Commander William T. Riker was off duty. In fact, he wasnt all that sure of what to do. Usually, something came up abut tonight was turning out to be a bit disappointing.
The poker game the night before had been surreal at best. They had all gathered
in his quarters as usual, but this time things were different. Theyd all
had the chance to experience what very few ever had the knowledge of
what was to come. For the first time in his life, Will had been confronted with
the gruesome fact of Deannas death. Of course, it was silly not to think
it would ever happen, but still he never had thought it would. Then there was
Worf. He and Worf had been close friends over the years, fighting along side
each other in battles of the physical and spiritual nature. Will knew that Deanna
would never approve of he and Worf quarrelling over her no matter what the cause.
But the thought of him and her together
Will turned away from the flower he had been looking at and swallowed hard.
The arboretum was unusually quiet and empty this evening. He spotted a stone
bench nearby and walked over to it, but didnt sit down. Instead he walked
underneath the giant willow tree next to it and picked at the trees overreaching
Last night, hed made a deal with Worf and it wasnt his nature to
renege on an agreement. Will let out a short laugh and shook his head. What
in the world was he thinking? Hed never sat by and let someone else take
what he wanted, right? Throwing another bit of greenery on the ground, he realized
that he had. All of those Starfleet commissions he had turned down well
he had a good reason for that. Several in fact. But now, he couldnt think
of one good one to explain why he was here by himself in the arboretum and Deanna
was somewhere else waiting for Worf to get off duty.
Riker looked up and saw nothing but a canopy of willow branches guarding him
against whatever else threatened to turn his life upside down. Hed had
plans for the two of them, Deanna and he. Recently, he had begun to understand
that life consisted of more than promotions and protocol. All he knew is that
he wanted Deanna in it, even if it meant that he would have to wait a little
bit longer until she was ready. Now, after all that had happened, he began to
wonder if she ever would be ready to have any sort of romantic relationship
with him again. Maybe the fact that they were serving together was just an excuse
she had used. Hell, he had always known it was an excuse. But for what? Until
now he was sure he knew the answer to that question.
Riker blew out a sigh and threw the remainder of his pickings to the grass
beneath him. Will?
He turned behind him and saw Deannas head practically upside down peeking
below the long branches of the tree. He hair was dangling towards the ground
and her face was becoming decidedly red. The sight caused him to smile, crossing
his arms in front of him. The more he thought of his current position the more
embarrassed he got by the second. Its not often that you see a grown man
hiding and sulking under a willow tree. Still, he held his ground. Youre
face is turning red, he offered.
Well, if you werent under a willow tree I wouldnt have to
talk to you upside down, Deanna said.
My apologies, Will said as he climbed out from underneath the branches.
Deanna stood back up and brushed a few stray remnants of the tree limbs from
his blue shirt as he joined her on the walkway. For the first time, Deanna realized
amusingly that he never seemed to wear another color other than blue. It did
match his eyes, and looked incredible on him she had to admit.
Will saw her looking at his attire with a peculiar expression on her face.
What? he asked.
Deanna shook her head, Nothing. I was just thinking of how you always
Will smiled self-consciously and smoothed his fingers over a sleeve. Yeah,
well, I guess its because someone told me once how well it suited me.
Deanna smiled at him and leaned forward, resting her hands on his chest, It
does suit you. It brings out your eyes.
Will echoed looking into hers. She was still leaning
into him and he couldnt help but brush back a stray hair that had fallen
out of place because of her rather precarious position a minute ago.
Deannas face instinctively sought out the curve of his palm as it passed
her cheek. He held it there willingly for a moment, reveling in the sensations
they rarely allowed each other to feel. They were what I first noticed
about you, Deanna said softly.
Will arched an eyebrow and brought his hand back down. My eyes? We were
both naked and my eyes were the first thing you noticed?
Deanna smirked and pushed back against him, Yes. Contrary to where your
eyes were going, I just couldnt resist those baby blues.
