From the Ashes
Rated: PG
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek TNG and its characters, but Will
Riker is out on loan to me this weekend. I promise to have him back
by Monday. :)

<<< Deanna sits alone in a room. She is dressed for a party, and
holding a single blood-red rose. A single tear slides down her cheek, as Will
approaches from behind...>>>

Ah, let's see what I can do with this beautiful little image!

Deanna Troi sat at the vanity table in her old bedroom, gently
fingering the petals of a blood-red rose. Shivering, she reached for
her lavender wrap on the back of the chair, pulling it around her
shoulders, covering her long, velvet gown. It's freezing, but she
isn't certain if it's due to the room's actual temperature or if it's
from the empty ache inside of her heart. Once again, her fingers
slide down the rose's silky petals, and she pricks her finger on a
jagged thorn. "Damn it!" she mutters, then sucks gently on the tiny
wound, almost grateful for another source of pain to focus on.
"Will. You came..."
"Of course I did." Will Riker marched into the room, tired of
standing against the doorjamb. He'd been watching Deanna for nearly
an hour, and his heart was filled with a strong mixture of guilt,
pain, and the agony of knowing that there was not a single thing he
could say to her to make things better.
Looking up into her mirror, Deanna searched for his reflection and
met his eyes. "Why are you here, Will? Is it for my forgiveness?"
His blue eyes met hers in the mirror, and he was secretly grateful
that they were communicating this way. It was easier than having her
standing before him, drilling into his brain with her flashing eyes.
" Yes. I mean...I don't know why the hell I'm here."
"Tonight would have been our engagment party. Everyone is downstairs
waiting, they think...oh Gods...they still think that Tom and I are
going to be married. They have no idea what's happened." Her soft
black eyes glittered with unshed tears and the sight of them tore
Will's heart in two.
"I know. I'm sorry...Deanna. Honestly, I am. But, you have to believe
that I had nothing to do with Tom's death."
Her pale, porcelain face flushed red with anger, and through their
seemingly ancient bond, he could feel the hot course of pain and rage
throb through her mind. It was directed at him. "I don't believe you,
Will. I know you better than anyone and I know that you hated Tom.
You were jealous of our relationship. You wanted him out of the way
so that we could try again. You arranged for that accident on Jephara
4. You were there, Will. Remember? Two months ago Captain Picard
sent you there to settle a dispute between the Argulians and the
Syrellians. When you came back, you never once mentioned that Tom had
been there as well."
Will stiffened, and shoved his hands in the pockets of his pants,
feeling his heart press painfully against his breastbone. "I know. I
should have told you. But, you have to believe me, nothing happened
between Tom and I. I would never hurt him, Deanna. You know that."
Her eyes flashed again, this time with such venom, he felt himself
cringe inside. "I know nothing of the sort, Will. What I do know is
that while Tom was negotiating between the two races, doing a very
difficult job for the Fleet, you were magically sent there out of the
blue--supposedly at the Captain's request. Would you like to know
what I think? I think that you asked the Captain to send you to
Jephara under the guise of helping Tom. I also think that when he
told you we were engaged to be married, you lost your temper. You
killed him, Will. And I will never be able to forgive you for that."
Will flinched at the venom in her words. She hated him, and he knew
instinctively that there was nothing he could say or do to change
that. Closing his eyes, he pinched his nose tightly and struggled
with himself.
If he were to tell her the truth, she would still hate him, but at
least she would know the reality of what happened during Tom's last
assignment. If he were to lie...well, it might get him into her good
graces eventually, but she was an empath--she would one day figure
out the truth and be furious with him for lying to her.
Finally, he mentally threw up his hands and sighed. Walking over to
her chair, he gently lay his hands upon her shoulders.
"Deanna...I love you. Tom may not have been my favorite person, but I
never would have killed him. How could I when I know what I would do
to you? Do you think I would ever want to hurt you this way? She
didn't answer, but merely reached for a silken handkerchief and wiped
her streaming eyes, deliberately looking at the table top to avoid
his eyes. "I don't know what I think anymore. The Will Riker I know
would never do something like this. But we haven't been close since
Tom and I began our relationship--how do I know you haven't changed?
How do I know that you aren't capable of killing your brother? I
don't. And as much as that hurts me, I have to accept it. I don't
know you anymore Will." She broke off, sobbing again, and he
instinctively wrapped his arms around her from behind, kissing the
top of her head. "Yes you do, Imzadi. I'm still the same man you fell
