Author: Pia Pedersen


Rating: PG-13


Disclaimers apply.




“Get out!”


He had never seen or heard her this furious, and it honestly frightened him a little. She was falling apart, but she had been refusing the help of anyone who had offered it, including Beverly, and now she was asking him to leave. It hurt.


“Deanna, listen to me. Calm down a little, please. I can’t help you, if you won’t tell me what’s bothering you.” Will took in a deep breath, once again reaching out a hand to her. “Talk to me. Let me help you.”


“I don’t need help,” she argued, still angry. But Riker was relieved that at least she was no longer yelling at him. “I’m just fine. Why can’t you just leave me alone?”


“Because you’re not fine, Deanna. It’s obvious to everyone on this ship that you're not doing well. Even the Captain is concerned."


“Well, you can tell him to stop. There’s no need.” She met his gaze head on. Her anger pierced his skin, and Will found that he couldn’t breathe. “Did it ever occur to you that I didn’t need or want to be saved by you, Commander?”


“I’m beginning to see that, Counselor,” he shot back with the same force. She didn’t flinch. “But did it occur to you that I’m not here to save you? I care for you, Deanna; I love you. You know I do. Why won’t you lean on me?” His voice fell to a whisper, and he took a chance, moving closer to her. She stayed where she was. “We’re friends.”


“Are we, Will? Are we, really?” She was motionless when he looked at her, shocked.


“Of course we are. We’ve always been, no matter what else we have been to each other through the years, we were friends first.”


“No, we weren’t.” She stepped back from him, falling down onto a couch. “The friendship developed later. It was a … substitute.” Her voice was no longer as steady as it had been. Will felt the color drain from his face.


“What are you saying?! What’s gotten into you?” He was hurting, and the anger was building steadily. “As far I remember I wasn’t the one insisting that we not be together here!” Deanna felt his blue eyes shoot daggers at her. “Was I, Deanna?”


“Stop it,” she said. Will shook his head, breathing deeply.


“Like hell I will! You can’t do this, say something like that, and then just take away my right to respond.” She sighed, but she didn’t move away when he sat down next to her. “Do you realize what you just did?” he asked. She said nothing, and he continued. “You took the most important thing in my life and treated it like it has no value whatsoever.” He swallowed. “Our friendship, this connection that we have, it is what makes live worth living for me. How can you not know that?” He realized that in a minute he would probably start crying. It felt as if his very soul had shattered. “How can you not feel the same way?”


“It doesn’t matter how I feel.”


“Deanna, what the hell is wrong with you? You’re not yourself.”


“What if this is who I am, Will? What then?”


“Then I don’t know you at all,” he allowed. “But since I do …” He let a hand caress her face. “Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”


“Will, it’s not your problem. I’ll be fine.” She looked at him now; really looked at him for the first time sine they had started the conversation. He decided it was a good sign.  


“I need to know something.” He paused, taking his eyes off her face as he went on. “I need to know why you would say those things about us. Is that really how you feel?”


“Will, please don’t do this.” He looked at her, not understanding, and Deanna hated what she was doing to him, to them. It wasn’t really her doing it. It wasn’t what she wanted, and all the time she had spoken those horrible words, she had fought to keep them from being said. She was fighting an inner battle, and in her desperation she was tearing down everything she had ever cherished, everything she had ever loved. It was like she was on the outside looking in, unable to stop herself, unable to put an end to the hurt.


“I have to, Deanna. I want to know, and I want you to be honest. You owe me that much.” 


“I never meant to say that. You must believe me. Will, I’m … I’m so sorry.” He didn’t believe her; she could see it in his eyes. She really had taken everything away, including his trust. It was the last straw, seeing what she had done to him, how she had destroyed him, made Deanna break down. The walls around her heart crumbled, and she looked at Will, her vision blurred by the tears that were running down her cheeks.


“Deanna …” He fought to hold on to his anger. It wasn’t easy when she was crying like that. She looked so vulnerable that all he wanted was to take her in his arms and reassure her, tell her that everything would be fine. But he couldn’t do that, because right now he wasn’t sure that it would. So, instead, he rose to do as she had asked.


“Don’t go, Will, please. Not like this. We should talk.”


