"Quantum Flux and Life Deluxe"


"Kill him." The man's arms were being firmly held back against his
will. His head dangled down in a defeated fashion, savoring only a brief
moment when he didn't feel pain in every inch of his body. It had been so
long...since...since everything had made sense. So long, had it been, when he
knew freedom. He had been here for years. Just how many years was the
question. He had lost track after the first few weeks. The shear agony of the
torture and mind games was enough to kill a man. For him though, it just made
him lose track of time.
The thought forced a slight smile onto his face...one not missed by
his captors. One of the guards grabbed a fistful of the man's hair and
swiftly jerked his head up. The motion made a cracking sound in the back of
his neck. All the guards cared to do was laugh and then lash him ten times
across the face. This broke the mans fragile bones in his cheek...they
had been broken numerous times before. Fresh bloody wounds left pieces of
shredded skin. The guards were expertly proficient in what they did. "Who are
you to smile in the middle of a trial! You are not worthy to even live!
That...is why you are about to dye a death fit for the lowest scum ever
The guards and spectators alike all laughed and shouted mocking words
into his bloody, broken face. The man had tears running down his cheeks, but
he could not feel them, for his face was dead numb from the beating. As the
tears fell over his wounds and dropped to the ground, they were drops of
This is it, thought the man. He was about to dye and there was no one
or no way he could possibly stop it. Funny how many times he could have died
in the past, living the dangerous life that he had. Now, he was going to dye
like this? Such a foolish death it was too. All for the sake of a little game
of power. A game of chance....one that was unfairly played and unfairly
decided.....not by his doing, however.
The judge stood up and towered over everyone there. "Silence! I said
kill him! Get him out of my sight before I get too disgusted at his
The guards did not wait for the man to get his feet about him to
walk. They dragged him by his hair and the cuffs around his wrist. His wrist
were already badly bruised and the pressure that was being applied to them
now, nearly caused him to pass out. He cried out in agony, but held onto the
thought that the pain would soon be over.
They brought him to a chamber...one that he did not recognize, but
had heard screams from every day. This is where his life would end. It was
the death chamber. Several units of destruction were strategically placed
throughout the room. They shoved him against a strange looking wall, unlike
one he'd ever seen before. The composite structure looked like it was a good
conductor of electricity. Immediately he knew what was about to happen.
His head was pinned back hard, causing a swell of pain in his head
like he'd never felt before. His hands and feet were roughly pinned against
the wall to where he was totally lifted off the ground. The judge suddenly
appeared a few meters in front of the wall and threw back his head in
He spread his arms wide as if showing the room to the man for the
last time. "May what ever god you believe in......have mercy on your soul."
The evil joy in his voice made the man wish he were already dead. The judge
stood by, patiently waiting for the wall to be activated. When the guards
were ready, the judge nodded his approval and the switch was thrown.
The man's blue eyes were wide with literal shock and the last thing
he felt was an awesome wave of an electrical current traveling through his
body. At the last possible second, his heart exploded in his chest....leaving
nothing but a lifeless body and a wandering soul.

Will Riker opened his eyes. He had been asleep for a while....he
could tell by how heavy his eyelids felt as he attempted to open them. In the
distance, he heard children running in an impressive green field, now that he
looked at it. As a matter of fact, his whole surrounding was impressive. He
slowly stood gazing in awesome wonder at the bluest sky he'd ever seen. The
grass, plants, and trees were all a deep, rich green.
"Beautiful...isn't it?" The voice came from behind him, but he didn't
bother in turning around. Instead, he closed his eyes and blew air, angrily,
from his lips.
"I thought you'd enjoy this little setting. This is one of our
residence's favorite spots to spend time. After all....there is a lot of it
to go around."
Will frowned and finally turned to see the person...or primal
lifeform...he never wanted to see again. "Okay.....I have had just about all
of this I can take! First, it was another Enterprise, then it was Alaska,
then it was Betazed! Not to mention the last little adventure I just had
where I died! Now just where in the heck am I now!"
"My, my, how we get so set in our ways, in our old age. Relax,
Commander....you'll like this one. Look over there. You see several children
playing, and a few women watching them."
Will gritted his teeth and muttered something under his breath, but
looked nonetheless.
"What was that?" The primal lifeform had heard something muttered but
couldn't quite make it out. Although a prediction would've proven right
should he had given one.
Will snapped his head back around. "I said....I would enjoy it! I
would enjoy it! I have never in my life, enjoyed anything that you had to do
with! Not then, not now, not ever! I just want to go home!"
"You are so spoiled. I should have known that nothing like this would
ever satisfy you. Jean-Luc was the same way. I tried to give a chance to live
all the other lives he never was able to. But he just turned right around and
spit in my face. Fine, Riker. I'll just leave you to this reality, and when
you decide you want to leave, let me know and I'll arrange it."
A bright flash filled the immediate area around them and Will
shielded his eyes. When he brought his hands back down, he found that he was
alone except for the people in the background.
"Q! Get back here now! I don't want to stay here!" He waited but
nothing happened, and finally, Will settled back against a tree trunk and
laid his head back. The motion reminded him of what he had just gone through
with the wall. That was one feeling he would never forget. How in the world
was he going to get out of this one? His eyes drifted shut and soon he was
dozing peacefully, with all memories forgotten....for the moment.

Chapter 2

A loud clap of thunder caused Riker to practically jump off the
ground. He found himself still under the tree, rain harshly clapping against
his face. Trying to slow his heartbeat down, he stood and gathered his
bearings. Yep, he was gonna be stuck here for a while. Anger swelled up
inside him as he thought about this little game Q insisted on playing with
He was clueless on how in the world to get back home....Q hadn't
provided anymore information than what was absolutely necessary. The rain
began pounding harder making it increasingly difficult to see.
Suddenly, Riker felt something tightly grab onto his leg, clinging
for dear life. Startled he reached down to pull it off, but stopped short
when he saw it was a little boy. The boy's blue eyes stared up at him....Will
had a feeling where this was going. It had happened in Alaska too. No sense
in making another fool of himself, so he decided to play along, like he knew
exactly what was happening.
"Daddy!" the boy called for him in the pounding rain, Will picked the
boy up and swung him to his side just in time to see Deanna running up to
them, with a soaking wet blanket in hand. Apparently it was the one that she
and the other women had been sitting on.
"The storm snuck up on us fast! "she yelled over the thunder,
"Spencer is a little scared of the noise! Lets get home!"
Will nodded and started to walk forward, only to run into Deanna who
stood steadfast. "Will! Where are you going? Our house is the other way!"
she pointed in the right direction.
"Oh! Right!" He mentally kicked himself for not being more cautious
and turned the opposite direction, beginning to jog. He didn't have a clue as
to where he was going so he waited for Deanna to catch up and he stayed at
her side letting her lead the way, whether she knew she was or not.
This wasn't the first time that Q had put him in this situation...it
happened in Alaska, except there, they had a daughter. On Betazed, they had
just been married, then there was the whole prison thing....well, she wasn't
in that one at all. Now, this....wherever he was, he was married to Deanna
again, and they had a son named....Spencer? Yes, that's what she had called
In these realities, he always seemed to live several years in them at
a time before Q decided to change everything again. That's what he didn't
get. According to these realities, he would have been gone from the
Enterprise for at least fifteen to twenty years, but yet he hadn't aged a
day. It was a difficult concept to master, yet Q seemed to have it mastered
to perfection.
Will saw a large house come into view. It had some houses surrounding
it, but for the most part, it was pretty secluded. Just to make sure he was
heading toward the right house, he let Deanna get a step or two ahead. Will
said a silent thank you as Deanna took the initiative and punched in the code
to unlock the front door.
All three of them stepped inside, dripping puddles of water all over
the floor. Both parents stopped catching their breath, as Will set Spencer
down. Deanna was freezing, Will could tell, as she shivered, crossing her
arms to try and warm herself.
Will wasn't quite sure of what to do, after all, he was living in
someone else's reality.....he was living in someone else's house. He decided
to take a risk anyway, just so Deanna and the boy wouldn't think he had gone
crazy. "Deanna, why don't you go upstairs and change into your robe and I'll
get junior here nice and dry, then start a fire so we can warm up."
"Sounds good to me, I'll get some hot chocolate too." She bent down
to address their three year old boy, "Spencer, why don't you go with Daddy
and get some dry clothes on, okay? You'll feel much better when you do."
The boy nodded and looked up at his father, waiting for him to pick
him up. Will looked at Deanna first, then to Spencer and finally decided what
the child wanted. He picked his son up and trotted up the stairs, Deanna in
Ten minutes later, Deanna came down to the living room to see father
and son in matching blue robes, poking at the fire in the fireplace. "How
about some hot chocolate for my two favorite men?"
Will smiled as Spencer excitedly clapped his hands, eagerly nodding
his head. Riker laughed and brought the boy into a huge bear hug while
simultaneously tickling him. Spencer laughed and squirmed in his father's
When Deanna returned with three steaming mugs, she found the two
playfully wrestling on the floor. She shook her head and laughed, "You two
are going to end up breaking something....stop wrestling for a minute and
drink your hot chocolate."
Will pulled the laughing boy off the ground, "Okay...time out. We'll
finish this later."
He sat on the couch next to Deanna and Spencer crawled into his
mother's lap. Deanna hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, "Here you go
sweetheart....be careful, it's hot." Deanna helped him take a sip then set
his mug back onto the coffee table.
Spencer squirmed out of his mother's lap, deciding he wanted Will and
went back to his father, climbing onto his lap. Will held him and laid down
on the couch. Deanna pulled his feet onto her lap and smiled at both of
them. Spencer was laying on top of Will, his head on Will's chest and his
arms resting on either shoulder. His little feet were sprawled out on either
side of Will's torso.
Riker looked down to see Spencer's eyes drifting shut, it was
probably the boy's nap time, he guessed. Deanna stroked the bottom of her
husband's feet with a finger, "So, how is the lecture coming along?"
Will looked momentarily confused but quickly bounced back, "Which
lecture?" He asked innocently.
Deanna smiled, "The one for the strategic defense class at the
Academy. You told me you were having some trouble gathering a lot of notes on
"Oh, yea...that one. Well,.....it's still not coming as smoothly as
I'd like it to, but at least some progress is being made."
Deanna sighed, the warmth of the fire was very soothing. "Will it be
ready for tomorrow night?"
Will felt a wave of anxiety well up in him, but he covered it, hoping
Deanna would pass it off as general nervousness. "It'll be ready. I might
have to do some improvising, but it'll get done."
Great, he thought. Now I have a lecture to come up with by
tomorrow...this should be interesting.
"Glad you're enjoying it." Will was startled at the deep voice behind
him. Q....not again. He traced Q's path around the couch with his eyes.
Confused, he looked at Deanna to see if she could see the unwanted visitor.
"Don't bother, Commander. This is just like all the other ones...she
can't see or here me, or sense me. But she can you...and with great ease I
might add," Q's mocking smile played on his lips, much to Will's disgust.
Will caught Deanna watching him peculiarly. He glanced from one to
the other, trying to decide how to handle this.
Q leaned against the wall and kept his smile, "Go ahead, pretend I'm
not even here. I'll just sit back and observe."
Will wanted to say anything and everything that was not nice. But,
present company included, he couldn't exactly do that. Instead he smiled at
his 'wife'. "What?"
"I don't know...I was hoping you could tell me."
Will sat up, steadying Spencer as he did, so as to not wake him.
"What do you mean?"
Deanna's expression became more and more confused by the second, "I
can't explain it....I'm sensing something from you, maybe? It's very
powerful....it couldn't be from you. No...it..." she clutched her head
momentarily, then lowered her hands just as Will reached out to her. Slowly,
she steadied her breathing.
"Deanna? Are you all right?" He now sat as close as he could to her.
"Will? What were you looking at with a strange look on your face?"
"Nothing.....I was just thinking."
Deanna shook here head, "No you weren't, you were clearly
concentrating on something particular. Oh...Will, let me take Spencer
upstairs, I think all of that excitement woke him up. That was strange, I'm
going to have to find out what I just felt."
Will looked down to see Spencer's face shape into a very cranky look
and he handed him off to Deanna. She afforded him one last worried glance
before exiting the room.
When she had left the room, he whirled at Q. "What are you doing? Are
you crazy! No...wait, you are crazy. I can't handle both you and her at the
same time! How many times have I told you that?" He screamed, but kept his
voice level down, so Deanna would not hear.
Q laughed and began pacing the room, demanding control. "How many
times have I actually listened to you? None. How many times do I have to
listen to you? None. How many times will I ever listen to you? None."
Will shook his head, "Q...she was sensing you. Surely you could tell?"
Q's smug look said it all, "Come now Riker. I'm in control...there's
no possible way she could sense me without me allowing it. I don't know how
you humans get such ideas."
Will plopped on the couch, feeling totally inadequate. He heard
Deanna's footsteps coming back down the hall upstairs, from Spencer's room,
"Please just go. If I have to go through all of this, at least make part of
it pleasurable."
Q smirked, "Oh, it will be. But I do enjoy you two so much. I love
taking pointers from you two. It helps me in my marriage more than you know.
The wife can be impossible sometimes."
"I wonder why. I couldn't care less about your marriage...besides, I
thought you didn't listen to me, or follow my example in any way."
Angrily, Q snapped at him, "So I don't. The truth is...I enjoy seeing
you out of touch with everything familiar. You're stuck on it Riker. You have
been for years. It used to not be this way. I'm just trying to help."
"If you want to help, put me back where I belong."
"So you are, " Q spread his arms wide, jut like he had in the death
chamber. He flashed out of sight just before Deanna reentered the room.
Quickly, Will cleared his mind of all thoughts angry and focused on
the more pleasant ones. This seemed to calm Deanna almost immediately. She
went to him and they tightly embraced each other. Will had a general feeling
of discomfort. For Deanna, it was a feeling of insecurity, but being in
Will's arms diminished it greatly.
Deanna looked up into his azure eyes, "Are you okay?"
Will nodded, although his eyes betrayed his answer. Deanna knew he
wouldn't talk now, so she settled for just being there, lending him support
in whatever way he needed it.

Just above them and in the shadows, I lurched, watching them in every
detail, smiling at every move they made. Me, learn something from them? The
single thought is amusing. Little does Riker know what he is getting
into...or what I am getting him into. Yes....you....sit back and enjoy. This
is going to get....as Riker suggested....very, very, interesting. Watch.

Chapter 3

Darkness, clouds, light, then nothing. An indescribable voice shattered
through the senseless surroundings. "NO!" Into eternity it went.
Nothing and no one was there. But someone was. He was alive, but he
was dead. She was alive but dead. It was alive but dead. Death? What is that?
What is life? What is that? Why can't you understand? Why don't you see that
you will never be like us? Give up....don't try. The voice laughs louder,
dominating all. No...it can't happen, it won't happen. Not if I can help it.
You are so ignorant. Nothing will be like you want. You will conform
yourself to us. You know nothing. You can feel nothing. You are numb,
incapable of emotion, yet you inflict it on others insatiably. You are the
scum of the universe....you are the ruler of all. You are good all of the
time...you are bad all of the time. No one can explain. Not even us. Don't
try...give up.
We will show you....but you will not see. We will tell you, but you
will not hear. You will listen, but reject. You will seek information, but
not learn. You are too close-minded. You will not understand. But, I must
show you. It is for the good of many, and the good of few....or the one...or
the two.
Welcome to my world....our world. it can't really be called a world.
It is a place of many things. Welcome to the Q Continuum.
Ah...you made it. I talked to you earlier, but you have to understand
before we go any further. Our purpose is to learn about anything and
everything inferior to us....which would be anything and everything. Every
aspect of every situation of every lifeform, of every race...it is our goal
to learn. No matter how, that is not relevant to what we do. It's what we
find out. That is relevant.
For humans...I chose Starfleet to be ideal examples of the best in
humans. They are courageous, so they think anyway, in touch with everything
around them. They have the knowledge of the universe. Not to say we haven't
experimented on others, but the best of the best is what we prefer. So
naturally...we go to....you got it. The Enterprise.
In the most intimate of relationships between humans...the studies
prove the most interesting and most complicated. Now, who else better than
our beloved First officer and Counselor? The Imzadi bond they share goes way
beyond the normal marriage of any human couple. That is why it is so
intriguing. And, yes, that is why I'm giving Riker so much trouble right
now....well, it's not trouble from my standpoint. It's research. This is
going to be so much fun! Let's look in....

