What The Future Holds



Rated: PG-13 for language

Summary: Response to Sarah's April 23rd challenge of a teenage Will Riker after their time at the Briar Patch.

Warnings: Nothing major to note. Except dealing with a teenager with issues.

Disclaimer: You know the usual garb that goes here.


The Challenge

Hello, everyone. It's been along time:) With these great replies to these challenges, I thought I'd give one to the lists and see if anyone is interested in trying it.
I've often wondered what a teenage Will would be like and also what if that Will was somehow transported to the Enterprise after the Briar Patch? Commander Riker is replaced by 17 year old Riker and Deanna is left wondering how to cope with it. He doesn't retain any of the Commander's memories. He has to cope with his new surroundings and Deanna has to cope with a different, yet same person.
Does this sound too crazy? I know that a wonderful story "Temporarily" written by Di kinda touched on this except Will was a little boy. What if he were older? Anyone want to tackle this one?
Sarah - April 23, 2003


Part 1

They thought of their hopeful future together as they, hand-in-hand, felt the transporter breakdown their molecules into millions of iridescent bits and miraculously bring those same molecules back together again on board what was left of the Enterprise. They were ready to leave the Briar Patch and limp to Earth for some much-needed repairs.

Will didn't expect the sudden bout of dizziness that overcame him as the transporter completed its cycle. His eyes blinked repeatedly and he grasped Deanna's hand hard to try to maintain his balance.

"Will?" Deanna questioned, seeing his confusion. "Are you all right?"

He shook away the remaining effects and slowly felt his equilibrium return. The transporter had never affected him like that before, and he wondered if anyone else had felt it. But looking at the others as they stepped down from the platform told him he was the only lucky one to feel it.

"I'm fine," he said quietly, so the others wouldn't overhear. He certainly didn't want Beverly coming after him with her med scanner. He smiled at his mate in reassurance. "Just got a bit dizzy for a few seconds. It's gone now."

"You sure?" Her deep eyes studied him. In the short time he'd been down on the planet, he'd already looked a few years younger. His beardless face almost line-free and his hair darker than it had been in recent months. He looked very good to her. She too, had felt the youthful effects the planet had bestowed her but knew as they moved away the aging process would start again.

"Yes, I'm sure." He tweaked her nose. "Don't worry about me. You just worry about getting the crew readjusted and I'll worry about getting this dented-up hunk of metal working again. Okay?"

She felt his honesty and reached up to peck him on the cheek. "All right, Commander. But if it happens again, promise me you'll go see Beverly?"

He gave her a smart salute, if a bit exaggerated. "Yes ma'am." Then grinned like a naughty boy and waggled his eyebrows. "But I'd much rather see you."

"Oh you!" She laughed, put her arm through his and walked them out of the transporter room. "We both have a lot of work to do." She looked up at him with a wickedly suggestive glance. "But we could get together later, if the chance arises."

He bit back his reply of what could arise if given the chance, but it was obvious in his grin. "Looking forward to it, Counselor."


Unfortunately their meeting never took place that night. Deanna had been busy dealing with crew members until very late and Will was so exhausted the only thing he could think of doing was sleeping. They agreed to sleep in their separate quarters and meet the next morning for breakfast.

Will's sleep was restless that night. He tossed and turned in the sheets, his mind being buffeted with flashes of his life. Each one went further and further into the past. Some were pleasant... promotions and commendations, meeting Deanna, good times with friends. Others were not so pleasant... too many brushes with death, carelessly losing Deanna, following questionable command decisions, bouts of extreme loneliness.

Time continued in reverse. Only reverse; making him relive certain highlights in his life. There was no going forward again. It was as if his memories were erased as they rushed through his mind.

Eventually the vid of his life slowed and stopped and his sleep became deep and relaxed. Will's last vision was of learning of his acceptance into Starfleet Academy.


Deanna awoke feeling only slightly refreshed. She had been up too late the night before and had fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Her sleep was troubled and she had awoken in the middle of the night sensing someone else's troubled sleep. She knew it had to be Will as she was most in tune with him. He didn't seem to be in any distress, only restless, so she didn't think it necessary to wake him up. He soon settled and she was able to go back to sleep herself.

She hummed an old Betazed folksong as she got herself ready for the day and checked her schedule on the computer. Her mind went to her Imzadi, smiling at the thought of seeing him soon. Deanna's smile slowly faded as she realized she couldn't feel him as easily as she usually could. She tried harder, but the reaction she was getting was so very odd. She could feel his existence, but it was muted – No – More like incomplete.

"Computer, location of Commander Riker," she felt compelled to ask.

"Commander Riker is in his quarters."

"Is he awake?"

"Unknown. However there is no sign of activity in his quarters."

"Maybe he's just in a very deep sleep," she said to herself, trying to dispel her concern. "Well, it's time he got up anyway."

She didn't have far to go to get to Will's quarters, since they were right next door. She let herself in and looked into the bedroom. There was Will, buried in his covers, only the top of his head showing. Deanna was relieved Will seemed to be okay, but her sense of him was still way off.

She sat down on the bed next to him and tapped his back. "Hey sleepyhead. Time to wake up." The only response she got was a deep breath and a quiet groan from him. "Get up, Will!" she tried again. "You promised me breakfast. Remember?" She reached up and yanked the blankets off of him.

The body on the bed groaned again and with a sleepy voice asked, "Huh?" He lifted his head, wondering who would be waking him up. "What?" He slowly opened his eyes and rolled over, sitting up on the bed.

A loud gasp escaped Deanna's throat and she jumped from the bed, covering her mouth with a hand. The person in the bed was *not* quite what she expected.

It was obviously Will. But not the Will Riker she was accustomed to seeing each day. This was a much younger Will Riker. Almost a boy, really.

The young man looked up wide-eyed at the woman who seemed to be in shock. His eyes nervously darted between her, the room and the bed. He wondered what he'd gotten himself into the night before. He tried to think back but couldn't remember anything that would be put him here in the same room with her. Wherever here was.

"Look, um, Miss...uh..." He had no idea what her name was and swallowed uneasily. He touched the pajama top he was wearing. "If you'll just let me get my clothes back, I'll get out of your way. Okay?" Will wondered if he'd gotten drunk the night before, and that's why everything seemed so foggy. Maybe he'd gotten drunk, met this woman and somehow ended up in her bed. She was quite a bit older than his usual girlfriends, but it wouldn't be the first time an older woman thought he'd be fun for kicks. And she obviously seemed very distressed about him still being there. He wondered if she was married, or had a boyfriend that was due back.

Deanna struggled to calm herself down. 'Where's *my* Will? My Imazdi?' her heart shrieked, while her brain tried to process her thoughts through the roaring noise that enveloped it. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, trying to clear the panic away and think rationally.

When she felt somewhat calmer and opened her eyes again, the younger Will was standing on the other side of the bed looking down at the pajamas that were two or three sizes too big and wondering whose they were. Deanna took a good look at him and judged him to now be maybe six foot tall and much thinner than his former self, yet still exceedingly handsome.

"Um, Will?" She took another deep breath. "Do you know what happened?"

He looked at her quizzically, then down at the bed and back to her. "Well, I'm not quite sure what we did, but this is your bed, isn't it?" He winced at his own insolence, but it was all he could think of.

"No, it's y–" she stopped mid-thought, a new worry entering her mind. She remembered him calling her 'Miss'.

"Will, do you know who I am? Or where you are?" She silently begged him to know the answers.

"Sorry, no. But this is your place, isn't it?" He pointed a hand to the room, slightly annoyed at the fabric flopping beyond his fingers.

"Oh, no," Deanna quietly whispered to herself. She wanted to cry. Something about the metaphasic radiation surrounding the Baku's world had reverted her imzadi to a teenager. With no memory of who he used to be... or who she was.

"No. These are your quarters. My name is Deanna Troi. We're on board a starship. The Ent–"

Will laughed. "Yeah, right." He thought the woman had to be nuts. "Look, if you just give me my clothes, I'll leave. I have to get to my job."

She sighed in dismay. 'He must think he's on Earth.' "I'm not joking, Will. You really are on board the U.S.S Enterprise. And we're several light years away from your home."

Will was starting to get angry. He didn't appreciate being messed with. "Okay, the game's over. I don't know what your problem is, lady; but I want out of here! Where are my clothes?"

Deanna pointed to the closet, trying to think of some way to get him to believe her. "In there."

Will stalked over to the closet and pushed the button to open the door. He eyed and pushed the strange clothes inside around, not finding anything of his. "These aren't mine."

"Yes, they are." Deanna moved closer to Will. Not wanting to appear threatening or delusional, she kept her voice calm. "You are Commander William Thomas Riker, First Officer of the Enterprise. You've been First Officer here for eleven years. You are forty years old."

"Do I look forty?" he asked incredulously.

Deanna continued, ignoring the interruption. "Yesterday, we left a star system that held a planet we were on the surface of. That world has an atmosphere that practically stops time and aging. We all felt the effects and it seemed like our bodies lost a few years off their ages." She paused for affect. "But it's apparent that you lost several more years." She hoped he believed her, but from look in his eyes and his next outburst, he obviously didn't.

"I don't know what asylum you escaped from, but I want the hell out of here!"

He walked out of the bedroom, trying not to trip on the too-long pajama bottoms. He headed for the door that he hoped was the exit, but Deanna grabbed his arm. "Please wait!"

"Let me go!" He forcefully yanked his arm away.

Desperate not to let him leave, Deanna did the only thing she could think of. In a move that would make Worf proud, Deanna grabbed his arm again and flipped him over her hip. Once he was on the floor, she pinned his arm high up against his back and used all her weight to hold him in a lock. She slapped her comm badge.

"Troi to Sickbay!"

The young man beneath her starting shouting obscenities and struggled against her hold. Beverly could have sworn she heard "off me you crazy bitch!" that sounded somewhat like Will's voice. She couldn't wait to find out what was going on.

"Crusher to Troi. Is something wrong?"

"Beverly, can you come to Will's quarters right away? And call the Captain here also." Her voice showed her struggle. "We have a slight problem."

"Are you all right?" The doctor's tone begged for an explanation.

"Yes! But hurry anyway!"

"We'll be right there."

The younger and slimmer Riker may not have had the strength of his adult counterpart, but he was still strong enough. What he didn't have was the Starfleet training in hand-to-hand combat that Deanna had. Fortified by Worf's training in Klingon offensive tactics, which was the only thing helping her hold him down.

"If you will just calm down, I'll prove to you that what I said is true!" Deanna gasped with exertion.

The teenager's male pride was being sorely abused by this slight woman being able to pin him so easily. He was madder than a hornet, red-faced and panting. And refusing to believe anything she said.

"You're lying! If you think I'm stupid enough to–"

"I'm not lying! Let me explain!" Deanna begged, getting angry herself.


"Don't say it, Riker!" Deanna warned. "You know I don't like that word."

