"I believe you owe a report of two doctor." The Enterprise's Captain settled comfortably into the guest seating across from his Chief medical officer. Relaxing casually against the chair back he raised an eyebrow, urging the doctor to continue with her report.
"Now would this be the update on my latest paper on speckled fever, or our latest patient?" She teased, knowing the answer, but enjoying his company.
"The non speckled variety I believe. How is he progressing today?" Picard asked viewing the surrounds of Beverly Crusher's office, noticing the small vase of flowers upon her desk.
"Not as fast and I know you and he would like." The red haired doctor replied with a small smile. "But he's certainly improving."
"The re-programmed pattern enhances that Geordi engineered are aiding his recovery then?"
She smiled, watching his eyes carefully. Deep hope piercing out from each orb. "Well they're helping, but the determination to heal is all Will's part. And the flowers were from Deanna." She winked seeing him sit up stiffly. " A little thanks for saving her boyfriend."
"Something we all owe you deeply for..again." He smiled.
"You'd think by now, they'd created an indestructible first officer." She mused humourously.
"They have, he just needs a little tinkering I believe." He smiled back. "but his prospects of returning to duty are going well?"
She sighed, leaning back in her chair, hating to ruin the carefree casual banter. "He's recovering. The going is slow of course and as for being able to perform his duties, I'd say they'd be very light duties after what will continue to be ongoing treatments. The disruptor damage mixed with the chemical cocktail he was subjected to haven't left his ravaged body in the best of positions to crawl back from unscarred."
Picard sighed, musing over the reports he'd read upon his first officer's latest health hurdle. "So the chemical residue is still present, regardless?"
She nodded, pulling up the file 'Riker, William Thomas' on her screen. "Even though the disruptor hit melted his enviro suit to his chest, small amounts of planetary gases still escaped into his sealed suit to bond at the molecular level. The highest ratio still held within the burn site. His immune system is still struggling against the poisoning." She turned and gave a sympathetic smile. "The pattern enhancing was only to halt the cellular loss that was occurring. I still don't know why it's happening. And the treatments will only halt it becoming worse as he heals naturally."
"So he's to be hospitalised for how long?" The captain braced himself for the worst.
"That is something I haven't calculated yet. I'd prefer to give a day by day prognosis. Any long term theories now could only hamper the progress he's making." Beverly's eyes glassed over, her head dipping to blink away the approaching tears. "It's just so unfair Jean Luc."
His warm hand covering hers bade her to look straight into his comforting hazel eyes. "We all know you're working beyond our current medical knowledge. And I know that both Will and Deanna value all your doing, not criticising, but depending on you. Don't give up, and please for their sakes, do not despair at the big picture." He sat back with a warm smile. "Something I believe you have just informed your captain of, Dr Crusher." He smiled.
"And something I keep telling myself every time I visit his bedside. I can't face him with the worst case scenario. I don't want to be the one to tell him he can't play Captain Discovery anymore." Her tears fighting to the front of her corneas again.
"When the time comes, I will do it. But that will never occur." He intoned with his positive nature. "Is he up to receiving visitors?"
"sure. Go ahead. But please do me a large favour. Help his old humour to return."
The captain nodded nobly and turned towards the end of the sickbay ward, seeking out the recovery and specialist wards. Nurse Ogawa sat by the entrance, pads in hand. Patient monitors beeping their charge's vitals. "He's awake sir. Counsellor Troi said she'd stop by later." Indicating that he had Will Riker as a captive audience for as long as the man could stay awake.
"Thank you." He replied, pausing as the door slid open, and he trespassed over the darkened boundary. The lights were dimmed, but the figure curled up on one side was highlighted by the blue glow of the pattern enhancers.
Approaching the broad bare back of his first officer, he noted the cold blue cast the lighting gave to his clammy skin. Backbone and ribs starting to show regardless of the force-feeding Beverly had reported.
The wheeze of respiration danced with the bleep of monitors, soon replaced with the rustle of sheets and a small groan. "Sir?" Will squinted, twisting up to see who his intruder was.
"Just me Will. Thought I'd come by and see what was holding up my breakfast dates with Beverly."
He watched as the man lay back down awkwardly. A small hiss as ailing body parts stretched and taunted pain receptors. Moving beyond the doorway, Picard circled round the bed to view Riker face on. His eyes were closed, one hand held tightly to his chest.
"Shall I call for Nurse Ogawa?" he enquired.
"No. no thanks. I'll be fine. Forgot the first rule of sickbay, don't move." He joked mirthlessly.
"You know, I would have thought that Beverly had given you a suitable sedative by now to block those aches and pains." Picard replied taking what was most likely Deanna's second home by now; a seat at his side.
Blue eyes opened and took in the angled view of the burgundy and black of the captain's uniform. "I think she likes to see me squirm." He shakily replied, eyes slowly blinking in weariness. "though I'd love to block out this damn humming."
Picard took in the medium pitched hum of the modified pattern enhancers, setting a border between him and Will Riker. A cold barrier to keep him corralled within his own illness. "Maybe in a few days we can remove the enhancers. I'll see what Beverly says."
"Probably the same as she always does. Not until I learn to return from away missions in one piece." He pulled up a shaky hand and wiped away at an errant sweat droplet. "So damn hot in here." He moaned.
"I think you'll find Will, that it's your internal thermostat that is currently irregular. But maybe a glass of water would help." Moving off to a side slot, and ordering up a glass of crystal clear water, he returned, placing it by the bedside.
Turning over and forcing himself up by the elbows, the Captain gave aid, helping to hold Will's head upright enough to drink the water the captain held to his lips. "try not to gulp Will. If you drown I'll never receive my nursing badge."
The heat radiating off Will's neck, where Picard held him was feverish. The water helping to cool Will's thirst more than fix his temperature problem. While he waited he viewed Will's ailment. The garish half healed wound covering Will's chest. The sheets now pooled around his waist as he continued to sup of the refreshing water. Its mass of thin pink skin barely covered the raw wound beneath. At times as Will breathed, one might consider the chances of the skin breaking being possible.
"Looks like plastic doesn't it?" Will remarked, noticing where Picard's eyes had lain. "makes me wonder if it'll ever hold all my innards in." He winked wearily as he let his weight deaden in Picard's arms as he gently returned to a horizontal existence.
"Well I hope so number one, bodily organs are not Starfleet policy to be exposed on the bridge." Sitting back down, he took in the small room. "Do you need something to read perhaps, to keep you occupied?"
"Thank you for the offer but I can barely keep my hands up long enough to hold a padd. And viewing monitors hurts my eyes. I guess it's just old fashioned talking for now." He smiled hollowly. "Deanna's spent a lot of time here, though I worry she's not getting enough sleep. And Beverly likes to tuck me in regularly, but as for chatting, well I think she's having a hard time facing my current ailment. She avoids my eyes." He noted.
Picard sighed deeply. "Well I have an option. I'll be right back." Excusing himself Will watched as the captain exited, the bright reception area burning against his retinas even after the doors had closed once more. All he could see now was dancing silhouettes of Ogawa at her desk, curiosity no doubt on her face at the captain's sudden leave.
Moment later and the same doors opened, this time however, he turned away before another layer of silhouettes could be added. Blinking away the last of the afterimages, he spied a series of books in Picard's hands.
"An answer to your boredom." Ordering a cup of earl grey tea, the captain positioned himself comfortably and turned the first of many pages. Will smiled at his Commanders leisure time sacrifice.
At first each word played along in his mind, the story building, but after a half hour or so, just the melody and rhythm of Picard's orally translated books kept him calm and sated. As his mind followed the rhythmic sentences, his body's ailings were forgotten, and for once Commander Riker was comfortable, and of a better wellbeing than he had been in weeks.
Picard quietly closed the book's cover, marking the pages first with a gilded bookmark. His listener had finally fallen into a deep healing sleep. And the soft snores were testimony to that. For a few more minutes Picard watched his friend breathe, until the commitments of command called to him.
"Brave dreams Commander." He whispered before heading back out into the bright illuminance of sickbay.
"Well whatever you've been doing in there has helped." Beverly replied, standing behind Ogawa viewing the monitors.
"A simple boredom cure can work wonders." He replied holding up the remainder of the books. He'd left the unfinished novel by Will's bedside hoping that either the man himself would have the urge to continue, or his friends would fill their awkward visiting shifts with tales of interest to the poor restricted officer.
"So did he fall asleep from exhaustion or boredom." She jibed quietly as she took his arm in hers and walked him to the exit of sickbay.
"A little of both." He smiled. "And I do agree. We shall take things day by day."
"Well I can't thank you enough Jean Luc. It's been too long since he's slept that peacefully." Her eyes soon crinkled with mirth. 'perhaps I should honour you with a medal in repatriation." Picard's raised eyebrow was all he said before heading out into the corridor and back to his bridge.
Everything ached, and everything thudded with his sluggish heartbeat. The room was empty once more, and he could swear he'd been asleep for ages. Even though he felt like hell, he felt better than the day before. But still the stink of his sickness made him feel undesirable.
"Think it's time I took a shower." He murmured trying not to scratch his healing chest. Struggling upward he nearly gave in as nausea threatened to make an even bigger mess. Swallowing deeply and taking his time, Will Riker finally dangled his legs over the edge of the biobed, and for the first time in days sat mesmerised by his bare feet. How was he going to walk if he could barely sit up?
"Move and you'll regret it." Beverly's voice warned.
Turning around briefly to see her approaching, his stomach lurched with the effort. Swallowing hard once more, he could feel himself turning paler than he'd even been before. Sitting quietly, unable to reply to her, he watched as her feet soon stood before his dangling toes. Drops of sweat dripped off his forehead past his eyes, and before he knew it he was sliding forward into her grasp.
Slapping her communicator she yelled. "Med Techs to recovery ward 2." He was dead weight in her arms as he slid onto the floor. Only a loose fitting pair of Starfleet shorts and a smear of blood covered his body. That and a constant sheen of sweat.
Beverly held him up, as they sat crumpled at the foot of the biobed, and looked him right in the eye. "Ow?" He replied, knowing she was about to torture him with another speech. But she was more worried about his chest. A flurry of activity behind him didn't thwart him from seeing why she was so worried.
"Daniels, Navell, get him back to bed, and careful with the chest. Oh and watch for nausea. It's what got him into this mess." She ordered averting his eyes and unvoiced complaints.
But she didn't need to do that. Just by gazing down at his chest, Will was silent, until he finally dry retched at the torn chest wound. Like a rocky chasm after an earthquake, his once thinly healed wound was now gaping and weeping considerably.
Before he could utter his distress, the cold injector of a hypo hissed against his jugular, blacking out and ending his futile struggle against her med techs grasps.
Chief Medical Officers log: Stardate 23789.4. Something wonderful has happened today. The Captain has begun diplomatic talks with the people of Perseius 9. A talk of mainly trade and Federation membership, but from I have read so far through their historical medical records are staggering. I only hope I can find something within these dry records of Perseian medical history. In my mind, it may be Commander Riker's only hope of returning to full time duty. End log."
Leaning back into her chair, Beverly glanced back to the Persian logs, and sighed. She was a quarter of the way through, and due to limited time, had designated the other three quarters to Data to skim through. With the lack of luck she was having so far it was hard to keep positive.
And with Will's patience dwindling, he was becoming even more a risk. It'd taken too long to try and repair the fragile skin he'd torn, leaving him in a condition far worse than he'd been days before. She knew the Commander was a little too fanatical about cleanliness, but she didn't think him stupid enough to wander off for a shower when he could barely sit up nor eat.
"Is he in detention? Or can I visit him"
Beverly nearly jumped out of her skin, and frowned at Deanna as the beautiful Betazoid smiled. "you will be too if you do that again." She held her hand over her beating heart and gave a rather annoyed glance in her friend's direction. "Both of you are going to give me a heart attack one of these days."
"He nearly gave me a heart attack today." Deanna had just spent the last few hours by his bedside while he slept off the sedatives and other sundry drugs he'd been pumped full off. "He's still sleeping, but drug free now. I can feel him coming back online again." She noted.
"Heading off to work?" Beverly enquired. "I can let you know when he's about to rise to the surface if you like. The Captain's asked to be alerted."
"No, I'll pop down once I clear my work load, and if I don't fall asleep first." Deanna confessed.
"I know. Will even mentioned your lack of sleep to the captain yesterday. Please take some time off Deanna. His healing schedule is going to take time, and he's not going anywhere now." Frowning lightly she changed her words. "Or won't be once he wakes and I chastise him."
Deanna nodded. "Please don't be too hard. I'm just surprised he didn't have the need to crawl out of bed before now."
"Well I put it all down to his energy levels. He slept too well, felt indestructible and decided to test those boundaries. I don't blame him, just a little angry though at all the progress he's just ruined. Progress that is growing at a snails pace. " The doctor shook her head, annoyed at her own limited luck in finding the hidden answer to his cure.
"We both know Will, Beverly. He won't give up and neither will you. He may not be feeling very flash but I can feel his sorrow at the stress he's placed you under." Reaching across the desk and placing hand over her friends tightly clenched fingers. "Thank you. For all you've done so far. But I think someone else needs to take their own medicine and get some sleep as well." She hinted.
Beverley smiled and let her shoulder relaxed and fingers unclench. "Deal." Getting up she hugged her dearest friend and directed for both for them to move out. But before they left Beverly indicated for a moment, racing off towards Will's room.
Deanna slowly followed, and watched at a distance as Beverley issued a few orders to Ogawa who was on shift to peruse Will's life signs. "Let me know if there is any change." She heard before her friend turned and hurried back to her side.
Taking the doctor in arm, Deanna urged her friend onward before something else in sickbay required her attention. "Let's hope for both our sakes that nothing does occur. No matter how much I'd appreciate a change for the better, we both need some serious rest." She added as the doors swished shut behind them.
"Never ever speak too soon counsellor." A voice replied.
Clarity of where he was swamped his senses. The medical smells, the medical pings of equipment and the un-medical feel of his bedding. The non-Starfleet medical reg bedding was one thing Beverly had made sure to afford him. Something soft and light for his sensitive skin.
Slowly cracking open his eyes, he lay there trying to register the murky room with sleep fogged eyes. The sedative was still swimming around his system, dulling everything to a half paced crawl as he glided his eyes in a circumference that didn't require him to move his head.