"Mmm....Will?" Deanna softly whispered as she stretched long and slow
beside her sleeping husband. Looking at the chronometer beside their bed, she
saw it was three in the morning. Smiling, she sat up. The darkness that
filled the room was only illuminated by the twilight of the moon generously
shining through the thin curtains on the French doors that led to the small
balcony on the back of their house.
Will had at first protested against having a balcony, but Deanna
insisted that she would love spending her evenings looking at the
stars...especially since they didn't work among them anymore. That was the
hardest decision that they had to make in their marriage.....giving up
starship life, that is. With the constant threats on the Federation, it
wasn't exactly the best place to be raising a child. When they had found out
about Spencer, they decided to move to safer positions in Fleet.
She looked over at the still form of her husband and caused the smile
to broaden. He was so adorable as he slept. She could get a good sense of
what he looked like when he was a small child. Usually when she woke up
during the night, she woke him as well to talk. It seemed to be their quality
time since the didn't get to spend much time together during the day.
Laying back down, she snuggled into the covers behind her husband,
wrapping her arms around his well formed body. She laid her head up against
his neck and kissed his bare shoulder. Maybe she wouldn't wake him tonight.
He had stayed up rather late working on his lecture. She ran her fingers up
and down one of his arms, gently soothing him in his sleep. She was so
blessed to have him and their son. Maybe talking about adding a daughter
wouldn't be such a bad idea. She'd have to bring that up next
time.........what was that? Her fingers abruptly stopped their motion as
panic slowly rose inside of her.
It was here again. She couldn't understand....this sense was awfully
familiar. Her eyes widened as she realized..."Will....Imzadi, wake up." She
shook him urgently, wanting to warn him. Could this have been what he was
acting so distracted about earlier? "Will...."
Will stirred slightly, raking a limp hand through his hair, but
keeping his eyes closed. "Hmm," came his sleepy reply.
Deanna was disappointed that he didn't wake up fully, but at least he
was awake, "Will....Q...I can feel him here. He's here, Will! Wake up!"
Her shouting broke him out of his sleepy daze. He sat up, forcing his
eyelids to stay open. "What...Q? Where?"
"I don't know...Will ... do something!" She had a tight gold on him,
shaking him.
"Whoa...hold on!" Will shook her off of him and proceeded to calm her
down, "Deanna...stop. Listen to me. If Q were here, I would know."
"So you do." Will's head snapped up and he looked at the doors...as
ghostlike figure gliding through the air at them. Will's horror matched
Deanna's for a second, before he realized what was happening. It was Q....she
had sensed him....but how?
Calmly, he turned back to Deanna. Obviously she didn't see Q because
she didn't react. 'Deanna...sweetheart, go into Spencer's room and make sure
he's okay. I'm sure he is...just go for a minute. It'll help calm your
nerves. I'll handle this."
"But, Will, won't you need me here? I'm the one sensing him. I won't
leave you...not now."
Will's patients for this whole disastrous fiasco was running a thin
line. He forced his anger toward Deanna to stay buried, knowing this wasn't
the best time to bring an argument into play.
"Deanna, trust me and just do it...please?" Will's eyes bored
straight into her. He was doing his best to ignore the rather disturbing
menace hanging in the air just a few feet from the foot of the bed.
Deanna hesitantly nodded and scurried for her robe. Immediately she
was out the door to check on their son.
Will for one had to play cool for Q's sake...or his own, he wasn't
sure. Casually, he leaned back against his pillows, opting not to take a
defensive position. "Are you happy now, Q? Deanna can sense you. I'm sure
you're thrilled that you scared her to death...not to mention me. What is
with the ghost look? To tired of taking on our primitive human form?"
The sheer white figure floating easily to close more distance between
them. It spoke, and when it did, the voice was quiet and smooth, nothing like
he'd expected. "Is that what you call yourselves?"
Will became perplexed. If this was Q, he was doing a very good job of
playing something else. Will now took a more defensive position and sat up,
leaving his arms loose and ready for action. "Do we call ourselves, human?"
"No," said the being, "primitive?"
Will now stood his full height, but the being did not back away...not
even an inch. "All right, Q. Just give it up. I never was interested in
The figure suddenly gave off a bright glow and then settled back into
it's former glory. "Who is this, Q that you keep naming me?"
Will's anger surfaced in full blast, "Q! Enough! No more games!"
The being did back away now but the illuminated brightness returned
in fury as it lasted several seconds this time.
The ghost spoke again in a calm voice. "You know of, Q. That much is
certain now. I had to know. You call yourselves primitive. You are not.
Although you have much advancement to undergo, you are a civilized race. More
civilized than the Q in some respects. I must go now. But I will be watching."
Will called out as the ghost began to fade away, "Wait! Who or what
are you?! I need--"
The being was gone. Will heard a noise at the bedroom door but he
knew who it was. Deanna hurried to his side with Spencer half asleep in her
arms. "Will? Who were you talking to?"
Riker knew nothing could be hidden anymore. She had to know...heck
she already did as far as he was concerned. "I don't know. But, I do know
that no harm was done...nor will it be done. I don't know how...but
everything is fine. Lets just get back to bed. I've got to get to the Academy
early in the morning."
Spencer's eyes drifted open, "Daddy....sleep with you?"
Will's eyes locked with Deanna's and she smiled an affirmative. Will
held out his arms for the boy as Deanna passed him along to his father. Will
tucked him in the middle of the bed as Deanna crawled in opposite. Spencer
was out cold in a couple of minutes, but his parents had too much on their
minds to sleep. Deanna looked into Will's eyes over Spencer with a worried
look. He reached for Deanna's hand at the same she went for his. Their
fingers intertwined with each other and nothing was said. Soon, with their
hands locked together over their son, sleep feel upon them.
In the distance of his mind, Riker heard a voice. Whether it was real
or a dream he didn't know. But pleasure was certainly derived from it.
"NO!" The scream lasted an eternity....and into eternity it seemed to
drift. But, far be it from vanishing for good.

Chapter 4

“What are you doing!” Q’s eyes flashed the worse kind of anger. It
seemed to channel right through the superior being, however, until it’s eyes
challenged him head on.
“You are destroying. We will not let you. Not anymore.” The being had
reverted back to it’s natural state...which could not be seen by the human
Q’s anger mellowed a slight mark but did not cease to occupy him. In
a more efficient way of communicating with the being, he changed his form to
match those of the Continuum....which could not be seen by the naked eye
either. “A ghost? Really...how far we have come down to their level. Is there
another form so primitive? Besides all the other lifeforms of the galaxy,
that is?”
The being glowed, “We - will - not - let - you - succeed! You will
now feel what it is like to be them!”
“Wait! I can change what ever is bothering you! Lets not be too hasty
in our decisions....okay?”
The being’s glow became brighter, “We have ruled over you ever since
the beginning of time...you are too arrogant to realize the situation you are
in! You are primitive compared to us! But, we do not interfere with other
lifeforms. We learn by watching alone....a concept you have yet to master.”
“That may be so, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve learned more than you
in a shorter amount of time. We learn better because we live the life our
subjects of study do. I’ve been everything from a worm, to an insect, to a
tree, to a Klingon...which I’ll never do again, to an omnipotent being!”
The being laughed heartily and let his glow down, “And an insect you
certainly are. Omnipotent....we’ll see. You stop directly interfering with
their lives and I won’t bother you again. I’ve been assigned to you, and
believe me, it’s not an easy job.”
Q’s sigh was audibly heard. “You ruined my fun with Picard and that
time shift thing. I couldn’t even say I did it...and how I enjoy that so.
Fine...you don’t want me to interfere, but still get adequate study out of
it. I’ll put them in a situation like I did with Picard. Test Riker’s
intelligence. I’ve always taken a weird interest in him. He’ll get out of it
himself and I won’t have anything to do with it. I’ll just initiate the test.”
The being moved closer, “You will start over. The test must be fair.
Put him back where he belongs and let him get situated. Then you will do what
you wish....but remember...I’ll be watching.”
The being simply disappeared into thin air, leaving Q to himself.
“Start over.....fine. Let the test begin.”

“NO!!!!” The scream was deep in his mind. He could not grip onto it’s
meaning, but felt it nonetheless. Now he knew what it was...it was....NO!
Riker woke up, eyes wide, heart pumping wildly in his chest. For a
minute he thought it would explode again. After a few seconds, his mind
became fully conscience and he realized where he was. The Enterprise! He was
on the Enterprise...after all these years!
Quickly he looked at his chrono, “No way. This can’t be. I’ve been
gone for years....how?” Looking around, he saw his quarters were a mess, just
like he’d left them. He was sitting at his desk, looking over a proposal from
Ambassador Barqn from Aldar III. Everything was exactly like it was just
before Q......unless he’d fallen asleep and it was all a dream. No...it
couldn’t be. Everything was real. Too real.
He stood carefully, as if afraid he’d fall through the floor and he’d
be gone again. “Q! If this you’re idea of a joke, I’ll kill you! Heck, I’ll
do it anyway! Show yourself!”
Silence filled the air. You could hear a pin drop or a cricket
chirping. Will hung his head and rubbed his tired eyes. He needed to get his
bearings straight and remember what he was involved in before everything
began. Riker decided to just let things go for a while and get back into his
routine. This seemed to be his reality and the exact time he’d left off. It
was like starting over almost.
Walking back to his desk, he picked up his data padd and began
reading the proposal again, “Oh, no. The captain’s not going to like this.”
Q lurked in the shadows, unseen by Riker.

My problem is, I have all the time in the universe to do whatever I
want. Why not make it interesting for others as well? Why not indeed. Pull
up a chair and watch closely. If you look close enough.....it might get
interesting for you too....after all, we’re starting over. Remember?

Chapter 5

Lwaxana Troi stood in the midst of the rose garden outside of the
Troi mansion. She made daily trips out to it whenever she was home from
diplomatic missions. It was Deanna’s garden ever since she was a little girl.
Deanna would care for it night and day to make sure every single flower and
plant stayed in perfect condition.
The memories of times past flooded through Lwaxana’s mind. She
thought of how cute Deanna was as an innocent child. She thought of
Kestra....how wonderful it would have been for the two of them to have grown
together. Of course, she couldn't forget her Imzadi. Thoughts of him filled
her mind at least twice a day. How wonderful it would be to feel Ian Troi’s
arms around her again, and to see him be a supportive father to Deanna.
He had died too soon. Deanna hardly knew him as she should have, and
she....she didn't get the chance to say good-bye. His death on an away team
mission those years ago, lingered in Lwaxana’s mind. She had felt the link
break even though they were light-years away. Oh, how she prayed that Deanna
would not have to go through such a horrible tragedy with her Imzadi.
Lwaxana forced her mind away from those memories, and back into the
present where it belonged. She lifted a jug of water that she had been
spraying over the flowers. With just a little more to spray, she walked over
to the thirsty roses and showered them with the cool water.
"AH!" Abruptly, the water stopped as she fell to the ground in a wave
of dizziness. Her hands quickly gripped the sides of her head as if she was
trying to steady it from the great sensation it seemed to be enduring. She
managed to catch herself, but not before she landed in the damp mulch of the
flower bed.
Catching her breath as the dizziness passed, she scrutinized herself,
dirt and all. “Oh, blast it. This was a new outfit too.”
She slowly and cautiously pulled herself to her feet once more and
picked up the water jug again, adding a flower pot to her arms beside it.
A strange feeling had swept through her a second ago, and it wasn't
from the dizziness. It was more on the emotional level, but still very
discrete. Maybe I just need a hot bath and a nap, she said to herself.
She reached the house and opened to back door. The emotion came back
in a heartbeat...which she suddenly couldn't feel as she stood looking into
his face.
“Ah, there you are darling. I was looking for you. it seems that my
mission was canceled at the last moment do to an unpredicted storm on the
research colony, so I’ll be able to stay here a few days longer than
The European accent rang through the house like it never had before.
Was he real? Or was this wishful thinking? He took a step forward as if
sensing her hesitation and apprehension. “Imzadi? Lwaxana? Is there something
wrong? You look slightly ill.....”
The flower pot and water jug shattered on the floor as Lwaxana’s
whole body went limp. He reached out to her just as her pale-stricken body
joined the broken glass at her feet.

Chapter 6

Will Riker blew that stubborn lock of hair off his forehead in a
futile attempt. Futile.....everything seemed to be going that way lately. He
hadn’t slept in over thirty hours straight. Not since the Enterprise had been
taken over by the aristocratic, no mercy, life sucking
Will Riker could not think of one good thing that had ever happened
whenever the Enterprise got involved in transporting diplomats. At this point
and time, Denalli IV was hosting a diplomatic conference in which every
diplomat and ambassador in the Federation wanted to attend. The problem was,
Denalli IV was in such a remote location, public transport ships rarely took
route there. So, Starfleet was as e to transport over 800 diplomats half-way
across the quadrant.
Each ship had to do their part. The Galaxy class ships obviously
carried more passengers, but the Enterprise E, being quite smaller, was
having a hard time accommodating everyone assigned to her. Actually he was
having a hard time with it.
Will now stood at the entrance of the Captains ready room on the
bridge. He rang the chime and was rewarded with a loud “Come.”
Hesitantly, from the tone in Picard’s voice, Will stepped inside the
dimly lit room. PIcard didn’t look up from the PADD he was studying or say
anything. After a couple of minutes, it was clear Picard wasn’t going to say
anything to him, so he took a seat on his own initiative. “Captain? Are you
alright sir?” Will asked after sitting down.
Picard casually tossed the PADD onto the desktop. He rested his
elbows on the edge and buried his face in his hands. When he spoke, his voice
was muffled, “Will, the next time I let Starfleet talk me into transporting
twenty ambassadors at the same time for more than three days.....send me
directly to the counselor.”
Will smiled and considered his exec for a moment. “Well, it’s not
like we had much choice in the matter you know. At least you don’t have the
opportunity of placing them and catering to their every whim. That’s my
department, and I hate it. I never thought ambassadors could be so demanding
and stuck-up.”
Picard raised his head up slightly and stared at Will in disbelief.
His first officer shrugged his shoulders slightly, “Okay, maybe I did....but
these are exceptionally bad.”
A loud sigh was heard from the Captain's lips, “I may regret asking,
but what is the report on the situation?”
Will sat up straighter in his chair and hit the “on” button on his
PADD. “Well, I have some good news, and some bad news. First, there haven't
been too many major complaints, and we’ve managed to take care of most of
them. Although, a fight did break out in the corridor at one time with an
ambassador from Oners Prime and Welthis V. It seemed they had some rather
different views on things, and decided to make them known at that time. Some
other disputes have erupted, but what do you expect with twenty diplomats on
Picard’s face was in his hands again, “I suppose that is to be
expected....so, what’s the good news?”
Will just starred blankly at his Captain. “Umm....that was the good
news, sir. Actually, the bad news isn’t a whole lot worse, but bigger in size
I guess you could say. You see, there are seven of them complaining about the
size of their quarters, eight who are complaining about having to stay next
to an arrogant, self-centered, pompous fool....to quote some.....and the
other five are complaining about the other fifteen complaining. The worst
part is, due to our limited space, we’re having to move some crew members out
of their quarters so that the ambassadors can have them. Three day trip or
not sir, that can seem like a year.”
Picard nodded, “What are you doing with the other crew members that
have to leave their quarters?”
“They’re having to find someone to stay with in the mean time. That’s
another thing I wanted to talk to you about. The Starfleet Protocol
Directive, Unit 3, Chapter 5, Section 7, Page 134, Paragraph 9, Sub-section
B, states that when transporting ambassadors of high rank, superiority, or as
ordered, you are to house them according to their wishes and with the largest
space available within the area or structure of which they are to stay...or
something to that effect. Now....I didn’t even really know about that little
rule until the ambassador of Yughers III reminded me of it. We’re having the
most difficulty with him. He refuses to stay in the standard quarters issued,
and won’t be happy until he’s in the best place available on the Enterprise.
As a result, several other ambassadors have followed his demands and won’t be
reasoned with. They threaten to notify Starfleet command if they “do not get
what they deserve”.”
Picard was now pacing at a steady speed behind his desk. “You have
got to be kidding. What do they expect? We’re a exploration and warship for
crying out loud. Not the Federation Embassy.”
“Yes, well, I guess they’re not as observant as we are. The fact is
Captain....yours and my quarters are the largest on the ship. Data also has
large quarters. Counselor Troi’s office is large and could be turned into
living space.”
Picard stopped and turned to his XO, “You’re not suggesting? There
isn’t anywhere else they can go?”
“Afraid not, sir. We’ve already tried everything....the holodeck
included, but there’s some sort of safety regulations that won’t allow that,
so it’s the only choice we have Captain. You, Data, and I are going to have
to find somewhere else to stay for a while. Geordi said we can move
everything out of our quarters and put it in a storage locker for safe
“And where are we supposed to stay in the mean time? It’s not like I
can go up to just anyone on the ship and ask to be their roommate for several
days. You included. “
Will understood completely....he felt the same way. Although, he did
know someone he could ask. The captain too if.......”Sir? What about Beverly?
I know that you two have known each other a long time...and you’re good
friends. Maybe she’d let you bunk on her couch for a while. Wouldn’t hurt to
“Oh, of course....ask Beverly. That’s perfect. Just what both of us
needs right now. You know, rumors get started in the worst ways on board
ships. Especially this one. I’m reluctant to be the subject of everyone’s
Will grinned, “Well, it’s either that, or sleep in here....with no
bathroom....on the bridge twenty-four hours a day, hardly any privacy.
Doesn’t sound to appealing to me, sir. The rumors aren’t that bad anyway.
Usually people eat there words the very next day. Deanna and I have been the
subject of rumors ever since I can remember. I don’t even pay attention to
them anymore.”
“Well......I suppose your right, on a certain level. Alright, I’ll
talk to Beverly about it. But I’m curious, who are you going to ask?”
A huge smile came to Will’s face, and immediately the Captain knew
who Will was thinking of. “Well, I think I’ll ask Deanna if I can camp out on
her couch again. I’ve done it before......besides, she owes me a favor. Can’t
hurt to ask. Data’s staying with Geordi. At least, this will all be over with
in four or five days. Our next stop is Betazed where we’ll pick up our very
own beloved ambassador....then the three day trip to Denalli IV.”
Picard sat down and slumped in his chair. “Very well...proceed with
everything. I promise everyone shoreleave when this is done with. Speaking of
leave.....Will, you look as if you haven’t slept in days. Maybe you should
take the rest of the day off and catch up on your sleep.”
“Thank you sir. I’ll do that as soon as I get these ambassadors
settled in, and myself for that matter. Good luck with Beverly, I’ve got to
get back to work before all these diplomats take over the ship.”
“ Can you remeber when we used to be explorers? Very well, Good luck
yourself.....see you tomorrow .....after a good nights sleep, Commander,”
Picard said pointedly.
Will nodded in response and headed out the door. Avoiding the glances
of the bridge crew, he hurried toward the turbolift and the inevitable mess
of the situation on board.

