A Fine Line



A Fine Line PG
Chapter 1
They are all the property of Paramount. I have no intentions of making money here, just relieving a little stress;-)
Just thought I'd give it a shot<g>

Deanna wrapped the oversized sweater tighter around her shoulders, pulling it closer to her nose, looking for the scent that still lingered. It had been a year since his disappearance, but wrapping his sweater over her bare skin brought him somehow closer to her. She watched the moon as it battled the smoky clouds that hung around it. It was large, and full and in it's face she saw the promise that he would return again tonight. He always came when the moon was full, to tell her he loved her and that someday he'd come home. She breathed deeply, wishing she could smell the scent, and hear the sounds of the night outside. But the force field over the portal held her prisoner in her own home.

"I sent your nurse home for the night little one. Is there anything you need?"

She spoke to her as if she were a child, and she bit back her desire to scream <Yes, I want my Imzadi!>

"No mother, I'm fine." She turned as she spoke, the lines on her mother's face had deepened over the last year, and Deanna felt responsible for her sudden aging.

"Deanna, Please stop this." Lwaxana rubbed her daughter's shoulder, accidentally knocking Will's sweater to the floor. Deanna pulled briskly from her mother's touch, rescuing the sweater and wrapping it protectively around herself.

"Stop what mother? Telling the truth." Deanna made no attempt to hide the venom in her words.

"It's you. You and starfleet. This is not my imagination!" Lwaxana felt her daughter's nightmare, but her angry words left her mouth before she could stop them. "Do you think he would have thrown his life away for you, as you have for him? I think more then once he's proved he wouldn't."

Deanna felt her body tremble. "Get out Mother! Get out!!" Lwaxana started to speak, but realized with her words she had poured vinegar over her daughter's open wound. She turned silently, locking Deanna in her prison.

Deanna cherished the tears that burned hot over her cheeks, they meant she was still alive, still unable to give up on this man who had made her all she was, and without whom she knew she would never be anything more.

"Imzadi" The word played like a symphony over her soul. His image was muted, flickering like a flame threatening to be extinguished.

"Will" She pulled his sweater tighter around her, pretending it was his arms and not the drab cotton that stroked her skin. "I wish I could touch you too."

He answered her thoughts, his eyes reflecting his unfeigned desire.

"When will you come home?" He smiled, but behind his smile she could feel his profound agony.

"I love you." He spoke the words as though he was coerced into saying them, and then he was gone. She watched the space where he had been, a secret desire that he would return....but this time something was different, something was wrong.

"You bastard! I won't do it." He wrestled under the grasp of his captors.

"Don't you understand, your hurting her. Let her believe I'm dead, let her have a life." His anger collapsed into sobs, sobs of desperation. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't stop them, they were destroying the one person in the world he would die for. If only they'd let him die...His body jolted, the electrical current that ran over his skull fading his consciousness, he vied for dominance, attempted to resist, but his world grew blacker, until soon that was all that there was.

Chapter 2

Deanna rocked slowly in the antique rocker, it also held memories of someone she loved. Those memories closed somewhere in the dark corners of her mind, locked away tightly, leaving her unable to retrieve them. And once again her memories of Will were tumbling out of her reach, just as they always did weeks after his visits. She swept her fingers over her lips, trying to remember how his lips had felt against hers, she gripped her arms with her hands, trying to recreate the feeling of his comforting hands against her bare skin, a feeling of warmth she was beginning to fear she would never feel again. But she knew in her heart before the memories could fade into the deepest corners of her mind, he would return, Rekindling her hope that somewhere he was thinking of her, just as she was thinking of him.

Betazed was quiet, the need for verbal conversations fell few and far between, so the shrill sound of her mother's voice caused her to shutter. Deanna had closed her mind to the emotions of others, falling into an abyss of self pity that was threatening to consume her.

"No, you can not go in there!!" She pushed out of her rocker and pressed her ear to the door that sealed her in. Her Mother's voice was hysterical, she had never heard her so enraged. The other voice was soft and low and unaffected by Lwaxana's wrath. A cold uninvited chill ran over Deanna's spine, she could barely hear the whispers of the man outside, but something in the gentleness of it's tone called to her. She pounded her fist on the door.

"Mother, What's going on? Open the door!"

<Go back to sleep, little one.> Her mother's slightly tempered voice sounded in her mind.

"Who's with you Mother?" She heard the struggle on the other side of door, the sound of breaking glass, shattering her nerves and her patience.

"Mother, who's out there. I demand to know!"

"Deanna, it's me. Tell her to let me in." Deanna leaned against the door, her knees threatening to give way in response to the familiar voice.

