by Carol Sandford
Will glanced up into the sky in between the intermediate swipe of the windscreen wiper as it swept away yet another dusting of fine snow. The further he moved across the planet, the more the snow fell. And the more snow that fell, the colder it got. The darkening sky was heavy with its wintry load, and it steadily, and relentlessly, continued to fall as his small shuttle ate up the miles.
Inside the shuttle, Will was as snug as a bug. He wasn't bothered by the weather, not really. Not at that point. Over the years, he'd travelled in a lot worse. But this time, though, it was worth the risk. Will was taking a journey that would hopefully end with a welcoming hug, and it was all that kept pushing him on, relentlessly.
Lulled as hour after hour the radio churned out melody after melody, some of which Will knew, most which he did not. It hadn't been long after he'd set out, that he'd given up the pretense of enjoying the journey as he'd sang along and tapped the steering column in time with the jazzy beat. Steely determination slowly slipped in and replaced his high-spirits as he struggled against mother-nature's worst.
Minute by minute, a journey that Will had waited a whole month to do, was now becoming something he'd wished he'd done at least a week earlier. But he'd put it off for the sake of a date. A date that he was sure that Deanna would remember, because it was a date that he would never forget.
It was the day a year on that Deanna had left the Enterprise and married Jal Collser.
A day that his nightmares were born.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
Deanna pressed her hands to her swollen abdomen as it throbbed beneath her splayed fingers, her face drawn and anxious as she looked out the window again at the swirling, wind-whipped angry snow. Visibility was so limited that she couldn't even see beyond the fifty yards to the ground. She was stranded in her little castle up in the air, a castle that could become her prison if the snow got too deep and trapped her within it's thick metallic walls.
The temperature had plummeted alarmingly and her tiny solar powered communication station had told her that the blizzard was going to be around for at least the next 24 hours hours, probably longer. But she couldn't wait that long, and nor could her baby, but she didn't have a choice, and Deanna was more than aware that she was going to have to prepare herself for the hours ahead.
Deanna was in labour. Her unborn child was a whole month early and Deanna knew without a shadow of a doubt, that the tiny being within her was going to need a medical facility as soon as it was born. But she had nothing, and no one. She was alone. Completely and utterly alone.
Bitter tears welled within her as she turned away from the chill of the glass, making her way gingerly towards the warmth of the solar-fuelled fire. The electricity had gone over an hour ago. Communications were out, and the back ache that had niggled her for a week intensified enough to know she had left any chance to get help far too long. Far, far too long.
Deanna slowly looked around the home that her husband had brought her to a year ago. At first she'd thought it was wonderful; a true step into the future. A home on a planet in the Jabaab star system, with a husband who had worshipped the ground she'd walked on, even though it had only lasted until he'd broken her close connections with her past. How she had missed his deception, his lies, still caused Deanna to shake her head in painful disbelief. But it was too late now. She was on her own, on a planet a zillion miles from Federation space, and pregnant.
And now with the impending birth of her baby, no husband and no way of contacting the outside world, Deanna was locked in her own private torture, a torture that increased ten fold every minute that another snowflake landed. A day that should have been the happiest of her life was wreathed in pain, regret and loneliness as each contraction that rippled through her body brought her nearer to seeing her son or daughter.
Oh, what she would have given to have had Beverly beside her, helping her along, being there for her child when he or she finally said hello to the world. But what she really wanted, and needed, was Will.
Sinking heavily onto the modern chrome and suede-like synthetic couch, Deanna's eyes were drawn to the window again, willing the snow to stop, and willing for someone, anyone to come to her now desperate aid. Deanna's teary whispered plea cracked above the sounds of the only means of heat in the house; a furnace that roared through her home's heart via a flue that rose through its centre "I wish you were here. I need you, Imzadi."
Will Riker had never been far from her thoughts, even when her life with Jal had been happy and content. Was it so long ago? It had seemed like a lifetime had passed since she'd left the Enterprise and her friends, and Will, but it was only a year. One, whole, nightmarish year.
The tears broke free and trickled down Deanna's flushed face, but she didn't notice them, nor did she notice the hiccupping sob that rose and lodged in her throat. She was lost in her past; caught up in the memories of a different life and a different time. Deanna needed the tender loving care of Beverly Crusher, and the even more comforting arms of someone closer to her heart, William Riker.
Her husband didn't even enter her mind. His betrayal hurt her too much to let
him back in, even if it was purely for companionship and aide. Deanna would
rather die than let him near her child.
*How did I get it all so wrong?* she wailed, silently. *Why didn't I wait just a little longer for him?*
But she'd made her choice even though it was going to cost her everything she had ever wanted and needed in her life. Deanna had waited long enough for Will to move on with their relationship, more than long enough. And then she had met Jal, the one man who offered her more than friendship. The one man who'd almost come as close as Imzadi as feasibly possible. Deanna had taken a giant leap of faith and left. Everything and everyone.
*What a fool I've been* she sobbed. *Will Will ever forgive me? And as another contraction began to peak, Deanna took a deep unsteady breath and pushed all her thoughts of Will and her failures down and focused on the here and now. Memories and regrets could come later, she just had to get through this. She just had to.
Deanna picked up the padd that was face down but lit up on one particular page that had previously been perused and nervously studied it's contents again. It was the page that showed her what she'd got to do when her baby finally made its premature arrival into the world. The pictures had terrified her, still terrified her, but the promise of soon holding her child in her arms pushed away the fears.
But now as she glanced at the first picture, Deanna was more than aware that she had to prepare herself. There was no going back now and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was going to be doing this solo and hoped with all her heart that the Gods, anyone! were looking down upon her.
As yet another contraction began to tug at her womb, Deanna closed her eyes and prayed.
Will pulled out the padd that held the instructions on how to get to Deanna Troi's home but instantly mentally kicked himself and cursed quietly to the private confines of the shuttle, "Damn it, Riker, she's a Collser now. She's not a Troi, nor a Riker, thanks to you, you dumb jerk."
Studying the contents of the padd and then looking into the whiteness outside his window, Will peered worriedly through the swirling snow that had reached its tempest within the last few yards or so that he had crawled along before coming to a halt, knowing that Deanna's place was around this area somewhere. Squinting as he'd made sense of the shadowy outline of a building ahead of him, he let go a heavy breath that he had subconsciously been holding, ignoring the plume of steam that rushed out and blinded his view momentarily, forcing him to take an impatient swipe at the window. Grinningm he wallowed at the vision that spread out before him.
He was there. Will was finally there and his heartbeat pounded in his chest at the implications that the simple statement meant to him. In a few minutes, he expected - hoped to find himself within Deanna's arms, even if it was just for a nanosecond. That was all he wanted. It was all he came for. That and to see her beautiful face to remind himself of what he'd lost, and in his darkest days, of what he'd thrown away.
But now he was here, now that he was within moments of seeing her, Will found himself hesitating. And it was also then that he felt the first stirring's of something amiss. At first he thought it was her absence; That he'd come all this way for nothing. It was a strange sensation, not feeling her and his heart hurt with the knowledge that he was no longer foremost in her psyche.
As he continued to stare unseeing into the bleakness at her home, his heart began to pound with something else; something that he'd not felt since she'd left the Enterprise. Fear, but he wasn't sure if it was his own, or Deanna's, or what kind of fear it was, until a sadness whispered over him and answered his unasked question.
It was a fear of loss. Deanna, his friend, his lost love was afraid of losing something. Something that was important to her. Something so powerful that it overrode all her senses of him. He had to get to her, urgently.
It took a full five minutes for Will to land the shuttle and find himself at her hatch. The power of the storm pushed against him with all its might, holding him back, fighting against his intrusion. But he stood his ground, determination keeping his feet firmly on the terra firma. At last, he stood before the metallic entrance, listening to his own urgent voice as it got thrown back at him and whisked away with the fury of the blizzard as he tried to speak into the panel.
His heart and his senses grew heavier and duller with every freezing second of silence that he stood on the threshold of not only her home, but a whole bunch of other important things that Will was certain was about to happen. But each got replaced by something else as he continued to wait, shivering at her door.
The home that Deanna lived in was not large by any means. Its mushroom shaped hull rose over him like an umbrella giving a tiny amount of protection against stinging snow. But nothing could halt the bitter wind that whipped around his body, freezing his blood. That's what it seemed to feel like as he tried once more to shout into unwelcoming access panel.
He decided to quickly walk around the perimeter to see if he could see any sign of life, or any other way of getting into the structure without having to wait for someone inside to finally move their ass to let in a soon-to-be human icicle with a temper to match.
But all he could see was nothing. All he could feel was emptiness and he scowled anew as he came back to the door's front. Will knew Deanna was inside. He had felt her presence even before he had arrived. But another wave of foreboding washed over him as it suddenly, with more clarity than he'd felt since he'd arrived, knew what was troubling him.
Loneliness. Along side the fear was the gloomy sensation of loneliness as it seeped into him and he felt himself go even colder at the realisation of what it meant. Deanna was alone. She was afraid, She was in pain and alone.
But then, as fast as the eerie panic had risen, it dissipated. One moment Will had been beside himself as he joined himself with her fears, and the next, nothing and with it came a dread as it washed over him; A feeling.
At that moment, he didn't know why, but he thought of Data. As he stood there wondering, a flash of the androids simple logic filtered through the haze and consternation of all Will's burning need on how to get inside, 'Try turning the handle, Commander, it may simply be unlocked.'
Silently staring through the giant white flakes at the hatch's mechanism, he forced his gloved hand to rise to it, hoping above all odds that it would open and let him in.
William Riker sank down to his knees beside her in disbelief as she lay prone on the floor beside the vent that released a steady wave of warmth. Sweat poured from her brow and her once lusciously full hair lay in damp ebony tendrils around her head. But even so, even in her heartbreakingly distressed state, Deanna was still as beautiful to him as the first day he'd met her.
Tears streamed from her closed eyes, joining with the rivers of sweat as she cried pitifully into the gloomy darkness. Only a few strategically placed illuminations to lighten the room added to the strangely melancholy scene.
But it was Deanna's stomach that had captured Will's full gaze. Distended out of all proportion, the thin nightgown that she wore was high upon her still slender drawn up legs. Legs that were set into a position that needed no explanation as to why they were placed that way.
Unable to stop himself from doing it, Will reached out one shaky, now glove free hand and placed it gently onto the taut mound, marvelling at its meaning and feeling its rigidness as Deanna quietly moaned as another contraction built within her.
Mesmerized, Will watched as the stomach tightened even further still, but when Deanna's hand closed over his, his wide eyes broke away and found hers silently watching him. For a long moment nothing was said. Nothing could be said. It was a moment that only silence needed to be heard. A moment of reunion, upon each and every level.
As the contraction subsided once more, Deanna enclosed Will's fingers within hers and pulled them towards her heated cheek, her eyes drifting shut as the intimate flush of delight rippled through, not only her, but Will too. Will moved closer and replaced his fingers with his chilled lips and a sigh of blessedness whispered from them both.
And that was how they felt; Blessed. There had never been a moment in Deanna's life when their Imzadi bond had been more evident. Unknown forces had pulled Will to her when she'd needed him most, and he'd come. Despite everything, Will had come.
But barely a second later, she felt the familiar dull ache of another contraction coming and Will felt her body and mind prepare for imminent take over. Fascinated, his eyes moved down to watch her stomach as it slowly contorted with the contraction's intensity.
He felt ridiculously helpless as he sat, listened and watched as Deanna moaned and squirmed against the cushions beneath her, trying to relieve what was happening to her body. He hardly noticed the tight grip of her fingers within his until she relaxed as the assault petered off, leaving her gasping for breath and his hand throbbing as the blood rushed back into it.
Will found Deanna's eyes searching his, pleading him to help her. Begging him. She didn't have to say the words, her heart and soul said it loud enough. Tenderly pushing away a damp, frizzy ringlet of hair from her face, Will whispered, "Tell me what to do, Deanna?"
Squeezing her eyes shut as she tried and failed to control her innermost terrors, Deanna battled to push her fears away. The next hour or so was going to be the worst of her life, but somehow, she knew she was going to have to be strong. She was about to give birth to a tiny being that had a very high possibility of dying and with no doctor present to give it even half a chance.
But now Deanna had the next best thing; She had William Riker, and if anyone could save her baby, against all the odds, it would be him. He had come to her rescue, yet again, and hope lit a fire in her heart as she dared to let take a hold.
Opening her eyes and finding his once more, Deanna brokenly whispered, "Keep my baby alive, Will, that's all I ask. Let my baby live."
Will felt the blood drain out from his features when he looked at the padd that Deanna handed to him. Deanna felt and saw the shock but could do nothing to allay his fears as yet another contraction began to take over before she had a chance to soothe his shocked state.
But an instinct that Will had buried deep within him somewhere surged up from nowhere as he glanced at Deanna's face and saw the signs of another contraction take hold of her. Immediately Will put the padd down and kneeled back down on the floor beside her, holding her hand, unconsciously breathing along with her as she panted through it's peak. Dipping the wet cloth into the bowl Deanna had placed near her earlier, Will wrung out the excess moisture and lay it gently upon her brow.
Deanna's eyes never left his as she waited for a moment to talk to him as with one hand still holding hers, he picked up the padd once more and begun to study it in earnest. Her breath rasped through her throat as she voiced her concerns, "Will?"
He didn't even look at her as he continued to read, his brow furrowed with deep lines as he sat on his heels, "Yeah?" he said absently.
Deanna licked her lips and watched his face as she spoke, "They're getting closer together."
He went still as her words sunk in, until at last, he sought out her worried features. "How close?"
She swallowed painfully, nervously. "Very close, but I don't know if I'm ready to push yet, Will." She paused for a long moment before adding quietly. "You're going to have to check."
Will felt his cheeks go scarlet as the implications of her words filtered through the crazy, unlaughable moment. "Ch...check?"
But Deanna was already concentrating elsewhere as another contraction made itself know, this one much stronger and more painful, leaving her gasping in pain and fear. Will felt as helpless and as scared as she as he helped her through it once more, dimly realising that she was right; they were getting closer. Very close.
It was then that it was forcibly rammed home to him just what he was facing. Now desperate, Will focused all his thoughts on the padd before him, its contents telling him about how and when the contractions should be happening and more importantly, the precise moment that she should be able to push, but to know that he was going to have to examine her.
Deanna knew he'd read the part that she'd just told him about when she watched him drop the padd from his fingers and stare at her with a look that in another time and other situation would have made her laugh. But now it was too important and it needed to be done. Deanna knew it, and Will knew it too, "It...it's okay, Will. I know you're scared, and embarrassed, but I'm okay about this, really."
Nodding understandingly, he reached up and scratched his head, then looked at his hand as though it belonged to someone else. Pushing himself to his feet, he muttered walking quickly away, "I need to wash up. I'll be right back."
But once he was inside the bathroom, Will quietly closed the door. Turning the tap on, he mechanically washed his hands, but his eyes never left the image that stared back at him in the mirror. Before him he saw a man that was shit scared of what was about to happen and was mortified about what he was going to have to do to her. How the hell was he ever supposed to look her in the face again after this? What the hell was he going to do if it all went tragically wrong? His heart thumped with the implications that broke him out into a cold sweat.
But he didn't have long enough to answer even one of his own questions as Deanna's terrified wail brought him out of his nightmarish moment of selfishness and he finished washing his hands and arms, rapidly drying off the excess water with a small fluffy towel that hung behind the still closed door. Taking a deep, shuddering calming breath, Will let himself out and made his way back to Deanna's side.