Flat on his stomach, and head to one side he could feel his tender chest weighed down by his own mass. It stung as each breathe wheezed in and out. The artificial air of the breathing mask fitted over his nose and mouth, drew in the sterile smells.
As consciousness returned in brighter coloured seconds, he started to feel parts of his body coming back to life. Toes could move, fingers curl and unclench and stomachs churn.
Lying there like a bag of rotting flesh, Will Riker began to wonder if there was more to life than trying to survive. To beat the odds. "I swear I'd do anything to be well again." He murmured as he tried to move his right arm that he managed to have slept on awkwardly. The pins and needles of bad circulation taunting him.
"Anything?" a voice whispered.
Will jerked awake. Eyes no longer at half-mast, he pushed himself painfully up onto his forearms. Skating the room with his eyes , surveying where the voice may have come from, and finding nothing but a slightly elevated heartbeat monitor chiming lightly.
"Commander, are you alright?" Another voice asked, swinging his head round to see Ogawa by his side and the room's doors closing behind her. "Can I get you something?"
Shaking his head more from the disorientation of moving too quickly. He grimaced lightly as his chest started to fight back and a wobble started up in his arms. Seeing his predicament, Ogawa rushed to his side to help him settle onto his side, then back.
"Thanks." he whispered from under his mask. Now starring up at the bland ceiling.
"Water? she offered. Pouring a glass at his nod and removing his mask. "Beverly is currently off duty but I can call her if you'd like." Helping him to sip his drink by holding up his head.
"Nah, I'll be fine, just needed to move." He smiled. "Was getting a little space crazy starring at the same spot."
"Well you must be getting better if you're taking an interest in interior decorating Commander." She smiled back. Replacing his mask and pulling the sheets up higher over his dermaplasted chest and straightening out the wrinkles in the soft linen.
"Just trying out possible new bedside hobbies. Never know when it might come in handy out here in the frontier of space." He replied, each word becoming more slurred as his eyes started to close again.
"Night night Commander, sleep tight." Ogawa administered as she watched him dose off.
But Will's eyes opened again quickly once the doors closed once more. That voice was real he was sure of it, not medication playing tricks with him.
"Good to see you're not a complete vegetable Riker". The voice commented again.
Swinging his head to the left corner he saw nothing.
"Now, lets get back to a few moments ago. You said you'd do anything to be well again."
Riker swung his head to the right corner this time. The voice moved each time.
"Where are you? Show yourself!" Will Riker demanded with as much strength as he could manage.
"What would you do if I said you had that power already within to fix your predicament?" The voice asked.
"I'd say you're toying with me, and to get the hell out of my room." Riker vehemently exchanged.
"Try it. Force me from here. Get up out of bed and push me away." The voice taunted.
Having had enough, Riker reached for the intercom, but found a hand halting his fingers from touching the panel. Glaring up at his aggressor Will Riker's mouth fell open.
"Q!" He uttered, as the Enterprises nefarious tormentor released his hand.
"The one and same." He grinned. "and at your service, well almost." Straightening his black and cranberry uniform top, he puffed his chest out to its usual self-important breadth. "Oh and no one will come running just yet, let's just say I've temporarily removed you from time itself." He bragged.
"What the hell do you want?" Riker angrily spat. Holding one hand against his chest as it ached with animosity. He could almost feel his innards squirming underneath in protest of his half raised position.
"My my, what have you gotten yourself into. Certainly not your usual chipper self. The things you'll go through to avoid marrying Troi." He giggled with delight.
"Back off!" Riker forced out before grimacing and laying back heavily into the pillows.
"Well that's no way to talk to someone offering you aid." Q bemoaned. "Some respect would go a long way for someone in your condition." He looked down his nose in disgust. "So how long? Two, three days to live? Or are we still on months?"
"Get out Q!" He managed without crying out in pain as he fought his wounded bodies' urge to collapse. "Out!"
Q stood there watching as his taunts elevated Riker's anger and frustration. Smugness moving in as he watched his jibes work their magic. "Do you have the nerve to use your powers again Riker? Heal thyself?"
Riker angry as hell, snarled and launched himself from his bed ridden state in a flash to haul Q up against the wall. Q exhaled loudly as the duranium alloy connected with his back. Fired burned in Will's eyes, tendons and muscles straining to push him further into the metal if possible. That was until Q uttered two words.
Will instantly let go of Q's uniform top and stepped backward a pace. Chest still heaving he gasped. "What have you done?" Fear lacing blue orbs the size of saucers.
Locking down at his shaking fists first, then a second later at his chest he gasped in fear. His chest was whole, his body was broad and healthy and his skin was no longer a sallow grey. "What have you done Q? What have you done?" He repeated almost like a mantra.
And then Q's smug truth hit him. 'Nothing my dear Riker, it was all you."
Deanna stumbled lightly as Beverly was chatting. Something was wrong, something wasn't feeling right.
"Deanna?" Beverly queried. "Is everything alright?" She knew the Betazoid counsellor was tired but she looked more frightened than sleepy.
"It's Will. Something's happened to Will." She uttered, her voice questing as she sought out his emotions, picking at them one at a time to discover the jumbled mass she'd felt earlier.
The overhead communications array flared to life and the feminine voice announced "Doctor Crusher to ICU"
"If he's gotten out of bed again, I'm going to turn him into a eunuch so he'll never walk tall again." She grumbled gently shaking Deanna out of her reverie and into a fast walk.
Heading back, they soon rounded the corner to the intensive care wards. The corridor had been silent, but the moment they walked through into the main reception there was a buzz of engineering personnel working frantically at the locking system.
Ogawa came forward as soon as she witnessed the harried duo racing through the door. "The monitors have gone haywire and the door seems to be locked." The nurse seemed steady but the small wavers in her voice belied the fear she was feeling for her patient.
Will stumbled back to the bed edge, air rushing in and out of heavy lungs, that days ago could barely inflate to half their volume. "What do you mean it was all me?" he demanded.
Q wandered aimlessly around the room, wiping a finger over a counter top checking for imaginary dust, dragging out the moment. "I see that your intelligence hasn't improved since we last discussed this same subject." He sighed in an exasperated way.
Still partially in shock Will took in his surroundings and found himself dressed only in a pair of very tight sickbay pyjama bottoms. The same pair that up until a few moments earlier were hanging off his emaciated bony hips. Ignoring Q for the moment, he wandered the room, enjoying the healthy way his muscles, bones and joints all worked as they were meant too. "You've given me the power of Q again. Why?" He finally asked in a tone that carried an undertone of disgust.
Q shook his head. "You've been living a lie for years. Duped by your own promise to our dear Captain. You always had it." Q almost seemed bored in an annoyed sort of way. "We've been watching very closely Riker, waiting for the right time to help bring you out into the fold."
Will shook his head chuckling lightly. "This has got to be the worst dream yet I've managed to conjure up." Sitting down heavily onto the bed edge, he gasped in slight pain. The now extremely tight pyjama bottoms threatening to either split or ruin his future plans of having children. And without thinking, gone they were in a flash, replaced by his full, crease free, uniform.
"I hope you realise those powers are for more than just a wardrobe change here and six pack stomach there." Q jibed. "You Commander Riker have a destiny. And one which we are very very late for."
"Just a minute. How can we be late if you're the omnipotent Q? Couldn't we just ." Riker whirled his finger in the air suggestively. His current state momentarily forgotten.
Q paused, holding back a snide remark about late bloomers. "Well to put it mildly, you're past promise has placed us one decade behind too many."
Riker was dubious. "But you took back those same powers once the agreement over my choice was won by the Captain. The continuum made you take them back, you were punished for failing. How the hell did I have them all this time and not notice?" His stance one of scepticism.
"It's not my fault you never tried. Besides, who uses something they think doesn't exist any more? " Q huffed, ignoring the fact that he had paid dearly for loosing Riker's membership. "What is it you humans always claim, ah yes failure due to human error." Q was still leaning up against the same wall Riker had moments ago thrust him against, watching as Will began to slowly wander the room, one hand touching and feeling his way.
Placing one hand atop the now turned off pattern enhancer, he paused. "What's the deal? What's expected from me. You can't just turn up and go whoops, think you missed something and walk away without gaining an advantage Q, it's not in your nature, and it's not in any Q's nature."
"We're curious about your beings still. Janeway taught us a lot, Vash also gave me a delight or two into human psyche but I want to know what drives a man to keep on fighting when the chips are down. You could have given in months ago Riker. Cashed in your pips for the fluffy white clouds, or what you puny mortals believe exists, heaven. But no, you fought, but for what? You're not married. Troi hasn't said 'Heal thyself and I promise you my soul". What keeps you going?" Q moved forward, slowly wandering back to Riker's side. :There is no deal. There is a choice. But no deal."
"You're seeking a reason to go on? What makes someone want to become invincible?" Riker asked sincerely, slowly cottoning in on what Q was getting at. "The Q on Voyager wanted to die. Many did. Is this something to do with the continuum dying out? A lack of drive? Of wanting to beat the odds and continue?" Mirth started to enter Will's voice. "The Q wants to know what it feels like to desperately want something they can't have. What it's like to be on the other side of avarice." He chuckled.
Q's face turned sour. "Not so smug commander Riker. We've already found that out. We've been watching, waiting. Let's just say the mouse has finally been rewarded with that piece of cheese it craved. The maze was created, the sickbay ordered, and the cheese has been dangled." And in a flash he was gone.
But the voice remained briefly to gloat. "And you Commander Riker have a choice to make. Keep the cheese or go back to the maze."
Just then the door slid back, and an audience appeared.
"What the hell are you doing in uniform?" Dr Crusher spat starring gob smacked at his gall to get up, let alone get dressed into a uniform.
Will stood there, tall healthy and a little bit afraid. And that's when Deanna noticed something else "He's healed."
Deanna's one statement halted her next tirade, forcing her to move forward to take in the filled out figure, who was standing and breathing as normally as the day before his accident.
"What have you done?" She whispered in fear, knowing this could not be possible.
He stood there unable to reply. Would they fear him? If he told the truth would Picard scold him for holding back when he could have saved so many?
The silent monitors were recording nothing, the lighting shone dimly, but there was no hiding how healthy he now looked. A simple good day was not enough to create such a change.
"I don't know". Was all he could whisper before his searching hands sort out the bed surface to sit heavily onto. With back towards them he heard Beverly ushering people out. Then felt one small hand rest gently on his shoulder. Deanna.
No doubt she could feel the fear spreading throughout, the worry and slight glee. He could feel it now, the cold sluice of power he'd once held many years ago. Having Q's powers also brought back a large chunk of embarrassment as he remembered when it had all become too much, and his ego had taken over. He was young then, surely he could contain it and keep himself human.
"How did this come about Will?" Deanna asked tenderly as she sat next to him on the bed, both their legs dangling off the edge. He turned and gazed into her questing orbs.
"Q" he replied, feeling his own mouth morph into a sneer at the name. "He's playing with me." He announced as Beverly came around before him and started scanning.
"Well I don't know what Q's done to the monitors in here, but you're certainly you, and the healthy version at that." She confirmed before shutting of the medi-corder.
"I think we need to tell the Captain." Deanna suggested, placing a hand to Will's forearm as she felt him tense up at the Captain's mention. "You don't want to tell him?" She queried in amazement.
'oh no, she knows something's amiss here. She's always going to know, I'm an open book to her' he argued to himself in his mind. "Not that I don't, it's just how to tell him."
Beverly stood back with arms crossed and a furrowed brow. "I would have thought letting him know that Q dropped by would be pretty easy, unless there was some kind of bargain made."
Beverly's assumption caused a next to nothing reaction out of Will, worrying Deanna further. "Why would he do this for free? That's not the Q we know."
Fed up with the questioning Will removed her hand, placing it into his. "It's not Q, it's not for free it's me." He said before vanishing in a glare of bright-illumined light.
Beverly's mouth stood wide open in shock, still starring at the place where one healthy Will Riker had sat and Deanna Troi. Both now missing.
"Crusher to Picard. We have a problem."
Looking past his troubled blue eyes, Deanna suddenly found the space around Will had changed. And not just him, around her as well. Glancing around the arboretum she found the enclosure empty, and just as well. The last thing she needed was a crew finding the counsellor and first officer popping in and out of existence.
"How did this happen?" He hung onto her hands almost in fear that she would step away from him. Squeezing his large fingers gently, she watched him jerk slightly and loosen his grip. "Will?" she prompted.
He looked at her sheepishly and dragged one now free hand through his hair, ruffling it nervously. "If you keep doing that you'll end up like the captain." She teased, hoping some mirth to this situation would calm him. Right now he was as tense as a gazelle.
"And having two bald senior officers wouldn't do." He agreed smiling. Gripping both her hands in his now he drew her forward to under a large Californian tree. She knew this was his favourite. It's majesty only just fitting into the vast height the arboretum afforded it, three decks high and it was still trying to reach the stars beyond the dome. Something her own Imzadi almost mimicked.
Without further prompting he began his tale once she was seated on a picnic rug, one that had mysteriously appeared complete with cushions. "Q said I have had these powers since the first day he thrust them upon me. That I just hadn't tried to use them. He badgered me, angered me and before I knew it, I was whole again." He sighed, watching carefully to see if he frightened her.
Deanna gave a small smile hoping to calm him. "And you healed yourself?" All she could feel was a turmoil of fear, anger, curiosity and a relief. A relief created by the ability to breathe, move and think without pain for the first time in months.
"Says Q." He gave a small rise to one eyebrow. "You don't believe me?"
"No. No I have seen you do a few small things already and I have felt nothing of Q's normal presence in any of those attempts." Playing with one of the exotic tassels on the purple cushions, Deanna fought down the urge to lie down upon them. The soft smell of sweet muktok slowly wound its way past her nose, it's trademark tingle soon coming to the forefront of her observations.
Behind her, where grass once lay between the roots of the massive tree, a small scattering of the betazoid flower now bloomed and sang. A chill ran up and down her spine. Only Will knew how she missed its enticing song. A flower they had planted together during their first union.
"Is that enough proof?" He smugly replied.
"Keiko will kill you when she see's how you've ruined her arboretum." Deanna playfully teased getting up to wander through his latest trick. Bending down to gently toggle one of the stems to listen to the cacophony of tinkles and tingles.
