Disclaimer: Paramount owns all, I am just borrowing them for pure pleasure;-)
Title: Tempered Bond by Alexandra Sandy Petrov & Reggie Allen
Rating: PG

Tempered Bond
Part one

Deanna and Will were scheduled to be on
Libra Prime in couple of days. Some diplomatic
matter needed resolving between two sides battling
with each other for quite some time, centuries in fact.
They have come to a seaze fire agreement and
Deanna got her orders to be there and listen to the
needs of both parties. Picard couldn't attend the conference
so William is replacing him, since he too had a lot of
experience in diplomacy.

They were on their way for couple of hours, Will was
reviewing their actions, and getting familiar with the
parties involved  in the conference. Sitting in front of the
comm panel Will finished his conversation with the
Starfleet representative informing him about the upcoming
diplomatic matter. He replicated one large mug of steaming
coffee, stretching his muscles went outside the small Ready room
on board shuttle Phoenix.

Entering the flight deck, Will cradled a mug
between his hands.  He smiled as Deanna turned in
the pilot's seat and looked back at him.  While she
had been doing some casual reading, across the bond
he could sense her boredom.  Struggling with his own
restless energy, he realized they had to do
something to rectify things.

In a wave of deja vu, he remembered another trip,
taken with Geordi La Forge.
"Deanna, have you ever played a card game called

Before the counselor could respond, a massive black
ship appeared directly in their flight path.  A beam
lanced out, striking the shuttle and forcing it out
of transwarp.  Almost immediately weapons fire
hammered into the significantly smaller ship.

Will was nearly knocked to the deck by the attack,
but managed to break his fall by catching the edge
of a console, spiling his cup on the floor.  Sliding into a chair, he yelled,
"Computer, try to send an emergency distress call to Enterprise!
Hell, to anyone!"

A heartbeat later, and the AI replied, [Sorry Comander,
but communications have been heavily damaged.  Warp
core is offline.  Shields are at twenty-seven
percent, and the port nacelle assembly is leaking

An ODN conduit behind him gave way, showering sparks
in all directions.  Will ignored it as best he could,
focusing on the console before him.  "Computer, shut down
the port nacelle assembly and redirect all power to
damage control!"

[On it, Coman...zzt]  A squelch of static cut the AI
off abruptly.

"Computer?  Damn it...this is NOT looking good..."

"The helm's getting sluggish," Deanna reported.

The Phoenix shook again, and the inertial dampeners
fluctuated for just a moment before reinitializing.
"We can't take much more of this," Riker muttered as
he accessed the sensors to look for a viable escape.
"Deanna, I'm picking up a Class M moon less than
fifty thousand kilometers away.  Relaying
navigational data to you now."

"Got it.  Hang on!"

Deanna put the shuttle into a series of evasive
manuevers, using its smaller size to greater
advantage.  Deftly, the ship broke away from its
attacker, and the moon appeared large before them,
the hope of safety drawing near.  As the dark ship
continued its assault, the Phoenix speared into the
moon's upper atmosphere.

Outside the windows there was nothing but dark,
angrily roiling clouds parting before them.  Sensor
readings were sporadic at best.  From what Will could
tell they were at least three kilometers above the
planet's surface, and descending rapidly.

At the Engineering console, Will was busy trying to
reinitialize the warp core while monitoring the
ship's automated damage control systems.  Without
Ana to act as an extra pair of virtual hands, he was
forced to handle power control as well.  "Shields are
at nine percent, Counselor.  I'm rerouting power to
the shields, so the controls might be getting a bit
more sluggish."

Deanna was a good pilot, but no matter how fast
and synchronous they worked, nothing seemed to
compensate for the heavy jerking of the ship.
Will gave out orders between his clenched teeth for
course corrections, or to initiate the thrusters or
inertial dampeners.  She was fully concentrated, and
even before his orders were spoken, she was halfway
executing them.

Out of the blue an incredibly close surface appeared
outside the windows and due to their speed, their
fall looked unavoidable.  In one second she heard
Will shout, "BRACE FOR IMPACT!", and in the other she
was pushed forward, then backward before she sunk
into darkness.


Tempered bond
Part 2

Deanna slowly opened her eyes, seeing a blurry
grey shape in front of her.  She blinked a couple
of times until the inside of the ship's walls and a
couple of panels became clearer.  She was laying on
the floor a few meters away from the controls and
their seats.  She tried to move, but a sharp pain
shooting from her ribs cut her breath.  Slowly
exhaling, then inhaling to gain breathing rhythm she
managed to sit.  She felt warmth and a tingling
sensation above her left eye.  Touching the spot
there was a wetness and it was swollen.  Her fingers
were greeted with the redness of her blood, her head
pounding with a slight headache but manageable.

While continuing to check her condition, her eyes
fell on her right leg, underneath the knee cap.  It
was twisted, and she was quite sure that it was
broken.  From the look of it she found no blood
stains which led her to the conclusion that it was
a clear internal break.

Looking around she searched for Riker, noticing his
foot on the side of one seat.

"Comand--!"  The pain increased.  She took a few
more slow breaths, preparing for another wave of
pain and tried again.

"William!"  His mind was present but she couldn't
see if he was hurt.  Deanna thought that she would
lose consciousness from the intensity of pain
flashing through her.

There was a movement, then a groan.  His head
appeared over the seat, looking around.  He
noticed her in the back, and shouting his surprise
approached her.

"Deanna!"  The waves of pain crashing against
him through the bond was almost too much to bear.
But he had to stay focused.  Taking a deep, calming
breath he said, "Try not to move!"

By the dim emergency power he quickly tapped open a
panel and pulled out a tricorder.  He then hurried
over her and began scanning her.  As he passed the
device over her head, torso, and legs, a couple of
well known beeps and bleeps confirmed her suspicions.
The leg didn't hurt her yet...it was still "warm"
as the doctors would say.

Deanna said, "Yes, it is broken, with a couple of
ribs and a nasty cut above my left eye.  I was out
for a while, probably a mild concussion.  Quite a sight."
She tried to smile, only to have her face twist in pain.

"Lay still."  Will's voice was cold and professional,
shooting her heart with a thousand daggers.  He was
in comand mode now, his mind already having
prioritized the things that needed to be done.

Closing the tricorder with a snap, Will said, "The
leg needs to be fixed."

His words sounded incredible, but she was well aware
of it.  "How?" came out of her unwillingly.  "There
are no doctors and..."  She shut up seeing his
serious face.

"Thankfully, it's a clean break.  There shouldn't be
any trouble snapping it into place."

"In the old fashioned way?"  Her face was full of
fright, although she knew this was the only way.

Riker nodded, fumbling with another compartment,
opening a medkit and handing her a bundle of
bandages.  "Put this between your teeth."

Dea shook her head to object.

"DO IT!"  His voice almost made her jump.  And she
did.  Trying not to think about the coming pain she
anticipated his next move.

"Ready?" he said placing one hand above her knee
while gripping her foot with the other.

She nodded, still looking at her leg and his hands.

"Look at me, Counselor..." Will ordered.  She simply
couldn't look away.  Panic enveloped her.

Feeling the panic mixed with pain welling across the
bond, Will spoke more gently than a few moments ago.
"Look at me, Deanna...don't be afraid."

She raised her head to meet his eyes, surprised to
hear her name, which he used seldom, even outside
of their uniforms.

Riker took that moment of distraction to pull the
foot.  Dea's head tipped backwards blinded by the
pain, biting hard on that bandage in her mouth.  No
sound escaped her lips, but Will "heard" her mental
scream.  The pain faded away, slowly pulsating, in
the rhythm of her racing heartbeat.  She spat the
bandage out of her mouth, opened her eyes only to
see that her leg looked normal again.  She looked at
Riker as if saying "you didn't have to do it like
that".  A slight ache was evident now and then.  She
calmed her pulse while Will put supporters around her
whole leg.  He couldn't find the bone or dermal
regenerators in the medkit, which meant that the leg
needed to stay immobilized in a splint, without
moving to cause further damage until they could
reach a doctor.  Carefully, he began wrapping the
leg with bandages.

"Thanks..." Deanna said.  "That was quite..... an
experience."  She smiled tiredly.

Feeling just as weary, Will returned her smile
despite still being a little dizzy from her mental
scream.  "One I hope that 'we' don't experience
again anytime soon."

While she was blinded by the pain, Will had managed
to find a hypospray and filled it with a combination
pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory agent.  Once the
splint was secured, he took the device and pressed
the cool metal to her neck, depressing its release
to send medicine coursing through her bloodstream.
The pain soon faded to a dull, more manageable ache.

Will then cleaned the wound above her eye.  A faint
smile crept to his face as he placed small
compression bandage on the wound to stop the
bleeding.  "I'm just glad that I paid little attention
in my field medic classes at the Academy."

She returned the smile.  "I'm glad you did.
Otherwise I couldn't have done it alone."

With a damp bandage, he gently cleaned a bit of blood
that had managed to run down her face.  He couldn't
help but hope that they could find medical help for
her soon.  ~ It'd be a pity to see her beautiful face
scarred by such an otherwise easily fixable wound. ~

Dea heard his thoughts but decided not to react other
then a slight blush.  Will was gentle and strong at
the same time, still a comander and giving orders.

Pleased by his handiwork, Will nodded.  "You know,
on Earth there's this...thing they do when a child
gets a small cut like that.  My Grandmother used to
call them 'boo-boos'."  He then smiled sheepishly.
"Although, I preferred to call them my 'Klingon
badges of honor'.  Grandmother would kiss the wound,
saying that a kiss makes it feel better.  It was
some kind of magic, I guess, 'cause it always did
feel better."

Will met her gaze for a moment, staring deeply into
her eyes.  He didn't know why he gave in to the
impulse.  It just felt righ.  Leaning forward, he
softly kissed the wound just over her left eye.
His lips lingered there for a moment, just long
enough for him to feel the heat of her skin
beneath them.

Deanna was surprised, and she slowly inhaled
feeling his warmth on her skin.  It all came back,
although she had tried to ignore what happened few
months before.  Her heart skipped a bit as an
enormous realization came to her -- that this was
the right thing to feel.  Her eyes closed with a
mind of their own, feeling sorry that he moved and
took his warmth away.

