Imzadi's Loss (Part One)

Nightmares…dreams…like vague holo-novels filling his head night after
night in endless repetition. Scene One: Deanna, wearing torn, bloodied
clothing, crouching fearfully against an outcropping of rocks, clutching at
an unidentifiable object. Scene Two: Hideous, multi-eyed beasts with
dragon-like heads, cornering Deanna, ripping her black and blue uniform to
Scene Three: The beasts crushing her, overwhelming her, beating her. Deanna's
face, slackened, pale, frozen suddenly for all time, her body flung like a
ragdoll against the cliff wall. Falling endlessly to a rocky shore below.
Blood, everywhere.
Suddenly, he bolted upright, eyes wide open, screaming. "NO!"
Will was awake now, the nasty taste of the nightmare clinging to him like
dark sooty ashes. Watching Deanna's death play out in brief sketches bruised
his heart, his mind. He couldn't take much more of this. It had been three
months since she died and the nightly torment of the dreams refused to cease.
He dreaded sleep now, yet knew he'd go stark-raving mad without it. Hell,
if this kept up, he might go mad regardless.
Sweating and shaking, he got out of bed and fumbled for a glass of
water at the replicator. In his mind's eye he saw her, alive, as she'd been
on the day of the beam out. Before she followed the away team down to Jaden
IV and lost her life at the hands of the monsters that lived there. He
remembered her upturned face, receiving his kiss, her bell-like laughter as
his newly-grown beard tickled her cheeks, her "I love you" as she stood on
the transporter pad, her dark eyes searing into his soul. For the very last
He hadn't actually been there when she died. No. It was something
else that had offered him a tortured glimpse into the last moments of her
life. Their bond, their Imzadi bond. The very thing that had given both
such pleasure was the instrument of Will's pain.
On duty, he strived to be completely emotionless-a Starfleet machine
programmed as First Officer. Mechanically, he fulfilled his duties, much
like a trained monkey would have, no thought, no feeling, nothing but
following the regs. The fact was, he no longer cared about much of anything,
and that in itself saddened him. God, the Fleet, the Enterprise-they had
once meant everything to him. Everything. Now, it was something to do to
pass the time, to keep from losing complete control of himself. The Captain
was moved by his attempts to hold it together, but wasn't entirely fooled by
the nonchalant demeanor. In secret, he had asked Guinan and Beverly to keep
a close eye on him.
Guinan kept him amused with endless, intricate stories-after living
over five-hundred years, she certainly had enough of them. In Ten-Forward,
she supplied good synthehol and good conversation, while in sickbay,Beverly
attempted to knit up his mind with various medicines; mostly anti-depressants
and a sleep aid. Both women made repeated offers to listen when he became
ready to talk, but he just could not get out the words. He wanted to speak to
one person only-the person who understood him completely. But the one time
he needed the Counselor's services, she was no longer there to give them.
Deanna was far beyond his reach now; her lovely body resting in a
glass coffin in a crypt on Betazed. Her soul? That was anyone's guess, but
he believed she still existed somewhere, on some other level. He had to-it
was all he had left.
Drinking his third glass of water, Will paced his small quarters,
wishing that he could feel something beyond this endless numbing pain. His
beloved trombone sat in a corner gathering dust. The urge to play had
evaporated three months ago, along with every other impulse. Food no longer
held appeal-he simply ate to stay alive-whatever Guinan or Beverly set in
front of him.
His eyes fell on the holo next to his bed, then. He and Deanna
wrapped tightly in an embrace, beaming in their wedding finery. Deanna had
opted to have a Terran wedding, in deference to Will, and she wore an
elegant, flowing white sheath for a gown. She looked so happy, so peaceful.
How could they have taken her away from him? They'd been married only one
year when she was killed. One year. That was all the time the Gods had
allowed them. It was not enough. His wife's beaming smile broke his heart
as he held the holo in his hands. "I should've been there, Imzadi. I
should've saved you."
Regret slashed his soul like a knife. The only antidote, the only
thing that kept him going, were fantasies of revenge. The sheer pleasure of
finding and killing the bastards was enough to dim the pain of his regrets-at
least for the moment. The only thing that mattered now was finding them, and
subjecting them to the same brutal torture they'd dealt out to Deanna. Only
then would he have any peace in the dark, empty place inside his heart.
Staring at the holo a final time, he closed his eyes and whispered,
"Fat chance."


Part 2

Beverly Crusher was sitting in her quarters, going through a box of
Deanna's things, oblivious to her First Officer's broken sleep down the
corridor. Will had most of Dee's trinkets in his quarters, but these special
talismans were for Beverly alone. Holos of the two women, hugging tightly at
Deanna's wedding over a year ago, another of Will, Deanna, Beverly and the
Captain, as they enjoyed a sumptuous meal in a holographic French restaurant.
Curled around the images was a dark indigo headband-one that had once held
back a waist-length mane of black curly hair. Next to that, lay a small book
of Betazoid poetry, in which Deanna had written, "To Bev: My very best friend
aboard the Enterprise. You've claimed a special place in my life." Beverly
read the words again through a film of sudden tears, and unconciously, her
fingers moved to the holo, touching Deanna's face.
Sobbing openly, she fingered through bits of jewlery, a few items of
clothing, and then the object she'd avoided looking at for the past three
months. A tiny, holographic representation of Deanna Troi. Taking in a deep
breath, she switched it on, placing it on the table top in front of her.
A beaming, much younger Deanna appeared, wearing her old-style
burgandy uniform. Her hands were laced together in front of her, and she
looked like a delicate porcelain doll. "Hello, dear Beverly. If you are
watching this, then I am gone and you're trying to say good-bye to me. Well,
in my culture we don't say good-bye; for we will see one another again. I
want you to know that serving with you has been an honor, and over the years,
you've become one of my best friends. I couldn't have gotten through life's
challenges without you. I've treasured our talks over hot chocolate and
dinners late at night in Ten-Forward, and your advice-especially regarding
Will. Perhaps one day we will find our way back to one another, and you've
helped me realize that if it's meant to be, it will. And, since I'll
probably never get up the nerve to say this to you in person, I'll say it
now. You and the Captain love each other-it's evident to anyone with eyes,
Bev. Don't you think it's time you told him how you feel? He needs you so
much, more than you know. One final thing-take good care of Will for me,
alright? I love you." Suddenly, the tiny image faded, reducing Beverly to
helpless tears.
"Picard to Crusher." The voice startled her.
"Crusher here, Captain."
"If it's not too late, Doctor, I'd like to have a word with you.
Will you come to my quarters?"
"I'm on my way. Crusher out." She stared at her red-faced
reflection in the mirror and wiped away traces of tears. Thinking of
Deanna's words, thinking of Jean-Luc and how much she'd always loved him, she
made a spur of the moment decision. If the Captain wanted to talk tonight,
then they would talk. And she would finally tell him everything she'd been
holding back. Everything.

Jean-Luc stared intently at the doctor's pale face, her tear-stained
cheeks and moved to take her into his arms. "Are you alright, Beverly?"
She broke into fresh sobs and he patted her back gently, not quite
knowing what to say. Bev pulled out of the embrace, wiping her eyes, and
took a seat at the dining table.
"I'm sorry, Jean-Luc. I've been having a very hard time
tonight....Deanna...." she broke off as the tears filled her throat, nearly
choking her.
"Perhaps this was not the best time to request your assistance,
Beverly. Why don't you try and get some sleep. We'll discuss this
Anger sparked in her blue eyes and she spun in her chair to face him.
"Don't patronize me, Jean-Luc. I'm a big girl. I can still do my
job, you know. Now what was it you wanted to see me about?"
He sighed loudly and took the chair across from her. "It's Will.
I'm afraid he's not doing well. He's trying desperately to hide it and not
doing a half-bad job, but I can see the stress is getting to him. I can't
afford to have my First Officer come unglued-not now. Not when we are mere
light-years away from the Dominion. Soon, we'll be in range of the
Jem-Hadaar warships, and our bridge could be teeming with them. Frankly, I
doubt that right now Will could handle that. He needs rest, Beverly. I want
you to place him on medical leave effective immediately. Commander Data will
be more than happy to play First Officer for a few weeks."
"And then?"
"And then, I'll have my best officer back and ready for action. Just
in time for battle."
She nodded, staring into his hazel eyes, becoming briefly distracted.
What she had to say could wait a few moments-this came first.
"I tend to agree with you, Jean-Luc. But how will we get him to
agree to this? He's as touchy as a black bear right now and the only thing
keeping him going is his work."
"I realize that. But he'll be no good to this ship if he has a
nervous breakdown. Perhaps between yourself and Guinan, he can be convinced
that a few weeks in Alaska is just what the doctor ordered."
She smiled, a rare sight these days. One that Jean-Luc distinctly
enjoyed seeing. She was so damned lovely. Why had he never told her how
much he still cared for her? One of the last things that Counselor Troi had
said to him was "Tell Beverly, sir. She loves you too, you know." Now, he
gave the doctor a speculative look, one that she returned in equal measure.
Damn it, they couldn't go on this way. Will and Deanna's love story may have
ended all to suddenly, but it was not too late for he and Beverly.
As their eyes locked, their hands reached out at the same time and
clasped in the middle of the table.
"Jean-Luc, I..."
"Beverly, I..." They spoke in unison and then burst out laughing.
"Perhaps you'd better go first, Doctor."
The words lay on the tip of her tongue, so close that she wondered if
he could feel them there. "Jean-Luc, this may not be the best time, but I
have a feeling I may not get the chance again soon. Not with the casualties
that will be in my sickbay once we enter into this war." She paused, then
thought of Deanna's words and after taking a deep breath, she plunged on.
"What I'm trying to say is that I love you. I've never stopped loving you,
Jean-Luc. Never." Her dancing blue eyes stared into his, relieved beyond
measure to have finally spilled the secret of her heart.
The Captain's hazel eyes filled with warmth and he grinned widely.
"Oh Beverly. I've tried to put these feelings in the past, but I can't.
Ever since Kes/Pritt, I've been forcing down the old feelings for you. You
see, I still love you, dear Beverly. I always will."
Beverly looked briefly skyward, and silently thanked her dear friend
Deanna for helping push her towards this moment. Then, she flew around the
table and flung herself onto Picard's lap, covering his bald head with
kisses. Her mouth moved down to cover his, and for long moments they kissed,
feeling for the first time since Deanna's death that there might be something
to look forward to.


Part 3

It was a rare day off for Will, and he used it to its full
advantage. While the rest of the ship went about their duties, he was on the
holodeck-a place he was spending more and more of his time at lately. From
his memories of Deanna's final moments, he'd constructed holograms of the
bastards who'd killed her, and took great pleasure in splitting their heads
open. Slowly.
"Computer, begin program Riker Alpha seven."
"Working." Soon the black walls and grid-like yellow lines
disappeared, and in their place, appeared a barren, rocky cliffside. Over
the edge, a five mile drop ensued, ending on a jagged, rock covered shore.
It was exactly as he'd seen it in his nightmares. Those rocks were where the
beautiful, broken body of his Imzadi came to their final rest, and he was
going to take great pleasure in giving out the same fate to her killers.
"Computer, program alien-Riker Beta two." A fiercely ugly creature
appeared, looking like the twisted offspring of a Cardassian and a
Jem'Haddar. It's skin was ruddy brown, with shades of mottled grey, and had
shark-like protrusions above the eyes. Soon, more of them appeared behind
the first, and Will swung his bat'leth, thanking God for Worf's teachings.
"Come and get me, you bastards." Low growls split the air as the
group came for him. They moved with lightning speed, covering the distance
in seconds, and thinking of his wife's broken body, he slammed the blade home
in the belly of the first warrior. It cried out, and like all good
holographic enemies, disappeared at the moment of death. He took on five
more, dispatching them just the same, and turned to the last. Staring into
it's eyes, he leaned on his weapon, breathing heavily.
"Why? Now that I've got you here, you son-of-a-bitch, tell me why."
The creature seemed to think for a moment, and then gave a semblance
of a crooked smile. "Because she was there. No one touches our territory.
Your people came, changed our planet's name, tried to overrun us with their
culture. But it cannot be done. You will all be killed one by one. Stay
away from us, unless you'd like to have the same fate as your wife."
Well, the universal translator seemed to work just fine-even with
holograms. But the beast's words did nothing to assuage Will's pain. "What
are you?"
"I am a Vorkon warrior. Our planet, it is called Vork. Your people
have named it Jaden IV-but they have yet to realize that we do not care what
you name us. It is still our planet and we will protect it."
"Our people, my wife, they went down to your planet for negotiations.
You wanted to be a part of the Federation. I don't understand."
"You humans are so damned easy to fool. The other humanoids, the
ones who attempted to claim Vork for themselves, they wanted membership in
your federation. They did not realize that my people still resided on the
planet, very much alive. But soon they learned. And lost their lives in the
Riker's heart burst with silent rage, wild revenge. Killing this
pitiful hologram was not going to ease his torment. To hell with him, he
thought and called for the computer to end the program. Breathing deeply, he
sat on the cold floor, digesting what he'd just learned. Deanna was in the
wrong place at the wrong time. That was all. No one could have known what
had happened on Jaden IV-the Vorkons had keep them all in the dark.
"Crusher to Riker." The Doctor's voice sliced into his thoughts like
a lazer beam, and instantly he was on his feet.
"Riker here. Go ahead."
"I'd like you to come to sickbay Will. As soon as you can."
"On my way." With one last angry look around the holodeck, Will
smoothed his hair, wiped his sweaty face on a towel, and tried to screen out
the image of Deanna's body falling endlessly through space.

