Until Next Time

By Stephanie

Pretend there is a disclaimer here. Really, there is one. It is just in a very small font and also in invisible type.

(This story doesn't deal with Riker and Tro, but it does deal with Troi)



A cool, gentle breeze brushed against the tops of the trees causing deep green leaves to tumble loose from their branches and drift slowly to a new home on the ground. A wayward leaf decided to land in a soft bed of long dark curls. Slender fingers disentangled it from the flowing mane and let it drop to the grass. Large dark eyes, as dark as midnight, looked wistfully upward into the clear blue sky, watching snow-white clouds drift lazily towards the mountains in the distance. It was so beautiful here, so peaceful. She heaved a heavy sigh, wishing she could remain there forever.

The sound of laughter brought her out the dreamlike trance she had put herself in and drew her attention to the figure of a young woman who was standing before her. Ebony met ebony as one set of eyes met the other, drawing full-lipped mouths into heartwarming smiles. It was almost like looking into a mirror, the only subtle differences being that she had darker hair and was seven years younger, but no one could tell there was such an age gap when looking at the two.

Her "twin" continued to laugh. The laugh was contagious and soon she found herself joining in, one musical sound blending in with the other. She yearned to be that happy all the time, just like her. She always found such joy when she came to this place, to be with her.

She felt herself being pulled to her feet and before long found herself at a babbling brook. Still giggling like little girls, they kicked their shoes off and her double walked into the stream, a squeal escaping her lips, "Oohh! It is cold." Upon hearing that, she opted to sit on the edge and carefully stuck a dainty foot into the water.

"Oh come on! It isn't that bad once you get use to it!" The other woman exclaimed, splashing her.

Now soaking wet, she got up and jumped into the water. "You are asking for it!" The two began to splash each other, screaming and shrieking with laughter, becoming the two little girls that they were denied to be.

After awhile they grew tired and sat down side by side at the water's edge to rest, one sodden dark head resting against the other in a loving gesture. Her double began to tell her about her childhood, her handsome father and her eccentric mother, her baby sister whom she loved to help her mother take care of. She never got tired of hearing these stories.

"I use to sing to Little One just like Daddy did." A heavy sigh. "I wish I could have watched her grow up." Tears began to fill both pairs of obsidian. "She is a beautiful, independent young woman now. I know Daddy would be very proud of her."

Slightly off-key notes of "Down in the Valley" began to fill the air and she sang along too, in the same off-key, but soon found herself unable to continue when sobs overtook her, shaking her petite frame. The song continued as an arm was placed about her shoulders, pulling her into a warm and consoling embrace. The two sat for a long time, holding each other, both feeling the intense love that emanated from the other. They took that love and placed it deep inside their souls, inside their hearts, both weeping now for the lives that should have been, could have been, if only circumstances had been different. How could life be so cruel to deal such fates?

It was getting late, the time had just slipped by so quickly. The girls stood up and stretched, their clothes and thick long hair still damp from their little romp in the creek. Their tears long dried on their stained porcelain cheeks. Deanna turned to the other woman and took her hand into hers, clutching it tightly. She never wanted to let go. It was always so hard to leave.

"I have to get back." She was on the verge of tears again.

"I will always be here." Her "twin", also near tears, pulled her into a tight comforting hug. "And I will always love you, my dear sister."

A sob escaped Deanna's throat. "I will always love you, too," she managed to choke out.

The two women reluctantly released each other and looked into the others eyes. Deanna placed a kiss on the woman's wet cheek.

"Goodbye, dear Kestra. Until next time."

"Until next time, Deanna."

Wiping a hand across her damp eyes, Deanna glanced up to the sky and called out the command.

"Computer, end program."

She walked to the archway of the holodeck and glanced back to watch the image of her sister fade from her view. She made her way to her quarters. Once inside, she picked up a holopic in a frame from an end table and looked at it. Her identical image was smiling back up at her, only it was the face of a seven year old child.

"You would have grown up to be a beautiful, independent young woman," she whispered, her emotions getting the best of her again. She pressed the picture to her lips and kissed it, her tears making droplets on the glass. "I know Mother would be very proud of you."

Speaking of her mother, she hadn't chatted with Lwaxana in a long time. She asked the computer to establish a link with Betazed. In the meantime, she changed her clothes, then washed her face and reapplied her make-up.

When the computer announced the link had been completed, she quickly ran a brush through her long curls before sitting down in front of the vidcom. A large smile broke out over her face when the image of Lwaxana came over the screen.

"Hello Mother."

Lwaxana returned her daughter's infectious smile. "Hello, Little One. I have missed your messages."

"I know, Mother," Deanna said remorsefully. "I am very sorry. I have been so busy lately, but I decided to take some time to get in touch with you and tell you about my day."

"You visited Kestra again, didn't you?" She was never able to keep anything from her mother. She nodded in response and told her mother about her time with her long lost sister. "I will have to take you on that journey some time, Mother."

"I would love that very much," Lwaxana said. "That was so wonderful of you to create such a program, Little One."

"Well, I wish she was really here," Deanna sighed, tears threatening to overtake her again. "I wish Daddy was here, too."

Lwaxana sighed sadly, "I know, Baby, so do I."

Deanna decided to talk about other things, cheerful things, when she noticed that her mother was getting teary as well. They chatted a long time until Lwaxana said that Mr. Homn had prepared dinner and she had to go.

"Don't take so long to get in touch with me again," she demanded in a firm, but gentle voice.

"Okay, Mother," Deanna replied. "I promise."

"I love you, Little One." Lwaxana blew a kiss to her daughter.

Deanna blew a kiss back. "I love you too, Mother.

"Goodbye dear Deanna. Until next time," the image of her mother called out before it disappeared.

Deanna sat staring at the blank screen, a sad smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

"Until next time," she whispered.