But when he reached Deanna, every hardened part of his mind that was needed to allow him to perform the task in front of him shattered to bits when he knelt back down beside her; Her body, her hands, her legs shook with terror and exertion, and even though her eyes were wide with fear as she stared up at him, she was crying silently. Her small hiccupping sobs tore at his heart and he wanted nothing more than to pull her up into his arms and hold her close.
Before Will could do or say anything though, she turned her head away from him, but not before he caught the way her face screwed up and she let out another pitiful wail as yet another contraction began. Her desperate plea of, "Oh, Will, it hurts, make it go away!" as she squirmed in pain against the cushioning beneath her made him go cold with dread.
Will gripped her hand as he leaned in close to her, doing his best to soothe her, unsure if anything he said was even registering. But it didn't stop him from trying, and when at last the lengthy contraction abated, he kissed her dampened forehead before moving away enough to look into her dark, scared eyes.
Swallowing, Will licked his lips before speaking, "Deanna, I'm going to check you now, okay? I...I just want to say that if I hurt you, I'm sorry. I'm kinda new to this childbirthing thing...okay?"
But right now, Deanna didn't care if Will touched her or not as she could already feel yet another contraction building. Under his fingertips that lay gently upon her tummy, Will felt it too and he knew he'd have to wait until it was over before he did the examination.
Once more, Will rode the storm with her, marvelling at the power beneath his fingers, but once it had died away, he moved his hand down towards her lower limbs and settled it upon her trembling knee.
Sitting back on his heels again, he searched her face for anything that told him not to go any further. But pulling her knees up high once more, Deanna draped one arm over her eyes and muttered almost bitterly to him, 'Do it, Will' pushing him past the tense moment enough to move his hand.
Closing his eyes, Will gingerly inserted one finger, gently probing around for the entrance of her cervix. But on finding what he was searching for to be larger than he expected, he entered another digit. The way his brow furrowed as he bit down hard on his lip revealed his concentration and dedication at assessing just how far she'd got to go.
But before he'd even removed his hand, Will felt the powerful tightening in her muscles as she rapidly went into another contraction, her moans and squirms louder and more violent than before, leaving her gasping and drained when it finally abated leaving her battered, exhausted and desperate for sleep.
Even so, though, Deanna still managed to seek out Will's face as he moved back towards her head and picked up the padd again. His silence and the way he studied the padd intently made her heart pound harder, her strangled voice as she asked the question that she really didn't want to know, "How long, Will?"
He didn't take his eyes off the padd as he answered, "Soon...very soon. I need to get everything ready, Deanna, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to leave you alone for a few minutes." He searched her face, "Will you be okay?"
For the first time since he'd arrived, Deanna chuckled, nodding her head, allowing a fresh set of tears to fall, "I'm just glad you're here, Will," she said with gratitude. "I thought I was going to have to do this all on my own so I'm sure a couple of minutes won't kill me."
Will grinned, his eyes lighting up with relief, "Good girl. I'll be back as quick as I can. We've got a baby to deliver, Deanna and I'm here for the duration, like it or not."
More tears trickled as Deanna swiftly pulled his fingers to her mouth, her mumbled, "I like it, very much, I'm just so glad you're here." was lost as she pressed her lips tenderly against his knuckles.
But even as Will stood, Deanna was already in the throws of another contraction, the reminder making his feet move even quicker as he began rounding up everything he needed. By the time he'd counted to 100, Will had found everything that the padd had listed, all except one thing; the most important thing of all; an incubator.
Even without knowing how far along Deanna was, even a blind man could have seen that her unborn baby was tiny and he desperately hoped that its lungs were going to be strong enough to allow it live. Will also knew that by this time tomorrow, he was going to have Deanna and her hopefully still living baby in the best medical facility that he knew of, under the care of the best doctor that he knew of.
But he had to get through today, and as he made his way back to Deanna's side, Will came to a sudden halt a few feet away from her and watched as her body arched off the floor, its position as unnatural as the scream that reverberated around the room, her gut-wrenching howl freezing his feet where he stood as he watched her clutch at her distended abdomen as she futily tried to hold her baby inside.
It had begun.
"Will!! Help me, please! Something is happening. Oh! Oh! I want to push! I want to push!" Deanna cried frantically, her eyes wide with terror as she wriggled and clawed at her body as it violently fought to expel the being within it.
Will fell to Deanna's side and her hand automatically reached for his, but she almost wept when he pried her fingers away, her eyes searching his beseechingly, not understanding why he was refusing her the comfort that she needed. Will felt like a heal, but he couldn't help her, not that way. "I'm sorry, Deanna, I can't hold you right now. I've got to help your baby."
Deanna wondered what he was doing when he suddenly rose again and moved the couch out of the way, then swung her and her temporary bedding around so that she faced the wall. She almost yelped when he gently grabbed her ankles and pulled her nearer to the wall, placing her feet upon its coolness.
Instantly she understood; He was giving her something to push against instead of using his own strength to hold and help her. Another contraction took hold and she momentarily forgot everything but the need to breath and ride out the all consuming pain.
Meanwhile Will was hurriedly placing everything he needed within his reach, mentally ticking them off as he eyed them one by one; the scissors, a huge stack of mop-up towels, the bowl for the placenta, the string for the umbilical cord. A huge fluffy towel for the baby when he or she arrived, and last but not least, his wits.
Will was scared stupid. Not about what was going to happen, but for the tiny being that he knew was going to be in his sole care for the next few hours. But he didn't get to stew over the possibilities of it going wrong for long. Deanna was restlessly moaning, the pains obviously continuous now.
He watched her as she prepared to bare down once more, noticing the way she bravely grit her teeth, forcing herself up onto her elbows, ready to give it her all. But Will knew Deanna and knew she was even more scared than he was. She was worried about her own health and she was scared about her future. But over all that, she was absolutely petrified for her baby's life.
But Will was also aware that Deanna was strong. If anyone could pull this ordeal off, it was her, and looking down at her now as she gasped and panted and groaned her way through the contraction, filled Will with such pride that it briefly brought tears to his eyes.
And then suddenly his thoughts were distracted from the woman before him by a warm wet feeling. Surprised, he looked down to his knees which were now being stained darker by the liquid that poured from Deanna's loins. There was no stopping her now.
Will waited until Deanna flopped back down flat to the floor exhausted before gently touching her trembling knee, his own voice none to even when he spoke, "Deanna, darling, your water's have broken. I'm going to check you again. Okay?"
As her chest rose up and down with exertion, she could only nod wearily. This time when Will probed her gently, he had an intimate knowledge aiding him and his confidence soared. Equally, now that Will had done the exam once, she simply let herself go limp and let him do his job. She was past embarrassment, and she was past caring.
That was until Will spoke excitedly, "I can feel its head, Deanna! You're almost there, honey!"
Will couldn't stop himself as he scuttled back up her body planting an excited kiss upon her dry, chapped lips, his giant hand already dabbing the damp flannel across her fevered brow. But when he saw her features begin to change and her body begin to prepare for yet another contraction, Will moved back down to her thighs and he watched spellbound as Deanna's body began to expel the tiny being within.
Two more contractions and a head the size of a grapefruit coated in dark matted hair made its entrance.
One more after that and the tiniest baby Will had ever seen placed itself securely into his massive, eagerly waiting hands.
One of the longest minutes in Will's entire life followed that as he gently but quickly wiped away the sticky mucus surrounding the baby's nose and eyes and mouth. When he was satisfied with that, he held his breath and gently smacked one minuscule foot, letting his breath go with a strangled whoop of joy as a pitiful mewing noise came from the infant that instantly spasmodically sprang to life at its harsh, unjust treatment.
Deanna watched Will work on her baby with an almost serene smile upon her tear-stained face, her fears passing as he successfully achieved what she undoubtably would not have been able to do with out him there. The image of him tenderly bringing her child to life with tears streaming down his own cheeks was one that she would take to her grave and it would be locked away in her heart and treasured forevermore.
When Will had wiped away the worst of the baby's gunk, he gently lay it on the huge fluffy towel, half covering it to keep it warm as he prepared to do the next stage of the delivery. Deftly, as though he'd done it a thousand times before, Will tied the still pulsing lifeline and then deftly severed it.
Seconds later with the baby now completely enveloped in the towel apart from it's tiny cherubic face Will crawled towards Deanna's waiting arms and placed the child within them. The happiness of what had occurred between them was written all over his handsome face and his eyes were as glassy as hers with unshed tears of joy and pride.
Will watched mother and child for a long moment and something deep within him surged to life, bringing a huge lump to his throat and a longing that he'd never known before. He'd never really considered settling down before. Nor had he contemplated a need for a family, not since he'd lost the only woman he'd cared enough about to even contemplate a different way of life.
Until now. As Will watched Deanna tenderly move away the towel so that she could count her baby's fingers and press a light kiss to its face, it slammed home that he wanted to be a father. More than that, he wanted to be a father to this tiny one. He wanted it all, and that included Deanna.
A plan began to formulate in his mind, but for now he had to put it on hold. Will had things to do, and with one last, somehow proud fatherly glance at his, he hoped, new family, Will made his way back down her body to begin the post-delivery necessaries. He didn't care that she was still married. The very fact that Jal had abandoned his wife and unborn child did not sit well with Will. Hell, Jal was going to wish he'd never laid eyes on Deanna or himself when Will got his hands on him.
Hell, was the bastard even still alive? Maybe he was dead. Maybe he'd gone and left Deanna for good. Maybe Deanna had kicked the Son-of-a-bitch out. Maybe he kicked Deanna about! Hell, maybe Jal was a bastard after all!
Will had a lot of maybe's racing around in his mind. Maybe's that needed answering. But not right now. Now he had other things on his mind, like how to keep Deanna's baby alive until he could put it firmly into safer hands.
Like Beverly Crushers.
Deanna yelped, causing the child in her arms to react with a tiny sqwauk as Will gently began to massage her stomach. Moments later, she was surprised to feel another contraction coming and another large object fall free of her loins.
Will tenderly spoke to her, "It's all over now, Deanna. The afterbirth is out and I'm just going to clean you up and then you can sleep, okay?"
Deanna drowsily watched him as he fussed around, oblivious to her intent gaze. A tidal wave of emotions went through her as he went through the act of washing her and then removing all the soiled cloths that only a short while ago made her lounge look like a bloody battle zone. She was even more surprised when he suddenly disappeared, reappearing a moment later with a pair of her panties and towelling, then deftly slipped them on her as though he'd done it a hundred times before.
Deanna thought Will was going to leave her where she was, but once he'd squared everything away, he leant down and scooped her, and baby up into his arms as though she weighed nothing at all, and walked her into her bedroom.
He lay her gently onto the bed, its cover's already pulled down, ready and waiting. But being laid down finally allowed Deanna to succumb to the fatigue that had been with her for weeks, if she allowed herself to admit that fact. She was tired. Not just from giving birth, but for the days and nights of worrying about everything and anything.
But now her saviour had come, seemingly from the heavens themselves. Her baby had been born alive, and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that her loneliness was over too because there was no way in this universe that Will would leave her again.
Will watched Deanna's eyes flitter down, her exhaustion finally taking over her beat and battered mind and body. Will marvelled at how strong she had been, and still was. They both knew that if she'd have wanted, she could have called Earth anytime and the Enterprise would have come running. HE would have come running.
But she'd wanted to prove to not only herself, but to everyone else, that she wasn't a quitter and she had excelled. Will was so proud of her that he smiled, watching her cradle her newborn protectively against her breast, her breathing slow, shallow and peaceful as she slept.
Reluctantly though, Will had to disturb her. He hated to do it because he was more than aware of how tired she was, but she needed to get some nourishment into the little one, quickly. Gently Will stroked Deanna's peachy cheek with the back of his index finger, but she was oblivious to everything.
Will chewed his lip for a moment as he watched her, then, decision made, he made his way to the other side of the bed so that he could manoeuvre Deanna and the baby easier.
Reaching forward, Will undid the few buttons upon her nightgown until enough were undone for him to push the fabric aside and bare one full breast, its nipple already engorged from the months of preparation before. Not so long ago, Will would have been beside himself with need if this had been a different time and a different circumstance. But knowing that her body had nurtured a child and her breast were now a continued source of that, sexual need hadn't even entered his mind. How times had changed.
Freeing the tiny infant enough for it to nurse, he gently lifted and guided the minute bud lips to the nipple, stroking its cheek softly with his fingertip, whilst guiding the rosy tip into its mouth with his other hand.
Cooing quietly, Will coaxed the baby to open wide enough to take in the impossibly large nipple, "Come on, baby," he coaxed. The baby fussed as it struggled against the intrusion, until suddenly it seemed to know that somehow, this was what was supposed to happen and it began to suckle noisily, earning a tender chuckle from Will. "Atta...Hey!" as a sudden thought occurred to him, "we don't even know what you are yet!"
Gently pulling aside the towel enough to see its nether regions, Will grinned stupidly at the still dozing Deanna, whispering, "Congratulations, mommy, you've got a beautiful baby boy."
Will watched the scene for a few minutes longer as he waited for the baby to stop suckling, then gently reaching in, he disconnected him from Deanna's breast, lifting him away from her arms and wrapping him snuggly back into the fluffy towel. Deanna whimpered in her sleep, reaching out for her child, obviously registering the loss but too tired to waken from the heavy, healing rest.
Smiling, Will stood, leant over and covered her exposed body tucking the baby back into her arms. He pulled the coverlet back up before leaning in and kissing her now dry brow. His tender, "Sleep well, mommy." went unheard as he quietly slipped from the room.
The room was in darkness when Deanna woke, apart from one solitary illumination that shone like a beacon, telling her she was safe, that she wasn't alone and that someone was there, with her. It was that same someone who had swept into her life and become her knight in shining armour, and Deanna dimly realised that it was always Will that fitted the role. It was always Will that came to her rescue. She guessed that somehow, someway, it would always be him, for as long as they both lived.
If she were truly honest with herself, Deanna never ever wanted it to be any other way, not even when she was married to another. It was their bond, she knew that and so did Will. Only Will had never given up on its power, or them, like she had done, and it still pained her when she remembered what she had put her Imzadi through.
Why did she marry a stranger; a man that deep in her heart, knew was wrong for her? It was a question she had asked herself time and time, and then time again. Even when her common sense had slapped her around the head, telling her in no uncertain terms that she was wrong. That she was abusing what her heritage had bequeathed to her, trusting her to take Betazed's most revered gift and treating it with the respect that it deserved.
But she had callously thrown it aside, along with her Imzadi's shattered heart and married an outsider. Deanna bit back the stinging tears as she stared towards the door in the dimness, accepting that the Gods' had dished out their punishments and these were it; A failed marriage and her tiny dying baby and a man that couldn't possibly love her anymore, even though Deanna was sure that something akin to love had washed over her on several occasions during the past few turbulent hours.
Her throat, dry and sore from the constant effort and usage she had used to push her baby into the world, seized as she huskily tried to call out Will's name. She badly needed to use the bathroom almost as badly as she needed to see her son and the man caring for him, but Will was too far away to hear her feeble call. So gingerly pushing the heavy quilt to one side, Deanna wearily pushed herself to a sitting position, grimacing at the unaccustomed soreness in her groin area.
Putting her bare feet to the cool floor, Deanna tentatively pushed herself to a stand. Her legs wobbled uncontrollably, causing her to sway and reach for the night stand to steady herself until she regained her equilibrium and allow her woozy stomach to settle enough to come upright again and take enough steps to bring herself to her bedroom door, welcoming its solidness like a long lost friend.
But the unexpected sight before her, made her heart swell with such tenderness that she couldn't stop the stream of tears from falling, her mind instantly snap-shooting the picture for an eternity of memories.
Will sat on the floor cross-legged in front of the fire cradling her tiny new born son against his bare chest within his huge arms. His little finger was gently stroking his tiny cheek as his low, soft voice murmured something inaudible to her.