In sickbay, he sat on a biobed, waiting for Bev to finish up with a
patient in her office. When she finally turned the corner and came into the
room, she was beaming, and he couldn't help but offer a grin in response.
"You're certainly in a good mood today, Doc. Something happen you'd
like to share with the rest of us?"
She blushed like a school girl and tired to stop the grin that
threatened to split her face. "Is it that obvious?"
He chuckled. "Just a bit. So, come on, I could use some good news
"Alright. I probably should be keeping this secret, but you're too
perceptive. You'd figure me out in a heartbeat, so I'll tell you.'
"For God's sake, Bev, spit it out!"
"Jean-Luc and I....we're seeing each other." Will's face broke into
the first genuine smile he'd had since losing Deanna.
"That's great! It's about time the two of you woke up and realized
how you felt for one another."
"You mean the entire ship already knows how we feel?"
"Come on, Bev, it's me you're talking to. You're not very good at
hiding your feelings. Neither is the Captain. Seriously, I am so happy for
you. God, Deanna would be thrilled if she were here." As the name fell from
his lips, his heart sank to the floor and tears pricked his blue eyes.
"Oh, Will, I'm sorry." She immediately took him into her arms, the
maternal instincts fostered by raising Wesley kicked in again and she rocked
the large man like a small boy.
"Bev, it's alright. I'm thrilled for you guys, really. I just...I
just wish Deanna was here to see it."
She smiled regretfully and squeezed his hands. "So do I, old friend.
So do I."
Calmer now, eyes dry, he met Beverly's questioning gaze. "Now, what is it you
wanted to see me about?"
"Will, you aren't going to like what I have to say, but hear me out."
He tensed visibly and looked ready for battle. "Alright."
"The Captain feels that the amount of stress you're under is taking
its toll on you. He's concerned that it may interfere with your duties, once
we near Dominion space. Will, he and I are in agreement on this-you need to
take some time off. I'm going to authorize four weeks medical leave for
you-effective immediately."
He jumped off the bed and yanked down the shirt of his uniform.
"I'll have you know I am as fit for duty as I've ever been. I'm not going to
break down when the Captain needs me. Surely you of all people know me
better than that."
"Of course I do. I also know that you have barely been eating, not
sleeping more than an hour or two a night and you look terrible. I'm worried
about you, Will. This isn't about punishing you, it's about trying to take
care of you."
"Damn it! Deanna's gone. My work is all that's keeping me going
now. Please, don't do this to me. I'll go crazy if I can't be on the
Enterprise, doing my job."
She shook her head in sad compassion and again took his hands in hers.
"I'm sorry Will. But it's for the best. Go home, go to Alaska and
curl up in that cabin of yours and relax. Fish. Read. Anything, but get
away from here for awhile. Deanna wouldn't like knowing how badly you've
been treating yourself since her death."
His blue eyes darkened to navy lazers that sliced through Beverly's
"Don't you dare tell me what Deanna would want. You don't know
anything about it. She's dead, Beverly. Dead. She's never coming back. And
I doubt that wherever she is now that she gives a damn about what's happening
to me."
Sighing, Beverly handed Will a PADD and walked out of the room to her
office, closing the door behind her.
Stinging pain filled Will's heart. How could he leave the
Enterprise? Deanna's memory was everywhere on this ship. In their quarters,
on the bridge, in Ten-Forward. His bed. Each and every place he went
reminded him of her. Deanna had never been to Alaska. There he would find
no trace of her, only fading remnants of his own past.
An apathetic futility crept over him and he dragged himself to the
bridge, preparing to put the next month of his life in the Captain's hands.
What did it matter, really? Whether he was here, or on Earth, Deanna would be
in his mind constantly. Her voice, her smell, the feel of her in his arms, it
was all there in memory. He couldn't escape it if he tried.
Entering the ready-room, he stared silently at the Captain, handing
him the PADD. "I assume you've spoken with Beverly, Number One."
"Yes sir."
"And you are amenable to this?"
Will's mind raced suddenly. It wasn't Alaska's frozen beauty that
held his heart. Alaska had not been home for a very long time. Home now was
anywhere that Deanna was, and that was a long way from Earth.
"Yes, on one condition."
"What would that be?"
"I don't want to spend my leave in Alaska, sir."
Picard raised one eyebrow. "Then, where may I ask do you plan to
spend it?"
"Betazed." Silently, secretly, Will grinned. Betazed, yes, he
would go there first and visit his lost wife. He would stare at her
eternally frozen beauty and pour out his heart to her. Then, he would take
his shuttle to a second secret destination. And kill every last Vorkon who
roamed that God-forsaken planet.
"Are you certain you want to do that, Will?" Picard was speaking of
seeing Deanna again, not having a clue about his true intentions.
His icy eyes gleamed at the Captain and a slow smile crossed his
"Oh, yes, Captain. I am absolutely certain."
His apathy was broken again by thoughts of revenge, and he realized that if
he carried this plan out, he may never see the Enterprise again.
Oddly, the thought did not make him entirely sad. After all, if the
Vorkons killed him, then he'd finally be in Deanna's arms again. For


Part 4

Betazed. It was coming into view through the shuttle's viewscreen, and
Will's heart and stomach tangled together, competing for space in his torso.
The haunting beauty of the planet was so familar. It's mountain ranges,
steaming jungles(especially those), falls of water dancing down in wide arcs
into pools below. And of course, Deanna's mother. She WAS Betazed, and now
he would have to face her for the first time since the funeral.
Sighing, he landed the craft in a sunlit field, and tried to hold it
together as he stowed most of his gear in the aft compartment. Flinging a
thick black bag across one shoulder, he got out and began the walk to the
Troi mansion. Complete silence greeted him; although there were plenty of
people on the streets. They were comunicating telepathically, no doubt. As
if in answer, two dark heads turned to smile at him and nod their welcome.
He nodded back. Myriad forms of life filled the town square, but most were
gifted with mental abilities far beyond anything he ever learned from Deanna.
One of the voices dashed gently through his mind as he walked, saying only
one word. "Rabeem". It was Wendy, God love her.
Forcing himself to send, he thought, "Thanks, old girl." A warm,
sweet feeling enveloped him, and he smiled briefly. She may have played a
part in ruining his young romance with Deanna, but he couldn't really lay the
blame at her feet. No, it was far beyond those days and he felt only a
friendly warmth left over from their short affair.
As he rounded a well-manicured length of hedge, he saw the Troi
estate in the distance. His equilibrium was instantly thrown, as though a
Klingon had tossed him to the ground and stomped on his head. Memories came
at him, flooding his mind, fast and furious. There was no way to stop them.
No way to block them. Deanna, soft, naked and beautiful under his hands in
the jungle, her innocent face beaming at Chandra during the wedding, her
startled gasp when she'd boarded the Enterprise D years ago and came face to
face with him. Their wedding......their vows...their perfect, passionate
It was too much. He bent double and held his stomach, suddenly
beyond queasy. Sharp, short breaths were all he could manage, and soon a
strange woman came near to see if he was alright. He waved off the auburn
haired creature, and tried to smile, failing miserably. Tears lept into his
eyes and he tried desperately to stem them. He had to regain control.
Dammit, he was a man, he was a Starfleet officer. "Get ahold of yourself,
Riker," he muttered.
Then, as gentle as a summer wind, a voice crept into his mind.
"Welcome home, William. Come, let me take care of you." Lwaxana.
She was all he had left of Deanna, and despite their old problems, he
felt eager to fly up the road and fall into her arms. As quick as his feet
could carry him, he walked, until finally he found himself standing in front
of the massive white structure.
The door was decorated with ribbons of purple and white, in deference
to mourning, and delicate white roses filled doorside vases with their
blossoms. Will stood on the doorstep with his heart in his throat. Unable
to move, he closed his eyes and when they opened, his mother-in-law was
standing in front of him.
Lwaxana was dressed in a flowing gown of shifting purple and white
panels. Her eyes held great sadness, but her smile was instant and genuine.
She was happy to see him, and he could not have been more surprised.
"William. You're here. Come." He nodded, unsure of what to say, and
followed his hostess into the great living area. It held so much that was
familiar to him. Little touches of Deanna's; paintings, holos, purple
flower-filled vases. It was a beautiful room in a beautiful home and he felt
close to her, as though she herself filled the rooms with her gentle
"Sit down, and I'll make us some lunch."
"Where's Mr. Homm? I thought he took care of those kinds of things."
"I sent him on a well-deserved vacation. Besides, I like keeping
busy. I need to keep busy." Their eyes locked, mirroring each other's pain
and without a word, they went into each other's arms. Will held the
diminutive woman gently, stroking her curly hair like a small child's. "I'm
so sorry, Lwaxana."
"Gods, William, I don't know what I'm going to do without her."
Tears filled the warm brown eyes and spilled in gentle rivers down her
wrinkled cheeks.
His own misted in response, and all he could say was, "I know."
They clung to one another like two survivors of a ship-wreck would
cling to a lifesaver, and finally Lwaxana finished crying. Silent moments
passed, as they both thought of the woman in the crypt; forever sleeping
under glass like a princess in a child's fairy tale. Only this time, no kiss
from a handsome prince would be able to wake her.
"Before we have lunch, I'd like to see her."
"You know the way, dear one." She lifted a hand and touched his
cheek, then turned and headed for the kitchen, leaving him standing in front
of a glass window that gave a perfect view of the estate's large crypt. It
seemed impossible that his wife, his Imzadi was there. How could it be? How
could the beautiful, brilliant, laughing-eyed girl he fell in love with be
Each step around the stone path was torture. Through a copse of
flowered trees he walked, feeling the rain of petals on his shoulders, like
angel's tears. A massive grey structure stood at the end of the trail, and
with a heavy heart, he opened the door and walked inside.
Shaking, he forced his unwilling legs to take him to the antechamber
where her coffin lay, and when the glitter of glass met his eyes, he looked
immediately at the floor. He couldn't do this. He didn't want to see Deanna
Troi-Riker laying in stone-like silence for all eternity. But those damned
dark eyes haunted him, and her face called him like a sweet song from far
away. When at last his blue eyes fell on the still form of his wife, a long,
loud sob broke from him, filling the large chamber with its mournful echo.
"Imzadi!" he cried, but there was no answer.
Only empty, endless silence.


Part 5

On a world far away, a woman lay in a dank, dark cave, staring at the
stars overhead. Sleep was impossible. A stiff, wooden board and a
rough-hewn blanket were her only comforts. Her dark clothing was ripped, but
still covered the length of her slim body. Black boots kept her tiny feet
warm as desert winds whispered coldly at the mouth of the cave. She was
alone, for the moment. Standing, she paced in front of the opening of the
cave, holding the blanket around her shoulders. Across the moonlit desert,
she could see the occasional whipping of leaves in the wind and the clusters
of rocks that looked like tiny cities filling the spaces in between. This
world was barren, desolate, and lonely. How long had she been here? Already
it seemed like years, yet she knew it was more likely a few months. Months
of straying onto the hot desert sand, searching for escape, months of
sleeping in this dank, infested cave.

