~XIARA ESTA, TA FIRA XI~

~Home is where your soul belongs~

 

Finished at: 08-26-2002

By                  D. Destiny,

 

Paring:             T/R, P/C, T/s (s=surprise), R/f and lots of C/T (Friendship only). Plus I’m introducing some new characters (background) and there are some ‘cameo’s’

 

Rating:             Mainly PG-13, Chapters 16, 17 & 25 being the exceptions with and R-rating.

 

Timeframe:        This story is set after the ninth Star Trek feature: Star Trek: Insurrection. I’ve tried to stay true to the continuity as written throughout the TNG series and features, as well as the timeline written in the Imzadi-books by Peter Davids. Even though there have been instances where I have adapted those timelines to fit better into this story. The years in which this story starts is the year 2380

 

Author's note   This story I started with the intention to make it a short one but I I'm not good at staying true to my resolutions. No different this time. *Shrugs*

Beware; I’ve mixed up British and American spelling…and please keep in my mind that English is not my native language.

Dedicated to   Julia, for being a wonderful friend and my aunt, for she was the first person who has a totally non-trek background to whom I dared to show this story and who has encouraged me to continue writing. And of course the actors and actresses of TNG, in particularly Marina Sirtis, who together made each episode a pleasure to watch J

 

Disclaimers:      Backgrounds used for this story I have borrowed from the backgrounds provided to us throughout the TNG-series, as well as from the novel Imzadi I by Peter Davids. Some ‘facts’ have been either ignored or simply forgotten, I hope you will be able to overlook this.

All Trek-characters (introduced to us through either of the five series) belong to Paramount/Viacom/Gene Roddenberry, I purely used them for my own enjoyment and that of others. No infringement is intended.

 

The storyline and additional characters are the results of my own imagination and I claim all copyright to those.

 

Special thanks to: Bec, for doing the extensive, and I'm sure at times frustrating, Beta-work, Kathy and Gloria for encouraging me the way they have J And to Julia, who occasionally has brightened my days. J


Prologue

>Will, come in.< She still could pick him out a 1000 people, not that he knew that. If he had, he might not have told her what he was about to.

The Enterprise was orbiting Ryara I, a newly discovered M-class planet with a population of just over five billion people. It floated around a binary solar system located at the outer boarders of the Alpha Quadrant. The planet had six moons and had thirty-five hours of light during a forty hour day due to its two suns. Though the geography and vegetation of the planet itself was similar to Earth's there were differences. For instance, Ryara's grass was of the brightest blue, while its oceans were deep purple. The ground was white, which helped to keep the ground at a cooler temperature despite the sunlight. The sky was purple/pink during the day and deep blue at night. The sand along the shore was shiny and was made up of all the colors of a rainbow. The climate was practically the same on the entire planet. Snow only occurred one month a year and the planet had no ice-continents or deserts like Earth.

 

The inhabitants themselves had technology several decades behind the Federation and they weren't capable of warp drive at this time. Their social bonds were maintained by dozens of rituals which varied from one family to another and from continent to continent. The entire world had one Government, rudimentary laws and social values. Their communication system was advanced; using several beacons on the planet, they had developed a system similar to 'phone lines' of Earth's 21st century. The only difference was that it wasn’t made up of glass fiber cables but instead used special atmosphere heights for the transmission of their messages. Their cities were all bright and clean, each one of them modeled after the same design. The Ryarans had somehow been able to prevent air-pollution.

 

The Enterprise's mission was to obtain as much information on their technologies as possible without interfering. And thus Away Teams had been beaming up and down for over two months now. Captain Picard had ordered his crew to investigate the social structure and behavior of the Ryarans as well. They had built their ‘headquarters’ in an office complex in one of Ryana's southern states. 'Troi-consultants' was a psychology/physicians office. Both Deanna and Beverly 'worked' there. Their undercover job was the perfect way to obtain as much information as possible and the office provided a safe place for away teams to beam down and up. Deanna could pass as an Ryaran without trouble, as could most of the crew. Only those with blue or gray eyes had to wear lenses. The Ryanarans had all kinds of skin colors; normal, for them, was blue, green, purple and even gray. The colors of their eyes could be green, brown/black, purple and yellow. Just like their skin, their hair came in many different shades. Everything combined into a very colorful effect.

 

The Ryarans were a gentle yet hardworking race. Aside from their appearance there was no difference in status between males and females. They were equally scattered over different kinds and levels of work and both would take care of the children. Children...Counselor Troi had been struck when a girl only twelve years old had come to her for advice about how to ask a friend of her to 'R-kta' her, a rite that was equivalent to marriage. After doing some more research they discovered that Ryaran children are considered mature at the age of ten.

After two full months the studies of Ryara had been completed. A full report on their technology had been made and it was estimated that that they would be capable of discovering warp-drive in about a decade as long as their progress continued at this rate. Their social structure and laws made them a perfect candidate for admission to the Federation one day.

 


Chapter One: Attention

 

"All right, we’ll remain in orbit for two more weeks, after that Starfleet Command has a mission for us near the Neutral Zone." Jean-Luc Picard placed his fists on the table and pushed himself up.

 

"The meeting is adjourned." She sensed the shift of emotion from Commander Riker, he was disappointed, like all of them, sad but also sure of something and definitely up to something. She was a little disappointed as well, she had enjoyed her time on the planet fully.

 

The Ryarans were very open and free which reminded her of home. Will left immediately probably to beam down again. He had spend a lot of his time on the planet's surface, the planet had a calming and up-lifting influence on him...and on everybody else.

 

The Senior Staff officers left, leaving Deanna and Captain Picard behind. She looked up and smiled, she knew what he was about to ask.

 

"Counselor, I was wondering...have you talked to Commander Riker lately?" She couldn't hide her surprise, this wasn't a question she was prepared for.

 

"Uhm, well yes. Occasionally in my office and in Ten-Forward."

 

"Anything about the mission?" Much to her dismay, she didn't know what he was aiming at.

 

"Well, apart from the usual discussions...no, not really."

 

"Hmm." Jean-Luc frowned, she sensed he was uncertain how to proceed.

 

"Captain, is there a problem?" He looked up as if she was talking Klingon.

 

"Huh? Oh, no, nothing I suppose. It must be my mind playing tricks with me."

 

"Well, that happens more often to 'elderly' men." She was teasing of course, but Picard didn't seem to take notice of it. "Captain, something is bothering you." She looked directly at him now, her dark hair spilling over her shoulders, resting on the table's surface.

 

"I'm sure it's nothing Counselor." He refused to meet her gaze and bend his head down.

 

"Captain, I'd feel better if you'd told me what is bothering you before I have to try to figure it out myself, with all consequences of those actions." He heard the coy smile underneath her words. She kept throwing that sentence back to him.

 

"Look Deanna, I appreciate what you've done for Beverly and I, you really don't have to keep using that against me you know." Deanna leaned forwards and looked him in the eyes.

 

"Well, as long as it works..."

 

"Alright, you win." Satisfied she sat back and waited for his words. "I've been reviewing the transporter logs and I noticed that Commander Riker has spent more than twice as much time on the surface than anyone else. I wondered if he had told you anything." She was surprised...again... "I guess he hasn't." The Betazoid folded her hands on the table and watched them for several moments, then she looked up and spoke.

 

"No, he hasn't. I found though that some crew members are reluctant to return to the Enterprise, the atmosphere on the planet has and 'up-lifting' effect on them."

 

"I am aware of that Counselor. Did you sense anything from him when I informed them of our departure in two weeks?" He really was deeply concerned.

 

"Disappointment, sadness and certainty." She intentionally left out the 'up to something' part not even sure whether she had perceived it correctly. Jean-Luc was considering her words.

 

"I see." The slender woman laid her hand on her Captain's.

 

"Captain, I'm sure he's fine. The planet is bound to have a captivating influence on people, and besides, Will has always been a 'nature-man' so to speak." Her smile was reassuring, reassuring enough for Jean-Luc to drop the issue...for now.

 

What he didn't know though was that Deanna had adopted his concern. Will hadn't spoken to her, not the way he used to. A bit ashamed to admit it, she knew she hadn't really made time to see him. The planet with all its colors had been absorbing most of her time as well. Maybe she should talk to him and she would.

 


Chapter Two: Unpleasant Surprises

 

Another week had passed and she still hadn't taken the time to talk with him, something she felt guilty about every time she remembered she had to. And now he stood in her doors, confused but also sure of himself.

 

"Will." She gave him the sweetest and most comfortable smile she had, but he didn't notice, just as he didn't notice the dress she was wearing. Long, red, strapless and with a deep V; a dress that would normally have captured his attention instantly. It had been too long since they'd been together she admitted to herself, their relationship had been practically put on hold during this mission and now he was standing this close to her again she realized how much she'd missed him.

 

"Deanna." Her sense of him was confused and that worried her, he was definitely struggling with something but also not; she didn't understand. What she also didn't understand was that he hadn't hugged or kissed her yet, small actions that meant the world to her ever since they had rekindled their relationship.

 

"Have a seat. Can I get you something?" She stood up from her couch, the dress clinging to the curves of her body, accentuating them. Her long ebony curls spilled down her shoulders and back; but he hardly noticed.

 

"Uhm, a black coffee please." Deanna frowned at him 'black coffee?' that wasn't a good sign.

 

"Hot-chocolate." A cup of hot chocolate appeared out of the blue.

 

"Black coffee." She picked the two drinks up and carried them over to the table they were sitting by. The Counselor installed herself back on the couch and tucked her legs beneath her. For five minutes they just stared at each other. Will's mind was working on full speed 'How should I tell her this without being dubbed a lunatic. Do I deserve being dubbed a lunatic?'...'Maybe I do'. Deanna tried to clear her senses of him. The Imzadi-bond between them had grown very strong in the past year, but now she couldn't get a clear reading of him. He was in state of turmoil, yet he was very sure about something.

 

"Will? What did you want to talk about?" His head turned up, his hands reached out to his coffee and he drank all of it in one breath. Amazed by this action Deanna's dark eyes grew even larger.

 

"Are you alright?" She stood up again, worried something was terribly wrong. This time Will stood up as well and advanced towards her. As she looked into his bright blue gaze it suddenly hit her 'Oh My God, he's in love!' A strange thing, since they'd been in love for a long time now. But if he was going to ask her what she thought he was, then today would be a dream come true. He placed his hands on her waist, lifted her up and swung her around.

 

"Will!" A laughing and surprised shriek left her throat

 

"Sorry, I guess I'm in a rather cheery mood." He winked at her when he put her down. Her heart skipped a beat. 'That look!'

 

"Yes, I can see that." She threw a coy look at him and got one back.

 

"What, you don't sense it?"

 

"That too." He kissed the tip of her nose and dropped back onto the couch he had been sitting in. Surprised by his action her facial statement froze for a minute before she dropped down beside him, her heart full of expectations.

 

"Will you tell me what is going on?"

 

"I'm in a jolly mood." Her face grew serious when he evaded her question.

 

"We already established that." He grinned but aside of that he kept silent.

 

"You're also nervous." A sigh escaped his throat.

 

"Yes, that too."

 

"About what?"

 

"About...about what I'm going to tell you, about what I'm going to ask you." If he had been paying more attention he would've noticed that her heart had started beating faster with expectations...but he didn't. He gathered her tiny hands in his much larger ones but didn't notice the familiar feeling that fled through his body.

 

"Deanna, I'm very grateful for our relationship, I cherish it more than anything else." She could see the hope in his eyes. Would he finally ask her? He squeezed her hands gently now.

 

"But during our mission something happened inside me." Deanna held her breath, hopeful for what would come, 'I won't turn him down this time, not again'. Had he looked better he would have seen the hope in her eyes, he would have noticed she stopped breathing and he would have realized what caused her behavior, but he didn't, his mind too focused on what he was about to say.

 

"I fell in love all over again." He said it! It was out, no need to hide anymore. His heart felt a lot lighter now and the characteristic smile washed over his face once again. "With the most beautiful woman in the galaxy." 'Will he finally ask?'

 

"Her long dark luscious hair smells like Alaskan spring, her skin is so soft and silky." Deanna could hardly keep herself in check, she wanted to wrap her arms around him, feeling the familiar presence of him in her mind with this time the insurance it would stay there forever.

 

"And her eyes, oh my God, Deanna her eyes! They are so brown, the deepest brown I've ever seen." The Betazoid was trembling now, she couldn't read him any longer because her readings of him were clouded by her own emotions. But like before Will didn't realize the change in her behavior, for he was too occupied in his own thoughts.

 

"They matched perfectly with her grey skin." 'Grey skin?!' Was he playing around with her?

 

"Grey skin?"

 

"Yes, Lyana has this perfect grey skin, not too dark, not too light , just...perfect." 'What the hell?'

 

"Lyana?"

 

"Yes, oh you'll love her! She's so sweet and gentle. She understands me, knows me." He grabbed her shoulders now.

 

"I'm going to stay here Deanna, with her." This was going too fast for her, she couldn't keep up and pushed him a way.

 

"Wait a minute..." She rose her hand, indicating him not to interfere. 'You're not talking about me!?' "...Lyana?" He nodded like a little boy being asked if he wants an ice-scream.

 

"And you've decided to stay with her?" 'Who the hell does he think he is!?' "On the planet?" Again he nodded, even more enthusiastic than before. 'How could he do this?!' Will grew impatient, 'Why doesn't she say something? Isn't she happy for me?'

 

"Deanna? Say something. Aren't you happy for me? What's wrong?" 'No, I'm NOT happy for you! I want you HERE with ME!' Her heart cried out, but she was able to keep her feelings hidden on the outside. Had he remembered even the slightest thing about their bond he would have known how she felt.

 

"What about..." 'ME' "...your career?" She could hardly speak, something that clearly indicated stress, something that would have concerned him deeply, had he noticed.

 

"To HELL with my career Deanna. Look at me, sixteen years and I'm STILL First Officer on the Enterprise." 'Yeah and WHO exactly is to be blamed for that?!' The sarcasm rang loud and clear in her head but she concealed it from him.

 

"What about the Captain's Chair?"

 

"It's not what I want anymore, it hasn't been for a long time frankly. But why can't you be happy for me?" The sudden vulnerability in his voice struck her, made her feel guilty. Deanna squeezed his hand comfortingly 'Kiss him, do it now. Make him change his mind!'

 

"I am happy for you." She said instead. "I'm just a bit...surprised." With effort she managed to smile s silence entered the room to leave but a few minutes later.

 

"Are you sure about this Will?" 'Please Gods, let him say no, let him stay'

 

"Yes." She sensed the hesitation in his voice, she was relieved, but at the same time felt guilty for being relieved.

 

"But?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"There’s a 'but'." He sighed deeply and leaned back, ran his fingers through his hair before he spoke.

 

"But...BUT I have to give up everything I worked for in my live. My career, my friends. The luxury I'm used to, my job. Space battles." A grin followed. "Encounters with other species, Klingon food..." She smiled, he sure kept his sense of humor. He cupped her face in his hand. "...My friendship with you..." Deanna swallowed, 'Friendship? Was *that* all there was to him?!' "...That will be the hardest Deanna, honestly, our relationship is very precious to me." 'THEN STAY!!!'

 

"I know, it is for me too." 'CHICKEN!' She had it in her power to let him stay, she could persuade him to stay; she was sure of that.

 

"But the question is ARE YOU willing to give up all of the above for a woman?" She held her breath again, waiting for his answer.

 

"I am, for this particular woman I am." A knife sliced though her heart, splitting it in half. He hadn't been willing to give up all that for her. A painful realization it was.

 

"Then you must follow your heart Will, if you really love her that much." 'More than me' "You must listen to your heart." She couldn't believe she had said that, of all the things she wanted to say to him, that wasn't one of them. But then WHY had she said it?

 

"You're right." 'NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! I'M NOT!!! DON'T YOU SEE?!!!' "I'll resign tomorrow."

