why or
what to do. I hated to see her that way, and I hated you
for not realizing what you were doing to her. I told her to
stay with me."

"Did she?" Nine months. Will's head was spinning. "Colin?"

"No," he said, "she didn't. You don't know how much she
loves you, do you? How much she wants you?"

"I thought I did," Will mumbled. "Are you telling me that
you and she - that you never actually ---?"

"Yes. That is what I'm saying." A silence settled and
dragged on until Colin finally spoke again. "I want to be
with her, but until she lets go of you, until you ... until
then that will never happen. Colin's green eyes met Will's
blue ones. It was unlikely that the two of them would never
come to agree on much of anything, but they had finally
reached some sort of understanding that would allow them to
appreciate that in the end they weren't really that

"I know." A hesitant smile broke on Will's lips. "You *do*
love her."

"Otherwise I wouldn't still be here."

"She's something else," Will mused, and Colin nodded, still
somewhat apprehensive. This was a side to Will he had never
fully noticed before. "That temper of hers is ---"

"One of her most endearing features," Colin smiled,
relieved to see Riker do the same. "Wouldn't you agree?"

"Maybe I would," Riker allowed. "I should go see her."

"You should," Colin agreed, already turning to leave as he
noticed Sarah approaching, "and by the look of things you
won't have to go far."


Troi rose from the chair as she ended her communication
with Beverly, a smile on her lips as she remembered her
friend's reaction to the news of the renewed relationship
with Will.

"It's about time!" had been Crusher's only comment followed
by a lengthy discussion about the inevitable wedding
preparations, until a smiling Deanna had let a word or two
fall on the similarities between Beverly and Troi's mother,
whose demeanor was, of course, well known to the crew of
the Enterprise, including the Chief Medical Officer. That
had prompted a quick change of subject on Crusher's part,
and she had brought Troi up to date on the events onboard
the Enterprise, once again reminding Deanna of how much she
missed the life she had left behind when she had left the
ship. She enjoyed her practice, but it didn't fulfill her
the way her position on the Enterprise had. It just wasn't
the same. Deanna had initially thought that her
restlessness had to do with the loss of contact with Will,
but she had had to admit that that wasn't the case, at
least not solely. While she was happy to have Will back in
her life, while she very much wanted to build a life with
him, Deanna needed more.

She expelled the thoughts momentarily and went to shower.
Will had been gone for a while now, and Deanna concentrated
on the sense of him in the back of her mind. She managed
only to capture a few stray emotions, but it was enough to
assure her that although he wasn't altogether calm, he
didn't appear to harbor strong feelings of pain or anger,


As Deanna stepped into the shower booth and turned the
water on, across town Will was standing still, his hands
tucked in the pockets of the jacket he wore and watched his
wife approach him, stopping only a few steps away from him.
She regarded him with scarcely hidden nervousness. Will was
not as angry as he had initially been upon seeing her with
Colin; in fact he had begun to feel a strange sense of
relief. But now, as he watched Sarah sit down in the sand,
his anger returned. He was angry even though, logically, he
knew that he had no right to be. Right now, however, logic
was the furthest thing from his mind.

"Six months?" he threw the question out there, daring her
to answer, to challenge him, to do anything else than just
sit there.

"I didn't know what to do, Will. We were drifting away from
each other, and I didn't --- that's why I wanted to go for
counseling, can't you see --- I didn't want to lose you!"

"I can appreciate that," he said. "But you should have told
me. You should have told me *something,* Sarah, instead of
pushing everything over on me - instead of blaming me for
not being able to let go of past relationships when it was
you who were ... whatever it was you were doing!"

"Colin and I never ---" She didn't finish her sentence, she
just looked at him. "You did."

"For God's sake!" Will shouted angrily. "That isn't the
point, and you know it! This isn't about Deanna at all." He
sighed. "Sarah, we both made mistakes. All I want is for
you to admit that the problems we had wasn't entirely my
fault, just as you asked me to do not so long ago." He
fixed her gaze as he went on. "Do you remember what you
said to me? I assured you that I wasn't going anywhere,
promised you that I would do whatever it took for us to
make it work! Do you remember?" He didn't give her the
chance to respond. "My God ... here I was feeling all kinds
of guilt, while you were the one who - you must really
think I'm a fool!"