Touching the thick diamond band on her ring finger, she swallowed
hard. Everything inside of her had tried to keep going, for his sake. For
the duration of her captivity, she'd tried to contact the ship, praying for a
response. Once or twice, she'd gotten as far as the main camp, hoping to
find a shuttle of some sort. Before she could reach the domed outbuildings,
a fist slammed into her head, knocking her unconscious. Still, she had
tried again, only to be caught and thrown into this empty, desert prison.
Each night, she tried to contact him without fail. Her mind was
feather-light, dancing out into the night, trying to reach across the
light-years and into the heart of the man she loved. Not once did he
respond. Still, a distant hope burned in her heart that he would come and
rescue her. If anyone could find her and get her off this God-forsaken
planet it was her husband. But, she had to be honest with herself. After
all this time, Will may have given up. He and the crew probably assumed the
worst, and would now go on about their lives, trying to forget about her.
"No!" The syllable fell from her lips, and with renewed determination, she
sat on her bed again, conjuring up the beloved face of her Imzadi. She was
not going to give up. Not yet. In her mind, she saw the dancing blue eyes
of her love and mentally, looked into them. "Will, I'm alive, please hear
me, Imzadi. I need you." The thought flew through endless black space, and
she wondered if this time it would reach it's destination.
For several hours, until dawn's light lit the cave's entrance, Deanna
Troi-Riker held her head in her hands and sent out all of her love, all of
her fear, all of her pain to the man she loved. Only the Gods knew if he'd
heard her. Feverish with frustration and exhaustion, she fell back against
the rough wood and closed her eyes. Voices carried towards her on the wind,
and she curled into a ball, feigning deep sleep. Loud male voices called to
one another in an unknown language, as human female ones cried out in fear
over the din. They were getting closer.
A loud, heavy thump shattered her thoughts as a women was tossed into
the room. Deanna stirred, glancing around, and saw that a large, reptilian
Vorkon blocked the only means of escape. His face was intense, shark-like in
its visage, and she felt waves of nausea crawl around in her belly.
Triumphant anger lit his slit-like eyes, and she recoiled, wondering briefly
if he could hear her thoughts. Her eyes veered to the badly beaten blonde
woman, barely able to stand, lying helpless in the corner. Gods, she was
going to be next.
As the rough, scaled hands grabbed her hair, Deanna felt her body fly
over the broad shoulder, hanging over it like a heavy sack of meat.
Clenching her teeth, she sent out inquisitive tendrils of thought into the
Vorkon, hoping to reach him. The mind of the beast felt heavy, cloaked,
crowded with jangling emotions. His violent thoughts filled her with
disgust, and she knew with certainty that she was going to be tortured.
Closing her eyes, she pictured Will's beloved face and screamed
inside her mind the one word that might finally reach him. "Imzadi!"

Screaming, Will flew up off the pillows. "Deanna!" He'd heard
Deanna's voice in his mind. It was impossible, but true. Falling back onto
the soft mound of pillows, he closed his eyes. It had been a dream. In the
dark twists of a nightmare, he had seen Deanna's lovely features, her mouth
open in a frozen scream. He'd heard her scream "Imzadi", and in the dream,
tried desperately to reach her. To save her. She'd been captured, was about
to be tortured by an alien. If only he could've reached her.
Sorrow twisted his heart as he analzyed the dream. Obviously, it was
his conscience, creating for him a scenario in which he could save her life,
to make up for the fact that he wasn't there when she died. Yes, that was
probably it.
Still, it had seemed so real. The dream flashed back over him, and he
could almost see the sunlit desert sand in the background. Deanna, tossed
around like a ragdoll, hanging over someone's shoulder. But who? He
couldn't make out any other details. But it had been vivid and compelling,
leaving him with the futile wish that he could rev up the Hawking and fly to
a distant planet and rescue her.
Gods, it hurt too much. Tossing aside the covers, he got up and
headed for the shower, hoping to scour away the dirty feeling of Deanna's
pain from his mind and body. Later, after he'd dressed in a pair of blue
pants and a white polo shirt, he padded down the stairs to find Lwaxana.
His mother-in-law was reclining on a round purple sofa, staring up at
the ceiling.
"Good morning, William."
"Morning. Are you alright, Lwaxana?"
Her face was unusually pale, and the slight wrinkles seemed to deepen around
her eyes. Not moving, she nodded, and motioned to him with the sweep of her
regal hand. He sat next to her, unsure of what to say.
"I felt her, William. I felt Deanna this morning." The words hung
in the air and then fell, leaving a cold twist in his stomach.
"You what?"
"I felt her. Oh, she was undoubtedly calling for you, my dear, but I
could feel her just the same. She and I are bonded almost as closely as the
two of you, and I heard her."
Will's face flushed with a mixture of confusion and hope. "I don't
know what it means, Lwaxana, but I heard her too. I was dreaming. She was
imprisioned, about to be tortured. I could here her calling for me. Gods, I
could even feel her pain and her terror. It was so real that I thought for a
moment that she was still alive."
Lwaxana swung into a sitting position and stared at Will
unblinkingly. Her hands grasped for his own and held them. "I felt that too,
William. I felt my little girl's mind, just as surely as if she were
standing in this room with me. Gods, I just don't understand." A silent
torrent of tears washed down her face, and Will rocked her gently, wishing
that there was something he could say. Or do.
Finally he murmured her name and her face lifted from his shoulder.
"You know that if Deanna were alive I'd go to hell and back again to
save her. You know that. But Lwaxana, she's dead. We've both seen her body,
both grieved over her death. She's gone. I think we both want her back so
badly that we're having dreams, hallucinations of her. Isn't that possible?"
The light in the room seemed to brighten suddenly, casing a glint off
the delicate objects of art on the table. A deafening silence shrouded the
room and as the two stared at one another, both could hear the gentle,
accented tones of Deanna Troi-Riker.
"Help me, Imzadi. I'm still alive and I need you. Gods, help me!"
Paling, Lwaxana fell to the floor in a dead faint as Will fell back
against the sofa, overcome with emotion. He'd heard her. Deanna had called
him. Deanna needed him. He didn't understand it for a minute, but didn't
care. If the woman in the crypt was not his wife, if Deanna was still alive,
then he would find her. If it took him the rest of his life.
Gently fanning his mother-in-law's face, he woke her and helped her
to lay on the sofa again. Her dark brown eyes, filled with pain and hope
searched his, and she asked over and over, "Did you hear her? Did you hear


Part 6

After empty months of longing, Commander Will Riker's heart finally began to
beat again. The universe seemed alive with color, with possibility. Standing
outside of the Troi mansion in the gorgeous morning sun, he breathed in the
scent of dawn and smiled. Deanna was alive. He didn't know for how long, but
right now she was alive. Briefly he wondered again about the doppelganger in
the crypt. He'd loved that person, grieved over her beautiful, fallen body.
But it wasn't Deanna. It wasn't Deanna! For the first time in months Will
felt hope. Hope. The bright strength of that emotion shined in his blue eyes,
burst from his body as his long legs strode towards the meadow in the center
of town.
The Hawking waited for him, gleaming silver in the sunlight, looking like a
living beast ready to take flight. He patted the familiar silver metal
affectionately, then with one last look at Betazed, swung himself through the
open door. He was going to Jaden IV, but no directions were needed to guide
the shuttle's controls. All that he needed was a feeling...a memory. Contact.
And he was counting on it to draw him to Deanna-no matter how far away she
was. A fierce look of love and determination crossed his features as he
piloted the shuttle up through the atmosphere, then through the shining
"Imzadi...I'm coming...can you hear me my love?" With everything inside of
him he pushed the words from his heart and out into open space, hoping that
they'd stretch far enough to reach Deanna's mind. For hours the light-years
passed in silence. There was no response from his wife...not yet. But that
wouldn't stop him. If anything, it only served to renew his determination.
"I'll find her, dammit, if it's the last thing I do."
There was no response to that statement either and he had to laugh at
himself. "Do you see what you've reduced me to, Dee? You've got me talking to
myself. I wonder what kind of diagnosis you'd make from that." Grinning, he
imagined her response. She'd pretend he was nuts, then lovingly take him in
her arms and give him the sort of counseling that was reserved strictly for
her husband.
"God, Deanna, you ARE there, aren't you? Talk to me again, Imzadi...please?"
Again he sent to her, and finally, as the silent stars flew by, he thought he
could hear a whispered voice inside his head. "Will...Imzadi..?" The
tentative query reached into his mind and Will thought his chest would crack
open from the sudden, wild beating of his heart. Again, the soft voice came,
"Will?" Shaking, Will murmured a command to the computer. The shuttle
controls switched to automatic, and he took his shaking hands off of the
console. They were soaked with sweat, and he wiped them on his black slacks,
trying to catch his breath. It wasn't a dream. What had happened at Lwaxana's
was real. Deanna WAS alive. Not that he'd ever doubted it. But this, God,
this was more than he'd hoped for. She was still alive, still hanging on. He
would have time to reach her, he would find her. Before those monsters killed
"I'm coming," he whispered again, and as the Hawking made its way to Jaden
IV, Will Riker buried his face in his hands and sobbed for joy.

Deanna Riker knelt on the rocky bottom of a cell inside the Vorkon's main
headquarters, weakly attempting to remove the ribbons of restraints from her
wrists. She struggled with them for nearly an hour, then finally took a
moment to rest. The room was deep within the depths of a mountain and had all
the chill of an Alaskan winter. Alaska...Will. Gods, he was coming. She'd
heard him! It was almost too good to be true. His gentle casting had reached
through space into her mind and she nearly danced with joy at the sound of
it. The familiar sound and feel of Will in her mind warmed her to her bones
and she'd been grinning like an idiot ever since.
However, the threat had not dissipated just because she'd reached her
husband. No, if she could deduce anything from the angry pair of pacing
reptilies in front of her cage, it was that they were soon going to kill her.
She watched in silence as they prepared a sort of crude bio-bed from a
waist-length, oblong rock. They fitted the rusty brown stone with thick black
restraints, then conferred with each other in their own language as they
sorted through a selection of terrifyingly large instruments of torture.
Although she still did not know their language, she could easily read their
emotions, and the taller one seemed agitated. Impatient. If this were a
high-stakes card game aboard the Enterprise, she'd bet her life that this was
the alien who was going to try and take her life. His hatred of humanoids
burned from within, coloring his yellowish eyes with a dark red tint.
As though he'd felt her thoughts, the alien turned from his work and stared
at her. It was horrible; like being pinned to a wall directly through your
eyeballs. Deanna briskly turned away, and stared at the floor, fighting again
to free herself. What if they intended to kill her today? There was no way of
telling how far away Will was or if he'd reach Jaden IV in time to save her.
"But," she reflected grimly, " I love him too much to allow him to find my
corpse." The very thought renewed her determination, and she dug the cracked
ridges of her fingernails through the silken fabric.
As she worked, the alien's voices rose and fell in a rhythmic chant; almost
like a Klingon opera. Their voices bounced off the rocky cave walls, their
echo ringing through her ears painfully. Two more Vorkons entered the large
room then, and she noticed that one of them held something in his hands. It
was shaped like a cloth bag, and stuffed full of something that was
unidentifiable. Straining to see, she wiped the sweat from her forehead, and
clung to the metal bars. The burly reptile moved swiftly, tossing the bag
onto the protrusion of rock in the center of the room. Opening it, he pulled
out its contents. Deanna's mouth fell open in horror as she realized what the
bag contained.
As though he were unloading a bag of groceries, the Vorkon yanked the
objects from the bag; spilling them onto the rock. Soon a large pile of
dismembered humanoid limbs filled the space; legs, arms, fingers.... it was
ghastly. Deanna's stomach rebelled at the gruesome sight and she held it
tightly, trying not to be sick. Then she looked more closely at the last item
he'd removed. The was....still attached. The torso was covered in
blue and black cloth, and at the far-right edge, something gleamed gold in
the harsh lights of the mountainous cave. It was a Starfleet communicator.
Abruptly, Deanna Riker was sick. Violently so. When it had passed, she
cleaned herself as best she could, then rocked in frightened silence in the
corner of her cell. In her mind she screamed, "Dear Gods, Will, save me!"
Shaking, she tried to stand. Crying out for Will again, she watched as one of
the Vorkon's came slowly towards her. As he drew closer, the crystal lights
on the ceiling began to spin. A loud roaring filled her ears, like the swarm
of a beehive. Then, as the alien reached her cell, she mercifully blacked


