Love, soft as an easy chair,

Love fresh as the morning air.

One love that is shared by two

I have found with you....

Time can't change the meaning of

One love.

Ageless and ever,


--Barbra Streisand--

Chapter 1

Haggard. It had never been a word he would have associated with
Deanna. He expected she would have aged, of course. But nothing
prepared him for the grey-faced wraith she had become. "Welcome home
Imzadi." she croaked through the ridiculously ornate door she cracked
open to welcome him to her mother's house. "Who is it Dena?" A young
man with curling black hair gently nudged his way into the doorway.
The man was a stranger to Will, but as he bristled with an unspoken
challenge, it was obvious he knew Riker. "What do you want?" he
snarled. "Come to gloat?"

Deanna turned and snapped- "Barin! Enough! Will is always welcome
here." Barin? Her brother? But he had died of plague and starvation
during the occupation of Betazed. Years ago. The truth slowly dawned
on him. By changing the timeline so that Deanna lived, he had allowed
her to save lives in turn. Betazed itself was far less ravaged than
the Betazed he visited for Lwaxana's deathbed accusation. It was like
a wonderful river. Her goodness and life flowed in who knew how many
directions, spreading hope and light.

Caught up in his reveries, he reached out and embraced the younger
Troi. "Barin!" he exclaimed, "You don't know how good
it is to see you." Barin disentangled himself from Will's arms ad
studied him with his black eyes. Riker recognized that icy snap. He
had thought of it as the 'Betazoid Death Glare' on the few
frightening occasions when Deanna had fixed it on him. On her
brother, it seemed downright menancing.

"Darlings?" A familiar shrill voice called from the cavern-like space
of the grand foyer. Barin and Deanna stepped aside to allow the great
lady access to their visitor. The sight of the older, still
magnificent, woman somehow gave him great joy. This was not the
broken spinster, dying without the comfort of her children. This
was 'The Lwaxana', the grande dame herself. He strode forward and
caught the woman up in a gentle bear-hug, then leaned back and beamed
his devilish smile, twinkling blue eyes and all.

She gazed at his face for a moment, 'reading him'. Her crinkled eyes
snapped open in amazement. She grasped his elbow and hauled him
through a door to the left. "Captain Riker and I shall be in the
study. We are not to be disturbed."

She perched herself on the edge of one of the gilt chairs and
quickly assessed the situation. Despite her flighty affectations, she
possessed a rare intelligence. The years had only seemed to have
honed her wits. "So Mr. Riker, you have been playing games with time.
I take it you won?"

He pulled in a deep breath and responded, "Deanna is alive now, so I
would say yes, I won."

Chapter 2

Lwaxana quickly reviewed the past few decades for Will. She had
almost as good a grasp of alternate timelines as Data. Speaking of
which, he soon grew to regret not familiarizing himself with the new
history as they had traveled to Betazed, per Data's computer upload.

"Despite the advice of your older self, you didn't learn Will. You
accepted the captaincy of a deep-space exploratory vessel, 'The
Caruso'. Deanna refused to go with you unless it was as your wife.
You weren't ready for the commitment. She always told me you parted
as friends. Five years is a long time. She fell in love with someone
else. A friend who was ready to commit. They were very happy."

Will absorbed the news slowly, tears rose unbidden to his
eyes. "She's married? Oh God! How could I have been such a fool? A
coward. I loved her so, I sill do. Now it's all so wrong." The truth
was part of him was not surprised. A little voice inside of him
had always questioned why she had tolerated his wavering for so long.

"Lwaxana, she looks terrible. What the hell happened?" The woman lay
her hand on his arm as if to console him before she broke his heart
again. "I'm sorry Will, there's no way you could have known. Jean-
Luc..just yesterday..he died."

His mind whirled. Jean-Luc Picard? That aristocratic diplomat with
the instincts of a street-fighter? He had escaped death so many
times. What force of nature could possibly kill that indomitable man?
He forgot that he sat with a telepath. "It was a neurological
disease. Rare. Untreatable. Mercifully quick. In the end he knew
nobody. You wouldn't have wanted to see him that way. I'm sorry she
had to..."

He searched the room for a focal point to center himself as his
Imzadi had taught hm so long ago. Navy- blue. The entire room was
draped in the color, from the mirrors to the table they sat at. Even
down to the dark blue veil which clung to her graying hair like wet
grass after a thunderstorm. Betazoid women only wore veils when in
mourning. Everything was the color of Betazoid mourning. "I know you
loved him too, but isn't mourning usually reserved for family
members?" Lwaxana stifled a sob as a tear rolled down the stately
bridge of her nose. She pensively fingered the dark-blue dropcloth as
she replied, "He wasn't just her captain Will..." "What the hell are
you saying?" he gasped. "He wasn't just her captain, he was her

Chapter 3   

Emotions which ran the gamut from fury to despair josted for control
of his mind. Overwhelmed, Lwaxana put up her shields and stated a few
facts. "Your time on the Caruso was productive. You advanced rapidly
in Starfleet and became the youngest admiral in its history."

"What about Beverly?" he asked in a strangled rasp. "She was killed
in a shuttlecraft accident shortly after you left for your new assignment. I
suspect their shared grief helped bring them together. Will, if you
could have seen how they were together... They made each other

The still- burly man lay his face in his arms and sobbed. " How could
I have been such a fool?  Things could have been so different." The elder

 woman touched his graying head softly, "Isn't part of loving someone wishing 

them joy Will Riker? Even if they find that joy with someone else?" "I'm not that evolved." 

Will sniffed. "Then get there!" she hissed, "Deanna needs a friend now. Not a spurned 

suitor. If you care for her, get a grip and rise to the occasion. Help her Will. She's 

nearly lost this battle. I'm afraid for her." He barely had time to acknowledge the fear 

and desperation in her voice, when they were interrupted by a rap at the door.

Many hours had passed since they had secreted themselves away in the
room. Deanna entered, carrying a tray bearing fruit and tea. Riker
noticed she was far too thin. The tendons of her arms flexed like
wires beneath the translucent skin of her arms, as she placed the
platter on the table before them. Will turned his reddened eyes
toward her and pulled out a vacant chair. His faint smile welcomed
her to join their sorrowful party. She released a sad little sigh as
she sank into the seat wearily. Her hair was still jet black, yet
dulled by the veil which clung to her head and shoulders, shadowing
her drawn face.

"I'm so sorry Deanna..." he began. Her eyes were distant and vague as
though the blue veil of mourning covered them as well. She bowed her
head a bit and closed her lids as though the effort of keeping them
open had become too much trouble. "You should eat." Lwaxana chided.
Deanna slumped slowly into the chair and responded, "I ate already
Mother." "When? Last week?" the older woman snapped as she tried to
force a strip of red vegetable into her fingers.

The door chimes suddenly rang out in a happy cacophany. There was a
soft, rapid clatter of feet and a squeal of joy. Deanna looked up,
and for the first time that day, seemed alive. A tiny child in a
frilly, dark blue dress scampered into her lap. She gazed at Will in
silent contemplation. "Say hello to my friend, Will Riker" Deanna
said. The child was breath-taking. About four years old. Her curly
black hair fought it's way out of once-neat braids. She ran to the
man and tipped her head as she extended her hand in greeting. She was
all Deanna with her heart-shaped face and large black eyes. He almost
jumped at the echo of Jean-Luc as she gave him a Picardesque gaze and
solemnly announced "It is good to meet you Will Riker." Deanna gave
him a proud smile, "This is my daughter Will, Luca Picard."

Chapter 4

The meandering waves lapped lazily up the beach, spreading in foamy
fingers which stretched out to tickle the bare feet of the former
crew of the Enterprise. Typically, only Worf had insisted on wearing
his uniform still. Solemn and stoic as ever, it had been surprising
that he had even agreed to accompany the group on this trip to the
small Mexican island that Geordi and Leah had made their home.

The ceremony had been pure Starfleet. Deanna had worn her uniform and
the blue veil tucked back into her collar. The endless lines of
dignitaries and officers with their condolences had taken a visible
toll. The speeches and tributes were heartfelt. It had been a worthy
farewell to great man. It had taken much convincing by Riker to
persuade Deanna to join them in Mexico. Luca had proven to be his
trump card. Troi finally agreed to leave the estate to the lawyers
for now. She did not want Luca to associate her father's home with
his funeral. They would return someday in happier times.

The far-away smile which crept across her lips as she watched her
daughter run with the crew's children and grandchildren further up
the beach, reassured Riker he had been right to convince her to come.
They all walked along in silence. Sounds of a mariachi band in the
village drifted along through the palm trees. The flowers of the
jungle around them released their opiate scents. It was a good place
to heal and rest.

The brilliant tropical sunset gave way to the velvet blackness of a
sky free of streetlights. The stars seemed close here, almost like
their old home in space, among them. They settled on the tiled patio,
recalling their adventures through the years. The children gathered
on the periphery, listening to the familiar tales which still proved
amazing after so many tellings.

The universe was still a scary place. None of them believed it would
ever be completely safe. Years of dealing with the Dominion, the
Borg, and all the other threats they had defeated over the years, had
killed that naivete in them all. It was not ego or arrogance. Merely
the wish to believe that their sacrifices had made things better,
more just, even in some small way. This hope caused them to sit in
the dark and remember their victories. And their losses. The ghost of
those no longer there seemed very near. Tasha. Beverly. Jean-Luc. To
remember them was to keep them alive.

