Desperate Measures

Rating: PG-13 (R for first part)

Summary: Will doesn't take Deanna and Worf's relationship very well.

Warnings: Angst, some bad language, crudeness, lots of awful things said. Thoughts of death.

Disclaimer: Paramount and the forces that be own them. I wish I did, but afterward they'd need some serious counseling;)


Part 1

With a polite "good evening" to Captain Picard and a brief warm smile aimed at Lieutenant Worf, Counselor Deanna Troi stepped into the turbolift from the bridge at the end of her duty shift. She turned around and stood straight with satisfaction as the doors closed in front of her. She'd deliberately ignored Will Riker on her way off the bridge, though she was sure his eyes were on her back.

"Deck eight."

She would not give attention to his petty jealousies..... Just yet.

Six weeks earlier she and Worf had begun a romantic relationship. Deanna knew Will thought it a fling that wouldn't last. But his tone soon changed when it looked like this 'fling' was lasting far longer than he figured it would. She knew she should feel guilty about allowing Will to stew the way she had been, but at the same time she got a devilish pleasure out of putting him 'in his place'. Letting him know that her universe didn't revolve around him and that she could have a life of her own without him. Not that she really wanted that, of course.

As she walked down the corridor to her quarters, Deanna smiled to herself. No, she didn't want Will Riker out of her life. Not by a long shot. And she was ready to admit it.

You see, she and Worf had broken off with each other four days ago. The day after the first time they'd made love. If you could call it 'making love'. She had expected Worf to be a little aggressive in his technique, had expected it and had willingly engaged with him. But she hadn't expected him to be *that* aggressive. He was like a rabid targ. When she awoke the next morning, every muscle aching and more bruises, scrapes and bites than she could count, Deanna got the worst case of 'second thoughts' in recorded history. Even Worf had been surprised at how easily she had been damaged. After a time of contemplation and a talk between Worf and herself, they both agreed their relationship wouldn't work out. Their species were just too different. They loved each other to a degree, but it wasn't worth the literal pain on her part.

And Worf wasn't without his own doubts. Not only didn't he want to inflict Deanna to the Klingon way of sex again, the only way he knew he was capable of; or the fact that he despised her incessant need to talk of emotions. He hated the fact that his friendship with Commander Riker had all but been destroyed over his affair with the counselor. He'd always considered the commander to be a good friend, a warrior brother. But he had dishonored that friendship over a woman. A woman he knew deep in his eight-chambered heart, could never really be his because she still had too many feelings for Riker. No matter how confused those feelings were. So he would do the honorable thing and step aside, and hopefully salvage that lost friendship.

Their parting was quite amicable. Their friendship would survive. What Deanna didn't think she'd survive was the embarrassment of having to go to sickbay and face Beverly that same morning. And if that wasn't bad enough, as she was exiting the turbolift nearest sickbay, the Enterprise's first officer just happened to walk by. It was hard to miss the bruises that poked out so lividly from the neckline of her uniform. But to Will's credit, he didn't say a word. He kept his expression neutral and continued on his way down the corridor. She thought his reaction strange. She had expected him to throw a fit. She thanked the gods for small favors and walked into sickbay. After a repair job and a lecture from Beverly, Deanna assured the doctor that it definitely would *not* happen again, thanked her and left.

It didn't take Deanna long to realize that she could love Will again. The way their Imzadi bond had always meant their love to be. If her relationship with Worf had shown her anything, it was that Will was still madly in love with her after all those years. The jealousy and pain had been written all over his face for most of the past six weeks. At first she had been very annoyed with it. He had no romantic hold on her. What right did he have to be jealous? After a while it became sort of a power trip for Deanna. She kinda liked seeing him squirm like that. The last three weeks he'd only seen or spoken to her or Worf when duty required it and he had completely blocked her out from being able to read his feelings.

In her quarters, Deanna went through her wardrobe. This evening, she would tell Will that she really did still care. That she'd never stopped loving him. She would make his mental block crumble and make him feel her sincerity.

"Oh, this ought to make Will drool!" she said to herself, picking a flattering outfit from her closet and eyeing it appraisingly. "Once he knows that it's over with Worf and that I want us to start over, he'll drop his shields so quick I'll be able to hear the clang." She laughed and draped the dress across the bed and headed into the bathroom for a bubble bath. "He never could stay angry at me."

She had never been more wrong.


The first time Will saw Deanna and Worf enter Ten Forward together..... hand in hand; then take a table together and hold hands across it, he'd stared with wide-eyed astonishment. "What the hell?" he whispered. After a moment, he shook his head and chuckled. "A Klingon and Betazoid royalty? No way! It'll never work."

Two weeks later they were still a couple, and more chummier than ever. They were now spending most of their off-duty time together. Leaving Will alone or having to find company with other friends to fill the time that he and Deanna used to spend together. He was missing her companionship and becoming very concerned about how far this thing with Worf was going. Having to watch them together, showing affection so openly, made his stomach feel like a brick had taken up residence in it. He knew he was being jealous, but didn't care. Then he remembered what she'd told him a few years ago, when he'd once again tried to rekindle their old flame. She'd said, "Imzadi. No. Not while we're serving on the same ship..." Why had she changed her steadfast rule for Worf? Had she just been making up an excuse to not get serious with Will?

It hurt Will and made him angry that she would do that to him. Had she just given up on him, finally? Tired of watching him have short affairs with whomever he chose? Didn't she see that he hated being alone for very long? That he craved a warm, willing body next to his, wishing it could be his Imzadi's body. And that every time he was with another woman he had to force himself not to cry out Deanna's name in the heat of passion. Couldn't she understand that all those women meant nothing to him? They were just substitutes. With the exception of Soren, maybe. She was the only other one who had gotten close to his heart. But still not in the way Deanna had. For an empath, the counselor certainly couldn't, or maybe just wasn't, reading his emotions very well.

Maybe it *was* all his fault. Did his personal life disgust her? Maybe Deanna was still hurt and couldn't trust him enough after he'd failed to show up for their wedding so many years ago. He'd tried to assuage his guilt by telling himself that it was impossible for him to be there. He couldn't just up and leave his ship, they were so far away. Taking a shore leave to Risa was out of the question. Then why hadn't he just contacted her to set the date back? Explain the situation. She would have understood.

Or would she? Would she have just called him a coward? Accused him of not really loving her enough to commit, that his career was more important to him than her?

"No! I *did* love her enough! I did!" He buried his face in his hands, alone in his quarters.

He was tired. His mind too muddled to even try to remember that time correctly. It was past history anyway. He couldn't change what had already been done. 'Would she still hold that against me after all this time?' he wondered.

Over the next few weeks every aspect of Commander Riker's life crumbled in one way or another. Whatever hurt he was feeling over Deanna and Worf's continuing romance was being overridden by an anger that got more intense each day. He had closed Deanna off to his thoughts so tightly there was no chance of her breaking through. It was all he could do to work with the two of them, on the ship, or on away missions. He made no pretense at friendship with either of them. Only a cold, harsh professional attitude was displayed.

Problems maintaining the ship's daily functioning and his own stupid mistakes added to his problems. He knew his mind was deteriorating and it was affecting his duties. He was barely eating or sleeping. He'd been to sickbay too often lately for relief from tension headaches. Dr. Crusher could see he was suffering, but could get nothing from him to explain his condition. She had an inkling part of it had something to do with Deanna, so wouldn't suggest he see the counselor for advice; hoping things would work themselves out. Captain Picard had called him to his ready room twice to point out errors that could have proven disastrous. Suggesting strongly to his first officer that whatever problems he was having should be left off the bridge, and that the next infraction would not go unpunished. Hearing the strong disappointment in the captain's voice had cut Will deeply. He himself had always expected 100% from the crew in their jobs, and now he could barely manage to keep his own head above water.

