"Worthy of Time"
Synopsis: Set during Deanna's vacation to Earth during Barclay's hologram abduction.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to the characters of this story. I own the story.
Will Riker turned his head from the window filled with the swift moving beams of light. Of course, the stars weren't moving, only the shuttle was. He rested his head on the back of his seat, the position of it growing more annoying by the second. Already he had been sitting for five hours and he had another three to go. Passing eight hours on a shuttle with twenty other passengers was not his strong suit. He could undeniably be impatient at times, especially when there was nothing in particular to occupy him.
Sighing heavily in his prison of frustration, he flicked on the PADD in his hand for the third time. On the screen was a message from Deanna-her latest update on Reg Barclay's hologram mystery. He had downloaded the message onto his PADD for lack of time. His shuttle had been scheduled to leave and he absolutely was not going to miss it. He hadn't seen her in four days. Sure, it really wasn't that long, but when you're in love, four days is an eternity.
"You must not be very good at reading." Will snapped his head up and looked at the elderly man occupying the seat next to him.
"Excuse me?" Riker asked.
The man smiled and it had a remarkably calming effect on Riker. Will noticed the way his eyes crinkled at the side, but nonetheless held a certain light in them. His hair was white and cut short. He wore civilian attire, but Will couldn't resist entertaining the thought that this man used to be a Starfleet officer. He simply looked the part.
The older man's smile grew slightly. "That's the third time you've turned that thing on," he said, gesturing to the PADD. "Do you keep missing something?"
Riker looked back at the message in his hand. "No. The only thing I miss is her." He smiled self-consciously. He lifted the PADD into the air, "It's from my fiancé…or at least I hope my fiancé."
The man looked confused for a brief moment but then a look of understanding crossed his face. Nevertheless, he demurred, "You don't know who sent you that communiqué?"
Riker threw him a look of forbearance and abruptly shut the PADD off. He was about to respond but something stopped him. The look on the man's face-he could of sworn that he'd seen it before. Another time, long ago. "Do I know you from somewhere? Because…well, you look familiar."
The older fellow chuckled and directed his gaze back to the front of the shuttle. "We've never met. But I do know you. You're Commander William Riker. Well respected in Starfleet. Up for your own command." He turned back to Riker, "I know who you are."
Riker couldn't ignore the seriousness now portrayed on the man's face, therefore he was completely helpless when he tried to look away. "Who are you?" he asked.
The man stuck out his hand, "The name's Tr-Trent. William Trent." Will looked at him skeptically and took his hand with caution.
"Nice to meet you, sir." He pulled back his hand perhaps a little to eagerly and shifted again in his seat. "Tell me, how do you know that I'm up for a command? I haven't heard anything about that."
"When you've worked in Starfleet for as long as I have, you just know these things."
Inwardly, Riker smiled. He had been right. "So, you are in Starfleet?"
"Was," Trent replied. "I retired twenty years ago. I'm going on ninety. When I hit seventy, I had to come to terms with the fact that I just couldn't keep up like I used to. Nevertheless, I've been following your career and I know that you've got a promotion coming your way any time now."
Will, amused by this man's prediction, glanced back out at the stars. "Well, we'll see about that." Riker noticed Trent's reflection in the window and saw that he was watching him carefully. Aware of the other man's scrutiny, he circled his head back, trying not to convey his unease. "Just out of curiosity," he began, "Why is a ninety year-old, retired officer keeping tabs on my career?"
Trent seemed a bit startled at Riker's question, but his expression softened. "I have family onboard the Enterprise. I keep up with her missions, and her staff. It's also a way for me to relive my starship days I suppose. I miss them."
Will nodded at the man's clarification and began to feel an affinity for the fellow. "Who is it? Maybe I know them."
"Family?" Trent asked. "Oh, she's….she's my granddaughter. There are a lot of people onboard. I'm sure you don't know her. So…when are you going to ask your fiancé to marry you?"
Will's train of thought was forced to shift and he elected to let the man change the subject as he so obviously had. It was a tactic he used quite often when he was uncomfortable with a conversation. Unfortunately, it no longer worked with Deanna. If it were anyone else, he could get away with it. "I hope to ask tomorrow night. That is if everything goes as planned."