 

"RESIGN?!" It came out as a gasp, suddenly and harsh.

 

"Yes, I want to be with her." Resignation was definite, she would loose him forever. She couldn't let that happen, not yet. Fortunately her Counseling modus took over.

 

"Will, if you resign there's no going back. If it doesn't work out for some reason you will truly have lost everything." 'Maybe even me.'

 

"I'm willing to take that risk with her Deanna." She shook her head, triggering a surprised look on his face. "You think I shouldn't?" 'YES'

 

"No. But as I recall you have nine months of shore leave left. Maybe it would be wise if you used that time to find out whether it works between the two of you." 'That is the first sensible thing I've said since he walked in.' "You must not forget it's an entirely different culture down there." She gestured beneath her.

 

"What would I do without your advice?" 'STAY HERE!' "You're absolutely right. Will you put in a good word for me with the Captain please?" He threw her one of his famous, or better, infamous looks and she felt herself melt...but there was something else...very faint, but growing stronger...she was...angry!

 

Will bend over and kissed her gently on her cheek. She was in two minds, turning so that she could capture his mouth with hers or pushing him away? But before she could decide he was the one who pulled away. He traced her jaw line with his finger tips and whispered to her "Thank you Imzadi, for everything." 'IMZADI!? How DARE you!?! Have you forgotten what it means, have you forgotten what WE had?!' But she kept silent and endured his touch.

 

"I *will* miss you Will." Why couldn't she just tell him how she felt? Seeing her tears he gently wiped them away, not realizing she wasn't crying because her best friend would leave, but crying because he Imzadi, the only man she had truly loved, would leave.

 

"I will miss you too Deanna. You're my best friend, you'll always be." And with those words he stood up and walked to the doors that hissed open at his approach. He turned around one more time, standing in the doorway.

 

"Deanna, I would like to introduce you to Lyana tomorrow..." 'I don't want to know her! She's taking you away from me!'

 

"I'd love to meet her." She replied with her sweetest smile.

 

"I appreciate that." Will stepped back, into the corridors and the doors slid together, blocking her sight of him.

 

Dazed she sat in her quarters, her position remaining unchanged for nearly half and hour. How could she have let him go so easily? I could she not have mentioned the wonderful they shared? Why hadn't she told him she loved him, that she didn't want to things to be over between them?

 

It didn't make sense, after the Briar Patch they'd rekindled their relationship. Decided the love still existed between them and hoping they'd be strong enough not to let their relationship interfere with their duties.

 

The Imzadi-bond had grown so much stronger between them the past year and yet Deanna had been hesitant and cautious. When he had proposed to her three months after they were officially together again she had gently turned him down. Explaining she needed more time, more assurance that it would work out between them. And now, now she might never see him again!

 

Anger began to take over her rational thoughts. He had no right to just pretend to have forgotten what they had shared the past year He had no right to deny the Imzadi-bond it's existence, to deny *her* her existence, for without him she would be empty.

 

Deanna buried her face in her hands, her curls falling down in front of her face but the tears didn't come, nor did the fury for she was too proud to show either. He had broken her heart yet again.

 

~*++*~

>The time is 19.45 hours.< 'So what?!'

 

"Oh damn! Bridge Watch." She stood up and quickly brushed her hair. There where quite some tangles in it much to her dismay, so she gathered her hair and bound it together with a string of white satin. Just in time she realized she still wore the red dress, hastily she changed into her uniform and left for the Bridge.

 


Chapter Three: Betrayal of Heart and Mind

 

"Ha, Counselor, just in time." Captain Picard was surprised; Deanna was always a few minutes early.

 

'I could care less Captain.' "I apologize Sir, I...I had some work to do." The frown that washed over his face told her he knew there was something more going on than simply 'some work'. He rose his hand for a second, then dropped it back on the elbow rest.

 

"No need to apologize Counselor, you're still in time." She managed to smile back at him without showing her nervousness.

 

"There's not much to do for you I'm afraid. No goose-chases, no saucer-separations...no piloting." The latter, accompanied by a wink, was something the crew had been teasing her with for the last years, ever since the destruction of the Enterprise D which *hadn't* been her fault; confirmed so by the crew and by the conclusions of Starfleet's investigation. She had even been rewarded because she had managed to avoid casualties.

 

"Too bad Captain, I am in the mood for some action." 'Thank god, I need to think.' "Though, maybe I could destroy the planet...cause a war in the Federation. Then we'd have some action for several weeks." They both grinned at her idea, a totally ridiculous one of course, but part of her...

 

"True Counselor, but then again, maybe that would be a little too much of everything. Anyway, the Bridge is yours, we have no orders except orbiting Ryara I for four more days, have fun."

 

"Always Sir." She watched her Captain disappearing in his Ready Room, he sure was in a good mood lately. Her decision to play matchmaker hadn't wrong. Two more days...two more days and they would leave Ryara I behind and her Imzadi. 'No, he doesn't deserve that endearment, he has even forgotten what it means.' But wasn't an Imzadi-bond forever? But if it was, why was he leaving her? For no apparent reason she wildly shook her head, trying to shake the question out of her mind. She felt the crew looking at her but didn't pay attention to them.

 

'Could I persuade him to stay?' She was pretty sure she could, but did she want to? Was she willing to take the risk to of humiliating herself in front of him by begging him to stay? She though about it for a while, drawing the conclusion that she wasn't. She could perfectly well take care of herself on her own; she had done so before. 'But what if he *does* resign? I'll never see him again.' How was it possible for one person to hurt her this much?

 

During the Ba'Ku mission in the Briar Patch she felt totally right about rekindling their relationship and had decided to continue it after the mission. Of course she was aware of the influence the metaphasic radiation had had on them, but how much could that be? And when he hadn't backed off after the mission she had been relieved. 'Where did it go wrong?'

 

Yes where *did* it go wrong? Now that she thought about it, they hadn't spent much time together even before the beginning of this mission. Their away missions were mostly split leaving one on board and one down. During this mission it had been no different; when he would beam up, it would be her turn to beam down. That they all had spent many nights down there had attributed to their lack of contact as well. Maybe it *was* her fault. If she had welcomed him the few nights he sought out to her, if she had loved him instead of letting him slip in her bed and telling him she was too tired and than falling asleep on his chest, maybe then he wouldn't have fallen in love.

 

'Enough of this! He's not worth all this thinking and self-pity.' She picked up a PADD determinedly and began reading; she might as well work through 'her paperwork' instead of doing nothing and wasting her time.

 

After four hours she had completed twenty-four updates of personnel reports. Deanna stood up from her chair and pulled the satin string out her hair, allowing it to flow down her back and shoulders. She had decided to let it grow again after the Ba'Ku mission but it still wasn't as long as it use to be. Why Will chose exactly that moment to walk onto the Bridge was a mystery, but she was glad fate had picked that moment out of all the others. She felt a wave of familiarity, love and admiration wash through her but it disappeared just as suddenly as it had appeared.

 

"Hello, Will." She stood with her back to him. If only he had realized that, things might have changed. Deanna pulled her hair back in place and fastened the string around it while she turned.

 

"Ah, Deanna, condemned to take the Bridge Watch I see."

 

"Yes, sure you won't miss all those hours of doing absolutely nothing?" He didn't miss her coy look, but he did miss were the feelings underneath.

 

"I'll miss the company during those, but the hours themselves...nah I don't think so." The big grin on his face made her laugh, no matter how she felt, it always made her laugh.

 

"I assume the Captain is in his Ready Room?"

 

"He is...but you already knew that."

 

"The benefits of an advanced computer system I guess." 'He's going to ask for it now, maybe Picard will not let him go.' False hope, she knew that very well. If anyone on this ship deserved shore leave it was Will, she was painfully aware of that. Will walked to the doors, he was self-confident and full of hope. The doors hissed open and Will walked inside, ready to begin the negotiations.

 

Only fifteen minutes later he walked out, feeling satisfied and certain. She could barely keep herself from running to him, begging him to stay.

 

"I take it the Captain agreed?" She saw his eyes shining when he looked at her.

 

"Not yet, he needs to think about it." He didn't fear Picard's decision; after all, on what grounds could he possibly deny him shore leave?

 

"You're pretty convinced he'll allow you to go."

 

"Yes, I don't think there are any reasons for him to deny me my well-earned shore leave." He bent towards her, bringing his mouth near her ear.

 

"Unless, of course, the Ship's Counselor has..." Weakly she forced a smile on her face.

 

"Well Commander, you'll be in my debt forever after this." How on earth she managed to act so lightheartedly on the outside when she felt so desperate on the inside she didn't know, she didn't care either. 'Why don't you see?!' Will stepped into the turbo lift and Captain Picard asked her to come to his Ready Room. Even before she stepped inside she knew what he wanted to talk about.

 

"Counselor, have a seat." With dignity she sat herself down, crossed her legs and serenely folded her hands on her lap. 'Would Will have told him?' Patiently she waited for the Captain to begin.

 

"Counselor, Commander Riker has requested permission for a nine month shore leave." He watched her closely when he spoke, because she didn't express surprise he assumed she already knew.

 

"I assume he has talked to you about this."

 

"He has, Sir." She could explain by herself but because she didn't know how much her Captain knew she thought it would be safer to let him ask the questions before answering them.

 

"What exactly did you discuss?" Uncomprehendingly she looked up at the bald man across the room.

 

"Sir...?" It was half a question, and half an indication that he shouldn’t ask her.

 

"Deanna, I know that what you discuss as a counselor is confidential. But I have the feeling you didn't talk to him as a counselor." There was no accusation in his voice, or in his emotions. His statement was a logical one, she had almost never talked to Will as a counselor, she never could. She cast her eyes down, only to raise them a second later.

 

"No, Sir, I didn't." Picard slightly nodded and leaned back in his chair.

 

"I'm worried about him Deanna. He has been uncharacteristically distracted lately, in addition to the amount of time he spend down there." Jean-Luc looked out the window at the planet below. Even from outer space the view of the planet was a colorful one, the red clouds clearly in contrast with the purple/white/blue surface. "And now *nine* months of shore leave." Slowly she nodded, confirming his words."Nine months *is* a long time."

 

"You think it's too long?" She asked.

 

"Well, no and yes. He has earned it of course, god knows that. But it's so, unlike, Will." Again she nodded at his words. She owed it to him to explain, he *was* Will's friend, but maybe she also saw it as a way of getting back to Will.

 

"He came to see me this afternoon." Deanna made herself more comfortable before she continued. "He wanted to tell me something; the reason why he had spend so much time down there." She too looked out at the colorful ball below them. "I felt a bit guilty that we had spoken so little the past months and was glad he came to see me."

 

She felt no need to hide her own feelings from the Captain, at least part of them. "I sensed he was nervous, but also very sure of something." Jean-Luc noticed his confidant was nervous but tried not to let her know, knowing it would make her uncomfortable. "He has fallen in love with one of the Ryaran woman."

 

With her head slightly bend down she watched him for his reaction. Jean-Luc exhaled slowly, pressing all the air out his lungs. 'The Prime Directive, damnit Will, those everlasting hormones of you.' His first reaction he didn't spoke out aloud, but Deanna had a pretty good guess what it was. His second reaction however he -did- speak out loud.

 

"But I thought the two of you were..."

 

"Yes...no...I-- I don't know." The sadness that now showed in her eyes nearly knocked him off his feet. He was unsure how to respond and therefore opted for the most neutral reaction, hoping he wouldn't hurt her more by doing so.

 

"I see." He felt sorry for her, she sensed as much. Grateful that he didn't voice his regret she informed him of Will's intention to resign and how she had persuaded him to take shore leave first. "I owe you Deanna."

 

"So I assume you will grant Commander Riker his shore leave."

 

"I have to, I don't have any legal grounds to keep it from him." The Betazoid sensed the indecision in her superior.

 

"Captain. Even if you had he would simply resign. He's very certain about this." The man was grateful for her words. She knew exactly what to say; 'one of the benefits of being Betazoid'. He realized once again how lucky he was to have her onboard, and how lucky he was to have the crew he had. Friends, family, confidants and exemplary officers.

 

He was reluctant to let Will go like this; he had always thought he'd raise a toast to his First Officer for his promotion to a Captain's position on another vessel. Therefore he was more than grateful that Deanna had talked him into taking shore leave first.

 

He looked at Deanna and realized this was painful for her. She was clearly trying not to let her emotions surface, but he wanted to wrap his arms around her, comfort her like a father would comfort his child.

 

Everyone onboard the Enterprise was well aware how much the Ship's Counselor and First Officer meant to each other and they all had seen evidence of that love and affection occasionally even before they had become lovers again. She was beautiful and he couldn't understand why on earth Will let her go. In fact he was even a bit angry with him, like a father would be when a man hurt his daughter.

 

Suddenly, for the first time in sixteen years he realized the amazing parallel between his relationship with Beverly and Will's relationship with Deanna. 'It's a small galaxy after all.' Deanna noticed the shift in the Captain's feelings and wondered why he was laughing inward. Jean-Luc noticed her quizzical look and knew he had to explain.

 

"I never, ever thought it possible that Will would resign for a woman." 'Except for you.'

 

"Neither did I." 'Even for me' She replied with a grin.

 

'I wish I could do something back for her. She helped me and Beverly a great deal.' "Between you and me Counselor...I think that he'll beg us to take him onboard again after nine months." Deanna laughed at the conspiratorial tone in his voice.

 

"I bet he's even willing to be degraded to Lieutenant by then." She replied in kind, desperately trying to hide how much she hoped that his assumption would be correct. He grinned for a while and then turned serious again.

 

"So you think I should allow him to go?" 'NO!'

 

"Yes, Sir, he did earn it."

 

"Alright than, I'll allow it. Thank you Counselor." Deanna uncrossed her legs and stood up. She tucked a long ebony strand behind her ear and walked to the doors. They hissed open and the Counselor walked out, surprised that he didn't call her back in the last minute.

 

Jean-Luc was amazed at the selflessness with which she had handled this situation. If Beverly would pull a stunt like this on him he'd either kill her or try everything in his power to make her stay. Deanna o the other hand seemed to put Will's happiness above anything else.

 

On the Bridge Troi sat down in the Captain's Chair again and picked up another PADD, trying to continue updating the personnel reports. But much to her dismay she couldn't concentrate. 'Nine months?!' 'How would it be without him?' And if he did stay? Would she try to make him come along then? Would she have the guts?

 

The entrance of First Officer onto the Bridge interrupted her chain of thoughts.

 

"Deanna." He nodded nervously...apparently he wasn't so sure after all. In contradiction to everything her heart told her to do she nodded reassuringly and watched him walk into the Captain's Ready Room. Even though she already knew what the Captain had decided she could barely sit still; nervous about the outcome.

 

Only minutes later he walked out; self assured, happy and relieved. Energetically he walked up to her, scooped her up in his arms and gently kissed brushed his lips against her, triggering a homesick feeling in the pit of her stomach.

 

"Thank you my friend, for everything." 'NO!!! Fool! Don't you see?!' He put her back in the chair and left the Bridge without another look. 'How could he do that?! Doesn't he know how I feel?!' This was it; he would be leaving, there was no longer a way back.

 

Deanna felt like crying loudly and for a long time, alone in the darkest corner of this godforsaken ship! But she managed not to let her mask down, like she had all the years onboard. She swallowed her tears and used every ounce of willpower to keep her mask up.

 

When Picard entered the Bridge and relieved her of duty thirty minutes early she was surprised but grateful. He had probably realized how she felt about Will's decision; she sensed his compassion for her, but for the first time in her life she didn't care. She just wanted to be alone now, just as alone and deserted as she felt.

 

By the time she reached her quarters tears shone in her eyes. The doors hissed open and Deanna stormed inside, grabbed the first thing she encountered and smashed it against the wall. "Damn you Will Riker, DAMN YOU!!!" The vaze that had been the victim of her brief outburst of anger fell in a thousand pieces on the floor. 'What's the difference anyway' she though to herself, 'a broken vaze or a broken heart? Neither can be healed entirely.'