His own self-recrimination added to his anger. It was like an out-of-control fire was ravaging him from the inside out, and he was at a loss as to how to put it out. He'd retreat to his quarters when not on duty, denying himself any kind of social interaction. His friends and crew gave him his space. Not pushing him for fear of getting their heads bit off, which was how he seemed to talk to most people these days. Will knew he was falling into a deep gulf of darkness and didn't seem to care. And like so many other recent nights, whatever little sleep he got would be with the aid of a bottle. Nonsynthehol whiskey, scotch, Andorian brandy.....whatever it took, wherever he could get it from.

Will couldn't understand how he was getting this close to coming unglued. Was his anger and hurt over Deanna, Worf, job performance, memories, *everything*.... really so deep that it would effect him so drastically? He never thought it could be possible, but here he was living it. If you could call it living. Had the insane anger always been there, and it had taken just one final kick in the teeth to bring it all to the surface?

His father wasn't helping matters any. Every few months or so Kyle Riker would contact his son to say hello, whether Will wanted him to or not. Their conversation would begin pleasantly enough, but usually ended with something along the lines of.... "When are you going to accept promotion and run your own ship, Will?".... "Do you plan on being the *oldest* first officer in Starfleet?".... "Get your damn head out of the clouds and think about your future!"

At which point, Will would shout back a bitter remark, such as: "Mind your own damn business!".... "I never asked for your advice!".... or "Let me live my life the way I want!" and then slam down the button to end the transmission.

In Will's memory it had been the same most of his childhood. The short times his father *was* home, when he wasn't ignoring Will, he was criticizing his son. Never satisfied. Always pushing him to do more. Will had hated his father when he was a child, yet he still craved the older man's attention. He knew just what buttons to push on his father. He would intentionally get into trouble just so his father would be forced to acknowledge him. And when the usual heavy slap or two came across his face during the lecture, and then banishment to his bedroom, Will would feel a strange sense of satisfaction. Their volatile relationship came to a head when Will was fifteen years old. After another huge argument, Kyle Riker had finally had enough of playing daddy. He left for good that time. Abandoning the son he figured didn't appreciate or deserve the energy he put into a useless cause.

With his father's words still ringing in his ears, "You'll never amount to anything. You're too stupid to make anything of yourself!" the insecure teenage boy accepted the challenge many of his slightly older peers were – joining Starfleet Academy. It wasn't his first choice for a career, he really had no idea what he wanted to do. But he had no where else to go. Fortunately, he had enough school credits to make it possible. In spite of what his father thought, Will was extremely intelligent and passing the entrance exams had been relatively easy. The Academy had changed Will's life. Four years later, he graduated 8th in his class. A foot taller, strong, full of professional self-confidence and ready to face whatever challenges and dangers the universe had to throw at him.


He and his father had attempted a reconciliation a few years back. It soon became apparent that they would never love each other as a father and son should, but at least they were communicating. Argumentatively, but communicating, nonetheless.

The last contact from his father had been just an hour ago. Kyle saw how frazzled Will looked and became concerned. Will, in his current state of mind, took the concern as another personal jab and blatantly told his father, "If you can't stand the sight of me, then just stay the fuck out of my life!" Before his shocked father could get another word in, Will ended the transmission. His unrelenting anger squelched the tiny bit of remorse he'd immediately felt afterward.

An hour later, Will was almost to the point of drunkenness he wanted to be. His head was pounding, eyes bloodshot, clothes and hair disheveled. He'd had an awful day and was in no mood for company when he heard the chime to his door bleep. After a second and third persistent ring, he knew he couldn't pretend he wasn't there.

"Come in!"

Even with the lights dimmed, he had no trouble recognizing the figure silhouetted in the doorway. To say he was shocked was a bit of an understatement. She was the last person he expected to see in his quarters.

Deanna could smell the alcohol as soon as she stepped through the door. She wondered about that and why he was sitting there in the darkness. She wanted to see him more clearly.

"Lights up to 60 percent," she instructed the computer. Her eyes widened as she took in his appearance. Her gaze wandered around the rest of the room, at the mess there, and she grew concerned. She knew Will wasn't the best housekeeper on the ship, but this was more clutter than even he could usually stand.

"Will?" Her curious eyes rested on him again.

Will remained seated on his sofa. He took in her appearance. Her low-cut snug dress, long flowing hair and wondered why she was wasting the effect on him.

"What do you want?" he asked coldly, taking another sip of his drink.

This wasn't quite the greeting she had expected. She'd never seen Will like this. He was drunk and a mess. She said the first thing that came to her mind.

"Why are you drinking that? What's wrong with you, Will?"

~More criticism,~ he thought.

"There's not a damn thing wrong with me. Now what do you want?"

He obviously wasn't going to volunteer anything. She swallowed and came to the point of her visit, thinking it would improve his spirits. She moved closer till she stood only a few feet away, clasping her hands in front of herself.

"Will, I wanted to talk to you. About us." She licked her lips nervously. "You and me."

His chest tightened. ~Here it comes. She's going to tell me she's marrying Worf and it will forever change things with us.~

After a pause, it suddenly dawned on him. He almost laughed.

He didn't care.

It almost felt like relief. In his half-drunk, bitter, angry haze he didn't care if they married. He didn't want her anymore. Worf could have her.

He didn't want or love her anymore.

He looked up at her, waiting for her to tell him. Waited for her to finally shatter his heart into a thousand pieces. Her response wasn't what he expected.

"I'm not seeing Worf anymore."


Deanna knelt on the floor in front of Will and took the drink from his hand, sitting it on the end table. She took his hands in hers and looked him in the eye with a most hopeful expression. He returned it with a wary look.

"The only person I want in my life is you, Will. I love you, Imzadi. I know that now. I've been such a fool all these years to deny us something we should have had all along."

He could smell her exotic perfume. He should be getting down on his knees with her and taking her into his arms, deeply breathing the heady scent that used to drive him wild. He should be kissing her with the passion they'd found in each other 9 years earlier.

But at that moment.... the scent sickened him. She sickened him.

This time he did laugh. A cold, heartless laugh with so much malice, Deanna was taken aback. She let him laugh for a moment, soon recognizing the maniacal laugh of a person at the end of his rope. She was very confused. So far this evening had been nothing like she'd envisioned. She thought Will would have been enthralled by the way she'd presented herself. He'd always loved her hair down like it was, and the dress had been a favorite of his. After admitting her love, she expected to be wrapped in his arms by now, being showered with kisses and endearments.

What she got was a man half out of his mind on booze and was being laughed at ridiculously. She didn't need her empathic abilities to see something was very wrong. She wished he would let her into his mind. She stood and backed up a few steps.

"Will? Why are you doing this? What's wrong? Please let me in. I can't read you."

He finally snapped. Deep down, he knew his reaction was way out of line, but he couldn't help it. The laughter stopped. All the hurt and anger that had been boiling just below the surface erupted out. He couldn't stop it. He wanted her to feel his pain.

Deanna gasped loudly and staggered back as the force of his mind opened to her. She would have fallen if she hadn't backed into a chair. "Oh god! Please, Will! Stop it!" She pressed her palms to her ears, her face distorted with pain. "Please!" she begged.

Will broke the connection of their minds and stood facing her. He walked a slow circle around her as he spoke. "How's it feel?" he spat vindictively. "How does it feel to have your mind and heart twisted so hard you want to scream?"

"What are you talking about?" Deanna breathed heavily, trying to regain her equilibrium. "What's wrong with you? Why are you so angry?"

Will was breathing hard himself from the rage he felt. His hands were fisted tightly at his sides. "Why did you do it?"

"Do what?!" Deanna pleaded. She was beginning to think it wasn't alcohol Will was half out of his mind on. He was deeply disturbed.

