William T. Riker brought a cup of punch to Deanna Troi. “Nice party, don’t you think?” he asked.
Deanna nodded. “The trade negotiations between the Mazatti and the Corbin are going better than expected. Captain Picard is pleased.”
Things HAD been going well. The Mazatti and the Corbin had asked the Federation for help in negotiations following a draining war. The Enterprise had been dispatched and both groups had agreed to have the negotiations conducted on board the ship. Tonight was a reception for the delegates. One of several that were being held throughout this time, as both groups tried to accustom themselves with a relationship that was not based on annihilation.
The head of the Mazatti team, a male named Leepin, approached Riker and Troi. He smiled. “I have just been informed that the remainder of our negotiation team has finally arrived. It took quite a bit of doing to get a couple of them up here.”
“I’m sure it will be worth the effort,” Riker said.
Leepin nodded, but he was staring at Deanna. She had noticed his looking at her from time to time before; she sensed curiosity, and some mild frustration. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
Leepin colored. “Forgive me, Counselor. It’s just . . . I have the strangest feeling I’ve seen you somewhere, or someone who looks very much like you. Have you ever been to our world before?”
Deanna shook her head. “I’m afraid not. It seems to be a lovely world, though it is very different. I’ve never seen a planet with such a short day cycle.”
Leepin nodded. “We have some humans living on the planet, and they have said the same thing. I gather it is unusual.”
Riker grinned. “There are areas of Earth that will have days of night and then days of sunlight - they are located at the poles of the planet.”
The doors to 10 Forward swished open, and Data entered. He was escorting a man and a woman into the room. The man was tall, with, deep, dark, penetrating eyes. The woman with him had brown hair tied back, and a lined face. Almost immediately, the man’s attention was drawn to Deanna -
For a second Deanna felt a flood of emotion from the man. Surprise, longing, a strong wave of desire - then, as if a door slammed shut, it was gone. She couldn’t read anything from him. He walked quickly over to her, the woman trailing behind him.
“Good evening, Councilman Leepin,” he said in a deep voice. Then he looked at Deanna. “I see you have captured the attention of this beautiful young woman. What shall I tell your mate?”
He smiled as he said the words, and Leepin laughed. He began to make introductions. “Barnabas, this is Counselor Deanna Troi and Commander Will Riker. Counselor, Commander, may I present Barnabas Collins and his sister, Helen Collins.”
Barnabas lifted Deanna’s hand and gently brushed his lips across her fingers. “Charmed,” he said, his gaze never leaving the Betazoid.
Deanna studied him. His emotions were closed to her, and with his dark eyes he could almost pass for a member of her race. But his hand and lips felt unnaturally cold to her, much too cold for a Betazoid or a human. She smiled at him anyway - he couldn’t help his body temperature. “I am charmed, Mr. Collins.” Then she turned to his sister, from whom she sensed some unease. “A pleasure to meet you also, Ms. Collins.”
“Pleased to meet you,” the woman responded shortly. She didn’t look very pleased.
“You must forgive my sister. She finds my manners a bit too flirtatious at times, and it embarrasses her,” Barnabas said with a smile. “Leepin, I came to help with the negotiations as you asked, and now I am most grateful that you twisted my arm to do so.”
Leepin smiled, and then snapped his fingers. “Of course! Counselor, I realize why I think I’ve seen you before. Barnabas, Helen, doesn’t she resemble the old portrait you have hanging in your dwelling? Over the fireplace, I believe.”
“Portrait?” Will asked. He tried to tell himself this stranger’s behavior toward Deanna didn’t bother him - it wasn’t as if they were an item anymore - but he found it did annoy him.
“Yes, Commander,” Leepin said. “A distant ancestor of Barnabas and Helen, if I am not mistaken.”
“Josette,” Barnabas said softly, looking intently at Deanna. “Yes, the resemblance is strong, is it not, Helen?”
The woman was definitely uncomfortable. “I suppose, Barnabas, but she isn’t an EXACT twin.”
“No, but the resemblance is there,” Barnabas said. “Counselor, I wonder if you would do me the honor of having supper with me tomorrow night? You could see the portrait for yourself, and make up your own mind about it.”
“She can’t,” Helen interrupted, stepping into the conversation. Deanna sensed an uneasiness to the woman’s quick reply.
Annoyance flashed across Barnabas’ face. “And, tell me, dear SISTER, why she cannot?”
“Barnabas, she is a Starfleet officer. Surely there are rules about her fraternizing with civilians . . . ”
“Actually, no,” Deanna replied, confused. The emotions she sensed from this woman were troubling - anger, jealousy, and mixed into it, fear - but Deanna wasn’t sure what she was afraid of. She continued, “I would love to dine with you, Mr. Collins, but if it is going to cause any trouble -“
”No trouble at all,” Barnabas interrupted smoothly. “I am correct, am I not, Helen?”
Helen glared at Barnabas. He matched her stare, and after a moment, she dropped her eyes. “No,” she said softly. “No trouble.”
“Good! Then it’s decided,” Barnabas said. “Though, Counselor, I would prefer if you called me Barnabas. Mr. Collins is my father.” He smiled.
Deanna found herself smiling back. He was such a CHARMING man. “Then you must call me Deanna.”
Leepin spoke up. “Barnabas, I hate to interrupt this, but I really need to speak to you and Helen concerning the negotiations . . . ”
“Of course,” Barnabas replied. He sketched a bow to Deanna and Will. “I am pleased to meet you, Commander - and you, too, Deanna. I look forward to tomorrow.”
“So do I,” Deanna smiled. With that, Leepin led Barnabas and Helen away to a group of Mazatti.
“He’s sure a smooth operator,” Will commented.
Deanna turned to him, fighting a smile. “Will Riker, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were jealous.”
“Jealous? Me?” Will protested. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
Deanna couldn’t help grinning, then turned serious. “Will, it’s all right. I have to admit I’m very curious about him.”
“Curiosity killed the cat, Imzadi.”
“It’s a good thing then, that I’m not a cat,” Deanna replied.
Will had spent a restless night, thinking about Deanna and the mysterious, dark-haired stranger. He found that his disquiet annoyed him. He was acting like some possessive Neanderthal! He had no claim on Deanna. She was free to pursue any relationship she chose. Yes, they had been a couple once, but now they were just good friends . . . weren’t they? So why was this guy making his skin crawl?
After their shift, Will decided to stop by Deanna’s quarters before she went planetside. He entered to her called, “Come in!” The first things that hit him were the roses.
A dozen of them, huge red blossoms - and fragrant. They were in a glass vase on the table. There was a card lying beside them. Will couldn’t resist. He picked it up. On it, written in a firm hand, were the words, I look forward to our time together tonight. Sincerely, Barnabas.
“My, aren’t we snoopy,” Deanna said as she came out of her bedroom. She had changed into a deep blue gown, which suited her admirably.
Will looked a little sheepish. “Curiosity got the better of me, I suppose.”
“You know, just last night someone was telling me something about cats and curiosity. Who was that, I wonder?” she teased.
Will smiled, then sobered. “Deanna, don’t you think this guy is moving just a little too fast?”
“Will, please! I’m a big girl. Besides, I think it’s romantic.”
“Romantic,” Will echoed, rolling his eyes.
“A little romance never hurt anything, Will Riker, and you know it,” Deanna retorted, playfully poking him in the chest.
“All right, All right,” Will said, holding up his hands in surrender. “At least he didn’t send you chocolate, so it can’t be THAT serious yet.”
Deanna laughed, then patted his cheek. “Don’t wait up for me,” she told him fondly.
Will rolled his eyes again.
The house was old fashioned looking, located in the human district of the Mazzati continent. Deanna used the old-fashioned knocker. A few minutes later, she heard steps, and the door opened. Barnabas stood there, a broad smile on his face. “It is good to see you again, Deanna,” he said as he kissed her hand.
She smiled, once again noting to herself the chill in his lips and fingers. “I’ve been looking forward to it. And I want to thank you for the roses. Where did you find them?”
Barnabas escorted her through the paneled foyer. “There is a greenhouse that specializes in Earth plants. I thought you wouldn’t mind something from our common home.”
“Earth isn’t my home. I’m only half human.”
“Really?” Barnabas asked. “What is the other half?”
“I’m half Betazoid,” she said as they entered a drawing room. She noted a table set for two, in front of a fireplace. The only light in the room came from the fire on the hearth and candles on the table.