Will chuckled, shuffling his feet. My eyes very much appreciated where
they were going, he said as he looked her up and down. He made sure to
let her know that they still did appreciate her every bit as much as they did
Deannas gaze was one of reproach, but he knew that he could get away
with it. She let him because it was a part of who they were together and neither
one of them could ever let go of that. So, what exactly were you doing
under the tree?
What tree? Will asked, shrugging his shoulders. He watched Deanna
cross her arms and take a deep breath. It was a sign that she was determined
and willing to torture in order to get the answer he knew she wanted. Will sighed
and looked up at the simulated sky which was quickly turning to dusk. I
was inspecting it for bugs. They really do become a problem this time of year.
Deanna looked at him, the expression on her face growing sterner. She didnt
smile at his humor, and for a moment, Will thought she looked genuinely angry
at him. But then she dropped her gaze and her arms. Seeing the stone bench behind
Riker, she moved over to it and sat down. She relaxed and closed her eyes briefly
before opening them again and looked squarely at him. So, what are you
doing all by yourself in the arboretum? Usually you have a companion.
Will shrugged again and gently kicked a small rock that had found its
way onto the concrete path. I actually came in here to find a lovely young
lady to spend the evening with, he gestured around him, but as you
can see, Im all out of luck. That is until you came in here.
Deanna smiled and shook her head, Seems that youre still out of
luck, Commander. Im here waiting on my companion to arrive. He had to
work late so we decided to just meet here.
Wills heart fell, but he smiled at her nonetheless. Ah. Well, Im
to blame for him having to work late. Theres a weapons drill scheduled
for tomorrow and there were a few loose ends to tie up.
So, youre the one I should throw stones at, Deanna said.
The lilt of humor was in her voice and a hint of a smile on her face.
Will raised his hands in defense, The Captain was the one who ordered
it, not me. I was just doing what I was told.
All right, Ill let you by just this once, she said. Her expression
had softened, almost inviting him to have a seat next to her. He did. The bench
was a small one and for both of them to fit comfortably, Will put his arm across
the back of the bench. Deanna didnt seem to mind, she never did. Normally
though, she would snuggle up next to him, but this time she kept her distance.
I was thinking about last night, Riker suddenly said. Deanna unconsciously
glanced at the door and he didnt know if it was because she was waiting
for Worf or because she wanted to extricate herself from the conversation they
still had yet to have regarding certain recent events. Whatever the reason,
Will in no way wanted her to feel uncomfortable. So he gently squeezed her shoulders,
He should be here any minute, Deanna. I think they finished up a few minutes
Deanna turned back to him and smiled gratefully. I wasnt sure.
They sat in silence for a few moments. She knew that they would have to talk
about things between them, but she also wanted more than anything for him to
just understand. Last night was a little
strange. And then the Captain
Will laughed along side her as they both thought about the previous night.
I wasnt sure what to think. Hes been acting different these
past few days.
Wouldnt you? Deanna asked him. Knowing what the future
holds, having to deal with Q, being tossed between three time lines and having
to keep up with the events in each. Its a wonder that hes as well
as he is.
Im not so sure. He did join the poker game last night. Not to mention
the stories he told from his younger days.
A pensive look crossed her face for a moment as if she were gathering her thoughts.
It was a trait that hed always admired about her. She never wished to
speak unless she had carefully thought about what to say first. It was a good
habit to have, one that he never could seem to master. I think that what
he saw in the future all of us separated and our lives so
he didnt want that future for any of us. It must have made him
realize what we have now and that hes missed out on so much of it. I only
wish hed joined our games a long time ago. It would be nice to know him
better because he has so much to offer that we never see.
Me too, Will put his arm around her again and hugged her to him.
They had all realized last night what they had together. Will hoped that each
of them would do their part to make sure that the future the Captain witnessed
would never happen. But Will had a special reason for not wanting it to happen.