Leaning back once more, his eyes were locked onto
where his lips had just been.  Through the bond he
knew the answer to the question before he even
asked.  "So...does that feel better?" he said, his
voice soft.

Dea cleared her throat.  "Uhm.. yes... it does,
much better... Thank you...Commander."  She smiled
and continued, "We have something similar on
Betazed too."

Clearing his own throat, Will replied, "Well...maybe
you'll show me someday."  He returned her smile
faintly, but felt a bit embarrassed for his boldness.

~ But it doesn't seem to bother her.  Why should
it bother me? ~

Tempered Bond
Part 3

"Until then, let's get you off the deck."  Moving
to her side, he wrapped an arm around her waist.
"Put your arms around my neck, and we'll stand on
three.  One, two, THREE!"

Her hands were around his neck and she intertwined
her fingers for better support.  Feeling Will's body
was something she had been dreaming over and over
the last few nights.  But she wasn't haunted by the
dreams... no, she had enjoyed each second of them.
With Dea hopping a few times they reached the chairs
in front.

Once she was secure in a chair, he immediately
regretted having to let her go.  This wasn't the
time to let himself get lost in exploring his
emotions.  Still, he asked, "Are you going to be
okay here?"

Dea settled in the seat and she managed to spare the
movements of her broken leg.  Without the hypo she
might lose her consciousness and that's a luxury she
didn't have.

"Yes, I'll be fine here.  If you get the power on I
might scan for anything helpful on the surface or to
try and send the distress call out."  Pausing for a
brief moment she continued.  "That storm we passed
is a big trouble, though. I am not sure that any
signal would leave the surface."

Will nodded grimly.  "If we're going to get a signal
out, we may need to get off this planet."  He looked
around the flight deck.  "All the consoles up here
have lost power.  I'm going to need to find out
which systems are damaged, and whether they can be
repaired or not."

He moved to the fore, leaning over the flight
controls to touch the surface.  No need to bother
trying the flight stick, as it was likely powerless
as well.  Looking out the angular windows proved
just as futile, as they were covered with all
manner of dirt and debris.

As a final measure of hope, he tried speaking to
the air again.  "Computer?"

Silence greeted him, so resounding that it was
disturbing.  A touch of concern tinged his voice.
"I'm going to have to find out if Ana has suffered
any..."  His voice caught a little.  Named after
his grandmother, the AI had come to mean a great
deal to him, having been with him since his days
as a fighter pilot.  Through all the combat
missions, he had never come close to losing her.

He passed a look back at Deanna.  Given the chance,
he knew that she could analyze what he was feeling
just then.  To him, losing the AI would be like
losing his grandmother all over again.  An
interesting psychological problem...and yet, all he
felt from her was a sense of understanding.

Deanna smiled gently at his thoughts.  "Yes I agree,
psychological perhaps, but this is not a session and
we need to find out where we are."  Looking straight
at his eyes.  "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to intrude,
Commander."  Her eyes were apologizing for almost
everything that happened to them.

Will nodded, thankful for the counselor's support.
"It's...it's okay," he said, honestly thankful.  It
was almost a comfort to him that if he was going to
go through this, he had someone who understood
exactly what he was feeling and thinking.

Reaching for his travel case, he pulled out a padd.
Walking back to Deanna, he picked up the tricorder
and tapped his combadge, pleased to hear it chirp.
"Good, at least our badges should still work.  I'm
going to go outside, take a look around to see where
we are."  He picked the hypospray up from the floor
and handed it to her.  "If you start to feel any
more pain, go ahead and use this again.  But there's
only one vial left in the medkit, so try to be
sparing with it."

Shooting her a wink, he said optimistically, "Be
back in a bit."

"I have nowhere to run, if that's troubling you,"
she returned smiling.

Tempered Bond
Part 4

Once he was sure that the atmosphere outside was
breathable, Will lowered the boarding ramp, sweeping
the wrist-mounted Sims beacon back and forth over
the terrain surrounding the shuttle.  The ground was
lush, covered with a thick carpet of grass but
reasonably flat, and the air was cool enough to
cause his breath to mist before him.  A flash of
lightning in the distance lit the night darkened sky,
casting enough light for him to see that the ship had
crashed in a broad clearing surrounded by a forest
comprised of trees whose type he had never seen
before.  From their size -- nearly four meters
across at the base -- he could tell that they were
quite ancient.

But arboreal science wasn't what he cared much for
at the moment.  Entering in a key sequence, he
secured the ramp, sealing any entrance into the
shuttle.  Flipping open the tricorder, he began
scanning as far the little device could, searching
for lifesigns.  He walked closer to the trees,
casting a large circle around the ship as he scanned
in all directions.  He picked up a few, faint
readings from the trees; more than likely just small
animals that dwelt there.  But nothing humanoid,
which laid his chief concern to rest.

As he turned the tricorder onto the ship, his
mind was awhirl with a number of concerns, mainly
surrounding their attackers.  If its mission
now was to kill Riker, it had an opportunity to do
so.  The question then became why now...what had c
hanged that made Riker expendable now that
hadn't been a reason for his death back

The tricorder beeped as he moved around to the port
side of the, near the warp nacelle assembly.  The
attacker had managed to land three solid strikes to
that area...not to mention to several other key
locations on the ship.  A weapons link and
communications here, a power relay and shield
grid modulator there.  Even the nanoprobe-driven
autorepair system was nearly offline.  The dispersal
pattern would have made any Starfleet Tactical
officer envious of their precision.  A few
additional hits to one power relay would have
caused a cascade overload.  While rare in those
times, such accidents were not unheard of.

Snapping the tricorder closed, Will came to an even
more chilling conclusion.  Their attacker's intention
had been to destroy the shuttle, and to make it appear
as natural as possible.  And since their attacker
obviously failed that mission...

They had to get the ship spaceworthy again.  As he
moved back quickly to the ramp and entered the
access code, he remembered from the navigational
charts that they were somewhere near the Kantras
Hegemony, a non-aligned conglomeration of worlds
surrounded by the Federation on all sides.  The
planets in the Hegemony varied in tech level, from
early pre-warp to just shy of technology that
rivaled the Federation's.

Which one they had managed to crash land on, Will
had no idea without access to the ship's computers.
With his skills as a former CONN/FCO, if he could
just see the stars he could probably figure out
their position relative to their flight path.  Even
as he thought it, the lightning that had seemed
distant flashed even brighter, coming closer, the
rolling thunder mocking him as he climbed the ramp.

Closing the hatch and securing it, he re-entered
the flight deck feeling mildly dejected.  Sitting
down in a chair across from Deanna, he shook his
head.  "Well...they did a number on the ship.  Hits
to some key systems...comms, power, propulsion...
almost like they knew the ship from bow to stern,
where to hit it to take it out of commission."  He
paused as he considered that.  "Which makes sense,
if they knew where to launch an ambush for us..."

Will shook his head and sighed.  "I'm sorry, I'm just
rambling.  It's just all so damn frustrating.  So
many questions, and useless to do anything about it."

He glanced at his watch.  "It's almost dinner time."
He then smiled at her wanly.  "If we had power, I
could maybe whip up something in the galley.
Perhaps I can interest you in some of Starfleet's
finest meal packs?  Maybe I can scrounge up some
candles for lighting.  And I've got a bottle or two
of Bajoran wine in my bags..."  He chuckled to
himself.  "I'm sorry."

She simply smiled to him, tenderly.  "No need to be
sorry, sir.  Anyway, this maybe isn't the best place
for having dinner together, but here we are."  She
touched his hand briefly.  "So, where are those
yummy meal packs?"

Will's breath caught for a moment at her touch, only
to feel regret as she withdrew.  Remembering
something else he had stowed away on the ship, he
smiled as he rose and said, "I'll be right back.
I've got a surprise for you."

Passing through the mainly empty cargo section at
amidships, Will paused at a storage locker bag before
moving into the aft section of the Phoenix.  This
part of the ship contained four reasonably appointed
staterooms and a small galley.  Entering the galley,
he quickly pulled out two meal packs, utensils, and
napkins from their storage areas.

His hand hovered towards two wine glasses, but then
withdrew as he remembered the direness of their
situation.  The wine could possibly react adversely
with the Deanna's pain medication, and if someone
was looking to capture or kill them, they would need
to be certain their wits were clear and unhampered.
So instead, he took two water bottles from the
microfridge and headed back to the flight deck.

Returning with his arms full, Will was beaming like
a young boy fresh from the toy store.  Putting
everything down onto a console, he took up a napkin
and placed it carefully in Deanna's lap along with
some eating utensils.  Removing the Sims beacon from
his wrist, he stood on his tiptoes and laid it on
top of an overhead display screen.  Turning the
beacon on, its light was cast up onto the ceiling,
its normally harsh luminescence spilling down upon
them with a warm glow.

"Well, it's not Ten forward, but it'll do, I think."
With a humble bow, he said, "Welcome, Mademoiselle,
to Chez Riker's."

Deanna began to laugh but a slight cough came out
of her.  She kept on smiling sensing that this was
what made several commanding officers in Starfleet
very popular -- being able to keep the morale up.

Will was getting a kick out of this.  He had learned
long ago that it was best to keep up morale
sometimes, even with doing something as simple as
eating.  So for Deanna, he'd play things up to the

"For your dining pleasure this evening," he said,
proffering one of the insta-meal packs, "we have a
superb porcini mushroom fettuccine with salmon in a
garlic butter sauce, cooked to rapid perfection."  He
then pressed a button on its surface, and in seconds
the pack's self-contained heating mechanism cooked
its contents, chiming when it was done.

Sitting the pack in her lap, he opened it with a
dramatic flair, the heady scents of the meal
immediately beginning to fill the cabin.

"Hmmmm, smells wonderful, or I am more hungry than I
would love to admit," she smiled.

"And what meal would be complete without a fine
bottle of water," he said, cradling the bottle like
the finest wine.  "Bottled, I believe, in the winter
of 2404."  He handed her the bottle.  "A fine year,
if you ask me."

She chuckled.  "Yes it was.. very fine year indeed."