"I don't know nothing about you, so fu–"

Deanna wrenched his arm harder.

"OUW!" Will shrieked.

"I told you not to say it," Deanna said with fake innocence.

"You're breaking my arm!" The fight was starting to leave his body.

"Actually I need to push your arm up and to the right about one more inch before it will break." Deanna informed him sweetly. "Would you like to see?"

"No!" he said, thinking she just may do it. Whatever was left of Will's energy seemed to drain at once. He went limp beneath her, breathing heavily.

Deanna eased up slightly on the pressure she was exerting. When she didn't think he'd buck her off, she asked, "Are you ready to talk civilly?"

Will just wanted her off him. "Yes," he said coolly.

Deanna slowly released her hold on him and let his arms down. She was still a bit wary about him and was grateful when she heard the door buzzer.

"Come in," she announced.

Will found his chance to strike. Using all his strength, he knocked Deanna off of him. She landed hard on her side and he crouched on one knee defensively to face whomever was coming through the door.

When the door slid open the first thing Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard saw was Deanna landing on the floor and a young man getting to his knees.

Fearing the counselor was being attacked, Beverly immediately rushed to her side while the captain moved to confront the would-be attacker. But when he saw whose face looked back at him; a face showing a mixture of fear and surprise, he could only stop and stare.

Beverly gasped and her green eyes widened when she saw who he was. "Will?"

Deanna got to her feet and pushed her hair back out of her face. Rubbing her sore hip with one hand, she gestured with the other towards Will. "*This* is our slight problem."

"Oh my," Beverly said dumbly.

Picard released a long breath, ran a hand over the top of his head and said, "Good lords!"


Part 2

The captain kept his eyes with Will's as the younger man stood up cautiously. They stopped several inches shorter than what he was used to. Will was only slightly taller than him now, instead of a full head. His build was a bit slimmer than the captain's, and Picard couldn't stop the bit of envy at Will's collar-length, thick hair. His hair had never been that full, even in his youth.

"What the hell are you staring at?" Will challenged, trying not to let his fear show, but failing. He had no idea where he was, who these people were and what it was they wanted from him. "Why am I here?"

Picard turned his shocked gaze to Deanna. She knew what his questions were without him having to ask. "He woke up this way. He doesn't know who we are or where he is. He apparently has no memory of anything familiar to us."

"Is this some reaction to the metaphasic radiation from the Briar Patch?"

"It must be," Beverly recovered from her surprise and got her medical scanner ready. "At least it's the most plausible explanation for now. The question is, how and why?"

When the doctor pointed the scanner at him, Will backed off. "Get that thing away from me!" His voice became panicky as his anxiety level rose higher. "I don't know what you people are talking about, but you've got no right to hold me here."

"I've tried explaining the situation to him, Captain," Deanna offered. "But he doesn't believe me."

"Because you're crazy!" Will threw a menacing look at her. "You held me down and tried to break my arm!"

Beverly's eyebrows went up and she smirked at her best friend.

Deanna shrugged and crossed her arms. "Well, he wouldn't let me explain."

Picard raised his hands in a reassuring manner. "Just calm down, Will." He didn't know where to begin and sighed again, deciding to start with introductions. "I'm Captain Jean Luc Picard. This is Dr. Beverly Crusher. She's a physician and just wants to scan you to see that you're all right." He waited a few seconds to see if Will would refuse. When he didn't refuse, nor give his approval, the captain nodded to Beverly to begin. "How old are you?"

"Seventeen," Will responded curtly. "And don't even try telling me I'm the ripe old age of forty."

Beverly stifled her grin and held her scanner on Will while the captain spoke with him. "And where is it you think you are?"

"Hopefully, still in Valdez." His eyes shot daggers at Deanna. "And not some light years away in space!"

Deanna's posture softened. She had to remember that this was a teenage boy who was frightened and very confused. "I told you the truth."


"I would appreciate it, young man," Picard told him firmly, "if you would refrain from using that kind of language. She *is* telling the truth."

Will sneered at him. "Prove it."

Picard cocked his head toward the wall behind Will. "Look out the window."

Will eyed them all before turning around. There he saw the windows he hadn't noticed before. With diamond-like specs slowly moving against a black curtain. He walked to the window in a trance, unable to immediately grasp what he was seeing. He stared out the window a moment before realizing it obviously wasn't the stars that were moving, but them. Will had been in space only once before; years earlier with his father. But it had been enough for him to want to make space travel a part of his future.

But he knew for a fact that he had been in his home in Valdez, Alaska the day before. His mind was still sketchy about where he'd fallen asleep, but he was almost sure it had been his own bed. So how had he ended up here? And how far from home were they?

"Where are you taking me?" he asked quietly. His head was spinning with his thoughts. They couldn't possibly have been telling him the truth about him really being the first officer of this ship and being so much older. It was impossible! Wasn't it?

"Our present course is taking us to Earth. We've recently been in a battle and need to return to Earth for repairs to the ship." Picard began to explain, hoping the boy would take him seriously. He moved a few steps closer. "Will, I'm being completely honest when I tell you that yesterday you were my first officer, with the rank of Commander, and...... a good bit older and taller." Picard raised the corner of his mouth in an ironic manner. "Usually I have to look up at you."

Beverly pushed a final button on her padd and reported her findings. "He seems to be every bit of a typical human teenage boy. I can't find any clues to tell us what may have happened since leaving the Baku world yesterday, although this is just preliminary and not as complete as I can do in Sickbay." She directed her next statement to Will, with a certain parental tone. "You don't eat a very healthy diet, do you?" At his impudent glare, she turned and gave a slight grin towards the others. "Like I said, typical human teenager."

Deanna eyes lit up as she suddenly remembered the incident from the day before. "Beverly, yesterday when we transported back from the Baku world, Will experienced a moment of dizziness as we rematerialized on board the ship."

"Hmm. That's interesting," Beverly wrinkled her brow. "Was he fine before going to bed last night?"

"We spoke just before retiring for the night and he was fine." She looked at Will then, sympathetically. She could sense his fear, confusion and struggle with whether or not to believe any of what he was hearing.

"Yesterday, I did my shift at the ski lodge. Teaching little kids how to ski on the Bunny Trail." Will seem to be talking to himself, trying to convince himself that he *had* been at the ski lodge. "This morning I wake up in a strange bed with a psychotic, but beautiful, woman there. I just thought I'd gotten lucky."

He had to admit to himself that *something* had happened. He was definitely on a ship, somewhere in space. But how had he gotten there? Were they telling him the truth? How could it be possible?

"I just don't know!" Will vented his frustration by punching the wall. "How am I supposed to believe you? It just doesn't seem possible!"

Deanna winced at the angry frustration radiating from Will. She had felt it many times from him in past years when circumstances were more than he could control. She was barely controlling her own frustration. The man she loved was gone. Taken from her just as they had found passion in each other again. Then she realized that he wasn't really gone. He was still alive. They could identify the problem and find the solution. And bring her Imzadi back. She would refuse to let herself think it wouldn't happen.

"Will, let me show you something." The captain had an idea that just might finally convince the young man. He walked to the table that held the computer screen and gestured for Will to take a seat there. Will reluctantly did, not sure of where this was going to lead.

"Computer, display Starfleet record of Commander William Riker. Current First Officer on the Enterprise. Begin at Academy entrance and include all applicable photos."

The computer instantly brought up the records. Will started to read and his eyes showed shock. There was no denying the first photo was him. Supposedly taken upon his entrance to Starfleet Academy in 2353.

"I start the Academy next year," Will said quietly. "I just got the acceptance letter a few days ago." He read on, mesmerized by his accomplishments at the Academy; at graduating 8th in his class. He would be so lucky to have such honors. If it was true.

"Is all this real?" he asked, in spite of the proof before him. He couldn't see any reason why it would all be made up.

"It's real all right," Picard told him, sounding proud. "You've had quite a respectable career."

As Will read on, Picard moved to Deanna and Beverly, who stood with concerned looks on their faces. "Do you think it's a good idea to let him read about his own future, Captain?" Deanna whispered.

"I have to convince him somehow," Picard nodded, reassuring himself. "It won't matter if we find a way to make him normal again. And if not...... there's always a memory wipe."

"We *will* figure this out and make everything all right. We have to." Deanna said with no uncertainty.

Beverly squeezed her arm and gave her a reassuring smile, then spoke to the captain. "I'd like to take him to Sickbay for a more thorough exam."

Picard nodded and turned back towards Will. "Well? Do you believe us now?"

Will was staring beyond the computer terminal, thinking about it. It had to be true. He couldn't see anything that would prove or warrant deception from these people. But the thought of being out of his time...... his mind had a hard time grappling with it.

"I guess so," he admitted, looking up at the captain with worry in his eyes. "I just don't understand how it happened."

"That's the million dollar question we have to find an answer to," Picard squeezed Will's shoulder. "I'd like to start by having Dr. Crusher run some tests on you to check for any abnormalities. And I'll get the some of the crew started on finding some answers. Would you accompany the doctor to Sickbay?"

A very familiar look of distaste fleeted across the boy's face. "Sure." The thought of getting poked and prodded made him want to cringe, but he wanted answers too. He stood up and moved to stand by the doctor.

"It won't hurt. I promise." Beverly smiled, thinking of all the times she'd said that to the elder Riker. He always managed to act like it had hurt. She looked at Will's too-large pajamas and thought maybe the crew shouldn't see him in his condition just yet. She touched her combadge. "Transporter Room. Two to transport from Commander Riker's quarters to Sickbay." Obviously not quite used to a transporter, Will's face showed apprehension as the beam took them out of his quarters.

Deanna sighed and she suddenly looked lost. Picard noticed and once again thought about the connection between her and Will. He knew they'd recently become closer, but wasn't sure to what extent. "We'll find the answer, Counselor. We'll get him back."

She smiled and blinked back tears. "I know, Sir."

"I'll get Data started on the problem and call a meeting after he and the doctor have something to tell us."

"If it's all right with you, I'd like to go to Sickbay to keep him company. He's confused and frightened and will probably have a lot of questions."

It was obvious to the captain that Deanna was the same way herself. "Of course. Take all the time you need."

After the captain left, Deanna reigned her emotions to squelch the breakdown she felt coming. She had to be strong. Not only for herself, but for the boy who must certainly feel much more lost than she.


Part 3

"This is a most unfortunate occurrence for the commander, Sir," Data's golden features had that quizzical look they often did when he was given a dilemma to find a solution for. "While I myself, while being among the Baku, searched for what it would be like to be a child; I have often wondered what it would be like to go through the adolescent period known as......" He checked his memory for the correct term and his features sparked when he found it. "Puberty."

Commander Geordi LaForge chuckled. "Believe me, Data, it's a tough period to grow through. Physiological changes, acne, discovering girls were something more than squealing bags of bug haters..."

