Author: Pia Pedersen

Rating: R for language and sensitive subject matter

Timeframe: Post 'Nemesis.' The story picks up at the end of the movie.

Archive: Imzadi Everlasting. If you would like to add this to your personal archive, that's okay, too. Just tell me where to find it.

Dedication: For Delphine.

Disclaimer: No infringement on any copyrights is intended by the use of the characters of Star Trek: The Next Generation or the dialogue of David Hare's screenplay "The Hours" adapted from Michael Cunningham's novel. Please do not sue. I cannot even afford to go on vacation this year. ;-)

Thanks to April, Carol, D. Destiny, and Starkid for their helpful comments and encouragement! I appreciate it.



"So?" She smiles through the pain. It is still raw, and she is still in turmoil. He steps out of the lift, reaching for her mentally as well as physically. Deanna leans into him, both offering and seeking comfort. There is a hint of humor in his eyes as he recalls his parting words to the man, who, from this day on, will fulfill the duties, which have been his for the better part of his adult life. "Are you ready?"

"In a moment," he asks, and she accepts silently. They stand there, soaking up the atmosphere of the ship that has been their home for so long. There is still sadness here, and the emptiness of loss continues to linger, as it probably will for a long time to come. But it is not what they think about now. Their thoughts are on happier times, on times of friendship, family, and love. And that is what makes it hard to leave. "Do you think it's too late to change my mind?"

"This is your time," she answers, and he looks down at her, smiling as if he wants to convince her that he was less than serious. "Our time." Her slight emphasis on the first word does not escape his attention, and he makes sure she knows it.

"Are we ready?"

There are so many hidden questions in his voice and eyes; questions that she does not know how to answer, simply because the answers do not exist. There are no certainties, only memories of happiness shared and the belief that more is waiting for them in the future.

Are we ready for life?

Their eyes meet, love and understanding in their depths. In this moment there is no pain, no trauma, nothing sinister at all. There is nothing but the knowledge that it is possible.

It is possible to be happy.



It amazes him how she has come to embody that feeling for him, now more than ever. If moments of perfection truly exist, then this must be one of them: to see her embrace life so fully, so completely without restraint or hesitation. To know that she feels safe, that she is safe here with him. It makes it all worthwhile.

"Will." She keeps her eyes on the rising sun of Betazed, smiling as his arms encircle her waist from behind. He draws her back against him slightly, carefully, as if afraid to ruin the moment. She smiles.

"Good morning," he whispers. "Did you sleep well?"

"Mm." She turns in his arms, her lips parted in a sensual smile. Vivid images of the previous night flow through his mind, and he brings her body closer to his, wanting to feel her again. "Sleeping well implies that I slept at all."

"That's true," he allows, and she sees his eyes grow darker as a hint of seriousness creeps into his voice. "I'm glad you're better, Deanna." She watches as tiny cracks appear in his mask of confidence, and it touches her deeper than she could have anticipated. "You are better?"

"Much," she promises, kissing him, and for a while all else is forgotten. Their love sweeps away any doubts about the journey they have begun.

"It is beautiful here," he smiles, joining her as they admire the view in silence. There are things to do, missions to embark on, there are hours and days not all of them pleasant that they must face.

But for now they are content, confident in their happiness.

It is only the beginning.


It was the beginning of happiness. The time they spent on Betazed is edged in her memory. How was she to know? How were they to know? She was sure there would always be more. Of course there would. And there had been. There had been several moments. But not like that, never truly like that. That was happiness, that one moment resting in his arms, taking in the beauty of dawn, the birth of a new day. The symbolism was breathtaking, impossible to miss.

In that unique moment she remembers kissing him, and he had returned it softly. He could be so gently, so sweet, and he had brought tears to her eyes.

"The most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

They had both known he was no longer referring to the breaking of light. She had been overwhelmed, and he had held her for just a moment longer.

This was the time when she was happiest.

Deanna turns in bed, dispelling the memories, as the doors to their cabin slide open, and Will steps inside. He has not been sleeping. She woke to find the place beside her empty, but she had not gone to find him. Deanna hides a sad smile as he approaches. It is as if time stops, screeches to a violent halt, as she sees the look in his eyes.

"You're still so beautiful," he says now, sitting down at the edge of their bed. The emptiness vanishes so quickly that she wonders, for a moment, if she only imagined it there. Suddenly, there is a light in his eyes, that special light. She loves to see it; loves the feeling of his hands touching her face, his lips capturing hers gently. He tastes, tests, and she opens up to him with no reservations. She needs this. They both need it.

Then he withdraws.