"Worf!" he yelled. "Did you do it just to spite me?" He cocked his head to the side as he asked the question. "You can't honestly tell me you felt love for him. You're complete opposites."

"He is a very caring man," Deanna defended Worf. "You are his friend. You should know that."

"*Was* his friend," Will corrected her. "You took that away too. How would your mother react if she knew her precious Daughter of the Daughter of the Fifth House, the Holy Bearer of...." he waved his arms, ".... whatever; and the rest of that aristocratic garbage had lowered her royal self to sleep with a Klingon?" He'd hit a spot he knew would anger her. She hated being reminded of her heritage. Or rather, the way her mother always described it.

And it did. "You stop this right now, Will Riker!"

"Like *hell* I will! You wanted to know how I feel, so I'm telling you." He rounded on her. "What happened to your rule about not being involved with someone who served on the same ship? Or was that just a convenient excuse saved just for me?"

"I don't have to explain anything to you." Deanna's eyes blazed with indignation. "I came here tonight to tell you how much I loved you and how I've regretted all the wasted time. After seeing your behavior, I'm not so sure now." She was tightlipped with her own anger.

"What makes you think I want you?"

Deanna fought to control her negative emotions. "I saw how my relationship with Worf troubled you. I know you still love me."

"You're wrong there, Counselor!" Will was so convinced himself, he held nothing back. No matter how rude. "I saw the bruises on you a few days ago." He cackled maliciously. "I didn't know you were into S&M. That's really not my style." Then he really lowered the hammer. "I also don't go for a Klingon's sloppy seconds. You're probably so broken in, a normal man would get lost in there." He wasn't finished yet. "And while I'm at it, I should tell you that you really should cut down on the chocolate. It's gone to your hips."

Deanna's mouth dropped open in astonishment at the crudeness and hatefulness of Riker's words. The tears came an instant later. Her lips trembled as she whispered, "How could you?" When the violent sob escaped her throat, she blindly ran for the door and out into the corridor.

Will thought he was standing still in the sudden silence, but soon noticed the trembling that took over his body. He knew he *should* regret what he'd said. He *should* go beg her forgiveness. But he didn't regret one single word. And that's what bothered him most of all.

~What the hell is wrong with me?~

~I'm so scared.~


Deanna flew through the door of her own quarters. Right next door to Will's. She flung herself on the sofa and cried at the hurt that felt like a dagger through her heart.

~How could he have said such things? Why did he want to hurt me so?~ She hugged the small pillow to her chest. ~Why was he so irrationally upset about my being with Worf?~ Deanna sat up and swiped a palm across her cheeks, wiping the tears back. ~It's not like he's remained celibate all these years!~

That thought struck a nerve. ~No, he hadn't. So why should I?~ Her Betazoid temper became riled again. ~No! I am not going to let him do this to me.~ She threw the pillow to the floor. ~Dammit! He doesn't own me. And I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here crying my eyes out when I should be giving him a dose of his own medicine!~ With that determined thought she tore out of the form-fitting dress and went to her closet for comfortable slacks and a sweater. She stopped to look in the full-length mirror. "I am *not* fat!" she told the mirror, but silently promised herself to go by the gym a couple more times a week just in case. "Ohhh, that man!"

Minutes later, Deanna Troi overrode the command function of Will's door and burst through it like a twister. She found him staring out into the stars with another drink in his hand. Her eyes were still red from crying, and her makeup was smudged. None of that mattered to her as she walked up to the commander, yanked the glass from his hand, threw it across the room and then poked him in the chest with her long fingernail.

"How dare you talk to me like that, you arrogant bastard!" she practically screamed.

"You back for more?" Will slurred indifferently.

"I don't know what the hell is wrong with you, but you had *no* right at all saying those things about Worf and I. We cared for each other deeply. It may not have been an intense love, but it was love nonetheless. What you turned it into was filthy and completely uncalled for! Who the hell are you to talk anyway, Mr. Will-The-Thrill! Do you have the monopoly on the number of relationships one person can have?"

She took a deep breath. "These past weeks you've been behaving like an immature child. It's time you grew up, Riker, and learned to accept things like a man. Stop acting like a spoiled child!"

~"Stop whining like a baby!"~ Will heard his father's voice in his head from so long ago when he'd broken his arm. ~"Take the pain like a man!"~

"How much respect do you think you're getting from the crew with you the way you are?" Deanna badgered on, pointing at him. "Look at you! You're slovenly. Unprofessional. And I have a feeling you've been drinking alone pretty regularly lately. Is that how a First Officer is supposed to act?"

~"I expect professionalism from my senior crew,"~ the captain had admonished him. ~"Personal problems have no place on my bridge. Is that understood?"~

~"That's not how a Riker acts, boy!"~ Kyle's booming voice adds. ~"I don't want you shaming my name!"~

"Are you finished yet?" Will asks coolly, swallowing, wishing all the voices would go away.

"No. I'm not!" she answers forcefully. "Tonight you have proven once again that I'm not sure I can trust you. That you haven't matured at all. You're still the irresponsible, cowardly jackass who puts his own self interests above anyone else's. The very same kind of man you were when you didn't show up on Risa!"

She had to stop and force down the hysteria that threatened to release. She didn't think she'd ever been so angry before. She only hoped he felt some of the hurt and humiliation she'd suffered all those years ago.

Will felt completely numb. He didn't even try to defend himself, not seeing any point in it.

"You're going to hold that against me forever, aren't you?" Will chuckled with quiet scorn. "Of course you are. You always liked to be one-up on people. Always feeling the need to be superior to others."

He walked around her to the center of the room. Deanna's glowering eyes followed him.

"With your royal preeminence, I'm surprised you ever gave me any of your time at all seeing as I'm just a–" he shrugged his shoulders. "–mere human."

"Oh, don't be stupid!"

"So now I'm stupid." He clasped his hands behind his back and nodded his head. "Irresponsible, cowardly, unprofessional, stupid."

Will's stomach churned as he recounted the words. Then his whole being seemed to deflate as he really applied the words to himself. Truly believing them. ~That is how I really am.~

Despite how low he felt on the inside, he had to keep a sarcastic light air to his voice for Deanna's benefit. He wouldn't let her think he was being honest with himself. "Guess I'm pretty worthless then."

Deanna threw her arms up in exasperation, disgusted with his tone. "Fine! You're worthless. You'll never be anything but. Is that what you want to hear?"

~"You'll never amount to anything. You're too stupid to make anything of yourself!"~

~Gee, Dad. You were right.~ Will thought pathetically. He felt whatever life he had left in him sink through the floor.

If Will had been clear-headed, not inebriated, not suffering from such massive depression; he would have known how absurd this all was. If he was in a better state of mind, he'd know that his personnel file would show proof of what a brave and competent officer he was. He'd easily see how his friends loved him and crew looked up to him. Unfortunately, his mind made him believe what the voices and Deanna were saying. Everything from the past weeks–his life–came to a head.

And he couldn't handle it.

He felt so empty. So alone. So numbingly lifeless.

"You sound just like him," he said quietly and gave an ironic hollow chuckle.

"What?....Who?" Deanna shook her head, confused. "What in the gods' names are you talking about?" She was still too angry to see the despair in Will. She wasn't 'Ship's Counselor' at the moment. She was pure vexed woman!

Will's blank stare went off to the right of her. His vision was within himself. "My father," he answered. "You and he seem to have a remarkably similar opinion of me."

"Well, don't great minds think alike!" Deanna deadpanned. She crossed her arms in front of herself. "I don't want to talk about your father. I want to know why you feel the need to be so mean and abusive. I have done nothing to deserve that. You owe me an apology, Commander."