Trent chuckled heartily and slapped his hand on Will's knee good-naturedly. "Good luck, my boy."
Will's lack of understanding only served to charm Trent even more. "What do you mean, good luck?"
The elderly man stopped his laughing fit and let out a long breath. "Listen to me, marriage never goes as planned. It all starts with the proposal. Then you find out things about each other that you never knew. Suddenly there are times when you feel like you're committing yourself to a total stranger. You disagree on little things, kids show up before your ready, careers take off in opposite directions. The best laid plans of mice and men have never laid with matrimony."
Will sat back, his mouth open to speak, but nothing was forthcoming. Shaking the dust off of his thoughts, he focused his attention back to his travel companion. "You make it sound like it's not worth it."
Trent shook his head and grinned, "I'm sorry. Don't misunderstand. Marriage is also the most rewarding experience that you will have in your life. You're constantly learning about each other, but you know each other so well that the surprises only help you grow. Kids may come early, but when they come, you wonder why you wanted to wait so long. No, marriage is most definitely worth it. You have someone who cares for you above anyone else. They're your companion, someone to grow old with."
Suddenly, there was a silence between them. Riker noted for the first time that Trent was traveling alone and for good reason. "You never got that chance did you?"
Trent shifted his eyes to the floor and released a heavy sigh. "No. She died nearly a decade ago."
"I'm sorry," was all Riker managed. He chased away any thought of him losing Deanna like that, afraid of it really. In fact, that was his only true fear.
The older man patted him on the shoulder, "That's okay. I've learned to live without her, but it took a long time. You know, the funny thing is, I've outlived everyone in my family. My son died a long time ago too…about thirty years or so. Maybe thirty-five. I have trouble remembering sometimes. He died doing what he loved, in the line of duty. I was so proud of him. Now, my granddaughter is serving. Following her father's footsteps. I haven't seen her since she was a baby. My wife and I moved to a human colony on Theta II…way out in deep space. Traveling was a bit of an issue."
Riker smiled, "I can imagine. Is this your first time back to Earth?"
"Yes. I can't wait to see it. It's been forty years." Will became aware that it was getting increasingly harder for the man to stay awake. Perhaps he wasn't the only one who felt like a catnap. "Mr. Riker, it was good talking to you, but I'm afraid that I must get some rest."
Riker's reverie broke from the spell of time that the man had woven. He found himself feeling cold in the harsh reality of the crowded shuttle. "Of course," he said. He let the back out of his seat and leaned into it, hoping to get some much-needed rest as well. The hum of the shuttle's engines began to lull him asleep. The last thing he heard was the snoring of the man, fifty years his senior, alongside him.
Deanna Troi fought her way through the throng of people at he San Francisco transportation center. It had been barely an hour since she'd helped Reg get his hologram back from the Ferengi and she was in a hurry to meet Will's shuttle on time. It was scheduled to arrive in five minutes and she had yet to find the correct concourse. Deanna had only been here one other time in her life and that was when she had attended the Academy and was meeting a friend for a visit. Starfleet had their own shuttle depot, but Will was only able to get a civilian flight back to Earth.
There it was. Concourse B. Deanna meandered her way through the thick sea of people and was lucky enough to actually find a seat to sit in while she waited. After a few seconds of resting her tired feet, she found that she was too excited to stay still for any length of time so she gave up her seat to a mother that held an infant in her arms. The mother thanked her kindly and Deanna moved closer to the entrance that Will would walk through at any minute.
"Commander. Mr. Riker," Will felt a slight nudging at his shoulder and sat up slowly, feeling the full affects of sleep. When he opened his eyes, he saw Trent practically leaning over him. "Ah, I was wondering if you were still among the living for a minute there, Commander."
Will sat up fully now, readjusting his seat. "Where are we?" he asked.
Trent turned away from him and a veil of contentment swept over him. "Earth. Finally, I've made it home." He glanced at Riker. "Thought I'd wake you."
Will rubbed his eyes and ran his hands through his hair. "Thanks," he said with a hint of condescension in his voice.
The next thin Riker knew, everyone was up and about, gathering their things and waiting to disembark. "Oh, Riker, I just want to say , in case we never see each other again, I hope everything goes as planned."