Chapter 7

Mrs. Chiles smiled, “Thank you, Counselor. Yes, those do sound like
they could work. I will certainly give them a try. May I see you again next
week....just to make sure progress is being made?”
Deanna gave her a warm smile, “Of course. Same time would be fine. I
look forward to hearing a good report next week.”
After her patient had left, Deanna made a bee-line for her quarters.
She had nothing but free-time to look forward to for the rest of the day.
Once in her quarters, she plopped down onto the couch and centered herself.
After a few minutes, she was breathing slowly, and steadily, which allowed
her to clear her mind.
She quietly slipped into a light sleep and she didn’t even hear the
sound of her door chime when it sounded.
Will stood outside Deanna’s door growing more and more impatient by
the second. She was here...but maybe asleep. He decided to use the access
code to enter. She wouldn’t mind. He crept into her living space cautiously,
so not to catch her off guard. Of course, he couldn’t do that anyway, not
with her strong sense of him.
He found her soundly resting on the couch. Smiling at the image, he
strode over to the replicator to fetch some hot-chocolate for them both. As
he set it down on the coffe table, she stirred and ever so slightly cracked
her eyelids open.
Her eyes first looked at the sweet source of chocolate that she was
smelling, then they drifted over to the obvious, handsome intuder of her
quarters. Will sat on the edge of the couch on the end by her feet. He looked
at her, “Hi, kid. Looks like you’ve had a rough day. Here....allow me.” Will
picked up her feet and placed them in his lap. Slowly he began massaging the
ache in them which he knew was there.
“Hmm, that feels wonderful. Is there a reason why you just barged
into my quarters?” Deanna propped her head up onto the armrest of the couch
so she could see her companion better.
“I rang the chime, I guess you just didn’t hear it. Your feet are
freezing. Why don’t you drink that hot-chocolate and see if you can warm them
Deanna reached over and took a sip of the steaming beverage. “Oh, I
can never get enough of this stuff. Besides, you’re doing a wonderful job of
warming my feet for me.”
Will chuckled, “Actually Deanna, I have a favor to ask. Afterall, you
do owe me one after your mother came aboard last time.”
Deanna rolled her eyes at the inquiry of her mother. “Yes.....I did
say that I owe’d you didn’t I. Alright Mr. Riker....are you in trouble this
time, a woman chasing you, or are you just biding time that you can spend
with me?”
Now it was Will’s turn to roll his eyes, “No, no, and no. What I need
from you is official business.....well, in a personal way. You see, I’m being
kicked out of my quarters so that one of the diplomats can have them...so I’m
out in the stormy weather with no place to go. Also, my being First
Officer....I don’t think anyone else would want me to stay with them.”
“And you want to stay here?” Deanna asked. She had her eyes closed.
She loved just listening to his voice, especially when he was doing a
wonderful number on her feet.
Will gave a nonchalant shrug, “If you don’t mind. I could try to find
somewhere else....”
Deanna raised her hand to silence him, “Think nothing of it. Although
there are some requirements before you can stay.”
Will lifted his eyebrows, “Requirements? I hope they aren’t too
painful.” He wiggled his eyebrows up and down to put greater effect on his
statement. The next thing he felt was a pillow hit his head.
Deanna sat up and pulled her feet away from him. “Maybe I won’t let
you stay if you have expectations like that.” For the first time now, Deanna
realized just how tired Will was. His hair was slightly tousled, and all the
engery appeared to be drained from him.
The first officer sat back and stretched his weary limbs out. “Well,
you certainly don’t have anything to worry about. I don’t have enough energy
to even get up from this couch right now...and probably the rest of the week
until we get to the conference. I’ll umm.....I’ll just go and get my things
stored away for the ambassador, and I’ll be back later this evening sometime.
If I’m not back by 2200 hours....send a search party. I’ll either have been
beaten to death by a beaurocrat, or been torchered to death be the powerful
and endless chatter of the diplomats.”
At that, Deanna had to laugh out loud, “I’ll be sure and do that.
Will....are you okay?” She moved to sit closer to him and lightly stroked his
back. “You look as if you haven’t slept in days.”
Will ducked his head down into his hands, “Your right. The last time
I slept was two nights ago. But...I’ve got to get this whole mess taken care
of before I sleep again....or else. At least that’s what the diplomats keep
telling me. Anyway...I’ve got to get going. See you tonight...whenever that
will be.”
Deanna leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Okay...but
don’t take too long....you’ve got to get some sleep...counselor’s orders.”
He slowly rose up off the couch and glanced back at her, “Now, those
are orders I’m looking forward to.” He gave her the famous Riker grin and
exited her quarters.

Did you just observe that? Hmm.....very interesting circumstances.
Yes, I believe I can do something with them. What do you think? Oh,
well....never mind. I don't need your opinion. After all, I can handle this
quite nicely on my own. But maybe a little incintive from some of my dear
friends on the Enterprise wouldn't hurt. Yes.....I think it could work
indeed. Watch closely,you won't want to miss anything.

Chapter 8

The next day - Gymnasium:

“Whoa! Feeling a little good today, huh?” Geordi rebounded the sunken
ball. He and Will had just recently found out that they shared a common
interest that wasn’t commonly known to the people they knew. Basketball.
Plain and simple....the finest sport there was. Albeit old-fashioned, but a
sport that both excelled at immensely.
Once they found out about the shared hobby, they had been spending
most of their free time shooting around together, getting to know each other
better. Geordi was thrilled at getting a chance to play with Riker. For
several years he’d known that they’d be good friends and now, it seemed to be
coming true. He hid a smile at the thought. Both were very easy to get along
with and they made friends easily as well.
People used to say that Worf and Riker had been best friends, but
that had all changed 4 years ago when Worf stayed on DS9 rather than coming
back aboard the E. Beverly had spoken to him about Will kind of needing a
good buddy to pal around with lately. Of course, he seized the day and took
her up on the suggestion. Now...well, the rest is history.
Will lowered his outstretched arm and cocked wrist, giving a huge
grin, “I told you I could hit the three. Why is it that just because you’re
tall, people think you can’t hit from outside? Ridiculous if you ask me.
Besides, I need to blow of some steam with all these ambassadors aboard.”
Geordi just shook his head, “Hey, I never said you couldn’t. But, I
know for a fact that I’d beat you in a second if it were to come to a
Geordi put up a short jumper....nothing but net. Now Will laughed,
“Maybe, but if it were a dunking contest, you’d never leave the ground
against me. Not that you could anyway.”
“Hey....don’t be bothering me with my height. I may be short, but us
short guys can dribble circles around tall guys like you.”
He tossed the ball hard at Riker, challenging him. Will raised his
left eyebrow, “Okay, three point contest followed by the dunk, winner is set
up to loose the next poker game. Which won’t be anything new for you.”
He passed the ball back to Geordi who started the ambitious round.


“Almost done, Deanna. These inhibitor updates are a killer. Have you
decided what you want to do today?”
Deanna sat in one of the patient chairs across from Beverly’s office
desk. Her legs were crossed and she seemed to be deep in thought. “I don’t
know. I think we should do something different. Will was telling me about a
game called basketball that he has recently taken up. I didn’t quite
understand any of what he told me but -”
She was cut off by the doctor’s voice, “Basketball? I used to play
that all the time before Starfleet. It's a complicated game which involves
very intense exercise....also incredible fun. Maybe we shouldn’t, Deanna. I
mean, I haven’t played in a very long time and you haven’t even the foggiest
of what it is. We’ll look foolish in front of everyone else.”
Deanna shrugged, “Well, I wasn’t exactly suggesting we play. I was
just mentioning it. Will did seem to like it though. Don’t tell him this, but
since he started playing, he’s lost a lot of weight. His muscles have firmed
up quite a bit too. In two weeks, I won’t be able to recognize him.”
Beverly dropped what she was doing and gave Deanna a wicked grin,
“And just how would you know about all of that?”
Deanna returned her smile, “Maybe I’ve been spending some time with
him up close and personal. But not too close. I mean, we can only go so far.
But, still we went far enough last night for me to definitely notice the
Beverly was now leaning over the desk, trying to breath in every word
of the conversation. “How far is far enough?”
Deanna crossed her arms in a defensive posture, “You would like to
“Oh! Come on! This is your best friend....tell me, please? I don’t
have a love life of my own, so I have to sponge off of somebody.”
Deanna laughed, “Lets just say that we stopped short of the bedroom,
but he drew the line before we got there. Sharing quarters with him right now
makes it more difficult, naturally.To think, it was only the first night too.
But it’s not the first time its ever happened. We’ve had to draw the same
line ever since we started serving together.”
Beverly sighed, “Why don’t you just cross it for once? You two make
love seem so difficult, you know that? What’s it been like almost 12 years?
You could have at least discussed it with each other.”
“We have,” Deanna replied.
Crusher’s face brightened, “And?”
“We decided to draw the line.” Deanna just smiled although inwardly,
she wished that she could do just as Beverly suggested...cross the line.
Maybe someday.


“I can’t believe this.”
Geordi laughed, “I’ve been secretly practicing my dunk...and I’ve
been waiting to try it out on you.”
“You hustled me. Come on, second go around, loser has to try out for
Beverly’s new play.”
Geordi put up his hands, “No way. I’m beat. We’ve been playing for
two straight hours and I’ve got reports to look over before the poker game
tonight. Besides, I draw the line at Beverly’s plays. I’m not even going to
chance that. I happen to know she’s already coming after you.”
Will shook his head in disgust. “You know, this will be the first
poker game I’ve lost since coming aboard. The sad thing is, I’m losing it to
Geordi spread his hands innocently, “Hey, it was your bet and you
lost.” He threw Will a towel as he wiped his own perspiration from his face.
Geordi glanced at Will, “So, what’s up with you and Deanna lately? Everyone
on the ship knows that you’ve been spending your evenings with her.”
Will tossed his towel into his gym bag. “So? We always spend time
together. She’s a good friend.”
“Friend?” Geordi responded in surprise, “Since when have you just
been friends?”
Will threw his bag over his shoulder, “Since we started serving
together. She and I have rules that we follow, although sometimes we bend
them a little...like last night.”
Geordi began walking with him out to the corridor, “Just how far do
you bend them?”
Will’s famous grin found it’s way to his lips, “Lets just say we were
on the bed and she called for a time out. I slept on the couch the rest of
the night. I don’t know. Maybe it’s for the best anyway. God knows I’m not
ready for a serious commitment right now. Not even with someone I care a lot
Geordi looked down and followed the carpet as they walked, “Well if
you ask me, if you’re not ready by now...you’ll never be.”
Will glanced at him but turned back, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
The turbolift approached and both men took there place inside. Geordi
turned to Will, “You’re staying with her now...talk to her about it.”
Will looked shocked at the suggestion, but as he thought about it,
the shock faded. “I don’t know if I can, Geordi. That would be like Captain
Picard sharing his deepest inner fears with the entire crew. Can’t be done.”
Geordi sighed, “Why not? You are good friends either her. I’m sure
she’d like to know about what’s rattling inside that brain of yours. You know
women...they have to know everything. You might as well save her the trouble.”
Will laughed, “Yet, my friend, you stand as living proof that some
men just can’t cut it with the women and your giving me advice? The womanizer
of all time? The man who always had a girl on both arms at the Academy and
then every assignment after that?”
Geordi shook his head and just shrugged, “Thought I’d give it a shot.
But she’s going to find out.”
The turbolift arrived at its destination and they exited, the
conversation resuming. “Listen, I will tell her when I choose to tell her, or
I won’t tell her. It’s that simple.”
Geordi stopped at Will's office doors, “So, are you going to tell
Will opened the doors, “It’s really out of my hands. I’ve got a
report with your name on it in here.” Geordi followed Will inside. Maybe
someday, he thought.

Chapter 9

Riker silently ran a hand over his weary face. The day had been very
eventful. Keeping twenty ambassadors happy and busy was an impossible
task that he wished upon no one. Not to mention he was still anticipating the
arrival of Deanna's mother tomorrow. That for sure would automatically force
things to be even more difficult. Having a telepath on board with other
ambassadors was guaranteed to bring problems of all kinds.

He glanced up to see Deanna carefully going over some work of her own on
her desk console. The scene brought back memories of two days ago when he
had mysteriously awoken at his desk. He still had no idea if it had been a
dream or not. Lately he had been too occupied with work to really give
sufficient thought to
the matter. As he thought back, it all turned to shades of gray. Nothing was
distiguishable anymore. It was all a haze.

His confused state of mind caused him to succmb to the scrutinizing gaze
of Deanna. Feeling her eyes upon him, he glanced up, but quickly averted his
eyes not willing to meet her own. He heard her shuffle, turning in her
chair to fully face him. Still, he did not look up. "Will? What are you

The question was simply innocent. Not the concerned voice that he'd
expect from her. She was seriously curious as to his thoughts. Now, however,
not a good time to discuss them. He had avoided telling anyone of his so
called "experience" albeit real or not, for that very exact reason. He didn't
know. It was no use to have everyone going on about it if there really was
nothing there.

In a semi-desperate hurry, he thought how to answer her. He didn't
know....he didn't know anything it seemed. Something was wrong. Something
extremely terrifying. Out of practice, but more than willing to
accomplish it, he put up his mental shields to keep Deanna out of the

Finally, with that done, he looked at her casually, "I was just thinking
at how this mission has the crew all tied up in knots. It's been hard to get
the usual out of them lately." It was a little white lie...one that would
protect him for now. He was in hot water if she ever found out. His shields
up, though, so nothing to worry about at the moment...at least he hoped.

Deanna swore to herself. His shields were up. It was times like these
that she wished that she'd never taught him how to do that. Not knowing half
of what she wanted, she couldn't accuse him of lying, or really help him as
effectively. Maybe he doesn't want it. Without reading his emotions, it
was hard for her to know what to do. So, in light of the matter, she did
something that he never would have expected. She turned away, slowly
diving back into her work.

Will looked up. She had been silent too long for Deanna. She always had
something to say. Maybe she wanted to let him alone. Things hadn't been
exactly peaches between them since last night.It had been the first night of
him staying with her.

He shouldn't have let happen what did happen. They had been relaxed, mellow,
the usual when they were together. Somehow they had ended up much more
intimate than either had planned. Somewhere during this, one of them had
called for a halt. Maybe
it had been both of them. Again, he didn't know. Everything was a
haze...everything. Nothing was like it should be. Now he was getting nervous.
A sick feeling in the pit of his stomach began to rise, tempting him to get
up and walk it off. Knowing that Deanna would get suspicious and quite
possibly start asking more questions, he excused himself, leaving a
bewildered Deanna behind.

"Imzadi...please wake up." Ian Troi was gently stroking his wife's face,
lulling her back to conscienceness. Ever so slowly, her eyes opened but
failed to focus right away.

"Wha...what? Where am I?" She tried to sit up but involuntarily sagged
back down against the pillows of the couch. Ian smiled, relieved that she was
okay...or at least seemed to be.

"You at home, Lwaxana. You passed out almost an hour ago. I was about to
call for medical assisstance. Do you feel all right? Is your head hurting?" he
asked, concern written all over his face.

Lwaxana waved his questions of with the flick of a hand. "I'm fine, dear.
I'm just tired...and dizzy. But I don't know why." She draped an arm over her
forhead, sighing. She still felt faint, but not as much as before. It seemed
to be fading.

Ian pulled on her arm to get her to sit up, "Maybe you're just hungry.
Mr. Homn fixed dinner already. Perhaps you should eat something."

Lwaxana nodded and leaned back in a sitting position. "Oh...this headache
is just awful. Could you be a dear and get me some hot tea?"

Ian stood, "Of course, darling. I'll bring it into the dining room. Can
you make it there yourself?" He watched her nod again and headed toward the
kitchen. Despite her pain, Lwaxana stopped him before he got too far.