Geordi's call from the house beckoned them to the large den. " I have
a surprise!" he sang as Leah distributed glasses of iced tea to the
group arranging themselves on the spacious sofas. Leah and Geordi had
been married for many years. Their happy marriage had produced many
children and important research which they continued in their lab
next door. Technological advances had created internal optical
implants which gave him a normal appearance. The now-defunct VISOR
sat in a place of honor beneath a glass cover.

Geordi slipped a disk into the viewer and images of the crew from
long ago popped up on the screen, draped across the front of the
room. Geordi had chosen carefully for this montage. Nothing too
emotional. Just little vignettes of how their lives had been. There
was Dr. Crusher tap-dancing at the Captain's birthday party. Data
played with Spot and her kittens. Deanna, in a very short dress, danced

 closely with a visiting diplomat. Riker and worf sat glowering
at the bar as the couple's laughter rose over the music. "Mummy! Is
that you? Why don't you wear that dress anymore?" Luca prodded.
Deanna gazed at her younger self flashing way too much leg, rolled
her eyes and responded drolly, "I think it might fit you better

The disk finished with a scene of Jean-Luc playing his little flute.
It's haunting melody seemed to hang in the air long after the picture
stopped and the room lights came up. At Leah's suggestion, Data
called the children into the kitchen for ice-cream. He was a favorite
with kids. They listened with interest as he explained that the
LaForge's cat, Spot 14, was so named as he was a 14th generation
descendent of the original Spot from the film they had just seen.

Eventually talk turned to poker. Someone produced a deck of cards.
Deanna tried to beg off. "I haven't played in years." she protested.
The others prevailed however, and she found herself playing with
golden cards. She won hand after hand. The men postured and teased as
she took their chips again and again. Trickles of laughter escaped
her dry lips. Her head shook in mirth, causing the blue veil to slide
away from her face, her curly hair freed itself from the stiff bun at
the back of her neck, forming a fuzzy halo around her face.

Will stole a glance from time to time. As the night grew into morning
she seemed to slide back through time. That throaty laugh. God he had
missed it. It hurt to see her pain. It hurt that she mourned for a
lost love that wasn't him. But nothing hurt like the agony when he
had lost her for all those years. Lwaxana's words came back to him.
It was so right that she had known joy and love. He would have given
every credit he had ever earned just to see her continue to smile
like that. She hardly looked any older than she had the day he first
saw her when she laughed.

One by one the players excused themselves and retired for the night.
He followed to the large nursery where they found her look-alike
daughter sound asleep, sprawled across Data's lap. At Deanna's
gesture, the android carefully placed her on a vacant bed. She waded
through the children scattered across the floor in sleeping bags, to
her child. Luca smiled and murmured something, as her mother covered
her, kissed her, and whispered a blessing in Betazoid.

Outside the nursery, Will turned to her, "Tired?" "Always" she
smiled "But what did you have in mind?" "I thought it would be fun to
watch the sun come up with an old friend." She hesitated for a
moment, unsure. Riker emanated waves of care and friendship, her
empathic mind gave in. "Why not, but who are you calling old?"

Chapter 5

They negotiated the path to the beach without problems by the light
of the full moon. The white sandy beach seemed to glow in the
reflected rays of their sun. Will sat with his back against a palm
tree and she leaned back into his arms. It was not a lover's pose.
Just two close friends. He told her stories. Terran folktales about
the moon. She laughed at the associations between the moon and
insanity. Then she was quiet. For nearly an hour they sat like that.
Silent. He focused on the roar of the surf. The scent of the wind as
it ruffled through her lightly perfumed hair. The way the moonlight
made her small hands glow.

"Do you remember that time on Betazed, when we first met, when I had
you lay naked with me in the grass and insisted you not think about
sex?" Will groaned aloud. "One is never likely to forget a torture
such as that." Her shoulders shook. My God, was she giggling? "Well I
have a confession to make." she sputtered, "It had no therapeutic
value whatsoever. I was just testing you." Will replied evenly, " I
know Deanna." She spun to face him, her eyes wide with surprise, "How
long have you known?" He stroked his beard contemplatively "Ah about
50 years or so give or take..." She shook his shoulders playfully.
Her breath was warm on his face, a sparkle of life lurked somewhere
deep in those inky eyes. Those eyes were very close. She blinked in
surprise, gave him a playful shove back onto the sand and ran off
down the beach, knowing he would chase her.

They played tag, kicking the sand and cool water at each other. After
a time they returned to the tall palm, sweaty and happy. "I am going
to tell you this Will, but I never want to speak of it again. Ok? Let
me tell you and let it die. Can you do this for me? Be my friend?" He
hugged her from behind, like a brother or a father might. She leaned
back into his wide shoulders and began her tale.

"It started as a twitch. One day he couldn't stop his hand from
twitching. It took two weeks for the neurologists to make a
diagnosis. By that time he was unable to walk. Soon he couldn't
speak. Mother could read him though. One day he told her not to let
me come back to the hospice again. I honored his wishes. He died
three months later. Mother would still visit him. She said at the end
he knew nobody. He left me a letter with all kinds of instructions.
He dictated to a nurse while he could still speak." Riker opted to
ignore the little catch in her voice, waiting silently until she
collected herself, and continued. "He wanted me to be happy, he
always did, you know. He gave me permission to live my life any way I
wanted to when he was gone. Oh Will! I miss him so. I don't know how
to live my life anymore. I want to forget all the past few months.
The doctors, the pitying faces of my family and friends. Is it wrong
for me to want to think about something else?"

She was so small and thin it was like holding Luca. She sobbed and
choked, went quiet, then erupted again in waves of grief and misery.
Her otherwise wordless moans were punctuated with gasps of 'why?'
and 'how can I?'. Eventually she was still. She turned, still in his
arms just as the sun peeked over the azure horizon of the sea. Her
body relaxed as they finally rose from the sand to return to the
house. She leaned over and gave him a soft kiss on the lower corner
of his mouth. It was not sexy. Nor was it chaste. It just
was. "Strange little Betazoid." he muttered as he threw his arm
around her shoulder and headed toward Casa LaForge.

Lwaxana's voice preceded her as she headed down the hill toward the
couple. Somehow her surprise trip to the house was no surprise to
Will. She gazed at Riker approvingly. "You finally cried Deanna. Now
you can begin to heal."

Chapter 6

Will and Deanna elected to skip breakfast and headed straight to bed.
Their own beds. Lwaxana tucked Deanna in as though she were still a
small child. Riker crashed gratefully in the bed prepared for him in
the room he shared with Data and Worf. They slept the cathartic sleep
of those who had spent time in hell and were just seeing the first
light of salvation. If they dreamt, neither remembered it. Deanna
slept on deep into the evening. Riker's rest was disturbed by the
peculiar sensation of having deckplates dropped repeatedly on his

The reality was smaller than a deckplate but larger than a toaster.
It was Luca. "Want to play with me Will Riker?" she asked through
charcoal-lashed eyes. Insanely he recalled Deanna once saying the
exact same words with a very different meaning. He struggled to sit
up despite the child comfortably (for her) straddling his
stomach. "You're so big." she giggled, "I bet you'd make a good
horse" and proceeded to spur him with her sharp little heels.

Will extricated himself and left for the bathroom down the hall. When
he left the bath he found Luca waiting patiently in the hall. He had
once been good with children. Even dreamed of having one of his own,
with Deanna. But years locked away in emotional exile had made him
question whether he could relate to children on any level. Especially
this little bundle of light and energy called Luca. She sensed his
uncertainty. The flower-like smile transformed into a sad
little 'O'. "Don't you you like me?" she whispered, misery teetering
behind those obsidian eyes.

The sight of this tragic angel overcame his fears. He knelt down to
her eye-level and gave her a gentle hug. "Of course I like you. Let's
ask your grandmother if we can have an adventure? Geordi has a canoe
out back he said I could borrow. I used to be good with
those." "Really!" she squealed with delight and grabbed his hand. A
worried joy overtook him as he glanced at her joyous jig. She sang a made-
up song about canoes in her funny Betazoid accent as she led him down the
tiled stairs toward her grandmother. Why could he not resist these
black-eyed girls?

Lwaxana was at her bedside the moment her daughter stirred. She
draped her in a soft white robe and led out to the balcony off her
room which overlooked the harbor. "Mmmmm" she yawned, "Mother I'm
hungry." The older woman ran as though ablaze. Deanna hadn't been
hungry in months. Finding no one about the kitchen, Lwaxana, for the
first time in her life, prepared a meal. Despite the fact that the
replicator did the bulk of the work, Lwaxana set the tray before her
daughter with the pride of a five-star chef.
Deanna nibbled at cheese and fruit then finished her second glass of
juice."What is this? It's wonderful." "They call it papaya, I thought
you'd like it." The younger woman playfully raised her glass in
salute. "I think it is my new favorite. By the way, where's Luca? "

As though on cue, the little canoe approached the harbor. Luca stood
up shouting and waving until the little craft tipped. Lwaxana stood
aghast, clutching her hand to her throat and struggling to breathe.
Ever since Kestra's drowning she had a morbid fear of anything deeper
than a mudbath. "Mother it's all right she's with Will. He's an
excellent swimmer." Lwaxana averted her eyes from the scene of Will
carrying the giggling child up the beach. "Well of course he is.
Otherwise I never would have let her go." As they approached Deanna
spied the two lifejackets she had tied to the child, she raised her
eyebrow in silent enquiry. "Well, one can never be too careful..."
her mother defended.