Part 7

Jean-Luc Picard stared at his viewscreen, his mind turning over Will
Riker's words. Barely coherent with obvious joy, Riker had mumbled only two
words, over and over again; "Deanna's alive." The grin on the younger man's
face gave Picard's heart a bit of a twist and he'd begun to form a barrage of
questions. Before he could place any one of them into a coherent sentence,
Will's image flickered and faded. Apparently, the
Hawking's communications array was having some sort of difficulty.
As he rose to walk to the replicator, he stopped midway across the room
as the thought finally penetrated. Deanna Troi-alive. It was inconceivable.
He himself had been to the memorial service. He'd stiffly attempted to rock
a sobbing Lwaxana Troi in his arms, and had single-handedly kept Will afloat
with a discreet hand at the small of his broad back. But above all else,
he'd seen the lovely Mrs. Riker in her glass coffin; resting peacefully for
all eternity. How could this be true?
Perhaps Commander Riker had gone mad. Although he hated to think it, he
had to entertain the possibility. Will had been a bit off balance since
Deanna's death. Perhaps his grief and being on Betazed had sent him right
over the edge. Perhaps.
But Will had obviously left Betazed, was now at the controls of a
shuttlecraft-there was only one conclusion to make. He was headed for Jaden
IV. He'd already lost his dear friend and ship's counselor, he did not need
to lose his First Officer as well.
Punching up the viewscreen again, he sent a communication to Betazed.
After a few seconds the Starfleet logo disappeared, replaced by the beaming
countenance of Deanna's mother. "Jean-Luc! How wonderful! I was just
thinking of you."
"How flattering. However, this isn't a personal call. You see there has
been a development and I…" he broke off, surprised suddenly to see Lwaxana
"I know, I know! Isn't it magnificent? To think, my Little One is
alive. All of the Gods are smiling on me today, darling."
"So, your daughter is truly alive? This isn't some fantasy of Will's?"
"Not at all. I heard her, Jean-Luc. I felt her in my mind, but I also
heard her voice calling to me aloud; almost as though she were here in the
room with me! William heard it as well. You should've seen that boy's face."
"Yes, I can imagine. Now, I think the first thing we must do is to find
out the identity of the woman in your crypt. If the scans suggest it is our
counselor, then I'm afraid we'll have to continue learning to let her go.
But, if you and Will are correct, then we will have the proof we need to
declare her alive."
Lwaxana's brown eyes turned dark as twin black holes and she visibly
fought to control her temper. "Gods, Jean-Luc. My daughter is alive and in
trouble-she needs you. All she has right now is William in that rattletrap
shuttlecraft trying single-handedly to save her. Your first priority should
be turning the Enterprise around and heading for Jaden IV."
Sighing, Picard took a moment to sip from his cooling tea and to
formulate a sentence that Lwaxana would accept. Finally, he set down the
empty mug.
"I wish it were that simple, Mrs. Troi. You know that we are in the
midst of a war with the Dominion right now. As much as I'd like to turn the
whole damned ship around and retrieve my counselor, I have my orders. Now, I
think that we should make plans to ship the body to the Enterprise. Our
Doctor Selar will be more than happy to take care of this."
"Jean-Luc, we have doctors who are perfectly capable of performing
autopsies here on Betazed. There is no need to send her to you. Besides,
once the coffin is opened, the body will not stay in perfect condition for
long. Now, you will go after my daughter. Starfleet can fight this war
without your ship."
"I don't believe they would agree with you."
"They will. I am a daughter of the Fifth House, not to mention a
terribly important person in diplomatic circles. Can you imagine the fuss I
could create if it got out that the great Jean-Luc Picard refused to save my
daughter's life? Relations between Betazed and the Federation would
deteriorate, and your reputation would spread throughout this system."
Rolling his eyes, Jean-Luc attempted to control his tongue as well as his
temper. The woman was pushing him too far-she had to know that. "Look, Mrs.
Troi, I want Deanna back as much as you do, but I cannot in good conscience
leave my place in this war to save her. Starfleet would never sanction it."
As suddenly as it came, her mood changed, and instead of the angry
tornado she was threatening to become, he saw instead a gentle rainstorm.
She batted her long eyelashes at him and smiled flirtatiously. "Why darling,
didn't you think I'd considered that? I've already taken the liberty of
contacting Admiral Nechayev myself, and she agrees with me. There is more
happening on Jaden IV than Deanna's capture. It's vital to Starfleet that
they get control of that planet back and to contain the threat of the
Vorkons. So you see, you've been granted permission already. I'm sure
you'll be receiving a communiqué' from the admiral herself shortly."
Picard's temper rose to a flashpoint. Damned intrusive woman! Could she
never keep her meddlesome hands out of anything? He began to bark out his
denial of her words, but then the image on the screen quickly faded; leaving
only a memory of a triumphant smile.
Picard glared at the viewscreen and shook his head. Nechayev was no doubt
attempting to contact him at this very moment. He was not in the mood for
her today-nor any day, for that matter. Before she could intrude upon his
solitude, he went for another mug of tea and called for the computer to play
his favorite sonata. As the violins soared and the tea warmed his body, he
finally relaxed. Then Riker's words filled his head again. "Deanna's alive!"
He felt vague stirrings of hope, hope that his first officer was not crazy,
that a grief-stricken mother was not imagining things, and most of all that
Deanna Troi-Riker would still be alive on Jaden IV when he and the crew
reached her.
Beverly would need to be filled in on all of this. Thinking of her
lovely face, etched with months of little sleep and a river of tears,
Jean-Luc felt his heart lighten. Yes, he would tell her. He would tell her
now and let the chips fall where they may.
"Picard to Crusher."
"Crusher here."
"Bev, I'd like you to meet me in my ready-room immediately."
"Of course. Is everything alright?"
"Doctor, everything is quite alright. Quite alright indeed."


Part 8

She woke suddenly, only to find the room deserted. The blinding overhead
lights had been turned off, but she could still make out the table where the
macabre scene had taken place earlier. It stood empty now, but in memory
Deanna Troi-Riker could recall every detail of the horrible scene. It had
been a show, some hideous game to threaten and torment her. Surely, if they
planned on killing her, they would've taken the opportunity while she lay
unconscious in her cell.
Sore and stiff, Deanna began to stand on shaking legs, using the metal
bars of the cell for support. She scanned the room, seeing no sign of the
creatures, feeling no empathic impressions. Closing her eyes, she began a
deep-breathing exercise and mentally sought the location of her captors.
There was no sign of them-how odd. None of the burning anger, the blood
thirst, the need to kill. All that Deanna felt now was a vague foreboding; a
sense of disaster on it's way. Something was going to happen, but she had no
clue what that might be.
A faint flicker of light began to glow outside the building's massive
opening, and she craned her neck, trying to see. She couldn't make out
anything beyond the puddle of light streaming through the open door. It
looked as though the planet's moon has spilled itself inside the opening and
onto the dusty floor. The doors were open! A flicker of hope danced along
Deanna's nerve endings. She strained against the stiff, cold metal, trying
to force her way through the bars.
"Damn it!" she cursed silently, kicking the thing with a ragged, black
boot. There had to be a way out of here. Will was coming, she knew that;
felt it in her very soul. But he was not here yet-she could be dead by the
time he arrived. She had to at least get out of the cell and into the stark,
black mountains. There it would be fairly easy to hide from the Vorkons.
They were large, slow moving, and not particularly bright. And although Will
would have to hunt for her, their Imzadi bond would pull him to her; just as
the flashing beam of a lighthouse once pulled twentieth-century ships safely
to shore.
Feeling around the dirty floor, she looked for anything that could help
her affect her escape. A latch, a trigger, some sort of mechanism that could
raise the bars and allow her to sneak away. "I'm trying, Imzadi. Gods, I
hope you get here soon though."
A warm pulse of emotion throbbed gently in her mind and she grinned
widely. It was Will. Though endless light-years were between them, somehow
their mystical connection held; stretched tightly through space like a silken
umbilical cord.

Feeling her husband's love, even briefly, was enough to push her to continue
Digging through the soil, her fingers finally touched something hard.
Excitedly, she swept away most of the dirt, straining in the dim light to see
what it was. The pencil-thin shaft of light from the doors revealed a series
of metallic buttons. One by one, she pushed them, not knowing what effect
they might have, if any.
For a long moment, nothing happened. Then, a row of green lights
flickered to life in front of her and the bars flew skyward into the ceiling.
It worked! She smiled again and leapt to her feet, wondering briefly why the
Vorkons had left her in a cell with a built-in escape route. They must not
know...she thought. Yes, the device did look a bit like Starfleet issue.
The metallic buttons must've been jerry-rigged by one of the Starfleet
engineers held prisoner here. The Vorkons never found it. Thinking of the
pallid torso with its Starfleet insignia, she grimaced, then closed her eyes
and thanked the lost soul who helped to save her.
Gingerly, she stepped into the outer chamber, shivering at the chill wind
that blew inside. Two monstrously large doors lay open in front of her,
revealing the glare of moonlight against the rugged landscape. Deanna
tiptoed to the edge of the doors and tried to feel for a presence outside.
"How could they have left the doors open?" she murmured. Thinking of their
supreme arrogance, their unearthly aggression, she knew the answer. They'd
grown over-confident. They assumed that their cell would be prison enough.
A small, tired smile lifted one corner of her mouth, she'd made one small
victory. Now, there could be others. There would be others. If she were

Advancing slowly into the encroaching darkness, Deanna hid briefly in the
shadows of a ten-foot-tall rock and searched the area. The compound was
eerily silent, but she was well aware that at any moment that could change.
Feeling her heart speed up, she crept through an outcropping of rock and
peered over the side of a cliff wall. The drop must've been nearly a mile to
the bottom, and she shook; her mind suddenly filled with visions of her own
Tumbling, screaming, hand raised to ward off the creatures, she spun end
over end, toppling to the rocky shore below. The wet smack of her head
against a rock blackened her world, quenching the light of life in her
Gods, it felt so real, as though she was watching an actual memory unfold
before her. As though she had really...died. Rubbing her hands against her
arms for warmth, she closed her eyes, willing the vision to leave her mind.
As she trembled in the darkness, it dawned on her.
Poor Will. He must've seen this. He must've thought... The pain, Will's
pain, she could feel it slice inside her heart as though it were her own.
Tears shimmered in her dark eyes and she crept unsteadily away from the
cliffside, longing to allow herself time to do nothing but weep.
But that was a luxury she didn't have. Swallowing the lump in her
throat, she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her cloak and forced herself to
stay in control. Will was coming, he knew that she was alive. Everything
was going to be all right. Holding onto that, she made her way to the
mountains, hiding among the large purple trees that stood at the base of the
mountainside. She climbed the rocky ledges in total darkness, making slow but
steady progress, and after an hour or so, she felt confident that no one
could see her.
Exhausted and extremely hungry, Deanna knelt down on the hard surface of a
ledge and wrapped her cloak around her shivering body. It was growing cold
and she wished briefly for an old-fashioned fire to sleep by. Instead, she
lay her head on the folds of her cloak, closed her eyes, and summoned Will's
face. Here in this naked wilderness, he was the one thing she could cling
to-the only thing.
In the lonely darkness, Deanna Troi-Riker opened her eyes and stared up at
the ribbons of stars; sending her thoughts winging into space.
I'm here, Imzadi. I need you…I…love you.
Hang on, Counselor, your Commander is coming to save you.
Will's dancing eyes appeared in her mind, and the stars above seemed to
shimmer with his amused tone. Will, I've escaped! I've gotten out of the
cell, I'm hiding, I…
And then suddenly, the connection was snapped off, broken in two like the
crack of a twig.
Leaping to her feet, Deanna stifled a cry and searched the darkness. What in
the name of the Gods had happened? Before she could react, a hot, sticky
moistness seemed to fill her mind. A whiff of evil, a taste of brimstone.
Something decidedly unfriendly. The unwanted intrusion, just after the
precious contact with Will was more than she could stand.
"What do you want?" she cried aloud. "What the hell do you want?"
Anguished, she fell to her knees and finally allowed the day's tears to


Part 9

Beverly came into the Captain's ready-room, flushed from her holodeck
workout. Her white workout uniform was damp with sweat, and she patted her
face on a towel as she took a seat across from Jean-Luc. "What's going on?
I could hear something unusual in your voice. Has something happened to Will?"
"No, nothing like that. At least, not at this time. Hopefully nothing will
happen to our first officer, but he is on a rather dangerous mission."
Bev's eyes widened. "You mean…he went ahead and…that damned fool! He'll
get himself killed."
Cupping Bev's head in his hand, he tilted her face to meet his own and
without warning, kissed her. "What was that for?" she asked.
"I didn't think I needed a reason to kiss you, my dear. Besides, I saw the
famous Howard temper beginning to catch fire and I thought a bit of a peck
would quench the flames."
"You know me far too well, Jean-Luc. But seriously, if Will's headed for
Jaden IV on some sort of suicide mission-well, we've got to follow him.
We've already lost one crewmember to those bastards, I do not want to go to
any more funerals this year!"
"I quite agree with you, but there's nothing to worry about. Admiral
Nechayev has given the Enterprise orders to go to Jaden IV and retrieve the
Commander, as well as any other Starfleet officers who survived the Vorkon's
They looked at one another, and for a moment, Beverly could see something
more in her lover's eyes. Some unnamable emotion that looked suspiciously
like joy.
"Is there something you're not telling me? You don't seem at all concerned
about this. I mean breaking off from the Dominion War to save Will-you know
I'm all for it, but I can't believe that the admiral sanctioned it. Not the
Nechayev I know. She doesn't have it in her."
Jean-Luc chuckled aloud. "You're right about that. Someone applied just
enough pressure to our Admiral to get her to change that stubborn mind of
hers. I still can't quite believe she pulled it off."
Curiosity getting the better of her, Beverly moved to the desk and swung a
leg over the corner. "Now what on earth is this about? Who is this "she"
you're talking about and what exactly did she pull off? Something's going on
and you've been keeping me in the dark. Tell me, Jean-Luc."
How could he resist? Those flashing blue eyes were staring at him, filled
with the unrestrained curiosity of a little girl on Christmas morning.
Taking her hands into his, he kissed them, and then met her gaze. "The she I
was referring to was none other than Lwaxana Troi."
"Deanna's mother was able to tie Nechayev around her little finger? You're
kidding! But how?"
Finally he could keep it secret no longer. "Beverly, you're not going to
believe this, but I have some very, very good news. You see, Deanna is
She sat stock-still for a long moment, hardly daring to believe that he could
be telling the truth. But Jean-Luc had never lied to her, he would certainly
never lie to her about something like this. Staring into his eyes, she
searched for some sort of confirmation of his words. In those endless depths
she saw that he was telling the truth.
Stunned, she could only babble question after question. "But how? I mean
we saw her, Jean-Luc. What happened to her? If that's not Deanna we put to
rest then who…?"
The Captain placed a finger on her rosebud lips, hushing her. "I don't
have all of the answers yet, darling. We'll know more when we reach Jaden
IV. All that I can tell you is that both Deanna's mother and Will Riker felt
and heard Deanna's voice. Apparently she was calling for help. You know the
connection that Deanna has with her mother-if anyone could sense that she was
alive it would be Lwaxana."
It was true then. Lwaxana Troi was a telepath; there was no way she
could sense Deanna unless she was truly alive. As the weight of the news hit
her, Beverly felt something in her heart loosen. Then, the pain of the last
three months ebbed from her body in waves as she fell into Jean-Luc's arms,
sobbing like a child.

