DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns them. No infringement is intended, and no profit has been made.
SETTING: Second Chances, just in an alternate universe. ;)
FEEDBACK: Yes, please!
In the Troi mansion, Deanna Troi was trying to study for the classes she was taking at the university. She couldn't concentrate. Earlier in the day, the acceptance letter from Starfleet Academy had come, and the thought that she would soon follow in her father's footsteps excited her to no end. Not to mention her wedding day to her Imzadi, Will Riker, was only three weeks away.
Deanna finally gave up. Shutting the computer off, she walked onto the balcony. The sky was clear, and the stars were shining brightly. Smiling, she gazed up at the twinkling lights. Deanna couldn't remember feeling so alive, so free. It made her giddy, to the point that she was almost convinced if she leapt into the air, her body would take flight into the heavens.
Her mind was so far from Betazed, she jumped when her mother called to her.
~Deanna?~ The voice was soft in Deanna's mind. She could tell Lwaxana had her mental shields up, which wasn't like her.
Deanna answered. ~Yes, Mother?~
~Little One, there is someone here to see you.~ Something about her mother's voice was unsettling. She could remember hearing her mother use this tone many years ago, and the news that came with it changed her life forever. Deanna felt her chest clinch at the memory.
~I'm coming. ~ Shaking the thought from her head, she answered and quickly walked downstairs.
As Deanna took the last steps down the staircase, she saw a Starfleet officer standing in the room with her mother. The look on Lwaxana's face told her that he was not here on a courtesy call.
She tried to keep her voice steady. "What's wrong? What happened?"
The officer approached her. "Ma'am, are you Deanna Troi?"
"Yes," she answered.
"I'm sorry," he said, and handed her a PADD.
As Deanna began to read the message, she felt a chill course its way through her body.
I regret to inform you that Lieutenant William
Thomas Riker has been killed in the line of duty. He was
leading an evacuation of the research station on Nervala IV,
and was the last to beam out. Unfortunately, there was
an accident and his signal was lost. We did everything
we could to save him.
In the short time he served aboard the Potemkin,
Will gained my respect. His determination to do his job right
is unmatched in any person I've ever had in my command. I
am still amazed that he gave his life so those on the planet
would survive. He will be sorely missed.
Will listed you as his next-of-kin, and as such, his belongings will be delivered to you within the next several days.
My sympathy goes to you and your family.
Captain John Lee, USS Potemkin
Deanna dropped the PADD. All feeling left her body and mind as she collapsed into the nearest chair. "No . . ."
Lwaxana took her weeping daughter into her arms. "Little One, I am so sorry."
Eight years later . . .
Darkness had fallen. A tall man emerged from his shelter. He gazed up at the stars, as he had each night for almost eight years. His eyes searched the heavens, once again, wishing to find one planet, or at least the star it orbited. Deep within his chest, a pain gripped him once more. He was lonely, so very lonely, and his heart ached desperately for anyone to find him. But, there was only one person who really mattered.
He noticed a dim star - one that seemed to be moving! Before he allowed himself to hope, he shook his head, and looked to the ground. I've seen that too many times to be fooled, he thought. Taking one last glance at the sky, he sent with his mind a single word to the stars above, directed to the person who claimed half his soul what seemed like an eternity ago, someone he'd give anything to see one more time. The one he called . . . Imzadi . . .
He sighed, and returned to the building.
Counselor's Personal Log, Star date 46915.2:
The Enterprise is orbiting Nervala IV. It's a strange feeling, being here where Will died. I wasn't expecting all the feelings I had for him to resurface. I guess there is a part of me that will always love him . . . even as I move on with my life.
End personal log.
Deanna stared at the planet below. She glanced up at her wall chronometer, and noticed her first appointment would start in about thirty minutes. Absentmindedly, she ran her fingers over the trombone she kept by the viewport.
She jumped when a pair of strong arms circled around her. "Good morning, Beautiful. What's the matter?"
Leaning against him, she answered. "Nothing, Arin. Just thinking."
"Thinking about us?" He began kissing a trail down her neck.
"Yes and no." Deanna answered and faced him. She ran her fingers through the short blonde hair of her lover. "Just reflecting on the way my life has changed over the past few years."
"I see." Arin smiled, and captured her mouth with his. When they broke apart, he began to tickle her and asked, "Excited about the big change in two weeks?"
"Of course!" She laughed, and tried to wrestle out of his arms. "That's foremost on my mind!" Breaking free, she ran, with Arin in close pursuit.
He chased her into the dining area. "I would hope so!"
Still giggling, Deanna tried her best to keep the table between them. "You're going to have to try harder than that to catch me!" She happened to look up to the chronometer again. "Oh! I need to go! I have an appointment in soon!"
Arin took that moment of distraction, and caught his prey. "Nope, that's not going to work this time!" He kissed her passionately.
Deanna somehow managed to come back to her senses, and pulled away from him. She looked into his hazel eyes. "This has been fun, but I really need to go. I've already been late twice this week because of you!"
"Well," he said, "I suppose I could let you go this time." The chirp of his commbadge interrupted him.
<Data to Lt. Tanner.>
Arin tapped the badge. "Tanner here."
<The transport window on Nervala IV will be open earlier than estimated. We will meet in Transporter Room 3 in ninety minutes.>
"Aye, sir. Tanner out." He answered, then turned his gaze to Deanna. He flashed a devilish smile at her. "Maybe we can continue this tonight?"
Deanna began walking toward the door, and teased over her shoulder. "Maybe!"
Before the door hissed shut, Deanna caught Arin's gaze on the trombone, which triggered a feeling of unease from him.
She sighed. Being here bothers him, too. We'll be far away from this planet in a few days. He'll get over it, just as I will.
It wasn't too long before Deanna stepped into her office. The doors shut as a warm, familiar feeling came over her. She crossed her arms, somewhat confused. This was something she hadn't experienced in a long time. Along with it came a sensation that was almost like a feather tickling the inside of her head. It grew stronger, eventually forming a word.
Deanna's limbs turned weak, and her hands went to the sides of her head, as she leaned against the wall for support. Tears began to trickle down her cheeks as she sunk to the floor. "This isn't real!" She whispered. "He's dead!"
Arin took a deep breath of the stale air as he, Commander Data, and Lt. Worf materialized on the Nervala IV station. Immediately, he pulled out his tricorder and began scanning the room.
Arin was surprised how neat the station appeared. According to the surface scans he studied, there had been a lot of seismic activity since the evacuation eight years ago. It was disturbing to him that there was little, if any, debris littering the floor.
He continued surveying the room as he strolled by the consoles. Something about the abandoned station gave him an odd feeling. Arin looked up, and what he saw sent a slight shiver down his spine. There appeared to be a makeshift repair to a conduit in the ceiling. "I've found something!" He pointed to his discovery. "It looks like someone was here."
Data and Worf walked over to appraise Arin's find.
Cocking his head to the side, the android spoke. "Interesting. It does appear that way." He punched a few commands into his tricorder. "These repairs were made approximately 2.3 years ago."
Worf looked at the repair with a bit of suspicion etched on his features. "Perhaps a ship was caught in the distortion field and crashed," he said. "The survivors may have taken refuge here."
Data gave a somewhat thoughtful look. "That would also explain why the area seems clear of debris."
"But where are they now?" Arin glanced at his tricorder. "Commander, someone is approaching. It appears to be Humanoid, forty meters due east and closing."
Data signaled them to take cover and all drew their phasers. After a few moments, the doors opened to reveal a tall, scruffy looking man dressed in an old and torn Starfleet uniform.
"Who are you?" His confusion was evident as the man glared at the away team.
Arin's mouth went dry and he nearly dropped his phaser. Deanna's imzadi was standing there! "Riker?" he asked.
He narrowed his eyes at the one who spoke. "Do I know you?"
Before Arin could answer, Data stood up. "I am Commander Data from the Starship Enterprise.” He introduced the rest of the away team, indicating each officer as he spoke. “This is Lt. Arin Tanner, and Lt. Worf. May I ask who you are?"
He nodded to the other officers before turning toward the android. "I'm Lt. William Riker from the Potemkin. Eight years ago, I led an away team to evacuate this station."
The android cocked his head to the side. "Why did you not return to the Potemkin with the others?"
"I was the last one out," Riker shrugged, and stroked his bushy beard. "It's just a guess, but I believe the distortion field must have interfered with the transporter. They lost the signal lock on me, and when I tried to contact the ship, I couldn't get through the interference." He paused for a moment. "If you check with Starfleet, I'm sure they recorded that I was lost on that day."
Data glanced from Will to the away team. "Would you be willing to allow our doctor to examine you? As you said, you are recorded as being lost. According to the report, your signal disintegrated."
He ran a hand through his long and unruly hair. "Of course."
"Mr. Worf," Data said, turning to the huge Klingon. "Please take Lt. Riker to Sickbay and notify the Captain once you are on board. Lt. Tanner and I will finish here."
The Klingon stepped next to Riker. Slapping his commbadge, he said, "Worf to Enterprise, two to beam up."
O'Brien's voice answered. "Aye, sir, stand by."
A few moments later, they materialized on the Enterprise. Riker looked around at his new surroundings in awe.
Worf stepped off the platform and noticed Riker was still there. "This way, Lieutenant."
"Right," he answered, following the Klingon into the hallway. "Sorry about that. I thought I'd never see the inside of another ship!"
"I see," Worf huffed as they continued walking through the Enterprise corridors.
The trip to Sickbay seemed endless to Will. "What class of ship is the Enterprise?" he asked. "She has to be pretty big for it to take this long to get to Sickbay!"
"The Enterprise is a Galaxy-class starship." Worf answered stiffly.
Will whistled. "They'd just started construction on the USS Galaxy before . . ." he paused a moment. "Well, before I came here."
He followed Worf through the Sickbay doors, and to one of the biobeds. Facing Riker, he said, "Stay here. I will get Dr. Crusher."
Worf quickly returned with the doctor walking close behind. Will's eyes widened as he watched the beautiful red head approach. Worf's booming voice took him out of his reverie as the Klingon introduced her. "Lt. Riker, this is Dr. Crusher." Worf addressed the doctor. "If you will excuse me, I must go speak with the captain now."
"That's fine," she answered. "Thanks, Worf."
With a quick nod, he left the room.
"Well, Lieutenant," Dr. Crusher put a hand on his arm. "I need you to sit on the biobed here."
Giving her his best grin, Will did as he was told. He couldn't remember ever seeing a more attractive doctor. "Please, call me Will."
Crusher smiled back. "Okay, Will." She took her tricorder to scan him. As she guided the device over his arm, it beeped. "Looks like you fractured your arm a few years ago," she said.
