Second Time Around - By Rachel 


Sitting in her usual spot on the bridge, next to the Captain, Deanna Riker rubbed her very pregnant stomach nervously. The bridge was unusually silent, except for the sporadic transmissions from Will Riker's away team.

"Captain, something is wrong." Deanna turned to her Captain, who sat at the very end of his chair, "I can feel Will's turmoil. He's in trouble."

Questioningly the Captain looked at Deanna. Through the years he had learned that usually she was never wrong. However, her comment came from the blue. This was a routine mission on what had appeared to be an uninhabited planet.

"Deanna, in the last transmisson Will said that nothing was found and that they were on their way back. I don't think you have anything to worry about." He patted her hand reassuringly, trying to dismiss in her mind, as

own, the doubt her negative feeling had caused. "It's not uncommon for transmissions to fade in and out in this area."

Deanna shook her head, "Captain you know I can't explain what I feel in terms that you could understand. But please believe me when I say I feel Will's panic. They are in danger, sir. Please, we have to pull them out."

The Captain felt Troi's nails grip into his arm, "Please sir, we have to get them out."

The Captain swollowed heavily, the sheer panic painted across Deanna's delicate features caused the man to double think his position.

"Data, can you . . "

The Captain's voice trailed off as the sound of a weak transmission came through the speakers of the Enterprise.

"Deanna. . . Oh god we are going to crash . . .Sir. . .Deanna I love you. . . "

Will Riker's voice, even through the faint transmission, caused a chill to run down Jean-Luc Picard's spine.

"Data can you detct their transport." Picard felt Deanna's nails dig deeper into his skin, a few spots drawing blood.

Data turned in his chair to face the Captain, "No sir, they have disappeared off of radar."


Sixteen years later:

"William, you have to quit playing all these jokes on Worf." walking into her son's less than spotless quarters, Captain Deanna Riker attempted to make her way to the one semi-empty chair in the room, "He doesn't find them funny, and frankly between your wry humor and his lack of humor, my patience his running desperately thin."

Sixteen year old William Riker Jr., a spitting image of his late father, rolled his deep blue eyes towards his mother's direction, "Well if he doesn't like it, maybe he should move back into his own quarters and leave us alone."

Deanna sighed, bent down, and removed a heap of clothes from the chair directly facing her son, "Will, do you really mean that?" Turning her head she raised her eyebrows questionably, "Can you look at me and tell me in your heart that Worf is such a horrible addition to this household, that you need me to ask him to leave?"

Will Riker Jr. opened his mouth to give him mother the answer she requested, but stopped short when he saw a look in flash in his mother's brown eyes. A look of fear, and begrudgingly Will promptly shut his mouth.

Every night for as long as he could remember, once his mother had thought he was asleep, she would retreat to her room to cry. When he was younger he would crawl to her door and listen to her heartbreaking sobs. She would cry herself to sleep, clutching the pillow that laid on the opposite side of her bed. His father's side of the bed.

Since Worf reappearance on the Enterprise, and reappearance into his mother's life - the crying had stopped. As much as it pained Riker to admit it, his mother seemed happy.

"Worf is very special to me." Deanna continued, leaning forward she took her son's hand into her own, "He will never replace your father. No one will ever replace you father."

Embarrassed Riker nodded at his mother, a look of frustration crossing the boy's face.

"I know. . ." a sad smile crossed Deanna's face, "You've been the man of the house for a long time. But this really is the best. Your just a boy, you don't need the worries of a man. You don't need to position yourself outside your mother's bedroom door anymore."

A crimson color rose to the boy's cheeks, "You knew?"

"I did. I thanked my lucky stars overnight for having such a considerate young man. A man who everyday becomes more and more the man his father would be proud of." Deanna motherly ruffled her son's dark hair, "So now that I have placed my motherly guilt on you, what's your decision."

Deanna saw her son's jaw clench, surprisingly his mannerisms had become identical to the father he had never known.


Riker stood up, and made his way over to his window.

"I'll lay off the jokes, but I will never call him Dad. He will never be my Dad."

