Title: Whisper me this
Author: Sarajayne
Rating: angst and drunkenness
Archive: Only on Imzadi Everlasting
Feedback: the true nourishing protein required to feed a writer's mind

Disclaimer: Paramount own them. But I control the angst strings.

Whisper me this

:::::: One :::::::

The buzzer rang again for the umpteenth time, but the occupant of the room ignored it. The heavy thud of his heart as it beat against the overdose of liquor in his stomach made him care less about visitors right now. The crystal decanter, now empty of Saurian Brandy, lay fractured and broken by his feet, it's filaments of shattered crystal glistening like tears. Tears he could no longer shed.

Again the buzzer rang. It's persistent tirade, as annoying as a swarm of bees on a summer's day, was soon followed by a muffled page of his communicator. Lying hidden under the couch cushions, it's constant chirp failing to be ignored by its owner. Shoved there roughly after refusing to answer it the third time that morning, he almost wished he'd placed it in the refuse recycler.

The sounds and vibration of the ship surrounded him in his self-debased slump on the floor brought him back to reality. Sobriety threatening to break through the cracks of full blown drunken neurones of his mind. He was drunk, beyond lucid and even that wasn't removing the reality of his current situation.

Hearing no more pages, he assumed the person on the other side had given up hope of ever entering. And damned if Riker would let them. He didn't need company right now. Hell he didn't need anyone. That's what his father had taught him as a boy, and right now it was finally making sense.

The sudden hiss of the door to his quarters opening drew an angry snarl to his face. Damn it! He wanted to be left alone in his own smothering anger. He needed it, he begged for it.


The captain's voice. Damn it he was really in trouble this time. Lying there seated on the floor, back against the couch, head flung back, Will Riker refused to open his eyes. He didn't want to see Picard's sympathy. Nor could he stomach the bright light that shone through his pink eyelids. Light from the outside world that filtered in, causing him to cringe, till the captain walked across the threshold and the door slid silently behind him.

Thinking about his surroundings, he mused that he must look a pretty sight. Legs sprawled out in front of him surrounded by bottles, some broken others not, none of them synthehol.

A light touch to his shoulder caused him to blink open light sensitive eyes, viewing the close and concerned face of his Captain, ex Captain. He corrected himself.

"Leave me alone." Will drawled out of paralytic lips that had savoured too many bottles of Chateau Picard red.

"I think not Will. You cannot erase this forever with just a few drinks." He said, trying to keep the disgust out of his voice as he moved aside another empty bottle off the seat in front of Will's collapsed body. A present from the captain to his once first officer.

"Consider it my only chance before they cart me away." Will quipped with sarcasm lacing each word. Picard viewed his ex-first officer as he lay crumpled, no doubt where he'd fallen last night. Jacket open and half hanging off one shoulder, as if he'd only just managed to get one arm out of the item of clothing before giving up, the same with the under shirt undone to his waist.

Will's eyelids were sagging back into some kind of drunken sleep, urging Picard on to keep him talking until he could usher Beverly in. The doctor was waiting outside in the corridor hypo in hand to sober up her friend and surrogate brother. She had known what he'd be doing to himself the moment she'd heard the news, dogging Jean Luc until he took action upon himself, to intrude on Will's silent demise into oblivion.

Trying simply to getting Riker aware and talking, Picard continued on. "Deanna's worried about you Will." The simple fact that Riker had refused to see Deanna had seemed bad enough to Picard, let alone visually present to see what the counsellor had assumed. Deanna's personal request to the Captain, to get him talking, was not an easy one.

A snort from Riker was all he got before Will opened his eyes and looked around for the one bottle he was sure still contained something burning inside it self. Picard's hand halted his fingers, both now in control of the half empty Tarkalian whisky bottle.

"I think you've had enough Will. Let me get Beverly in here to fix you up. There are things we still need to discuss."

Riker ripped the bottle and his hand from Picard's grasp, swinging the glass container up to his lips, barely coordinated, and taking a deep swig. "What's to discuss." Will drawled as he wiped his mouth with one stained sleeve. "They've got my pips, kicked my ass off this ship, and booted me out of Starfleet. What more do we need to talk about?" He shouted until he paled and swallowed hard.

Evidently the Tarkalian Whisky had hit something tender from the nights drinking, bringing Will Riker to a deformed stance in startling speed, followed by the staggered run to the bathroom as he barely collided with the door frame. No doubt to expel a few demons.

Picard starred at the floor and the littered bottles, trying to ignore the painful retching from the other room. Pressing his communicator lightly he asked for Beverly to enter, not even turning once she was at his side, a small hand delicately placed on his shoulder. "He's in the bathroom." He said without facing her. He was sure he'd seen a brief grimace on her face, once she had glanced at the refuse littering the place.

Focusing back to the devastated quarters, he took the moment to view the current occupant's belongings, many no doubt, were gifts from Deanna in the past. He sighed, wondering whose job it would be to pack them all away. Breaking his musings, Picard could hear mumbles of argument from Will as he received Beverly's aid via the hypo's contents.

"I said leave me alone!" Will yelled as he stumbled back into the main room, trying to avoid her, his steps that much clearer from her medication.

"You are behaving like a child Will! Sit down and let me finish my job!" She commanded back until Will's knees became jelly and he collapsed like a log to the floor.

"Damn you Will!" Beverly blew her fringe out of her eyes. "Sorry captain but could you help me get him into the shower?" Apology in her eyes, as she held Will's uniform jacket now fully removed, within her tightly curled fingers.

Picard nodded and helped lift the dead weight into the shower cubicle, helping her undress one sorry state of a man. The dowse of cold water springing him wide awake, was followed by harsh words for trying to drown him, soon negated as his head began ringing again.

Once the water flow halted Will looked up to see his aggressors, Picard towel in hand flung it at him to land in his lap. "Get up Commander and dry off." He stormed away to wait in the other room as Beverly watched, waiting till Will was dry and standing, san his wet boxer shorts. He was still unsteady but at least she could get him to walk over to his bed, tightly held in her grip. As she pulled back the sheets she caught a small whisper from his lips. "Why?"

Holding back her own tears, she lied. "I don't know Will. Just get into bed and we'll talk tomorrow." A hiss of medication ensured he was asleep in seconds. Sitting on the edge of the bed for a moment, she watched his chest steadily rise and fall, leaning over finally to wipe away a small tear from his cheek, before kissing his clammy forehead. She turned, listening as Jean Luc removed the various bottles back to the replicator. Thankful that the replicator was unable to issue the real stuff, she hoped Will didn't have more secreted away, other than the ones he'd taken from Guinan.

"Goodnight Will." Beverly whispered before letting the door to Will Riker's quarters slide closed behind her.


:::::: Two :::::::

"I see your looking a bit more human this morning." Deanna said as she sat by the bed watching Will's eyes flutter open in slow motion.

"Is that bad? You know maybe if I was Klingon they'd be a bit more understanding." He mumbled angrily, snapping shut his bloodshot eyes as Deanna called for illumination.

Deanna gave a small sigh and checked the chronometer. "Will I don't have much time, we don't have much time." She corrected. "Your shuttle is arriving in three hours and the captain wants to see you before then." Her eyes gazing around the room, realising that his possessions, garnered over the years, would have to be shipped out afterwards, once the Section Police had been through them anyway.

He was still up for trial, regardless that the authorities had already condemned him. They'd completed the necessary inquiry the day before, stripping Commander Riker of his command pips and duties, resulting in the drinking binge he'd carried out soon after. She'd watched him take their decision with the calm poker face he would have used facing a whole squadron of Romulans, and walked past his friends, brushing away their consoling comments. Will had been determined to leave their midst before he tainted their good names.

Deanna shook him awake again, watching his blurred eyes open again, his fiery ire now replaced with sadness. Taking his time, she waited for him to struggle upwards to swing those long legs out from under the warm covers. Thrusting his head into his hands, hair spiky and ruffled, he rested his elbows on his knees and groaned. "Shouldn't you be flogging me or something. Maybe burning out my mind." He mumbled as he ground the sleep out of one eye with his fist.

Resting a hand upon his bare shoulder, she gave him a light squeeze. "I know you didn't mean it Will." She said, not sure if her comment was a lie or truth from the way her heart was hurting right now.

"I killed him Deanna. And not long after we were throwing obscenities at each other in full view of everyone in Ten Forward." He grunted. "Never should have given him my approval." He stood up and stumbled into the bathroom to relieve his urgent bladder.

The buzzer rang out and Deanna answered the door, inviting the small band of restless friends in. "How's he doing?" The captain asked, glad to see the quarters still devoid of empty bottles.

"He just woke up, and he's still kicking himself." Deanna replied solemnly. "He's in the bathroom." This last comment directed to Beverly as she asked where he was, with one raised eyebrow, after glancing at the empty bed sheets. Moving off in search of Will Riker, Beverly had a mission to complete, a thorough check-up before he was taken from their midst.

The red headed doctor found Will hunched over the basin, starring down the disposal hole, where no doubt he thought his life lay. "Will? Are you feeling alright?" Placing a hand on his back she realised he was shaking, silent tears cascading down his face, as the brave facade from before dropped. Pulling him away from the basin she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders, pulling him into her embrace to gently rock him back and forth. She soon found his knees folding beneath him, requiring her to ease his body down till they lay seated on the floor.

"Everything's wrong." He moaned. "It shouldn't have happened." He felt arms change and the body beneath his tight chest snuggled in closer to him as Deanna traded places with Beverly. Having walked in to witness the doctor and her motherly pose, Deanna's heart had broken then and there. Her true Imzadi need her, no matter what she herself was still suffering with the death of Worf, mourning the loss of a lover.

"If you can get him up and dressed Deanna, I would be grateful. The Captain needs to clarify some questions before..." Beverly left her next words hanging, both aware of the impending transfer Will was about to undertake. Finalising Will's last scan of his system, she packed away her kit and left them a moments grace.

Will was now silent, an immobile automaton. As Deanna managed to unhook his arms, she herded him towards the bedroom to remove the towel from his hips, and place fresh clothes into his hands. He said nothing, doing as she requested, silent in speech. Once dressed, she clasped one of his arms around hers and led him out into the main room. The captain stood before them, padd in hand, and a sad fatherly look to his face as he took in Will's broken form. The Starfleet uniform seemed uncomfortable on his shoulders without the pips and usual insignia.

"Could you leave us for a moment?" Picard asked of the two women, their silent nods and retreating forms allowed Picard to guide Will to the couch under the large static star studded windows. Taking a seat beside him he placed the padd into his ex-first officer's fingers. "Read." He commanded. His heart heavy in showing his friend, his companion the results of the trial.

Will's eyes grazed the wording, twice even till he flung it onto the coffee table. "I'm still burning for it." He sighed heavily, rubbing a hand over his eyes and beard. "How long?"

"Another hour, then they'll ship you to their penal colony." Picard waited for a moment and composed his words. "I gave my evidence and threw all my favours into the ring Will. But they still over ruled a second trial as we'd planned. As you can see, they're reasons were for unavailable evidence to the contrary. An officer is dead and my first officer has been playing the guilty party ever since." He sighed heavily waiting for Riker to answer, but none came.

"The fact is Will. Unless you can prove what happened was an accident and start voicing the fact rather than believing it was your fault, we don't have a leg to stand on in your defence. I can try and set up another trial, if you can remember anything important enough to add to the evidence, solve some of the queries on that list." He directed Will's gaze back to the padd. "And bury your martyr attitude."

Will stared at the padd, and the freedom it held, an unreachable life buoy in his mind. He sighed and began to wring his hands together tightly as he started at the beginning of his folly. "We both decided a duel would solve the whole problem, against Deanna's wishes of course. We taunted each other about being cowards with the safeties on. I turned it off, we battled, and I got an unlucky shot." Will said, rubbing at his thigh where the deep cut he'd received from Worf had been. "I transported him to sickbay, but he died before Beverly could do anything."

"You were injured too." Picard prompted.

Will nodded. "He went berserk with rage when I got a lucky shot in. Just nicked his ribs, that's all. Damn swung that Batleth so hard it nearly took my leg off. Couldn't stop him even when I called for a truce." Will shook his head. His eyes vacant as they reviewed the massacre he'd been party to.

"So you fought back."

"I fought. Tried to call for end program but I stumbled back, and lost breath when Worf rushed me. He lifted his Batleth for a killing blow, that's when I threw up my own weapon in defence, but instinct took over and..." He stopped to swallow hard. Unable to say the words..killed him. "He was my friend." He whispered instead.

"Love does strange things to us Will." Picard said kindly before standing up. One hand patted Will's shoulder. "Time to go Will." He said softly. "I will do everything I can to get you back, but for now I need you to concentrate on the accident and remember if anything else comes to mind. And be careful Will." The last comment directed to the penal colony. His new home was to be of non-Starfleet control, something else Picard had fought for and lost. No doubt there would be inmates wanting to take down the great Will Riker, inmates who felt they'd been hard done by Starfleet, let alone the man before them.

'Thank you sir." Will said, possibly for the last time, as he rose taking in one long last look at the stars, before finding a small group of guards awaiting his exit.

A tall official man, garbed within a security uniform moved forward to address his charge. "Mr. William Thomas Riker, I hereby place you under arrest for murder and transportation to Penal Col Nine." A more than familiar silhouette stood beyond the official, something he couldn't face right now, as Will chose to look away from Deanna's tear filled eyes. How could he of been so stupid. She was hurting because of both of them now. Something he had never wanted to do to her ever again.

The corridor was barely empty, but still muffled with the shocked mutterings of a scant few witnesses to the event, as cuffs were fitted behind his back and the legendary commander of the Enterprise was marched down the corridor past saddened officers, many saluting his exit, others giving their farewells, all bearing tears in their eyes as Will Riker strode along purposefully, head held high in one last stand of command.


The buzz of the forcefield cut in right behind him, leaving only a scant millimetre or two between his bare back and the crackling energy of the exit to this section. Will Riker, no longer a respected officer, wandered down the wide corridor listening as his feet slapped against the cold conflab floor, as they walked him from the showers back to the provisions department. Naked he shivered more in a nervous capacity rather than cold as the lifeless, windowless building began to close in on him. He'd always been a little claustrophobic but this was starting to bite. In space, there was the lack of closed in spaces as the stars and vacant blackness of space made you feel as if nothing surrounded you. In here, barely his first day over, he was already hating it.

"I am so sorry Worf." Will murmured as he waited and watched as another forcefield cut out and blinked back on once he was through.

"Welcome to the Styx Riker. Mind your step." One of the guards chuckled, as the mindless grey corridors wound on deeper and further into the complex, burying him friends and loved ones forever.


:::::: Three :::::::

Deanna sat in Ten Forward gliding her spoon through softened icecream, trying to forget that the table beside her was exactly where the fight had begun. The beginning of the end of where the death of Worf had shattered the ship to pieces. She was no longer taking counselling sessions, unable to cope with everyone else's grief when Deanna herself couldn't sort her own.

It has been a week already since Will has been transported away from them, from her. Her heart already breaking for him. And for the hell he was now partaking of for her benefit. The night before, she'd met Worf alone in the arboretum, a place he never felt comfortable with, informing him that it was over, that they were not right for each other, and how it was hurting them both to betray her true feelings for Will Riker. At first she had thought he'd taken it well, had be understanding of her wish to let their friendship grow instead.

But Deanna's decision not to see him as a mate any more, and running off to meet Will in Ten Forward to explain, was when the Klingon had taken it personally hard. Dropping her spoon to lightly clink against the glass bowl, she replayed the scene and their trade of words. Deanna could almost remember the smell of the hostility. The furious tirade played by her right now, as Worf bellowed out that Will was a lowly beast, one he should kill right then and there for stealing a Klingons woman, especially one he had wished to propose to that night.

The argument had ended in disaster. And the Captain shaken that two of his most trusted officers, would resort to plain primitive motions to sort out their problems. Picard was still rearranging his command structure with a new security chief and Data as first officer. A noticeable gap in joviality within the senior staff now pervaded it's depths.

It had already been a month since Will's de-commission and departure. And still it hurt to see his place taken by another on the bridge, let alone never seeing his charming smile or pleasant blue twinkling eyes again. Closing her tired eyes she prayed that he was baring well under the circumstances.

But hope had not been given up. The captain was still piecing together a re-trial for his lost officer. Whether during a mission or shore leave, every scrap of spare time had been garnered by the man to discover a new angle or testimony that would free Will from his current home. Data too, was forever in attendance, helping to divulge a new angle to the accident, even proof to disregard Will Riker's self-damning confession.

At least they'd had him moved to minimum security since his arrival. Allowed brief moments outside into the fresh air on Delvis Nine, where the penal colony lay. She'd received the reports via the captain on Will's health and well being. A long list of mis-demeanours in regards to fights and disturbances with other inmates already littered his report cards. Inmates with paths that he had crossed in the past were keeping him on his toes, and now under stricter security for his safety.

The one thing that would've rescued him from this hellhole was a witness to the fight. Deanna screamed at herself internally for not following, and stopping them, let alone to see what did happen.


Even though the birds twittered overhead, but Will Riker was still hesitant to enjoy it. After surviving the first few days of his incarceration, it seemed to be that the minute you looked relaxed, someone would take advantage of it by bashing the hell out of you. Will had already met closely with a high majority of the worst inmates, some he was sure he'd cross paths with before, and a few he had known after a hefty introduction by a knee to the groin. He was sporting half a dozen bruises at the moment, bearable but annoying just the same. But then again, those inmates had just as many injuries too.

"Always fight back against your opponent with calm quick decisions." The voice of Worf floated through his mind. Some tell tale comment from a callisthenics match one time.

Shivering from the memory, Will shook his head of it and continued his work on fixing one of the outside structures. The sunlight splayed upon his back was a welcome warmth from the usual closed in confines of his cell. He was beginning to enjoy the light work detail, especially for someone with a lot of spare time on his hands. His sentence was short, due to Picard's determined efforts so far, but still it was a sentence of years that ended with no hope of ever entering Starfleet again. Something the Captain kept promising to rectify at the end of every post.

"Better to live free than in servitude Will." He mumbled to himself, unawares of the large presence gaining on him from behind.

"Starfleet scum." Was the only warning he had before he found his head whacked hard up against the metal bars he was working against. The collision left him seeing stars at first until a thump to the back of the knee brought him flat against the ground within seconds. Twisting his body he narrowly missed another heavy stomp by the large shadow over him. Throwing up a shower of dirt in his opponents face, Riker twisted and kicked his way upright, although unsteady, ready to defend.

Griggs, a 7-foot tall muscled giant who'd been on his back since he'd gotten here, was a 'fixer'. He had nothing better to do but torment fellow inmates, and was paid by the others to do it. And once more, he was at him again. "Isn't it nap time for you Griggs?" Riker asked as he swung a punch into the man's jaw. Cracking his own knuckles on impact.

The blow having little effect was followed by another until a few of his 'friends' turned up. "Great. Company." He groaned as four men advanced and gave him a beating he couldn't shake off. The 'Fixer' stood aside until Riker could fight no more. Seeing him finally defenceless, Griggs moved in and lifted his foot, giving a final vicious stomp between Riker's legs. In pure agony, Riker witnessed a flash of phaser fire explode across his watering vision, just before the world went mercifully black.


:::::: Four :::::::

Will nursed his jaw, careful of the split lip as he waited on the biobed in the medical facility, the other hand firmly attached to an ice bag over his tender groin. This was the second group of people to gang up on him this week. By the looks of the messed up med beds, the guards had stunned everybody this time round, this also accounted for the intense thudding behind his eye sockets. His ribs throbbed to the same rhythm, screaming for him to be still, the thought of sitting upright far from his mind. Looking around, Will found the bay empty but for himself. The others discharged, and probably under heavy guard. He was still dressed in the ripped orange shirt and trousers, with the security bracelet still blinking happily over his ankle.

"Will Riker." The old doctor tittered as he entered the room, head down, reading the med chart. "Why am I not surprised to see you in here again?".

"Guess I kind of like the decor better in here." Will replied in a bare whisper as he realised how bad his ribs really where aching, not to mention how tender his stomach was and other areas. He could of sworn his groin was triple it's normal size from it's savage encounter.

"I've got good news for you. They're moving you again. Got a nice little patch of recreational centre space away from this crowd." The doc said working his way over Will's body with his tricorder in hand.

"Great. New inmates to thump me." He grumbled.

The doctor gave a light chuckle. "You do have a tendency to draw out the worst in them."

Will just grumped a muffled reply as the doctor held his jaw closed and applied the hand held regenerator to the swelling area.

"Message day today too. You might have some beautiful lady's letter in your room when you get back." He smiled. He'd seen so much of Will Riker since his incarceration that the good doctor had started to take a liking to the gentle giant.

"Doubt it. Not a woman out there who'd want to talk to me now." Will mused as the door opened and one of the regular guards, used to pulling Riker's butt out of the fire, strode to his side.

"Ready? We've got lock down in a few minutes. Need to get you back to your room." Will nodded, accepting a helping hand to wobble upright to the edge of the bed. After a few strangled curses he stood stiffly to follow the broad shouldered man out of the docs care. He'd thanked the doc again for his service before the door closed and his guard towed him along to his 'room'. "There's a message waiting for you too. Thought you might like to know." The guard had looked out for him the day he'd been moved into this sector. Something to do with him or a distant cousin being saved by his actions in the past somehow. Will normally didn't enjoy partaking in special service, but in this case it was either use or be abused.

Watching the flicker of the field close over the doorway, Will immediately removed his shirt and carefully checked the still painful area just over his ribs. Grumbling about the doctors hurried repairs, he looked over and sure enough spotted the blinking message button on his visual screen.

He knew who it was from. She'd left three messages like this one no doubt every few days, hoping he'd reply. Sighing heavily he accessed the message, and sure enough Deanna's face appeared via the recorded image.

"It's Deanna again Will. I'm beginning to worry about you Imzadi. You haven't replied in a long while. Just to make sure, I enquired at the facility, that you were allowed personal communiques. So no hiding Will Riker, we need to talk. I need to talk."

She paused for a moment, her face taking on a reflective quality as she practised what she was going to say beforehand in her mind.

"I want you to know that you weren't respon...."

Will smacked the delete button before she went any further. It was his fault be damned. He killed Worf, plain and simple. And over the one woman who was haunting his message bank.

He didn't deserve her. Well that's what his head was telling him, although the rapid beating of his heart everytime he viewed her messages was telling him something else.

"You will not honour her if you chase her with your ruined reputation." Worf's words haunted him enough to swing around almost expecting the grinning Klingon to taunt him from a corner. Nothing. Just one bare white cell with the necessities of hygiene in the corner.

Looking down to his bare chest he pressed his sore ribs one more time, feeling the heat coming off of the light bruises, before shuffling off his shoes.

Killing the lights, Will gingerly used the facilities in the blue glow of the forcefield and removed the rest of his clothes before crawling under his blankets, wishing the world would leave him alone to rot.


"They've got 15 minutes Johnson, no more." The guard at the entrance commented to the younger guard, who replied in kind with a sturt nod and a wave of his hand to encourage his charges to follow him.

"This way sirs." The guard led the pair of Starfleet officers along a corridor and out a side door to a vast parkland. The security walls almost hidden by the greenery, but not the guards. "He has a tendency to seek out isolated places and write." The shrug of the guard and his manor belied to one of the officers that this man cared for Will Riker in some way.

"He certainly seems to like the distance." Admitted the bald Captain as they strode up a small incline to a grove of trees high up, in full glow of the suns rays.

"Is the isolation necessary?" The small Betazoid, identified by the black orbs of her eyes, asked. Her face a mask of stone, showing no detail of concern or remorse.

The guard sighed and gave a brief smile as they began to spy the familiar orange short clad body reclined up against a tree trunk. "Only if I don't want to scrape him or the other inmates off the walls. Seems he's made quite a few enemies in the past through his line of work."

"No doubt he has." The Captain agreed as they continued their climb.


:::::: Five :::::::

It was sunny and warm the day Will Riker was awoken from a deep daydream from under the large shady tree. The touch of a hand on his shoulder, placed him into instant action as he pulled the man toward to him, then balancing his weight forward, to push him hard into the ground. "Will wait!" All before he realised who he was man handling.

"Argh." He grunted as the sharp end of the stun stick collided with his bare torso. Instinctively closing his eyes for a moment in a painful grimace, only to open them seconds later to see Jean Luc Picard pinned below him.

"Captain?" He said dropping his raised fist and throwing himself off. Speedily offering a hand to his ex-superior officer in aid of calming the situation. Johnson and two guards were still poised close by, ready to take him down if he made another threatening move.

"It's alright, I should of knocked first." Picard said with an easy smile, eyes gliding over his 'number one' to check him for signs of man handling. Will Riker standing tall, had one hand sheepishly gliding through his longish hair, as the other rubbed the sore point on his back from the stun stick.

"Sorry Captain." He said grabbing his shirt and thrusting it on to cover his tanned chest, more so because Deanna was also there, a few metres behind the guards. 'Is she that frightened of me?' He thought to himself.

"No apology necessary Number One." Picard smiled until he saw Will's features turn sour.

"I don't think that's a good term to use right now sir. I'd think you'd have someone else to call number one by now. Someone more deserving than me." Riker admitted brazenly, keeping his eyes trained on Picard and his emotions snapped shut from Deanna.

"Ten minutes Riker." Johnson said breaking into the silence, before turning with the other guards to take up positions out of hearing distance to give the three a moment alone.

Feeling more than awkward Will waved his hand at the ground. "If I'd known I'd have company I would of brought something more comfortable to sit on." A plastic grin set into place that did no justice to the real thing.

Deanna took a few steps towards them and picked up the padd Will had been writing on, it's body lying in the grass where it'd fallen during Will's wake up call. As she read the first three lines of the poem, tears began to prick her eyes until a hand viciously tore it from her grasp. Her sudden gasp of surprise another jolt to Will psyche that she was afraid of him.

"Prey will always fear you no matter if you kill them or not." Worf's words rolled around his mind making Will throw the padd down at his feet.