~Done nothing? No, Deanna. You've done lots.~ He still stared at nothingness. ~You've helped me realize there's nothing worth hanging around here for. I'm not worthy of *being* here.~

Will knew the idea seeping into his mind was an act of desperation. And desperate he was. To disappear. To leave. To become nothing but a faded memory to everyone. Nobody would have to put up with him ever again.

The idea rooted and began to branch out. He couldn't let Deanna know what he was thinking, he had to get away from her. Will planted on an apologetic smile. "You're right, Deanna. I'm sorry." The smile faltered into a grimace he quickly tried to cover. "It will never happen again."

Deanna saw the array of emotions moving over Will's face. She didn't like the way his voice sounded, either. She dropped her vindictive thoughts as she dropped her arms to her sides. She released a breath slowly to find calmness. "Will, please tell me what's going through your mind." She tried to probe him, but met with resistance. "I've never seen you like this. I'd like to he–"

"I'm fine!" he abruptly cut her off. He didn't want her help, only wanted to get away from her. He began to feel panicky, his eyes darted from Deanna to the door.

"Please, Will!"

"Leave me alone!" he almost shouted. He saw the shocked look on her face and panic took over. "Look, Deanna, there's nothing....," he tried desperately for words to make her believe he was fine, but it was hopeless. He finally started backing towards his door, muttering "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." His eyes were frantic and with one last look into Deanna's eyes, he shook his head and bolted out the door.

Deanna stood there in the now still room. The only sound was of her own anxious breaths. "What just happened?" she whispered to herself. Her mind went over the conversation and Will's body language. It took the psychologist only seconds to realize what might be going through Will's head. "Oh no! Imzadi!" She swallowed the scream that wanted to escape.

"Computer, what is the location of Commander Riker?!" Deanna started towards the door as she asked.

"Commander Riker is located on deck 8, corridor A, in front of door 835," the feminine computer voice informed her.

~Oh good, he hasn't gone very far,~ Deanna thought hopefully as she ran down the hallway. When she turned the corner and didn't see Will her heart skipped a beat. She repeated her question to the computer and was given the same location. She couldn't understand how the computer could be wrong.... until she saw the shiny silver comm badge on the carpeted floor. She picked it up and knew it was Will's.

She held it in her hand tightly as despair brought new tears to her eyes. "This is all my fault!" She fell to her knees. "Please don't do it, Will," she whispered, then sobbed openly. "Where are you, Imzadi?"


Part 2

His first instinct was to avoid running into anyone. His second thought was to not let anyone find him; specifically Deanna, who would probably not be far behind him. After throwing his comm badge down, Will found the nearest jeffrey's tube and worked his way to the center of the ship. Next to the central turbolift, was another shaft with a ladder that ran most of the vertical length of the ship. This shaft was usually only used occasionally by maintenance personnel, and Will knew it would be highly unlikely anyone would be in there.

He climbed the shaft until his exhausted body wouldn't make another deck. His arms and legs felt like rubber as he got off the ladder and cautiously sat on the ledge that went around the shaft. Will brought one leg up in front of himself and rested his forehead on his knee, breathing heavily and realizing how incredibly out of shape he was becoming. His heavy head was still slightly buzzing from all the alcohol he'd consumed.

When he'd got his breath back, Will wearily lifted his head from his knee and looked down into the shaft. It went on and on fading into blackness many decks down. He thought of how easy it would be to just let himself.... go.

Staring down into the blackness made him lightheaded and he closed his eyes to ease it. He'd been in this shaft before. When his insecurities would get the better of him, he'd come here for isolation. Like when he'd been accused of killing Dr. Apgar and seducing his wife; when he'd lost Soren to the "mind cleaning" her people thought she needed for her depravities.... her love for him. After his nightmare of captivity in the mental hospital on Tilonus IV, or when he'd once again disappointed Captain Picard by keeping him in the dark about the Pegasus experiment.

Sometimes things got to the commander. He wasn't always as strong as everyone thought he was. Even Deanna didn't know how little he thought of himself at times. This was one of those rare times.... only much worse. This time the despondency seemed infinite; like everything was coming to an end. So, like those other times, he came here to hide. To think. To work his way through situations he didn't want to confide to anyone else. Nobody would think to look for him here. When he was in one of these moods, he just needed to get away from everyone.

Will stared down the shaft again. ~I wonder how much it would hurt to hit bottom,~ he pondered. ~It wouldn't, you idiot. You'd be dead instantly,~ was his own reply. He sighed sadly. ~Would that be so terrible?~


Deanna got to her feet. Steadying herself against the wall, she got herself under control. She realized breaking down would not help her find Will. Her hands shaking, she put Will's comm badge in her pants pocket, wiped the moisture from her cheeks and tried to think. ~Where would he go?~ She would try the obvious places he frequented first, just in case. Stepping away from the wall she picked up a brisk pace through the corridor, not acknowledging anyone as she brushed passed them. She tried the arboretum, the holodecks and Ten Forward with no luck. As she kept walking, she tried to reach out to him with her mind, but could not sense him. He had become too adept at blocking her. She was on her way to yet another turbolift when she turned a corner and literally ran into Worf.

Worf grabbed Deanna's arms to keep her from falling. He saw her smeared makeup and tracks of tears on her face. "Deanna! What is wrong? Has someone hurt you?" he demanded loudly.

"Oh Worf!" She took hold of Worf's strong forearms and begged with desperate eyes. "You have to help me find Will!"

The security chief's eyes clouded with anger. "Did he hurt you?"

"No! No!" Deanna shook her head. "*He* was the one who was hurt. It's all my fault!"

Hysteria threatened her once again. Worf sighed impatiently and put his hands on her shoulders. "Calm down and explain."

Deanna appreciated the way Worf tried to ground her. "You saw how he's been ever since you and I got together. He was more upset by it than I ever realized. He'd been drinking and we got into an argument." She took a shuddering breath. "He was deeply troubled and he said some things...." She paused and a haunted look came to her eyes. "I think he's going to try...." Her lips quivered and she whispered, "I think he might try to kill himself." She pulled Will's comm badge from her pocket. "He threw this away. Oh Worf! He was in pieces. You have to help me find him!"

~Humans and their irrationality!~ Worf thought. "Yes, I will help you." He thought for a few seconds. "We will look separately and cover more space. I will call a security team to search–" His words stopped when he looked over Deanna's shoulder.

"Worf? What–" Deanna face became confused when she saw Worf roll his eyes heavenward and sigh. He turned her around by her shoulders and she looked up to face the person in question.

"Will!" She threw her arms around him and cried in relief. "Are you all right?" She stepped back and looked him up and down. He was a sight in his dirty, rumpled uniform, mussed hair, and tired face. "Where have you been?" she asked gently. "I've been worried sick."

"I'm sorry." Will stepped out of her embrace and looked at her sheepishly. "I shouldn't have worried you like that." He took a deep breath, let it out and crossed his arms self-consciously. "Can we go somewhere and talk?" He looked to Worf barely able to keep eye contact, as if ashamed. "You too, if you can."

"Of course. Let's go to my quarters." Deanna fed her arm through Will's to keep a hold of him and shot Worf a look that read ~You *will* come!~

Worf swallowed nervously and muttered, "I will be glad to."


The three sat down in Deanna's quarters. Will held a cup of strong hot coffee, feeling the warmth permeate his chilled hands. He'd sobered up a bit before going in search of the woman and counselor whose help he needed. He was feeling deeply guilty and embarrassed. Deanna could sense his emotions easily now and felt she should wait for him to speak first.

He glanced at Worf and Deanna nervously, then looked down into his cup and cleared his throat. "First of all, I'm really sorry for being such a jackass these past few weeks. I had no right or sensible reason to do that. I was just being a selfish, jealous jerk, and I wouldn't be surprised if either of you never wanted to speak to me again." He looked up from his cup into the Klingon's face. "Worf, I've thought some things about you lately that were totally uncalled for. You're a good man. And I let jealous anger ruin our friendship." He seemed to choke up a bit. "I hope you can forgive me. Deanna couldn't have been in better hands."