Luca ran to her mother, the towel Will had wrapped around her sodden
form, nearly on the floor. Lwaxana took her away for bed after many
tears and promises from Riker of more fun tomorrow. Deanna gazed at
him and teased, "Still breaking hearts I see Mr. Riker." The joke
sounded different once said. He smiled a bit sadly and replied, "I
have decided not to break hearts anymore. I want to heal hearts,
specifically one heart. I want to share one heart with someone. I
know it may take a long time but I'm willing to wait. What do you
say. Is there a chance. Someday? You are my best friend you know. I
really want to see you happy."

He looked across the table and found what he sought. That spark of
life. It was hiding but it was there. He considered the power of
those inky eyes and the soul that lived behind them. That spirit
which had given him strength for years, the power to pursue what was
right and good. Being deprived of her light had cast him so low he
had lost sight of any kind of joy at all in this life. She was his
meaning. It had taken half a century, but he had finally figured it
out. They touched souls for a moment as their hands reached across
the table and joined. It was only a moment but it was eternity. It
was Sickbay, Jalara, Angel Falls, Mexico. It was them. It was real.

Her voice was steady now. He resisted the urge to close his eyes and
fall into it's hypnotic cadence. "Will, Jean- Luc knew. I would never
have betrayed my marriage vows, but he knew. You asked me once if I
believed in love at first sight...but what we had was love at first
touch. You were a young brash Starfleet officer who reached out to
touch a young girl who thought she had all the answers. You gave me
nothing but questions Will. Those questions confused me but
eventually gave me the road to true knowledge. Of myself. My
potential. I have loved you since Chandra's wedding. But my love has
been a seed waiting for the sun. I need time. A year. I need to heal
and find myself again. We'll write, subspace, I don't care. Give me a
year and I'll give you an answer. That seed deserves a chance to grow
up right. Am I making any sense?

He rose and stood beside her, lifted her hand to his lips and
answered. "A year. Rabeem Imzadi."

Chapter 7

"What kind of confusing mess is this alternate timeline crap?" Will
muttered to himself as he shuffled the PADDs on his desk. According
to the Starfleet database he was Dean of Covert Operations Training
at Starfleet Academy. He couldn't get into the most basic of his
files, as none of the passwords he had ever used worked. His voice
and retinal patterns only went so far. He was sick of people telling
him how -bad, tired, depressed, (ad nauseum) he looked. The school
was on summer break so his presence wasn't really even required at
this time. After a few hours he just tossed the contents of his desk
like a salad then stormed out the door in disgust.

He steamed along the pristine campus, squinting away from the noon-day
sun. A pair of cadets on campus for orientation snapped to attention.
He returned their salutes half-heartedly. "When did Starfleet start
recruiting children?" he muttered , feeling all of his 74 years. The
address on his credentials listed a posh apartment building five
blocks from the edge of campus. The key he had found in his desk fit
his alleged front door. He breathed a sigh of relief until he took a
good look at his 'bachelor pad'.

"What the hell?" he exclaimed as he touched a recessed button which
dimmed the lights and played slow and steamy jazz at just the right
level for a seduction scene. "Whoa Willie-boy! What have you been up
to?" he whistled through his teeth as he toured his 'digs'. The rooms
were perfectly decorated to someone else's tastes. Framed, very
expensive prints of flowers and medieval castles. Was that a Klingon
ceremonial sword mounted over the glass fireplace? The bedroom was
dominated by an enormous round bed and a sunken jacuzzi in the
adjoining bathroom.

His den, interestingly, required his retinal scan to unlock the door.
It was the only room which even remotely felt familiar. The walls
were covered with humanoid (mostly)-type women (He didn't want to
know about that grinning female Ferengi!). Most of the portraits were
decorated with hand-writen messages, and some lipstick prints. "WOW!"
he whispered, viewing the evidence of his conquests.

His desk held old -fashioned paper journals and a little album of photographs of
Deanna. Through the years, from nearly a teen back on Betazed, to
quite recently. He gasped at the shot of her standing on some rocky
hill, her eyes dancing, her red, slightly open mouth, as she laughed,
that frilly flowered sundress floating about her knees. It was so her, so lovely. 

Maybe he hadn't been as stupid as he thought.


"It's lovely, I'll take it." Deanna took a deep breath and breathed
in the joy and anxiety of purchasing her first home. Her very own home. 

Not Jean-Luc's and hers. Not the family home passed down from generation

to generation. Not a starship in space. Her home. It even had a Terran-style

garden with lemon trees, lilacs, roses, and grapevines. The lake shone nearby in the

late-afternoon light. Luca took her hand and beamed "I love it Mummy. 
Can I have a puppy?" She leaned over to kiss the child's ivory cheek. "We'll see. 

I think we'll be very happy here. Yes this is a good place. " Luca raced about the

patioed garden and squealed "I can't wait to show Will Riker!" Deanna smiled to 

herself and thought "neither can I, little love, neither can I?"

Chapter 8

Will shuffled through the contents of his desk- the heart of his
home. Evidently he still preferred the stability of old-fashioned
paper and pen to PADDs. He found an envelope of AV disks, dated
chronologically from his time in the Academy to the present. He
chose one labeled "Betazed", slipped it into the slot and hit `play'.
He laughed aloud at a young Deanna Troi walking across the campus at
Betazed U. in a tight red skirt, glancing slyly over her shoulder,
then snubbing both him and the camera, which recorded her sashay. He
fast forwarded to her tearful face after she had turned him away
from her house. It still stung. He waited for four hours in the
shrubs next door to film what he believed was the last glance of her
face ever, before he left Betazed.

He found another disk "Enterprise I." He laughed at the new crew's
awkwardness with each other. Why had she worn her hair that way the
first year? 'More professional' she had told him. In the videos of
the years which followed, she freed her hair and her spirit. Funny
how she could make that standard uniform a come-on. He remembered
these disks taken before the time of the Sindareen Peace Treaty.
Before he had played with time. He needed to know about his life now.
To catch up with the present. He had very little time to become the
Will Riker of today.

He found a disk labeled "It Hits the Fan". The title intrigued him
so he slipped it in . It was dated two years after the Sindareen
mess. She sat serenely in a dark green gown ( rather modest by her
former taste) her hands were folded neatly in her lap as she voiced
the words in her eloquent voice .  "Will I have fallen love with someone else and I
am getting married." Perhaps it was the masochist in him, but he had
preserved all the subsequent messages from her. The endless
explanations. Those huge black eyes seeking his approval (and
forgiveness?) so many years ago. Finally the clips of he and Worf
sitting at the bar, chasing shots, and glaring at the oblivious, happy
couple, at their wedding.

Christ, he was only human! He had feelings too. He wept as he watched
snippets of their happy lives interspersed with his own mundane
vacations with a never-ending stream of nubile females. He froze a
frame of Deanna and Luca singing French Christmas carols in Paris.
It was dated one year prior, Jean-Luc was not yet ill. He had
probably filmed this. His two girls wearing red and white Santa hats
and being silly. The huge snowflakes were turning their dark hair
white. The Eiffel Tower twinkled behind them, dressed up in Christmas
lights. God she still looked about thirty, if that. It was a far cry
from the starving matron he had just left. He guessed grief just did
that to people. He had just printed the still and slipped it into
a frame, displacing his cocky grimace onto the floor, when the door

He had no idea who would be visiting at this hour, but he assumed it
must be important. Old habits died hard for a former Starfleet
captain. He did not expect to greet the sight of a very angry Barin
shouting "Flexita dratsab Riker!", the only obscenity in Betazed. He
did not allow the parameters of his native tongue to limit him
however. He continued to curse Will , borrowing from Cardassian,
Ferengi, even good old Standard. "Hmm " his host considered , "Must
have gotten the same language gene as Deanna. He's pretty fluent."
The bearded older man regarded his guest calmly, "Won't you come in
and have a drink."


"Luca, drink your milk." Deanna said quietly. "Not until you pour one
for Papa." the child pouted. Her mother mimed pouring  an imaginary
glass of milk. "Papa is real! He wants real milk!" the child
demanded. The woman gazed at her daughter, perplexed. Finally she
gave in and poured another glass of milk and set at the empty place
at the head of the table where he had always sat. Luca drank her milk
and her mother wept.Had losing her own father ever been this
difficult? She left her meal untouched and began to wash the dishes.
Out of the corner of her eye she watched the dark-haired child laugh
and play with an imaginary father. Lwaxana was right. Luca needed a
counselor. This was too close for her to handle by herself. A
shockwave of psychic energy startled the woman. She grasped the
counter for balance as the angry child marched toward her and
projected into her head <I do not need a counselor Mummy. Grandma is
wrong. I just need a puppy. And Papa to come home.>

Deanna stepped into the pristine garden and raised every shield she
had. "Gods what is happening? She should never have been able to do
that. She was only one quarter Betazoid. A child. Able to read and
project like that?" Her frantic thoughts turned to the tragedies of
others with these abilities found when they were too young. A part
of herself which she hated, even felt envy that her child should
possess what she herself would never comprehend. It was a thing which
had set her apart from her people since puberty.. That burning
deficiency which made her never truly belong…No! This was not about
her it was about her precious child. She projected a wave of love to
the girl. Tomorrow she would find help for her daughter.

She thought of Will and called out. He was too far to hear. She felt
alone in her world and despite her best efforts, she wept.

Chapter 9

As the melodious twittering of Betazoid birds called her back to
consciousness, she remembered something Will had once told her. It was
a quote from an ancient Terran religion. "Tears are for the night but
joy comes in the morning." Something like that. As she breathed in
the dawn of her homeworld, it seemed true. This woman who had faced
down death numerous times gave herself a mental pat on the back.
Surely she would be able to face this as well.