"And finally," Will said, bending over to reach into
his bag, "a special treat for dessert."  He pulled
out a small silver box.  "Bajoran danara chocolates.
If we had time on our return, I had intended to give
these to Ro, but I think she would understand
that I could only serve the best at Chez Riker's."

Deanna's smile vanished for a second, then returned
accompanied with a blush.

"I.. thank you....." she said almost whispering.
She hoped that Ro wouldn't be to disappointed
for not getting the chocolate delights.

He smiled, bowing his head.  "You're welcome,

It pleased Will to no end that Deanna was happy
with his attempt to lighten the mood.  As he sat down
across from her and activated his own insta-meal
pack, he basked in the waves of contentment flowing
across their shared bond.

The irony of the moment did not fail to reach him.
Not so long ago, he had sought every option available
to be free from the bond.  In time, he had grown
accustomed to it.  And now...now, he found himself
enjoying its presence every day.  From the moment
when he rose from bed until he went to sleep, it
was a steady reminder of someone he had grown to
care a great deal for.  And of a moment in
quarantine, which he sometimes replayed in his mind
like a holonovel.

Thinking of it now reminded him of how in tune he
and Deanna had been with one another then, without
the bond.  What would such an encounter be like now,
with the bond to convey every thought, every touch,
and every desire?

Deanna was just about to dive into the meal,
feeling extremely hungry, when Will's flow of
emotions and hearing his thoughts made her raise
her head and look at him.  He seemed not to notice
that she has been looking at him for almost three
or four minutes.  She let her own feelings match what
he has been feeling.

Will suddenly realized that he had been staring at
Deanna, his meal left untouched in his lap.  From
the way she looked at him, and from her feelings,
he knew  that she had sensed the direction of his thoughts and
feelings.  He had tried his best to avoid talking
about what had happened that night, when they were
wreckless from the infection of the virus.  He
considered playing it off, perhaps asking her how
she liked the salmon, or whether her leg was still
hurting her.

But he was tired of ignoring what he could no longer
ignore.  There was something there between them,
besides the bond.  But how does one cross that

~ One step at a time. ~

"I'm sorry, Deanna," he said, putting his meal
aside.  "I...try to control my thoughts about what
happened, and I find myself failing more and more of

"I have noticed.... Willam.  We both have avoided
what happened, successfully I must add."  She didn't
move a muscle when the next question went off her
lips.  "Do you mind failing?  Do you miss the

It took him only a moment to meet her gaze and say,
"No.  I have to admit that I don't.  Not anymore."

"I'm sorry to come so forward, I've been dying to
ask you that over the past few months... but each
time we were closer than we wanted, in the same
room, or during briefings, those same feelings and
thoughts came to me roaming my mind.  You know that
I have pleaded with the Council Of Houses to find
the way to break this bond between us, and all they
said was that we learn to live with it, together or

Pausing to just take one deep breath she continued.

"I have grown accustomed to feeling your emotions
and thoughts all day and night long... but that is
my destiny.  I wasn't sure that you would like to
have one mind constantly reaching towards yours,
since you as a human are a one mind species.
Forgive me for saying it so bluntly, but you are a
lonely species, from my point of view, anyway."
Deanna sighed with a sense that a heavy burden was
lifted off her shoulders.

He felt any last remaining barriers that were had
between them slipping away, moment by moment.  But
the dabo wheel was spinning now, and couldn't be
stopped until an outcome was determined.

Will smiled wryly, knowing that he had to confess
something openly that she already knew.  "I can
honestly say...for a while, I felt resentful
towards you, and towards the bond.  I felt I was an
intruder, and having someone peering into my private
thoughts bothered the hell out of me.  You're right,
though.  We humans *are* solitary creatures, who
desire to determine when and who they interrelate
with...who they 'bond' with on their own before
returning to their lonely lives."

He leaned forward in his chair, closing the physical
distance between them. It was the one thing the
bond could not truly span adequately enough for
him.  "And then...I've prayed, and thought about
why this happened.  Beyond the virus, because I've
gotten tired of using that as an excuse for what
happened."  He swallowed.  "I think...that the virus
merely pushed us both into doing something that
maybe we wanted to happen, but couldn't allow to
happen on our own.  And where I once wanted nothing
but to be free of the bond...sometimes...I think
that I couldn't go back to being alone with my
thoughts or feelings.  At least," he said, studying
his hands, rubbing them together a little nervously,
"that's the way I've felt lately."

"As I have...." she said tenderly.  Both of them
were on the verge of sanity sometimes until they
realized that their feelings and thoughts matched.
They both tried to break the bond, at one time,
feeling like they were intruding on each other.
But now it was so natural.

"There is something else I would like to say,
Willam... You have my deepest respect as a fellow
officer.  But most of all, as one of my closest

~ Maybe even more then friends, ~ she
added silently, hoping that she managed to hide it
from him.  Each time her lips would say his name it
would sound exactly when she was in the quarantine
room with him.  Sensual, emotional, and tender, all
of that at the same time.  She was well aware of it,
and stopped fighting it.

Will heard her thoughts as clearly as if she had said
them aloud.  His eyes rose back up and delved into
her own dark orbs, filled with emotions that he
could plainly feel as well as see.  In that moment,
he felt himself finally surrendering to what he had
fought for so long.  The warmth flowing across the
bond had a life of its own, surging into him,
touching him mind, body, and spirit.

~ Someday, ~ he sent to her, smiling faintly.
Purposefully he reached out to Deanna, his hands
easily finding hers without moving his eyes from
hers.  The thrill of their contact echoed to him
across the bond, making him gasp with its intensity.

Dea let her emotions flow without holding them back,
no need for that anymore.  His doubts went so easily
over the bond, and she sent her own approval.  His
hands were warm, their fingers intretwined as if
they have done it so many times before.  She felt
so happy, and scarred for a second.  ~ This is it,
the real thing, take the opportunity, without
regrets this time..... ~

Should he kiss her?  Should they speak more?  Why
speak when you could hear the other's every single
thought, and feel their every desire?

Kneeling onto the deck beside Deanna's chair, Will
raised a hand to the back of her neck while stroking
her cheek gently with his thumb.  His heart was
pounding -- or was it hers? -- as he lowered his
head towards hers, his lips parting in

Her eyes closed expecting to feel his lips, leaning
her head against his hand,and this time it was no
dream of hers.  Or were the dreams from both of
them?  She couldn't answer that question.  Dea
didn't care about questions anymore.  Will was here
and they both wanted each other.  Their hearts
beating as one, she came a bit closer....

Tempered Bond
Part 5

>From the rear of the flight deck, the Engineering
console sprang back to life.

[...zzt...n it, Will!]

Their lips inches apart, they both froze.  A pained
expression crossed Will's features as their eyes
opened and met, hers filled with the same longing
regret that he was feeling.

~ Saved by the bell?! ~ she sent trying to smile.

Without a word or thought, he nodded, letting her
know that they would address this again, later.  But
for now, he had a ship to see to.

Rising smoothly, he strode quickly to the console.

[Will?]  If it were possible, the AI sounded confused,
almost disoriented.

Keying a series of buttons on the console, Will was
able to see that the nanoprobes, while impeded, had
still been doing their job.  The first priority was
always to restore the ship's computer systems, then
power.  A quick review showed that they had done a
partial job on both fronts.  He hoped it would be

"Ana, access your data logs for the past two hours."

[Accessing...]  There was a moment of silence, and
then, [The shuttle was enroute to Libra Prime...then
was forced out of transwarp near the Kantras
Hegemony.  A ship--]

"That ship," Will interrupted, his fingers moving
rapidly across the keyboard, "is likely still
looking for us, to finish the job.  Any idea which
planet we're on?"

[No.  Navigational systems are still offline.]

He exhaled deeply.  "How long before we're able to
get primary systems active so we can launch?"

Ana paused briefly before replying, [Ten standard

"Ten hours," Will muttered, drumming his fingers
on the console.  "That's too long, Ana.  They could
find us by then.  Is there any way we can speed that

[Perhaps.  If I changed the priorities for the
autorepair syst--]  The AI suddenly went silent.

"Ana?" he said, afraid that the AI had gone offline

Deanna felt the presence of minds almost reaching
them but with no way of knowing how many.  She
touched Will and she let him know what she found out.


Will looked up, frowning.  "'Hmm', as in your repair
estimates were off?  Or 'Hmm', as in we're in
imminent danger?"

[The latter, I believe.  I just got access to the
sensors.  I'm picking up a group of nine humanoids
approaching our position.  Distance is approximately
one kilometer.]

"Humanoid?  Can you tell whether they represent a
threat, or what sort of weapons they might have, if

[Unfortunately, I cannot.  The sensors will not
allow me to scan for finer details.]

"Great."  He opened a storage space below the
console and pulled out two phasers.  Checking their
charges and settings, he tossed one to Deanna.  He
tried for a reassuring smile with only partial

"Be careful...." she said slowly, leaving the phaser
on her lap.

Will nodded, pausing at the exit.  "I'll be back
before you know it."  With that, he left to greet
their guests.

* * *

After a detour to the shuttle's armory, Will lowered
the ramp and stepped back into the cool, damp
evening.  Brandishing a phased compression rifle
with his hand phaser holstered at his hip, he
waited patiently for the humanoids to arrive.

He didn't have to wait long.  At first their
presence was announced by the thunder of hooves,
the sound rolling in perfect accompaniment to the
approaching storm.  But soon nine horses and their
armored riders exploded from the forest.

No, not horses, but similar.  In the flashes of
lightning, he could tell that the mounts were
completely hairless, their powerful musculature
rippling beneath a brown leathery skin.  Their eyes
glowed, some a deep green-blue, others a fiery
red-orange.  With their strange mix of loping and
graceful gait, they resembled a mingling of lizard,
equine, and feline genes.  All in all, a dangerous

Their riders, on the other hand, were what drew his
attention the most.  Riding bareback, they wore a
type of hard leather armor that matched the skin
tone of the creatures they rode.  Leather helms hid
their faces, with swords and other bladed weapons on
their backs and hips adding to their ominous nature.

They were obviously warriors of some kind.  If Will
had to guess, they were indigenous to the planet,
likely investigating the crashed ship.  As they
circled the ship like hunters observing their prey
for weaknesses, Will brought the rifle up and across
his chest, safety still on until it was clear what
they wanted.