Will grinned, "I just hope she says yes." They began to move to the shuttle's exit.
Trent stepped off the shuttle before Will did and took a quick look behind him at the younger man. He began to walk off, rather hastily, "She will!" he called over the noise of the crowd. Then he disappeared into the mass of passengers disembarking with a simple carryall as his only luggage.
Will watched him go with a certain fascination, not sure what had occurred between them on the ride to Earth. He still couldn't shake the feeling that he'd seen him before somewhere. But all thoughts of Trent disappeared with him as Will felt two hands snake around his waist. He felt her perfect form press against his back and he couldn't help but smile. Deanna smiled along with him and together they gently swayed back and forth doing nothing but relishing in each other. Each sighed separately and their smiles grew into quiet giggles. Deanna walked around to face him and he seized the opportunity to gather her in his arms. They kissed several times, drawing plenty of stares from strangers in the concourse.
The couple touched their foreheads together, intertwining their fingers. "I missed you," Will whispered.
Deanna's eyes closed at the sound of his voice and she swore that she had never heard something so beautiful. "I missed you too, Imzadi," she whispered to him. "You have no idea, actually."
Will laughed, "I think I do. When you hear what I've had to put up with since you left, you will have no doubt that I do have an idea."
Deanna's response was to smile and step back from him, however, not letting go of his hand. "Excuse me? But I've spent the last three days at Starfleet headquarters working with Reg Barclay. I think I deserve the 'having to put up with' award."
"There's an award?"
"Oh yes, but we can talk about all of that stuff later. Right now, I just want to relax." She pulled on his hand and he followed her out of the transportation center into the bright sunlight.
His eyes instinctively squinted, not being used to the brightness especially after an eight hour shuttle trip. "Where to?"
Deanna shrugged. "I don't know."
Will raised his eyebrows and brashly looked in her direction. "What?"
Deanna pursed her lips and looked sidelong at him. "I'm kind of tired of San Francisco, Will. You wouldn't happen to know of a place we can go that wouldn't be too crowded? Someplace that we wouldn't be bothered?"
Will exhaled slowly and scanned the area as if he was looking for something. Deanna knew, however, that he was only mulling her question over in his head. "Well, there is this place where I've always wanted to go, but for one reason or another, never got the chance."
Deanna took his arm excitedly and looked up at him in anticipation. "Where is it?"
Will put an arm around her and smiled, "Tiburon."
Deanna's face scrunched into a ball of confusion. "Tiburon? Where's that?"
"It's an island off the coast of Mexico. You'll love it. Where are you staying now? I'd like to change and see if we can get reservations." Deanna stood on her tip-toes and kissed him on the cheek. "What was that for?" he asked.
She smiled and took his hand again, leading him in the direction of her hotel. "I'm just glad to have someone else here who can take care of everything for a change."
Will let out a guffaw and feigned injustice, "And I thought that you were just glad to have ME here."
Deanna laughed and pulled him a little closer. "I'm sorry, I meant that I'm glad to have YOU here took take care of everything for a change."
Will playfully, but gently, leaned against her and shoved her away from him. "I'm beginning to wonder if that eight hour flight was worth it."
Putting an arm around his waist, Deanna leaned up closer to his ear. "Trust me, Imzadi, it was."
"What's this?" Riker's question bounced off the walls of Deanna's hotel suite and fluttered to the bedroom where she was at the moment.
"What's what?" She answered back, waiting for him to come to her as she knew he would. Indeed he did. When she turned away from the closet, he was holding an odd shaped container in the air, displaying it for her to see.
Immediately, Deanna smiled. "That's a gift from Reg. He baked me some chocolate bread. You should try it."
Will's face was now a mask of disgust. He then proceeded to hold the container away from him slightly. "Did I hear you say chocolate bread?"
She pursed her lips and leaned toward him, taking the container at his obvious relief. "Absolutely wonderful. You really should taste it. It's not as bad as you think."
He watched her brush past him and head back into the kitchen area. Placing the container in it's proper spot, she threw him a look. It was a look of love as he'd never seen before. Frankly, it caught him off guard. Not knowing exactly what to say, and knowing the best thing to do would be not to say anything at all, like an idiot he stood there. "What?" he finally asked.