Deanna's heart went out to her son. Physically her son was sound, a magnificent profile of a human male, fit, intelligent, with a maturity of an adult. However, mentally he continued to harbor great loss when it came to his father. Nothing would ever change that.

Silently she stood up, and walked to her son. Silently she wrapped her arms around him, and laid her head on his back, remembering a time when he didn't tower over her. "Thank-you."

Riker nodded, gazing out his window at the vastness of the open space that surrounded him. Somewhere, in space just like this his father's small shuttle had vanished, changing both his and his mother's life forever.

The silence of the room was disrupted by the beeping of Deanna's badge.

"Captain Riker to bridge."

Deanna sighed heavily, and activated her badge with a flick of her hand. "Captain Riker here."

"Sir, you are being hailed by Admiral Picard. Would you like me to patch him through to your room?"

Deanna eyed her son, wondering if their conversation was truly over.

Riker shook his head, "Go to the bridge Captain." He gave her a mock salute.

Deanna grinned, always the comedian, "I'll be on the bridge in five minutes, Riker out."


By Rachel Olin

"I will be strong. I am strong."

Deanna shook her head in doubt as she commanded the turbo-lift to take her to the bridge.

Ask her to ward off a fleet of angry Cardissians, she would lead an attack without batting an eye. She would rise to the occasion.

Ask her to talk with a man she has been trying to avoid like the plague, and here she stood, praying for a turbo-lift malfunction.

Time had a way of changing people.

Pain had a way of changing people.

Unfortunately that old saying that time could heal all wounds was bullshit. Unfortunately, time could not heal all wounds and sadly what was once a close relationship between a Counselor and her Captain was no more.

Guilt was a strong emotion, and when Will Riker's last good-bye had exploded onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise sixteen years ago, Jean-Luc Picard was faced with the worst guilt of his life. It was a routine procedure, and yet, as a very pregnant Deanna Troi sat next to him, it felt anything but right. Suddenly his whole career had reared its ugly head in his face, taunting his beliefs, and like a coward he had hid behind his regulations.

Despair was an equally strong emotion, and when Will Riker's last good-bye had been heard by a loving wife, and dedicated counselor, she was faced with the very human side of herself, which she had tended to keep hidden. Graced with the natural talent to read other's feelings, Deanna Troi-Riker had been able to help all crewmembers through emotional crisis with ease. However, when faced with the very real close-hitting disaster as losing her husband, her talent had failed her, and caused her to turn a blind heart to a utter shell shocked Captain. She had been unable to see the man. She had only seen the uniform, the uniform that refused to hear her cries to go back.

Sadly, the two had suffered such horrible pain, that they had sacrificed their friendship in attempts to hide from the inevitable truth that besides for Data, they were all that existed.

a.. * * * Wiping a lone tear from her eye, Captain Deanna Troi-Riker took a deep cleansing breath, ran a hand through her professional cropped hair, and stepped onto her bridge, bracing herself for the heartache she refused to let herself feel. Besides for her son, fighting her critics to become Captain of the Enterprise was her greatest accomplishment. She was determined not to let her crew see her scared and hurting. She was determined to maintain her composure.

a.. * * * Setting down into her chair, Captain Riker nodded her head to Commander Data, her first officer.

"Patch him through."

a.. * * * Moments later the Enterprise's screed flickered to life.

"Hello Captain Riker. . .Deanna."

Deanna Troi-Riker felt a sadness settle over her as she looked upon the very tired eyes of her old Captain, her old friend. A fancy uniform and years behind a desk made a very regal appearance, but however could not hide the guilt locked in the man's eyes or the grief in his heart.

Deanna's fear transformed into pity. At least she had been left a son to vicariously live through, until she could face life herself. Jean-Luc had lost Beverly, his lover, Will, the man he considered his son, and although he had been promoted, the job was more a requirement then a request. He had ultimately lost his ship, and forcefully placed behind a desk to command from the safety of earth. Confidence in Captain Picard had wavered after that incident. Captain Picard's confidence in himself had wavered as well.

