Character codes: R/T
Author's Note: This story takes place shortly after the episode
Feeling the weight of an unblinking gaze upon her, Beverly Crusher glanced up. He stood just inside the door to her office, looking as if he wasn't sure it was a place he wanted to be.
"Will?" She rose and started around her desk. "Is everything all right?"
Watching her every move, he waited until she was standing before him to answer, "I'm not sure."
Crusher's green eyes darkened, mutating from friendly concern to professional worry in a matter of milliseconds. "Sit down," she ordered, taking one arm and steering him back out into the medical bay. He followed docilely, not tugging in protest or shaking off her assistance as he would normally have. That in itself. told Beverly Crusher that something was indeed wrong.
When he was seated on the edge of a biobed, she started a series of complex tests, getting normal readings from both the hand-held tricorder and the bed's diagnostic bio scans. Stymied by her technological options, she defaulted to the age-old tradition of doctors who'd practiced a millennium before she was born, peering into his eyes and asking, "How do you feel?"
While the old adage claiming the eyes as windows to the soul was undoubtedly more a supposition of romantic fancy than one of diagnostic accuracy, there still existed a kernel of truth to the saying; and when twenty-fourth century technology told Crusher that everything was fine when it obviously wasn't, it was to her patient's eyes that she turned.
And Will Riker's eyes told her something was wrong.
"I feel ..." Riker hesitated. "... strange," he finished finally.
Crusher's gaze sharpened. The answer was atypical, glaringly vague for a man who prided himself on precision and clarity.
"Strange how?" she pressed.
With a dismissive shake of his head, Riker pulled his chin from the stabilizing grip of her fingertips. His eyes were evasive; his body, terse with repressed tension. Fingers pressure-white against molded plasticine, he maintained a grip on the edge of the biobed that implied his hands had other plans of which he did not approve.
"I'm not sure," he repeated, staring at his feet.
"Are you in any pain?"
"Do you feel nauseous? Lightheaded? Weak or disoriented?"
Frowning, Crusher glanced again to the diagnostic board above the biobed. "Your readings are all normal," she allowed. "I don't see anything wrong ..."
"I shouldn't have come," he said suddenly, pushing to his feet and starting for the door.
She stopped him with an instinctive hand to his arm. The shift of his biceps under her palm was excruciating: She did her best to ignore it.
"There might be some residual side effects from the duration of the implantation," she said clinically as if the quick flick of his blue-eyed gaze was not another memory she chose to ignore. "Odan was concerned about that. He was concerned that the symbiosis might not return as much to a Human host as it took ...."
"You loved him, didn't you?"
The question was an ambush, and it slaughtered her self possession with merciless dispatch. Blinking back tears that sprang unbidden to her eyes, her hands fluttered at the ends of her wrists, small birds caught in briarbush tangles.
"Didn't you?" Riker pressed.
For some time, she could do nothing but stare at him. It was all she could remember in the face of his simple question: the gentle way his hands loosed her uniform and removed it, the cold fever of his flesh against hers, the smell of his body and the texture of his voice as he whispered her name in the darkness that wasn't enough to hide Will Riker's eyes and Will Riker's face.
Beverly Crusher closed her eyes.
It was Odan she'd loved that night: Odan who held her, Odan who kissed her, Odan who spoke to her in the unmistakable inflections of Odan's voice.
She opened her eyes again. "Yes," she said. "I loved him." Though she had to force the admission through trembling lips, she faced Riker's eyes squarely because to have done less would have been to deny Odan the only thing he'd ever really asked of her.
Riker nodded. Released by his acceptance, Crusher turned away. She found something to do across the bay and made the task stretch to eternity. He moved up behind her, but she couldn't turn to face him, so she didn't.
"I'm sorry," Riker murmured. He touched her neck, three fingers at the base of her skull. Even through the veneer of hair separating his flesh from hers, his fingertips were an agony of remembered heat. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
And then he was gone.
The door hissed shut behind him, but she didn't turn. She didn't turn because she couldn't turn. She couldn't turn, even knowing he was gone, because if she did turn and he wasn't gone, she would cry.
She didn't turn; but still, she began to cry.
She waited for a lifetime in the corridor outside his quarters before gathering the courage to press the summons button to inform him she was there.
The sound of his voice -- Will's voice; entirely Will's voice -- was almost enough to chase her away; but it didn't because she refused to let it. Instead, she waited until the urge to bolt had passed, then entered his quarters with a fraudulently decisive stride.
Crossing the main room to the couch, she took a seat at his side and set the medikit between them. "I was worried about you," she informed the surprise in his eyes. "You left Sickbay before we got to the bottom of whatever is bothering you."
This time, it was Riker who ran. Pushing to his feet, he strode to the opposite wall, taking a sudden interest in a painting that was as far from her as he could manage. "I think you should leave," he said.
"Not until I'm sure you're all right."
"I'm fine," he insisted. "Please leave."
He flinched at the sound of her voice on his name, as if the mere utterance of it was a blow.
She said it again; quieter this time, and with less need: "Will, you saved Odan's life. He would have died if you hadn't volunteered for the transplant."
Riker laughed, a bitter expulsion of sound that had nothing at all to do with humor. "I wouldn't have done it," he told the wall ferociously. "I wouldn't have done it if I'd known how it would hurt you. I would have let myself ... " he corrected himself quickly " ... himdie, if I'd only known."
Staring at Will Riker's back, her mind numb with the impact of a single word that echoed in her skull like a tempest in an empty cargo bay, she whispered, "Odan?"