Barnabas paused. For a second, she could sense him, and she noted concern. “You are a telepath?” he asked. If she hadn’t sensed his concern, he would have appeared casual about the question.
Deanna shook her head. “No. I am an empath. I can sense feelings, strong emotions . . . though I must admit I can’t read you very well. Are you fully human?”
“Yes,” he answered. Then he took her arm and brought her to the fireplace. “Here is the portrait I spoke of. This is Josette.”
Deanna gazed at the portrait. Even in the dim lighting, she could tell the painting was very old. The woman in it had dark curly hair and dark eyes matching her own. It wasn’t an exact likeness, but the resemblance was such that the two women could have been sisters.
“She’s very beautiful,” she said.
“Yes,” Barnabas replied, and there was something in his voice that caught Deanna’s attention.
“You sound sad,” she said.
Barnabas started at her remark, then nodded. “Josette’s story is a sad one,” he said. His voice and manner changed. “But come, let’s eat. I would like to know more about you.”
They talked during dinner, a light, pleasant meal. Barnabas seemed very interested in her past, and continued to ask her questions. In return, Deanna learned very little about him. Whenever she tried to draw him out, he deflected the conversation back to her.
Dinner over, Deanna rose. “I probably should be going,” she said.
“Must you?” Barnabas asked. He came over to her. Deanna noticed how intent his gaze was, how hypnotic his eyes seemed.
“Yes . . . I really think . . . ” she swayed as a wave of dizziness engulfed her. Barnabas caught her in his arms. She forced herself to tear her eyes away from his, and he held her tightly. She couldn’t resist, and she was beginning to be afraid. “Barnabas . . . ”
“It’s all right, my dear,” he murmured softly in her hair. She did not see his mouth open wide, nor did she see the fangs in his mouth glint in the firelight. She barely felt them break the skin on her neck.
She felt as if she was floating. She wanted to open her eyes, but she was so tired. She heard voices, but they seemed unreal, as if they were not a part of her reality.
“...do you think you are DOING?!”
“I am fully aware of what I am doing. I need you to repair her neck. I want no suspicions from the Federation.”
“You are throwing everything away! We had your condition under control . . . ”
“But not cured. You can’t cure me, can you Helen?”
A pause. “No. Not yet. But this woman -“
”This woman is the closest to Josette I have found in years. If I must continue this existence, I do not wish to continue it alone! Do you understand?”
“Barnabas . . . ”
“Helen, if you DON’T help me, they may well discover the truth about me. You are aware of what that would mean are you not?”
A near whisper. “Yes . . . ”
“Then help me!”
Reality faded again for Deanna.
As Will came up to the bridge for his shift, he found himself unhappy. Once again, he had not slept well. In fact, at one point, he had jerked awake, convinced that Deanna had called his name. He had resisted calling her quarters - she had made it clear she didn’t want him hovering over her - but he had worried.
Deanna appeared on the bridge a few minutes after he did. She looked a little pale and tired. Will leaned over past the Captain and asked, “Are you all right, Deanna?”
“Yes Will, I’m fine,” she replied, rubbing her neck.
“You look a little pale. Did something happen last night?”
“Last night? No, everything is all right. I had a wonderful time last night.”
“Are you sure?”
Now Picard was getting interested in the conversation. “What happened last night?”
“Please!” Deanna seemed uncomfortable. “Captain, I had a date last night. He was very charming, and I had a lovely time. I returned to the ship a little late last night, that’s all.”
Picard nodded. “Is there another problem, Number One?”
There most certainly WAS, but Will was not about to get into it on the bridge. “No sir.”
“Very well. Then may we get on to the negotiations?”
After his shift was over, Will hurried down to Deanna’s quarters. He signaled her at the door, and heard her call come in. He found her dressed in the blue gown she had worn last night, putting on a pair of earrings he had never seen before. “Deanna? I was hoping we could have dinner together . . . ”
“Oh, Will I’m sorry, I have a date with Barnabas tonight.”
Will narrowed his eyes. “Another date?”
Deanna managed a small laugh. “Yes, Daddy, another date.”
Will shook his head. He again noticed the earrings. They appeared very old. “I’ve never seen those earrings before.”
Deanna glanced at the mirror. “Yes, they were a gift from Barnabas,” she commented. She seemed distracted, and Riker noticed she was again rubbing her neck.
“Did you hurt your neck? You keep rubbing it.”
Deanna immediately dropped her hand. “No.”
Will couldn’t ignore the uneasy feelings churning within him. “Deanna . . . maybe I should come with you . . . I could be your chaperone,” he said with a forced chuckle.
For a second he thought she was going to say yes, but then she shook her head. “Honestly, Will, you are sounding like a jealous lover.” She moved past him to the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Imzadi . . . ” he said, alarms ringing in his head.
But she was out the door. Will considered running after her, but he had to consider that maybe he WAS acting jealous. How much of what he was feeling was genuine concern, and how much of it was jealousy? His indecision immobilized him, and by the time he went after her, she was out of sight.
Barnabas had been watching for her. When she came in, he swiftly closed the door. “How are you, my dear?”
Deanna began to shake. “I...I don’t belong here . . . me . . . ”
“You DO belong here, my dear. You couldn’t stay away, could you?”
“No . . . but, but Will . . . Will is asking questions . . . ”
“And who is Will? What is he to you?”
“Will . . . Will . . . he’s Imzadi . . . ”
“What is that?” Barnabas took her in his arms.
“It . . . it’s beloved, soulmate . . . ”
“No, Deanna, *I* am your beloved now. We are soulmates, and will be for all eternity.”
Deanna could not stop him as he crushed her in his embrace. She moaned as she felt his lips on her throat. She felt her will drain away as her blood did.
Will had not seen Deanna at all that day. This had been an “office” day for her, and she was not scheduled for bridge duty. He would have gone to see her, but there had been a snag in the negotiations, and he and the Captain had spent the bulk of the day soothing egos and smoothing ruffled feathers.
He had barely had time to change to a fresh uniform before heading to the transporter room to beam down to another reception. He had tried to contact Troi before leaving, but she had not answered his hails. He was worried about her.
He glanced around the room where the reception was being held. There was no sign of Deanna, or Barnabas for that matter. But he did see Helen Collins. He took a deep breath, and went over to her, putting on the famous Riker grin.
“Hello. I’m Commander Riker. I believe we met the other day?”
“Oh, hello, Commander,” Helen said.
“Are you all right? You seem ill-at-ease.”
“Oh. Well . . . my brother . . . he’s been . . . ill.”
“I hope it’s nothing serious,” Riker said.
Helen chewed her bottom lip before answering. She’s worried about something, Will thought. She took a deep breath. “No, I’m sure everything will be fine.” She stared over Riker’s shoulder, and Will turned.
Barnabas had entered the room. He was looking around the room. Will decided to take the bull by the horns. With a swift “Excuse me,” to Helen, he walked over to the man. “Mr. Collins?”
Barnabas looked at Will. “Commander Riker, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir. I am glad to see you here. Your sister was just telling me you were ill.”
“Really?” Barnabas glanced over at his sister. “My sister tends to worry about me. It’s nothing serious. I assure you.”
“Are you sure? I’m wondering if Counselor Troi might be suffering from something she might have caught from you.”
Barnabas stared at Will. “What makes you think Deanna is ill?”
“She looked pale yesterday. And she’s been acting strangely.”
“Really?” Barnabas almost seemed amused. “Commander, let me be frank. Deanna tells me you and she have a history together. Is that correct?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with Deanna being ill,” Will said hotly.
“Ah, but it has everything to do with your perceptions of her. Are you sure you are seeing things accurately? Or are you seeing them through the eyes of jealousy?”
Riker fumed. What was it with everyone lately, questioning his motives? HE was even questioning his motives! Blast it, he had told Devinoni Ral not all that long ago that if Deanna found someone to make her happy he would be happy for her. And he had meant it, hadn’t he? HADN’T he?
Before he could pull out of his reverie and respond to Barnabas, Deanna came up to them. Riker was shocked. She looked even paler then she had the previous day, her dark eyes appearing huge against the whiteness of her skin.
“Hello, Barnabas, Will,” she said. She even sounded different, almost dreamy.
“Deanna . . . are you all right? You look terrible!”