"Will?" Picard enquired, a hand tentatively held out to give him the comfort of touch. "Is everything alright?"

Will gave a halfhearted chuckle. "Oh sure. Just woke up on the wrong side of the tree that's all. So what brought you all the way back here? Forget to pass in my keys to the family spaceship?"

Picard smiled at the off-handed humour. At least it erased the deeply ingrained frown lines from Will Riker's haunted face. "No. Nothing like that. We had a few things to set straight at Starfleet headquarters, and also to hand over some small snippets of evidence in attempt to get you out of here."

"I belong in here Jean Luc." Will said, using the captain's first name on a personal level to get him to see how truthful he was.

"You think you do Will." Deanna spoke up. Will's face swung round to hers, surprised at her voice, how steady it was compared to her emotional eyes.

"Deanna! I killed Worf. Stabbed him right here." Will pointed to his own chest. "I was there and did it Deanna. What more can I say but you all must be blind if you think I'm innocent. Go back to the ship and forget about me, I don't deserve pity." Will picked up his padd and thrust past Picard before storming off towards the habitat area of the colony.

Deanna went to reach forward but stayed her hand. Finally turning to the Captain who also was in mid stride to follow the unreachable man. "Leave him Captain. He's in no state to talk nor listen. He's not sure enough of himself to relax his emotional shields. Perhaps once he's had time to re-evaluate his position here, he'll listen."

Watching the orange clad man storm past his guards, who hurried to catch up to the large gaited man, Picard realised that the counsellor had said exactly what he was thinking right now. Riker could be stubborn, and just then had been the best example of how determined Will could be to ignore sound advice at the best and worst of times.

"Perhaps you're right Counsellor. Maybe it's too soon. But any longer and the chance of returning to Starfleet in a limited fashion may not be an option." He stated, giving a deep sigh before offering a hand to Deanna and helping her back down the grassy hill to exit the facility.


A few months had finally passed, with each day filled with a full schedule of work, although lately he'd earned a little time to himself for good behaviour. Although supervised for his own safety, he had taken a liking to wandering the small park outside the prison colony mainly to one hill where he would sit and watch the inmates below. Strangely enough he'd taken to writing. Something he hadn't done since a young ensign. A few viewpoints on what colony life was like and the comments he was hearing almost daily from the 'ghost of Worf".

In reality, Will knew it was just his conscience speaking, but to think it was Worf's spirit punishing him made his guilt feel a whole lot lighter.

Will's persistent guardian, Johnson, had at one point caught a glimpse of his notebook. Physically forcing him at phaser point to the counsellor, afraid that his family's saviour, might just be crazy enough to take his own life.

That little discussion with the counsellor had proved nothing but the truth that Will was slowly dying inside from what he'd done. The counsellor, Farnier, had done most of the talking, urging and prodding. Will has remained an unfeeling statue the whole time, starring into the carpet until Farnier had given up trying to help the suffering man.

He still had appointments with the counsellor every week, feeling no different each time, still guilty in his own eyes. Johnson's concern was the only thing making him go. And the fact that his recreational time would also be cut if he didn't go.

At least Will was allowed to wallow in his own misery. Having been removed from the majority of inmates to a quiet high security cell, Will now suffered a lonely existence day to day in a claustrophobic cell, a place where his guardian constantly watched over him, and protected him from interacting with others.

Of course the comments from the other inmates was that Riker was bedding the guard for favours. Far from the truth, but at least it gave them something to gossip and laugh about.

Will gave a small chuckle at some of their statements about soap. Be it as it may, Will the Thrill had been terminated the moment he'd killed for love.

Right at this moment though, dinner had arrived.

"Stand back from the doorway Riker. " Barhey grated through his tinted face guard.

Will was only pacing in the centre of the room, but Barhey was a stickler for regiment. Moving back to the bed, Will plonked himself down and wrapped an arm around his knee as he drew it up to his chest. Barhey gave him one last dirty look for not causing trouble and marched out, slamming the forcefield back in place.

Will shook his head at the guard's behaviour. Sure, like Will really wanted to escape. Well if it was anything like the 20th century sure. But here it was pure paradise to his guilty soul. Even though there was a persistent mouldy smell and bad air to go with the chilled walls.

Then again he was barely able to contain his laughter, as his dinner in frightening realism, appeared on the pastiplate once he removed the cover. "Great. Meatloaf." he groaned.

Placing the cover back on, he pushed it to the door edge and picked up his writing padd instead, making use of the time left before the lights went out. Unaware of what he was writing, he scribbled and scrawled till sleep took over, and the dreams started up again.


:::::: Six :::::::

"Johnson! Your man's screaming again!" Barhey, thrust his head in the
dorm doorway for a moment before racing down the corridor to join the
waiting guards.

Dropping his book, and thrusting his feet back into his boots,
Johnson wearily made his way down the numerous corridors out of the
guards domain and into the warren that was the correctional facility.
His helmet in one hand, he jogged along to the first gateway,
flashing his ID, and thrusting a hand through his blonde hair before
shoving the protective wear on, hiding his concerned eyes behind the

As he got closer to his ward's cell, the neighbouring inmates were
shouting and swearing for peace and quiet, regardless of the tortured
screams from Cell 3489. "Tell him to shut up or I'll do it for him!"
Screamed one of them as he ran by.

Doctor Jones was waiting by the entrance for Johnson's protection,
each giving the other a grim smile. "Here we go again." Jones mumbled
and the force field dropped, letting the two charges in to view
Riker, twisted amongst his sheets, screaming to be let free.

"This Worf guy's got a lot to answer for." Johnson groaned as he
fended off one of Riker's flying fists, trying to shake the man from
his tortured nightmare. "Hurry up doc, he's getting stronger every
time." Johnson shouted over the yells, till he placed one of his
gloved hands over Will's mouth, trying not to suffocate him. Riker's
blue eyes flashed open in fear.

"If you want the job done properly you'll just have to have a little
more patience." Jones replied grimly as he pressed the hypo into
Riker's neck. The hiss brought the muffled yells to mere whimpers as
the sedative worked it's way throughout Will's system.

"He still seeing the quack?" The doc queried as he scanned his
patient, who right now was curling onto his side away from them,
blinking away frightened tears, as reality stepped in.

"Yeah. But they don't get on." Johnson watched as Will's breathing
stilled from the heavy gasps before lowering to a more manageable
breathing routine for a newly sedated patient.

"Now Mr. Riker. Care to tell us what you were dreaming about?" Jones
requested packing away his equipment now that his patient was stable.

Will turned over onto his back, one arm resting over his eyes from
the bright overhead lights of the room.

"I'm fine." He said, the usual answer.

"Well you are now. But not before. Give me a good answer and then
I'll leave you alone. Not that there's much left of your sleep cycle,
nor mine." Jones said with a little whine at the end.

"Just a bad dream. Nothing more." Riker said sinking back heavily
onto the one miserably scrunched pillow. Will could still smell the
stink of his nightmare on him.

Jones grumbled to himself about strong willed men. "Well if that's
the way you want to play it, consider yourself assigned to Farnier
first thing at day break."

"Like that frightens me." Will replied sarcastically.

'Well something did." Jones said getting up off the floor stiffly,
cursing his tired joints. "Get some sleep so the rest of us can,
that's an order." The doctor moved out of the cell and back down the
corridor to his waiting bed.

Johnson stayed on a for a bit longer watching his charge squeeze the
bridge of his nose, eyes closed. "Headache?" He asked.

Will shook his head and gave a limp smile. "No. I'm fine thanks, go
back and get some sleep before you end up crabby for the rest of the
day." Will suggested. "I'm just a little tense. " Seeing that
Johnson still hadn't vacated his room he smiled and added. "And I
promise to talk to Farnier tomorrow."

Johnson gave a big grin before finally giving up his stance and
moving out, heading back to his own bed.


"So, next on the agenda is inmate 3489. I understand he caused
another disturbance last night." The director, a broad man with a
large overhang of weight, leaned back in his cushioned chair, fingers

"Yes sir." Farnier, the small counsellor, seemed almost to melt under
the glare of the director even as he stood up from his chair to make
his report. "He was forwarded to me this morning to continue the
analysis I have been performing since he was interned here." The
little man stammered constantly throughout his report. Insecure under
the fingers of command.

"Analysis?" One of the sector manages snorted. "Let me guess Farnier,
he ignored your help, ignored your questions and you've got diddly on
the man."

Farnier pushed his glasses back up his nose from looking down to his
mess of charts piled awkwardly into his folder. "There has been some
resistance yes, but I did manage to make a few improvements into his
psyche. He's suffering from an accumulation of guilt. Reviewing over
and over how the woman he loved hates him now for killing her lover.
Quite interesting actually." Farnier said forgetting his nervous
stature for a minute as he began to peruse Riker's state in his mind.

"Is he sane?" The director asked in almost a bored tone.

"Well yes. Apart from the nightmares of his lover stabbing him over and.."

"Fine. Shove him back into group activities and get him used to
unprotected care. I figure we've spent long enough covering his
behind. This is a correctional facility, not a shelter for lost
strays." The director said, slapping his palm down onto the table to
infuse his point and making a rough attempt at standing with his
large bulk. "Back to work everyone, we've got people to cleanse." He
said with a nasty laugh.

Farnier gave an audible sniff and pushed up his glasses once more, as
he watched the other staff meander out the boardroom. Part of him was
glad to of finally cracked Riker's shell, getting him to finally
speak, the other half sorry as he realised he'd just plunged the man
back into the fishbowl with the other sharks.

:::::: Seven :::::::

Riker was only half interested in the padd in his hand, a small present from the captain of his old ship. Picard had sent him a few notes of how the ship was faring. He was only going through the motions of reading it for the sakes of Johnson, who'd job was to go through and edit it of anything disallowed, before passing it onto him. Johnson, who would've stood there hands on hips till he'd of read it, had he seen Riker flop it onto the bed with disgust.

The daytime clamour of voices moving in and out of the cells down to the habital areas was noisy today. A few new inmates had been brought in. Many in a not so happy mood. One such prisoner had eyed him when passing his open doorway. The look on his face betraying that he knew Riker all too well.

Shaking his head from the memory, Riker stilled himself, he was under protective custody from people like that. And that the forcefield over his doorway right now was just that, protection.

So of course the sudden drop of the force field was a shock to start with. Until that was, Barhey entered. "Out Riker." He said thumbing to the tall blue eyed man. "Time to play nice with the other kiddies. "

"I thought I had immunity from the others?" Will asked as he threw the padd to the bed covers after all.

"Not now you don't. Certified cured and just one of the boys now." The wide grin of Barhey's face didn't help one bit as Riker shuffled his shoes on and moved out past the burly guard. "Good boy." He said before turning Riker's forcefield to his cell back on, forcing him to go elsewhere in search of seating arrangements.

As Will wandered down the spacious corridors he passed the few guards littered around the surroundings till he came to the main recreational room. Huddles of men playing various poker or dice games, a few wandering back from a tournament, clothed in a poor man's version of Parisees squares padding. Stepping further into the room, he spied a quiet corner over by the large glass aquarium. The floor to ceiling wall of glass and water must of been at least twenty metres long as it wrapped around the entire east wall of the room. A few small hard couches perched infront of the waterview, a scenery filled with colourful varieties of fish from the surrounding area no doubt.

Finding one such couch empty, he threw himself into it's confines and tried to lose himself within the swirling mass of an amateur octopus. It's many limbs grasping and curling around the coral and rocks, reminding him of how constricted he himself felt right now. His life's goal throttled by one stupid emotion. Jealousy.

Looking down into his hands he didn't see the reflection striding toward him until he felt the large hand grab his shirt collar from behind and rammed him hard into the same glass, twisting his arm behind his back painfully. Trying to breath past his flattened nose and tightly griped throat, Will swung one free arm behind him into his assailant's side before his defensive arm was captured and a hot breath licked his ear. "Now now Riker. Calm down before I crush this skull of yours."

Trying his hardest not to struggle, he waited for the deep voice to continue it's demands. But received none except for one painful kick to the groin as he was swung around to face a whole group of jeering men.

Gasping for breathe, another blow rained down upon him, knocking him senseless for a moment till he shook his head free of stars. The large man, a Chrysalian half-breed by his muted markings, let him free to sway for a moment until the crowd surged upon him like a tidal wave.

Kicks, fists even a glass bottle he could of sworn were laid upon him. Fighting the best he could under the circumstances, Will gave as good as he got, cracking a few noses and bones as he struck out in pure desperation as blow upon blow left him unable to stand.

Gasping for breath, no longer able to breathe through a broken bloodied nose, he only had a few minutes until he saw the foot heading his way. He'd lost count of the kicks and stompings he'd received until the wail of an alert cut in and the silhouettes moved away to be replaced by helmeted versions.

"Christ! I told Barhey he wasn't ready to be left alone." Johnson swore, well at least Will thought it was him as he felt hands jostling him upright.

"Ready? Geez Johnson, he damned near killed a few of them." Opening one eye he smiled briefly at the other guards comment, as he viewed a few of his assailants moaning on the floor with their own injuries.

"Get him to the medical bay. He deserves to get patched first. Not that the boss will be happy about his budgeted med allowance." Another guard said pulling Will upright now against the requests of Will's stomach. After being trampled and punched, his innards finally released his breakfast in what could only be described as a modernistic approach to art upon the rec room floor. "Geez, Tony move him fast. It's bad enough he's bleeding on us. We're going to be covered with this stuff if we don't dump him soon."

"Don't come back here Riker unless you've got a body guard!" The large inmate shouted. The rest of the room fell into peels of laughter, well the ones still standing who could.

"Shut up Valesquez! Just because his ship caught you smuggling to the Maquis doesn't mean he's here as your punching bag." Johnson said advancing on the man with his stun stick. Valesquez standing tall even though he didn't exactly want another jolt of the weapon right now.

Valesquez gave a small chuckle. "Sorry to upset your bitch Johnson. I'll be good now."

Johnson just shook his head and followed the other men carrying Riker out with his eyes, until the room was calm again. Picking out a few standing men, Johnson ordered them into cleaning duty, to dispose of the stench of blood and vomit. Shaking his head, he took point and watched the inmates, while trying to assess the attack on Will Riker.

Even though the inmates joked abut his protectiveness of Riker. He took the childish taunts, knowing that Commander Riker, the once First Officer of the Enterprise had saved him and his father from Orion pirates many years ago. Barely alive, their attacked ship had been boarded just as the Enterprise had arrived under Riker's command. The captain absent from the altercation.

The broad shouldered Starfleet officer had disposed of their attacker, enforcing Federation law, freeing them from a possible future of slavery. Johnson stood reflecting for a moment, realising how fate could be so cruel. Johnson himself saved from imprisonment to enforce it upon his saviour. Shaking his head he left once the duties had been performed, and went in search of one badly injured saviour.


Riker was still conscious, and aware of the blood pumping from his nose with every breath, along with the other shrieking pain in his lower chest. The sedative the doctor had given him, was only mild, a quick fix till he could perform proper first aid.

Will's head was still ringing and his hearing was slightly muffled, whether due to the drugs or not he wasn't sure, but he vaguely heard the doctor yelling at someone within his office. Easy to overhear through the flimsy plasti-glassed off section. The doctor slammed something hard down on his table and stormed back into the room, evading Will's hazy eyes with his own furious orbs.

"Pain killer." Will managed through a fractured jaw, the same one that'd been bruised only a few weeks earlier.

"Not yet I'm afraid Will. I have to get permission first for all the equip and meds required to fix you again. Seems your little brawls have overloaded our allocated supplies for the month. I need permission first to break into next months lot before I can start patching you up." The doctor had spoken with a clenched jaw, obviously hating the way he was unable to help his patients with quality care the likes of which Riker no doubt was used to receiving.

Will closed his eyes in hope of shutting out the pain, trying to block it via the meditation techniques that Deanna had taught him. Hell, Bevery's idea of breathing through his nose to alleviate the pain, like she'd taught him once before with a broken jaw, wasn't helping to do much except bleed all over the bed.

Damn it. He'd only been sitting for a second before some idiot had ruined his peace and quiet. How the hell could he get away from such a well-known past?

The sharp pain in his gut crescendo'ed bringing him into a fetal position gasping for breath. One hand clenched tightly into the bedding. The shrieking gasp that Riker let out, drew Doctor Jones into action, scanning his torso before tuttering at his readouts. Jones' frown slammed down hard, securing it with an expletive of anger. "We're going to have to prep you for minor surgery I'm afraid Billy boy." He shook his head in disgust.


:::::: Eight :::::::

"How's he doing doc?" Johnson's head popped around the corner of the office divider, uniform agape, and a sign that this young man's work detail was up and he was on personal time now.

"Badly. Can't get the counsellor he needs, can't get the care he requires." Jones said throwing down his pen and leaning back in his chair as far as it would bend. "Damn this system. Just because they're criminals, they should at least have access to quality care. I should have at least had one nurse on hand to help me." He grumbled.

"What about outside help?" Johnson offered half-heartedly. Jones looked up, eyebrow raised. "Like his friends who came to see him. Surely they've got a little punch to get him privileged care." Johnson offered.

"From what I heard from around the colony, is he doesn't want help from the outside. He's a martyr for his own guilt. But what you said might just work. The director doesn't care one bit about his inmates, but he might if he got a little pressure. " He mused.

"Hey I'd like to see him squirm." Johnson chuckled.

Jones shook his head and smiled. "I think we've been here too long." He threw down his padds and clamped a hand on the young mans arm. "Come on, let's go see how he's coping together. I'm sure he needs company regardless of his ventings."

The two men entered the room to find one man snoring heavily on his side, first aid bandages and dressings dotting what skin could be seen above the blankets. "Took a lot to convince the hierarchy that he needed to stay here for the night. Surgery for christ sake. You'd think they'd understand that an injured man needs constant care to recover from an attack like this."

"What happened?" Johnson's eyes widening.

"Ruptured spleen. Caught it in the nick of time too. He's going to be very sore for a while. If you can get his friends here, then do it Alex." Jones said placing a hand on Johnson's arm, then left leaving the younger man to view the inmate who'd become his unforeseen receiver of his kindness.


Bright light struck his eyeballs as he opened his blue eyes into the cold unforgiving world of the penal colony medical room. The rough hand on his shoulder who'd awakened him seconds ago, shook him again. "Remind me never to let a mountain fall on me." Will mumbled.

"Get up Riker. You've had enough comfort. Can't let you get soft." Barhey, his wonderfully droll guard, gave him another shake till he began to sit up with a grimace.

"If you'd stay out of trouble it wouldn't hurt so much." He gave what one could probably call close to a smile for the heavy browed man.

"Not my fault men with fists like bricks keep attacking me. Believe me, I'm more than happy to leave them alone." Said Riker as he gingerly touched a deep bruise high on one side of his chest, signs of an earlier broken rib.

"Just stand up to them Riker, your a Starfleet officer, surely they taught you to twist a Romulans head off with your bare hands." He said demonstrating with both hands wringing a phantom neck.

Legs hanging over the bed edge, Barhey threw the familiar orange shorts and shirt at Riker, watching as per his job, until he was dressed. "I'm an ex, Barhey. And fair pickings for the blokes out there with some sort of grievance for any fleet officer, even if I was quadrants away from their arrest." Standing up, a wave of nausea bent him over double to upturn his stomach contents onto the floor. Standing up he trembled against the bed for a moment, watching Barhey check his boots for muck.

"Well what do you know. Doc told me to pass along that the meds you're on could do that." He shrugged his shoulders. "Seems he was right." Again that insipid smile appeared and he grabbed a hand around Riker's arm to navigate him over the retched mess on the floor. "Let's get you back to your cell, you can sleep there for a while till lunchtime, then I'm under orders to keep you mixed with the main group. We don't like loners. Too much trouble." He chuckled.

The distance seemed longer to Will as he staggered back to his cell, Barhey's grip and stride pulling him along more that directing. Once inside, Will gently lay down onto his hard bed and gripped the pillow hard against his chest in hope of evading the pain that lay there. The pain that filled his heart. No more was he the strong man who could bare it all, the agony of hurting Deanna was nothing compared to the pain he was feeling now for his final loss of control.


The Director sat down heavily into his chair and flung a padd to his associate on the board. "Seems they have new evidence, that means our little resident in cell 3489, may just be innocent after all."

"As if that matters, he did kill the guy." The man shrugged nonchalantly and grabbed his Bernalian tonic, taking a deep swig before continuing his observations. "He still thinks he's guilty of killing the Klingon. Mistake or not, he's under our jurisdiction, and classed as a murderer. Something I'm sure even the High Council are not pleased about. Twenty Terralian whores this guy doesn't get out of our clutches, or even land a cosy Federation colony." He chuckled.

The Director smiled and slapped his greedy hands together. "Better still, why not make sure he never leaves? Perhaps make an offer to any inmate that wants him put down like a rabid targ. We'll look elsewhere if they cream him just right. Good times for all concerned." He chuckled.

"Want some feelers sent out?" The associate director enquired, trying not to drool into his own drink.

"Proceed. But carefully. I don't want this blown back into my face. Understood Gayle?" His greedy partner nodded assuredly and slunk out with a purpose for the day. The director meantime pushed back into his padded chair and smiled at the thought of finally ridding himself of the so called 'Hero of Wolf 359".


Letting the shower water ride over his face, Will tried to wash away the stains of last nights tears, before an inmate or even a guard could notice the trails. A rumour that he was turning soft within this prison of hard violence, wouldn't help him one bit. Then again being a strong ex-Starfleet officer hadn't helped either. A reason he'd sought these out of the way shower stalls. Too far from the mess hall and main cells, most inmates preferred to cram into the central stalls than waste wandering extra minutes this way. Plus the conditions were pretty bad. Lack of use, meant a lack of care in cleanliness and repair. It'd taken Riker three goes to find a showerhead that still worked and didn't vomit out green muck.

Carefully dragging the soap over his various war wounds, Will gently prodded the various deep dark bruises and scrapes that covered a good percentage of his body. The stiff muscles underneath still sore from the fight of his life. The waterproof bandage on his side, tugged gently on sensitive skin as he twisted an arm to wash his back, head still immersed under the cold shower water. The prison was hot but the water certainly wasn't, never the less, he stayed there under that cold stream as long as it took to clean his battered body. Hoping to wash away the anger his incarceration was starting to layer upon him.

The shower continued to pelt down on his skin, even after he hung up his soap on the taps, that was until he felt a sudden rough cord wrap around his neck hard. Regardless of his actions of forcing his chin down, fighting against instinct to lean back, the slippery thick wet cord was still cutting into his windpipe some. Aiding his breathing for only a moment with his chin down, his attacker pulled back on his hair, allowing the cord to bite deeper into his windpipe, a lot tighter than before making him gasp loudly.

"Ever heard of the dangers of using 'soap on a rope' Riker?" He heard the rough words whispered into his ear, but barely as sound and vision began to fail from lack of oxygen. Will struggled hard, trying to kick and twist his opponents legs out from under. But his attacker was wary and never got close enough, no doubt having been warned of Riker's defensive skills. The sound of cheering closing in on him.

"Got anything noble to say before the lights go out?" The rough chuckle echoed in his ears as his strength left him weaker by the second. His body now slumping more into the cord than away.

"Hmm? Come on pretty boy, speak up." The man's ribbing triggered the last of his adrenaline, aiding Will to thrash harder, but his strength gave out within seconds. "Consider this a present from the boys to the director....Riker on a rope." As the oncoming blackness approached from his strangulation, his attackers words rattled round his mind, stalking him into the abyss. Mercifully, the slimy showers cold floor finally greeted him, but they didn't leave him be, and the pain of asphyxiation was soon followed by another round of kicking till unconsciousness finally claimed him.


:::::: Nine :::::::

"Riker. William Thomas Riker. He's definitely an inmate of yours. We've visited before." Picard said before running a tired hand over his hairless head.

"I understand who you're after Captain Picard, but we can't allow visitation rights at this moment." The young guard nervously twitched each time Picard eyed him with his fuming gaze.

"Any particular reason? I know it's visiting time, and as per the Traskaliians internment treaty, no prisoners will be disallowed visitors. Especially Starfleet members." The guard began to twitch even more now, and the thin line of sweat running down his nose, was showing the man was under quite a lot of stress right at that moment.

Before the young man could continue, a familiar voice asked if he could be of assistance. Johnson's face appeared out of the gloom of an off shoot in the corridor. "It's good to see you again Captain." He said. "I'm afraid our admittance clerk can't allow you to see Riker just yet, due to the fact that we don't know where he is."

Johnson's words stilled the room for moment until Deanna whispered. "He's in pain." Her words were only a brief murmur but it was obvious to Picard that she was trying to reach him, drawing a blank other than the empathic sense.

"How can that be? You tag your men don't you?" Picard said, anger lacing each word.

"Yes, but for some reason he's not coming up on our internal scanners. We're doing a manual search right now. But so far it's not good. All men are accounted for in the mess hall, all except for Riker." Johnson said, tiredness etching his words. "I found him missing a few hours ago, but haven't located him yet, even the interrogation of the prisoners came up blank." He shook his head. "This prison is still using old facility sections where a damn pet tracker would be more useful than our internal sensors sometimes."

A flurry of activity along one of the darker corridors broke their attention, and a panting guard ran up to Johnson's side. "Found him! Barhey's with him now!" Johnson prompted him for information while the man tried to catch his breath. "Old shower stalls in sector G9. Pretty bad. Reckon he's done for." He panted.

Johnson wore his anger on his face as he gave permission for Picard and Troi to follow him at a run to the scene of the crime. The bright, clean prison soon gave way to the deeper, darker and older sections. As they ran through the twisted maze of corridors, Picard tried to calm himself from viewing the bad state the prison was in. Dirt and scum lined the corners of each wall, steadily becoming grottier the further they progressed into the inner sectors.

Finally rounding a corner, all three entered the large shower room to view the small scattering of guards, and a short balding man leaning over the naked body of what could only be Will Riker. A ring of guards protecting them from advancing any further.