"Will?" She is just a little confused. His love is flowing freely through their link, and when his eyes meet hers, the brilliance of his smile stuns her temporarily.

"Deanna," he says, "I love you."

"I know," she answers silently, and she does know. In all the years they have been in each other's lives, she and Will have loved each other, not always with the passion of their initial encounter and not always the way they do now. But it has always been there, unyielding. At times comforting, at times heartbreaking, but always there, nonetheless. Only, they never said it. Not in so many words, and for the most part it did not matter. Because they showed it in their actions, and, looking back, Deanna sees that even in the darkest moments he was there. She depended on him, even when she did not want to. Even when she tried to break free his hold on her was too strong. This is no ordinary love. They both know it, and they have known it always.

"I love you, too," she says. He smiles again, and sometimes it worries her that it has that big of an impact on him to hear her say those words. Will is strong, but at times she sees glimpses of a vulnerability that he would rather hide.

"I couldn't hide from you, even if I wanted to." His whispered words startle her with their weight. He is right. None of them can hide.

"Do you want to?" The words fall from her lips before she can stop them. He looks away suddenly, and his silence more than answers her question, but for some inexplicable reason she needs to hear him say it, she needs to hear the words.

"Sometimes," he admits, giving her a guarded, almost apologetic look. "Not often, Deanna."

"I know." Is that relief washing over her? She kisses him, wondering if he feels it too, and then knowing that he does when he draws her close to him.

"Mrs. Troi," he whispers in her ear before covering her lips with his, "you are extraordinary."

"Mrs. Troi is my mother, Will."

He allows that fact wordlessly, a twinkle of humor in his eyes.

"You're still extraordinary," he maintains, his lips trailing down her neck softly.

Deanna feels herself blush slightly, the color warming her cheeks slightly. She does not blush easily, and she sees that he feels it is somewhat of an accomplishment. For some reason she finds it sweet.

"Are you happy, Will?" She is not sure what that came from, and he looks at her a little surprised at her words.

"Yes." There is the briefest of silences between them, and then he continues with unfaltering certainty. "We can do it, and we will."

He kisses her, and she gives up on thinking. Instead she allows herself to just feel and be alive in this precious moment.

They can do it, and they will. She believes that, too. She wants to. She has to. He smiles, again. Will has a beautiful smile, and he knows it. She has seen him flash it at enough women over the years. But she knows that this time it is different. This time it is for her, and it is sincere. She can see it in his eyes: the love, the need, and the passion, and that is what gets her through the hours.



He speaks softly, carefully. She looks up at him. His hair is grayer than she remembers, or maybe it is just that she has not seen him in while. He is anxious. It is a strange sight. Where is the man she married? What happened to him, to them? She sighs. The hours. Yes always the hours.

She wonders if he sees the same regret in her eyes as she does in his? Regret. What does it mean to regret when you have no choice?


What happened to your promise, Will? What happened to it?

"This is awkward."

She nods, trying to smile. But she cannot.

"It is."

"I had an idea," Will says, distantly. He is looking past her. "An idea of our happiness."

"Will "

"It kept me going."

"I know."

"It was never like that for you, was it, Deanna?" He is tired; she can see it. So tired. Theirs is no ordinary love. It never was, nor will it ever be. That is the blessing and the curse. "Was it?" he presses on. There is a challenge there, and she knows she cannot back down from it. But, still, she tries.

"Do you remember what you promised me?"

"Yes." He looks defeated. She reaches for his hand, and he allows it. Are those tears in his eyes? "I failed you."


"But it's the truth, isn't it?" There is a grim look in his eyes and on his face. He is resigned, painfully so. "I will not stop you."

Their eyes meet in silence.

"We both failed," she whispers, knowing it makes no difference. Not now. Will is withdrawing from her, from the world. What she sees is a pale imitation of who he once was. Did she do this to him? She cannot help wondering if they were only fooling themselves.

He rises; his lips are cool against her cheek. But soon they warm up, as if her body heat breathes life back into them, into him.

It breaks her heart that he is gone before she can tell him. It may be better this way; she doubts that he would have believed her. But it stands abundantly clear as he disappears from view. Two people could not have been happier than they had been.


end prologue

"But there are still the hours, aren't there? One and then another, and you get through that one and then, my god, there's another."

~ Michael Cunningham, "The Hours."




The day is drawing to a close, and he breathes a sigh of relief, causing the woman beside him to ask if he is okay.

"Yes," he says, hoping she believes him, knowing that she will, because she does not know him, and she does not care to look beyond what he may choose to show her on a given day. He is William T. Riker, and he is just trying to survive.