Barnabas put his arm around Deanna. “The Commander is concerned that you are unwell, that I have somehow . . . infected you.”
Deanna shook her head and smiled at Barnabas. “How silly. I feel perfectly fine. And you have been nothing but good to me, Barnabas.”
Will glanced from Barnabas to Deanna. Something WAS wrong. She was too pale, she kept rubbing her neck, and she seemed off in another world . . . he wasn’t imagining it, he was sure of it. “Deanna, I really think I ought to take you to Sickbay.”
“Will, please, I’m fine. I want to stay here.”
“Counselor - “
Deanna glared at him. “Will, don’t you DARE pull rank on me!”
Will stared at her opened mouthed. “Look. You look awful, whether you feel bad or not. I’m just concerned for you - ”
“Yes, you have made that quite plain. And SHE has made it plain you have no cause for concern,” Barnabas said firmly. He turned to Troi. “Shall we move on, my dear?”
Will grabbed Deanna’s arm. “Deanna - “
She wrenched her arm away, glaring at him. Then she turned and walked away from him, her arm wrapped around Barnabas. Will stood there, with a mixture of outrage and fear.
After a moment, he mentally shook himself and decided it was time to know his enemy. He went in search of Leepin. He found the Mazatti in conversation with a member of the Corbin. He waited, trying not to hover, until the pair finished. Then he approached Leepin. “Excuse me, sir, I was hoping to have a word with you.”
“Certainly,” Leepin said. “I wanted to thank you anyway, Commander, for your aid today. I am in debt to you and your captain.”
“No thanks are necessary, but if you don’t mind, I would appreciate some information.”
“What information can I supply you with, Commander?”
“I’m curious about Barnabas Collins. Do you know him well?”
“Ah,” Leepin said. He looked over to the dance floor. Deanna and Barnabas Collins were dancing together. “I confess I am unfamiliar with human mating rituals. Was the Counselor your woman? Are you concerned that he has stolen her from you?”
Will winced. “Not . . . exactly. But he seems to be strange in some way that I can’t explain.”
“Yes,” he stated with a slight nod of his head. “Barnabas is strange, even for one of your race. For example, unlike the other humans on my world, he seems to shun the daylight.”
“What do you mean?”
“As you know, Commander, my planet has a short time of daylight. The humans who choose to live here crave that time, and make every effort to spend a part of each day in the light of the sun. All except one that is.”
“Barnabas,” Riker guessed.
Riker looked surprised. “That’s it? There’s nothing else?”
Leepin looked uncomfortable. “Well, no, Commander, nothing concrete.”
Riker had the impression that he was lying. His heart sank. He could just see himself telling Deanna, “Barnabas is no good for you because he doesn’t like the sun!” He would sound like an idiot.
Before he could say anything else, a large human approached Leepin and Riker. “Well, Leepin, why the long face? Lose your pet cat?”
Riker searched his memory and came up with a name for the man: David Thayer, a member of the Mazzati negotiation team. “Good evening Mr. Thayer. Leepin and I were just discussing one of your fellow humans, Barnabas Collins.”
Thayer looked pained. “Oh, HIM. Leepin, I can’t understand what you wanted him on the team for anyway, especially after what happened when he first came here . . . ”
“David, please!” Leepin pleaded. “There was no concrete evidence linking Barnabas to that unfortunate series of events.”
“What events?” Riker asked, his curiosity piqued.
“You gonna tell him, Leepin, or shall I?” Thayer asked.
Leepin sighed. “I refuse to be reduced to petty gossip, David. Commander, if you wish to listen to such drivel, I must remove myself from your company.”
Riker looked from one man to another. “Leepin, I am concerned. I’m sorry if it offends you, but I’ll listen to anything that might shed some light on things.”
Leepin shook his head. “You do not offend me, Commander, but I always find jealousy disturbing. If you gentlemen will excuse me . . . ” Leepin bowed and left.
Thayer looked at Riker. “What did he mean, ‘jealousy?’”
Riker looked around the room, searching for Deanna and Barnabas. “Mr. Collins is taking a lot of interest in a friend of mine . . . ” Where were they?
“A female friend?” Thayer asked.
“Yes,” Riker responded. They weren’t in the room. Where had they gone?
Thayer looked concerned. “That could be bad. The incident Leepin’s afraid to talk about involved women.”
Riker turned his attention to the man. “What is this incident?”
“Well, it started a couple of years ago, when Barnabas and his sister first came to our little neck of the galaxy. Soon after they’d settled in, a couple of the Human women were attacked.”
“Well, no one was quite sure. They really didn’t have a clear memory of what happened. One of ‘em said a tall dark man grabbed her and bit her on the neck. Had marks to show for it, too.”
“Bit her on the neck?” Riker was incredulous. He remembered how Deanna kept rubbing her neck, as if it were irritated. “What makes you think Barnabas was involved?”
“Some Mazzati guy by the name of Ored claimed he saw Barnabas near the place one of the girls was attacked. Collin’s sister swore up and down that it wasn’t possible, he was with her at the time. Nobody could prove nothing, so the case was dropped. The attacks stopped, but not until there was a robbery at the human clinic.”
Riker was confused. “What does a robbery at a clinic have to do with this?”
Thayer smiled a strange smile at Riker. “You believe in the supernatural, Commander?”
“Of course not.”
“You should,” Thayer answered. “A medical replicator was taken, along with some blood the clinic had on hand for emergencies.”
“So?” Riker was getting impatient. Maybe Leepin was right and this had been a waste of time.
“So?” snorted Thayer. “Women bit on the neck, blood stolen from a clinic with a replicator to make more of it - add to that a man who won’t be seen in the sun. That means something to folks who aren’t all that convinced that science is the answer to everything.”
Thayer lowered his voice. “That means vampire, Commander Riker. There’s those of us who suspect that’s exactly what Barnabas is.”
Riker could not believe what he had heard. “Mr. Thayer, with all due respect, I can’t accept that explanation.”
Thayer shrugged. “Suit yourself, Commander. But that’s the best one I can come up with.”
Riker shook his head as he scanned the crowd, looking for Deanna and Barnabas. He WAS an idiot, wasting his time talking to a man who obviously was crazy. He decided to go to talk to Barnabas and Deanna again, and find the truth about what was going on.
Riker came out of the building into the cool night air. He wished he had brought a tricorder with him, but this was a “social” function, so it wasn’t necessary. He called out, “Deanna?”
Silence answered him. Riker felt frustrated. He tapped his communicator. “Riker to Troi.” Nothing. He tried again. Now becoming alarmed, he contacted the bridge. “Data here.”
“Data, has Deanna returned to the ship yet?”
“A moment, Commander,” A pause, then, “No sir, she is still on the planet surface.”
“Can you locate her for me?”
Another pause. “Commander, may I ask why you wish me to do so?”
Riker felt foolish. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. “I’d rather you didn’t ask, Data, and just did it.”
“You do understand, Commander, that you are making a most unusual request.”
“It’s an unusual situation, Data. Please, just find her.”
Another pause. Then, “I am unable to contact the Counselor, but sensors show she is approximately 320 meters southwest of you.”
“Thanks, Data,” Riker took off at a run. If she was heading somewhere, he wanted to catch up to her. As he ran, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong. Then suddenly, he tripped over something, and went sprawling. He pushed himself up, angry that he hadn’t been watching his footing. A groan froze his blood, and he looked to see what - or who - he had tripped over.
Deanna lay sprawled out on the ground, blood dripping from the wounds on her throat.
“Will, if you can’t stop pacing, get out of my Sickbay!” Crusher snapped.
Will took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Everything in him told him to DO SOMETHING. He watched as Beverly moved over Deanna’s still form, scanning her and snapping out orders to her nurse. The doctor had repaired the damage to the Counselor’s neck, but she was still so white, so still...
Somehow, he remembered that he was a First Officer on a starship. He slapped his communicator. “Riker to Worf.”
“I need you to come to Sickbay. Counselor Troi...has been attacked.”
“Attacked? By whom?”
Riker searched for a way to answer the Klingon, but found no sane answers. “Look, Worf, just come down to Sickbay. I’ll explain here.”
Will began to pace again, but stopped at a glare from Beverly. Worf burst into Sickbay, and headed straight to the First Officer. “What happened?”
Will raised his hand to the Security officer, stalling him. “Beverly?”