"Deanna...It's Tom...Tom Riker, please let me talk to you." She pulled her arms protectively around herself, quieting the disappointment in her heart.

<Let him in Mother. Or I'll never come out of this room> She hoped her honest threat would reach her mother, Her question answered by the creaking of the old door as it slid open.

She kept her arms tightly around herself, massaging her thumbs against her arms, tranquilizing the feelings that stirred inside her.

"What do you want." She asked, failing to keep the quiver from her voice.

"I need to talk to you...alone." Tom changing the tender gaze he held her with, to a contemptuous scowl as he looked at Lwaxana. Lwaxana met his challenging eyes, her eyes burning with the protective instincts of a wild animal.

"I won't hurt her, Mrs. Troi." Lwaxana held him captive with her eyes long enough to issue a silent warning before turning to Deanna.

"I'll be all right Mother." It was the most convincing tone she could muster under the circumstances, but it seemed to have been enough, Lwaxana turned and exited the room.

Deanna slammed the door on her mind, and dodged the oceans of blue that sought hers.

"Are you all right?" She tensed under his touch, he squeezed her shoulders gently.

She didn't answer, couldn't answer...the touch she had planed to pull away from, was offering her a sensation she hadn't felt in so long.

Losing the battle with her logical mind she wrapped her arms around his waist, and pressed her head tightly against his chest.

"No, no, I'm not ok." Tom held her tighter, allowing her to use his warmth for what he knew she needed. As her tears slowly subsided she raised her eyes to his, without a thought to what she was doing she reached for his lips with hers. Tom responded to her kiss, her salty tears mixed with the sweet flavor he remembered threatening to pull him under.

"Don't do this Deanna." He whispered pulling his lips from hers. "You don't love me. I'm not Will."

Her lip trembled, her heart broke, for one insane moment she had been back in the place she had longed for for so long.

"I know." His heart ached for her, this woman who had once been his imzadi, he could feel her pain as if it were his own. He swallowed hard, his throat burning from the tears he was trying so hard to hide.

"Deanna listen to me." He followed her as she walked to the bed, and sat down.

He took her hands in his and tried to offer his own kind of comfort to her..not the facsimile she seemed to need so much.

"You have to stop this. You have to understand, someone is doing this to you."

She kept her eyes away from his, watching his thumbs as they gently stroked her hands.

"I need your help......Will needs your help." His genuine concern broke through the barrier she had built around herself, swallowing her pain, she met his eyes.

Will Riker tossed his unfinished food to the floor and slid down the cold metal wall, a smile of satisfaction crossing his lips. His head throbbed from the mind probes, and artificial implants his captors had used to generate this beast inside him. But he was convinced that they had overlooked one very important element. He chuckled to himself, knowing full well this monster they'd created was about to come back and bite them in the ass.

Chapter 3

Deanna's eyes were shadowed with tears as they met with Toms. He cradled
her face with both his hands, holding her eyes with his, and wiping her tears
with his thumbs. She leaned into his hand, he hushed his instinct to pull away,
momentarily allowing her the comfort she seemed to need.

"Deanna, listen to me." Pulling his hands from her face, he stood up, hating
the look of loss that crept over her dark eyes.

"Have you really seen Will since he disappeared?" Tom asked the question and
paced the room waiting for the answer. Deanna could sense his uneasiness, and
his genuine concern for her, but buried under his strong exterior he was hiding
a deep concern for himself. Deanna straighten, gripping the sides of the bed
with her hands.

"Why would you ask me that? Isn't it apparent what I believe?" She tilted her
head toward the force field that coursed through the window. "Why are you
pretending to be so concerned about Will. I know how you feel about him."

Tom stopped pacing, meeting her mistrusting eyes. He held them for what seemed
an eternity, the spirals of emotions that had seemed to torment his soul since
his rescue from Nervala four , swirled behind the dusty blue. He rubbed his
hand over his chest, an ineffective attempt to stop the pain to his heart that
her lack of trust was causing him.

"Lets just say there's a fine line between love and hate." The truth of his
words washed over her, her eyes tempering as she watched him. And as if her
approval, and trust were all that mattered to him...His expression changed into
the priceless Riker tongue and cheek smile, the smile that always told her
either he'd just bluffed himself out of a difficult situation, or he was about
to say something glib.

"I also think there's a fine line between sane, and insane." He added, pulling
the chair from the desk, and sitting in front of her. She found herself
laughing at his remark, it had been such a long time since she had relaxed
enough to laugh. She placed her hands on his knees. "Thank you." Before he was
able to respond to her, the feeling he had held so deeply inside himself,
shimmered to the surface and glowed plainly in her mind. Still holding his
attention, she spoke what she was feeling. "You've seen him too. haven't you?"