"I promise to clean up before I go." His voice whispered beside her neck. One hand moving her hair away to gentle nuzzle behind her ear. His powerful arms pulling her back against his strong beating chest.
They rested there as one. He'd missed her touch, hell he'd missed the feeling of touch without pity. Pulling away he turned back to the tree. "I shouldn't be doing this. It's probably corrupting my soul was we speak." Indicating his ability to thwart mother nature.
"I agree." She felt his arms stiffen a little as she rested there sensing his fluid emotions. "Until we know what it is Q is up to, or whether his supposition is true, your abilities should be tapered down for now."
Anger flowed to the surface, only to be snuffed out as he realised how easily he was jumping to conclusions. "I know, I know you're not jealous." He answered before she even said it. He was in tune with her now. Reading her reasoning and agreeing with it whole-heartedly. "How do I tell the captain?"
"Why would you be worried? He has wanted you well and whole for weeks now Will. So have I." She added, placing a hand over his clasped together fingers. To feel the warmth of life instead of the chill of death was a miracle at best. But was the power of Q a miracle or a disease that corrupted many and spared little?
"I promised him the first time this happened I'd never use it, but here now " He sighed at the field of musical muktok's and grimaced at his flamboyant display. Within the blink of an eye they were gone, the arboretum floor as it was before he'd tampered with nature.
Deanna smiled at his swishing conscience. Proud, guilty, happy, sad, wicked, embarrassed. "I won't tell if you don't." She winked as she pulled away and brushed her uniform free of grass and leaf litter. "I'll accompany you to the bridge, Will. He won't bite. You'll be fine, as long as you're honest."
He nodded. "Come with me? To his ready room that is." Will waited, the look on his face revealing the nervousness he was feeling.
"Always Imzadi." Deanna answered taking his hand in hers and exiting the arboretums sanctuary.
The sanctuary of their last stop seemed to be calling for him as the hazel eyes before him bore deep into his soul and marked him evil. Captain Picard's amazement had soon turned to burning betrayal, as Will recounted Q's conversation. For the last 15 minutes Picard had listened quietly, and then sat heavily for another two in silence.
"The devastation you could have saved." Picard announced, slipping past his lips and into the open. A comment he had rather of kept to himself, but felt it needed to be heard. "How could you never have known you had these powers Commander? Surely you would have noticed." The accusing glare watched as William Riker flinched at the Captain's no nonsense use of his rank. 'Commander', a term he barely used with such disgust unless he was about to strip you down to a lowly ensign or feed you to Worf for breakfast.
Picard's emotions were raw, and Will wasn't the only one noticing. Deanna had taken to the couch off to the side not long ago. The tide of emotion ripping through her as both men struggled with their own psyches.
"I never knew Sir. As far as I'm concerned, Q only said that to taunt me. Not once did anything happen remotely out of character for myself or others to have noticed." Will replied. "If I had had them I would have put a stop to the Borg, Wolf 359, your abduction, hell I would have done anything to spare us from them." He spat angrily. He was mad at himself now, how could he not have noticed.
"And wasn't it you who fore bade me to use those powers in the first place Sir?" He threw back at Picard. "In a way I was only following orders."
But his outburst didn't help matters as Picard rose from his seat, increasing his height by command presence alone. Riker was tall, but with the almighty presence of the captain before him now, Riker suddenly felt 2 foot tall. "You have over stepped the bounds of protocol before, but this time you didn't! You didn't use it Commander. You kept the power of Q all to yourself, letting others perish and suffer for your ignorance."
"Captain." Deanna interrupted, moving upward from the couch, only to be halted by the angry countenance of her superior officer. "Commander Riker was unaware of his abilities until only an hour ago." She added, fighting the urge to scream at the two head locked stags before her. "He is offering however from now on to aid us in extreme cases."
"Counsellor, might I remind you that you have other duties requiring your talents." He softly ordered in her direction, but locked his eyes back to Riker.
Deanna stood her ground and steadied her resolve. "My duties also include the command fitness of my captain and first officer. Of which none of you, due to my current observations, are fit for duty right now."
"You're dismissed counsellor." The Captain ordered regardless. "Unless you have something other to add other than just to hold the hand of my First Officer while I conduct an investigation into his complacency of duty and care to the crew of my ship."
At that Will Riker could contain himself no more. With one large clap, the Captain found himself flung backwards over his desk, stunned and dazed as Will Riker rubbed his reddened fist that had connected with the Captain jaw.
Commander Riker stood there dumb struck at his actions.
Will Riker gibbered in bewilderment at his loss of control,.
And William Thomas Riker fled in fear.
As one, the man vanished in pure, brilliant light and Deanna feared for the worse.
Counsellor Troi wandered into Ten Forward and found her shaken Imzadi sitting in his usual place for brooding, in a corner by the window with his back to the crowd.
He was nursing a drink, sliding it back and forth between each hand like a toy rather than a temporary band aid to his current problem. Guinan had held up three fingers when she had first come in, pointing in Will's direction. Whatever or whoever Guinan was, she knew when the universe wasn't right, and those same senses could also delve into a patrons mood, regardless of the amount of liquor they'd ordered and slugged down.
So without even having to smell his breath or sense the numbness of his feelings, she knew he was set on getting drunk, just by Guinans fingered code. "Three drinks already Commander. " Deanna Troi quietly tittered next to his slumped shoulders. "Maybe we should go somewhere else before you drink the bar dry."
"So it's 'commander' from you too now." Will mumbled, rubbing his tired eyes with the back of his hand, the one not throbbing from thumping his captain. "So how long till Worf turns up to throw me into the brig?"
"Let's just say that I've bought you some time." She sighed, taking a seat opposite his crumpled form. "Will, you didn't have to hit him for me. I work out in Worf's classes too." Trying her best to infuse him with humour.
"I didn't either." He replied. His eyes were vibrant blue and lost when he finally looked up. "What the hell is happening to me? I'd never do that intentionally."
Taking away his glass before he could drag it back up to his lips to finish the rest, Deanna took a sip and grimaced. "You are sorry for yourself." Indicating that to drink hard proof brandy, as such the corrosive acid before her, was pure destructive indulgence.
"Guinan gave it to me, said it'd help to stop frightening her patrons if I'd hurry up and pass out." A hint of the old Riker, telling tall tales, slipped out for a breather and then vanished. "Do you want to hit me?"
"Very hard." She replied. "But after the last few months of watching you wither from illness, the last thing I want to do is cause pain, Will."
He took a deep breath loudly and looked beyond her to the stars. "I have all of avarice at my fingertips but not one ounce of happiness."
"Not even me?" Deanna teased. "Don't I count as happiness?"
He glanced back to her, taking in her vixen eyes. "You know that you're all I ever wanted in life Imzadi." His drunken mind letting slip the secrets he kept hidden daily. "I can't bare to see you hurt, or sad."
Shaking her head, she now understood the absurd response to Captain Picard's comment. "Which is why you decked the captain."
"I love you Imzadi." He swallowed hard, looking away again from his admission. "But I just don't know if I can trust myself." In a flash another glass of brandy appeared. So Guinan hadn't been refilling his glass wantonly, he had.
He was tired, hell he looked exhausted. Will's eyes were glazing over, and the heavy eyelids were slowly sinking south. "Will, let's go back to my quarters, let you sleep off that brandy." His head whipped upright, and he blinked away the fogginess that nearly took him under.
"I'm fine." Was all she got, as his attention settled elsewhere, and he massaged a stiff shoulder. He was feeling a little dizzy but shrugged it off as alcoholic poisoning. "Or is that an invitation for something other than hot chocolate?" The weary eyebrows wiggled lethargically.
Will wasn't going to follow her for a lecture, maybe a lecherous grope, but not a lecture. So with a practised smile, Counsellor Troi slid on the charm until he took the cue, and exited Ten Forward. Hand in hand they vanished from their seats, leaving nothing but sudden gasps from close by crew, and Guinan swearing at Q under her breath.
The half-light of ship's night crept into his vision along with the striking purple pillow cover his head rested upon. Purple?
"I see you're finally awake." Deanna's voice noted from behind.
Rolling over to his back, sheets now nestled low around his hips, Will Riker lay there puzzled. "What am I doing here?" He asked the Betazoid at the doorway dressed in full uniform. "I don't remember creeping into your bedroom last night, hell I can't even remember last night." He grumbled lastly.
"Nothing untoward." Beverly answered popping around from behind Deanna to waltz right into the room. Will hurriedly covering himself up, clenching the sheets now up to his collarbone in embarrassment. "And there's nothing new under there I haven't seen Will. You can drop the pubescent teen routine."
"Bev? Deanna what the hell is going on?" He demanded sitting up in anger only to have to suddenly grip the sheets back up to his bare chest before they left his lap uncovered.
Bevery Crusher smirked and took a seat by his bedside. "Just settle down and listen before you race off or flash off, whichever it is. I'd hate to find you passed out again in nothing but your beard." She teased pointing her medi-corder at his chest.
"I passed out?" he quietly asked as she adjusted a hypo and issued it to the crook of his arm.
"A dead faint, that left me with pins and needles in my legs till we could get you off me." Deanna winked as she wandered back into her bedroom, with a steaming cup of Columbian coffee in hand. "You'd just winked us back from Ten Forward, and collapsed in here." She blushed lightly.
Will accepted the coffee and sipped gratefully. "So I managed to sleep here but missed out on the girl? Nuts." He smiled weakly. "Must be loosing my touch." He grinned, improving the wattage in his smile.
"Well you lost something for a moment there. Probably blew a fuse with all that ego." Beverly mumbled before closing up her kit. "Well you're fine as per these readings, but I suggest you rest for a few more hours. And that means no Aladdin, or Don Juan with the nice lady." She winked towards Deanna's general direction.
Will sat quietly and frowned. "So the power of Q isn't infinite." He formulated.
"More the fact that you're human based. Remember that Q doesn't require food or sleep, his body has evolved beyond that. He can flit around without tiring, you're not Q. You're a human with Q like powers. " Beverly's theory pinged around his mind, bringing forth one question.
Rubbing a hand through his tousled hair, he yawned. "So I need to recharge?"
Beverly smiled as her patient finally got the drift. "Correct. And I want you to sleep some more ok? Even if it's just to lie here and day dream I want you to recharge your batteries. That body is not invincible." She ordered with one hand guiding him to lie back and pulling up the sheets.
"I can read you a bedtime story if you like. " Deanna teased quietly.
A flash of recognition passed through his eyes. The image of the fatherly captain reading him to sleep by his sickbay bed was haunting him. "What about the captain? How much trouble am I in?"
Deanna sat by his side and held one of his warm hands in hers. "Well he hasn't demoted you yet, but I wouldn't go knocking on his door just yet. He needs time to digest your speech." She smiled weakly. He'd left them all with the "what if" question dangling in their minds. If he'd known of these powers earlier, how many lives could he have saved?
Beverly finished packing up her medi kit and brushed a hand over his forehead. "Just be a little more understanding that it's not just you that's changed, we're all getting used to this new discovery."
"Understanding?" He spurted out. "I have the ability to help, to aid people, and I get treated like a leper!" Within seconds Will was upright, dressed in his uniform and towering over the doctor in an angry snarl. "You're all just jealous." He spitefully replied.
Beverly took a step back and stoked up her own fires from within. Hands on hips she venomously responded in kind. "Oh grow up Will, you're a first officer, behave like one." And grabbed her bag.
Deanna only had a minute to feel the burn of Will's anger before Beverly Crusher, her friend and confidante, became a menacing bowl of Petunias. "What have you done!" She whispered in horror.
Will, his anger forgotten, gaped at the once animated doctor. Whether disbelief, fear or exhaustion, he stumbled back to sit heavily upon the bed before remembering to breathe. "I..I didn't mean to " he stammered.
"Turn her back, now!" Deanna ordered, sounding nothing like the caring concerned Imzadi from moments before.
Without even a seconds' delay he complied, but nothing happened except the orange petals had now turned red. He pinched the bridge of his nose and grunted as a dash of dizziness left him nauseous and unsteady.
"Will?" Deanna prompted. Aware of those swirling emotions he was trying to contain. Watching him take a few more lung fulls of air, she felt him block out the panic and concentrate. And there, in moments was Beverly Crusher, scolding him like her own son.
"Maybe if you grew up rather than playing, just like the unruly child Q, you might find others to play with." Beverly finished, unaware that she'd been transformed into a floral display; fuming as she headed for the door.
"Wasn't very diplomatic of me was it." He grimaced. "Seems I can't do a damn thing straight these days." Closing his eyes and sighing as he heard the doors close behind the now human Beverly Crusher. "Can't even control my emotions either."
Deanna paused, waiting for the last few freakish minutes to pass from her mind, so she could focus on the bewildered Will Riker. "I think we need to put a stop to using the continuum abilities Will. Limit yourself, and maybe, just maybe you might not be so dependant on them to wear yourself out."
He nodded solemnly. "I didn't mean to hurt her."
"Well from what I just saw, I think she's none the wiser, so how about you promise me to behave and I won't tell her." She cheekily bargained.
Deanna advanced a little further towards him and smiled as he cringed.
"Deal." Adding a heavy sigh as he glanced at his reflection in the transparent aluminium. "I need to focus. Get these emotions under control before I turn into a monster."
"Or a spoilt rotten little boy." Deanna added before taking a seat beside him on the bed edge.
Raising an eyebrow he took in his harasser. "From where I'm sitting, I'm still bigger than you."
"Alright, spoilt rotten big boy." Deanna purred as he hand rested itself gently upon his thigh. "Do you remember what we talked about in Ten Forward?"
"Well from what I remember there wasn't a lot of talking. But I do remember
someone sending rather provocative glances my way." His Cheshire grin almost
encompassing his face, teasing her with its sexual heat.
"Well there was that." She blushed. "What I meant though was can you really control yourself without spontaneously whisking away people to places they only jokingly wished they were at."
Will groaned at the reality of his situation. "So when you said you wanted this to be just a dream. Waking up and finding me whole and human beside you in bed. You didn't really want to head here?"
"You did sort of confuse my wishes after we arrived from Ten Forward." Deanna rubbed his thigh tenderly before patting it kindly in friendship not eroticism. "And I didn't want you to collapse either Will." Leaning forward to kiss his cheek. "I wanted you to be you, not what you will become if you keep down this road."