"I'm sorry to keep you waiting Admiral. I was having a discussion with my son, who to my misfortune seems to becoming more and more like his father everyday." Deanna cracked a smile.

Jean-Luc's worn leatherly face also cracked a smile, a sad smile, but a smile, "Well another Will Riker wouldn't be so bad, would it?"

"No sir."

Deanna sighed heavily. Another Will Riker wouldn't be bad at all.

Picard cleared his throat, his discomfort was growing more and more obvious, "This isn't a social call, so let's get down to business. We have a situation on our hands. . ."

Deanna eyes widened and she sat up straighter in her chair, blood beginning to pump through her veins.

"Well this is good news Admiral, the crew was starting to think our only duty is mapping out solar systems."

Picard nodded, but Deanna felt unease wash over her former Captain.


"Deanna. . ."

The informality of his address, caused Deanna to scoot forward in her chair.

"Sir. . ." she prompted further.

"I tried to assign the mission to somebody else, they wouldn't listen. I really tried."

"Sir, I'm a very capable Captain." Deanna's pride felt a little wounded, despite the utter helplessness she felt emulating off Picard. "Give me my orders, I will not fail you."

Picard nodded in defeat, "You are to investigate strange signals we have picked up from. . ." he grew uncomfortable and started to noticeably squirm in his chair, "from the planet Starfleet has dubbed Helaworld."

The blood drained from Deanna's face.

"Where we lost. . ." her voice trailed off, but there was no reason to continue. They both painfully knew what Helaworld was.

"Report your findings immediately Captain Riker. . .Picard out."


Worf had grown concerned once Picard's transmission had ended.

Deanna, his hardnose Deanna had looked unusually vulnerable and small, sitting in that Captain's chair. Her face lacked its usual flush and to him she no longer looked like the new woman he had found himself deeply attracted to. She looked like the Deanna of the past, ruled my emotions.

Once the transmission had ended, she had given orders to set course for Helaworld, but her voice did not command respect, it pleaded.

Then she had turned the bridge over to Data, a dazed expression in her face, and had left. She had left in the middle of her shift. She had left before tactical plans could be made, before an away team could be for tentatively formed, before assigning crucial research to staff.

Yes Data picked up the slack with ease, but it was not like his Captain, his Deanna.

* * * * I will ask you once more, where is your mother." Frustrated Worf pinned young Will Riker with a look of death, knowing it was the only thing he could do, without suffering Deanna's wrath.

If reading his thoughts, a cocky grin emerged on young Riker's face. He was enjoying the Klingnon's irritation immensely. "I told you Worf, if she wanted to see you, she would find you."

Worf groaned and clenched his fist at his side. More and more this Riker grew under his skin.

"I believe she needs me." Worf reasoned, trying to sound calm, coming off arrogant.

"I don't believe she does. My mother only NEEDS one person, me." Will smiled in that Riker fashion Worf had always found deeply disturbing. For being nothing special, only mere humans, the Riker clan seemed awfully damn smug.

"You do not understand," Worf felt his nerves tighten in the back of his neck. He was near breaking point.

"I understand perfectly, she ditched you."

Worf clamped down on his jaw. If this boy was a Klingnon, he would have no problem physically attacking the boy. But he wasn't, and he knew Deanna would not be too happy to find any markings on her son.

Worf sighed, the anger within him was welling. His primal urges were almost overwhelming.

"According to my grandmother, you are only a distraction."

* * * *

A fuse exploded in Worf's mind, the words of the boy stung deep. His words were only a verbal utterance of the fears that had been harboring within the deepest recess of his mind.

"YOU KNOW NOTHING." Angrily, before Worf could think clearly and stop himself, the man's clenched fist rose, and forecfully he punched the wall approximately three feet left of Riker's head. He had no intention of harming the boy, just maybe scaring up a little respect.

"Did that get your attention Will?" the Klingnon questioned.

* * *

Through the chaos, neither Will nor Worf had heard the doors of the Captain's quarters slide open. Consequently both were surprised, when Deanna's voice answered Worf's question.

"I'm not sure if it got my son's attention, but it sure got mine."

Both Worf and Will looked to where Deanna stood, arms crossed.