The room was almost steaming as the heat swirled about them both, leaving a sheen of glistening sweat on Will's body. But without a shadow of a doubt, that same heat was keeping her baby alive. Will was using it instead of an incubator. He didn't have any other choice. She knew as well as he did that the small child wasn't technically ready for this world yet. He was pitifully tiny and before Will had wrapped him snugly and securely in the fluffy towel, Deanna could see how thin his skin was, its milky protective layer evident and against her own olive complexion.
The urge to use the bathroom became too strong and Deanna reluctantly broke her loving gaze away from Will and her son and slowly headed towards the bathroom. She was weak even from just the few minutes she'd been out of her bed, but even so, she managed to drag a comb through her sweat-soaked hair enough for it to resemble hair and not a tumbleweed on a stormy day.
Will heard the toilet flush, mentally cursing himself for not hearing her stir. He mumbled agitated as he carefully pushed himself to a stand, his eyes never leaving the minuscule face that slept peacefully against his chest, "Pipsqueak, that mother of yours can't keep still for one damned minute."
Will caught her just as she was climbing back into bed, taking in the way she violently shook, her face draining of colour. Hurrying over to her, he pushed her feet further into the bed and rapidly pulled the covers back over her, his worried eyes never leaving her face, "Damn it, Deanna, can't you ever ask for help?"
Silence and accusations hung in the air between them at the double meaning to his words, but Deanna chose deliberately to opt for the safer answer to his question knowing that the other answer was for another time and another place, "I needed the bathroom, Will, I'm sorry, I couldn't make you hear me. I did try." she squeaked.
Instantly contrite after hearing the way her voice quietly croaked out her explanation, Will's face softened. Lowering himself to sit on the edge of her bed, he gently apologized. "I'm sorry, I should have known. Are you okay. Can I get you anything?"
Deanna nodded tiredly as she reached out her arms for her baby. The need to hold him was as strong as her need to rid her heavy heart of its burden, "I'd love a drink please, Will."
Reluctantly, Will handed over his precious cargo, protectively tucking the towel closer to its body so's as not to let the cooler air touch its skin, "Sure, honey, I'll just be a minute."
But Deanna wasn't even listening. Even though she was still exhausted, the short sleep she'd had had been enough to stave of the worst of her fatigue. Now she wanted to meet her baby, properly. Tucking the tiny bundle close to her, Deanna was already staring down at the little features with wonder, her smile radiant, her love flowing freely.
Will felt a tinge of jealousy along side the pride and happiness he felt for Deanna. Against all odds, Deanna's son had made it through the first six hours of its life. He was by no means out of the woods yet, but with every hour that past, Will's hope of a happy outcome increased ten-fold.
But come the mornings first show of light, no matter what the weather was doing outside, he, Deanna and her baby son were leaving the planet, come hell or high water. He knew it was the baby's only chance. He also knew it was he and Deanna's only chance too and he wasn't going to lose this opportunity to put a few things back to rights, and leaving there was the first one.
Will's footsteps were quiet as he approached the bed once more, the tall glass of milk in his hand forgotten as he looked down at the duo snuggled up in bed. Deanna had successfully manoeuvred her body enough to nurse the baby boy that suckled noisily at her breast.
Will eyes broke away from the child's face to Deanna, tenderly smiling at the serenity that lit up her features, giving her skin, her eyes that magical glow; The glow of a new mother. This was her chimera. It was all Deanna had ever wanted. Almost.
Deanna sensed Will's intense scrutiny and his wonder. Raising her still weary eyes to his, they smiled at him with contentment and peace, and he knew that he was the sole reason for that feeling. Inside he welled with hope and pride as just that one look, and that smile had given him the answer that had tortured his soul for the last two years of his miserable life. She still loved him, of that he was now sure.
After quietly putting the milk down and hunkering down beside the bed, Will brought himself to Deanna's eye level, but both sets of eyes settled back onto the tiny being between them. Will gently moved the fluffy towel away from his face so that he could watch the child nurse, moved once more by his smallness and his perfection.
He whispered, "He is so tiny, Deanna and yet so perfect in every detail, it truly is a miracle."
Deanna lifted her hand and stroked the peachy skin, tenderly touching a feather light kiss to the soft downy fluff on top of her sons head, "I know, I have been truly blessed, in more ways than one."
It was a long moment before Will's thoughts brought him back to the present and her words. He found her eyes boring into him again. Drawn by their longing and the moisture that swam in them, he couldn't stop himself from reaching forward, touching his lips to hers, and then even more reluctantly, forcing himself to sever the kiss before it had barely begun.
Unspoken words, questions and answers leapt between them in the dimness of the room until the baby's snuffling alerted them to his presence. Taking a deep, thankful breath, Will came to a stand again, his huge hands already reaching for the little body,
"Come on, little guy, you've had your breakfast, now it's mommy's turn for a sleep." Gently lifting the boy to his shoulder, preparing himself to somehow get a burp out of the tiny form, Will watched as Deanna wearily pushed herself to sit up, forcing himself to ignore the lush breast that she had not yet re-covered, "Drink your milk, Deanna, and then get some more sleep. When you wake up, we'll be all packed up and ready to get out of here, okay?"
Deanna looked up at him, her worry etching her features, "But what about the weather, Will. Are we going to be able to make it out of here?" she asked, the fear that had long past rearing its ugly head again with her question.
Will knew what she was thinking; she was worried about the baby. He was worried too, but she wasn't going to know that, not yet, "We'll be fine, Deanna. The storm has almost blown itself out, and I guarantee you, we'll be heading away from it. As soon as we've cleared the planets orbit, I'll send a communique to the Enterprise and before you know it, you'll have Beverly Crusher giving you several long lectures, and your son so many cuddles, he'll eventually wonder who his real mommy is."
Deanna chuckled tiredly as she downed the last of her milk and allowed her head to fall back on the pillows, her eyes already closing, but not before she uttered with relief, "Oh, Will, I can't wait. I have been such a fool, for so many reasons."
Will reached down and pulled a strand of hair away from her face, allowing his finger to trail a path along her jawline, his voice serious, "Hey, don't beat yourself up about it, okay? You're fine, your baby is fine, and everything else is fine, that's all that matters now. Now sleep, Deanna," he pleaded, "please, for me."
But she was already drifting off as he spoke. Cradling the baby against his huge chest, Will gave her one last, tender, lingering look and left the room and closed the door quietly behind him. He had a lot to do in the next couple of hours.
Deanna didn't know what woke her, only that something did. Silent whispers floated through her dreams. There was no words, no coherent sounds, just a dying silence, one born of desperation, its invisible arms reaching out, pleading, begging for help.
Groggily pushing herself into a seated position, Deanna searched her mind for the whispers that still floated through her mind. No words, no sounds, nothing coherent, but she knew, she ~knew~ that something was wrong, that some ~one~ was in trouble.
The room was dark, the corners shrouded in shadows as Deanna struggled to see her surroundings, trying hard to remember her last waking hours, the fog of lethargy dampening her normal senses. She shifted uncomfortably, wincing at the stinging pain in her tender nether regions, the gasp that slipped from her lips released by not only the pain, but its reason; The tiny being that had been born too soon.
Her baby! Her son!
Her cherished baby son was beyond the door fighting for what remained of its tiny life within Will's giant arms.
As Deanna hastily threw aside the bed covers, she put her feet to the floor and quickly pushed herself to a shaky stand, but she wasn't ready for that level of speed. Her legs, still weak from childbirth and heavy from fatigue wouldn't hold her weight, and before she had even took one step, she crumbled to the floor.
But the eerie silence urgently summoned her and she knew she had to go, she ~had~ to make it. Quickly swivelling onto her knees, Deanna scuttled across the floor, the feint glow from the ajar door leading her way. Using the door as a leverage, Deanna shakily pulled herself back to a stand, moving the solid hulk wider, one half of her desperate to see what was happening to her child, the other too scared to know.
The last time Deanna had peeked from behind the door, Will was seated in front of the fire, holding her baby against his naked chest, keeping him warm, keeping him alive.
The scene was the same. It seemed to be the same, only it wasn't. This time, Will's giant hand was gently rubbing her sons ridiculously small chest, and blowing gently into his tiny mouth.
Her baby wasn't breathing.
As she stared wide-eyed at the scene before her, everything turned into slow motion. Huge uncontrollable tears rolled down her cheeks as she watched Will repeat his ministrations over and over.
He was in complete control. Unable to stop herself, Deanna watched Will massage the boys chest with movements so minute, one wouldn't realise what he was doing. But it was when he gently lifted his tiny face to his and blew the puff of life-giving air into his lungs that told its own story.
On and on Will steadfastly kept the motions going, until at last, one tiny, scrawny arm twitched, and a euphoric gasp of utter relief washed over the room.
It was Deanna's strangled gasp that alerted Will that he had an audience. He watched her step falteringly further into the room as the unspoken questions bounced between them. She wanted to know everything, but he didn't want to tell her anything.
His eyes held hers as he fought against her intimate probing. The last thing she needed to know right now was that it had been the fourth time her son had stopped breathing. He was just grateful she hadn't seen the first time that it had happened and he been running around the room like a headless chicken, clutching the lifeless body tightly in his arms, frantically wondering what the hell to do.
And then his commander mode kicked in and he physically stopped himself in the centre of the room and forced himself to think rationally, just long enough to help the poor little scrap, and it had worked.
But Deanna didn't have to know that. Not yet.
Will watched as Deanna slowly made her way towards him, but his relief turned to worry as he watched her begin to sway. It was then he dropped his gaze to her lower body and as the colour drained from his heated face, his eyes widened in horror, and his hushed, "Oh, my God..." broke Deanna's captive spell, and she dropped her own startled eyes downwards.
She was haemorrhaging, profusely.
A vivid scarlet stain trailed a path from her loins, getting bigger and darker with each inch. The material of her nightgown dragged down with the weight of the warm moisture, and as she reeled back with shock, two perfectly formed footprints stood out amongst the rapidly growing puddle on the floor.
Carefully balancing the infant in his arms, Will quickly pushed himself off the floor and hurried to her side, finding himself not only holding onto the baby for dear life, but Deanna too as she struggled to stay upright. One traumatic moment had passed, and now another one was unfolding.
If Deanna hadn't been so heavy on one arm, and if he had not have had the baby in the other, Will would have become the headless chicken again. What the hell was he supposed to do now?! Bringing a baby back to life and keeping him alive was one thing. Stopping a haemorrhaging woman, a woman he adored from dying was another.
William Riker was out of his depth and he knew it.
The baby squeaked pitifully in protest as Will inadvertently held onto the tiny mite harder than he meant to as he struggled with his mother. Knowing he had no other choice, Will manoeuvred himself better and gently lowered Deanna's trembling form to the floor, his voice miraculously hiding the terror eating away inside of him, "Come on, sweetheart, down you go."
He felt her fear all the way down to his boots and saw it even moreso in her tear-filled eyes. But she must have seen the fear in his own too and tenderly reached out and touched his face with her trembling hand. The touch held so much for him, but his heart soared at the one thing he needed from her most; Trust. Deanna was trusting him with her slowly ebbing life, as well as her cherished son's.
Hurriedly pushing a cushion under her head, Will grimly noticed Deanna's colour ebbing away as the blood continued to drain from her body. He had a choice to make. Did he put the child down while he tried to help Deanna and risk him flat-lining again, or did he continue to practice his skill at being only one handed? An art that was rapidly becoming as natural to him now as breathing. It was only now he was beginning to understand how mothers managed to do half a dozen jobs at once whilst nursing an infant, a talent he was fast learning to appreciate.
Deanna stared up at Will, her huge onyx eyes fixed steadily upon his face as he sat on his heels beside her, her baby cradled tightly in his muscular arms against his still bare chest. He was torn, she could see it. Will was at a loss with what to do. She could see the commander in him, trying to focus on which course to take, but at the same time, she saw the man who loved her and who was scared stupid and in dire need of help.
Lifting both arms, Deanna held them out to him, her eyes and voice pleading. "Give him to me, Will. Do what you've got to do. I'll be alright."
Her words snapped him into a decision and he unconsciously realised that it was what he had been waiting for. His eyes shifted along the rest her body, paling once more at the stain that stood out like something from a horror story against her once pure white night gown. He had to get it off her. He had to remove the evidence of his failure. It was an irrational thought, but it was one that somehow kept slipping into his head, more and more as time ticked past. Will was blaming himself for all that was wrong before him, and he didn't have a clue as to why, only that he did.
So many, 'if only's'. So many regrets. So much love, but too late, he was always too damn late. And now it looked like he was losing everything that meant anything to him; Deanna, their bond, the same bond that had brought him to her in her hour of need, and God help him, as Will tenderly, tearfully looked down at the tiny boy in his arms that now slept peacefully and unaware of the terrors surrounding him, he loved him too.
A moment later, Will had torn the child away from the safe haven of his chest and lay him upon his mothers. As he watched Deanna's arms instinctively surround her baby, not only with her arms, but with her love too, he felt another emotion rip through his soul; Loss. Everything he needed, and loved, lay before him on the floor, and with each heartbeat that painfully left their dying bodies, they moved further and further away from him.
Will could see no other way of removing Deanna's nightgown other than tearing it from her now inert body. He was loathe to raise it over her head mostly because he didn't want to disturb the baby who had settled between her full breasts, moulding himself against them as though he were joined to her.
He watched them both until he was satisfied that they were breathing naturally; Deanna's shallow, but steady, her sons rapid but equally steady. Only then did he feel confident enough to move away and find some clean clothing for Deanna along with the necessities to make her more comfortable. Will was aware he was going to have to get them both out to the shuttle and to the precious medi-kit within it. Inside he knew there was a supply of various hypo's, one of which would hopefully ease up Deanna's bleeding, even if it was just for long enough for him to get airborne and out of this nightmare situation.
Crawling around nearer to Deanna's head, Will tenderly brushed away a strand of hair that had settled upon her pale cheek and watched his Imzadi breathe. He was losing her, he could feel it. The serenity that had settled over her face cleverly camouflaged her true condition. Only someone with a tricorder in their hand or a precious link into her psyche would be aware that her life force was slowly but surely dissipating. The fact that he had the latter was both a blessing and a burden.
But for now, they were both holding their own and taking a deep shuddering breath, Will began to carefully rip away the soiled gown, trying to keep the noise to a minimum, so's not to disturb the slumbering child. As he got higher, he gently lifted Deanna's arms and slipped the material off, keeping his mind and his eyes averted from the horrific sight lower down her body.
Her slender thighs were marbled with the blood that still seeped from her torn insides. Finding the only thing that deemed suitable, Will formed a triangular shape with a bath towel he'd found in her bathroom, slipped it beneath her sleeping body and fashioned a knot at her waist. Oddly pleased with his invention, Will smiled grimly at the gigantic nappy before beginning the arduous task of slipping the fleecy bathrobe onto her.
As he reluctantly pulled and tugged at her, gradually edging the bathrobe over her cooling body, Deanna woke long enough to raise her arms to lift the little one from her chest, but Will laid his hand upon hers, halting her movement. "Leave him where he is, Deanna, he needs your heat, and you can feel his heartbeat against you, can't you?" he asked gently.
With a slight nod, her eyes heavy with fatigue and worry, her arms settled once more and Will finally pulled the bathrobe over the front of both her and her baby, carefully leaving his tiny face free. As soon as he'd finished, Deanna's arms moved and cradled the newborn and as she did so, Will breathed a huge sigh of relief. But as soon as the breath left his lips, his thoughts turned to the next daunting task; Successfully getting them all out to the shuttle.