Picard's tone was one of impatience. After having explained the situation, he wasn't in any mood for trivial chatter. "Just find out what you can about the connection between the metaphasic radiation and Commander Riker's condition. Have we downloaded all possible information about the Briar Patch and the rings surrounding the planet? Do you see any reason to return there?"

"Between my observations while staying on the planet and what the ship's computers have stored, there should be sufficient information without having to return to the area." The android informed him. "I will endeavor to come up with an hypothesis as quickly as possible."

Geordi added his opinion. "I really don't like the idea of turning back. We really do need to put the ship in dry dock for the extensive repairs we can't do out here. I've used up all the duct tape and rubber bands we have. I'm going to be pretty busy trying to keep her moving at a decent pace, but I'll help Data as much as I can."

The captain was well aware of the damage inflicted during the battle with the Sona. The busy activity in Engineering was evidence of the work being done to keep the engines going. "I know you're doing all that you can, Geordi. I'd appreciate any help you can give."

As the captain walked away, Geordi hoped the man hadn't thought he was making light of Riker's predicament with their comments. Remembering his own awkward teenage years, he could only feel compassion for anyone having to go through it a second time.

"Glad I'm not in the commander's shoes," he commented dryly.

Data cocked his head with a confused look. Not having gone through that period himself, he wondered what could possibly be so bad about it. "You did not enjoy your youth, Geordi?"

Geordi slowly walked towards the warp core to visually inspect it as he thought of a way to answer Data in a way he'd understand. Data followed closely, eagerly awaiting. "I enjoyed most of it, I guess." He leaned an elbow on the guard rail surrounding the core and pursed his lips. "It's just that there's a few years between childhood and adulthood that can be tough on a kid. You don't want adults treating you like a child anymore, but they're not willing to give you much independence either. Your body goes through changes that can be uncomfortable and–" he chuckled in remembrance, "–even downright embarrassing at times, if you know what I mean."

Data's face scrunched up in thought, searching for the meaning Geordi spoke of. His face suddenly light up as if he had just found the answer in a medical book. "Ah! You mean involuntary erections in a boy." His eyes darted as if reading another entry. "And nighttime ejaculations. Otherwise known as wet dreams."

Geordi blushed and held up his hand to stop Data before he could continue on. He looked around, praying no one was listening. "Yeah! There's that. And girls have their problems too."

"Budding breasts and the beginning of menstruation," Data interrupted quickly.

"Yes! Yes, right Data. There's all that *and* raging hormones creating sexual feelings." Geordi wished the conversation had never started. He took a deep breath to regain his composure. "But there's also new responsibilities, school work, peer pressure. Sometimes teenagers have a hard time dealing with all of these things. It's a very confusing time for them. I just know I wouldn't want to go through alot of that again."

Data nodded, somewhat satisfied. "I believe I understand now. But I may delve into further study when time permits."

"That's fine. But at this time, I suggest you get started on figuring out how to get *our* Commander Riker back. I'll join you as soon as I can."

After Data left, Geordi started fiddling with a control panel and snickered quietly to himself. "Heaven help us. If the commander's libido is so strong at forty, I hate to think of what it was like at seventeen and in his prime!"


"You said it wouldn't hurt!" Will accused the doctor as she gathered up her samples and equipment.

After dealing with the young man, her temper was beginning to flare as red as her fiery hair. He'd been giving her a hard time ever since they'd begun, even though nothing she'd done would have caused much pain at all. "Be glad I didn't give you an analcimic probe."

"A *what*!" His eyes widened in panic at what the word sounded like. "What's that?"

"Keep complaining and I'll show you," the doctor said smoothly while smiling devilishly. "Wait here."

He clamped his mouth shut, but gave her a dirty look behind her back as she walked towards the lab. Deanna was leaning against the wall near the door with her arms crossed over her chest. She hadn't heard what Beverly had told Will, but had seen his reaction and was curious. She followed Beverly into the lab and asked about it.

"I threatened him with a test that doesn't exist, but sounds very unpleasant," the doctor answered with a giggle.

"He's being difficult?" Deanna smiled, knowing how he was with doctors.

Beverly laid her things down on a table, put her hand on her hip and looked pointedly at the counselor. "Let's just say he hasn't changed much in the past twenty-some years when it comes to medical procedure."

"Have you found anything out of the ordinary yet?"

Beverly's face showed her dismay and she stuffed her hands in her coat pockets. "No. It'll take a little while to do the lab work and run the scans through the computer, but nothing stands out so far."

Deanna nodded dismally. "I think I'll go talk to him."

"I'm done with him for now if you want to take him back to his quarters. Maybe get him something decent to eat. I don't think he's been eating very well for quite a while."

"I'll do that. Thank you, Beverly."

Deanna walked back out to where Will sat on the biobed, drumming his fingers on the top impatiently. He eyed her as she approached. He couldn't help but notice that for a woman old enough to be his mother, she was still very good eye candy. He wondered what kind of relationship she had with his future self, since she seemed very comfortable entering his bedroom unannounced to wake him up. Will considered himself quite lucky if this beautiful woman was a part of his future.

But the cheeky, roguish, teenage boy that he was couldn't help but want to ruffle her feathers some. He enjoyed doing that to people and was very good at it.

"You going to practice your dominatrix thing on me again?" he asked, straight-faced.

"What?!" her eyes widened in shock, wondering if she'd heard right.

"Is holding people down, trying to keep them from leaving just a sadistic game with you?"

If she couldn't feel the playfulness behind his statement, which she could; Deanna certainly recognized the familiar twinkle in his bright blue eyes.

"No, I only save that for the unfortunate ones unlucky enough to keep me from my first cup of coffee in the morning." She mocked crossness without much sincerity.

"I'll try to remember never to do that again."

"That would be wise," she advised, then smiled when she felt no more tension from him. "I'm sorry if we got off on the wrong foot this morning, Will. But seeing you, as you are, instead of what I was expecting was quite a shock. All the more so for you, I'm sure. I couldn't just let you leave without knowing what was happening. I'm sorry if I frightened or hurt you, but it was all I could think of at the time to keep you there."

"Next time I'll listen better." Will grinned, rubbing the arm that had been pulled. He was beginning to like this woman. Her calming gaze made him feel better. He felt he could trust her.

"I usually don't go around twisting people's arms." Deanna's smile was impish. "I *really* am quite a nice person. Ask anyone!"

Will chuckled. "I believe you."

Deanna was very glad that the younger Will seemed to trust her. But she hated the fact that he didn't know her at all. She was a complete stranger to her lover.

"Well, Dr. Crusher said you were free to go. Why don't we go back to your quarters and get some breakfast. I for one, am starving."

"Me, too," Will admitted, patting his stomach.

Beverly had given him a civilian outfit to wear so he could now walk through the ship without his clothes looking ridiculously large. As they walked to his quarters, he was amazed at the size the starship must be. The corridors seemed never-ending. Any doubts he may have had at the truth of his predicament were vanquished by the disbelieving looks crew members were giving him. They obviously recognized him. But by their shocked expressions, he knew they were expecting a much older Will Riker. By the time they made it to his quarters, he was keeping his head down and avoiding anyone's eyes.

Deanna showed him how to key in his entrance code. He was very quiet as they entered and she knew precisely why. She'd seen the looks too.

"Will, don't be upset by the reactions of the crew. They're very used to unpredictable things happening suddenly. They'll adapt quickly once they know the situation."

Be that as it may, the stares had made him feel like a freak. "It's okay," Will said sullenly. Then a thought hit him that made him understand their reactions better. "I guess when they see that their commanding officer is suddenly nothing more than a kid, they're probably concerned about their own well-being. He's relied on quite a bit, isn't he?"

"He is." Deanna was impressed by his response. "The first officer oversees many things about the crew and the ship. From approving duty rosters to being able to save the ship from certain destruction at any sudden threat. The crew looks to him for supervision...... in their jobs *and* their safety."

Will's face showed a bit of apprehension. The thought of himself, even his future self, taking on that kind of load was intimidating. "That's a lot of responsibility."

"Yes, it is. And the 'Commander' Will Riker handles it very efficiently. But he's not alone. He relies on the crew to be able to do their jobs, which makes his job much easier." Deanna could tell the conversation was making him uneasy. It definitely felt strange to her to be talking about Commander Riker like he wasn't there, when a part of him actually was. She again wondered if it was a good idea to be letting him hear so much about his future. "He also has a lot of friends on this ship. And when they see he's in trouble, they'll do everything in their power to help."

"How good of a friend are you to him?" He didn't know how the question would be received, but he was curious and wanted to know.

The answers running through Deanna's mind, she knew, couldn't be said to the young man. This was one area she couldn't possibly share the complexities with him. She avoided his eyes to hide the moisture that came to hers as she answered in partial truth. "He and I have been good friends for a number of years. Like I said, he has a lot of friends on board."

Even at the tender age of seventeen, Will could read people like a book. And he was definitely getting the impression to *back off*. This gave him a good indication of what kind of friends Deanna and the older Will were. He decided it wouldn't be prudent to push the subject any further and played along when she suddenly changed the subject.

"Do you know how to use a replicator?" she asked quickly, turning towards the unit.

Will pretended not to notice she was blinking away tears and followed her. Crying females made him very uncomfortable. He never knew what to do with them. "I don't have one at home, but I've used them elsewhere."

"Well, there are thousands of food choices from several different cultures. You can also access the ship's stores to get new clothing and whatever other personal items you may need. Just tell it what you want and it will materialize it."

Will thought for a minute. He was pretty hungry and wanted just the right food to satisfy it. This gave Deanna a chance to get herself together and she eventually smiled at the concentrated look on his face.

"Okay....umm....five strips of bacon, four scrambled eggs, buttered grits, hash browns–"

Deanna's eyes widened and her stomach churned nauseously as the list of fatty foods grew longer. She knew Will had usually cooked for himself growing up, but couldn't imagine he ate like that all the time as lean as he was. And what were grits? She remembered Beverly's words about him not eating well.

"Computer, cancel that." Deanna ordered then looked patiently at Will and his dumbfounded expression. "If you were cooking for yourself, what would you have for breakfast on an average day?"

Will was a bit put off at having his food choices cancelled, and it showed. "Most of the time I don't have time to make a big breakfast. I usually have donuts or something easy like that."

"Those aren't exactly nutritious choices for a growing boy, are they?" She thought her statement was true enough and ignored the bristled look he gave her. "Let me order for you."

A moment later, Will found himself seated at the table staring at a bowl of oatmeal with raisins, a cup of mixed melon chunks and a glass of tomato juice.

Deanna sat across from him with her breakfast of half a grapefruit and wheat toast. She used her fork to point to his tray and said, "Go ahead, dig in. Wouldn't you agree that that is a much healthier choice for breakfast?"

"What are you? My mother?" Will grumbled under his breath and took a bite of the lumpy oatmeal.

"What did you say?"

"I said it could use more cinnamon," he lied, and gave her a charming smile. "But it's still good the way it is."