He stretched his arm forward. "I was doing some repairs under the station when an earthquake hit, and got caught in a rockslide." He winced as he flexed his hand a few times. "I had to set it myself."
"It still causes some pain when you flex your hand, doesn't it?"
Will gave a sheepish grin. "A little."
"Well, Lieutenant, it appears that some of your ligaments didn't heal right." Dr. Crusher stepped away to a nearby cabinet, and took a medical device from one of the shelves. Holding it over the affected area, she said, "This should do the trick."
The doors to sickbay opened, and Riker looked up to see who had entered. He noticed the pips on the bald man's collar, denoting him as captain. As he approached, the captain extended his hand to Riker. "Captain Jean-Luc Picard."
Will straightened as he shook Picard's hand. "Lieutenant Will Riker."
"I hope you understand our need to verify who you are."
"Yes, sir." Will answered, sneaking another glance at the attractive doctor while she continued scanning him.
She turned from Riker to Picard and closed her tricorder. "Well, with a few exceptions, everything matches exactly. He is Lt. William Riker."
Picard arched an eyebrow. "Exceptions, Doctor?"
"You have to consider that these records are eight years old," she replied. "A lot can happen to a person in eight years, not to mention the aging aspect."
"I see." Picard stroked his chin, and turned back to Riker. "Lieutenant, our chief engineer will check the transporter logs of the Potemkin. Perhaps that will shed some light on how and why you were abandoned." He smiled. "In the mean time, you will be taken to your quarters, so try and make yourself as comfortable as possible."
Will straightened. "Thank you, sir. I will. The replicators on the station haven't worked
for a long time. It's been a while since I've had a decent meal.”
Picard turned to the officer stationed by the Sickbay doors. “Ensign, take Lt. Riker to temporary quarters on deck 12.”
The young man nodded curtly. “Aye, sir.” He turned to Will. “Lieutenant, if you will follow me…”
Riker winked at Crusher as he hopped off of the biobed to follow the ensign. “Thanks, Doc." He wasn't going to admit it to them, but first on his mind was to find the whereabouts of Deanna Troi.
Beverly smiled back at him as he left. Once the doors shut, she ran to her office and activated the comm unit there.
"Crusher to Troi."
"Deanna, what was the name of the man you said died here?"
Deanna had finished with her morning appointments and was about to take off for lunch. The PADD she had been reading made a soft click as she placed it on her desk. There would be time to finish reading later.
As she stepped into the hallway, the sudden sound of Beverly's voice caused her to jump. <Crusher to Troi.>
She tapped her badge. "Troi here."
<Deanna, what was the name of the man you said died here?>
Her heart fluttered at the question. "Will Riker. Why do you ask?"
<I thought that was the name! He just left sickbay.>
Deanna stopped in her tracks. "What?! That's not funny, Beverly!"
<I'm serious, Deanna. I just checked him out. Will Riker is very much alive!>
She stood there, unable to find her voice.
Beverly became concerned over the long silence. <Deanna? Are you okay?>
Troi finally answered. "I'm shocked. I don't know what to say."
<Where are you?>
"I'm in the hallway outside my office at the moment. I'm on my way to my quarters."
<Okay. I'll meet you there in a few minutes. Crusher out.>
Deanna swallowed hard. Everything was now in tunnel vision as she numbly finished the walk to her quarters.
Beverly turned the comm unit off and stepped out of her office. She stopped long enough to tell Nurse Ogawa where she was going, then left to meet with Deanna.
Crusher hurried through the corridors, eventually coming to Deanna's quarters. The door swooshed open as she approached, revealing her friend lying on the couch with her head buried in one of the pillows.
"Hi, Deanna." She approached, and placed a hand on the counselor's shoulder. "I'm here."
Deanna slowly sat up, her eyes still filling with tears. She sniffed, wiping at the wet trails on her cheeks. "He's really here?"
"Yes, he is. I'm sorry about upsetting you." Beverly found some tissues on the side table, and handed one to her. “I thought you’d be happy to hear the news.”
"Thank you." Deanna accepted the tissue and began to dry her face. “I'm not real sure what to think. Ever since I found out we were coming here, I’ve thought about my time with Will.” A wistful smile appeared for a moment. “The memories seemed to flood back the closer we got to Nervala IV.”
“I never thought it would be possible that I’d see Will again. I loved -- love? -- him so much…” She took a deep shuddering breath. “I don't think my feelings for Arin have changed, but I don’t know what I’ll do the moment I see Will. I‘m so confused…”
“I had no idea that he meant so much to you.”
“It’s okay, really. I guess I should’ve seen this coming,” she began to sob again. “I felt him in my mind this morning.”
“You what?” the doctor gave her a questioning look.
“I know it sounds crazy,” Deanna tried to smile, "There's a bond Will and I have. One I thought was broken when he 'died'."
"Really?" She arched a curious eyebrow. "Tell me about this bond. That is, if you don't mind my asking."
"I don't mind." Deanna's lower lip began to quiver. "It's hard to explain, but I'll try."
She was interrupted by Captain Picard's voice over the comm system. <I need all senior officers to report to the Observation Lounge. Picard out.>
"That's about right." Beverly said, rolling her eyes. "I guess this will have to wait. Are you going to be okay?"
Deanna forced a thin smile to her friend. "I'll manage."
Everything was out of focus as Deanna almost absent-mindedly took a seat next to Arin in the Observation Lounge.
He leaned over and quietly asked, "Are you okay? You act like you don't feel well."
"I'm fine." Deanna said, "just a little distracted." She noticed his questioning expression. Half smiling, she patted his thigh affectionately. "Really, I'm okay."
"Okay," he whispered and placed his hand on hers.
Deanna saw Geordi walk toward the front of the room, PADD in hand. She took a deep breath, trying to clear the fog from her head so she could listen.
LaForge approached the view screen and entered the information to display. "I've reviewed the transport logs of the Potemkin, and this is the theory we've come up with." He pointed to the diagram that appeared. "Apparently, there was a massive energy surge in the distortion field around the planet at the same moment Lt. Riker was beaming out. The transporter chief tried to compensate by initiating a second containment beam."
"An interesting approach," Commander Data replied. "He must have been planning to re-integrate the two patterns in the transport buffer."
"I believe so." Geordi tapped the back of the PADD in one hand. "Unfortunately, that didn't work, so he shut it down. In the meantime, the first beam completely disintegrated."
Beverly spoke up then. "So, what happened to the second beam after it was shut down?"
The chief engineer sighed, "Honestly, we’re not real sure. From what information I’ve read, it seems the second beam was reflected back to the surface."
Arin shook his head, looking confused. "But, how was the pattern able to maintain its integrity?"
Turning toward him, the engineer answered. "The containment beam must've had the exact same phase differential as the distortion field."
"So, it's really him?" Arin stole a quick glance at Deanna. She met his eyes for that quick moment, then looked away.
The captain started talking, but his voice was muffled to Deanna as she was lost in thought. Briefly, she closed her eyes, and stretched out with her mind. The warm familiarity of the link washed over her. It really was his voice in her mind earlier! The surprise discovery of the imzadi bond caused Troi to miss several minutes of the conversation.
“Would you mind doing that, Deanna?"
She jumped at the sound of her name. "Hmm?” Deanna could feel a slight blush come over her for being caught unaware. “I’m sorry, Beverly, what did you say?”
Crusher gave her a questioning look. “I’m not sure about allowing Lt. Riker to go back to the station with the away team until he’s been evaluated. Would you mind talking to him?”
“Oh, yes, I'll talk to him." The words didn't completely leave her mouth before she could feel Arin's eyes burning into her.
"Thank you, Counselor," replied Picard, “Let me know when you make your assessment of him.” He looked at the officers around the table and stood. "Dismissed."
As everyone filed out of the room, Arin caught Deanna by her arm. "We need to talk," he stated. "You were reaching out to him when you were distracted earlier, weren't you?"
"If you must know, yes, I was." She turned toward her fiance. "Arin, we're both on duty right now. This can wait until our shifts are over."
Arin's eyes were like ice. "Deanna, I don't like this. There are other counselors that can go talk to Riker."
"I'm only doing my job," she said, and none-too-gently pulled her arm from his grasp. "I would do that no matter who was found on the planet!"
"But . . ."
"NO!" Deanna glared at Arin. "We will talk about this later! Is that understood, Lieutenant?"
"Understood, Commander." He said and spun on his heel to leave the room.
Deanna heard the hiss of the doors closing behind him, and let out the breath she was holding. In all the years she'd known Arin, she had never pulled rank on him.
She took a few minutes to relax before leaving to see Will. Something she equally looked forward to and dreaded.
It didn't take long for Will to make himself at home. The first thing he did was order a uniform and some new clothes from the replicator. He took a black tee shirt and a pair of jogging bottoms to change into after he took a long, hot shower.
On his way to the shower stall, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Will leaned in close, stroking the long whiskers of his beard. It had to go… at least most of it. And his hair needed to be trimmed. What would Deanna think of him looking like something the cat drug out of the woods? His heart skipped a beat, hoping he would see her soon.
Riker went back and replicated the necessary items to rid himself of the mass of hair on his face and head, then returned to the shower.
Eventually, Will emerged sporting a neatly trimmed goatee and shorter hair. After donning the clean clothes, he ordered a drink from the replicator. Will flopped into the chair in front of the computer display and ordered a search for Deanna Troi‘s file. To his amazement, it came up almost instantaneously. Will began to scroll through it, absorbing every last detail.
His heart fluttered at the news of her being in Starfleet, her current assignment onboard the Enterprise as Ship’s Counselor. Riker fell back in the chair, watching the stars fly around in front of his face. Taking a few slow deep breaths, the light-headed feeling soon faded. Did she know he was here? How could he have not known?
Will slowly closed his eyes, and tried to sense Deanna. Nothing. She must be too far away, or I’m out of practice! he thought, and decided to go find her.
"Computer, what is the location of Counselor Troi's quarters?"
<Deck eight, room eleven.>
He made a mental note of the numbers and left his quarters.
As Will approached the turbolift, the doors swooshed open and his heart stopped. He looked away for a moment, thinking his eyes were playing tricks. Will gazed again at the angel standing in the lift. "Hello, Will." The words floated to him like the sweetest music.
"Imzadi!" He stepped to her, feeling the tears falling from his eyes as he picked Deanna up. Swinging her around, he kissed her over and over again.
Deanna gave in to him for a moment before pulling away. "Will --"
He set her down, squeezing her into his chest. "I thought I'd never see you again! You've grown more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Especially in uniform!" Will could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He kissed her again and whispered, "Oh, gods, I missed you so much!"