Beverly handed a PADD to the nurse. “I want this analysis done as fast as possible.” Then, with a jerk of her head, she motioned to Riker and Worf to follow her into her office.
“Commander Riker, what happened to the Counselor?” Worf demanded.
Riker shook his head. “Just a minute, Worf. Beverly, tell me about Deanna. Will she be all right?”
Beverly sighed. “I don’t know, Will.”
Worf looked from Riker to Crusher. “What are the Counselor’s injuries?”
“She had what appeared to be a bite wound to the neck. But when I repaired it, I found evidence of past bites in the area. They were repaired.”
“By you?” Worf asked.
“No, of course not. But that’s not all. There’s something else going on here that I don’t fully understand.”
“What?” asked Riker.
Beverly looked worried. “For one thing, she’s very anemic. It’s as if she had been bleeding heavily - but there wasn’t a lot of blood in the area where you found her, was there?”
“No,” Riker said, feeling fear creep up his spine. “But you can give her blood, can’t you?”
“It’s not that simple, Will. Something is changing the way her body works. Her ability to produce red blood cells has been severely inhibited. Her body temperature has dropped. She is beginning to develop photophobia - “
”Photophobia?” Worf interrupted.
“A sensitivity to light. It’s not serious yet. But if it progresses she could find ordinary sunlight painful, if not harmful.” Crusher looked at Will, concern evident in her eyes. “Will, do you have ANY idea what’s happened to her?
Will looked at his hands. He didn’t like the direction his thoughts were going in. How could this be possible? He finally looked up at his two friends. “Beverly, Worf...are you familiar with Earth folklore and legend?”
“Well, yes,” said Beverly, confused.
“I am,” rumbled Worf. “My mother was especially fond of telling me such stories. She thought they might,” and he snorted out the rest of the sentence, “scare me.”
Riker took a deep breath. “Then perhaps you’ve both heard of vampires.”
Crusher and Worf stared at the First Officer for a long moment.
“Will, you can’t be serious,” Beverly said.
“You believe the Counselor was attacked by an undead creature?” Worf asked.
Riker threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “Look, I KNOW how it sounds, all right? Not two hours ago I scoffed at a man who tried to tell me this Barnabas Collins was a vampire. But nothing else is making sense at the moment!”
Worf appeared thoughtful. “Is it possible that this Barnabas Collins is an alien of some kind?”
Beverly appeared shaken. “Worf, I have no idea. I suppose we could get more information from Deanna - “ the doctor glanced back into Sickbay, then jumped to her feet. “She’s gone!”
Worf and Riker turned to see an empty Sickbay. All three officers rushed out of the office, and Riker tapped is comm badge. “Riker to Troi.”
He heard a faint echo of his voice, and watched as Worf snatched up Deanna’s comm badge from the biobed. The Klingon growled.
“I’ll start a search of the ship and notify the planet authorities!” he said, but Riker shook his head.
“Don’t bother Worf. I think I know where she is.”
Riker had gotten the location of Barnabas’ home from the planetary database. He, Crusher, and Worf materialized outside of the older looking home. Worf was wearing a backpack. When Riker asked him what was in it, the Klingon had tersely replied, “Weapons.” Riker chose not to pursue the matter.
Will knocked on the heavy door. No one answered, and he could hear no movement from within. “Beverly, can you scan for her?”
Beverly examined her tricorder. “There’s someone there, Will. Possibly more than one person, but I’m having trouble focusing the readings.”
“What about Deanna?” Will asked.
Beverly adjusted the tricorder. “I think so...yes, I think she’s in the house somewhere.”
“Good enough,” said Will. He took a few steps back, then ran to the door and rammed it with his shoulder. It didn’t budge, and Will cursed at the pain.
“Allow me, Commander,” Worf said. He took a few steps back, then slammed the door with his considerable bulk and strength. The door crashed open, and Worf stumbled into the foyer.
“Will, was that a good idea?” Beverly asked. Before Riker could answer, Helen Collins came running out of a side room.
“What’s going on? What are you people doing? Leave before I contact the authorities!”
Riker rushed up to the woman. “Where’s Counselor Troi?”
Helen looked alarmed for an instant, then angry. “Get out of here! You have no right!”
Riker was near the end of his patience. He had never struck a woman in anger before, but he was close to it now. “WHERE IS SHE!”
The woman in front of him recoiled. “You need to leave. Please! There’s nothing you can do now!”
“Will!” Crusher exclaimed, still scanning. “I’ve found her. Down this way.”
“NO!” Helen moved to block the trio. “You must leave! Now!”
Worf didn’t waste time on words. He simply picked up Helen Collins by the arms and carefully placed her out of their path. They then rushed down the hall, while Beverly continued to scan. They finally came to a metal door with a barred window at the back of the house.
Riker tried to open the door, but it was locked. He turned on Helen Collins. “Unlock this door!”
“No!” Helen said, backing away.
Worf snarled at the woman. She gave him a fearful glance but did not move to open the door.
Will was desperate. Grabbing the bars of the door he tried to peer into the gloom beyond. “DEANNA!” he shouted.
Deanna Troi heard someone call her name. She struggled to regain consciousness. Her memories of recent events were spotty: she remembered walking with Barnabas in the woods, hearing Will hail her; she had reached up to respond to him, then Barnabas had seized her wrist, saying, “No, my love,” and then he had bent over her; after that she was suddenly in Sickbay, she heard voices - Worf, Beverly, Will; then another voice, in her head; Barnabas, calling her, telling her to come to him, and to leave her comm badge behind; slipping out of Sickbay while her friends were talking in Beverly’s office; transporting to Barnabas’ house; then...
Deanna opened her eyes. The first thing she realized was that she was lying in a coffin.
Horror closed off her throat before she could scream. She stumbled out of the coffin, noticing that she was no longer wearing the dress she had been wearing earlier in the evening. Instead, she was clothed in an old fashioned wedding gown. She placed her hands on her head and realized she was wearing a veil. Heart pounding, Deanna’s gaze swept the room. She was in a basement of some kind, dimly lit with candles. There was another coffin by the one she had been laying in. Its lid was closed.
Deanna listened, hearing voices arguing above her. Before she could determine a direction, they were drowned out by a scraping sound in the corner of the room. She saw a portion of the wall open at the other end of the room. Barnabas entered.
“It is time, Josette,” he said, walking toward her.
Deanna took a step back, still searching for a way out of the basement. “My name is Deanna Troi.”
“After tonight, you will be Josette. My wife, my soulmate - forever.”
Deanna spotted some stairs. She heard the voices again, and recognized Will’s. She realized that he had been the one to call her name. She looked - Barnabas was closer. Without fully understanding what was going on, only that she was in danger, she began to run to the stairs, shouting, “Will! I’m down here! Will!!”
She had waited too long to run - Barnabas seized her arm, turning her towards him. As the sound of phaser fire sang from above, Deanna saw Barnabas open his mouth, saw the fangs in the candlelight. In terror, Deanna screamed, instinctively protecting her neck with her hands.
The door lock shattered under phaser blasts, and Will followed Worf into the gloom. Running down a flight of steps, he caught a glimpse of Deanna struggling with Collins. “Let her go!” he shouted.
Worf uttered a roar of outrage as he leapt over the last few steps. Barnabas shoved Deanna to one side, sending her sprawling. To Riker’s amazement, Barnabas seized Worf, lifting him easily. He flung the Klingon into a wall across the room, where the Security Officer lay stunned.
Riker reset his phaser to heavy stun and fired at Barnabas. The beam struck the man without effect. He ignored Riker and turned towards Deanna.
Will skidded in front of the man, putting himself between Barnabas and Deanna. “Deanna, RUN!” he shouted as he increased the power to his phaser. Before he could bring it up to fire, Barnabas had grabbed his wrist, and exerted such pressure on it Will was forced to drop the phaser. Barnabas’ other hand had encircled Will’s throat, and he was unable to breathe. As soon as the phaser hit the floor, Barnabas turned Will to use him as a shield, and twisted the First Officer’s head til he thought it would snap off his body.
“Come to me, Deanna,” Barnabas commanded, his voice an odd combination of desperation and menace. “Pledge yourself to me forever, or I’ll snap his neck like a twig.”
Will grabbed at Barnabas’ arms in a vain attempt to free himself. It was no good. The man was stronger than he looked. Will took in the scene in front of him: Deanna, on the floor, her eyes huge with fear; Helen Collins and Beverly, on the staircase, staring. Beverly had her phaser out, but Riker knew she was afraid to fire, for fear of injuring him - she had seen a normal setting would not bring this. . .THING down.