He nodded in understanding. "I think I need to view the fine print in detail." His eyes gazing up to the ceiling in contemplation before he vanished.
Geordi Laforge was quietly checking the latest test results Dr Crusher had asked him to review when Commander Riker flashed into view. He couldn't help but notice via his visor, that Riker's temperature readings were higher than normal, as was his heartbeat.
"Commander." He acknowledged as Riker approached, once he'd spied the engineer in his office alcove. "I wouldn't hang around here too long, Dr Crusher is on her way down, and I heard you were meant to be resting."
Will grimaced. "Might have known she'd impose a "do not assist" notice to the crew."
Geordi chuckled, "Well as long as it's not to aid you in turning us all into perfect beings, I'm happy to break a few rules." The engineer's jest aimed at Riker's first experiment with the powers of Q, and his 'gift" of sight to Laforge.
"Nobody is perfect Geordi, not even Q. " He remarked. "Which is why I'm here. I could have sworn he was here somewhere."
"Hmm well he did flash by an hour ago. He was trying to rally support for the new improved first officer." He answered honestly.
Riker rested his hip on the diagnostic tables edge and groaned. "I think he's afraid I'll ask you all for your opinions and decide from there."
Geordi took in the shifting gradients of colour and thermal patterns that made up the image of Commander Riker. "Well without stealing the counsellors job, I sense some apprehension."
Will grinned. "Some. Deanna has already given me a unique way of looking at this situation. And a tonne of answers to questions I never thought of. "
"For what it's worth Commander, Counsellor Troi doesn't often get it wrong either."
Will contemplated Geordi's words. "True." He replied. Standing upright
and pulling his uniform tunic down in a sharp tug. "Tell Beverly I promise
not to push myself." And vanished after his prey.
It didn't take long to find the insufferable Q. Stopping in to ask Data if he'd seen him, an envelope puffed into being inviting him to meet for tea upon the aft phaser array housing.
"You can have it all you know." Q enticed him. "Everything you ever dreamed about and more."
Will Riker gazed out at the stars, tempted to touch them to see if they'd push away like billiard balls or burst into fireworks. The scenery before him was beyond reality itself. Would the universe turn into a large amusement park? Would he be William Thomas Riker anymore? And that's when the light bulb flicked on. "But I would cease to be human Q, and wasn't that part of the experiment, to see how a human would cope with becoming omnipotent? To coax me onward with little snippets of cheese till I become nothing more than just one of you."
Q sighed. He had been extremely patient with his possible new inductee so far, but the strain of being kind was pushing his smile into a grimace. "You puny humans think too much of yourselves. I'm only trying to help. Do you want to go back to being a corpse counting his last breath?"
Riker involuntarily took a deep breath. To breathe again without waiting for his chest to break open, was an oasis to a thirsty man. But did he want all the temptation that went with good health, immortal health.
"You've had these powers for over 15 years now Riker, and you've squandered the power when you could have saved many, even millions. And all because of one man, a man you could have rescued from the Borg by banishing them from this quadrant. You could have stopped the Dominion war, flicked one finger and the changelings gone. You, Commander Riker, could have stopped the death of many." Q taunted
Riker turned with such anger that the omnipotent Q took a step back. "And I 'could have' killed as well." Fists balled at his side Riker advanced forward. "Did you not think that I had already beaten myself senseless with those same realisations? How better this universe could have been? But one change alters the balance of everything, and when is the right time to stop meddling?"
Q almost pouted. "We don't meddle, merely observe and test the bounds of which mere mortals never conceive of."
"This 'power' is proof that you meddle Q! The tests may have not seemed real to you, but they were in every sense to us. And deaths occurred many times by your own hands, because of your experimental parameters. I'm no longer human Q. Your test is over." Riker's blue eyes sizzled with anger and energy, and within milliseconds he'd gone.
Q still starred at the spot where his protégé had stood and tittered to himself. "He won't hold out long if I have anything to say about it." And snapped his own fingers in a flash of oppressive white.
Doctor Beverly Crusher was busy reading through the latest transcripts Data had processed from Perseian medical history when someone came knocking. "It's good to see you kept your word."
"And you didn't." Beverly frowned, one hand to her chest as she counted the beats. "We had an agreement about knocking."
"Only if I entered the doorway. I kind of just well appeared." His Cheshire grin illuminating the room with warmth. It was good to see him well again, but the burden of Q's gift was taking its toll. His smile was bright but the sparkle didn't reach the blue eyes that were watching her but avoiding her at the same time.
"Take a seat Commander, and tell me your woes. What brings you here?" She added as he raised an eyebrow as if to say "Woes?".
Turning the chair around, his familiar and dangerous straddle soon had him planted across the desk from her, his arms crossed over the chair back. "You're still looking for clues."
Placing down the latest padd onto top of a pile of others she stretched backward and took in his appearance. "As you mentioned, I gave you my word. I would find a cure." He seemed different. Not cocky, but contemplative. "And even if you're now well and healthy, I'd like to find the answer in case someone not as lucky as yourself befalls the same symptoms."
"And earn some praise for another medical paper." He softly jibed.
"Well I don't want to earn medals of valour , if I have to injure myself Will." She winked. "Come on, out with it. Exactly what is it that has brought you to my office without an order from the Captain?" Watching the first officer as he looked guilty at the Captain mention.
"So he hasn't told you then?" Will Riker began to gently rub the still tender knuckles of his left fist, starring down at the tabletop. "I hit him." He admitted.
"I know. I fixed him." Crusher replied. "And no, he's not going to kill you, but I would start looking for new job vacancies in the bowels of this ship." Waiting for a reply, she stood up and poured him a glass of water from the side desk. Hydration wouldn't hurt him. In fact that was one question she hadn't bothered to ask. "Will, have you eaten? Drunk anything?"
"I'm not hungry." More likely from his current predicament than actual Q biology. "Bev, I want you to do something for me. Keep going. Find that cure. I'd give it to you, but I'm not sure if it'll stay found if Q has anything to do with it."
"You both had a little tiff?" She prompted. Her own blue eyes sparkling with mirth as Will shrugged.
"I kind of don't follow his reasoning I guess. Nor his values."
"And you think he'd be spiteful enough to cancel anything productive you'd create." Nodding in understanding. "Never fear, Geordi has been helping out aswell. Data suggested it actually. I've only been searching for an answer via biological reasoning. Where as Data came at it from a theory based on energy and molecular absorption."
The technical spiel had his mind spinning but he drew upon his own basic understanding and smiled. "Geordi knows transporters and energy polarity."
"Exactly " She began, until he vanished, and was replaced by a large vase of flowers. "Flowers do not apologise for vanishing in mid-conversation commander." Beverly chided before moving round to Will's turned around chair to breathe in their perfume.
" and I want table two moved forward." Guinan ordered until she felt Q breathe over her shoulder. "Thought I smelt something bad."
"Is that anyway to treat a dear friend." He teased, vanishing and reappearing seated against the bar, drink in hand.
"The only dear thing between us, is the cost of lives you ruin each time you tamper with this crew." Guinan simmered.
"Tut tut Guinan, as if you haven't committed genocide at some point in your multi-dimensional life. But enough of this loving banter. I need some information." Q brushed his spotless nail across his burgundy and black clad chest before inspecting them further.
"And why would I aid you?" She cautiously sat beside him.
Straightening his pompous posture even further upright he flared his nostrils and took in the uneasy adversary before him. "Because if you don't, Riker won't have long to live."
Riker uneasily wandered onto the bridge, taking in the crew assignments and finding the centre seat filled by Commander Data. Just as one foot began to turn back towards the turbolift, the ready room doors opened, and Picard wandered out in time to see his sheepish first officer trying to flee.
"Commander Riker, my ready room please." He ordered coldly.
Seeing no other alternative than to run, and far away at that, he pushed his feet forward until they arrived over the threshold to Picard's inner domain. "Sir..I just " He started until one finger rose and halted his apology.
"Take a seat Commander." He waited and watched as Will Riker shuffled into place before his desk, as per last time, though less sure of himself. "I won't bite Will. Not this time. I've had ample time and a rather fiery Doctor, strip away the personal issues I had with the return of your abilities." Leaning back into his chair he steepled his fingers. "In fact she indicated that we should be encouraging you to enjoy these abilities but in limited use."
Will raised an eyebrow. "She did?" He'd been back twice now to sickbay to check on Beverly's progress, and was most surprised that she hadn't told him it was 'all clear' now with the Captain.
"I think it was more her way of saying "it's good to know you're well again, but we don't know what an extended use of Q's powers will do to you if used every day." Picard announced.
Will nodded. "Aye sir." Taking a deep breath, now that it was safe to do so, Will finished his apology, meeting the Captains hazel eyes and seeing a hint of worry lying there. "It won't happen again Sir, I was out of line."
"I just feel sorry for Worf sparring with you." Picard replied.
"Worf just hits back harder." Will smiled, then paused as he composed his next statement. "Sir, the reason I wanted to apologise now, is that I need to make a choice, a big one. And I'm not sure if I'll survive it." He admitted.
Picard leant forward in his chair and viewed his friend, close confidante and executive officer. He wasn't happy. Gone was the joy that was Will Riker. He looked not only confused but also cornered. "It's not permanent is it?"
Shaking his head, Will glanced down to the floor and reminded himself not to shine his boots so bright, only nervous cadets at the academy had them that reflective. "It seems the less I used their gift, the power of Q grew weaker until it was nearly drained from me, that was until Q appeared and jacked up the juice again. From what I have been told, and who knows if he's telling the truth, I need to embrace these powers and take the next step up and leave behind my humanity, or let the power of Q slowly dwindle and die."
"And if the powers vanish altogether?" Picard urged Riker to continue, fearing his own conclusion was the one Will had been told.
"It would kill me." Will answered coldly. Fire burning in his eyes at the way he'd been hoodwinked into a corner. "But hell, is anything Q says true?" he stood up and began pacing the room from left to right and back again.
As Picard began to reply, the door proximity alert chirped. "Come." And in stepped Guinan.
Taking in Will's former pacing pose, and the way he had one hand ruffled through his thick hair, and Picard's sympathetic tone. She knew what the topic had been. "I see you've been discussing the intricacies of good fortune and bad entities."
"If you mean Q, yes." Will replied.
Having had the ear of the Captain for many years, and the crew as well, Guinan took her place upon the couch and casually gazed at the tall ruffled first officer. "Q has spoken of your current dilemma. And his petty threat of death, should you refuse his 'gift'."
Guinan moved to stand before the tall Alaskan first officer, gazing up to the haunted eyes. "Perhaps he was hoping to convince me that the continuum was the only answer, and that you would accept what I had to say. Follow my guidance, as the Captain has sometimes chosen to do." She shook her hatted head lightly. "but I will not bribe you, I only offer a lended ear to hear out your troubles and choices."
Raising a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, Will Riker grunted. "Guinan, not now, OK? I know I shouldn't have accepted these damn powers in the first place." He brooded, turning away from her, sure that she would be wearing that 'I told you not to trust him' look.
"But if you hadn't you would most likely be dead by now." The bar keep replied softly. "How long did Doctor Crusher give you a few days ago? One week, a month? No matter, for now you are healthy. Embrace it while you can!" Ending her statement with verve and vitality. "But don't accept payment in full Commander."
"That's your version of a lended ear?" Will scoffed.
The captain had continued to sit quietly throughout the conversation, watching the knowledgeable Guinan in action. Slowly removing Will's guilt of acceptance and focussing him on the final target. "You have been playing the guilty player, Will. When in fact it is Q who should be charged with entrapment." The captain offered quietly. "Guinan is only showing you how you've been dwelling too long on the past rather than enjoying the now, and focussing on the question of your future."
Will ran a heavy hand through his hair, ruffling it further, in thought. "So what you're saying is go out, have fun, then accept the consequences." He shook his head in anger. "I can't just do that Guinan, I have Q hounding people I care for. Demanding that they sway my vote to his camp."
"Q knows that harm will not win you over Will." Picard offered. "And I will not stand for it either."
"But if it did come down to the continued existence of someone dear to me, what would you do?" Will re-directed the question to both his current sounding boards.
"It's not my choice to make. Nor others. It never has been, which is where Q thought wrong." Guinan rose and took his hands in hers, sympathy in those deep dark eyes. "Bribery will not work. You are an honest man and would not follow that which corrupts the soul."
He gave a deep chuckle, shaking his head. "Would I know the difference if I were already corrupted?"
Guinan smiled deeply. "Yes." She answered simply. Answering his raised eyebrow with a humorous addition. "For I would kick you myself if you didn't recognise it."
Watching him smile warmed her heart, but at the same time crushed it as she set her stance to deliver the final question she knew she had to enforce. "It's time to decide for yourself, do you William Riker want to be Q?"
Deanna found him in the arboretum, hidden under a large Californian pine, with long legs tightly drawn in to his chest and his forehead resting upon his knees. She'd been trying to track him down for hours, but the ship's computer was having a hard time keeping track of his placement each time he moved in and out of it's internal communications range.
He looked so healthy to her now. Gone was the talking skeleton, but now in it's place sat a confused lost man, with a huge choice to face. The anger Will had shown, divulging what his powers in the past might of aided, was still there.
Deanna moved quietly and carefully stepped over the roots of the tree, focussed on Will. Her Imazdi.
A few paces from him, his head whipped up and held out a hand to stop her as she tripped slightly. The touch of something alien held her. A barrier. Until he stood and helped her to more stable footings. "You should be more careful Miss Troi. I can't be everywhere." He smiled awkwardly, trying to hide the roguish grin beneath. "Or maybe I can."
"I think one Riker twin is enough without finding you hiding in 900 closets simultaneously frightening women all over the ship Will." Rolling her eyes. "My work load would be enormous."
"Well whoever said a little bit of insanity wasn't good for the soul." He shrugged, letting her go and standing back. He seemed to be trying to distance himself from her too much of late. Was he afraid of hurting her?
"Will. How stable are you?"
He looked at her strangely. "As in balance? Or am I a complete looney?"
Regretting asking such a heavy question so early, she pressed on. "I mean, are you afraid of your powers. Does the choice of changing another being's life frighten you? Can you control yourself?" She asked watching his eyes close in deep reflection.