"I am not without blame, Commander." Worf met Will's eyes with a uncharacteristic humble gaze. "I must admit I let my ego enjoy the fact that I was able to attract Deanna. Especially away from you." He saw the befuddled look in Will's face and Deanna's downcast eyes and continued. "And I let things go on when I saw how it was affecting our working relationship and our friendship. I was wrong to let that happen. I was also negligent in realizing how different Klingon and Betazoid cultures are. It should have been evident long ago that we would not have been compatible." Worf's shoulders slumped and his eyes lowered to his clasped hands. "My behavior was dishonorable and I take full responsibility for how it has changed what we were before."

"You didn't take her away from me, Worf. She wasn't mine to begin with. There was nothing to stop you."

Worf looked seriously at Will, hoping for adequate articulation. "A part of each of you has belonged to the other for many years. Deanna tried to explain the bond of Imzadi you both share. As well as I understand it, I can never hope to compete with something like that; and wouldn't have wanted to try even if we had been able to stay together. So in a way she does belong to you and I hope you do the right thing."

Worf swallowed his unease at the emotional words and continued. "I also hope our friendship can be renewed." The corners of his mouth upturned into what could almost be construed as a smile. "I miss having a worthy opponent for my calisthenics."

Will managed a small smile, remembering how grueling those workouts were. "I think that can be arranged."

Deanna smiled and stood up. She had been getting a little annoyed at being spoken of as property, but understood the motivation and male psyche behind it. She took a hand from each man into hers. "Well, I think this has been quite productive. I also hope you let nothing and no one come between either of you ever again." She brought both their hands together for them to grasp and shake, which they did.

"Worf, I'd like to speak to Will alone now, if you don't mind."

Worf was glad for a reason to leave before the next too-human, sure-to-be overly-emotional scene. Deanna followed him to the door and gave him a silent thanks with a kiss on his cheek. He nodded and walked out.

Deanna demurely walked back and sat slightly apart from Will on the sofa. He placed his coffee cup on the table and didn't look up as his solemn voice told her, "Deanna, about earlier...."

"Wait," she interrupted, placing her hand on his arm until he looked up at her, then released it. "I have to apologize also."

"Why? You didn't do anything. I–"

"Yes, I did," she declared, then continued hesitantly. "I intentionally flaunted my relationship with Worf to get under your skin. I saw how jealous you were and I took advantage of it." She bit her lower lip as a fresh tear rolled down her cheek. "I enjoyed the fact that I could make you jealous, and I paid no regard as to how much it was hurting you. Will, I'm so, so sorry. I know how wrong I was to do that and I'm deeply ashamed."

Will remained silent, looking very sad, not knowing what to say.

"I meant what I said earlier about loving Worf in our own way. But we realized we probably could never have much of a future so we agreed to go back to being friends." Deanna's look was pained, her guilt ran deep. "I knew you still loved me, by the jealousy you showed. I mistakenly thought you would jump at the chance to get together with me."

She reached to take Will's hand, feeling her heart drop when he snatched it away and moved a little further away from her. She wondered how she was ever going to fix this.

Hearing Deanna's confession made Will wonder what he had ever done to make her want to do that to him. He was confused as to how she could claim to love Worf one minute and expect him to welcome her in his arms the next. His face showed his hurt confusion as he quietly listened to her continue.

Deanna seemed to know what he must have been thinking. "Will, you didn't do anything at all. It was all me." Her voice shook slightly. "When Worf and I first started seeing each other I was irritated at your jealousy, but then this adolescent girl inside of me took over and decided to have some fun at your expense. I don't know why I took pleasure in seeing you jealous. Maybe a small part of me was thinking it was getting even for all the girlfriends you've had over the years." She drooped her shoulders and sighed at her own assessment. "I don't know! But I had no idea how *badly* you were affected until I came to see you earlier." She kept her eyes on his face. "I saw how pitiful you were. How sad. I shouldn't have let myself get angry at the things you'd said." She noticed Will close his eyes and cringe slightly. "Instead I should have realized *I* was the root of the problem. I know it wasn't *you* who said those hateful words, it was the alcohol and your pain. So please don't blame yourself for anything. I don't blame you at *all*, Will!"

Will looked at her and could see the tears threatening to fall from her beautiful eyes. He could hear the anguish in her voice and couldn't doubt her sincerity. He couldn't stand to see her cry and her next words almost broke his heart.

"When you ran out of your cabin and I remembered your words and behavior, I thought you were going to do something dreadful. I thought you were going to try to–" Her face twisted in despair and her voice finally broke. "I was *so* scared, Will! I've never been more frightened of anything than the thought of losing you like that. Because of me! I searched everywhere and couldn’t find you. I finally ran into Worf and he was going to help me look for you."

"Then suddenly, seeing you standing there," she smiled shakily through her tears, "was such a joyous relief. I thought I'd lost you. But there you were– dirty, mussed up– and the most beautiful person I have ever seen." She shook her head slowly and begged with pleading eyes. "Please let me hold you."

He couldn't stand it anymore. Seeing her tears, her anguish. Knowing how close he had actually come to making her fears come true finally broke the dam. He reached for her as his emotions overflowed in a deep, guttural sob. She held him tightly and her tears flowed with his, soaking in his pain and torment. She rocked him till the sobs became deep shuddering breaths and eventually the breathing of exhausted sleep.

She laid back on the sofa, gently taking him with her. She was not about to leave him alone. She vowed that never again would Will Riker ever feel alone.


Will was still in a sound sleep when Deanna woke the next morning. She stared at him, taking in his pinched features. He was more than just tired, he looked ill. Physically and mentally. Knowing he would be in no shape for duty and that she wanted to start repairing the damage done to him, she gently slid away from him off the sofa, stretched her aching body and went to her computer terminal. She sent a message for the captain stating Will was under the weather and wouldn't be on the bridge that day and that she'd explain it in full later; hoping he would be understanding and not want an explanation before then. Afterwards, she sent Beverly a message telling her she'd be bringing Will to her later that morning for a complete physical. Something he was long overdue for anyway. She then cleared her own schedule for the day.

Deanna went into the bathroom and washed her face, avoiding looking in the mirror, not wanting to see just how puffy her face felt. When she felt alive again, she came back out to the living room, ordered two orange juices from the replicator and sat down next to Will's reclined body. She placed the glasses on the coffee table and tenderly brushed the back of her hand against his cheek.


His only response was a moan and turning his head away from whatever was touching him.

She squeezed his shoulder and gently shook it. "Will, please wake up."

He moaned again, slowly coming to consciousness. "Wiiiiiiiill?" she repeated again, a little louder.

His muddled mind was slow to register the voice near him, but it sunk in and he squinted open his eyes. ~Deanna? What–?~ He tried to shake his head into wakefulness and immediately regretted it when his head exploded in pain. "Ohhh!" he grimaced and held the side of his head.

"Headache?" she asked, without a hint of reproachfulness. She wasn't going to make him feel guilty about his drinking binge.

His eyes were squeezed shut as he carefully nodded his head. Deanna went back to the replicator and used her medical clearance to get a hypo. Will was already remembering some things from the night before when she brought the hypo to his neck. A few seconds after the hiss of the hypo his head began to clear.

"Thanks," he quietly said as he remembered more and more. His face took on a culpable look and he slowly sat up, placing his feet on the floor and his elbows on his knees. He let his head hang down and twisted his neck in all directions to loosen it up. He couldn't quite meet her eyes when he asked, "So, did I make a complete jackass out of myself last night, or what?"