“Barnabas, please, let him go!” Deanna sobbed.
“Not until you promise me, Deanna,” Barnabas replied.
“Don’t listen to him, Deanna,” Will managed to gasp. He felt Barnabas increase the pressure to his neck, and he nearly passed out from the pain.
All at once, a bright light seared Riker’s eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut in response. Behind him, he heard a scream of pain, and the pressure on his head and neck eased. Riker threw himself forward, rolling on the floor, then opened his eyes in time to see Worf launch himself at Barnabas, who was cowering and trying to shield himself from the beam of light coming from a flashlight in the Klingon’s hand. Worf tackled the vampire and pinned him to the floor. The next thing Riker knew Worf had pulled a wooden stake from his backpack and placed it on Barnabas’ chest. “Don’t move or I’ll impale you where you lay, demon!” the Klingon commanded.
Barnabas became very still. His face and hands looked as if he had gotten a bad sunburn. Will shook his head to clear it, then crawled over to Deanna. “Are you all right?” he asked.
Deanna was shaking. She touched his neck. “Oh, Will. . .he could have killed you. . .”
Beverly was kneeling by them, scanning Will. “I’m all right, Beverly,” he insisted, trying to ignore how much it hurt to speak.
“Commander,” Worf rumbled. “Permission to dispose of this creature.”
“NO!” screamed Helen, who had remained frozen on the steps. She raced to Worf and Barnabas, and started pulling on the Klingon’s arm. “Don’t kill him, please! He couldn’t help it! Please, you can’t kill him,” and she began to sob.
Deanna looked at the woman, sensing her emotions. “She’s not his sister,” she said.
“What?” Will asked, confused.
Before Deanna could answer, Barnabas spoke. “Helen, stop. Perhaps it would be best if we let it end now.”
“Barnabas, no!” Helen moaned.
Riker went to where Barnabas lay. Gently he stopped Helen from tugging at Worf’s arm. He looked down at the creature. “What are you?” he asked.
Barnabas sighed. “Once, hundreds of years ago, I was as you are now, Commander. A young man, filled with dreams, ambitions. . .and love.” He turned his head to look at Deanna, who sat by Beverly as the doctor continued to scan her. “Josette. . .we were to be married, in my hometown of Collinsport, Maine. I was never happier.”
“What happened?” Will asked. There was something about this man that made him ask.
“What happened? Another woman, by the name of Angelique. She was Josette’s maid. She fell in love with me. She wanted me to marry her. But I couldn’t. I loved Josette. So she swore revenge on me. She cursed me.”
“Cursed you? How?” Riker asked.
Barnabas shook his head. “Commander, we are discussing events of hundreds of years ago. At the time, I thought she was a witch. Now, as I have seen the galaxy, I do not know what she was. All I know is she caused a bat to bite me. I fell ill. My family thought I died,” he looked sad. “It would have been better if I had died. Instead, I became the creature I am today. Josette found out what I had become. It was more than she could bear. She jumped off a cliff near my home, dashing herself on the rocks below.”
Riker shook his head. “I’m sorry for what you suffered, but what you did to Deanna -“
”-was evil?” Barnabas finished. “Yes, it was. I don’t deny it, and if my life doesn’t end tonight I may come to regret it. But Commander, in your righteousness, try to have some pity. I have been forced to wander the galaxy, alone, shunned. I have been compelled by the curse to sustain myself with the blood of others. I have had to take lives to protect myself. I have loved, only to see those I loved die while I cannot die. Tell me, Commander, before you judge me, if you were in my position, could you keep yourself from evil?”
Will didn’t want to pity this man. He had tried to turn Deanna into a creature like himself, he had admitted to harming others. But could he simply order Worf to kill him? “Beverly,” he said.
Beverly came over and scanned Barnabas. “He is human, but this condition. . .it’s similar to Deanna’s but far more advanced.”
“Is he telling the truth?” Riker asked. “Does he need human blood to survive?”
“He does,” Helen answered. She looked at Riker and Crusher. “It is time for the whole truth, I suppose. I am not Barnabas’ sister. I am a doctor. I have been trying to cure him.”
“How?” Crusher asked.
“Before your Counselor Troi came onto the scene, I was able to control his need for blood by replicating it for him to drink. That’s all I have been able to do,” she touched Barnabas’ face. “I haven’t been able to get him to tolerate sunlight, or live anything like a normal life. I was just able to keep him from hurting others,” she looked at Riker. “He was GLAD he didn’t have to hurt others. I tried to stop him from attacking Troi, but he thought he could bring back his true love.”
Deanna sensed the sadness that came from the woman. She loved Barnabas, that much was clear. However, Barnabas did not return that love. He loved a woman that had been dead for hundreds of years, and thru Deanna had seen a chance to renew that love.
“What will you do with me now, Commander?” Barnabas asked. “You know my secret; I doubt you will keep it. Am I to die now?”
“Wait,” Beverly said. “Will, I want to take him to Sickbay.”
“Doctor!” Worf was outraged. “This creature is a monster!”
“This ‘creature’ may be the only hope I have of reversing what’s happening to Deanna!” Crusher snapped.
Will was startled. “You can’t reverse it?”
“Will, I told you I don’t fully understand what’s going on with Deanna. He is the carrier; he may hold the answers I need.”
“I could assist you in that,” Helen said.
Will looked down at Barnabas. “Will you cooperate?”
“Do I have a choice, Commander?” Barnabas asked.
“No,” will replied. “Worf, let him up, but if he tries anything, stop him.”
“Yes, sir,” Worf responded. He picked up the flashlight and allowed Barnabas to stand.
Barnabas moved slowly, careful not to make any threatening moves. “I assure you I will cooperate, Commander.”
“He’s telling the truth, Will,” Deanna affirmed.
Will couldn’t keep from glaring at the vampire. “Why are you so eager to help?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Commander? In finding a way to help Deanna, you might also find a way to help me. Believe me, this existence I endure holds little joy for me.”
Will stared at the man a few minutes more, then activated his communicator. “Riker to Enterprise. Six to beam up.”
Will, Deanna, and Barnabas were waiting in Sickbay while Helen and Beverly were at work in the lab. Worf had stayed in Sickbay until Barnabas had been restrained with a force field. Just before leaving, his gaze never leaving the vampire, Worf had commanded the computer to deny Deanna access to the force field controls.
Deanna watched Barnabas pace in the small space he was confined to. ‘”He is such a tragic man,” she murmured.
Will stared at her. “Deanna, are you telling me after everything he did to you that you feel sorry for him?”
Deanna nodded. “Will, he has not had a happy life. Some men might have reveled in the things he has done, but I don’t sense that he does. He has merely done what he thought he must do to survive.”
“I don’t understand how you couldn’t sense his intentions earlier.”
“He has learned to bury his emotions very deeply, Will. It is a defense mechanism, I think. It makes him harder to read than most humans.”
“I can’t feel sorry for him. He attacked you, Deanna! He was going to make you something like himself. How can you pity a man like that?”
“Because I ask myself what kind of a person would I become if I were forced to live as he has been for all these years?”
“You would not be like him,” Will said with no trace of doubt in his voice.
“Thank you for that, Will. But,” she sighed. “I am not so certain as you are about that. To be forced into such an existence. . .who is to say how it would affect one?”
Will looked down at the Betazoid, feeling a wave of affection. “You are one of the most compassionate people I know.”
She smiled. “And you are one of the bravest. Thank you for coming to the rescue.”
Will shrugged. “I had a lot of help. Worf is really the one who saved the day.”
Deanna shook her head. “You discovered what was going on. Worf could not have ‘saved the day’ as you put it if you hadn’t told him about what was happening.”
“Um, well. . .” Riker ducked his head. Then he decided that now was as good a time as any to deal with another thought. “Deanna, can I ask you something?”
“Certainly,” Deanna replied.
“You’ve seen me with other women while we’ve been serving on the Enterprise,” he paused until she nodded, then continued. “I was wondering.. .did it ever bother you?”
“Bother me?” Deanna echoed.
“Yeah. I mean. . .were you ever jealous, or anything like that?”
Deanna tilted her head. “I suppose sometimes I did. . .but I always understood how it was between us, Will. I have no claim on you.”