"What was that?"

"I was merely questioning your son on your whereabouts?" Worf's voice turned unusually quiet and his eyes cast downward.

"Funny, it didn't look like a discussion." Deanna walked from where she was over to her son, and began making visual inspections for bruises.

"I did not, nor would have hit him."

"Really?" Deanna eyed her son cautiously, before turning to Worf, "Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't. However as you know the last thing I need right now is to be worrying about my son's welfare when I'm not here."

"Deanna, I would not hit him."

Deanna shook her head, "No I don't think you would. However when you threaten my son, you in essence threaten me, and through the years I have become VERY intolerable of threats. I don't have time for them."

"Deanna." Worf voice edged with a begging tone.

"Worf this next week is going to be tough enough without adding the pressure of trying to blend you into a home that is not used to two head strong male figures. I think it would be best if you returned to your quarters. At least for now. At least until this mission is over and we can start again."



* * *

Watching Worf exit with the last of his things, Deanna turned to her son. "At some point we WILL BE discussing what you said or didn't say to provoke him."

Riker groaned, "I didn't say anything." He rolled his eyes at his mother, and did his best puppy dog impression. "Come on, it's me."

"I know, and that why at some point we will be having such a discussion."

Deanna walked to her couch and patted the seat next to her, "Come here, we need to talk."

Will, confused on how he had managed to free himself from punishment, stared quizzically at his mother. Although he was only a quarter Betazed, he had a keen ability to sense his mother's emotions.

Right now she was trying to surpress a swelling excitement growing within her.

While at the same time scared out of her mind.

"Mom, what's wrong?"

Deanna forged her best smile, despite her awareness that her son was no dummy where she was concerned, "We just received new orders from Starfleet. We have been ordered to do some explorative investigating."

"Is that good?"

"Yes. . .and no. Its on a planet called Helaworld. I think the crew is excited about the new mission."

"That's great."

Deanna's nodded, but her shoulders slumped, "This also happens to be the planet you father was leaving from sixteen years ago."

* * *

Riker, despite the macho facade he had been able to successfully maintain when ever discussions of his father erupted, felt his knees suddenly go weak, and he sunk down next to his mother.

"Why you?"

Deanna shrugged and gathered her son into her arm. "I don't know kiddo. But I can't help but think its about time we found some answers, and this is fate's way of clearing our path to do such."


"Commander, how long until we are within beaming range of Helaworld." Deanna questioned.

"Thirty-five minutes, twenty-seven seconds Captain."

Deanna nodded and sat down, "And I assume in my absence you collected the relevant research we needed.

Data nodded, "Yes, but besides the little data we have on the unusual signals, I'm afraid what information Starfleet has sent us is nothing new. The last entry came from Commander Riker.'

Deanna nodded and held her hand to silence Data. That information did not need to be reiterated. Since Will's disappearance, she had poured over his last transmissions at least fifty times.

Anything Data could say, she already knew by heart.

"Anything subsequent about these transmissions?" Deanna diverted her eyes to her counsel, trying not to let the far out idea that had been plaguing her every thought since Picard had mentioned it, to overwhelm her judgement.

It had been sixteen years, the likely hood of any transmission being Will was utterly impossible.

Still she found her heart rate accelerate.

"A Starfleet code?"

"No, this code predates Starfleet. It is an archaic earth code, known as Morse Code."

* * * Data began an explanation of this earth origin distress signal, but Deanna found herself unable to get by something on her subconscious nagging her, and subsequently Data's voice drowned into her unconscious.

She felt something about this mission, something besides Starfleet's worries and her personal dreams. Something almost telepathic, urging her to stay away.

This warning however, only urged her to move forward.

* * * *

"I assume you have assembled an away team."

Data stopped mid-sentence of his explanation of Morse Code, "Of course."

"Good, tell them to meet me," Deanna glanced at her watch, "in the transporter room in thirty seven minutes."

Deanna then turned her attention to her counsel.


Deanna sighed, she had a feeling she might run into opposition, "Yes, Commander."

"Am I to understand you are to lead this away tem."