It was one that he now shared with Worf.
Will, Deanna paused and put a hand on his knee. It wasnt
an intimate touch but one which was sure to draw his attention. She spoke again
he told me last night about what you said to him.
Riker first looked at the hand on his knee, followed the path of her arm until
he was at her face. Just for a second, he wasnt going to respond, but
her eyes begged him to. He could feel that she needed to talk about this. After
all, he did too. It had been hanging between them for days now, neither sure
of what to say to the other or if anything should be said at all. He decided
that it would be best for both of them to just get it out of the way, regardless
of how painful it would be for him to talk about her and Worf.
I didnt know that he
Will trailed off and turned his
head away from her, unable to say it out loud. How could he hand over the love
of his life to another person and act like it was no big deal?
When Deanna instinctively moved her hand up higher on his thigh, Will closed
his eyes and took a deep breath. Did she really not know the affect she was
having on him this very moment?
When she spoke again, it was as if shed known his thoughts all along.
It was to help him make sense of everything. Her voice was quiet, I didnt
realize that you were wanting
I mean it was a surprise when you asked me
to dinner the other night.
He let out an amused laugh but did not look at her as he spoke. A surprise.
I guess I didnt make much of an impression on you all those times weve
had dinner together over the years.
She smiled at that, sensing that he was attempting to keep a light attitude
about the whole thing. On the contrary, Commander. I remember those times
very well and Ill never forget them. However, when you asked me the other
night, there was a hint of Betazed in your voice and thats when I knew
that it wasnt like all of the other times.
Betazed? he asked with a quizzical expression.
You know, the way you used to ask me on a date when we were together
Will chuckled, I didnt know there was a difference.
Deanna smiled sadly and removed her hand. She shifted in her seat slightly and glanced back at the door. She stared at it for a long time and Riker was certain that their conversation had come to an abrupt end until she did finally continue it. Worf was unsure about pursuing anything with me without talking to you first. He appreciates your honesty last night.
Honesty my foot, Will said. Deanna you know as well as I do that I am not exactly comfortable with the idea of you and Worf together.
Will, you wouldnt be comfortable no matter who it was, she said gently. I was never comfortable when you got serious with another woman.
You guys are serious? Will asked as his head shot up quickly.
It was all Deanna could do not laugh at the panicked expression on his face. He of course didnt realize what he must have looked like. Yes, Will. Were thinking about eloping pretty soon. I thought you might could come along and give me away since I cant think of anyone else better suited for the job.
Rikers face fell as soon as he realized she was putting him on. He watched Deanna laugh at his obvious embarrassment and then felt her lean her head back against his shoulder all the while still smiling at him. He didnt say anything, just stared straight ahead at some newly planted flowers.
You know, Deanna said, the laughter gone from her voice, Worf thinks a great deal of you and so do I. But you and I have had this conversation before and I didnt think wed need to have it again.
Will sighed, We never had to deal with Worf before.
We or you? she offered.
He was silent for a moment longer and then he rested his head on top of hers. What do you really see in him?
Deanna made a small sound and snuggled a bit closer to Riker. Will pulled his arm around her shoulders. You know, my mother asked the same thing about you when we first started seeing each other.
Will glanced down at her, Dont tell me youre going to put him through the ringer like you did me? I dont think Worf would appreciate losing to you in the tree hanging contest as much as I did.
Deanna looked up at him, Appreciate? As I recall you were quite a challenge, Will Riker. There were a lot of people who didnt think we were well suited for each other. They thought you were too cocky and hard edged for me. But I knew better. She pressed a finger into his chest, You see, I saw something inside of you that no one else did. The way I see it now, you didnt turn out so bad if I do say so myself.
Will grinned back at her, So, you see something inside of Worf that no one else sees?