Word spread like wildfire through the Enterprise grapevine. Within hours,
most of the crew had heard rumors that Deanna Troi-Riker was indeed alive,
and the ship seemed to hum with ripples of cautious joy. In Ten-Forward,
Guinan was tending bar when Reg Barclay rushed in, sweating profusely,
smiling like an idiot. "G…Guinan. G…guess what?" he stammered, swinging
his long legs up around a barstool.
She stared at him serenely, a warm light in her eyes, as though she already
knew exactly what he was going to say. "What is it, Lt. Barclay? I take it
you've had some good news?"
"Good? It's better than good, Guinan. It's wonderful. It's truly the
best news I've ever had and…"
Rolling her eyes, she held up a hand and murmured, "Reg, just tell me
what's happened."
He blushed, then quickly gulped from the glass of water she slid in front
of him.
"Right. Well, the whole ship's talking about it. They say, they think,
that Deanna is alive." His eyes were dancing in his head, making him look
like a child with a high fever.
Guinan's bare brow arched gracefully and she leaned across the counter.
"I know." Solemly, she moved around, pouring drinks, refilling Reg's water
glass, then taking one for herself.
"You know? What do you mean, you know? How could you not tell me? I
don't…I can't…" he broke off, wiping the sudden rush of tears to his eyes.
She lay a hand on his arm, gently squeezing. "Would you have believed
"W…well, no. I mean…yes. I don't know."
"Exactly. This way, you know the truth and believe it-and now we can
celebrate together."
Draining his glass again, Barclay stared at the dark-eyed bartender,
seeing hundreds of years of knowledge in those eyes, wondering other secrets
lie behind them.
"Have you known all along? I mean, shouldn't you have told the
Commander? Deanna is his wife, after all."
Guinan shook her head. "I didn't know all along, Reg. I too saw her
body, felt her spirit leave. I was just as surprised as you are. The
difference is that I found out through channels other than ship's gossip."
"Other channels?" he looked frightened, which for Reg was nothing
She laughed softly, wiping down the bar, her green headdress moving up
and down as she worked. "You see, when Deanna contacted Will mentally, I
heard her also. That's how I knew she was still alive."
"You-you're an empath?"
"Not precisely. Let's just say that when Deanna and Will's minds
touched, the reaction was so strong, it could be felt millions of miles away."
That silenced him. His eyes were drawn to the viewscreen, the thousands
of stars whizzing by, the endless, deep blackness of space. His heart felt
lighter, knowing that Deanna was alive-nothing could've made him happier.
But his soul felt heavy as Guinan's words repeated themselves in his
mind. And something he'd been denying to himself for years, even since her
marriage, was that Deanna belonged with Will. She would never be his.


Part 10

Will Riker stared ahead at the violent purple haze that surrounded Jaden
IV. The planet looked like a ball of dark wax dripping from some odd,
celestial candle. It hung low beneath a fat glimmer of moon, waiting.
Waiting for him to come into its clutches and steal its lovely human
A slight twinge of fear crept up his spine, thinking of the beasts who'd
taken his wife. He quashed it quickly. Deanna was alive, he was going to
save her. It was as though every fantasy he'd had since hearing of her death
had suddenly come true, and nothing, not even the unknown aliens below could
keep the famous Riker grin from spreading across his face.
The shuttle drifted downward through the turgid atmosphere; finally
landing on a rocky desert plain. Will switched off the controls, rubbed his
tired eyes and stared out of the viewscreen; wondering if the bastards were
already waiting for him.
He stepped out of the shuttle, gripping a phaser in his hand. The
landscape was dry, dark, empty. No sounds could be heard other than the
steady throbbing of his own heart. The beige soil cracked under his heavy
black shoes as he walked steadily towards a circular building in the center
of what looked like a small city.
As he took in the ragged buildings, the constant whining of the wind, the
desolation, his heart twisted. Deanna-living for months on this lonely ball
of dust. The thought was enough to creat an urgent need to tear through each
and every building; to search desperately until he found her. But he knew
that was foolish. It wouldn't do Deanna any good if he got killed on his way
to save her.
Still, there was no harm in imagining what he was going to do to the
aliens who'd imprisoned his wife. His blue eyes gleamed, imagining the
satisfaction of tearin through one of those reptilian throats. It would be
better than any holodeck program. Far better.
A sudden sound broke through his thoughts, and he dove behind a large
brown rock, instantly on the defensive. It came again; a jagged rustling
that sounded like an Alaskan wolf demolishing its prey. He crouched in the
rock's shadow for five long minutes, willing his heart to slow, anticipating
the ecstasy of slamming phaser fire straight into the heart of one of the
Vorkons. It came sooner than he predicted.
As he waited in the dusty silence, the sound came again. This time, an
angry growl, echoing across the naked desert. The sight of the beast's snake
like visage shot a spurt of adrenaline through Will's veins, and suddenly any
fear he'd felt evaporated.
Falling to one knee, he lifted the phaser, firing in the direction of a
scaly, bare stomach. "Gotcha!" he crowed. The heavy body fell backwards,
landing with a resounding thump on the ground. The skin seemed to sizzle in
the heat of the phaser's blast, coloring to red, then brown, then bit by bit,
falling off the lifeless body.
Disgusted, Will looked away, then crept back behind the rock's shelter.
He had to reach Deanna. He had to let her know that he was here. Swiftly
searching the area for more Vorkons, he briefly closed his eyes, just long
enough to send:
"Deanna-Imzadi-I'm here. I'm here. Where are you?"
Long moments passed with no response, until finally, a delicate brush of
thought touched his mind. " came. I love you. Bottom of the...mountain."
Her thoughts were broken, as though she were unable to keep her
concentration focused on her sending. That hardly ever happened.
Except...except for those times when Deanna was ill or close to dying.
Frightened now more than ever, Will tossed caution to the wind and ran
out from behind the rock, searching the sky desperately for the mountain
she'd mentioned. Careless of the possible threat, he dashed across the open
space of the desert, finally noticing the stark peak of the mountain
shimmering above the purple forest.
Hundreds of feet felt like miles as he ran, and it seemed to take hours
to reach the base of the mountain and the forest where Deanna was now hiding.
Just as his feet hit the first patch of grass, a hand grabbed him roughly
from behind, tossing him to the ground. "Get the hell off me, you bastard."
He was so close now, how dared this monster keep him from seeing his wife for
the first time in months. How dare he!
The anger leapt through his body like a high-voltage wire, giving him
sudden strength. When he rose to his feet, the Vorkon stood behind him,
merely staring at him as though he were an interesting delicacy on an
intergalactic menu.
Reaching for his phaser, Will palmed it with a sweaty hand, and gradually
slid it upwards, hoping to catch the alien off guard. Up, up, up, he moved
the metal tip, until it was level with the Vorkon's heart. Holding his
breath, Will jabbed the trigger, watching wide-eyed as the blast sliced
directly though the beast's chest.
The skin mottled, the mouth cried out in obvious pain, but it did not
fall. Instead, it kept it's stance, staring at Will with what could only be
percieved as a challenge.
"What the hell?" he began, but suddenly there wasn't time to figure out
why this alien refused to die. In his mind, he could hear Deanna again; so
clear she must be nearby.
"Will!" she screamed inside his head, her pain cutting into his soul.
They were killing her. This time, for real. He had to get to her. Now.
Thumbing the phaser again, he realized that in the excitement of killing
the first one, he'd inadvertantly switched the thing to "stun". Flicking it
back onto "kill", he grinned. "Okay, you son of a bitch, I've got something
just for you." The creature looked almost curious, as though wondering what
the strange alien human was up to.
Then it obviously figured out what was coming next, because it reached up
with one nasty, leathery hand and grabbed for the phaser. Will pressed the
button, sending a burst of light right into it's hand, then he flipped it
downwards and went straight for its stomach. An other-worldly groan escaped
it as it fell backwards, then just like its brother, died, rotting right in
front of Will's eyes.
There wasn't time to feel the satisfaction of the kill, Deanna had to be
found. With one last look at the landscape behind him, Will threw himself
into the lush forest, calling out for her in his mind. Imzadi! I'm coming,
Deanna, I'm coming. Hang on, hang on.
For you...Will... It was the only reply she gave, and then the deafening
silence in his mind told him that she was unconscious.
The trees scratched his legs as he flew between them, but he didn't feel
it. He felt nothing now except the desperate need to reach her before
God no, he couldn't go through that again. He had to reach her. He would
reach her. He simply refused to believe anything else.
As he drew closer to the hidden spot where Deanna lay, his eyes filled
with tears and his heart throbbed wildly. He was almost there. She was
still alive. He was going to make it.
As he tore around a broken tree trunk, he skidded to a stop. She was
there. Lying on the forsest floor, wrapped in a ripped black cloak and the
remains of her Starfleet uniform. Her eyes were purpled with bloody bruises,
her mouth hung open as though she'd begun to speak just before losing
consciousness. She was very still, but breathing, and he stared up at the
sky, thanking whatever god or goddess had given him this moment.
She was hurt, possibly badly, but she was alive. Taking her in his arms,
he held her tightly, rocking her, burying his face in the cleft between her
neck and shoulder.
The tears spilled over, running down his bare cheeks, and soon he was
sobbing brokenly as the reality washed over him. She truly was alive. It
was no fantasy, no holodeck dream-she was real. "God Deanna, oh God,
Deanna...." he murmurred over and over, kissing her soft, sweet cheeks,
running his hands through the curly, black masses of her hair. "I love you
Imzadi. You're alive and I love you. I love you so much." He was
incoherent with joy, and when he finally stopped crying and was able to look
at her face again, he saw two large black eyes staring up at him. She was
concious again.
Stunned, he stared at her, unable to speak.
"You came," she whispered.
He nodded, not trusting his voice. Finally, he cleared his throat and
forced down the threat of more tears. "Of course. Of course...Imzadi." As
he held her, a tiny smile lifted the corners of her mouth. "I've missed
you..." she murmured.
"And I've missed you," he replied, wondering if Deanna could possibly
know just what an understatement that truly was.


