"Gotta Have a Sense of Humor"

Rating: PG or G

Synopsis: A little surprise for Will and a sense of humor for Deanna. Pre-Nemesis.

Disclaimer: You know the drill.

No sooner did Will Riker walk around the corner of the cooridor then Deanna Troi stepped before him, effectively blocking his path. She held something behind her back and fixed a grin on her face.

"Hello handsome," she said. Her cheeks were slightly blushed and the pride inside her was readily showing in her eyes.

It only took Will about two seconds before he figured out what she was up to. He crosed his arms in front of him and smiled down at her expression. "Why Miss Troi, what a surprise that you would track me down in the middle of the cooridor just to give me my birthday present."

Deanna's left eyebrow rose, a mock imitation of Will's. It was just a little something that she had picked up from him in the last three years since the Briar Patch. It was one of many things, including the aquirement of a broader sense of humor. Then again, he had picked up a few things from her as well.

"Mr. Riker, what makes you think that I'm here to give you your birthday gift other than your inflated ego?" Deanna said.

Riker let out a huff of air and shifted his stance. "Okay, you win. I was just heading to my quarters. It's been a long day and all I want to do is shower and go to sleep."

Will sidestepped the petite Beazoid and continued along to his destination. Deanna simply stood in her spot for a moment before running to catch up with him. "Shower and sleep? Now that's a birthday celebration worth remembering."

"Aha! So this is about my birthday," Riker said. He added a little bounce to his step. An outward sign that he knew he had been right.

Deanna pursed her lips and sighed the sigh of defeat. "Since you never give up, you forced it out of me. Yes, this is about your birthday. But, you can't fall asleep or else you won't get your present."

"Oh really?" he said. His look obviously portrayed what he was thinking. However, it was not what she had in mind.

Troi swatted his arm and let out an incredulous sound. "I can't believe you. Egostistical and incorrigible. It's a wonder that I'm still with you."

Will stopped in his tracks and swung his gaze at her. "What?"

Her eyes suddenly grew big and her heart rate went up. She unconsciously took a small step backwards but never took her eyes away from his. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. It seems that I don't quite have your sense of humor down yet."

"No, apparently you don't," Will said. His mouth began to turn up into a huge grin and he let out a chuckle. The look on her face was priceless. He wish he had a photo of it to keep forever. Deanna was trying not to smile at her own embarrassment for not being able to tell that he was playing with her. But he made it impossible. Soon they were both laughing and it was only a matter of a few seconds before they were standing inside his quarters.

As soon as the doors shut, Will turned from Deanna to the disaster that was his living area. "Sorry about the mess. I've been too busy lately to keep anything clean. You want something to drink?"

Deanna laughed at the mess strewn about his quarters. A jacket or two hanging onto a chair for dear life, empty glasses in random places, PADDS lazily stacked on the coffee table and couch, socks and shoes all over the floor. It was a wonder he could still walk in the midst of it. "Do I even want to see the bedroom?"

"Not a chance," he said. Riker handed her a hot chocolate, knowing that she'd want one even if she didn't ask. He had never known her to turn one down.

"Thank you," she said as she took the hot beverage from him. "I haven't had one of these in a couple of days."

Will quickly began straightening his quarters while his Imzadi savored the richness that only chocolate could bring. "A couple of days?" he said. "Are you sick or something?" He bent down and grabbed a handful of socks.

Deanna smiled at him affectiontely and set her beverage on the table. "No, just too busy I suppose." The look she gave him was pointed. In fact he realized for the first time that they had both been too busy to even see each other outside of work for the past couple of days. That had to be a new record for them. In the thee years that they had been together, they had been inseperable. Of course there had been the occasional canceled date, but nothing more than that. It was really remarkable in a way that they hadn't gotten sick of each other.

"Why don't I help you clean up? You look like you could use it," Deanna said. She carefully placed the wrapped package that was behind her back on the table beside her hot chocolate. It didn't go unnoticed by Will, but he didn't say anything.

Their eyes were locked and it was like they were in a trance. "Do you know how much I love you?" Will said. Deanna slowly came toward him her smile growing by the second. He was standing there as still as a statue, his arms filled with dirty socks and shoes.

When Deanna reached him she lifted her hand to his face and smoothed back a fallen tendril of hair. "I can always feel it. I know that it's every bit as much as I love you."

Will dipped his head into her palm and couldn't keep from giving her a small smile. "You must really love me if you want to pick up my dirty clothes."

She laughed at that and took the socks and shoes from him. "I'll take care of these if you'll get the dirty dishes." She watched out of the corner of her eye as Will began to pick up the glasses that he had carelessly placed throughout his quarters. He really must have been busy because he usually kept his quarters relatively clean.

Troi dumped his socks in the recycle bin and then bravely ventured into his bedroom to put his shoes in the closet. "William Riker!" she called from his room, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

Will laughed and grabbed the two jackets on the chair, heading to join Deanna. "Told you!"