"NO!" Riker spun on her, his hands fisted at his side. "I'm NOT Odan! I am Will. I am Will Riker. I am Will Riker. I am Will Riker."
She realized she was holding him before he did.
"I am Will Riker," he whispered.
"It's all right, Will."
"I am Will Riker."
"Yes," she agreed gently. "You are Will Riker."
His hands found her face. He kissed her, his mouth demanding, his body intruding quickly on her space.
Though the moment was electric, the burn in his touch was not the same as it had been the night they made love. It didn't tear into her, didn't bleed her until she succumbed the seduction of need in his touch, in his taste, in his every labored breath.
Gently, carefully, Beverly Crusher pulled away.
"Will." She used his name to remind him of it, watching the vague confusion in his eyes to counterbalance the heat that seeped from fingers spread across her cheek and chin, from the palm that rested on her waist. "Listen to me, Will." He leaned in to kiss her again, but she interfered with his intentions, laying three fingers against his lips so that he would listen to what she had to say. "This isn't you, Will," she said gently. "This is Odan. You're feeling what Odan felt, wanting what Odan wanted."
His fingers tightened into her. "This is what I want," he whispered.
"No, Will. It isn't. It's a residual from the implantation."
"Odan's gone," Riker insisted. "This is me. This is what I feel."
"No," she repeated. "It isn't." She untangled herself from his grip, and he let her. "You have to trust me on this, Will," she said. "Odan left things behind in you. A residue of the way he felt for me --"
"But I remember," Riker interrupted. He reached out, laid a hand on her neck. Watching his fingers as they trailed across her uniform, he abandoned the caress when it neared her breast. "I remember," he repeated.
"I do, too, Will," Crusher said, her voice tight. "But that wasn't you and me. That was Odan. Odan and me."
"But I remember," Will insisted. There was an intensity in his voice, a need.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I truly am."
Riker turned away. He put a hand on the painted starfield before him, struggling to replace the sensations his fingers were remembering with the texture of oiled linen. The memory was stronger. Coolness. Warmth. Heat. Yielding, always yielding. His fingers clenched to a fist.
"Please leave," he whispered.
"I want to stay. I think we should talk."
"I don't want to talk."
"We need to talk, Will. Talking will help remind you of who you are and who you're not."
"I am Will Riker," he said.
"But there are still parts of Odan --"
"I am Will Riker," he interrupted sharply. Turning, he glared at her with eyes on the verge of madness. "I am Will Riker," he repeated, "and Will Riker wants you to leave."
At a loss as to what else to do, Beverly Crusher left.
The door chime sounded for the sixth time before she called him by name.
"Will? Are you in there, Will?" It was Troi's voice, and there was a flex of intractability to the tone that informed him she knew exactly where he was and why he wasn't answering.
"I know you're in there, Will," she verified after a twelve beat of silence. "And I'm not going away until you answer this door."
He could have granted her access with a single word, but he didn't. Instead, he crossed his dark, empty quarters to the door, waiting for her to speak again before opening it with a slight gesture near the proximity sensor.
"Will Ri--" She stopped speaking as soon as the door began to move. It opened fully, leaving nothing but a breach in the bulkhead to stand between them. She studied him for a long moment before she spoke again. "May I come in?"
He stepped aside, an invitation in only the broadest of terms. She accepted without comment, slipping past him to the soft darkness of a cabin that indulged no form of illumination other than a wall-predominating view portal. The door hissed shut as she walked to the center of the room and turned a precise turn to face him. Her hands were folded primly before her. Her eyes were studiously blank.
"We need to talk."
Leaning against a bulkhead, he waited for her to continue.
She didn't. She waited as well. She waited until he knew there was no other way to proceed but to give in.
"Talk about what?"
"I don't want to talk about me."
Deanna's eyes softened. Her hands unfolded and she moved to him like a breeze ruffling the stillness. "Will ..."
He pulled away when she touched his face. There was a distance to his posture, a wariness to his expression. "Why are you here?" he demanded.
"I'm here to help you."
"I don't need any help."
"Beverly thinks differently."
"She says you're having trouble recovering your equilibrium. That the implantation threw your self perception off, and you're having trouble remembering who you are."
"I know who I am, Counselor."
"I'm not here as a counselor, Will. I'm here as your friend."
"If you're my friend, you'll leave."
Dark, expressive eyes boring into him with a determination that was more Betazoid than Human, Deanna Troi said, "I know you made love to her, Will."
He flinched. "I didn't make love to her. Odan made love to her."
"With your body."
He smiled thinly. "Not bad work, if you can get it."
She didn't smile with him. Her eyes grew darker, more intense. "You don't love her, Will," she said.
"I know that."
"Odan loved her."
"I know that, too."
"You love me."
His features tightened. He looked away. She put her hands on his face, turning him back to her. "You love me," she repeated. "I came here to remind you of that, Will Riker."
"I don't need to be reminded."
"I think you do." She kissed him, her mouth warm, inviting. He left the available intimacies unbroached, studying her in the half-light when she drew away.
"Is this Beverly's idea," he asked, his body marginally less resistant to the subtle pressures of her encroachments, "or yours?"
"She suggested I talk to you," Troi agreed, "but I really don't feel like talking, do you?" She kissed him again, re-igniting fires that had spent years burning themselves down to embers.
Engaged despite his determination to evade, he said, "I thought you and I were just friends."
"If you thought that," she returned, "then you don't remember the same Will Riker I remember."
His expression flickered with pain. "I remember him," he assured her.
"Then remember me, Imzadi," she whispered against his lips. "Remember this."
And he did.