 

She collapsed onto the floor, her senses flooded with her own feelings of loss, despair, fury and sadness. Her petite body was racked with sobs. 'I HATE you Will! I HATE you!, I HATE you!, I HATE you!!!...But I *need* you so much!!!' Her crying prevented her from screaming her thoughts out loud, no matter how much she wanted to.

 

After nearly half an hour her crying finally eased down. Her ebony curls were stuck to her cheeks, caught in the trail left by the flood of tears that had streamed down her face. Her eyes were red and swollen, dried out and aching. In the palms of her hands little rivulets of blood trailed down to her wrists, caused by the immense strength with which she had pressed her nails into her flesh. Deanna Troi fell asleep on the floor, her hands still clenched into fists; her body and mind exhausted.

 

~*+*~

While Deanna slept Captain Picard informed the rest of the Senior Staff of Commander Riker's decision to take a nine-month shore leave. He hadn't told them the reason for his decision, since in his opinion that was up to Will. But that wasn't his main reason; he was concerned about Deanna. She had been so cheerful during and after the Ba'Ku mission and so had Will been as he recalled. He figured it would be more painful for her when the others knew exactly why Will Riker had left.

 

The Senior Staff officers had taken the news well, just the fact that Will would take a *nine*-month shoreleave had surprised them. They hadn't decided yet how to replace him although they all agreed that it was not necessary to bring a temporary First Officer onboard to fulfill Will's tasks. After the meeting Beverly had accompanied Jean-Luc to his quarters where they shared a late dinner.

 

~*+*~

"Does Deanna know yet?" She wondered how her friend would react to Will's absence. 'If only she knew...' Jean-Luc was tempted to inform her of Will's reasons but also knew Deanna or Will would.

 

"Yes, I asked her advice about whether or not to let him go for such a long period of time." Beverly frowned, that wasn't Jean-Luc's custom, but the feeling she had had during the meeting that there was more to it than a simple shore leave signified.

 

"And what did she say?" She wasn't going to let this go, he knew that the minute he looked into her amazing blue eyes.

 

"That he deserved it." Again the tall woman on the other side of the table frowned.

 

"And she agreed to let him go?"

 

"Yes Beverly, she agreed." A bit taken a back by his slightly angry voice she looked at him quizzically.

 

"Oh...wait a minute." A smile decorated her face and Jean-Luc looked at her in surprise. 'What's funny about this?'

 

"Deanna didn't happen to ask for shore leave herself as well did she?" Now he was the one with a quizzical gaze on his face. The redhead grinned at him mischievously.

 

"Beverly Crusher, keep your mind at home." His eyes sparkled when he realized what the dear Doctor was aiming at, but soon his face turned serious. "No, Bev. She hasn't." With a serious face herself she leaned over the table.

 

"Jean-Luc, what *is* going on? I have the feeling there's more to this than a simple shore leave."

 

'How can I possibly lie to those beautiful eyes?' He took her hands in his and held her gaze. "I'm not the one to tell you what is going on." She got the hint and left the issue for what it was, she'd talk about this later.

 


Chapter Four: A Meeting with Doom

 

Deanna woke up almost seven hours later. Slowly she opened her sore eyes; her body still twisted into the same position as when she had fallen asleep. Her entire body was aching; sleeping on the floor hadn't been good for her. With a great deal of exertion she managed to pull herself onto her feet. Her muscles protested to each move she made. 'Great, damn floors.' The Betazoid stumbled to her shower and got undressed. She bit her lip to avoid voicing the pain the movements caused.

 

Only when she reached for the panel next to the shower did she see the blood on her hands. 'What the--?! How did this happen?!' She pushed the panel knowing it would be easier to wash the blood off under the shower. The warm water ran over her tense body, easing her muscles and mind. Slowly she began to relax, refusing to allow herself to think about Will, Lyana, or the planet below. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the water cleansing her body.

 

"Computer: one five cc bottle of X'Ta." When a little blue bottle materialized just within reach, she grabbed it and poured its contents over her hands and body. The small lacerations in her palms stung when the soapy substance touched them but Deanna ignored it best as she could. Slowly and gently she began to spread the elixir over her body, starting at her ankles, working up all the way to her neck, covering every part. She washed the suds off and stepped out of the shower. With a large fluffy towel she dried her hair and body before she climbed into bed and fell asleep again.

 

~*+*~

Fortunately, when she awakened two hours later her body wasn't as sore. Her muscles were still stiff and somewhat painful but not as unbearable as before.

 

"Computer: time."

 

>1000 hours.< 'KaRa!' Forty-five minutes until she would have to meet Will in Transporter Room 1 to meet the love of his life, something she dreaded immensely. Deanna stayed in bed for another fifteen minutes before she finally got up. She climbed out her bed, painfully realizing that her muscles still were too sore to walk normally.

 

In order to get medication that would take the pain away she would have to get to Sickbay but Beverly would undoubtedly ask questions and the last thing she wanted right now was a full Cruhser-negotiation. So Deanna just washed her face and put on some civilian Ryanaran clothing. After that she eased herself onto the couch and waited until it was almost time to leave for the Transporter Room. At 10.40 she walked to the replicator.

 

"Computer: one hypospray of Diolamyne. Authorization Troi-Med-PHD-zero-one-Beta." She took the hypospray when it appeared and injected the medicine in her neck. Beverly would know that she had used it, but with a bit of luck she would be done with the meeting with Lyana by then. She felt the soreness fade away immediately and did a concentration exercise before she left to meet her best friend and the love of his life.

 

In the corridor on the way to the transporter she ran into Will, who was carrying several Ryaran flowers and wearing civilian clothing as well. 'God he looks handsome like this.' Immediately she kicked herself mentally for thinking that. He had no interest in her anymore, why should she be interested in him?

 

"Deanna, right on time as always." 'He is nervous, very nervous.'

 

"Will, is something wrong?" It wasn't like him to be nervous at all. He climbed on the platform and she joined him, seeing him like this reminded her of their little adventure with Cochran and made her smile.

 

"You think it's funny that I'm just as nervous as Reg?" She looked at his grinning face and had to restrain herself from caressing him.

 

"That's not nice of you to say Will." He didn't miss her disapproving look, nor the mischievous one. He shifted his look to the transporter chief who nodded at him in return. The lieutenant’s hands lightly touched the console and the familiar sounds of the transporter surrounded her.

 

~*+*~

Seconds later she found herself down on the planet in the middle of a park.

"Lyana lives about a mile south from here." She studied his face again, he was even more nervous than before.

 

"Will you tell me why you are so nervous?" His blue gaze met her dark eyes and then turned to the ground. "Will, are you sure about this?" 'Please gods, let him say no!' But Will took her hands in his and looked straight into her eyes.

 

"I am, Deanna. It's just...well, it's just very important for me that you like each other." Her heart literally melted in her chest and she squeezed his hand encouragingly. Abruptly she turned her head away overwhelmed and scared by her need for him.

 

"So, this way you said?" Will looked at her quizzically 'what just happened?'

 

"Uhm, yes, just follow the road." They walked side by side silently, Deanna drunk in her surroundings; the beauty of the planet kept amazing her. In the distance she saw a shining white house with two deep blue trees in front of it.

 

"Is that Lyana's house?" He looked along her pointed finger and she saw his eyes filled with apprehension.

 

"Yes, it's hers." When Deanna started to walk towards it, carefully hiding her fear and anger, he suddenly grabbed her hand and pulled her back. Unbalanced by the sudden counterweight she stumbled and fell down.

 

"OUCH!!! Will don't ever do that again!" She pushed herself up with her hands and Will's assistance. When she was standing again their faces were only inches apart. She saw his face coming closer and closed her eyes waiting for him. After two eternal seconds his lips gently brushed over hers but before she could respond he broke the contact.

 

"Still in pain Imzadi?" 'I don't believe this!' For a second he thought he saw something flash through her eyes something called 'fury'. But immediately afterwards a smile washed over her face, making him doubt what he had seen.

 

"Well yes, but I think Doctor Crusher will take care of it a whole lot better than you just did." Their coy routine had returned once again, and maybe it was better this way.

 

"Ouch." Semi-hurt, he placed his hand on his heart.

 

"So Commander, exactly why did you let me fall?" He raised his hand to defend himself.

 

"I didn't *let* you fall. But I wanted you to know that I told Lyana that you're my sister." Her brown eyes widened and again he thought he saw a flash of anger. '*Sister*! Just what do you think you're doing *brother*?!'

 

"Oh really? Is there anything else you think I should know my dear brother?" What was it in her eyes now? Hurt? But she playfully hit his stomach, causing him to forget the confusion he had over her statement.

 

"Well, I also told her that our father died when we were eight." As she cast her eyes down he realized how insensitive that had been of him. He placed his finger under her chin and lifted her head up, allowing him to look in her eyes. With his other hand he wiped away the tears that emerged in her eyes.

 

"I'm sorry Deanna, I wasn't thinking." 'Where did it go wrong Will? When did you stop caring?' The tears weren't for her father, at least not all of them. Just like before, her mask slid back in place and let her smile weakly.

 

"It's alright Will. What about our mother?"

 

"She lives on the other side of the planet on a small island." This hurt her even more; he had been letting out her demons but had kept his safely hidden. 'What other lies did you tell her Will?' She didn't voice the question but was very much tempted; how *dare* he use her father's death! Will had started walking again and dragged her along, growing more and more impatient as they approached the house. Deanna used every ounce of will-power she had to avoid letting him see how much he had hurt her.

 

They were standing at the edge of the garden. When Deanna reached out towards the door in the fence Will laid his hand on hers.

 

"I forgot to mention, she has a dog." She looked at him searchingly, he knew she loved dogs, so why give her a warning?

 

"Okay." She opened the door and stepped into the garden. Immediately a loud barking sound reached her ears and a second later a very large orange dog-like creature came running across the garden straight at her. "Will!" Her shrieking voice amazed even herself. 'A DOG?!' The 'dog' had reached her now and reared up on its back paws and placing its front paws on her slender shoulders, its head towering above her.

 

The weight of the animal caused her to loose her balance again and moments later she found herself lying on the ground with the orange creature licking her face with its red tongue. She pushed it off and quickly got back to her feet. "Don't you dare do that again." Much to Will's amazement the dog seemed to understand her and lay down at her feet. Deanna bent over and scratched her nails behind its ears.

 

"That's better." She straightened her back and giggled uncontrollably when she saw Will’s stunned gaze.

 

"Will, for future reference, dogs are not this big ok? THIS..." and she pointed at the orange ball at her feet, "...is *not* a dog, it's an elephant!." Overcome by his amazement Will replied, "Well, you didn't seem to be affected by it anyway."

 

"Do you know her name?"

 

"Her?" Deanna shook her head in disbelief.

 

"Yes Will, *her*. You disappoint me Commander, surely *you* would have known." 'What does she mean with that?'

 

"Hynda." She repeated the name softly to herself.

 

"Alright, so shall we go inside or what?" A broad grin appeared on his face and she knew she had said something very silly in his eyes.

 

"What?"

 

"Deanna, no one except Lyana gets that thing moving, and even she doesn't always succeed." The Betazoid shifted her gaze between the two and smiled victoriously.

 

"Hynda, what do you say we go inside?" Immediately the creature rose to its four paws and took its position next to Deanna, her head reaching Deanna’s midriff. Deanna caressed Hynda's neck and started to walk to the front door, with Hynda following docilely. When they were halfway there Deanna realized that Will was still standing at the gate. She turned around and sensed his disbelief and wonder.

 

"Well, are you coming or not?" He shook his head as if trying to forget what he just witnessed and ran up to them. "Men" She said to the dog. Amazingly enough her encounter with Hynda had lightened her spirits; she loved being with animals....well --she looked over her shoulder at the man behind her-- ...some animals. Suddenly the front door swept open and a slim figure walked outside.

 

"Hynda!? You didn't bother our guests, did you?" The dog barked happily but remained at Deanna's side. The woman, whom Deanna assumed was Lyana, had nearly reached their position. Deanna was struck by her appearance; she was indeed a beauty, exactly as Will had described her.

 

Lyana walked with a certain grace and elegance towards Will and kissed him tenderly. Deanna felt a knife slide through her heart as she sensed the love and desire emanating from both of them. The animal at her side shrieked softly, as if she had sensed Deanna's pain. For a brief moment, woman and dog looked straight into each other’s eyes until they were interrupted by Lyana.

 

"You must be Deanna." She managed a smile as she took Lyana's hand and shook it.

 

"I was a minute ago...and you are Lyana, I assume?" The grey woman smiled genuinely back. She was taller than Deanna, but not by much, two or three inches at most. Her deep brown eyes were soft and large; Deanna liked her immediately despite how hard she tried to hate her. 'Don't try, it's not her fault Will fell in love with her.'

 

"I hope Hynda didn't 'attack' you." Will answered before Deanna could.

 

"Well, they did end up on the ground." Lyana looked disapprovingly at her pet and Deanna felt she had to put in a good word for Hynda.

 

"She gave me a warm welcome." The other female smiled weakly back, took Will's hand and guided them into the house. Hynda looked at Deanna once again and if she hadn't know any better she'd say the dog was apologizing for Lyana's behavior. Deep in thought, Deanna followed the two lovers. 'Could Hynda be some sort of empathic creature?' The Ryarans weren't empathic or telepathic at any level, that she knew for sure. But did that count for all creatures on the planet? Some of Betazed's indigenous animals possessed some empathic ability, so why couldn’t that be possible here?

 

She looked down at the dog once again, she was actually quite a funny sight. So large and orange yet so good-natured. Deanna tickled Hynda behind her ears and then stepped into the living room. The room was rather large, just about the size of her entire quarters. Like the planet itself the room was colorful too. The walls were painted in several shades of red, the two strangely shaped couches were yellow and the accessories in the room were all the colors of the rainbow.

 

"Are you thirsty or hungry?"

 

"Well, I'd like a cup of Rak'Ta, if it isn't too much effort." Suddenly she sensed the feeling of thirst from someone else as well. She looked around and met Hynda's gaze once again.

 

"And a bowl of water if you have it." Both Will and Lyana looked at her quizzically but she pretended not to notice.

 

"I'll have a cup of your delicious homemade Stara." The wink between the two didn't escape her, but she refused to allow herself to feel the pain that it caused. When their hostess had left the room Will turned to her.

 

"And what do you think of her?" 'She's weird Will.'

 

"I like her, she seems a tender and loving woman."

 

"Oh, please do sit down." A bright voice emanated from somewhere within the house, causing an interruption she was frankly grateful for. Deanna sat down on the smallest of the two couches leaving the bigger one for Will and Lyana. Hynda hadn't left her side and stood beside her.

 

"She's very pretty." Will looked at her gratefully.

 

"She certainly is." Again she had the feeling of a knife slicing through her heart and again the orange-animal shrieked softly. 'I want to leave this place!' Lyana reentered the room carrying a large bowl with water. Deanna took the bowl and thanked the Ryaran who immediately went back to the kitchen.

"That thirsty huh?" She couldn't bear the grinning look on his face, the love she felt from him, a love that wasn't for her.

 

"Yes." She replied simply and put the bowl on the glass-like table in front of her. The dog met her gaze. "Go ahead Hynda." Eagerly she began to lick the water inside.

 

"How do you do that?"

 

"What?"

 

"That dog, what are you doing with her?" Part of her wanted to explain, but she didn’t.

 

"I don't know...maybe she just likes me." Before Will could ask her something else his lover returned with their drinks.

 

"Hynda! That's not polite!!!" Frightened by the sudden anger in her voice the creature almost jumped towards Deanna who had also moved away from Lyana in fear. The empath had been keeping an eye on Will and her senses told her that he was surprised and even a little scared. He was, however, the first to speak.