Another of the prison's employees walked over to Johnson and held out an item for his inspection. "Tags been cut out and destroyed. Looks to have been stamped on, and the bracelets been fried, not that we can track em anyway."

"Tell the Director that it's an inside job. Jones? Need help?" Johnson said lastly to the doc as he moved forward through the throng of men to squat beside the doc. "Geez, what the hell did they do to him now?"

Riker's face contrasted badly against the ghastly backdrop of his own blood. The slow wheeze of his breathing the only sign the man was still alive. Deanna pushed through the men at this point and fell to her knees by her fallen Imzadi. Her hands wanting to hold him, to draw him away from the slimy floor and the wash of his own watered down blood.

"Captain Picard?" Jones asked looking up to see the horrified look on Picard's face. "I suggest you get your own medical team down here and fast. I don't have the right tools to fix him this time." He said sadly.

"This time," echoed Deanna horrified!

Picard slapped his communicator to find it not working, the prisons protective shield blocking his attempts. "If you follow Jason over there he'll take you back out to the entry way." Johnson said watching, as the Captain raced back out the door following the young man through the warrens, in aid of gaining a clearer signal.

"They've managed to undo most of my work." Jones grumbled. "He's bleeding internally again." Shaking his head he attached the soft padding to Riker's excoriated throat, masking off the red raw welts around his bruised and swollen neck. "Someone didn't want him alive for sure."

Deanna had gone as pale as her Imzadi, her hands shaking slightly from the horrific scene before her. "I'm sorry miss, I'll need you to move back." Jones said as he fended off her hands moving towards his charge.

The rush of booted feet, pausing her rebuttal, soon revealed the flurry of blue and black uniforms moving to Will's side. "Oh god, Will..." Crusher's voice of dismay left her lips in shock. "Prognosis?" She asked Doctor Jones, kneeling in the same watery blood, as Deanna moved back to the Captain side. Hands still shaking in shock.

Jones shook his head. "I don't know, I can only guess. My instruments are archaic and way too heavy to leave my medical office. But from what I can tell you, he's not that long ago had surgery and it appears that he's been beaten severely...enough that his abdomen is distended. I'm afraid there may be internal haemorrhage from the previous altercations." He shrugged his rounded shoulders helplessly. Hands taking a hold of one of the medi scanners Crusher offered him.

"His trachea has heavy trauma." Beverly remarked as she applied a succession of hypos for blood loss and shock. "Breathing is laboured from the crushing and swelling of tissue." She surmised as she viewed Will's neck, ignoring his nakedness. The various bruises highlighted now upon his white skin.

Jones, removed his coat, witnessing Riker's shivers, and covered his form, providing a little modesty for the brutalised man. Fearing the psychological effect this beating would place upon him, Jones looked to the young woman behind them, sizing her up and wondering if this was the woman Riker whispered of often. His counsellor he'd said one day when Jones had asked who Deanna was.

"He's de-fribulating!" Crusher yelled. "20cc's of Isonate Alyssa! Now!" Slapping the hypo into Crusher's hand, Nurse Ogawa watched and worked as Crusher fought to keep their charge alive. Jones moving to assist with the cortical stimulators.

Deanna sank to her knees, her hands covering her mouth in a terrified gaze as her best friend worked hard to keep Will Riker alive. The thin line of the bond humming less and less as he slipped further away from her. A relieved sigh soon escaped Beverly's mouth, and Ogawa announced the slowly returning life signs. They crawled at a slow pace to what one could only describe as barely alive.

"Doctor Jones...do you have oxygen back at your medial suite? He's going to need it." Her last sentence spoken as she watched the pale blue hint to Will's lips slowly waver to a pale pink.

"Certainly, but is he alright to move? What if the internal haemorrhaging becomes worse during the move?" The Older doctor looked nervous, the kind of disposition a doctor had when life and death situations were not the norm.

Just then Will's natural reaction to being strangulated formed into that of rising bloody bile, the contents of his stomach decorating the slimy floor of the shower bay, the pain excruciating as his throat flexed to the motions of being sick.

Beverly immediately held his sweat-peppered head in her hands to stop him from banging it back to the floor from the pain. "We have no choice. From what I learnt on the way down here we can't beam him out, so transport is going to have to manual." Beverly replied, slapping another few hypos into Will's shoulder. "He's as ready to move as he's ever going to be." She said to her pacing Captain. "If we can have volunteers to lift the stretcher?" A swift group of hands raised in quick fashion letting Beverly smile a little that at least Will had made some distant friends down here.

"OK. I'll support his head while each of you take a limb as close as you can to the trunk of his body." Beverly directed as she slipped a light brace around Will's neck, even if it was unable to fasten due to the swelling of his throat.

A flash of blue captured her attention, but his eyes held no recognition, and his delirium deepened, as Deanna watched his face intently. A strangled gasp came from Will as they moved him on the count of three, quickly and carefully laying him down onto the fabric stretcher, his level of consciousness fluctuating.

He began to gasp each time the stretcher jolted with their hurried steps making Beverly slow the stretcher-bearers down, even though quite frankly his colouring was worrying the hell out of her. As they headed out of the massive twisting corridors into the newer part of the facility, she began to question the available tools at hand within Doctor Jones' sickbay. Each time he said negative to her requests, her eyes flashed in anger, not at Jones but at the lack of equipment the man had to deal with on a day to day basis. Penal col 9 wasn't a Federation prison, but Traskaliia did hold a partial treaty with them.

"Then we'll just have to beam down some items." She muttered as one of the guards refused her request to move Riker back to the ship, even under their own guard. Tapping at a padd she handed it to Picard as he stepped in beside her, entering the low tech. medical facilities with his own frown in place. Careful in moving him over onto the medical table, she pumped another hypo into Will's bare shoulder, aware of the jarring shakes he was suffering from. "I'll need those items and Alyssa's continued help." She said finally answering his raised eyebrow.

"On it's way doctor." Picard replied, having nothing else to do other than watch his friend suffer on the cold slab of the medical table. The polished stainless steel had immediately fogged upon contact with Will's increased temperature. Marching back outside in minutes, followed by another entourage of guards, Picard made his way back to the checkout point to call the Enterprise. Mainly to fulfil his medical officer's requests, but also to contact the director of the facility.

With the captain out of the way, Beverly bade everyone else to move out aswell, except for Deanna who was frozen in place, no doubt attuned to Will's pain.

Beverly scanned and began to make a list of what firstly required immediate attention. His internal haemorrhaging the main concern, as the curve of his belly gave out large warning signs, not to mention the blood he was coughing up on occasion. Will was still gasping for air after a short bout of coughing, soon calmed by a fitted oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. Doctor Jones on hand at all times.

"Relax Will. It's Doctor Crusher. We're going to fix you up. Just hold on for me, alright?" Her words slow and paced, hoping she caught his disorientated mind for a minute or more. His blue eyes were unfocused and swimming in their glaze each time his eyelids managed to open. Perspiration ran in rivulets down his face, in fact his whole body was experiencing an elevated temperature, the result of a present infection no doubt from the unsanitary conditions they'd found him in.

Slamming hypos into his body, she had nothing else to do but wait, the pattern of booted feet once more returning down the corridor towards them, a welcome relief. Alyssa appeared by Beverly's side in moments, arms laden with needed supplies, larger and bulkier objects carried by a few local guards and one med tech. from the Enterprise on hand.

"Now the dance begins." Jones surmised as the equipment was hooked up, and various items were dotted over their patient ready for surgery.

As the medical team worked, Deanna sat quietly, watching each methodical move from wound to injury as they repaired and patched the best they could in this prison hellhole. When Beverly sighed relief and leant back, hands on hips to stretch her back, Deanna finally came forward to watch the light flutter of Will's eyelids.

His breath still rattled, and the persistent gasps and wheezes for air worried her. "Beverly?" Deanna managed to get out. Her voice tight with emotion.

Her friend moved over and wrapped her arms around the shaking Betazoid. "He's out of danger, but we weren't able to effect full care to his injuries. Not in these conditions anyhow. He'll have a while to heal naturally I'm afraid. His throat is my main concern, but with some care and rehabilitation, I'm hoping there won't be too much in the way of damage." Her hands pulling up the blanket Jones had placed over his lower half. Covering him snugly up to his bandaged neck.

"He would be better under your care aboard your starship but I'm afraid the director has forbade him leaving this facility right now." Jones grumbled. Deanna's nod was only small but recognisable by the red haired doctor's glance.

A hand laid itself onto Deanna's shoulder, then Beverly's. A young lieutenant from the Enterprise beckoning them to a private corner. "I am sorry sirs, but the Captain has requested your return to the ship immediately." Crusher's offensive language making the young officer flinch at every word until he apologised and said once more, that it was the Captain's orders.

Deanna looked to Beverly at first, saying nothing, before looking back to Will as he lay on the medical table. Her heart beating for her to say no. To ignore the orders. To stay with him.

Only Beverly's calming hand could pull her away, towards the beam out point, and away from his battered body. Each time she pulled back, her red haired friend swore they'd return soon. Urging her onwards till they dematerialised away from the private hell of one Will Riker.


:::::: Ten :::::::

Picard leaned back in his ready room chair. A small headache beginning to throb between his eyes as he tried to cut through the entangled regulations, a maze of diatribe just to aid Will Riker.

Each time he took a dancing step forward he found himself being waltzed backwards again, sometimes even further back in negotiation from where he'd started. Even Doctor Crusher had been informed that her presence was no longer required on the planet. Soon after, orders were received from Starfleet Command to attend a rather rudimentary trip four days away, the lack of their Chief Medical officer was not an option. An excellent excuse for the Enterprise to be forced from orbit in Picard's mind.

"Mr. Data if you would please come to my ready room?" A weary Picard called out to the ceiling's communications network.

"Sir?" Data answered as he entered Picard's domain.

"Take a seat Data. I have a request of you. I need you to locate some information for me. But I want it kept off record." He watched Data twitch his head to the side in query. Picard handed him a small padd with two words upon it. "I need a location and possible means of contact, and urgently."

Data looked up at his captain and gave one quick nod. "Aye sir. I shall begin immediately." He paused before dismissing himself. "And I will keep it off record sir."

"Thank you Data." Picard said with relief in his voice. Dismissing his officer to lean back once more into his now uncomfortable chair. The prickle of what he was about to do, gnawing at his conscience with bites of guilt.


The room swam in and out of focus for Will as he cracked open bleary eyes to a half-lit room. It was warm in temperature, but the cold metal table beneath him did little to keep beads of sweat from trickling down his face. Their slow travel a distraction from the hum of pain ever present. Upon waking he'd tried moving his head only to find his throat in agony from the minute movements. It's throbbing reminder continued when he tried to croak out a groan. Nothing, not even a harsh squeak was issued from his cords, except excruciating pain.

"Ah, your awake." A male voice spoke. Somewhere near his left, as Will discerned the shadow leaning over him. His eyes still blurred. "I wouldn't suggest moving right now, not unless you want to find out first hand, of how bad your injuries really are." A gentle hand held his forearm down as Will's fingers began to move over his lower abdomen. "And that's going to hurt for a bit too." Jones's voice becoming more familiar as his consciousness cleared.

"W......." The strangled beginning of 'where' prompted Jones to place three fingers to Will's lips.

"Don't talk, we need your throat to heal. Let the swelling go down first, before you even consider having a short conversation. Push the buzzer if you need me." Jones lifted his patients hand from his belly to touch the medical alert badge pinned to his loose gown.

"You're in my medical bay for the nth time again Riker. You've got to make friends soon or believe me, we won't be able to resuscitate you again next time. Be thankful your Starfleet pals came by and saved you. That red haired girl even donated some medical stuff for your cause, though I hope after this little conversation, we won't be needing it." Jones paused while he issued a hypo, something he'd only dreamed of having in abundance on his medi request form.

"You should be feeling a little less pain in a moment. Your fever's going down." Wiping a hand over Will's damp forehead. "And we'll look at getting some fluids orally in a few more days. For now we're going to issue you nutrition shots. OK?" He watched Will's forehead cringe with foggy hatred. Making the doctor laugh. "Crusher said you'd do that. Get some sleep Riker. Johnson will be in later to check on you, poor lads been running raggered to find your attacker. Figure we've got him." Jones gave a hearty chuckle.

"Guess this means you may just be able to relax after all Riker." He said with mirth before giving Will another shot and exiting the bay. Will's eyes peripherally glossed over the surrounding room, his eyes closing in relief, as sleep removed him from the pain and humiliation.


Barhey sat slumped at his security station, more interested in the daily zero G games than his real job of watching a few thousand inmates. As Jones passed him he grunted out a deep snarl. "You fixed that Federation dog yet?"

"Barhey, I'll never understand how you got through the compassionate prison warder program." Shaking his head he ignored the hearty laugh from Barhey at Jones' reply, he headed down the corridor, ready to supply his patient with lunch. Seconds later after entering his room, he rushed back out. An expression of pure panic on his face.

"Barhey! Barhey! What the hell did you do with him?" He yelled at the surprised guard. Barhey sat there looking stunned, booted feet still propped up on the desk.

"Done what?" He said in a rather peeved voice. "I haven't done nuthing to your pet in there."

"Well someone has, he's gone, vamoosed, vanished!" He shrieked.

Barhey immediately slapped a security alarm, setting off the bright blue lighting within the base. Booted feet slamming their ways down the various corridors in search of their missing prisoner once more.


"I swear that man is more trouble than a teenage daughter. Who'd you get to off him anyway?" The director spun in his chair to query his associate.

"No one." The man shrugged. "Not this time. The hit in the shower was my man, and was shortly, after Johnson tracked him down, stored in permanent isolation in cubicle J ever since. No way this is our man. What about your source who paid to whack him?"

"No. No not him, but just maybe I know who. Damn them!" The words brought an almost frightened look to the Directors face as he released how soon his career maybe ending. The escape of a prisoner had never been heard of before in the history of Penal Col 9, and be damned if he was going to wear that first case. "Get hold of his ship, The what's it called? Enterprise? Yes. Enterprise. Call that damn Captain and demand we get our man back. NOW!" He screamed. The smaller man hurrying off in a scurry, leaving the Director to sweat until he faced the bald captain once more.


"I assure you Sir, we do not have Will Riker aboard our ship. Nor have we been instrumental in his retrieval from your complex." Picards stern words match the venomous stare of his hazel eyes. "But I do suggest you find him Director. I believe his recent injuries would be a concern to both you and ourselves. Should he die under your incarceration, I shall make sure you never work in a high authoritarian area again."

The prison director seemed to deflate a little, almost cowering at Picard's exchange. "I am sorry to accuse you Captain. But you have been trying to release your man for quite sometime through legal channels, and with no luck so far. Desperation can be a dangerous playmate."

"And William Riker's release is and will be soon Director, once we clear through some of your government's red tape. I suggest you look hard, and quickly Director, unless you require the help of the Federation within your walls?"

"Not necessary Captain, searches are already underway as we speak, I'd just like to request a search of your vessel if you'd be so kind?" The director prompted.

"A waste of time director. Our ship is already two days from your location. We left orbit as soon as our man was stable in your primitive medical bay, on course to an emergency mission. Could we of orchestrated such an escape? I think not Director. I suggest you look elsewhere. Picard out." Ending the conversation with the bloated prison director, Picard felt like slamming something up against a wall, but instead directed his anger into a hard downward tug of his uniform tunic.

"Mr. Data, please meet me in my ready room." He called out to the ceiling, instantly heading for his replicator requesting a pot of hot earl grey tea.

"Sir." Data replied, entering the ready room.

"We need to make a course change. But firstly I want you to locate any shipping trails in the last few hours from the Traskaliians moon, Benattle Prime." He ordered, sipping gently on his tea.

"Aye sir." Data about to leave paused.

"Problem Data?" Picard inquired.

"I was wondering if this has anything to do with the last search you had me run sir." Data cocked his head to the side.

"Maybe Mr. Data, maybe." Picard sighed.


:::::: Eleven :::::::

"Lie still." A whispered voice commanded. "And keep quiet."

Breathing hard just from being moved, made it impossible to resist the command. As Will Riker tried as hard as possible to block out the burning pain of his throat, not to mention his buzzing head, he tried his utmost not to cry out. The metallic tang of a sedative laced his tongue, leaving it's fuzzy after effects lingering in his bones too.

Somehow he'd been removed from the med room during his deep sleep. The constant sweet smell of oxygen, enriched with the calmative gas of the prison, no longer taunted his nose. Wherever he was his unfocused vision was unable to discern any details, the interior windowless, cutting off any chance of guessing his location. Apart from the gloomy darkness, he did believe he was lying in the back of some kind of cargo transport. The rough ride along with the scratch and dings on the outside of the vehicle gave away that they weren't in space, but on land somewhere. And somewhere ruggered enough to be void of hoverpower or level roadways.

The jostlings had woken him, making him call out in strangled gasp of pain, his painful gasps heralding the first visit from his mysterious captor. The hazy man now leaning over him, having issued his orders to keep quiet, soon left and closed the door once more, leaving him in darkness again. The crunch of retreating feet upon gravel confirming his off road location. Dust tickling his throat brought him back from his muddle-headed musings. Fearing his throat would tear open from just one small cough, Will tried to swallow back the sharp dryness, gained from the fresh gust of cold air and dust outside of the travelling unit. Trying to still his aching throat, he could hear people talking outside of the transport, almost too personal and casual to be dangerous. The light tones and mild laughs muffled but clear enough to hear that the strangers knew one another. Goodbyes and thank you's were heard, followed by the vessel's mild rocking and locking of door clasps. His mysterious captor was now present at the controls and soon the vehicle continued along the road.

It seemed like ages to Will, though only minutes, till he was awoken by a sharp burst of light and large hands pulling his lethargic body to the mystery man's chest. Cold air circling his form, made him shiver as contact with the warm blankets fell away. The man was big, but he still grunted with the effort to move Will from the hover car. The blurry shape easily identifiable now that his head hung up side down as his abductor navigated the front steps.

Feeling himself slipping, and well before he could make a sound, he was jerked back into place, whipsnaking his body full of pain as his healing injuries jarred. He cried out as best he could through swollen tissue, the pain making him finally black out soon after he felt the coolness of clean sheets meeting his flimsy gown clad body.


"Hello?" A woman's voice echoed around the house. A sweet voice with a little huskiness to it. Receiving no reply, the woman in her late 30s passed through the front door, unlatching the fly screen and making her way gingerly into the hallway.

Hearing a strangled groan from her left, she turned into the nearest bedroom and spied a form twisted into the light sheets, head turned deep into the pillows, obviously in distress.

Racing forward she dropped her covered basket to the floor and flung aside the man's sheets after untangling them from his sweaty skin. Pushing aside the cover from her basket she fished out her battered medikit, the Federation symbol flashing in the bright sun, glinting through the side windows.

Her patient squeaked out a groan again, his face paling as his voice tried to rumble in his swollen throat. A pressure pad was still wrapped around it, and the remains of other bandages where elsewhere too. "Geez, what the hell did I get myself into now." She mumbled as she scanned her patient and whistled low as the readouts flashed out the various readings. "You're burning up my little man." She murmured before dropping her medicorder onto the side table.

"Little man?" A voice asked.

"Gee zus Tom! Scare the hell out of me why don't you?" The young woman shrieked, one hand held over her rapidly beating heart, the other twitching over the fire button of her phaser. It was only a small stun-fixed hand phaser, but still had enough power to send Klingons to dream land. Pocketing it back into her jeans she blew away some of the fine blonde hair from her eyes.

"You alright?" Tom asked, a large grin on his face.

"I will be if you stop frightening the hell out of me. Why the hell didn't you answer before?" She demanded.

"I was asleep on the couch." He replied sheepishly, his hair still ruffled, sure proof he was telling the truth.

"Right." She rolled her eyes. "Well don't just stand there, open a window and draw those curtains, that sun's not helping to cool your brother down. And another thing, why didn't you tell me you were twins?"

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa Laura! Enough with the third degree OK?" He grinned hands up in the air in surrender as he made his way to open the window. Letting the window panes swing open, a cool draft of mountain air filled the room, the wispy curtains thrown into his face until he snagged them closed and moved back to beside the tall blonde, the one with the wicked fire in her eyes. "How is he?"

"Running a high fever. I wish you'd have told me how bad he was. I wouldn't have waited till the end of my shift." She rumbled through the box and pulled out a hypo, issuing a dose of antibiotics and painkiller.

"He didn't seem that bad earlier." Tom scratched his short bearded chin.

"Infections can move fast Tom. Here.." She handed him a plastic bowl "fill this with warm water and bring me a towel."

"Pregnant?" Tom jibed until she threatened to spear him with her eyes.

"Now Tom." She ground out as she peeled back the sheets over Will Riker further till his bare bruised legs showed. She sighed heavily at her charge and began by removing his damp gown first followed then by the various bandages till he was completely naked. Ugly red tendrils of infection crawling along what seemed to be a surgical slit along his abdomen. "Damn." She muttered as she sorted through the rest of her basket until she found the few old pottery jars she was after, hidden on the bottom of course.

Tom returned in full motion until he saw his brother bare assed and spread-eagle naked. "Couldn't wait to get his clothes off could you?" He winked until she turned and threw her sponge into the bowl, splashing him lightly, before wiping down her patient in a quick matronly fashion till he was scrubbed clean. Next she grabbed one of her jars and a spoon, pouring some of the thick oatmeal like substance out into a smaller bowl. Coating a small spatula, she applied the gooey substance to each bruise, scrap and laceration she could find.

"You know, if you were going to throw mud on him, why bother washing him." Tom quipped as he watched her efficient care.

Ignoring him, Laura wiped her hands on another clean towel and only then smiled up at him. "Siamese twins, who would of thought. And I believed one Riker was enough in this galaxy."

"I can agree with that. Tea?" He asked changing subject. "I've got some Malx Vulnar from Celta Nine? Or did you want to stay here and ogle my other self?" He waggled his brows, the small white scar over his left eyebrow glinting in the sunlight.

"The unscarred one? Nah, seen enough damage and neglect to make me sick for a long time. What the hell happened to him? Or don't I want to ask?" She paused.

Tom sighed and ran a hand along his long plait of hair. "He got into trouble. What more can I say. He's a Riker." He shrugged his shoulders.

"What kind of trouble Tom?" She pushed as she grabbed a new set of sheets from the cupboard and placing a thin white sheet over their current subject of discussion. "We're ex-Maquis Tom, you can tell me anything, but no lies."

"Alright." He mumbled. "He kind of killed a Klingon, a big one, on the ship while in the orbit of Benattle Prime. It was an accident but as you know their laws..."

"State that a kill is murder regardless of reason. I know. Self defence isn't a word in their damn low IQ'd vocabulary." She looked back to Will Riker and squinted for a moment. "So he was dragged from his ship and Starfleet did nothing? For such a well decorated officerŠFirst officer..right?"

"Right. Problem is he killed the security chief who was his friend for over ten years. Seems he was bugging a long time girlfriend of ours, and well.. Billy boy here couldn't keep his jealousy intact. Something to do with holodeck frivolity, some duel of something where the Klingon got it right through the chest. Will here took the guilt upon himself and well kind of sealed the charge himself. Starfleet doesn't help those who don't want it." Tom had begun to pace, his anger burning brightly in his eyes.

"So how did you get into this then? Thought I remember you saying something about never placing yourself a quadrant closer to him. Family genes kick in and make you sentimental?" She jibed, moving to his side and placing a hand to his shoulder, halting his pacing till he looked her in the eye. "But first lets do this some place else, he needs rest, lots of it." Tom nodded at her request and wandered back into the sparsely furnished living room.

Laura watched him as he sunk into the couch as if a heavy burden lay there on his shoulder. "Being such a model officer and friend to the so called great Picard, his captain fought for his release, right up till Will here was bludgeoned and strangled to an inch of his life. Picard's last attempt in retrieval through the legal system had been knocked back. That's when he tracked me down and asked a favour ." He smiled.

"Boy he must have been desperate." Laura rolled her eyes.

Tom ignored her jibe. "They'd just witnessed Will's last beating from the fellow inmates, and wondered why he'd been unsupervised considering the past threats. While there, I did a little reconnaissance and found some interesting data, well recorded it actually." He dug his hand into his baggy trousers and pulled a chip out of his pocket. Laura caught it one hand and eyed him back after turning the item over in her hand. "It was all staged by the director of the correctional facility. Every word recorded there ready for Will's release."

"Then why haven't you passed it over?" She yelled. "He's in pain Tom. He needs a proper doctor, not some two bit Maquis field medic!"

"Calm down will you?" He spat back, moving forward to the edge of the couch to throw his face into his hands. "It's not that easy Laura." He whispered. "And another thing," raising his head he looked her in the eye. "You're not a two bit medic. You're anything but."

Laura sighed and unfolded her arms, a minute later she found herself sitting next to him on the couch. "Then tell me why before I send out a mysterious call to his captain."

"Not now Laura." He paused "Just give me some time, please? I know he needs help, but right now it isn't safe. How do we know that prison director was the top man behind wanting to off Will? Why didn't Starfleet put up more muscle for their "poster recruitment" officer." He sighed again, looking to the floor for answers. "Something's not right Laura, and I don't want him offed as soon as he's back in the limelight. He's my brother, the one family member who truly who understands who I am. And I'm not about to leave him stranded, even if in a way he left me." The latter almost a whisper as his mind rattled away for reasons.

He felt her hand on his shoulder, soon followed by a sweet kiss to his cheek. "Now I know why I keep following you and your hair brain schemes." He smiled at her words and gave her a big grin before exchanging kisses with her soft lips.

"I take it you're going to have to get back to work soon?" He enquired.

"Yeah. I'm late as it is right now." She smiled almost as an apology. "I'll leave you some guidelines to do with looking after him, and bring up some more food tomorrow. Casey's going to have my head if I skip work this week." She groaned.

"Tracey away again?" Tom asked chuckling.