When he entered his bedroom, Deanna was standing before him with hands on her hips which accentuated the expression on her face. "How do you live like this?" She was referring to the pile of clothes on his unmade bed and yet even more dirty dishes on the nightstand.

He shrugged and threw the jackets he was holding onto the pile on his bed. "I just ignore it. I figure that when the sheets start rotting, it's time to change them."

"You really need someone to train you how to properly clean. And by the way, that's just disgusting," Deanna said. She wrinkled up her nose and moved past him, out of the bedroom as quickly as possible.

Will raised his left eyebrow and followed her out of the room. "You're not even close to having my sense of humor down yet."

Deanna spun on her heel and walked backwards towards her hot chocolate, facing him. "I'm serious, Will. If we ever live together you are going to learn how to clean."

Will groaned, "My training won't involve anything like hanging from trees will it?"

Troi reached for her drink and took a sip while making it obvious she was trying to think about something. "I'm sure I could come up with something," she said.

Will sat down on his couch and surveyed his newly cleaned living room. He sighed and plopped back into the cushions, momentarily closing his eyes. "Well, while your trying to come up with that, why don't you come up with my birthday present that you're doing such a good job of hiding by the way."

Deanna thew a look at him but reached behind her for the gift. It was wrapped in shiny blue paper with a simple white bow adorning the top. It was small enough to fit in one hand which had Will very curious. Normally she gave him things bigger in size. "It took me a few weeks to decide on this, but I think you'll like it."

Will hooked his arm around her waste and pulled her down to the couch beside him. "I know I'll love it." He gently took the small package from her and resisted the urge to shake it. He just had a feeling that this wasn't something to shake.

It seemed to Deanna that he took forever taking the paper off. When he finally reached the box, Will could see her wringing her hands in her lap. He could also feel a certain apprehension from her, but he concentrated on the gift.

With one smooth motion he opened the top of the box to reveal a deck of cards. But these weren't like any cards he'd ever seen before. The numbers and symbols were fancy with alsmot a royal look to them. He carefully took the top card out of the box to examine it more closely. "Deanna, these are beautiful. I've never seen anything like them."

"Turn it over," she said quietly. Almost too quietly. Will glanced at her and then slowly rotated the card in his hand. On the back was a black background with two gold circles intertwined in the middle and a verse of Betazin in golden script below them. Luckily he knew just enough of the language to be able to read it.

When he finsished, he swallowed hard to keep back the emotions that were threatening him. "I guess I won't be playing with these," he whispered.

Deanna ran a hand over the back of his head and down his back. She leaned into him, looking down at the cards with him. "These cards are just for you and I, Imzadi. For those nights when it's just you and I and we feel like a game of blackjack or something."

Will let out a laugh and took a few more cards out of the box to look at them. "I don't think I want to mess these up. Maybe we can just look at them."

"Only if you say yes," Deanna said. She moved back a few inches only so she could see his eyes. He turned to look at her and then down at the back of the cards he was holding. Will read the script again which read as 'the joining of two souls.'

He smiled at them and then at her. "Am I to assume that these are an early wedding present?" Deanna linked her arms through his and returned his smile.

"You could say that," she said. "But you only get to keep them if there's going to be a wedding."

Will looked at the cards again and placed them back in the box. "I don't know. I guess that I need to think about it."

Deanna sat back and swatted at his arm for the second time that day. "I'm only kidding!" Will said in defense, laughing at her antics.

She scooted closer to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I know. I think I'm starting to get your sense of humor."

Will reached over and carressed her cheek. "I think you are," he said.

This time it was Deanna who dipped her head into his palm. She returned his carress with one of her own at the nape of his neck. "So...will you marry me or not?"

Will's face lit up into his famous grin and his eyes bore into hers. "Are you going to drill me on proper cleaning techniques?"

"Will!" Deanna said, "I appreciate your sense of humor but not when our future is hanging in the balance."

Riker laughed again at her self-contained predicament but then sobered when their eyes met. "Without a doubt, I will marry you, Imzadi."

Deanna's eyes welled up and she kissed him with all the strength of her heart. He returned the kiss in kind and they both heard 'I love you' in their heads. When their lips parted, their foreheads did not. "I don't have a headband for you...yet."

Deanna gripped him harder as a tear stained her cheek. "As long as I have you, that doesn't matter to me."

Will pulled back from their intimate embrace and neatly stacked the deck of cards on the table in front of them. "Actually, I've been working on one for a few weeks. I've already put in a lot of hours on it so you're going to get a headband."

Deanna smiled and took his hand. "I can't wait to see it. But there's still one other thing that I haven't done yet tonight."

Riker grinned at her tongue in cheek and leaned closer to her. "What might that be?"

Deanna shifted so that she could fully embrace him and them moved her mouth to his ear. Will felt her face brush up against his and a warm breath of air brush against his ear. "Happy birthday."