"Yes Data, do you see a problem?"

"It is my understanding that protocol mandates that I as first officer would lead such an away mission."

Deanna pulled her eyes away from her reading, "True, however, it is my assessment that I must bend the rules in this situation. We have a planet down there, emitting distress signals, which also happens to be a sight where a Starfleet team literally disappeared. If there is a hostile race inhabiting that planet, I feel my empathic abilities would be best used down there with my crew."

Data quizzically shut his mouth, and Deanna swore she could hear the mechanics whirling around his head, trying to rebuff her argument.

He wouldn't find anything, and she knew it. She had been perfecting that argument for sixteen years. Since Will's disappearnce, her mind had been analyzing and reanalyzing what she could possibly have said to Picard all those years ago, to convince him to turn that ship around, and beam her down to that planet.

She hadn't ever expected the chance test the argument.

"Data, I trust that team will be ready."

* * *

She had one goal now, back to her quarters, back to spend the precious few moments she had with her son. She wasn't overly convinced he was truly okay with her leaving.

* * *

Needless to say, when Worf stepped between her and the Turbo-Lift, Deanna found her patience grow thin.

"Excuse me."

Worf leaned forward, obviously trying to keep whatever he had to say as private as possible, "I must object to you leading this away mission."

Having no time to argue, Deanna nodded her head, "I will note your objection in my report." Patting his arm, she stepped around the Security Officer, "Now if you will excuse me."

* * * *

Finding herself back in her son's room, Deanna silently watched Will, diligently working this way through the Starfleet Academy's practice entry exam.

"Kind of early to be studying isn't it? It will be two more years until we are off mission long enough to get you enrolled."

Will turned around from his desk, and Deanna felt that nagging feeling about her approaching mission again, only intensified.

Then she saw her son's mouth move, and a voice erupted through her head

<<Deanna - - stay where you are.>>

* * * *


Will saw his mother's body slump heavily against his door frame.

"Mom," he stood up, intending to walk up to her, but as he approached Deanna hand shot up, stopping him.

"Why did you say that?" Deanna glanced questionably at her son.

"About entering late, and being prepared?" Will shrugged his shoulders in confusion.

"What did you say?" Confused Deanna squeezed her eyes shut. Those were definitely not the words she had heard.

"I had said that since I am going to be entering the academy late, I have to be prepared. Why, what did you think I said?"

* * * *

"Nothing." Deanna shook her head; it was impossible that she had heard her son's voice in her head. He didn't have enough Betazed in him to be able to project thoughts to her.


Deanna looked up from her daze, "Yes Will."

"Are you sure you want to do this, are you sure your okay?"

Deanna nodded, "Of course I am. . ." She turned away, and as an afterthought she turned back, "Will I love you."

"I love you too Mom."


The man in the shadows breath caught in his chest as he watched her let go.

Seconds. . .he had only seconds, and if he was wrong he knew he would loose her.

However if he was right. . .

* * * *

This is crazy Deanna. You have a ship, a crew, a son, my god what have you done.

Deanna felt her descent rapidly pick up speed as the true severity of what she had done came rushing to her. Deanna Troi-Riker, who in the sixteen years since her husband's death had barely ever acted on a whim, never allowing herself the freedom to take things at face value, had likely just thrown her life away on . . .


It all had made perfect sense up there, as she dangled precariously, having no time in the world, and yet having nothing but time in the sense all she could do was think.

And she did, she thought about the voice that she could hear in her head, about how similar it sounded to her son, just older, wiser, more desperate.

And for a fleeting second she had let herself believe that it could be her Imzadi.

So she had let go.

* * * *

She would live. He had to admit his idea had been a long shot. A VERY long shot.

But she would live.

His plan had been a crude generated force field, constructed from old ship parts, and stolen Hela-technology. He had constructed it to break her fall after twenty feet. After which, she would slide the remaining thirty feet or so to the ground.

It wasn't perfect, given the speed in which he had constructed it, but at least she would live.

She would live, and that is what was most important.

* * * *

She was okay with what was about to happen.

Well okay as one could be.