"Ian?" He turned back to her, giving his full attention. "Thank you. You
will be coming to the Enterprise with me to see Deanna won't you?"

Ian's smile was broad and seemed to light up the whole room. "Of course.
I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's been almost three years since I've
seen her. I grateful that Starfleet canceled my mission."

Lwaxana smiled back at him, "Yes, I'm grateful too. Oh...please hurry
with that tea," she said with a hand firmly pressed to her head. One step at a
time, she made her way to the dining room, the sweet aroma helping her

"Kyle!" Kyle Riker quickly turned from the enormous stack of fire logs at
the side of the house. "Kyle!" he heard again, this time closer. the next
thing he saw was his wife running out to meet him. "Kyle...Starfleet just
called and they want you at that conference. You know..the big one that you
wanting to go to?"

Kyle's face went into a wide grin, "Yes...the Enterprise is escorting
some diplomats there. They invited me?"

She nodded her head affirmative, "Yes. They want the civilians of the
Federation represented from a professional, objective standpoint and that
means you. They called a few minutes ago. I thought that you had gone out
chopping wood again, so I took a message."

Kyle put the last stack of wood onto the pile and brushed the wood shreds
and snow flrurries from his clothes. "Good. When do I leave?"

Elizabeth shrugged, "The Enterprise is due at Betazed tomorrow to pick up
someone. I thought that I could go with you and we could meet up with
them there. Maybe we could see Will. It has been a few years since I've seen
my baby. I want to make sure he's okay."

Kyle chuckled, "Will is a grown man. Of course he's okay. He's one of
those that you never have to worry about." He walked over to his wife and
hugged her close. Seeing the regret in her eyes, he gave in. "All right. We'll
pack fast and take a late transport tonight for Betazed. I admit, it would be
nice to catch up with him. He's accomplished quite a bit since I last saw

Elizabeth laid her head against his chest, the wind began to pick up, "I
know...but you should want to see him even if he hadn't done anything."
When he didn't answer, she knew that he was thinking about what she had just
said. That's always how it was. "Thank you," she said in response to his

Elizabeth Riker was looking forward to seeing her son. All was right with
the world. She thought about surprising him by not contacting him before
their arrival, but she thought better of it knowing that he'd be busy with
everything. Better let him know on all accounts.

The universe is my playground....but I'm completely innocent this time.
It's all their fault. They don't understand. They never will. Oh - so it's you
again. It's getting kind of weird, perhaps? Good then. Just as it should
be. This non-interference can get ugly....for them, that is. Keep watching.
You just might learn something along the way.

Chapter 10

“Will!” Deanna rushed to stand up from here fix on the couch as she saw him
walk through the doors. “I've been worried sick.”

Will stopped dead in his tracks and just looked blankly at her. “Why? I just
went out walking for a while.”

Deanna sighed and rolled her eyes. Frustration was evidently clear on her
face. She was angry? Perhaps. Maybe...at him? No, not possible. Was it?
“Will, you were on the holodeck. Don't lie to me.”

“I didn't,” he snapped back. Anger was beginning to show in his features. “I
went for a walk on the holodeck. There....you happy?”

Deanna reached out for him, but he backed away, avoiding her touch.
“Will...I'm sorry. I've...I've been sensing some things from you for the past
two hours. I can't say that I like them too much.”

Will smirked, “Well, they’re not exactly your problem are they?” He went over
to the replicator and ordered a synthehol. Taking a drink he looked at her
out of the corner of his eye. Deanna’s eyes were fixed on him. Apparently she
wasn't going to leave him alone. Not tonight.

He didn't move...he kept his yes transfixed on the stars out the window.
Suddenly she threw her hands, “Okay, Riker. I'm just trying to be a friend
and find out what's got you so knotted up inside. Is it about last night? Is
that what's been bothering you?”

Riker laughed, “Why do you think that everything revolves around you and me?
So we got a little close last night. But we didn't do anything. I've
forgotten that it ever happened and I was hoping that you would too. We have
to stay in here together for the next several days. Lets not make it any
harder than its worth.”

“Just what is it worth? Will, I haven't forgotten last night. All I can focus
on lately is how it felt when we were that close. I want to hare that with
you. But I can't if you keep shutting me out.”

Will set down his drink on that table. They were at least three meters apart,
looking at each other across the room. Will helplessly spread his hands and
uncertainty ruled in his gaze. “Look,” he began softly, “There are a lot of
things going on right now that I’m not willing to share with you. I don’t
even know what’s going on. I’m sorry.”

Deanna looked down at the floor to compose herself. She pursed her lips and
then spoke almost in a whisper, “My mother contacted me while you were gone.
She said that my father will be coming with her. I'll make arrangements for
them if you want. You have a lot on your mind, and you don’t need to go hunt
down a place for them to stay.”

Will’s face twisted into an expression of confusion. “Your father? I
thought....did she marry again?” His own thoughts hit him hard as he thought
that it might be happening again. “Tell me she married again.” It was almost
a direct command.

Deanna shrugged her shoulders and sat back down again. “I don’t know. She was
in a hurry and she looked as if she didn’t feel well. I didn’t press for

Will’s head was going warp speed by now. What if he wasn’t in his own place
again? But there hadn’t been any changes that he had known about. Q hadn’t
showed up lately. But...it was all a dream in the first place...wasn’t it? He
felt Deanna’s eyes boring into him. Silently he looked at her, knowing he had
just made a mistake.

“You lied to me. Will...this isn’t about the crew, is it? This isn’t about
us. Please tell me.” She gestured for him to sit next to her, but he refused.

Instead, he went to the window and gently let his head rest on the clear
frame. “A couple of days ago, I had this dream. At least I think it’s a
dream. I don’t know.”

Deanna swiftly was off of the couch, standing beside him. Crossing her arms
across her abdomen, she cocked her head, thoughtfully. “What kind of dream
was it?”

She saw him close him eyes and then quickly reach up to rub them before
lifting his head from the window. He was upset...severely. When he faced her,
the look of fatigue set in. “It was a dream that seemed real...but wasn’t? I
don’t know. Something like that.”

She took one of his hands in hers, rubbing his palm with the pad of her
thumb. He was scared and this time he didn’t bother hiding it from her. “What
was it about? It must have been disturbing.”

He nodded but was hesitant in speaking for a moment. Deanna patiently waited,
just glad that he hadn’t backed away from her...yet. “I was just minding my
own business, then...Q. Things happened so fast, but it took years for them
to happen. I lived, I died, I fought. I really hate him.”

She fought back a smile, “Well, I guess that explains it. Q would make anyone
feel bad. Just by mentioning his name.”

Will pulled his hand back and sighed, “You don’t understand. It
happened...all of it. But then I woke up and nothing had changed here. I feel
like I’m in a state of flux. Nothing is real, but yet it is. Not to mention
that my Dad contacted me while I was on the holodeck. He said that he was
bringing my mother aboard. Deanna...I don’t have a mother.”

Now it was Deanna’s turn to look confused, “What are you trying to say? That
we are in some fantasy land? We’re living an unrealistic life?”

Will shrugged, “I don’t know. I can’t even remember much. The contents of
that dream just hit. Before, I couldn’t remember.” Frustration plagued his
voice. “Now I’m going to have to find a place for them to stay. That
dream...somehow, is connecting everything, but I don’t understand it.”

Deanna grabbed his face in her hands, “Okay...Will. Slow down. We’ll figure
all of this out later, but first thing is first. I will find accommodations
for both sets of parents, then we are going to have a talk about this. Sit,
relax, eat....do something to calm down. I’ll go find out what I can about
where they can stay. When I get back...you better be ready to talk.”

Will groaned like a kid who had just been punished, “But I don’t want to talk
about it....really. Can’t we just wait and see what happens?”

Deanna raised her eyebrows, “I don’t know about you, but if my mother has
married again, and if everything that you are saying is true, I want to be
prepared. I’m not really the risk taker that you are.”

Will relented, “Okay, fine. We’ll research it. But, I think that I’m just
losing my mind.”

Deanna laughed, “Will...I trust you. All of this definitely deserves
attention. But, other than that, there’s something else you’re not telling me
and I intend to find out what it is.”

Before he could get another word in, she turned and left. Great...just great.
Well, the rest of this mission should be fun, he thought demurely.

“Our little friends are going to have fun.”

“May the Q be so fortunate to carry out this act?”

Q’s head snapped around, “Gatrin! You and your annoying race are getting on
my nerves! You said you would leave me alone on this one.”

Gatrin glowed a little brighter as his ghostlike figure inched closer to Q.
“I know that you have been planning to show yourself. That is not acceptable.”

Q laughed, “I show myself to them all the time...the do not fear me any
longer. But, I do enjoy keeping them on there toes.”

Gatrin stalking dangerously close, “You will die if you interfere. All
lifeforms deserve privacy. Even you...as disgusting as you are to my race. We
may have greater power than they do...but it is pointless to gloat about it.
They do not care about what you can do. They care about who you are. If you
do not start taking this sentiment to heart...you will surely die!”

“You call this privacy! Your detestable breath is all over my face! Get out
of here now before you regret it!”

Gatrin’s echoing laugh was heard throughout the nothingness.
“You...hurt...me? Can’t be done. How does it feel? Answer that. Annoying to
have someone looking in on you...interfering with your life isn’t it! I will
leave you to your word...but believe me, I will follow through on mine.”

Gatrin disappeared, and Q went back to the Continuum to allow his thoughts

Chapter 11

Deanna strode briskly through the doors of her quarters, hearing them
automatically hiss closed behind her. She inclined her head slightly as she
scanned the empty place. Clearly she was expecting Will to be waiting for her
to return. It seemed as if her assumptions were quite incorrect.

Crossing the floor space to her bedroom, she looked inside, making sure he
wasn't asleep. Sue enough, she found nothing but an empty bed. "Computer,
locate Commander Riker."

The computer's voice almost immediately answered, "Commander Riker is in
shuttle bay two."

Deanna made a twisted face, "Bay two? I thought that was shut down do to
environmental refitting." Shrugging, she simply trusted the computer and
started for the bay.

Upon entering, she spotted Will perched on one of the container racks about
fifteen feet up or so. His feet were dangling freely over the edge and he was
staring at the stars through the transparent bay door.

The bay was empty albeit a few scattered containers here and there. She
searched for the way up to where Will was sitting and quickly found it.
Deanna cautiously climbed up, keeping her eyes on him as if to make sure he
wasn't gone by the time she reached him. His back was to her, but he knew she
was there.

She finally reached him and sat down, dangling her legs over as well. The
edges of her mouth turned up slightly, "What's the matter? The holodeck break
down or something?"

"No," he said without looking at her. His hands were folded in his lap, his
fingers unconsciously twiddling. "I come here sometimes when no one is around
and think. Sometimes the holodeck won't suffice."

Sucking in a deep breath of bay air, Deanna watched the stars glitter by at
warp five. They would reach Betazed in the morning and meet both sets of
parents...ready or not. She playfully leaned into his side then returned to
her former position, "So, what do you come here to think about?"

Will looked down, breaking his gaze with the night sky, "Things that give me
trouble. Like the situation we're in now....my dream....and my Dad's new
wife. I for one can't believe he remarried."

Deanna smiled thinly, "Well, I think something happens when you get older
that makes you look at life differently. Maybe he thought it was time."

Will laughed curtly, "My father would never get a reality check. The word
'commitment' and 'time' aren't in his vocabulary."

Deanna looked into his screaming silver-blue eyes as if to directly get his
attention. "Maybe you should give him a chance this time, Will. It has been
several years since you last saw him."

Will nodded, "My point exactly. I haven't heard from him either. Now he comes
aboard with some woman, expecting me to like her and accept her as my

Deanna put a reassuring hand on his knee, "I understand. My mother has tried
to dump more stepfathers on me in the last few years. I've learned to openly
accept them and find the positive in the situation. It changes your whole
point of view."

Will cocked his head at her, "And...how many times have you actually followed
through on that remedy?"

Deanna pursed her lips in thought, "Well...never. Not completely. But, you
can't shut the doors automatically. You might just like her."

"Any woman crazy enough to fall in love with my Dad....I assure you....I
won't like."

Deanna shook her head, "Sometimes, you are incredibly stubborn, Will Riker.
It's no wonder you and your father don't get along."

Will shrugged, "That's what's got me worried. I'm so much like him...it scars
me sometimes. I can't commit to anything outside of work. I always lose
anyone I get close to. I never stay put in a relationship...I'm him. Not even
you can deny that."

"You may have some of his mannerisms, Will, but as far as character
goes...you're nothing like him," she pointed out after a moment.

She could tell he was still not convinced, but she knew that he would not
take her word for it. He was one of those that were called a "Doubting
Thomas" never trusting unless proven. Coming from Betazed, she never had that
problem, so it was harder to understand.

Will clamped his hands together and rubbed them smartly, "Well, I guess you
feel the same way about your mother, so I shouldn't get overly concerned with
my situation."

Deanna lightly leaned against him, "It's only fair. I mean...you do have a
right to be concerned. As do I."

Will took her hand, "I know. But, I also know that you need a concerned
friend too. Lets make a deal and promise to support each other where are
parents are concerned. They're driving me nuts right now."

Deanna laughed musically, "How about we always support each other, no matter
the situation." At his agreed nod she added, "I found a couple of cabins for
them to stay in, by the way. It wasn't easy."

A slow smile spread across Will's face, "I guess people would be more apt to
cooperate with you than me. It's just the way it works I guess."

Deanna felt a rush of pink flood her cheeks as the meaning of his statement
registered. "Well, I happen to know some women on board who would be more
than willing to cooperate with you."

Something about Deanna's confession bugged him in a weird way. She had almost
said it was a regret rather than an esteem booster. He felt the tug of his
hand and realized that she was standing beside him now.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

Deanna pulled more forcefully, prompting him to get up as well. "WE are going
to have some dinner and enjoy the last few hours of peace before the storm
arrives tomorrow."

At the analogy, Will laughed and willfully followed her out of the bay.


Q sat on a slow moving asteroid...heading nowhere in particular. His hopes
for a small space of silent thinking were vanished when Gatrin appeared.
"Feeling a little sorry for ourselves?" Gatrin asked, leaning against a stone
column nearby.

Q didn't bother acknowledging Gatrin's presence, but simply sighed in
exasperation. "Why don't you just leave me alone?"

Gatrin this time appeared as Q was now...a human...much to his disgust. He
studied his fingernails as if he were bored. "Well, I've been assigned to you
and I have to do something to pass the time. Besides, you're like a
child...always needing supervision."

Q's head dropped in utter defeat. "It's boring just setting a plan in motion
and then hoping it turns out the way you intended it to. I established the
quantum fluxes for the Enterprise to pass through, without detecting them, of
course. Although Riker and Troi are rigged so that only they notice the
differences. I just wish the two would get married and have kids...all that
mushy stuff...so that I can get it off my mind."

"Do you always look at the universe as something you have to fix? What a poor
outlook on life."

"The Q don't have lives...need I remind you?" he said curtly. "Of course,
neither do the Zewr. Your race isn't much more exciting."

Gatrin looked at him like he had lost his mind. "Us? The Zewr not exciting?
We have all the power in the universe. We can do anything. We have better
lives than any other being. Especially the Q."

Q rolled his eyes, "Oh please, Gatrin. We can do all that stuff too. But it's
boring when you can't interact with something else. Especially something else
that has a life you can never live. Don't you see? We don't have everything
because we can never live the life of a Human, or Betazoid, or
Klingon....ack...well, not a Klingon. I would prefer they didn't even exist."

Gatrin threw his head back and laughed, "Why, my dear Q, would you want to
live their life?! Yours is so much better!"

Q whirled around, standing as he did so. "I've been a Q for eons upon
eons...I have nothing left to do in this life. But I'm stuck, I can never
really experience life to the fullest until I truly experience all forms of
life. Not just the omnipotent, immortal one." The strain in his voice was
apparent in every word. He sounded helpless...ready to give up.

Gatrin stood to his full height, carefully sizing Q up. "Very good." Without
another moment wasted, Gatrin was gone.

Q stood there, looking totally and completely confused. "Very good? What's
that supposed to mean?" His shoulders slumped slightly and a flash of blue
light followed, leaving the asteroid tumbling towards it's eventual
destination, alone.

Chapter 12

"Now that...was the best meal I've had in a long time." Will slowly
approached the couch in Deanna's quarters with a hand on his stomach. He
turned to see Deanna looking at him in a most peculiar way. "What?"

Deanna laughed quietly and shook her head. "I don't know. Well...I told you
that you'd like dinner tonight. Obviously you did."

Will patted the seat next to him and she obediently sat down, sure though to
not sit too close. "What is 'obviously' supposed to imply?" He casually
draped his arm across the back of the couch...and gesture noted by Deanna.

"It's supposed to imply that you ate nonstop. Everyone in the lounge was
staring I think." She leaned back against the cushions and crossed her arms
against her stomach.