Tom's smile faded, he lifted himself from the chair, and again started pacing.
Sensing his frustration she allowed him the time he needed to organize his
thoughts. After she was sure he would be able to verbalize what he was feeling,
she got up from the bed, and stepped in front of him, ceasing his pacing.

"Just say it the best way you know how." She encouraged, gripping both his arms
with her hands.

Looking into her wide dark eyes, he knew no matter how foolish what he was
about to say would sound she would believe him.

"It started with intermittent whispers, tiny shreds of what I thought was my
own voice in my head. The whispers grew louder, and more coherent, and then
they were accompanied by pictures in my mind. That's when I realized it wasn't
my own voice I was hearing, it was Wills." He looked to the floor as he
continued. "The pictures in my head didn't go away when I opened my eyes, they
got clearer and stronger. Deanna, I know there are those who would call be
slightly unbalanced, but I know what I saw, and I know what...." He stopped his
description. The look in her eyes was hauntingly familiar, the same look she
had held him with in ten forward a hundred years ago when he had first been
found on Nervala four.

"It's the same for you, isn't it?" She didn't answer him, and she didn't have
to, he knew whatever had been happening to him, was what had been happening to
her. Pulling her head against his chest, he stroked his hands through her hair.

"I know Will's alive, he's in trouble, and scared to death for you." Instead of
frightening her, Tom's words only baptized what she had suspected all along.
But now she had an ally, someone who could help her unravel the mystery behind
Will's disappearance.

"I have a plan." His voice screamed with determination, but something else
tickled in the back of Deanna's mind....Pulling away from him, she met his
adamant eyes.

"It's mother." She whispered. "She's snooping again." The determined fire that
blazed in his eyes instantly replaced with an almost satanic twinkle. Deanna
knew exactly what he was thinking.

"Do you still remember how?" She asked, keeping her voice below a whisper. He
nodded an assurance, both closing their eyes, and filling their minds with the
most perversely erotic thoughts they could think of. The door flew open,
Lwaxana gasping in horror, Tom and Deanna falling into a fit of laughter on the

"I did not think it was funny then, and I find it even less amusing now!"

Lwaxana's admonishment only elevating their laughter. Lwaxana stood, her hands
firmly planted on her hips doing her best to hold her stern expression. It had
been almost a year since she had heard her daughter laugh, her expression
softened, Deanna's laughter a lullaby to her heart.

"We're sorry Mrs. Troi." Tom tried to choke the apology through his deep

"Yes, I can see that....Your remorse is written all over your face." She
replied sarcastically, allowing them a few more moments of giggles before
suggesting that perhaps it was time for Tom to go. Deanna started to protest,
but a look from Tom silenced her attempt. He stood up, kissed Deanna's
forehead, and nodded a thank you to Lwaxana before heading for the door.

Lwaxana was sure something had passed between them, but was unable to cut
through the mutual barricade they had constructed. She waited until she heard
Tom close the front door before addressing Deanna.

"He's quit astute at masking his feelings. But I think there's more to Thomas
Riker then meets the eye."

Deanna felt the glittering promise of hope Tom had instilled on her, wiping a
tear from her eye, she smiled at her mother.

"And sometimes Mother, a kiss is just a kiss."

Chapter 4

"Did you do what I told you?" Tom Riker clutched the sides of his head and
groaned softly.

"This hurts like a son of a bitch." The distorted image in front of him held no
sympathy for his pain.

"This is no picnic for me either. Did you tell her?" He tried to focus his
eyes on the blinking image of Will Riker.

"Yea, yea, I told her." Tom mumbled the words, still holding his pounding head
he sat on the bed in the seedy room he had rented.

"Does she understand....I can't stop what their doing to her." Tom closed his
eyes, it didn't matter if they were open or not, the image of Will burned in
his mind.

"Of course she understands....Now what?"

Tom didn't have the heart to tell him he hadn't gone into as much detail as he
had been instructed to. Right now all he cared about was terminating this
little mind warp, before the nausea that was threatening him won the war.

"Now you do your job, and get me the hell out of here." Tom chuckled through
his pain.

"Sure no problem, considering you have no idea where you are."

"I have faith in you.....I'll bet your a pretty resourceful guy. Just keep

Deanna out of it." Tom opened his eyes, the warning from Will hung thick in the

Tom stared at the image of Will Riker, by all counts he looked fine, but Tom
could swear he could feel his desperate pain.

"What the hell are they doing to you?" Will grimaced at the question.