Deanna raised as far as her leg allowed and saw
what kind of species they were through the windows.
Fear crept up in her as they came closer.  The
constant presence of their minds was evident.  She
didn't know if they had telepathic abilities, but
the minds were strong.

After a while, the riders formed a semi-circle
around Riker.  Their mounts stamped impatiently at
the ground with their cloven hooves, their sniffing
and snorting filled the air with mist.

Will's eyes moved between them all, trying to find
some clue as to who might be their leader.  Not
finding any identifiable or recognizable markings,
he spoke to all of them.  "My name is Comander Will

The only acknowledgement was the restless stirring
of the creatures.  Yet their riders sat silently
and unmoving, like statues.

Will was about to speak again when the rider to his
immediate right slid effortlessly from the back of
his mount, his booted feet landing on the ground

~ Must be the leader, ~ Riker concluded, turning to
face the being approaching him.  As he drew closer,
Will could see the glow of red-orange eyes through
the slit of his helm, again matching those of his

In all, the whole situation set Will's nerves on
edge.  Tightening his grip on the rifle,  he
prepared himself to use it if necessary.

< What are you doing here, Comander Will Riker? >

The words rang in her mind as loud as speaking.
~ Telepaths... but at what level are they? ~
Deanna gently probed the leader that had addressed
the comander.  She concluded that this species
had the ability to communicate solely telepathically,
but that's just it.  They hadn't developed anything
beyond that.  For them, it was just as most species
speak.  A few of her barriers went up just to close
the depth of her thoughts.

The sound of the voice in his head, soft, even
calming, surprised him.  Uncertainly, Will replied,
"My vess--"

< No. >  The being before him shook his head.  < Do
not speak.  Merely think. >

Telepaths.  They were a race of telepaths.  Will
tried not to think about how deeply they could read
his thoughts.  Instead, he broadcast, ~ My vessel
has...suffered a failure.  I was forced to...stop
here. ~

< You and your companion will accompany us. >

Deanna froze in her seat.  They could feel her,
but more likely they have seen her peeking through
the window.

The commodore decided to try the more diplomatic
route first.  ~ If there's a problem-- ~

For the first time, the riders all moved as one,
drawing swords in unison.

< Now. >

It didn't take a tactical analysis for Riker to
realize that he had the superior weapon, but was
easily outnumbered in this situation.

As calmly as possible, he thought, ~ Yes...
certainly. ~

He backed away slowly, moving towards the ramp.
As he climbed it, the leader projected,

< And leave your weapons. >

Entering the flight deck, Will laid the rifle onto
the nearest console.  Without looking at Deanna,
he asked, "Did you hear them?"

"Yes, I did.  But I don't think that they operate
on the deeper level of telepathy.  They use it for
communication only, maybe they haven't developed
it further."  Looking sideways, she nodded rasing
her eyes to meet Will's.  "No ability of mind scaning,
or probing."

Will nodded, removing the phaser and its holster
from his hip.  "We'd better go along with them for
now," he replied reluctantly.  "With the shuttle
out of commission, I don't think we have any other
alternative for the time being."

He walked over to her, taking the phaser from her
and putting it aside.  He then helped her to stand
on her good leg.  Leaning against him, she was
able to move, if not slowly.  He paused to give
her another shot from the hypospray, just in case.
Wherever their destination, at least she could be
comfortable for the journey.

Arriving at the top of the ramp, Will said, "Ana,
keep working on repairs.  Secure the ship from
anyone save myself or the counselor."

[Understood, Will.]

Will guided Deanna down the ramp, being sure to
carry the brunt of the weight in order to spare
her injured leg further harm.  As soon as they
were clear of the ramp, Ana raised it, sealing
the ship off...and leaving the two Starfleet
officers completely exposed to face the beings

~ My friend... ~  Will pointed to the splint on
Deanna's leg.  ~ She has been injured. ~

< Our Healers will help her, > the leader

One of the riders slid from his mount.  The leader
indicated the creature.  < You are to ride this
v'rast. >

Sword or no sword, Riker would only allow himself to
be pushed so far without answers.  ~ Ride it WHERE?
And WHY? ~

The leader climbed onto the back of his mount --
a v'rast, he had called it.  < You will be brought
to the Citadel before the Benevolent One, ruler of
the Kora'nas.  There, you will answer for your
crimes against his sovereignty. >

Tempered bond
Part 6

The ride was a bit uncomfortable for Deanna.
Despite the hypo her forehead had a few drops of
sweat.  Several looks from Will told her that he knew
what she was feeling and she gave him a reassuring
smile, that she was fine.  Dea knew that he saw
through it.

Riding on a v'rast alongside the one Deanna rode on,
it was hard for Will to ignore the flashes of pain she
was going through.  If he concentrated too hard, his
own leg would feel like it was on fire.  He saw the
truth behind her smile...but he also knew that she
was strong, able to handle a great deal of adversity
before she would ever buckle.  But the last thing he
wanted to do was put that strength to the test.

The steeds were fast, and soon enough they entered
the woods.  Their minds had an interesting way of
closing their words from her, as if they knew she
had telepathic abilities.  In the distance they saw
a small village-like setting, with one grand hut in
the middle.

Smaller huts were all around the big one and all
were almost like the ancient wigwams of the Native
American Indians.  They were bigger at the bottom,
and they had no peaks like the original wigwams, but
instead had rounded tops.  Green and brown in colors,
with a few red and some with white stripes.  A couple
of the natives came outside their huts, their
curiosity evident.

Will caught glimpses of the Kora'nasian people,
getting his first real look at their appearance.
Their attire was simple, made from a sort of sturdy
hand-woven material that looked utilitarian but
comfortable.  Their skin was pale...not quite albino,
but close.  The males bore a sort of bone crest that
ran from the nose, over the head, and down the neck.
Both sexes were completely hairless, lacking even
eyebrows or eyelashes.

But their eyes...  Like before, he couldn't help but
notice the range of colors seen in their eyes, glowing
with a luminescence that reminded Will of fireflies
dancing in the air on a warm summer night on Earth.
If that were the case, a swarm of the fireflies
followed their procession as it passed through the
village, darting from view as quickly as they

Children were not to be seen, heard, or felt.  There
were few lights emanating from the smaller residences,
but no other light was to be seen.  It was not dark,
nothing like night at all.  Only a cloudy night with
flashing lightning and rolling thunder here and there.

As they approached a large structure, from the
mixture of thoughts Dea concluded that this must be
the Citadel.  It was dark brown, almost black in
color.  It had the shape of semicircle turned
flatside down, about twenty feet high and Dea was
unsure about the diameter of the circle.  It had two,
no three silver hand imprints on the left and right
side, and another one above the entrance.  There were
a lot of writings of a language unknown to her.  The
entrance was illuminated from an unseen source of

When the v'rast came to a stop, Will slid from its
back easily, denying himself the desire to stretch
his weary muscles, instead quickly helping Deanna
dismount.  Offering her his arm, he provided her
with support as the Kora'nasian warriors led them
wordlessly towards the Citadel.

As they entered the Citadel, Will and Dea were slightly
blinded by the light around them.  All over the walls
were small lighting crystals that resembled dilithium
crystals.  The Citadel looked a lot larger on the
inside than it did outside.  In the middle of it was
a throne with someone sitting upon it..

Being sure to move slowly enough that Deanna could
keep apace, Will followed the warriors directly to the
base of the simple wood-carved throne.  Raised on a
dais, they were forced to look up at the Kora'nasian
sitting on the throne.  He was dressed in an armor
similar to that of the other warriors, including the
helm.  But his was unique in that a number of
scintillating crystals were embedded in its surface,
throwing light in all directions.

The being rose from his seating place and confirmed
what Will already knew.  < I am the Kora'nai,
ruler of these lands upon which you have
trespassed. >

For all the truth it held, Will had no real defense
against that statement.  As far as he knew, the
Kora'nasians had never been encountered by the
Federation.  Some first contact situation.  With the
ship in full display, any attempt to prevent breaking
the Prime Directive was likely an optimistic wish.
All he could do now was minimize any further damage.

Adopting a diplomatic tact, he thought, ~ I am
Comander Willam Riker, an officer in the Starfleet
of the United Federation of Planets.  We were attacked
while traveling through your system.  Our vessel was
damaged, and we were forced to lan-- ~

Stepping down to the last step of the dais, the
Kora'nai waved his hand dismissively, preventing him
from saying anything further.  < Your companion will
be healed... >  The ruler turned to one of the people
that came out of nowhere.  < Take her to the
Healers. >

Deanna held Will's arm tighter when the hooded person
took her in his arms, as easily as a feather.  She
glanced at Will a couple of times and he gave her a
few reassuring smiles.

~ It's okay, Deanna, ~ he sent across the bond.
~ I'm here.  I won't let them hurt you. ~

She and the hooded person entered another room,
smaller and illuminated only from the center of the
room.  There was a sort of sacrifice table inside a
bright circle of light, coming from somewhere above.
As gently as he was carrying her, the hooded man put
her on the table.  It was cool at the moment but
then the temperature became equal to Dea's body
temperature.  The man removed the hood and silverish
eyes looked at her gently.

< Don't be afraid, woman.  You will be alright, > he

Dea's fists slowly relaxed, and the light above her
started pulsating in the rhythm of her heartbeat.
She felt a bit sleepy.  Dea's breathing was slightly
shallow and short.  Then the man with the silver
eyes took off the bandage above her left eye, and
then he released the supporters around her leg.
After that his hands hovered above her chest, his
face becoming worried.  He waved to someone in the
darkness, and two hooded people emerged, each
carrying a pillow with silver glowing gloves.

Rather quickly the man with the silver eyes put
them on, his mind projecting a slow humming sound.
First he treated her ribs, allowing Dea to inhale
deeper with each pass of his hands over them.  Dea
felt a slight itching feeling and a bit uneasiness.
The light above her started to pulse a bit faster,
and Dea tried to close her mind to the sound of the
humming.  Silver eyes turned to face her, and he
waved his head no.