Will smiled and leaned back as well, taking his arm off of the back couch. "I
think...that they were staring because of how beautiful you are. I feel lucky
sometimes because I don't know a guy this side of the Gamma Quadrant that
would pass you up if they could help it."

Deanna's face pinked as she forced down a proud smile. "So, why can't they
help it?"

Will looked at her fully for a moment, knowing what she was expecting him to
say. But he wasn't sure if it was the time...or even if he could. "They're
probably just afraid that they'll screw something up. Actually pretty much
all guys think that."

Deanna pressed her hands together and closed her eyes, "Even you?"

Will looked down in thought and sighed. "I haven't always...no. There's only
been one time that I thought I would mess up....and I did. I just...I don't
want that to happen again." Deanna could tell that he was frustrated
somewhat, but she didn't let on.

Silently she rose and smoothed her hands over her pants. "Well, it's getting
really late. Why don't we call it a night."

Will still looked down with his eyes riveted on his locked hands. "Yea, sure.
Goodnight." Deanna raised her eyebrows in mild surprise, "Don't you want to
get your sleeping clothes and brush your teeth and stuff?"

Will shifted and laid fully down on the couch, getting as comfortable as he
could, just as he had done the previous two nights. He closed his eyes,
hoping that she'd leave him to his thoughts.

"I guess that's a, no. "Deanna took one last look at him before retreating to
her bedroom. She sat on the bed thinking about how odd his behavior had just
been. Not only that, but he had once again closed his mind to her so she
couldn't sense his emotions. Something strange was definitely in the air, but
she couldn't put her finger on it.
Deanna stirred in her sleep. She hadn't been able to get comfortable all
night. Something quickly made her pop her eyes open. There was a figure in
the shadows of the room. It was standing at the foot of the bed with
something in it's hand. "Computer, lights!"

She braced herself for what she would see....."Will?" He stood frozen in his
tracks with a towel in his hand. His hair was damp and the fresh scent of him
wafted through the air.

"Uh...hi. I didn't wake you did I?" She looked over at the chrono. It was 3
in the morning. The look on her face reminded him of the one her mother gave
him a long time ago.

Deanna flung the covers from her body and stood, exposing a silk gown that
rested a few inches above the knee. Will took one look at her but decided to
settle on her face. "William Riker...what do you think you are doing sneaking
around in people's bedrooms in the middle of the night?"

Will shoved a thumb toward the bathroom, "I just wanted to take a shower
because I couldn't sleep and I tried to be quiet....please, just don't hurt

Deanna studied the look on his face. He literally looked like a sorry little
boy who had just been scolded. It melted her heart and she decided to take a
different approach. "Come here."

Will kept a straight face and silently shook his head, backing away slightly.
Deanna sighed and rolled her eyes, "I'm not going to hurt you. I just want
you to get a good night's rest. You haven't slept good since you've been
staying here. Come lie down?"

Will's eyes brightened at her suggestion, but then they darkened again. "In
all the years that we've known each other...which has been a long time....you
have never even once asked me to lie down in your bed."

Deanna went over to him and took the towel, tossing it in a chair nearby. She
pulled on his arm, trying to ignore the fact that he didn't have shirt on and
was only wearing shorts. Gently she pushed him onto the side of the bed
opposite from where she had been sleeping. He watched her round the bed and
slip in next to him.

He still sat ramrod straight until she put both of her hands onto his
shoulders and pulled him down to the pillows. She spread the covers across
both of them and planted her head onto her pillow, facing him. "Will, just
relax. Close your eyes and let the sleep take over." She stifled a laugh at
the incredulous yet confused expression on his face. Instead, she settled for
a warm smile.

He relaxed somewhat and then even more when she ordered the lights off.
Suddenly he felt her hand brush through his hair in a soothing manner, over
and over again. The effect took over immediately and he felt his eyes
involuntarily closing. The last thing he heard before he was unconscious was,
"Goodnight, Imzadi."
Deanna sat straight up in bed, her eyes about to pop out of her skull. She
looked directly ahead, as if concentrating on something. Absently reaching
over she shook her companion, "Will! Get up! Mother is here!"

Will's eyes remained shut and he mumbled something unintelligible. Deanna
sighed loudly and shook him harder, "Will! Get up now!" He shifted and raised
his head off of the pillow to see what all the noise was about. When he saw
that it was just Deanna going frantic, he plopped his head back down.

Deanna looked at him exasperated and yanked the covers from the bed. Will
opened his eyes, "Hey!"

She ignored his objection and got in his face to make sure he heard every
last word, "My mother is here, Will. Get up ad get dressed before she finds

Will's eyes grew big ad he jumped out of bed, joining Deanna in her frenzy.
Both were running back and forth trying to find their uniforms and clean the
place up as best they could. When the door chimed, they both froze. Will only
had half of his uniform on and was holding a pile of stray socks ad padds.
Deanna had managed to zip up the front of her uniform and clip her hair into
place. They both looked into the bedroom, spotting the bed covers sprawled on
the floor.

Deanna looked back at Will, "That doesn't look too good. Um, you go and fix
everything in the bedroom and hide that stuff somewhere. I'll get the door."

Will nodded and all but ran into the bedroom. Promptly, the doors shut behind
him. Deanna let out a deep breath and squared her shoulders. The chimes rang
again and immediately she opened the doors to reveal her mother and.....her
father? Quickly she hid her stray emotions from her mother. From the strange
feelings that she had sensed from Will's dream, she had made a point to
prepare for anything unusual, and boy was this.

"Mother! What a...surprise! Oh...and you brought Daddy with you to!"

Lwaxana scowled a little at the comment, "Of course I did, Little One. I told
you I'd be bringing my husband. Who else would that be?"

Deanna smiled, "No one, Mother. I'm just a little.....flustered, I guess? I
had expected you later this afternoon. Why didn't you contact me?"

Ian Troi pushed his wife through the doors, "I told your mother that we
should, but she insisted on us surprising you." His voice almost brought
tears to Deanna's eyes. It had been so long since she had last heard it. Ian
pulled her into a tight embrace.

"I missed you, Angel. We have to make sure not to let this much time go
between visits again." Deanna released him and smiled.

"I know, Daddy. It has been way too long." Lwaxana was smiling at the
reunion. It had been a long time...perhaps longer than she thought. She
pushed the strange feeling aside and reached for her daughter. Deanna
accepted the embrace.

Lwaxana pulled back with a curious expression on her face. "Deanna...what are
you hiding?"

Deanna's temperature rose slightly but she forced it back down. "Mother, how
could you even suggest that I'd be hiding something from you?" She knew that
she was having a hard time keeping the lost feelings for her father buried,
but she didn't think that it had come through that clearly.

Lwaxana crossed her arms in the manner that Will always teased Deanna about.
"Deanna Troi, don't lie to me."

Ian stepped in, "Lwaxana, we just got here. Why don't we let Deanna show us
to our quarters, then we can ask questions later."

Lwaxana looked at her husband, then back to Deanna. Briefly she picked up on
a stray thought. Her look became more understanding, "It's, William, isn't
it? He's here."

Deanna sighed and her shoulders sagged in defeat. "Yes, Mother, Will is here.
He was forced to give up his quarters for an ambassador and now he's staying
here temporarily until the conference is over. So, before you jump to
conclusions and Daddy starts worrying about his little girl staying with a
man, nothing happened. He's just a friend."

Ian didn't look convinced, and Lwaxana felt a stirring of hope. "Oh," she
said dejectedly, "I thought you were going to tell that you had finally
gotten back together."

Ian looked astonished, "Lwaxana! How can you just let our daughter have a man
staying with her...and wish something would happen on top of that! I'll kill

Deanna reached out and put reassuring hands on her father's arms.
"Daddy....Will is a friend and we do not think of each other romantically.
I'll let you meet him, but not right now. I'll show you both to your quarters
if you'll follow me."

She went for the door and looked back, her parents just staring at her like
she'd lost her mind. "Well, are you two coming?"

Ian and Lwaxana looked at one another and then proceeded to follow their
daughter. Ian shook his head, "If he tries anything with you, I'll make sure
he doesn't again."

Deanna sighed, "He's a perfect gentleman. Nothing that I can't handle on my

Lwaxana frowned, "That's what you told me 14 years ago. Look how you handled

Deanna rolled her eyes and decided to let the comment go. Her usually mellow
father was on pins and needles and her mother was always like she
was....hopeful. This was going to be a long and interesting visit.
Back in Deanna's bedroom, Will stood, his ear to the door. He couldn't hear
anything...not that you ever could through these doors. They were virtually
soundproof. He stepped back, "Deanna!? Is it safe to come out!?" Nothing.

"Looking for someone?" Will's head snapped around. He had heard a voice, but
no one was there. He slapped his comm badge, "Computer, identify the
occupants of Deanna Troi's quarters."

The computer's voice filled the room, "Commander William T. Riker is the only

Will's eyebrows scrunched in confusion. He opened the doors of the bedroom
and stepped into the living room. Sure enough, no one was there. "Strange."

Looking at the chrono, he realized that he was due for a meeting with Picard
in ten minutes. Letting go of his current thoughts, he concentrated on his
duty and headed for the bridge.
"Don't push your luck, Q." Gatrin walked around Deanna's bed to settle beside
his assigned, Q. "Talking to them was not in our deal."

Q smirked, "I didn't talk to him. I just wanted to off set him a little.
Things are getting to quiet for my taste."

Gatrin looked around the room, "Such a primitive place to live. I think that
the woman was quite off set enough by the appearance of her father. A nice
touch indeed, Q. Although, I would have been more creative."

Q glanced at him, a mock expression on his face. "I'm sure you would have.
But, I'm afraid Riker is in for much more of a shock that poor, psycho
babble, Troi was. I'm sure it will be most impressive."

Gatrin eyed him suspiciously, "Make sure that it is. Let's leave them for now
though." Two flashes of blinding light flooded the room indicating their

Chapter 13

Eight long, agonizing hours had past since Will Riker had begun his duty
shift. He had spent the first four hours on the bridge, then the remainder of
the time doing his usual rounds from department to department.

Only one last department check and he was home free. The only disappointment
was that it was sickbay. The one he hated most because everyone knew he
disliked the place more than any other place on the ship. Worse yet, he and
the Doctor didn't exactly get along like two peas in a pod. Yes, they were
friends, and yes, they would talk about stuff....but they always managed to
get on each other's nerves somehow. Will now knew what it feels like to have
a sister...at least he had a pretty good idea.

Reluctantly, he entered sickbay, heading straight for Crusher's office. He
had always enjoyed the fact that the walls were transparent to her office, so
he had the opportunity to prepare for whatever lied inside. He could usually
tell what Beverly's mood was just by looking at her. Then there was the fact
that he could also see if someone else was in there as well. This had come in
handy in the past years for there had been many a time when he had left
because of such observations.

This time, however, there was only the good doctor and her desk with the
accompanying pair of chairs. Without bothering to signal his presence, he
walked right in. She was still involved deeply in her work and therefore, did
not look up to see who was bothering her at this particular time.

He stood, waiting for her to finish whatever she was doing. "Hi, Will. Sit
down, I'll be a minute."

Will's eyebrows rose in his customary manner, "How did you know it was me?"

This time, Beverly did look at him and smiled keenly, "Because you are the
only person I have ever worked with that never bothers to knock before they
enter my office."

With that said, she dove back into her work on the computer. Will sat, still
considering her words, "It doesn't bother you that I do that?"

Beverly put down the manual padd that she had been holding and crossed her
arms on the desk. "Actually it does, but I happen to know that even if I
asked you to knock, you wouldn't, so why waste my energy over it?"

"Smart plan," he replied back. "I'm just here for your report."

She picked her padd up again and pressed a few buttons on it. "That's what
I'm working on right now. I'm running a little late today. Ensign Malone just
lost her mother today in the Excalibur accident. She was one of the senior
bridge officers. I saw it when Fleet medical sent me the casualty list. They
lost over 500 people, Will. I just couldn't imagine the Enterprise suffering
that loss."

Will nodded his understanding, "Lets hope it never has to. Has Ensign Malone
set up an appointment with a counselor yet?"

Beverly shrugged, "I don't know. I haven't had a chance to talk to her or
Deanna about it yet. But you're right. Even if it is regulation that she sees
a counselor, she needs to anyway. Malone was already on shaky ground
emotionally, just because it's her nature. Sometimes I think that she and
Barclay would be a great match." The smile on Beverly's face let Will know
just how amused she was at the thought.

Will kept his smile hidden out of respect for both parties being mentioned.
"I'll talk to Deanna tonight and see if she knows anything. I've got to meet
my father first though."

Beverly tapped the padd one last time and handed it to Will, "Okay...and good
luck with your father. Deanna told me that you and he....well, you know."

Will shook his head and accepted the padd, giving it a once over before
shutting it off. "For once, I'm not so worried about him. It's the woman he's
bringing with him. They're already married, so there's not much I can do
about that. I've just had this funny feeling about it ever since I found out.
I'm not sure what to expect."

Beverly rose and slowly rounded the desk, picking up her old cup of coffee on
the way. "Want some coffee?" she asked, holding the cup out to him.

Will cringed inwardly and outwardly at smell and the look of it. "Not if I go
by that stuff."

Crusher chuckled and pointed to somewhere out the windows of her office.
"I'll get you some from the replicator, Will. I could use a fresh cup too."

Will thought for a moment before answering. Beverly usually didn't offer him
a drink in her office unless she wanted to talk. The drink was always the
warning sign. Should he bail now before he found out what was really on the
doctor's mind? "Sure...I could use one."

"Great, be right back. Don't move." She quickly strode out the door and
returned in a few short moments. When she walked back through the office
doors, Will could tell a change in her attitude. He didn't have time to ask
before she said it first. "Lieutenant Nutzell is doing great in her labor. It
should only be a few more hours until her little girl is born."

Will accepted the steaming cup from her hand and took a whiff of it. "This is
black...right?" Her nod affirmed that it was. "Shouldn't you be out there?"

Beverly lowered her mug from her mouth. "What? Out where?"

Will cocked his head toward the main sickbay, "Out there...you know? I mean
the woman's about to have a baby."

Beverly laughed, "Oh, relax, Commander. She still has ways to go. It's fine.
Alyssa is with her. I'm the doctor here...I think I know what I'm doing."

Will shrugged, "There was a reason I didn't go to medical school...as you can
see." He looked up over the rim of his mug to see Beverly looking at
him....in a very strange way. "What? Did I say something?"

Beverly abruptly set her mug on her desk and crossed her arms, leaning back
on the edge, "Will, are you feeling okay lately?"

Will's normal look quickly turned to one of worry. "Why?" he paused for a
minute. "I'm not dying am I?"

Beverly raised her eyebrows, "Well, I would hope not. Will...Deanna mentioned
to me about that dream of yours. The one where everything is different and
you died...then had a family....and so on. I'm a little concerned too. Will
you at least let me check you out? Just to make sure?"

Will set his mug down as well, letting out a sigh of frustration. "I didn't
want Deanna to tell anyone. I don't know, Bev. That dream.....well, I'm not
so sure it was one. Remember when the Captain went through that thing with
Q...a few weeks before the D crashed? Well, it sort of feels like that. It
seemed real, but then I woke up, like I had fallen asleep looking over some
reports. After that, I didn't remember much. The only thing I remember is the
broad experience...no details...and no people except me."

Throughout the talk, Beverly had moved for her tricorder. Unnoticed by Will,
she slipped it out from behind her back and held it up to take some readings.
Will blinked and attempted to get up but Beverly pushed him back down.
"Amazing, Will. The readings I'm getting from your brain activity are similar
to those from the Captains when he was moving through time."

Will shook his head in disbelief, "I wasn't moving through time Bev. It was
something different. I know it was."

Beverly stopped scanning and shut the tricorder, "I'm not so sure it is. You
may have not been moving through time instantaneously like Jean-Luc did. From
what I gather, you were moving through time at the normal pace, just like
you're doing now. The real difference is that you've accumulated
approximately 79 years of memories and you're only 39. That's a forty year
gap, Will. A gap that I can't explain until I run some tests."

Will's mouth was open in shock, "Seventy-nine years?" Her look was all the
answer he needed. Suddenly he stood up and began pacing the petite office.
After the third trip back and forth, he stopped, facing Crusher. "Something
very dangerous and very strange is happening. The real danger is that I don't
have a clue about anything. It's like I'm walking through a dark tunnel only
to find that there's no exit at the end."

Beverly walked over to him and put a reassuring hand on his arm. "Will, try
to settle down. I show no physical side effects at all other than worry and
simple exhaustion. You'll be messed up emotionally if you don't put an end to
the worry, Will. I'll do everything in my power to get to the bottom of this."

Will's look cut into her, "How am I supposed to stop worrying?! I mean...you
don't just wake up in the morning and have 79 years worth of memories. Tell
me, would you stop worrying?"

Beverly looked down at the floor. She couldn't lie to him. Smiling she said,
"No. I probably would react in much the same way." She could tell that the
comment made him feel better. He didn't smile back, but he did give her the
look that he always did when her was reaffirmed about something.