"I don't know. But it's given me a whole new meaning for the word pain." The
grimace of pain that encompassed his face, replaced with a reprimanding glare.

"Remember what I said, don't involve Deanna in any of your plans." And as if a
low volt of electrical current had run through his body, Will's image
dissipated, and Tom's pain vanished.

Tom laid back on the thin cotton bedspread and stared at the ceiling. He knew
Will would kill him when, and if they found him. But the universe was too big a
place, finding Will would be like finding a needle in a haystack....He needed a
magnet, someone who could lock on to the source, and whether Will liked it or
not, his best hope of finding him was Deanna.

Clasping his hands behind his head he looked through the window. Through the
thin layer of grim that covered it, he could see the sun was setting on
Betazed. The setting sun was his cue to activate his plan, he just hoped he had
covered all the variables.

Starfleet had been kind enough to loan him a runabout <Bureaucratic morons>
he thought, <Wills been missing for a year, and still they issued him a
runabout.> He chuckled softly to himself, giving starfleet the run around was
something he was beginning to excel at.

Sitting up he shrugged his shoulders and headed for the bathroom...Maybe he
shouldn't have thrown a promising career to the wind, but the rigid federation
regiment just didn't seem to fit him anymore. There were too many causes, too
many smaller factions that needed his help. He didn't think of himself as a
mercenary, but he knew that was how he was referred to by the starfleet brass.
Stripping off his clothes he climbed into the tiny shower, the hot water
persuaded him that his plan was infallible ...well, almost, there was one
unpredictable detail, and that would be Lwaxana Troi, he knew her well enough
to never try and second guess her. He just hoped that once he 'kidnapped'
Deanna, Lwaxana instinct would be to contact the enterprise. The heat of the
water changed, the cooling water dampening his optimism. <What if Deanna
doesn't cooperate> Shutting off the shower, he knew that would never happen.
She loved him too much, he knew that all too well. Wrapping himself in a towel
he pushed the pang of jealousy as far into his core as he could.

"Heed my word little one, he's trouble with a capital T." Deanna snuggled
under the rich satin sheets, appreciating the cool sensation that blanketed her

Those are the exact same words you used to describe Will, and I believe he
succeeded quite nicely in proving you wrong." Lwaxana pulled the thick lavender
comforter over Deanna, silencing the pleasant tickle of the satin sheets.
"That has yet to seen." Deanna sensed her mother's anger, and she knew she was
zeroing in on Will. Sometimes she was sure her mother really believed Will had
done all this on purpose, that it was the only way he could think of to escape
the trap he had made for himself when he'd asked her to marry him.

"Don't go there, Mother." She warned. Lwaxana only sighed, a wistful expression
sweeping over her face. Deanna knew she was thinking about her father, and she
was sure there were times her mother blamed Ian for leaving her, just as she
blamed Will now.

"I love you Mother." Deanna cupped her hand over Lwaxanas. Lwaxana squeezed it
tightly, kissing her on the cheek.

"I love you too, Deanna. Now get some rest." Deanna nodded sadly, empathizing
so much with the pain her mother felt in losing her father.

Laying in the darkness of her room, her thoughts again turned to Will and
Thomas Riker. She had heard the rumors about Tom, and his involvement with
everything from assassination attempts, to smuggling weapons, to risking his
life to save an infant that had been trapped in a shuttle accident. She wasn't
sure how much to believe, Will had never offered an unkind word against him,
even though she knew that his growing reputation as a mercenary was a thorn in
his side. Well, there was one thing that she could always believe, and that was
she loved Will Riker, and if saving his life meant making a deal with the
devil, then that's exactly what she would do.

Chapter 5

The goose bumps that raised over his skin had nothing to do with the crisp
autumn breeze that circled around him. He breathed in deep, appreciating the
biting sting of the cold air as it penetrated his lungs. There was no other
feeling like this for Tom Riker, the flush of excitement that came with each of
his quests was what drove him.

If he'd been asked to describe it, he could only equate it to that incredible
moment in sex when your body's teetering on the edge, yearning for the
inevitable release, but wanting to hold on to the unmerciful anticipation.
(Yea, better then sex.) he thought to himself stroking the smooth amber
medallion that hung loosely around his throat.

(Well, maybe not better then sex) he admitted, kissing the stone before
tucking it safely under his shirt.

The sliver of a moon that hung in the sky above him was offering little
light as he approached the Troi mansion. He was sure he could make it over the
winding cobblestone road that lead to the house, after all, he'd done it
several times before when he was a young lieutenant. If that had actually been
him...God only knows how many times he turned that little question in his head.
There were times after his rescue from Nervala four he thought he would split
in two trying to decide where Will Riker ended, and Tom Riker began. Brushing
his hand over his closely trimmed beard he made a conscious decision not to go
to that place again.