Shifting his body so that he could reach down to Deanna's pale face, Will tenderly touched his lips to hers and whispered softly, "Hang on, sweetheart, we're going on a little adventure." Will didn't even wait to see if she'd heard him and a second later, he threw on his jacket, threw a blanket over them both, reached down and swept Deanna and the baby into his huge strong arms and hurried towards the door.
Freezing wind and bitterly stinging snowflakes buffeted them as soon as the door slid open and fearing the chill would reach Deanna and especially the baby, Will quickly stepped out into the blizzard. Head down against the onslaught, hugging them both as tightly as humanly possible, Will hurried towards the shuttle. He could just make out the roof as he approached, but his eyes got drawn to another structure that sat beside it and his footsteps reluctantly slowing as he eyed it suspiciously.
'That's odd,' he thought, puzzlement creasing his brow, 'I don't remember that being there when I arrived.' Now wary, Will studied it, blinking away the icy flakes as he made his way towards his shuttle, and the nearer he got, the more apprehensive he became, especially when the object began to take shape. Fear gripped his heart when he at last got within a few feet of it and realization dawned. It was a shuttlecraft, and judging by the lack of snow adorning it, it clearly had only just arrived.
When the shuttle door opened and a tall, shadowed figure stood against the light beyond, Will's fear turned to dread. There was no mistaking the giant of a man, a man even bigger than he was, and it could only mean one thing. Jal was back.
'Why now, dammit!?' he seethed, as he his hatred poured from inside and amassed in his blazing stormy-blue eyes. 'Another hour and he would have been far away from here and she would have been mine!' He cried silently. 'We would have been safe aboard the Enterprise and Deanna would have been mine again!'
But as Jal stepped down the ramp with bewilderment and suspicion in his eyes, Will pulled himself to his full height even though the blizzard tore at him, intent on knocking him down but very conscious of the precious cargo in his arms. As he stepped onto solid ground, near enough to see the hooded man before him, Jal's eyes turned from puzzlement into narrowed slits as he surveyed the scene before him, taking in the bundle in his arms and the way he protectively held her against him.
Seeing too much, but not enough, his voice was laced with violence as he spat out, "Going somewhere with my wife, Riker?"
Will stared at the man through slitted eyes, partly because of the loathing that he felt for him right at that minute and because the snow battered at his face relentlessly with each tiny shard of ice piercing his frozen face only to freeze on contact, a million stinging needles impaling themselves into it, painfully reminding him that his situation was desperate. What the hell was he going to do?
Did he plead to Jal's better nature - if he had one? Did he tell him of Deanna's urgent need for medical care? Hell, did he tell him about the tiny baby cradled in her arms, a baby that he wasn't even sure the man knew about? Or did he stand his ground and treat him like the scum that he was for abandoning his Imzadi in her hour of need?
William Riker was torn in two. So intent at staring each other down, it was a long moment before Will registered the frantic movements beneath the blanket that he'd thrown over Deanna and her newborn. The rhythmic, thump, thump thump and the small rising of the blanket in time with each thump could only mean one thing; Deanna's baby had stopped breathing again.
Breaking his stare away from Jal, Will's eyes dropped to Deanna's half hidden face and gasped when he saw the terror etched upon her almost blue, icy wet face, mixing in with the tears that streamed down to her temples. 'Help me, Imzadi!' she silently cried, the desolate plea carrying off with the winds that tormented them.
Her desperation gave Will the decision that he needed. Will carried on stepping towards his own shuttle only to come to a halt again as Jal stepped in front of him, barring his way. "You're not...." he started to say before Will spat back at him, "Get out of my way, Collser. I need to get Deanna inside before she dies, you son of a bitch!"
Will decided not to tell Jal about the baby, he didn't find it pertinent, nor necessary at that point. To him, Deanna and her child were one. They were all one now. They were a family. His family.
Warned by the fear in Riker's eyes and by the quick glance he dared to take at the bundle in his arms, Jal started to ask, "What's wr...?"
"Not now," Will warned back, twisting his body as he pushed past the big man and hurried towards the panel to release the door to the shuttle. Impatiently, Will bobbed on the spot as he waited for the hatch to slowly drop down and even before it hit the ground, Will was stepping onto it, ducking his tall frame as he hurried inside.
Gently, but quickly, Will pulled down the fold away bed and lay Deanna upon it, tugging away the blanket as he did so. Urgently, he whispered to her, "How's he doing, Deanna, did you manage to restart him again?"
Trying to see the baby for herself, her voice, laced with tears, wobbled as she answered him. "I...I think so. Oh, Will, help us!"
Hearing the terror come from the very heart of her, Will offered her a tender smile, briefly reaching out to caress her cheek with the back of his chilly hand. "I will, sweetheart, you have my word that nothing is going to happen to you, or this little one."
Frantically rubbing his hands together and blowing his warm breath into them after reassuring her, Will lay his gigantic hand upon the ridiculously small child's back. Gratified and relieved when he felt him jump beneath his still chilly fingers, Will breathed a sigh of relief and grinned at her through a sheen of tears that had welled when he'd felt life beneath his hand. "He's okay, Deanna. You got him going again. Well done, mommy."
Pushing himself to a stand, he murmured, "Now let's get you sorted." As he turned and spotted the forgotten man standing in the hatchway staring with bewilderment at the scene before him, completely stunned, everything fell still and silent except for the howling wind outside, reminding Will that he'd left the hatch open as it quickly began filling the small shuttle with frigid air.
Barely giving him a glance, Will pushed him aside again as he reached for the medikit that was tucked away in a locker behind him.Will growled at the frozen man, "Either come inside and close the door, Collser, or get the hell out of my shuttle so that I can get Deanna and her child to a medical facility before they both die."
Will didn't see the need to pussyfoot around the dire situation, and even though he outwardly didn't give a damn about the man, Will did concede that Deanna was still his wife, and the child that she had given birth to was still his son, whether he liked it or not.
The word, 'die' broke Collser out of his daze and turning, he flicked the switch on the panel, closing the hatch, sealing them all inside. All of a sudden the shuttle seemed to shrink in size. With two giant men and one prone woman, the interior soon filled, and not only with people. A tangible cascade of emotions flared within, all swirling around them, tearing them this way, and then that way. Anger and despair. Desperation and hope. Hate and love. They were all there, tying them all together. A triangle of sheer unaccountable passion.
Locating the phial that was needed for the hypo, Will quickly loaded it and returned to Deanna's side, dropping to his knees beside her. Gently moving the neck of the bathrobe aside, Will pushed the entire contents into her system, along with a prayer to aid it along it's way. "That should do the trick until we reach the Enterprise," Will said with more confidence than he really felt. Studying her pale face he asked her softly, "How do you feel?"
"Tired." Deanna murmured quietly, her eyes drifting shut with fatigue and worry.
Removing the cold damp blanket away from her, Will pulled down three of the shuttles own thermal blankets and re-covered both her and her slumbering baby. Satisfied that they were both okay, Will moved away and started to make preparations to start the shuttle.
It wasn't until Will sat in the pilots chair and began switching everything on, including the heating, that Jal finally broke the silence. Moving apprehensively towards Deanna, his eyes never leaving hers, he squatted down beside her face, her weary eyes opening again when she heard the rustle of clothing at her ear, knowing that it was her husband.
For a long moment, he didn't say anything and Deanna didn't ask. She knew what he wanted, but she was going to wait until he asked. Asking meant that he'd accepted that there had been a child born. His child. A child that he'd known nothing about when he'd abandoned her so long ago.
"Can I see him?" he asked quietly, his hand already moving the blanket aside. Deanna's own hand moved to softly pulling it further back, revealing the minuscule face that lay peacefully upon her chest. Deanna watched him study their son, realizing then that what they'd had between them had long died.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked quietly, his words etched with anger and regret.
Very conscious that Will was near and listening in on what should have been a private conversation, Deanna whispered wearily, "You weren't here to tell, Jal, you were never here."
Deanna felt the guilt before she saw it. "I have to work. I couldn't be here for you all of the time." No apology left his lips.
"You left me virtually a prisoner in my own home, Jal. I had no way of communicating, no friends, nothing. You abandoned me, Jal, completely, without no shame or conscience."
At least he had the grace to look shame-faced just for a long moment, and then another look took over, one of suspicion. "How come your old boyfriend is here? Is that what you've been doing behind my back? Seeing him while I've been out making a living. How do I know this child is even mine?" He added, just for spite.
As the tears and despair welled within Deanna at his cruel accusations, Deanna's arms instinctively moved to protect her son. What little she had felt for the man beside her was now completely gone. Did he not see the tiny ridges upon their child's brow? The little pixie ears on the side of his head? The adorable double dimple in his chin? How could he even consider that he wasn't his son or that she had been unfaithful to him? There had been no one to be unfaithful with. He was blind with jealousy and for no just reasoning, other than his own selfishness, a trait that Deanna abhorred, especially when, not only her son's life was at stake, but hers too.
Swallowing convulsively, Deanna's voice rose loud enough for the man in the pilots seat to hear. "I'd like you to leave now. I need to get my son to a medical facility. Please let us leave, Jal."
Pushing himself to his feet and reaching to his weapon tucked into his belt, Jal growled, "You're not going anywhere with him." Turning his head towards Will who was now moving from his seat. It only took a nanosecond before Jal spied the phaser in Will's hand and laughed, pulling his own small hand phaser out and aiming it at Deanna's chest. "You think that's going to stop me, Riker? You shoot me and she dies, the brat too, if I'm lucky."
Will didn't even hesitate as he fractionally moved the phaser, aimed it at Jals hand and fired. "Get off my shuttle, you worthless piece of scum."
Jal howled in anger and pain as the phaser fire burned a hole through his hand, his own phaser skittering off, clattering against the metallic hull somewhere at the back of the shuttle. Clutching his bleeding hand, Jal made to lunge for Deanna, but Will second guessed him, leaping forward and putting the phaser within inches of his head. "Don't you even dare, Collser. I'm giving you one last chance to get off this ship before I kill you. The choice is entirely yours."
Snarling, Jal spun away from both Will and Deanna and made for the door. Will followed him over, jabbing the opening mechanism with his spare hand, the phaser still aimed steadily at Jal's head. Taking one final glance at his wife, Jal stepped back out into the blizzard. Before he had barely stepped from it, Will had punched the closing mechanism, salvaging what little heat was inside the shuttle and shutting Jal firmly outside.
Breathing hard from the fear that consumed him when he thought he was going to lose Deanna yet again, Will spun away and dropped down beside her, catching her trembling fingers within his own not-so-steady hands. Not even thinking about it, Will place his hungry lips upon hers, needing to feel the response that she readily gave. The kiss was brief, so brief, but long enough to reassure him that she was alive and with him again.
"Are you okay, Imzadi?" he croaked. At her teary nod, he gently lifted the blanket and studied the tiny sleeping form beneath. "And the boy?" he asked, holding his breath.
"He's fine, Will," she reassured. "Get us away from here. I want to go home."
For a long moment they simply looked at each other, each grateful for too many things to list, the watery smiles telling them even more. "Home," Will smiled, "That sounds pretty good to me."
Planting one last quick kiss upon her mouth, Will hurriedly tucked her back in and made his way back to the pilot's seat. Relieved at last to be finally moving off, Will started up the engines and prepared to lift off. He'd barely got ten feet off the ground when the ship shook like a rag doll, rolling precariously to one side as the impact to the near side pushed it over.
Deanna screamed as she frantically clung onto not only the bed, but the child upon her chest. "Will!"
"Hang on, Deanna, Jal's trying to ram us. Guess that means he's pissed at us." Will shouted, as he tried to right the small shuttle. Just as he got it levelled out again, Jal's shuttle slammed into them again. But this time Will was ready for it and hung on to the steering column for dear life, managing to bank it away before it tipped over.
Now Will was really pissed. "So you wanna play, you bastard. Well, guess what? So do I." Even though his visibility was practically next to nothing, Will swung the ship away sharply, away from the pursuing shuttle, giving Jal the impression that he was running, and then, out of the blue, Will slammed on his anchors and spun the ship around to face his quarry. A second later, Will fired a missile at the blurry lump ahead of him, taking a very good calculated guess at what he was aiming for. Another second later, the boom of an explosion along with a ribbon of smoke and fire sent Jal's shuttle hurtling to the ground, nose down into a thick bank of snow that on impact, puffed up like a huge, exploding white marshmallow.
Terrified, Deanna pushed herself up onto her elbow. "Will, is he...?"
"No," Will assured her, "I've just crippled his ship. He won't be following us for a while."
Relieved, Deanna sunk back onto the bed and relaxed. 'Thank God. Thank God. Thank God', she murmured over and over again.
"Try to sleep, Deanna, we've got a long journey ahead of us." Will told her. But Deanna was already drifting off, the exhaustion finally taking it's toll and the relief of being free giving her the peace of mind that she hadn't had for a long time. She was going home, home to the Enterprise. Home to her friends, and home to Will.
The shuttle had been soaring through open space for near on an hour, heading ever nearer and nearer to the Enterprise, but not near enough. Another half and hour or so and he would be close enough to transmit a message and prepare them for his arrival.
Sinking back into his seat, Will tiredly rubbed his eyes. He was exhausted. He hadn't slept for more than twenty four hours. Other things had gotten in the way, things like the woman and child that slumbered behind him, completely oblivious to his dire need to join them. Unable to resist the pull of being beside Deanna again, Will set the shuttle on auto-pilot and made his way to the shuttle's rear.
Grabbing the thick coat that he had long ago discarded when the shuttle began to heat, Will lay it on the floor beside Deanna's cot. As he lowered his tall frame to the floor, Will couldn't resist studying her face once more. He couldn't believe that she was there with him, going home to the Enterprise. Softly moving a curly tendril away from her cheek, Will smiled warmly to himself. Right then, at that moment, he was the happiest man alive, and as he lay down on the floor beside her, he drifted off into a deep sleep, thinking of Deanna, junior, and himself, strolling through a park, all holding hands, happy to be alive, and together.
A little while later, Deanna stirred, rousing herself from the deep, drugging sleep of the unwell. And she was unwell, she knew that. She was losing too much blood, even with the drugs that Will had pumped into her. The loss was already done; they'd been too long in stopping the worst of the loss. She felt heady, hot and weak, and a vagueness continually threatened to consume her mind.
Deanna desperately tried to focus on just one thing and one thing only. William Riker. He was the one constant in her life. He was the one image that swam through her fuzzy senses. He was the one man that kept her alive with his undying love. He was there, with her, for her, always, and she needed him. She needed to see him, touch him, and tell him.
Twisting her head, Deanna tried to see into the cockpit. The tiny squirm upon her chest reminded her that she'd got her son upon her and the hands that had fallen to her sides in her sleep rose to comfort him. Trying again to see into the cockpit, Deanna was perturbed to find the pilot missing. Panic quickly surged through her when she thought he'd abandoned her, but then she remembered who was piloting the shuttle. Will Riker and Will would never abandon her.
Swinging her gaze around the dim interior of the shuttle, she focused her thoughts on him. But when she heard a feint snore, she looked over the edge of her cot and found what she had been searching for. Weakly smiling at the sight that met her, Deanna dropped her arm over the edge and reached for the large hand that sat spread upon his chest. Lacing her fingers with his, Deanna sighed and closed her eyes, instantly drifting off to sleep again.
When Will woke a short while later somewhat refreshed, but more than aware that he had not had anywhere near enough sleep to sustain him for long, the first thing Will felt was the rock hard metallic hull beneath his aching back. The second was the burning sensation within his fingers. Lifting his hand to see the cause, Will was startled to find Deanna's fingers interlocked with his, and they were hot with fever.
