"Deanna" he could only breath her name as he stared at her from across the room. Her beautiful face stained with tears, her lower lip caught between her teeth to hide how hard she trembled. His quiet plea made her turn her face away, hiding her emotions from him even though he could sense them clearly. "Deanna, please!"
He made the mistake of stepping closer and reaching out to her, making her feel threatened and taking a step back. Will caught the corner of her right eye glinstering from a built up of tears; the crystal liquid rolling down when she blinked. Her slender arms she had wrapped around herself in an attempt at comfort and safety.
"I'm sorry" she whispered after a long silence "I'm so sorry Imzadi." The hurt in her voice nearly brought him to tears himself. She shouldn't be sorry, not for what had been done to her, or for the hurt he felt because none of it was her fault. *None* of it!
And he'd told her that so many times, just as Beverly had and still she was sorry and still she felt guilty and it tore his heart apart. "Dea please, let me hold you Imzadi."
Like the previous times his quiet plea finally drew her out her shell of shame and guilt, and albeit slowly and hesitantly, she began to cross the room back into the safety of his arms. He suppressed his sigh of relief as he reached out and pulled her against his chest. Resting his cheek on the top of her head and soothingly stroking her back with one hand while his other pressed her beautiful face against his chest.
How often hadn't they been in this position the past week?
But that didn't matter, because for some unexplained reasons it where these moments of shared grief that reminded him why he loved her so.
"Good morning Will."
Riker flashed his just arrived companion his patented grin and gestured at the chair across the table. "Have a seat." She did as he suggested and sat down, leaning with her upper body towards him as she supported herself with her arms.
"Where's that beautiful wife of yours?"
A shadow of pain shaded his handsome features for only a fracture of a second, but it was long enough to be noticed by Beverly. "She's in our quarters."
"She's been taking it pretty hard, isn't she?"
A mutual sigh escaped them. "I wish we could help her somehow, but I guess it returns to the ancient question 'who counsels the counselor'."
Riker gave no outward reaction, not sure whether he agreed or disagreed with her words. With his help he was certain Deanna could overcome the pain and insecurity Shinzon's violation had caused. And yet a part of him was wondering if he shouldn't coax her to seek professional help, there was only so much she could cope with on her own and the last weeks had taken their heavy tol on all of them.
Sleepless nights in wait for battle.
And Picard's clone. Perhaps that was the biggest shock of all, not just for the fact he existed, but for the things he had done, for the life he had led. And as unfair it was for Data, he couldn't find the strength to really grief for his friend. Not yet.
The soft chimes caught his attention enough to lift his eyes from the book
he was reading. "Enter."
It could've been anyone, in fact he expected anyone. Anyone but her. "Deanna." Whatever happened to Counselor? Perhaps he shouldn't have been as surprised as he was, but she hadn't been on the Bridge since the Enterprise started limping to the dry dock.
In fact he hadn't seen her at all. All he knew was that she, like the entire senior staff, taken several days off duty, but she, unlike the rest of them had more things to recover from. Topped perhaps only be himself, which was probably the reason she was standing in front of him at that moment.
"Captain" she greeted and settled in the chair across him. A counselor's visit, he realized when she called him by rank.
"Weren't you off duty?" He chided teasingly.
"I just came back on duty." The quietness of her voice reminded him, it reminded him what he'd asked off her and what she had asked of him. Only she had granted him answers and he had denied her hers. "What are you reading?"
"Something Betazoid, but then I guess you'd know."
She would, she'd left the book outside his quarters when he had returned from the Scimitar. 'A journey beyond self-existence' or so it roughly translated. Heavy reading material, even more so when translated, but since it dealt with the ethical question What makes you, you and not someone else? she thought it was appropriate considering all he'd been through. "How do you like it so far?"
"I'm only at the fifteenth page" the captain admitted slightly ashamed, "I get...distracted by my own thoughts." Other than he had expected Deanna chuckled slightly.
"It's the strength of the book."
"Why are you here?" Jean-Luc asked her when he realized she was waiting for him to break the silence.
"Because I wasn't earlier." He always hated it when she did that, make him breach the subject.
Now he waited, taking his time to consider how to say what she wanted him to say and in the mean while hoping she would speak first. "It's difficult to dissect what I'm feeling." He hoped she would understand; so much had happened in so little time he'd lost track of which emotion had been caused by what action.
But all she asked was "Data?"
Having been in counseling as many times as he, Picard recognized her method instantly and responded as she expected him to. "Guilt. Grief and loss."
"Friendship." The slight smile she gave him encouraged him and coaxed him to smile back, which he did.
"Gone." She walked up to him then and sat down besides him. Squeezing his arm gently, letting him know she felt the same way without saying a word.