“I don’t think so, Deanna, not right now.” He moved closer to the door.


“I’m really sorry.” She went to him; her eyes still shining with unshed tears. “I didn’t mean to say those things.”


“So you keep telling me.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?”


“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “You tell me. You’re the one with the expertise on emotion. All I know is that right now I really don’t want to be here.”


“Why do we keep doing this?” she asked, locking eyes with him. “Aren’t you tired of it, Will? Aren’t you tired of this dance of ours?”


“Maybe I am. So what if I am? Until a few minutes ago I figured having your friendship was better than having nothing at all. Now I’m not so sure.” He let out a sigh. “I’m due on the Bridge soon.” He searched her face, and the pain he saw gripped his heart. “Talk to someone, Deanna. Anyone.”


The defiance was back in her eyes, and Riker allowed that maybe she was right. Maybe he didn’t know her – at least not as well as he’d thought he did.  


“Is that an order?”


“It wasn’t, but if that’s the way you want it …”


For a second he wanted nothing more than to kiss her, make it all go away. How could it have come to this? It felt like everything was falling to pieces … it felt like the end, and it was numbing.


“It isn’t the end, Will,” she said, obviously sensing his thoughts. “It can’t be. We’re ---“


“Imzadi?” The word that had carried so much weight, so much promise and magic sounded hollow to Will in this minute, and that truth made him sick. “Most Imzadi couples are married, Deanna. We’re not even ---“ He stared at her. She had frozen where she stood, her eyes had glazed over, and when he held her hand in his, he realized that she was shaking.


“Will, I can’t do this anymore.” Deanna rested in his embrace, silently crying into his chest while her emotions went out of control. “I won’t.” 


“You’re serious, aren’t you?” He looked down at her, knowing that he should let go, but knowing also that he couldn’t ever do that. He would do everything for her, anything, except that. He brought her face close to his, and he could feel her breathing change. But just before the kiss, Deanna drew back.


“No,” she whispered. “Don’t.” Will felt an ache as painful as anything he had ever experienced as he let go of her silently. “You have to understand ---“


“Oh, I understand,” he promised, his voice robbed of the emotion ripping apart his entire being. “I understand perfectly.”


“No, you don’t,” she answered, but her words went unheard.


 Will was already gone.




“Why are you doing this?” Deanna turned to him, catching his eye as the doors of the turbolift closed. “You’ve never blocked me like this before.”


“I’m more comfortable this way,” he lied, taking his eyes away from her beautiful face while doing his best to overlook the black rings under her eyes. She looked exhausted, much like he was feeling. The truth was that he had never felt this uncomfortable in his life, and the decision to block her from his thoughts and emotions had been the hardest he had made in a very long time, maybe ever. He loved the sensation of her in his mind, it used to fill him with such reassurance, joy, and desire … the memory of her mind mingling with his … the memory of the way they had touched … it usually kept him sane when the longing threatened to overcome him. But now he couldn’t bear that she knew what he thought. It was too intimate, and as much as it hurt him, Will had realized that whatever friendship they had shared, it was no longer there. There was nothing between them anymore.


“Are you doing this to hurt me?” The ‘lift stopped, but neither of its occupants moved; they hardly breathed.


“Hurt you?” Will said, facing her again. “No. I just thought I’d place us on equal footing for a change.”


“I thought you understood that this is who I am? My empathy is a part of me.” He nodded, taking a step forward as he answered.


“I do, just as I know you understand that I am a very private person. Are you coming? The Captain wants those reports by 0900 tomorrow morning, and I would prefer not having to work through the night.” He stepped aside, letting her go out first.  She did, touching him briefly in passing, and she felt her heart break when he froze and moved away from her.


“Will …”


“Not now.” It took all his strength to walk away, and when he entered his quarters he exhaled, feeling his stomach turn.


“You look sick.” She was worried, and it angered him despite himself. He knew she was sincere, but he didn’t want her compassion, not when she had so clearly let him know that she was not willing to accept his in return.


“I’m fine. Just fine.”


Deanna gasped as he threw her own words back in her face.


“That was cruel, William.” Will laughed humorlessly.


“I wondered when that would happen. Can we get to work now?”


