The Promise (PG)
by Carol Sandford
Everything had been attended to. Almost.
Riker told himself that he was making a final stop at he art museum to verify for himself that everything was back in place and restored to order. After all, Starfleet would want nothing to be overlooked.
But he found himself standing for an over long time in front of one particular painting, the one Deanna had showed him, the one with all the large concentric "goopy" swirls.
He stared at it.
Then he heard the music floating from nearby. And somehow, in a way that he couldn't quite explain, the music seemed to enhance what he was looking at.
As if dancing to the notes, the colors began slowly to swirl. It bore a striking resemblance, Riker realised, to stars swimming about in a sort of galactic whirlpool. No, not just stars...stars and planets, and perhaps...perhaps that was something like what the universe had looked like in the throes of creation. Void and miasmic and filled with promise and possibilities...
He sensed her standing next to him. But he couldn't turn to face her.
"You're leaving." said Deanna.
"I wish you safe voyage."
"I wish you..." He stopped and found the strength to look at her. He had turned quickly and for a moment his mind's eye superimposed the flow of the painting over her. For one insane second, she was, literally, the center of his universe. "I wish you could come with me." he said at last.
She shook her head. "You know, Imzadi, for a time there, I was ready to change my universe for you. But now...now I don't think either of us is ready for that."
He tried to say that she was wrong, but he couldn't. So instead he tried to find some way to say good-bye. But he couldn't do that either.
He turned and looked back at the painting. Such vastness that encompassed everything there was...and yet somehow, now, it seemed completely empty.
"Deanna." He turned back to her. "Maybe..."
But she was gone.
He hadn't even said goodbye. Dammit, he'd said nothing to her, because he hadn't been able to find the words. And so he'd blanked his mind, and now she probably thought that he didn't care all that much. If he were able to part from her with such apparent ease, without even a word...
He took a step in the direction he was sure she had gone, but then stopped. Because he knew beyond any question, that this was the way she wanted it. And somehow, somewhere along the way, what she wanted had become more important to him than what he wanted.
But what about him. What about what he wanted? It was true, he did want his career and he didn't want to stay here, even if it was to be at her side, in every conceivable way. But damn it all, she had become as important to him as anything else that mattered in his life and he didn't want to leave it where they had. He didn't want to leave her, not yet. There was still much to say. Important things. Necessary things. Like, 'I love you.'
"And I do love you...Imzadi." As he stood and stared longingly at the door that had took her away from him, he tried the words that ached and tormented, even teased his soul and realized that it could be easy to say and that he could like the feeling of being truly, openly in love. He experimented with the word again. "Imzadi."
And then Will tried the other three words again. "I love you." And again, louder. "I love you, Deanna Troi!" Laughing out loud as he felt his entire being lighten with the knowledge that the sentiment wasn't locked down deep within his heart and that he could tell himself, and her, if she were here, the truth. He loved her.
Grinning like a lunatic, Will turned and faced the painting again, still not seeing what the picture held but now not caring, not now that he'd freed words that he never thought he would reveal.
But within moments sanity returned and his heart began to pound, echoing in his ears as his euphoria began to turn into another sensation, one that shocked him. "Good God, what have I said?" Will hadn't known he'd loved her until he'd said the words aloud, but then and only then did he know it was the truth; he DID love Deanna, with all his heart, but because he'd not the courage to tell her to her face, he'd lost her.
"You haven't lost me, Will."
Will spun on his heals and gaped open-mouthed at the woman that stood in exactly the same spot that she'd only moments ago vacated. Blushing from head to toe, Will swallowed, suddenly nervous. "How...how much did you hear?" he asked warily.
She slowly stepped closer. "Everything," she whispered huskily, "and more besides." lightly touching her temple, telling him that it wasn't just his voice that she'd heard. Reaching out the same hand she settled it upon his upper arm and looked lovingly up into his face. "Why do you love me, Will? I need to know. If we are to get through this together, somehow, I need to know why."
Will didn't even hesitate, his answer sure and true, even if he didn't have a clue where it came from. "I love you because I must love you."
Surprise lit her wary eyes. "You must? Why?"
Stepping closer still, Will laced a hand beneath her hair-line and gently caressed the soft nape of her neck, not quite believing he'd ever get the opportunity to touch her ever again. Dipping his head so that he hovered tantilizingly close to her mouth he murmured, "Because I can't ever lose you. We were born to be together, Deanna. I knew it as soon as I saw you...before I saw you," he emended. "When your eyes met mine in that church, it was as though destiny had introduced us finally. You can't deny that happened, can you?"
Licking her suddenly dry lips, Deanna mutely shook her head. "No, no I can't."
The urge to tell her how he felt consumed Will as he tortured himself, holding his lips away from hers, particularly when all he wanted to do was sweep his tongue into her mouth and devour her where she stood.
He slid his arms around her back, pressing her close, swallowing hard. He needed desperately to tell her, but the words that were so easy to say to her shadows, were now trying to force their way up from somewhere deep inside, clogging his throat, choking him, making his head spin with terror and need. But he had to try.
"Deanna, I..." he began, and then his voice died. He stared at her, his mouth moving but no sound came out. Words that only moments ago he had no difficulty in saying now refused to be spoken out loud, simply because they didn't seem adequate.
He wanted to tell her how he felt but how could three simple words convey everything he was feeling. It was too huge. They were too huge. "I...I..." He couldn't go on. He could only draw her even more tightly into his embrace and kiss her, hard and deep, prodding her open mouth with his tongue, thrusting deep inside. Deanna responded with equal ardour, only wrenching away when her head began to spin, blackness threatening to consume her. Simultaneously, Will lifted his head, his breathing as hard as hers and he deliberately and quickly moved her away from his torturous body.
"I don't know what to do," he said with anguish, gripping her shoulders, shaking her back and forth, not hard but for emphasis. "I've fallen in love with you, Deanna. I fell in love you the very first time I laid eyes on you," He told her passionately before his face grimaced with pain, regret and longing. "But I can't stay here and you can't come with me."
Deanna didn't even hear his last words. She blinked before allowing her face to break out into a radiant smile. "You really do love me?"
Oh, holy hell! She liked the idea. "Yes, dammit!" He all but bellowed, "but I shouldn't. I'm leaving here, Deanna and I don't want to, but I must. Even though I know you belong to me, as I belong to you. I must go." The last words were ripped from him, hurting him but finally as they begun to sink in, hurt her more.
Desperate to hold him to her for as long as she possibly could, Deanna pulled his face back down to hers, taking control of the kiss that they both needed. Will crushed her small frame against him, afraid to let her go but equally afraid to hold on to her, knowing that the next time they parted, it was going to crucify them both even more than the last.
Deanna broke away from his lips, cupping his face as she looked deeply into his suspiciously bright eyes, understanding that the love between them was more than the words that Will was so desperately trying to convey. "Tell me, Will." She pleaded with her heart and soul. "Tell me and I'll let you go in peace."
It was all Will needed to hear; That one day, in time, their love would find a way to pull them back together again and hopefully never let go. And this time as he cradled her face within his large palms and looked deep into her moist eyes, he had no problem in releasing the words. "I love you, Imzadi."
Her smile was watery. "There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Say it again."
Grinning, Will touched his lips to hers and said with more confidence and more than aware that he was about to alter their futures. "I love you, Deanna Troi, and one day, I'm coming back for you. I'm not sure how long it will be, but I will be back for you."