"I missed you, too." Deanna was gently trying to push back again. "Will, please. Don't do this."
Will's grin faded when he noticed she wasn't smiling back. "Why?"
"I'm engaged," she said, guiding him out of the turbolift by his arm.
He stumbled a few steps away from her, finding the wall for support. No . . . "What?? You're -- what?"
"Engaged. I'm getting married."
Will felt the news land like a chunk of lead in his gut. He studied the floor for a moment to let those words sink in. Engaged . . . married . . . "Forgive me, I had no idea. I don't know what to say." He brushed a hand through his short spiky hair. Eventually, his eyes found Deanna again and he tried to smile. "So, um, who's the lucky guy?"
“Arin Tanner." Deanna clasped her hands in front of her.
He cleared his throat, recognizing the name of the away team's science officer. "Are you happy with him?"
She looked up at him and smiled. "Yes, he makes me happy."
"Hey, that's the most important thing, right?" Will held her gaze for a moment, then turned away. He couldn't remember feeling as empty and desolate as he did now. Not to mention betrayed. "Well, I guess I’ll go back to my quarters now. I can see this may not be a good time for me to be around. Good night, Deanna."
"Wait!" She reached out and took his arm. "I was actually on my way to see you."
"Really. As 'Ship's Counselor'?" He snapped, jerking his arm from her. "No, Deanna. I won't play that game."
"Game? What game?" she asked, her dark eyes were full of confusion. "The captain wants to know if you'd be willing to help them download the database. I told him I'd talk to you."
He stared at Deanna for a moment, then took a deep breath before answering. "I reconfigured that computer so many times, I bet they couldn't make head or tails of it. I'll help."
She gave him a skeptical look. "Are you sure you feel up to it?"
Will tried to smile. "Absolutely."
The corners of her mouth turned upward slightly. "Good, I'll tell the captain," she replied. "Well, I have to get back." Deanna started back toward the lift when Will stopped her.
"Deanna, I know it's been a long time since we've been together, and I know that things have changed, but my feelings for you haven't." He gave bemused laugh. "You know me, I can't just give up. I'd like to be with you again." ~And I think you want that, too.~
Her dark eyes widened slightly, but stayed neutral when they met his. "Good night, Will."
Will's heart clenched as Deanna turned away from him.
Deanna walked back to her quarters and ordered a mug of hot chocolate from the replicator. She sat down, trying to clear her mind and relax. The smell alone from the steaming mug caused her mind to ease some.
Twice… he was in my mind twice today… How do I go about this? Do I still have feelings that strong for Will?
It wasn't long before she sensed Arin coming. A cloud of dread came over her momentarily, until she realized he had cooled down a bit since their argument.
The doors hissed open, and he stood in the doorway. "I'm surprised you didn't change the code," he replied and entered the room.
"Why would I do that? We are still engaged, aren't we?" Deanna asked. “I’d like to think that our relationship is strong enough to withstand a disagreement.”
"Me, too." He walked over to sit across from her. "What was all that about earlier?"
She sipped the contents of her cup, and sighed. "I reached out to Will because of curiosity. I wanted to see how he was adjusting."
His brow furrowed as he leaned in toward her. "That, or to feel him in your mind again? I think you still have feelings for him."
"Oh, please. He's been dead to me for eight years!" Troi answered, and placed her mug on the side table. "Any feelings I had for him haven't existed for a long time. I’m not sure what your plans are, but I’m still planning on being married in two weeks!"
She felt Arin relax a bit. "Well, that's good to hear."
Deanna reached forward to trace his jaw line. "Why does it feel like you‘re not convinced? Does Will‘s presence threaten you?"
“A little,” he answered, then watched as she stood and approached the viewport. Arin got up to follow her.
“I’m sorry. I just know how close you two were, that you‘re imzadi.” He wrapped his arms around her. “How do I fit in to your life, now that he has miraculously re-appeared?”
“I’d like to think that you’d fit in well as my husband.” Don’t I? Deanna leaned her head against his chest. She could feel his breath tickling the top of her head.
Thankfully, he changed the subject. "So, did he agree to help us tomorrow?"
"Yes," she smiled. "He said that he'd done so much with the computers there, that you probably couldn't make head or tails of it!"
"I bet we could. We just don't have the time to do it without him," he replied smartly.
"I don't think he meant that as a personal attack." Deanna sighed, "Why don't we go to Ten-Forward for dinner? Maybe get our minds off of the day's events?"
"That sounds great!" He kissed her cheek. "After that, I think there's something that we need to finish."
She arched an eyebrow, suspicious. "What do we need to finish?"
"Well, let's see . . ." He looked toward the dining area. "I believe that you were on this side of the table, and I was over there."
Deanna giggled and slipped out of his arms. “I think there will be time for that! Like you said, AFTER we return.”
Will stepped back into his quarters, and numbly went to the viewport. Over the years, the stars had become something of a comfort to him. He looked out to them, digesting the news Deanna had told him.
She's getting married . . . .
Will shook his head and thought about what just happened. He knew Deanna was a strong woman. It should not have been a surprise that she had moved on with her life. After all, eight years ago, Starfleet told her he was dead.
That didn't make it hurt any less. He took a deep breath, and decided to get out for a bit, maybe see what Ten-Forward looked like.
Riker left his quarters again, and walked down the corridor to the turbolift. He ordered the lift to deck ten, and waited for the doors to open again. After a few moments, the lift stopped, depositing him a few meters away from the lounge.
He straightened his shoulders and passed through the doors into Ten-Forward. There were quite a few people in there, giving him an odd feeling. He could tell it was going to take him a while to get used to living on a starship again.
Will stepped up to the bar and took a seat at one of the stools. In a matter of seconds, the bartender approached.
"Hello," she smiled, "I don't believe we've met. I'm Guinan. Anything I can get for you?"
He smiled back and nodded. "Will Riker. I'd like an ale."
"You look like you've had a long day." Guinan disappeared behind the counter for a moment.
Will's smile turned into a smirk. "More like a long eight years."
She placed a drink in front of him. "Eight years?" She asked, "So you're the officer they found on the planet?"
The doors swooshed open again, and Will turned to see who entered. He felt a huge rock form in his throat as Deanna and Arin took a seat at one of the tables.
Guinan observed his reaction. "Friend of yours?"
"A long time ago." He faced the bartender again and sighed. "A very long time ago."
She watched him nurse his drink for a few minutes. "More than just friends, I see."
"You could say that," he answered. "It's funny. For some reason, I thought she'd actually wait for me."
"But you were dead."
"Right." Will glanced back at the couple. "Do you see them often?"
"They come in about twice a week," Guinan answered.
He swirled the contents of his glass before taking a drink. "Do they seem happy together?"
She smiled. "As happy as most couples that come in here."
"What about Deanna?" He took another drink.
Guinan shook her head, somewhat amused. "Have you asked her that question?"
"Yes," Riker answered, "but I'm not sure if I believe her. That's why I'm asking you."
"She seems happy enough."
Will looked up at Guinan with a grin. "Happy enough, eh?" Will looked over his shoulder again. "That's interesting." A plan was beginning to form in his mind… He stood and straightened his shirt. "Thank you Guinan, it was nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, Will."
Will ran down the corridor to Transporter Room 3. He had stayed up late to work on a few personal projects that caused him to oversleep. What a way to re-start my career, he thought. All eyes were on him when he entered the room.
Worf spoke first. "You were supposed to report here at 800 hours!"
"I know," he said. "I --"
Arin finished the thought for him. "It's been a long time since you've had to punch a clock. Right?"
He was answered with a glare from Riker.
Data held up a silencing hand. "Enough. We must go now." He waited for the lieutenant to step onto the transporter pad, then signaled the transporter chief. "Energize."
When they materialized, Riker turned to the others. "I've shut down most of the consoles to save power, and re-routed just about everything through here." He pointed to one of the stations. "I shunted the database to the main core underneath the station."
Data nodded, and turned to the rest of the away team. "Check the primary EPS system and see if you are able to get some power to the rest of the consoles."
Arin followed Riker to the station he'd pointed out earlier. "Do you think we can access the database from here?"
"There's been a lot of seismic activity over the years. If the servo links were damaged, we may not be able to." He laid underneath the console and made some adjustments. "I'll try to tap into the command pathways. You see if you can access and disable the file server."
A few moments passed before Arin broke the silence. "Deanna's told me a lot about you."
"Oh, really?" Riker dropped the tool he was using. "Well, I hope you didn't believe all she said!" He laughed, picking the piece up to continue making adjustments. "Deanna told me you two are engaged."
"She did?" Arin answered, sounding a bit shocked.
"Yeah. When's the big day?"
Arin paused a moment before answering. "In about two weeks, actually."
Riker smiled inwardly. "Excited?"
He answered sharply. "Of course! She's the best part of my life!"
"I'll bet she is!" He said, and chuckled sardonically. And she'd love that we're talking about her in this way!
Arin detected something in Riker's voice that he didn't like. "You're damned right she is!"
The two were interrupted when Worf stepped in to give his report. "The primary EPS coupling is fused. The entire unit will have to be replaced."
"I've accessed the command pathways. The relays are functioning now," Riker said. "See if that did the trick."
Arin tapped on the console. "It's not working."
Will sighed and crawled from under the console. "The servo link must be damaged. We're going to have to go under the station and access the core directly. I can stay and be finished by the time the third window opens." Riker started for the passage that led under the building.
"That's too dangerous," said Arin as he stood. "Our scans show that the caverns are unstable."
"I've been down there dozens of times." Will glared at him. "I know my way around."
Commander Data approached the disputing officers and faced Will. "I agree with Lt. Tanner, Lt. Riker. We will bring a new EPS coupling when we return during the next window and try to access the core from another console up here." He tapped his comm badge. "Data to Enterprise, we are ready to beam up."
Still glaring, Riker turned and stood with the away team. In a few moments, they materialized on the Enterprise.
Deanna entered her quarters. What a day, she thought and approached the replicator. Maybe some tea will help me relax. "Computer," she said. "Valerian root tea, hot."
The steaming mug appeared, and she went to sit at the table. To her surprise, a small scroll was laying on top of the centerpiece. She set the tea down, and opened the note.
Meet me in Transporter Room 3 at 1900 hours. It's important.
Smiling, she looked at the chronometer and noticed she had fifteen minutes. The tea forgotten, she left for the transporter room.
Arin must be up to something! she thought as she walked through the corridor, and into the lift. "Deck Three," she ordered.
A few moments later, the doors opened. Her mind was still in wonder as she made her way to the meeting place. Deanna strode into the transporter room, surprised at what lay before her.