 

"Don't worry Lyana, Deanna intended to give the water to Hynda. She has...a way with animals." He explained. Deanna wondered how Lyana felt about all this and only now realized she couldn't get a clear reading of her. Deanna thought about this for a little while and came to the conclusion that she had instinctively blocked her senses of Lyana.

 

She lowered her walls and read the woman. The woman *was* in love with her Imzadi and the anger she had just expressed was gone, but she also sensed that the gray one felt threatened by her. She didn't understand this reaction since Will had told her they were brother and sister.

 

"Oh, I apologize. It's just that Hynda can be very brutal at times." She threw the dog a disapproving look and weakly smiled at Deanna. She took a seat next to Will and sought out his hand. The Betazoid cringed inside as the pair across the room shared a kiss.

 

"So, Will told me that you're an psychologist in Z'Kat. It must be a rather stressful profession."

 

"It can be...especially when certain patients refuse to talk to you." A meaningful look crossed the room between the two officers, a look Lyana didn't miss. Playfully she hit him in his stomach just like Deanna had done little less than an hour before.

 

"I take it this big fellow isn't much of a talker then."

 

"Oh, I could never see him as a patient. After all we are..." 'Imzadi' She swallowed her thought and hoped neither of that would noticed her hesitation. "...Brother and sister. It wouldn't be professional if I treated him as a patient." Will cast his eyes down briefly, knowing what her hesitation had meant.

 

"I can imagine."

 

"Lyana, I’m afraid Will hasn't told me very much about you...he tends to 'hide' his girlfriends in fear that I'll scare them away." Her voice was definitely coy but the underlying meaning was most definitely not.

 

"Well, I don't think you would succeed. You seem like a very nice person to me." 'Than why do I sense hostility from you?'

 

"Tell me, what's your profession?"

 

"Oh, I'm just an administrator; that's not nearly as difficult as being a psychologist."

 

'Taza' 'Deanna, shame on you! She has done nothing wrong.' 'She *did* steal your Imzadi.' 'Maybe you should have shown your love more than you did.' 'I have shown my love.' 'Even if you did, you can't blame her. Your Imzadi allowed himself to fall in love.' He shouldn't have.' 'Face it, he doesn't care anymore.' 'No! He DOES care!' 'Does he?' 'You scare away all the men around you; him, your son, your father.' 'NO!!!' Her demons overwhelmed her, and the fighting in her head became too much for her to handle; Deanna Troi fainted.

 

Will had seen the change in her eyes just a second too late. He rose just in time to see her fall off the couch. Immediately he ran towards her.

 

"Deanna? Deanna can you hear me?" Lyana quickly ran into the kitchen and soaked a towel. "Imzadi, talk to me, open your eyes." 'Imzadi? What does that mean?' The female placed the wet towel on Deanna's forehead and tried to push Hynda away who was pushing her nose against Deanna's hand.

 

"Hynda, beat it! You're in our way." To her surprise the dog growled aggressively at her. "Ok, very well, stay." She muttered.

 

"Imzadi, please, open your eyes." 'I have to get her back to the Enterprise. Beverly will know what to do.' "Lyana, I think she needs some fresh air. I'll pick her up and carry her into the park to let her come around."

 

"Alright, I'll get our coats."

 

"No, I'll go alone with her. She knows me, and I’m afraid you’ll only confuse her." Will scooped a limp Deanna into his arms, kissed his lover goodbye and walked to the front door. Lyana and Hynda followed them closely. When Will walked out Hynda tried to follow but Lyana held her back, pulling at her collar roughly.

 

"Hynda! Stay!" But the dog broke free and ran after Deanna. Lyanna was close behind.

 

'I don't have time for this!' "Lyana, it's alright. Deanna has always been comfortable around animals. Besides, Hynda seems to like her." Lyana nodded her consent and walked back into the house. 'There's something going on between those two...and what exactly does 'Imzadi' mean?'

 

Will sighed with relief. 'I'll have a hell of a lot of explaining to do when I get back.' He studied Deanna's face, she looked horrified. 'What happened to her?' When they were out of sight he put Deanna on the ground, and the orange-animal immediately pushed her nose against her as if to comfort her.

 

'What exactly was there between those two anyway?' Deanna had seemed to like the dog from the beginning, in total contradiction with Will's expectations. He found her CommBadge very quickly. He couldn’t believe that he had been foolish enough not to bring his own.

 

"Riker to Enterprise."

 

>Yes Commander?<

 

"Two, no three to beam up directly to Sickbay."

 

>Aye Sir.<

 


Chapter Five: Battle of the Mind.

 

Mere seconds later Will found himself on the floor in Sickbay.

 

"Will, what the hell...?!" Beverly froze when she saw the orange creature. "What is that?" Only then did she notice Deanna's lifeless body.

 

"Cusack, Alyssa, get her on a biobed. NOW!" The two officers reacted quickly and lifted Deanna up. "What happened?" Beverly glanced at Will before turning to Deanna and running a basic medical scan.

 

"I don't know...she just...fainted."

 

"Her psilo-synine level has raised by fifty percent. Alyssa, give me a light psilo-synine inhibitor." The Asian woman handed her the inhibitor and the Doctor injected it into Deanna's slender neck.

 

"Any changes?"

 

"Psilo-synine level has dropped to forty-five percent."

 

"Dammit! That's not nearly enough!" Beverly nearly tripped over Hynda and felt a surge of anger. "Will, get that...animal out of here, NOW!" Will was about to protest when he met Beverly's eyes.

 

"I'm sorry girl. But the Doctor needs space to help Deanna." He blinked in surprise when the dog seemed to nod at him and then headed for the door, making sure not to cross anyone's path on its way.

 

"Doctor, her heartbeat is rising as well as the level of her psilo-synine!"

 

"What?! That can't be!" Beverly rechecked the readings and briefly buried her head in her hands.

"What changed?"

 

"The animal ma'am." A deep sigh escaped her throat.

 

"Ok, bring it back in." One of the ensigns opened the door and Hynda rushed back in, pressing her nose against Deanna's hand. Her heartbeat immediately dropped. "Well, that's quite a medicine. Alright Alyssa, give me a mild sedative and twelve cc's of kryozine." Alyssa quickly handed her the medications and Beverly injected them with a five minute wait between each dose.

 

"The levels *are* dropping Doctor, they’re back to ten percent above normal." Beverly and Will sighed simultaneously. "Thank god. She's going to be all right, I think. There's nothing I can do now. She has to wake up on her own." Will nodded slightly and looked at his best friend lying on the biobed.

 

"Will could I talk to you for a moment?" Again he nodded and Beverly pointed at her office. She kept staring at the unusual situation in front of her; she had never seen such an ... orange creature. Even on all four paws it towered above the biobed, she thought that if it stood on its back paws it would be about her height.

 

And then there was Deanna; why did she look so horrified? What happened down there? Beverly Crusher shook her head and went inside her office where a guilty feeling Will was waiting. 'Why didn't I notice something was wrong sooner? I should've caught her.’

 

"Well, well Commander looking for a excuse to evade your shore leave?" Her attempt to lighten the air failed miserably.

 

"How is she?"

 

"Physically she's fine apart from two or three light bruises. Mentally...her levels of psilo-synine are still elevated and her neurotransmitters are working top-speed. What happened down there?"

 

"We were talking..."

 

"You and Deanna?"

 

"No, we were at Lyana's. I introduced her to Deanna."

 

"Lyana?" She hadn't missed the change in his eyes when he mentioned her name. 'Could it be?'

 

"She's a Ryaran woman, I met her shortly after the beginning of our mission."

 

"What were you talking about?" The Doctor crossed her arms in front of her waist and looked at him somewhat accusingly. Had Will looked up he would have seen it, but he didn't.

 

"Deanna was explaining to Lyana that she couldn't counsel me and Lyana told Deanna what her job was."

 

"Why couldn't Deanna counsel you?"

 

"I told Lyana that Deanna was my sister..." Why had he lied? The redhead closed her eyes tightly. When she opened them her gaze fell on the orange dog-like animal.

 

"What is it with that dog?" Will smiled slightly and looked at the duo as well.

 

"She has refused to leave Deanna's sight ever since she jumped on her. I hadn't told Deanna that the dog would be there, expecting her to be scared by it. But they were best friends immediately. Hynda listens to Deanna and seems to -understand- her."

 

"Did anything strange with the dog happen down there?"

 

"Other than the fact that she was extremely obedient to Deanna and growled aggressively at her boss...no. Though now that you mention it, just moments before Deanna...fainted she began to push at Deanna's hand, as if to keep her awake."

 

"Odd." 'Alright, this probably explains the increase of her neurotransmitters and even part of the heightened psilo-synine level. But there -must- be...' Her thoughts were interrupted by the loud barking of the dog. Beverly and Will flew out of the office and were standing at Deanna's side within ten seconds.

 

Deanna's eyes were closed but they could see them moving underneath her eyelids.

 

"No...that's not true...it isn't my fault...it can't be." Beverly and Will looked quizzically at each other. 'She's having a nightmare, but about what?'

 

"Beverly, she's terrified can't you do something?'"

 

"No Will, I can't risk doing damage to her psyche by waking her up now." She patted the animal on its neck and watched her friend in silence. Deanna was still murmuring and twitching on the bed.

 

"I couldn't help it...I did tell...I DID...go away...please...leave me alone! NO! I'm not responsible!" Suddenly Deanna opened her eyes wide and jumped up. "LAVEER! I DIDN'T SCARE THEM AWAY!!!" Doctor Crusher immediately pushed her back onto the bed.

 

"Shh Deanna. It's all right, your back on the Enterprise. You just had a nightmare." Frightened Deanna looked around, her gaze shifting from Beverly to Will and to the dog.

 

"Hello Hynda." Hynda laid her head next to Deanna who visibly relaxed at the presence of the dog. This left Beverly rather confused.

 

"What happened?"

 

"You fainted on the planet." Will stepped towards her and closed his hand around hers. "You scared the hell out of me Imzadi." 'WE'RE NOT IMZADI ANYMORE, YOU BETRAYED ME...AGAIN!' Hynda whined softly, but Beverly was the only one who noticed. Deanna smiled weakly at him, hiding her fury. But he *did* notice the darkening of her eyes.

 

"How did you get me out there?"

 

"I carried you to the park and told Lyana to wait in the house. Hynda here refused to stay behind."

Deanna smiled lovingly at her new friend and scratched behind her ear.

 

"Maybe you should go back, she might try to find us if we don't return quickly."

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Yes, I'm sure." 'Did I actually -tell- him to get back down there?!' "Hynda, thank you for watching over me. But I think we have to say goodbye now." The orange creature whined softly and tears formed in Deanna's eyes.

 

"Take good care of your boss and her friend okay?" Beverly almost fell of her chair when she saw the dog nodding. Hynda licked Deanna's face and walked to Will who was waiting at the doors. The women watched the duo leave.

 

"What is it with that dog?"

 

"She's empathic." Deanna replied matter-of-factly.

 

"Like some species on Betazed?"

 

"Yes. It is unusual though, since the Ryarans aren't empathic or telepathic at all."

 

"Is that why she listened so well to you?"

 

"Yes." The redhead frowned; the empath kept amazing her.

 

"Deanna you used a muscle-relaxant hypospray this morning, without asking my permission. Deanna smiled victoriously as her predicament came true.

 

"I knew you'd bother me about that as soon as you had the chance." Beverly kept her face straight, letting her friend know that she didn't approve. Deanna was not at all surprised. "I was very stiff and had to beam down. I didn't have time to stop by Sickbay so I used my medical authorization code to get the computer to replicate the hypospray."

 

"Deanna you know full well that..."

 

"My actions were irresponsible and against ship's protocol. Yes Beverly I know, but there really wasn't another option at that time." The Doctor kept her gaze on her patient's eyes without blinking for a long time before sighing.

 

"Alright, no charges pressed *this* time."

 

"Thank you."

 

"Now, will you tell me what happened?" Deanna turned her head aside, avoiding the Doctor's searching look.

 

"I can't." She whispered. "I don't even understand what happened myself." Just as Beverly opened her mouth to say something in return the doors hissed open and Captain Picard walked in.

 

"Doctor, Counselor...what happened?" Beverly stood up and looked straight into Jean-Luc’s eyes. 'At least it worked out between those two', Deanna thought to herself. 

 

"She fainted without an apparent reason; Will brought her back in."

 

The Captain walked to her side and leaned over slightly. "How are you feeling Counselor?" She managed to smile weakly at him.

 

"Fine Captain, just a bit tired."

 

"I thought you weren’t returning to the planet's surface."

 

"Will dragged me down to meet Lyana" Her voice was light and coy, but she didn't fool him. Deanna saw the question in his eyes and nodded in response.

 

"I see. I suggest that you return to your quarters and take the rest of the day off...unless the Doctor objects of course." He turned to Beverly and met her quizzical look 'What just happened between those two?'

 

"No, I don't. Your psilo-synine level is still a bit elevated but it's nothing dangerous. If you need any medication you *will* come to Sickbay Deanna Troi" She playfully hit her friend on her arm when Deanna hopped off the biobed.

 

"I *will* Doctor." She replied in kind. "You might want to give me some painkillers for my arm right away." Deanna tried to keep her face serious but failed miserably; the two women laughed loudly. When they were finished Deanna headed for the door.

 

"Well, Captain, it's good that you're here. Now I can run your physical right away." The couple heard Deanna's laugh as she walked out Sickbay.

 

"What is going on Jean-Luc?" Beverly had turned serious again, she was concerned about her friend. Jean-Luc felt terrible about not being able to tell her.

 

"As I said, I'm not the one to tell you."

 

"I don't like it if people are keeping secrets from me, especially not when it concerns a friend and in this case also a patient of mine." He kissed her on the tip of her nose.

 

"I'm sorry." He lowered his attention.

 

"Don't think I'll forget about your physical Captain." She murmured against his lips.

~*+*~

The first thing Deanna did when she was in her quarters was to order a hot chocolate. As the warm liquid flooded through her body she relaxed bit by bit. She put the mug in the recycler and walked to her bathroom. There she undressed and put on a nightgown. She picked up her hairbrush and gently brushed the tangles out her hair. Finally she stepped into bed and tucked herself in. Almost immediately she fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

 


Chapter Six: Blood of the Soul

 

Several hours later the sound of the door chimes awakened her. 'Will, darn.' She couldn't just ignore him, she was painfully aware of that. Talk about pain…' Her hands were aching; she looked down at them and felt terror flood through her as she realized they were bleeding...heavily. Almost her entire hands and wrists were covered in blood. 'What happened?' The door chimes penetrated her ears. 'I can't let him see this!'

 

"Just a moment Will!" She heard his body colliding against the doors and quickly walked to her wash table to clean the blood off. Fortunately she got her hands clean quickly, but the little wounds were still bleeding.

 

"Computer; two blood restraining gloves." She grabbed the gloves out of thin air and slid her hands in. 'Damnit, my nightgown!' 'This day is going just great.'

 

"Deanna?"

 

"Just a sec. Will!" Quickly she pulled a clean gown out her closet and slid into it. Then she walked to the doors and opened them. Will stumbled in; apparently he had been leaning against them and hadn't counted on her opening them.

 

"Well, that's one way to enter a lady's quarters." Grinning, he looked up.

 

"I woke you, didn't I?" The Betazoid crossed her arms in front of her and looked at him accusingly.

 

"Yes you did." His eyes fell on her gloves and he advanced towards her to take her hands into his.

 

"Why on earth are you wearing those?" 'Good question...how will I explain?'

 

"I, uhh, I wanted to run an icy-holoprogram." 'What a lousy excuse!'

 

"In your nightgown?"

 

"Well...no, I just wanted to see if they still fit." He looked at her in disbelief and obviously didn't believe a word of what she was saying.