She closed her eyes.

* * *

Deanna's body slammed into the force field, which bended to dull some of the impact of her twenty-foot fall.

She wasn't dead.

But she hurt. She hurt bad. Enough to feel the emergence of unconsciousness, and enough to gladly accept it.

The physical pain of her fall was excruciating. But the mental pain of loosing her crew was worse. And the idea that she may possibly die without the chance to see her son, or seek the answers of her Imzadi's death that they so badly needed was to deep to put into words.

So she slipped into unconsciousness, glad for the peace it brought her.

* * *

The man in the shadows of the trees watched Captain Deanna Riker slide down the crude invisible slide, to where she landed, just at his feet.

He watched with apprehension. Her appearance confused his simplistic life, and yet, selfishly he had wanted her to come. She brought hope.

But she also brought danger.


After a moment of shock, the man who had been enamoured with the very sight of Deanna gathered his senses as best he could, took a deep breath, and quickly collected the unconscious woman's limp body in his arms.

He was disgusted with himself for wasting precious daylight by letting his mind wander, and he knew the rest of his group would start to worry if he didn't show up soon. . . show up with her.

* * * *

The man walked in petrified silence the three or so miles to the place he had considered home for the past sixteen years. Walking at a painstakingly slow pace, monitoring the weight of each one of his footfalls upon the dried, crumbling foliage at his feet.

Past experience warned him that if he wasn't careful, one false step would trigger enough sound for "them" to hear. If they heard, they would most undoubtedly come, in the packs they loved to travel in. And if they came, he knew he could not guarantee Deanna's safety, despite his own willingness to sacrifice his meaningless life to save her.

God-forbid the very thought of what would happen if he failed, what would happen if Deanna should fall prey.

* * * *

Reaching their home just past nightfall, the man balanced the limp body of Captain Deanna Riker across his once broad, now slight and boney shoulders. Carefully, skilled but always wary, he balanced himself against the crude mountainside with one free hand, as he guided his feet across the unstable rocky path.

It was a hard way for him to get home, but on the flip side it was also hard to break into his home, and that outweighed his own difficulty threefold.

* * * *

Stepping into the doorway, which in reality was a crude opening into the mountain, he heard the faintest rustling of movement inside.

Luckily, it was light enough for him to see the frantic movements of his group, who likely had been caught off guard by his arrival and now scurried to hide themselves.

Surprises were not looked upon well. Surprises could cause one their life.

* * * *

The man began to whistle. It was a signal to his group that all was safe.

Still it took a moment or two before the emergence of the first brave soul to peer around and see if everything was truly safe.

It was the vergence of a small head, peering around the boulder at the left of the man. The face, covered in black soot stared in wonderment at the man and his guest. The face belonged to someone from Captain Deanna Riker's past, the face belonged to someone who at one time took solice in Deanna's strong words of wisdom.

However, the face would be unrecoginzable to Deanna, unless she managed to see past the suken cheeks and the skeletal features protruding through the weather beaten skin, to see the green eyes that still resided there. Eyes of green, and although duller than they had once been, still a haunting reminder of who the face had once been.

* * * *

"Geordi? Geordi is that you."

The man, short of breath from the weight of carrying a woman, gently laid his cargo onto the cave's rock floor, proping her back up against one of the cave's dark interior walls.

"Yes, it's me. . .and yes, just like he had predicted, I have brought Deanna.

* * *


Geordi sighed. He could understand Crusher's disbelief. He hardly understood it himself.


Quietly Deanna Riker's lips began a softly moan one word.a word that brought a look of trepidation to pass between Beverly Crusher and Geordi LaForge.



Miles away, caged in a small fourteen by fourteen foot cell, a man, clad in black from head to toe felt the beginnings of a smile threaten to break forth on his face, as a flood of relief washed over him.

The plan worked, she was alive.

Casually, so not to provoke curiosity from the security team guarding him, he strolled to his "observation" window, and trying not to arouse the suspicion of the passing by gazers, attempted to catch the attention of one of the female guards.