Deanna shrugged, I suppose I do with everyone to some extent. But Worfs different. Hes searching for companionship in the midst of people who are dont share his lifestyle. I think hes given into his circumstances somewhat and is willing to try a romantic relationship within a different context. I guess I find that endearing for a Klingon.
Its a challenge for you, just like I was. Riker began to understand her logic. I guess I just dont understand why you told me we couldnt be together all those years because we serve on the same ship, and then you go head first into a relationship with someone else serving on the same ship. He stopped for a moment, not sure if he should say what was really on his mind. However, he couldnt hold his thoughts back from Deanna any longer. You want to know what I think?
Hmm? she asked, her head still on his shoulder.
I think that was an excuse not to be with me. Riker took in his shoes as he waited for her response. It was something that hed wanted to say to her for years but never had the courage to until now.
Deanna lifted her head and looked down at his shoes with him. Thats a fairly bold accusation.
He looked at her. Is it true?
Knowing that he was feeling remorseful for even bringing it up, she squared her eyes on his. I hope you can understand my position on this. I love you, Will and I would do anything for you except being together with you again in that way. At least for right now thats how things need to be with us, she paused for a moment, do you remember when I was supposed to marry Wyatt and we talked in the ready room?
I told you that I knew you still cared within the limits of your career. Will, I cant go through what I did the first time we were together. As amazing as it was, the heartbreak at the end almost made it seem not worth it. Deanna smiled, her gaze breaking away from his as she stared off in the thin air. I told Thomas while he was here that it took me a long time to get over what happened between you and I. All of the conversations he and I had, I suppose I should have had them with you as well.
Wouldve been nice, Will said. Deanna, do you really think Im the same person who would walk out on a relationship?
No, she trained her eyes on him again. Youve changed we both have changed since then. But can you honestly tell me that youre ready to put a marriage and family first in your life, sacrificing other things such as your career to make it all work? Because until you are, I dont think youre ready to commit to a serious relationship.
He could say nothing. She was absolutely right and there was nothing he could say to defend himself. Will sighed, lifting his hand, he brushed her hair back over her shoulder and let it linger there. I do understand. And Im sorry if Im acting like a jerk about this. The last thing I want to do is take away any happiness that you have.
Then, were okay? she asked as she grabbed hold of his hand.
Will let out a long breath, squeezing her hand. Yeah, Will groaned in frustration while leaning forward, resting on his knees.
Deanna put a hand on his back. Dont worry, Will. I promise that you will be the first to know if anything gets serious.
Will threw her a repugnant look and she laughed not noticing the door behind her opening. A tall Klingon walked in and spotted them on the bench.
Commander, Deanna, Worf said.
Deanna turned and gave him a brilliant smile. Hello, Worf. Did you get everything finished?
Worf stood rigged like he usually did, however he wore off-duty clothes. Yes, looking at Riker he said, I believe youll find everything satisfactory, Commander.
Will waved him off, Sure, Worf.
Leaning over, Deanna kissed Will on the cheek and then stood. Well, we better go.
Worf was about to say something when Riker stood abruptly. No, I better go and leave you two alone. After all, Ive got to find out where all the girls are hiding tonight.
Ten Forward, Worf said. There appears to be a birthday party going on.
You were there? Deanna turned to him.
I stopped by to give a report to Ensign Fletcher on the way here. It also seems, Commander, that she was hoping you would show up tonight, Worf said, isnt she the one you have been seeing lately?
Deanna threw a look at Riker and crossed her arms. Will cleared his throat, Uh, yeah. Shes the one. Well, I better go and see if theres any cake left.
Will walked to the door, all too aware that Deanna was boring a hole right through his skull. But just before he stepped through the door, he turned back to her. Oh, Deanna, Ill be sure and let you know if things get serious between Ensign Fletcher and me. Maybe you can give me away at our wedding.
He winked at her, a cocky grin on his face. The next moment, the door closed leaving one very peeved Batezoid and one very curious Klingon in its wake.