Deanna lifted both glasses of juice and sat down on the coffee table as she handed one to him. "You did no such thing. Drink your juice." She took a drink of hers and watched as Will swallowed a bit of his, only to give a sour look as it hit his stomach. He tried another, but the nausea he experienced made him put the glass back down.

"I feel like shit," he declared and rested back against the sofa, closing his eyes.

"Understandable," Deanna replied. She sensed his guilt and the remnants of a hangover. But knew all his aches weren't because of that.

"Are you always so reasonable in the mornings, or am I getting special treatment?"

"You're getting special treatment." She looked at him with doe eyes, full of her own apprehension. She touched his knee so he'd look at her. "Please, Will. I need to know if you forgive me or not. Do you remember what I said last night?"

"I remember pretty much everything, unfortunately." He lifted his head and ran a hand through his already spiked hair. "I won't say I wasn't hurt by what you did." She looked down in regret. "But you aren't the first woman who's tried to make me jealous and I'll never claim to understand the motivation behind any female's actions." He gave her a tired smile when she lifted her confused eyes. "I forgive you."

She felt a weight being lifted from her heart at his words, breathed in relief and smiled warmly. Yet she could sense and see from his expression that it wasn't all there was. "What is it, Will?"

He was amazed she could read him so easily now, when it seemed she couldn't in recent weeks. But remembered he had shut her out during that time and now felt remorse for that. He felt timid about telling her what had been happening to him recently, but knew he had to do it.

"Deanna, I completely overreacted when I saw that you and Worf were becoming close. It seemed the longer it lasted, the closer you got; the more it ate at me." He leaned forward, clasping his hands together. His eyes were seeing his past actions and they had a frightened look in them. "I don't know why I let it get to me so much. You were right. I did.... do.... love you. A part of me always will," he said hesitantly. "But it's not like I had any claim on you. You were free to see whomever you pleased. But I couldn't see that. I just let it eat away at me. Then other things started happening. It wasn't *only* you and Worf that's been getting to me. I began making mistakes, my dad was on my back again, I felt I was failing at everything. Things just kept piling up; I used to be able to handle it all." He shook his head. "But I can't anymore and I don't know why!" He looked at her with desperate eyes. "Last night I said such awful things to you. I don't know *where* all that came from! I was just so *angry* and I wanted to take the pain out on you." His voice had risen and his breathing quickened. He wrapped his arms around his front as if warding off a chill. "And then you got angry and all I could hear was you and the voices, and you were all mad at me. I couldn't take anymore and had to get out of there!"

Deanna had sat there listening intently, letting Will get it out. She was more than a little alarmed by the time she interrupted. "Will, calm down." She got down on her knees in front of him. "Take a deep breath and relax." He did as she soothingly instructed as she wrapped her hands around his. "Whose voices? What did they say?"

Will forced himself to wait a few more seconds to get himself more under control. "The captain's. Mostly my father's. Telling me how disappointed they were. That I was stupid, unprofessional and irresponsible. Worthless." He would have jumped to his feet in frustration if her caressing hands hadn't felt so good. "Deanna, tell me I haven't gone completely nuts!"

Deanna almost groaned at the memory of saying just about the same ridiculing words as Kyle Riker to him the night before. She remembered Will saying that she and his father had the same opinion about him. Oh how she wished she could take those words back. She had failed Will as a counselor when she let her temper take over. As a psychologist, she should have seen this breakdown coming and taken measures to prevent it. Before it was too late.

~Was it too late?~ She refused to grant the notion. ~No! I can make this right. No matter what it takes.~

"No, Will. You are not nuts." Deanna said, determined to keep him talking. "It isn't so far fetched for one to think he's hearing voices when it's actually just past memories vividly coming to mind. And I'm sure some of the things I said didn't help matters any." She saw his rebuke of her self-blame coming and stopped it with a raised hand. "I *am* partially responsible for this, Will. I will not refuse to acknowledge that."

Will knew she wouldn't back down and meekly nodded his acceptance. He knew she felt guilty and she wouldn't feel better until she was able to work through it.

"But please, *please* believe that you are *not* what you described those memories as saying. Anyone on this ship, anyone who knows you at all will tell you those things aren't true." She could see by the look on his face that he couldn't quite believe that, but decided not to press it anymore at that time. They would have plenty of time later to get his self-esteem back up. Deanna was still desperate to know what had happened the night before between his disappearance and reappearance a couple of hours later. "Can you to tell me where you went and what you did when you left last night?"

He'd been waiting for this part to come up. Whether she was his friend or counselor at the moment didn't matter. He wanted to let her know how he felt.

"After I left you, I wasn't in a good state of mind." He cleared his throat nervously. He never was very comfortable talking about himself, but he had been so frightened by his close encounter with self-inflicted demise that he knew he was in big trouble. "I didn't want anyone following me, so I dropped my comm badge." He looked down at the bare spot on his uniform where the badge should have been and thought to himself how he needed to find it. Deanna released his hands to pull the badge from her pocket and pressed it to his chest. He sighed and smiled his gratitude. He also decided he would rather be standing to stretch his cramped muscles than sitting any longer. He walked to the window and stared out at the stars as he continued.

"There's a place I sometimes go to when I want to think alone. It's a maintenance shaft that parallels the central turbo shaft. Except for the noise of the turbolift, it's quite solitary."

Deanna was surprised that there was something that personal to Will that she didn't know about. She also thought it an odd spot for a person to want to be, but was used to such things with her profession.

"I kept climbing until I was exhausted and planted myself on a ledge." He took a deep breath and released it slowly. And once again wrapped his arms around himself. His palms were sweaty and he wiped them on his upper sleeves. "I remember feeling lower and more dismal than I've ever felt before in my life. And believe me, there's been a few times I've let self-pity get the better of me. But this time it seemed so impossible to deal with." He paused briefly, feeling a cold shudder run through him at the memory. It vanished almost immediately when he felt Deanna's hands running up and down his arms from behind him. He wanted nothing more than to just melt into her warm embrace. But didn't dare.

"For a time, I just couldn't see any future for me here.... or anywhere for that matter. I looked down the shaft and it seemed to go on forever. I wondered how much it would hurt if I...... fell. Then realized it didn't matter because being dead would be a whole lot easier than being alive."

Deanna couldn't stop the eruption of tears upon hearing this and feeling every ounce of his pain. She laid her head against his back and silently sobbed.

"I came so close, Deanna. So damn close." Another deep breath escaped him. "But then I heard another voice."

Deanna lifted her head. "Whose?"

Will turned around to face her. "Your mother's."

This came totally from left field and it took her a moment to be able to get the words out. "M-My mother's?"

Will smiled at her utterly confused look and lifted his hands to her face, using his thumbs to wipe the wetness from under her eyes. "I had that same reaction." He allowed himself the luxury of holding her face a moment longer before letting go.

"I have no idea if it was real or not, but she started harping on me about how ridiculous I was being. That whatever she may have thought of me when I was chasing you around Betazed had been proven wrong by my dedication to you as a friend since then. She said that our Imzadi bond was still as strong as ever and that when you and I both outgrew our selfish desires concerning our careers and chasing other people around that we'd see that. She also threw in something insolent about how long it was taking and that she wanted grandchildren before she died of old age."

Will's face screwed up in puzzlement. "It was like she was right there in my head. I could just picture her standing there with some extremely loud, god-awful dress waving her arms to emphasize her point. Then she told me that there was obviously other things troubling me and that I should find you and work it all out. It was so weird." Will chuckled dryly and shrugged. "But it got me thinking. And I realized that I had let things get way out of control. That as long as I couldn't commit fully to you, then you had no reason to commit to me. But that someday it *could* happen. When we're both ready."