Will chewed his bottom lip. “You know, one of the most difficult things about the past few days was to see you with Barnabas. You seemed to be in love with him . . .and it bothered me more than I ever thought it could.”
Deanna gazed into his eyes for a long moment. “Will, we agreed that it would be risky to move our relationship beyond friendship while we serve on the same ship.”
“I know,” Will said quickly, “And I agreed. But I wonder sometimes. . .I mean I think that maybe. . .maybe. . .”
“*I* think you are both fools.”
Will started; he had forgotten about Barnabas. “Excuse me?”
Barnabas stood behind the force field with his arms crossed. He still had burns on his face and hands; Crusher had been apologetic but insistent that he not be treated until they were through with their tests. “I said you are both fools, Commander.”
“Really?” Riker answered, glaring at the vampire. Despite what Deanna had said about feeling sorry for him, Riker could not help disliking the man.
“Barnabas raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Here you two are, two people obviously in love with one another, something that is rarer than you realize. And what do you do? You make excuses to stay away from each other! I had what you have. . . and I lost it. I did terrible things to try to reclaim it. Yet you toss it away as if it were nothing!”
Riker was outraged. How dare this man judge him? Then Deanna spoke. “If we are fools, what does that make you?”
“What do you mean?” Barnabas asked.
“You have a woman in your life who loves you deeply. She has protected you, and dedicated herself to your welfare. Yet you do not acknowledge her feelings.”
“You mean Helen. I could never love her, Deanna. She could never be Josette.” Barnabas sighed.
Deanna studied the vampire. “My people have a word. . .Imzadi. . .”
“Yes, you told me,” Barnabas said. “You said it means beloved, soulmate.”
“Yes, but it is deeper than English can express,” Deanna said. “There can only be one Imzadi in a person’s life. I believe that Josette was Imzadi to you.”
Barnabas looked sad. “You are saying I can never love again.”
“No,” Deanna said. ‘I’m saying that no one can ever be to you what she was. Even if you had succeeded in transforming me, I could never have been what she was. But you can hold a place for her in your heart, even if you come to love another. Loving someone else can never diminish the love you have for her.”
Barnabas was silent for long moments. Then he looked at Deanna. “Perhaps you are right, Deanna. If I am allowed to live, I will think about what you have said.”
Helen and Beverly came into Sickbay. “I think we’ve done it,” Crusher said.
“You can cure Deanna?” Will asked.
“I’m almost certain of it,” Beverly replied with a smile. We’ve developed a serum that should reverse the effects of her condition in a couple of days.” She turned to Deanna. “You’ll have to remain in Sickbay while I do this - I’ll need to monitor you to determine your progress.”
“And me?” Barnabas asked.
Beverly looked at Helen. Helen answered slowly. “We think we can reverse most of the effects of the curse on you as well - but there’s more risk in your case.”
“What risks?” Barnabas asked.
“Barnabas, there is a chance this cure could be fatal to you. You have suffered from this for so long, we aren’t sure if the reversal will accelerate the aging process.”
“I am willing to take that risk,” Barnabas answered.
“But this could kill you!” Helen protested.
“Helen, if I can regain a life free from this curse, it will be worth it.” Barnabas looked over at Riker. “That is, if you will be permitted to administer it.”
“Beverly, Deanna,” Will gestured to a corner of the room. Once there, he lowered his voice. “When was curing Deanna’s attacker part of the plan?”
Beverly was indignant. “Will, it’s possible that he isn’t fully responsible. If this works, he won’t be able to harm anyone like he did to Deanna.”
“So that’s it? He attacks Deanna, tries to kill me, and we just cure him and send him on his way?”
“Will,” Deanna touched his arm. “Please, what else can we do with him?”
“We can turn him over to the local authorities, that’s what we can do.”
“Will, they’ll kill him!” Beverly hissed.
“That certainly wouldn’t bother me,” Will muttered.
“Then I suggest we speak to the Captain on this,” Beverly replied, clearly angry.
“I will,” Riker said. “But you don’t do a thing to him until I do.” With that Will turned and left Sickbay, fuming.
Deanna started after him, but Beverly restrained her. “No, Deanna, you need to stay here. I’ll go.” Beverly exited.
Deanna walked over to where Helen and Barnabas were waiting. “I take it the Commander is not in favor of an attempt to cure me.”
Helen looked at Deanna, alarm on her face. “What are you going to do to him?”
Deanna tried to calm the woman. “Commander Riker and Dr. Crusher have gone to consult with Captain Picard. on the matter.”
“I see,” Barnabas sighed. He looked around his “prison.” “It is fortunate that your Lieutenant Worf blocked your access to the force field. The temptation to compel you to free me is. . .considerable.”
Leepin looked strained on the viewscreen. “You are certain of all this, Captain?”
“I’m afraid so, Leepin,” Picard answered. Riker and Crusher stood behind him as he delivered their findings to the Mazatti councilman. “Barnabas Collins is suffering from a disease that caused him to attack several people, including a member of my crew. I am informing you of this because my First Officer states that several of your people were attacked.”
“Some human women were, yes,” Leepin admitted.
“Leepin, my Chief Medical Officer believes she can cure Mr. Collins of this malady he suffers. After that, I am willing to release him to your custody.”
Beverly flinched at those words.
Leepin looked even more upset. “That’s not as simple as you might think, Captain. We are still in the midst of negotiations with the Corbin. If it got out that a member of our negotiating team, a person I made an effort to include, was some sort of. . .monster, I don’t know what the reaction would be.”
“He is not a monster, Leepin. But he did commit crimes against the humans in your jurisdiction And I don’t believe he was a part of your team that long..”
“Even so, the revelation of this comes at a bad time. If this gets out there could be severe repercussions.” Leepin appeared in thought for a moment. “You say he attacked a member of your crew?”
“Yes, our Ship’s Counselor.”
“Perhaps, if you are willing, Captain, we can agree to defer the matter to you and the Federation. It might simply be best if Barnabas never returned. Would you be willing to take custody of him?”
Picard raised his eyebrows. “Are you certain his victims and their families would consent to this?”
“I will have to consult with them and other members of the council, of course, but Captain, I would be in your debt if you would hold him at this time. We have no way to contain him - no way I would trust, anyway.”
“Certainly, Leepin. I will await further word from you. Picard out.” The captain closed the communication then turned his chair around to face his officers. “Well. That buys time to administer your cure, Beverly.”
“Captain, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Riker asked.
“Are you certain it is not, Will? If the cure works it will deprive him of his ability to harm people in that fashion.” Picard countered.
“It rewards him for what he has done!” Riker replied.
“Will, this disease of his forces him to seek blood. I TOLD you this,” Beverly argued.
Picard gazed at his First Officer. “Tell me, Will, if Mr. Collins had attacked another crewman instead of Counselor Troi, would you be so quick to deny him a chance at a cure?”
Will’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you asked me that.”
“Answer the question, Number One.”
Will thought about the question for a long moment. Finally, he was forced to answer, “I don’t know.”
“Very well,” Picard turned to Beverly. “If he understands the risks and is still willing to undergo the treatment, make it so. We will still be able to mete out whatever justice is required when he is well.”
Deanna spent the next three days in Sickbay undergoing treatments. The side effects were mild and resembled an extinct Earth illness Beverly called “the flu;” mild aches and pains, weakness, and a fever. Riker spent all the time he could in Sickbay, gently sponging Deanna’s hot face and hands with a cool wet cloth, catching her up on the ship’s gossip, and one afternoon spoon feeding her a chocolate sundae. He made every effort to present a cheerful front to her, but her symptoms worried him enough that he asked Beverly about them at the end of the second day.
“I know you’re worried, Will, but believe me, she’s doing fine. These are just side effects to the cure. And besides,” she let her eyes sweep over her other patient, “she could be going through a lot worse.”
Will was forced to agree. Barnabas Collins was not having an easy time of it. The serum caused excruciating pain in him, and a fever that caused him to descend into delirium. Even with sedation he would occasionally call out for his mother or Josette, and Crusher had been forced to restrain him with a force field so he did not harm himself.
Helen stayed at his side. Beverly allowed her to stay in Sickbay, and she spent hours sponging the sweat off Barnabas’ body and holding his hand during his ravings. Both she and Beverly monitored his readings closely. They were slowly returning to a normal human state, but they were afraid he would not survive until the change was complete.