Of course Deanna saw through the comment and fake smile. "It was obvious to Dr. Crusher that you aren't getting the nutrition you need. I'm just trying to help. But I'd think that at your age you would know how to eat properly."

"I do." He took another bite of the oatmeal, deciding it really wasn't half-bad. Sure, he knew what foods he should be eating and got at least one good meal a day at the ski resort where he worked, on the days he worked. But that didn't help him at home.

They say that poverty doesn't exist anymore, not in this day and age. That wasn't exactly true in all cases. Especially when the person hides the fact that he's a kid trying to take care of himself. Refusing to seek any aid that could be offered him because his stubborn pride is convinced he can take care of himself and doesn't need help from anyone. While Will wasn't exactly living in poverty, there were days when food was scarce. And like with most kids, junk food was more attractive than nutritious food.

"Surely, your father watches what you eat when–" Before she could finish the sentence, the wave of raw anger that radiated from Will stopped her dead. She reeled from the intensity of it and had to grab the edge of the table to keep stable. Will stabbed his spoon into the bowl harshly and continued eating, his features set hard. He seemed not to notice her discomfort, staring stonily at his food.


He didn't answer her tense plea, but jabbed his spoon into the bowl and left it there.

"Will, you're very angry." Deanna breathed deeply to regain her balance. "I felt rage from you when I mentioned your father." Over the years they'd known each other, Deanna had felt many levels of anger from Will. The force that emanated from him now frightened her.

"I don't want to talk about *him*." His eyes burned into her. "And what do you mean you *felt* it? How?"

"I'm half-Betazoid, half-human. I'm not telepathic like a full-Betazoid, but I am empathic. I feel emotions," she explained. "And I'm sensing some very intense feelings coming from you."

Will had heard of Betazed and the telepathic race that inhabited the world, but knew little else about them. "So what!"

"I know that you both have had problems with each other all your life. You–the older you–" she stammered with the correction, "told me about some of it. I met the man myself. He came on board several years ago to try to fix his relationship with you. I saw the kind of arrogant–"

"I doubt you know *anything* about my relationship with *him*!" Will stood up abruptly, kicking the chair out of his way. "I don't want to talk with you anymore. Would you just leave?"

Deanna stood up, placed her hands on the table in front of her and looked at him firmly. "As the ship's counselor, it's my job to see the crew is–"

"Counselor?" His features twisted into a repulsed mask. "You mean you're a shrink?"

Deanna detested that archaic word for her profession. "Psychologist! And the well-being of everyone on this ship is–"

"I am *not* a part of your damn crew, so just save your words of wisdom for someone who gives a shit! Now get the hell out and leave me alone!"

Even though he stood tall across from her, she would not be intimidated by his defensive posture. "Will, I am just trying to help you overcome this anger you're feeling. You need to understand it and work through it."

"I don't want to!" His temper flared to physical that needed release. He grabbed the edge of the table and flung it off to the side, sending food and dishes flying. "If you won't leave, then I will!" And before she could jump on him again like she had earlier, he bolted for the door and ran out.

Deanna had to step back when Will had upturned the table and now stood trembling in the silent aftermath of his departure. The power of both of their emotions left her feeling drained of strength. She had to concede that maybe she didn't know the depths of the troubled relationship Will and his father had. She had talked with Will about his father after he'd left and Will had turned down the promotion to captain The Aries. Obviously, he'd left a lot out of their conversation.

Deanna shook her head sadly, wondering how such a young man could have so much bitterness in him. She'd have to try again with him. Get him to talk. But first she'd have to find him. Unfortunately, Will wasn't the only person on board who needed her time. She decided to leave him alone for a while to cool down while she dealt with the problems of others. At least they'd be easier to deal with.

She left the mess where it lay and walked slowly to the door, thinking, "Will Riker, young or old..... you are the most challenging person I've ever known."


Part 4

Will stormed through the corridors of deck eight, heedless of those
who had to move out of his way to avoid being run down. He finally
slowed down when he realized he had no idea where he was or where he
was going. His thoughts raced along with his heartbeat. 'How dare
that woman think she knows how it was with that man! She has no right
to try to get in my head. Or tell me how to eat, for that matter! How
the hell did I get here, on this ship and in this time, anyway? I
need to get home. I'm going to lose my job. What about the Academy
next year?'

Will finally stopped and leaned against the wall, heavy breath
flaring his nostrils. He had no idea of what to do with himself and
finally punched the dark panel beside him in frustration.

"How may I help you?"

The voice from nowhere made him jump forward and turned to the wall,
startled. The panel had lit up.

"What?" he asked, tentatively.

"How may I help you?" the computer asked again.

'Oh, a computer terminal built into the wall. Okay, no big deal,' he
thought calmly, though truly impressed with the technology. Still, he
had no idea what to tell it.

"Umm, I don't know." Momentarily forgetting about his fury with
Deanna, Will wondered what he could tell the computer. One thought
that came to mind was how he could kill some time.

"I'm new on this ship," he told it. "Is there anywhere to go that's

"The Enterprise offers a variety of entertainment and activity
centers for it's crew and guests. The Arboretum provides a wide
assortment of living plant life from various worlds. The holodecks'
computers simulate anything or anywhere a user can imaginably program
into them. Ten Forward offers a relaxing atmosphere for food, drink
and social interaction. The gymnasium is fully equipped with exercise
equipment, floor exercise space, swimming pool, and competition
arenas. The–"

"Whoa. Stop." Will was immediately intrigued upon hearing of
competition arenas. Competitive sports was something he excelled in
and his growing smile reflected that. "Where's the gymnasium?"

"Deck twelve. You may follow the yellow directional lighting to guide
your way." Yellow pulsating lights lit the panel drawing his eyes
down the corridor and around a corner.

"Well, isn't that convenient," Will stated and followed the lights as
far as a turbolift. The lift carried him to deck twelve, where he
followed more directional lights till he came to the gymnasium

He took his time going through the exercise room, checking out the
equipment. There were a few people using the machines and he stopped
at a treadmill to gaze appreciatively at its young blond runner. She
was about his own age and when he caught her attention, gave her a
dazzling smile. 'Maybe there's something more fun to do than Parrises
Squares,' he contemplated.

"Hi." Will crossed his arms and leaned casually against the treadmill
next to hers.

"Hi yourself," she smiled, looking him over and thinking he looked
familiar, but that she just must have seen him around. 'Damned cute
too!' she thought. "What's your name?"

Will almost gave his most popular name, but quickly decided he didn't
want to be mixed up with the older Riker; so he used a different
version. "Bill. What's yours?"


"Pretty name for a pretty woman." His eyes danced merrily with his
well-used line.

"Woman, huh?" She laughed wryly and rolled her eyes. "My parents
would most likely disagree with that." She stopped her steady pace on
the treadmill and stepped down, dabbing imaginary sweat from her
cheeks with a hand towel that was around her shoulders. "They still
see me as a little girl."

Will moved a step closer to her. "Then they must need their eyes
checked." He looked down her body, then back up again; liking the way
the stretchable fabric clung to her curves. "You are definitely *not*
a little girl."

She blushed modestly, even as her hazel eyes glowed mischievously.
Jaime may be of a tender age, but she was no stranger to the lure
that drew girls and boys, or women and men, together. She looked up
into his baby blues and smiled seductively. "You are a charmer,
aren't you, Bill. And a handsome one at that." She closed the gap
between them even further. "Good thing I like your type."

'This is so easy!' Will almost laughed. He met many woman, of all
ages, at the ski resort where he worked. Even before that job he'd
always found it easy to charm the girls; it just came naturally to
him. While most of the time it was blatant flirting, the older women
especially appreciated that from him, it sometimes went further. Deep
down he knew he was just being used by most of them, but his craving
for affection shadowed his better judgment.

Will touched her just below her ear with his finger and ran it down
her neck, into the cleft of her cleavage, stopping when he reached
the tab to the zipper of her workout top. He heard her intake of
breath and could almost feel the goosebumps popping out on her. "So
what's your favorite workout technique?" he asked with a shameless

Jaime's heart began beating wildly. She couldn't believe this great
looking guy was making such obvious moves on her and she was going to
enjoy the game. Even though she didn't know him at all, she wasn't
going to miss the opportunity. "Grab life by the horns" was her
motto. Her mind instantly came up with the answer that would advance
the situation further. 'I can't believe I'm saying this!'

"I like cardiovascular exercise." Her lips twitched in
amusement. "And pumping iron."

Will couldn't hold his laughter this time. This game of words was fun
and getting him excited at the same time. He started to push his
finger further down into her top and was about to ask her exactly
what "type of iron" she was referring to when his arm was suddenly
yanked away.

"What do you think you're doing? Get your paws off her!"

Will turned to find himself facing a very irate red-headed teenage
boy. His freckles and lanky frame made Will immediately think of the
old puppet he'd seen vintage video of. He turned back to Jaime and
asked, "Does Howdy Doody have a real name?"

Jaime giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. The boy's face
reddened so much Will thought steam might pop out his ears.

The boy angrily fisted his hands. "My name is Gerald. And what are
you doing touching her like that? She's *my* girl!" To prove his
allegation, Gerald grabbed Jaime's arm and pulled her roughly against
his side.

"Ow!" Her face registered more irritation than pain. "Gerald! Let go
of me!"

His angry eyes swung to her. "How could you let him do that to you?
Especially in front of people." His other arm swept out to show the
few other people in the exercise room who hadn't been paying any
attention previously, but now were watching since the shouting had
begun. He shook her, causing her to gasp again. "Answer me!"

"Let her go, Gerald." Will told him in a threatening voice. The fun
was over. He wasn't about to stand by and let this kid get rough with
the girl.

Gerald met Will's steel-blue gaze, which was enough to make a more
levelheaded person back down. But Gerald needed to prove to Will that
nobody messed with his girl. Big mistake.

He released Jaime's arm with a jerk. She backed away rubbing her arm
and looking worried. Gerald got right in Will's face and asked, "Just
what do you think you can do to me?"

Will stared at him for a couple of seconds, then showed a satisfied
smile as he answered. "How 'bout I start by wiping those freckles off
your face." With the thought that this boy needed to be brought down
a peg, Will drew his fist back and then slammed it into Gerald's nose.

Gerald flailed his arms as he flew back and landed on his butt. With
a shocked expression he wiped at his nose and stared at his bloodied
fingers. "I'm bleeding!" he whined.

"Yeah, so you are," Will smirked.

Gerald looked to Jaime and saw her give Will a look of hero worship
and it riled his anger again. He awkwardly got to his feet and then
charged at Will.

Will easily stopped Gerald with another punch. This time to his
mouth. Gerald flew back again and landed on the floor. One of the
observers intervened and pushed Will back a step. "All right! That's
enough!" The man went down to Gerald, who was moaning with blood
pouring from his nose and mouth. There was a puddle forming on the
floor beneath him, with two teeth lying in the middle. The man put
his towel over the boy's mouth. "Let me help you to sickbay." Shaking
his head at the foolish acts of kids, the man picked up the teeth and
helped Gerald up and out the door.