“I’m just worried about you,” she tried. He looked at her. This was surreal. What the hell had happened to them? It didn’t make any sense at all.


“There’s no need. If I need help, I know where to find you.”


“Fine!” Her dark eyes shot lightning. “Never mind. Where are those reports?” He handed her a stack of padds, and they both held their breaths when their hands touched. Deanna held on, when Will wanted to let go. “Talk to me.”


“Why should I? You’ve made your views very clear. I don’t see that we have more to talk about.”


“Is that so? You’d rather keep ignoring me than try to resolve this? That’s mature, Will.” Deanna flinched when Will slammed his fist down so hard that the pads bounced off the table.


“Well, what can I say? Maybe I’m not mature, Deanna, did you ever think of that? Maybe I haven’t changed at all, and we have just deluded ourselves into believing that we are someone that we’ve never been!” He let out a breath, and Deanna kept still, not believing her ears when he spoke again.


What did you say?” He didn’t answer; he only looked at her with empty eyes. “Will, you don’t mean that!”


“I’m not sure what I mean anymore. I don’t even know what to think. But yes, I think I do.”


Deanna stared at him, suddenly unable to think, or even breathe. In front of her sat the one man she would love eternally, a man with whom she shared a bond that she would forever hold sacred … and he was telling her that he wished this bond had never been formed. The pain was indescribable. She had never felt such an overwhelming emptiness.




 “I’m sorry.” Deanna felt like she was fighting a lost cause. But she had to say this. It didn’t really matter if he chose to believe her or not.


Will turned his attention from his drink to her. He was obviously not sober, but she walked through the door anyway. This was the first time in a week that they had exchanged even one word while off duty, and she had to resolve this now, one way or the other.


“I know you are,” he nodded. “Okay? You can stop feeling bad now. After all, you were only honest.”


“I never wanted to ---“


“Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to. We should know that by now.”


“Is this the way it will be from now on? Will you ever let me in again?” He shrugged. “I feel like I’m losing you.”


“Maybe you are. What does it matter anyway?” He downed the drink. “You should go.” He breathed deeply, feeling the knots in his stomach return as he caught the scent of her perfume. “Yes, you should definitely go.”


Deanna didn’t move.


“I’m not going, and I refuse to believe that you can just turn on back on me, on us.”


“You must have missed something, Deanna. Apparently, there isn’t an ‘us.’


That was the last straw, and Will jerked his head up at her cold retort.


“Are you done?”


Their eyes met, ice blue clashed with almost black.


“I guess so,” he said, keeping the eye contact. His mental block fell away, and every emotion she had ever evoked in him, every memory they had shared, welled up inside him, and he gasped for air.


“How can you walk away from that, Will?”


“I have to,” he whispered. “It’s time we end this, Deanna.” She saw her own pain reflected in his eyes, and it gave her the strength to do what she knew she had to.


“I know you were hurt,” she said. “But if you would just listen to me, let me finish what I wanted to say.”


“Didn’t you say enough already?”


“You don’t have the monopoly on anger or hurt,” she let him know. “I’m hurting as well.”


“I didn’t mean what I said the other day,” he filled his glass and emptied it in one gulp, “about the bond. You know it means the world to me. But I was angry.”




“Just go. I don’t want to talk to you right now.” He sighed. “I need some time.”


“Let me …” His dark look silenced her, and Deanna cursed herself for letting it get this far. She should just have told him, instead of pushing him away. She should have. But now it was too late.




Will had fallen asleep at the desk, and when he woke up, night had set in. He raised himself from the chair, splashed some cold water on his face and cringed at the sight of his own face in the mirror. He almost didn’t recognize himself.


Without giving it much thought, Riker left his cabin and made his way around the silent ship until he finally ended up in the observation lounge and spotted the outline of Deanna sitting in the shadows. She turned towards him, and Will could see the traces of tears on her face. When he stepped forward, she rose from her sitting position making a move to leave.


“No.” He spoke softly. “Stay. I’ll go.” For a moment they stood in silence, both wanting to say something but neither knowing the words, which could lift the veil of uncertainty between them.


“You don’t have to,” Deanna finally said, and after long moments of indecisiveness Will sat down, watching the blackness of the sky while thinking how appropriate it was that there were hardly any stars tonight. “Emptiness,” Deanna observed, and he looked to the side. She didn’t look at him for the longest time, and when she finally did, her piercing gaze shocked him. “I feel empty, Will.”