"Yeah. Ran off with her bikie boyfriend again. Then again I'm just as bad." Laura winked at Tom, remembering the times they'd had in the past. The fact that she'd ended up in the same town as one of Tom's safehouses', was nothing just short of a miracle. Or as Tom believed, not a miracle just pure damnable woman instinct to track men till they gave up. Ex-lovers. A scary thing indeed.

Being ex-Maquis, they still kept up their friendship even though Tom was usually half way across the alpha Quadrant doing some kind of mercenary work. Thanks to Starfleet's sealed files on Tom's creation, most people didn't even know he existed. The perfect merc, untraceable and basically non-existent. And that was how he wanted it kept, having no idea of how many enemies his brother may of made on his behalf over the years.

Giving Tom a quick kiss she handed him a padd that she'd entered a few things onto. "Read and apply. Simple enough." She grinned, flipping a bit of hair behind one ear. "Got to go Tom. See you!" She called before hurrying out.

A second later her head popped back around the corner spying him reading the padd. "Oh. One more thing. Keep him hydrated and don't let him get up for the toilet unaided. Bye!" And vanished before Tom could groan.

"Great." He mumbled as he tried to cut out the vision of him holding his own, but someone else's penis in his hand.


:::::: Twelve :::::::

He felt hot and damp, and a little close to hell for his liking. Swallowing hard on a dry sore throat, Will croaked out a profanity, his throat screaming for him to stop. Trying to block the pain, he focused on another discomfort, his bladder. Finally after some time had passed, and the fire within his throat had calmed, he opened his blurry eyes to spy his almost empty room. With an insistent bladder, he began pulling back the sheets from his sticky body, leaving behind a nasty mess of scented mud on the white linen.

Will had only just gotten his head a few centimetres from the pillow when the dazzling dash of dizzy and nausea closed in. Putting his head back down he blinked slowly until the room stopped spinning and he felt his clogged head clear a little. Summoning up what little strength he had, he got himself upright to the edge of the bed for a few minutes until the world swayed and the floor came drastically close to his nose.

Bare millimetres away from the wooden floorboards, Will felt hands holding him, his invisible saviour. Before he could lift his heavy head, the world moved and spun till he found himself barely standing, one arm slumped over someone's shoulder and an arm tightly grasped around his waist, holding him upright from his slouch. He was shaking hard, not just from the goosebump forming cold, but from the simple strain of trying to keep from falling. Turning his gaze up from the floor, Will stared at his protector with great shock.

"Let me guess...bathroom?" Tom chuckled.

Will took a minute for the question to sink in before he nodded with urgency. The long trail to the toilet facilities was short for a normal healthy being, but Will's body was still badly injured. Each step was more a dragging crawl on Tom's behalf as they neared the sparse bathroom. His breath harsh and raspy, Will was finally glad to slump on the toilet seat, realising for the first time that he was nude, except for the messy poultice mud.

He looked up to see Tom resting on the edge of the bath catching his breath too, giving him a wry smile before he began to slump off the porcelain seat.

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Now where do you think your going?" Tom asked grabbing him, before picking him up and turning him around to face the facilities. "OK. Here's where I leave you. I'll hold you up but..."

Finished and free of the pain in his bladder, Will slumped further until Tom dragged him gently as possible into the shower bay, lying him up against the tiled wall and setting the water to flow at a gentle speed. The memory of water and pain flashing distress across Will's features till Tom cooed him to relax.

"Damn well never thought I'd be a nurse." Tom grinned as he set about washing off the mud as his patient tried to bat him away for the umpteenth time. Clean and dried they made their way back to the bedroom, Tom leaving Will to rest and recover in the one chair that did exist in the room, as he changed the linen. "Laura said she'd be back later tomorrow to check on your health, but for now you've got me." He smiled as Will raised an eyebrow at him.

"Guess you want to know how you got here?" He asked, waiting for the slow painful nod. "Quite plainly, I rescued you. Guess your kind of AWOL from the prison system right now, and of course Starfleet. But it's damn well healthier for you in the long run." He winked with a smile until he saw the anger fuming on Will's face.

"Damn bast..." He squeaked out before slamming his eyes closed and holding his throat tight. He was shaking in agony by the time Tom got to his side; slamming a hypo to his throat and reducing the inflammation and pain.

Once Will was able to breathe again without wanting to die, Tom squatted down before him, balancing on the balls of his feet. "It was for the best Will." He said sincerely. "But if you try to do that again, we won't need to get your name cleared. Just a coffin and a nice plot of earth next to mum."

Watching and waiting for Will to get over his burst of anger, Tom finally offered a hand to Will pulling him up onto his wobbly feet to sway back to bed. Before he collapsed into another deep sleep Will's eyes held Tom's, letting him know the only way he could, that he was thankful for his help. Before Tom's could reply the glassy blues closed, and the musical deep breathing began once more.


Laura rushed into the small cafe grocery store, hurriedly pulling wet hair back into a ponytail. Instantly drawing attention from Casey, her wrinkled old boss. "Your late again Laura, what's that friend of yours had you up to hmm?"

"Just a tasteful dinner Casey, nothing more." She smiled, glad that someone was at least concerned about her well being even if it was by a 60 year old, sometimes cantankerous shop owner.

"Sure sure. Dinner my barnacles. Serve table eight will you? Lady's been awaiting a tea all morning." Although he seemed hard ruled, Casey had a hidden softness that crept into his voice at occasion, just like now.

"Sure Casey." Laura replied taking the small pot and cup from his over burdened drinks bench, careful not to dislodge any of the freshly brewed coffees she was no doubt due to move next. Moving to the table she wondered how Tom had survived the night with his brother, no call was good news she surmised, placing the drinkware down in front of the petit woman.

"Sorry about the delay." Laura said as she arranged the cup and poured out some of the tea. "Anything else to go with your hot drink?"

The lady rose her beautiful face and gave a warm smile. "No thank you. The tea will be fine for thawing out my bones."

"I take it your not from around here." Laura grinned as she watched the woman pulled her warm jacket closer together, warm gloves and hat by her side on the bench seat.

"Oh definitely not. I'm actually up here looking for customer." The lady replied, one hand moving to a small box. "I've a delivery to make, some French wine. Maybe you could help me?"

Laura looked behind her to see Casey was busy, obviously not aware she hadn't returned back to the counter to retrieve the other coffees yet. "Ah sure, but I'll have to be quick." She smiled.

"Of course, sorry, I'm looking for a tall man about 6 to 7 foot tall, blue eyes, beard?" The lady tapped the box again. "I'm in big trouble if I don't deliver this to him. I just wish it wasn't snowing so much." She smiled bashfully.

Laura tried not to swallow hard, slamming a Tom Riker poker face in place. She'd learnt from the best of how to hide the minutest trace of recognition. Hoping her eyes hadn't betrayed her she smiled back. "No fraid not. We could hold over the box for you though if you like. If he does pass by we could hand it over to him. Remove you of your burden."

The ladies eyes twinkled. "Actually that would be wonderful. I can't wait to get warm again. It's for a Mr. Riker. Please be sure to call me if he doesn't collect it after a few days." Handing over a card, Laura perused the name and call details.

"Not a problem Anna. I'll store it out back for safety." Retrieving the heavy box from the ladies hands, she swiftly made a courteous goodbye and went back to serving. All the while working hard at both her poker face and churning stomach.


A few hours later and the lady had removed herself from the cafe booth, heading back into the light snow fall. Laura finally giving up a huge sigh, sat down heavily.

"You tired Laura? Need a rest? Have a seat out the back for 10 minutes." Casey winked, thinking she'd been up to other things than dinner for her tired appearance.

"Thanks Casey." grabbing the wine box, she took it out back placing it gently onto a bench in the store area. Grabbing a knife she sliced open the packaging and peered in to view the contents. Nothing unusual to the eye, she thought. Her shoulder bag was slung over the back door hook, shuffling through the content she pulled out a small scanner and began running it over the wine and box, searching for tracking bugs or anything irregular. With a heavy groan she sat down onto the stool and dropped her head into her hands.

"One day I've got to stop suspecting people." She moaned to herself as she placed the scanner to the side and finally held up one of the wine bottles, admiring the deep red of the liquid.

"Maybe Tommy does subscribe to the wine club after all." she chuckled to herself. Re-sealing the box, she then checked her chrono. Four more hours till she finished work. "Tom's going to owe me a glass of this." She sighed putting away her scanner and setting the box near her bag for later. "Back to work you lazy girl." She said in her best Casey imitation.


Deanna tried not to sneeze for the thousandth time that day, as she sat inside her transport pod peering out from the iced patched viewscreen. She'd been here already four hours since the blonde woman had given her connection to Riker away. Her poker face was so good it had to of been taught by the best, but her emotions had been the big giveaway. To Deanna the woman's heart was thumping louder that a Klingon beating his chest when she'd mentioned Riker's description.

Wondering how she was going to approach the man she'd shunned for his actions, she almost missed the slim figure running through the snow from the cafe to the hover bike. She had the box secured to the back of the bike in no time, along with another heavy bag she slung over her back. Sitting back to make sure the coast was clear, Deanna brought up the tracking device she'd planted, having seen Laura on the same bike earlier that day, moving off in pursuit of her rabbit.


:::::: Thirteen :::::::

Tom sat in the big comfy arm chair by Will's bed, watching as his brother slept fitfully, forcing him to shuffle forward to the edge of the chair, to placing a concerned hand to his forehead.

"Your still feverish." He swore softly, stretching his long legs by finally standing, heading for the bowl Laura had used earlier for his bed bath. Finding the green plastic bowl in the kitchen, he poured cold water into it, along with a clean sponge. Instead of returning directly to Will's room he moved off through the front doors and admired the horizon, watching the wind whip sheets of snow off the covered mountains surrounding him. Taking a deep breathe of the frigid air he truly felt himself alive, glad he'd bought this house off the old man.

Looking around, Tom admired the surrounding blanket of snow surrounding his dad's old fishing cabin, and bent down to a snow drift, scooping up some of the snow and tossing it into the bowl to melt with the water. Before turning back he viewed the treelined walkway down to the lake, silently hoping that when Will recovered they'd both be able to use it's tranquil setting as a way of finally talking to each other.

Sighing and hoping wasn't going to do jack shit unless Will recovered he thought. Storming back into the cabin after knocking the snow from his boots he sat back down beside Will, and gently rested the cold sponge against his brothers' forehead drawing a deep strangled groan from Will at it's frigid touch.

"Hey, it's OK Will. Just trying to cool you down." Tom said soothingly. "We've run out of hypos for now, so I guess your left with me and snow." He grinned to himself, knowing full well Will wasn't up to communicating right now.

They'd developed a system. One clenched fist meant no, two clenched fists meant yes. Tom had implemented it when Will, if not drained of energy, kept getting dizzy from shaking and nodding his head. Concussion, Laura had said.

Right now Will wasn't up to anything. Tom pulled back the sheets, after unbending some clenched fingers first, to expose the worst of his injuries, checking for infection again. A mottled collection of purple and yellow bruises dotted his pale skin, carpeting him from head to toe. Laura had issued some hypos to reduce the chance of blood clots forming, but still Tom was worried. He'd seen what a simple clot from a bruise could do to a man while in the Cardassian prison camp. Something so benile, and yet so deadly.

"Get a hold of yourself Tom." He muttered to himself. "He's strong he can take it." Chastising himself for being so caring, Tom threw a hard demeanour onto his face in hope of erasing the soft attitude of before and pulled the sheets back after checking each blot. If he'd shown this compassion back in the prison camp he would of been no doubt beaten and raped hundred of times. His aggressive front the only way he'd survived the incarceration until the Dominion War had broken out. Since then Mercenary work had been easy to pick up, and Starfleet was too busy trying to patch up their defensive holes rather than send out men after someone that in their low-level files didn't exist. Hell, if the cardies weren't chasing him, how dangerous could Tom Riker be in their eyes. He chuckled to himself as he thought of the Fleet Brass brushing him away under the carpet like loose lint. Out of sight out of mind.

The hum of a hover engine approaching caught his ears, making him stand and pull the phaser out from the back of his trousers, where he'd last jammed it of course. Slamming up against the wall beside the front door he waited for first the crunching of booted feet on the snow, then the squeak of the fly screen door opening.

Breathing a sigh of relief, he dropped the phaser back down, once he saw the familiar blonde head peer around at him. "Worried I was a Cardie hunting squad?" She joked.

"With that hair and body, no way." He grinned. Giving a nod to the box and bag thrust over her shoulder, he changed subject. "So what have you got there? I hope it's medicine, Will's sinking back again."

"Damn." Laura muttered. "Well this is for you, or him, I think, or oh hell it could even be for your father for all know." She rolled her eyes and dumped the wine box into his hands before moving straight into Will's room.

"Ah Laura honey, what are you doing accepting strange packages on the behalf of me?" His eyes skimming the area outside the house through the still open front door.

"I checked it Tom. Bug free. It's wine." She shrugged, busy reading her scanner. "Some young woman was after a tall blue eyed guy. Said I'd hold it till he turned up so she wouldn't freeze to death waiting in Casey's 'too cheap to turn up the heat' cafe."

"Name, description?" Tom enquired, placing the box on the end of the bed, making sure it was out of Will's foot reach. But before she could answer, something outside banged against the wall, sending them into a flurry of activity.

Tom grabbed his phaser and barrelled out the door, leaving Laura to cover Will before she had a chance to halt him. Hauling out her hidden phaser from her bag, Laura moved to the far corner of the room watching over the windows and doorway until minutes later Tom returned, a slight dusting of snow covering his shoulders and head.

"Nothing but snow, snow and more snow covered, and a few blastered squirrels." He muttered as he holstered his phaser again. Laura slumped a little and threw her phaser onto the bed, letting her heart beat quieten. Holding out a hand, she accepted Tom's warm grasp as he pulled her up and towards Will again. Administering another hypo, she smiled as Will's temperature dropped once more, his wheezing becoming quieter as time passed.

Focused now on the box again, Tom opened it to view the contents, smiling at the label. "Well I know who this came from without even opening the card." He said with a sly look on his face, turning the label towards her.

"Chateau Picard, Pinot Noir. Hmmm sounds nice. So tell me, who sent it?" Laura said innocently.

Tom slapped his face playfully and rolled his eyes. "You sure you were in the intelligence division? .... Chateau Picard?" His eyebrows raised in a prompting motion.

Laura shook her head. "Yeah yeah I got it. Nice benefactor you got there Tom." She shook her head and ignored the look he was giving her. "I've got some warm soup in a thermos in there." She pointed to her bag. "Can you get a small cup and pour some out for me? I want to wake and feed him. He needs some protein. The nutritional shots are doing nothing for him." She surmised as she ran her fingers along the light ridges of ribs showing through his lean side.

Giving up, he dropped the bottle once more into the box and shifted it to the floor. "Sure. Want me to feed him?" Tom called back, going off to search the kitchen for a suitable cup for the infirmed.

"No that's fine. Anyway, I think he needs a feminine touch by now don't you think?" She winked once he'd returned. "Has he been using the toilet?" She added, halting his reply.

"Yeah." Tom confirmed. "No blood. All clear." He answered having followed her instructions on the padd to check his urine for discharges.

"OK wake up prince charming, time for something warm and edible." Laura whispered into Will's ear, ignoring Tom's ribald comment. She watched as slithers of blue appeared. Confusion and exhaustion laying across his face like a clay mask. Figuring that Will's angle was hopeless for feeding she started to worm her hands under his side and shoulders, cradling his head against her chest. "Tom, help me sit him up, I'm likely to drown him like this." Laura said, grunting with the effort of trying to lift Will's reclined body.

Placing the cup and thermos down onto the side table Tom grabbed his brother, regardless of the weak thrashings, and gently pulled him upright till Laura had his pillows piled up behind him. Now upright, Will gazed around at his aggressors, Tom's hands holding him steady, while his teeth clenched in anger. "Hey relax. Everything's OK." Realising he wasn't being attacked, Will raised a shaking hand in an OK gesture, even though he still eyed Tom warily. Confusion as to his whereabouts spun madly around his mind, his anger for a lack of communication was exhibited in his frowning features.

"Feed time Will." Tom smiled pulling away to lean up against the wall as Laura placed the cup by his lips, encouraging him to take small swallows. The first few attempts seemed to be hopeless, more dribbling down his chin than in, but after a few more tries he managed to swallow with some small degree of pain.

His helpers, fully unaware of the small face peering in, kept up their encouraging banter for Will's sake. The small face, hiding from behind the thin curtains of the window behind them, widening in shock.


Deanna stopped her vehicle a few metres away once she saw her target slow and head up a short driveway. Making sure she was fully covered, Deanna tugged up on her warm jackets zipper again from fear of the cold and carefully got her footing under her once she stepped out of the hover vehicle. Moving up to the log cabin via the cover of thick pine trees, she spied another hover vehicle beside the bike that the woman from the cafe had ridden.

Deciding not to chance a look inside it, she moved straight onto the cabin, finding a less damp and snowy position under a window. She's had to circle in from behind the house in case they noticed any foot prints she may of made in the feathery snow. Squatting under the open window she could hear voices. Two. A male and a female.

"Sure. Want me to feed him?" She heard. It sounded just like Will. And this cabin was so familiar she could of sworn she'd seen it in one of his fishing holopics. But Will? Why would he be feeding someone else? According to Beverly, he'd still be pretty ill unless he'd already had specialised care by now.

The female voice responded to Will's earlier question, the tone matching the blonde haired woman she'd followed perfectly. Curiosity getting the better of her, Deanna decided to try and look through the window. If it was Will, how much danger could she be in anyway? With her mind elsewhere her footing gave way as she slipped on an ice patch landing square on her behind; the tricorder banging up against the side of the house, drawing motion from inside.

Scurrying away across a slightly cleared foot path, she hid behind a small grove of pines, hoping the large man who rounded the corner couldn't see her. Luckily for her, the trail of light footprints she suspected were on the path were non-existent giving her a small chance of escape from the wary eyes. Waiting a while, eyes downcast in hope he hadn't seen her, she finally looked up and caught a glimpse of a large shape moving back into the house.

Sighing with relief she waited a while before moving back, trying not to shiver from the wet mush of snow she now stood in. Standing, and being careful this time, she pulled herself upright to the window sill to peer into the room from behind the thin curtains, nearly gasping in shock.


:::::: Fourteen :::::::

Laura wiped Will's mouth and chin clean from the excess soup and smiled as he blushed. His inability to feed himself, was creating a large lagoon of embarrassment for him to swim in. "Well, you managed two cups, that's not bad for a first go." She smiled. "I'm Laura by the way. A friend of Tom's. I never knew you looked so much alike." She grinned before moving forward to place a kiss on his cheek. Will's eyes following her around the room, trying to remember her, to see if he had met her in the past.

"Hey, stop playing with the patient." Tom moaned.

Laura laughed and patted Will on the shoulder lightly. "Jealousy, his worst trait." Before standing up from her chair and handing back the empty cup to Tom. "Let him sleep if he wants to, otherwise, you might want to try another toilet trip. And I suggest you clean this place up Tom. The dust in here is just waiting to cause a nasty bacterial infection." She mused as she looked around.

"Anything else my liege? Shall I prepare dinner perhaps?" He gave a mock bow.

Laura halted a laugh behind the back of her hand. "Nope. Not unless you hate what I brought from the cafe though." Grabbing her bag, she winked at Will and moved into the living room, Tom soon following in a hurry, giving a quick gesture to Will first, indicating that he'd be back soon.

Will laid back heavily into his pillows, after they'd barrelled out of his room, leaving him for the first time in days coherent and aware of his surroundings. Still sitting upright he brought up a shaking hand to his throat and touched the scabbed over abrasions, feeling for the first time the swollen mass from the outside rather than in. Swallowing still hurt like hell, not to mention his breathing was still a little painful, though the wheeze was nearly gone.

His side ached, and yes there were a million bruised muscles all shouting for attention as he sat forward. But still his bladder was calling, and damned if he was going to have Tom mopping up after him. Never the less he couldn't even squeak out a small murmur without the pain of his throat making him want to throw up.

The soup was travelling fast now, and his bladder urged him on the longer he sat there considering the long distance to the bathroom. Gritting his teeth he pulled himself to the edge of the bed, sliding long mottled legs to the floor. He was already aching and shivering by the time his head had stopped spinning. Swallowing heavily to keep back bile, he nearly cried out at the action, until a small white hand graced his shoulder, and a feeling of elation encompassed his mind, taking away some of the pain.

<Imzadi> The word whispered through his mind before he even realised he'd done it. The white hand soon squeezed encouragement before the owner bent down to face him, even as he still continued to stare at the floor. As soon as recognition flared in his eyes, she placed a finger to his lips to hush him and smiled. Hearing booted feet returning down the corridor, she let go of him and flattened herself against the wall by the door, drawing her phaser.

"Geez Will, what the hell do your think your doing?" Tom ground out seeing his brother about to fall flat on his face again. The cold point of a phaser at his neck halting his next line of words.

"I think he needs the bathroom."

The sweet voice belonging to the hands holding the phaser at his neck was a long way from what he thought was behind him. Grinning, Tom chuckled. "Well I'll be...Deanna." Turning slowly he backed away from her, raising his hands once Will was stable and upright again.

"Tom." Deanna said flatly. "Might of known you'd be mixed up in this. Who's the girl? Lover or accomplice?" She had him pegged, he had to give her that.

Tom laughed. "Merc. But with a great...Whoa Will whoa!" Tom spun into action and grabbed the falling body of Will Riker once more. "Hey can we play twenty questions later? I need to get him to the bathroom or he'll try to do it himself." Not waiting for an answer he picked Will up in his arms and carried him down the corridor in a hurry. "Damn stubborn Riker." He strained, once he'd deposited him at his destination. Will was shivering at this point having been removed from his warm bed and dumped into the coldest part of the house naked. Grabbing a towel he wrapped it around Will's shoulders and shuffled out to leave the man some privacy. "What the hell are you doing here?" He asked finding Deanna right behind him. Pushing her back outside of the facilities, while one hand closed the door behind him.

"Tom? You alright, or are you still swearing at my 'Casey leftovers'." Laura's voice asked.

"Nope, we've got company." His voice sounding exhausted.

Facing back down the corridor Deanna saw a body whip out into the corridor heavily armed and ready to fight. "Hey, Laura! Hold off alright?" Tom's hand waving an all-clear. "She's safe, well at least I think so." He scratched his head.

"The cafe lady?" Tom enquired to Laura.

"Yep. The cafe lady." She sighed and gave a weak smile. "Boy am I glad you're not a Cardie. I'd have to pack in my Merc membership card." Laura seemed to stare for a minute until the next words nearly floored Tom. "Your his dream girl, right?"

An awkward silence developed between the pair till a loud thump against the wall of the bathroom broke Tom into a dead panic, flying inside the small room to see Will propped up against the basin. Another bar of soap was in his hand ready to follow the other bar he'd thrown at the wall. Shaking with the force of holding himself up, the towel now wrapped around his waist and a sneer of impatience was plastered across his face. Tom realised his trustee had gotten annoyed with the waiting.

"Sorry Will. Got delayed." He said slipping in under the proffered arm that Will raised, and helped him wander to the door. "I've got to warn you before we move through this door, I think we're in trouble...we've got two fiery woman with weapons." He said mock seriously. Finding his charge silent, no doubt still too painful to talk with the damage as he'd seen, but Tom didn't expect an answer when he walked through the door.

"He said you should be more gallant towards me." Deanna spoke up. "And he'd like to sit down in a chair, dressed for once, not back in bed." She smiled when Tom's grin appeared in understanding. Walking Will into the living room he carefully shuffled him along until the comforting softness of the large padded arm chair engulfed his form.

"Ah? Am I missing something?" Laura asked, hints of wary creeping into her voice. Her phaser still tightly gripped in her hand. Her firing arm taught even though she held it dangling at her side.

Tom tapped his temple and smiled. "Call it a handy link for the untalkative."

"Oh geez. A Betazoid." Laura groaned, spearing Tom with a look of 'you'll pay later for this'.

"I'm connected to Will only, Laura. Your safe. I don't read minds." Her relaxed tone making Laura finally release the tension in her shoulders a little. "And in the state he's in, I'd say he's very happy that I'm here to finally convey some of his requests." She moved to sit on the arm of the chair, one hand moving away a lock of hair until he grabbed her hand and gazed into her eyes with fury.

< So you want to play make up now? Is that what you want? I killed your lover Deanna, you should be leaving me here to rot instead of fawning over me. >

"Hey!" Tom called out seeing the ferocity in his face and the gasp Deanna let out.

"No. It's alright Tom." Deanna said, Will turning his face away from her first. "Will still has some issues to work out. And when he's ready I'll be here." She watched Tom nod and take a step backwards into the arm crossed stance of Laura.

"I'll get some food warmed up then. I'm afraid it's not the best...?" She gestured to Deanna.

"Deanna." She smiled softly.

"Deanna." Laura repeated. "It's just left overs from the cafe or Will's consume." She shrugged, finally letting a small smile creep back onto her face.

"By the looks of Will's pouting lip, I'd go for the left overs." Tom jibed till Laura slapped him on the back.

"Right that's it, kitchen duty." She said grabbing an ear with forefinger and thumb, guiding him after her, Deanna's laugh making Will slouch further into his chair.

Coast clear, she moved round to crouch before him on the floor, watching his tormented body for a while, letting her eyes flit over the damage done. "I came back for you Will, because your intentions wasn't directed at Worf, it was directed at me. You loved me and cared for me enough to do something barbaric and primitive to sort it out. And because of me, your hurting..."

<It was an accident waiting to happen Deanna. We'd been smouldering over you for quite sometime. > He sent, interrupting her words and thought processes. She waited patiently for more that she knew would come. Since the day she'd seen him sitting under the tree, dressed in prison orange, she'd wanted to talk about this.

<The thing is, I still killed him, accident be damned. > His breathing was laboured, and his words staggered in his sending. Each visualised word an effort to send to her via his heart and the bond.