 

"Deanna, hands don't grow."

 

"I know that. So, were you able to explain things to Lyanna?" Normally an attempt like that to change the subject wouldn't have worked, but things weren't normal now.

 

"I think so, I told her that I took you home to rest."

 

"Well, that isn't a lie, is it." Will realized that she meant something more to that, but he didn't get it.

 

"No it isn't. So, how are you feeling?"

 

"Fine, rested." 'Furious!'

 

"Have you figured out what happened down there?" Was he really concerned about her, or was he just making sure it wasn't his fault?

 

"No, but I guess I should've eaten something before beaming down." Disapprovingly he shook his head.

 

"Deanna, Deanna you know very well that you can't work on an empty stomach." His patronizing voice was too much for her and for a moment she let her mask down.

 

"Don't you *DARE* talk to me like that! I -can- take care of myself Will Riker!" Scared by her seemingly sudden fury he backed off.

 

"Hey, take it easy!" Her eyes shot fire when they met his but softened in the very same second.

 

"I'm sorry..." 'NO I'M NOT!' "...you just sounded a bit too much like my mother."

 

"Oh...I'm sorry for that." He couldn’t think of what else to say. "I actually dropped by to see if you were coming to the poker game tonight. It's sort of a farewell party." The pain was clearly visible in her eyes, but he didn't look. Like before Deanna managed a bittersweet smile.

 

"A hundred Klingons couldn't keep me away."

 

"Really? I might want to test that." 'How can he act so damn light?'

 

"Will, I have some work to do...I'll see you at the poker game alright." He tried to catch her eyes, but she evaded his gaze hastily.

 

"Alright, I'll see you then." Will Riker left her quarters without once looking back. If things had been normal, her behavior would have more than worried him...*had* things been normal. Deanna felt tears sting in her eyes, but they didn't come and they wouldn't. She promised herself that she wouldn’t cry.

 

She pulled the gloves off and inspected her hands. The small but deep wounds were still bleeding; when she washed the blood away she saw the shapes of her nails imprinted in her flesh. The warm water made her cry out in pain. 'Well, back to work then.' She sat down behind her desk and began working through the incredibly high mountain of PADDS on her desk.

 

>Crusher to Troi; Deanna, are you going to Mok'Ba'Rah class?<

 

"Yes, why?"

 

>Because you were supposed to meet me at the Holodeck 5 minutes ago.<

 

"O damnit! Sorry, I forgot." She heard her friend laughing on the other side of the comm.

 

>Don't worry.<

 

"I'll be there right away." Deanna stood up abruptly, colliding against the table in her hurry. The mountain began to totter and despite her attempts to keep it standing PADDS fell everywhere.

"Oh forget it! Computer: One Mok'Ba'Rah outfit." Troi put on the white outfit and headed to the Holodeck.

~*+*~

"I'm terribly sorry Beverly."

 

"No need to apologize, it happens to the best of us." Deanna frowned and followed her friend into the Holodeck. She couldn’t avoid noticing the doctor’s flushed cheeks.

 

"I assume the Captain's physical went pretty well." Instantly Beverly turned around and looked straight into her friend's laughing face, causing her cheeks to become even redder.

 

"Yes, he's in perfect physical health...and condition." They both broke down in a fit of giggles. "Thank you so much for bringing us together Deanna."

 

"Hey, I have to do something to earn my shore leave, don't I?" Sheepishly Beverly looked at the Betazoid who appeared to be dead serious.

 

"What?"

 

"My shore leave. Now that you two will go together there will be more space for me to pick from. Besides, the Captain promised me four extra months." The redhead let her eyes slide close and bent her head for a second.

 

"Let's just start our exercises, all right? We've already lost ten minutes because of a certain Betazoid psychologist."

 

"Oh yeah, just keep using it against me." Deanna acted as if she was almost hurt, something Beverly immediately picked up on.

 

"It's the first time I used it against you." She saw Deanna thinking about that and quickly added, "But it will certainly *not* be the last Counselor." The taller woman quickly began her exercises before the smaller one could reply. Muttering something to herself Deanna stepped next to Beverly and synchronized her movements with the ones of the woman next to her, carefully keeping the insides of her hands out of sight.

 

They both worked hard and were deeply concentrating. Though Neither of them was actually concentrating on the exercises at hand. Suddenly a loud sigh broke through the silence and the Counselor let her arms fall alongside her body.

 

"That's it, I give up." Startled and not understanding the Doctor straightened her back and watched Deanna walk to a bench against the wall.

 

"Exactly *what* do you give up?"

 

"Doing my exercises today." Beverly frowned, very obviously confused.

 

"I can't concentrate, it must be a consequence of my black out earlier." It sure sounded logical, didn't it? The redhead was about to say something in return but Deanna cut her off.

 

"Oh no, don't you dare lecture me, Beverly Crusher; you weren't exactly concentrating either." Her cheeks flushed immediately at the realization of what the empath had picked up.

 

"All right, I admit it: I'm guilty; so sue me." The Doctor raised her hands and let them fall down, indicating her surrender. A smile washed over the Betazoid's delicate features; sessions like these with her best friend always had a good influence on her and lightened her mood.

 

"Hand me a towel will you?" For a brief moment Deanna let her down guard as she passed her the towel; she left her palm turned upwards when Beverly pulled the towel away. Her eyes caught the four dark lacerations before Deanna could turn her hand down. Beverly leaned forward to grab her friend’s injured hand, carelessly tossing her towel onto the floor.

 

"Deanna what the hell happened?!" Her gaze didn't reveal anything, it just shifted from her hand to the blue eyes of the woman in front of her and back; looking at the hand as if it was someone else's. "These lacerations were caused by your nails! I want an explanation for that young lady." She was in trouble; Beverly only used that endearment when she was *really* angry with her. Nonetheless Deanna couldn't help laughing.

 

"Young? Which exactly makes you...?"

 

"Damnit Deanna I'm serious! What is this?" Roughly she lifted her hand up. "Some kind of self punishment?!" 'And exactly how -am- I going to explain this?' She stared into the blue gaze of the CMO, buying herself some time.

 

"I, uh, I'm not sure really. I suppose I was clenching my fists during a nightmare or something." 'The last days have been a nightmare after all, just one that won't end.'

 

"The other one, is it just as bad?" Docilely she showed her other hand as well. "Oh, terrific." The sarcasm was tangible. "Tell me again: WHY didn't you come to Sickbay?"

 

"I haven't had the time yet."

 

"That's BULL Deanna and you know it!" She bent her head, causing ebony tendrils to fall down and partially cover her face. Silently she agreed with Beverly's words.

 

'I shouldn't have been so harsh on her. But she *should've* come to Sickbay. She knows full well that all injuries have to be reported.' "Let's go to Sickbay and heal those nasty wounds. They must be rather painful." Her anger had slipped away for the most part and was replaced with concern. Deanna nodded slowly; she only now realized just how much they hurt. Apparently she had instinctively closed her mind to the pain.

 

~*+*~

In Sickbay Beverly cleaned the wounds and healed them as best as she could. "I can't heal them entirely; the last part will have to heal on its own." Her dark hair spilled around her shoulders when she nodded at her Doctor once again. The Counselor hopped off the biobed for the second time that day and thanked Beverly.

 

"Just don't let it happen again." Her voice was strict yet friendly; a trait she had always appreciated and admired in her friend.

 

"I won't." She gave the redhead a reassuring smile and left.

 


Chapter Seven: Challenge of Consciousness

 

Deanna went to the Holodeck; she had three hours left before the poker game would begin and she refused to allow herself the time to think about him. She initiated a nature program. The Betazoid climbed onto a Rytax the Betazoid version of a horse. This one was very large and black and reminded her of the one she had back home. She had been riding ever since she was a little girl and used the Holodeck to keep in practice. Unfortunately, the Holodeck horses weren't telepathic like the real ones so she returned home every chance she got just to ride her mother's horses.

 

She rode bareback and enjoyed the feeling of the wind blowing through her hair immensely. But although the fences demanded her full attention her mind slipped to Will. Deanna drove the horse harder; trying to get Will out her mind. Tears streamed down her cheeks again and she kept driving the horse harder. But still Will was in her mind.

 

"Computer: create a rainstorm; level nine ." The sky immediately darkened and the first drops of water started to fall. The setting was beautiful; the path she rode ran along a large river, over several hills, through a forest and eventually along the shore of a sea. It was raining heavily now; the material of her uniform had already soaked through to her shoulders and her tears had merged with the raindrops on her face. And though she had to keep focused to be able to see the fences in time she still couldn't get him out her mind. His words sounded through her psyche and kept repeating over and over.

 

///I want to be with her. I'm willing to take that risk with her Deanna. I'm going to stay here Deanna, with her.\\\

 

"NO!!!" They had reached the shore now and she let the horse run through the water at his top speed before driving him back to the field with fences. She paused for a while, letting the rain fall down on her. The Counselor was completely soaked now; there wasn't a dry inch left on her body. She tucked a wet strand of ebony hair behind her ears.

 

"Computer: security guards off. Authorization: Troi-Delta-Alfa-01."

 

>Security Guards are offline.< Troi didn’t notice the warning that the ship's CMO would be informed if the security guards remained offline for more than thirty minutes. She took the fences carefully at first, knowing she could get seriously injured if she fell. But she hadn't fallen off of a horse in a long time and soon became more confident and restless.

 

When all fences remained untouched even at the fastest speed and Will's image and words were still spinning through her mind she ordered the computer to increase the height of the fences by ten centimeters. The fences were now at a level safe only for the most advanced riders. The rain and her fury made them even more dangerous but she went after them anyway. Her wet hair hung straight down, almost reaching the small of her back. It clung to her uniform and cheeks but Deanna couldn't risk letting go of the horse with one hand to push her hair aside.

 

~*+*~

>Warning: the safeguards of Holodeck 1 have been offline for thirty minutes.<

 

"What the he*l? Computer: identify person in Holodeck 1." The Doctor stood tapping her foot as she awaited the answer.

 

>Counselor Deanna Troi is in Holodeck 1.< 'Damnit, what's wrong with her today?!'

 

"Alyssa, take over for a while will you? I have something to take care of."

 

"Yes, Doctor." Beverly left Sickbay with her mind rolling with emotions.

 

~*+*~

Deanna increased the height of the barriers again by ten centimeters and prepared herself to jump the barriers again, urging the horse on. The takeoff was perfect and they flew over the first barrier without touching it. The second barrier went perfectly as well, as did the third...and the fourth. The fifth was no exception, nor was the sixth, seventh or eighth. After the twelfth barrier was defeated the round was complete and Deanna allowed herself and the horse a couple minutes of rest before increasing the barriers by another 10 centimeters.

 

~*+*~

The second Beverly entered the Holodeck she felt the rain pouring down on her. 'Oh fantastic.'

 

"Computer: cease the damn rain shower." The irritating raindrops immediately disappeared. "That's better; now let's see what Deanna is doing." Beverly climbed up the small hill in front of her and looked around. Her gaze was instantly drawn to the large black animal.

 

Momentarily stunned by its incredible speed she approached the open area. She saw Deanna’s soaked figure and watched her with interest. 'Boy, she sure can ride! Why didn't I know that?' But when she realized which barrier Deanna intended to jump a scream of horror slipped from her throat.

 

"DEANNA! DON'T!" But the Betazoid was too focused to hear her friend’s cries. Beverly's cry was followed by a gasp of relief when they jumped safely over it; the horse only hit the top with its hind legs. But when she saw Deanna steering the horse for the next, much more dangerous looking barrier she ran down.

 

"DEANNA! STOP!!!" Still Deanna didn't hear her; the horse however did and abruptly stopped.

 

"SamaRa?!!" A surprised curse slipped from the Betazoid's throat. Unprepared for the halt Deanna flew forward and landed roughly on the ground. Beverly froze, unable to move as she watched the accident unfold before her eyes.

 

"OUCH!" Only when Deanna's cry reached her ears did she begin to run down. By the time she reached her, the Betazoid was already trying to get back on her feet.

 

"Deanna, are you all right?"

 

"Yes, just some bruises I think." The smaller woman was standing on her feet again, leaning against a tree.

 

"My wrist is a little sore though." The Doctor reached for her tricorder and quickly scanned her friend.

 

"It's broken." Deanna raised her eyebrows and looked at her wrist, which indeed was in a pretty unusual position.

 

"Where's His Highness?" She looked around her, shifting her gaze across their surroundings.

 

"His Highness?"

 

"The horse."

 

"Oh...come on, let's get you to Sickbay."

 

"But..."

 

"It's Holodeck program; he won't get away." A short laugh escaped from her throat as she followed the red-haired Doctor.

 

"Computer: save and end program." While they were walking through the corridors Deanna was very much aware of how...unusual she looked. Her hair was still dripping from the rain and she was pretty sure she left a wet track behind.

 

Deanna sensed Beverly's emotions quite clear; she was angry, concerned but also curious. Knowing her friend she would undoubtedly get a little lecture about taking responsibility and she would have to answer *some* questions, but she didn't really care.

 

When the arrived in Sickbay Beverly guided her to a private room where Deanna hopped onto the biobed and patiently let the Doctor treat her.

 

"The fracture is healed, but you cannot use your left hand and wrist for at least two days." Deanna nodded her agreement; she hadn't expected otherwise. Next the Doctor inspected the empath's hands. "Terrific Counselor; now I need to clean this again." Knowing that Beverly wasn't really angry with her Deanna restrained from replying.

 

"Deanna, why on Earth did you call that horse 'His Highness'?" It's wasn't exactly the question she had been expecting but she couldn't think of an easier one.

 

"To bug Mother." The CMO frowned in confusion. "I got him as a colt before I met Will. Mother was desperately trying to find me a husband at the time which was really annoying and embarrassing."

 

"I can imagine that. But that means the he's more then thirty years old." Deanna understood why her friend was amazed.

 

"Rytaxes, a Betazed horse race, are known for their long lives; they usually live fifty till sixty years."

 

"All right; but why the name?" A smile washed over her face and she chuckled quietly at her memory.

 

"I had taken the foal home without asking for permission; Mother was, and still is, very proud of her stables ad wishes to judge each horse herself before allowing it into the stables." Beverly was surprised, she hadn’t known that they had stables.

 

"Anyway, I came home after a date which Mother had set up. She asked me how it went and I told her that the date had...sucked but that I met a really sweet male on my way home."

 

"Couldn't she tell you were lying?"

 

"I wasn't lying, so no, she couldn't. Naturally she began to question me. I told he was royalty; very handsome and understanding. 'When am I going to meet him?' she asked, so I snapped my fingers and called for 'His Highness.' He came immediately and was probably the biggest disappointment of mother’s life." Laughing, the redhead shook her head as she finished her final scan.

 

"Seriously now Deanna, why were you riding so irresponsibly? You know very well that it was extremely dangerous to ride under those conditions with the safety guards off."  Beverly locked her stern gaze on the dark eyes of the woman in front of her.

 

"I'm aware of that Beverly; I just needed some serious training." The CMO was obviously not satisfied with that answer but saw from the Counselor's body language that she really didn't want to talk right now.

 

"All right; you better get dry. I'll see you in Ten-Forward at 20.00. Mind the wrist!" Deanna had already hopped off the biobed and was near the doors.

 

"I will. Thank you!" 'Not a chance she'll leave it at this...'

 

~*+*~

In her quarters Deanna took a shower and patiently washed and brushed her hair. She pulled on one of her regular off duty dresses and began to clean up her quarters; a task she had neglected for longer then a day. Everyday tasks were tricky to execute with just one hand available but she managed to succeed somehow.

 

>Warning: time is 19.55< 'Time for the big show.' Quickly she brushed the newly formed tangles out her hair and then headed off for Ten-Forward. Before she entered she let her usual mask slip into place. A long slender arm waving at her from near one of the windows immediately caught her attention. With a big grin on her face she walked towards the owner of the arm.