Part 11

The Enterprise wound its way across space, through a war-torn littering
of damaged starships bearing the insignias of more than ten different
Federation planets. Captain Jean Luc Picard grimaced at the wreckage,
pressing a discreet fingertip against his throbbing temple. The damned war
was still on. His friends and colleagues were losing their lives fighting
the Dominon while he safely navigated his ship around the debris on a mission
to save his ship's counselor.
Not that it was an unworthy mission. He genuinely cared for Deanna
Troi-Riker; loved her like a daughter, if the truth be known. Yet as
grateful as he was to have the chance to save her, he felt decidedly guilty
about abandoning the rest of the Fleet.
"We are nearing the planet's atmosphere, Sir," said Data, drawing Jean
Luc's introspection to a close. Yanking down on the hem of his shirt, the
Captain focused his atttention on the viewscreen.
"Readings, Mr. Data?"
"The atmosphere seems to be consistent with a class "L" planet, Captain.
There are no unusual readings at present."
"How long before we reach her?"
"We will touch down on the planet's surface in approximately three hours,
twenty-six minutes and sixteen seconds."
"Thank-you, Data. Keep me informed of any unusual findings, won't you?
And be sure to alert me once we are close to landing."
"Aye sir," said the android, spinning back around in his chair to tap out
a series of numbers on the OPS station.
Picard gave the assembled crew a stiff nod, then curtly murmured, "You
have the bridge, Mr. Data. I'll be in my ready room." Giving the viewscreen
a final glimpse, he headed for his small santuary just off the bridge and a
much-needed cup of tea.
As he stepped into the small room he noticed Beverly standing beside the
glass display case, gently fingering the small gold collection of starships.
"Beverly? What brings you by, darling?" he asked.
She turned to face him slowly, obviously lost in her own thoughts. Her
eyes were filled with unshed tears and her normally starched blue uniform was
badly in need of ironing. Her reddish tumble of hair had been hastily tossed
into an impromptu bun, and her eyes held shadows beneath them.
Silently she moved to the replicator and then called for two steaming
mugs of Earl Grey. Handing the Captain one, she took a seat across from him
at the desk and sighed loudly. Gulping the scalding liquid she shivered, then
finally met his eyes.
"Beverly? What's wrong? Has something happened that I should be aware
He was extremely concerned by her appearance, by her silence. But he held
his tongue and waited for her to tell him what was on her mind in her own way
and time.
Clearing her throat she sat the empty mug on the desk and met his gaze.
"I lost a patient this morning."
"Bev, darling, I'm sorry. Who was it?
"Lt. Leslie Reyes."
"From Astrometrics? Wasn't she...?"
Beverly nodded, pain crossing her pale face. "Pregnant? Yes she was.
Four months along, to be exact."
"And the child? Did he survive?"
"I'm afraid not." The weight of her words hung in the air and Jean Luc
felt pinned to his chair. How was he to comfort her? Before he could decide
on a course of action, she leaned her forehead against her palm and began to
"God, Jean-Luc, she was so young. And the baby...I couldn't save him. I
tried but he'd lost too much oxygen and..." she broke off, unable to continue
without sobbing. The Captain came around the desk, took her into his arms
and held her gently in his arms. "Shhh, there there, darling. It's alright.
You did everything you could for her, I'm sure."
"I'd asked her not to use the transporter. I warned her about the
difficulties pregnant women sometimes have. She went on shore leave to visit
family, and obviously had no trouble on the way down to Coralis XI."
"I take it beaming back aboard was more troublesome?" he prodded gently.
"Yes. When she appeared on the transporter pad, she said hello to Ensign
Wynn, then fainted on the floor as she stepped down off the pad. I beamed
her to sickbay and Alyssa and I worked on her for three hours but it was too
"You're saying that our transporter killed Lt. Reyes? I knew that there
could be difficulties, but I never imagined...."
"Nor did I. One moment she was fine, the next she was in the throes of
anaphylatic shock. The baby...he suffocated in her womb." The last five
words tumbled out slowly, falling to the floor with their heavy weight.
"Good lord." He knew of nothing else to say, no other words could
possibly fix the situation. All that he knew to do now was rock his lover in
his arms and allow her to cry until she'd spent her sorrow. Beverly
occasionally became very emotional about her patients, especially the ones
she was unable to save, but he'd never seen her quite this distraught.
Although he hated to admit it, there was more than concern for the woman he
loved on his mind. Beverly Crusher was his CMO, and he would need her skills
once they landed on Jaden IV.
Trying to mentally balance his shifting attitudes, he continued to rock
her, murmuring comforting endearments to her in French. It touched him
deeply to see her so upset, his own heart twisted with the need to comfort
her. Rarely had Beverly Crusher allowed her professional demeanor to slip so
completely, and he was concerned.
"Look at me, Beverly. Why has this hit you so much harder than your
previous losses? They do happen, Darling. It is an unfortunate part of
life, but a reality nonetheless."
Beverly snatched another tissue from the silver box and wiped at the
black tracks of mascara running down her cheeks. "You're right, of course.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened. I've lost
patients before. It's just that...this is...different." The last word hung
in the air between them.
"Different? How?"
She met his eyes and tried for a tremulous smile. "Because, Jean Luc,
when I cared for Lt. Reyes and her child, my own perspective had changed. I
found myself unable to detach myself from the situation."
"But why, darling? Has something happened?"
Her face flushed with color; several shades of pink highlighting her
prominent cheekbones. "You could certainly say that. I planned on telling
you tonight over dinner, but losing Reyes and the baby...I just knew I needed
to tell you right away."
Jean Luc sipped carefully from his tea, wondering what on Earth she was
going to say next. Before he could press further, she leaned over the
blotter and grasped his hands, a sudden smile crossing her lovely face. "I'm
pregnant, Jean Luc. We're going to have a child."
The effect of her words was similar to that of a bomb dropping
unannounced from the ceiling and detonating on the desktop between them.
Shock had stripped the Captain momentarily of speech and for the first time
since he and Beverly became lovers, he found himself unable to formulate a
response to her.
Fortunately for him, she chuckled at his discomfiture. "Darling! Did
you hear me? We're going to have a baby. Are you alright?"
" I mean, yes, of course I am. But how did this happen?"
She gave a sly grin and winked at him. "I think you know the answer to
that, Jean Luc."
He blushed and smiled back, embarassed. "Well, of course I do. It's
just that...well, we, you know...we used protection when we were intimate."
"Protection, even in the 24th century, is not perfect, Darling."
"No, I suppose it isn't," he murmured.
"I'm as surprised as you are. When I missed my monthly cycle, I had
Alyssa run the necessary test to rule it out. That was yesterday, Jean Luc.
And then this morning when I lost Reyes and the baby....well it just made me
realize how precarious life is. That could've been me and my baby. Our
Picard's face jutted up at that. He looked as if he'd been stunned with
a phaser blast. "God, Beverly, don't even think it. I can't imagine if
something ever happened to you." He studied her face for a moment, then slid
his hand from her cheek to her shoulder, to her hip, then finally landed it
on her still-flat stomach.
"A baby..." he said wonderingly.
She laughed aloud, tears filling her eyes again. "Your baby."
For a long moment he merely stared at her, this beautiful woman who carried
his child in her womb. Then, in a tentative whisper he asked, "Can we call
her Yvette?"
"After your mother? Of course."
He nodded, suddenly feeling happier than he'd felt in years. It was all so
much to take in, but at the same time, it was wonderful news. He would not
be the last Picard after all. Hugging her so tightly she thought she'd
break, Picard kissed her full on the lips and then broke away, beaming.
"You really ARE happy about this aren't you?" she said.
"I am. And, I know of two other Enterprise officers who are going to be
positively thrilled about it."


Part 12

In the heat of the dusty desert forest, Will Riker held his wife in his
arms. Despite the uncomfortable circumstances, despite the danger lurking
close by, the Commander felt the intense desire to remove what was left of
his wife's clothing and make love to her. Lying there among the grayish
grass, her long dark curls spilling behind her, Deanna looked like a sleepy
goddess come to life. Her deep black eyes were open, staring at him like an
exotic kitten. Her breath rose and fell evenly, color had returned to her
pale cheeks. She was going to be all right.
Running a hand across the swell of her hip, Will leaned down and captured
her lips with his own. "I want you, Imzadi," he sent. She smiled, touching
his bearded chin, returning his kiss with fervor. "And I want you, Imzadi."
He stared at her, choking on unshed tears, and was finally able to speak
"God, Deanna, I thought that you were…dead. I thought we'd never make
love again, never have a child together, a future. Having you here, touching
you like this, it's more than I can stand. You've been through hell and I
don't want to start something that you're not ready for, but I need you
Imzadi. God how I need you."
Deanna could feel the intensity of Will's desire, but driving that
intensity was a far greater emotion. His grief had turned swiftly to hope,
and now was a blazing flame of pure unadulterated love and joy. Making love
to her would bring them back together completely; filling the emptiness of
the months they'd spent apart, stitching their souls back into one unique
entity. Forging their Imzadi bond all over again.
In her mind, Deanna Troi-Riker murmured, "Yes, Imzadi. My darling Will.
Make love to me now, darling."
He needed no further encouragement. Will's heart slammed against his
chest as he struggled to contain his urges, his feelings. He stood and
removed his Starfleet uniform, not giving a tinker's damn if the Vorkons were
watching voyeuristically from behind the trees or not. Hell, for all he
cared they could enjoy the show, as long as they left he and Deanna alone
long enough to come together as man and wife.
Naked, he knelt over her, delicately holding her as he unzipped the back
of her uniform. It slid off her body, revealing a slightly torn blue bra and
matching panties. Shuddering, he willed himself to go slowly, to savor this
precious, prayed-for moment.
Her eyes darkened, becoming black flames of desire that threatened to
overwhelm him as he stared into their liquid depths. They stared at one
another as though they'd never seen each other before, as though the beauty
of their faces had only just come into focus and they were each newly aware
of the magnificent creature before them.
"I love you, husband," Deanna murmured softly as Will removed her
"And I love you, my wife. So much more than you can ever realize."
Deanna shivered as the air hit her naked flesh, and Will promptly covered
her with his body.
"Are you trying to warm me up, Commander?" she asked with a hint of
His blue eyes crinkled at the corners and he grinned. "Is it working,
"Oh I believe it is. But kiss me again just to be sure."
He obliged, teasing her tongue with his own, creating a throb of desire
that began in her belly and spread down to more private places. She arched
against him, moaning softly, aroused by the combination of his warm mouth and
the press of his hips against hers. His large hand folded over one perfect
breast, languorously teasing the soft pink nipple. The other snaked between
her legs, touching the moist warmth between them. She was wet for him already.
"Deanna, I want to give you hours of foreplay. You deserve that, but I
want you much I don't know that I can wait."
"Feel me, Will. I want you too. Does it feel as though I need more
He swept down to kiss her again, then lifted himself on one elbow above
her, ignoring the bite of rocky soil against his skin. "It feels like you're
ready to be made love to, Mrs. Riker."
"Well then, Imzadi, what are you waiting for?" The sweet glint of
amusement still glittered in her eyes and Will felt his heart swell with love
for her. She was alive, she was whole and she loved him. He needed nothing
Slowly he entered her, watching the play of emotions across her beautiful
face. He opened his mind to hers, feeling the warmth of her desire as he
simultaneously sent her his own. Taking her slowly, he tried to make her
body feel all of the pent-up love and desire he'd been holding back all of
these months. In his mind, a flood of memories flashed through before he
could stop them.
The shock and devastation he'd felt upon seeing the visions of her death,
his first horrified glimpse of the battered, naked corpse he'd thought was
hers, living through each hellish day as though it was a horrible game to be
played until he reached the end of his sanity, crying over her pictures in a
drunken haze, holding tight to her pillow because the scent of jungle
gardenias still clung to the pillowcase. Oh God, the pain was too much. It
spilled from him completely into Deanna's mind and through the erotic beat of
her own arousal, she suddenly saw Will's memories.
She cried out sharply, not with ecstasy, but in shared pain. The
intensity of Will's thoughts broke her heart and tears rose in her eyes as
she watched her husband, falling down her cheeks in salty ribbons. "Gods,
Will, I'm so sorry. I never imagined…"
"Shh…Deanna…let me love you. Just be here with me in this moment.
There will be plenty of time to talk later."
She nodded, still overcome with the power of her husband's love and
grief, and forced herself to stay with him as he made love to her. Her
delicate hands moved to cup his rounded backside and she wrapped her legs
around him more tightly than before, pushing him inside of her body as deeply
as possible. They found a perfect, wild rhythm and rode the waves of
pleasure together, each crying silent tears as they felt their passion rise
to heights that had never before been scaled.
Deanna felt the tingles of excitement blossom to harsh throbs between her
legs, and she moved against Will faster and faster. "Look at me, Imzadi,"
she whispered.
He opened his eyes again and although the pounding in his body was
bringing him swiftly to release, he forced them to stay open. He wanted to
watch the pleasure cross Deanna's face when she came, and as her soft moans
turned to loud cries, he thrust into her harder, pushing her completely over
the edge.
"Gods, Will, I…Oh Gods, yes!" The climax hit her like the slap of an
ocean wave, slamming through her body with the force of a thousand tons of
water. She clutched him tightly, calling his name, and then felt him tense
above her.
"Deanna…Jesus…Oh shit!" Will was silenced, overcome with the violent
shock of his own orgasm. It seemed to last forever and as he poured himself
inside of her, it felt as though his own soul had slipped from his body and
entered the sacred space of his wife's.
The world seemed to recede as Will and Deanna clung together, coming down
from the heights of their passion. He held her close, never wanting to let
her go, kissing her damp forehead and running his fingers through her tousled
"Will," she began, but he lay a finger against her lips and shook his
"Later, Imzadi. I promise when I get you out of here and back aboard the
Enterprise we will talk. I will tell you everything about these last few
months, and you will tell me what these Vorkon bastards did to you. We need
to talk, but right now let me just hold you. We'll have to get dressed and
head for the shuttlecraft soon. It's going to be dangerous, but whatever
happens, I want this moment to last as long as possible."
"I understand." And she did. All of the months of loneliness and fear
seemed to slide away into the recesses of her mind as she stared up at the
beautiful man who was her Imzadi. Nothing mattered right now except staying
in this precious moment as long as possible. "Kiss me again, love," she said
He arched one dark brown eyebrow. "Why Mrs. Riker, are you telling me
you're ready for round two?"
Watching the molten sun dive behind the trees, feeling Will Riker in her
arms, hearing nothing in the nearby brush except blessed silence, Deanna
nodded, smiling mischievously.
"We haven't got much time, Will. I feel them beginning to stir again.
They may come this way soon. I don't know how much time we have, but I want
to share a bit more physical pleasure with my husband before we try to
"Who am I to turn down a gorgeous broad like you?" he quipped.
"Exactly," she returned. Pushing him onto his back against the rough
ground, Deanna rose above him and grinned wickedly. Then she touched him,
brining his body to life again, enjoying the sight of his handsome face
twisted in an expression of ecstasy.
"God woman, what are you going to do to me?" he groaned.
"You'll see."
And with that, Deanna mounted him, enjoying the feel of being in the
superior position. She tore him apart with her gentle thrustings, then she
quickened the pace as her own desire surged forth. The months of loneliness,
of powerlessness drained away as she took control of their lovemaking. As
Will whispered encouragements to her, she allowed the feeling of power to
take over, blending with her love for Will, and for the first time in months
she was in control of her body, of her life. It felt wonderful.
Reaching into Will's mind, she sent him all of this information, not
wanting him to feel used, not wanting him to believe that her passion was
borne merely of selfishness.
He smiled up at her, delighted to see her enjoying herself and then sent
a single word into her mind as she deftly rode his body. "Rabeem."
Deanna felt the word, felt his acceptance, and she allowed her excitement
to build even more, each ecstatic pulse bringing her closer to freedom.
Closer to Will. Heedless of anything except her own pleasure, she gripped
the dark hair on his chest and threw her head back, calling his name over and
over again as the release shook her body. His own explosion quickly followed,
bringing a hoarse curse from the depths of his throat.
Exhausted, they lie together again, finally sated, enjoying the feel of
being in each other's arms. "I'm drained, my beautiful Imzadi. How am I
supposed to get you off this planet and back home?"
She giggled. "I'm sure you'll think of something, Imzadi."
His expression grew serious then. "Deanna, we've got to get dressed
soon. The shuttle-I don't know if the bastards have gotten to it yet. If
they have, it's probably been sabotaged. We have got to get a move on. As
much as I don't want this to end, I have to get you to safety. I love you
and I'm not losing you again."
The earnestness in his eyes touched her deeply and she hugged him. "I
know. It's just been so amazing being back together with you. Frankly, I'd
like to go to sleep in your arms right here, Will. But you're right. I can
still sense them and they are not going to be happy when they find us. Let's
go now before they get any closer."
"Are you sure you're able to stand? To walk?"
She nodded, gamely pulling herself to her feet. "See? I'm perfectly
fine. Starving, exhausted and a bit bruised, but fine."
Will stared at her, amazed at her courage. She'd been through so much
and now was ready to do whatever it took to effect their escape. She was one
hell of a woman and she was all his. "You're one lucky bastard, Riker," he
thought to himself.
"You certainly are," she teased, slipping into her uniform.
Will dressed beside her, admiring not only her lovely body but the strength
of her character as well. Somehow she'd come through terrifying
circumstances to be with him in this moment and he felt like he might burst
from the pride welling up in his chest.
Dressed now, they shared a wordless hug, then walked slowly to the edge
of the forest, peeking out at the landscape from behind the trees.
"The shuttle's about half a mile from here. Can you make it?"
"Lead the way, Commander. I'm right behind you."
Their footfalls crunched through the dry leaves as they made their way to
the desert plain and as they took their first tentative steps from behind the
safety of the trees, they stopped, standing stock-still. There were Vorkons
everywhere. At least ten or fifteen of them stood between them and the
compound, another twenty or more could be seen in the distance, completely
blocking the route to the Hawking.
"What do we do now, Commander?" Deanna whispered.
"Pray. Then run like a bat out of hell."