"And I still forgive you Imzadi." She lent forward and kissed him on his cold immovable lips. Aware that he was in need of a shave and trim. He stared at her with his watery blue eyes, until he blinked and released a frustrated tear down his cheek. Moving forward she hugged him as he buried his head into her chest.

<I am so sorry Deanna. >


:::::: Fifteen :::::::

<I am so sorry Deanna. >

"I know Will. And I'm not going to let you go back to that prison. Not if I can help it." She watched another tear trail down his face to meet the first, kissing the place tear free. Clasped in silent adoration, they soon pulled apart at the approaching rattle of crockery on Tom's tray.

Deanna wiped away the remaining evidence of Will's breakdown, before taking a finger and placing it under his chin to gently push his head up till he faced her. His eyes slowly opened into her own, now aware that she didn't hate him, and that she knew of the guilt he wrapped himself within daily.

"I'll need to get some more of that soup into you tonight Will." Tom apologised, knowing it was going to hurt the sensitive tissue of his brothers throat. Applying a hypo of pain killer, he hoped it would at least dull the sensation.

"I'll do it." Deanna offered. Accepting the bowl and spoon from the man she'd almost run away with many years ago. "Thank you Tom." She said, her eyes ensuring more than the simple words purveyed. She owed Tom a lot for saving her Imzadi, his opposition to the woman he no doubt still loved by Laura's comments earlier.

Will painfully consumed most of the soup till he raised a hand against the second last spoonful. <Hurts too much. > he sent tiredly.

She nodded her understanding and began to wipe away the excess around his beard. "Tom, do you think you could trim his beard for him? It'd be a lot easier than getting the soup out of it." She asked.

"Sure." He said getting up to find his own bags of supplies that he brought with him. On his way back a single thought hit him. "Deanna? Did you bring any extra clothing or medicine with you?"

Deanna slapped her head lightly. "Oh I nearly forgot." Starring out at the window she noticed it was dark already. "They're in my hover vehicle." She said, truly deflated by her loss of time.

"Don't worry, I'll get them. Have to hurry though. Bears start roving this time of night." Her widened eyes making him grin. "Hey I'll be fine, they don't like Riker meat, they much prefer Betazoids." he waggled his eyebrows and dropped his shaving kit by Deanna's side, before making off with her access key across the cold snowy night in high flight.

The house was silent with just the three of them in the living room now. Deanna communicated with Will via the link and Laura watched, perched on a chair opposite them across the room. She methodically trimmed and razored away the stubble and over growth until Will began to resemble the man she knew and loved, not the hairy hermit a few minutes ago.

"You've obviously done that before." Laura mentioned. Her sweet voice making Deanna jump in the crisp air.

"Riker men are the worst when it comes to asking for help. They can lay there injured for ages without asking for one neutrino of aid. And Will and Tom are the worst for stubbornness." Deanna watched Will's blue eyes flash annoyance at her as she dabbed on the aftershave. "I've spent quite a few bad missions caring for my Commander here. He's had more than one injury where he's needed help to care for himself in the past. I guess you can say I've been practising a long time with this." She smiled, turning around to gesture with the small razor device.

"So have you known Tom long?" Laura prompted.

Deanna could feel the tinge of jealousy erupt in the young woman once Deanna nodded. "Not as long as Will here though. And one Riker is enough for me." She said putting Laura at ease.

The commotion of Tom re-entering the house put a stop to the women's division of the Riker boys. Three bags in hand he rolled his eyes at her, while he dumped them on the floor, trying to catch his breathe and warm up at the same time. "Should of known you'd bring more than one bag." The warm smile she knew only too well slipped comfortably onto his goat bearded face. "We'll need to lock up tight tonight, snow storm is headed this way, it's going to be a cold one."

"Glad I'm not still snooping around then." Deanna's hands instantly fishing through one of the bags as she spoke.

"Looking for something?" He enquired. As Deanna eventually leaned back and handed a large box to Laura.

"Medicine?" Laura said amazed as she peered inside the container and viewed the Starfleet equipment. "Did you leave anything in sickbay?" Laura rose an eyebrow in shock at the contents, wishing she had even a small proportion of this while in the Marquis.

"Helps to have a doctor as a best friend." Deanna winked, glancing at Will to see him smiling briefly. "There's a padd in there too of what Beverly thought he might need done to help the healing. I was going to do it myself, but I figure you've got better medical knowledge than me if you've already thwarted the fever she mentioned."

Laura nodded. "Thanks. This will help a lot."

"How come Picard's not just accepting him back to the ship? And why not send down your doc?" Tom asked. He was leaning against the wall, a bowl of something re-heated in his hand, one hand stirring an un-interested fork through the contents.

"Beverly was coming with me, but we felt she was being watched too closely." Looking to Will, Deanna sent an apology mentally, knowing what she was about to say was harmful to Will's psyche right now. "Seeing as Will had been present at Worf's accident, I guess they didn't think I'd be the one to contact him first. Being that I was seeing Worf romantically before he died." She shrugged.

Tom shook his head, a lip curling in distaste. "That guy? The Klingon with the personality problem? Boy you did draw deep from the well."

"Shut up Tom." Laura said threatening to throw the scanner his way. "Love does strange things to a person's mind. Look at me and you." She winked at Deanna, her new found accomplice in teasing Tom.

Tom grinned. Will on the other hand was staring at the far wall. Keeping his poker face in place during the whole thing. He was still hurting inside. The wound of Deanna loving another, and his friend at that, was still raw.

< Is Beverly coming though? > he sent hoping to bring the conversation back on the right track.

Deanna faced him and shook her head. "Too dangerous to you Will. We'll have to hope her instructions are simple enough to make you comfortable until we can get you proper care."

"I think I can follow these pretty well." Laura mused as she palmed through the padd indexed instructions. "Pain killers and anti-biotics were our main deficiency before."

"Hence the herbal bath you'd wrapped him in earlier." Tom added.

"Yeah." She answered still reading, her own bowl of dinner forgotten on the floor beside her, as she sat cross legged with Deanna below Will's chair.

< Worst mud bath I've ever woken up in. > Will replied making Deanna snigger.

"I think he liked it." She laughed at Laura, laughing harder at Will's rolled eyes, until it formed into a hard angry stare.

"The Captain doesn't know I'm here. He told Beverly one night of his plans, but failed to mention who he'd hoodwinked into getting Will out of that prison." Deanna said once the room had quietened. "They got word that they were under scrutiny, and were holding off on delivering the medical supplies until the coast was clear, that's when I found her packing these items one night. The rest was simple, I decided to trade places."

"So where does it leave us?" Laura asked.

"Well that's up to us." Tom replied, coming away from the wall to start pacing, his bowl thumping back onto the main table. "My orders from Picard were to rescue Will and get him as far away from public eye as possible till he's cleared of charges, I hinted about going fishing at dad's and that was that." He ran a tired hand through his hair, now un-plaited and hanging long down his back in a ponytail.

"Tom! That could be months!" Laura swung around on the floor, mouth agape. "He needs better care! He can't stay here shacked up! Even you would gnaw your own foot off in boredom under a week."

<Do I get a say in this? > Will sent, tiredness coating each word as he forced them along the link.

"Wait a minute." Deanna called out before facing Will, standing to look down at him. "What do you want, Will Riker?"

< I want to go home....hurts too much >

Deanna looked down into his lap, afraid to look him in the eye as she felt the deep seated emotion bubbling beneath his outward visage of relaxed calm.

"So, what does he want to do?" Tom asked quietly moving up to stand beside Deanna. Watching as she fingered his hair away from his face.

"I think he needs to go back to bed, sleep some of this off." She whispered.

Slapping away her hand he glared at her. A sharp hiss of pain and one word of "No." Escaped his lips, just as Will Riker sucked in air suddenly from the pain of speaking. He tensed up, becoming rigid from the pain, each finger curled tightly into the white knuckled fists, fighting to breathe again. Pushing past the Betazoid, Laura shoved a hypo of pain killer instantly into his neck, waiting for him to relax a little, before turning to find her medicorder once more.

"I take it you lied." Tom replied, placing a hand to Deanna's shoulder and moving her away from Will. Now his brother's guardian.

Deanna looked positively miserable as she watched what she'd done with so few words. Will was still gasping for air through a tormented throat. Laura hurriedly applying all sorts of things from Beverly's pack as she read speedily through it's index, the first hypo failing to have an effect.

"Of all the things to do Deanna! You know us well enough to not to double cross our meanings!" Tom growled.

"I just..."

"You just thought you'd screw both of us with what you want and not with what we need. Hell Deanna. Haven't you learned anything about the both of us? What did he want Deanna? Your heart, like he did when he admitted his guilt at killing your lover, sacrificing his career, harming himself for you out of pure love. Or did he want something you don't?" Tom's vehemence had pushed her back a step at each word till she was now standing in the doorway, unable to see how Will was doing.

"Tom! He can't breathe! Help me get him on the floor! Now!" Laura yelled. Firing hypos into his neck to stop the muscle spasms. His lips tinged with blue, eyes rolling back into their sockets.


:::::: Sixteen :::::::

Tom grabbed his limp body dumping it quickly to the floor as Laura fished inside the bag, finally giving up and up ending the contents onto the floor. Grabbing a canister of O2, she shoved a mask over his mouth and nose, indicating for Tom to hold it in place as she administered a bronchodilator, and a muscle relaxant via the hypos again.

"Breathe damn you." Laura grunted as she watched his vitals on the scanner.

Will's eyes finally opened after a while, his towel-wrapped body laying limp and unmoving, while his eyes rolled around with the grogginess of the meds. His wheezing was deafening in the silence.

"OK. He's stable again. I think we'd better get him back to bed before he chills." She said watching the goosebumps rise like mountains on his skin.

"Can you move the top sheets out of the way off the bed Deanna?" Tom turned round to see Deanna pale and weak leaning against the door frame of the living room. "Deanna?"

She shook her head, clearing away Will's dread, and nodded once before running off to perform her duties. Tom sighed deeply before carefully moving his arms under Will's back and knees, cradling him to his chest as Laura followed him with the O2 canister in hand.

Placing him onto the sheets, Deanna replaced the sheets, and added a blanket. Will was out like a light by the time they'd finished his transfer.

"He's going to out for a while. The bronchodilator's going to play havoc with his awareness. Probably a good thing till his throat calms down." Her eyes thoroughly transfixed to her medical instruments.

Deanna stood beside the bed and no closer, arms crossed around her middle, biting her bottom lip to stop it trembling. Seeing her turmoil Tom strode across the room and held her, letting her melt into his arms, head burrowing deep into his chest like old times. "I keep hurting him." She cried. Tom rubbed her back, regretting his outburst earlier. Looking to Laura, he saw her smile, understanding his caring nature towards this woman.

"Hey. You'd think he was big enough to look after himself by now." He smiled. "The trouble he's in, is his own mess Deanna, not yours. Just relax and let us take care of him. Get some sleep if you can." Pulling her back from his chest he wiped away the tears from her eyes with his thumbs. "There's a spare bed in the back. Get your things and go sleep Imzadi." The endearment instantly causing her jerk her head up to stare at his blues. He smiled at her confusion. "Go. Before Laura steals it." She gave a little sniffle before nodding and moving off. Soon Laura moved back from the other room, catching the tail end of his conversation.

"You really are a smooth talker." She said gliding into his arms. "Got some of that for me?" A cheeky smile in place.

"Sure." He grinned, pulling her in tight. "Thanks. For Will that is."

"And for Deanna?" She winked.

"Yeah. For understanding the past about me and her. We're just friends now. Though she was supposed to be with Will last time I checked up on them." He sighed heavily. "Knew I shouldn't of left him alone without instructions." He joked.

Laura moved her head sideways and kissed him passionately, leaving him little breath afterwards. "So who gets the first watch?"

"I will. You go and get some sleep. I'll wake you if there's trouble." He almost purred into her ear as the small circles of her fingers twirled around his neck.

"You can wake me anytime Tom, you know that." She kissed him once more and left, leaving Tom to shake his head. A wide lecherous grin lighting his face as he was left thinking of the last time she'd let him wake her. "Not now I'm afraid Tommy boy." He said to himself as he went off to secure all the doors and windows; soon taking up residence in the chair by his charge.


The plastic mask fitting over his nose was the first thing he noticed, the second was Tom's snores from the corner. Smiling a bit, he stifled the thought of laughing. Hearing Tom snore made him cringe and wonder why Deanna hadn't suggested nasal surgery years ago.

Deanna. He'd hurt her. Well that was the last thing he remembered before blacking out. He could feel her terror along the same link she'd used to stifle some of his pain. Something he and Deanna had never mentioned to anyone, nor Beverly before. Something Deanna had said in the past, was frowned upon by the Betazoid population. He was thankful of her un-selfless sacrifice in helping him bare his agony; but sadness also inhabited him that she'd had to bare the burden too.

He had to see her. Apologise. She was only trying to care for him. His own anger at his current disability shouldn't of been dowsed over her like cold water. It was settled. Making a determined action in his mind, he then put the idea forth to his body, feeling every ache and grind of joints as he carefully rolled out of bed.

Removing the mask, he took a moment to get used to being without it, giving him time to watch Tom sleep, gauging if he really was out for it or just faking. Smiling at the rhythmic snores, knowing he couldn't of faked it himself, he staggered upright and forward, reaching for the door frame in seconds to stop his stumble. His breathing was laboured but he was determined. Moving through the dimmed house, via moonlight and the fading glow of his bedrooms' side light, he made his way from room to room down the hall way till he found Deanna's slumbering body. Spying her curled up tightly into the sheets, a pillow crushed tightly to her heart, he found his own heart aching for that grip.

Legs slowly turning to jelly, he made it just in time to sit slowly on the edge of her bed, one hand shaking as he gently pulled away a lock of hair from her face. It was cold, hence the shivering accompanying the jaggered shakes, that weren't just from exhaustion, but also from fear of what she might say if she woke now. His fears were justified in his mind, but not hers when she opened her eyes to see his blue eyes moist and wanting. Lifting a hand she placed it on his cheek and stroked him with her warm fingers.

"You're cold. Come to bed Imzadi." She beckoned, lifting her warm sheets to the chilly air. He noticed she was wearing an old pair of boxers and a rather large t-shirt of his. Her pale skin still hauntingly seductive. But right now, his mind was crying out for the warmth of her body, for comfort and love, rather than lust.

Taking her further promptings, and the moans about it being cold, he slid in beside her, wrapping his arms around her waist and burying his face into her hair. Sleep already lulling him away from what he wanted to say. Deanna's acceptance of him in her arms enough to make him feel safe, and loved once more. The guilt of his crimes washing away a little at a time. If she could forgive him, surely he too could find it inside himself to do the same some day. "Sleep well Imzadi." Her rich tones whispered in his ear, farewelling him into slumber. The smile on Laura's face by the doorway was missed by all.


:::::: Seventeen :::::::

"Wakey wakey Tom." Laura said, thrusting an evilly strong cup of black coffee under his nose.

"Shush. You'll wake Will." He grumbled.

She grinned and watched his blue eyes open, one fist instantly grinding into a socket to wipe away the grains of sleep. "Not in here we won't. He slipped out during the night." She replied, watching him go from vaguely coherent to panic stations. "Wait wait! he's fine." She waited for him to calm down. His body now erect and sitting tall.

Looking at Laura he worked out his own answer without having to prompt her. "Let me guess. Deanna's room?"

"Yep. Anytime you can't find a Riker, look for a warm bed with a woman in it and taaa daa. One located Riker." She winked, dodging his swiping hand. "He's still asleep, but you might want to give him this." She handed him a hypo of something purple. "In the neck too. Just above the apple."

"Fine. Let me stoke the fire first though. I should of put another log on before I fell asleep." He grumbled as the cold air stung his warm skin once he moved out of his chair. Rubbing his lower back he staggered into the main room and got to work on the fire.

"I've already stoked and loaded the kitchen stove. Didn't get round to this one I'm afraid." Laura moved into the room and leaned against the log cabin walls; her feet crossed at the ankles as she watched Tom load up the fire from the miserable glowing coals, blowing on them with hope to get them fired up again. "I'm going to attempt a few of the things your doctor friend suggested today. One or two sessions this morning and another lot this afternoon after work." Laura said casually.

"Is that all he'll need." Tom looked up. "In the repairs department I mean. Will he be well enough to travel?"

"Maybe. Not sure. Thinking of getting out of here real fast Tom?" She asked, one eyebrow raised. The high pitched whistle of the kettle boiling in the kitchen provided an escape for his answer as she went to halt it's call, hoping it hadn't woken Will yet. Goddess knew he needed his sleep.

Tom slapped his hands together, removing some of the wood debris from his hands, and grabbing his hypo. Deanna's door was closed. Laura had probably done it last night when she'd found Will missing, as he'd left it ajar last night, when doing his last rounds of the evening. Entering Deanna's bedroom he found the scene mildly upsetting. Seeing Will with his Imzadi, it was like picturing yourself with the girl you loved, but seeing it for real. Sighing, he tried to untense his shoulders and moved to the side Will was sleeping on.

Will was curled onto side with Deanna snuggled into his chest, and his large arms wrapped around her. The loud wheezing sound of his breathing, made Tom cringe at how it must be hurting, short of snoring he was almost gasping from what he could figure. A figure blocked the light from the corridor outside, making him turn to Laura and whisper "Is he supposed to be breathing like that?"

"No. That's why he needs the hypo. I'll wake Deanna." She smiled moving to Deanna's side to gently shake her petit shoulder. Deanna woke disorientated at first, forgetting at first about how she'd enticed Will into her bed last night. His warm body a welcome sensation, though a little heavy. "Sorry to wake you Deanna but we need to move Will so we can give him his shot."

The Betazoid counsellor, unlocked her own arms and tried to extricate herself from his. Will's octopus arms refused to let her go until Laura stalled him. As she rolled him onto his back, Deanna rolled out of bed and stretched her arms. Still sleepy, Will managed to open his blurry eyes for a while, till Tom gave him the hypo to his throat. Soon rolling back over, Will curled up into the blankets and promptly fell asleep once more.

"You might want to rug up after your shower. I kind of let the fire die a bit last night." Tom apologised as he watched Deanna hugging herself tightly in her skimpy attire.

"There's tea in the kitchen too." Laura added as she shuffled them out of the room. "Time to get some breakfast down before we get to work on Billy boy there." She grinned as Tom's stomach gurgled in reply.

"What? So I'm hungry." He rolled his a eyes as the two women sniggered, moving off to the now warmer kitchen while he shook his head.


:::::: Eighteen :::::::

Will had been moved back to his old bedroom in the front of the house before they'd started the various medical procedures contained within the padd. The first chore of course was Tom getting Will clean via the shower. He'd been fine at first till Tom had touched him on the neck while drying him. A resurgence of memories from his attack, landed Tom flat on his arse with a sucker punch to the stomach when Will's mind had wandered. He was still sore even now as he watched his aggressive shower attacker, out for the count of ten as Laura did her preliminary work.

He was prostrate on the clean white linen, dressed in baggy grey shorts, and nothing else around his head other than Deanna's caring fingers keeping his head still. Administering a variety of drugs, Laura had then proceeded to begin some of the deep dermal therapy to his crushed trachea, using regenerative tools to re-create the cellular growth and to improve the breathing channels. His wheeze was already less vocal. An hour later she attached a tight hugging neck brace containing a whole host of sub-dermal regenerators, to restore his throat to new.

Laura sat back on her feet, kneeling beside the bed. Giving a deep enough sigh to blow the hair from her eyes as she sank exhausted into a puddle. "You sure you're going to be able to work today?" Tom said with concern, helping her off the bed to collapse into the arm chair.

Thrusting a tea into her hand, she smiled up at him. "I'll be fine. Will's got the hardest job now. I need that brace to be kept on all day, and no sudden movements."

"Should we keep him sedated?" Tom asked, knowing Will wouldn't like it. The feeling of sedation was like swimming in a current of sticky clouds that never parted. Too much like being trapped under pack ice. The memory as a boy still sharp today from when he'd fallen as a young kid through an ice hole.

"No need. I'll keep him still." Deanna smiled moving a hand delicately over Will's creased brow, watching as the lines began to dissolve.

"The best medicine ever." Tom chuckled. "Boy do I miss that." He let slip under his breath. Aware that he'd said it aloud, he hurriedly left the room, unable to meet the onyx eyes watching him.

A hand graced his shoulder when he finally ended up in the kitchen, filling the kettle with water for the tea. He placed it down on the stove and turned to see Laura's eyes seeking an answer to his sudden brooding. " Hey. Tom it's OK that you've still got feelings for her. I knew you were lying when you said it was all over. It never is when someone has your soul twirled around their fingers." She kissed him deeply on the lips, putting pressure there for only a few moments until she stepped away to watch him. He looked everywhere but her until he'd composed his next words. "She's no longer mine Laura. She belongs to Will, or Will to her I guess. " He gave a small smirk.

"You know, I wondered about you two, Will and you I mean. How come he gets the girl, not that I'm unhappy about it." She smiled running a finger down his chest. The thick jumper a nuisance, wishing she could drape herself over his muscular chest right now.

"Well you know how I said we're twins?" She nodded slowly. Taking his time to straighten his thoughts he fiddled with the tea bag jar. He was unsure of how much she really knew. Most within Starfleet knew of him and his brothers twist of fate, but in fleets eyes it was classified. Knowledge that not everyone had access to. "Heard of freak transporter splicing?"

"Hang on. I think I remember something about you and him. You mean it's real? Not just a fleet untruth?" She stood back for a minute, taking him in.

"'fraid so." Said Tom running a hand through his hair before taking the persistent whistling kettle off the stove. "He's what I would of been had I stayed clean with shiny Fleet boots, and I'm..."

"His mirror of what happens when you leave Starfleet." She finished.

"Well not really true but yeah. I think I kind of more went askew because I knew I couldn't have the one goal I wanted, because he already did. Figured I'd try something else that needed a hero." He shrugged.

"And he got the girl." Laura whispered in understanding. The way he'd looked or spoken to Deanna in the past few days made sense. She watched Tom turn away as he began filling cups with the fragrant tea. "He may not of paid much interest in my incarceration during the Maquis days, probably due to Starfleet and they're unease. Hell! If one Riker could go AWOL, they certainly weren't going to let a second. Any contact with me would of been a coffin nail in his career plans. But seeing what became of him with his truth and justice ideals." Tom shook his head, turning back to see her eyes watering as he told his story of hard truth. "I figure he needs help, my help now Laura. Even if I couldn't count on him back then. No ones going to help him but us by the looks of it." He took a swig of the burning tea, enjoying the sting as it went down like the hard truth. "He put out all his life, but do they return it? No." He thunked his cup down onto the scarred wooden table. "Guess us Riker's are always alone when it comes down to the line."

Laura moved forward and wrapped her arms around him. "Hey, you're not alone Tom. Never alone." She whispered, her hands rubbing his back in encouragement till he lifted his head and kissed her passionately. "Thank you." He said. Her confused look making him smile. "For listening."


Deanna backed away from the kitchen door once they'd embraced. She'd never thought of things the way Tom had. She smiled with happiness that Will truly was safe with Tom. She wasn't sure in the beginning as to what plans he had in-store for his brother, but now, as she'd felt his emotions and witnessed his heartfelt out-pour, she believed his intentions were only good.

As she wandered back down the corridor, her pocket communicator started to beep. The noise drawing an interest from the kitchen as she tried to smother it's sound. "Don't tell me you can be traced?" Tom ground out in horror. His hand reaching for it the second she tapped it open for communication. "We're OK." She replied into it, turning away from Tom's snatching hand. Turning back to Tom she frowned at him. "Do you for one second think I would harm him Tom? Just back off and let me speak to my contact." She almost growled, making Tom take a step back at the anger seething there.

"Go ahead Guinan. No it's fine. Just an annoying buzzing insect." Tom frowned as he listened intently, only hearing Deanna's side of the conversation no matter how hard he strained.

Snapping shut the device she rounded on Tom. "It can't be traced Tom." She assured him.

"What about your contact? They safe from wandering ears and trackers?" Tom's voice was rising in depth to the Riker vocal range used only to scare ensigns into line.

"Guinan is a very safe source. And has had the Captains ear at anytime in the past without being conspicuous." Deanna replied calmly. "Now if you'd calm down for a minute Tom I can explain everything."

Laura's voice cut in to Tom's next exchange. "And I suggest we do it quick before I have to go. And lets keep it down children. Will needs his beauty sleep." Gaining amused glances from her audience as she brushed past them into the lounge area.


:::::: Nineteen :::::::

Tom leaned back in his chair and blew out the breath he had been holding.

Laura slapping her thigh before standing broke the sudden silence.
Deanna jerking from her own deep thoughts. "Well. I don't know about
you two but I'm late for work. I'll worry about things once you both
know what your going to do about it." She pointed to the med kit on
the kitchen table. "And make sure you give him a shot of Asprixamine
every two hours. I don't want to come back tonight and find he's
woken to unwind all my work." With a grumble she pulled on her cold
weather hover bike gear, and kissed Tom lightly on his pensive face,
before popping on her helmet and making her way out of the house.

Tom groaned, rubbing hands across his face, realising he was due for
a shave. "This doesn't leave me in a better mood than before you

"I know Tom. I'm sorry but that's the news so far. Jean Luc's
attempts to clear Will's name have been assessed. If they do clear
him, he still may not be able to reclaim his appointment within a
command chain." She shrugged her small shoulders, hardly shifting
with the movement.

"So we keep him hidden then?"

"Looks like it." She smiled warmly until her next sentence nearly
stuck in her throat. "I dislike leaving Will like this Tom. But I
need to return to the ship before things get suspicious. The
Enterprise leaves in two days time."

"And without a counsellor...." He sighed, leaving the sentence up in
the air. "OK. I can stay here a little longer, then we need to move
on. Someone's going to work out where he is at some point."

She nodded. "So who do you think wanted Will dead?" Her
communications with Guinan revealed what Tom had already known.