"I have no idea how dangerous I could be. But am I stable? Well I have somehow managed to hide these powers from myself without mis-use for over 15 years Deanna. If that's true." He turned back to the tree trunk and rested his broad back against it, crossing his feet at the ankles as he leant backwards.
"You are afraid." She answered for him. "And it's why you've been consistently hiding from me." Will's guilty eyes flashed towards her.
"I'm not afraid just worried. How do I know what is real anymore? I can change our lives right here and now and follow it like one of Beverly's play scripts, but how long would it be till I believed it for real? Or became bored and changed it without knowing? We could be married, have children and then in a blink of an eye I could be alone on some barren rock that was once called Earth. Maybe I even created Tom just to add a little spice to my life" He shook slightly as a tingle ran down his spine. "Maybe I'm going mad "
Deanna moved to comfort him as he slide back down the tree to land hard on his backside. Moving in beside him, she grasped both his hands in hers and starred at him till he locked eyes on her. "You're not mad Will. Just a little lost." She lent forward and planted a light dewy kiss to his lips before brushed back his errant lock of hair tenderly.
"Beverly asked me to pass on a message that the tests Geordi was playing with worked. Whatever that means. I swear you've spent more time with Beverly than the captain or myself. Attracted to red heads are we now?" She jibed, earning her a small smile.
"Nah, prefer my ladies to be of Betazoid colouring." He grinned.
"Careful answer, but the right one mister Riker." She playfully punched him. "So what are we going to do about the finger snapping effect?"
The grin was still there but sagged a little. "Don't know. Might keep it, might give it away. Amanda managed to balance it eventually. But she had to leave behind what she knew and loved to follow that path. The same choice I now have to make."
"You don't have to leave Will." She reminded him. "Your condition doesn't need to be broadcast to the crew nor outsiders."
He cringed a little. "My condition. Seems I've gone from one mysterious disease to another. Can't say I know which one is worse. But I do have a risky plan."
"You wouldn't be you without one." Deanna replied.
He chuckled lightly. "Is there anything you'd like? Anything I can give you that you've always wanted?" He squinted a little, seriousness coating his words, covering up the light banter from before. His mind silently continuing with 'One last wish before I die as a human?'
"You. Just plain you. No bells and whistles, just my Imzadi whole and Terran." She answered honestly, squeezing his hand tighter.
"Then my decision is made." He said sadly. "I just hope I don't live to regret it."
And just like that he vanished.
Tiredness weighed down each limb, as if a quantum fissure had opened up and doubled the collective weight of his atoms. Decision-making and the power of Q was draining him, and as Guinan had predicted, it was short lived unless he took up Q's offer. To join a race of super beings with the morality of treacle was something he would never have given a second thought, but the other alternative was to die human and slowly. The fear of that one demise was pulling his insides to shreds and almost sealing his fate. As he lay there on the moist grass of the arboretum, he gazed at the ceiling water mechanism, that one source of water was what kept this bountiful paradise alive. But was the same true for him? Was there only one option. Couldn't he have both?
For the last few hours William Thomas Riker had travelled and seen things he'd only dreamt of. A last supper in some ways. Dining on the unusual and fantastic of the universe. For tomorrow, he surmised, he would be his normal self again. But in what condition would Q leave him?
Sighing deeply he rolled over onto his side and hoisted up his head onto his raised hand, leaning into the soft ground with his elbow. Lieutenant Rodrigers' two children were playing tag on the main lawn, dodging various visitors' legs. That was until they ran into one set of very solid uniformed legs.
The Security Chief seemed to be looking for something or someone, until he'd spied his quary between the tree trunks. Seeing him stride forth with purpose, Will laid back again, waiting for the large Klingon's shadow to interrupt his filtered sunlight.
"Commander." Riker raised his eyes to see Worf batting away a stray branch that threatened to untie his ponytail. "You forgot your communicator." He added.
"So you're my personal intercom?" Will jibed, struggling to stand up without appearing weak before the burly Klingon.
"You are 4 hours late." He stated. Then grumbled and almost rolled his eyes at the menial task he had been put to. "Dr Crusher was worried. I am to accompany you to her office."
Will let out a small chuckle and smiled. "She thought I wouldn't come, so the doc sends a fearless Klingon warrior instead." Giving a large wink before slapping Worf on the shoulder in comradeship.
Worf gave a glance as if to say 'humans and their insufferable humour', and warily watched the tall human's swagger. Will Riker he knew, was tired. Although he hid it well, Worf knew body language like a 3rd language, and moved a little closer in case he was needed to steady his friend.
"I'm alright Worf, just getting old." Will softened a small grimace into a smile, as his left hip pinged from laying on it earlier. "So, how's Bev's mood today?"
"I would tread carefully. Wounded Targ have seemed more compassionate." Worf replied making Will laugh. "Sir, may I enquire as to what choice you will be making." With the continued silence as they ambled their way to the exit, Worf mused his thoughts into voice. "I assume the reason Q still remains is because you have not agreed to his terms, nor have you said no."
Just outside the arboretum doors, Will paused in step, chuckling slightly. "Can't hide anything from you can I." He sighed heavily. "I never thought the choice of living would be so hard Worf. And if I don't decide to live " he left it hanging, almost embarrassed about the emotion he was sure Worf could see in his eyes.
Like a true warrior friend, he dismissed it and regarded the normally strong willed Commander before him. "Life is not about living but how one is honoured in death Commander. I know you as a warrior. And a warrior strives to fight strongly till the end." He paused watching the honour in Will Riker's eyes. "Only shapeshifters and cowards can cheat death by changing their souls."
Will smiled. "And by being Q, I'm a coward." He nodded in agreement. "Exactly what I was thinking Worf, before the ogre of sickbay rang." Clapping him on the shoulder, Will moved them forward again. "I made a decision earlier but wasn't sure if it was going to hurt others. But I'm sure I'd have your vote of confidence. Just one thing though " He paused again. Waiting for a lowly ensign to pass by until the corridor was empty once more.
"I want you to be there for Deanna when my time comes. Keep the cowards away and only let her love the brave." He waited till Worf nodded with a sly grin. "Oh and keep her away from the tequila." He added for amusement, leaving behind a grumbling Klingon.
Will Riker grimaced as Dr Beverly Crusher issued a hissing hypo to his arm, holding on as if he was going to bolt. She'd swiftly moved to his side as soon as he'd finished straddling the stool in her research lab. A little miffed at her attack, he asked "And that was for?"
"Lack of nutritional intake and sleep. I told you to take it easy Will." She replied, taking in the tired lines around his eyes and the way his posture had begun to slump.
"I have. No whizzing around you said. Well I haven't lifted a gifted finger in hours." He almost pouted, rubbing his bicep as if the shot was still stinging. The statement was true in linear time. Just not in Qtime.
"Nor have you been sleeping either." Taking the stool next to him, Beverly relaxed her tone. "I know you have a rather large option to take up, or refuse. But without sleep or food, the power of Q will only keep you alive so long."
"Or forever." The glare of Q's arrival made both officers wince.
"A knock at the door would be nice." Dr Crusher huffed as she rubbed her own tender eyes. Will hadn't been the only one burning the candle at both ends. Something had told her to keep researching Will's earlier ailment, and right now, the look on Will's face confirmed it. He wasn't happy at Q's appearance. And for someone who had been offered exceptional powers, and the chance to live out the rest of his being with the one and same supplier of those powers, he didn't look at all ecstatic.
"My dear doctor. If only you knew how easily I could crumple your existence. Or cure your pet hates." He smiled like a Cheshire cat offering cheese to mice.
"I doubt you do. If you could cure my pet hates, you wouldn't exist anymore." She bit back sweetly. "Now, would you kindly leave us or have you finally discovered an ailment you can't cure? Like arrogance?"
Q puffed out his chest importantly, and ignored Will Riker's smile. "My patience is growing short Riker. Decision time. Ready Room. Now." And with a click of his fingers, both men vanished, leaving Beverly Crusher wincing in sympathy for Will's plight.
Picard had been gently sipping his Early grey tea when both men arrived. Unamused, he raised an eyebrow before slowly lowering the fragile cup back to it's matching saucer.
"Sorry to bother you Captain." Riker apologised. Surprise in his eyes, as if Q had transported him without a chance to ready himself.
Sitting back into his chair. The report he had been reading, forgotten. Picard speared the annoying entity with boldness, while easing his officer. "It's alright Will. I comprehend that Q has little politeness, so was expecting his entrance to be 'brilliant" and sudden. And about now, as of fact."
"I smell Guinan about this place." Q sniffed disdainfully. "How could you let such a creature on your ship let alone into your private haven mon capitan?"
Ignoring his comments, Picard indicated for his 'guests' to sit, but Will refused. Starting to pace out his nervousness, the long legged officer didn't take long to reach the viewport, before turning back to the two men who each offered avarice.
"I can't take your offer Q." he answered in grim determination. "If I can't stand you, why would I want to be you?" He offered up without a question uttered as to why.
Q's eyes almost bulged in anger. "So you would prefer to live out you're short existence as a husk of dying flesh?" Q had taken the chance that the choice of living might drive the Commander to take up his offer, but had failed miserably.
"Dying human is more important to me than becoming someone else. I wouldn't be me Q. If there were no challenges, hurdles, no risk of death, I'd become complacent. Tired with life. I'd die inside leaving a living husk. The opposite of what awaits me if I refuse you." Will's posture was erect. His shoulders pushed back. More the model officer of many months ago, than a few minutes before. He knew his destiny, and was prepared to face it with friends, not smug silliness that Q flaunted. "I'm sorry Q, but my answer is no."
Q spun on Picard in anger. "You've killed him Picard, just remember that!" And with a flash the fuming being has turned and gone.
Before Picard could offer his congratulations to Will on following his instincts, fear gripped his heart, as Will Riker collapsed like a rag doll.
Beverly Crusher had surmised that she'd be called in aid. So was ready and packed once Picard had slammed his communicator and demanded her assistance right away.
What she hadn't been ready for was to find Will Riker once more resembling a corpse but still wearing his full uniform. His body now returned to it's wasted, toxic self swam in the folds of his large sized tunic and trousers.
He was gasping in pain, head flung back and tears streaming from his shock ridden eyes. To go from sudden health to ultimate agony was punishing his body in ways the slow deterioration hadn't. Pain receptors were struggling with the sensation of a million cells dying a minute. And the groan of agony he'd let slip from between clenched teeth, in his Captain's presence, confirmed his distress.
"Hold on Will. Let me get you settled first before we move you back to sickbay." She spoke slowly and evenly, even as her heart wanted to scream in panic. Issuing a series of three hypos, she looked up to the Captain who now knelt opposite her, holding onto one of Will's forearms as he balled his fists and dug his fingernails deep into the palms of his hands.
Large pants soon relaxed back to sleepy groan as the sedatives worked their magic, and Will Riker began to relax his arched spine. "That should block out the worst of it." Beverly surmised. Grabbing her medicorder and spending a little longer this time readings his system's specifics.
"He refused Q's offer." Picard spoke proudly. "But oh how I wish in some ways he hadn't." The captain taking in the ruined body that mere moments ago had stood tall and strong. Turning Will's wrist, the captain gently relaxed the fingers so that he could reveal the crescent shapes of Will's fingernails that had dug into chilled flesh. Beverly healing each cut with the dermal regenerator, but not fully, as his body refused her ministrations.
"Sadistic bastard." Beverly uttered, regardless of Picard's close proximity. "He could have left Will cured." Tears glistening in her eyes.
"Try and breathe deeply and steadily Will." Beverly compassionately held his hand, rubbing her thumb over its surface in small comforting circle. "I know it hurts, but I need you to stabilise your breathing without medication. There's already enough swimming around in your system now to damage your lung tissue." She added the latter seeing Picard's query forming upon his lips.
She looked long and hard into Picard's hazel eyes as she spoke to Will. Unable to look him in the eye and say 'it'll be alright'.
"Selar to Crusher."
Beverly pressed her communicator with her free hand, still keeping eye contact with the captain. "I have Counsellor Troi here doctor. Ensign Pathers brought her in after she collapsed during a counselling session."
"And I know why." Beverly answered glancing back down to her patient. "I'll need you to carefully block all empathic links to the counsellor, and issue her a light sedative. I don't want her reaching out to Commander Riker in his current medical condition."
"Certainly Doctor. Shall I reserve the Commander's former room?" The Vulcan doctor's voice far from cold and emotionless. Aware of the possible decision the Commander had made in reneging on Q's gift.
"Yes thank you Selar. I'll be bringing him down shortly once he's stable. Crusher out." She sighed deeply shaking her head. "The pain they go through for each other." She muttered under her breath as she finally released Will's hand and started to unpack the hover board. "Damn, I should have asked for Jones and Tinley."
Picard moved beside her and halted her hand before it slapped the communicator once more. "Lieutenant Worf and I will take him." The captain's gaze enough to indicate his request to return his honourable first officer to sickbay, even if to Will Riker it would seem to be more like a funeral march back to his live-in tomb. She nodded in agreement.
Securing the hoverboard beside Will, she extended it via the controls for length and width. Leaving it settled upon the floor, and moving back to Will who was now only partly conscious. His gasping breath a sign of how heavy his own chest weighed upon his feeble lungs.
Heading for the doors, the Captains indicated for Worf's presence, soon stepping aside and taking his place back at Will's shoulders. "If you could take his feet Lieutenant."
If Will was semi-conscious before, he was wide awake now as his body was grasped and moved to the hoverboards cool surface. Nerve endings didn't just tingle, they were on fire. Arching his back and shivering in agony, Beverly finally issued a fourth hypo, halting his soundless scream. Crossing her fingers she hadn't overloaded his system. Blacking him out and sparing him the grief of returning to sickbay via the bridge flat on his back.
"Ok, he's out. Let's get him back home to sickbay." Stepping back once the hoverboard was engaged and rose to waist level, ready for the Captain and Worf to guide it from the ready room.
Worf's face was impassive as he stood by his 'brother' and guarded his form from prying eyes. One stern glance and eyes swivelled back to their stations as they left the bridge, and wound their way southward to deck 12.