Dea obeyed, calming herself.  Then her leg was
treated and Dea fought the urge to scratch it, no
matter how much she wanted.  She managed not to
move.  She closed her eyes and focused on the
humming, and soon she started to hum it aloud.
Then she felt that the healer moved his hands
above her forehead, and soon that wound was healed

Silver eyes removed his gloves with slow motion,
then put them each on its pillow, bowing his head
before each of the pillows..

The two hooded beings moved into the shadows of the
room, without any sound.  Silver eyes took Dea's
hands and helped her off the table.

Deanna cautiously stood on her feet, surprised that
other than being a bit stiff, her leg was well
again.  She could walk on her own, and breathe

~ Thank you sir, ~ she sent.

Silver eyes only nodded to her a bit, smiling, then
put his hood on before escorting her to the entrance
of the Healer's room.  Dea turned at the entrance,
but the man vanished without a trace.

< Come here and face me, woman. >  The Kora'nai's
voice snapped her back into reality.

Dea walked slowly, smiling at Will until she stood
beside him.  Will returned her smile faintly, glad to
not only see her whole again, but to feel the absence
of her previous pain.  "They have some sort of
healing powers, but not all of them.  They call
them the Chosen Ones...." she whispered to Will,
before the voice of the ruler interrupted her.  Her
curiosity and diplomacy came out of her.

< No, come here, > the ruler's mind sent, demanding.
She approached the throne and was greeted by pure
eyes of gold.

< BEAUTIFUL..... > his mind sent, looking her from
head to toe, taking one curl of her hair in his

Riker didn't like the direction this was going in.
The Kora'nai was taking a great interest in Deanna.
And while he agreed that she was beautiful, "hearing"
it from another man only stirred up an emotion he
had felt in relation to Deanna Troi before:

Deanna stood there blushing, but what she felt
from Will took her totally by surprise.  Slowly she
turned to Will with eyes wide open, looking at him
sideways.  The ruler turned to Will.

< You may leave, Comander Will Riker.  But the
woman... She'll stay to become my bride! >

There was a light stir among his people, and several
exchanges of glances.

"What!?"  Dea's voice broke the silence.  "I have no
intention to marry you!  Prime Directive or not!"

Speaking almost on top of Deanna, Will said aloud,
"That is NOT an option!"

Will came behind Deanna and slipped one hand almost
around her.  She covered his hand with her own.

< SILENCE!!!!! >  The ruler's voice echoed so
heavily in Will's and Dea's minds that they both
fell on their knees, covering their heads.

< You have no choice, woman.  If both of you wish
to leave this place alive, you will obey! > the
ruler sent.

"Will.. I.. no way I'm going through this," she
whispered to him, out of breath.

His own voice hushed, his breath ragged, Will
replied, "I...I know."

His head still pounding, the comander stood slowly.
Taking Deanna's hand and pulling her to her feet,
he moved in front of her while he stepped towards
the Kora'nai.

In a flashing ring of metal, Will found the points
of seven different blades jabbing into his chest,
the warriors stopping any attempt to approach their

Deanna stood firmly behind Will, scared but calm.
Her hands were on his back, ready to do whatever he
decided.  She could easily push one or maybe two of
the men around them, allowing them some chance of
escape.  The faces of these men were hard and ready
to kill if need be.  That move would be their doom.

It took all of Will's discipline to not attack the
closest warrior.  It would have been easy to grab
the one on his right by the throat and apply enough
pressure to render him unconscious.  And shortly
afterwards, he would be killed, leaving Deanna
alone, forced to marry the Kora'nai.

He held his anger in check.  Calmly, he took one of
Deanna's hands and sent, ~ You cannot have her. ~

< On the contrary, > the Kora'nai replied, the
sound of a chuckle in his "voice".  < After all, it
is you who have violated the laws of my land.  The
place where you have crashed is sacred.  The
punishment is death. >

With a wave of his hand, the blades moved away,
allowing him to walk up to Riker.  < It is really
simple.  Give me the woman, and you both live...you
leave my planet, never to return again, and she
becomes my bride.  Or, you both die, here and now,
to pay for your crime. >

The tension in the room was incredible.  Not a
sound could be heard as everyone waited for the
comander's response.

Deanna held her breath, feeling Will's thoughts,
his doubts, or plans.

Riker didn't know a single thing about the
Kora'nasian's laws or culture.  But he knew one
thing: the leader before him was a warrior.  And
from what he could tell, most of the Kora'nasian
males were warriors as well.  Like the samurai of
days long past, or the Klingons today, that brought
along with it a certain set of rules.  In all of his
travels, Will had found those rules to have very few
deviations, with honor being the cornerstone of most
such societies.

It was upon that consistency that he was depending
upon when he said, ~ I ask -- no, I *demand* that I
be granted the right of challenge for her. ~

The silence stretched out with inexorable slowness
as Will locked his eyes with the Kora'nai's golden
orbs.  He fully expected to feel a blade sliding
between his ribs any moment now for his

Instead, the Kora'nai coolly said, < You wish to
challenge me for this woman? >

Without hesitation, Will nodded.  ~ Yes.  My blade
against yours, in single combat.  If I win, we will
both be allowed to leave.  If I lose... ~  He
squeezed Deanna's hand tightly.  ~ My life and her
hand are yours. ~

The Kora'nai watched the human for a while longer
as he considered the challenge.  Low mental whispers
were moving amongst those watching, wondering whether
their leader would accept the challenge.  Will caught
bits of, < Surely he's brave enough to... >, or,
< Of all the warriors, his skill at arms is
unsurpassed... >

Obviously the Kora'nai heard these voices as well.
His hands clenched at his sides tightly, he turned
on his heel and climbed the dais to his throne.  With
the command of a leader, he ordered, < The challenge
will be granted. >

With another of his waves, warriors grabbed both he
and Deanna, forcing them apart.  Will attempted to
struggle, but too many hands held him fast.

Deanna's eyes never left Will's.  ~ This is not the
Klingon way, Willam.  It is wreckless to do so...
you might get hurt.... ~

~ I will not lose you, ~ Will sent simply.

Before Deanna could reply, her train of thoughts
were interrupted.

< Take the comander to his quarters...and the woman
to my personal quarters. >  His golden eyes bored
into Riker.  < At starbreak, we will meet once again,
Comander. >  A dangerous grin twisted his features.
< And then...you WILL die. >

Tempered bond
Part 7

Deanna was almost dragged away into a room on the
left side of the throne, and pushed onto the soft
pillows scattered all over the room.  She was alone,
but not for long.  One of the Kora'nasian females
came inside carrying some clothes for Dea to change
into.  ~ Brown, black, and gold..  not my colors.. ~
Then some other words came to her.

She heard the ruler instructing his men to keep an
eye on Will, and that he should be fed before the
challenge at starbreak.  What made her pay attention
to his words was that the ruler believed that his
mental abilities, his mental control of his rival's
mind was excellent, and that he would be able to
conquer the comander with ease.  His mental
laughter reached her when he said that the woman
was a jewel and worth the fight.  If she didn't
accept him then both of them should be slain.

Deanna sat on the floor, concentrating, finding
Will's mind more easily than ever before.  The depth
of their bond allowed them to communicate without
any fear that any of the Kora'nai would hear them.
The female was still with Dea in the room, and she
showed nothing that she had noticed her meditation.
Deanna took one deep breath, closing her eyes.

In the cell he had been taken to, Will stopped his
pacing as he felt Deanna's mind brush against his
own.  It was a comfort, immediately putting his
troubled thoughts at ease.

~ Will, I have just overheard the ruler.  Their
abilities are somewhat developed, and they tend to
use them in combat.  Here's the plan.  My mental
barriers and your training will be united during
combat.  Your body will be free of my influence,
and your mind will be shielded from the Kora'nai, ~
she sent.

~ Perhaps... ~  Will nodded, even though he knew she
couldn't see him.  ~ We've never tried anything like
that before.  But...we really don't have much of a
choice to try, do we? ~

~ No, we don't have an option.  I do have one favor
to ask you.... ~ she sent opening her eyes, tracking
the movement of the woman inside the room.

~ You only have to ask it, ~ he replied.  ~ If it
is within my power, it is yours. ~

~ Be careful, will you... ~  Will could swear that a
sort of mental embrace enveloped him, surrounding
him with warmth and security.

~ That was never in doubt, Deanna. ~  Will couldn't
help but smile faintly.  ~ As I remember, we were
interrupted before we could resolve a few...issues. ~

Deanna felt her cheeks blush.  ~ Yes... we were. ~
Her own mind sent all the warmth she could manage.

Deanna heard someone else enter the room, the
female bowed her head and went outside.  Dea sat
there keeping her mind open towards Will.

The Kora'nai moved into the room with the deadly
grace of a viper.  < Why have you not changed into
the clothing I have given you to wear, woman?  If
you are going to be my wife, you will learn to do
my bidding. >

Through the bond, Will heard the Kora'nai's words as
if he were in the room.  But a part of him almost
wished he couldn't hear them, for as helpless as he
was to stop the Kora'nai if he tried anything.  He
could only have faith in Deanna...

~ I am not something that you can give or take,
Kora'nai, and I will not be your wife, ~ she sent,
crushing her onyx eyes on the gold ones.

The Kora'nai chuckled with amusement.  < Oh, but
that is where you are mistaken. >  Boldly, he
stalked up to her and grabbed her by the wrist.
< You are mine to do with as I please, now.  This
challenge is a just a small inconvenience.  A sign
of my benevolence to my people.  But rest assured...
it is one that I will rectify at first light. >

Will's hands tightened into fists as a wave of anger
swept over him.  An inconvenience, was he?

Dea tried to wiggle out her hand but the grip was
tight and hard.

~ What made you think that I might want you for my
husband? ~ Deanna asked him.  ~ My heart belongs to
someone else. ~  She didn't need to hide it any

Riker's own heart skipped a beat at those words.
It was as if Deanna had uttered a truth that he
had always known, and would have been foolish to
ever doubt.

Through the bond she sent to Will, ~ Play along,
Will, he can sense your mind too, through me. ~

Again Will nodded, allowing his emotions for her
to flow across the bond.  He didn't have to play
along...it now came to him all too easily.

Dea nodded her own head briefly closing her eyes.
~ I know.. ~ she sent to Will.