"Don't know right now, but I know the director was only doing his job
of passing on the duty." He mused, his pacing drawing a smile from
her. He was so similar to Will in some ways. Even though Tom was
slimmer now, a lean muscled form, with Will muscular and larger, they
both possessed the same body language. And they're hair and beard
styles varied. Tom with the goatee and long plait, Will with the full
beard and shortish spiky hair.

She still loved them both. And they new it. One always jealous of the
other. Though she knew Tom wasn't like that any more, not after the
conversation she'd heard that morning.

"Well until we work it out, I'll go keep an eye on Will. While you
Tom, need a proper rest." She laid a gentle hand on his arm and
reached up to kiss him on his cheek. "I appreciate what you're doing
for him too." Before he could answer, she skipped out the door and
across the corridor.

Tom shook his head and smiled. "The things I get mixed up in."


Will was frustrated. He was currently sitting up now, being coached
by a ferocious blonde headed woman on how not to speak. Unable to
turn his head due to the brace around his neck, he looked at Deanna
peripherally, hoping she was sensing his annoyance, catching on that
he wanted to get rid of this pest of a woman. He'd been having a
fantastic dream until she'd started screwing around with his neck.
Right now, it was still the most sensitive part of his body that made
him jump at the slightest touch. The past memories had made him
unsettled, and communicating with his fingers, in yes and no patterns
was starting to get him riled.

The buzzing woman's instructions continued. "So no high pitched
grunts or anything for the next day. Your breathing will be easier
already no doubt, along with your ability to swallow."

Will indicated yes with his fingers. Exhaustion starting to cloud his
thoughts as the aggressive adrenaline evaporated.

"He wants to know what's for dinner." Deanna translated from what
he'd managed to send to her. She'd been watching his slow blinks and
careful swallows. Noticing how claustrophobic he felt trapped in not
only the neck brace but in his body too.

"Thick pumpkin soup." Tom grinned.

<Your enjoying this.> He sent sarcastically to Deanna who translated
it to his twin.

"Me? No." He grinned. "Just behave for Laura there. I'll get you some
food before she pokes and prods again. " He winked.

<I'm really regretting not dying now> Will whined to Deanna who burst
out laughing. "Oh Will, you'll be fine."

<Brace is rubbing on my neck>

"On your abrasions?" She asked. He indicated yes with his fingers.
"Sorry Laura but he says it's hurting."

"Understandable. But it's either minimum medical care the hard way,
or we go visit his doc on board the Enterprise and get nabbed by the
nasty guys up there." She pointed upwards and issued another hypo,
earning her a look of disdain from Will. "You only need the brace
tonight then we'll see how it's repaired things in the morning.

They fed him slowly till he refused another spoonful, and proceeded
to stick more hypos into him, more than he could count before he
winked out. Sleep finally enveloped him, his last thoughts of
Deanna's body curled up around him.


A few days had passed since Will's last treatment. And in the
meantime Deanna had left for the Enterprise, Laura had stopped trying
to torture Will, and Will was speaking, if only small croaky words
right now. Trussed up in thick winter gear the two brothers sat side
by side on the small jetty, fishing lines out through a whole in the
ice, and a warm thermos of coffee sitting beside Tom.

They'd decided to do this yesterday, giving the men a chance to
talkabout past troubles, with how they coped with it and how they
were going to handle the now. Will hadn't spoken much about prison
life, but Tom knew the basics of it having done his own time, no
doubt in far worse conditions.

"You know.......I've actually.....wanted to do......this
for....quite.....some time." Will croaked out. Sounding out of
breathe each time he forced the words over his lethargic vocal cords.

Tom chuckled "Yeah. Me too. Seems crazy to be at each other's
throats, no pun intended, when we're practically the same person.
Hell we should know what ticks us off and what doesn't."

Will managed a small squeak that was supposed to represent a laugh.
"Well...we...both ended....up in pri...son." He grinned, as a small
breeze blew up dislodging Will's scarf. The signs of strangulation
nearly gone now, except for the thin line of deep bruising that
refused to go away just yet. Wrapping it back up, Tom shook his head
watching his brother.

"If you'd do it up properly it wouldn't keep doing that."

"Don't like...feeling." Will responded, picking his rod back up.

Tom had no chance to reply once he heard the familiar spit of phaser
fire. Dropping his rod and grabbing his brother, he and Will scurried
off into the trees, slowly making their way back up to the house,
just in time to see Laura flee in the hover vehicle. A few shots
rained onto the back of the vehicle but they failed to halt her
escape. Suddenly two of the men, dressed in black, jump started their
hover bikes and took off in hot pursuit, while the rest stayed
behind. Scouting the area with their eyes and scanners.

Spying her hover bike, Tom swore. Laura could of had a better chance
getting further away on the bike via the back trails, until he
realised she'd left it for him on purpose. Seeing his chances
slimming as they tried to triangulate his position, Tom motioned for
Will to stay low and follow him. Both crept along the snow banks till
they reached the closest point to the bike. It was going to be
dangerous, Will still wasn't as strong as he could be, and his
fitness almost nil for making a run for it.

Crossing his fingers mentally, Tom made a motion with the flick of
his finger and they both made for the bike. Tom jumped on and gunned
the bike to life as Will caught up to straddle it behind him,
grabbing a hold of Tom's waist as they sped off under fire. Shouts of
anger pursued them along with the hot flushes of phaser fire whizzing
past their zig zagging trail.

Tom swung in and out of the various trees, keeping clear from the
easy road, preferring the challenge of losing his trackers throughout
the difficult terrain. Will's arms were clamped around his waist
hard, trying to stay on the wildly erratic hover bike from Tom's

Another shot hit a tree just as they passed it, pushing Tom to take
riskier chances, they're only hope of escape. Swinging in and out,
gliding over snow covered logs to gain lift over small frozen creek
beds, his pursuers still kept to his tail. No doubt local Alaskan
recruits, to be able to handle this environment, mused Tom.

Musing didn't help as another shot whizzed past causing Will to cry
out as the shot skimmed his thigh. "Shit!" Swore Tom, glancing back.
"Hold on!" He ordered, aware that Will's arms were still wrapped
around his middle, and his head pressed hard against his back, trying
to block out the pain of the hit.

Taking two more turns to the left, Tom flew down a step decline,
dodging snow covered boulders till he hit a flat plain. It removed
precious cover, but he had a chance to gain distance if he planned it
right. Speeding over the flat ground, the hover bike chiming warnings
of the exertion, Tom laid down as low as he could get to defeat wind
resistance and plowed ahead straight to the far banks. It was a
frozen lake they were crossing, one he hoped had frozen enough to
take the hover bike's propulsion field.

The far banks getting closer, he took a chance to look behind him,
spying the Ops team in their black gear, continuing the chase until
one member vanished suddenly, the ice breaking beneath him and taking
him under. One stayed back, leaving another two still on his tail.
Thanking the heavens for the small piece of luck he focused forward.
"Come on, come on." He urged the bike. Glancing to Will's leg he
noticed the small burn mark, singed through his clothing to a narrow
streak of flesh. It would hurt, but it shouldn't hold them up if they
had to leg it he thought. Something he didn't want to do with Will so

"Nearly there Will!" He yelled back. Receiving no reply. Not that he
expected any. Will's voice was so quiet at the movement that any word
spoken would of been whisked away by the wind before it reached his
ears anyway.

As the bank neared he silently cheered until suddenly a shuttle
whooshed down from above, cutting across his path. Swinging out of
it's way the bike slipped on the ice, skidding sideways out of
control. Just as Tom tried to righten the bike from the accident
about to happen, the familiar tingle of a transporter beam took hold.
"No!" Tom screamed in defeat as the Riker men vanished. The hover
bike continued to slide along the ice, minus it's riders, till the
surface tension broke and the vehicle was engulfed in one sudden plop
of frigid water.


:::::: Twenty :::::::

Both men fell to the deck in a heap as the transporter released them.
Phaser rifles instantly drawn and shoved into their faces, too many
to rush and dive from. Especially pinned as he was, with Will was
still clamped around his waist, his breathing ragged, no doubt from
the hit. Holding Will's tightly gripped hands in one of his, Tom
placed another to the floor and levered himself upright to get a
close look at his captors.

Starfleet security officers surrounded him, not a happy face amongst
them until one moved back and a familiar face appeared, holding one
hand out in friendship to help him up.

"What the hell?" Tom swore. "Thought you were on our side?"

"I am. We just weren't sure how you'd take our company. And those
guys down there weren't ours." Beverly assured him as the guards
moved back. "Glad to see you were prepared for the wrong type of
visitors." The woman winked.

"Think you can take a look at Will? Took a shot to the leg." Tom said
trying to turn and look to his brother. A tinge of worry coating his
nerves when he couldn't shake Will's grip.

"Hold on." Beverly said to Tom as she spied Will's tightly closed
eyes. "Right leg?" She enquired, noticing he was lying on top of the
possible injury.

"Yeah. Think so." He answered. Will finally unclenched his fingers
once he was helped up from the floor, the pressure now released from
his wound. Beverly looked at him, eyes critically sizing up the
paleness of his face.

"Can you put him on the bench?" She asked the officers, sitting him
carefully onto the standard side bench at the back of the shuttle
where they were still clustered. Will was aware now of his
surroundings and Beverly's familiar voice, but he kept his eyes
tightly clenched all the same as she began to gently press around the
burnt area. "Not too bad, but we'll need a little regeneration to get
that healed." She said more to herself than anyone else.

"Deanna?" Will asked huskily.

Beverly looked up at him and smiled. "I see you got your voice back."
She winked. "Deanna's fine Will. In fact the chip Tom gave her before
he left, held enough info for Fleet to look into your attack. Seems
to of been enough to retrieve you without slamming another brig door
behind you so far."

"He's cleared?" Tom asked. Arms crossed in classic Riker behaviour.

"Well no. But his arresting sentence is being held over till this is
all cleared. Though I think the Captain may of already convinced them
that Will wasn't entirely guilty of the charges in the first place.
But we need to tell whoever it is out for Will's blood, that too."
The doctor said as she injected hypos and ran a dermal regenerator
over the now healing area.

"I......whole heartedly..agree." Will squeaked out. A small smile
warming his face.

Tom sighed loudly. "I need to see that Laura got away too." One hand
scratching his bearded chin.

"She's fine. She got away. Said you'd owe her big when we last saw
her, heading off to grab her bags from the house." Beverly smirked,
knowing full well as to how Riker would owe her.

"At least she's safe." He grunted, ignoring the look on Beverly's
face as he patted off imaginary snow. He'd only met the red haired
doctor once before, but knew that smirk on any woman's face.

"Headache." Will ground out. Eyelids at half mast as his brilliant
blue eyes watched her.

"No doubt you have." She smiled, glad to finally have him within her
caring hands. She checked his neck, satisfied that the instructions
she'd handed to Deanna, had been worthwhile and beneficial. "You may
need a booster of pain killer for that neck of yours too." She mused
as she gently traced the bruise line with her forefinger. "Healing
well though I see."

"Good genes." Tom grinned.

Beverly smiled as she shook her head. "I see a giant ego is still the
main order of the day for Riker genome." She teased.

"Touche doc." He winked. "So where are we going?" He almost hated to ask.

"Back to the Enterprise. We managed to get our current orders revoked
once this little bit of good news leaked out. The Captain wants to
see both of you after I've gone over your friend's handy work on
Will." Beverly's smile was one of gratitude. He could tell she was
glad that Tom had been there to help his brother in need, and had
even found enormous help from one of his cohorts in repairing Will,
to a measurable extent.

Movement out of the corner of her eye made Beverly turn to see Will
pulling his scarf closer to his neck, evidence of a chill skating his
body as the medication dulled the shock of being shot. "So how's my
favourite patient?" She smiled, kneeling down in front of him to take
his glove covered hands in hers.

"Thankful." He squeezed out. No matter how much he wanted to say,
each time he went to speak, Will had to reduce sentences to just mere
words. His throat still too raw for casual chit chat let alone a
diplomatic speech. Beverly nodded and gave him a chaste kiss to his

"Rest Will. Lie down on the bench. We'll meet up with the ship
shortly, and something tells me you won't be sleeping for a while
when we get back on board." Her blue eyes flashing a hint of

Taking his cue, glad to have an excuse to rest his snow glared eyes,
Will lay down under the silver blanket she produced, and finally
slept the sleep of the contented.


To Will, now walking through the Enterprise corridors, it had been
years since he'd been here, though in reality, just a little over 4
months. The curious glances he and Tom got by passing crew drawing a
smile to his lips. Their likenesses regardless of hair styling, were
uncanny and caught many an eye. Not to mentioned what they were
wearing would strike anyone as being out of the normal, rugged up and
looking like iceberg hunters, not to mentioned probably smelling just
as bad too.

The lack of crew and passers-by, pretty much indicated that they were
in the guest quarters section now, having only just stepped off the
turbolift from the lower levels.

Beverly walked them to two adjoining cabins and keyed in a code to
one of the door panels. "OK Mr. Riker, this ones yours." She said to
Tom. "I'll take Will next door to his. Grab a shower and a bite to
eat. The captain wants to see the both of you in half an hour." She
said, hustling Will to the left to his own doorway before Tom could
say thanks. Nodding, he slipped inside, leaving Will to be pulled
along by Beverly into his own.

The door hissed shut behind him and Will admired the cabin, a smirk
on his face. "Never..thought I'd....be staying..in guest quart..ers."
He got out before Beverly placed her fingers on his lips.

"No talking Will. The Captain is going to have plenty of questions
for you to try that glorious new voice of yours out on." She jibed.
"You're better to rest it than use it right now." Plonking her
equipment down on the table, Beverly pushed a thread of hair back
behind her ear, taking a good look at Will for the first time as a
friend, rather than with a medical eye. "We've missed you, you tall
dark and handsome stranger." She smiled.

"Me too." He croaked, immediately receiving a rebuke from her.

Sighing she squeezed her hand on his arm and smiled. "Have a shower
Will, I'll get some clothes and food replicated for you while you
wash away the grime."

Feeling self conscious, Will turned to the mirror behind him on the
wall and looked at the scraggly stranger peering back at him. Still
damp hair from the melted snow, smears of something on his face and a
rather sweaty smell. He was surprised Beverly was standing this close
considering his perfume right now. Smiling at the blue eyed man, Will
moved closer, unwinding his scarf to peer in and carefully touch the
bruise line.

"You were lucky Will. Most men don't get two chances at breathing
from an attack like that." Beverly said before she could take back
her internal musings.

"A gambling..man." he replied with a smile, one that didn't reach his
eyes. Taking a quick glance back to the mirror he shuffled off to the
bathroom, eager to remove his stench and the now still room.


Dragging the black t-shirt over his head, Beverly sat back on the
couch watching the bruises on his ribs ripple across his bare torso.
Something else she'd have to remove once the Captain had finished
with him. Sensing that he was being watched, he turned and looked to
Beverly with a question on his face.

"Just figuring out what damage I need to repair." She answered before
he asked. He nodded calmly, doing up his trousers and grabbing a
slice of bread from the table that Beverly had laid out. Munching
carefully he located a plate and plonked a few items onto it before
slumping into the couch across from her.

"Tell me...how did...Deanna..cope with....it all? She seems like
she's had time...too .." He paused, swallowing hard hoping to quell
the sting from talking.

"....think it out?" She finished for him. "It was hard for her Will.
But she worked through it. Cleared her conscience, and yours too,
about the whole thing. And yes, finally worked out who she loved and
who loves her still. Which love crazed man did everything for her,
and went one step further due to an accident that was awaiting to
happen." Beverly paused, seeing Will had stopped eating, his plate
resting on his knee as he gazed out the view portal, thinking about
her words.

"It really was...an acci...dent. He shouldn't of died." Will
confessed. 'This would all be a....mute point if he was.....still
alive." He said. His eyes now glued to the carpet in thought.

Stepping up to him and placing a hand to his arm, she gently rubbed
him, giving him support. "Finish eating Will. I need to get you up to
the observation deck soon." He nodded in agreement, attempting some
fruit this time before the communications array flared to life.

"Doctor Crusher, Mr. William and Thomas Riker, please report to the
observation room." The computer chimed.

"Times up." Will mumbled through another piece of bread, wiping
crumbs from his beard before Beverly took his arm in hers and met
Thomas out in the corridor. They're journey only just beginning.


:::::: Twenty-one :::::::

"It seems we've had some interesting reports on current findings so
far." Picard began, once the small array of people filtered into the
room. The Riker boys and the doc were still missing, no doubt on
their way. Picard's remaining senior staff was compiled of Data,
Laforge, Troi and the new security officer, Layten. Fair haired but
broadly built the new security chief had earned his position well,
and proved it in the last few months since Worf's death.

Commander Princeton the new Ops manager, however, was still on the
bridge, ordered to stay there by Picard. Sure that the conversation
they were about to have concerned this small part of his crew more
that the new patrons. Layten, though one of the new recruits was
there purely to make sure Tom Riker behaved himself.

Always the wildcard, Picard had regretted transferring the man to the
Ghandi. Some part of him believed that if Thomas had remained on
board the Enterprise, and his First Officer had gotten over their
disagreement, he could of transformed him into the perfect model
officer like his brother. Then again, at this moment, Will wasn't
classed by Starfleet as a model for prim and proper anyway.

As if on cue to his musings, the pair arrived, both t-shirts and
trousers, though Tom sported longer hair than his brother, and Will
still had the nasty evidence of the strangulation round his neck. "Ah
gentlemen, please take a seat." He directed. Tom seating himself
beside Layten as Will sandwiched himself in between Deanna and

Deanna moved closer as soon as he was comfortable. Movement under the
table edge made Will look down to his lap to see Deanna's hand
resting on his thigh. He smiled as he looked back up into her
glistening eyes.

Picard's voice broke apart their magical moment, returning them to
the reality of the observation lounge. "As we were just discussing,
we have found some interesting information that bares well for both
of you." The gentle tilt of his head indicating to both Tom and Will.
"It seems that you, Will, have been the bait of a rather big trap."

A flash of anger smouldered within Will's eyes, his body sitting
upright in attention, but his throat still too sore to demand an
immediate answer to this strange statement.

"You're saying that someone framed Will?" Tom shook his head in mirth.

"No not framed, but swayed. As to who, we're not entirely sure of the
exact aggressor, Lieutenant, but we believe the both of you are at
risk. To Starfleet, the incarceration due to Worf's death was deemed
an honest call, especially when Will pleaded guilty to the charge.
But from what a certain psychologist at the prison had uncovered,
we're not so sure now." Picard using his former Starfleet title went
unnoticed as Tom shot out of his seat and speared the Captain with

"You have just got to be kidding! Some scum of the universe out
there, framed, beat up and savagely threatened my brothers life to
get to one or both of us? And you're saying that Will is incriminally
insane!?! Geez, where do you get this stuff. This isn't some holodeck
guessing game you're playing with here Picard!" Layten was tense,
only the Captain's small shake of his head discouraging the security
officer from man handling the now irate Riker twin from his angry
pace up and down the deck next to the observation windows.

"Tom." Will's gravely voice fought for his attention. "Stop being so
.....hot headed. Sit down .....and listen for... once." Deanna's hand
on Will's forearm squeezed in comfort. " So ...why?"

"Well," Commander Data spoke up. "It seems that they were in fact
after "William" Riker, for assumed transgressions of some past
incident. From what we have discerned from the latest intelligence,
your aggressor believed that both would be responsible, having no
knowledge of when or how your twinning process occurred. In fact we
are not even sure if they are aware of you, it is still classified
for Starfleet eyes only." Will could swear his head was spinning with
Data's answer. "Current data does indicate that a telepathic
influence may of played with your moral judgement before bating
Lieutenant Worf. And that the person responsible was also able to
press the Prison Board and Deciding Counsel of your quickly convicted
trial. "

"Wait a minute. I think we're all missing one thing here. I'm still
guilty. I still killed my best friend...Worf." Will's admission
shattered the tension in the air. The attendees at the table looking
elsewhere but at the blue determined eyes that were broadcasting
nothing but true fact.

"It was an accident Will. You were pushed into it." Beverly said, the
first to break the awkward chill. "He was in a Klingon battle rage.
If it hadn't of been for your self defence, Worf would be the one
carried off for murder, not as an accident."

"An accident that gave our fiend their chance to have either one or
both Riker's within their grasp." Picard finished for them.

"Why?" Deanna still seemed confused.

"Well I've only seen the light of day from that rock for less than a
decade, I'm all blank to the people Will may of pissed off during the
lack of my presence." Tom shrugged his shoulders. "I'd say its
diplomatic. Whoever fried Will's brain into thinking he could defeat
a wild Targ of a Klingon had to of been pretty skilled, especially to
block Deanna from sensing their influence." The frightening truth
making Deanna's mouth gape wide.

"So they beat the crap out of me..... for what? A chance to bring Tom
running ......so we both could be tracked down and .....annihilated?
A chance at revenge .....times two?" Will Riker surmised.

"We're not entirely sure. Every official that has come into contact
with your case has either been crooked in the beginning or convinced
they hadn't signed your release to the Traskaliians custody. The
administrator all the way up to his aiding accomplices in the Ruling
Council have been less than agreeable, but have given statement to
this fact. Fearing the truth of the matter about the telepathic
abuse, we then began to believe your nemesis would most likely know
you well enough to find you as easily as Deanna did. Hence the
reason we were able to rescue you from the tracking party in Alaska
before your imminent demise." Picard replied, steepling his fingers
before him.

"So that's why the local Alaskan security squad were after us. Brain
washed too? Guessed they were local when I saw the pulse rifle
discharges and how they handled the terrain. I just couldn't work out
why they'd be after us." Tom shook his head. "So. Where to from here?"

"Well we're currently searching the medical archives of any guests
with possible telepathic ratings, that were on board during or before
Worf's death." Picard took a deep sigh, and looked finally to Will
Riker, taking in the battered appearance of his ex-first officer
before addressing his brother. "Thomas, you are still free from
conviction, no evidence has been turned up 'officially' as to how
Will escaped. And as a past-Maquis rebel, and the end of the Dominion
War you've now been pardoned. I guess you could say that all is
forgiven, though I doubt re-entry into Starfleet is an option just
yet. Especially due to your mercenary work of late."

Tom chuckled. "Not to be ungrateful Captain, but I prefer my
"civilian" lifestyle." He smiled. "Less regiment, and more fun." He
winked towards Will who fully understood Thomas' reasons.

"And Will?"


:::::: Twenty-two :::::::

"And Will?"

Deanna spoke up, one hand still restive on Will's forearm, the other
tensely curled around the arm of the chair.

"Will, you've been cleared of all charges, though your involvement in
Worf's accident has remained in your records. Starfleet have been,
shall we say, a little hesitant in returning you to duty as of yet. I
had hoped to talk to you earlier in person about this, but now I
guess is as good a time as possible." The normally statuesque Captain
seemed uneasy. "They have asked for your resignation from service
until all the evidence is thoroughly screened, and cleared. Then it
is believed, you can re-apply for service." Each word chiselled hard
into Deanna's heart.

"No! They can't do that!" She screamed.

"Deanna, it's fine..." Will tried to calm her. Surprising himself,
with how relaxed he was taking it all in. Then again, he'd realised
his future long ago, under that tree in the prison ground. Inbuilt
guilt telling him he'd never return to what he'd called home for so

"Will! No! They're destroying your future for trying to save
yourself, and that's exactly what this "bastard" wants! How many
times have you nearly given your life to the service?!?" Tom's hand
rested on her shoulder, his haste to her side unnoticed by her.

"Deanna it's OK." Will repeated.

"Perhaps we should continue this meeting at another time." Picard
suggested, dismissing his senior staff, leaving only himself and
three others.

"He'll be fine Deanna. Will can live with me for a while till
Starfleet get their ungracious asses together and clear him. " Tom
shrugged before starting another round of pacing.

"It's not permanent." Picard stated. "In fact it may be only for a
few months, and then a little retraining."

"Has anyone even.... asked me ....yet?" Will croaked out, starring
down the people who loved him more than just family. They cared for
him, as brother, lover and son. "I need a break ...from all this
excitement." He gave a weak grin. " I ache like hell, ....and I have
something other.... than Starfleet to make up to.... right now.
Someone dear ....who has suffered from my folly,... and should come

Deanna's lone crystal tear caught by his finger tip. "Will?"

"Captain, if I am now.... classified as a free... civilian, I'd like
to take.... up Tom's offer, ...as long as he doesn't have
visitors.... like last time." The embedded joke adding a little
lightness to the frown Picard was wearing.

"It's your choice Will, your life. But I for one would like to have
you back, by my side." The heavy truth settled like a mantle over
Picard's shoulders.

" I appreciate ....your offer.... sir, but right now is not a good
....time for me to be making decisions. Maybe Deanna ....can help me
there, I'm not..... sure, " He smiled at her, gripping her hands in
his. "But I do need ....some time off ......if possible sir."

"Granted Will, just make sure your choice is a good one. And visit
Beverly first, I believe you still have some recuperating to do
before you decide." With a nod of his head, Picard quietly strode
out, soon followed by the rest of the crew and Thomas, leaving just
Will and Deanna alone.

"What if they're still out there Will. You need Starfleet's
protection. And the years of service, why give them up now?" Each
word spoken as if she'd been rehearsing them over and over again in
her head for the past few moments.

"Because I want you Deanna. But I want to be whole for you first. And
jumping right back into duty isn't therapeutic now is it?" He grinned.

"I guess you're right Counsellor." Deanna slapped his arm. "You've
been listening to me for far too long." She smiled.

"And I hope I can have the chance to continue listening to you." He
replied, the seriousness of his tone underlying the truth. He loved
her, always had, and would never stop. He needed her, her soul, her
link, her mind and her charm. And that hair. He grinned and couldn't
resist pulling her into his shaky arms to breathe in her deliciously
scented hair.

"You know, there is a medical treatment for compulsive hair
sniffers." Deanna muffled into his chest.

"Is there a treatment for engagement jitters?"