in love with on Betazed. I'm still the man who's always been your
best friend, the one you've served with for 14 years. I love you,
Deanna, and I always will. I would no more hurt you than I'd hurt
She shivered again, and pulled the wrap more tightly around her
shoulders. "Then explain to me how Tom died. It can't have been a
coincidence that the two of you were both on Jephara 4 at the same
Will shook his head. "It wasn't. I know this is difficult for you,
Deanna, but I'll tell you everything. I don't know that you will
understand or even forgive, but I promise to tell you the truth."
He moved away from her and took a seat on the end of her bed, staring
off into space. "As you know, Tom was sent to the planet to negotiate
a dispute. We hoped that both parties would come to an agreement so
that Starfleet could process their petition to join the Federation.
It was supposed to be simple, a routine matter handed to a man who
was trying his best to get back in the Fleet's good graces. This
would have been a chance for Tom to prove himself, a chance to get
fully re-instated in Star Fleet and begin his life again. I don't
know how much he told you in his communiques, but the situation was
deteriorating rapidly by the time he got there. Within a month,
tensions had grown to the point of war, and both sides took alot of
pleasure in killing each other. Men, women, children, the elderly--no
one was immune. It was hellish, and finally, the Captain sent me
down there to help with negotiations. I think he felt that my
presence would help them come to an understanding--I guess Jean Luc
thinks I'm a bit more "diplomatic" than Tom. At any rate, we were
eating one night in the make-shift mess hall, when an Argulian
soldier came into the room and upended the table where a group of
Syrellians were having dinner. He was cursing them for killing his
Mother and sister, and in seconds things escalated. More Argulians
burst in, and it was as if the war had been plunked down right inside
the mess hall. There was phaser-fire everywhere, knives slashing the
air, and concealable bombs detonating from beneath the floor. I was
scared shitless and so was Tom. But, he dove right into the fray,
and when I was knocked down by one of the Syrellians, he jumped him
from behind and stabbed him. He rescued me, Deanna. And that was not
the first time that night. We covered each other's asses-big time.
But things were out of our control, and Tom...oh God."
Deanna turned to face him in her chair, sensing the pain in his
voice. "Tom what, Will?"
His eyes lifted to meet hers and they were filled with
tears. "He...tried to stop one of the Argulian's from killing
me...jumped right in between us. He was stabbed, straight through
the heart. There was nothing anyone could do. He...he died just a few
minutes later. He died saving my life, Deanna. I'll never, ever be
able to forget that." His eyes were shadowed heavily and Deanna felt
her heart open towards him for the first time.
"Oh Will...Gods...I never knew. I just assumed..." her eyes were red
from constant crying and her face was twisted into a painful grimace.
"I know. I can't really blame you, Deanna. I did hate Tom, once upon
a time. But after working with him and fighting with him for those
months, we actually became pretty close. I can't say that I loved
him, but I stopped hating him, Imzadi. I was jealous as hell of your
relationship, but I knew that you were happy. I even told him..." he
broke off, tears filling his throat.
"What did you tell him, Will?"
"I told him that I'd be his best man at your wedding. Can you believe
She smiled for the first time that day, and moved out of her chair to
go to him. Sitting on the bed beside him, she took him into her arms.
"Actually, I can. I'm sorry that I accused you, Will. I just...I
don't know. It hurts so much that he's gone and I wanted to lash out
at someone-anyone. I think that you were the perfect target because
of how you've always felt about him. Seeing you...seeing him in's so hard for me. But, believe it or not, I am glad that
you're here. And I'm glad that you told me what really happened down
"So am I."
They hugged, and Will felt all of the guilt that had held him captive
drain out as Deanna's forgiveness and understanding enveloped him.
"I'm sorry about Tom, Deanna. I know that you loved him. This must be
so hard for you."
She lifted her head to look into his eyes, and tried to smile. "It
is....but I'll be all right. Eventually. Knowing that you had nothing
to do with his death makes it much easier. Thinking that you'd
killed Tom was horrible--not only had I lost my fiance, but I'd lost
my best friend as well. I don't know if I could handle losing you
both, Will."
"Don't worry, you'll never lose me. I'll be here for as long as you
want me to be. Always."
They hugged again, and then Will stood, bringing Deanna to her feet.
"I don't know how I'm going to face all of those people, Will. How am
I going to tell them about Tom?"
He smiled. "Why don't you let me handle that, Imzadi?"
She nodded, and took his arm, and the two of them walked out of the
room and down the elaborate staircase together.