 

"Afraid I wouldn't see you?"

 

"Afraid you'd ignore me on purpose." With a grin Beverly watched her as she sat down.

 

"Have you gotten used to the one-handed life yet?"

 

"I'm managing, but I *do* understand why all species we've encountered got at least two." Her witty response made her friend laugh and the giggles spread to Deanna almost immediately. One of the waiters walked up to the two grinning ladies and gave them their drinks; Beverly had ordered a hot-chocolate for Deanna and some alien drink with an undetermined reddish color for herself. Grateful, Deanna took a sip of her chocolate and held it in her mouth for a while before swallowing, the familiar taste of the warm liquor sliding down her throat and easing her senses.

 

"So, I assume you're going to Will's poker party tonight as well?" Deanna almost choked on her favorite drink; the question overwhelmed her.

 

"Yes, how could I miss it?" 'If only I could.'

 

"You're right." Surrounded by silence both women enjoyed their drinks. Beverly was studying her behavior; she was well-aware of that. Fortunately she didn't try to hide that either. When their eyes met the Doctor asked her question.

 

"I didn't know you could ride."

 

"You did."

 

"Well, I knew you could ride, but not that you could...ride, ride."

 

"Well, it's good to know there are still *some* things you don't know about me after sixteen years." Giggling the Betazoid watched her friend.

 

"No seriously Deanna; I watched you...out there for a while and you ride more then 'okay'." Deanna was only beginning to realize how much this previously unknown facet of her amazed her friend.

 

"I've been riding as long as I can remember. Something *both* my parents agreed on for a change." Beverly couldn't help smiling. From the stories Deanna had told her, she knew that her mother and father had hardly ever agreed on anything. 'As different as Earth's summer and winter.' But that wasn't the topic; she wanted an explanation about why she had turned the safety guards off and she did not intend to let go of that.

 

"Do you always ride that dangerously?" For a brief moment her onyx eyes flashed with annoyance.

 

"No, not on the Holodeck. At home, yes. I do have to keep the horses in shape." The confusion and curiosity she sensed from her friend encouraged her to keep telling.

 

"I have a title to defend; the annual horse show is in a few months."

 

"A title?" Beverly's eyebrows rose as she looked at Deanna in awe. A proud smile washed over the Counselor's delicate features.

 

"Yes, I've been the champion in the highest class for the past three years." At those words the Doctor eyes widened even further. 'Why didn't I know this?'

 

"But..." She was too stunned by this new information to finish her sentence.

 

"But what about our rides with Captain Picard?"

 

"Yes, you pretended you couldn't ride very well."

 

"I can't. At least not like that. On Betazed we don't use harnesses; they can hurt the horses. You have to understand that Betazoid horses are empathic and telepathic as well. We do not ride our horses by yelling at them or by pulling their halter. Each jockey creates a bond with his or her horse. If you treat the animal with respect and love it will do anything for you and all you have to do is to ask." Deanna leaned back in her chair and drank the dregs of her chocolate.

 

Still in awe the redhead stared at her. The younger woman across the table never ceased to amaze her. By now she began to wonder if there was *anything* Troi couldn't do. For a moment she forgot about the purpose of this conversation...until her glance fell on the hands of her friend.

 

"If you're such an excellent rider, then why turn off the safety guards?"

 

"Because...if they're on I don't ride carefully or at my best. Having no safety guards adds an extra sense of reality to it."

 

"And risk. Those barriers were *high* Deanna." The disapproving tone in her voice was distinct.

 

"Yes I know, 1m70."

 

"Is that why you fell?" Deanna's mouth fell open.

 

"Wait a minute! As I recall I was doing perfectly well, until *you* began to yell."

 

"Oh, no. I had to stop you; it was way too dangerous. So yes I yelled."

 

"And broke the concentration of the horse..."

 

"And broke the concentration of the ho...oh, I see. Sorry." After 5 eternal seconds Deanna's tight-lipped mouth turned slowly into a smile and only then did Beverly realized she hadn't been angry with her for a fraction of a second.

 

"Apologies accepted."

 

"Good..." The Doctor stood up and indicated the Counselor was free to stand up as well. "...Than let's go."

 

"Where to?" The redhead didn't see the surprise in her friend's eyes, but she heard it clearly in her voice.

 

"My quarters."

 

"Why?" They had reached the doors by now, Beverly literally dragged Deanna forward.

 

"You'll see."

 


Chapter Eight: Dressing up

 

As she looked at herself in the mirror she still couldn't believe she had let Beverly talk her into this.

"Forget it Bev. I'm not going." The redhead stepped behind her and looked at their reflections.

 

"Hey, I didn't just spend an hour doing your hair and make-up only to have you go back to your quarters and wash it all off."

 

"Why do we have to dress up like this?" Beverly walked to her bed and stepped into the gold-colored pumps standing at the foot of the bed.

 

"Because I know Will Riker and you'll have to make him not forget about you." Like she had done many times before that night Deanna summoned all her inner strength to keep her mask in place. Her friend already stood by the parted door, ready to walk out. "Now come on, or we're going to be unfashionably late."

 

Both women left the Doctor's quarters and headed to those of the First Officer. One was looking forward to their arrival and the reactions of the others; the other was dreading exactly that. Both were pleased by the surprised and admiring looks they got from passing crewmembers. 'How am I going to get myself through this?' When Beverly was about to ring the door chimes Deanna stopped her.

 

"Give me a minute Bev." With interest she watched the Betazoid who was clearly concentrating on something.

 

"What were you doing?" She asked as soon as Deanna's eyes opened.

 

"Blocking my senses for the poker game."

 

>Deanna, come in.< Almost instantly the doors slid open and Deanna plus a very surprised Beverly walked in. Will came up to them but froze as he saw them. And although she knew she shouldn't Deanna allowed herself to sense him. There it was: love, admiration and awe.

 

Riker studied his best friend carefully. Her silky ebony hair was been put up and pulled together by numerous tiny silver clips which allowed quite a few tendrils to drape down her neck, back and shoulders. A dozen silver strands were woven through her hair, creating a shiny glow around her. The make-up around her eyes made them appear larger than normal. Her lips where as red as red could be, matching the color of her dress and shoes.

 

Her dress was rather simple; fitting around her upper body as a second skin. Two very thin silver straps were the only things holding the dress in place. A folded vertical band across her chest was decorated by several shiny stones. The snug fit of material around her waist and hips left nothing to the imagination. As soon as it reached her thighs the material exploded into a wide skirt that reached down to the floor. Until she walked up to him he didn't see the slit starting halfway her right thigh. She was so close that he could feel her warm soft breath against his neck. So close that if he had wanted to he could reach down and kiss her.

 

"Glad you like it." As she passed him he couldn't help from turning and following her with his eyes. Her back was left naked until the upper edge of her hips. Then a civilized yet insistent cough came from behind him. Reluctantly he turned around to see an annoyed and insulted looking woman. Beverly and Deanna quickly exchanged a wink before Beverly began to attack Will.

 

"Where have your manners gone Commander? You know very well it's impolite to keep a lady unattended; especially after she put herself through 2 hours of self-torture by dressing up for *your* party." For a moment he really believed she *was* insulted...until he saw the little, mischievous twinkle in her eyes. When he was about to make a witty comment in response he suddenly found his chance being taken away by Geordi.

 

"What is it Riker? You're not trying to keep all the women for yourself are you?!" Geordi’s reaction was very much the same as Riker's when he saw the two women on either side of his Commander with a sheepish look on his face.

 

"Ouch; tough choice huh, Commander?" Without hesitation the engineer stretched his hand out to the Counselor who accepted and let the blind man guide her to the poker table.

 

"Well, I guess that leaves me with you." The Doctor sounded less than pleased and proceeded her 'companion' without glancing at him. Despite not quite understanding the situation, Will followed her dumbly. Intrigued, Data tilted his head as he studied the two women.

 

"Doctor, Counselor; may I ask what the reason is for your...unusual way of dressing tonight?" They quickly exchanged looks; this was enough for Beverly to understand Deanna wanted her to do the talking.

 

"Well Data; Deanna and I thought that since this is sort of a goodbye party for the Commander, we might please him by dressing up in this way." She turned her head to throw Riker a disdainful glance.

 

"Apparently, I was mistaken."

 

"I see, an interesting notion. You picked those clothes to impress Commander Riker, but they did not have the desired effect. You had expected the Commander to make compliments and give you attention, but instead he has this rather strange apathetic look." Deanna frowned and when her eyes met Beverly's both women laughed gently.

 

"Quite correct Data."

 

"Thank you Counselor." Turning to Will Data seemed to access one of his databases. "Commander, you are know as what humans call a ladies man, or in more ancient terms a lady-killer." The android tipped his head to the left and blinked his eyes. In the meantime Deanna took a seat next to Geordi and Beverly sat down on her other side. "Then, as a ladies man, should you not overwhelm the Counselor and the Doctor with compliments?" Tipping his head back Data awaited Will's answer with curiosity. When none came Deanna gathered all her inner strength and forced herself to lock her eyes onto his.

 

"Data *has* a point there, Will." Her intense look burned in his eyes and had the intended effect.

 

"Well Data, you see, sometimes a woman can look so astoundingly beautiful..." He had not released Deanna's eyes, but instead intensified his gaze. "...That she takes the breath away of even a ladies man." The Betazoid ground her teeth in order not to let anger and fear take control. 'My God, she's so damn beautiful.' Almost hearing his thought she clenched her hands into fists. 'That dress is gorgeous; I'll take one with me for Lyana.' After hearing that devastating thought her eyes briefly shot fire, but Deanna simply bent her head and closed her eyes for a second. When she looked at him again, they were empty.

 

Will narrowed his eyes ' what just happened?'. 'THE BASTARD!!!' Her thought was so intense; so loud in her head that she was sure that the others had heard it as well...but they hadn't.

 

"Thank you Will, I'm sure Deanna appreciates that too."

 

~*+*~

"Alright, that's IT, I *quit*." Everyone looked up in surprise. "Oh, don't give me those innocent looks. Gee, I spend all that time dressing up and you don't even let me win!" With no exception, everyone regarded their seemingly furious friend.

 

"But Doctor..."

 

"Don't even try it Data. You *could've* handed him some useless cards!"

 

"But that's cheating!" Deanna silently watched the scene around her unfold. Will wasn't sure if Beverly really was furious, which was exactly what the Doctor had been hoping for. The two women locked their gazes briefly and with a slight nod Deanna let Beverly know to continue.

 

"Bev. calm down." The furious glare she got back was accompanied by a wink.

 

"I will Counselor, in my quarters! Now if you’ll excuse me, I'll go and get out of this..." she gestured angrily at her body. "...Thing." With large steps she left.

 

"If you'll excuse me; I'm going to make sure she's alright." Jean-Luc stood up and left, avoiding the gazes of his friends. Still confused, the remaining three men turned to the empath for an explanation. Deanna shrugged her shoulders and took the deck of cards.

 

"Tough day I guess. So, you're all still in?" Geordi shook his head sadly.

 

"The Doctor has a point. And I will not keep feeding that..." With a broad grin on his face he pointed at Riker. "...Man's ego. Besides, the Captain requested a more detailed report on the Ryarans’ communication system. Data, I could use your help." With an apologetic nod Data stood up and followed Geordi out. Riker was too stunned by their behavior to say anything.

 

"Well Will, it seems your winning row is over." She winked at him coyly before she too stood up. But before she had pushed herself all the way up he grabbed her wrist; preventing her from straightening further.

 

"Can't you stay and talk for a while?" Quizzically she looked deep into his blue eyes. 'Forget it Will.'

 

"Sure; but in my quarters; I *have* to take this dress off." A mischievous sparkle appeared in his eyes.

 

"Shame on you William T. Riker!" This time he didn't hear the disbelief and anger in her voice.

 

"Can I still come?!"

 

"Ten minutes!" As he watched her leave he compared her body and way of moving to that of Lyana. They were alike, but also not. The difference was not only in looks and character but also in presence. Much to his dismay he couldn't quite place or describe it. He used the ten minutes to clean up the mess his friends had made and to put together a short list of things he wanted to discus with his Imzadi.

 

Deanna used her ten minutes to change her dress into a lose-fitting deep purple one. 'I can't do this! I don't want to be alone with him!' But she knew there wasn't an escape for her, just like there hadn't been one before, ever.

 


Chapter Nine: The Hurt of a Friend

She waited, almost trembling from her nervousness. ‘How am I going to get through this?! Maybe I should tell him. But how will he react? Will he stay? And what if he doesn’t…’ Her string of thoughts was interrupted by the ever familiar beep, indicating that there was someone waiting at her door. ‘Showtime.' A deep sigh followed her thought.

 

“Will, come in.” The doors hissed open and William Riker walked in. He stood still, blocking her door as he drank in her looks.

 

“Nice dress.” Somehow she managed a smile, a weak one, but strong enough not to draw his attention.

 

“Thank you, have a seat.” He walked to the couch and slowly sat down, never once releasing her gaze. Deanna’s empathic sense of him was strong, stronger than it had been for a long time. ‘Why? Why now?’ Patient, at least in appearance, she waited for him to start. He was obviously gathering courage.

 

“Deanna, … you know me better than anyone, better than I know myself.” The look in his eyes grabbed at her; he was so hopeful, trusting. “Do you think I’m ready for this?” ‘He’s hesitating!!!’ She had to urge to fly over, embrace him and make sure he’d never go away. But she didn’t, and like most of the time she was in perfect control of her emotions.

 

“Why do you ask?” He was a bit embarrassed and began to play with his hands nervously. After a minute of just watching him it became too much for her. “Will.” He looked up, the uncertainty clear in his eyes.

 

“I’ve fought for this…” He let his arm swing from one side to the other, gesturing at their surroundings “…my entire life. I wouldn’t let anything or anyone hold me back.” Deanna cringed. ‘Anyone’. But when she realized he wasn’t even thinking about her, her fury once again came to the surface. By the sudden haunted look in his eyes she knew he had seen a glimpse of her fury.

 

“You have Will, but perhaps you’ve been aiming at the wrong goal all along.” Her words, her musical voice made him forget the fury he had seen.

 

“What do you mean?” The Betazoid uncrossed her legs, pushed herself up and walked over. ‘What am I doing?! Why?! I don’t want this!’ But her body moved nonetheless. She sat down, mere inches away from him.

 

“Maybe it is time for you to settle down.” His bright blue gaze locked on her onyx one and did not stray. For the first time in her life it made her uncomfortable and she wanted nothing else but to run away. Her breathing accelerated and her hands clenched back into fists. This time he did notice the changes.

 

“Deanna, what’s wrong?” But she didn’t answer, caught up in her internal fight. ‘Fool! You shouldn’t have told him that!’ ‘But it’s the truth; he’s your friend. Of course you want to see him happy.’ ‘Why would he deserve to be happy when you don’t?’ ‘He has to make his own choices.’ ‘BULL! Make him see, make him stay!’ In panic she shook her head; her hair slapped against her face, against his.

 

“Leave me alone!”

 

“Deanna?!” He didn’t know what to do, and what was wrong with her? He instinctively grabbed her shoulders and shook her back and forth.

“Deanna, listen to me. Calm down.” But his actions were in vain, and she kept screaming.

 

“I don’t want to hear it! Leave me alone!!!” ‘Like everyone else? Like your father, like your son and your sister?!’ ‘Don’t! That was not my fault.’ ‘Oh no? Than whose was it?’

 

“It wasn’t my fault!!!…I’m not responsible!!!…Leave me alone!” Frantically she kept shaking her head; screaming out denials. But soon sobs and cries racked her body and made her unable to speak.

 

Riker was horrified, never had he seen his Imzadi behaving like this. ‘How can I help her?’ He searched his memory for answers, but found none. Until he heard her soft cry for help in his head.