Her early morning musings were disrupted by her daughter's happy
laughter. "Mummy I dressed myself." Deanna stifled a smile as Luca
modeled her unusual combination of high-heeled shoes, red woolen
stockings, pink flowered shorts and her mother's too-
large 'Disneyland' tee-shirt. "Hmm. Very original, but I don't think
Betazed is ready for such bold fashion statements yet." After much
cajoling, Luca modified her look to a more mundane shorts and shirt
ensemble, sat contentendly at the kitchen table, and nibbled at
her breakfast.

The University was a pleasant walk past the tree-lined avenues of
their comfortable neighborhood. Betazoids tended to prefer spacious
homes and properties. In a world where poverty was unknown, comfort
was the rule, rather than the exception. Their telepathic
propensities caused them to value privacy. Geographic distance led to
emotional closeness, or so went the common wisdom. Friendly neighbors called
out morning greetings. Deanna felt their good wishes and friendly
interest in the Starfleet widow and her daughter who had come home to
roost. Surely in a world such as this all hurts could be healed. She
would hold this thought for the future when the going got tough again
as it surely would.

Dr.Kaxa Vronis was a an old friend of Deanna's from her days as a
Psychology student. She was widely known on her planet as a leading
expert in childhood psychic disorders. Her gentle round face beamed
with genuine pleasure as she greeted her old friend. She took Luca's
hand and smiled "It is so good to meet you Luca. Your mother tells me
you have travelled quite a bit. I have never left Betazed. I would
like very much to hear of your travels if you wouldn't mind." They
walked off hand-in-hand, Luca happily relating a tale of one her many
adventures. Deanna watched them walk away, basking in the comfort,
consolation, and confidence, her friend projected back at her.


Meanwhile many lightyears away....

Barin awoke first. "Gods! What did he do? Drug me?" The ticking
grandfather clock seemed to bore through his skull as he searched for
the bathroom from his perch on the couch. Had Will actually thrown a
blanket over him? He stared at the can of liquid he had drunk the
night before, 'beer'? Must have alcohol in it. Well to be fair he
hadn't asked. But damn it, Riker had known he couldn't tolerate
alcohol. What was with that guy? He didn't seem to remember anything.
He didn't even seem the same person anymore. Where was the cocky
womanizing cretin he had known all his life? This was like a new Riker. He could
almost like the guy. A wave of nausea cut short his musings as the
stench of frying eggs wafted up from the kitchen.

Sheepishly he faced the man he vaguely remembered blasting the night
before. His bearded host seemed to hold no grudge as he doled out
eggs and toast. "Gee Barin, I had no idea one beer would whack you
out like that, sorry." Barin played with his toast and muttered "Warp-
lag, forget it." They stewed over cups of tea as Riker turned to the
younger man and said "Barin, have you got a few hours, I think we
need to have a talk...."

Several hours and four pots of tea later, Barin stared dumbfounded at
Riker and sputtered,"So you actually changed time?" "No I just fixed
it. I put it back to where it was supposed to be." Riker had made the
decision not reveal his tale unless absolutely necessary. If he
wanted a future with Deanna it seemed making peace with her over-
protective brother was crucial. "Ss-so Deanna died? What happened to
Betazed? She was so important in it's liberation?" Will sighed
sadly, "It was liberated years later. Half-destroyed, polluted,
millions dead." Barin shook his curly head in dismay, "What about
Mother, me?" Will averted his eyes,"Your mother survived, barely. You

It was too much to absorb. Barin held his head in his hands and
muttered sarcastically, "So what do you want me to say? Thank-you for
saving my family and my homeworld? Thanks." Will paced the room and
replied "I guess I was hoping we could start over, hell maybe even be
friends.Your sister is the best friend I ever had. You love her. So
do I. It makes sense. It would make her happy. That's what I want
don't you?" He stood to face Riker "There's a lot of bad blood
between us you don't know about. It won't be that easy." He studied the
taller man carefully, "Riker, would you be willing to walk away if
that was what it took to make her happy?" He considered the question,
it was one he had asked himself, frequently. He looked the shorter
man in the eye and responded with candor, "I hope so.I would try."
Barin shook his hand, a tentative smile on his lips, "Then so shall
I. "

Chapter 10

She slunk with cat-like grace into the darkened room. Something
slick. "Ackk!" she screeched, falling into the sunken jacuzzi. Will
sat up like a shot, snapping on the bedside lamp which shone like a
beacon on the small wet brunette immmersed in his bathroom
fixture. "Deanna?" he muttered incredulously. "Yes, it's me " she
grumbled, shaking her sodden cuffs. He rose from the bed to help her
out of the tub "It's not that I'm not glad to see you..." She
smirked, purposefully staring straight ahead, at him, "I can see
you're glad to see me. Oh damn! He always slept in the nude, his body
had a mind of it's own and was giving her plenty to feast her eyes

He grabbed a towel and strategically wrapped his waist while offering
his hand to the dripping woman. She rose from the bath like a 24th
century Venus. Standing on the mosaic tile edge, she slowly removed
her soaking clothes, never once breaking eye contact with the stunned
man. She stood before him vulnerable. Offering. Her left hand reached
out and began to stoke his arm with a touch so light it was barely
making contact.

He looked at her face in the dim light, studying the pattern of those
red, almost bloody lips. "Deanna, how? Why?..." She paced a finger
over his burning mouth. "Never mind. We always ruin things by
talking." With amazing strength for her tiny form she pushed him back
onto the bed. He  barely caught his breath from the body slam when
she was on him. She lay full length atop his body. Her curves molded
into his angles. Soft hairless skin against his furred form. They lay
like that forever. Drinking in each other's scents. Tasting lips.
Eyes huge and black, brilliant blue. Mixing. Silently.

"Deanna!" he growled. Control was gone. He flipped her onto her back.
Her protest was purely for show. His hands possessed hers, over her
head. She gave him the power. He dove into her. Lightning. Anguish.
Their fevered calls of love denied. Forty years was nothing next to
eternity. His mouth found her neck. Her nails found his back.
Longing.Anger. Fury. But also tenderness. Understanding. Affection.
And love. They joined as one puffing, squirming, four-legged animal.
Rising and struggling until... A rainbow. Together. They floated back
to earth. He released the chunk of hair he had grasped in his agony.
His index finger turned her cheek to face him. She wiped the tears
from his nose. Their minds joined <Imzadi>.

Chapter 11

"CLUMP!" It was the sound of a small, hard object (a shoe?) hitting
his bedroom door. The sound pulled him back to reality, transforming the
mass of Deanna's hair  back into his crumpled bed-coverings.
Beyond the door, Barin's irritated voice demanded "How the hell can I
sleep with you in there dreaming about Deanna like that? She is my
sister for the Gods' sake!" A dream. It was so real. But it was just
a dream.

He checked the clock beside his bed. The red digital display seemed
to mock him as it blinked 5:30 a.m.. Another long day. He was trying
to put his slacker habits behind him. Years of grief and bitter
indifference had led to a lifestyle based upon ennui. He need to put
that life behind if he was to start  over. He renewed his vow to make the most of this second chance.

He showered slowly, luxuriating in the warm water and the familiarity
of real, brand-name, earth soap. He had used the same kind since
childhood but the replicated version was never quite the same as what was
sold in any convenience store here on Earth. The white trail of
bubbles trickled down his body, swirled in little whirlpools, then
disappeared down the drain. It was a metaphor for his new life. Wash
away the dirt, start again clean and fresh.

He scrubbed himself dry with the large bath sheet then caught a
glimpse of himself in the mirror. He had not aged badly but he had
aged. His hair was more dusty gray now than brown. Even his beard was
losing the battle of pigment loss which heralded old age in humans.
His muscles had become flabby, wasted. Didn't care much for that
stoop to his shoulders either. He thrust his shoulders back and
assumed a military posture. "That's better." he thought with
satisfaction as he regarded his reflection in the mirror. Will
assured himself it was not vanity. He would command more respect from
his cadets if he was in better shape. Maybe have just a bit of rejuv
treatments done. In the back of his mind he couldn't help but think
it would be nice to shave off a few years before he met Deanna again.

Barin was lacing up his running shoes near the front door . "Care to
join me for a run Romeo?" he called out casually. To both men's
surprise Riker answered in the affirmative and shortly both men were
off at good clip down the road toward  campus.


The counselor's reports were full of good news. Luca was experiencing
stress-related increases in her telepathic abilities. Some harmless
neural inhibitors, counseling, and training in controlling her
abilities, would ensure a normal development. Part of her daughter's
healing required Deanna to attend her own counseling sessions as
well. She found a gifted young man named Bergan Smith. Like her, he
was half human, half Betazoid. Also like her, he was empathic, not
telepathic. They found a quick rapport and settled into  pleasant
and productive weekly sessions.

Part of her therapy was to express her feelings in writing. She had
kept a journal for many years. It was mostly a dispassionate record
of facts and events.. She began to carry a small PADD everywhere with
her to record impressions and thoughts at random.

The gardens of her new home were perfect but the interior needed
work. She visited the lumber and stone yards to select the materials.
To her mother's horror, she even did some of the work herself. She
opened up walls and installed huge windows to bring the outdoors in.
The work had taken months. As she gazed about the expansive sweep of
her rooms, a feeling of deep satisfaction covered filled her. It was
good to be able witness the fruits of one's labors.