Will awoke wearily, body taunt with pain strung muscles, in the last place he'd ever want to be again. Critical ward one. He shivered lightly in dread and groaned in agony as skin, feelings 2 sizes too small, stretched and reminded him to lie still.
A gentle hand moved away the usual errant lock of hair. "Take it easy Will. You're going to be stiff and sore for a while." Beverly's saddened voice was full of remorse.
"I " he managed to croak before his voice caught and a racking cough threatened to split his melted chest from belly to collar. Finally stilling his injured body Will managed a weak smile, hoping to break the remorse written all over Beverly's face. "as I was saying I think I chose the wrong option." Closing his eyes from the strain of speaking.
"I thought I just ordered you to take it easy Will." The doctor fussed. Wiping away the small smear of blood that had dribbled from his lips. Q had been right in his rant. Will's days of survival had been reduced to mere weeks, but from the shock of transforming from healthy to dying had dangerously reduced his life span in her eyes to mere days. Already he was coughing up blood as the hours passed. She only hoped Data's calculations would prove her theory right. The cure had to be found before she was attending her best friends memorial.
"Sorry" Will croaked. He smiled briefly before a spasm of pain traversing his chest clamped his jaw closed. "Hurts." He whispered after several minutes.
Doctor Crusher held back her tears and forced a smile upon her lips. "There's a limit I can buoy you up on pain killers Will. You know that. If I could I would. Just hold tight and try and get that genuine Riker smile working, Deanna should be here soon." She encouraged checking the chrono hidden at the bottom of the right hand corner of Riker's vitals monitor. "Unless you would prefer for the Captain to drop by?"
Will gave a brief smile and shook his head soon regretting the manoeuvrer. Contents he'd never know he'd had soon rose, burning his esophageus with bile.
"Alyssa, fetch some cleansing cloths please." Beverley asked calmly as she deftly placed a disposal bag near Will's mouth in time. A new sheen of perspiration slick his clammy hand and she held on tightly giving support.
Riker groaned with pain as another cramp twisted his stomach in two and bile rose once more. Swallowing hard he kept his eyes closed, silently praying not to bring up another load of nothing from his tender belly.
"Let it out Will. It's for the best." He heard Beverly before he found himself facing the floor once more. Ogawa removing the bag and vile contents as Dr Crusher wiped his mouth and beard clean. "Seems our experiment in getting you to keep something down failed." She mused to herself as she helped Will roll backwards to face the ceiling.
"Deanna." he managed before swallowing back a false alarm.
"She's on her way." Beverly brushed back the damp hair from his forehead. "I finally managed to convince her to get some sleep and freshen up while waiting for you to rise and shine." Will nodded and closed his eyes from the nausea.
He knew she was starring at him. Assessing the damage. Beverly hadn't moved away yet, and she certainly wasn't readying any hypos. The lack of rustle confirmed his assumptions. And so did the tears in her eyes when he opened his own, locking them onto hers. "I'll be fine." His hoarse throat whistled, suddenly aware of the lie that had just left his lips.
Wiping away a stray teardrop, Beverly grasped one of his pale clammy hands and sniffed loudly. Trying to compose herself with a pasted on smile. "I know you will."
"Beverly I don't think I'm going..t..to make it " Will stammered more from lethargy than fear. His true honesty crushing Beverly's heart. He was giving in to the disease, to evade the pain of living. In all her years she'd never thought him capable giving in. but here he was, cheated on the very thing he'd fought so hard for, life and now he wasn't even going to try for a second or a third chance of beating death's grip.
"Don't say that Imzadi." Deanna whispered by the doorway.
"Don't say that Imzadi." Deanna whispered by the doorway.
Will tried his best to keep his eyes locked to her compassionate gaze, but another cramp dragged him away and back to the pit of misery that was his body, behind closed eyelids. "Hurts so much." He managed as her warm hand rested on the hollow of his collarbone.
He was emaciated and dying, just as he had been before Q. The massive weeping wound of his chest was breaking down into its atoms, and his body was dissolving like a transporter field on slow. Cell by cell he was being taken apart as the poisoning ate away at him.
"The shock to his system in returning to this level of health has created more problems I'm afraid." Beverly sympathetically updated Deanna. "Will's nervous system is on fire in a way."
"I can help." Deanna stated, holding a large weak hand within her own steady determined grip. "There are ways "
"No." Will let out as he felt the beginning of her connection. She was expertly tracing his mind, following his neurons and tapping into the endorphins that had refused to come to his aid; dulling his senses till his pupils dilated in pain free ecstasy.
"Deanna!" Beverly called out seeing the effect she was having on her patient. She'd seen both of them and the subtle effects through their close bond, but this was above the standard levels of companion therapy. "stop it now, he doesn't want this."
The Betazoid heir turned, tears spilling down her pale cheeks. "I do." She whispered between clenched teeth. Tightening her grip on Will's limp hand as she fended off the Doctors grasp. "You don't know what it feels like to loose your soul mate!" She cried. "I want to give him what I crave. To be free of pain. You just don't understand the freedom I can give him."
Beverly took a step back shaking her head. "If you think hurting yourself will make Will happy, you've mistaken your bond. Will doesn't want to hurt you. Keep this up and he'll wish himself dead just to free you of this voluntary burden." The doctor's harsh words earning her a vicious glare.
"You know I'm right Deanna. For Pelaidies sake, just let him go." Turning her back, Beverly prepped two hypos and held them out before her. "There are other options."
Deanna eyed the azure blue liquid suspiciously. One darker than the other.
"What are those?" She managed as Will's pain whip lashed through her belly, melting her knees till she sat heavily into the chair beside her vacant lover. Will's eyes were bright blue, the same as the viles, as he lay there in a false state of pain-free elation; and Deanna's were flint black.
"An answer to Will's question." Beverly carefully laid both hypos back into a small tray beside Will's beside and held out a hand. "I need you to leave him be Deanna. Will needs to be clear and conscious to make the decision to take these viles. Anything else would be a strict violation of any doctors ethical code."
"You don't know if they'll work." Deanna stated, reading the doctors face impassively.
Beverly Crusher looked away to see Will's eyes returning to normal as Deanna slowly let go. The crinkles of pain began to surround his features once more, and his bio readings fluctuated. "I haven't tested them. I've held out this long so far as I haven't had them heavily tested yet. And I only have one test subject. One who takes too many risks daily without my added potion."
"That's who I am." Croaked Will Riker as he caught the doctor's last statement. "I need that hard edge of risk to make me feel alive." He tried to wink but it became more of a grimace as Deanna let go of the final tendrils of his pain.
"You need your head read." Deanna smiled. "And not just by me." Kissing his forehead lightly.
Will groaned and tried to turn onto his side as a vicious cramp cut into his side. Tears coming too easily to his eyes of late. "G ive me t..cure." He ground out as both Beverly and Deanna tried to keep him stable. Leaning towards one edge of his bio-bed, Deanna was worried he'd roll off.
Beverly gently massaged a hand over his side, breaking up the taunt tissue till she alleviated the cramp. The cold clammy feel to his skin reimbursed her decision. He was dying, and a few centimetres away, she had the possible cure to his ailment.
Settling Will onto his back, and pulling up his sheets as his arms goose-pimpled; Beverly nodded solemnly.
"I need you to be sure about this Will. It's hard to think beyond the pain, but consider the consequences of dying before your cured if I am one micro off with the compound consistency." Leaving him time to think about his answer, she called in Alyssa and the Captain. "I want back up that it wasn't us two coercing him." She answered Deanna's curious stare.
"Just do..it." Will angrily grimaced. Deanna flinching at the fiery anger coursing through his soul.
"I think I need to hear what it is she is meant to do first number one." Picards calm voice halting his next tirade. The captain had entered the room shortly after Alyssa Ogawa had returned from her break.
The strong posture perfect captain placed himself at the end of the large bed and took in Will's frail, dying form. 'I personally do not want to see any of my crew up for charges of murder nor persuasion."
Will steadied his resolve, and gathered his strength for what may be his last statement. "I, Riker, William T wish to proceed with Dr Crusher's possible cure. I relinquish any fault from their actions, and have made the choice without pressure from others " He was shaking by the time he'd stopped speaking. Lying back limp, eyes closed he waited for Picard's answer.
It must have come as a small nod, as the only sign his wish had been granted was the touch of Alyssa's hands steadying his arm and the small hiss and pressure of a hypo being administered. Opening his eyes, Will saw Beverly, tearfully remove the hypo from her hands to stand back with medicorder at the ready.
Will was about to say it had failed when a sharp lance of burning poison started to course through his veins. Each artery, vein, capillary began to tingle then fry. Head thrown back, arched spine he screamed with agony as the pain receptors accepted something far worse than the pain levels he had become used to. Every nerve, every cell vibrated with white-hot agony till his mind blessedly finally gave in to the darkness he'd sought for so long. With one final gasp, Will Riker's once-arched back lay flat, his eyes hung at half-mast and his mouth gaped soundlessly. Will Riker was finally free.
The sound of a woman's tears and the feel of velvet soft hands were the first sign that he was returning to awareness. But aware to what? There was only a numbness to who he was. No substance in weight, no sense of feeling. Was he dead? Was Beverly's cure too late, or was he still alive but damaged and devoid of touch and sight?
'Speak. Say something. Prove you're alive by catching the sobbing woman's attention.' He ordered himself but all he managed to do was create a weak hissy gasp as a drier than Sahara sand rasp throat refused to work. He swallowed, and the realised he felt it. He swallowed again. And gain .then smiled.
Crinkles of skin moved, and he felt it. His fingers tingled, and one hand was warm from another's touch. Not to mention wet. Were these the tears from the sobbing woman?
Again he tried to speak, finally making a whooshing sound as he forced the air from his lungs through his un-used vocal cords. "hello?" He called. A curious first word but the only one he could think of to catch their attention.
A soft hand graced his forehead for the effort, and a muffled strong of words fluttered over him. Was she talking to him? No. To someone else. There were others here? And where was here? He frowned and felt fingers tracing his now prominent frown lines as he fought to figure out where he was.
"west vvill" a far away voice commanded. "west" followed by a cold hiss to his now clammy throat. Everything started to fade again, and he clambered in fear only to loose the woman's touch as he fingers once more turned to mist, and his mind to mush. Darkness claimed him once more.
"He's out of the coma." Beverly's calm voice confirmed Deanna's suspicions, as they both heard Will Riker gasp a brief 'hello'. "But he still needs further regeneration before I can allow him to regain consciousness." She announced, as Deanna traced his frown-lined forehead. The Betazoid counsellor nodded in agreement, though her heart regretted agreeing for the procedure.
"Rest Will." Beverly coo'ed. "rest." She repeated as she applied the hypo to his neck. His fingers sprung wide from Deanna's grip in fear, soon replaced by lethargic twitches till he'd fallen under the full influence of the sedation.
"I'm sorry Will." Beverly murmured as she placed the hypo back into her surgical reds pocket. She sighed heavily and massaged the back of her neck. "I'll let Jean Luc know he's on the mend and you need to head off to your own quarters, it's been a big day for both Will and yourself." She kindly hinted. Handing out a small tissue for Deanna to wipe away the tears of joy.
Joy that Will had finally fought his way back to the land of the living. After 15 days of a near-death coma, she had begun to loose faith herself. That was until this morning when she'd felt the first vestiges of Will's former self flickering into her mind once more. Their unique link triggering warning signs as he approached consciousness.
"Perhaps it was best you knocked him out." Deanna replied, thrusting a lock of her own bedraggled hair behind an ear. "I must look a sight."
"After days worrying about young Willie here, you'd still win the onboard beauty prize." Beverly smiled. "Now go. I have messy details to attend to." She indicated with the flick of her own hair over her shoulder, as she turned and gathered her medical pads.
Deanna smiled shifting her weary bones. "Fine. But only if you let me know when he's on the rise."
"You know I will, now out." She jested, trying not to stare as Deanna gently laid a kiss on Will's parched, cracked lips. The doctor watched as her friend tiredly made her way out of the secure ICU suite, still garbed in the surgical reds.
Will's room had to be kept free of foreign contaminants, his chest wound was now healing, the cellular decay halted, but now it was a fight to heal him up before infection ruined all their hard work. Will had gone into extreme shock when the supposed cure had entered his blood stream, shutting down his ability to absorb oxygen long enough for him to fall into a heavy coma.
It was only pure luck that he was still alive, no longer comatose and still able to talk briefly. Her fears for many of those early days, that she'd awarded him a death sentence as a vegetable for the rest of his miserable life expectancy, was soon quashed. Test after test, strict monitoring and Deanna's own empathic scans soon quelled those worries.
But now it was just down to regeneration and recuperation. Something she was worried about Will resisting. And the reason she'd doped Will into la la land.
The cellular poisoning had been nullified but the large weeping chest wound still was healing, albeit slowly, under the airtight skin plaster. The malleable synthi-plastic patch covered him from side to side, collarbone to belly button. Sealing out all impurities.
Pressing the release code on the side monitor, the patch unsealed quietly from Will's clammy skin, rolling up on the edges, the pressure seal no longer bonding the material to his epidermis. Peeling back the patch and placing it into a medical waste container, she viewed the half healed pink mass of fresh skin and smiled. "Can't keep the man down for long." she whispered in mirth.
Grabbing her regenerator, Beverly Crusher began the long arduous process of healing cm by cm of his wound by hand. Careful of every puck, tear and fresh layer of skin till she satisfied that she had an even layer of new cellular growth by the time she'd finished.
Grabbing a fresh synthi-plastic patch, she listened as the ever so slight sucking sound sealed his wound shut before sighing in relief and resting a hand against her muscle sore back. "You owe me a plethora of back massages Will Riker." She grinned before packing away her instruments and leaving Will to recuperate and do what he did best, snore.
The strange sensation of being shaved while barely lucid prompted him to try to turn away. Moaning lightly as the pain in his temples crescendo'ed.
"Relax commander. Just making you presentable before the counsellor arrives." The voice familiar prompted Will to try and see who it was. A blur of blue and black uniform was all he spied before the bright light bothered him.
"Nearly done " The male voice continued. "Never shaved or trimmed a senior officer before, but I'm sure there's a commendation out there somewhere for going beyond one's abilities in the line of duty. " The hint of mirth in the man's voice seemed familiar.