Quickly rising to his knees, Will lay his somewhat cooler hand against her cheek, aghast to find it as hot as her hand. "Christ," he muttered under his breath, before lifting the coverlet to check on the child. Silently studying the rise and fall of his little body, Will breathed a sigh of relief before turning his attention back to his mother.
Tapping her cheek lightly, Will tried to rouse the sleeping woman, but his only response was a garbled moan that told him much more than he wanted to hear. Deanna was in trouble. Even worse trouble than she was in before. Quickly moving to the medikit again, he hunted through the assortment of phials, whispering a prayer that there was something suitable amongst them to help her, whooping silently when his fingers curled around one that he hoped would do the job. Loading the hypo, Will rapidly squeezed the contents into her system and then ran for the cockpit.
Checking his distance, unsure whether the Enterprise was in range or not, Will crossed his fingers and pressed the communication button. "Riker to Enterprise, come in. Riker to Enterprise, come in please. Medical emergency."
He waited a heart-stopping whole minute before, at last, the Enterprise responded. "Enterprise here, Commander Riker, it's good to hear your voice. What is the nature of the emergency, Will?"
"I have Deanna Troi on board with me who is haemorrhaging pretty badly and a very premature infant that requires urgent medical care. How soon can you reach me, Captain? I can't get to you for another three hours at my current speed and I need you sooner than that." Will pleaded.
"Hang on, Will, we're on our way." he promised. "Ensign, lay in a course for Commander Riker's position, warp nine."
"Aye sir, laying in course now, warp nine." said the young voice of Ensign Calloway.
Slumping back in his seat, Will released the lungful of air that he'd been holding and laughed aloud. "Ha haaaa!" he cried, "We made it!" Hurrying out of his seat and back to Deanna's side, Will dropped to his knees, catching her fevered fingers within his. Tenderly stroking her damp brow, Will smiled for the first time in ages with genuine relief. "Hang on in there, darling, you're nearly home," he soothed, his heart and soul soaring with joy. "You're nearly home."
When Will watched his ship, the Enterprise glide up to him, appearing like a captured dream from the vast, unfathomable reaches of space, it always made the breath catch in his throat at her majestic stature. Even amongst other ships, the Enterprise always led the way. She was a leader, led by an even greater leader. She was, to Will, more than a ship. She was home. His home.
As he approached the shuttle bay and passed through the invisible shield, Will began to tremble with relief as a sea of familiar, welcome faces watched his arrival. The instant his engines shut down, a swarm of people stormed the shuttle, and heading them all was Doctor Beverly Crusher.
Will had spied the portable incubator and the antigrav stretcher waiting along side the crowd as he'd powered down the engines and the sight of them allowed him to exhale the pent up air that he had gotten stranded within his lungs, and with it, releasing the coil of tension that he'd been harbouring until the Enterprise had appeared before him like a huge, gleaming, silver knight in shining armour.
Never, never in his entire life, had he been so pleased to cast his eyes upon a more welcoming sight. Deanna and her son would live, and more importantly, he was going to get a second chance at getting it right between them once their ordeals were over.
Will pushed himself out of his seat, then quietly stood and watched as Beverly and two other medical staff swooped inside the tiny shuttle and began to assess Deanna and her newborn. Will heard Beverly's faint gasp as she lifted off the blanket and found, possibly the tiniest baby that she had ever seen, and without even seeing her face, Will knew that Beverly's eyes were now full of tears. He was sure that they were because his own welled when he saw the tiny scrap of life cradled upon his Imzadi's breast.
It was confirmed when barely a second later, her face turned and looked up into his, their blue watery depths full of questions, love and concern. Will silently stared at her back through suspiciously bright eyes, suddenly unable to utter one word. The euphoria of getting Deanna back to the Enterprise evaporated as he turned his gaze back to the unconscious prone figure that was being prepared to transfer to the antigrav stretcher.
Even then, Will watched in silent awe as her arms instinctively rose to hold onto her child, and the touching movement broke through the last invisible barricade that Will had erected around himself, and he gulped back the huge sob that he'd held on to so vigilantly up to now - up until he knew that Deanna was safe.
Through his tears, Will watched as Beverly gently unlaced Deanna's arms and picked up the infant, wrapping his tiny body in a small thick and soft quilted material before quickly hurrying him to the waiting incubator just outside the shuttle door. The seconds ticked painfully past before she stepped back inside and knelt down beside Deanna, the tricorder in her hand running along her body telling her everything she needed to know, and more besides.
"My God, she has lost so much blood. Alyssa." she cried out, aloud, before her professional side snapped back into place. "Counselor Troi is going to need a transfusion, stat." Frowning, she studied the small life-saving piece of equipment in her hand. "There's also something else going on here; some kind of other infection."
Turning to Will, her heart broke in two when she saw the tears running down the big man's face as he watched her assessing Deanna. Realizing that his grief was more to do with a deep inner relief than anything else, Beverly pushed aside her concern for her friend and spoke to him. "Will, what happened out there, can you shed some light on what's happening to Deanna?"
Will gulped back the choking tears and focused on her face rather than Deanna's comatose body. Taking a deep breath, he lifted his shoulders in a helpless shrug. "I don't know, Bev. The birth went fine. The afterbirth came away fine. Everything was fine until several hours later." His features twisted with the painful memory that he had to share. "She, she must of heard me resuscitating the boy and got out of bed to see. That's when we first saw the blood."
Remembering the horrifying moment, Will's eyes watered again and his chin wobbled as he brokenly told her, the vision of the blood pouring unheeded from her tortured loins. "God, Bev, she bled out so much, I didn't know how to help her. I...I really screwed up, didn't I?" he asked, miserably.
Before he'd even asked the question, Bev had realized that Will was blaming himself for Deanna's misfortune and quickly rising, she forcibly pushed herself against Will's body before he crumpled and held onto him tightly, forcing him to do the same to her, just as she needed him to. Will needed a friend right then, a friend that cared, and she did, she always did, very much.
All the guilt, worry and responsibility Will had willingly taken on, despite not knowing one single thing about how to deal with a premature birth or the problems associated with one, had taken it's toll and he clung onto Beverly and wept quietly into her shoulder. She could hear the quiet activity going on in the background; her nurses preparing Deanna to be shifted from the shuttle and onto the stretcher. The tell-tale silence that told her that they could hear everything that was being said, embarrassed at witnessing their superior officer's desperate moment of unguarded grief, but professional enough to know that grief, in any form, needed to be released, and neither of them begrudged their Commanding Officer that. He'd more than earned his right to let it go.
Despite the urgency to get Deanna into sickbay and stabilized, Beverly needed to allay the commander's fears, aware that her team were doing their job perfectly well without her. "It was not your fault, Will." she soothed. "If you hadn't have been there, Deanna would have died. You've saved her life, Will, and you've saved the life of her son, too. None of this is your fault," she reiterated strongly, tugging herself away from his bulk, forcing him to look into her eyes. "Will, listen to me, Deanna would be dead now, if it weren't for you."
She was so close to him that she could see herself in his tear-filled eyes. Gently, she shook him as she spoke. "Come on, you've got her home, Will, let's make the trip worthwhile, okay?"
Dragging her back to him, Will placed a shaky loud kiss on top of her auburn curls before releasing her with a huge sniff. "You're right. Ignore me, I'm just being..."
Smiling tenderly, Beverly broke away from him, pulling herself out of his arms as she did so. "You're just being human, Will, a trait that you men seem to regularly forget."
Moving to the shuttle doorway, Beverly spoke to the gathering outside. "The antigrav won't fit inside the shuttle. I need someone to carry Counselor Tr....."
A voice she knew came from behind her. "I'll carry her, Doctor."
Stepping out of his way as Will bent and lifted the sleeping woman into his arms, Beverly followed him out as he carried Deanna to the stretcher. A sea of eyes watched him and at that moment, Will felt as exposed as he'd ever been, but he was beyond caring. He only cared about one thing right then, and she was right there, in his arms.
Reluctantly, Will lay Deanna upon the stretcher and within a second she was moving away from him. Following behind, the doctor trotted to keep up, her blue coat fanning out behind her in her haste to get to her patient to sickbay. Will stood ramrod still and watched as his soul mate disappear from view. He began to breath again when she turned the corner, completely taking her out of his sight, but even so, he could still sense her, still feel her struggle to hold onto the thin thread of life that kept her with him.
Strangely, Will had forgotten that there were others in the shuttle bay with him and when he felt a comforting hand settle upon his broad shoulder, Will turned his head and looked down into the warm, concerned eyes of his captain. "Come on, Will. I think we could do with a drink or two." the older man told him. He was already prepared for the response that he knew he'd get and when Will went to open his mouth, his hand rose and aimed for the woman that had been whisked away from him, Jean-Luc Picard cut him off. "She's in good hands, Will, and so is her baby. You can't do anything more for her until Doctor Crusher has them both stabilized."
Sensing, and knowing Will's reluctance to stop himself from going to Deanna's side, he added, "Beverly will let you know when it'll be prudent to go to her, Will, you know she will." Feeling and watching the taller man's shoulders slump in defeat, Picard patted his shoulder again, effectively moving Will from his spot. "Come on, commander," he smiled, gently pushing, "let's go and raise a glass or two for the Enterprise's latest recruit."
Smiling with the irony of Picard's ridiculous statement, Will's feet finally moved. "Yes, you're right, sir. I need to gather my head again. I think I've been on automatic pilot for the last two days.
"Yes," he agreed, "but it's got you home, Will, along with someone who we thought we'd never seen again. I'm proud of you, commander. Is there no end to your talents?"
Will wearily chuckled, "That was one talent I don't ever want to experience again, sir."
Smiling knowingly as they reached the captains suite, Picard entered his access code, allowing the doors to his private rooms to open, he followed his first officer inside. Without even being politely asked to sit, Will slumped onto the dark, suede covered couch, dropped his head back onto it's back, rubbed at his fatigued eyes, letting out a puff of weary breath. He groaned unashamedly, "Damn, I'm tired."
Pouring a large, healthy shot of his own private stock of whisky into a tumbler, Picard poured a smaller measure for himself before handing Will his glass. "Here's to a successful mission, Will. Well done."
Gratefully taking the glass from the outstretched hand, Will stared appreciatively at the amber liquid before downing a large swig, sighing with contentment at the immediate effect that it had on him. Turning his face back up to his superior, Will said seriously, "Don't gloat yet, Captain. I left behind a very pissed husband who's not too pleased that I've stolen his wife, sir."
"Stolen?" Picard scowled, dropping his frame to the edge of another seat facing Riker. "Care to elaborate on the term, 'stolen', Commander?"
"Stolen, sir, as in, Jal arrived just as I was about to leave and he wasn't happy about me taking his wife away, even if it was to save her life. I crippled his ship, Jean-Luc, but I don't think that'll stop him for long."
"I see," the older man said thoughtfully, "do you think he will come after Deanna?" he asked.
"Maybe," he replied, shrugging nonchalantly, taking another sip of the whiskey. "Maybe not." Will thought again for a long moment and then added. "Yes, sir, I think maybe he will. I've taken away something that he holds dear."
"Deanna." Picard stated knowingly, frowning when he watched Will shake his head a moment later.
"Nah, he couldn't give a damn about her, or their son. When I kicked his butt I took away his pride. Now that really pissed him off. He'll come after us, not only for Deanna because she's his property, but because he can't do anything else 'but' come. I've humiliated him, captain. There's no way that he can let that slip past."
Pushing himself to his feet, Will followed suit, handing him back the glass now devoid of liquid. "Thank you sir, I needed that more than I realized." He said, gratefully and then added, "As for Jal, sir, he's my problem, not the Enterprise's. I'll deal with him when he eventually catches up with us."
Pursing his lips thoughtfully, Picard eventually spoke. "You're a member of this crew, Will, and so is Deanna now. We'll deal with Jal Collser if and when it happens. Now, Will, I'm ordering you to get some rest. I don't want you to step foot inside sickbay for at least three hours. Do I make myself clear, Commander?"
For a long moment Will battled between insubordination and bone wary fatigue. He was exhausted, and the large shot of whisky he'd just had, had just about finished him off - just what had been Picard's intention when he'd offered him the drink in the first place. In the end exhaustion won out and he mumbled wearily. "Yes, sir, crystal. See you in a few hours."
Picard watched Will walk down the corridor, his large feet almost dragging along the soft grey carpet with tiredness. But even despite the order to stay away from sickbay, he knew darned well that his order would be ignored, and sure enough, when he quietly entered sickbay one hour later to check on Beverly and her new patients, he found his first officer curled up in a chair beside Deanna Troi's bed, his dark head upon the mattress at her side, with Deanna's fingers gently cupping his face as they both slept the sleep of the dead. The tiny baby in it's incubator beside her slept peacefully too.
Shaking his head with a smile, Picard turned and headed out muttering good naturedly as he turned the corner, "I really must admonish that bugger one of these days." And then he laughed, quietly adding, "Why the hell bother? He'd still bloody ignore me!"
Slowly, quietly, Deanna drifted from the deep, drugging fog of unnatural sleep. Unable to open her eyes, she allowed herself to let the sounds around her guide her to her whereabouts. The comforting high-pitched, 'beep, beep', of machinery around her told her that she was in a medical facility. The familiar smells that accompanied the sounds confirmed it. And then she heard a voice. A very much loved voice. A very much missed voice.
The realization that she was on board the Enterprise was the final heart-stopping, penny-dropping climax to her Deanna's confusion and when the beeping accelerated, alerting the doctor and the other anxiously waiting occupants of sickbay that she was stirring, Deanna finally forced her heavy eyelids to open, only to find herself staring into a set of smiling, watery pale blue eyes.
"Good morning, counselor, it's nice to finally have you back with us."
Fully aware of the double entendre of her greeting, Deanna grinned weakly at her long lost friend, and reached for her hand so that she truly could feel that she was real. She opened her mouth to speak, but Beverly stopped her simply with a look and a mild reprimand. "Hey, not yet, Missy, you've got a lot of recovering to do."
Smiling tenderly as she glanced away to the other side of her bed, she added, "I have a rather gorgeous little boy who is waiting for his mommy to give him a cuddle."
Deanna gasped as everything that was missing from her memory rushed back to her; why she was back on the Enterprise, the unfamiliar aches and pains that racked her body, and the loss of the precious being inside her. Lost, but not gone. Deanna raised her head from the pillow only to have Beverly push her back onto it again. "Oh, Beverly," she croaked, her eyes wild with fear. "is he okay?"
Deanna's eyes followed Beverly as she moved to the other side of the bed and reached into the small incubator that sat barely a foot away from her side. Now clad in a ridiculously small romper suit, complete with a tiny hat upon his hand sized head, her baby looked beautiful and perfectly fine as Beverly tenderly picked him up, laying a feather-light kiss upon his downy forehead before giving him over to the trembling outstretched hands that were waiting impatiently.
"Oh, darling, darling," Deanna crooned tearfully as she slowly pulled him close to her body, her eyes squeezing shut to valiantly keep away the tidal wave of tears that threatened to consume her. "I'm so glad you made it." She lay the tiny boy back in it's familiar place upon her chest and gently stroked his back, feeling the infant settle beneath her fingers.
Sighing with a contentment that only a mother could comprehend, Deanna's head fell back against the pillow, tiredness enveloping her once more. Knowing that herself and her son were now completely in safe hands was more than Deanna could take.
Once more, some divine being had seen fit to save her life again. 'How many more times will I be blessed with good fortune?' she wondered, unable to resist leaning down again to place another gentle kiss upon her son's head, breathing in the unmistakable scent of a baby. 'How many more times will someone keep coming to save my sorry soul?'
'As many times as it takes to make sure you keep coming back to me, Imzadi,' whispered silently back to her and Deanna's breath caught, bringing a fresh wave of tears to her still damp eyes. 'You know I'll always be here looking out for you.'