Will felt no guilt at all, believing Gerald asked for what he got.
Rubbing his painful fist, he went back to Jaime to see if she was
okay. She stared at him with a mixture of nervousness and adoration.

"How are you, Jaime? Did he hurt you?"

"N-No. I'm f-fine," she stuttered. She stared at him again for a
moment, as if trying to decide how she should feel. She seemed to
find the emotion she wanted and her face began glowing with
excitement and adrenaline. "You sure took care of him!"

Will smiled at her enthusiasm, feeling like a hero to a damsel in
distress. "Why don't we get out of here?"

She agreed and practically drug him from the gymnasium by the arm.
They were out of sight only seconds before two security personnel
came in to find out why they had been called.


By the time Will and Jaime got to the door of her quarters, Jaime was
finishing up her story of how she knew Gerald. "So he thinks that
just because we went on a couple of dates he owns me!" She looked up
into his eyes and batted her lashes. "Maybe now he'll leave me alone."

"Glad I could be of service, ma'am," he joked, playing up on his hero

She laughed, then took his hand and saw his knuckles were slightly
bruised. She cooed and brushed the back of his hand gently. "Does it

Will shrugged to show it didn't concern him too much. "Just a little."

Jaime brought his hand to her lips and kissed her way across each
knuckle. "Does that help?" Her voice lowered, sounding very
coquettish. Her adrenaline surge after the fight was taking a
definite seductive turn.

"Mmmm. Much better." Will knew how to read signals, and the signals
Jaime was sending were loud and clear. He put his hands on her waist
and pulled her close. "I think maybe another part of me needs the
same kind of attention."

"Really?" Her eyes fired with ardor as she took his head in both her
hands and guided him to her lips.

It didn't take long for their raging hormones to send them into the
quarters of Jaime's family with her assurance that her parents were
on duty and wouldn't be home for several hours. Their bodies never
broke contact as they fumbled their way into Jaime's room and dropped
down onto the bed. Will had a fleeting thought that Jaime seemed to
be very comfortable with her behavior and wondered how often she did
this. The thought left him as his own experienced hands worked on her
clothes to expose the smooth skin that lay underneath.

Will's shirt was off, flung to the side. His shoes had been kicked
off his feet at the end of the bed. Jaime's jumper was unzipped to
her waist, opened wide. Her nimble fingers working on the opening to
his pants. Between their panting breaths and moans, neither heard the
entrance to the quarters swoosh open and a moment later the door to
her room. Both were totally oblivious to everything but their own
needs. Until....


Will never jumped so fast, the booming voice was that alarming. He
literally tossed himself right off the bed and onto the floor. He
felt his heart would beat right out of his chest.

"Daddy!" Jaime screeched. Her panicked eyes shot between her father,
Will, and her state of undress. She quickly zipped up her jumper and
scurried off the bed. "Daddy, um.... uh.... I'm sorry!"

"Oh, you'll be sorry all right, young lady!" Her father glared
damnation at her, then bore his eyes into Will, who had buttoned his
pants back up and was trying to get his shirt over his head. "And
just who are you?"

Will finally got his shirt down and stood up. He stared dumbly at
Jaime's father, trying to remember his own name. His mouth kept
opening and closing, with no sound coming out.

"I asked you a question, boy, and I expect an answer!"

If Will could have melted into the floor, he would have. The man's
drilling eyes and loud voice terrified him. With another stuttering
attempt, Will finally found his voice. "B-B-Bill."

"Bill what?" Jaime's father spat out impatiently. "Who are your

Well, he couldn't answer the parents question, but he meekly gave his
last name. "Riker."

"Riker?" Mr. Munson looked closer at Will and recognized the
likeness. His confusion showed. "I didn't know the commander had a

"It's a long story," was all Will supplied. What else could he tell

"Well, the commander will certainly get an earful from me, young man.
You can count on that!"

"Daddy, please leave him alone," Jaime begged with tears in her
eyes. "Please don't get him in trouble. I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

"You are both in plenty enough trouble, Jaime." He shook a finger at
her. "Ship's security called to inform me you were the cause of a
brawl in the gymnasium and that Gerald was taken to sickbay. I came
back here thinking you were probably upset. Instead, I find you and
him.... fornicating!"

"Look, Mr. Munson," Will made a vain attempt to help Jaime out. "It
wasn't Jaime's fault. That Ger–"

"I don't want to hear anything from you! And it's "Reverend" Munson."
He pointed to the cross on his collar. "I think you better leave.

"Reverend?" Will hadn't noticed the cross until now. He looked wide-
eyed at Jaime, thinking of her earlier intimate boldness. "Your
father's a minister?"

She bit her lip and shrugged ruefully. "He's the ship's chaplain."

"Oh." Will figured this might be a good time to make an exit. He
grabbed his shoes on his way to the door, turning back to Jaime
before leaving. "Maybe I'll see you around."

"No, Mr. Riker. You won't," was Reverend Munson's chilly response.

Regretting his words, Will blew out a breath of relief that he was
able to walk out with is skin intact and made a beeline for the door.

Once out in the corridor and far enough away from the Munson's
quarters, Will stopped to slide his shoes on. He continued walking
slowly and thought about the events of the past hour. In retrospect,
and now that the tenseness was over, he had to laugh at the
ridiculousness of it all. "A minister's daughter," he mumbled to
himself, shaking his head. "Fornicating? That's a new one."


Will once again began wondering what he could do with himself. He
remembered the list the computer gave of things to do on the ship. As
he thought of Ten Forward he remembered that he hadn't eaten all that
much and his stomach immediately started growling.

"Food it is." He touched the dark glass panel on the wall and it came
to life. "Can you show me how to get to Ten Forward?"

"Ten Forward is on deck ten. Please follow the directional lighting."

Several minutes later Will sat down at a table next to a huge window
overlooking the stars. After placing his order, he was content to
just sit there and wonder about the vastness of space. If his plans
worked out, he'd be at Starfleet Academy in another year. And after
that, the stars would be his home. No planetside assignments for him.
No, he wanted to be on a starship; forging new territories. Seeing
what occupied the yet unexplored regions of the cosmos.

It would be so different from what his life had been so far. The
childhood of fear, uncertainty and loneliness could be forgotten. He
would create a name for himself. Maybe even be the youngest officer
to captain his own ship.

Will's dreams were interrupted by the arrival of his food. He dove
into the double cheeseburger and huge pile of fries with gusto. He
even ordered an apple to make the counselor happy.

Little did he realize that in a few short minutes, he'd see what a
futile attempt it was....


Part 5

Captain Picard could feel his headache growing worse by the minute.
Deanna was doing her best to keep her composure despite the anger
coming from Reverend Munson and the irritation and thumping pain
coming from Picard; but also from her own sadness over the actions of
the person who was supposed to love her more than anyone. The
counselor realized that due to the circumstances she shouldn't harbor
any ill feelings toward the younger Will, but her human side couldn't
help but feel betrayed.

When Munson had not been able to locate 'Commander' Riker, he'd gone
to the captain. The captain had explained the situation surrounding
Will's age change to the reverend, but the man's anger could not be
allayed. All he could think about was the virtue of his young
daughter and how her innocence had nearly been taken away by
that "rogue pup", as he phrased it.

Deanna almost choked when she heard this. Little did Jaime's father
know, but his 'virginal' daughter was well known throughout most of
the younger male population of the ship. At Jaime's mother's
insistence, Deanna had tried to counsel Jaime about her behavior, but
didn't think any of it sunk in.

"Reverend Munson," the captain's attempt at a reassuring smile came
out as more of a grimace, "I will have a talk with Mr. Riker and you
can be assured he won't go near your daughter again. You have my

"He better not, Captain." Munson shook his finger at Picard. "If he
does, I may forget I'm a man of God and do something he'll regret!"

After the reverend left his ready room, the captain blew out a breath
of annoyance. He clasped his hands behind his back and paced the
length of his desk. "Running rampant around my ship. Fighting. Making
out with the chaplain's daughter." After a moment of thought, he
paused and muttered, "This is one of the reasons I never had

"There's something else," Deanna added hesitantly, not wanting to
bring it up but feeling it should be included. "This morning,
he....," she sighed, "threw sort of a temper tantrum over breakfast.
He didn't like that I chose what foods I thought he should eat. And I
brought up that his father must oversee his diet, and well.... he
blew up. He cursed at me, knocked the table over and walked out."

Deanna almost regretted saying anything when she sensed the captain's
anger increasing. Then she added, trying to help Will's fate, "I
think there are some major issues regarding Kyle Riker that caused
Will to react that way. He not only projected anger, but pure hatred
for his father. Did Will talk to you about him when Kyle visited that
one time?"

Picard thought back and shook his head. "No, he never said anything
outright. But I walked in on a conversation between the two of them,
and the tension was so thick you could cut through it."

At the time, he considered asking Will if there was trouble between
him and his father, but thought it was none of his business and that
it would be interfering. Now he wished he had.

"Even so, I can't have him causing so much trouble." He punched a
button on his desk. "What is the location of William Riker?"

"William Riker is in Ten Forward," the computer answered.

"Would you accompany me, Counselor?" he asked. "I may need you to
prevent me from wringing his neck!"


Will was just standing up from his table to leave Ten Forward when
the door opened. He watched as Deanna strode in and stood inside the
door. "Not her again!" he moaned. Then he saw Captain Picard enter
and look around the room. When the captain noticed him, Will saw the
storm clouds appear on his features and thought, 'Uh-oh. He must have
had a talk with the good reverend.'

Will sighed and turned back towards the window, not wanting to watch
them approach. He knew he was in for a chewing out, but arrogantly
thought, 'What could he possibly do other than that? It's not like
I'm a member of his crew. He can't push me around.' Will turned
around again as they approached his table, looking nonchalant and

"Captain. Miss Troi." He nodded in her direction.

Neither of them returned his smile or his greeting. Instead Picard
just voiced his intention. "You will follow us to your quarters. Now,
Mr. Riker!" Then he turned on his heel and headed for the door,
expecting his command to be followed.

"Sure," Will said to the air where the captain had stood. Deanna,
with the look of a frustrated mother, gestured for him to go ahead of
her, and she followed him out.


Once inside the commander's quarters that the younger Will was
calling home temporarily, Picard stared ominously at the mess that
was left from the morning's outburst. He then stood directly in front
of Will, who managed to look slightly chagrined, and took a deep

"For someone who has spent such a short time on this ship, you have
certainly kept yourself busy. Not only am I informed by security that
a fight has taken place in the gymnasium over a girl; and the son of
my head astrophysicist had suffered a fractured nose, but had to have
two teeth replaced." The captain began to walk a slow circle around
Will. "I then receive a visit from very perturbed ship's chaplain
raving about how that same girl, who happens to be his daughter, is
caught in a compromising situation with *you*."

Will turned his head and began to say something in his defense, but
the captain raised his hand to silence him.