Deanna chose that moment to enter, although, not intentionally. In the last
couple of minutes, she had sensed deep worry and fear from Will, but that had
frequented often in the past few days. Not exactly as strong as it was now,
of course, but it had been there. She couldn't decide whether or not it was a
good time to tell him about her father. He seemed to have enough trouble of
his own right now, and they were about to add to it by meeting Kyle Riker and
his new wife.

Cautiously, she approached them both, "Hello." Now that she was closer, she
was able to see the very worried expression on both of their faces. "What's
going on? Is everything all right?"

Beverly, being the doctor, was the first to speak. "We're not sure, Deanna. I
scanned Will and found that he has 79 years of memories inside his head that
obviously we can't account for."

Will looked from Beverly to Deanna, then back to Beverly again. "It has to be
the dream. That's the only way."

Beverly took a deep breath and kept the professional air up. "That can only
be a theory for now. But if it is the dream, then most likely, the conclusion
would be that you really did experience it and it wasn't in your head." At
their apprehensive looks, she continued. "There is another possibility, but
it's a long shot."

"What?" both Will and Deanna said in unison.

Beverly shoved her hands in the pockets of her med coat. "It could have been
a dream that had an indirect effect on your cerebral cortex and only made it
appear that you have gone through 79 years. But, I've never seen a case where
that's happened and even if there was a chance, it most likely wouldn't
happen. It would take a very complex pattern controlled by the glycoproteins
in the synapses in order to produce the effects of something like that. And
still, there would have to be a bridge from the dream to the memory synapses.
That just isn't possible...at least to our knowledge."

Will and Deanna were dumbfounded. Deanna looked at Will, then at her best
friend. "Are you saying that he really did go through all of those

Beverly shrugged, feeling slightly helpless, "I can't say for sure, Deanna.
I'm going to run some test theories and see what I can come up with that will
be of some comfort to you. Just try and not worry so much. The more worried
and stressed out you are...the worse it is."

Will gave her the look that he had given her previously when she suggested he
not worry so much. Beverly understood what he was silently saying, but didn't
dare speak. Deanna nodded her understanding, "Thank you, Beverly. I'll help
keep an eye on him. We really need to talk later though. There are some

Beverly held up her hand, "I know. We'll talk, I promise. Just keep him
settled for now."

Deanna smiled back and escorted Will out of sickbay. They began to walk down
the corridor, Deanna's hand gently holding onto Will's arm. She fought over
the idea of saying something to him and decided that it might distract him
for a minute or so. "You're father is due in a couple of minutes. I wanted to
come with you to meet him."

Will broke his straight gaze and looked down at her. He had never gotten over
how much shorter she was than he. "Thanks, I appreciate it. You abandoned me
this morning."

Deanna laughed, "Well, I had good reason to. My parents are onto us. They
know that you're staying with me."

Will was about to say something, but stopped himself. "Parents? As in two? As
in your father?"

Deanna looked down, "As in. I've wanted to tell you all day, but I had my
duties and I couldn't find you for lunch."

Will stopped walking, "Deanna?! Your father is aboard?! That's
impossible....he's gone."

Deanna sighed, "I know that. But he's not dead now. He's in his quarters with
mother. It shocked the heck out of me too. When you told me about the things
in your dream, and then I had a very long counseling session with ensign
Malone, my brain was shot. I was beginning to consider some things that you
had told me...especially the one where people that were supposed to be dead,
were alive....at least you said that's what it felt like from the memory. It
had briefly gone through my mind that, what if my father was going to show

"What if he was the man your mother had mentioned?" Will finished the thought
for her.

"Yes," Deanna pulled on Will's arm and they continued toward the transporter
room. "Well, call it women's intuition, empathic sense, whatever. It actually
was HIM. My father...Ian Troi...is here. I had to do everything in my power
to keep from crying and asking a million questions in front of them. After I
left, I went to my office and cried for an hour. I just can't believe that my
father, who I remember so fondly, is just a few decks away."

The transporter room doors were in sight, but Will stopped them both before
they entered. "Deanna....if my dream was real, and your father is alive....if
everything checks out..."

Deanna's face lit up in recognition, "Then your mother should be the woman
coming with your father." Her voice was full of wonderment at the
realization. They both looked at one another, mirroring each other's looks.

Will glanced at the doors, "Well, at least I'll know what to expect if it is
her. I never thought I'd say this, but there's a part of me that hopes it

Deanna smiled and patted his chest with her hand. "I don't know...I've always
wanted to meet the woman who gave birth to you. After all, I have a lot to
thank her for."

Will returned her smile. That was the first time that he had felt relief
today....at least of what he could remember. He could always count on his
Imzadi to make his day a little better, and sometimes, a lot better.

Will stepped aside and let Deanna go in first. He followed close behind,
preparing himself as best he could for whatever he was about to see.
Gatrin hit his hand against the wall of the corridor. A steaming look
radiated from his eyes, directing itself toward the Q standing right next
him. "I told you, Q! You underestimate them! They may humans, but they are
not stupid. Riker is beginning to catch onto your little game. Worse yet,
he's got those detestable women to help him put all the pieces together. You
should have challenged him more."

Q rolled his eyes, "My dear, dear, Gatrin. Do you not think that you
underestimate me? You have no idea what my plans are, so why do you accuse me

Gatrin began walking in the other direction, totally ignoring, Q. Q watched
him walk for a few meters, then took off after him. "Wait! Don't you want to
see what happens in the transporter room?"

Gatrin turned on him and began walking Q backwards. "I already know what your
plans are, Q. Don't tell me the extent of my knowledge. So far, your plan is
childish and extremely unimpressive. Now, I'm challenging you to be creative
and use that idiot mind of yours to come up with something that you've never
done before. You want to off set him? I know a way that will work, but won't
break our deal. But, you'll have to figure that out on your own."

He turned and began walking again, Q however, did not follow. As he walked,
Gatrin called out, "You stay and watch your plans unfold here, Q. I'll be
watching from somewhere else. When you figure things out, let me know." He
rounded the corner of the corridor and Q saw the flash of blue light echo
back to him.

Q sighed and walked through the doors of the transporter room, smiling
secretly....be creative? He had an idea of what Gatrin had in mind. As soon
as he entered the room, the transporter was activated, bringing his two
guests on board.


Chapter 14

"So, anyway, I had to talk Kyle into letting me come. It's been a while since
I've seen my son," Will, Deanna, Kyle and Elizabeth all meandered through the
corridors of the Enterprise. They had just come from the transporter room.
Will and Deanna had not been disappointed when it turned out to be Will's
mother standing on the pad. Luckily, they already had the possibility running
through their minds, so it hadn't been as much of a shock to Will as it would
have been.

Deanna mused over the situation as they all listened to Will's parents chat
away about the trip to Betazed. Her situation with her father being here was
totally different from Will's. She remembered her father enough to be
slightly uncomfortable but still remember what they had always enjoyed
talking about and things he liked to do. Will however, had no idea how to
react to his mother. He had never known her, and the most he's seen of her
was a few pictures from a long time ago. Then there was Elizabeth's diary
that he had snuck into her dresser to read occasionally. Yes, if anything, he
had it worse.

Deanna let her mind wander back to the conversation just in time to hear her
name spoken. She turned when Elizabeth addressed her. "So, Deanna...Kyle has
told me a little about you. He said that you and Will are good friends?"

Deanna smiled. She was amazed at how many characteristics of his mother, Will
seemed to have. Elizabeth was a tall woman, maybe and inch or so taller than
Beverly. She had dark hair, much like Will's, and most noticeable was her
blue eyes. She had a nice, well muscled, athletic frame. Deanna could tell
that she was a tough woman and very determined. Although, her tender side
came out in several of her facial expressions and her tone of voice as well.
Yes..so much like her Imzadi.

"Yes, Will and I are best friends you could say." She had to hold a laugh in
when she saw Elizabeth's left eyebrow raise at her answer.

"Interesting," she replied. "Will always did make it a point to get as close
as possible to the female population." She gave Will a teasing grin and
winked at him, obviously recalling some memories of her son as a boy and his
little friends that most happened to be girls.

"Mom!" Will shot her a daring look but his mother would not let up, knowing
that Deanna would get a kick out of her stories of Will.

She went on, "It was strange really. He began hanging around with girls more
than boys sometimes...getting a head start on some of his high school
buddies. I remember one special one he used to take on walks a lot. Her name
was, Cecily.....a very pretty girl. Will couldn't have been more than six or
seven. Yep, he learned how to romance them early."

Will was shocked...he had done all of those things, and his supposed mother
knew about them too. But more than that, she was telling Deanna the history
of his precious love life. Something he would never share with Deanna...not
even if they were married.

He glanced at Deanna, his face turning a light shade of red. She however had
the stupidest looking smirk that he had ever seen. Apparently, she had no
trouble with the story. "Okay, Mom...I think everyone gets the picture."

Elizabeth's eyes twinkled, "You're right, Will. Perhaps I've said too much."
Secretly, she leaned over Deanna's shoulder, "We'll talk later and I'll tell
you anything you want to know." Deanna smiled back, silently agreeing. Will
and Kyle both looked at each other and rolled their eyes. For once he was
getting a taste of family life, and so far, it annoyed him in a big way.
Will and Deanna collapsed on the couch when they returned to her quarters.
Will ran a tired hand over his eyes and sighed loudly. "Well, I think my
mother is almost as much of a burden as yours is."

Deanna laughed quietly and patted his arm, "At least she's not trying to
match you up with someone. It could be worse."

"You're right," he said, looking at her. "The worst part is that we are
actually starting to settle into this...life...as if it were real. It's like
my Mom is supposed to be alive....and it's okay. It all seems so natural. I'm
finding it hard to be scared or surprised at this whole situation."

Deanna listened, but admitted to herself that she couldn't say the same. "I
don't know about you, but I'm having a difficult time with this. I mean, we
can't just sit here and pretend nothing has happened. We have to do
something. Three days ago, my father was dead...so was your mother. Will...we
have to find out why everything is happening, no matter how hard it is."

Will looked away, "I know. But what do you want me to do Deanna? We haven't
gone anywhere...the Enterprise hasn't hit some sort of weird thing in space.
It just doesn't make any sense. You know, more of that dream is coming back
to me...it's almost like we're living it. This is what happened in my dream.
Something weird would happen, but there was no way to stop it. There was
something standing in my way...a person maybe...or something.....I can't...."
his words dropped off in frustration and he felt Deanna's hand reach up to
massage the muscles at the base of his skull, just like she did in the museum
on Betazed so many years ago.

Immediately, Deanna felt him relax, "It's okay, Will. You know, if your dream
keeps coming back to you, maybe it's important in some way. Just maybe it
will help us understand what is happening."

Will sighed, "Deanna, how can it help if I can't remember it? I have a
feeling that whatever I can't remember is what we need to know. Maybe I'll
remember tomorrow or something. But, for now, I'll have Data run some scans
and see if there's something out there that wasn't detected by our sensors.
Something else that's occurred to me is that thing that Worf went through
when he switched between the different realities. If that is what's
happening, Data should be able to tell."

Deanna nodded, keeping the rhythm of her massaging, "There's still the
problem of your memories that Beverly found. We need to keep that in mind
too. She did say that it could be because of your dream. But she also said it
was not likely...that you really could have experienced all of it. You could
have lived those lives like we are living this one now."

"What I don't get is why you are going through this. Everything points back
to me. It was my dream, my experiences....I don't get it."

Deanna ran her hand through his hair, "Maybe it's because we're, Imzadi. Two
Imzadi cannot be separated."

Will laughed, "Yea...sure. That's probably why."

Deanna pulled back slightly, "You don't believe that?"

Will shrugged, "I'm sure it's true, but I find it hard to believe that it's
why you happen to be going through all of this."

Deanna sighed and crossed her arms, "Will Riker, after all of these years,
you still don't get it. Why do you naturally assume that all of this is
because of some superficial, scientific phenomenon? If you ever learn to see
things deeper, on the spiritual level, things might make more sense."

Will was getting irritated. All he wanted to do was find a solution to this
problem and she was turning it into a spiritual matter...typical Betazoid
solution. He let his frustration show, raising his voice slightly, "Why do
you always have to take it to things to that level? Not every answer can be
found spiritually. I thought YOU would have learned that by now."

Deanna calmed herself, making sure she didn't get mad and turn this into a
debate, "Wait...lets just slow down. Apparently we are the only ones that
notice these changes. We don't need to get into a fight. We have to stick
together if we're going to get through this."

Will was less reluctant to give up a debate - that he was right on - so
easily. But he knew that she was right about sticking together. He took a
deep breath, trying to wipe his thoughts away. "I'm sorry. I've got to go to
engineering to supervise a project there. I'll see you later."

He stood to leave, but Deanna stopped him. "Will...I'm sorry too. Just one
little piece of advice....if you happen to go into the lounge and see my
parents there, stay away. My Father isn't too pleased that you are staying
with me."

Will smiled, "And your Mother?"

Deanna stood, "Extremely happy...and hopeful. Nothing outside of the usual.
Well, how about dinner again tonight? Maybe we can get our families together
and hope they get along."

Will smiled, "Sure...sounds great. You'll have to make arrangements though.
I'm busy the rest of the day."

Deanna took his hand and squeezed it. "Of course. I'll see you later then?"

Will nodded and let go of her hand. Without saying anything, he left. Deanna
prayed that their parents would get along. After all, if things ever turned
serious between her and Will, they'd all be family. Might as well get a head
"You want to do what?!" Gatrin stalked around the table in the observation
lounge. "That is out of the question, Q. Permission denied."

A sly look came to Q's face and he regained control of his temper. "They are
MY responsibility. I won't violate any of our agreements. They just need a
little boost in the right direction. I'm getting really, really bored
watching them. They're getting nowhere."

Gatrin bellowed, "You will do as I say! They are humans, and they need time.
We'll be around for eternity, Q. That's something we can afford."

"But, can they afford it? Their days are limited more so than they know. I
promise you...they'll never know. I just want to give them a little hint so
that they can produce a little more entertainment. Everything got boring once
you started hanging around," Q sulked. He leaned back on the table and
crossed his arms.

Gatrin watched Q thoughtfully, "All right, Q. I'll give you one chance. But,
if you blow it...need I remind you of the consequences?"

Q smiled to himself, "Of course not. I know them." Q flashed out of sight and
left Gatrin staring at the stars.

"You don't know them so well, Q."

Chapter 15

Ambassador Dekal drifted through the corridors of the Enterprise E, unsure
exactly of where he was going to end up. Despite that one, short,
insignificant fact, he walked purposefully toward his final destination.

The scheme of this ship was truly remarkable he decided after scrutinizing
the small portion it that he was now subjected to. He had been on a myriad of
ships before. Starships to freighters, he had graced his presence on them
all. But this...yes...this was the flagship of them all. Never had he seen
such an intelligent design of a vessel.

His mind wandered a step farther and rested upon the idea that it must take
an intensely skilled crew to maintain the Enterprise. Namely, a meritorious
senior staff to keep things in order. He had heard and read of many of the
adventures that this ship had persevered. It was quite impressive.

As he rounded the next bend of the corridor, his eyes caught site of the
first officer. William Riker was it? He confirmed his question with a quick
reflection of the senior staff's names. Riker - he had recently studied the
new Riker Maneuver, made famous in the battle against the Son'a. It was the
big news to hit the next day of worlds near and far. A week later, Starfleet
officially recorded it as a maneuver to be studied in the Academy as well as
other strategists for further use. This Riker was quickly gaining a
reputation for excellence. A reputation only overshadowed by none other than
Kirk himself.

Just as he was about to lose the Commander to the turbolift, he quickened his
pace and called out, “Commander! A moment of your time please?”

Will stopped. Dead stopped in his tracks. Another request, another complaint,
another whatever...he couldn’t take it anymore. His first instinct was to
belt the guy to keep him quiet. But, that wasn’t a very good idea. At least
not if the guy happens to be an ambassador. He turned anyway to acknowledge
him, but did not offer any sort of welcome.

Dekal raised an eyebrow at the reception, or lack of it rather. “Commander, I
only wish to know when we are due to arrive at the conference.”

Will sighed a mental relief. A simple question. Finally, something he could
deal with for a change. “If no problems occur, we should be there by 10:00
hours tomorrow.”

Dekal’s expression changed from a frontal facade to one of inquiry. “Isn’t
that a little early for the distance yet to travel?”

Will raised his chin, trying not to get impatient. Now that he looked at the
guy, he didn’t remember him coming aboard. He delayed his answer for a
second, trying to recall any memory of this man. Nothing. Strange. “The
Captain has increased to warp 9 to hopefully relieve some of the tension on
board. As you know, it has been a rough three days for everyone.”
As he looked at this ambassador, Will had an idea that Dekal knew nothing of
what he was talking about. Will’s eyes narrowed as did the ambassador's. He
had to find out why he didn’t recognize this man. He could be an impostor.

Dekal nodded a curt thank you and turned on his heel to leave. No sooner had
he taken two steps, then he felt Riker’s hand hold his arm back. “Excuse me.
But I don’t remember you checking in with us.”