Deanna smiled tremulously. "It just might." She had been so shocked hearing the clarity of her mother's words. They sounded just like her. She had to wonder if it was just in Will's head, his own imagination. Or had her mother somehow been able to feel Will's turmoil and been able to cast her thoughts to him over such a long distance. She didn't think it possible. Will wasn't a telepath and couldn't possibly have received anything from her. Even so, she was grateful her Imzadi was here with her now, safe and sound.

"Will, you'll never know how terrified I was not knowing where you were last night. I was so afraid you'd succeed in what you wanted to do, and that I had such a big part in it." The tears started again. "I couldn't have lived with myself if that had happened. I love you, Imzadi. And I am so sorry!"

Will pulled her to him and wrapped his entire soul around her. "Shhh. It wasn't just you. I know now that many things have contributed to my actions lately. And *I'm* sorry for frightening you. I wasn't thinking right and hurting you is the last thing I want to do."

Deanna nodded. "I know." She sniffled and pressed her face into his shoulder. "We'll work through this." It felt so good for him to hold her like this. She missed it so much. It also verified what her eyes had finally noticed that morning, that he'd lost weight.

"We better, or the captain's gonna bust me down to ensign." He suddenly panicked, looking around for a chronometer. "Shit! What time is it? I have bridge duty this morning!"

"Relax. I called you off. You're in no shape for work today."

"You did?" Will got a little angry. "Deanna, I'm in enough trouble as it is with him! I can't afford–"

Deanna grabbed him tightly. "Let me handle the captain. He'll understand. I think he'd rather have a healthy first officer than a ragged half  first officer."


"Captain Picard knows first hand that sometimes people need to take time to readjust themselves. I'm his counselor, too. Remember?"

Will sighed, backing down. He did know that the captain spent time with Deanna on a regular basis. And that he had desperately needed her help after his time in captivity with the Borg and then the Cardassians. He just hated having the Captain think he wasn't fit for duty.

"It will be okay," Deanna reassured him. "We're already off to a good start." She patted his arms. "And now, we're both going to get cleaned up and then I'm taking you to see Dr. Crusher for a physical."

"A physical? Why?" He balked at the thought of a major check-up. He'd been to Dr. Crusher for headaches lately, but that was all. And then he wouldn't really let her examine him, just give him relief.

"Because you need one," she stated simply with a smile. "Consider it Counselor's orders." She already suspected what she thought was a major part of his problem. Depression. But he needed to be tested by a doctor to verify. She also thought the 'voices' Will had heard were really just memories. She didn't think Will was prone to that type of delusional behavior. "Now go to your quarters and take a nice hot shower and come back here when you're finished. I'm sure you remember how to let yourself in."

It had been a while since he'd felt free to let himself into her cabin, but remembered the access code. He walked to the door, muttering, "All right. But I don't have to like it."

"Well, some things never change," she said to herself and headed towards her bathroom.

An hour later he returned, his hair still damp but combed neatly, and looking much better in a clean, pressed uniform. Deanna was putting dishes from a quick breakfast back into the replicator. She doubted he'd gotten himself anything to eat, so she asked. "Do you want any breakfast?"

"No. I just want to get this over with," he grumbled with the impatience of a child.

She sighed, wondering again when he'd eaten a decent meal last. "Okay. But please promise me you'll eat something afterwards?"

"I'll try," he said somberly, noting her worried look and feeling bad for it. "I promise." She acquiesced with a smile and took his hand.

When they got to Sickbay, Beverly was already setting things up for them. "Ah, you're here. Good." She was more than happy to comply with Deanna's message that morning. She had been worried herself about the commander, but could do nothing about it until he either volunteered for a check-up or was forced into it. She had a feeling he was being pushed into it by his expression and hid her smile. She ordered Will up onto the table and said she'd be right back as she pulled Deanna into her office.

Professional to professional, Deanna told Beverly what she knew about Will's condition and what she suspected. Beverly tsk'd, shaking her head, wondering why the man let himself go for so long. After promising to fill the doctor in on more personal things later on, Deanna waited in the office while Beverly went out to put the commander through her paces.

A little later when the diagnosis and prognosis were presented to Will, he was too ashamed to look at either woman. ~Depression. Great! I am a mental case.~

Deanna sensed this and lifted his chin to look him in the eye. "Will, depression is a *medical* problem. Biological in nature. A chemical imbalance that can be treated with medication. It's possible one of your parents suffered from it also, since it can be hereditary. It probably surfaced due to sudden emotional upheaval." Her eyes saddened. "Namely me and my actions of late."

Will stared into her dark eyes, trying to understand. He remembered his father's dark moods from when he was a boy and saw some similarities. The memories of his father's anger lashing out at him, his own self-esteem issues; and most of all, his Imzadi blaming herself was too much. He struggled for breath and pulled Deanna to him, burying his face in her hair as he tried unsuccessfully not to cry.

"No. Not just you," his voice broke. "Too many other things. Not you."

Deanna held him. "You're right. Too many things. But we'll fix it. Together."

Beverly's eyes misted. She hoped this was the start for her two best friends to shorten the rift that had spanned between them for too long. ~They belong together.~ She thought. It made her think of her own questionable relationship with Jean Luc. ~Was it ever going to lead anywhere?~

After giving them a moment, she cleared her throat so she could start her treatment on Will. Holding up a hypo she explained, "This is an inhibitor for the chemical imbalance in your brain. Once we know this is doing the trick you can give it to yourself on a daily basis. Until then, you'll come here to get it. *Every day* Commander!"

"For how long?" he asked, getting himself pulled together.

"For as long as you need it. Could be weeks, months maybe. Every person is different." She administered the shot and got another one ready. "*This* is a vitamin supplement. Your diet of alcohol is going to stop!" she said sternly. "You will also get one of these daily until I say otherwise. And starting today, you will start eating three square meals a day. The reason you feel sick is because of malnourishment. Eating, instead of drinking, your meals will make a world of difference. Understood?"

"I just haven't felt like eating." He sighed.

"I know," the doctor said soothingly, rubbing his shoulder. "But with the medication, you should start feeling better." She gave him the vitamin supplement. "And as for your duties, I'm ordering you off-duty for a week."

"A week!"

"Yes, a week. You need the rest." Beverly winked at Deanna. "You either spend the next seven days sleeping and vacationing on the holodeck with the counselor, or you can spend it here in sickbay with me!"

Deanna laughed at the double meaning she could tell Will was thinking through. ~Was that sleep with the counselor? Or vacation with the counselor? Or both?~


Part 3 – Epilogue

The captain wasn't thrilled when he was informed that his first officer was ordered to take a week off . But when the circumstances were explained to him, he immediately felt his own guilt arise. He realized Will hadn't had any extended time off in almost two years, while he himself had enjoyed two shore leaves during that time. He could tell something had been bothering his first officer for some time now, but never took the time to talk with him about it. Only raking him through the coals when errors were made. How could he have been so intolerant? Will was more than the best first officer he could ever hope for. He was a friend. He'd let himself grow away from his friends and didn't like the toll it was taking.

He remembered earlier times when Will would invite him to share any one of his holodeck programs and smiled at the warm memories. It was such times that made Jean Luc regret never marrying and having children to do such things with. One of his favorites was fishing with Will in a clear, cold Alaskan stream. He'd remarked to Will once that France had some good fishing of its own and he'd promised to take him there some time. Of course, it never happened. Things always got in the way.

The captain blew out a harsh breath and got up out of his chair. ~Not anymore. I'm taking the young man fishing! And we're going to do some long overdue talking.~ He tugged his shirt down resolutely and walked out the door.

Will and Deanna were both cleaning up the disaster area his quarters had become when the door chimed. Will wasn't thrilled with having to see anyone, but opened the door. His apprehension shot skyward when he let Captain Picard in. He wasn't sure what the captain had been told exactly and didn't know what to expect.

"Captain?" he swallowed nervously and quickly hid the handful of dirty clothes he was holding behind his back.