The guard was Allisa, and although she was not one of the more attractive specimens on the planet, she had proved to him early on to be the most reasonable. Going so far as to take half of his meal one night, in exchange for her solemn promise that she would reach his friends hiding out at the corner region of sector 7, and give them his odd message. His message that Deanna would be hanging off cliff side, and she was to be saved at all cost. Once saved, she was not to know he was alive. * * * *

He leaned his hot forehead onto the cool glass surface of his window, and his blue eyes searched out the one friendly face in the sea of gawkers.

It was hard for him to believe he had been here, residing in this box for almost one quarter of his life.

Once a Starfleet officer - now a sideshow.

* * * *

Spotting Allisa, his eyes sought out her comforting stare.

But after what seemed to him like eternity, when she finally lifted her head to look at him, her eyes of purple no longer held that hint of remorse, of genuine concern they usually portrayed. Her body language which had always been lax in comparison to the rest of her species, was now one of ridged coldness. Her full pouty mouth, which he had often teased would drive any earth man wild, was pulled into a thin-lipped sneer. And her gaze, which had seemed determined most of the day to be anywhere but near him, was now burning into his soul with a power-packed rage, that made his own gaze drop to the floor.

Oddly, he felt inherently guiltily for whatever was bothering her, despite the fact he had no idea what was bother her.

Problem was, when you had one friend, like he did, you hated to chance the very real possibility of loosing her. The very real possibility of being forced to live life virtually alone/.

Well he didn't have to be alone, but imposing on Deanna seemed cruel, given the very real situation that he was unreachable, and she was just now finally getting on with her life.

At least that's what his dreams had told him.


Startled back into reality, Will stepped back from his window, and unwittingly into a large metal needle posed behind him.

The person holding the archaic looking medical tool, pressed the crude button on the end of the needle, injecting a drug into Riker's bloodstream.

* * * *

He opened his eyes to find himself no longer in his cell.

He knew it had to be a dream and like all dreams before he really didn't mind. It was an escape.

Stepping off the Turbo-Lift he found himself gawking at the bridge of the Enterprise very similar to the way a young Wesley Crusher had all those years ago.

This Enterprise was not the one he had dreamed of before, this Enterprise he found surrounding him was not his Enterprise.

Curiously he found his hand going over the cool black interior in awe, as his eyes ran over the counsels in front of him in almost a hungry frenzy. He couldn't imagine how in the world he had concocted this adaptation, this strange but highly believable adaptation.

It must have been the drugs they had injected him with, for the nightly procedure.

* * * *

Answering his unspoken question, a tear smothered voice whispered behind him "You didn't imagine her Will. This is my dream, this is my Enterprise."


Finding himself caught off guard by the sudden vibrancy of the voice behind him, William T. Riker grabbed at the counsel before him for support, as his knees threatened to give out.


Did he dare turn around?

The gig was up.

Or was it? Could he convince her he was a figment of her imagination?

Could he convince himself, once he allowed himself to look at her, that he wanted to convince her that he was a figment of her imagination?

* * * * "Will?"

Suddenly the man felt himself being turned around by the gentle hands of his wife.


It was inevitable now, he couldn't rally quick enough to protest.

* * * *


Her perfect oval face was tilted upwards toward him, a dusty rose color painting her cheeks.


His eyes drunk up every feature, the delicacy and strength portrayed in her face, the temptingly curved mouth that he had fantasized about night after night.


She looked more delicate and ethereal than ever.


* * * * And Deanna Riker, who had a million questions she wanted to ask her husband, found herself unable to think of a single one.

He was alive.

The past sixteen years her whole being had seemed filled with waiting. Longing that others had described as her inability to get over her husband's death.

Everyday her love for him had deepened and intensified, despite is disappearance, despite the fact that after awhile only she had held out hope for his return.

Now he was here, and although he was physically miles away, their souls had been reunited on this semi-conscious realm. Again they were in essence one.

* * * * Deanna lightly touched his arm, and despite his closed expression she sensed his vulnerability.

He was scared to get his hopes up. He was equally scared to get her hopes up and although she ached for the protectiveness of his arms, she resounded to be the strong one.