"You still think of her." It is not a question but a statement. Will had settled into the silence, had welcomed it, and is momentarily startled by the sound of her voice.

"Sometimes," he acknowledges with rare honesty. "Sometimes I do." He reaches up to adjust the pillow and calls for the room to be softly lit. He sees it now. She is smiling, and for some reason it surprises him. Perhaps she knows him a little, after all. Perhaps just a little. "It doesn't even bother you, does it?"

"I've learned to live with it, Will. We all have ghosts. They're here with us, inside this room, inside us. Some of them are more persistent than others, like your Deanna. But nevertheless, they're all here."

"You make it sound like it's a good thing."

"No." She gets out of bed, not bothering to put on a robe. His eyes follow her as she disappears out into the bathroom and then returns to climb into bed beside him again. "It just is."

She has turned her back on him, half asleep already, and Will just looks at her for a moment before slipping back into the silence.


Trivialities. This celebration is so full of trivialities, and Emma wants to think that it bores her; she wants to tell him that it means nothing to her. But it does. It means everything. This is her gift to him; this is her way of letting him know that she loves him. That she loves him desperately.

"Mrs. Dalloway," he taunts, a slight smile not altogether kind on his lips as he enters the cabin, just as she is preparing to leave. Momentarily stunned, Emma steels herself quickly, masking the pain brought on by his carelessness. "Where are you off to?"

"Oh, I thought I'd buy some flowers," she retorts, sarcastically, and it makes an impression. He falls down on the couch, tired and not at all resembling the next Starfleet Admiral, although that is exactly what he is. "Will," she tries. "It will be fine. You know it will. They're all here for you. This is what you wanted, what you've always wanted."

"Is it?" He shakes his head. "I have to wonder. Sometimes I think maybe it's the absolute last thing I've ever wanted." There it is again, that smile that's not really a smile. Emma knows that he does not mean to be cruel. It is the pain, both physically and mentally. "Why are you doing this, Em? Who is all this for?"

"What do you mean? It's for you. To celebrate your ---"

"Old age?" he offers, his tone not without humor. She fell in love with his humor, his wit. But it does not surface often anymore.

"You're not that old," she tries, wanting to hold on. He acknowledges this with a slight nod, and Emma can feel the relief beginning to wash over her, but then he continues, and her hopes of being able to bring him back are crushed.

"That's true. I just feel that way." He takes a breath, coughing, and she worries. Again. His blue eyes are still clear, so unbelievably blue. "Mrs. Dalloway," he repeats, "throwing parties to cover the silence."

"Don't do this," she asks him, willing the tears back. "Don't say that, Will. I'm just trying to --- I just want this to go well. I want you to ---" She is rambling, and she knows it.

"I know." His voice is softer now. "I know."

"Then why?" She fixes his gaze. She is not like Clarissa Dalloway. She does not want to be like that, it is not fair of him to make that kind of comparison. Not when she is just trying to make this a good day for him, for the both of them.

"I'm sorry." He reaches out to her. "Come here."

"No." She stands her ground, resisting the almost magnetic pull. She cannot give in that easily. Not this time.

"Emma, come here." He smiles at her. That damn irresistible smile, it is the same today as it was all those years ago.

"Why are you so cruel?" she asks, again. She wants an answer, deserves one. But suddenly he looks so vulnerable, and her anger fades slowly.

"I don't know," he says. "I don't want to be." He looks at her intently, and she gasps involuntarily. Here he is, the great William Riker. Unmasked. He is crumbling right in front of her, and Emma walks closer to him, leaning in to place a soft kiss on his lips.

"I have to go," she whispers, but he does not let her go. His kiss grows in intensity. "Will, not now. Not like this."

"So good," he says, releasing her as he places a light, almost loving kiss on her lips. "You are so good to me. I don't deserve you."

"No." She is smiling now, once again the shadows have passed, and rays of light illuminate her eyes as she sees the same brightness in his. "You don't."

"But you're still here."

"Obviously." She straightens. A silence stretches out between them. Will is looking at her now, and Emma feels like she might fall apart under the intensity of his gaze. He cares for her; she knows he does, so why does he have to do this? Why does he have to look at her like that?

"I'm sure it will be a great party," he says, suddenly, and she meets his gaze with her own. Emma knows he is indulging her. That tolerant look in his eyes as if he thinks that her life is so terribly trivial

It only matters if you think it is true.

She leaves the cabin, fighting to keep it together. She has to keep it together.

Is it true?

Is it?

The walls of the turbo lift seem to be closing in on her, and Emma slides down the wall. Silent tears are running down her face.


end chapter one