"Nearly done sir." A new voice confirmed; a woman's. "I'll go let Dr Crusher know that Stuart has finished taunting the sick." Her tease earning a chuckle from Stuart; the man now wiping away the excess shaving soap.
"Thanks Alyssa. Just going to trim up that fine moustache and move on out to lunch. That's if the Commander continues to remain still." Will heard as he moved away from the ticklish source of the trimmers beneath his nose.
His chest felt constricted, his arms the same, but from the feel he figured it was from the bed sheet. Tugging gently Will managed to remove the rubbery limb that was his hand and rest it over his chest only to find it hurt. "Argh" He gasped before Stuart quickly rescued his hand from the synthi-covering.
"Close one there Commander. Just don't scare me like that again. Crusher will have my balls if you tear that new skin.' The sting subsided and he heard Stuart packing up his grooming equipment. "Alyssa will be back with the doc soon. Need anything in the meantime?"
Will cracked open his eyes again and took in the young medico. Stuart had been there as much as Alyssa had since he'd had this little disruptor accident. "Fine thank you." He breathlessly answered. Surprised as the weakness in his reply.
"I never thought I'd be so happy to hear him say "fine" again. And politely" Beverly Crusher taunted from the entrance. "Thanks for cleaning him up Stuart, I know how difficult he can be when recovering." She continued, moving up to gratefully clasp the medicos shoulder.
"Always a pleasure Doctor. I'll see you tomorrow Commander." Stuart waved dismissing himself from the attending senior officers.
"I'm OK?" Will asked straining to raise his head only to find it flopping back after only a few seconds.
She nodded in reply, pulling out her medi-scanner and quickly verifying the monitors with her own readings. "A little hot, weak but definitely OK for a recovering corpse."
"I died?" One eyebrow rose.
"A close as dead can be, but we managed to invite you back to the living." She smiled before a short sharp flash of light appeared.
"And what a shame that was." Drawled Q. "The problem with you puny humans is that you just won't die when we want you to."
Beverly, hands on hips fumed at the omnipotent entity. "What nerve you have to return to the scene of your crime."
"I participated in no crime. Just a smidge of debt collecting." He beamed. "Well Riker, seems you beat the odds again. You sure you used up all that power?" He winked. "Or are you saving some for the counsellor" Q grinned.
"If I had the power of Q, I'd have proved it long ago by removing you from existence forever." Will growled, forcing his head up, to stare down his torturer. "You're tainted Q. A sickness that hopefully will be cured by could people like the doc here." His voice indicating his weariness drew Beverly to his side.
"Take it easy Commander, no sense wasting your strength on a virus." The doctors comment drawing an irritated huff from Q, as she gently placed a hand on Will's forehead to make him lie still. "He needs rest Q, if you didn't already know. Say what you need to and flash off."
"Harsh words from a woman that was a bowl of Petunias momentarily, thanks to her current patient." Q thrust back at her in a petulant way.
"Will?" She turned to see Will's apologetic wince. "it was only briefly during a fit of rage." He answered. "Sorry."
"Briefly!" Q scoffed, "I remember you changed her from pink to orange before turning her back to this horrible visage before me." He taunted.
"Q! Get out now before I discover a way to eviscerate omnipotent genitals!" Her angry eyes flashing her eyre.
Q mock quivered, flashing closer to Riker's side. "I think she's angry. I'd figure death is you're only way out."
Will closed his eyes and mumbled an expletive quietly under his breath. Taking a short sharp breath, Will gazed at the phoney Starfleet officer before him. "Just leave me be Q. You've lost, face it. I survived you're little test, and yes it'll take me a while to get back onto my feet. But I want to do it by myself not by the hand of a petulant being."
"Petulant!" Q gasped. "Petulant!" he continued to rant.
Will closed his eyes in exhaustion, sighing heavily. "Now will you please leave me be. I have chest hair to grow." He grumbled, hearing Beverly giggle lightly.
"Alright, you won Riker, but so have we." He thrust out his chin in defiance. "I wonder if Picard has time for tea?" and with that he vanished.
"Well that'll make the captain miserable for an hour or two." Mumbled Will Riker as he stifled a yawn. Glancing sideways he spied Beverly watching him with a stern eye. "I'm sorry about the Petunia incident." He flinched briefly as his newly healing skin reminded him to lay still.
A beautiful smile broke out, glinting her eyes with mirth. 'that's alright Will, I didn't feel a thing, but if you even touch the power of Q again, I'll make sure all you're capable of is smelling Petunias." She lovingly jested. 'Just don't die on me again ok?"
Will nodded tiredly, relaxing deeper into the bedding. "How's it looking?" He asked knowing he probably resembled a boned chicken.
Placing a caring light touch to his forehead she smiled warmly. "Fine. You're doing just fine, Will Riker." Brushing away his newly washed hair as she watched him close his eyes.
For the first time in months, Will Riker lay back comfortable in his own body, and sure of his position in this universe. "Thank you for still believing in a cure regardless of the mayhem I created." He coughed lightly before opening his eyes again. "Any chance of an early release?"
Beverly Crusher gave him a sideways glance, returning his request with a short sharp laugh. "When the big band aid goes I may consider it. Just relax Will. Don't push yourself ok? I'll go let Deanna know you're awake and demanding female companionship. " Picking up his clammy hand, she placed a light kiss to it, before rubbing her fingers gently across its surface. "Welcome back William Riker." She impishly grinned before tucking his hand back under the covers and making her way out of the room.
"I sometimes wonder how I get into these binds?" Will mused as Deanna wrapped her protective arms around his shoulders. Her Betazoid features smirking as she gazed at their reflection in the windowpane.
"Well I think ti involves seducing a young Betazoid till she wraps her arms so tightly around your heart, that neither can let go."
He gave a soft bark of a laugh, mindful of his still tender chest. "Well I like your answer best." He sighed. "think you can forgive me for nearly dying on you again?"
Reaching around, Deanna softly applied her lips to his, appreciative of the juicy lips now preset there. "Always" moving away an errant hair lock. "Besides, I'm sure my mother has a way of bringing back the dead if you ever do leave me again."
With a glint of mirth in his bright blue eyes, Will Riker took in the beauty that gazed upon his still pale features. "I love you Imzadi"
"I know." She grinned. "and not just because I sprung you from sickbay I'm sure."
He nodded and took a deep cleansing breath. Something he had feared never to do again without pain and suffering. It had been 8 weeks of intensive recovery, physio and forced feeding but he was alive, sitting upright and able to slowly wander the Enterprise corridors alone. Not that that happened often. Deanna was always by his side, secretly hiding her worry that he'd falter and give up.
She'd witnessed his bad days, and been there to remind him of the good ones to come. But it had been hard. The road from near corpse to muscled poster boy was still one they were travelling but he was improving.
"Latinum for your thoughts?" he enquired
"Only latinum? I would have thought my mind was worth more.." She winked. "Perhaps the universe."
Will grinned. 'Well if you had asked that when I still had the power of Q, I could have done that you know."
Deanna smiled back but internally knew it would have been true. "Mother would have approved."
"Only the universe will do for my daughter." Will mimicked in his best Lwaxana voice.
"Will!" Slapping him playfully on the arm till she saw him wince.
Holding up a hand to fend off the fluttering fingers. "I'm fine." He assured her. "If I ever want to wrestle with Worf again I'll need to cope with a mild slap."
"No you won't. No Worf wrestling till at least next millennium." Sounding a little like Beverly had when he'd asked if working out in the gym would be fine.
Sobering up, Will took in her visage and realised how lucky he was to have her beside him.
"Did I ever propose to you?" he enquired softly while tracing her collarbone.
"I think you were working up to it, but Beverly interrupted." Reaching up to covet his warm fingers.
He grunted softly. "Funny, could have sworn I did." He mused, suddenly transfixed with the materials of the large armchair they had both crammed themselves into. Deanna's long slender legs were draped over his knees, and a thick blanket wrapped around both their shoulders.
Deanna rested her head against his, immersing herself in his comforting warmth. "Maybe because I always thought you were my boyfriend I never needed to hear a good solid proposal from you, to feel a part of you that is."
"I think you claimed ownership of me the day your mother disapproved." He jibed.
"And you loved it." She taunted. Closing her eyes to enjoy the gentle vibrations his laughter gave off until it soon changed to a deep raggered cough. "Need your meds?" She asked sitting up and gathering the blanket together to make sure she didn't trip up.
Will nodded and pointed towards his work desk. "Beside the console." He rasped. Clearing the phlegm that had been steadily rising over the last hour. The soft hiss coincided with the opening of his airways and a look of relief upon his face. "You never realise how bad it gets till it vanishes."
"Well I for one am happy with your progress, and I know Beverly is too.." Rubbing his back sympathetically. "But for now I think it's time for you to head off to the shower and then bed Imzadi."
Grumbling about stiff old bones Will gave her a naughty smirk as he sent 'with you Imzadi?'
"We'll see. Just don't fall over." She grinned, remembering his first few wobbly days free of a horizontal existence.
"It was your fault for playing hard to get." He replied holding his back and staggering forwards to the bedroom doorway. "though it did help speed up my recovery. Chasing you around that sickbay.' His eyebrows wiggling in a taunting manner.
"Shower Will, now." Deanna ordered holding her nose with pinched fingers in jest.
"Aye aye counsellor." He cheekily replied before another raggered cough, paused his mirth. Leaning against the bedroom doorway he gathered his wits and soon moved on, aware that Deanna was critically watching him.
"Progress doctor?" Will asked huskily.
Doctor Beverly Crusher glanced up from his readings, looking him in the eye sideways. "I think someone has been talking too much." Closing her medicorder with a snap, she laid it down on the side table of the diagnostic bed, taking in the man sitting on it. "You're vocal cords only get raspy when you build up phlegm from using your lungs too often. Talking takes energy Will. You should know that by now."
He nodded with a sheepish smile.
"But I'm glad you're feeling better. Just take it easy OK? We've still got a few weeks to go before I can release you to light duties. " seeing Will's pout, she placed a finger on his lips. "To frighten young ensigns into line takes a lot of vocal power."
Will smiled at her taunt before settling a serious façade into place. The straightening of his broad shoulders could mean only one thing. Without turning around Beverly held one hand up. "Just a moment captain, I need to give my patient his last rights."
"I hope it's for the living not the dead doctor." He replied dryly.
"As a patient." She quipped. "Now, William Riker. No more talking, keep taking your meds, and get lots of rest." Placing a hand on his thigh to stop him getting up before she finished, she added. "And stop evading Stuart, you need your physio."
"Number one?" Picard raised an eyebrow, surprised that the man before him would evade the one thing that would help him return to peak physical fitness.
"Something to do with male egotistical pride." Beverly chastised.
"Feel weaker afterwards. Everything aches." He grimaced. "How does that make me better?" he whined till a tickle rose in his chest.
Dr crusher sighed heavily and ignored his whinge, turning to grab his latest hypo. He was still taking her miracle cure, but in smaller doses now. "Lie back, close your eyes and sleep." She commanded, hitting the pressure trigger of her hypo as soon as he was lying flat on the biobed.
He grunted as the meds sizzled through his veins, eradicating the heavy metal laden cells. "Rest Will and I'll see you in a few hours." Beverly said as she watched his readings level out and he fell into a deep healing sleep.
"So doctor, shall we continue this conversation in your office?" The captain enquired taking in the now quietly snoring officer, as Beverly laid a warming blanket over is recumberent form.
"If you like but he'll be out for about 4 hours. He's recovering quicker from the doses but he's still sick."
Following her out of Will's recovery room, they took their places inside her office. "But it is progress?" The captain asked.
"Yes." She smiled. "The contaminates are dwindling, his red and white cell count is up, and he's starting to build muscle and tissue at a normal rate."
"But he's rebelling against his doctors orders. " Picard mused. "He must be feeling stronger." The twinkle in Picards eyes told of his mirth.
"Darn right stubborn is what he is. One slight hint of healthiness and he reverts back to the 'invincible officer'. Even Deanna has given up trying to convince him of the benefits." She shook her head. "I can either threaten him with no return to duty or drum it into him till he rebels further. It's a lost cause either way."
"Perhaps if you left him alone he might stop resisting." Picard mused. All to aware of Will's stubborn ingrained attitude.
Beverly watched Picard steeple his fingers together as he mused about their errant "son". "Well he's got an appointment with Stuart every second day, and he's lucky I let him off from daily, only due to his progress." Sitting back heavily into her chair. "Deanna has been dealing with his mental approach to all this, and even she says he has his bad days where leaving his quarters for any reason becomes a long drawn out apathetic attempt. It's as if he's not ready to face those who have seen him fall so far."
"Or risen so high." Picard mused.
Beverly frowned. "You don't think its humility from being Q?"
Picard nodded. "Compare Will's behaviour as of now to when Q first visited his powers upon our first officer, I think you'll find his hermit-like behaviour is exactly the same."
"And Deanna knows?"
"I'm sure she is well aware of Will's hidden feelings. But whether she has confronted him about them is another subject in entirety. I believe it is time we had a little discussion with our counsellor before our patient starts to make himself ill again."
Pressing his communicator lightly to engage it, he called forth for the counsellor. "Lets see what her viewpoint is."
The red haired doctor nodded in agreement. "And if we can fix that big sleeping giant out there." A plan in motion that could finally locate the remedy that would heal Will Riker emotionally and physically.
Will Riker woke to the sound of small whispers. He ached, he burned and his head was thumping from the doc's concoction. But it was making him better., regardless of the gut churning feelings he was currently feeling. "Hey doc, you've got to find a better solution to these meds after-effects." He grumbled, trying to sit up but finding his muscles drained and lifeless.
"Just keep still and try not to roll off the bio bed this time." Beverly ordered, giving him something for the nausea he was sure to be feeling by now. "Be thankful that we're only dosing you every two days. Will. Now, if you would like to try and sit up in your own time, I have your nutrient shake."
Will struggled upwards, trying to ignore the spinning decor, focussing on the cup Alyssa Ogawa gently handed to him. He knocked back the contents in one gulp, grimacing as he focussed on the fallen blanket draped over his lap. "That stuff doesn't get any better." Swallowing hard as he felt the contents trying to return.
Alyssa smiled as she took the now empty cup from his hand, watching as he re-wrapped himself in the blanket and layback down; rolling to his side. "Are you cold?" She enquired curiously as she spied perspiration beading his forehead.