Even before Deanna's gaze drifted across to him, she knew exactly where Will would be standing, knew the loving look that would be upon his face, and be aware that his love for her would be there, shining in his blue eyes. And, at last, the tears that she had tried to keep at bay escaped when she looked into her saviour, and her one true love's face. Her chin wobbled as she smiled radiantly through the cascade of tears as she reached out for him.
Will gladly allowed Deanna to pull him down so that she could kiss him. For two long days, he had ached for this moment. For two long days he had sat by her side and willed her to live just so that he could receive the kiss that she freely gave. Mindful of the audience around them, Will only allowed the intimate touch of their lips a fraction of the time that they craved, even though it almost killed him to pull away from her eager mouth after just a second or two of pure heaven.
For two long days it had been touch and go, not only for Deanna, but for her child too. The boy had been impossibly underweight and nowhere near ready to be brought into this world. He had barely weighed two pounds when Beverly had gingerly weighed him to assess him for the levels of treatment and care that he was going to need. But more importantly, the first thing the doctor had done was artificially strengthen his fragile heart and lungs so that he could live. The rest could be left to develop naturally.
But he was a long way from being regarded as, 'out of danger'. But watching him now as he fidgeted upon his mother's breast searching for his supper, Will could only smile lovingly at the adorable scene, failing to smother the ache of longing in his heart, unable to believe that they were both here, safely aboard the Enterprise, and safely back within his heart, where they both now belonged.
The scene was surreal. In the intimate privacy of Deanna's quarters, the new mother sat curled up on her couch with her feet tucked comfortably up underneath her thighs. Her son, barely much bigger than her hand, suckled noisily at her breast, his minuscule fist lay against the swollen mound, it's paleness a stark contrast against his mothers skin. And sitting beside them both with his arm laying protectively around Deanna's shoulders as he watched the nursing infant with a tender smile and complete adoration and contentment upon his handsome face, was William Riker.
He simply could not keep away from either Deanna or the little one. Taking on the role as surrogate father and husband had become as natural as breathing for him. There had been no questions, no concerns and no guilty feeling towards Jal. Deanna had simply taken up her life on board the Enterprise and Will had been beside her all the way.
It had been three weeks since the fateful day since Will had come to Deanna and her son's aid. Because of Beverly's excellent care and technology that went beyond what they could ever have hoped for, the tiny being, born too soon, too small and too fragile had been saved, and even though he was still very small, he was thriving. More so because of the love that was constantly showered upon him by his mother, the man that wanted to be his father, and the moonstruck crew of the Enterprise.
Reaching out with his remaining hand, Will stroked the baby's cheek softly with the back of his index finger. Grinning, Deanna watched the tender motion before turning her face to smile into his. Suddenly caught shy at the outright display of longing, Will's cheeks tinged pink as he bashfully looked away from Deanna's knowing gaze.
But she wasn't having any of it. Deanna was proud of her son, and she equally proud of the man beside her. Seeing him with the boy time and time again sharply brought home how much time they had wasted over the years. Had their respective careers not stood in the way, or their own stupid stubbornness at revealing the true feelings that had bubbled beneath the surface for years, Deanna knew that this intimate scene, this beautiful, beautiful moment, would have been for real years ago.
"It's okay, Will," Deanna whispered understandingly, "it is a miracle that we are here together." Turning away, she concentrated on detaching the tiny cherub lips from her breast, tucking herself away before moving him up to her shoulder for the required, 'burp', but even so, Deanna pushed on. Smiling she added as she began to tap the little back rhythmically, her voice crooning against her son's head, lulling the already drowsy child "Don't hide yourself away from me anymore, Will," she pleaded, "you keep forgetting that you're an open book to me and I know how you are feeling," Turning back to face him so that he could see the honesty in her eyes, she added, "about us."
Will stared back at her. He was so close to her face that he could see himself in the deep brown orbs. He was so close that he was sure she could hear his heartbeat as it pounded loud within his own ears. How well she knew him. He was like an open book to her and he wondered just how deeply she had delved to find his utmost desire.
"I know it's wrong," he started, quietly, his eyes never leaving hers. "I know you're married and that I've lost my chance with you, but I can't let you go, either of you."
"I don't want you to, Will." There, she had said it, she had spoken the thought out aloud. She had given him the answer he was searching for. "I want you to fight for us, Will."
For a long moment there was silence as he digested her words. The heartbeat that pounded within his chest became so loud with her admission that he was forced to take deep, steadying breaths to calm himself down. But as Deanna's spare hand snaked up and cupped his jaw, pulling his face to hers, Will's heart began to settle on it's own as it realized that it was about to do what it wanted to do.
Deanna nervously settled her lips against his and theirs sighs met and melded together. Gently, Will's arm moved to circle her waist and he heard the whimper deep within her throat, giving him the permission he needed to pull her tighter to him. Will's tongue tested against her lips and at first Deanna resisted, afraid of stirring the dormant desires within her. But she hadn't counted on Will's persistence, or the need that poured from his soul, pleading with her to let him inside.
It was too soon. She was still married and if she let Will in, he would want more. She would want more. But, God help her, as his large hand began to make circular movements upon her still slightly swollen tummy, bringing to life the womb that had borne her son, the same womb that craved another much wanted child. Will's child, Deanna's resolve slowly but surely crumbled.
A flood of heat pooled within her and set fire and with it came the submission that Will sought. On a tiny cry of frustration and guilt, Deanna's mouth opened and Will darted his tongue within the hot recess and danced with hers before she could change her mind. Growling with satisfaction and desire, he allowed the one word that flooded his senses to escape, the same word that had meant so much to them a lifetime ago but still held the same heart-stopping meaning to them now.
And he heard it reverberate back to him through the link that had lain dormant for so long. Too long.
Cupping her jaw as he broke his lips reluctantly away from hers, Will vowed as he looked deeply into her eyes, "We will find a way, I promise you." Touching his lips to hers again, Deanna saw and felt the truth in his promise and turning her face to the side, Deanna slipped her palm up to cradle his head and deepened the kiss, accepting the change in their relationship, wanting to take it beyond what it was before.
But what was that?
A closet love affair that never got out of the door. But did they even want to open it?
Or be just two close friends that didn't want to rock the comfortable status quo of their relationship?
Or two ticking time-bombs just waiting to explode together?
It was probably - undoubtably, a little of all of them.
The long awaited for 'burp' that Deanna had been waiting for from her son finally burst from his tiny lungs, breaking the intimate bubble that had surrounded the threesome. Reluctantly, Deanna's hand left Will's head and her lips broke away from his at the same time.
Focusing her mind and her attention to the boy, Deanna gently manoeuvred him so that he could nurse from her. Silently, Will watched as Deanna helped him fasten onto her, his tiny fist resuming it's familiar position upon the swell of her breast.
Will felt and heard the restful sigh leave Deanna's mouth as she settled back, closed her eyes and let the precious sensation to come take her over. She loved this time with her little one. With each time that the boy fed from her, Deanna felt their connection strengthen. He was her son. He was in her arms, he was safe and alive, thanks to Will and Beverly. And because of them both, so was she.
Will quietly watched Deanna nurse her child. So many questions filled his head, questions that he desperately needed answers for. Answers that could move them on beyond the hiccup that they seemed to have reached. Will was overjoyed that Deanna had kissed him. It meant he was winning her back. It meant so, so much more than that too, but he wasn't going to push her. He didn't need to, he felt it in her bodily response to him. Deanna wanted him and he was content with that. He was content to wait for as long as need be.
"Have you thought of a name for him yet?" he asked, more to break away from the tumult of questions that couldn't be answered yet.
Lifting her head, Deanna let her gaze onto the now slumbering boy, still attached to her nipple. "I haven't been able to decide," she whispered sadly. "It keeps running through my head that Jal should be involved in naming his son, somehow."
Breaking her gaze, she turned her worried eyes to Will. "Stupid, isn't it? But I can't help it." She shrugged lightly as she switched her gaze back to her son and absently stroked his downy head with the soft pad of her thumb, but something inside her changed and Will felt it, felt the icy grip of dread clutch his heart and knew what she was going to say even before she said it.
"I need to go back there, Will."
Leaving her precious boy behind in the capable hands of his second mommy, Beverly, Deanna and Will left the ship in the same shuttle that they had arrived in not so long ago. Sensing the importance behind Deanna's request to return to the place that she'd called home for a year, Captain Jean-Luc Picard gave his permission, allowing her and her travelling companion, Will Riker, one week to finalize her business with Jal Collser, and then return to her true home, the Enterprise.
As they broke through the planet's orbit, the heavy snows that they had left behind, had stopped falling and now blanketed the breathtaking landscape in a smooth pristine, glistening white carpet. As her eyes swept over the view, Deanna felt a sorrow fill her soul, remembering that it had been on a day exactly like this one when Jal had brought her to his home for the first time.
Then, it had entranced her, but now, she saw it with different eyes, and that pained her to have to think of it in that way. It was a beautiful planet, one that she had loved for a short time. But with no one to talk to and no where to go, and no husband to be by her side, the planet had become a prison for her, and if she hadn't have felt the need to consult Jal on his son's name, as well as ask for their marriage to be ended, Deanna would never have returned.
With each kilometre that he travelled nearer to Deanna's previous home, Will felt the woman beside him retreat deeper and deeper into herself. Reaching across, Will tucked his fingers around hers, briefly squeezing them, telling her without words that he understood, knowing that when he felt her squeeze him back, she was doing okay.
Familiar land-points began to appear and Deanna felt her heartbeat begin to pulse harder, it's echo reverberating through her head, blocking out everything but it's noise. Far off buildings that she'd seen on clear days loomed in the distance and she knew that she was near. Seeing her own home approach, Deanna gripped Will's hand even tighter still and he pulled it over to his lips and kissed the chilled and tense knuckles.
"It's going to be alright, Deanna, I won't let him hurt you." Will reassured her.
"Too late for that," she hoarsely replied, "he hurt me a long time ago, and he hurt me more when he denied our son."
Will tried to stop himself from asking the obvious but couldn't halt the words. "Then why...?" He asked, hating that his voice was strained and slightly sulky.
"...because he has rights, Will. If he denies us this time, then the choice will be mine to make, and no longer his. I feel I owe him that much, but nothing more." she vowed.
Will was only half listening to Deanna as his attention focused on his decent towards her home. Carefully banking around as he prepared to land, he ignored Deanna's uneasy voice as she whispered with fear beside him. "The shuttle, Will, it's still there."
Frowning deeply, Will searched every inch of the landed ship, his own shuttle manoeuvring around it so that he could see it from all angles. Still perched in the precarious position that he had left it in, Will worriedly chewed his lip and silently wondered if he'd caused more damage to the ship than he'd originally estimated.
And if he damaged it that much, what about the pilot flying it? When he'd fired upon it as they'd left before, Will was certain that he'd only disabled it's engines. He didn't want to destroy Jal or his ship, he just wanted to get Deanna and the boy away without any more trouble. His readouts had told him that Jal was very much alive when he'd shot him down, but now, looking at the ship, still nose down and now three quarters buried beneath the heavy snow, Will wondered if he was a bit presumptuous with his computers assessment.
True, Jal could have been alive when they'd escaped, but it didn't mean that he hadn't been injured, and it didn't mean that barely minutes out of range, Jal could have died. It was a sobering thought, one that punched at Will's conscience hard enough to make him tremble with disgust and fear. Had he injured a man and let him die in the freezing storms? Had he unwittingly murdered Deanna's husband? What kind of man had he become, just so that he could be with the woman that he loved?
And as Will brought the small shuttle around to the crippled ship's cockpit, he got his answer. Even through the fine layer of dusty snow, frozen solid on the windscreen, he could see Jal's frozen and mummified body as it sat in his chair, the safety harness still encasing his torso, holding him upright, imprisoning him where he sat, and probably aiding him with his painful death.
Hovering the shuttle in front of Jal's ship, unable to tear his eyes away from the gruesome sight before him, Will momentarily forgot about the woman beside him. But when the eerie silence surrounding him became so loud that it consumed his entire being, Will tore his eyes away and slowly turned his head to face her.
Tears streamed down Deanna's cheeks, but she uttered nothing. Eyes locked onto the deathly form of her husband and she could do nothing more than weep for his suffering and for the loss of her child's father. Unsure what to do next, Will deliberated as to just turn and leave, or stay and deal with Jal's body, realizing that his guilty conscience was nudging at him to at least grant the unfortunate man a burial.
Knowing that the decision was really in Deanna's hands, Will swallowed the large lump in his throat and prepared himself to, not only speak to Deanna, but pull her out of her shocked state. "Dee..." he started, but she stopped him, her voice heavily with loss, and acceptance.
"Take me away from here, Will.," she said sadly but urgently. "Take me home, to my son, now."
Unsure whether to broach the subject of disposing of Jal's body, Will studied her frozen features for a long moment. But eventually, Deanna turned her watery and blotched eyes to him and her lips and body trembled with sorrow. Realizing as she looked into her new lovers face, she suddenly understood his dilemma and said, "I'll deal with it later, I just need to leave here, Will. I want to go home to my son."
Realizing her need to leave, Will silently and reluctantly nodded his agreement and turned the shuttle about and set a course back to the Enterprise. Deanna didn't look back once.
Will's footsteps slowed to a hesitant halt as he stepped into Deanna's quarters. The sweet smell that teased his nostrils was becoming so familiar to him that he barely registered it beyond the acute sense of peace that assaulted his senses whenever he entered the room.
But this time, the sense of peace, the feeling of coming home and the tantalizing baby scent eluded him when he spotted the tears that slowly coursed down his Imzadi's cheeks. Her face, tight with pain, stared blindly at the tiny boy that lay quietly watching her upon her lap.
She had pulled the small coffee table nearer to the sofa and Will had frequently seen her slouched back upon the sofa with her feet upon the wooden edge, the baby laying upon her drawn up knees. It was usually a lovely sight, seeing mother and son watching each other, with Deanna keeping him mesmerized with her soft coos and gentle chatter.
The scene seemed the same. The boy still stared at his mom, enchanted with her beautiful features, as he himself usually was, but her sadness radiated through Will, hurting his own heart with her sorrow. Quickly and quietly making his way to her side, Will sat and tenderly caressed her shoulder, pushing away the fall of hair so that he could see her face.
"Deanna...darling, what's wrong?" he asked gently, taking a quick glance at the small boy, checking to see if her distress was because of him. But when he saw that the child was well, his dark eyes turning, acknowledging him, recognizing the familiar face, Will turned his attention back to his mother.
"Deanna, talk to me." he urged.
Taking a deep sniff but unable to tear her eyes away from her son's tiny flawless features, she murmured. "Danya. My son's name is Danya."
Will blinked with surprise. It had taken Deanna a whole month and a half to decide on a name for her child, so much so, that she was being teased by all her fellow crewmates who were beginning to think the boy was going to spend the rest of his days being called, 'the boy', or, 'your son', or other cute endearments that he'd been saddled with.
Brushing away a tear with the pad of his thumb, Will gave her a tentative smile and said, with a hint of puzzlement as to why that should distress her so much, "That's great, Deanna, you've finally given him a name, and it's a beautiful one. Does it mean anything?" he asked.
She sniffed again, lifting her tear-filled eyes to his for a moment, letting him see her pain up close and nodding slowly as she told him, "It means, Gift from God."
Will smiled, moving closer so that he could place a tender and chaste kiss upon her salty lips. "It's perfect, Deanna."
Placing his small finger against the child's hand, instantly glowing with fatherly pride when the tiny fist opened and circled the much larger digit, Will grinned and said, his voice husky with emotion, "Hello, Danya, welcome to the Enterprise."