Her head pulled away from his hold and she starred at him, wide eyed,
and mouth agape. "What?"

He looked away and seemed to be choosing his words carefully. "If I
go away, go back with Tom for a while, would you come with me? I
mean, I would love to be with you every moment of my life, but I
can't marry you right now...not until I get rid of this ghostly
reminder, from killing your ex-lover." He looked away and down to the
floor until her fingers lifted his chin, ignoring the red marks still
present around his neck line.

"Will. From day one, I never held you responsible in here," Hitting
her chest, she breathed in deeply and smiled. " I still wanted you.
Convicted murderer or not. And I still do. Let me come with you Will.
I have months of leave due. Maybe we can work this out together, away
from the ship and the heavy reminder of duty and cause."

"My you make wonderful speeches, Imzadi." He grinned. " I would be
grateful if you would accompanying me." His fingers gently tracing
the curve of her jaw. "Think Tom can cope with an extra hand in the
kitchen? " he smirked.

"I think we'll be fine, Imzadi." Her last words before she succumbed
to his warmth and melted into his chest as their lips joined after
such a long time apart. The moves never forgotten.


:::::: Twenty-three :::::::

The fire crackled and popped as it ate upon the dry wood Tom had just
levered into place. The sweet hiss of combustible fuel being gobbled
up made Deanna smirk. Tom had done his best to make the small house
livable by adding more furniture, where from she had no idea, except
for Tom's comment that it was owed to him. Strangely enough, these
past few days, she had really felt like a homemaker. Though she had
been banned from the kitchen by both men, she was sure she could of
whipped up a batch of cookies without catching them alight if they'd
only given her the chance.

The mop of hair on her lap moved for the first time in ages, enticing
her to draw her hand through the lengthening hair. Although his
mumble was unknown, she was sure in her answer. "I love you too
Imzadi." She whispered.

"How long have I...?" He spoke with highly clarity, as he became more
aware of his surroundings, and realising that he'd fallen asleep. The
inside of his eyelids glowed orange from the fire, it's warmth no
doubt the reason for his sudden lack of consciousness earlier.

"A few hours Will." She smiled in reply as he finally struggled
upright, wiping the sleep from his tired eyes. He groaned a little as
sore muscles twinged in reply to his movement. And his stomach
chorused in at the same time.

"Sounds like someone's a little hungry." Deanna's sweet voice drew a
glint of mischief into his still sleepy blue eyes.

"Yeah, I guess so. Where's Tom?" His vagueness was slowly lifting as
time passed. He unsuccessfully covered a yawn and stiffly stood up,
nearly stumbling till he caught himself on the couch side lamp.
Deanna's hands were still frozen in mid air as he turned, aware of
her concern. "I'm fine Deanna. Tom?" He asked again.

"Right here. You called?" The voice easy to discern with it's
strength compared to Will's croak.

Will sighed and broke into a smile as he turned to see Tom leaning
into the door jam, the pose so familiar, it unnerved him. "Just
making sure you were behaving yourself." He replied.

"Never." From behind his back he pulled out a pie from thin air.
"Courtesy of Mother Jones down the road. Saw we were back in town and
donated dessert." He grinned.

"Really? Or did you just swipe it like when we were young?" Will
twinned his brother's smile.

Tom shook his head and started to move away from the doorway,
intended for the kitchen. "Donated. And my red cheeks are proof. She
still pinches cheeks as hard as she used too." Tom winked, and moved
the rest of the way out of distance of the laughter from behind. The
swing of the kitchen door shutting out their mirth as he laid the pie
to rest in the middle of the rustic wooden kitchen table.

He looked back to the direction he'd come from, satisfied to finally
hear his brother's laughter after so long. "May Deanna finally pin
you down and make you smile for eternity Will." He silently toasted
with a glass of lemonade, poured from a pitcher that Mother Jones had
also thrust into his hands. The old lady had been estatic in seeing
him again. Telling him of how proud she was of his starship travels.
Unaware that she had been talking purely of Will, and not that of his
transporter twin, Tom.

Tom was just relieved that she hadn't brought up the jail sentence,
then again, it was more likely that she hadn't of wanted to spoil the
joy of finally seeing him again. Telling him over and over again of
how she used to worry about him when she'd heard Kyle braiding him,
and that she needn't of worried, as he'd grown into a very
resourceful man.

Tom took another swig of the lemonade and plonked down the half
glass, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment. The kitchen door
edged quietly open, without his knowledge, admitting the one person
who knew what he was feeling right then and there.

"Tom?" She whispered, not wanting to disturb him. He turned and
viewed the frown lines he'd caused to form across her sweet forehead.

"Hey I'm sorry, just felt a little too nostalgic there for a while."
He grinned falsely, trying his best to cover up the despair. He knew
better. Deanna could never be fooled by him. Though he felt that he
had to at least try, grasping at hope, that she was still more intune
with Will right now than himself. "Can I get you something? I have
some pretty mean lemonade here." He said holding up his half glass.
One hand silently pushing the padd he'd been carrying in his hand,
further under the washing up cloth on the table.

"No Tom. What I want is more personal than that. I want to know what
your plans are." Well that question floored him. He'd been expecting
another angle, but then again she knew him inside out, and already
knew the answer but just required the question.

"I need to know that he'll be alright here alone. I got a call from
someone. While visiting Laura." A sparkle grew within his federal
blue eyes, at the mention of her name.

Deanna moved closer and placed a comforting hand on his forearm, her
touch sending a tingling sensation throughout his body. "Two days. I
need to leave in two days time to rendezvous with the...." He
stopped, not wanting her to know the full details.

"Will is fine." She replied. "Take your leave Tom, your help has been
incredible, and I'm sure I can get him up and active enough to care
for himself soon. He's been moaning about my waiting on hand and foot
for him for hours now." Her smile, matched Tom's. "Do what you need
to do. Be a hero for someone else. But come back in one piece

He nodded and smiled widely. "I will. It's only a simple miss..." Her
fingers over his lips halting his next few words.

"I don't want to know" She replaced the fingers with her lips, for a
quick and delightful kiss. "Just be careful Tom." Before getting off
her tippy toes and moving back out into the corridor.

He stood there, remembering the touch of her lips till the warmth
faded from them. Smiling at how well Deanna Troi controlled the
hearts of men, especially Riker men.


:::::: Twenty-four :::::::

It'd been a hard few days, but the trail was now warm, and Thomas
hungered for the end of the chase. With all his contacts, and using
the favours he'd earned over the years, Thomas was very close to the
telepath and his henchmen. Reports had drawn him to a small planetoid
in the Devris system, a world that was constantly on guard from
asteroidal bombardment from the nearby asteroid cluster. Why anyone
would want to live here was beyond Tom. But perhaps the dark, sleazy
society was what had drawn his nemesis to this part of the quadrant.
Or had he fallen on bad times at the hand of Will?

Sitting within the gloom of what could only be called a pig sty, Tom
brushed away another annoying grasshopper-like insect and waited for
his contact, quietly sipping his ale while trying not to notice the
grimy glass he was drinking from. His shields were up, if this was
the person he'd been hunting for, he sure as hell didn't want to go
down to some sneaking telepaths tricks before he'd laid a glancing

"You wanted to know about Ral?" A rough voice spoke from beside his
left elbow. Glancing down Tom viewed a short balding man in hessian
like robes and a long staff.

"Something like that." Tom replied, hoping this reject from a fairy
tale wasn't going to start claiming that he was Rumplestiltzkiln.
Turning back to his ale he took another long draft before thumping it
down to the bar and swivelling around on his bar stool to give the
little man his whole attention.

"Follow me." Was all he said before waddling off to a darker part of
the barn, out the back. Tom squinted as he entered one of the smaller
rooms and almost gagged on the Suvulian smoke, already his head was
throbbing with it's drugging effects. Shaking his head, he blinked
away the smoke from sore eyes and continued to follow his contact
through another doorway until they'd entered what could only be a
room full of trouble.

A deep croaky voice pulled his attention away from counting the
amount of armed men in the room, to the furthermost corner. "Riker.
Well if I'd known you'd of come of your own volution in the first
place, I could of saved myself a whole lot of money."

"Shit!" Tom replied as he just realised his mistake, and trod in
something nasty.


The sound of hail pelting down on the tin roof gave the warm cosy
flicker of fire in the heath something to dance to. It had been three
days now and Tom still hadn't returned. She watched the fire and
wondered where he was. Strangely enough, she could never sense Tom as
well as Will, but then again there had been an eight year gap, where
she and Will had been in closer proximity than Tom. Deanna wondered
occasionally if it was due to the twinning process. Was Will the
original hence her stronger bond? Or was it just that she loved the
mature and older Will than the Jalara duplicate. Sighing heavily she
disturbed Will, who was once again writing in his journal. Since
their arrival back to Alaskan territory, he'd find a corner if the
time was right and sit and enter his memoirs, she guessed. And not
electronic either, on paper. He'd found a sketch book in his father's
old study and had instantly taken a liking to scribbling upon it with

And he guarded it too. She'd had no chance in the last few days to
even sneak a peep at it. Will must of sensed her curiosity, as she
soon found herself looking up into those deep blue intense eyes.
"I'll fix us some hot chocolate." He smiled once he'd caught her
attention, getting up from his kneeling position in front of her. She
could still see him grimace lightly as he stood up and wandered down
the corridor. He was sore but alive and well, and healing each day.
Will had begun to frown whenever she tried to help him. The Commander
of old was back, even if not exactly in standard uniform any more.

Picard had of course sent word the other day that things were
progressing well with the findings, a hopeful glint in the old
captains eye that his first officer may well be back to his old
tricks soon. As soon as she tried to inform Will, he'd only grunted a
thanks for the info and headed back into his book.

His book..... she mused. There it sat, by the fire on the foot stool
by his chair. The blanket he'd been sleeping in earlier thrust over
the arm chair and snagged by one corner under the leather bound
article. Looking to the door, she heard nothing but his whistling
tune from the kitchen. Jazz again. A good sign he was happy and
busy....glancing back to the volume she started to get up only to sit
right back down again. Should she peak at what he'd been writing?
Goddess knew that he hadn't been confiding in her. Not even a single
sentence for her to counsel him over. Maybe the answer was within
those leafy pages?

Looking to the door again she pushed herself up and out of the large
overstuffed chair and moved to the sacred volume. Running her fingers
over the volume re-counted to her the same feel that some of the
captains old books had, the richness and feeling that it was alive.
Her fingers slid to the papery side and gently opened the heavy cover
to view the small neat hand writing. Taking her back to the poems he
used to write.

She read the first chapter and then skipped to another few, quickly
skimming over his words to the last sentence he had penned [....oh
Imzadi if only you too could understand the pain I bare each day for
being alive and not he....]

"What are you doing?" She almost dropped the book at his angry tone.
Before she could speak he'd already slammed the mug to the table
spilling the contents, to grab his treasured diary from her hands.

"I'm sorry...I..I was just..." She stopped gibbering and looked at
the pain in his eyes. The trust she had broken. He looked away in
disgust and threw the book down onto his chair.

"Damn it Deanna. Can't you leave me alone once in a while? Do you
always have to evaluate me?" Although quiet, his voice held the
painful emotions in check but not enough for her to feel the burn of
each word as it left his lips. His eyes fell upon hers, and all she
could do was look away at her own disgust, her own betrayal of his

"You won't confide in me Will, what else was I supposed to do. I'm
sorry Imzadi.... I"

"Don't call me Imzadi." He paused not sure of what he'd just said. "I
trusted you." His anger boiled to the top and his eyes flashed fire
as he stormed out of the room, the front door slamming open as he
exited the cabin.

Deanna's hands flew to her mouth and she almost crumbled then and
there until she heard the yell. Fleeing after him she found herself
roughly grabbed from behind as she passed the front door jam. One
hardened hand circled her waist and another held a sharp knife to her
throat to stay her. And it certainly wasn't Will.

"Don't struggle, don't cry out and you won't end up like your
boyfriend." The man whispered into her ear. His vile breath making
her turn away from him. Looking away she was able to see for the
first time of where Will had ended up. Kneeling in the snow, not some
two metres away, at the bottom of the stairs. Another man was
squatting in front of him, talking, balanced upon the balls of his

She whimpered as she felt his shock and pain washed over her; the
crimson snow growing in front of him. She could only see the back of
him, but the small red stain that was ever increasing from the back
of his cream jumper told her what had happened, that and the long
bloodied knife the man spun around his fingers. Casually pulling
himself upright, Will's assailant kicked him to his side as he
cradled his midriff in agony. Taking short sharp breaths, steam
rising from his wound in the cold frigid air.

"Greetings from Ral. Consider the deed done and the insult over
Riker." The man finished his speech with one large spit on the ground
by Will's gasping side. "Kill the girl, once you've finished with
her." He added, Grinning once he saw Riker's sudden jolt of fear.
"And make sure it's messy." He added before stamping hard upon Will's
back as he struggled upward. "Stay down and die like the scum you are
Riker or I'll make your girl scream longer than you live." He said,
kicking a patch of crimson snow with the toe of his boot.


:::::: Twenty-five :::::::

Deanna had frozen where she was, stunned at how quick their simple
afternoon had fallen apart into the unpleasant massacre it was to
become. The man holding her adjusted his hold on the knife giving her
a second to stomp viciously onto his foot, before forcing the knife
arm away from her throat. Time moved in slow motion as he grabbed a
handful of her hair and tried to drag her closer to his reach, just
as she spun round and kneed the man in the groin, making her escape.

"Damn bitch!" He grimaced as he dropped the knife and slammed hard to
his knees cradling his tender anatomy. The metallic ping of the knife
hitting the granite steps, drew the main henchman in her direction,
giving her only moments to grab the knife herself out of the reaching
fingers of the groaning man before her, to face Will's attacker.
Spitting once more to the ground he growled in her direction and
started to advance. "He warned me about the Betazoid bitch. Said you
were only a touchy-feely half breed."

Deanna focused on their attacker, trying to block out the insults and
the site of Will crawling across the dirtied snow, his face barely a
cm from it's frigid surface. Each time he struggled forward his
strength gave out landing him flat back into the icy flurry. She
swallowed hard and readied herself, the Starfleet officer coming to
the foreground, as she sidestepped slowly drawing the fight away from
the front steps and onto fresher snow. Hoping the crisp surface would
give her a more stable surface to fight on, she took a moment to
glance back to Will, regretting it as her adversary took the chance
and swung a right hook at her. Knocking her off balance and into a
deeper snow drift, the knife lost from her grip.

"You've really pissed me off now girl." He ground out as he took
another swinging hook and connected it with her jaw, flinging her
head back into the snow, leaving her laying there out cold.

The man sighed and shook his head. "And I thought I was gonna have
some fun." Until her foot connected with his chin, the sound of teeth
cracking, sending him backwards into his own pillow of snow. Deanna
staggered upwards, spitting out her own blood, trying to shake the
giddiness from her concussed skull.

"Will!" She called out seeing that he wasn't moving any more, still
face down in the snow with arms sprawled out, and fingers clawlike;
no longer gripping for purchase in the snow. Checking over her
shoulder, her attacker was still out but for how long she wasn't
sure. Fighting her instinct to hold Will within her arms she headed
back into the cabin, and straight for her shoulder bag hung up in the
hallway. Her hand frantically searched inside till she found the
small metallic badge.

"Counsellor Troi to Starfleet security." Her voice was shaking along
with her hands as she held the delicate piece of jewellery. "Please!
Troi to security!" She almost screamed until the communicator chirped

"This is Alaskan security Counsellor, how can we help you?" The calm
and steady voice almost seemed too surreal in the heat of the moment.

"Please I need a medical and security team to Commander Riker's cabin
at the Valdez lakes immediately. Two intruders..." and that was when
she realised that the man she'd injured on the steps hadn't been
there when she'd run into the house.

"We'll have a team there immediately. Counsellor? Counsellor Troi?"
The man's voice became more urgent until she responded.

"Thank you, just please...get the medical team here quick. He's
dying." As the words left her lips, she closed the channel and pulled
out her phaser, intent on staying by Will's side. She carefully began
to move back outside, wary that the missing man could be anywhere,
but finding no one, except for the main henchman, starting to get to
his groggy feet.

Thumbing the phaser's stun level up she hit him squarely in the chest
taking him down and out, hopefully until the cavalry arrived.
Dropping to her knees by Will, she sunk down deep into the lifeblood
of her Imzadi, now a mixture of frozen slush that was still wet and
warm. Her hand hovered over his back for a moment, afraid to find out
if he was [...no don't go there!....] her mind screamed [...he's
alive I can feel him...]

"Oh Will! I am so sorry for reading your book, for not... for not
...oh goddesss." She whispered, as she finally laid a hand to his
back. "Will?" The smallest of movements from the fingers of his left
hand gave her so much joy. Gently she turned him over onto his back,
to witness the deep gash that burrowed right through his chest. His
eyes were just mere slithers of blue as he struggled to stare into
her weeping own.

"Imzadi." He mouthed. Beckoning her closer as he tried to say something to her.

"Will hold on. Medics are coming, please just hold on OK?" Her hands
fluttered over him, touching his cheek, his chest, and his face. She
just had to feel his warmth, to be with him, to let him feel her.
Grasping his hand in hers she squeezed it encouragingly.

"Imzadi....Whisper me this, that you love me..." He pleaded. Sorrow
filling his eyes as a deep wet cough encompassed his next words.
Words that were taken away with great gasps of pain. Gasps that were
suddenly a fearful warning, one too late as she didn't notice the man
behind her as he swung with a length of wood to the back of her head.
The sound of phaser fire too late as reality blanked out around her
and she fell on top of her Imzadi, Will crying out her name. A
mournful cry that shattered hearts across the universe.


[A day earlier]

Another place, and another Riker was also fighting for his life.
Sporting a few dozens cuts, Thomas had managed to better himself
within the trap he'd fallen for. Sure he was faced by another dozen
men before him, but he held the cards right now. It'd been tricky but
performing a few sleek manoeuvres he'd learnt within the Cardassian
prison camp, he'd managed to fight off most of the rabble crowd to
perch himself within killing distance of the hooded man.

With another set of rapid punches he felled the last man before his
quarry. Faced with the possibility of death, the cowardly man had
ordered his men to halt. Hence the position Tom was in now. A
stalemate. Holding the wicked knife up, that he borrowed from the man
under his right foot, he pushed aside the cowl to reveal a scarred
man. The coal black eyes, instantly confirming that he was Betazoid.
"Looks like I've found Will's puppeteer."

The bizarre look on the mans face, registered to Tom, that this man
though he really was Will. Tom grinned until the Betazoid smiled
back. "You're not Will Riker. You don't know who the hell I am. Nor
are you Starfleet."

Slamming down his rusty shields, Tom tried to focus past the insults
this man was now trying to use on him. Inching the blade closer to
prick his throat, Tom gritted his teeth in anger, his ears still
trained to the slightest sound of movement from behind. 'Who the hell
are you?"

The Betazoid, insane in Tom's eyes, began to chuckle. "Oh if only I
could face your true self and tell him personally. I am the man who
bedded your Imzadi. The man who's life and career nearly ended at the
hands of the Chrysallians when that bitch, Troi tricked me. Left me
to the hands of my trading employers to suitably dress me down a peg
or too." He said angrily pointing to the long thin scar that marred
his face.

Tom squinted, trying to work out if he did know this person, putting
it aside as another happenstance before he was discovered. "Well
thanks for the history lesson, but who the hell are you?"

"I have a deal for you." He bargained, ignoring Tom's request. "The
Betazoid lives if I do too." Tom grimaced at his weak threat until he
realised a few of the men were now missing, a thin line of dread
rising up his spinal column. No he couldn't of, could he?

"That is the oldest trick in the book your slimy bastard. Now who the
hell are you?" Tom replied, hoping to stall for more time till he
could work out the next move. Will and Deanna, if they were in
trouble, would have to wait. Right now he was cornered, sure he held
they're boss, but for how long could he hold off twelve men like this?

"Devinoni Ral! You shall die for the coward that you are!" A killing
scream echoed through the corridor to the room, soon followed by
another and then a towering shadow of darkness within the less
crowded doorway. Tom couldn't believe his eyes, was this help or

"I am Kurn, son of Morg, brother of Worf, and I claim allegiance to
this man." The Klingon thrust his powerful arm out at Tom Riker,
before bellowing a death cry and launching himself into the crowd.
Tom could only stand and watch as he held his captive, now sagging in
his grasp from a hard right hook, as witness to the display of an
avenging Klingon.

The room was barely inhabited by the time Kurn had swung his Batleth
about in a few swarthy cycles, the only two men who hadn't decided to
flee, were huddled in one corner begging for their lives upon their
knees. One snarl from the Klingon and they too took leave.

"I see you did need my help after all." Kurn grimaced, glancing at
the damage to the room.

Tom chuckled and thrust the swearing Betazoid forward to collapse
onto the bloodied ground. "Ah, Kurn? Umm care to tell me what you're
doing here? Not that I'm ungrateful or anything but I had things kind
of wrapped up." Giving a swift kick to his squirming captive's side,
he pulled away one of the curtain cords to tie the man's hands behind
his back, tightly.

"I have been guarding you." His reply was short and to the point.

"Guarding?" Surprise was the last thing Tom had thought he'd be
displaying to this Klingon right now. "By who's orders?"

Kurn moved his stance and pushed his shoulders back, lifting his chin
high. "I am protecting that which my brother Worf called family. And
I am called forth to slay that worm you hold within your grasp." If
the Klingon hadn't of said it so proudly Tom would of laughed.

"Ah, I hate to tell you this Kurn, but I think you mean Will, I'm
Tom, Tom Riker." He dragged his dizzy captive upwards, and started to
heard him out the door. "The twin who keeps getting himself into hot
water. And this 'worm" is going to clear the guy you're supposed to
be protecting." He winked, hoping the Klingon would understand,
before gutting Will's witness.

Kurn shook his head and laughed heartily. "I know Federation law. He
will live until his usefulness is over." He grinned an evil toothy
grin, with what he had in mind, just before a serious pall fell over
them both. "Your brother fought valiantly for the female, it is
unfortunate the winner feels so bad about it. Glory dictates that I
must guard what my brother died for. He fought boldly against his
brother for love of a woman that loves another. I am bound to care
for them, it was his wish. You too are part of that pact."

"Pact? Wait a minute. Are you saying Worf had already worked this
out? That he had planned on dying?" The Betazoid struggled a little
until Thomas flung him in a corner and demanded an explanation from
his guardian. Briefly keeping an eye on Ral as he played with his

"No. But he knew the only way to save face was to fight for
her....and to bow to his opponent's wishes."

"Will's not guilty." Thomas mumbled. "What the hell were you doing
lurking all this time. You could of stopped all this!?! Shit!" Tom
swore. "Would you be willing to return to Earth with me to testify
that Worf's death was due to Klingon tradition?"



"No. He did not cause his own death. He allowed fate, that which
Kahless would approve, to solve their problems. He had provided for
one of many such endings. Your survival for one. The happiness of the
one he loved so much was adamantly required to be protected. He
confided that her love was not for him. That you both held her heart
within your warrior hands." Kurn lowered his chin and spoke lower.
"Honour dictates that an act of courage be achieved for each of you.
I have now completed my oath to you on this day."

"Of which I am appreciative Kurn." Tom bowed and graciously accepted
the Klingon's gift. "But you do owe Will Riker as well."

"So I do." He said with a toothy smile.

"Not any more Klingon scum!" Shouted Devinoni Ral as he launched
forward to grab Tom's holstered phaser, clutching it as he rolled to
one side past Tom and aiming it at Will Riker's only chance of being
cleared of all charges. One single beam of phaser power flashing
brilliance within the room for a second, intertwined with one single
scream of triumph.


:::::: Twenty-six :::::::

"Shit!" Swore Kyle as he raced to the side of the two still bodies
within the snowdrift. A settling of white was a top them already
regardless of their still warm bodies. "Hurry up and get the
stretchers out!" Kyle shouted angrily, wondering why the medic team
hadn't pushed him out of the way yet, turning to see them shuffling
through the snow, heavily burdened by equipment. He knelt down
instantly to feel for Will's weak pulse before moving a hand beneath
Deanna's fallen head of hair to find hers still a lot stronger than
his son's. "Dad." He heard Will whisper as he looked into the thin
blue slotted eyes. "Deann..."

"Excuse me sir." One man asked helping him up and away before the
team enveloped their patients. Looking back to the attackers, one was
definitely dead by the way one medic shook his head, the other being
carted away by a local Alaskan security officer.

Deanna was lifted first onto one of the stretchers, hypos, plasters
and such applied at an incredibly fast and efficient rate. Will next,
though they spent more time applying their medical tricks before even
attempting to move him. The sound of the medical shuttle hovering
above drew his attention away from Will's blue lips, watching as it
descended over them to land a few metres away, soon collecting it's
medical team and the wounded, before heading back up into the snow
filled sky. Looking back to the spot where they'd lain, Kyle took in
the long bloody trail of where Will must of dragged himself along,
and the even larger red blemish upon the virgin white snow where he'd
faltered and collapsed.

"Sir?" Kyle looked back to one of the three men left by the cabin.
All other personal had beamed away to the medic shuttle or wee still
scouting the surrounding area. "Reports indicate that these two were
the only attackers. Though we can't secure your safety if there are
more on the way."

Kyle nodded back to the security officer, dressed in thick Starfleet
thermals for this climate. "I'll lock up the cabin and return with
you." He replied, his stomach rolling with anxiety. He'd never had to
worry about his son before, and now he was fearing the worst. "Where
the hell is Thomas!?!" He mumbled to himself as he closed up the
cabin and hurriedly followed the security officer to the shuttle that
was already prepped and ready to go.


"Holy shit!" Thomas spat as he kicked the stand on his hover bike and
turned off the engine. Pulling off one glove he moved to the jaggered
red ice, the cold depression in the bloody snow mimicking a fallen
body for sure. It was frozen solid, obviously having happened a while
ago. The hairs on the back of his neck rose taller, causing him to
whip around, phaser in hand.