"Nothing," Deanna looked away abruptly and began to wipe at some non-existent crumbs on the counter. "So, tell me what happened on the ship while I was gone."
He wasn't about to let her get away with changing the subject like that, but for the moment he would let it pass. Carefully, she continued to busy herself doing nothing in particular. Then it hit him that she was nervous about something. What it could be, he couldn't possibly know. She had seemed fine a few minutes ago. The very fact of the matter caused him to smile and it didn't go unnoticed by her. "What?" she now asked him.
He moved closer to her and leaned against the counter, folding his arms. Deanna saw him shrug and that tongue of his poke his cheek the way it often did when he was playful. "Nothing," was his only reply.
Deanna's eyes narrowed and her posture mimicked his. "You're just saying that to get back at me."
"Why would I possibly want to do that?"
She lifted her head slightly and regarded him skeptically. Then her expression softened. Deanna looked at him with such open honesty that it began to frighten him. Was something wrong? "Will," she said, "Can we go into the sitting area and talk?"
He unfolded his arms and slowly stood up straight. "Of course," he answered her, worry ever present in his voice. When they arrived at the couch, he saw she was about to speak. Instead of allowing her, he silenced her with a hand. "Wait, don't tell me, you going to say that you don't love me anymore and that we should start seeing other people, right?"
She smiled at his humor. It was one of his most endearing qualities to her. "How did you ever know?" she matched him wit for wit. Watching his grin grow even bigger, she sighed and brought his focus back to more serious matters.
"Will, I just want you to know how much I appreciate you being there for me."
Riker, taken aback at her confession, relaxed a little. "There or here?" he asked.
She threw him a tolerant look, "You know what I mean."
Will slid closer to her and put an arm around her shoulders, gently caressing her arm with his thumb. "Deanna….I've been telling you that I would be right here for years."
It was then that it seemed realization dawned on her. "You have, haven't you?" She tilted her head up at him and he kissed her forehead. Of course he had been telling her that since she could remember, however, the fact that it was true even in this very moment was nothing short of incredible to her. He had always kept his word.
She felt a mixture of confusion and love emanating from him. Turning her head ever so slightly, she kissed the side of his neck and lingered there. Instinctively, he leaned his head closer to hers, "Why are you nervous?" he whispered in her ear.
Her arms tightened around him and he tightened his. "I'm not. Not really," she whispered back. He wanted to look into her eyes, because only then could he really know and understand what she was feeling. Lifting her chin so that he was looking at her, he softly brushed his lips against hers. "Tell me," he said quietly against her mouth.
She closed her eyes at the sensations she was getting from just being here with him, like this. "I missed you so much," her voice was almost too subtle for him to hear. Almost. He kissed her again, this time staying a little longer, although no more forceful than his last gentle brush.
"Tell me," he said again. She seemed to melt against him further as tears threatened. Deanna felt him smooth the hair away from her face as he placed another kiss on her brow.
She took the hand that was lovingly stroking her hair and kissed his palm, sending a shiver through his body at the intimate gesture. Their eyes locked and suddenly they found it harder to breath. Somewhere in the swirl of their consciousness, Deanna found the courage to speak. "While we've been apart these past few days, I suddenly realized how much I needed you here with me. I know that we've been apart for much longer periods of time before and even after deciding to be together again. But lately, for some reason, those feelings of longing and dependence have increased tenfold. They used to be tolerable and now, it's like I can barely contain them."
Her eyes, dark as the midnight sun, looked back at his blue ones, begging for understanding and acceptance. Her biggest fear at the present was for him to not understand, for him to not feel the same way.
Then, her second biggest fear happened. He laughed. He laughed aloud. Deanna drew back away from him, ready to receive the full brunt of his reprieve. With a huge beam of happiness on his features, he pulled her back to him. She went reluctantly. "Do you know how wonderful it is to hear you say that?" he asked her as he looked down at her expression.
Deanna met his look of happiness with a growing one of her own. "What?" she asked bewildered.
"I'll have you know, Miss Troi, that the only thing that kept me sane during that shuttle trip today was your note that you sent this morning. I must have read it four or five times, hoping that I would catch something that I had missed. In fact, I drove the guy next to me crazy. Or maybe he drove me crazy. But the fact is that I feel the same way too. You have no idea how much I needed you this past week during those negotiations."