"No!" She jumped to her feet, fire in her eyes. "I should
never have turned to Colin, but he is an old friend, and I
needed someone to talk to ... someone who would

"It didn't occur to you that it might be a good idea to
talk to your husband?" He challenged her. "The man's crazy
about you! He probably has been for years -?he stood right
here just moments ago proclaiming his love for you!"

"He did?"

"Yes!" Riker was exasperated, but he managed to quickly
regain his composure. "You want him, Sarah. That much was
obvious. Why is it so hard for you to admit?"

"Because ... She trailed, looking out over the water. "I
don't know." Sarah turned to him. "I wanted to make it work
with you, Will, I really did." She smiled a little. "I love
you, and I suppose I was somewhat desperate ..." The words
were a mere whisper, but Will heard them, nonetheless.

"Somewhat," he agreed, still serious. 

"Can we skip the rest of the blaming game?" She suddenly
said. "I am sorry, but I just don't --- it doesn't really
matter anymore anyway, and Colin already ripped into me
earlier ..."

Will was surprised to hear that, but when he thought about
it, it did actually make sense. That was exactly something
Jameson would do.

"I just wish you would have talked to me," Will said,
"maybe we could have ---"

"Maybe," she nodded, "maybe. But wouldn't it just have been
a matter of time, no matter what we had done? Will, you've
never looked at me the way you looked at her today. You've
never hurt for me that way. I don't think you would be able
to, no matter how much I want you to." There was a bitter
smile on her lips as she continued. "I can't blame you for
not wanting to tell me about Imzadi."

"Sarah ---"

"No," she said, "don't. Just go, Will. It makes no sense
for us to go on now." She stepped close to him, her lips
covering his for the last time.

Will watched her go. When Sarah had disappeared from his
view, Will walked along the beach, trying to reign in his
cha-otic thoughts. His marriage was over, and even though
he wanted to finally build a life with Deanna, he had to
admit to himself, if not to her, that he was afraid. He had
made so many mistakes with her in the past, and this would
be their last chance to make it work. What if they wouldn't
be able to? What if they had changed too much? Colin's
words echoed in his mind as Will ran to Deanna's house.

She was resting after her bath, and he sat on the edge of
the bed, kissing her softly. She smiled. Then they melted
together again, and Will left his doubt behind, at least
momentarily. He knew Jameson had been right. Sometimes love
wasn't enough. But this time it would be, it had to be -
because a life without this woman was not acceptable. It
was no longer possible.



"Deanna." He managed to pull away from her. She smiled.

Troi sensed the sudden insecurity in him before it
registered on his face. "Will? What is it?" Her hand felt
comforting on his cheek. "What happened with Sarah?"

"It isn't important," he said. He rose quickly. Too
quickly; and there was suddenly a hardened look in his
eyes. "Deanna, I don't want to talk about it."

"Will, what happened?" she asked, unwilling to let it go.
She knew she had to press the issue, otherwise Sarah would
continue to stand between them, and it wasn't like there
weren't enough ghosts as it were. "Tell me. We have to talk
about it."

"She's in love with Colin Jameson ..." He paused. "Well,
maybe love isn't the right word here. Lust might be more
appropriate. Will turned his back on her, and Deanna let
his words sink in. She'd seen Sarah with Dr. Jameson, she
had noticed their closeness but had simply attributed it to

"She said that?"

"She didn't have to." He turned to face her again, and his
pain struck Deanna as she felt the intensity of the
emotions engulf her.

"How do you feel about that?"

"Deanna, how the hell do you think I feel? Damn it, I don't
need you to counsel me!"

"Actually, Will, right now I think that is exactly want you
need!" she shot back at him, unable to cast aside the hurt
brought on by his outburst.