Her insomnia had disappeared. She fell into bed every night and slept
the sleep of physical exhaustion. Her appetite returned with a
vengeance. She somehow found time for martial arts classes at the
community center. Her body filled out with smooth muscles and
familiar curves. Lwaxana dragged her out to the salon where they
covered the streaks of gray in her hair and smoothed the lines from
her face. The attentions of the local men had turned more often to
the lovely daughter of Ambassador Troi. Her mother began to hint that
it was time to get on with her life and at least socialize with some
of her admirers. She preferred the company of her family and close

It was mostly at night, when Luca slept and the world quieted for  
rest, that loneliness struck like an arrow through her heart. On
those nights she would settle on her patio, listening to the night
birds calling for their mates. She would read his letters over and over

Chapter 12   
Dear Deanna, Day 1

It's only been a few hours since we said good-bye. When you and Luca
beamed up to the ship for Betazed, I felt as though you were taking a
piece of my heart with you across the galaxy. I promised us both not
to do this. Not to feel this way.But I can't help feeling this way...the wrongnesss of it all.I know you are grieving but so am I. Why would it have been so wrong to be together now? Maybe we could have helped each other. We have lost so much time already. I hope my next letter is better. Forgive me I am an old man now and I know I'm rambling on. Love, Will

Dear Deanna, Day2

OK I said I'd do better and I'm going to try. I have finally arrived at San Fran. The Academy is ageless, but I'm not. The mess the 'other Riker' has left me in has me baffled.I spent the day trying to figure out my access codes with no luck. Oh by the way Barin is here. He had a beer and passed out cold. He is really PO'd at me. Please write and tell me what the hell I ever did to him. By the way Dea- thanks for
being my 'counselor' again and trying to understand the impossible when I told you about restoring time. I guess all those years dealing with Tom gave you some practice for this alternate Riker insanity. Tell Luca I'm going to bring her a puppy one of these days.
Love Will

Dear Deanna, Day 87

Well Barin finally left today. He and I actually became buddies once I got ahold of some synthehol beer. It's been over 2 months- only 10 more to go. Same amount of time to gestate a Betazoid baby-JUST KIDDING! I guess I'm happy and sad that those days are behind us. It'll be lonely without your brother here. How did he turn out to be a telepath? It took some getting used to once he told me. We had some
fun times at the local cafe til word got around. (Don't preach, I promise nothing too unethical)

But truthfully Deanna, he reminded me of you and made me homesick for
my friend far away. School starts in 3 weeks. Gotta get ready. Just to let you know I still dream of you every night. Love Will

Merry Christmas! Day 285
I hope you got my package. On Earth the world is littered with cards and parties. I would love to get you alone under some mistletoe- is that OK? It's getting difficult waiting to see you but I have grown some too in this time.Your house sounds fantastic. I'm glad Luca is doing well, she's a great kid. So are you. I'm going to Geordi's for the holidays. Data will be there too. There's only one thing I would like
to find in my stocking Christmas morning but I doubt you'd fit.
Love Will

Dear Deanna, Day 335
One month to go til my heart beats again. Your letters have been sweet but mysterious. I don't know what is waiting for me when I land on your homeworld. However you feel, it will be heaven to see you. I am tying up loose ends here. Love Will

Chapter 13

Dearest Will,
Response to Day 1
I miss you too. It's strange not to have you next to me , feeling my
emotions, holding my hand. I hope you can understand that being apart
is not the same as being separated. Wherever I am , you are as well.
You always have been. You are my good friend. Sometimes being a good
friend means allowing the other to grow. I need to do this by myself.
Yet you and I know we are never truly alone. You are still my
Commander Riker, standing tall on the bridge…..Deanna

My dearest Will, This tradition you love of writing on paper has some
merit. How could I scent an encrypted message with my perfume? Just
don't rely on too many of these letters. I will resort to subspace
soon. You are very different from the `other Riker'. In good ways..
You code word is the name of my childhood pet. You asked me to pick
it. Barin has his heart set on me marrying a Betazoid and carrying on
the family traditions. He was always a bit jealous of our closeness
and tends to be quite judgemental when it comes to your social
habits (there were many girls Will, MANY!) We'll talk about the puppy
later. I swear Will you're as bad as Luca sometimes!….. Deanna

Dear Will, It's been nearly a month and I feel so blue. Part of me
wants you to come here and sweep me up in your big hairy arms (the
traction will help!) but I tell myself "No, be patient. Good things
come to those who wait." Sometimes I hate myself, wonder what kind of
woman I am? My husband of many years, father of my child, someone
I loved dearly, is barely cold, and here I am thinking like this
about you. I do not want to see you like this. I want to see you with
a clear heart. You are too precious to be a stand-in for someone else
or a bandage on a broken heart. I can't make any promises to you.. I
can't make any promises to myself. I ramble too my dear. .Look at the
moon when you can and think of me sometimes. I see you everywhere.
The blue skies of Betazed are your eyes. The red Izradia flower is
your mouth and holds the sweet scent of your soul. The spots on this
paper are my tears, the only part of myself that will fit in this
envelope. Love (do I have to say it?) Imzadi of mine, Deanna

Merry Christmas Will, We got your package. We put the angel up on the
top of the lime tree and decorated it with little candles. The
neighbors and cousins gathered and tried to sing Christmas Carols. It
was pretty much a disaster. We attempted the Betazoid anthem but it
inspired too many people to meditation. Thanks for bringing a bit of
my favorite Earth holiday here. Especially for Luca. It was the only
home she ever knew until now and is still adjusting to life here.
Where in the world did you ever find a black-haired angel? Strange
big human. Watch your chestnuts around those open fires. Merrily,

Dear Will
I will see you soon. It will be a wonderful birthday with you here.
The day you arrive is the Festival of the Flowers. We will shower you
with flowers my dear one. I have much to say to you in person. Travel

Will folded the last letter carefully as the ship made it's final
approach to the planet. Finally a cruel year of growth and sacrifice
was drawing to a close. As the azure seas and verdant forests grew
closer he could feel her warmth, her joy, her love. It was not his
imagination which voiced the echo in his head "Imzadi".

Chapter 14

Customs on Betazed always seemed more like checking into a holiday
resort than the first line of planetary defense to him. Immediately
after the Dominion occupation things had tightened up. In the subsequent years of peace, the Betazoid tendencies away from militancy and toward hospitality prevailed. Riker made a note to himself to speak to the Starfleet C.O.S. about tightening things up a bit. The softly diffused rays of the late afternoon sun drifted through the pristine windows of the Spaceport. Will took a big breath of the dewy air, listened with his heart, and set off in the direction which called to him.

"Ah Betazed! You jewel of a class-M planet. He felt a sort of giddy intoxication as he ambled along the path through the shrubs. He had always suspected an opioid element to the atmosphere of this planet. When he had presented his hypothesis to Deanna she had laughed and denied it. As he gazed at the sparkle of mirth in her black eyes he had realized the true source of his narcotic euphoria.

He stepped out of the labyrinthine path into a large clearing in the center of the park. Trickles of flute and harp music blended with wordless chants of female voices. Spread out on the manicured lawns were circles of women and girls clad in flowing pastel-colored gowns. Their heads were crowned with wreaths of flowers which matched the garlands around their necks. The graceful dancers swayed as they
rotated in concentric circles. At the climax of their dance they threw up bunches of flowers into the air and embraced one another with explosive laughter.

Deanna spied him as she turned. It was a cliché but still it was so real. Everything  slowed down. She gathered up her skirts and sprinted across the grass and bounded into his arms. All those hours at the gym paid off. He caught her up and spun her in wide circles. Finally stopping, he traced the margin of her cheek with his thumb as though to verify that she was real. "Imzadi" they sighed in unison. It was a
good kiss. Warm, soft, tinged with beads of her sweat and the mint the had nibbled in customs. A tug at his shirt drew his eyes down to Luca's broad grin. "Hello Will Riker."

They strolled arm-in-arm through the crowds at the carnival. Despite
their love of things spiritual and cerebral these people also had a genuine appreciation of fun. They stole kisses while Luca rode on a variety of strange mechanical animals which spun and dove to the riders delighted screams. They ate too much candy and the native version of popcorn. They licked each other's fingers clean, laughed, and shared more butter and sugar kisses. Luca and Deanna settled comfortably into his arms as they sprawled on the lawn to watch the fireworks.
The fiery colors exploded in the sky and reflected in Luca's shiny onyx eyes as she made little gasps of pleasure and surprise.

Riker left them at the end of their street. "I have to see Barin about something. I'll meet you back at the house." Deanna cocked her head in confusion. She could sense that Will was hiding a secret. "Now? Can't it wait until morning?" He kissed her forehead, "It's O.K. I've got your address. I'll be right there. He's waiting for me." Some kind of foreboding whispered in the back of her mind but she ignored and left him with a smile, her steps jaunty with just a hint of wiggle to her hips to keep his pulse racing and hurry him home.

Luca lingered behind on the front lawn to wave to their neighbors, also returning from the festival. The minute Deanna stepped through the door she felt it. "DANGER!!!! GET OUT!!!" She took a split second to send a telepathic scream to her daughter "RUN NOW! Go to grandma's. Don't stop! Get help! Get away from the house!" The wall of warning turned into a large hand covering her nose and mouth,
twisting her spine, pulling her backwards off her feet. The split second she had taken to warn Luca had doomed her. She prayed to her Gods that her daughter had gotten away. The weight of something heavy struck her head and she thought no more.