"You will face forward and remain silent until I am finished and tell
you when to talk, Mr. Riker!"

Will snapped his head back, his own temper flaring at the captain's
harsh command. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Deanna
standing near the door with her arms crossed over her chest and a
look of hurt accusation on her face. 'No help there,' he thought

The captain continued his walk around Will and summed up his
thoughts. "It doesn't take a genius to realize you were the other one
involved in the fight and then left with Miss Munson. What I would
like to know is what you were thinking! What the hell was going
through your mind to make you act out this way?!" He stood in front
of Will and waited for an answer. He didn't have to wait long.

"I was just trying to def–" Will blurted before the captain
interrupted him.

"Defend yourself?" he asked incredulously. "Did you, or did you not,
throw the first punch?"

"Y-Yes," Will remembered he had struck out first, but he felt
justified in the reason. "He was–"

"I don't care what *he* was doing! Fighting is not the solution!"

Deanna thought now would be a good time to intervene. She felt Will's
need to explain, but the captain didn't seem to want to hear his
excuse. "Captain, why don't we listen to Will's side of the story?"
She stepped forward with a more relaxed stance for Will's
benefit. "There's always two sides to a coin."

Picard knew Deanna was trying to diplomatically tell him to "back
off" for now. Even though what few paternal instincts he had was
telling him to shake some sense into the boy, he realized that in all
fairness he should listen to Will's side.

Deanna smiled her thanks at his compliance when he stepped back, then
she addressed Will. "Okay. Why did you find it necessary to hit

Will was a bit confused and maybe a little suspicious of her sudden
turn of generosity, but he was also grateful for a chance to
explain. "When he came into the gym, he got mad when he saw Jaime and
I together. We were just talking! But he grabbed her, saying she was
his, and he was hurting her. I told him to let her go and he asked
what I was going to do to him." He wondered if it would be a bad idea
to add his next thought, but did anyway. "I had to do something, so I
punched him."

After hearing this, Picard had to admit to himself that he probably
would have decked the guy, too. But that wouldn't be good role
modeling for the boy, now would it? "Did it ever occur to you to get
help or call security?"

No, Will's only gut reaction was to wipe the smug look off Gerald's
face. "Guess I'm not familiar with flagship protocols," was his
verbal response.

After knowing Will for so many years, Deanna had her own suspicions
of his motivations and used these to connect the incident in the gym
and the next one in Jaime's bedroom. "I imagine Jaime was very
grateful to you for doing that for her. She must have been very

Will unconsciously smiled as he remembered the looks Jaime had given
him and her amorous behavior afterwards. Her attentions *had* boosted
his ego quite a bit.... until her father walked in.

"Yeah, I'd say she was quite grateful." He couldn't suppress the self-
satisfied look on his features.

This made Deanna's blood begin to simmer. "So grateful, she couldn't
wait to get you to her quarters and show you how much. And you, being
the dashing hero that you are, couldn't wait to oblige."

Will didn't need to have empathic abilities to hear the underlying
scorn in her voice. Again, he had to wonder just what her interest
was in all this. He answered in the same scornful manner. "You make
that sound like it's a bad thing."

Her eyes hardened as her hands balled up into fists. All she could
think about were the numerous times in the past where Will would have
indiscriminate flings with whomever caught his eye. It hurt her to
see his cavalier attitude about something she held dear and sacred.
And she couldn't believe his outlook on sex was already rooted at
such a young age. She couldn't hold back the retort that came to mind.

"You may want to reevaluate your ideas about casual sex, mister.
Someday it might come back and bite you in the ass!" Deanna turned
and walked several steps away. Keeping her back to the others, she
allowed herself a few moments of angry self-pity.

Of course, Will had no idea of what she was talking about or where
she was coming from, as the look on his face showed complete
ambiguity. But the captain knew exactly what she was referring to,
remembering a few times when Will's promiscuity had gotten him into
hot water. Not only that, but he knew it had to be hard for Deanna to
see that this young man had already formed into the person that would
cause her so much heartache before finally settling down.

After several seconds, it dawned on Will why Deanna was so upset. It
finally registered that his older self and the counselor *did* have a
thing going together and that it was disturbing her to know he had
been with someone else. And she had warned him that it would come
back to him. So something or maybe several somethings have happened
since that he would someday regret. He could understand this, but at
the same time he couldn't understand why she was taking it out on
him. *He* wasn't the commander. And *he* wasn't in love with her.

"Miss Troi. Whatever it was that the commander did to you in the
past, or I do to you in the future, I'm sorry for. But right now, I'm
*not* him. And you shouldn't blame me for what he did."

"Oh!" Deanna covered her face with her hands.

Seeing the counselor so distressed angered Picard more. "Dammit, boy!
Of all the selfish–"

"No." Deanna shook her head, dropped her hands and sighed
deeply. "He's right." She turned around. The pain was obvious on her
lowered face. Her breath shuddered as she raised her head, schooled
her features and looked at Will with soulful eyes. "You're right,
Will. I have no right to punish you for something you may do in your

She felt the need to explain further and make Will understand her
reactions. She knew the captain had often wondered about the
complexities of her relationship to his first officer, but would
never garner up the courage to ask. He would feel as if he were
nosing in on their personal lives. Maybe now some of his curiosity
would be satisfied.

"You asked me earlier how good of a friend I am to the commander. We
are more than just friends and it began many years ago on my home
planet." Deanna smiled slightly, feeling the captain's attention
rising. Not only that, but her heart always warmed when she thought
of that special time so long ago when she would fall in love for the
first time.

"We met when I was a college student and he was a lieutenant assigned
to Betazed as a liaison. As with most couples there were many happy
times, and there were upsetting times, too. Even so, we fell deeply
in love after he had rescued me from being held hostage by the
Sindareen. We were crazy about each other. But one day we had an
argument over something and he walked out." Her eyes became lost in
the past. "When I looked for him later, I found him drunk and in bed
with someone else."

The young Will flinched slightly while the captain glared at the

"Oh, I forgave him, eventually. I knew the woman had been interested
in him and she took advantage of his condition to get him. I could
tell he was very sincere in his apology." She took a breath and
continued with her story. "When he was given a new assignment on a
starship, we made plans to meet on a certain date and get married.
But when that time came, he never showed up. His career had began to
flourish and it became his priority. We didn't meet again until he
was stationed here to the Enterprise where I was already ship's

"At that time, I was still feeling the pain of rejection and didn't
want to renew a romantic relationship with him. We agreed to be
friends and friends only and it's remained that way for several
years. During those years, we've both had relationships with others,
but they never could match what we had together. Things have happened
just recently that made us realize we'd been foolish to waste all
those years. We became lovers again only a matter of days ago."

"And then I show up." There was a tone of sullenness in Will's
voice. "And the first thing I do is remind you of the cad I'm
destined to become."

"No!" Deanna was shocked at his words. "You said yourself that you're
not him, and you are correct. I told you that story to help you
understand my reactions. I was wrong to let myself get angry at you
for a history that he and I share, and I apologize for that. You have
no reason to feel resentment at yourself for something you haven't
done." Deanna wrung her fingers together and sighed. "I'm also
missing him very much and worried sick about how we're going to fix
this problem."

Will wasn't sure he liked some of the characteristics of the man he
was to become. But somewhere along the line he would obviously prove
to this woman that he was worthy of her love.

He felt even more lonely and out of place than before. He didn't
belong here and they obviously didn't want him here. 'Hell! Am I even
real?' The thoughts and feelings swirling around his mind felt like a
physical buzzing. Will forced himself to quiet the noise and not
listen to the memory of other times he knew he wasn't wanted.

Deanna's eyes showed her concentration on his feeling of
desolateness. It was unsettling to her and she could only assume he
was feeling displaced, which was understandable. "We'll find a way to
get you home, Will."

"I'm sorry I'm here instead of him. If I could fix this for you, I

"Will, you had no control over it. You're a victim of whatever
happened." Deanna kept her voice soothing, trying to calm his

"I've got my best people working on it. I have every confidence we'll
find the solution soon," Captain Picard spoke up.

"I know!" Will suddenly let out a huge breath and his shoulders
slumped in resignation. "I'm sorry. I know you're trying. I guess–"
he shrugged and looked embarrassed at his outburst. "I guess I'm just
feeling sorry for myself or something."

"We all do that at times," Deanna smiled reassuringly, knowing it was
true for herself also.

"And speaking of finding solutions, we have a staff meeting in a few
minutes, so we must leave. Hopefully we'll have some answers for you
in a short while," Picard said. And just as he was about to turn to
leave with Deanna, he remembered the whole reason for them being
there in the first place.

"Oh by the way, Mr. Riker," his voice became more stern. "You are to
stay away from Jaime Munson by order of myself and her father. There
will also be no more fighting, for any reason. If you fail to abide
by these rules, I will find a most deplorable work detail to keep you
too busy to get into trouble. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

The captain's hard glare gave Will no reason to doubt his
sincerity. "Yes, sir."

Captain Picard almost smiled at the suitably chastised expression on
Will's face. Deanna wasn't so successful at hiding her smile and had
to turn away.

"I also expect this room to be cleaned up by the time we return," the
captain said, gesturing to the mess on the floor.

"Yes, sir," Will repeated.

"And another thing.... I think you should apologize to the counselor
for the way you spoke to her and behaved this morning."

Will suppressed the sigh that he thought wouldn't be prudent to let
escape in front of the captain. "I apologize, Miss Troi."

"You can call me Deanna, Will. Most people do. And I accept your

Will nodded and watched them both leave the room. Even after the door
was closed he still stared at it; contemplating on whether or not he
could change things to make her future more happy. Letting go of the
futility of his thoughts, Will turned and moaned at the cleanup chore
he had to do. He kicked the piece of grapefruit and watched it
splatter against the wall with a dismally unsatisfying thud.


Part 6

The Enterprise's senior crew, sans it's first officer, sat around the
dark gleaming table in the conference room. So far, the meeting was
less than enlightening.

Geordie LaForge stood by the projection of Sector 441, otherwise
known as The Briar Patch. Several layers of atmospheric variances
surrounded the Baku world. He shook his head and raised his arms in
annoyance at his unproductive report.

"I just cannot find *anything* that would have caused such a
physiological or physiochemical reaction in anyone. And why is it
only isolated to Commander Riker? From what history we know of the
planet, there've been no reports of anyone having such drastic
youthful reversing." He dropped into his chair with a sigh. "There's
got to be something we're missing."

"What about the nexus he flew the Enterprise through to outfox the
Sona?" Picard asked, leaning forward and clasping his hands on the
table. "Was there anything unique about the gases in the nexus?"

"I checked that also, but there's nothing that would have this effect
and nothing he hasn't flown through before." Geordi shook his head
again and gave a crooked smile at the memory of witnessing the
commander's strategy and piloting skills that became known as
the 'Riker Maneuver'. "And that was *some* piece of flying."