Golden eyes narrowed, glowing fiercely as they
delved into Deanna's own, and then widened.

< Riker.  You are bonded to him somehow. >

~ Yes, we share a imzadi bond.  We are soul
mates, ~ she replied, feeling Will's emotions follow
each word she said.

< And your heart belongs to him? >

Dea paused for a moment, but Will knew the answer
before she replied.

~ Yes.. ~

< Excellent!  Killing him is now more important
than ever! >

Still holding her wrist, the ruler shoved the
Betazoid towards the clothing laying on the
floor for her.  < When I see you again, you
will be wearing those clothes, or I will kill
your beloved immediately. >

Deanna held her wrist, rubbing it lightly.  She
took the clothes and threw them somewhere in the
back of the room.  Her face was calm, but her eyes
showed the anger in her.

>From his hip, the Kora'nai pulled a long knife,
its double serrated edges glinting in the crystal
generated light.  < Rest well.  After all, tomorrow
will be our wedding day.  And you'll need your energy
for that night. >  With a malicious laugh, the
Kora'nai left Deanna alone once more.

Will had to will himself to be calm.  If he needed
a reason to cause harm upon the person of the
Kora'nasian ruler, he had found it in the past
few minutes.  Taking a deep breath, he sent,
~ Deanna...are you alright? ~

Will heard her mental sigh.  ~ I am fine.  I just
hoped that this never had happen. ~

~ I know, ~ Will agreed.  ~ I didn't want it to be
like this.  I never do.  But I have to stop him.  I
have no choice. ~

Deanna cocked her head to one side. ~ Why do you
sound as if you are to blame for this?  It is not
anybody's fault.. ~

He sighed, lowering himself to the ground and
crossing his legs.  ~ For now, you had better do
as he says.  Change, and then get some rest.  The
morning will come soon for us both. ~  He paused,
unsure about what else to say.  So instead of words,
he closed his eyes and imagined himself wrapping
his arms around her, holding her in an embrace both
caring and intimate.

Deanna closed her own eyes, losing grip of where
she was.  ~ ... Will.... ~  The sound of the
moving drapes around her startled her and she sent
gently chuckling, ~ We better stop doing it like
this.  You need more rest then I.  The bond is
taking more strength from you then you want to
admit. ~  She lied down and set the pace of
breathing, and soon Will's mind followed.  Before
they knew it both of them were asleep.

Tempered bond
Part 8

His warm ups finished, Will opened his eyes slowly,
rose to his feet and began stretching his muscles.
His sleep had been fitful, full of dreams that made
him feel as if he hadn't slept at all.  All night
long he could feel Deanna was also barely able to
sleep, yet he resisted the urge to speak to her in
hopes that sleep would come for them both.

Even after warming up he could still feel anxiety
battling for a grip upon him.  He took some solace
in that he wasn't fearful that with the dawn he
would be facing possible death.  Death was something
he had long reconciled with.  The longer he stayed
in Starfleet, the greater the possibility had grown
that he'd never live long enough to retire like many of his
friends.  It didn't bother him in the least, then.

Still, if he were to die, he wanted to die for a
reason.  Maybe it was a part of his time with
Klingons that made him think that he had to die with
honor.  Maybe it was all the stories Grandfather had
told him of his ancestors  If he were to die this day, it would
be for the life of Deanna.  In his death, she
would still live.

He honestly couldn't think of a more nobler cause.

But he had no intention of dying today.  He had
too much living left to do...too much left
unresolved with Deanna.

The door to his temporary holding cell opened,
drawing him from his reverie.  A hooded Kora'nasian,
perhaps the same healer that had treated Deanna,
wordlessly gestured that Riker should follow him.

With a deep breath, Will stepped out of the cell.
As they wound their way through narrow, crystal-lit
corridors, two warriors appeared from the shadows
behind them, armed and armored as before.  He
couldn't shake the feeling that instead of heading
for one of the greatest challenges of his life that
he was being led to an execution.

That feeling was only reinforced as they emerged
into the Citadel's main chamber.  Gathered in a
large semicircle at the base of the dais was an
audience of Kora'nasians, mostly male, but with the
surprising presence of females as well.  If Will had
to guess, the crowd numbered at least two hundred.
Above them all, a large crystal that Will had not
noticed before cast enough light down upon the stone
tiled floor to match any sun.  It is outside of this
shaft of light that most of the audience was
standing, milling in hushed telepathic conversations
that still came across as a buzzing drone.

Despite the multitude waiting for the challenge
to commence, only two of them drew his attention.
At the base of the dais and also outside of the
circle stood Deanna.  Across the bond he could
feel the knot of concern welling within her, but
being suppressed by a blanket of optimism and
determination.  She was wearing the same dresses of
the other Kora'nasian women, with the notable
exception that her clothing bore highlights of
gold.  Obviously gold was a mark of the Kora'nai,
indicating that she was his property.  Despite the
Kora'nai's presumptiveness, Will still couldn't help
but notice how beautiful she was right then.

Deanna felt Will's mind waking and his warming up, she
smiled a smile mixed with fear but giving him as
much support as she could.  Deanna felt the
Kora'nai's mind probing into her own, lightly
brushing against Will's mind, testing it.  ~ Oh no,
you don't! ~ she moved her own barriers up between
the Kora'nais and her mind, briefly moving his
attention towards her, fiery eyes threatening to
burn her own, he just grinned and focused his mind
on Will.

The other person he focused upon was the Kora'nai
himself.  Now wearing a tunic and pants whose
coloration perfectly matched Deanna's, he was
standing at the circle of the waiting throng,
speaking to another hooded individual.  His sword
rode his hip, its gold hilt gleaming in the light
being shone from the crystal above.  At Riker's
approach, he raised his head.  The conversations
died away as the ruler of the Kora'nasian focused
on the human, with the crowd parting until the path
between both men was clear.

< Welcome, Comander.  I'm sure that you're prepared
to get this challenge underway as much as I am. >

Will was surprised to find that the anxiety he had
felt earlier was no longer there.  A peaceful calm
was all he could find as he silently nodded his
agreement and began removing his duty uniform
jacket, the hooded Kora'nasian holding it for him.

< Very well. >  He pointed to a weapons rack.
< Select your weapons, and we will begin. >

To one side of the great room stood a rack of hand
weaponry -- a varied assortment of blades, axes,
maces, and polearms, whose multitude could have
supplied a small army.  Some of the weapons were
typical of those Will was used to using, while others
were uniquely alien in design.  In his mind, he
already knew what he was looking for as he scanned
the rack and found them quickly: pair of short swords,
just under a meter in length.  Their weight was
surprisingly light as he hefted one in each hand.
They weren't his traditional samurai sword set,
which sat in the woods onboard the shuttle.  But
they would have to do.

As he entered the circle of light, the audience
closing behind him, an almost distant chime sounded.
The air at the perimeter of the circle seemed to
solidify while still remaining clear.  He could still
hear the audience, but its voice was slightly dulled.

< A barrier, > the Kora'nai said to his unspoken
question.  < As much to protect my people as to
keep the combatants from leaving the Circle. >

Will's gaze focused on Deanna.  So many words came
to mind as he looked upon her...but he said none of
them.  He was preparing himself, readying his mind
and body for the task before him.

Stopping about five meters from the Kora'nai, Will
said, ~ I am ready. ~

In a smooth motion, the Kora'nai then drew his long
sword from its scabbard.  The blade was composed of
the purest blue crystal Will had ever seen.  It
glowed with an internal energy of which he could not
begin to imagine.  As the blade passed through the
air, it literally sang in a high-pitched tone that
could be heard in the mind, but not the ears.

Smiling mirthlessly, the Kora'nai asked, < Any final
words, Comander? >

Will tested the bond, and found it to be whole, if
not also dulled by the invisible barrier that had
been erected.  Across the bond, without looking at
Deanna he sent, ~ Deanna...I lov-- ~

~ Drop your mental barriers Will, ~ Deanna
interupted him, ~ let me be your consciousness,
I'll shield your mind from his attacks.  If you
don't do it then I'll jump in and fight. ~ she

Will answered him by adopting a fighting stance, the
tips of his swords pointing low and to the ground.
He would let his weapons speak for him.

The Kora'nai nodded curtly.  His sword moved...

...and everything to Will began to slow.  It wasn't
by much, but it was something he could easily
perceive.  In the span of what he felt was two
heartbeats, his opponent had crossed the distance
and was bringing his sword across at neck level.
Will was barely able to move fast enough to bring a
sword up to block the attack.  Metal rang against
crystal, the Kora'nai's sword glowing from the blow.
Before he could launch a counterattack, Will was
kicked swiftly in the stomach.

The blow sent him tumbling backwards, stopping only
when he slammed into the barrier.  The collision
knocked the wind from him, stunning him for a moment
as he attempted to catch his breath.  Time seemed to
be moving normal once more, and through the ringing
in his ears he could hear the crowd cheering at the
first blow being landed.

~ Will! ~ Dea called out.  Will's mind was filled with
pain.  Deanna briefly closed her eyes, taking as
much pain from Will as she could with her empathic
side.  ~ Are you okay?  Talk to me. ~

~ I'm...fine, ~ Will replied, wincing in pain.  Each
breath brought with it a sharp pain in his side.
The blow had likely bruised his ribs, if not cracking
them outright.  His numbed hands still held on to the
swords, but the Kora'nai was still, standing where he
had knocked Riker back.  He sneered at the human,
waiting for him to attack this time.

Will took the respite to ask Deanna, ~ Any idea what
that was?  It seemed like I was moving in slow
motion, but he wasn't. ~

A minor mental grunt was heard from her.  ~ This
was a clear mental blocade from Kora'nai.  He is
blocking your moving with his own ability causing
you to act in slow motion.  The time passes normaly
but you see it as a bit slow, and act upon it.  You
have to open up to me.  I don't need the physical
side just your shields, I need to put some strength
in them, but you have to trust me, ~ Dea sent
franticaly and fast.

~ A mental attack? ~  A wave of anger washed through
Will.  ~ He has to resort to that to win.  And if we
don't figure out a way to counter it, he's going
to do just that. ~

Deanna's forehead was showing the signs of stress,
her eyebrows were frowning and sweat was evident.