Part 13

The path was littered with fallen magnolia blossoms. Shades of pink,
chartreuse, and vivid purple fell from the tall trees surrounding the Troi
crypt, their lovely petals raining down on Lwaxana's head like a gentle
rainshower. Head held high; she tensed her shoulders, steeling herself for
the sight of the body. Breathing deeply of the intoxicating scent of
flowers, she closed her eyes for a moment and reminded herself sternly that
her daughter was alive. The body in the crypt was not Deanna's. Relief
washed through her as she focused on the memory of Deanna's beloved voice
echoing throughout her living room just days before.
The bell-like sound had filled her with joy, erasing the pain of loss
with it's precious sound. Still, as grateful as she was to know that her
Little One was among the living, there was still the doppleganger in the
crypt to deal with. The stranger who looked so like her daughter that it was
frightening. "If I didn't know better," she mused aloud, "I'd think that I'd
given birth to twins." Of course that was absurd. Lwaxana Troi had given
birth to three children; the late and much-loved Kestra, Deanna, and most
recently Ian, a handsome son. Deanna had no twin. So who was the beautiful
girl lying under glass within the crypt?
Sweeping her long skirts behind her, Lwaxana stared up at the solid
building in front of her, burning with curiosity, but also filled with dread.
It was painful to look upon this woman, knowing that when Deanna did
eventually die, her corpse would look exactly like this one.
Opening the door, she walked into the chilled rooms, her footfalls
ringing against the carved stone floors. Her purple heeled slippers tapped
against the stone, echoing throughout the building and she was grateful for
the sound. The deep ocean of silence that permeated this chamber was too
much for her. Too many hours had been spent between these walls, as she
alternately cursed the gods and sobbed her heart out. Too many hours spent
touching the cool glass, her fingers tracing "Deanna's" face, fighting the
piercing blade of grief as she remembered every moment of Deanna's short
Drawing closer to the special room, Lwaxana hesitated. Why? It was not
her daughter lying beneath that pane of glass, it was an imposter. A fake.
No one that she knew. No one she should grieve for. But as she finally
crossed the threshold to the small room, her eyes filled with sudden tears.
The woman who wore Deanna Troi-Riker's face lay in silence, her unearthly
beauty startling after all of these months. "Who are you?" Lwaxana
whispered, touched a bejeweled hand to the surface. "You are so like my
Little One. You are so beautiful. So young. Why did you die? Did they do
this to you?" There were no answers, but the questions continued to mount as
Lwaxana stared at the replica of her daughter.
Had they taken Deanna's DNA and made a clone? It was one of the few
possibilities that made sense. Perhaps they'd surgically altered another
humanoid to look like Deanna and then killed her. She shuddered. Either
possibility was horrid to contemplate. "I'm so sorry this happened to you,"
she murmured, wishing briefly that she could take the lovely body from out of
its coffin and hold it to her breast. In lieu of that, she closed her eyes
and softly chanted an ancient Betazoid prayer. The gods would carry this
lovely girl away to a far better, far brighter place. Of that, Lwaxana was
When she finished, she rose from her knees and kissed her fingertips,
then touched the glass with them. The dark-haired, black-eyed angel within
did not respond, but for a moment she seemed to shimmer, as though made of
glitter. It was an illusion, no doubt, but one that made the moment somehow
satisfying; as if Lwaxana had been witness to the soul-flight of her
daughter's twin.
Sighing, she wiped the bottom of her skirt off, and walked out of the
room, not looking back. She'd made her peace with the loss of this woman,
and now it was time to find out who she was and how she came to take Deanna's
place. The question that burned the brightest now was "why?" Why would
someone want to hurt her so badly with this charade? Or, was their target
someone else entirely?
As she pondered those questions the twin sun's beaming shafts of light
suddenly darkened. Overhead a voluminous cloud covered them completely,
casting large shadows across the gardens. Distant rumbles echoed across the
Sonara mountain range, and Lwaxana knew that in a matter of moments she'd be
drenched to her lace lingerie by a nasty rainstorm.
Picking up her skirts, she ran for the house, collapsing in a purple
loveseat after skidding through the door. As if on cue, the heavens chose
that moment to open, releasing torrents of rain upon the ground. She caught
her breath, wiped her hair from her eyes and sighed loudly.
As she collected her self and headed for the kitchen for a pot of
Valerian root tea, the loud beep of her computer signaled that she had an
incoming message. "Computer, retrieve incoming communication."
She opened the screen and the pale background retreated, giving her a
view of Dr. Jemson Willo. The human forensic doctor had been on her mind a
great deal of late, but seeing him so soon after her visit to the crypt was
uncannily uncomfortable. Still, she was ready to proceed, it was time.
Straightening her shoulders she smiled her comeliest smile and tilted her
"Jemson, darling. How are you? How long has it been? Three, four
years? I heard that you'd gotten married again. Last summer, wasn't it? To
a beautiful child named Kalysta? Why, she's half your age if she's a day,
but you always were the lady's man, weren't you?"
The older gentlemen's face finally broke from a stern frown into a grin.
He held up a hand and shook his head, his bright blue eyes fastening onto
hers. "Hold on there, pretty lady. Give a man a moment to answer your
questions! Why you talk faster than I can think, Mrs. Troi."
She giggled, blushed, then patted a wayward curl into place. "I am
sorry, Jem. I suppose you took me by surprise a bit, that's all. Now tell
me everything, I've been out of the loop for a long time you know."
Doctor Willo induged her, vividly describing the lucious young lady he'd
married, her very recent pregnancy, and other news-worthy events from the
gossip mill. After indulging in the ritual cordiality that Betazoid society
demanded, he got directly to the point.
"Is it true what they say, Mrs. Troi? That your Deanna is really alive?
I'd heard a whisper of it over at the chapel last weekend, but I couldn't
quite believe it myself."
"It's true, darling. Unbelievably, wonderfully true. My Little One is
alive and that husband of hers is out there right now, doing his best to
return her to me."
"It's a miracle, Mrs. Troi, a true miracle. Now I know why you sent me
that communiqu' last week-you want me to take a gander at that girl out
there. You don't want me to verify that it's Deanna, you want to find out
who she really is."
"You are the soul of intellect, Jem. I knew you'd figure it out. Now,
can you come to the estate today? I'd like to have this matter taken care of
as soon as possible."
"Why, of course I can. I have a date with my wife for dinner this
evening, but I'll come out right away and that should leave plenty of time
for our rendezvous. And while I'm there, I'll do a general DNA scan, just to
be on the safe side."
Her face darkened for a moment, her long fingers clenching the fabric of
her skirt.
"Why, Jem? Don't you believe that Deanna's alive?"
"Don't mean to work you up there, Mrs. Troi. But you understand that
when I scan the body it will tell me her identity immediately. What I'm
getting at is that I don't want your hopes to get crushed. If my scans come
up with Deanna Troi's DNA then I'll have no choice but to declare your
daughter dead."
The color drained out of Lwaxana's face, and suddenly the sounds of the
rainstorm seemed vaguely threatening rather than pleasurable. Taking a deep
breath, she looked briefly out of the window at the jagged thrusts of blue
lightening, trying not to let his words sink in. Erecting a strong barrier
of denial, she rose from her seat with the flourish of a queen vacating her
throne. Then she shook one long finger at her old friend's face. "Jemson
Willo, my little girl is alive. Do you hear me? Alive. And you will not
tell me any differently. This person, this duplicate, she is not my
daughter. I don't know who she is or why she's here, but she is not my
Deanna. And I expect you to come to the same conclusion. Do you understand
The old gentleman flushed beet red as he struggled to contain his anger.
Clearing his throat, he pasted a fake smile on and nodded. "My dear, you
have nothing to fear. This is just part of the process. Once I scan the DNA
and discover that it does not match your daughter's, then I'll be free to
find out who this woman truly is. Don't you worry, Mrs. Troi. I'll see you
within the hour, all right?"
"Thank-you, Jem. Good-bye." The screen darkened again, as Jem's face
disappeared, and Lwaxana moved towards the window, contemplating his words.
It couldn't be. After all this time, after grieving until her heart
could break, after having the blessed return of hope into her life, she
refused to consider that there was still a chance that the body might be
Deanna's. She wouldn't consider it.
If that really was Deanna, then she'd lost her sanity and had been having
aural hallucinations. Will would have to have been suffering them too, which
was unheard of. No, she simply would not consider it. Deanna was alive and
would be returning just as soon as Will and the Enterprise could retrieve
In little more than an hour she would discover the woman's identity, and
then decide what to do about her from there. Then she would contact Jean-Luc
Picard. He was bound to have a wealth of information about the Vorkons,
certainly more than she'd been able to glean. Even the seemingly endless
sources dried up eventually-especially when the Vorkons killed most of the
people who could've given Starfleet the information in the first place.
Jean-Luc was a negotiator-a man skilled in the art of debate and
conversation. Surely he would discover why they'd tormented her by allowing
her to believe that her daughter was dead.
Relieved to have a course of action, she swept into the kitchen and made
the tea. Then she curled onto a windowseat and watched the storm tear the
sky above into rags of rich color.
Closing her dark eyes she breathed deeply and murmured a meditation to
quiet her jangling nerves. Then she reached into that place inside herself
where Deanna lingered and sent her thoughts out to her. Little One? It's
Mother, darling. Are you all right? Is William taking care of you? Gods, I
miss you so. I want you to know that I am here and that I love you very
much. Your little brother and I cannot wait to have you back. Ian is with
his father right now, but don't worry, I'll have him home for your arrival.
He's ecstatic that you're coming home. He thought, well, we both
thought, well in any event it's not true. You're alive and you're coming
home. I hope that you can hear this, darling. I hope that you know that
you're not alone.
There was nothing but a long, loud silence in response to Lwaxana's
casting. Taking long sip of tea, she closed her eyes, unwilling to recall
Jem's words. Could this all be her imagination? Could there really be a
chance that the body was indeed Deanna's?
As if eavesdropping from hundreds of light-years away, a voice drifted
into Lwaxana's mind. Mother?
Deanna! Oh Gods, my darling, my angel. I KNEW you were alive! I'm
sorry I ever doubted for even a moment. You don't know 
Mother-I have only a moment. Will and I are close to escaping but
they're not going to let us go easily. The next few hours might be
dangerous, but I will be all right. I will see you soon, I promise.
Deanna, the Enterprise is on its way. Jean-Luc and the crew will be
there soon, they'll help you.
Lwaxana could feel a slight tremor of relief from her daughter's mind,
and smiled.
That's wonderful news. We haven't gotten close enough to the shuttle to
contact them and my communicator is gone. Will lost his when we were, well he
lost his in the forest, so I'm relieved to know that the Captain will be here
You and that husband of yours have been busy since your reunion, haven't
you, Little One? Are you going through the Phase already?
Mother! I don't have time to discuss my sex life at the moment-I've got
to go.
All right, darling. I love you. May the gods protect you on your journey
I love you too, Mother. Oh Gods.
The breaking of their contact was so sudden that Lwaxana felt an almost
physical pain inside the delicate tissues of her brain. She could feel the
spurt of fear that had driven Deanna to break off the contact, and it settled
into her own heart like the weight of a stone dropping into a creek.
Studying the relentless storm again, she delicately chewed one corner of
a pink fingernail. Only moments ago she'd been afraid to imagine that Deanna
might be gone, only to have her fears laid to rest by the touch of her
daughter's mind. Now, worry crept into her heart again. She could lose
Deanna for real this time. Deanna could truly die at the hands of the
Vorkons, and she'd have to grieve her death a second time. And if that were
to happen, there would be no reprieve. Deanna would never come home again
and she would have to learn how to live without her for the second time this
It was intolerable. I should've gone to the Enterprise when I had the
chance. I should be there right now, on that bridge, helping Jean-Luc get my
daughter back. By now the ship has probably reached the planet, they're
moments away from saving Deanna. Dammit, I should be there!
In a helpless fury, she snatched up the porcelain teacup from the coffee
table and threw it across the room. The cup shattered against the rose
marble fireplace, sending a stream of liquid across the velvet carpet.
Unable to control it any longer, Lwaxana covered her face with her hand and
began to sob.