"Thomas Riker?" The security officer questioned. Trying not to eye
off the phaser aimed directly at him.

"Who wants to know?" Thomas' eyes squinted in wariness.

"Commander Erinx. I have a message to forward. Your father said that
he's waiting for you at Fleet Medical. You're required stat. I have a
shuttle ready and waiting." He offered indicating with his left hand
to his right, to a path through the bushes to the huge clearing

"What the hell happened here?" Thomas said, the mystery raising his hackles.

"An attempted murder. Your father will explain in depth in your
presence, and a secured location, Sir." The man's speech was quick
precise and urgent. Deeming Thomas to shrug his shoulders and follow,
though not before giving another look to the gruesome reminder that
someone was injured.


:::::: Twenty-seven :::::::

The world came back into focus slowly for Deanna, and not without a
dash of dizzy that made her clench shut her eyes again. "Hey. You're
safe now Imzadi." The soft words from the man she loved warmed her as
he whispered it into her ear.

"Will?" She cracked open her eyes again to view the blue orbs, worry
lines creasing the corners. Blinking a few more times she managed to
clear the fog enough to see him look away sadly, before she found his
hand and clasped it in a tight embrace. Realising her mistake.

"Will's still unconscious Deanna." Tom smoothed her hair away from
her pale features, one thumb brushing her lips as the rest of his
hand cusped her delicate chin. "He lost a lot of blood, but the cold
kept him alive longer than normal for them to revive him." He
explained before she could ask after him.

"What about the men?" She asked, suddenly wondering what had happened
after she'd taken the blow to her head.

"Dad turned up in the nick of time. It's all my fault." He sighed. "I
got a tip off as to where the guy was lurking. Found him but some of
his buddies had already slipped out days before I got there. I warned
dad just before I left the Devris System. Glad I did now." He smiled
warmly as he sat upon the edge of her bed. "They were already on
their way when they got your distress call. Though not quick enough
to stop you from being knocked around."

Deanna struggled upward to lean back on her arms like Will had done
countless times before. Smiling wryly that she was starting to mimic
his lounging patterns. "I was worried that you never were going to
wake up. Deanna. " He said leaning forward to finger a lock of hair
away from her face. "That I'd have to kiss my sleeping beauty to
awaken her." The small smile on his face was a hint of the sincerity
of his prior worries about her.

"Is that the story where she turns into a frog?" She queried drawing
an even bigger smile from him as she held her throbbing head at her
own laughter. Their merriment died suddenly at the commotion going on
outside of her room. "Will?" She whispered before staggering out of
bed only to be caught by Tom as her legs gave out.

"Whoa! I think you need a little rest first before executing that
move again so soon." His comment was light, but concern was creased
in tight around his eyes.

"I'm fine. Thank you." She replied wearily holding onto his
supporting arm as he lead her back to her bed. "I...I..have to see
Will." The words stumbling from her mouth before looking up into his
eyes, hoping he understood the need for his brother.

Thomas sighed, giving up trying to get her back to bed once he saw
the pain and sorrow in her turbulent onyx eyes. "The staff have
already ordered me to tell them once you'd awakened, something I'm
already in trouble for. Letting you walk out of here would be another
nail in my coffin Deanna."

She said nothing but rose a hand to above his heart, embracing the
warmth of his chest through the thick winter shirt. "Imzadi...." Tom
grasped her hand and gently moved it away from him. "No. There can be
only one, and that honour belongs to someone else. But I..." He
sighed and gave her a slight smile. "Rabeem".

"But please, get back into bed Deanna. He was fine when I last saw
him, resting peacefully." He assured her.

"I need to see him Thomas." She repeated. Leaving Thomas to shake his
head and lift her high up into his arms, cradling her against his
chest as he made his way out of the spartan medical bay, in search of
his brother's twin room.

Upon reaching it, he'd spied what the noise had been about earlier.
Will Riker was standing, barely, and completely butt naked within the
middle of the room with nothing under five nurses holding onto him in
aid to drag him back to bed. The half closed eyes blinked a few times
as he finally spied Deanna within Tom's arms, confusion creasing his
brow as he tried to think past the drugs in his system. He staggered
forward by one step before another group of techs arrived to grab him
off his feet and haul him back to bed. His was breathing hard, and
covered in a sheen of perspiration but to Deanna he was fabulous,
those toned muscles, and no hole. Sure there was the usual medical
patches covering the worst of his wounds, but none of the cuts or
bruises were present.

"Mr. Riker? What do you think you're doing with our patient!?!" The
look of amazement on the doctors face was nothing but hilarious.

"She needed to see him." He replied calmly, hoping they wouldn't be
hauling his ass down to the psyche ward in a few moments. Moving
forward against the force of their angry countenance he strode on by
them to the chair beside his brother's bed. Sure it was a simple
piece of furniture for the doc while diagnosing her patient, but to
Deanna right now, to be beside her lover, it was pure luxury. Careful
in placing her down, he stood up and backed away as she reached over
to grasp Will's hand, he too struggling to lift a limb in her

"I can't believe this." The doctor muttered. Sighing she took in the
rebellious threesome and shook her head. "OK. If Mr. Riker stays
still and heals quietly I am sure I can overlook your admittance to
his room. Just make sure he stays put or you'll all be banned till
he's fully fit for visitors." Her matronly finger waved itself in
their direction.

"Thank you." Will whispered as she leant over his chest, scanning his
dressed wound for damage. Doctor Maret looked him in the eyes and
winked. "Doctor Crusher warned me about you. Seems to be no
damage....this time. Try to get some sleep. We'll run a dermal
regenerator over the entry and exit wounds tomorrow to fully heal the
area. Your internals are intact. So recovery is all you need to worry
about." Her prognosis done she then turned to Deanna, giving her head
a quick scan, and a pain killer to her neck for the headache. "Rest.
Both of you." She finally let out a small smile before pulling Thomas
aside to follow her out of the room.

"I thought I gave you limited access to Miss Troi's room only Mr.
Riker." Her arms folded once outside the medical recovery wing
announced that she wasn't going to fall for a weak knee creating
smile from Tom the Tornado. "Or do you have trouble following
orders?" Her raised eyebrow instantly made him wonder if she
possessed some Vulcan in her lineage.

He smirked at her comment, wondering if she wanted the long or the
short answer to that. "I'm sorry doc. It was either carry her or
watch her stagger out on her own."

She smiled at his innocent eyes, no doubt a poker player, and gave a
small laugh herself as she held his forearm and chaperoned him down
the hall. "It seems they both had the same idea to see each other
regardless to their own pain. So tell me, how is it you possess such
an identical blood work as your brother? I've never had a donor match
so closely, and I have had a few twins in here in my time." Her hand
tenderly tapping his arm in comfort. On Tom's arrival, Kyle had
instantly requested he be a donor for Will. The amount of blood lost
too great for just blood expanders and sythi-plasma.

"Let's just say it's a cosmic question we'd all like explained." He
smiled back to her as they came to the lounge area of the facility.
Pushing through the doors, Thomas was greeted by the eager face of
Kyle and one other; Picard. "Gentleman. I shall leave you here to
discuss my patients no doubt." Doctor Maret, releasing Tom's arm
turned her five foot frame around and back through the doors before
they could even speak to her swish of black hair.

"Chasing the doctors now Tom?" Enquired Kyle with a sly grin.

"Nah. Bit old for me." Tom winked. "They're both fine. Though they're
walking martyrs for each other." He said stretching one arm up over
his head and yawning. "Had to carry Deanna to Will's side before she
added another bump to her forehead to find Will, the walking zombie,
trying to batter down five nurses to get to her room; both still in a
drug haze of course." He grinned at the other men's astounded glances.

"That kid is crazy. You both are." Kyle said spearing Thomas is his
headlights of newly generated anger. "What the hell were you doing
anyway? You were supposed to be looking after them." His voice
increasing in pitch.

"Going after the source dad!" Thomas spat back before turning his
back on him. "Where else do you think I was? Screwing some young
blonde for another notch on my bedpost while myself in there, and the
only woman who's ever touched the centre of my heart, were being
tormented?" He swore loudly. "I called you dad to warn them. What the
hell were you doing getting there too late?"

Picard stood aside, forgotten by the other two horned deer, locking
their antlers till one gave up. "I know what Deanna means to you
Thomas, but I thought you would of been more careful with her safety
for that same reason." He'd begun to pace, a habit passed from father
to sons.

"Gee dad, get off my back will you! I can't seem to do anything right
now can I? I guess you even blame me for mum too?" Once said, it
could never be taken back. The fire in Kyle's eyes seared his son
where he stood before he lifted a fist to strike, holding it back
with the only last thread of humanity he had left before he swore and
exited the lounge.

Tom stood there, arms crossed as he gazed out of the wide windows of
the facility to see his father striding across the grassed area, to
his waiting shuttle. He sighed deeply before scrubbing a hand over
his exhausted eyes to trail down to his beard, feeling it's scraggly
length. "I'm sorry you had to see that Captain." Tom apologised as he
caught Picard's reflection in the glass. "I guess we're just too
headstrong to stay happy families longer than a few days."

"You know, I always thought that the same of my father and I. Until I
realised that his strength was not a bane on our relationship but a
godsend for creating a stronger youth who could cope with the world
on his shoulders. Your father has made you stronger Thomas, no matter
how hurtful it has been. A blessing that many people have gained
through the exploits of both yourself and Will. Just never let it
completely ruin what links you have left with Kyle, no matter how
bullheaded he may be." Picard gave a small smile as Riker finally
turned his face to him.

"Or I." He smiled. His shoulders dropping their tense pose. "Or Will.
Hell he tried to kill himself by getting to Deanna's side just a few
moments ago." He shook his head. "I've been banned too. Again." He
winked, followed by the Cheshire grin that the Riker's had been known

Tom sighed and looked down for a moment till he raised his eyes back
to the captain before him. "He was right though. It was partially my
fault. I took too many wrong turns in finding the guy. Ral's henchmen
by-passed me, I had no idea where they were until it was too late.
Nearly got that damn Klingon killed too." He scrubbed a hand tiredly
through his hair. "Then again he was proudly baring his new scar, the
last time I saw him."

Picard moved to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Maybe
you're just tired Thomas. In the morning you'll see that you did
everything you possibly could have. I for one am glad of the help
you've provided them so far. Kurn's re-countered his brothers wishes,
and Ral has already given his deposition to the council. I see no way
that they can hold him accountable any longer."

"I just hope Will realises it." Tom tried to hold back another long
yawn only to be caught by Picard's smiling hazel eyes.

"I'm sure he will accept it as courageously as you will in accepting sleep."

"Very diplomatic sir. Do you use it on all your children?" He
grinned, returning a twinkle of mirth to his eyes.

With Picard's prompting, they both began to walk back along the
network of corridors, leading to the exit of Alaskan Medical. "Ah
yes. Deanna has called it the fatherly figure syndrome I believe."

As one they broke their serious roles and assumed the position of
friendship. Though Tom had only known Picard for a short time, he'd
grown to know the bald captain via Will's tales of the happy and sad
times aboard his ship. Cosmically he could do nothing but like the
man who had taken his twin under his wing, and guided him like the
son he never had, like one of his own family members. This Tom
realised is what he'd been missing for so long. A real family. Not
just a rag tag of other mercenaries out for profit and justice, but a
group of friends who were so close they could be construed as family.

"Careful Captain, you could be roped in for baby-sitting." Riker
winked before chuckling carefully at the captain's double take. The
warm glow of laughter lifted the men's spirits, and the two vanished
out into the falling dusk.


:::::: Twenty-eight :::::::

Will squinted up to the lights to find nothing but a purple blurry
glow. Unsure of what he was seeing, he blinked rapidly to clear the
sleep from his eyes, only to find a still blurry vision of Doctor
Maret smiling down upon him. Her purple hair off setting the green of
her eyes.

"Hi there sailor." She winked warmly.

He sighed, lightly closing his eyes once more before summoning up
enough strength to talk. "More visitors?" A hint of a smile forming
on his lips.

"What can I say, you're a popular man." She smiled before moving away
and exchanging places to allow Beverly room to look upon him, one
hand tracing the side of his face to make sure he was tangible and
real. The sensation very similar to another person's touch.

"Deanna!" He yelled, struggling upward to feel a burning pain within
his chest. Beverly immediately pressing him back down and shouting
out orders to someone behind her.

"Will, Don't move. She's fine, OK? Deanna is fine." Seeing him relax
like melted chocolate back onto the bed, she released his shoulders
and brushed the always errant lock of hair away from his watery blue
eyes. "You mister, however, need to rest." She said in a mock
scorning tone.

"How is she?" He asked, eyes pleading for the truth, he didn't want
to be softened for the blow. The image of her collapsing onto him,
the last thing he could remember as their attacker fought back.

"Will? You saw her earlier remember? Tom brought her in when you went
sleep walking. Doctor Maret told me. Frankly I'm not surprised you
tried that. I swear you two are joined at the hip sometimes." She
shook her red locks and smiled at his relief, watching as he diverted
his eyes away from hers till he regained his knight of steel facade.
"You do remember don't you?" She queried, wondering if he'd sustained
some hidden head injury in the attack.

"Yeah...sorry." he mumbled. "Just feel a little addled right now." He murmured.

"Extreme blood loss does do that to a man of your size." Maret said,
as she wandered up beside her patient. Checking his vitals and
detaching the small devices from his temples, nodding that he was
clear from danger after his sudden actions just before.

"I think we can finally release you of these. Your brainwaves are
average with a waking patient in your condition." She surmised,
before patting Beverly on the shoulder affectionately. "Keep an eye
on your friend before he becomes my autopsy cadaver, Beverly. He's
much too sweet to become waste within a body bag." She winked before
heading out to leave Beverly with her charge.

"Gee, great pick up line." Will mumbled.

Beverly chuckled. "That's Doctor Maret for you. Straight to the
point. I warned her about you, and it seems you didn't let me down in
my past observations of your healing behaviour. She's signed you over
to me, probably due to irritable patient syndrome." She winked as
Will rolled his eyes, groaning once he found even that hurt.

Beverly stood and moved to the bag she'd brought in earlier, and
began pulling out a fresh set of clothes for him. "Deanna was going
to be here to spring you out Will. But she had some duties to perform
on your behalf first. So I guess it falls to me."

Pointing to the neat stack upon the chair Beverly set about issuing
a set of rules. "If you can get out of bed and dress yourself,
without falling over or exerting yourself, then you're free to return
to the ship with me."


"Uh huh. That large duranium/tritanium object hovering above our
heads called home, is awaiting." She paused, crossing her arms as she
saw the facial change Riker exhibited.

"Beverly, it's not my ho..."

"To the captain it is." She smirked. "Your surrogate father is
worried about you. Says you missed curfew. Personally I think he
wants you home to play starships again."

Riker rolled his eyes and sighed. "Are you sure I'm not still
concussed? The last I heard I was banned from duty, and anyway I like
my real home here in Alaska, even if the wildlife is a little
violent." He said rubbing one temple as he struggled upward with her
help. After a few moments, and his head had stopped spinning, he
looked up from his lap, breath raggered from the exertion.

She sighed and placed a warm hand on his equally warm shoulder. "Well
that's something you can talk over later. For now, I need you
dressed. OK? We have places to go before our ride leaves without us."
She watched him raise his head to give her a weak smile. "Need help?"
He shook his head and moved aside the sheets to swing his legs out
over the floor.

"What I need is for people to stop herding me in the directions they
want me to go in." He grumbled, before looking at her apologetically.
"Sorry, that didn't come out right."

"No. I completely understand. It's your life Will, though in the
interim I think you could do with a little herding by your friends."
He frowned at her. "Just till you're on safer ground." Beverly added.
Patting him motherly on his back as she held out a folded shirt for


:::::: Twenty-nine :::::::

"So that's it then, I'm cleared." Will mumbled to himself, staring
across the wide length of Picard's ready room table, watching the
stars slowly rotate as they hung in orbit above Earth.

"Not just cleared Will, not guilty..." The Captain began.

"But I'm still responsible...I held the Batleth!" Will argued. His
cheeks reddening with his admission.

Picard leant back in his chair and gave a slight sigh before forming
a small smile with his lips. "I knew this would be an issue based on
your past displays of conscience Will. But quite frankly the answer
is no. You may of held the blade, but Devinoni Ral was behind the
dying blow."

Will shook his head. "He wasn't a telepath though, more a kind of
empath like Deanna. He could of interfered during the Barzan wormhole
negotiations, and won the bid a lot easier if he was anything but."
Finally looking up to the Captains hazel gaze he straightened his
posture, grimacing a little as his newly healed chest complained.
"And why Kurn didn't slaughter me, I have no idea." Flashing his mind
back to just a few moments before when he'd been embraced by Kurn,
Worf's brother, upon entering the ready room.

"As he explained to you earlier, it was at the wish of Worf that he
be Deanna and your guardian." Picard smiled. "It seems you made a
bigger impression on Worf than any of us. Kurn called you family.
That's no small thing for a Klingon Will."

Getting up he wandered over to the replicator, ordering up his usual
tea, pouring a cup for himself and Will once seated once more.
"Remember Ambassador Coulis?" He prompted the man and friend before

"The one from Beigel Nine? Yeah, met him in Ten Forward back
when...." He stopped, his eyes tightening to cold blue pools. "He was
the telepath?"

"Correct." Picard nodded. "We went back through the guest list,
seeing who on board, was capable of coercing you both to do battle.
After a little hunt via the records, we managed to trace Ral's
connection and credit transactions. Seems he had a little black mail
scheme between the ambassador and himself. Enough to goad the
Ambassador into planting the violent urges into your minds, just to
stir up a little trouble and possibility destroy either you or your

<guilt derived by a dishonoured man's action should not be carried
across your shoulders. one should accept his action and defeat him by
thwarting those beliefs>

The contents of his tea seemed bland to him all of a sudden. Worf's
haunting statements still troubled him, belaying his mind from
accepting the truth. Will placed the cup back down on the desk before
he dropped it, his hands starting to shake. "Why." He asked. Unsure
of whether it was a question to himself or the captain. "What the
hell did I do to him?"

"From what Beverly ascertained in her medical review of Ral, he bore
some rather deep scars. His own admission was to make you pay for the
Barzan negotiation collapse. He may of won the faulty wormhole, but
he also had to bare the commercial loss to the Chrysaliians. Seems
they weren't too happy with the results." He steepled his fingers.
Remembering the detailed information Beverly had supplied on Ral's
examination. His payment had been brutal no doubt.

"And he was jealous of Deanna and I." Will added, nodding as he
accepted the information in a calm and relaxed manner. All the pieces
fitting together perfectly.

"A perfect reason for revenge." The Captain agreed.

Will stood up and crossed over to Picard's star filled window,
catching the edge of Earth's rotation in it's oblong frame. Crossing
his arms, he leaned carefully against the glass and peered down to
where he figured Alaska would be.

"With Starfleets blessing, I can return you to duty in a few months
time, once this has all been cleared via the right channels of
course." Picard supplied, seeing the lost look on Will's face. He'd
seen it himself in his own mirror many times after he'd survived the
Borg. Do I stay or do I go.

"I think I need time to decide Captain. It's been a little bit crazy
of recent," he smirked looking back to his captain and friend of many
years. "And I'd really like to spend some time with Deanna first.
Make it up to her for all I put her through." He winked, the grin a
pale imitation of his usual smile.

"I fully understand. Deanna said the same thing when she requested
leave." Smiling as a look of amazement flashed across Will's face.
"She beat you to it Will. Go find her and beam down when you're
ready, we have a few days before we need to leave orbit again." His
voice soft and full of understanding.

"Thank you." Will replied, his voice tight with emotion. "Thank you
for everything Jean Luc." He smiled, dropping his head and stubbing
the carpet with one toe. "I know I'm a little out of touch with
Starfleet politics right now. But I was wondering how they were about
accepting back retiree officers."

Picard frowned, confused about what Will was asking. "Will your job
is available. My current first officer has, unlike yourself, decided
to accept promotion to captain in a few months time. You're job is

"A nice coincidence Captain." Will winked, a smile now brightening
his unsure features from before. "No, I have someone else in mind


"Come in Commander." Picard smiled. Greeting his new recruit. It had
been three long months of re-training and psychological reviews but
he was here, finally here. "Please take a seat."

As Commander Riker took up residence opposite Picard's desk, the man
nervously bit his bottom lip. "Never thought I'd land back here Sir."

"Well lets just say that I know you to be a fair and moral man Mr.
Riker. I would ask for no one else to be my right hand man, other
than yourself. And I did receive a rather glowing recommendation from
a very good friend of mine." Picard smiled.

Thomas Riker smiled back warmly. He now knew why he'd wanted to
return. It had been a long time coming, and at first he'd been
hesitant, but he was sure that this was the right family to be with

"I take it you have been assigned quarters, and all is ship shape?"
Picard enquired, leaning back in his chair and marvelling at the man
before him. He'd been through a lot in the last few years, and so he
considered it pure luck that he had the chance to be serving with one
of the extraordinary Riker's again.

He nodded, and stood as Picard did, reaching across the table to shake hands.

"Welcome aboard Commander Riker." Picard's hand shake was tight and
strong in friendship and trust. "I believe I have a little test for
you. We've just recently had our saucer up-graded as you've no doubt
noticed with current engineering reports. Seems we've been given the
all clear now. Think you can engage the battle hull with the saucer
section...manually?" Picard waited, knowing full well that Will's
twin was more than capable of the job.

"Yes Captain. It'd be an honour. If I may be dismissed?" Tom's smile
making Picard shiver inside with the mirror actions of Will Riker.

"Dismissed Commander." Giving the order, Tom began to move off until
he paused before the ready room door. No doubt mulling over a few
last thoughts in his mind, he finally turned back, giving a small nod
of appreciation. "Thank you for the chance to return and to serve on
board your ship Captain, and with you sir."

"The pleasure is mine Tom." Picard spoke warmly as he watched the
receding back of his new first officer exit to the bridge, to no
doubt continue the exemplary record of his brother.


:::::: Thirty :::::::

The fire crackled as it shot an orange glow around the room. It's warming presence multiplied as a small smooth hand fell onto shoulder, breaking him from his scribbling stupor.

"Said anything nice about me yet?" Deanna teased, looking down to see that he was still paused on the same paragraph he'd been working on, when she'd checked in on him at least an hour ago.

"Always." He grinned, pulling her hand closer till she moved around to sit on the padded chairs' armrest. "I'd never say a bad word about the love of my life." He spoke gallantly.

"Or your brother?" She enquired as she brushed her fingers against the soft bristles of his beard. "You did send him away Will." Deanna teased.

"Something he wanted to do for a long time Deanna. And something I was only too happy to help with." A small glint of longing in his eyes as dreamed of the stars flying by at warp again. "It was his right Deanna, his turn I guess to take the reins and run with them."

Moving off the arm rest, she moved aside his writing implements and sat gracefully in his lap. Gaining his full attention. "Do you regret giving up Starfleet? Of moving back here to Earth?"

He shook his head and sweetly kissed her lightly upon her forehead. "No. After our recent incarceration here, I came to enjoy being planet bound. Never knew how much I did miss it until now. Besides, he deserves to continue 'our' dream. With being only nine years old, he's bound to beat Kirk's record for sure." He laughed happily.

"The youngest Captain in Starfleet." Deanna replied with delight. Will's humour filling her soul with ambroisure.

"So what has you so stumped then? You've been staring at that page for far too long to be "just" a little writers block Will." Drawing small lazy circles across his chest, unaware of where they played. The small puckered scar of where the knife had gone in, now fully gone, but still remembered below her nimble fingers.

"I was just remembering how at one point I thought I was going mad." She sat back and looked into his guilty eyes. "Every now and then, when everything just seemed too much, one of Worf's little philosophies would pop into my mind. Rattle off a gruff statement, about honour and life in general." He gave a short laugh. "At one point I thought I was being haunted." He grinned.

"And did it help?" Mentally slapping herself for falling into counsellor mode.

Will smiled, as he saw her roll her eyes at her own comment. "Yes counsellor." He teased. "When I think back, each word, each voiced opinion was only being positive. It was guiding me to understand that I could only go forward, if I wanted to fix the position I was in. Wallowing in self misery and guilt was the dishonourable thing to do." He shrugged, shaking his head. "Maybe I was going mad after all."

"No. I think your ghostly guidance was your own conscience leading you back into the lighten room Will. You knew it yourself before any one of us had to drag you out of there mentally. You just needed your brother to physically show you the right way out of course. But you made it. "

"And with you Deanna. You made the biggest difference Imzadi." He said pulling her closer to rest her holy mind beneath his bearded chin. He sighed heavily. "Still doesn't end this damn block though." He chuckled.

Deanna smiled, curled up against him. "Well how do you want the story to end?"

"Well I'd really like to marry the princess once I've finished this damn book actually." He smiled warmly, starring into the flickering fire. "But deadlines call. The great William Riker's memoirs have a deadline, and there are bills to pay for the fixing up of the said cold and frosty abode here."

Deanna laughed. "Well may I have a suggestion." Her heart beating madly. "How about we change the ending to 'The princess gets married and they all live happily ever after in Alaska.' Maybe beginning with something like 'And he put down his book, brought her forth to his embrace and begged her to marry him. Crushing her to his lips and showing her how warm Alaska can be with just the beating hearts of two true lovers'?" She offered.

Will's eyes widened and a great smile broke out at her re-worked ending. "I think that can be arranged, seeing as I am the author." He chuckled bringing her closer still, the unfinished manuscript dropping to the floor, bending down to plant his lips atop hers.

As Will slowly pulled away, Deanna gazed up into his blue eyes, her own misty with delight. "Don't whisper, shout me this....I love you Imzadi."

And the Klingon philosopher of Will's mind chimed loud and clear. <Well done Commander, well done>

The End

[Their lives now complete, their lives now free of interruption, their lives now as one. Imzadi.]