On the transport console, she found a pink Betazoid orchid tied to a second scroll. She picked both up, and read the new scroll.
It pulses unendingly all through the night.
Seek out the crystal that powers our flight.
Walking back out into the corridor, she took the turbolift to Engineering. Deanna was still smiling as she passed through the engineering section to the dilithium crystal chamber.
“What the--?” Geordi watched the counselor stand on her tiptoes to take something off of the chamber. Deanna could feel the curiosity pouring from him.
"Can I help you, Counselor?" he asked.
Never looking up, she answered. "No, thank you," and left engineering. This time, the note contained a small piece of chocolate. Deanna popped the morsel into her mouth as she read the next clue.
What the future holds, no one can know,
but forward we look, and forward we go.
"Hmm . . ." Deanna mused and as she re-entered the lift and ordered it to Deck Ten. Moments later, the lift stopped, and she continued on to Ten-Forward.
Entering the lounge, she thought, I wonder where else I'll be taken to? Deanna scanned the room, and noticed a table holding an empty bud vase and a wrapped box. Knowing that was her destination, she approached the table and opened the box. She gasped at the contents.
Will came up from behind. "The Janaran Falls."
Her heart jumped at his voice. "I remember. Where did you get this?"
"I made it a couple of years ago on the station," he said.
"You made this?" Deanna ran her fingers over the carved picture, noticing the rough surface and attention to detail. She looked at Will, noticing how the blue tunic he wore brought out his eyes. "It's lovely! Thank you!"
He grinned. "You should've seen the first two! It took awhile to get a fine enough beam out of the phaser." Straightening his shirt, he asked, "Can you stay and talk for awhile?"
She nodded as Will continued. "I wanted to remember our last night together." After pushing Deanna's chair in, he took the seat across from her.
"Our last night?" A waiter approached with drinks for them. Deanna accepted one and took a sip, remembering. "That was something else."
He flashed an amused smile to her. "Yes, it was."
There was an awkward silence as Deanna toyed with her glass, trying to think of what to say. "So, um, how does it feel being with people again?"
Will shifted in his seat. "Great - strange?" He looked around at all the people in the room. "For a long time, I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It's been hard getting used to taking orders again…not to mention being around people."
"I can imagine."
"But," he continued, "I guess I'll have to get used to it, if I want to get my career going again."
As she placed her drink onto the table, she asked, "Is that what you've decided to do?"
It was Riker’s turn to play with his glass as he smiled. "Remember, I'm the one who wanted to be captain be the time he was thirty-five!" He laughed, "I’m a bit behind schedule, I‘ll admit that."
Deanna studied him for a moment, getting an idea of where this conversation was leading. "It's good that you don't feel set back."
"You have no idea." His eyes widened, and he looked around the room again. "I do feel set back. So much has happened…” Will took a long draught from his glass. “Things are a little different than I had hoped."
That clarified things for Deanna. This seemed to be going straight for her relationship with Arin. She tried to turn the subject away from that. "I'm just curious, how did you manage being by yourself all those years? That had to have been hard."
Will shifted again, uncomfortable about the question she posed.. After a moment, he turned his gaze away from her, and concentrated on the glass in front of him. “It was hard. Let’s just say that I made it, and I’m here now.”
“What kind of answer is that?” Deanna leaned forward and placed her small hand on his. “Come on, you can tell me.”
He tried to laugh, “It’s silly. I have a ‘feeling’ you’ll laugh when I tell you.”
“And why would I do that?”
“I don’t know.” Will took another drink before continuing, in an attempt to gather his thoughts. As he placed the glass onto the table, he caught her eyes again. “Hope.”
At Deanna’s questioning look, he finished the thought. “Hope got me through that Hell.”
His attention turned again to his glass as he continued. “For a days after the evacuation, I kept thinking they'd find a way through the distortion field, and come back for me. It took a long time for me to realize no one was coming." He stopped for a bit, swirling the contents of his glass. Will swallowed hard, and gazed at Deanna. “I thought we'd meet on Risa like we'd planned.”
There was another uncomfortable silence at the mention of Risa.
Riker cleared his throat, and managed to finish what he was telling her. “When that day passed, I knew Starfleet had decided I'd been killed in the beam out. So, I figured that they'd had a memorial service for me. For some reason, that made me feel better."
"I can understand that." Deanna replied, remembering very clearly every bit of the service. Blinking back tears, she took another sip of her drink, and continued to listen.
"I imagined you all dressed in black . . ."
"I'm sure I looked terrible with my eyes all red and swollen from crying--" she started. "Sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt."
“That’s okay,” he said, “Actually, I was going to ask you about the service. Please, go ahead, tell me.”
Deanna toyed with her glass, not really knowing where to begin. “Since you left all of your belongings to me, Mother thought it was appropriate to have the service on Betazed. A lot of your friends and colleagues were there. Captain Lee spoke, along with a few other officers. Even Mark Roper said a few words about you.”
His eyes lit up at the mention of Mark. “Gods, I can’t imagine what he had to say!”
Somewhat amused, she said, “Well, he actually didn’t say as much as he could have.” The emotions of that time started to collect in her throat, making it hard for Troi to stay composed. "You know, it took me a long time to get over your -- 'death'. For weeks after, I would look up at the stars, thinking about us, about what could've been." She paused to steady her voice. "I was going to surprise you when we met at Risa about being accepted to the Academy. I received the acceptance letter the same day I was notified about you."
Their eyes met for a long moment. “I know I would’ve been the happiest man in Starfleet!” He forced a smile, thinking back to his time on the planet. "You don't know how many times I thought about you. I thought that if I tried hard enough, you could feel me in your mind and know that I was alive. I hoped more than anything else that I would get to see you again, maybe you'd be waiting for me when I was rescued." Will tried to hide the shiver that ran through him as he blew out the breath he‘d been holding. "I guess that didn't work. You'll be married soon."
Married? Deanna jumped at slightly at the word. "Right."
Will saw her reaction. Deanna wasn’t usually jumpy. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine." She took a deep breath to calm . "It's been a long day for me, that's all." Will reached for her, barely brushing his hand across her cheek. Deanna leaned into the caress, placing her hand on his. Suddenly, she pulled away. I can’t do this! "I really have to go now, Will. Thank you for the wonderful evening!" She stood up, and quickly left the room.
He watched her leave, then studied the abandoned carving of the Janaran Falls. She's already having second thoughts.
Guinan’s robes were flowing as she quickly approached Will. "Are you just going to sit here? Just because she runs out, doesn't mean she doesn't want to be followed."
"I know." Riker looked up at the bartender with a wolfish grin . "I'm giving her a head start."
Several minutes later, Deanna entered her quarters. She flopped onto her couch and tried to calm down.
What am I doing?
Deanna took a deep breath and slowly exhaled in an attempt to clear her mind. It didn't stop the flood of memories from coming. The Janaran Falls... the surprise on Will's face the first time she called him Imzadi…
The memories slowed as it came to their last evening together before Will left Betazed…
Will and Deanna were walking through the park, holding hands and trying to slow their last few hours together. The couple strolled past the tree Deanna had ‘fallen’ out of and by the spot where they’d had their first picnic. Both were laughing at those memories, and thinking of all the new ones to come.
“Come with me, Imzadi,” Deanna stopped and took Will’s arm, smiling up at him. “I have something I’d like to show you before you leave, a place that’s special to me.”
Will’s blue eyes twinkled with a hint of mischief. “I’m all yours. Lead the way.”
Deanna slid her hand down his arm, then stopped to interlace her fingers with his. She could feel the excitement and curiosity emanating from him. ~This way.~
He followed her outside the city to a trail that entered into the surrounding jungle. “Where are we going?” he asked.
She paused long enough to place a finger onto his lips and answer. “You’ll see.”
Deanna guided him quietly down the trail, pushing aside the thick foliage from time to time. Eventually, the sound of rushing water could be heard, and a river could be seen running parallel to the path. She looked over her shoulder at Will. “We’re almost there.”
Soon, the jungle opened to reveal a huge waterfall. Deanna took Will into the clearing, and sat on the mossy ground.
Will sat beside her and laid an arm across her shoulders. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
She leaned against him, taking in a deep breath that was a mixture of scents from the jungle and of Will. “I come here sometimes to relax and clear my mind. It’s far enough from the city that I don’t have to shield my mind from other’s thoughts. I haven’t brought anyone here before.”
~Thank you,~ he sent and kissed the top of her head.
Deanna turned, smiling again. ~You’re getting better at this!~
He took her face in his hands and gently kissed her lips. ~As you are getting better at this!~ he thought back, filling her mind with his desire for her.
~Really?~ Deanna wrapped her arms around Will as he gently laid her back onto the ground…
Deanna slowly came out of her trance. She touched her lips, trying to remember every detail of that last memory. Would his kisses feel the same now? she wondered, thinking of how he kissed her when they first saw each other a few days ago. At the time, she didn’t want to respond to that or the way Will’s emotions had flooded over her. She was engaged to Arin…
Yes, engaged to Arin. Deanna shook her head slightly. The idea of being engaged, and eventually married to Arin was beginning to not feel right.
Her brow was furrowed as she rubbed her temples. Great. I think everything just got a lot more complicated, she thought.
I need to get out of here. Maybe a walk through the arboretum will help. Deanna stood to leave, then stopped when she felt Arin coming near. As he approached her quarters, she opened the door.
"Hey," Arin smiled, happy to see his fiance. "I thought I'd drop by for a moment before going on duty." He saw her perturbed expression and gently caressed her cheek. "What's wrong? Anything you'd like to talk about?"
"That's supposed to be my line." Deanna backed away from his touch, and allowed him into the room.
He walked over to take a seat on her couch. "That's true, but you also need to talk sometimes."
Deanna sat down near Arin. "I know."
They were silent for a time, then she got up and walked to the view port. Arin followed after her. "You know, you always do this when you're troubled."
She shifted her stance slightly. "Do what?"
"Walk here, to the port by his trombone."
The door chimed.
Deanna felt the blood drain from her face. Will was outside. He followed her from Ten-Forward!
Arin noted her reaction and smirked. "I wonder who that could be? Riker, perhaps?"
"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?"
"Actually, I was hoping that you could clear that up for me." He faced Deanna. "You were in Ten-Forward with him earlier."
"That's true," she answered. "I was there with Will. We were only talking. Does that bother you?"
"To be honest, a little," Arin replied. "You've been acting strange ever since he showed up."
The chime sounded again.
“And you haven’t?” Troi glared at him, walking toward the door. "I know I’m not the only one who’s been acting differently since Will was found."
"Well, he was once engaged to you!"