"And the planet surface?"

"The commander was down on the planet only a short time compared to
the rest of us," Data added. "I do not think he would have come into
contact with anything that anyone else would not have already come in
contact with."

"That's true," Deanna thought back. "He and I were together most of
that time. And aside from one long nature walk alone we were usually
with someone else. He inhaled or ingested nothing unusual."

"Doctor?" The captain didn't have to ask Beverly the question she
knew he wanted an answer to.

"I could find no evidence of any allergic or similar reaction that
would come from food, flora or airborne particles. I ran brain scans,
endocrinologic and genetic tests and there's nothing out of the
ordinary. I forwarded it all to Starfleet Medical and asked their
experts to take a look. They should be complete by the time we hit
space dock. Aside from evidence of a couple of old healed bone
fractures and nutritional deficiencies, he's a perfectly normal
teenage boy." She blew out a frustrated breath that caused her auburn
bangs to fly upward. "I wish I had more for you."

Worf chimed in with his report. "I checked the sensors, and there was
no indication of anything unusual happening in the commander's
quarters last night. He was never absent from the ship, nor was there
any evidence of an intruder."

"I'm sure you've all done your best." Picard drummed his fingers on
the table and contemplated a moment before slapping the shiny dark
surface in finality. "We should reach Earth in about three days.
Until then, we just keep looking. I doubt the boy wants to return to
his home twenty-three years later then when he left it.... just last
night. Dismissed."

No one said anything as they left the conference room, already trying
to think of some test they could possibly come up with that might
shed some light on the mystery. Deanna remained with Picard, knowing
he would want her to accompany him back to Will's room to tell him
that nothing had been learned so far. She would keep hope in her
heart that *her* Will would be returned, but her head was
acknowledging the possibility that this situation could be permanent.
It was an acknowledgement she wanted to squash like a bug.

The captain studied her troubled features. "Deanna...." He hedged,
not wanting to have to make her think about it, but feeling the
subject should be addressed. "As much as I want to avoid the
possibility, we have to consider the fact that Will might not return
to his right age."

Deanna swallowed down the lump that suddenly formed in her throat. "I
know," she said quietly.

"We must also consider what will become of him if that is the case."

Deanna didn't want to think that far ahead. It was too mind-boggling
and too painful. 'Will's future was supposed to include me!' She
wanted to rant and rave, throw a temper tantrum like a two-year-
old. 'It's so unfair!'

She bit back her thoughts and responded in the mature manner expected
of her. "I don't think we need to rush it. We still have three days
until we reach Earth; the solution may be found at any time. Or maybe
Starfleet Medical will come up with something in the meantime...."
Deanna knew she was grasping, but she would hold on to any ray of
hope she could.

Picard nodded solemnly, understanding her determination to not give
up. He wasn't about to give up hope either, but could not ignore his
responsibility to keep realistic possibilities in mind. "I sincerely
hope we do find the solution before any such decisions have to be
made. But if it does come to that, we need to think of his well-
being. Besides the fact that he'll have twenty-three years of history
to catch up with; there are matters such as where he'll live. Will he
need parental supervision or is he mature enough to care for himself.
And I'm sure his father will want to be informed..."

"I'm not so sure Will would be thrilled with that prospect." Deanna
sighed, her heart heavy. She knew these things had to be addressed,
but it hurt so much. And remembering Will's reaction to her
mentioning his father earlier made her apprehensive about the
possibility of reuniting the two of them.

"Still, the man has the right to know what's become of his son."

"Yes, I suppose so." Deanna was forced to reluctantly agree with a
grim frown. "But I have a feeling going back to his father may be the
last thing he'd want."

"Being that Will is not an adult yet *legally*, it would be up his
father as to his living arrangements." The captain watched Deanna for
her reaction to his next suggestion. "He is less than a year from
being able to join Starfleet Academy. If it would be agreeable with
Kyle Riker, there is the possibility of Will staying on here with us.
We did it with Wesley."

Her look of shock and apprehension had been expected. His eyes
followed her as she stood up and slowly walked to the image of the
Baku world still showing on the small view screen. Deanna stared at
it, her mind going back two days previous. She and Will had taken a
long walk through the beautiful countryside, at one point finding a
secluded area near a lake. They had laid down in the soft grass to
stare at the sky, just holding each other. Before falling off into a
lazy light slumber, they talked of long ago; of good times between
then and now. They talked of the future and the promise it held for
them. They admitted the question of whether or not their feelings
were only the result of the planet's atmosphere.

But Deanna knew deep down inside that the feelings were very real.
Feelings that had been kept veiled for way too long. She loved Will
Riker with every fiber of her being, as he loved her. How could she
just stop loving him that way? Be forced to watch him mature all
over? His entire future would be different. And as enlightened as
Betazoid standards were, she just couldn't see herself joined with a
man half her age. A man who wouldn't have the history she had with
the older Will. How could she possibly live on the same ship with
him, watch him live a different life and forget about everything they
had together? Wouldn't it be easier if he wasn't living on the same

Exasperated, Deanna slapped her fists against her thighs and turned
back to the captain with painful eyes. "I just don't know what to
think! I have finally been able to admit that I love Will Riker. We
have always belonged together." Tears blurred her vision and began
flowing down her cheeks. "But to have to live with him the way he is
now?" She shook her head. "I don't think I can do it. But the

Captain Picard rushed to her, taking hold of her arms as a comforting
gesture. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be pushing this yet."

"No. I realize the possibility has to be dealt with." She sniffled,
her lips quivering with her silent cries of despair. "I just don't
want to have to think about it." Deanna damned her weakness as a sob
escaped. "Oh why did this have to happen!"

As uncomfortable as the captain was at dealing with people's
emotional sides, he understood the counselor's need to release her
frustrations. He pulled her to his chest, allowing the small woman to
cry it out on him. "I wish I had the answers." He tenderly rubbed her
back, not realizing he was gently rocking her.

After a moment Deanna felt like a little girl in her father's arms
again, being comforted as only a parent's healing arms can. Her sobs
soon eased and she relished in the warm embrace. Letting some of the
anger and frustration out had helped and she realized she wasn't the
only one hurting at the prospect of losing a loved one. All his
friends were. The captain had always had a fatherly affection for his
first officer and she now sensed the captain's own heartache.

Wiping her cheeks, Deanna stepped back from the captain's
embrace. "Thank you." She looked up at him with a grateful, if not
slightly shaky, smile. "I'm sorry you had to get all wet, but I do
feel better."

"Well then it was worth the shower." He smiled tenderly at her.

"I also feel a bit selfish," she admitted. "You miss the old Will,
too, and yet you're comforting me." She took hold of the captain's
hands. "I'm glad he has you in his life. You mean a great deal to
him. And to me."

The captain's own eyes grew misty. She had hit him straight in the
heart with her words and he had to swallow down the lump in this
throat. "I wish I could convey in words the source of strength you
both are to me. You're more than crew. You're family. I need and–"
his voice choked in emotion at his next word, "–*love*– you both.
More than you'll ever know."

This time Deanna took the captain into her arms. She felt the
powerful feelings of affection, mixed with worry and guilt that
emanated from the man. It had taken him great strength to admit his
feelings and she now cried for him and with him.

They both knew Will's future was uncertain. As was their
future....with or without him. In the meantime, they would comfort
him and each other.


Part 7

It didn't take long for Will to clean up the mess he had made at
breakfast.... once he recognized the recycler for what it was. The
food stains on the carpeting hadn't come out completely, so he

positioned the table over the worst of it and hoped no one would
notice. It was good enough for him.

Young Will roamed the commander's cabin, checking out what personal
possessions left on display would tell him about his older self. He
smiled as he recognized a few things from home and let his fingers
graze over them as he knew exactly when and where he'd acquired them.
He wrinkled his nose in distaste at other items, wondering how his
tastes could have changed so drastically over the years. It also felt
strange for him to doing this. Some of the items were his, yet at the
same time, he felt somehow they weren't. It made a shiver go through

His breath caught when he spied a small wooden chest tucked almost
out of sight near the bottom of a shelving unit in the bedroom. Will
gingerly lifted the keepsake chest out and sat down on the bed,
placing the chest beside him. He knew what used to be in it and
wondered if the items would still be there. After unconsciously
wiping his hands on his pants and licking his lips in anticipation,
Will slowly opened the lid.

He didn't recognize the things on the top. Little mementos his older
self had picked up over the years, some having a definite feminine
touch. Tokens of a past girlfriend or girlfriends, was his
assumption. The light flowery scent of perfume kissed the air as he
lifted letters and trinkets out of the box, placing them on the
bedcover. He dug in, finding remembrances of his childhood that
seemed so important to keep at the time. But what he really wanted
was in an envelope at the bottom and he breathed a sigh of relief
when he lifted it from the bottom of the chest.

Will reverently opened the envelope, reached in and gently removed
the contents. It had been quite a while since he'd looked at them,
but he still felt the old pain of loss and the sting of tears that he
felt every time he opened the envelope.

There were pictures and a letter. Three photos were of the three of
them, in happier and more secure times. Two photos were of just her.
He wished he could remember her; she had been so beautiful. And from
her smile and the life in her blue eyes, she had been happy and
content. Will brushed his fingers over her image, wishing he could
feel how soft her skin must have been. He sighed, putting the
pictures down and then unfolding the letter, hand written on paper

He knew it word for word, but still reread it. She had written it
just before she had died, wanting Will to have something personal
from her. An explanation, a plea of forgiveness for leaving him, a
last show of love and motherly devotion. It ended with the promise
that his father would take care of him and that Will should be a good
boy and take care of his dad, too.

Will knew she had no way of knowing how things would later turn out.
He *had* been a good boy, hadn't he? He thought he had, but it hadn't
helped. Eventually he gave up trying. And just like every other time
he read the letter, he grieved not only the loss of his mother, but
her request that he couldn't keep. And he damned his father again for
not keeping the promise she'd made of him.

Will put the photos and letter back into the envelope, determined not
to shed any tears. Instead of dwelling on the feelings of bereavement
and anger, he buried them. Forcing himself to believe that things had
probably worked out for the best. He put the envelope back into the
chest and then put the rest of the things he'd removed back in.

'I'm better off by myself. I don't need anyone looking after me or
holding me back,' he told himself as he put the wooden chest back on
the shelf as he'd found it. Will was used to filing those feelings
away. Keeping the hurt buried deep inside, unaware that someday they
would have to come out and be dealt with.

Heading back out into the living area, Will realized how tense he now
was. He shook his long arms down by his side and rotated his neck to
relieve some of the pressure. He had to get his mind off the letter
and the bitter thoughts it had produced.

There, standing in the corner by the door, was just the thing. He was
surprised he'd missed it before. Picking up the shiny gold trombone,
Will tested the slide and licked his lips to prepare them for the
mouthpiece. It wasn't his old trombone; this one was much newer and
he wondered what had become of his comfortable familiar instrument.