"I just want to move on ..." He smiled at her look. "You're
not going to let this go, are you?" Her delicate hand lay
on top of his, and he was once again surprised at the
calming effect of her touch, even though, by now, he really
shouldn't be. "I'm angry as hell, and at the same time I'm
relieved. Relieved that she's okay and relieved that I can
let go of the guilt I felt for being unable to make it

"But that's a good thing," she said. "Isn't it?"

There was just a hint of hesitance in her voice, and it got
to Will like nothing she could have said or done. Her dark
eyes caressed his face; searching. Waiting.

"Yes." He nodded. "It is." He reached out to touch her
face. She was as beautiful as she had always been. She was
strong and independent, and her spirit glowed. He loved her
unconditionally. "Deanna."

She smiled. "Will, you and I - we will always be a part of
each other. We can't change that." Deanna moved away from
his touch and rose from the bed. Looking at him as he sat
there on the bed, his face turned away from her, he seemed
lost and conflicted. She had anticipated as much, after all
it would have been naive not to realize that they couldn't
just pick up where they had left off. Their passionate
reunion aside, it had been years since they'd spent any
time together. Years of living separate lives and evolving
into different people than they had been on the Enterprise.
Their bond would bind them together forever, but they were
still individuals, and in many ways they had to get to know
each other all over again.

"I don't want to," he said, turning to face her. "I'm just
..." His hand raked through his hair. It was such a
characteristic thing for him to do, and her smile grew a
little wider.

"Conflicted," she said as she had before, but this time he
shook his head slightly, and she sat down on the bed when
it suddenly hit her. The emotions she sensed from him were
stronger than confusion, much stronger. "You're -"

"Afraid," he said, catching her eye. "I'm afraid, Dee."

"About us," she nodded. "Will, listen - we don't have to

His eyes clouded over, and Deanna watched him as he got up
and started pacing the small space of her bedroom. She hurt
for the both of them, but she refused to give into the
pain. They had to deal with this, and they had to do it
now. Even if it meant ... She felt his eyes on her and
quickly abandoned that particular train of thought.

"This is not exactly the conversation I'd imagined having
at this point," he said. "But I guess we are proof enough
that things doesn't always work out the way they're
supposed to."

"What if they do?" she said, walking up to him. "What if
this is exactly how things are supposed to be, Will? We've
pushed this in front of us for so long. We became so good
at explaining it away that in the end we believed it
ourselves." She swallowed, and he instinctually encircled
her in a tight embrace. "We made the choices that brought
us to this point. We're here for a reason."

"Maybe," he acknowledged. "You're right." He spoke against
her hair. "Were you happy with him?" It wasn't what he'd
meant to say, but once he had, Will knew that he had to
know the answer.

"For a while," she said, and he smiled. That was exactly
the way he had felt about Sarah. He and Deanna had spent
years burying their feelings, or at least allowed them to
evolve into something else, and in many ways, he had to
admit, some-thing more. He had come to depend on her
friendship, her strength, and he didn't want to have to
live without that, without her, ever again.

"Deanna," he spoke seriously, stepping back a little to
look at her. She smiled, and then she kissed him. Will was
slightly surprised, but he wasn't going to offer any
objections, and when he held her tight to him, reveling in
the flowery scent of her, he heard the sound of his name in
his mind, felt her presence everywhere. When the kiss
ended, he looked into her eyes and noticed the small smile
return to her face. "Point taken, Counselor." He laughed
softly, kissing her again, his lips soft and loving on
hers. "I like your 'hands-on' approach."

"I thought you would," she nodded and sobered. The look in
his eyes told her that he truly did understand. Her actions
had had less to do with emphasizing their passion for one
another - after all none of them questioned it - and more
to do with showing him that whatever choices they made
today, they would be forever bonded, perhaps not as lovers
but surely as friends and confidants. They were Imzadi, and
that destiny was eternal. It was inescapable, but how they
let it impact their lives was up to them, it was their
choice. But once it was made, however, that too would be
irreversible. She knew it, and Will knew it.

"I want it," said, so silently that she felt the words
against her lips more than heard them. "I want everything
with you, Deanna."