"That’s right, we were engaged." Deanna stopped, then laughed at how ridiculous it was all sounding. "Arin, do you think you can you calm down long enough for me to see what Will wants?"
He opened his mouth to respond, but she opened the door before he could answer.
The grin Will sported disappeared as soon as he saw Arin. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt--"
"That's okay, Lieutenant. I was just leaving." He turned around, "Good night, Deanna."
Deanna took a moment before answering, "Good night, Arin. Will I see you tomorrow?"
"We'll see." He pushed past Riker, into the hallway.
Will watched him leave, then took a few steps inside Deanna's quarters. "It looks like I came at a bad time."
"Yes, you did." Deanna stared at him for a few minutes. "Why did you follow me?"
"You left this," he handed her the carving of the falls. "I thought I'd return it before I went back to my quarters."
"Thank you." She took the piece of art from him, then gestured toward the couch. "Would you like to have a seat?"
He shook his head. "No, I think I'll go. I don't want to be a bother."
"You've already been that,” she smirked, placing the picture on a nearby shelf.
"So, are you saying you want me to stay?" His grin held a bit of amusement as took a few tentative steps closer to her.
"Only if you want." Deanna looked up and noticed how close he was.
"Then I'm not going anywhere." Will wrapped his arms around her as she came toward him.
Deanna laid her head on his chest so she could hear his heartbeat. She felt the compassion he had for her. “Do you know how many times I wished I could be in your arms one more time?”
“No, but I can imagine. Trust me.” He kissed the top of her head, then whispered softly into her ear, “Deanna, I want you back in my life again, if not as a lover, at least let me be your friend.” Will gently swayed back and forth as he held her close. "I'll stay as long as you need me."
They held onto each other for a little while before Deanna pushed away. She swallowed hard before speaking. “Will, please go.”
Will’s eyes widened at her request. “Why?”
She avoided making eye contact with Will. “I need some time alone to sort my feelings out,” she said, “I am so overwhelmed with everything… I have to work things out with Arin and wedding plans to finish. Of course, that’s saying the wedding is still on.” Deanna crossed her arms and directed her gaze to the view port again. “Then, there’s you…”
“Yes, you,” she sighed. “I thought all my feelings for you were in the past, Will. You were gone--dead!” Deanna looked up at him again and could feel a lump begin to form in her throat again. “Now you’re here, and I keep thinking about how everything was between us, which has really complicated the relationship between me and Arin.” She turned back toward the stars. “I’m not sure where I stand now.”
“I see.” Will watched a lone tear slip down her cheek. “Well, I should be going then. Good night, Deanna.”
If she couldn’t already sense his emotions, the way he stomped out of her quarters told her the frustration he felt. What do I do now? she thought, and looked out to the stars.
It was 0815 when Deanna ran into the gym to meet Beverly for their morning workout. “Sorry I’m late!” she said as she quickly placed her water bottle and things onto a nearby bench. “I overslept a bit.” Troi joined the doctor and got into the beginning position for the Mok’bara exercise.
Beverly arched an eyebrow at her friend. “You’re hardly ever late. Is everything okay? How are things between you and Arin?"
"You're not going to waste any time today, are you?"
"Well, you are late, and that didn't answer either of my questions." She gave Deanna a concerned look. "Besides, you look like you didn't sleep well last night."
"Well, you could say that." She yawned and continued, "In fact, I didn't sleep much at all. And after what happened yesterday, I'm pretty sure things are over between Arin and me."
The doctor nearly lost her balance. "Oh, really? What happened?"
Troi stopped for a moment to allow her friend to get back into position, then began the exercises again. "When I went to my quarters after my shift, I found a note on my dining table. I thought it was from Arin. The note told me to meet him in one of the transporter rooms, that it was important." Deanna smiled, remembering. "When I got there, the room was empty, except for another note! To make a long story short, I followed clues all over the ship, eventually ending in Ten-Forward."
"I found a package on one of the tables there, so I opened it, still thinking Arin was the one behind everything. The box contained a carved picture of the Janaran Falls."
Beverly asked, "The Janaran Falls? That's on Betazed, right?"
"Yes," Deanna answered, "It's the last place Will and I saw each other."
"Exactly," Troi said, "Will was hidden by the bar, and approached me as I was admiring the carving. He asked me if I had time to talk, so I stayed, and we had a few drinks. It was very awkward at first. I mean, what do you say to someone you thought was dead for so long?" She stopped and faced her friend. "Once we got past that obstacle, we talked for a long time. Before I knew it, he touched my cheek, and I ran out of there, leaving the picture!"
"Why did you run?"
"I don't know."
Beverly had an amused look on her face. "And you expect me to believe that?"
"I guess not." Deanna smiled. "Come to think of it, this is what I intended to tell you earlier. Will and I are imzadi. It’s a Betazoid term meaning 'beloved' even 'soul mates.' It’s also a telepathic bond we share.'"
"I take it that the fact Will is alive, along with this imzadi bond has changed things?" Beverly prodded.
"To put it mildly. It has created a lot of tension," she sighed. “I mean, I‘ve told Arin a lot about Will, and really, his behavior shouldn’t be too surprising to me considering that. I thought we could overcome anything, but with Will around, I’m not sure what to think.”
“So, what happened after you ran from Ten-Forward?”
Deanna stopped the exercises again. "I went straight to my quarters and tried to clear my mind. When that didn’t seem to help, I decided to try a walk through the arboretum. Arin happened to stop by right as I was about to leave. Things got a bit heated between us, then Will showed up, which didn‘t help at all." She walked over to the bench she had set her water bottle and took a drink. "I'm not sure if we can work it out. I haven’t ever seen this side of Arin before."
"That's not good." Crusher paused, waiting for Deanna to come back and continue the workout. "Will is very handsome, by the way."
"Beverly!" Troi was shocked at her friend's comment. After a few seconds, she laughed. "Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. I've noticed quite a few of the female crewmembers giving him looks!"
Beverly heard a sound, and turned to see Riker enter the gym. "Well, I think I'll call it a day."
Surprised, Deanna stopped. "But we just st--" She turned to see Will at the back of the gym. "Beverly!" She whispered, but the doctor was already across the room, waving as she stepped into the hallway.
Deanna closed her eyes and quickly collected her thoughts before starting the exercise movements again. She could feel Will’s gaze on her back as she got into the beginning position.
Will watched her for several minutes before speaking. "Good morning," he said, "Some kind of Tai Chi Chuan?"
She paused, giving him a sidelong glance. "Klingon exercises, actually. Lt. Worf teaches a class."
"The forms are very similar." He studied every movement of her small body. "Do that move again."
Deanna repeated the movement, then paused to follow the actions he made. She smiled, "You just did the KoH-ma-nara."
He bowed slightly. "In Tai Chi Chuan, it's called the Crane Block." Will changed positions. "Now," he said, "let's try something else. What is this called?"
Will stepped forward and slowly moved toward her with his arm extended in front of him. Deanna grabbed his arm, bending it backward at the elbow and using the leverage to push him onto the floor. He saw the glint of mischief in her expression and grinned. "Mr. Worf is a very good teacher."
He looked deep into her lovely dark eyes, and stopped thinking about anything else. Smiling, Deanna slowly descended to Will, and their lips met.
Deanna melted into him, her hands wandering all over his hard muscled body. His goatee tickled against her nose and chin. He still kisses like I remember… Suddenly, she opened her eyes, realization of what they were doing caused her to push away from him. "I can't do this! What am I doing?"
Will's heart stopped with those words. "Deanna? What's wrong?"
"This is wrong!" She shoved her body off of Will, and ran as fast as she could out of the gym.
He picked himself up off the floor, and followed after Deanna.
Will caught up with her in the turbolift. "Is there something wrong with me?" he asked, "Why do you keep doing this? You’ve been running or pushing me away since I got here!"
Deanna kept her back to him. "I don't know."
"Don't give me that, Deanna!" He placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her gently around. "Listen, if my being here bothers you that much, I'll do what I can to get off this ship. It hurts me to see you in this much pain because of me."
The lift doors opened to reveal Arin.
"You certainly didn't waste any time, did you, Riker?" he sneered. "How long did you wait before taking her last night?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Will answered.
"Stop this!" Deanna tore away from Will and stood between him and Arin. "I'm not a piece of property for you to fight over!" Turning to Arin, she said, "If you must know, Will and I didn't do anything last night. We talked a while, and he left. End of story." Glaring at him, she continued, "Did you think I'd jump in bed with Will the first chance I got?" Troi looked back and forth between them. "If you will excuse me, I'd like to be alone now. I strongly suggest that neither of you follow me." She stepped by Arin, and continued down the hall.
Both men looked on as Deanna left. Arin turned back toward Riker after she disappeared. "Perhaps I overstepped my boundaries."
"I'd say so," Will replied, his eyes were like ice.
The two glared at each other.
"Let's take care of this once and for all, Riker," Arin replied.
An amused smile showed on Will’s face. "I’m game. What do you suggest? Phasers at twenty paces?"
"We're both off-duty until the next window opens. Why don't we just hit the holodeck, and see where it goes from there?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Riker said, extending his hand. "Lead the way."
Before they could continue, both of their commbadges chirped. <Away team, this is Commander Data. The next transport window is opening earlier than first expected. Report to Transporter Room 3 in fifteen minutes.>
Will and Arin stopped, both barely containing their frustration.
"I guess this will have to wait until after we get back. Excuse me." Will stepped past Arin, and on to his quarters.
Deanna barely made it to her quarters when her commbadge chirped. She took a calming breath, then tapped the metal pin. "Troi here."
It was Captain Picard's voice that answered. <Counselor, could I see you in my Ready Room, please?>
She sighed, What now? "Yes, sir. I'll be there in a few moments." She rolled her eyes, then went to her bathroom for a quick shower.
The captain was reading over information on his display when Deanna entered. Picard smiled, "Good afternoon, Counselor. Please, have a seat." He motioned toward his couch.
She smiled back and took a seat. "What can I help you with, captain?"
"Well," he leaned back in his chair. "There is an opening on the Gandhi for a science officer."
"You're wondering if Arin would be interested."
"Actually, yes, but I also know that it means that the two of you will be separated very quickly after you're married." He stroked his chin. "I wanted to know your thoughts first."
"It's Arin's decision," she answered. "I'll leave it for him to make that choice."
The captain's brow furrowed a bit. "Very well, then. I will contact him, unless you'd like to tell him yourself."
"No thank you, sir. I'd rather leave it to you."
He gave her a concerned look. "Deanna, is everything okay between you and Lieutenant Tanner?"
"It's nothing that will interfere with our duties, if that's what you mean," she answered.