~ Will, you have to open up to me.  Leave me the
consciousness, use your training to move
as if your eyes were blinded.  If you need to, close
them.  Remember the training, Willam: you are
the warrior, act like one, ~ she sent as fast as the
bond allowed.

~ No... ~

The Kora'nai circled slowly, his weapon held
casually in his hand.  < Come, Comander.  You
surely have some offensive skills. >

Will ignored his opponent, looking for an opening
in his defenses.  Searching for some other option
besides surrendering to the bond.

< So, you will not attack? >  The Kora'nai's blade
moved through the air with a keening cry, as if its
passing were cutting the very air itself.  < Allow
me to show you how it's done... >

With that, the Kora'nai advanced upon Will, each
step methodical as he closed the distance between

His Vulcan mentor would have told him that
what Deanna said was logical.  But logic didn't
matter at that moment.  How could he submit his
mind to her?  He had done that once before, in a
quarantine room in medlab.  It had brought nothing
but anger, pain, and confusion.  Their friendship,
once blossoming, had changed that night.  Despite
their recent efforts to rebuild what they had,
nothing had ever been the same since.  To make
himself that vulnerable again was unthinkable.

And then time began to slow again.  Will felt as if
he were underwater, his actions, even his thoughts
sluggish as he fought to bring his swords up in time
to defend himself.  His heartbeat slowed as well,
its sound booming in his ears.


As the Kora'nai's sword screamed through the air
towards his neck, Will realized that he wasn't going
to make it there in time.  Closing his eyes, he knew
that he couldn't do this alone.

Deanna followed each of Will's moves with her own
eyes closed, trying with all of her might to push
through his barriers.  Her heart and his were not
synchronous.  In her ears the hearts were as loud as
four drums together but in their own rhythm.  She
was pleading him to let her in, to allow her to help
him, reminded him over and over about his training.
Her own mind was working quickly trying to find a
solution to all of this, how she would help him.
Then in one simple heartbeat...


A shiver ran down Will's spine, a choice made.


Like so many months ago, Will closed his eyes and
surrendered himself with one word.


~ Yes. ~

Tempered bond
Part 9

Deanna's head slowly raised with a slight smile on
her face, and she replied back, as many months ago,
~ Yes..~  She felt his barriers drop, enveloping her
with his warmth, and seeing the calculated moves
planned in advance.  But his consciousness was
surrendered to her totally.  She pushed even more
through the bond and gave him all of her own
strength, and her own shields were his, and his were

Will's eyes sprang open, a warmth suffusing him from
head to toe as everything happened at once.  He felt
their two hearts beating, at first out of synch, but
then slipping into an easy rhythm until they were

He breathed, she exhaled...he exhaled, she breathed.
He could see the sword fight unfolding from two
vantage points.  Time was now passing at its normal
pace, but the Kora'nai seemed to be moving in slow
motion now.  Initially, it was all so disorienting...

...but not enough to keep him from bringing a sword
up to block the Kora'nai's killing blow mere
millimeters from its target.

The Kora'nai's face fell from a twisted sneer of
victory into shocked disbelief.  < How--? >

His words were cut off as Will's fist, still wrapped
around the hilt of a sword, crashed into his jaw.
The blow rocked the Kora'nai back, forcing him to
disengage from combat.

A gash along his jaw began to bleed, the blood an
ochre-green in coloration.  The once cheering
audience gasped, or went silent altogether.  The
Kora'nai had struck first, but the human had drawn
first blood.  Never had they seen their leader
struck, much less wounded.  So they watched the
fight, trying to grasp what was happening.

Riker noticed none of this, as he was unrelenting
in his pursuit of the hunter now turned prey,
keeping up his attack.  The swords in his hands
were extensions of himself, raining down upon the
Kora'nai with a ferocity that, in a remote corner of
Will's mind, surprised even him.

The Kora'nai vainly attempted to launch an offensive,
both physical and mental.  Will managed the physical,
blocking each attack easily before following it up
with a counter, throwing in an occassional punch or
kick.  Each strike forced his opponent back
inexorably towards the invisible barrier surrounding
the Circle.

Deanna reinforced the barriers on them both, Will's
and her own, feeling that the Kora'nai was about to
lose.  He was in panic, confused and full of
questions of how did Will manage to block him.
Deanna's eyes were shut tightly.  She was trembling,
feeling that if this fight went much longer she would
fail to help her love.

The fight was like a chess match in Will's mind, with
him looking three moves ahead of his current action.
More blood flowed, from both men.  But there was
definitely more green on the stone floor of the
Circle than there was of red.  But he could feel
Deanna's strength beginning to slowly wane from her
mental exertions.  She was giving him all that she
could, maybe more.

He had to end this fight, and soon.

When the opening in the Kora'nai's defenses came,
Will was ready to take advantage of it.  In a blind
fury the Kora'nasian swung wildly, overextending
himself.  Following a hard parry, Will slashed at
the Kora'nai's wrist.  If he had chosen to, he
could have removed his opponent's hand entirely,
putting an immediate end to the challenge.  But his
attack was precise, yielding the intended result:
the Kora'nai's hand sprang open on impulse.  The
sword flew through the air, its scream sounding like
a cry as it was rended from its owner.  With the
finality of a knell, the crystalline sword clattered
to the ground.

Before the Kora'nai could pursue his lost weapon,
Will charged him, driving his shoulder into the
Kora'nai's chest.  The hit was enough to send the
Kora'nai smashing into the barrier, the collision
hard enough to drop him to his knees, and sending
circular flashes around the barrier until it calmed

There was no sound, and no one in the audience
dared to move.  The air itself was heavy with

Panting, and bleeding from several cuts, Will stood
over his defeated opponent, his swords still held at
the ready.  "You *dare* to call yourself benevolent?"
he spat out aloud in contempt.  "You're defeated,
Kora'nai, and this challenge is over!  You will
honor your part of the bargain and release us!"

< No. >  One of the hooded Kora'nasians waved
his hand at the barrier surrounding the Circle.
A chime sounded again, and the barrier lowered.

Deanna's eyes opened and she stopped sending her
shield towards Will.  She heard the hooded person
and supposed next move.  The Kora'nai was defeated
and they are free to go..

Will looked to all sides, bringing his swords
up to the defensive, ready to go down fighting
if need be.

But the hooded Kora'nasian was quick to say, < No,
we intend you no harm.  You will be allowed to go
free.  But this challenge is to the death. >

Riker nodded.  "I know.  But I won't take his life.
That may be your way...but it is not the way of MY

Finally speaking, the Kora'nai clutched his wrist
in an attempt to staunch the bleeding.  < Then your
companion will die. >

Two warriors suddenly appeared behind Deanna.  One
grasped her arms and held them behind her.  The other
placed a dagger to her throat, ready to carry out the
execution on command.

~ No, Will!  Don't move, they'll hurt you.. ~ she
sent trying to free herself, but she felt weak, so
she simply stopped fighting.  Her eyes were locked
with Will's, full of despair but brave enough for
any action.

~ Deanna! ~  Will moved to go to her defense, but
stopped when the warrior with the dagger pressed the
weapon against her throat, hard enough to cause her
tears to flow due to the pain.

"Just don't move..... my love...."  She was talking
to him.  Dea was choking with tears, but pleading
him not to move with her eyes.

Will was a fighter, but he was no killer.  Despite
his years in Starfleet, he could count in single
digits the number of lives he had taken directly,
where his hand held the weapon or pulled the trigger
that sent someone into Death's embrace.  He had
always regreted having to extinguish another's life
so that he or someone else may live.

As he looked at the Kora'nai, the coander searched
himself for that same regret, and came away lacking.
Where there should have been an internal moral battle
waged, there was only calm assuredness at what had
to be done.  If it came down between killing a petty
tyrant to save Deanna's life, or letting said tyrant
live because of his personal principles and losing
Deanna in the process...

"No contest," Will whispered as he walked towards the
now kneeling ruler.

The Kora'nai rose on wobbly legs, smiling defiantly.
< I was wrong about you.  You aren't as weak as-- >

Kicking him in the shin before he could rise, Will
knocked the ruler back onto his knees.  "I'm glad I
disappointed you," he growled, placing a blade
against the Kora'nai's neck.

"NO! Willam, NO!...." Dea shouted gaining new
strength from a source unknown to her, struggling
with the guard, but he gripped her tighter and the
blade came dangerously close to cutting open the
veins on her neck, finishing her words in choking.

Will raised the blade into the air, prepared to
bring it down for the killing blow.  Over the bond,
he felt all of Deanna's emotions, pleading for him
to find some other way to end this.

He shook his head.  ~ I have no choice. ~

"Yes, you do... my love... you do..." she said
almost whispering, as well as sending the thought
along the bond.

He took a deep breath and swung...only to be knocked
off his feet as an explosion rocked the ground.

Deanna fell on the ground with the man that was
holding her and he lost grip on her.

Seconds later, the doors to the Citadel were blasted
inwards and off their hinges by yet another
explosion.  Before the smoke and falling debris
could settle, two squads of Cardassians swarmed in,
lancing the air with disruptor fire at anything that

Deanna was deafened for a moment, and she felt
someone else pulling her to stand up.  It was Will,
smiling at her, and with the same thoughts of escape
they went out of the Citadel quickly, carefully
avoiding Cardassians on their way.

Their challenge forgotten, the Kora'nai scrambled
to his feet.  The challenge now forgotten, he had
to address the situation with the new intruders.
< Go! > he ordered the warriors.  < Stop them! >

When the Kora'nai looked for Riker, he only found
a pair of blades lying on the ground.  Looking for
the woman, he saw the comander leading her away
through the chaos...

Tempered bond
part 10

Will and Deanna took two nearest v'rasts and
hopping in their saddles they pushed them into
a fast gallop.  As soon as they reached the
shuttle, Will jumped from the animal, helping
Dea get off her own.

"Ana, open the doors!  Hurry!" Will shouted.

The ramp went down and Ana's voice sounded happy to
see Will if not both of them.  [Are you okay?]

"We're fine," Will replied, moving to the Engineering
console while indicating that Deanna should take
the pilot's seat.  "But we've got to leave, and now.
What's our status?"