The captain quickly took in the messy room, but didn't comment. Instead he looked at an uneasy Will and smiled. "I've just been doing some thinking. It's been too long since you've had any decent amount of time off. Everybody else gets it, why shouldn't you? So take two weeks instead of just one."

Will could only think the captain thought he was too unsteady to do his job. He immediately tried explaining to the captain that he just needed a few days of rest and he'd be just fine, but the captain quieted him with a raised hand.

"You deserve it, Will. You give everyone else the time they need, but refuse it for yourself. Don't worry about your work, Data and I can take care of everything. I don't want you thinking about so much as even one report or duty roster for two weeks. I'm only sorry we're nowhere near a Starbase or suitable planet for you to be able to get off this ship for a while." He cast an amused glance towards Deanna. "I'm sure you can think of something to keep yourself entertained."

She smiled back in appreciation to him.

"I do ask one thing though."

"What's that, Sir?" Will asked, still not quite pleased with the forced time off, but accepting it.

"Save a couple of those days for me. I want to show you what France has to offer in the way of fishing. Via the holodeck, of course."

Now there was something worth smiling about. Which Will did widely. "Yes, Sir! I'll look forward to that."

Picard's eyes twinkled in merriment. "Excellent. Then I'll leave you to your.... uh, housecleaning." He picked up a plate with a many days-old half-eaten sandwich on it and gave it a curious look. "And I must say, it needs it." He winked and handed the plate to Will.

"It was very generous of the captain to give you so much time," Deanna stated after Picard left. "He is right, you know. You *do* deserve it."

Will put the dirty plate in the replicator and tossed the dirty clothes into a growing pile on the end of the sofa, which he dropped down next to. "I guess so. It just feels like I'm shirking my duty."

"You're not. Believe me, it's owed you. You've sacrificed alot for this ship and its crew." She picked up the pile of clothes, dropped them on the floor and sat down next to him.

"At what cost?"

"You tell me," she challenged in a non-threatening voice.

He could list them all to her, but the main reason was sitting there beside him. "You."

She shook her head and smiled. "I'm still here and I don't plan on going anywhere."

He regarded her silently for a moment. She still captivated him like no other person could. "Do you think there's still a chance for us?"

She touched his cheek and leaned closer. "Would my mother ever steer us wrong?" She gently touched her lips to his. It wasn't a kiss that would launch a thousand ships, but it was enough for a promising future. And enough to put a spark in Will's eyes that she hadn't seen in a long time.

"Ahh, so it doesn't just take the captain's invitation to fish to put a gleam in your eye?"

"Well, there's fishing.... and then there's fishing," Will grinned, wrapping his arms around her. "And you've definitely got a hook in me."

Deanna beamed with happiness. "Oh good, then I won't have any trouble reeling you in for your therapy sessions."

"Ohhhhh!" Will groaned, shaking his head at the unfairness of it all.


In the next weeks between his talks with the counselor, the medication and a better diet, Will's health and attitude improved drastically. He had gone fishing with Captain Picard and felt comfortable talking with him about the problems he'd had. The captain in return decided it was time to share some of his own feelings and fears he'd never shared with anyone but Counselor Troi or Dr. Crusher. Will genuinely appreciated the trust the captain had in him.

Deanna had gotten him to understand that locking in his negative feelings was the worst thing he could do. That nothing would be resolved until he talked and worked things out for himself. The hardest challenge he faced was talking with his father. After many an argument, Deanna finally convinced Will that he *had* to resolve his anger with Kyle if he ever wanted to feel free of his issues of abandonment. She had contacted Kyle to see if he would be willing to help his son to happily discover he was more than willing. He had been worried about Will since their last communication and had even begun seeing a therapist himself.

Deanna hadn't liked the elder Riker very much when she'd first met him and could understand Will's hesitancy. But when the man broke down in front of her over the video screen, very distraught over how he'd messed up Will's life, she felt such sadness over their lost years. She arranged a video meeting between the two for that evening and warned Kyle to expect some anger, but that Will would *try* to be civil.

Later, after watching the two men test the waters of their struggling relationship for a while, she slipped out to give them privacy. Going to her own quarters, she felt the need to call her mother. It took a few minutes to get through and when Lxwana's face showed up on the screen the older woman smiled broadly. ~Little One! How wonderful to see you! Does Jean Luc still miss me?~

Deanna had to chuckle at her brashness. The captain literally hid whenever her mother came aboard! ~Hello Mother. I just thought we could chat for a while. It's been a while since we've talked.~

~Oh, Deanna, you're a dear. I've missed you too.~ Her mother then got a secretive look in her eye. ~So is everything running smoothly over there? Everyone all right?~

Deanna thought her behavior a little strange, but shrugged it away. ~Well, Will was ill for a while, but he's getting over it.~

~Oh, that's wonderful to hear. I'm so relieved....~ At Deanna's open-mouthed, shocked expression, Lxwana realized what she'd let slip and winced.

"Mother!" Deanna cried out loud. "How did you know? How did you talk to him telepathically? He's not a telepath!"

Lxwana stuttered afraid her daughter would be angry for interfering. "Oh, I'm sorry, Little One. But between the two of you I could feel what was happening clear from here! I'm sorry if you thought I was butting in, but the poor boy–"

Deanna shook her head through happy tears. "No Mother. I'm very glad you butted-in. You saved his life!" She had never understood just how powerful her mother's abilities were and it amazed her.

Lxwana relaxed. ~I'm glad he's getting better. I knew you were the only one to help William.~ Then her smiled turned mischievous. ~And what about things *between* the two of you. Are they getting better?~

Sometimes Deanna loved her mother's impishness. ~Yes, Mother. That's getting better, too.~

Her mother clapped her hands in glee. ~Ooooh! When can I start planning a bridal shower?!~

Deanna turned red in embarrassment and swiped moisture from her cheeks.. ~Not quite yet. Give us some time.~

~Time! Time! Time!~ Lxwana hmmphd. ~Well, I've waited this long. I suppose I can wait a little longer.~

In all seriousness, Lxwana knew how bad Will had been and that he would need lots of time and she knew Deanna would be there and not let things be rushed.


Will went back to work refreshed and renewed. The captain was certainly glad to have him at his right side again. Only Will's close friends knew what had happened and gave him a party to welcome him back. Complete with cake and poker.

His counseling sessions with Deanna continued on a professional level once a week for a while longer. Will continued to talk with his father a few times a month if it was possible. He was surprised at the changes in Kyle. It turned out depression was a family trait that both men were now dealing with. He was discovering things about the man he never knew before, and was beginning to understand some of the decisions Kyle had made earlier in his life.

Will never again felt the need to hide out in the maintenance shaft.

In their personal relationship, Deanna and Will blossomed. Over time, they worked out the questions about career choices and possible problems they would face in transferring to new positions on new ships. Years ago, this would have been an issue neither one would bend on. Now they realized that their jobs should be secondary to their happiness. Not the other way around.

Years later, Will still thought about all the time they wasted and couldn't believe how stupid they'd been. With his pregnant Imzadi lying beside him on a ship he was in command of, he stared at her in the darkness and marveled at his luck and his love for her. In her ninth month of pregnancy with their first son, even with the weight she'd gained, she was still the most beautiful angel in the heavens.

He decided it was a waste of time thinking of the past and things he couldn't change. All that mattered was the here and now. He was going to be a father soon and the idea thrilled and terrified him at the same time. But he knew he'd get through it.

Will rolled over onto his side, spooned against his wife's back and laid his hand on her swollen belly. Seconds later he felt his son give a mighty kick. Deanna grunted in her sleep and pressed back against him.

~God, this is so good! Thank you!~ A tear escaped and slowly ran down his cheek, silver in the darkness. This was pure bliss!

He had no doubts everything would be just fine.

~The End~