"Good, then." He turned back to the display. "Dismissed."
Deanna walked toward the door when the captain spoke again. "Deanna, I know this may not mean much, but I am here if you ever need a listening ear."
"Thank you, sir. I‘ll keep that in mind." She said as she continued through the door.
Will was still adjusting the collar of his uniform as he approached the turbolift. The doors parted to reveal Arin.
Arin’s expression was cold as Will entered and ordered the lift to Deck One. The lift was eerily quiet as it plodded along to toward it’s destination.
The doors finally opened, and Will gestured for Arin to go first. “After you,” he said.
Tanner smirked as he pushed past Riker.
The two entered the Transporter Room and waited for the others to join them. In a few moments, Commander Data entered, followed by Lt. Worf and a few other officers.
Data addressed the Away Team. “Before we beam down, there has been some seismic activity in the area surrounding the station since our last transport. When we beam down, the situation must be assessed quickly to see how to retrieve the database.” The android turned toward Will. “Lt. Riker, your knowledge of the subterranean caverns may be useful in case we must access the main core directly. But--that will be decided once we see the station‘s current state.”
Will nodded, “Aye, sir.”
“Very good.” Data stepped onto the transport pad, and watched the others take their places. He looked at the chief. “Energize.”
The transporter effect washed over Will, and he appeared on the station. Looking around, he noticed the disarray the station was in now. “This doesn’t look good, Commander Data,” he said.
Data agreed, “No, it does not.”
Like the others, Will scanned the area with his tricorder, particularly toward the main hatchway leading beneath the station. He walked several meters down the corridor to take a closer reading. Frowning, he blew out the breath he’d been holding. The catwalk that stretched across to the main core no longer existed.
Will’s commbadge chirped, and he tapped it. “Riker here.”
Commander Data answered, “Lieutenant, it appears that we do need your assistance in accessing the main core. Find the safest way to get beneath the station and access the database. Lt. Tanner will accompany you.”
He rolled his eyes. Great… “Aye, sir. I’ll be right there.” Closing his tricorder, Will went back to the room with the others.”
Upon entering, Will’s eyes froze momentarily with Arin’s. Stiffly, he nodded to him. “I just checked the tunnel leading to the main core, and the catwalk has been destroyed. There is another way to get there, but with the recent activity, I can‘t guarantee that it‘s open. But, it‘s the only chance we‘ve got.”
“Okay,” said Arin, “Hopefully, that will do the job. Lead the way, Lieutenant.”
“Aye, sir. There are a few things we need to gather first.” Will turned, and took a two palm beacons and a long roll of cable out of a nearby locker before walking out of the room. “Okay, that should do it.” As he slung the cable over his shoulder, he said, “I hope you’re not claustrophobic.”
Deanna’s final appointment had ended, and she took the opportunity to take a walk in the arboretum. Will and Arin were both on the surface, so chances were slim that she’d be disturbed. She was glad for the peaceful break from the two of them.
The smell of the foliage and flowers had a very soothing effect almost instantly. She walked around to the small Koi pond, and sat on the soft grass beside it. Closing her eyes, Deanna concentrated on the bubbling of the small waterfall flowing into the pond. Her thoughts soon became part of another world.
White clouds surrounded her as she came in from above…
As she floated along, they began to clear, revealing the jungles of Betazed lying below her.
A voice spoke: I will always be with you… I am a part of who you are…
“What do you mean?” she asked, “Who are you?”
There was no answer as Deanna slowly descended to the ground, the foliage gently brushing against her as she flew past it. She landed beside a waterfall… the Janaran Falls.
Deanna walked up to the edge of the water and looked in. The reflection was hers, yet different. “What is this?” she asked, noticing the image didn’t move with her.
You will see… the reflection answered.
She heard a rustling among the nearby plants, and looked up. Will appeared, as he did so many years ago in the Jalara Jungle, clean-shaven, wearing the mud-covered uniform and survival gear when he’d saved her from the Sindareen.
Deanna stood in surprise. “Will?”
“In a sense, yes, I am Will Riker.” he said, “I am the image that first comes to your mind when you think of him.”
He gestured to his right, and Arin approached wearing his gold Starfleet uniform. “You have a difficult decision to make,” he said.
Deanna looked back at Will. This time, he was older and slightly rougher looking, sporting a neatly trimmed goatee. He was dressed in the same blue tunic and black pants as he‘d worn to Ten-Forward. “Yes, I do,” she admitted. She gazed at Will for a moment, noticing his eyes. There was so much there… love, compassion, loneliness, just to name a few. Deanna couldn‘t quite fathom how a person‘s eyes could say so much. “I-I don’t know,” she stammered, breaking the eye contact, “I don’t know what to do anymore.”
The scene around them changed to the Bridge of the Enterprise. Arin was by the science station when he spoke. “Where does your spirit live?”
“What do you mean?” she asked, “You’re talking in riddles. My spirit lives within me.”
Arin stood, then walked down the ramp to her. “Where does your soul, your spirit, fly free? Here?” He waved his arms at their surroundings.
“Or here?” Will continued the line of questions. They were back in the jungles, and Will had changed again to his younger self. “Do you understand our meaning, Imzadi?” He approached Deanna, and placed his hands on here shoulders.
Deanna touched his smooth cheek, looking into his clear blue eyes. Again, his eyes were so full of emotion, but these hadn’t seen as much as the other Will. “I think so.”
She glanced away for a moment, and when she looked back, it was the older Riker again. “Your home is here, on the ship. Yet you feel the most at peace here.” The surroundings changed back to the falls.
Deanna blinked at the sudden changes, then swallowed around the frustrated lump in her throat. “Yes, it is. This is a peaceful place in my heart.”
“Where imzadi began?” Arin asked, approaching the two.
Young Will spoke again. “Imzadi is precious to you, but you are torn between Imzadi and Arin.”
“Yes.” Deanna noticed that everything was beginning to fade. “What do I do?” she asked, looking at each of the men in front of her.
Young Will flashed a brilliant white smile. “Follow your heart.”
“Yes,” said Arin, “Listen to it… It will lead you in the right direction.”
Finally, she turned to see the older version of Will. He smiled, and caressed her cheek. “Follow your heart, Imzadi.”
She smiled at him, then a rumbling shook her and all around. “What is this?”
Rocks and boulders were falling from the sky, bouncing and rolling, destroying everything around. Deanna and Will held onto each other as it was happening, and she barely heard his voice before it all disappeared… “I’m sorry I wasn’t there before… I love you, Imzadi.”
Deanna’s eyes opened wide. It took her a moment to adjust to her surroundings again. She found the nearest intercom and contacted the Bridge. “Troi to Bridge! Captain, beam up the away team! Quickly!”
Arin followed Will outside of the station and into the surrounding forest. “How far is this ‘other entrance’ Lieutenant?”
“Just a few more meters,” Will answered, then pointed to a cliff wall standing ahead of them. “Over by that outcrop. There’s a cavern that comes out fairly close to the main core.”
They approached the narrow cave entrance, and Will took a few steps inside. He began to scan the area with his tricorder. “I can’t get a clear reading of the tunnel. There appears to be a vein of Kelbinite running right through here.” He looked over to Arin and tossed a palm beacon to him. “I guess we’ll have to go in and see for ourselves.”
Arin caught the device and strapped it to his wrist. “Let’s just get this done.”
Will smirked, holstering his tricorder. “For once, we agree on something.” He took a few more steps into the dank cave and activated his palm beacon. “This way. Just watch your head and where you step.”
“Drop the attitude, Riker,” said Arin, “I took the same classes at the Academy that you did.”
“Just watching out for my superior officer, sir,” he said, turning sideways and straightening as best he could to slink through the slim entrance. He could feel the cool dampness of the rocks soaking through his uniform. Once through that part, he waited a few seconds for Tanner to catch up.
“Watch out up here, there’s a pretty good slope we’ll have to go down.” Will illuminated the tilted rock with his beacon. “The best way I’ve found to get down is to turn and go feet first on your stomach. It‘s the easiest way to get past that overhang.” He gave a bemused chuckle. “At least with two of us here, we can make some use of the cable.”
Riker turned his palm beacon to the end of the slope, and Arin could see where the ceiling came down, making the last meter of the slope very narrow.
Will began to unroll the cable and tied the end into a loop. He handed it to Arin. “Put this around you, and I’ll lower you down.”
As he pulled the loop over his head, he asked, “How are you going to get down there?
“I’ve done this plenty of times on my own, without a rope at that.” Riker answered. “I’ll be fine.” Will braced himself as Arin got down on the cavern floor and began going down the slope. “In eight years, I had plenty of time to explore this place, otherwise, I wouldn’t have found this cavern.”
Slowly, Will let the line out, lowering the other man to the bottom of the slope. He watched as Arin squirmed between the rocks, eventually getting through them to the bottom. He felt the cable go lax, then heard Tanner’s voice. “I’m down, Lieutenant.”
“Okay. Here’s the rope.” Will let the cable drop into the chasm.
“I’m coming down.” Will gave a little push to get himself started downward. He found some hand-holds here and there to help with the descent.
“All right,” Arin pulled the cable in and rolled it up as he watched Riker start climbing/sliding down the slope toward him.
Arin turned away for a moment to look at the surrounding features of the cave. He noticed that the area that they had just entered appeared to be only a crack in-between a pile of boulders. It may only take another tremor for everything to collapse… He saw Riker squeezing his way between the cavern walls. “Lieutenant? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said, “I guess I’ve gained a little weight since being onboard the Enterprise. I don‘t remember it being quite this… tight.” Will laid his head down, and pushed through the last bit.
Will carefully brought his head out from the rocks then stood, dusting off some of the debris that clung to his uniform.
He looked at Arin. “You okay, sir?” Will asked, “You look a bit pale.”
“I’m fine, Lieutenant,” Tanner glared at him, “How much more of this do we have to crawl through?”
“Not much,” He opened his tricorder to scan the area, then pointed to a crevasse to his right. “We’ll need to go that way. It appears to be stable and clear of debris.” Will tried to keep the amusement out of his voice and grin, but failed. “Don’t worry, it gets wider. About forty meters through that passage will put us in the cavern beneath the station.”
Arin noticed the look on Will’s face. “Do you find something funny, Riker?”
“No, sir,” he answered, “of course not. I just remember my first time through here.” Will holstered his tricorder and started toward the passage. “It is a bit of a squeeze to get through, but that’s not as bad as the ‘floor,’ if that’s what you want to call it.” He illuminated the area they were about to go through with his palm beacon. “It’ll do wonders for your ankles.”