~Will! Help me!~ It was faint, hardly audible. But it *was* there. He now knew what to do, how to calm her. However, he was uncertain if he could. ‘I have to try.’

 

Drawing on everything Deanna had once taught him he cleared his mind and focussed solely on her. With his mind cleared he started recalling everything he loved about her. Her inner strength. Her compassion for others. Her wisdom. The peace within her. Her amazing ability to make the best out of things, anywhere, anytime. He focussed on the pureness of her soul, her innocence and the beauty of her heart and mind. Then he focussed on Deanna herself; the turmoil she was in, the demons she was so desperately trying to fight. And he began to send the emotions he had gathered earlier to her. Slowly and carefully he forced them into her head.

 

After a while she began to calm down, her breathing slowing and her movements becoming less frantic. When she had calmed down enough he withdrew himself from her mind, fighting the desire to stay. He watched her for a few eternal moments before he enveloped her in his arms and drew her close. Quietly she cried into his chest, for the moment ignoring the fact that he was going to leave her the next day.

 

“You remembered…” As soon as he heard her whisper he gently pushed her away and looked her in the eyes.

 

“How could I forget.” Deanna laid her head back against his chest, savouring the moment. He ran his fingers through her silky hair and rubbed her back soothingly. “Can you tell me what happened?” Briefly she stiffened.

 

“I...can’t Will, I’m sorry.” Tears welled up in her eyes again. Gently he rocked her back and forth.

 

“Shh, it’s alright. Just promise me you’ll talk to Beverly.” 

 

“I will, when I’m ready.”

 

“Don’t wait too long Imzadi.” His use of the endearment had no influence on her this time, much to her relief. ‘O DA*N, Beverly!’ In the very same instant she up righted herself; triggering a confused look from Will.

 

“I…uh...I promised to meet Beverly after the poker game.” Not really a lie, was it?

 

“Will you tell her?”

 

“No, I need to find out what happened first.” Their eyes fell simultaneously on her hands; the bandages were soaked with blood. In horror they looked at each other.

 

“Let’s get you to Sickbay.” He already dragged her to the doors when she stopped him.

 

“No Will, the bleeding has stopped. Let me clean it up.” She hurried to her bathroom and unwrapped the bandages. Carefully she began to clean her hands, making sure she wouldn’t re-open the wounds. When she looked into the mirror she saw Will standing behind her, obviously concerned. Before he could say anything she handed him the bandages.

 

“Will you put these in the recycler for me please?”

 

“Sure.” Quickly she threw some cold water in her face and brushed her hair.

 

“Computer: clean dress.” A blue light slid over her and the beam cleaned her dress. She took Will’s arm and guided him into the corridors. “Will, please don’t tell anyone.” He met her gaze and held it. She sensed his concern clearly.

 

“Deanna, I…”

 

“Will, please! It’s all I’m asking for.” Her desperate gaze begged him. His sub-conscious knew there was an underlying meaning of her words, one his conscious ignored.

 

“Alright.”

 

“Thank you.” They had reached his quarters; Will stood indecisively. Should he ask her in?

 

“Goodnight, I’ll see you tomorrow.” ‘Well, I suppose that’s a no.’ As reply he brushed his lips over hers, a habit he had adopted ever since he served with her.

 

“Goodnight Imzadi.” ‘Don’t let him go!’ But she did not leave him for long.

 


Chapter Ten: Surprise!

 

Riker entered his quarters confused and concerned. Something was wrong with Deanna, but she had asked him to let it go. And so he would. He shrugged his worries off and concentrated on the next day, the day he would leave the Enterprise. 'Odd, I thought the lights were on when I left.'

~They were.~ Two simple words...they scared the hell out of him.

 

He turned around, half expecting to see Deanna standing in the doorway. But there was no one, he was alone...he thought. 'Why did she send that to me? What does she want to say?' Deep in his heart he knew the answer; but he couldn’t quite place it. For the second time that evening he shrugged his confusion off. He walked through the dark to the replicator.

 

"Ryaran coffee, extra salt." Two pairs of eyes watched him as he picked up the coffee and carried it back to the living area. Then he put the coffee on the table and plopped down in his chair.

 

"Computer: music, jazz, twentieth century Earth, any artist." Soft tones of music filled his ears and eased his mind, causing him not to notice the movements the beings behind him made. They turned their heads towards each other and seemed to communicate through their eyes. All four eyes briefly lit up before turning back to the human in front of them. As he sipped his coffee Will thought about the life he was going to build with Lyana. Oh sure he had to leave a lot behind, like Deanna said; everything he had worked for.

 

Deanna... He hoped he would have a chance to properly say goodbye to her tomorrow. He was certain that if it hadn't been for her, he wouldn't here today, and he wouldn’t be looking at the same future. He still didn't notice the two creatures behind him. Each of them had picked a side of the ignorant Commander and approached him slowly and carefully.

 

If one looked closer one could see the somewhat sadistic smile on their faces, the mischievous and wicked gleams in their eyes. But Will Riker didn't have eyes in the back of his head, nor did he have the empathy that would've warned Deanna. Thus, the creatures had a huge advantage. Suddenly he realized he was still sitting in the dark. His mouth was opening to order the computer to turn the lights on when he changed his mind.

 

"Computer: increase volume." The music immediately became a bit louder. The beings behind him exchanged looks apparently discussing the next move of action. Simultaneously each being reached behind itself and pulled something from its sides. Moving the objects to where their mouth would probably be they winked at each other, indicating it was time for the final phase of their plan. Behind them a third being moved to the right wall; still unnoticed by Will.

 

After waiting a few more moments the creature on his left side slowly nodded; three seconds later they took a deep breath, and then they straightened up a little. At the fifth second the creature near the wall placed his hand on the panel, closely monitoring the movements of his two companions. In the last second a wide smile washed over the two conspirators as they simultaneously jumped up from their hiding places; causing the third one to turn on the lights.

 

"SURPRISE!!!" Four loud, laughing voices penetrated Riker's ears, accompanied by the shrieking sound of birthday trumpets when at the same time his eyes registered two people jumping up at his side and the sudden light that appeared. With his heart in his throat, the Commander jumped out of his chair and turned around, grabbing his phaser and aiming at thin air.

 

"What the he..." His voice trailed off as he looked into the laughing face of a certain redheaded Doctor. His gaze shifted to the other side where he met the twinkling eyes of his Security Officer. Then he noticed the Chief Engineer standing at the light-panel with the broadest grin he had ever seen. The confusion and surprise wasn't complete until he saw the android accompanied by an openly laughing Captain emerge from his bathroom. Everyone except for Data and himself was laughing to no end at how confused and surprised he looked.

 

"Number One; you can put that phaser away now, we won't bite." Sheepishly Will looked at the phaser he that was still holding. As soon as his brain reconnected with the nerves and muscles in his arm he lowered the phaser and put it on the table.

 

Outside Deanna had followed everything and when she sensed the fear and adrenaline running through Will's body she couldn't help but laugh. She waited a few more moments before she punched in the code she knew by heart and re-entered his quarters.

 

"I thought you loved surprise parties Commander." He watched her walking in with new eyes; it was as if he had never, ever seen her before. Something had definitely changed. But to his dismay he couldn't quite pin it down. At that moment Geordi carried the cake in and the farewell party began.

 

~*+*~

Three hours later Deanna stumbled into her quarters. A bit too much real alcohol caused her room to spin around her. She didn't even bother undressing before tumbling into bed. The evening, or rather night, had gone much better than she had expected. She had managed to keep her mask in place and had not shown her anger or sadness about him leaving the Enterprise...her. Right now she didn't care whether or not he'd come to say goodbye to her the next morning, but she knew that as soon as she was sober again she would care. As she lay on her bed and watched the universe spinning around her the alcohol overcame her and she fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

 


Chapter Eleven: Just in Case

 

With a bag in each hand, Will walked quickly and nervously down the corridors. The idea to abandon the Enterprise and his career seemed distant, almost as if it was just a dream. He knew, however, that this was very real. He had tried to talk to Deanna but she didn't respond when he had contacted her. He figured she was still sound asleep.

 

The image of her from the night before was still clearly imprinted in his mind. She had looked exhausted and that was *before* the surprise party. When she had left she was more than just a little tipsy so, speaking from experience, it would be better to allow her to sleep.

 

In the Transporter Room the others members of the Senior Staff were already waiting. Quickly they said goodbye once more since they had all had time to do so the night before.

 

"Keep an eye on Deanna for me will you? I'm worried about her." Surprised as well as confused Beverly glanced at him. 'Deanna hasn't told him what was wrong?' Then a warm smile washed over her face as she gently squeezed his arm.

 

"I will." The gratitude in his eyes almost knocked her off her feet. 'This -isn't- a simple shore leave.' He was about to step onto the platform when Picard held out a little black bag.

 

"Just in case." Curious about its contents Riker accepted it and climbed onto the platform. Scanning his surroundings one more time, hoping that she'd be there, he eventually straightened his back and nodded at his Captain. Jean-Luc turned to the Transporter Chief who understood the silent command and fired up the transporter. Will Riker faded away into nothing, only to appear on the planet's surface merely seconds later.

 

~*+*~

With solid ground under his feet he dropped his bags and laid the smallest one on the grass. 'Now, let's see what's in it.' One by one he picked up the things in the bag.

 

First a tiny PADD came out. When he opened the file he realized it contained a schedule of vessels passing the planet within transporter range for the next eight months.

 

Second there was a CommBadge; apparently they didn't expect him to be able to stay away from Starfleet for nine entire months.

 

The third and last present surprised him the most. It was a silver photo frame: quite old judging from its dusty appearance. The first photo had been taken the night before, showing the entire Senior Staff in party outfits. Beverly wore a lovely black dress that reached just below her knees. Fko, the Security Chief, had worn a dress for the first time in her life; hers was deep blue and like Beverly's reached just below her knees. The four men all wore similar outfits; loose fitting dark-coloured trousers and different coloured dress-shirts. His had been coral-blue, the Captain's had been deep red, Geordi’s had been black and Data...well Data's had been rather...colourful. 'Damnit! Deanna isn't on it.'

 

With that realization sadness suddenly overwhelmed him. He had forgotten to pack a picture of her. His eyes lit up as he discovered the tiny button at the underside of the frame. He pushed it and the picture that appeared made his heart skip a beat.

 

"Deanna..." 'Has this been taken last night?' He couldn't remember. His fingers cautiously touched the glass, as if he was afraid to break it. She looked incredibly gorgeous. Her ebony curls cascaded down her neck since she had made no attempt to catch and hold them. Countless silver strands had been woven through her hair, accentuating the natural blue glow she had always been so proud of. The makeup around her eyes was a little heavier than usual, but was certainly flattering.

 

Her large brown eyes were aimed directly at the camera, and from the look on her face he gathered the photographer had surprised her. Her soft, natural coloured lips were slightly parted. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that her next words had been "By Rixx!"

 

His eyes slid down the column of her elegant neck. A single, simple silver necklace decorated her perfect chest. Attached to the thin silver chain was a long strand of sparkling silver which was interspersed with tiny diamonds. The strand fell down between her collarbones and into the valley between her breasts; he could only imagine where it ended.

 

The dress she wore was simple, simpler than most of the dresses he was used to. Extremely thin black shoulder straps held the dress in place. Each of them attached to one of the triangles on the front side. The dress seemed crumpled but when he looked closer he realized that was on purpose. The crumples in the purple material created a mysterious play of colours when light fell on them. The bodice of the dress fit perfectly around her well-shaped body, then widened from her hips downwards. In the front the skirt didn't reach further than halfway down her thighs but behind her it grew longer and longer until it dragged on the floor.

 

His eyes traced the two perfect legs down to her ankles. A thin silver chain had decorated her left ankle. Her shoes, pumps, were grey with a silver-like reflection. When he finally finished studying his Imzadi he let out a quiet sigh. Why he didn't know, but suddenly he turned over the frame.

 

"Xiara esta, ta Fira xi." A Betazoid phrase. Like Imzadi there was no accurate translation. But 'Home is where your soul belongs' came pretty close. He repacked his gifts and started walking to Lyana's house. But he couldn't get his mind off of the picture. 'Who had picked it, and why?' He couldn't believe the Captain had picked the photos and frame. 'Deanna perhaps?' No, she avoided pictures as much as she could; at least ones she had to pose for. Besides she would never give him such a frame and certainly not such a picture of herself. 'Beverly than?...YES, of course!' Typical Beverly Crusher, romantic and sentimental. With a grin he kept walking, grabbing at something in the bag. When he had found it he briefly stopped.

 

"Thank you Beverly, very thoughtful." In Sickbay Doctor Crusher grinned as well, not bothering to reply.

 

~*+*~

Slowly, very slowly Deanna opened her eyes. 'He's gone.' She knew it the second she opened her senses. 'Why didn't he wake me?!' She wasn't sure how to feel; she was relieved, yes, but also angry and disappointed. Deanna tried to sit up but the sensation of a knife penetrating her head caused her to fall back immediately. Annoyed she groaned. 'Great, just what I need.' How far away could he be?' A wicked gleam shone in her eyes. The empath concentrated, focussed and sent.

 

~Will! Where are you?!~ A mile away from Lyana's house Will froze in his steps. She sounded confused and even scared. 'Must be because of the hangover.' He wanted to reassure her, calm her down. And after last night he had a fair idea how. Now he too concentrated and focussed every fiber within him.

 

~Thank you for making me the man I've become.~ Deanna gasped out loud; never before had he send her such a long message!

 

~You did that yourself Will. Where are you?~ A feeling of gratitude and joy overwhelmed her, almost causing her to sit up again.

 

~I'm home Imzadi.~ Her breath stuck in her throat and her stomach turned into one huge knot. Her eyes widened, then darkened as she experienced her immense fury, her disappointment and despair. She raised her barriers just a little too late; she sensed Will's concern and confusion floating into her mind and she knew he had sensed her emotions. She felt, really *felt* her heart break; falling apart in a thousand pieces. Her pain was all consuming, destructive.

 

"NNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Her scream was filled with all her pain and anger, all her despair and love, and came from the very core of her being.

 

Riker gasped aloud, his hands moving to his throat as if an invisible something was trying to strangle him. The force of Deanna's emotions made his head spin and his eyes widen. But as suddenly as it had hit him it disappeared. He took a few moments to gather himself before he tried to contact her again to make sure she was all right.

 

~Deanna? Imzadi, are you alright?~ He was amazed how much easier it suddenly was to send to her. But there was no response. It was as if his message just slammed against a wall and disappeared. 'She must have blocked me.'

 

He tried to analyse the feelings he had sensed from her, most which were quite easy to recognize. There was one feeling...that seemed to embody every emotion in existence, but still seemed to be part of something bigger. 'Like splinters of a vase' The sentence flashed through his psyche but he didn't, he couldn't, he wouldn't, didn't *want* to understand.

 

~*+*~

'How can he say that?! We're Imzadi, his home will always be here, with me!' She knew he had sensed her feelings, she did not doubt it for a second, but she regretted it immensely.

"I don't need you Will Riker!" It was a promise, one to herself, one she vowed never to break. It was also one she had already broken.

 

She had made exact the same promise all those years ago, back on Risa when he didn't show. And she had kept it for a long time, until they had decided to renew their relationship after the Briar Patch. And now she was making the same vow again and was experiencing the same heartbreak all over again.

 

For the second time in her life she had trusted him with her heart and for the second time he had betrayed her trust and broken her heart! Deanna felt those annoying, humiliating tears welling up in her eyes. And fight as she might, she could not hold them back. And she was crying over him, crying herself to sleep. Tears, cries and sobs racked her small body, drawing her breath away. And her shattered heart cried out, to him. Begging him to come back to her even though she never, *ever* wanted to see him again. But even then, in all her despair and anger she comforted him. The man who had caused her so much pain that she wondered if she could ever love a man again. Momentarily she blocked her feelings and focussed her mind.