Will found Deanna there two days after a relieved Beverly had pronounced her cured and released her. She was sitting by Barnabas’ bed, his hand in hers. Will came up and looked down on the two of them. He noticed gray at Barnabas’ temples that had not been there when he first met him. “What’s going on?” he asked in a low voice, noting that Helen was sound asleep on a nearby biobed.
“I told Helen I’d sit with him for a bit while she got some rest. She’s hardly slept all week.”
Will nodded, taking Deanna’s free hand into his and relishing the coolness of it. “You feeling better?”
Deanna smiled at him. “Yes, I feel wonderful, thanks to Beverly - and you.” She turned back to look at Barnabas for a moment. “Do you still hate him, Will?”
Riker pulled up a chair next to Deanna. He looked at the unconscious man in front of him. “I don’t know. I doubt I’ll ever really like him, Deanna. I think what he did to you was terrible. That’s just impossible to forgive.”
“It’s not impossible to forgive it, Will,” Deanna countered. “I have.”
“And I thank you for your compassion, Deanna,” Barnabas rasped, opening his eyes.
Helen woke up at the sound of Barnabas’ voice and came over to the biobed. “How are you feeling?”
“Weak,” Barnabas responded. “Thirsty.”
Deanna went to a replicator and got a cold glass of water for Barnabas while Helen took readings. Beverly, having noted the activity in Sickbay, entered and began scanning Barnabas herself. Deanna held the cup to Barnabas’ lips and he sipped the cool water. Then he looked from one doctor to the other. “Well?” he asked.
Helen looked at Beverly. The red haired doctor smiled. “I think we’re through the worst of it. You’ll have to continue the treatments for several more days, but I’m much more positive about the outcome.”
“I’m going to live?” Barnabas asked in a cautious tone. “What about your concerns about premature aging?”
“Well,” Helen said, “if my readings are correct, you shouldn’t age further than you already have. Though there has been some. . .” Beverly brought a mirror over to Barnabas so that he could see the gray in his hair as well as the new lines in his face. He sighed. “I hardly know what to say. I haven’t aged in so long, this will take some getting used to.”
Helen took a deep breath. “I think it makes you look distinguished.”
“Really?” Barnabas looked at Helen for a few seconds. Then he smiled. “Well then, I suppose it isn’t so bad.”
Helen colored at this, and Deanna smiled. Barnabas looked over at the empath with a small smile. “And you, my dear? You are well?”
“I am,” Deanna answered. “I hope you will be well too, and able to go on with your life.”
“Picard to Dr. Crusher,”
“Crusher here, Captain,” Beverly answered.
“Any news on Mr. Collin’s status?”
Beverly smiled. “He’s conscious and seems to be improving.”
“I see. I will be right down.”
Beverly traded looks with the others in the room. “Is everything all right, sir?”
“No, it isn’t,” Picard answered. “Apparently the Mazatti have decided Mr. Collins needs to be brought to justice. I’ll explain when I arrive. Picard out.”
Helen gasped. Barnabas looked troubled. “It seems that any celebration concerning my health must be postponed for the moment.”
Deanna looked at Will, who squeezed her hand as they waited for the captain.
Captain Picard looked at the man laying in the bed in front of him. It was hard to believe that this one person was the center of such a storm, but Picard had seen such a thing happen a time or two before.
“Leepin was very apologetic, but tells me he has no choice. The Human population is in an uproar, and he was informed that unless you are turned over to them, they will withdraw their support for the peace process.”
Barnabas looked grim. “That would indeed make things difficult. It was Humans that initiated the peace process with the Corbin. The Corbin have leaned heavily on their trust for our race. If the Humans pull out, the Corbin will most likely interpret that as a vote of no confidence in the Mazatti.”
“I am forced to concur,” the Captain replied. “At best, it will make things more difficult. At worse. . .it could destroy the peace process.”
“War,” Barnabas said. He sank back into the bed, exhausted.
“Captain, it is medically inadvisable to move Mr. Collins at this time,” Beverly interjected.
“I made Leepin aware of that possibility. He told me the people’s response was dismissive of that fact. He even quoted one of them as saying, ‘That will save us the trouble.’”
“Thayer. He never liked me,” Barnabas said.
Helen looked from one face to the other. “But you must be able to do something to help us! Can’t we claim asylum?”
Before anyone else could respond, Barnabas spoke. “No, Helen. I will turn myself in to the Mazatti.”
“Barnabas, they’ll kill you! You know that!” Helen protested.
“And if I don’t go it may well kill the peace process,” Barnabas answered. He held up his clenched fists. “Don’t I have enough blood on my hands? Must I add the death of Mazatti to my list of crimes?” He looked at Picard, his tired eyes pleading. “I only ask that you give sanctuary to Helen for my sake. She is only guilty of loving me.”
Helen took one of Barnabas’ hands in her own, gently opening it. “No. If you are going back, I am going with you.”
“Neither of you should go!” Crusher exploded. She turned to Picard. “Captain, as Chief Medical Officer I cannot permit this man to be taken from Sickbay.”
“Captain,” Troi spoke before Picard could respond, “perhaps we can use Barnabas’ condition to buy us time. I believe we should ask the Humans to come to the Enterprise.”
“To what purpose, Counselor?” Picard asked.
“Captain, these people are afraid, because they do not understand. I propose we bring them here so that they can see and know that Barnabas is no threat to them, and that taking his life would serve no purpose.”
Picard thought for a minute. “Your plan has merit. What do you think, Number One?”
Will had been studying Barnabas for several minutes, his face unreadable. He looked at Picard. “I think Counselor Troi’s plan should be tried, sir.”
Picard nodded. He turned to Barnabas. “And you, Mr. Collins?”
Barnabas sighed. “I think you are wasting time. But I am in your hands, Captain.”
“Very well. I will contact Leepin with our proposal.”
Will, Deanna, and Worf were waiting in the transporter room when five humans and Leepin materialized onto the platform. After much discussion, the Humans had agreed to send a delegation of five to consider the situation. Riker recognized David Thayer among the three men and two women.
As the delegation stepped off the platform, Worf moved to block one young man who was holding a wooden stake and mallet in his hands. “You will leave those things here.”
The man looked up at Worf with a cocky grin. “I don’t think so. I’m ready to deal with that bloodsucker here and now.”
Worf did not move. “You obviously did not hear me. You WILL leave those things here.”
The man stiffened. “And if I refuse?”
Worf softly growled, “Then I will TAKE them from you.”
Riker tried without success to hide his grin. Worf might not like Collins, but he wasn’t going to have him murdered on the ship while HE was Chief of Security.
The young man lost most of his bravado and cast a quick look at Thayer. Thayer shook his head. “Leave them, Joe. We can always deal with Collins later.”
The man named Joe handed the mallet and stake to Worf. Leepin proceeded to introduce the humans to Riker and Troi; in addition to Thayer and Joe Forbes, there was Joe’s wife Maggie, Millicent Stoddard, and Jeff Bradford.
“I’ll be honest with you, Riker,” Thayer said as they made their way to Sickbay, “we only agreed to this meeting as a concession to Leepin. We fully intend to take Collins with us when we leave.”
Riker said nothing as they entered Sickbay. Barnabas still lay in bed, Helen sitting beside him. Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard were also waiting. The delegation glared at Barnabas. He merely looked back. Thayer finally shook his head. “I tried to tell you, Leepin, but you wouldn’t listen. You didn’t want to listen either Riker. But I was right, wasn’t I?”
Leepin sighed. “Please, David, you agreed to listen.”
“Okay,” said Thayer, folding his arms, “we’re listening.”
Beverly cleared her throat and began to detail the medical aspects of Barnabas’ condition. In Riker’s eyes, she did a marvelous job of putting the whole thing into layman’s terms and explaining supposedly supernatural abilities with science. She concluded that at the end of the treatments Barnabas would no longer be a vampire and in her opinion, no longer a danger.
Forbes snorted at that. “That’s all well and good for you to say, Doctor. But if you leave him here and he isn’t cured, that will be poor comfort to the women he attacks, won’t it?”
“I have not attacked anyone on the planet for a year and a half, Joe,” Barnabas responded quietly.
“Only because your ‘sister’ got you blood. And it didn’t stop you from attacking HER, did it?” Forbes replied, pointing to Deanna.