Chapter 15

The silent siren of a Betazoid woman protecting her child's life screeched through the  
the sleepy neighborhood. Some might have thought the picture of an elderly Lwaxana Troi clad in her nightgown, racing across her lawn, wielding a garden hoe like a sword, would have been amusing. The laughter would have died quickly when the expression of homicidal rage and primal fear painted on her face came into focus. She met Luca on the sidewalk and handed her off to Mr. Homm. "Take her home, lock the doors. Protect her with your life." The silent giant took the child
up in his arms with surprising gentleness, and did as he was bade. Lwaxana fought her way through the frantic crowd milling about Deanna's lawn, debating whether they should break down the door. Deanna's desperate broadcast had stopped. Perhaps the crisis was over?

The silence did anything but reassure Lwaxana. She felt nothing from Deanna. "Break it down!" she screamed. Nobody noticed the faint glimmer inside as a man slung the small female body over his shoulder like baggage, and beamed out of the darkened house.

The crowd flowed into the home, seeking out the source of horror and finding nothing. No blood. No signs of struggle. Just a gaping emptiness where the chatelaine should have been. Will and Barin burst through the crowd to face Lwaxana's vacant stare. She seemed to simmer. The building emotions of fear and agony erupted in a
plaintive cry, "WHERE IS MY CHILD?"

It was dark and cold. She smelled metal and lubricating oil. Dust and
decay cloyed in her nostrils. Choking spasms posessed her lungs. With
each cough, the pain in her head throbbed again. Her arms seemed not
to belong to her. Surely her own body couldn't produce that kind of
pain? Intellectually she knew, at best they were dislocated. At worst broken. Survival humor reassured her that she should be grateful they were still attached to
her body and able to cause her pain. Her hands were savagely twisted behind her back and bound so tightly that sensation in her hands was a vague memory. Her feet were bound as well, the tight cord cutting into tender flesh at the least movement.

"You are a Starfleet Commander. Think!" She commanded herself silently. In the gloom she determined she was in a small starcruiser.
Old and of questionable origin. It appeared to be a mishmash of several different models. It seemed much like the one the teenaged boys next door spent their every free moment working on. It didn't seem space-worthy. The inertial dampers were not functioning well. The uncontrolled movement of the cargo hold tossed her
bound, battered, body, back and forth across the dusty floor. She
managed to hook her toes beneath the lip of the wall frame. She pulled herself painfully into a sitting position and took her first good look at her predicament.

She could see him sitting at the controls of the small craft about twenty feet away. He was struggling for altitude. No words escaped his lips but the staccato movements of his hands as they thumped the controls, conveyed his frustration. She couldn't get a good `read' of his emotions. He had shields upon shields. From her limited viewpoint, she couldn't even make out his species with any degree of
accuracy. He appeared humanoid, possibly Betazoid. Her suspicions were confirmed when he turned to her with eyes of black ice and sneered "Oh, I see you are awake. Get comfortable. The landing may be a bit rough." His words were almost kindly but his tone was purely acid.

She bit her tongue hard as they skimmed the treetops of the lush jungle. The small craft rocked from side to side .It was too
familiar, the sensation of falling from the sky Her toes seemed to splinter with the Herculean effort to brace her contorted body for the crash. She watched the pilot take several deep breaths then slump. He was relaxing against the coming impact. She went one better and put herself into the unconscious state of a deep trance. Were it
to prove impossible to survive the crash, she would prefer to miss the violence of the end.

Her awakening was heralded by the meeting of his boots with her ribs. She struggled to assume an upright position to face her abductor. He held a canteen of stale water up to her mouth. "Wouldn't want you to dehydrate you Betazoid bitch." As she lapped messily at the liquid he sloshed toward her mouth, she caught her first good
look at the man. He was clearly Betazoid, black eyes, dark hair. He spoke in strangely-accented Standard. It was not a Betazoid accent. She was certain she had heard it before but couldn't quite place it. He was  forty-ish, attractive except for some ghastly scars at the edge of hairline extending down over his forehead like pink, pulsating worms. His blank eyes gave no clue to what lay in that unreadable mind behind them.

He sat across from her, a mocking smile on his lips as he ate . "Hungry? Want some?" He sneered then opened his mouth , thrust his face into hers, and showed her a mouthful of chewed food. She was shocked. This behavior was so far from the repertoire of even the most virulent of Betazoid teenaged bullies. It was part of Betazoid psychology to avoid the gruesome and disgusting.  Cruelty was
universally repugnant to her species. She realized that this man lay far beyond her experience with others of her race. Suddenly he clutched his head and the waves of pain reverberated into her head. Where were his mental shields? He fell back in a violent convulsion, shuddering, thrashing, eyes rolled back in his head, frothy spittle
bubbled on his lips. Finally he lay still.

She held her breath as she checked for his. She did not care to starve to death in this position, bound and in pain. If he was dead, that seemed a likely outcome. To her relief, he took a deep breath then began whimper softly. She read him finally. Childlike, fearful-no terrified, suffering enormous psychic and physical pain. His eyes,
now red-rimmed and desperate, stared at her in surprise. "Who are you?" he whispered in perfect Betazoid baby talk.

Chapter 16

"I can help, you know." Deanna softened her voice and gave the frightened man-child a warm and gentle smile. He tipped his head slightly, and studied her face. It was a universal gesture of young beings determining the trustworthiness of an adult. He studied the cords around her wrists and ankles. A panicky whimper ,"He tied you
up? Does it hurt?" She lowered her eyes to meet his "Yes, could you help me?" He averted his eyes and whispered "He'll get real mad…" "I won't tell." she whispered. He eyed her cautiously, "Are you gonna hurt me? Is this a trick?" Deanna controlled her voice, Gods! Her arms hurt! Soft and easy, didn`t want to scare him. "I promise I
won't hurt you." Indecision and terror clouded his pathetic, scarred, child-like face, "How can I know for sure?" She smiled and made eye contact "Because I'm a Mummy, and I'm here to help you." "Do ya know Stawfeet?" "I am a leader in Starfleet. They call me a Commander." He gasped with joy and awe as he set to untying the knots on her bonds. "Mama told me you would come."

As she rubbed the life back into her blue-tinged limbs, he prattled on; "We got to go quick before he comes back." Deanna faced the confusing task of determining how this child-like personality was going to run away from his sadistic adult self. She was torn by a desire to help this tormented soul, yet not at the expense of her own
life. She gently touched his cold hands with her still-numb fingers, stroking the back of his arms in a hypnotic rhythm as one might do to calm a frightened child. "Lets be friends. My name is Deanna, what's yours." He dipped his chin and looked away shyly. "They call me Eli." He scurried to his feet and brought her some packets of the freeze-dried rations and a canteen of water. "Are you from Betazed too?" She
nodded in the affirmative as she tried to swallow the unpalatable food with the cardboard texture and labels written in an unintelligble script.

"Do you remember how you came to be here?" She queried, as she stretched her legs from their crouched position. He began to tell a harrowing tale in his halting, pre-school phrases. His parents were powerful empaths- she recognized their names. During the Dominion Occupation the family had been among the unfortunates abducted for experimentation. He had lain in semi-stasis as had so many others,
listening to the tortured sounds of others suffering and dying. When he spoke of the destruction of his family he stared blankly ahead and whispered, "Then I knew they were all gone. That`s when they came and did bad stuff to me. " He touched the scars on his forehead and sniffled. It was a horrible trauma for a child to endure. One of the worst she had ever heard in her many years as a counselor. She tried
to turn his thoughts to better times. "You must have been very glad when Starfleet arrived." His eyes widened, "Starfweet came? I dunno . I got taken to that bad place." His voice dropped to a terrified whisper, "That's where he's from. He's a bad guy. Car-Car…" He blinked in frustration , trying to pronounce the word. Deanna felt
her temperature drop a few degrees as she finished the sentence for him. "Cardassian?" He leaned in against her and huddled, seeking comfort. "Yeah Cardashin-really bad guys. He`s one of dem."

Will paced back and forth in Deanna's kitchen until Lwaxana sent him a psychic shriek; "STOP IT!" The house was filled with Betazoid detectives, Starfleet personnel, and concerned family members . The handsome man shook his head in frustration, "Who the hell would kidnap Deanna?" A poker-faced Vulcan ensign looked up from his microscopic scan of a blue woven throw rug and responded enigmatically, "Who indeed Admiral Riker? There appears to be no logical rationale for this crime." Something in the man's demeanor reminded Riker of Data and struck him as funny. He erupted in an explosion of nervous laughter. "Mr. Riker, I see nothing funny…"
Lwaxana broke off as she scanned his thoughts"You're right …Mr. Data… That is an excellent idea. Will, concentrate can you feel her?" He raked his fingers through his hair and sighed, "She's been sending messages since nearly the beginning of
this nightmare. Don't you hear them too?" The elderly woman shook her head despairingly. "I only have a vague sense that she is alive somewhere on Betazed. I can't get anything clearer. She must be out of range. What is she telling you? He stood silently for a moment then murmured, "She says to bring help. Soon. That's all I have." He left out the part about her injuries. And how much she loved him, and
how she feared she might not make it out alive...