Her ambiance was one of complete relief and relaxation now. Actually, she should have known that he was in the same boat as her when it came to their relationship. But, it was hard not really knowing, wondering if he was going through the same changes as she was. Because they had been apart, it was all the harder. "Really? They didn't go well then?"
He pulled them both backwards until they were in a semi-upright position. Again, she held him. "Let's just say that I was about to blow myself out of an airlock on the first day. See, now, if you had been there, maybe I wouldn't have been thinking that way."
His playful accusation did nothing to harm her manner, in fact she gave him an equally playful swat on the chest and then left her hand there. "Why don't we just make a pact to never go away from each other ever again. It would solve some problems it would seem."
Will took a deep breath and chuckled, "Or it would create a whole lot more. I love you, but if I have to spend every single day, catering to your every whim, I'll still want to blow myself out of an airlock."
That won him more than a playful swat. In fact it landed a rather heavy pillow on his head. "Oww!" he managed through his laughter. She came at him again, but he grabbed the pillow and pulled it out of her grasp. What he failed to realize was that there was another one like in behind her. Before he knew it, she had delivered another blow to his head. This time, however, he had ammunition.
"Okay," he said through his smile, "You started it!" With that, he gently swatted at her with his pillow and she yelped and ran around to the other side of the couch.
"Watch it, Riker!" she laughed, although trying to look somewhat intimidating, "My pillow is bigger than yours!"
In fact it was. "Maybe so, but I'm bigger than you!" he answered back. He lunged at her and again she shrieked, dodging his advance.
"Is that a threat?!" she yelled over her shoulder as she continued to try and get away from his swinging pillow.
He misjudged her trajectory and was hit in the shoulder be her larger pillow. She laughed at his shocked expression and then jumped out of reach of his next onslaught. "You know," she said out of breath, "it's a shame that you're bigger than me, but you seem to be losing this match!" Again she belted him on the side.
But he wouldn't have anymore of it. Using some tactics of his own, he forced her to move the way he needed her to in order to swat at her legs. She didn't disappoint. His aim was perfect and it caused her to laugh even harder. Then she held up her hands, "Wait! Time out. I haven't laughed this hard in a while." Bending over slightly, she continued to try and catch her breath.
He fell for it. Letting his guard down, lowered his pillow and that's when she proceeded to hit him square in the stomach. "You're so gullible!"
However, instead of fighting back, he stayed, bent over. She then realized that perhaps the stomach wasn't the best place to hit someone with a large pillow. "Will! I'm sorry, I didn't think I hit you that hard!"
He waved her off and waddled to the couch, still clutching his stomach. "That's okay," he said with a strained voice, "I've been hit a lot harder than that before and I survived. Just give me a minute."
She nodded and placed the pillows back in their rightful positions. "Are you all right?" She tried to suppress her laughter, but a hint of it caused her lips to curl up.
Will didn't appreciate the fact that she thought it was funny. "Other than the fact that my ego's been bruised badly, among other things, I'm fine."
She looked at him gently and ran her fingers through his hair. Shifting herself so that she was practically in his lap, she soothed him. "I'm sorry. Maybe we should get serious and see about those reservations in Tiburon."
Will plopped his head down on the back of the couch and let out a long breath, "I think that sounds like a good idea." He glanced at her sideways and smiled. "Just between you and me, let's not tell anyone that I lost to a girl in a pillow fight?"
Deanna laughed joyously, "You've got a deal mister," she ruffled his hair. "Do you want me to make the arrangements while you recover?"
Will caught her hand and began to stand up, "No, I think I'm recovered. You go finish packing."
Deanna stood up with him and wrapped her arms around his neck, "I love you," she said before she kissed him. He kissed her back, not willing to let go of the moment.
When they parted, he cupped her delicate face in his hand. "I know. I love you too. But we need to get going if we're going to make it down there today."
Deanna sighed, "Okay, but there's something that I need to talk to you about first."
Will's spirit's sank, "Again?" he asked.
She smiled at his reluctance, but her look held him steady. "It's about Reg."