Arin looked down the corridor, noticing the floor. The area they would have to ‘walk’ through made a sharp ‘V.’ That, along with few, if any hand holds on the slippery rock wasn’t going to make this any easier. He turned back to Riker, “Lead the way.”
Will nodded, and stepped sideways into the passage, with Arin not far behind.
After a few moments, Arin spoke up. “How in Hell did you find this, Riker?”
The chuckle that escaped Will’s lips wasn’t quite one of amusement. “I found a crevasse as I was exploring underneath the station a few years back. I wondered if it connected to the surface, or to another part of the station, so I decided to explore it.” He grunted as he pushed past another tight spot, and could feel small tears forming in his uniform from rubbing against the rock walls of the cavern. “I’m not sure how I did it, but after several hours, I managed to find the way to the surface. After I figured out where the entrance was, I turned around and climbed back down so it would be easier to remember.”
“I see,” Arin squeezed past the part Will was just having trouble with. “I guess that would keep your mind off things.”
“It did. Some.”
The passage began to widen some as the floor leveled out. “There. We’ve almost made it.” Suddenly, Will felt a bit dizzy. “What was that?” he said
Arin looked up, with one hand on his head. “You felt that, too?”
Both men’s eyes widened in comprehension. Then, a loud rumbling shook them and everything around. Rocks and dust began falling from all around and above.
Will grabbed Tanner’s arm to drag him through the rest of the cavern. “Quick! We’re almost there!”
Arin jerked his arm back from him and followed.
As he closed in on the entrance to the cavern, Riker leaped out, leaving Arin behind.
Arin attempted the same as the earth rumbled again and the rocks above him collapsed.
All Will saw at first was a plume of dust and debris explode out of the crevasse. After a few moments, and everything settled, he saw Arin’s upper body sticking out of the pile of rocks and boulders.
Coughing, he ran up to Tanner. “Arin?” There was no response.
Will took out his tricorder and scanned Tanner, seeing that he was still alive. He slapped his commbadge, “Riker to Enterprise! Lt. Tanner has been injured. Beam him directly to Sickbay!”
The transporter chief answered, <Enterprise here. I’ve been trying to lock on to both of you, sir. There’s something interfering with the sensors. You’ll have to move him.>
Will was confused. They‘ve been trying to lock on us? “I can’t move him! He’s under a pile of boulders!” He coughed from all the dust still in the air, and was about to continue when he heard Arin moan. “I need medical assistance here! NOW!”
<I’m beaming down a transport enhancer, sir. That‘s the safest thing I can do.>
<Aye, sir. One moment.>
Will stepped closer to the trapped man. “Tanner? Can you hear me?”
“Yeah, Riker,” he gasped. “Don’t worry about me… get the database.”
“We’ve got to get you to Sickbay first!”
“I’m not going to last long enough to get to Sickbay…” Arin struggled to take a breath and a hint of a smile touched his blood smeared lips. He reached forward and grabbed the front of Will’s uniform as roughly as he could. The life in his eyes was fading as he spoke. “Take care of Deanna… tell her I… I…”
“Tell Deanna that you love her,” Will finished, his voice cracked, causing another fit of coughs.
Arin nodded, “Now GO!!” He rasped and pushed Will away with what little strength he had left then fell unconscious.
Will stumbled, thrown off-balance by the injured man’s push. The transport enhancers materialized beside him, and he went about setting them in a triangle around Arin. When he was finished, he contacted the Enterprise, and watched as the rocks fell into the gap left when Tanner was beamed away.
Riker sprinted through the cavern toward the main core, knowing time was running short. He was thankful that this part of the cave was fairly level, making it a lot easier to get to the computer.
Will finally approached the console and tore into it. The damage was very apparent, so he went to work on the repairs. After re-attaching some broken wires and bypassing a few devices that refused to work, he finally opened the database and was able to send it to the consoles where the rest of the away team was stationed.
Will then tapped his commbadge. “Riker to Commander Data. The database is on its way.”
<Good job, Lieutenant. It is coming through now.>
“Thank you, sir.” Riker’s legs went weak and he collapsed to his knees. He began to cough again. “With your permission, I think I need to get back to the ship.”
<Agreed, and report to Sickbay.>
“Aye, sir,” Will said, his body was slowly turning to lead. “Riker out.” He took a deep breath, hoping that would clear the stars he was seeing in front of him.
“Riker to Enterprise, can you get a reading on me?”
The transporter chief answered, “It’s faint, but I believe I can get you out of there.”
“Then do it, and transport me to Sickbay.” He sighed, feeling very light-headed and exhausted.
As the beam took him, he thought, At least I won’t feel it if they loose my signal…
Dr. Crusher was working frantically on Lt. Tanner when Will materialized and collapsed onto the floor of Sickbay. She turned to one of the other doctors, “Selar, take care of Lt. Riker. Nurse Ogawa and I can handle this.”
Selar nodded, “Yes, Doctor.” She walked over to Riker, quickly scanning him with her tricorder. “He’s suffering from exhaustion and it appears he has inhaled dust and rock particles. Apparently from the cave-in.”
She motioned to one of the male nurses, “Nurse Ortiz, please assist me in placing Lt. Riker onto the biobed.”
Ortiz nodded, and helped the doctor lift Riker’s large frame, gently laying the lieutenant on the biobed. Selar scanned him again, noting several bruises and abrasions on Riker’s body through all the rips and tears in his uniform. She quickly removed what was left of his uniform and guided a dermal regenerator over his body, healing everything it passed.
Selar finished and tapped a few commands into the computer, as she spoke to Nurse Ortiz again. “I will give him a tri-ox compound to make sure he gets enough oxygen, and medication for the dust he inhaled. Right now, he is only in need of rest. Alert me or Dr. Crusher when he awakens, so he may get another dose of medication to help clear the debris out of his chest.” She pressed a hypo against Riker’s neck. “He should regain consciousness in a few hours.”
“Yes, Doctor,” the nurse nodded again as he pulled a blanket over Will’s body.
The Sickbay doors hissed open, and Deanna stepped in, her eyes wide in fear.
Beverly never knew her friend entered the room, she was concentrating so on Arin. “Come on, Arin! Help me out here!” she said, pressing another hypo to his neck. Crusher glanced at his readings. They still weren’t good, but they were beginning to stabilize.
“Okay, that’s all I can do for now,” she raked a hand through her long red hair. “Let’s get him hooked into the computer, and keep a close eye on him.”
Deanna looked at Arin. He was so pale, and his body, from the waist down, was encased in the blue-green glow of a regeneration cast.
Dr. Crusher found a chair nearby, and sat down heavily on it as Deanna approached. “Will they be all right?” she asked.
The doctor pulled a towel out of a nearby cabinet and wiped the sweat off her face. “Will should be just fine. I don’t think his injuries were that bad.” She looked at her friend, “As for Arin… , it’s going to depend on his will to live. The cave-in almost took him before I had a chance to do anything. He’s very lucky you already had the ship on alert before Lt. Riker could contact us.”
Deanna sat down next to Beverly with her hands folded in her lap. “What’s strange is that when all this happened, I was trying to NOT think of either of them. I was trying to meditate, when Will and Arin appeared in my mind! Both trying to tell me to follow my heart.” She took a shaky breath before continuing, “Then, at the end, boulders were falling from the sky, and I could hear Will’s voice in my thoughts again. I knew something was terribly wrong.” Deanna could feel the tears starting to fall from her eyes. “I desperately hoped I was in time to help them.”
Beverly hugged Deanna, “It will be okay. Arin has stabilized, and I’m hopeful that his vital signs will begin to improve. Until then, we’ve got him monitored.”
Alarms started going off on Arin’s biobed, and Dr. Crusher jumped over to see what was happening. As she suspected, his vitals were going down again. “Alyssa, I need 10cc’s of hydrocortisine,” she ordered.
The nurse placed the hypo into Crusher’s hand, and she injected the contents into Tanner’s body. It didn’t help. If anything, the signs were getting weaker.
Deanna watched as Beverly continued to try to get Arin’s body to respond to something, anything. It wasn’t long before she approached the doctor, touching her shoulder. “He’s gone, Beverly,” she did her best to talk around the lump in her throat, “I can’t sense anything from him… there’s nothing there.”
Crusher hung her head in defeat. “I know,” her voice was shaking when she responded. “I know.”
Deanna stayed in Sickbay for a while after Arin’s death, keeping watch on Will. The exhaustion from the days’ events, plus the bit she was sensing from Will made her eyelids feel very heavy. She leaned her head back against the wall and fell into a light slumber.
It didn’t seem like any time had passed when she heard a scratchy voice.
“Deanna?” it rasped, “Is… that… you?”
She opened her eyes to see the blue of Will’s gazing at her. “Where?” he asked, pointing around. “Heaven?” A fit of coughing took him for a moment.
Once the coughing subsided, Deanna stood and run her fingers through his hair. “No, it’s far from Heaven.” She could feel her eyes filling with tears again. “Far from it, Imzadi.”
Doctor Crusher and Nurse Ogawa approached as his voice cracked, “Arin?”
Deanna shook her head and looked away while the doctor and nurse examined Will.
“I’m… sorry,” he croaked.
Beverly spoke. “You shouldn’t be talking, Lieutenant. All that dirt and rock you breathed in has done a number on your respiratory system and vocal cords.” She readied a hypo and injected the medication into the junction of his shoulder and neck. “This will help get that mess out of your system. I also want you to be sure and drink plenty of water.”
He nodded, mouthing a ‘thank you’ to her.
“You’re welcome, Will.” She smiled, and handed him a PADD. “Here’s something you can use until your voice gets better.” The doctor gave him a serious look. “I DO want you to use this at least for the rest of the day. Do you understand?”
Will gave her a tired grin and nodded again.
“Okay, then.” Beverly walked over to a nearby replicator and took out a glass of water. “Here’s a glass of water, and one of the nurses will bring some lunch for you in a little while. If you need anything before then, just let one of us know, Okay?”
Riker typed something into his newly acquired PADD, and turned it toward the doctor. It read, “Understood!”
“Good,” she replied, “Your injuries aren’t life-threatening, but I do want to keep you for a few more hours for observation. After that, you may go back to your quarters.”
“Thanks,” he typed.
Beverly smiled and looked over at Deanna before walking back to her office. “I’ll leave you two alone now.”
Will was already typing a message before the doctor turned away. He handed the PADD to Deanna. “Arin left a message with me before he was beamed into Sickbay. It was, ‘I love you.’”
“Thank you for telling me,” Deanna said, and placed the device back in his hand. “How do you feel?”