The infant fixed his trusting dark gaze onto Will. Still very, very small, still not much bigger than Will's hand, Danya positively glowed with health, thanks to the loving care of Beverly Crusher. Every single day, she weighed him, monitored him, smothered him with her own unique love, and then reluctantly handed him back to his true mommy.
After a long moment as a quiet tension built between them, Will eventually pulled his eyes away from Danya and turned his attention back to Deanna. Relieved to see that her tears had slowed as she sat simply watching her son, trying desperately to mask her sorrow, but even so, Will reached beneath the surface and saw how much she was hurting.
He figured that maybe she was grieving for her husband. Hell, she had every right to, seeing as he'd killed him. Her child's father was dead and he was certain that she had absolutely nothing to show that the man had even existed. Nothing for her son to look back upon, and nothing to remember him by.
And then Will figured that maybe Deanna was suffering from post-natal depression, something that he'd heard about from their mutual friend, the doctor. But surely Beverly would have seen the signs and treated Deanna before it got this bad.
And maybe, Will realized, it could be something else entirely - like himself. Maybe she'd changed her mind about becoming his wife and a father for Danya. Becoming a family, the one thing he'd constantly thought about since he'd seen the tiny boy being born from the woman he loved.
And then suddenly, Will became inexplicably scared. What did he say? How did he ask her? What did he ask her? But whatever he said, or asked, he had to do it because he adored her, and he had to ask, because, before anything else, he was her friend, and she needed him.
"Deanna..." he began, his heart beginning to pound with fear as he touched his palm to her jawline, attempting to pull her gaze to his. "Darling, tell me what's wrong."
With difficulty, Deanna tore her eyes away from Danya and found his and saw the concern and his fear in their blue depths. Taking comfort in the hand that caressed her face, she leaned into his touch, her eyes slipping shut with longing.
She wanted him and it ate at her soul that it was too soon. Her husband was barely in his grave, her body was only just healed after the traumatic birth, even though Beverly had recently given her a clean bill of health and Deanna felt as guilty as hell for wanting her soul-mate so much, and terrified that if she made it obvious that she wanted to move their special relationship onto the next obvious step, that Will would think bad of her.
And not only Will. What would her fellow crew-mates think? A widow barely a month, with a tiny baby, dragged back to the Enterprise because she'd failed at her marriage, and failed at being desirable. Deanna knew that Will loved her, but he looked at her differently now. She saw it, and she felt it, and she hated it.
Before, Will's desire had been heart-stoppingly erotic. She used to almost feel Will's hands roving over her body, taking her to the dizzy heights that she had longed for. But now, desire was replaced with an inordinate need to care for her, and yes, she wanted him to care for her, but, God, she needed him to be more. Much more.
"I...I can't," Deanna admitted sadly, and Will's heart plummeted. She didn't want him. "It...it's too soon, Will."
Instantly Will thought of her poor tortured body. "Is something wrong with...you, something I did when...?" He asked hesitantly, suddenly reluctant to refresh her mind of their forced intimate time, but she was quick to reassure him.
"No, no, it's not that. My body's healed."
Will's face fell because he realized that if it wasn't her body hurting, then it was her heart. "I'm sorry, I know you must hate me for what I did to..."
But again, Deanna broke him off with a gasp and then anger tinged her quietly spoken words," No, no, don't you dare do that to yourself, Will. I know that you think you're to blame for Jal's death, but you are not. It was an accident, a tragic accident, Will."
Will's eyes fell back to the now sleeping child upon her lap and murmured, his heart heavy with loss, "He's lost his father, Deanna, and that was my fault, even if he'd lived."
Deanna's fingers pulled his face back to hers and whispered as quietly as he had, "But he will have another daddy, one that already loves him as though he were his own."
"You'll let me adopt him, one day?" He asked, his hopes daring to rise.
"You can adopt him the same day that we marry, Imzadi." she replied, a tender smile tugging at her lips.
Will's heartbeat began to pound again as he dared to ask as his fingers gently tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear so that he could see her face, look into her eyes and see the answer to his question. "When. When will you marry me, Deanna?"
"I don't know," she said honestly, and then reaching forward, she lightly touched her lips to his and whispered against their softness, "But you will wait for me, wait until I'm ready, won't you?"
As he pulled up closer and prepared to devour her mouth, he replied huskily, "Imzadi, I'll wait forever, if I have to."
She chuckled against his mouth, "It won't be that long, I promise." Stopping him as he began to kiss her, she pushed him back a little and said, "Let me lay Danya down, okay"
Reluctantly Will took his hands away from Deanna's tempting, lush body and allowed her to move. Gently lowering her knees, she tenderly scooped the boy up into her arms, kissing his downy forehead as she did so. She took him into the dimmed bedroom and lay him in his cradle, covered him, made sure he was settled and went back to the waiting man.
Will slipped his arms around her as she settled back into her seat and pulled her close again. "Deanna." he breathed, as his lips touched hers and began to set them both on fire.
Will buried his hand deeper into her thick hair, cupped her head in his huge palm and deepened the kiss further, this time, pouring all the emotion and desire into her that he had held back for too long.
Deanna had never felt such a wild, untethered passion from Will before and it was intoxicating she dimly realized as she felt his tongue enter her willing mouth to dance with hers. But as his kisses drove her mad, leaving her breathless, she found that, she, too, needed more and edged her aching body closer to his, a shudder of desire giving away her secret.
But even so, even though Will knew the truth behind the shiver, he still broke away from her lips and asked her tenderly, concerned, "Are you cold?"
Reaching for his lips again, she whispered huskily, her voice trembling, "No, please, don't stop."
Growling low in his throat, Will side-stepped Deanna's tempting mouth and touched his own to her throat, savouring the tender skin and the intoxicating scent. When she let out a small moan, it only goaded Will on further. Whimpering as he ravaged her sensitive ear lobes, the curve of her creamy shoulder, his small, rapid kisses blazing a path along her jawline, Will lost the ability to breathe.
Desperate to have her closer to him, Will cupped her buttocks and hauled her onto his lap. Deanna instinctively straddled him, pushing her heat up snug against his. Her arms slid around his neck, tipping back her head, exposing her long throat as she let him continue his attack on her.
Will's large hands spanned her ribcage, unable to stop himself from squeezing her as frustration poured from the depths of his soul in his need to possess her once more. It had been too long, far, far too long.
"Deanna," he moaned, finally reaching for her open mouth and sliding his tongue inside. Will pulled her even tighter to his body, crushing her against his chest, the action emitting another groan that came up from his boots as he felt her swollen breasts upon him and he simply had to touch them. Watching Deanna nurse her son time after time had dimmed his lustfulness towards her somewhat. But now - now she was visibly, and wantonly, offering them to him to be touched, he felt honoured.
As his hands came around to cup her, Will's kisses changed. The precious offering turned his fired up loins to mush. Through the thin cotton fabric of her dress and the nursing bra beneath, Will felt the engorged nipple button against his trembling palms.
Reverently he stroked their fullness, feeling her swell even more. Gasping, they broke the kiss and both watched his hands play over her body. It was one of the most erotic things he had seen. The air became heavy with yearning and as Deanna's eyes met his, she reached her crossed hands down to her waist, curled her fingers around it's edge, and pulled the top over her head, dropping it to the floor beside them, their eyes irresistibly drawn to her body again.
Now with only one layer of white cotton between his hands and her, Will suddenly became nervous. Deanna searched the features that she had fallen completely and irrefutably in love with again and whispered his name. "Will." Reaching up for the straps, Deanna pulled them down her arms, revealing her body to him. Giving her body to him.
She watched Will swallow, his bright blue eyes wide and fixed on hers. It was a strange concept seeing Will's nervousness and the thought made her smile tenderly at him. "Touch me," she invited.
For a long moment, Will simply looked her, the story of his devotion etched in the blue depths just for her alone to see. Reaching forward, Deanna lightly brushed her mouth across his and whispered again, "Touch me, Will."
His eyes, heavy with ardour dropped lower and his breath caught with what he saw. Her already generously proportioned breasts now seemed to be almost twice the size. Threaded with blue veins, they took on an almost fragile look; untouchable. But it was her nipples that captured his full gaze. Now almost black with motherhood, they stood out proud, begging for attention. But as he gazed upon her, a droplet of milk puddled upon it and Will felt his loins stir, creating an invisible squirm at what it meant and what he could do.
Arching her back towards him, Deanna laced her fingers in his hair and slowly pulled his face to her body. Almost as if it was all being done in slow motion, Will's tongue snaked out and captured the errant droplet on the tip of his tongue and Deanna gasped as the sensation rocked through her.
Taking the engorged tip fully into his mouth, Will did what he'd secretly wanted to do, ever since he'd tenderly placed her newborn son at her breast all those weeks ago. He suckled her, tasting the warm sweet moisture as it filled his mouth, relishing it as it slid down his throat.
Deanna was breathing in fast, shallow breaths as she watched her beloved nurse from her, and even though what he was doing to her was exactly the same as her darling son, it felt different. There was no sexual need pouring from her soul when Danya fed from her. But as soon as Will took her nipple into his mouth, she became consumed with desire and the wanton tug in her womb was almost her undoing as she set up a small steady rhythm against his bulging hardness.
And then, just when Deanna didn't think she could stand any more, Will suddenly released her body and reached around her and placed the baby monitor on the floor, but everything else got pushed from the small table behind her; Danya's near-empty bottle, his dribble rag and other little bits and bobs, all hit the floor with a muted thump, neither of them caring where or how they landed. When the table was cleared and ready, Will began his relentless assault again.
Running his tongue along the silky length of her shoulders, his hands cherished her slender form, every part that he could reach. Itching to do the same, Deanna's hands blazed a path of their own along his hard, muscular frame, enjoying the feeling and the freedom to do so. Will was so well sculptured that she could trace every muscle in his upper body and she did so with a feather-light touch that made Will shiver with heat.
As their lips mutually met again, Will gently shifted both their bodies forward and eased Deanna onto the table. It was a little low, but neither seemed to care as she helped him shed the rest of her clothing and watched as he shed his own. As soon as he was as naked as her, he covered her stomach with hot kisses and trailed along the inside of her thigh with his tongue.
Deanna's hands itched to explore him as he was her, but she could not reach, so she settled with running her fingers through his silky hair. His breath was so hot on her skin, she felt incapable of thought or words. Caressing her thighs, he moved them further apart, jumping with surprise when he licked across the most sensitive part of her sex before melting with the sensations that he evoked.
Using his fingers to open her fully, he ran his tongue along her in broad, bold strokes, eliciting shivers of delight from her. Flicking his tongue across her entrance, Deanna moaned low in her throat, squirming under his touch as he brought her closer and deeper into his mouth. She tugged at his hair that was intertwined with her fingers, moaning, moving beneath him and Will knew he was driving her wild with pleasure. He stuck his tongue in deeper still and grinned as her body quivered in reaction, calling out his name as her breathing deepened.
Knowing how close she was to her release, Will sucked on her as he slid one finger into her. As she began to melt around him, he slid in another one, amazed at how tight she was around his fingers. As he moved, his tongue continued it's sweet torture, until she began to gyrate wildly, fighting him, encouraging him with her movements and her small cries of abandonment, until suddenly, she arched her body up to his mouth and cried out his name as she violently climaxed, crushing his fingers within her. Eventually as she slowly came back to earth, Will pulled his fingers away and sucked deeply, drinking the nectar that poured from her.
Before she had even stopped quivering in the aftermath of his assault, Will was moving up her body, nibbling and sucking on her now damp skin. When Will eventually reached her shoulder, Deanna finally got the opportunity to start on him, taking a huge playful bite on his shoulder, creating a shudder that she felt ripple throughout his entire alive and hardened body. When he lifted his head and looked deeply into her eyes, she silently begged him to take her body, her trembling fingers grazing him everywhere, desperately aching to cherish every part of him that was now hers.
Quickly lifting her face to his and planting a frantic kiss to his mouth, she whispered hoarsely, "Please, Will, touch me again."
Will knew exactly what Deanna wanted. This time it wasn't his hands that she craved, or his mouth. She wanted the ultimate union, the union that would make them one again. Make her whole.
Will reached down and pulled her knee against his hips, stroking her satiny skin. Taking her hips in his strong hands he pulled her to the edge of the table. Watching him closely, Deanna suddenly sat up, lovingly and longingly letting her gaze rove over his magnificent body. It had been a long, long time since she had seen Will in this state. He had changed, but then so had she. She was a mother now and she was acutely aware of the small markings that scared her body, whereas Will had only grown to be even more perfect.
Reaching down, she tenderly touched his hardness and traced the full length of him with her fingertips, smiling as she watched his eyes close and his head fall back in ecstasy. Her fingers continued to tease him until he almost climaxed in her hand. Grabbing the same hand he murmured in a strangled voice, "Stop. God, Deanna, I want you so much it hurts."
Laying her body back down onto the table's surface and parting her legs further, offering herself like a sacrifice to the Gods, she whispered huskily, "Then have me, Imzadi."
When Deanna first saw the size of Will's manhood, it had filled her with trepidation. Aware that even though her body was healed from childbirth, she was still tender and worriedly wondered if she was going to be able to accommodate his size.
But after his gentle foreplay and her own greedy need, Deanna was so consumed with desire that she no longer cared if he hurt her. She just needed him inside her. She just ached to complete the union.
As Will slowly entered her, her moist heat made him nearly lose his senses; he had to struggle to hold on as her tender tightness enveloped him. Gently, he slid further into her until he could go no further and held still, feeling her pulse against him, knowing that his own was echoing the motion.
Will watched as a sadness flittered over her features and wondered what had suddenly caused it. Was she remembering the last time with her husband? Maybe she truly wasn't ready for this stage of their relationship to happen, despite what her mouth and her body were telling him. Deanna was far more complex than that and he briefly chided himself for thinking that their love-making would be what he expected it to be. Wanted it to be.
Will studied her face. He didn't want to take advantage of her in her sorrow, and yet she had asked him of her own free will to become lovers. Still embedded deep inside her, Will leaned forward and gently kissed her, testing her response to his romantic gesture. If she was going to let go, he realized it would be now. He knew kissing her would release the grief that she was holding inside, if it was going to come.
He moulded his mouth to hers, keeping the pressure light and teasing, turning this way and that, sliding his tongue around the lush and now swollen lips, gently nipping and slipping his tongue inside to touch hers. Their bodies were still; the sex momentarily forgotten as Will concentrated on Deanna, and only Deanna. Cupping her shoulders within his large palms, he felt Deanna slide her arms around his shoulders and they both mutually deepened the kiss, twisting and turning as desire began to build again, eventually forcing their bodies to gently move together, unable to fight the power of the union any longer.
Her inner canal was tight around him and for a moment he couldn't feel anything but her. Tearing his mouth away, Will reached down a hand and slid it under her thigh, pulling her leg higher so that he could deepen the contact. He watched her beautiful face, feeling blessed that she had given herself to him. God, how much he loved this woman, how much he cared for her, and how much he physically ached for her.
Opening her eyes as the waves of tenderness engulfed her, Deanna looked into his eyes now dark smoky-blue with his ardour, Will studied her, his admiration for her fuelling his desire. The depth of his feelings that she felt and saw created an ache in her chest. How she loved this man, a man that had come to her in her darkest hours and simply stepped into his place beside her as though he'd never been gone.
But he had, and it was her fault. Everything was her fault. She used to think that it was Will holding back before, but it wasn't, it was her. It was always her; afraid of being hurt again, or rejected again. Deep in her soul, she knew that that was not the case. Will loved her, he had always loved her, but she'd been too afraid.