Chapter 17
Still stiff, and slightly nauseated from whatever it was which she
had just eaten, Deanna rose to her feet and began to search the
hodgepodge cabin. Upon reaching the cockpit area, she stared out of
the main view screen. The malfunctioning interior lighting gave an
erratic, eerie illumination to the sunny scene of the dense Jalara
Jungle outside. She searched for the Universal Distress Locater and
found none. Pirates and other criminals flew by their own rules. They
rarely allowed such devices on board in the case that
involuntary `guests' such as herself might find ways to alert the
authorities. Beneath the pilot's seat she found a small hand-held
phaser. She cursed the lack of pockets in the flowing gown she still
wore from the festival. Eli blushed and giggled as she hiked up the
long skirt and tucked the tiny weapon in the waistband of her
underpants, carefully arranging the now-grimy folds of her lavender
gown to cover the small lump.

Her experience with multiple personalities was limited to her
academic studies as an undergrad. The phenomenon was limited to a few
rare cases on Earth. It was a coping mechanism of the human mind to
aid the psyche's survival in cases of extreme abuse- usual sexual or
torture. Betazoid psychology was humanoid, similar but different in
significant ways. She had never known of any case of Betazoid
multiples, then again she had never known of any severely abused
Betazoid child. Eli seemed not to possess any telepathic or empathic
ability-this was usual for a young child of their planet. What concerned
her (among many things) was whether his adult counterpart had these

She called out encouragement to Eli as he followed her fearfully
through the half-opened hatch and out into the dense forest. A soft
moist breeze carried the caressing scent of flowers. They followed
the sound of flowing water to a small waterfall and a pool of clear
water. Eli squealed with delight and stripped his clothes off,
forgetting his former shyness, and jumped into the pool, splashing
and laughing, spraying Deanna with the cold water. They really needed
to make time. She was eager to reach civilization before the other
personality returned from his hiding place in the man's mind. She
fingered the phaser reassuringly through the thin cloth of her dress.
Still it was difficult to pull the laughing child from such pleasure.
It was doubtful he had laughed much in his 40-odd years of life.

In the early dawn morning she sent Will another message <Outside
ship. Crashed but OK. Left arm dislocated. Left wrist broken. Jungle.
Dense. Small waterfall and pool. Old Temple ruins.? Goddess Aixa.?
Will leave mark. Love infinitely Imzadi. > She carefully arranged the
crumbled bits of alabaster near the ruins with her foot. It was not a
large mark but Will would be looking. It was their symbol, used on
many missions as well as private messages. The symbol of infinity. A
sideways eight. It would work. It always did.

A crack of lightning split the calm rainbow-hued morning sky. Eli
shrieked with fright as the bolt split a nearby tree, sending it into
the still lagoon. He fled the water, his eyes wide with terror. He
had barely pulled his clothes on over his sodden limbs when he
grasped his head and fell to the ground, writhing in agony. The dark-
haired psychologist stared in amazement for a few seconds. It was the
battle of the personas. Evidently when a trauma became too much for
one personality, the other was able to wrest control of the
consciousness. Survival instincts dominated her clinical fascination
as she slipped into the jungle and left the troubled man to his
mental demons.

She had the home team advantage. This was her turf. According to
Eli's account, he had lived most his life on Cardassia . He would not
have the familiarity with the ins and outs of the Jalara as she did.
However whether that knowledge would compensate for her smaller size
and injuries were he to aggressively stalk her, she was unsure. She
followed the moss patterns on the trees, heading south , where she
had a foggy impression of other sentient beings. She made a quick
prayer to all her Gods that it was her people and not Cardassians
that she was sensing. As she struggled over a rocky outcropping, she
heard his stealthy progress behind her. He reached up and
effortlessly pulled her back to his level. She cried out as she landed on
her broken wrist. He glared at her from above, the blood pulsed
grotesquely through the scar tissue over his dark eyes. "That's it
bitch. You're dead." He slapped her across the face then slowly
placed his hands over her mouth and nose, pressing just enough to
block any flow of air. She felt her lungs exploding, her eyes
popping, throat burning, then nothing as she fell silently to the
ferny floor of the jungle.


Many miles away in the home she had so lovingly decorated, Will,
Lwaxana, and Barin let out a simultaneous scream. The Betazoids
stopped their work and stared blankly. They felt her blink out. Data
stepped into the room and viewed the unusual scene. It was not the
greeting he had expected when Starfleet had called him here. Will
stared at Lwaxana, "I can't feel her. Does this mean that she's d-d-"
Data interjected- "No Will she is not dead. I can determine her life
signs. They are weak but she is alive .I have calculated her location
from my ship. She is being held by a Betazoid male, 45 years old, by
the name of Elixi Rona." Lwaxana glared at Data. "That's
impossible." she spat. "The entire Rona family was murdered over 40
years ago. Damn Cardassians and those Dominion bastards." Data tipped
his head inquisitively as though processing this new information then
responded, "That might explain the Cardassian DNA mixed in with his
own." Will shook his head with disgust, "Sounds like something the
Borg would do." With one accord, Will Data and Barin leapt to their
positions as Data summoned the transporter chief from his ship to
beam them up.

Chapter 18

He had draped her over his shoulder. Her upper body flopped limply as
he carried her back to the ship. He had nearly killed her. That would
have been a mistake They wanted her alive. He hated her. She had
seen 'him'. He hated 'him'. He was Cardassian. There were ways to punish
her without killing her. It was distasteful but she was still a
woman, he was a man. He could tell that would break her. She would give 

him no more trouble after that.

Somewhere in the fog of her unconscious Deanna heard her father's
voice. He told her of the man's plan. He told her what to do. He told
that Will was on the way. She was not yet awake when her hand moved
imperceptibly to the phaser. Her thumb turned the setting to `heavy
stun' then placed it next to his temple and fired. He fell to his
knees, then onto his face. She regained her senses slowly. The vines
of the jungle were tough but cut easily enough with the sharp blade
he wore in his belt. She bound his hands and feet with more kindness
than he had shown her but tightly enough to hold him fast. She sat
back on the ground and studied his inert form. What next?

He awoke more quickly than she had expected. Groaning softly he
rolled over to face her. "You stupid whore. You have ruined
everything." Deanna turned to him impassively and replied. "I think
it would be a good idea for you to watch your words. I know what you
planned. I also know you'll dehydrate quickly if I don't give you
some water soon." She gestured with the canteen near his nose. "A
drink for your thoughts." she taunted. "It doesn't matter now. I have
failed. I'm a dead man anyway." She gave him a small chug of water as
a goodwill gesture. "Perhaps you could seek a deal with the
Federation. They may give you immunity. You certainly have
extenuating circumstances." He lowered his eyes in shame. "You mean
'him'? Because I'm crazy." She flopped her heavy hair over her
shoulder, "You're not crazy, but you do need treatment." He shook his
head in resignation. "My superiors made it clear. I fail I die. They
have my DNA on file, dental records, hair samples. No place would be safe for me. 

If you want to be merciful, set the phaser to `kill' and give me a good one to the
head. It's much better than what the Obsidian Order will do to me. I
would do it to you in a heartbeat. She eyed him wearily. "I am an
empath , I know what you were going to do to me."

The silence lingered over the battered pair like a cloud. "Well it
was nothing personal." he muttered. "Oh it seems very personal to
me." she replied. "Why do hate me so much?" "Not just you. All
Betazoids." "Why?" she queried, "You are Betazoid." He sighed as
though explaining something to a very stupid child. "The Cardassians
are the greatest race in the history of the universe. Why? Beacause
they are the strongest. Betazoids are weak. Rather than killing me
when you had the chance you allowed me to live. Gave me a chance to
kill you. Any species which wastes so much time feeling,
understanding, showing compassion and fairness to those with no
concept of mercy or justice, has forfeited it's right to existence."

She pondered his words and tried to ignore the increasing pulses of
pain shooting down her arm. "So the Cardassians are seeking the
genocide of Betazoids?" He shook his head blankly. "No it was you
they wanted. I worked for a scientist who had a particular interest
in empaths. He wanted you because of your success in Starfleet.
Something about whether you were more aggressive than others of your
race. He was going to dissect your brain for research." The man
turned pale at his own words. She could hear an echo of Eli as he
turned his eyes to hers and said "Now that I have spoken to you I am
almost sorry. Would you reconsider giving me phaser therapy?" "No."
she replied flatly.

He moved so quickly she barely saw his head reach to his lapel. He
grasped something shiny in his teeth and bit down hard. She heard the
crunch of glass. His eyes glazed quickly, then closed. She leapt to
his side and pried the broken capsule from his clenched grimace. It
was too late. Cardassian Suicide capsule. She barely felt the prick
of the shards puncturing her fingertips. Miniscule drops of poison
reached her bloodstream. A gentle fog filled her vision. She was
fading. She was almost indifferent as she set the phaser
to `overload' and tossed it into the bushes.


"Captain, we have an energy burst near the coordinates we have been
scanning. It's energy signature matches that of a hand-held
protective device, possibly a phaser set to overload." Data paced to
the ensign's terminal and studied the thew screen. "Has the energy
field dispersed? Is it safe to beam down?" "Aye Captain." Data walked
over to Will and Barin and tapped his communicator, "Transporter
room, prepare to beam down 3 on the coordinates Science 3 will send
you. Be prepared to transport on my signal. Security and sickbay are
also sending an away team to the same coordinates on their
signal. "Hang on Deanna" Will prayed as his atoms dissolved in the
transporter beam's glow.

Chapter 19

The brightness of the morning sun was quickly fading to fog  in the dying woman's eyes. Some instinct she couldn't name caused her to drag her rapidly numbing body to the foot of the ruined temple, now covered with pink flowering vines. So tired. Strangely though it didn't hurt. Just a bone-deep weariness. A far away hum, like a voice calling her mind and soul to rest, drowning out the voice of her child, her Imzadi, and finally herself. She felt the comfort of her father, sister, friends she had lost, calling out. She opened her leaden eyelids one last time and stared into the
brilliant light where they waited.