Will shook his head and typed. “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. Except for the voice.” He smiled at her and took her small hand into his. Closing his eyes, he sent, ~What about you? How do you feel?~
She didn’t answer, but Will felt the sadness that hung over her. ~I’m sorry, Deanna. Everything happened so quick. I should’ve been able to do something!~
Deanna put her other hand on top of his. ~You did the best you could, Will. Don’t be sorry for that. Injuries like what Arin sustained are fatal no matter how quickly the person is recovered.~
Riker yawned, trying to stay awake. ~I know… ~ His hand slipped from Deanna’s as he fell asleep. Right before he lost consciousness, he sent one more message to her. ~I love you, Imzadi.~
She felt his mind begin to relax as he slipped off to sleep. ~And I love you, Will.~
Will had only been asleep a few hours when a tickling in his chest woke him. He sat up, coughing hard, wincing between the deep and painful spasms.
“It looks like the medication finally kicked in.” He felt something like a cup being placed in the hand that wasn’t covering his mouth. “If you cough something up, spit it into this.”
Riker looked through his watery eyes to make out Dr. Crusher’s form beside him. Not thinking, he tried to speak. “Wh--s Deanna?” he croaked.
“Now, what did I say about talking?” The doctor paused for a moment while he suffered through another bout of coughing. “I sent Deanna to her quarters to rest for a while. You’ll see her soon, I‘m sure of it.”
Will nodded to Dr. Crusher, then found his PADD on the table next to him. He took long and slow breaths as he typed, hoping to keep from coughing more. “So, when’s lunch? I’m famished.”
The doctor smiled at the note Riker handed to her. “Well, Lieutenant, as soon as you’re past this coughing fit of yours, I’ll gladly get something for you. I hope you like soup and sandwiches, because that‘s all we’re serving today.”
Will chuckled a little at her joke, causing another series of spasms trying to clear out his lungs. He spit a mouthful of mucus and foreign matter into the cup Dr. Crusher had given him, then set it on the table beside his bed. Grimacing and rubbing the center of his chest, Riker laid back down. It felt like his lungs were trying to come up with all the other stuff in there.
Crusher saw his reaction. “I’m glad it’s starting to break up some,” she took the cup from his table and replaced it with a clean one. “I’ll be right back your food and some medicine that will ease the pain in your chest.”
He didn’t bother to respond. It hurt too much. He curled up some and tried to stay still until the doctor returned.
In a few moments, Beverly returned with a tray of soup and a couple of sandwiches. “Here’s your lunch, Will. Can you sit up?” she smiled as he opened one eye to look at her.
Slowly, Riker pushed himself up to a sitting position and adjusted the pillow behind him. He took the tray from the doctor and started eating. The soup made a warm trail down his throat, easing the fire in his chest.
Dr. Crusher waited until he’d eaten a few bites before giving him the pain medication. “This will dull the pain when you cough.”
He finished swallowing then tilted his head to the side for Beverly to inject the contents of the hypo into him.
Beverly checked the readings on Will’s biobed. “Everything looks fine, except all the chest congestion, but that will clear up in a few days.” She patted Will’s upper arm, “There’s really not much else I can do for you now. When you’re finished eating, you’re free to go to your quarters.” She walked over to a nearby locker and pulled out a shirt and a pair of jogging bottoms, then placed them on the foot of his bed. “These should work long enough to get you to your quarters.”
Will nodded, finishing off the last of his food. He took the clothes and began pulling them on.
Dr. Crusher took the tray from Riker while he dressed. After disposing of everything in the recycler, she walked back to him. “I have a few more orders for you, Will. You’ll be off duty for the next 4-5 days while your body finishes healing. I want you to come by once each day so I can check on your progress. Contact me immediately if anything changes, or if you start showing any other symptoms.”
He smiled, nodding in agreement with the doctor, then walked to his quarters.
The next morning, Will stretched out on his couch, listening to some soft jazz as he watched the stars streak past his view port. He’d forgotten how nice it was to just sit back and relax, to feel at home.
Riker looked up at the sound of the door chime. “Enter,” he said. His voice was still raspy, but a lot stronger than the past few days.
The door hissed open to reveal Captain Picard. “Good morning, Lieutenant. Are you up for a visitor today?” he asked.
Will stood and cleared his throat, trying to ignore the tickling there. “Of course,” he said, “please, have a seat.”
“Thank you.” The captain entered Will’s cabin and sat down. “It’s good to see you’re doing better. Dr. Crusher tells me you should be able to return to duty within the next few days.”
“Yes sir,” he answered after coughing a few times, “I‘m anxious to get back to work. And to get rid of this cough!”
Picard smiled, “I take it you’ve decided to continue your career in Starfleet?”
“Yes, I have.”
“I see.” The captain crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair. “Well, in that case, I have a couple of offers you should think about. I‘ve talked with Starfleet command, and considering recent events, along with your past record, they‘ve approved two positions for you to look at. Both are Science Officer positions which include a promotion to Lieutenant Commander.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “As you may have guessed, one of the positions is here, on the Enterprise. The other is aboard the USS Gandhi. All you have to do is choose which one you‘d prefer.”
Will’s jaw dropped for a moment, but he quickly collected himself. “That is far more than I expected,” he said, smiling. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Well,” Picard stood, “I don’t need an answer right away. However, we will be docking at Starbase 17 in four days. I would like to be informed of your decision by then. I know you will make the one which suits you best.”
“Thank you, sir, I will.” Will replied, and began coughing again. At least my chest doesn’t hurt as bad now, he thought.
“I will leave, and allow you to think over your options then,” the captain replied, “Good day, Lieutenant.”
“Good day, sir.” Will stared at the door for several minutes after Picard left. He’d already made friends on the Enterprise, not to mention Deanna being onboard. To him, the better position was obvious. Though, he felt he needed to talk to Deanna first.
He found his commbadge and tapped it. “Riker to Troi,” he said.
After a few moments, she answered. <Troi here.>
Will took a deep breath. “Deanna, if you have some free time today, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
<All right. I should be finished around 1200. Will that be okay?>
He smiled, “That would be great. I’ll have lunch ready when you come.”
After her final appointment, Deanna finished entering the last of her notes into the computer. She glanced at the bottom of the screen to see the time. There were fifteen minutes until she would meet with Will for lunch. Leaning back in her chair, she thought about their earlier discussion. He had sounded excited when he contacted her. I wonder what he wants to talk about?
Deanna saved the information she’d entered, and turned the computer off. I guess I’ll find out soon enough! she thought, then left her office to meet with Will.
As Troi approached his quarters, she could sense Will’s emotions. He was definitely happy about something, but there was also some apprehension mixed in.
She reached to touch the door chime just as the door opened. Will was right there, flashing his best smile for her.
“Hi Deanna.” He stepped to the side to allow her in, “Please, come in. I have lunch already on the dining table.”
“Thank you.” Deanna stepped inside and saw the lasagna and salad Will had prepared. “You’ve been busy!” she said.
“Maybe a little.” Will walked over and pulled out one of the chairs for Deanna, then poured each of them a glass of wine before taking his seat across from her.
“This must be something quite serious you want to talk about,” said Deanna, taking a sip. “So, tell me, what’s on your mind?”
Will chuckled and pushed a bit of lasagna around his plate. “Captain Picard stopped by earlier today. There have been a couple of openings as Science Officer that I’ve been offered.” He took a bite.
She looked up at him. “Really?”
He swallowed before continuing. “Yes. In fact, one of the positions is here, aboard the Enterprise.”
Arin‘s position, she thought. “Is that the one you’re taking?”
Will shook his head. “I haven’t decided yet. That’s why I asked you to come and talk. I’d very much like to stay here, but I wanted to know--to make sure--that was all right with you.”
Deanna poked at her food. “You never needed my permission to stay here. I thought you knew that. It will take some time to adjust…”
“I know,” he reached out and took her hand. “And I want to be here if you should need me. I know this is a hard time for you, after losing Arin.”
She tried to smile, “And I’m here for you, Will. I knew I needed to be with you after I ran out on you in Ten-Forward. I just didn’t want to listen to my heart at the time.”
Will dropped his fork. “Really?”
“Really. I did love Arin very much. We talked a lot when we were first stationed on the Enterprise. Over time, I told him about us, how we met, how your death made me feel so empty inside. He helped me realize I was still going through the motions of each day, that I needed to start living life again.” She took Will’s hand in hers. “Even with all the help he gave me and all the love we shared, Arin and I could never have the bond that exists between me and you.”
Will leaned forward, lightly brushing his hand through Deanna’s hair. “I love you, Imzadi. I don’t ever want to be apart from you again.”
Deanna gently took Will’s hand away from her. “Come with me, Imzadi. There’s something I think you missed when you were in my cabin a few nights ago.” She stood, holding on to his hand, leading him out of his quarters and into the hallway.
Deanna entered the access code to her quarters and pulled Will inside.
When the door closed behind him, Will followed Deanna to the view port. He saw his trombone and smiled. "You kept this?" Picking it up, he turned it this way and that, then tried to blow a few notes with it.
The sound was horrible. “I think it’s in need of a good cleaning!” Will joked as he placed it back in its spot.
She stroked the instrument and met his eyes. "Probably so. It’s been collecting dust for a long time! I kept everything that was yours. Most of it is on Betazed."
Betazed… Deanna’s eyes widened. The wedding!
Will felt the shock she just experienced. “Deanna? What's wrong?"
She stepped over to Will, and he wrapped his arms around her as she began to cry. “What’s wrong?”
Deanna took a deep, shaky breath. “I haven’t talked to Mother. She doesn‘t know that Arin is dead!”
“The wedding is still a few weeks away, right?” he asked.
Her voice was muffled when she answered, “Yes.”
“Well, we could get married… maybe you could have her postpone it for a little while, so we can get some of the recent changes behind us.”
Deanna looked up at him. “Wh-what?”
“I hope you don’t think I’m being presumptuous, Deanna, but I do want to marry you. I know that right now probably isn’t a good time, with Arin’s death being just a few days ago.” He gazed into her dark eyes, “Marry me, Imzadi. Please?”
“I would like that,” she smiled, “but you’re right, I’ll have Mother postpone the ceremony for the time being.”
"You know, you just made me the happiest man in Starfleet!" Will held her close, and kissed the top of her head. "How do you think Mrs. Troi will take the news?”
Deanna tried not to laugh, “I’ll make sure she’s sitting before I tell her!”
They held onto each other, watching the stars for a while. Will breathed in the scent of Deanna’s hair. It was just as intoxicating as he remembered. "Deanna, all I've ever wanted these past years is to be with you again."
"I know, Imzadi," she breathed, "I know." She kissed him again, allowing the passion that had been left for dead all those years awaken, and neither one dared to stop it.