"I want it, too," she said, stepping back from him. His
eyes followed her back to the bed as she sat down, resting
against the headboard. He joined her, sitting on the edge
of the bed. There was a hesitant look in her eyes, and as
Riker gathered her in his arms he felt her relax into him.
He felt her smile before he looked down at her. "We will
make it work," she whispered, and he nodded.

"Yes," he agreed, "we will."



Riker looked up to see Colin waiting outside his office.

"'Morning," Riker said, opening his door and gestured for
the other man to step inside. Colin did so in silence, and
Will wondered what could be the problem. They hadn't spoken
for months - not since the confrontation on the beach. he
doors closed, and the two men faced each other again.

"I spoke to Deanna earlier. She told me you're leaving

"We are," Riker said, looking at Colin. "Why are you here?"

"Does it matter?" Jameson smiled briefly.

"Not at all." Will paused for a long moment. He still
didn't like the man. But he could appreciate that he cared
for Sarah and that she felt the same way about him. At this
point that was what was important. He smiled inwardly. How
quickly things change. "How is she?"

"Still stubborn as hell," Colin said, "and still in pain.
But she will be fine."

"I'm sure," Riker acknowledged, noticing Colin's inspecting
look. "What is it?"

"I just wondered; that's all. You don't really look happy,

"I am," Will said. "But it takes time. You should be able
to appreciate that."

"I guess," Colin nodded. "But I'd think it would be easier
for you and Deanna - with your bond." He saw Riker smile
and added quickly. "Of course, I could be wrong."

"You could."

Colin nodded, deciding to not push any further. He had no
right or reason to anyway. Instead he extended his hand to
Riker, and Will took it briefly before watching Jameson
leave the office and disappear out of sight. In some
strange way he felt like the last two years of his life
were disappearing as well. Not so that he would forget
them, he didn't want to, but in such a way that he would be
able to leave them behind and start over.

~ Will? ~

He smiled, closing his eyes. She had to be nearby for him
to sense her, and that fact alone made him feel instantly
at ease. Wasn't that what it was about in the end?
Friendship. Contentment. Love. Passion. Desire. He had it
all with her, and he was certain that she well aware of how
he felt, just as he could feel her loving emotions wash
over him right now.

~ Where are you? ~

"Right here," she smiled, walking through the door. Riker
opened his eyes. "Are you ready?"

"Yes," he promised, "in a minute. Come here ..."

"We'll be late," she protested weakly. He brought her into
his arms, but instead of kissing her, like she had thought
he would, he just held her close, and Deanna melted into

"I love you," he whispered.

Deanna didn't answer, knowing it wasn't necessary, and for
a few expanding moments they just stood there locked in an
embrace, which felt as intimate as anything else they had
ever shared, and they both soaked up the essence of
everything they were together without reservation.

Once they separated, Will looked at her seriously. "I never
thought it would feel like this," he mumbled.

"I suppose it's natural," she whispered, playing with his
collar. The proof was right there. He smiled, and she saw
the happiness and the pride there, written in every one of
his features and in those bright eyes. He had finally
achieved his dream.

"Let's go, Counselor," he offered, reaching for her hand.
The ring on her finger sparkled, reminding him of how much
he had to look forward to. They were no married yet, but
they would be. Soon. "Deanna," he whispered as they exited
the building.

"I know," she said, "things will change. But let's not
worry about that right now, Will. Let's just -"

"The 'Enterprise' is waiting for you to beam aboard, sir."
Will tilted his head slightly in acknowledgement. His new
ship was in dock, awaiting his arrival, and Captain Picard
had been quick to offer to bring he and Deanna to the USS

"Yes, let's," he smiled, kissing her softly. She smiled
against his lips. "What?"

"Nothing," she said. "You're nervous."

"Well ..." He acknowledged. "Perhaps just a little."

"I like that," she said, and he shot her a look. "You'll be
fine," she promised, with that incredible light in her
eyes. Will held on tighter to her hand, his love for her
burning as bright as always. "We both will."

"Yes," he said, and then, "two to beam up." In the second
before they shimmered away, she kissed him, and he
responded in kind. Long after they had vanished a word
lingered in their wake.

The word was Imzadi, a word that carried unlimited meaning
and eternal promise.