Part 14

As the Enterprise E drifted towards the dark planet, Jean-Luc Picard felt
his hackles begin to rise. He did not have a good feeling about this rescue
mission, and yet was puzzled as to why this one in particular was troubling
him. It wasn't as though he hadn't encountered dangerous species before.
His entire career since leaving Starfleet Academy had brought him in contact
with thousands of different lifeforms. Yet, this time things felt different.
This time he had to worry not only about the safety of his crew, but that of
his fiance and their unborn child as well.
A warm rush of pride filled his chest, momentarily blocking his bout of
nerves. A baby. Their baby. His lifelong discomfort around children was
suddenly being challenged, and oddly enough, he was not afraid. Oh perhaps a
bit nervous, of course, but nothing at all like what he'd expected.
Impending fatherhood was not frightening in the least, especially when
compared to landing on Jaden IV. He shook his head and stared out the
viewscreen. That was what scared him right now. Not fatherhood, not
marriage. What he was afraid of was the possibility of dying while rescuing
Commander Riker and Counselor Troi. He did not relish the notion of losing
his own life before his child's had begun. Nor did he want to make Beverly a
widow before they could even recite their wedding vows.
He continued to daydream, sipping from a steaming cup of tea, staring at
the endless stream of stars, and would have sat there for quite some time if
his communicator had not chirped. "Data to Captain Picard."
"Picard here."
"Sir, you asked me to notify you when we were close to our destination. At
present, we are approximately one hour, ten minutes and fifteen seconds away
from Jaden IV's atmosphere."
"Thank-you, Mr. Data. Picard out."
One hour. It wasn't much time. "Perhaps I'd better spend it wisely," he
murmured. Finishing the last trace of tea, he sat the mug on a coaster,
switched off his computer, and tugged down on the hem of his uniform shirt.
Walking out of the ready-room, he headed for sickbay. He and Beverly needed
to make their goodbyes while they still had time to do so.

As the doors to sickbay swished open, Jean-Luc noticed the Doctor sitting
on a biobed near the back of the room. Her face was flushed a becoming shade
of red, her blue eyes dancing with some secret delight. She looked lovely,
and yet he felt the slightest twinge of worry. Why was the Doctor suddenly
playing patient?
Nurse Ogawa rose to meet him, smiling. "Captain. You have good timing,
sir. I just gave the Doctor the news." She was smiling, and looked
momentarily as if she'd like to cross the short distance between them and
give him a hug. Jean-Luc felt the knot in his stomach loosen. If Alyssa was
not worried about Beverly, then obviously he need not be either.
"What sort of news, Nurse?"
She smiled again, her dark eyes twinkling, then looked at Beverly and
winked. "I think I'll let Dr. Crusher tell you, sir." With that curious
pronouncement, Ogawa nodded at the Captain and moved off into the back
office, leaving him alone with Beverly.
"All right, you mishievious woman, what on Earth have you got to tell me
this time? I already know you're having a baby. What else could be going on
that has the two of you looking so mysterious?" His hazel eyes locked on
Beverly's, holding her in place just as tightly as though she were in his
She blushed, then grinned so widely that he thought she was about to
burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. "Are you ready for this,
Jean-Luc? We're going to have triplets!" The excitement in her voice caught
at his heart and he could not stop a slow grin from spreading across his
face. Then the realization dawned on him, as slowly as a setting sun. The
grin wobbled, wavered, then was firmly put back into place.
"My God! You mean that we are going to have three babies?"
"That's what having triplets usually means, Jean-Luc," she said dryly,
teasing him. Picard moved in front of her and took both of her hands into
his own, all the while trying to take in the news without hyperventilating.
Although, he mused, if he were to lose conciousness over this, sickbay was
the place to do it.
"Are you all right, darling? I know it's a bit shocking. I couldn't
speak for a full ten minutes after Alyssa told me."
"I can well imagine. Beverly, I am simply beyond words. This is a
surprise to be sure and yet..." he trailed off, staring at her face, then
moving his eyes down to her still-flat belly. "And yet?"
"And yet I find myself unafraid. In fact I feel rather...excited. You
know, my brother and his wife always meant to have more children after my
nephew Rene' was born. Somehow, they never got around to it. And now,
Robert' and Rene' are gone. Beverly, do you know what this means?" his voice
caught suddenly in his throat and tears threatened to fill his eyes. "It
means that not only will our family line not die out, but if we have boys,
three boys perhaps, my family name will continue on for many, many more
He looked stunned and joyous, and Beverly could not stay away a moment
longer. Lifting herself gently down off the biobed, she took him into her
arms and held him tightly. "Oh darling. Our children will keep that
gorgeous estate of yours going for decades, not to mention the winery. At
least one of these little guys will want to run the vineyards. Of course
there may be at least one child who has an uncontrollable urge to conquer the
galaxy like his father."
"Or hers," he murmured.
"Or hers," she amended. "After all, if these are girls, they can keep
the Picard name if they chose to. For that matter, they can make their
husbands take it on when they marry."
"Beverly. Do you have any idea, any earthly clue just how very much I
love you?" She nodded and smiled as a tiny river of tears ran down the curve
of her cheek. "I think I can guess. We may not be joined mentally as we were
on Kes-Pritt, but when I look into your eyes I see my very own emotions
reflected back at me. I love you so much, Jean-Luc. So very much. And I am
so grateful for these children."
He held her tightly, whispering in her ear. "Tell me, darling, what do you
hope for? Boys, girls or some combination of the two?"
She sniffled and wiped her eyes, then giggled. "I don't know, honestly.
As long as they are healthy I don' t care."
"And as long as they don't inherit my hairline, hmmm?" Their eyes met
and they both giggled. Then the Captain took her face in his hands and
softly kissed her lips. The kiss lingered on for long moments, and he was
dimly aware that he the the Doctor had thrown all sense of decorum out the
It didn't matter. This was indeed the best moment of his life, and he was
going to enjoy it completely before he had to leave. He could taste
chocolate and mint tea on her mouth, smelled the gardenia scent of her
freshly-washed hair. Moving his mouth to her neck, he picked up the
intoxicating aroma of patchouli, his very favorite perfume.
"Doctor, I would like to make you a proposition..."
"And what might that be, Captain?" she teased, looking up at him like an
innocent teenager.
"I propose that the moment I get back, the very instant I set foot on the
transporter pad, you and I meet in my quarters. Alone."
"My goodness, that sounds tempting. I'll consult the replicator about
feminine sleepwear and see what I can do."
They stared at one another, both wishing there were time for a more
intimate celebration of their news. But they would have that to look forward
Before they could say another word, the unignorable chirp of Picard's
communicator brought them back to reality.
"Data to Captain Picard."
Picard untangled himself from Beverly's embrace, tugged down his shirt
and cleared his throat. "Picard here, go ahead, Data."
"Captain, we are in orbit around the planet."
"I'll be right there, Mr. Data."
"Picard out."
Jean-Luc looked at Beverly then swept a gaze around the entire infirmary
as though seeing it for the first time. Fortunately, the rest of the biobeds
were empty, and Ogawa was still sitting in Bev' office behind a discreetly
closed door. They were still alone, thank goodness. He would not have wanted
his crew privy to this most private moment between himself and the doctor.
"Forgot where we were, didn't you, Jean-Luc?"
"Quite. I'm afraid you are too intoxicating for words, Doctor. In fact,
if it weren't for Alyssa's presence in the other room I would have been
sorely tempted to make love to you right here and now."
Beverly's blue eyes danced with desire and amusement. "Now that would've
been quite a story for the crew to tell at our wedding reception!"
They were silent for a moment, then he squeezed her hands. "I'm afraid I
must go now, darling. It's time to bring Will and Deanna home where they
Her face filled with emotion, realizing that for the first time in months
she was going to see Deanna again. Alive. Safe. She was going to get to
hold her, to tell her about her relationship with the Captain, about the
babies. Her heart began to beat so hard with anticipation that she thought
it might burst right out of her uniform. "Jean-Luc. I want to go with you.
I know what you're going to say, and you're right, but Deanna and Will may
need medical attention. I want to be there for them."
He sighed and frowned a bit. "I'd rather you didn't, Beverly. I do not
wish to risk you and our unborn children in this rescue attempt. I'm sure
that Ogawa or Dr. Selar would be more than happy to take your place."
It was her turn to frown. "But I want to be there. My best friend,
hell, my two best friends are down there and they could be hurt. They need
me, Jean-Luc."
His eyes filled with love and amusement. "Don't you mean that you need
them? Be honest, darling, you want to come with me so that you can see for
yourself that our dear counselor is alive and well."
"Of course I want to see her. I thought she was dead. Oh God, do you
know how wonderful it's going to be to see her again?" Her eyes glittered
with hope and joyful tears and he found it difficult to turn her down. Yet
her well-being and that of the babies had to come first.
"I'm sorry, Beverly but I cannot risk it. I could not bear to go
through the hell that our Commander Riker went through when he thought he'd
lost Deanna. Now, I really must go, but I will alert you the moment we have
them all right?"
She nodded. "I don't like it, but I know you're right. Just promise to
let me know if you need me, okay? And be careful. These little guys need
their father to come home to them safe and sound."
"You have my word."

Walking down the corridor, Jean-Luc felt a twinge of guilt as his words
came back to him. According to Starfleet regs the Captain was not supposed
to risk himself on dangerous away missions. He'd promised his fiance that he
would come back safe and sound, but really what were the chances of that? A
planet full of aliens who felt not a qualm about imprisoning, torturing, and
killing Starfleet officers without so much as a quiver.
Yet, even knowing the risks, he felt he had to go. This was personal.
He wanted to see the bastards face to face. He wanted to confront the
monsters who had killed hundreds of innocent Starfleet officers in the name
of protecting their planet. Most of all, he wanted to see the faces of the
people who had captured his own crewman. Recalling Deanna's loss, Will's
slow descent into despair, Lwaxanna's unbearable pain, he clasped his hands
into fists and allowed his anger to propell him towards the bridge. This was
it, the moment he and his crew had been waiting for. He was ready.