And then she'd simply upped and married Jal. Deanna was too afraid to go to Will and give him the chance to pledge his love for her when she realized that her feelings for Jal were getting stronger and stronger, strong enough to consider marriage. Several times she had approached Will's quarters to give him the chance to ask her not to marry him; to tell her that he loved her and wanted her for himself, but she'd refused to let her heart rule her head, and within weeks, she was married, with Will's blessing.
And now she was here, right where she wanted to be in the first place, because she'd failed. She'd failed Jal, herself, and Will. But because he loved her, Will had let her step back straight into his heart and arms as though Jal had never happened. But he had happened, and she was consciously aware that if Jal hadn't become a part of her life, even though it was for only a short time, she and Will would still just be good friends. Close friends. The best of friends.
They were lovers because she'd failed.
Will watched the dark eyes that studied him fill with tears. His loving had slowed as he gently gyrated inside her, relishing the moment and the movement. He never thought this day would ever happen for them again, and he never thought he'd get the chance to go back. Unable to take his gaze from her, Will slowly began to move harder, watching with fascination as the hovering tears trickled down her temples and into her hair as he jolted her body against the hard, unforgiving table, gripping her thighs within his hard grip to hold her still as he steadily pounded into her.
He continued his rough thrusts until she cried out, her eyes squeezing shut as she struggled against the pains in her heart and soul as they collided with the euphoric pleasures that her Imzadi was creating for her. He quickened his pace as he felt an inner pressure begin to build, escalated by Deanna's tears and the overwhelming sorrow that robbed her of the magical feeling that she should be experiencing. Leaning forward again, Will captured her lips, harsher than he meant to, but she met him, nonetheless, her arms clinging to his neck, holding him to her as he loved her body, hiding her eyes as her tears began to fall.
Will felt the quivers against his torso, the tiny tell-tale shudders that told him that she was crying in earnest. Her mouth trembled beneath his and he desperately tried to kiss away her grief, plunging his tongue deep into her mouth, catching the sad whimpers that tore from her throat.
A moment later, Will tore his mouth away from hers and pushed himself up onto his elbows. Deanna's body shook with her silent sobs and her face was contorted with grief. It ripped at Will's heart to witness her loss and her pain. But still he continued to move inside her, seemingly locked with her body, unable to let go as though the devil was taking hold of his soul until the deed was done, prolonging the agony, tormenting her tormentor.
But eventually, Will came as his fingers dug into the soft flesh upon her thighs as he shuddered his release before dragging her body up into a sitting position, pulling her up hard against him, enfolding her within his arms, letting her spend her tears against his shoulder, and shedding a few of his own at having to put her through the ordeal of laying her husband's memory to rest.
Disengaging his body from hers, Will swept the weeping woman up into his arms and carried her into the bedroom. Pulling back the coverlet, Will lay her on the lilac sheet, took a moment to check on Danya, who slept peacefully in the crib beside the bed, and then slipped under the covers himself, never considering on returning to his own quarters, like he usually did.
They had finally made the move from friends to lovers, purely because it had been the next logical and obvious step. Will was here to stay and become a part of the family that he'd so badly wanted. Determined to put their lives to rights once more after he had kissed away Deanna's tears, and after they both had gotten some sleep, they would talk.
Deanna watched with trepidation and affection as Beverly cradled her son against her shoulder, tucking the nursing rag against between him and her, Will stood beside her, his arm casually surrounding her shoulders, but the motion was anything but casual, acutely aware that Deanna needed his support and tenderness, now more than ever.
"He'll be in safe hands, Deanna. Trust me." The vibrant red-head assured her, sincerity and sureness in her words. "You two need this time alone and you can't do what you need to do with this darling little bundle butting in all the time, can you?"
Deanna made to step forward but Will held her gently but firmly, his grip tightening just a fraction, reminding her that he was there with her and that she needed to let her son go so that they could do the talking and planning that they so desperately needed without interruption.
Will felt Deanna's form wilt with resignation, the puff of frustration leaving her lungs at the same time before her eyes focused on the child that she wouldn't see for two long days, unless something drastically went wrong with either him, or them. Will squeezed her quickly, moving even closer to her side and unconsciously, she slipped her arm around his waist, glad that he was there.
Planting a tender kiss on Danya's head, Beverly turned to the door and headed determinedly towards it saying softly in a sing-song tone, "Say goodbye to mommy and daddy, sweetheart, and tell them to have some fun. Meanwhile, you and me, little guy, are going to have a ball with Uncle Jean-Luc, aren't we, sweetheart?"
For a long moment the couple stared silently at the now closed door before Will took two quiet steps and come to a stand in front of the woman he loved, searching her eyes which were suspiciously bright as she seemingly stared straight through him at the door behind.
"He'll be alright, Deanna, you know he will." He said gently with understanding, moving both of his hands to her shoulders and massaging away the tension he felt beneath his fingers.
His voice broke the trance and Deanna rose her face to his, blinking away the pain that she knew he saw there. "I know. I just...miss him, already." she whispered with a shrug.
Will chuckled as he dragged her against his body, "Well, if I know Beverly, Danya won't be missing you, not for quite some time. I must say though," he added with a grin, "I'd like to be a fly on the wall when she plonks Danya in Uncle Jean-Luc's arms for the first time."
And as Deanna giggled against his throat with the amusing image racing through her mind, Will felt her tension melt clean away. Casually moving her away far enough so that he could see her face, Will said, with the laughter still in his voice, "So, do we go and make mad passionate love, Miss Troi," and then the laughter left him as he looked down at her with nothing but love in his blue eyes and asked, "or do we talk the talk?"
Standing on tip-toe, Deanna reached up and touched her lips lightly to his and whispered sensually, "Can we do a little of both, Imzadi?"
Will's face broke into a smile as he reached down and slipped her hand into his and turned her towards the bedroom and led the way. "Now that's my kinda talk."
Will sank into Deanna and moaned in ecstasy as he tipped back his head and gasped to the heavens. "Oh, God, Deanna, you feel so damn good."
Deanna chuckled, reached up and dragged Will's head down to hers and kissed him deeply. Now unable to move his upper body, Will gyrated gently against her, the minimalistic movement as erotic as any other that they'd done before.
Their bodies slicked with sweat glistened in the room's dim interior. Closing the port-hole shutters and turning out the lights once they'd said goodbye to Danya and Beverly, Will and Deanna had stripped naked and climbed into bed. For a long time they had simply lay in each others arms, content to just simply be together, until, eventually, someone's hand moved. And then's someone's foot dragged along a silky calf. And then a nipple was gently bitten, and then, together, they attacked each other as though they'd been starved of attention for eons.
Deanna tore her mouth away from Will's as sensation upon sensation tugged at her womb, creating an ache that began to throb inside her. Only one man had ever managed to elicit that depth of feeling from her and that man was Will. As memories crashed through her and as she crushed her face against his shoulder, her nails unwittingly ragged his back, Deanna struggled, and failed to hold onto her emotions. 'Why? Why? Why?' she cried silently. 'Why didn't Will love me this way before. What did I do wrong? What stopped?'
So acutely atuned to her, Will felt the change within Deanna again as he clung precariously onto his impending release. His back stung where Deanna's nails dug into his skin - not that he was complaining, usually. It all added to the moment. It all contributed to the intense depth of feeling that they both experienced when they exploded within each other, usually.
But not this time as he quickly realized that Deanna was beating herself up again. Lifting his head from her neck, Will studied her face in the darkness, unsure whether to make a big thing of her uncanny ability to shatter romantic moments, or to make light of it,
Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut, and unable to resist the pull of her tempting mouth, Will touched her lips with his tongue, tracing their delicate shape with the tip before gently placing a tender kiss upon them. "Deanna, honey, are you going to cry again?" he asked quietly, tenderly.
Eyes, full of glistening, unshed tears slipped open and looked into his. "No," she whispered, determination forcing her words to tremble and her plea from her heart desperate. "I'm not. Don't stop loving me, Will, please."
His heart melting with warmth, Will gathered her up into his arms, crushing her against his hard body and cursed huskily against her head, "Shit, Deanna, don't you know? I've never stopped loving you, ever, dammit!"
"Then why?!" she cried, as the tears slipped unheeded down into her hair. "Why didn't you marry me instead of Jal, Will? Why didn't you stop me? Why didn't you love me enough to marry me? What did I do wrong?!"
Will's body stilled. Even though he was still embedded deep inside her, Will rose himself onto his elbows and took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. God, he was suddenly angry, and hurt. "You, did nothing wrong, Deanna. I screwed up here, big time. Me, not you. You did nothing wrong."
Kissing away some of the tears and stroking her hair gently, Will continued hoarsely, "When you came and told me that you were marrying Jal, Deanna, I didn't know what the hell to do. I knew I'd left it too late for us, but I couldn't stop you. I didn't feel that I had that right." he explained with frustration.
"But I wanted you to stop me, Will!" She sniffled, unable to tear her face away from his gripping fingers, making her confront him so that she was unable to hide her face or her feelings away from him.
"Then why did you go ahead and marry him, Deanna! Why didn't you say something - anything that would have given me a clue??" he asked, realizing that his voice was rising. Purposely he dropped it as he asked another question. "Deanna, why didn't you come to me?"
Deanna's complete body deflated, Will felt it and saw it and an inner panic settled in his own. Realizing that his libido had completely gone now, he slipped effortlessly from her body and settled his thighs upon hers, letting her flatten her legs beside him, but he still held onto her face. This was clearly the confrontation that was needed before they could move on and Will was determined to settle it, once and for all, no matter who was to blame.
He asked again, steely determination lacing his one solitary word as the war to put their love to rights began. "Deanna?"
"Because I was afraid you'd turn me away."
Her devastating words shocked Will into silence for a long, tense moment. He stared into her damp eyes as though he'd never really done so before, stunned that the thought of him doing what she'd feared had actually ran through her crazy mind.
And even though Deanna had spoken her excuse out loud, Will still didn't believe it, or comprehend it and his voice was tinged with puzzlement when he finally spoke. "Deanna, do you really, honestly think I would have done that to you?"
Deanna's heart hurt with the pain that flickered through it as she looked deep into his soul and sought the truth and then found it there.
"Yes." she replied, the whisper falling from her mouth, sure and true.
Will swallowed the gasp that left his lungs as he continued to study her in the dimness, suddenly wishing that there was more light so that he could see her, and more importantly, so that she could see what her one simple word had done to him.
"You can't mean that?" he muttered breathlessly, forcing the words out as his pulse began to thump throughout his body.
Deanna feebly pushed at Will's chest and Will, suddenly needing to put some space between them, gladly moved away from her naked body. Pulling himself to an unsteady stand, he reached for his pants and yanked them on, the sound of the zipper closing was deafening in the taut silence.
Dragging the sheet around her body to cover herself, Deanna unsteadily swung her feet to the floor, bitterness and regret etching her words when she told him, "You seem to keep forgetting that I'm an empath, Will."
With his hands on his hips, Will looked down upon Deanna and for a moment, he was seeing her with different eyes. He loved her, there was absolutely no question about that, but sometimes - sometimes she just totally and utterly baffled him.
"Deanna, the one thing that I never forget is that you ~are~ an empath." And then, as though something occurred to him, a deep, troubled frown appeared upon his forehead and he asked, "What did you see when you delved into my psyche, hmm?"
Will stood upright and began to pace the floor before her before continuing, the remembered agony evident in his tortured voice. "Did you see the pain that was crushing me from within because you were marrying a man that you didn't really love, well, not in the same way that I loved you, anyway?" Relentlessly he carried on. "Did you hear me crying into my pillow the night you got married because that day, you had completely broken my heart?
Coming back to a halt in front of her, Will bent at the waist, leaning down closer to her, locking her eyes with his as he continued emotionally, "Deanna, didn't it occur to you that the reason I was deliberately shutting you out was because it hurt too much to keep you there?" He said, tapping his chest lightly to highlight his point.
But then Will reached out the same unsteady hand and touched her face, brushing away a tear that had gathered and fallen. "Imzadi," he said, huskily, "I love you. I wanted what you wanted, and you seemed to want Jal. Sweetheart, if you'd have come to me, I would never have turned you away, never, unless you truly wanted me to do so. All you had to do was say, or ask, or let me know. You could have hit me, yelled at me, or even kissed me! Any one of those things, Deanna. Any one would have told me what you really felt and wanted."
Will dropped his hand to her fingers and pulled her to her feet and added, "You could have just said that you loved me. It would have been enough for me to have come to you. It would have been enough for me to know you were sure."
By the time he had finished his heart-felt declaration, Deanna was within Will's arms, holding him close and her hands were sliding up his bare back, settling on his shoulder blades. "Oh, Will," she cried against his throat, "I didn't know! All I saw when I looked into your heart was emptiness. I was certain that you didn't want me. I'd convinced myself that Jal could replace you because you didn't care enough for me."
Reaching her face up so that she could touch her lips to his, she whispered, "But I was wrong, wasn't I? You cared so much for me that I left you no choice but to let me go."
"I was a fool, Deanna, a damned fool. But I won't make the same mistake again." he growled as he devoured her mouth briefly, plunging his tongue inside, desperate to feel the connection between them once more, before suddenly tearing his lips away. Cupping her face within his large palms, he murmured urgently, as he rained tiny kisses about her stunned, upturned face. "Marry me, Deanna. Now, today."
Unable to remove her face from Will's grip, Deanna could only offer a garbled, strangled, "What!? Are you serious!?"
Halting his ministrations, Will looked deep into her eyes and whispered, "Deadly. I want us to be married, today. Here, in this room, with just the captain, Beverly and Danya to witness it. No one else, Deanna, no one, and I'm not going to take no for an answer."
Feeling as though she was floating on a cloud, Deanna stared at Will with bemused wonder. Laughing nervously into his handsome face, it suddenly dawned on her that this was exactly what she wanted; things to be taken out of her hands, things that she secretly had wanted and craved to happen, just like that.
"Yes," she whispered, deciding there and then before sense could intervene and snatch her dream away. A fresh wave of tears threatened, but her smile revealed how she honestly felt. "let's do it, now, today."
Releasing the breath that he hadn't realized he was holding, Will crushed Deanna to his body, fiercely holding her against him as he became overcome with emotion. "I know I should have done this a long time ago, Imzadi, but I swear to you, now that I've got you, I am never going to let you go."
Deanna's heart soared. "I love you, Will."
"And I love you, Deanna." Will responded back, feeling happier than he'd felt for eons, excitement zipping through him as the implications of what she was telling him filtered through his befuddled mind. Determined to not chance anything else going wrong, he dropped a quick kiss upon her mouth and said urgently, "Let's go find the captain, okay?"
Grinning, she nodded and reached for his hand, tugging him towards the doorway. Frowning when she felt resistance, she followed Will's gaze to her lower body. "Ooops," she giggled when she remembered what she was not wearing. "I guess I'd better put some clothes on."
Yanking on her arm, Will grinned devilishly as he pulled her back towards him, tugging away the sheet as he did so, not finding any resistance to his bold move. "In a minute, my love. I think we've got some making up to do first, don't you?"
As she followed him down on to the bed, Deanna laughed as she reached for his zipper, tugging it down as quickly as he'd previously pulled it up, tucking her palm inside and embracing him briefly within her hand before pushing the material down his lengthy thighs. "I think I can spare you a few minutes, and then I want us married. I want us legal."
And as Will's mouth found her large and luscious nipple, taking it between his lips and suckling it gently, he growled passionately as he moved his face up to meet hers, hurriedly pushing his pants down the rest of the way with his toes and eventually off his feet, kicking them away with relief and settling his long and hard length between her legs, nudging himself into the welcoming, hot, blossoming cradle of her body, "Fancy making it a shotgun wedding, Imzadi?"