The ambassador was nonplused. “I came in with a load of others. You probably
just did not catch me. If it makes you feel better though, I am Ambassador
Rehaj Dekal. I do the work of many worlds. I belong to no one in particular,

Will’s gut told him that something was amiss. “Walk with me, Ambassador.”
Riker did an about face and headed off in the other direction. Dekal, fell
into step behind him. A slow smile spread across his face. *So in control
now, are we, Commander?*

They reached their destination after a couple of minutes...it was Dekal’s
destination. He was sure of it. This was it. The lounge had a little number
of people in it, this was in the middle of the day during the ‘big shift’ he
had heard it called. He saw Riker point to a table near the viewport and he
obediently sat.

Will ordered two drinks and made his way to the chosen table. The two men sat
in silence for as long as five minutes. They both held stone cold faces, not
willing to smile or offer any sort of warm expression to the other. It, in a
sense, would be submission. Dekal was the first to say something. “What do
you want with me, Commander?”

Will looked directly into the man's eyes....oh my. They were black. The black
eyes of a Betazoid. He cursed himself for not taking notice before. But,
something was wrong. He had a distinct look about him that betrayed a full
Betazoid heritage. “Mind telling me a little about yourself?”

It was more of an order than a request and Dekal knew it. He sipped his drink
and held back a smirk. “To answer your unspoken question, yes, I am in part
Betazoid. My father, however, is from another race of people.”

Will leaned back, trying to keep from showing interest. Although Dekal would
probably know. “What race would that be...sir?”

Dekal looked out the window at the stars that were whizzing by. He was
reluctant to answer of his origin or his father’s really. He had read too
many reports on the recent discovery for his liking. “The Ba’ku,” he answered

Will’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “What?” he asked, barely above a

Dekal turned, smiling thinly. “You’re wondering how a Ba’ku ended up with a
Betazoid. Almost two centuries ago, a group separate from the Son’a, decided
they wanted to live with the conveniences of modern technology. Of course, in
order to do so, they had to leave their home in the Briar Patch. They spread
out among many different planets, each adapting to the indigenous way of
life. To make a long story short, my ancestors rooted a home on Betazed. They
founded a boarding house, if you will, for off-worlders: non-Betazoids.”

Will fought the shock back down, “Why didn’t the Ba’ku tell us of this

Dekal shrugged, “I don’t know. I never knew my people. I’m the eighth
generation of my family on Betazed. From what I have learned though, the
Ba’ku do not like to reveal too much of themselves to strangers. It’s a way
of protection. I’m sure you can understand that.”

Riker cocked his head and tensed slightly, “What do you mean by that?” The
defense in his tone came through a little more than he planned.

Dekal smirked, “You hide yourself from those close to you...those who have
access to what’s inside of you. That can be a very dangerous thing. Not all
is as it should be.”

Now, Will definitely knew that something was strange about this guy. “You
know this because you are Betazoid?”

The ambassador swallowed a portion of his drink before answering. “I’m
empathic. But, the gifts of the Ba’ku and those of the Betazoids combined
give me a sort of insight to your soul. I just know.”

Will nodded slowly, not sure how to take this guy. “What else do you know?”

“I know that the only way to make things right again, is by forming the
pattern for all as it should be. Your help is beside you every step of the
way. The true test is to see if you waste it or not. So far, you’re wasting
it. Soon enough, you’ll be on your own.”
Five hours later found Will, Deanna, Kyle, Elizabeth, Lwaxana, and Ian all
sitting around the table in Deanna’s quarters. Will had prepared dinner for
the evening, much to the request of Deanna. He had also met Deanna’s father
who was not to pleased about him at the moment.

Things were not progressing as smoothly as hoped. The parents had just made
small talk to be polite. Nothing was sincere as far as Will could tell. His
father was hard to get along with as well as Lwaxana. Ian kept tossing
inspectful glances at him the entire time, and his mother tried to keep the
conversation going in vain.

Lwaxana glanced around the quiet table deciding that this was enough
silliness for one evening. “Dinner was excellent, William...as always.” All
eyes shot to her intrusion of their solitude.

“Thank you,” was all Will felt like saying.

Elizabeth held her gaze on Lwaxana then looked to her son, “As always? How
many times has he cooked for you?” She did not think that Will had spent that
much time with Deanna’s family.

Lwaxana shared a forced smile, “Ian usually cooks when he gets the chance to,
but Will was always over at the house when Ian was gone - which was often
then. He offered to cook for us, saying it was a hidden talent. I accepted
and now he cooks most all of the time when he’s on Betazed.”

Will and Deanna both fought to keep there thoughts hidden. Luckily, the
stretch of their bond helped to keep each other accountable. They both looked
at each other briefly. Neither of them remembered Will cooking in their house
on Betazed.

Elizabeth addressed Will, “Why would you cook for them if you were just on a
trip to Betazed? Surely you don’t stay with them?”

Will shrugged and blushed slightly. “Actually, when I was stationed there, I
got to know Deanna fairly well. Her family’s home is kind of like mine when
I’m there.”

Kyle smirked at his son. He knew good and well how close Will and Deanna had
been. He even questioned that now, especially since they happened to be
sharing quarters. Ian, however went on red-alert. The idea that this
Commander had been romantically involved with his perfect little angel didn’t
sit with him too well.

Lwaxana reached over and patted his arm, “Now, now dear. It’s not as bad as
you think. Will would never do anything to hurt Deanna. Trust me.”

Ian’s accent flowed through the air, “So, is that why you forbid him to see
Deanna? Because he wouldn’t hurt her?” He directed his gaze pointedly at Will.

Kyle and Elizabeth stiffened at the accusations. Kyle would not stand for it.
“You forbid him to see her? What in the world would my son do to deserve
that?” The voices were gradually being raised.

Lwaxana wished that she had never said anything. “Had they chosen to be
together then, he would have torn Deanna from the only way of life she had
ever known. She wasn’t ready for that. Oh, she thought she was, but I knew
better. Not that it made a difference. They got engaged and made plans to
meet each other for a wedding anyway. But, just as I predicted, he didn’t
follow through on their own plans and Deanna indeed was hurt.”

Elizabeth stood, “How dare you talk about my son like that?! Will would never
break a promise. He would never make a promise he couldn’t keep. Would you,
Will?” It was a simple question that required a very complex answer.

Will pushed away from the table and stood, “Excuse me.” He made no eye
contact with anyone and all but ran from the room. The doors shut swiftly
behind him. Shock, relief, triumph, and shame were written on all of their
faces. Everyone, except for Deanna and her mother, was bewildered at Will’s

Deanna placed her napkin beside her plate and also stood. “I better go after
him. If you’ll excuse me.” She calmly walked out of her quarters, leaving two
sets of parents to glare at each other.
Q walked up to Gatrin, who was watching the whole dinner incident from a
distance. “How was I?”

Gatrin smirked, “Almost convincing. Do you really believe that he understood
that nonsense?”

Q closed his eyes and blocked out the light surrounding them. “He understood
it enough to think about it, and act on it. He will find the way. Soon, he
will discover his help.”

Gatrin nodded and turned back to the scene in front of him, awaiting the next
stream of events.

Chapter 16

Deanna rushed down the corridor with certain celerity, trying to catch up
with Will. The computer had voiced he was in the holodeck...where he usually
dispatched himself when faced with tough situations of thought. Silently, to
herself, she was almost gratified that his mother had forged the remark about
him keeping his promises. It forced him to face that prospect...especially
where they were concerned.

As she really thought about it, they never had seriously discussed why he had
not met her on Risa or basically anything having to do with it. It was
casually mentioned here or there, usually in jest. But nothing was done to
resolve the whole unseen conflict.

She approached the doors of the holodeck only to find that they were locked.
“Great. Just make this harder for everyone else, Will Riker.” As if on cue, a
security personnel walked by and Deanna quickly stopped him, asking him to
override the lock. He agreed and did as was asked.

She thanked him and opened the doors to reveal....Will’s quarters? She raised
her eyebrows in mild shock and stepped inside. Immediately, she began looking
around, searching for him. She found no sign of him in the living area. Well,
only one other place for him to be.

She found him lying on his stomach, his arms crossed in front of him and his
chin resting on them. Slowly and quietly, she sat on the edge of the bed
nearest him and lightly touched his back, getting his attention.

He jumped slightly at her touch and smiled when he saw who it was. He set his
chin back down, and stared out of the window above his bed. Deanna looked
around, “Most people go to the holodeck to get away from the ship.”

He shrugged, “I guess I’m just trying to reacquaint myself with normality.
Everything’s screwed up, so I just want a little peace.”

“I see. Well, if I’m disturbing you, I’ll leave.” Deanna stood up and walked
back out into the living area. She was stopped by his hand on her arm.

Will looked down at her with his blue eyes. They almost seemed to be begging
her to stay. “Please, don’t go. I need to talk to you about what my Mom said.
I need to get it off my chest. For years, I’ve been fighting it, but I can’t
stand it anymore.”

She looked away briefly and then smiled back at him. “Of course. But you
don’t have to tell me. It’s a closed subject as far as I’m concerned.”

Will shook his head and chuckled. Gesturing to the couch, he followed her
around the coffee table and sat down next to her. “When I met you on Betazed,
I just wanted you for your physical attributes. Then, I found out that I was
going to have to work in order to get your attention. I’d never encountered a
woman of your style and culture before, so I thought you were flirting with
me by playing hard to get. I know...it’s the typical male ego that allowed me
to think that. When you finally let me catch up with you, I discovered a very
complex person that deserved, and really wanted, more than a simple two week
relationship. Well, I didn’t quite know how to take that. The only commitment
that I’d ever made in my life was to Starfleet, and I had wanted that ever
since I could remember.
When we got involved intimately, and before I left, I knew that this was how
I wanted my life to end up. I wanted to marry the most beautiful girl in all
creation, have some kids, and a great career in Starfleet under my belt. Not
only did I want that, but I wanted it with you.”

Deanna put up a hand to silence him, “I’m sorry, but do you want a drink? I
have a feeling that I’ll be needing a hot chocolate in a few minutes.”

“I’m fine,” he told her. She nodded and went over to order the hot beverage
for herself. Will made sure she was seated and her eyes fixed on him before
he continued.

“Anyway, I proposed and asked to meet on Risa six weeks later thinking that I
was actually going to have my dreams come true. When I went back aboard ship,
I made new friends, got back into poker games, and easily adjusted myself to
starship life again. I missed you so badly, but there were so many
uncertainties where you were concerned. Later, those turned to doubts. I
remembered my goals that I had set for myself and the promises I’d made
regarding Fleet. Suddenly, they were becoming very important to me again. The
farther away I got from you, the more I forgot what it felt like to be with
you. I still had that sense of you, or whatever you want to call it. That
alone was kind of unsettling, I guess. I started to panic because I realized
that I would always have that feeling of you and that I couldn’t get rid of
it. I felt trapped and tied down even though I was light years away. I was
afraid to know how I would feel if we were together. Well, the promotion came
through about that same time and I saw a way out. So, I took it. Well, I
guess that’s not the best explanation in the world, but it’s the truth.”

Deanna was doing her very best to keep tears from forming in her eyes. Having
made assumptions as to why was nothing like hearing him actually say it. She
sipped her drink and set it down, folding her hands in her lap. “Why are you
telling me this now?”

Will played with his hands while studying the floor, “Because you need to
know exactly why I did it. Also, because I care about you too much for you
not to know the truth. Maybe because I needed to say it.”

Deanna smiled and placed an encouraging hand on his arm. “I’m glad you told
me, Will. But, that happened a long time ago, and I know that you’re not the
same man you were then. Just as I’m not the same either. All we can do is
learn from the past and hope we make wiser decisions in our future.”

Will took her hand and squeezed it. “Thanks. So, you forgive me?”

Deanna squeezed his hand back, “Yes. Now, back to the present...or whatever
this is. Did you talk to Data?”

Will let go of her hand and leaned back, “He didn’t find anything out of the
ordinary. That eliminates the theory of Worf’s adventures. I asked him to run
a scan of me just to make sure, the only thing he found was the same that
Beverly found. He doesn’t know why I asked though.”

Deanna sighed in frustration. For a smallest of seconds, she picked up
something from Will and cocked her head in thought. “Will? What are you not
telling me?”

Will ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes. After a couple of
minutes, he opened them again and looked her straight in the eye. “I had a
talk with an Ambassador Dekal today. He was very strange and seemed to know
what was going on. I felt like he was dropping hints, but I didn’t quite
understand what he was getting at. He also told me that he was descended in
part from the Ba’ku and he was raised on Betazed. He said that the only way
to fix things is for me to make everything as it should be and that my help
was by my side.”

Deanna thought about the words for a moment and then thought about the man.
“I don’t remember a Dekal on the list. Did you check his background?”

Will nodded, “Yep. No family on Betazed has the name Dekal. I checked all
possibilities and found nothing. The man doesn’t exist. They way things are
going, he was probably an illusion too.”

Deanna stood and began pacing. It always helped her think better when she
moved around. “Computer, locate Ambassador Dekal.”

They both listened as the computer replied, “There is no Ambassador aboard.”

Will scrunched his eyebrows. “Computer, when did Ambassador Dekal transport
to the Enterprise?”

“No lifeform with the name Dekal has been aboard ship.”

Will and Deanna looked at each other then Deanna returned to the couch as if
a thought had just struck her. “Will, you said that your help was by your
side. Don’t you see? I’m the help that he told you about.”

Will put up his hands and stood, “Whoa, we don’t even know if this guy
exists. If he doesn’t, then everything I heard was untrue. Besides, how could
you help me? You don’t fit into any of this.”

Deanna also stood, “Maybe it’s my empathy. That could be valuable. It could
be my training as well. I don’t see it either, but that’s all I can think of.”

Will nodded, “Could be. What I want to know is how all of this is happening.
It would sure speed up the process. I know the answer is in my dream, but I
can’t remember. I wish that I’d have that dream again so I could see.”

“It might not have been a dream, Will,” she calmly reminded him. “If it did
happen, Data found nothing unusual. This might be one that the answer doesn’t
lie in science.”

Chapter 17

“She’s right you know.” Both Will and Deanna whirled around to come face to
face with Q himself. He was lounged on the dining table, annoyingly popping
grapes into his mouth. He laughed when he saw the officers perplexed
expressions. Grudgingly, he sat up. “My manners...I’m sorry. Anyone want a

Will lunged forward, determined to knock all of those white teeth out of Q’s
mouth. Even though he wouldn't be able to, the prospect caused him to have a
glimpse of optimism. Deanna grabbed his arm and pulled him back though before
he was able to do anything.

Will had to settle for something a little less thrilling. “You! I remember
now! Those dreams were of you messing up my life!”

Q held a smug look of amusement on his face, “Oh, how soon they do forget.
How puny is your brain, Riker? You still don’t have any clue. Do I have to
spell it out for you like I would a helpless infant?”

Deanna felt Will’s arm tense and his fists clench. She squeezed it a little
harder, encouraging restraint. Deep down, she knew that she wouldn’t be able
to stop him if he really did want to kill, Q. Deciding it was a good time to
release some tension, she smiled her best fake smile and let go of Will’s
arm. “Q, obviously there’s a reason for you being here. Are you the cause of
Will’s dream and his memory increase?”

Q threw his head back and laughed even harder than the previous. “You don’t
get it either!” he said through amusement, “This is getting better every
minute. Tell me, did Dekal not help sort anything out?”

Will’s eyes flashed fiery darts in Q’s direction when he realized. “That
wasn’t, Dekal. It was you the whole time. Why didn’t you just come to me like
this instead of playing dress up?”

Q rolled his eyes and ran a thoughtful hand across the glossy surface of the
table, “Unfortunately, I was detained from doing so by a pressing matter,
much to my disappointment. But, that matter is not pressing me at the moment,
so I thought I’d drop by quickly and lend a .....what do you call it? A
helping hand?”

Q felt the stirrings of Gatrin’s presence in the back of his mind. “We must
make this visit a little shorter than planned. Look at the woman beside you,
Riker. She is your help. Together, you make things right. You are about to
experience something that no other lifeform has. What you do with it is up to
you. I only hope you realize what you are doing, because together you will
seal the fate of the most precious thing that has ever existed. It will
either be for the good or the bad. What you are living now in this reality is
a connection to all of the others that you went through, Riker. No...it
wasn’t a dream. I gave you back your parents so that they could help...and
they will if you let them. They are afterall, the most powerful influence on
your lives, especially the ones who have been dead. Really sorry about that
by the way.”
Will felt his anger ceasing and his curiosity growing. “Why couldn’t we have
figured all of this out in our own reality?”

Gatrin was right on Q’s trail and Q knew it. “Because you were not isolated
then. You two are the only ones who understand what is going on...before, you
could confide in those who didn’t understand. It wouldn’t have helped you at
all. I must go....they will help you. They can answer your questions.”

Will and Deanna both called out, “Wait!” it was too late. Q was gone. They
both turned and looked at each other. Instinctively, they reached for each
other’s hands at the same time and held on tight. Both were scared and
unsure. What did Q mean by sealing the fate of the most precious thing in
existence? What about their parents? Where did they fit in?