Turning the final corner that lead to the Troi estate, the smell of Mrs
Troi's roses caused distinct memories to grip his mind. Fighting the feeling
was out of the question, and for an instant he was sure he could smell Deanna's
passion mixing with the sweet scent of the flowers. Looking at the colored
blooms they all seemed to be wilting in the cold, only a whisper of life
touching their soft petals. If he had been a profound man he may have found
some sort of poetic irony to the scenario, but instead he did what he had found
served him best....Shrugged it off, knowing they'd all bloom again someday.

The tall bronze gates that stood guard around the mansion were of little
consequence. Mrs. Troi was one of the few people on Betazoid who had not gone
with the more modern invisible force field barriers. And right now `he was
thankful for her dedication to the old ways of life.

He pushed through the thick hedge that surrounded the gate, cursing the thorns
that perforated his thick black sweater. Reaching the backside of the house he
could see Deanna's room, a soft, almost pink glow shimmered through the
curtains. It took only one pass with the laser knife to cut through the antique
fence and enter the well manicured lawn. He smiled inwardly thinking about the
amount of times Mrs. Troi had mended his handiwork in the past. She had
threatened to have the fence charged with electrical ions, but she'd never done
it....sometimes he was sure she enjoyed the romance of their secret little
trysts as much as they did.

The twisting white trellis that lead to Deanna's window would still serve as a
perfect ladder....though he hoped years of weathering, and perhaps a few extra
pounds on him would not hinder his climb. Dropping his bag on the ground he got
to his knees and dug through his provisions for the phase inhibitor he had
liberated the last time he'd been on Cardassia. Tucking the inhibitor in his
pocket, he wrapped his hands around the worn trellis and started his climb. He
hoped Mrs. Troi hadn't sensed his presence, but by the same token he hoped
Deanna had. It had been years since he had attempted to send to her, he only
hoped the thought he had passed to her earlier today had reached her. Gripping
the final railing of the trellis his question was answered by the smiling face
that stood behind the force field.

The inhibitor worked like a charm, shorting the field with very little
disturbance, Deanna releasing the lock on the window, it slid open willingly.

<I was getting worried.> Her voice rushed over his mind, the sensation came as
as much of a shock now, as it had the first time he'd felt it. Instinctively he
released his hold on the trellis to reach for his throbbing head. He hadn't
realized how dizzy he was feeling until it was too late, he plummeted half way
down the trellis before gaining his equilibrium, and grabbing one of the
interwoven rails. He climbed the rest of the way down and waited for Deanna to
join him. Putting his hands around her tiny waist he guided her down the last
few rungs before turning her to face him.

"Don't do that again."

His whispered warning met with only a ghost of smile from Deanna. Picking up
his pack, and taking Deanna's from her, he flung them over his shoulder and
pulled her into the night.

Deanna held tightly to his hand, a trace of a chill sweeping up her neck...she
looked back towards the house, half way expecting her Mother to be standing in
the window. But only her curtains danced with the breeze in front of the vacant
window, she breathed a sigh of relief and followed Tom Riker down the path.

Lwaxana Troi pulled back the sheer curtains of her daughters room,
watching the silhouettes disappear into the night.

"Good luck, little one." She whispered aloud, her heart already heavy with
worry. It was hard fighting her maternal instinct to stop Deanna from running
into the lion's den, but the judgment of the mother had been overruled by an
understanding of her imzadi bond. If in her lifetime there had been anyway to
acquire the binding ties that Will and Deanna shared she would push aside the
heavens to attain it.. And that was what she was allowing her daughter to do
now, follow her heart, wherever it would take her.

And somewhere across the galaxy behind a pulsing nebula of stars, a man sat
alone in a dimly lit cell, an immense satisfaction settling over him. From the
souls of his feet to the top of his throbbing head, it wrapped him in a cocoon
of strength. Resting his head on his knees he did his best to reach for the
source, but for the life of him he couldn't remember what, or who it was.
And just as he had for more nights then he could remember he tried to hold on
to who he was.

"I'm William Thomas Riker. I'm William Thomas Riker." With each reiteration,
the name seemed to sink deeper into his core, finally being pulled into the
uncharted depths of his mind. Pulling his head from his knees he welcomed the
pain as his head slammed into the cold metal wall behind him. Right now as he
sat on the damp dirt floor, there was only one thing he could be sure
of...whatever it was that he had been fighting, his battle had just lost.