Her trials the past sixteen years had been obvious nothing compared to what he had been through. Her Imzadi looked so confused, so terrified and at the same time so joyful by her presence.

She felt his need for her to touch him, mentally tell him that this was no dream, and yet he had placed a wall of coldness around him, determined to keep her out.

* * * *

Deanna slowly, as so not to alarm Will, put her arms around his neck, and buried her face against his throat.

"I know this isn't the reunion I had hoped for, but after sixteen years of loneliness, I would take just about anything right now. Your physical touches here would be such a mental boost for me. Just to know I'm not going crazy, that you are alive, and that you still love me. Please, I just need to know I haven't left our son, my crew, my life for nothing."

* * * * The plea was more than Will Riker could take. His will no longer held any precedence to this overwhelming need to have her, hold her, take her in his arms, kiss those inviting lips.

Clearing his throat, with quiet emphasis, he whispered, "I love you Imzadi. I love you."

Slowly his lips decended onto her, and a shock wave resignated through both their bodies as their lips met. This kiss sang through their veins and for a moment neither could imagine something like this could be anything but real.


In the mystic workings of their sacred bond, William and Deanna Riker clung to each other like each passing second together could be their last.

However, while Deanna clung dearly to her husband with a clear and devoted conscious, Will held on with an almost panicked fury. While Deanna opened her mind, and consequently her heart to the one man who had been occupying her every waking moment since they had parted, Will purposely hid his tormented thoughts, and aching heart from the one person, the only person, who wanted to help him.

Deanna felt whole again, being once again with her husband.

Will felt split in two, torn by Deanna's emergence into his life. Despite the joy he wanted to feel by her presence, he couldn't get over one very large obstacle that hung over him. Well actually it was one very small obstacle that posed one very large problem. Something he was sure no marriage could survive, espically in light of what they had gone through already. Something he could not lay upon his wife, his love, for her to harbor when she needed to come back around, and focus her energy on saving herself, saving Beverly and Geordi, and going home. Home to their. . . . her son.


* * * *

The broken whisper of his voice startled Deanna, and her eyes immediately sought out Will for an explanation to this sadness she felt from him.


The worried tremor of her voice held the hidden question, why? Why after all these years apart couldn't he hold her with his soul unconditionally. Why, when they should feel nothing but joy, was he only allowing her half of his heart.

And Will, numbly staring at his beautiful loving wife, did the one thing he knew she didn't want him to do. The one thing in his own heart he didn't want to do. He turned his mind away.


* * * *

Her panic was felt all around him, threatening to suffocate him with its utter despair. Her desperation for an explanation of his attitude almost demanded his attention. Her need was so great, her soul was so pure, he was compelelled to confide his helpless situation, beg for her understanding, and ask for her sound guidance.

But of course that just balanced his stresfull situation from only him, to both of their shoulders. And he couldn't do that to her. He wouldn't do that to her.

"Deanna go back. Go back to Beverly and Geordi, go back to your son, go home."

* * * *

"She's coming around Geordi, bring me that tri-corder from her pack." Beverly Crusher stared worriedly down at her old friends, whose thrashing body she attempted to stabilize with tight grips on each of her forceps. All the while praying that the wild mutterings Deanna's had proclaim in her semi-conscious state were not a sign of possible head trauma.

* * * *

On his bed, a crude metal table with the luxury of a pile of leaves under his head as a pillow, William Riker's eyes began to slowly open.

"Am I back?" he whispered hoarsely.

Allisa, was the only one to take notice of his arrival back to the conscious. Slowly, as so not to arouse to much suspicion, bent down, and whispered cautiously, "The extractions have been taken, and lucky for you they look promising."

Will nodded numbly, she had given his the same reports, everyday for sixteen years. Only once had she been right.

Turning his head away from his friend, he quietly began to be sick.

"Are you okay Will?"

<<No>> Will thought to himself, <<I'm never going to be okay again.>>

As if reading his mind, Allisa gently pulled his shoulder length hair away from his sweaty face, "Will you must be strong, I know something is wrong, but you must be strong for Ella. She will die without you."