Deanna spoke up. “Mr. Collins has admitted he was wrong to harm me. I have forgiven him. That is between us.”
“No, it isn’t,” Thayer countered. “He’s done horrible things - what’s to say he won’t do them again? Just because he can’t suck blood anymore doesn’t mean he still isn’t aligned with evil!” This statement brought several nods from the delegation.
“I don’t believe he is.”
All eyes turned to Will Riker, who had quietly spoken. It was difficult to determine who was more shocked by the statement; Barnabas Collins or David Thayer.
“How can you say that after what he did to HER?” Thayer exclaimed.
Riker took a deep breath. “I admit I have no love for Mr. Collins. He deliberately injured a dear friend of mine - someone I care about very much. I don’t know if I can ever forgive that. I hope I never have to meet him again after this.”
“But,” Will continued, pointing at Barnabas, “this same man several hours ago was willing to turn himself over to you rather than risk your planet undergoing war again. Unlike you, I might add!”
Forbes looked angry. “You don’t understand –“
”Wrong! I DO understand. You are angry and afraid and can’t forgive him. Fine! Kick him off your planet. Forbid him to ever return. But know that if you kill him just to satisfy your need for vengeance, it won’t change anything that has happened.- it will only change you.”
The two women of the group looked uneasy. The men were muttering. Riker watched them, not knowing what else to do or say. Then Maggie Forbes spoke up. “Those of us who were attacked - there will be no lasting effects?”
Crusher scanned the woman. “The attack apparently wasn’t sustained enough to do lasting damage - I can’t detect any change in you. I would have to scan the others to be sure, but I suspect I’ll find the same thing.”
The woman took a deep breath. “Then let’s leave him to the Federation and get on with our lives.”
Thayer frowned, but turned to the Captain. “Is there a place we may talk privately?”
Picard nodded, and Beverly escorted the group to her office. While the group was out of the room, Barnabas stared at Riker for several moments. Finally, he asked, “Why?”
Riker shrugged. “I couldn’t see you as just a monster anymore.”
Barnabas considered this. Then he said, “Whatever happens, Commander, I thank you.”
“I don’t want your thanks - “ Riker stopped talking as the group of humans returned. Thayer came right up to Barnabas.
“You have one day to get all your stuff off the planet. Then we never want to see you around here again. If we do, you’re dead. And the Federation won’t be able to protect you. You got that?”
Barnabas nodded. “I understand, David. I will not return.”
“You’d better not,” Thayer turned his back on him, then stared at Leepin. “We never intended to threaten your people, Leepin. But we felt we had no choice.”
“You had a choice,” Riker retorted.
Thayer turned to him, “As did you, Commander, and it seems you made it. Know this - if he ever becomes one of the living dead again, his victim’s blood is on your hands as much as on his.”
“David, please,” Bradford interjected. “We agreed there was no point in going on with this. Let’s go.”
“Indeed,” the Captain interjected. “Counselor Troi will escort you to the transporter room.”
Deanna stepped forward, indicating that the group should follow her. With a last glare at Barnabas, the humans and Mazatti departed.
Later that evening, Riker was reading in his quarters when Deanna came by. “Did Helen get everything off planet OK?” he asked.
“There are still a few things left to get, but there is time. Worf was a big help. Barnabas was a little miffed at Beverly for not letting him go down himself.”
Riker grimaced. “Having been in Beverly’s care in Sickbay, I guess I understand how he feels. But I would worry about his safety down there even if he was healthy.”
Deanna tilted her head as she sensed Will’s emotions. “You did the right thing, Will.”
Will looked troubled. “Did I? I’m not so sure.”
Deanna nodded. “I wanted to tell you I was proud of you for what you did. You saw past your personal feelings and your anger and said what needed to be said.”
Will sat heavily on the couch. “I don’t know, Deanna.” He looked down at his hands for a moment, then up to the Counselor. “I keep going back to what Thayer said. About how if Barnabas reverts, I’m responsible for what he does.” Riker stood and began to pace. “How do we know Beverly’s cure is permanent? What if he DOES go back to what he was? Can I take that chance?”
“You DID take that chance, Will,” Deanna said, stepping in front of him so he had to stop pacing. “And you did the right thing. Barnabas deserves that chance.”
“And if he doesn’t stay cured? If he attacks someone else, what do I possibly say to his victims? ‘Sorry, but I thought it would be all right?’”
Deanna held his hands. “Barnabas Collins is not the first person you’ve taken a chance on. And he won’t be the last. Not everyone we put our trust in lives up to it, Will. We simply make the best decisions we can based on what we know.”
Riker still looked troubled. “But he can do so much harm. . .”
Deanna squeezed his hands. “But he doesn’t want to. And he now has the means to keep himself from it.”
Riker sighed. “Sometimes we can’t have everything tied up nice and neat, can we? Like our relationship. . . you know, I wanted to deck him for what he said to us.”
Deanna’s smile faded. “The problem is, Will, he was right.”
Will studied her. “Deanna, what are you saying?”
Deanna now looked uncomfortable. “That many people would envy what we once had, and perhaps we were too quick to lay it aside.”
“Are you saying you want to change our relationship?” Will asked.
“I don’t know. What we have now seems very safe and comfortable,” she said, though she didn’t look very comfortable. “I’m afraid of what would happen. . .maybe we simply can’t restore what was once there. If we failed, we could lose what we have now. I lost you as a lover years ago. I don’t want to lose you as a friend.”
Will took her by the shoulders. “You will never lose me as a friend, Deanna. No matter what. I will always be there for you,” he paused, took a deep breath, and continued, “even if we never have more between us then we do now.”
Deanna smiled, relieved. He was not going to force the issue, as she had feared. She placed a hand on his bearded cheek. “Imzadi forever.”
He smiled. “Rabeem.”
The starship Enterprise was docked at Starbase 12. Will and Deanna walked Barnabas and Helen to the transporter room.
Helen readjusted the strap of the bag that was slung across her shoulders. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all your help. And Doctor Crusher - I’m glad she thought to give me the formula for the cure, just in case. . .”
Barnabas looked over at Helen as she hesitated. “I’m free, Helen. Don’t fear, I intend to remain free from Angelique’s curse forever.”
“Where will you go now?” Riker asked.
Barnabas smiled. “We are going home - to my home. I haven’t been back to Collinsport in years. I wish to see it again, breathe the sea air. I want Helen to see it, too.” At this he reached over and squeezed Helen’s hand. She smiled back at him.
Deanna smiled, glad at the emotions she was sensing from the couple. “I hope you have a happy life together.”
Barnabas looked at Deanna. “I have much to thank you for. You are a beautiful woman, Deanna. Not just in body, but in spirit. Thank you for spending time talking with me, especially after I treated you so wrongly.”
“I was happy to help you.”
“Even so, Helen and I have agreed you should not be unrewarded.” he rummaged into the bag he was carrying, and pulled out an antique music box. He opened it, and a lovely melody tinkled from it.
“This belonged to Josette,” he said, his eyes never leaving it. “I gave it to her as a wedding gift. I have carried it with me all these years.” He was silent for a minute as the music filled the room. Then he closed the box and presented it to Deanna.
She was taken aback. She sensed the box carried deep meaning for Barnabas. “I cannot accept this.”
“Please, I beg you to,” Barnabas said. “Consider it a symbol of realizing I am free to love again. And a token of my gratitude to one who could be Josette reborn. I believe she would be pleased that her music was enjoyed by a woman as lovely as she was.”
Deanna took the box in her hands. It was very old, and very beautiful. “Thank you.”
Barnabas smiled. Then, he gently raised one of Deanna’s hands to his lips and kissed it. He next turned to Riker. “I leave her in your hands, Commander. I hope you come to make her happy.”
Riker raised an eyebrow. He still couldn’t warm up to this man. “I hope life treats you better then it has so far.”
Barnabas nodded. Then he and Helen stepped onto the transporter platform. With the customary sparkle of light, they were gone.
Riker looked down at Deanna, who was still staring at the music box. “Great. He’s still romancing you.”
Deanna looked up and laughed. “Jealous?”
Will appeared to consider the question, then nodded. “Yep. Sure am. Want to counsel me about it over a chocolate sundae?
Deanna chuckled. “That’s an offer I can’t refuse. Let’s put this in my cabin and you can take me to Ten Forward for my treat.”
Riker gestured grandly, and the couple walked out of the transporter room.