The thrashing of a beautiful woman at his side woke him from his sleep, just like it had every night since their wedding. Tears were already streaming from her eyes with the same rate objections and cries left her throat. He knew from experience that it would be wrong to hold her, that that would only result in her crying across the room, and yet he couldn't stop himself.
Caught up in her nightmare Deanna was only vaguely aware of a warm body spooning itself against her back, strong arms wrapped themselves around her, preventing her from getting away. The horror around her intensified; she had to get away! Back to Will, back to safety!
Will tightened his arms around his wife as she started to thrash more violently in an attempt to get away from him, but he wouldn't let go, not now and not ever again. "Deanna, it's me. Please wake up, open your beautiful eyes." He ached to use their bond, comfort her with his mind but after what Shinzon had done to her he knew that nothing would terrify her more and so he stuck with speech.
"No! No, please, please leave alone."
"Deanna, snap out of it! It's a nightmare, only a nightmare. You're safe now; Shinzon and his Viceroy are dead remember?" He knew she hadn't heard him, but her eyes did open even though still glazed over from horror. His tears joined hers when her body finally went limp in his arms and she really cried for the first time, secured in his embrace.
Captain Picard was on his way to the Rikers' quarters with a bottle of wine to give to Deanna. They'd talked for several hours the previous day and afterwards he'd felt a lot better accepting what had happened. The book too had proved to be interesting material and he felt he ought to give her something in return. When he rounded the corner to the corridor at which his Counselor's quarters where situated he nearly ran into his CMO.
Worry seized him when he noticed that she too was heading for the Rikers' home and was carrying a med-kit. "Doctor?"
She recognized the tone in his voice and turned to face him after pressing the panel next to the door. "Deanna had a rough night." She explained flatly and hurried inside, leaving him at the entrance, stunned into silence. His eyes followed the red-haired Doctor as she made her way to Deanna who, he could now see, was curled up against her husband's chest on the couch.
She looked terrible.
He didn't think he'd ever seen her quite so haggard; her hair was in complete disarray and her face red and blotchy from crying. The relief he felt at seeing she was asleep was instantly followed by guilt. Finally he had the sense of mind to step inside and listened to the words his XO exchanged with his CMO.
"She fell asleep just fifteen minutes ago."
"Still the nightmares?"
The bearded man nodded slightly. "I was hoping you could give her a sedative or something. She hasn't slept more than a couple of hours a night."
Beverly nodded in sympathy and fished a hypospray out her med-kit to administer it in Troi's neck. "She'll sleep for at least ten hours straight now." Will gently pushed his wife away so that he could stand up and pick her up to carry her to their bed.
He returned a minute later and for the first time noticed Jean-Luc. "Captain?"
"I uh, I came to give this" feeling terribly out of place he set the bottle of wine down on the nearest table "to Deanna for her help yesterday."
"She didn't counsel you, did she?" Crusher blurted before Will had a chance to acknowledge the gift. Jean-Luc nodded helplessly. "Damn her, I should've known."
"How is she?"
"Fighting." Will replied solemnly.
The sole occupant of the holodeck watched the quiet rippling of the water around her; tiny waves of the liquid almost reached her bare feet but hit an invisible barrier and retreated. In the distance the water seamlessly mixed with air, giving her the same sense of infinity she got when looking out into space. Everywhere she looked there was water, a liquid so clear it reflected the blueness of the sky with a silver hue; the timeless waves calming her nerves.
She had stormed out the quarters she shared with her husband of a week and a half after trying to make love to him for the first time since...since Shinzon's violation. It wasn't fair to either of them, what had been done to her. The days of the wedding should've been joyous and sensual, everything but what they were now.
Now they hadn't even consummated their marriage.
Just an hour ago she had been so sure she could handle it, that her release the night before had been sufficient for to her to come to terms with what had happened. Will had been so sweet and gentle and had allowed her to lead, but when he'd called to her she had frozen and images of Shinzon and his Viceroy popped into her mind.
She hadn't been able to look at him, she couldn't bear seeing his disappointment in his magical blue eyes and so she'd run.
Why did it have to happen to her? Again.
There had been so many times her mind had been used by one entity or another and despite the extensive training she'd subjected herself to she still wasn't able to block intrusions. If only she'd trained herself harder, if only she were fully Betazoid--
Her thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the door behind her. For a second she thought it was Will, but when she turned to tell him to leave her eyes fell on her captain, his face contorted in shock. Did she really look that bad? Self-consciously Deanna wiped her cheeks and smoothed her dark hair away from her face.
"Captain." She greeted, ignoring his unspoken question.
"Are you all right?"
"I will be." A small smile encouraged him to sit down on her little island.
"An interesting program. Very..."