Will blew into the mouthpiece, producing enough notes with his
fingers and slide to hear that it had the proper pitch. He went over
to the sofa and settled himself comfortably in the corner and began
blowing out a familiar piece. He grimaced when he hit a sour note,
shaking his head and thinking he needed to practice more. Music had
been his favorite means of entertainment for several years. He'd
started out with the piano and later changed to a brass instrument,
because he liked the sound of them. Learning and practicing music was
one of the few things his father had actually approved of and
encouraged him to continue.

He started the song again, this time going through the part that he'd
messed up before more slowly to get the notes right. He was almost to
the end when he heard the door chime announce someone's request for
entrance. Blowing out the last few notes, he finished and lowered the

Not bothering to get up, he spoke out loudly. "Come in."

Just as he expected it would be, Deanna and Captain Picard stepped in
after the door slid open. Deanna smiled when she saw the trombone he
held. It was a scene she had walked in on many times and it felt
somewhat comforting now.

"I see you found your trombone," she said amicably.

"Yeah," he said, adjusting the slider. "Although this one isn't mine.
It's newer. Mine was a bit more beat up."

Deanna remembered well the time when Thomas Riker came into their
lives. As a parting gift, Will had given him the old trombone, saying
it was his also and he should have it. But this was a subject the
younger man didn't need to know about just yet.

"Commander Riker gave the older one to a friend who appreciated the
gesture very much," she told him instead and took a seat on the
sofa. "He, like the commander, was also a very good musician."

"You mean I get better?" Will smiled good naturedly. "I sound pretty
bad right now."

Deanna laughed. "I'm sure you play just fine."

"Do either of you play anything?"

"Music is not my specialty, unfortunately. But the captain does." She
looked up to Picard. "What is it you play, sir?"

Picard quickly looked up from the stain under the table he was
staring at. "Oh, uh, the Kataanan flute." He decided to overlook the
obvious cover up of the stain, which was difficult, being the very
tidy sort he was. "Which I must confess, I haven't quite mastered

Will had never heard of that particular kind of flute, or where it
originated. "One of the things I'm looking forward to after
graduating from the Academy is the traveling and being able to pick
up little souvenirs from other cultures." He stood the trombone next
to the sofa and sat up straighter, ready to find out if they could
send him home. "And speaking of my future. Have you figured out what
got me here and how I'm going to get back?"

From the glance shared between the counselor and captain, he figured
the news was bad. Picard moved a chair out from the table and sat
down, so he would be eye to eye with Will. He rested his elbows on
his knees and clasped his hands together.

"I'm sorry, Will. But we still don't know what happened. So far there
are absolutely no clues to this mystery."

Deanna placed her hand on Will's arm. "But we're not giving up."

Will's voice rose a bit. "And if you can't figure it out. What then?"

"We will reach Earth in three days." The captain answered, keeping
his voice calming. "*If* we still haven't found a solution, we'll
need to find a home for you. And since you are a minor, your living
arrangements will have to be arranged with your father."

"What!" Will flew up from his seat. "There is no way in hell I'm
going back to him!"

Picard stood up also and took a step towards the panicked looking
boy. His shocked expression matched Deanna's as they both stared at
him. "You have to understand, Will. He is your father and has the
parental right to see that you are cared for."

Will gave an hysterical snort. "That's a joke! I doubt he cares
whether I'm alive or dead!"

"What do you mean by that?" Deanna was extremely concerned about his
attitude. She remembered how he'd reacted that morning to her
mentioning his father. That and what she was hearing now left her
wondering just how bad their relationship was. She moved to Will and
tried to touch him, but he yanked away. Ignoring this, she pushed
on. "I know you both have had your troubles. Many fathers and sons
have clashing personalities, as does yours and his. But how could you
possibly think that he wouldn't care if you were dead?"

"Clashing personalities? Is that all you think it is?" Will gave her
a sarcastic look.

"I don't know what to think!" She raised her hands in
exasperation. "I only met the man once. My first impression of him
wasn't very favorable and I could see why there would be a rift
between the two of you. But he was trying to fix that. By the time he
left, you and he were actually on civil talking terms at least."

"I don't give a rat's ass what the *other* me did or didn't do." His
blazing eyes pinned her, and he pointed a thumb to his chest. "*I'm*
perfectly capable of taking care of myself; I've been doing it
practically my whole life. He lost whatever *parental rights* he had
to me the day he–"

Will stopped suddenly, unable to say it. His throat choked and he had
to turn away. He'd never told anyone. Hurt and pride had kept him
from admitting to anyone that he was all alone.

Deanna and the captain looked to each other in bewilderment. The
counselor could only shrug, not knowing what Will was about to say.
The boy was filled with so much anger regarding his father and he
made it sound like he was living with the devil himself.

"The day he what?" Picard asked quietly. Something wasn't right. Was
Kyle abusive towards young Will? Was he neglectful? The captain had
also felt the elder Riker rub him the wrong way when he was aboard.
He found Kyle to be abrasive and very full of himself. But what had
he done to his son to cause him to react this way?

Will closed his eyes and bowed his head, regretting saying anything
at all. He knew they wouldn't leave him alone until he told them the
truth and he now had to concede to it.

"The day he left," Will mumbled.

The captain wasn't sure he had heard right. "What did you say?"

Will blew out a long breath. Determined to be defiant, even in
defeat, he turned around and faced the captain. "The bastard walked
out on me two years ago."

Picard's intake of breath, Deanna's heart wrenching wide-eyed gaze
and several seconds of shocked silence made Will very uncomfortable.

"You mean..... you've been alone and taking care of yourself since
you were fifteen?" So much made sense to Deanna now. She couldn't
help the tears of sadness that came to her eyes for the young
man. "He just abandoned you?"

Will hated the thought of people feeling sorry for him; but maybe if
they knew the truth, they wouldn't insist he be turned over to his
father when they reached Earth. "We'd had an argument one night. A
bad one." He almost winced in remembrance of the hateful words that
were said and could almost taste the blood that had reached his
tongue from the cut lip his father had given him.

Deanna could also sense this and had to quell down the nausea that
rose up as he continued.

"He finally said he'd had enough and didn't know why he even tried
with an ungrateful brat like me. He stormed off to his room and by
the time I woke up the next morning he was gone. I thought he had
just gone away on business, but he never came back. And I haven't
seen or heard from him since."

"Oh, Will, I'm so sorry." Deanna knew that Will wouldn't like pity,
but she couldn't help herself. A large tear ran down her cheek and
she looked down at the floor so he wouldn't have to see it.

Captain Picard was angry. Angry at Kyle Riker for leaving his child
to fend for himself and for not being a good enough father. While he
himself wasn't comfortable around children and didn't have any of his
own, he knew he could never knowingly abandon a child out of spite.
And he'd be damned if this young man was going to be put with the one
person who had done just that.

Picard tugged down his jacket, his voice firm. "In light of this, I
think we can find suitable alternate living arrangements for you."

"How?" Will asked, hopefully.

Picard thought for a moment. "Well, since you've already been
independent for so long, I think we can probably have you declared an
emancipated minor. I'll check with the proper authorities on Earth."

Will breathed a relieved breath. "Thank you."

Deanna was saddened, but not surprised that Will had never told her
of Kyle leaving him. He kept so much of his childhood secret,
relating only those things deemed 'safe' to him. Now she knew why. It
was just too painful. Not only emotionally, but physically. She had
felt physical pain from him while he related his story. She wanted so
much to delve into the whole subject further with him and wondered if
the younger Will would be more agreeable than the older Will now that
he had opened up this much.

"Will, I'd like to speak with you further about that time and what
you've been doing since. If you don't mind, that is." She certainly
didn't want it to sound like an order, feeling he would rebel against
that. "It might help you feel less angry and alone if you were talk
about it with a friend." She smiled, hoping he could feel her genuine
desire to help. "And I do want to be your friend."

'A friend who just happens to be a shrink', was Will's thought.

She had been nice to him and he didn't want to hurt her feelings, but
he didn't want to commit to the idea either. "I'll think about it."

"All right." Deanna could sense his hesitation, but wouldn't push him
by insisting. That would just make him close up. She would find a
way to get him to talk.

'Maybe I can avoid her for the next three days,' Will thought, but
suspected she probably wouldn't let that happen. As far as he was
concerned, he'd talked enough about himself for one day. "Can I just
be left alone now?"

"Of course," Picard said. He gestured to Deanna to lead the way out.
Before turning away and following he looked at Will as if he wanted
to say something, but hesitated and changed his mind. Giving the
younger man a brief smile, Picard turned and walked quickly through
the exit.

Several yards down the corridor, Picard suddenly stopped and slammed
his hand against the wall.

"Captain?" Deanna felt his sudden surge of emotion. "You're angry."

"Yes, I'm angry! And damned disgusted with myself!" Disgusted for not
knowing about his first officer. As displaced as it was, he felt
angry at himself for having drawn that line that separated himself
from his crew. When Kyle Riker came to visit Will and brief him on
the Aries mission, he could tell how uncomfortable Will was around
his father, but thought it wasn't his place to interfere. It was
safer and easier to keep a distance from the personal lives of those
around him. Will should have been able to talk to him, and probably
wanted to. Only he didn't feel the captain would want to hear about

He knew Deanna was waiting for him to explain. As ship's counselor,
she was the only one he ever opened up to completely and honestly.
But would he do that if it wasn't her job to listen?

"He should have been able to come to me." His fierce eyes bore into
the counselor's confused eyes. "Have I distanced myself so much;
placed myself so high above anyone else on this ship that they feel
they can't come to me with their personal problems?"

Deanna could now see where this was going and shook her head. "No.
Absolutely not." She cut off the interruption he was about to
make. "You have been not only our leader, but our friend. You have
been there and supported us when we needed you."

"I can think of several times when Will needed help or advice, but he
wouldn't admit it to me. And I did nothing to encourage him to talk.
Just turned a blind eye to him."

"Jean Luc." Deanna used his given name to get his attention. "Don't
blame yourself for Will's stubbornness. I'm his best friend and he
never even told me about that part of his childhood." She put her arm
through his and continued their walk down at the corridor. "Will
admires and respects you. He just doesn't want to appear weak in your
eyes. He has a lot of pride and sometimes that gets in the way of
better judgment. You've been there for him when he's needed you many
times over the years. But he's a tough one to crack when he gets that
prideful stubborn streak." She squeezed his arm to emphasize her next
point. "Just like someone else I know."

Picard had to admit this was true. But he still felt bad that Will
would think it made himself weak in his captain's eyes to admit when
something was bothering him.

"Well then, like you did to me, Counselor; maybe I should have
*ordered* him to talk. Used the threat of relieving him of duty until
he spilled his guts."

Deanna sensed humor in the captain's statement and smiled, relieved
to see his anger fading. "You know, that just might have worked. I
suggest that method be instituted from this point forward."

He knew she was kidding, and smiled. "Spoken like a true Starfleet