[Auto-repair systems have nearly repaired
everything.  In short, we're five by five.]

Deanna settled into the pilot's seat, and after
placing a few quick taps on the controls revealed
that they would be able to fly.

"Power is back on, scanners, propulsion, shields,
engines, the lot.  Ana you are the best!" Deanna
shouted in excitement.

[I aim to please, Counselor] the AI replied happily.

Sitting down into the chair at the console, Will
strapped himself in.

Dea tapped the order to start the engines, seeing
in the distance the destruction the Cardassians did
on the small Kora'nasian village.  She felt a sudden
saddness for the people there, that they didn't
deserve it.  The sweet hum of the engines and the
slow motion of rising filled her with even more
hope.  Soon they entered the stormy clouds as fast
as the shuttle could go.

Dea gave even more power to the engines just to get
away from this place.  After a while they sprang out
into the openness of space.  What greeted them was
that same ship that attacked them in the first place.
It stood there as if it was waiting just for them.

"Damn," Will whispered, his hands already moving.
>From previous encounters with the leviathan ship, he
didn't need to read the sensors to know that weapons
would be useless against it.  Knowing there was only
one thing to do, he began to reroute power to the
necessary systems.

"Comander!" she shouted.  Will's head turned in
surprise, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips,
but Dea waved her hand with a smile.  "You know what
I mean!  The systems show that we can go to transwarp
speed in a few moments."

"Well, *Counselor*," Will replied slyly, "if you'd do
the honors...let's get the hell out of here."

The mysterious ship tracked the shuttle, its weapons
trained on its target.  A beam flared out, seeking to
strike the smaller ship's left nacelle, Deanna
slightly changed the course so the beam passed
through empty space.

In the blink of an eye, the shuttle leapt into
transwarp, leaving the Kora'nasian system and its
frustrated hunter behind.

Tempered bond
Part 11

Although at transwarp, it still took hours for the
damaged shuttle to arrive at the edge of the Bajoran
system.  Almost immediately, Riker was on the
comsystem.  "This is Comander Riker on the shuttle
Phoenix to USS Enterprise."

=^= Comandar! =^=  Geordi could barely hide
his surprise.  =^= Sir, the Phoenix was due at
Libra Prime yesterday.  Command had declared you
both missing-- =^=

"All will be explained in my debriefing, Geordi,"
Will interjected.  "For now, I need you to put the
station on yellow alert.  We may have been followed
on our way here.  And clear the flight pattern for
our imminent arrival."  He winced as he touched his
side.  "And have Medical meet us as soon as we dock."

=^= Aye sir. =^=

"Phoenix out."  Closing the com, Will said,
"Deanna...take us in."

Deanna smiled, "Aye, aye Sir!" and continued to
work on course corrections, then keyed the
autopilot.  Deanna leaned back in her seat and
awaited to rest her eyes on Enterprise, their

At first it was just another distant point of light
in the blackness of space, shining as brightly as
any other star in the cosmos.  But in a matter of
fifteen minutes, Enterprise grew until it filled
the Phoenix's windows.

Releasing his seat restraints, Will moved forward
until he was standing next to the pilot's seat.
He reached down, pulled out the emergency copilot's
seat and sat.  With a deep sigh, he said, "I can almost
say with some honesty that I've never
been happier to see that ship than now."

"You can say that again.  We are home, at last."
Deanna sighed with relief.

A part of him almost regretted having to return.  So
much had changed now between them.  He tested the
bond, and wasn't surprised to find it pulsed with an
energy he had never sensed in it before.  Through
adversity they had realized something that had been
there since the moment they were bonded to one
another.  It had lain dormant, lying under the
surface, waiting for them to both find it, together.

Tenderly, Will reached over and brushed away an errant
strand of hair from Deanna's face.  ~ I was ready to
kill for you, Deanna Troi, ~ he sent over the
bond.  ~ I hope you understand that I couldn't lose
you.  Not now. ~

Deanna raised her head to meet Will's eyes she spoke
aloud gently.  "I understand, but I wouldn't let you
kill for me.  Or let yourself be killed.  I wouldn't
be able to live with that knowledge, and I suppose
you wouldn't too."

"It would have been difficult," Will admitted.  "But
not as difficult to live without you.  I'm only glad
that I didn't come to that, either way."

Dea droped her gaze.  "I sensed that it was hard for
you to drop the barriers, but when you did everything
settled in its proper place..."  Her head raised
again, her eyes spoke more.  Dea placed her hand on
his cheek following the small cut under his right
eye.  "You are hurt...."  The medkit he used to
treat her earlier laid nearby and she slowly cleaned
that and a few other cuts, placing small bandages
and fixing them with little pieces of medical tape.

Will smiled faintly at Deanna's ministrations.  She
knew as well as he that in less than an hour he'd be
in medlab, receiving the highest level of medical
care available in the sector.  But it was the
symbolism of her care for him that mattered.  So
silently, he followed each move, enjoying each touch
that Dea's hands gave him, being a good patient.

Deanna chuckled.  "Now I am playing doctor for a
while," she said looking Will from head to toe, to
find anything that she missed.  "Oh, I did miss one
spot," she said, but in the medkit there were no
bandages left.  She looked at him, and with a small
smile she leaned forward and placed a kiss just
above his upper lip, staying long enough to feel
their hearts beat at a bit faster pace.

Will's eyes had closed of their own volition at the
all too brief touch of her lips.  As they fluttered
open slowly, he met her gaze and smiled warmly.  His
fingers strayed to where she had kissed him, feeling
the warmth that still remained.  Glancing out the
window, he could see the opening for Shuttlebay One
waiting for them.

With a hint of regret, he rose and said, "I guess
I'd better let you bring us in to land, while I
check the ship's final status."  He was still
rubbing his lip.  "Thank you.  I'm all ready
starting to feel better.  Grandmother would have
said you were a quick learner."

Deanna chuckled.  "I bet she would."  Turning in
her seat to face the windows, she disengaged the
autopilot and entered the sequence for landing in
the Shuttlebay One.

"Welcome home... " she said smiling.

Will turned to leave, but then paused, leaned over and
planted a quick kiss on Deanna's neck.  Before she
could respond, he climbed to the upper level of the
flight deck and darted through the entry hatch
towards the aft of the ship.

Through Dea went a thousand shivers but she managed
to stay calm, with a small smile tugging at the
corners of her lips.

Tempered bond
Part 12

The medical check-up lasted for nearly an hour,
revealing that there was no residue of Dea's broken
ribs and leg, as well as the cut above her eye, was
to be seen.  The comander had needed one or two ribs
to be regenerated and a few other small cuts.  Other
than that both were in excellent health.  After
changing into fresh duty uniforms, they were a bit
tired but alright.  They cast a few glances across
the medical bay as if cheking that the other was
still in the room, even though they sensed each
others presence.

The debriefing lasted an hour...an eternity in Will's
mind.  He was exhausted, and he could tell that
Deanna was as well.  Sleep was a luxury neither had
been able to afford over the past day, and thus, both
suffered through the multitude of questions
Security placed to them.

Will knew that little would come from their questions,
other than to let them know what had transpired in
the Kora'nasian system.  The next action
would remain a mystery, and his rogue Cardassians
wouldn't be found until they were ready to be.  The
only thing productive that the comander could do was
order three starships to the Kora'nasian system, to
offer aid and assistance to the local inhabitants.

~ However many of them remain, ~ he thought grimly as
Worf brought the debriefing to a close.  If history
were any lesson, the Kora'nasians may have seen their
last starbreak today.

As Data and Deanna left, Will stayed behind with
Worf, going over a few logistical details.  He had
taken the rest of the day off, with orders for
Deanna to do the same.  They had planned on being on
Libra Prime for nearly a week, so one day mattered
little in the grand scheme of things.

Deanna spoke to Data briefly, thanking him for
his wishes to rest.  She turned to leave, but
stopped.  Instead she paced slowly in front of the
conference room, waiting.

As Will and Worf stepped out of the conference room,
he wasn't surprised to find that Deanna was there,
waiting.  For once, he didn't doubt that she was
waiting for him.  Worf obviously felt the same
as he excused himself and disappeared around a

Finally alone, Will and Deanna walked and eventually
rode a turbolift in companionable silence.  Once in
the turbolift, he took her hand, caressing it with
his thumb.  Very little needed to be said between
them now, as everything they could ever say or feel
was laid clear to them both.

The turbolift arrived at the deck where Will's
quarters were located.  As the doors opened, Will
continued to hold her hand, pulling her gently behind
him.  The moment he had seen her waiting for him
outside the conference room, he had forgotten about
sleep, about his hunger for food.  An entirely
different desire caused his heart to pound as he
led Deanna down the corridor.

Her mind was only filled with sudden relief, and
extreme joy.  She let herself be led, gently smiling
all the way.

Coming to his door, Will paused, turning to peer into
Deanna's dark eyes.  Raising his hand to stroke her
cheek, he sent across the bond, ~ Am I assuming the
wrong thing? ~

Dea paused a bit, still smiling.  ~ Willam... ~ she
sent feeling that same wish forming in both of them.

~ Stop talking and kiss me.......Imzadi..~ she sent
slipping one hand behind his neck, pulling him into a
gentle but passionate kiss.  Will leaned on the door,
holding Dea with one hand and trying to find the
door panel with the other.

With some difficulty, Will found the panel and tapped
in his access code.  As the doors opened, they
stumbled inside, losing a bit of balance, breaking
away from their kiss.  Will took Dea into his arms,
continuing their kissing through his living area.
Walking backwards, Dea was surprised when that back
of her knees collided into his bed.  Adhering to her
orders, Will wordlessly began removing her uniform.
His eyes rarely strayed from hers as he discarded
each article, tossing it aside without a care for
where it landed.  With each area of skin that he
exposed, he planted a kiss there...her neck, a
shoulder, the crook of an elbow, the flatness of her
stomach just above her navel.  No area went ignored
by his exploring lips.

Deanna's body responed in full strength, giving
and taking, enjoying.  Her mind opened totally
enveloping both of them in a whirl of passion.  Her
mind issued one word in her native language that
meant so much and was so intimate: ~...Imzadi....~