He grinned sheepishly and she could sense his emotions change from worry to concern and discomfort. "I-uh, I wanted to, to apologize for--"
Deanna swirled around to fully face him and interrupted him abruptly "Captain--"
"No." Picard told her sternly, his voice quickly loosing its harsh tone "Deanna, I know that I'm not him but still I feel I shou--"
"You don't." She was still looking at him, but now with a coldness in her eyes he had only seen a few rare times during counseling, the look that always told him to stop incriminating himself. "As you said, you're not him, nor is he you. I know that and so does everyone else on this ship. The only thing you had in common was your genetic make-up."
He had half expected her to add 'and a lack of hair' but she didn't, not allowing humor to lighten the tension between them. "Then why do I scare you?" He remembered now; the look of total horror on her face when he'd walked into Sickbay, and again several times there after, like just a minute ago.
Troi turned away from him, hiding her fresh tears from her captain.
"You're hurting," he stated quietly and came to stand at her shoulder, noticing the brief tensioning of her muscles. "If we're so different, why do I remind you of him?"
He feared the answer she might give him, she could tell as much, she could however also tell how important it was for him that she'd answer. "I hated you, in Sickbay" she admitted.
"When I refused to relief you of your duties." Deanna nodded in acknowledgement. "I hated myself too. But when you found the Scimitar and gave us the opportunity to fight back I knew I'd made the right decision."
"So did I." She turned to face him again, new paths of tears on her features. When he reached out with his hand she couldn't help but jump, causing Jean-Luc to jerk back.
"I'm sorry" he stumbled and turned to leave.
Deanna forced herself to remember that this was her captain, that all he wanted was to help her, the way she had him. "Jean-Luc!"
Picard turned at her call and couldn't help but think who had brought those tears to her and how. What he'd asked of her; to push aside her pain and emotions to help them fight Shinzon, had been right even though it felt wrong. And like always she'd carried out her duties and then a bit more. Which was more than he could say of himself; he'd frozen in terror when Shinzon had pulled himself towards him over the stake.
"Don't diminish yourself like that." Troi's voice drifted into his thoughts making him look at her in astonishment; had she always been able to read him with such accuracy? "No," she answered him again, "I was scared, not of you, but of your mind."
Picard could do nothing but watch as she drew a deep breath and clenched her hands into fists. "You're minds are very much alike; driven, intelligent, determined. To me they feel very much alike despite the obvious differences. You are compassionate; Shinzon was not. You have ethical and moral values, Shinzon only had goals; goals that in his mind were more important than anything else and that were to be reached, no matter the cost."
"I am sorry." For some reason her words didn't disturb him as much as he'd thought they would, but then Deanna had always had a knack for bringing bad news gently.
She hung her head sadly "I know" he couldn't stand seeing her like this, so sad and unsure of herself. As he'd said during his speech; he was used to relying on Deanna's calm and guidance during situations like they had encountered the past week and now she was the one needing help and the situation made him...uncomfortable.
Like he had so many years ago when she'd confided a conflict of interest in him he laid his hand on her shoulder. To his complete astonishment Deanna turned herself against him and began to cry.
"Dea? Are you ready?" The changes she'd undergone after her lengthy stay on the holodeck just three days earlier were remarkable; gone was the unsure and frightened woman, and although she hadn't completely healed yet he had his wife back. That they hadn't made love yet didn't matter to him and now that they were about to complete their bond and go on their well deserved honeymoon he was sure they'd overcome that obstacle soon.
But still he wondered what had happened during those hours to make her so much more...herself. "Almost, but there's something I need to do first." Will watched her as she left their -now- empty quarters, the flimsy blue skirt of her dress flowing behind her, he could tell by her tone of voice that there was no use in asking her what that 'something' was and so he continued packing.
Deanna made her way to the Bridge and waited in her old chair until Picard's new first officer appeared from the Ready Room and told her she could go in. It hurt a little to know that it had been the last time she had sat in 'her' chair, but she pushed it aside and walked into the captain's office.
She allowed her eyes to study the room one last time, knowing that she would probably never be there again. She realized there was a new photo frame on his desk and quizzically looked at Picard. He understood her question and handed her the picture. "He wasn't me, and I might never forgive him for what he did, but I realized on the holodeck that he was family." Despite the resentment she had towards Shinzon, Deanna smiled and put the frame back down, picking up a second one.
Her eyes started to water when she found herself looking at a picture taken on her wedding day; she and Will were standing in the middle, surrounded by their best friends. "As are you." Jean-Luc finished as he stood up.
At first she was surprised when he pulled her into a hug, but relented happily. "I will miss you." They said simultaneous when they pulled away. "See you in two weeks?" Deanna couldn't help but ask.
"I haven't been to the gym for nothing."
"Jahe'irü shoaul Captain; be well and safe 'til we meet again." Like she had done on a few rare occasions she quickly stepped forward and kissed his cheek, then headed to the transporter room giving the Bridge one last glance.
In the transporter room her husband was waiting with the most adorable look in his blue eyes. "Ready for our life Beautiful?"
~As ready as I'll ever be Imzadi~