“So do I,” he admitted, truthfully. Deanna shook her head. “What? You know it’s true.” He felt the anger rise. “Maybe you just don’t care? Is that it?”


“I’ve always cared about you.” She only whispered. “I know you care about me too, but …” Will rose abruptly, her words pounding in his ears.


“But you don’t want my help or my friendship, I get that. You don’t want anything that I can give you.” Deanna sensed the anger and frustration in him, but when she wanted to touch him, he moved away. “That’s it, isn’t Deanna?” His words were like needles piercing her skin. “I was never good enough for you, not really. I’ve never been able to be the man you want me to be.”


“Would you listen to yourself?” she fumed. “It isn’t exactly like you’ve spent the years pining away for me, Will! So don’t give me that.”


“You made your position pretty clear, Deanna. You didn’t want me.”


“So, you figured you might as well try your luck with every other woman on the ship? That makes me feel very special.”


“But you are special, damn it, and you know it! Nothing is more important to me than you. I have shared things with you no one else will ever know. I trust you.” His eyes were a very dark blue. “I’m just sorry that you don’t feel that way.” He looked away from her as he went on. “No matter what you think of me, I have matured.”


“I know you have. That’s not it.”


“Uh-huh. Tell me something, Deanna. Why was it necessary for you to tell me how much you don’t need me?


She stared at him 


“I never ---”


“Really? It isn’t exactly flattering to know that the relationship I have come to rely on is nothing more than a substitute to you ---“


“Look, Will, I shouldn’t have said that, and I’ve apologized. If you’d heard me out that day, you would have known that that wasn’t want I meant.” She looked him square in the eyes, and he held her gaze.


“But?” he challenged her. Deanna looked at him, not understanding.


“What do you mean, ‘but’?”


“There’s a ‘but’ in there. I can hear it. So? I said I wanted honesty, and I meant it.”


She nodded, touching his hand. He froze slightly, but this time he didn’t move away, and Deanna spotted just a hint of warmth in his eyes.


“It isn’t enough for me anymore. I want more, Will,” she said, watching the surprise change and soften his expression.


“You want ---” he repeated, wanting to be sure he had heard her right.


“More.” She took a chance and closed her hand around his. “I want you.” Will was silent, waiting for it all to sink in.


“Really?” He wanted nothing more than to believe it, believe her, but he found that he couldn’t, at least not yet


“You don’t believe me,” she stated, removing her hand from his. He looked at her briefly before fixing his gaze at the infinite space on the other side of the view port. 


“It doesn’t make sense.”


“The fact that I would want more than friendship for us?“


“The fact that you would break up our friendship for a more intimate relationship.” He turned to her again. “You always claimed that physical attraction isn’t what matters.”   


“It isn’t.” She paused. “I never wanted to break up anything. I was angry, Will, and I felt helpless.”




“’Remember what you said about Imzadi?” She sighed, looking away from him. “You were right. Most other couples are married or, at the very least, they are in a relationship. We’re ---“


“Not.” He finished her sentence. “That makes you feel helpless?” Will wasn’t sure what to believe, but he listened.


“I knew what I said, and I meant it then. I mean it now as well. There is a risk.”


“There are always risks,” he answered. “Some are worth taking; other’s aren’t.”


“Would you be willing to take this one?”


Deanna regarded him with worry, not sure what his response would be.


“You already know the answer to that question.”


“No, I don’t, at least I’m not sure anymore.”


Will reached for her hand, held it to his lips and let them caress her skin lightly. It was all Deanna needed, and she smiled again. He cherished the sight, letting her warmth fill him up and chase away his doubt.




He felt a smile spread across his lips. This was exactly why he loved her … or at least one of the uncountable reasons why.


“Don’t scare me like that again. ” She complied silently, light shining in her eyes as he continued. “We do have to talk about this.”


“I know.”




“Tomorrow,” she nodded and leaned closer to him. He captured her lips with an urgency she hadn’t felt from him in forever, but she welcomed and returned it wholeheartedly, and as the kiss lingered on, the ache in their hearts melted away.