All of these questions were understood between them and they sat down again,
still holding their hands together. Deanna was first to break the silence. “I
think I’m more confused now. But at least we know that you didn’t dream those
things. That explains the memory. I guess the next step is to talk to our
parents.” She started to get up, but Will didn’t let go of her hand. She
started to protest, but saw the look on his face.

“I’m not ready yet. I think the reality of this whole thing has just set on
me. I don’t think I can go on right now.” His voice was a little husky, the
way it always sounded when he was scared or upset about something. Inside,
Deanna was tearing herself apart, trying to hold it together. They had been
putting on a show for the past several days and it was finally catching up
with them.

Deanna sat back down and shook her hand from his. She took her arms and
wrapped them around Will, taking him in a tight, comforting embrace. After a
few seconds, he did the same and they sat there, silently reassuring each
other. Still locked together, he allowed her hands to slowly massage his rock
hard muscles around his shoulders and neck. He responded by gently stroking
her back.

After a while...could have been years for all they knew....he pulled away and
saw a single tear escape from her right eye. Oddly, he felt a tear of his own
slide down his cheek and wondered where it had come from. They watched each
other cry and held there hands together, knowing that they were alone.

Will brought his attention to Deanna when he heard her voice, “I’m so scared,
Will,” she said in between tears. “I don’t think I can hide my feelings from
my mother anymore. I’m scared and delighted at the same time because I can
see my Father again. I have the chance to spend time with him, but it’s not
real. I want to tell him how much I missed him...but it could ruin
everything. We don’t even know what to do.”

Will pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. “I know, Imzadi. I know. I
feel the same way about my mother. I guess we needed to get this out of our
system.” He wiped his eyes, a little embarrased that Deanna had seen him cry.
He couldn’t remember a time when he had cried in front of her before. She
smiled and patted his shoulder, “I know, Will. I hate crying in front of
people too. Well, Commander, I guess we better pull ourselves together. A
sorry bunch are we, Commander. Hardly fit to serve on the flagship.”

“Aye...we best find our way home before the Captain makes us walk the plank.”
He held out his arm for her to take it. She wiped her eyes one last time and
he escorted her out of her quarters.
“Out joy riding, Q?” Gatrin strolled up to him with his hands behind his

Q backed away, careful not to say the wrong thing. “I was just admiring the
many wonders of the universe. It’s been a while. Besides, I have nothing else
better to do since I’m not allowed to interfere with the current case.”

Gatrin laughed and then his face snapped back into a very serious one. “I
don’t like it when you lie, Q. I think you can remember our agreement.
Consider your fate sealed.”

Gatrin lifted his hands, “No! Wait....so I decided to give them a little
shove in the right direction. At least let me see how things turn out? You
can keep a close eye on me...I promise.”

Gatrin slowly let his hands down, “Very well. You may see how things turn
out, but only because you beg so well. As soon as things commence back to
normal, you die.”

Chapter 18

The darkness of the space out the window seemed to encompass him. He was in
the dark about, well, everything. Will shut off the padd that he had been
working from, trying to see if he was tired enough to sleep. Nope. Not yet.
He tossed the padd onto the couch opposite him and ran a weary hand over his

Deanna was in her bedroom asleep. He had been in there as well until a couple
of hours ago. It was almost 4 in the morning and well after a few useless
hours of tossing and turning in the bed. Actually he was surprised that it
had not awakened Deanna. She was a light sleeper and would easily wake at the
slightest noise or movement. He surmised that the exhaustion from the past
several days was eating at the best of her right now. Well, at least she can
sleep, he thought to himself.

He stood up and went to the replicator, hesitantly ordering a cup of warm
milk. Personally, he detested the stuff, but Beverly usually told him to
drink some if he was having trouble sleeping. It usually worked too. The
smell was enough to keep him away, but he was desperate to rest. As he
brought it to his lips, his ears caught a soft sound from the bedroom. It was
probably Deanna.

A few seconds later, it was confirmed. Deanna came out of the room in her
orchid colored robe, yawning rather widely. "Will Riker...why are you not

Will sighed and plopped down in a nearby chair, careful not to spill his
drink. "I can't."

Deanna closed her eyes briefly to gather her thoughts and then sat down on
the couch across from him. "Are you worried about what Q told us?"

Will wasn't quite sure how to answer. The fact was, he didn't know. He knew
that they had to talk to their parents and he was more than nervous about
that. But there was something else tickling the back of his neck that he just
couldn't get rid of. He couldn't decide on what to say to her. "I've been
worrying ever since I woke up on my desk a few days ago. I've been worrying
about several things all at once and I just can't shake that feeling."

Deanna nodded and reached across to take his hand. "Well, I can't say that
you don't have reason to worry. I'm just as guilty. But, if you stew over it,
you'll make yourself sick. Just relax. We'll work through this together. You
really do need to sleep, Imzadi. You can't be up all night like this."

"I know that. I've tried to no avail. I just can't sleep. I feel like I need
to do something. The sooner we figure this out, the sooner things get back to

He stood and returned his milk to the replicator. Deanna stood to and went
over to him, quietly slipping her arms around his middle from behind. She
kissed his back between his shoulder blades and then rested her forehead in
the same place. "You know," she said, "When I'm with you here, things feel
normal to me. They do because we are from the same place and I know that this
is where we belong. Just like we are now. But, I DO know that whatever we
face, we will be strong together. That's always the way it's been, and I
believe it will be in the future."

Will turned around to face her, her arms still around him. She hugged him
tighter as their eyes met. He smiled and kissed her forehead, lingering for a
moment as if he was thinking. "You know - you're right. This is where we
belong. But, I can't sleep or sit still. Come on. Lets go talk to our parents

Deanna grabbed his hand before he pulled completely away. "Will! It's 4 in
the morning. We'll wake them."

Will frowned at her and gave her a puppy dog face. Deanna rolled her eyes,
"If you absolutely cannot wait until morning, then fine. I'll get dressed."

Chapter 19

“I’m coming!” Kyle Riker practically fell out of bed at the persistent door
chime. He
glanced at the chrono as he shoved his robe onto his shoulders. “Great, four
in the

As soon as he opened the doors, Will pulled Deanna in after him without even
a look at
his father standing in the doorway. “Come in,” Kyle said, closing the door.
When he
turned, he saw his son and Deanna sitting impatiently on the couch. Elizabeth
chose that
moment to join the party, not bothering to stifle the yawn that proceeded

“What’s all this about, Will?” she asked, moving to stand beside her husband.
She looked
at the two younger people and noticed their robes and tousled hair. It looked
as if they had
just stumbled out of bed as well.

When Will didn’t answer right away Kyle lost his patients. “Look kid....I
know you’re a
grown man and that you’re on your own. But didn’t your mother and I teach you
about manners?! You don’t just go around waking people up in the middle of
the...morning....and then not tell them why!”

Elizabeth put a cooling hand on Kyle’s arm. “Hey, just calm down. Obviously
bothering him. Will, Deanna? Can I get you anything?”

They both looked at Will’s parents and Will shook his head. “I need your
help,” then he
caught himself, “Actually, we need your help.”

Kyle blew some air out of his mouth and plopped down in a chair. “This better
be good. I
was sleeping like a baby. Come on, spill it.”

Will could take a hint. He might as well get this over with. “Why are you

Both Kyle and Elizabeth looked at each other astounded and then back at their
Elizabeth sat in the empty chair and asked, “We came to visit you. Your
father also had to
be at the conference.”

Will shook his head in confusion and frustration. He looked like he was ready
to explode.
“NO! No,” he said more calmly. “Why are you here?! Or...should I ask...why
are WE

Kyle tilted his chin back in the manner that Will always did. He watched as
Deanna stood
up and gently brought Will back to the couch. He smiled, “Very good. You have
your way. But the journey is still very long. You will not survive if you do
not see.”

Will stopped all movement. Did those words just come from his father’s mouth?
he asked, not capable of understanding. “Wha...what are you talking about?
You sound
like one of those lunatics from Altair 3.”

Elizabeth intervened, “You do not see. Therefore you cannot survive. What do
you have
beside you now, Will?”

Will looked at Deanna who held the same perplexed expression as he. “Deanna
is beside
me. I see her.”

Kyle nodded, “Then you see. Now, you must realize. Then you will survive. The
gift of all has been placed in your hands. Now, you must put it in you
hearts. One cannot
survive alone. It takes two. Your souls long for their complementary parts.
You see them
now. You must realize.”

Will was about to ask a question, but found that he couldn’t. Everything
around him
vanished....including Deanna. He searched with his eyes frantically. “Deanna!
Where are you?!” The shear force behind his desperate calls made his throat
ache. He
hung his head for a moment and fought back the tears of exhaustion and defeat.

Hope sprang again though as he heard her voice calling his name. It wasn’t
long until they
had found each other again. Their eyes met and she ran to him holding him in
a tight
embrace. She was scared and he knew it. “Will...what just happened? Where are

Will let go of her to catch a breath, “You know as much as I do. There’s
here...it’s just white....everywhere.”

Deanna’s empathic sense went into high gear as she picked up on something.
“Will, come
this way. I can feel my mother.” He followed here for what seemed like an
eternity. They
walked and walked. Nothing changed. They continued walking into a pure,
white, world.

After a while, Will turned to her. “Deanna? Are you sure we’ve even gone
This looks like where we started.”

Deanna grabbed his hand and pulled him, “Just a little farther. My mother is
Hurry...come on.” She began running and after a couple of minutes, the white
around them. They were once again on the Enterprise.

They surveyed their surroundings and found themselves just outside of Ian and
quarters. Deanna pressed the chime anxious about what was going to happen
“Deanna? Maybe we should just take a break for a minute and figure things

Deanna whirled on him. “What’s the matter? Lose your sense of adventure?” At
his shrug,
Deanna raised her voice. “Do you really think we’ll figure this out?! We
don’t even know
where we are now! We don’t know where we were five minutes ago...or even five
ago for that matter! Now I want to go home.” She was so busy lecturing Riker,
she didn’t
realize that her mother and father were staring at her.

“Oh! Mother, Daddy. I’m sorry, but Will and I have to talk to you.” She
virtually yanked
Will into the living area. Looking at him, she decided that he wasn’t going
to take charge
of the situation. Poor thing was probably still shocked at her outburst. She
had hardly ever
raised her voice to him.

“We’ve seen, but what haven’t we realized?” Deanna guided her partner to the
allowing them the time to rest.

Ian and Lwaxana exchanged looks and Ian spoke. “You must realize what is in
hearts. What is the greatest gift?”

Will had finally broken out of the spell that he was in, “Life. Without it,
we could not

Lwaxana nodded, “Yes, dear. But that is not it. You cannot be given a gift
unless you are
alive to receive it. There is another. Without it....life would be in
chaos....much like it is
for you at this moment. You must realize so that you can enjoy life.”

Deanna’s eyes grew big in realization. “You mean...love. Without love, no one
would care
about anything. We would all end up killing each other and then...ourselves.
That’s it,
Will! We must realize our love or we will kill others...then ourselves!”

Will took in the information and then looked back to Deanna’s parents. “We
must have
love to enjoy life.”

Lwaxana laughed in delight. “With love...you can enjoy the most deluxe life
that life can
offer. You have seen, you have realized. Now, you must obey your hearts and
all will be
as it should be.”

The white vastness enfolded then again and they were alone. This time though,
after a few
minutes of silence, they heard footsteps. “Hello.”

A deep voice sounded at startled both Will and Deanna. “Who are you?” Will
asked. The
man was at least 7 feet tall but looked human to the naked eye.

The man spread his hands in presentation. “I am Gatrin. I am the universe.
You have
proven a very important point today. I control all things....even this.” He
pulled a shaken
Q into view.

Will looked from Q to Gatrin, “You have power over the, Q?”

Gatrin laughed, “I always have. But unlike them...I have reserved myself from
such bold
appearances. I pretty much leave things alone and only intervene when these,”
he pointed
to Q, “Start getting a little restless.”

“Then why haven’t you stopped him before when he bothered the Enterprise?”

Gatrin smiled. “It was not time yet. He was merely going through training. My
were testing the Q. He is my responsibility to train. If they do not learn by
the time of
Shackqu, the must not be allowed to live. The universe in the wrong hands can
turn to
chaos. For my people, the universe is our very soul. We love it and cherish
it. Therefore,
we watch over it and all that is in it. But, my people have been here for a
very long time
and it is our time to pass the universe into the hands of the Q. They will be
the overseers
of the universe and it will be their turn to train a new generation of
overseers. Shackqu is
almost here and it is my time to step down. But, this Q cannot live.”

Will was trying to understand, but was failing miserably. “What? You’re going
to kill, Q?”

Gatrin looked at Riker as if he was growing an arm out of his head. “My
boy...there is an
infinite number of Q. Losing one will not matter in even the tiniest of ways.
Surely you can
understand this?”

Deanna spoke, unsure of what she was about to say. “You just said that you
everything in the universe. How can you kill a lifeform after those words?
Love is the
greatest gift. Unconditional love. You don’t sound like you’re willing to
give love a

Gatrin looked at her for a very long minute. “You speak as a hypocrite. You
love but not
unconditionally. Q has made too many mistakes and I’m afraid that not even
love can help
him now.”

Q threw his hands in the air, “Will all of you please stop talking about me
like I’m not
here! Gatrin....I’ll do anything. Please let me take your place!”

Gatrin snarled at the little pest called Q. “Your life is in their hands.
They must obey their

Q turned to Riker and Troi, frantically waving his arms in the air.
“Symbolism! This whole
thing is symbolism...but he really will kill me....so just kiss her Riker! Or
let her kiss you I
don’t care!”

Gatrin whisked Q away in the snap of his fingers. “He can really get on your
nerves after a
few millennia. I’m sure you understand. Well? Are you going to kiss her?”

Riker wasted no time in closing the distance between him and the incredible
woman that
stood across from him. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close,
“Deanna....this love...it’s unconditional. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve beaten
myself up for
them.” He placed her hand on his heart, “Inside of my heart is a place just
for you.
Please...take it?”
Deanna’s eyes spilled over and she pulled his head down for the most
incredible kiss that
anyone, any lifeform had experienced. Their hearts blended together. The
white around
them began spinning, but they were locked in a kiss that they could not stop.
They saw the
flowers, the people, the rings, and they saw each other say the vows. It was
all as it should

When they broke apart, they opened their eyes and found themselves in
standard quarters
on the Enterprise. Will pulled away from her, wondering where they were now.
He looked
down at his left hand and saw the gold band around his finger. Deanna did the
same and
saw her ring.

“Not again,” they both said. The began to sit on the couch but were
interrupted by Q.

“Congratulations. The wedding ceremony was quite remarkable. Don’t worry, you
back home where you belong. But, more importantly, your hearts are where they
Love is stronger than ever because of you. Even I owe you a ‘thank you’.”

Will looked at Deanna and then to Q, “You mean we’re back in our
universe..the same
one we were born in?”

Q laughed, “Yes...I just sped up the wedding plans a little. You two were so
busy toungue
wrestling, you experienced it on the spiritual level. That’s quite an
advancement from the
physical wedding. But, never fear....you won’t miss out on the physical. Your
has just begun. Have fun. The quantum fluxes are over. By the way...Gatrin
gave me his
place. The Q are now the ones to cherish the universe....and everything in
it.” He winked
at them and then flashed out of sight.

The door chime sounded before either of the couple had a chance to speak.
“Come in,”
called Will.

Beverly and the Captain walked in, both wearing huge smiles of their faces.
Beverly went
and hugged Deanna, “Jean-Luc and I wanted to say bye personally before you
left for your

The Captain shook Will’s hand, “Actually, we wanted to make sure you didn’t
miss the
shuttle. We know how you newlyweds are.”

Will and Deanna looked at each other and laughed. The next things they
noticed were the
wedding bands on the Captain and Doctor’s fingers. Perhaps love was much
now. Well, nothing like a good quantum flux to teach you how to experience
“And that is the story of how love came to be.” Three pairs of wide
eyes...one black...the
other two blue....looked at Will Riker in astonishment. He laughed at the
children who all
were curled up around him on the bed.

“Bry, Jael, Kenton...bedtime.” Deanna Riker walked into the room and smiled
at the
picture before her. Her husband curled up with their 3, 5, and 7 year old.
The three
hesitated in getting up, but with a little prodding from Dad, they finally
did and headed off
to bed.

Deanna changed into her night clothes and then curled up to Will in bed,
turning out the
lights. “Imzadi? Do you really think that they’ll believe that story?”

Will wrapped his arms around her, “What story? It really happened. Besides,
when they
find their soulmate someday...they’ll have no choice but to believe it.”

Deanna smiled and then kissed him, “I love you, Will.”

Will rested his chin on the top of her head as she settled into the crook of
his neck. “I love
you too, Deanna. I love you too.”
Q looked down at the couple lying in bed and smiled. All was as it should be.
They had
reinvented love...and had saved his life. Yes, he would keep special watch
over them. The
universe was in good hands.