The rainbow -hued pillars of energy quickly took the shape of Starfleet personnel as the away team set to their tasks. The male was quickly surrounded by the medical team, their tricoders and hyposprays flying in a desperate attempt to save his life. Riker paced out the small clearing desperately. There was another life he
sought to save. "Where the hell is she?' he muttered. A small movement in the feathery underbrush drew his attention. He nearly stumbled over her. She lay on her side, ragged, bruised, broken, her hand raised as though in greeting to someone he could not see, her eyes half  open. "MEDIC!" he bellowed as he dropped to his knees and gathered her in his arms. "God Deanna! Wake up!" Her head lolled back limply. He studied her neck with frantic fingers, seeking a pulse. He felt a soft expression of air escape her blue lips and then nothing. She seemed to grow lighter in his arms as her spirit slipped out into the air of the bright morning.

The medics had to pry the slender body from the Admiral's arms. He heard their voices as though far away. " Be careful with the electro-card setting- she is half Betazoid, try half voltage." Data informed the medics as they placed wired devices on her chest and began to
jolt the reason for Riker's existence. He focused on her hand, so
small, the fingertips filthy with dried blood and dirt, and beneath the debris, the skin was blue. He couldn't bear to look at that face. Couldn`t bear to watch as they shoved those tubes down her delicate throat. Someone shouted to him. Instructions. Looking away as they worked, he held her head as they told him to. Cycles of activity. Pump the air down her throat, then all would step back, while her body convulsed with electricity, then again, and again. The doctor met the head medic's
eyes. It had gone on too long now. The antidote had not worked. It was time to quit. Will sensed their thoughts, "You stop and I'll break your necks." he hissed. They kept on working.


It was strange. She felt weightless, her body was light and
unscathed. Even the lavender dress, torn and filthy from her attempts
to survive, now shone, clean and fresh. She turned away from the
scene of her broken body and smiled at the friend she had known all
of her life, but was meeting for the first time. "Hello Deanna." The
woman reached out to take her hand. Deanna smiled shyly - should she
curtsy or something? "Hello Aixa. Are you real? Um, I don't want to
be rude but I don't really believe in you. Is this some kind of
hallucination? Perhaps from lack of oxygen? Does this happen to
everybody when they die? I just never believed in any deity. " The
woman in the flowing white robes shook her blonde mane in
mirth, "That's all right Deanna. You may not believe in me but I have
always had great faith in you."

They walked arm-in-arm through the little clearing, stopping to rest
on the fragments of the broken temple stairs. "You have been a
wonderful example of the best of Betazed to the universe. You have
made me very proud." Deanna lowered her eyes to the ground and
muttered "The best of Betazed? You must know… I'm not really..." The
goddess met Deanna's eyes with her own inky gaze, "Oh Deanna, you
have always felt less than fully Betazoid because of your father's
heritage. You are one of us, you always have been. You have empathy,
not telepathy. Do you think that was a mistake. How could have
succeeded as you did in Starfleet if you were a telepath? It would
have hindered you , intimidated others . It was better this way."
Deanna shook her head in confusion, "You did this?" The goddess
smiled patiently "Oh dear child I am just one little goddess on one
planet. There are so many answers to so many questions. There is one
power over the universe too great for anybody to truly understand.
You have all eternity to ponder these things. Shall we go now? You
have people waiting for you."

Deanna turned back to look at her body one last time. Will struggled
to hold her head in place. "He will not take this well." she murmured
sadly. " I will miss him. I never had the chance to tell him…so much"
Aixa touched her shoulder kindly, "He knows how you feel." Deanna
knelt beside him, kissed his hair, he did not feel her. He was
crying ."There was so much I wanted to do yet. We waited for so long.
I don't want to go." she sobbed. Aixa touched her hair and spoke in a
strange voice, "I can do this my child, but think well, before you
answer. You would remember nothing of this. You could start an
eternity of bliss right now. No more pain, fear or doubt. Is it worth
that much to you?" Deanna looked up, her eyes glistened with
tears, "Yes."


"We have life signs!" Will barely heard the incredulous medic call
out. He felt something. A warmth, a subtle shifting in her lifeless
body, a touch of her spirit as it flowed back home. She was
struggling, reaching for the tube lodged in her mouth. "Transporter
room- stat transport - 5 to sickbay for emergency life support." In
the glow of the transporter beam she turned her eyes to Will and in
those eyes he read the story of their lives. It was a story which
they would finish telling together.

Chapter 20   
The synthetic lighting of Sickbay seemed like home as she squinted
against the bright exam lights. Will held tight to her right hand as
the team hovered around her. Her throat ached from where they had
removed the tube which fed her oxygen. Little places on her chest
burned from the leads which had jolted her back to life. Minor
discomforts. It actually felt good to feel anything. Beneath the
tangle of hair which still held bits of vine from the jungle, her
dark eyes gazed upon her friend. The little crinkles around his eyes
somehow endeared him more to her right now. He buried his face in her
hand and whispered something inaudible into her palm. "Imzadi." Then
she slept.

"Not too bad for an old gal" Riker quipped as he helped her to the
transporter. "Who are you calling old?" she rasped . She had
recovered quickly from her ordeal. A few hours sleep. The miracle of instantly 

regenerated bones. The inevitable Starfleet debriefing, from her biobed, at her insistence. 

Finally she was released to the compulsive care of her mother and Will. Lwaxana flew to 

meet her daughter in her ridiculously ornate foyer. Will carried her to her old room. 

Deanna drew the line when her mother tried to have Mr. Homm dress her in her nightgown.

"I think I can handle that myself." she informed them as she ushered them from the room.

"I only wanted to help." Will whimpered , holding her filmy gown and rolling his 

`puppy-dog' eyes at her. "Bad man!" she whispered, "Trying to take advantage of an invalid."

Luca snuck into the room when the others had left. "Mummy?" Deanna's
face lit with joy as her daughter peeked from behind the door. She
carried a tray of chocolate-chip cookies and milk. "I made this for
you." The woman patted the bed beside her and pulled back the covers
for Luca to join her. It still hurt to talk, so they just snuggled
and ate cookies until they fell asleep, crumbs and all. Will found
them like that later. The child's soft pale face and black curls
nestled against her mother's shoulder. The picture of them was so
beautiful it hurt. "What a privilege it would be to be a part of
their lives. " Will thought as he settled into a chair and watched
them sleep. Lwaxana found him there in the chair. He held up a finger
to his lips as she cracked open the door. She took it all in, then
hobbled over to Will and kissed his forehead. One didn't need to be a
telepath to understand.

"Getting back up on the horse?" Will quipped, quoting one of Deanna's
favorite Earth expressions. She picked up her battered rucksack and
responded, "The Jalara has always been my friend. Nothing is going to
change that." "Want company?" She smiled broadly "Only if it's you."
They trekked in silence. The welcoming subtle heat and moisture soon
inspired them to seek out the Janaran Falls. It was afternoon when
they reached it. Wordlessly she dropped her bag and her clothes and
dove into the crisp water. Will watched her gliding through the
clear lagoon. Her body was porpoise-like as she dove and spun beneath
the shimmering surface. Little silver fishes joined her ballet, following her 

movements like a metallic shadow.

Eventually she surfaced and stood waist-deep in the shallows, her
fingers twirling out a pattern of welcome in the ripples which grew
around her like a watery halo. He gasped at the beauty of her. So
natural, so free. He broadcast his muddle of thoughts at her-
devotion, admiration, gratitude, lust, love. She responded by wading
over, grasping his hand, and with surprising strength, pulled him in.
He quickly rid himself of his soaked clothing with her help. They
swam and splashed. She shook her hair like a dog, spraying him with
Deanna-scented water. It was suddenly too much.

In an instant it all changed. He strode toward her. Her lips curved
into an expression of solemn welcome. Her arms found his shoulders,
her knees his hips. He nudged her back against the soft grasses of
the shore. He gazed into her eyes and saw eternity. A little bead of
sweat on her eyebrow fascinated him. "I need you Deanna. I need you
forever. " Her voice quavered, "You have me. Forever." She opened
her arms and her soul and Will dove in like she was a stream in the

The walk home was pleasant. The stars shone like little souls in the
virgin night. The full moon lit a brilliant swath through the
jungle. Will was grinning like a schoolboy. There were so many things
she would tell him. In good time. Like his assumptions about Betazoid
female fertility were wrong. The little stirrings she felt already
told her that in time she wouldn't need words . There would be a
little squirming souvenir of this magical day. He would be happy. But
for now, there was this glorious night.

In front of her mother's house, Will stopped and stared at a stately
tree, as though seeing it for the first time. "Deanna, has this
always been here?" He reached out and pulled something roughly oval
from a low branch. Deanna caressed the gnarled trunk. "My father
planted this tree the day I was born." She touched the pinecone he
cradled in his hand. "It is a native tree of earth I have watched it
grow all my life. I used to sit in my room and study it.I even have
talked to it sometimes, as though a bit of my Daddy was still alive
in it somehow. It is remarkable. No matter the season it is always
the same, always growing, always green." Will stared as though
dumbstruck. "When I was born my mother also planted the same tree for
me. On Earth we call it an evergreen. It's like us Dea, still fresh
and alive after all these years." As she grasped his hand and
returned his open smile she knew there would be many more nights and
days to come. Like the tree, they would continue to grow and their
love would remain fresh and ever green.