Beverly noticing the same symptoms, rested the back of her hand against his cheeks. "You're a little hot. Same reaction as last time." Nodding to herself. "Alyssa, I'll need 20CC's of hynoxidran. The commander's white blood cells are fighting the cell regeneration again."
The doctor waited till Alyssa moved away. "I'm sorry Will but I'll need you to stay in for observation purposes. Just until this fever dissipates." Watching as he nodded slowly before closing his eyes and giving in to his illness.
Applying the hypo she watched him flinch. Happy in the knowledge that he was on the mend if he was back to being afraid of the small hand held device.
"Deanna is coming in soon. And the captain wants to meet you later. Keep you up to date on ships business. Just don't let Deanna know." She winked, as Will opened his eyes to see if she was lying.
"I'm allowed ship's info?" He rasped.
"Call it a special dispensation for behaving responsibly, although a little testy occasionally." She grinned, ruffling his hair and collecting her medical pads.
"I'm surprised he'd want me back on the bridge, not the brig." Will mumbled half heartedly. Resisting the urge to rub his itchy chest.
"You think a tall hot headed first officer is going to bruise the captain's friendship and loyalty? You know him Will, it's not in his nature to bear a grudge. Yes you were a pain in the arse as an all doing god-like creature, but we forgave you. Who wouldn't do stupid things when everything is possible. Now if you've quite finished beating yourself up, would you please lie back and heal for me? And no scratching." She waited till she saw the small smile appear. "Good night Will".
"No wonder Wesley was such a straight laced lad." He teased
"Good night William." She replied, using his name in full to warn him how close he was to another hypo of sedative.
Moving out past the doorframe she passed the counsellor, who had been waiting patiently. "He's all yours." Beverly Crusher stated as she traded places with her best friend, and quietly exited the room.
"Hi." He grinned. Happy to see her dazzling smile and gorgeous curves.
"Hi yourself." Returning the grin. "I see your libido is returning." Tapping her head lightly to let him know that she felt his hormones raging.
He blushed lightly, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. 'Sorry, just nice to see you out of that uniform." Admiring her figure hugging casual wear.
Deanna sat carefully on his bed edge, aware of the awakening desire he was trying to subdue. Rolling over onto one side, and levering himself up to rest on his elbow, Will Riker placed a warm hand gently on her thigh; drawing imaginary circles. "for someone still healing, you're certainly trying to make up for time." Taking a hold of his hand, and kissing each finger.
"You bring out the best in me." He saucily winked.
Deanna shook her head. "No sex Will, and you know it. I don't want to be skinned, for breaking your new skin."
"Oh please!." Q cried out as he flashed into existence. "Seems the counsellor is only happy when you're in bed at her mercy."
"Oh great, looks who's been eaves dropping." Will grimaced.
Deanna watched Q warily. Was he here to hurt Will again? Or just to taunt him further? "What do you want?"
"A refund." Pointing a finger at Riker. "but I need him in better condition." Snapping his fingers effortlessly, Deanna vanished and Will Riker found himself standing bare assed in a sickbay gown.
"Where did you send her Q?" Will stormed towards him, suddenly aware of how well he felt.
Sighing, Q polished his fingernails against his red and black uniformed chest. "If this is the thanks I get for healing you I won't bother next time." Seeing Will's advancing fist, he flashed to a new point in the room.
"Relax Riker, she's fine." Q admired the healthy muscled arms and thighs jutting out from under the skimpy gown. "Seems you've finally filled out in all the right places, the counsellor will be very pleased."
Will pulled the gown tighter around the back, hoping to dispel the cold air breezing against his buttocks. "Why the hell can't you leave me alone?"
"A human named Riker made a deal shortly after Farpoint. Something I am sure you've never forgotten." Q taunted.
Will nodded. "I said yes without even knowing the pain and suffering it would cause."
"You chose suffering Riker. It could have been beyond your wildest dreams." Q argued.
"Maybe that's what Riker's do. All my life I've had the chance of eternal bliss. But I kept missing it, and ending up in sickbay. Dr Crusher seems to think I like pain." He gave a rakish grin to his face before starting a hunt for something better to wear.
Q's manner became serious. "The continuum will expect a body."
"And it won't be me." Will replied. "Not this time."
Q stood and moved forward. 'The Q are awaiting billy-boy, and they won't be as understanding as I." And flashed out of Riker's existence.
"Counsellor?" Picard sat up from reading his book, as the Betazoid flashed into his ready room.
"Q's back." She looked worried. "Sorry for the disturbance sir, I need to get back to him. I can feel his frustration decks away." Deanna confessed.
Closing his book, Picard moved out and around from his ready room table, thumping the volume back to the black surface. "I shall accompany you counsellor. Far be it for me to allow my executive officer to be interviewed by an illegal alien aggressor on my ship."
"Thank you." She smiled, following the Frenchman from his abode. Once inside the turbo lift she let her mind seek out her Imzadi. What she found frightened her. A tangle of fear, happiness and embarrassment.
The answer for embarrassment soon became apparent as the she and the captain marched into Will's recovery room to find him standing, tall strong and barely covered in his sickbay gown.
"Q's doing?" Picard enquired, taking in Will's fully nourished, healthy glow.
"He does have a habit of healing me sir." Will looked a little confused as he gazed at limbs that once were pale and sickly, now a full healthy brown.
"Was there a deal struck? " The captain pushed further, watching as Deanna ordered up a fresh uniform for the newly repaired first officer.
"Not that I know of. Just threats that they still consider me their possession." Running a hand through his rough beard Will mused his current predicament. 'I really don't know why he came back to taunt me, or why he removed all traces of the accident."
"You're healed then?" Deanna enquired, grabbing a medicorder that lay upon a desk nearby.
Will shrugged. "I feel fine." Watching as Deanna scanned him and confirmed his feelings with a nod.
"Whatever Q is up to, it's bound to be for his own gains." Picard formulated.
Will sat back down on the biobed and shook his head. 'I'm sorry sir. We keep coming back to the same damn issue of Q's gifts, and it's pros and cons. And I really don't know where I stand this time round."
"He wants to make a deal perhaps?" Deanna added, handing the uniform to Will. Watching as the gown dropped to his waist and she witnessed first hand the missing pink healing scar that used to cover the majority of his chest.
Spying Deanna's widened eyes, Will quickly shrugged into his cranberry tunic. Standing carefully he pulled on his trousers under the gown before finally removing the foul garment. "Never thought I'd be free of this." Throwing the gown onto the ruffles sheets of his once recovery bed.
"We were all confident it would happen one day Number One, just not this fast."
Will smiled at his captain's confidence. "I'm sorry for everything that has happened. Including my bad behaviour but as for Q's part in all this, I can't predict his reasons nor apologise Sir."
"Then maybe it's time we sat and waited for his next move. When we're still missing pieces to the puzzle, there's no reason to waste time and energy on the obnoxious entity known as Q." Clapping his first officer on the back. "Welcome back number one."
Will beamed with pride as he took a deep breath, puffed out his chest without pain, and smiled. "Thank you sir, it's good to be back in one piece again."
"Well before we both get into trouble, I think you should see Doctor Crusher first before heading back to your duties." Seeing his proto-pout, he silenced his XO with a still hand. "We'll also need to brief you on ships duties over the last few months. "
"Yes sir" Will agreed.
"And make sure Beverly is happy for you to be released to light duties first before exiting her domain. I'd hate to see you back in sickbay so soon number one." The captain humoured him before heading back out into the corridor.
"He's pleased." Deanna confirmed.
"And so am I. Wasn't sure if I was going to be designated to brig duty after some of the things I did when I was healed last time, let alone a second time." Running a hand over the back of his neck. "Not that I want to play god again. Though being one hundred percent better has its privileges." Mirroring her own smile.
"I see randy Riker is back, must be one of those privileges.' Deanna teased, folding an arm around his to lead him safely from the room. "We'd better let Beverly check you out before those hormones become a little too erratic for the doctors liking." Teasing her Imzadi with a warm tingle among his mind.
"Party-pooper." Will sent to her, enjoying the look on her face before taking the left hand corridor towards the CMO's office. "I'll meet you later Imzadi. You, me, some jazz, and ."
"Chocolate." Deanna butted in, reaching up to plant a quick kiss to his plump soft lips. "I'll see you soon William Riker." Teasing his senses with a sensual walk back down the corridor.
"If it isn't Q messing with my mind it's Deanna." He jibed. Soon making his own way to Beverly's office.
"Sumarian sunrise for your thoughts?" Deanna's musical voice caught his attention where a simple knock on the door had failed before. He was sitting in one of the lounge chairs facing the view port in his quarters.
"I'm just thinking about all the things I could have done other than prancing around like a stallion on steroids." He mused, catching the large smile on her face. "Nothing planet-sized, just personal."
"Beverly got to you didn't she?" Deanna teased, knowing how often the red haired doctor was known to give the tall broad first officer a piece of motherly advice, whether he wanted it or not.
Turning so the planet-light framed his face, Will glanced at her quiet pose as she took perch on the nearest armchair to his. He closed his eyes before facing the view port again. "She has a certain way of bringing up more than you ever considered."
"What exactly would you have done Will? You said it yourself, you have everything you ever wanted." Deanna ran a hand over his shoulder, hoping to soften up his tensed shoulders.
"Thomas." He answered.
Deanna sat quietly in shock. Will's transporter duplicate wasn't something he talked about often. "For the last two years I've hit a wall with getting him free of the Cardassians clutches. Fleet won't take notice, Maquis pretend not to listen, and to top it all off there are times I forget about his plight."
Deanna sensed his internal anger, but kept herself still as she patiently listened till he'd said his full.
The sudden turn of his head, and those blazing blue eyes faced her, burning with frustration and sadness. "I wasted his chance Deanna. I had the power of Q and I spent my time fumbling around like a clown showing off my juggling skills." He dropped his head into his hands, fingers ruffling his hair as he tried to tame the inner guilt.
Deanna waited a while longer, then suggested something that made his world topsy-turvy once more. "Why not ask Q?"
"Q!" Riker called out. Starring at the ceiling for some strange reason. "As if he'd be up there." Will mumbled sheepishly to himself. It'd been a few hours since Deanna's suggestion had entered his mind. And right here and now it made sense.
"Ask Q for help, and save your brother Will. And save yourself." The onyx eyed Betazoid had given him the answers he'd been searching for, but would they be a burden to the one who needed that help most?
A voice soon boomed, filling the first officers quarters, in a god-like way. "Did I hear the sound of begging perchance?." Soon appearing in his customised flash. "For someone who is still indebted to me, I'd expect a please." Wiping imaginary lint off his admirals uniform.
"We need to talk."
"You need to beg." Q replied. "You still owe me Riker." Q venomously reminded him, like a grim reaper collecting its tokens.
Will Riker paced his quarters, trying not to loose his temper. One wrong comment and Q wouldn't be listening anymore, he'd snap his fingers, and William Riker would be no more. "I have an offer than will solve both our wants."
Q sighed, waving a hand willy-nilly in the air. "The way I see it Riker, you reneged on being a Q, turfed away your destiny and promises. I officially have the right to smite you."
Will Riker paused in his wanderings and glanced up to the smug smile watching him. "I always thought you were a little too god-like." Crossing his arms.
Q vanished and reappeared in front of Riker, looming tall and demanding. "Can we perhaps speed this up a little, I have galaxies to taunt."
Taking a step back, William T Riker took one deep breath, and a whispered prayer. "I need help in rescuing my brother, and I'm sure if you were to offer him what I don't want, you're sure to gain a keeper."
"Your brother in the sense of ..?" Q mused.
Will sighed, this was going to be harder than he thought. "Surely the Q know about the little accident I had about 10 years on Nervala IV?"
Watching Q raise an eyebrow, Will Riker continued. "Me, a transporter, some nasty cosmic rays " Gentle rolling his hand, urging Q to pick up the trail.
"Ah yes, the cute one, as counsellor Troi noted in her personal log." Smugly grinning as Will Riker groaned in front of him.
"You read personal logs?" The quizzical look on Riker's face made Q's face split into two as his grin widened. 'Now that's an intriguing idea." And with a quick snap to his fingers, Q vanished leaving Will Riker finally alone and human.
"So?" Deanna prompted.
"I think we're Q free." Will whispered. "Though I'd hate to tempt fate." He winked.
"And Thomas? He agreed to help free him?" Deanna slipped her arms around Will's waist as he guided her into his reach.
Will took a moment to review his conversation with the mischievous entity. "I believe Q decided to take the 'cute one' instead of me."
Deanna pulled away. "Have you been reading my personal logs?"
Will chuckled. "No, but Q decided that to rescue a Riker that wanted rescuing from his current predicament was better than taking a kicking and screaming one who didn't."
Deanna looked up, watching Will's eyes carefully. "You traded places?"
"Well I'm not sure. It depends if Tom wants the power of Q. It can't be any worse than where he's currently living right now, and I have a little idea of what being Q is like." His dimples highlighting his gorgeous smile.
Deanna stepped away from Will briefly, taking in the man before her. He'd been through hell and back, and the hall of gods if Q was to be believed. And still, here he stood cracking jokes about his immortality, and that of his brother. But this was Will Riker, the man who swept her heart away daily, and had an ability to always look at the brighter options in life.
Will watched and waited. Soon grinning even wider when Deanna rushed back into his arms. Winding her hand up around the back of his neck, she brought his lips down to hers and supped of his love. "For Thomas." She said.
Pressing tighter to her lips, Will murmured "For freedom."
Thomas Riker sat in the gloom of his cell, admiring the way the grey light from under his door highlighted the mixture of purple and green fungi. The consist trickle of water down one corner of the wall, driving him slowly mad till the brilliance of light, so hard it burned, flashed into existence.
"What the hell " Riker spat as his burning retinas took in a visible shape lingering where the wall once faced him.
"Not hell God." A mirth filled voice taunted. "Thomas Riker have I got a deal for you." And the mysterious figured moved forward and clicked its fingers.
Within seconds of accepting his new fate, Thomas William Riker was no more a prisoner of the Cardassians, he was now one of the continuum,.
A bona fide member of the Q, and life was suddenly grand beyond his wildest dreams.
The flashy end J