 

~I'm all right Will.~ She knew he had heard her, that he would try to send something back. But she would not allow herself to receive his answer. Deanna blocked her psyche for him, more definitively than she ever had in the past. But they were Imzadi and they could not be whole without each other. Thus she was condemned to spend the rest of her life as one half of a whole.

 

~*+*~

Will received her message. It relieved him to know that she was all right...for a moment. Something was different; her message had been...cold. He did not sense any feeling with it; not the way he was used to. But fate didn't give him the chance to think about it as Lyana came running towards him.

"Will!" He dropped his bags onto the ground and scooped her up into his arms.

 

~*+*~

Deanna woke up alone.

 

"Computer: time."

 

>12.21< She hadn't slept for much longer than half an hour. Her head was still aching, and so was her heart. Somehow this was worse than each time before. The psychologist inside her told her to analyse her feelings, despite how badly she wanted to ignore them. And to her own surprise she did.

 

She began to look for the reason why it hurt so badly this time. At first she thought it was because it was the second time that she had lost him but she soon realized that the difference was in *how* she had lost him. Where the first time it had been to his career, a non-living, non-sentient, non-loving thing. Now she had lost him to something far more dangerous; she had lost him to another woman, one who had the power to capture him and one who was not likely to let him go.

 

The Counselor knew she had to deal with her emotions, and that she had to sort them out before they would start to control her life. But she wasn't up to that task, yet. And so she pushed her feelings aside; she pushed the back into a dusty, dark corner in her psyche. Having done that she sat up.

 

Immediately a sharp pain rushed through her head. 'Damn hangovers!' Despite the headache she got up, undressed and stepped into the shower. The soft water nurtured her body as well as her mind and when she got out fifteen minutes later she felt a whole lot better. She dried her body and hair and put on a regular uniform. After having brushed her hair she left her quarters and headed for Sickbay.

 

~*+*~

"Deanna, take a seat." The cheerful voice of Doctor Crusher made her cringe. Beverly picked up one of the tricorders and scanned the Counselor's wrist and wounds in her palms. "They have been re-opened recently." The disapproval in her voice was clear.

 

"They have?" 'Fine, if you don't want to talk then by all means don't.' Immediately the Doctor kicked herself mentally for thinking like that. But she couldn't help it. With narrowed eyes she watched her friend. 'Has she noticed something?' But the surprised and quizzical look she had expected from the Empath never came, much to her relief.

 

"Your wrist has almost healed completely, but you still cannot use it." Deanna smiled understandingly at her Doctor but didn't say another word. 'She looks like he*l.' Beverly said to herself. "Here, I'll give you something to put on the lacerations and a hypospray for your hangover." Briefly Deanna widened her eyes, then closed them before her lips curled into a slight smile.

 

"That obvious huh."

 

"Well, not now; but last night, or rather this morning...yes." Gently Crusher injected the hypo in the large vein in Troi's neck and then patted her on her arm. "It'll be gone in a few seconds. The Captain gave you the day off so I suggest you use it to relax a bit; you look exhausted." Although surprised Deanna didn't care and decided not to object.

 

"I will Beverly."

 


=====================

Author’s note: The lyrics used come from the songs ‘Us’, ‘Love is on the Way’ and ‘Immortality’ from the Album ‘Let’s talk about Love’ performed by Celine Dion. No infringement was intended, but I just *had* to use them. :rolleyes:

=====================

 

Chapter Twelve: No more Tears

 

In the week that followed everything seemed to be normal. Deanna, Data and Geordi had each taken part of Will's bridge watches and Deanna and Data had decided to handle Will's other tasks together.

 

The solution seemed to be a good one. Doctor Crusher had, of course, expressed her concern over Deanna's heavy duty roster but the Counselor herself was quite happy with it. Being on duty for most of the day gave her an excuse not to think about her personal life, about him...Even though she knew she could not avoid looking back forever.

 

Beverly had questioned Jean-Luc several more times about Riker's shore leave, but he stoically refused to give her any answers. However, as the second week neared Deanna's behaviour became more and more abnormal. She couldn't concentrate anymore, and was easily distracted and nervous. Beverly talked with her and Deanna assured her it was nothing.

 

But her behaviour went from bad to worse. At the beginning of the second week she was withdrawn, snappy, sarcastic and cold. She still performed her duties well – Deanna Troi was the last person to let her personal misery interfere with her duty – but by the end of the week she couldn't perform her duties any longer. The fatigue and sadness were tangible on the Betazoid’s pretty face.

 

~*+*~

"I heard you're going to take a month’s shore leave." There wasn't the slightest reaction from her until she opened her mouth. She answered still looking out into space.

 

"Yes I am, I need to take a break."

 

"I'm glad you've asked for it yourself. I was to the point of confining you to your quarters."

 

"I appreciate your concern Beverly, but I can take perfect care of myself." The Betazoid clenched her teeth together as she spoke. 'Something is definitely bothering her.' Beverly stated silently. The redhead leaned back in her chair and took a sip of her tea. Suddenly a coy and searching glimpse entered her eyes.

 

"Going to pay a visit to our dear Commander, are you?" Slowly...very slowly Deanna turned around, locking her gaze immediately onto Beverly's. If the utter calmness of her movements hadn't yet concerned the Doctor, the look in her eyes most certainly did. Her irises had darkened and Beverly could almost *see* the flames of fury.

 

"De...Deanna?" The sound of her voice seemed to have a calming influence and the fire in her friend’s eyes died. But the cold tone of the empath's words sent an unpleasant shiver along her spine.

 

"No, I'm not Doctor. I'm going to Betazed if you must know. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm tired and want to go to bed." She hadn't released her gaze, he*l she hadn't even blinked her eyes. Every muscle in the Counselor's body was strained and she was trembling.

 

Beverly realized that her own heartbeat had accelerated and a feeling of fear crept over her. Part of her wanted to walk over to her best friend and comfort her, take away whatever hurt she was feeling. But another part of her wanted to run away, out those quarters, away from the uncomfortable and frightening silence within them.

 

She chose the latter, walking backwards to the door. Her arm stretched out behind her, searching for the panel and pushing it; opening the doors. All the while her gaze did not leave the trembling Betazoid at the window. As soon as the doors slid back together in front of her Beverly turned around and nearly ran to her own quarters where she walked straight into the arms of her friend, lover and Captain. With a shaky voice she started to explain what had happened.

 

~*+*~

As soon as the doors slid back together Deanna exhaled slowly, allowing the fury inside her to flow out bit by bit. Beverly had been scared of her; for the first time in her life she had *scared* someone. She knew she should feel guilty and angry with herself, but she felt none of that. She just didn't care.

 

"I definitely need shore leave." As she mumbled those words to herself Deanna tucked an ebony curl behind her ear. Empty-eyed she stared out to the stars; the same ones that she had dreamed to explore so long ago.

 

"Computer: play the songs 'US, Immortality and Love is on the Way' performed by Celine Dion, 21st century Earth. Random order" It had been a long time since she had listened to those – 16 years. The soft tones and lyrics filled her quarters.

~*~*~
~ I want to know why ~
~ you're letting this die ~
~ Without the blink of an eye ~
~ You say that you need time ~
~ I say you'll be fine ~
~*~*~

 

The music began softly but grew louder and louder as the voice became stronger and stronger. Deanna found herself intensely listening to the lyrics. 'NO! I *don't* need him anymore; he made his choice!'

 

~*~*~

~ If you would only see ~
~ Like you did before ~
~ You became imprisoned ~
~ Can I reopen the door ~
~*~*~

"Computer: delete the song 'US' from the list." The music faded, quickly replaced by another song. "Increase volume by one hundred percent." She didn't want to be aware of anything but the music and herself.

 

~*+*~

"Jean-Luc, I want to know what is going on and I want to know -now !!!" He planted a light kiss on her hair and made her face him. She could see in his eyes that he wanted to tell her, but she could also see that he wouldn't. "Jean-Luc..." The woman was pleading with him; something was very wrong with her best friend and he knew what; but he -wouldn't- -couldn't- tell her.

 

"Deanna alone holds the answer to that My Love, go to her. Don't use the chimes, use your overwrite code and don't speak until she does." Had she heard that correctly?! He wanted her to invade Deanna's privacy. She watched him in mile shock, but when her eyes met his she realized he was right.

 

"All right." Beverly got up and glanced at him silently before she walked to the bedroom and exchanged her uniform for a civilian dress. As she passed him they quickly kissed.

 

"I'll see you tomorrow." Before she had the chance to respond the doors closed behind her. 'Tomorrow?' Her first impulse was to walk back in, but instead she headed back to Deanna's quarters. Much to her surprise the doors hissed open at her approach; Deanna apparently hadn't locked them after she had left. As she entered the beginning notes of a song penetrated her ears. Judging from their loudness the volume had been set extremely high, especially for Deanna.

 

The quarters were dark; the only light came from the stars around them. Beverly stood still three meters behind Deanna's back and waited. A soft, female voice accompanied the music and the Doctor fell victim to the intoxicating effect of the song. Like the Betazoid before her, she listened intensely to the lyrics.

 

~*~*~
~ Waking up alone ~
~ In a room that still reminds me ~
~ My heart has got to learn to forget ~
~ Starting on my own ~
~ With every breath I'm getting stronger ~
~ This is not the time for regret ~
~ 'Cos I don't need to hang on to heartbreak ~
~ When there's so much of life left to live
~
~*~*~

 

As the meaning of the words dawned on Beverly she realized what had caused Deanna to behave like she had.

 

~*~*~

~ Love is on the way ~
~ On wings of angels ~
~ I know it's true ~
~ I feel it coming through ~
~ Love is on the way ~
~ Time is turning the pages ~
~ I don't know when ~
~ But love will find me again
~
~*~*~

 

A surge of sorrow and pity rushed through her and when she saw Deanna stir she knew the empath had felt it. But she didn't turn around so Beverly waited patiently for her friend to speak.

 

~*~*~

~ I am not afraid of the mystery of tomorrow ~
~ I have found a faith deep within ~
~ There's a promise I have made ~
~ There's a dream I'm gonna follow ~
~ There's another change to begin ~
~ And it's coming as sure as the heaves ~
~ I can feel it right here in my heart ~
~*~*~

 

A The song ended and another on began. Again Beverly's attention was drawn to the lyrics, which she just *knew* were important for Deanna. The singer was undoubtedly the same as the previous.

 

~*~*~
~ So this is who I am ~
~ And this is all I know ~
~ And I must choose to live ~
~ For all that I can give ~
~ The spark that makes the power grow
  ~

~ And I will stand for my dream if I can ~
~ Symbol of my faith in who I am ~
~ But you are my only ~
~ And I must follow on the road that lies ahead ~
~ And I won't let my heart control my head ~
~ But you are my only ~
~ We don't say goodbye ~
~ We don't say goodbye ~
~ And I know what I've got to be
~
~*~*~

 

While listening to the song, something that was almost impossible not to do, Crusher closely studied her friend. Although Deanna was standing with her back towards her the redhead was sure she was crying at the moment, if not over what could've been, then over what once had been.

 

~*~*~

~ 'Cos I have found a dream that must come true ~
~ Every ounce of me must see it through ~
~ But you are my only ~
~ I'm sorry I don't have a role for love to play ~
~ Hand over my heart I'll find my way ~
~ I will make them give to me
  ~

~ Immortality ~
~ There is a vision and a fire in me ~
~ I keep the memory of you and me inside ~
~ And we don't say goodbye ~
~ We don't say goodbye ~
~ With all my love for you ~
~ And what else we may do ~
~ We don't say goodbye. ~
~*~*~

 

Again the music faded, and this time Beverly found her eyes filled with tears. The songs were beautiful, but she knew that the meaning – the reason why Deanna played them now at such a volume – was that those songs reflected what was going on inside the mind and heart of the tiny Betazoid who looked so utterly lost.

 

"Computer: stop." This was it, one wrong word and...she didn't even want to think about what would happen then. Deanna still hadn't turned around, but Beverly's instinct told her to approach her friend.

 

"It's been sixteen years since I listened to those songs." Her voice was almost emotionless, almost but not quite.

 

"They're beautiful." Slowly Deanna turned around. The fury that had dominated the black eyes earlier was gone, replaced by tears that kept falling down her cheeks. The empath wiped them away with her small hands and sat down on the couch. Beverly sat down besides her and waited for her to continue.

 

"I frightened you, didn't I?" Briefly both woman looked at their hands before their eyes met again.

 

"You did." A nervous laugh escaped her throat as she looked away in shame.

 

"I'm sorry." The Doctor didn't respond, fully aware that she didn't need to. A comfortable silence surrounded them, allowing each the time to think about what their next step would be.

 

"Why the songs Deanna?" The question was direct, more direct than either of them had expected. Beverly held her breath; Deanna would either explode or explain. Preferably the latter.

 

"I told you that Will and I had met before we were stationed on the Enterprise."

 

"Yes, you told me you had a brief affair but that it just hadn't worked out." Deanna laughed again, this time her laugh was filled with unmistakable sarcasm.

 

"That's what I tried to make myself believe; that it 'just hadn't worked out'." She took a deep breath and a few moments to compose herself. "When I first met him I didn't want to have anything to do with him. He was so full of himself, so arrogant and even then his reputation had preceded him." Beverly smiled knowingly; she could understand Deanna's reasoning perfectly.

 

"My opinion about him changed when he came to rescue me from a gang of robbers who had kidnapped me." The surprised look on her friend’s face made her laugh. "Yes, I know; a typical fairy-tale. Only 'they lived happily ever after' didn't count for us." She shook her head sadly and swallowed continuing.

 

"I fell in love with him; utterly, completely, undeniably in love and so did he. At least that's what I thought. My mother tried her very best to keep us apart...and almost succeeded." The Betazoid closed her eyes, trying to get a grip on her emotions and on the fury that was building inside her.

 

Beverly took the pause as a sign and got up to get them both a mug of hot chocolate. While sipping their chocolate Deanna told Beverly about the night she had walked in on Will and Wendy Roper; she told her about the fight between her and Will, between her and her mother. And about how eventually she had come to trust him again.

 

Beverly listened quietly as Deanna told her how she had reacted when he had informed her of his departure, how during their time together she had forged the sacred Imzadi-bond between them. She told her friend how happy she had been when he had proposed her. Hearing that Beverly gasped; they had been engaged?!

 

Sensing her friend’s surprise, confusion and curiosity Deanna smiled weakly. "Yes, we were engaged. Much to Mother's dismay." She added smiling. 'What happened?' Beverly didn’t verbalize her question, but she knew Deanna could put two and two together and figure out the question anyway.

 

"We contacted each other regularly, informed the other about our lives." Deanna's voice became unsteady and Beverly gently squeezed her friend's small hand for comfort and courage. The empath mouthed a silent thanks and continued her story.

 

"After six months I took a leave from the University and went to Risa, where we had agreed to meet and be married. I waited for him an entire week, telling myself with each transport arriving that if he wasn't in it, he would be in the next. But after seven days I could no longer fool myself and I returned home; broken-hearted and no longer the person I used to be."

 

"Part of me has always stayed behind on Risa, waiting. When I came back home I refused to talk to anyone, even my best friend Chandra. But they understood and supported me by allowing me time and space for myself."

 

"Chandra send me the songs; respecting my wish not to be disturbed but vocally supporting me anyway. I listened to them for several days, each time realizing more and more how true they were. Eventually I made my decision. I would built a career of my own and I would shed *no* *more* tears over William Thomas Riker."

 

"Oh Deanna." Tears shone in the eyes of both woman and Beverly slid her long arm around Deanna's slender shoulders and pulled her to her chest. "Shh." Quietly Deanna cried and Beverly rocked her back and forth, murmuring soft encouraging words. Eventually Deanna pushed herself up and wiped the moisture of her cheeks.

 

"Another promise that didn't make it though." Looking into Beverly's gaze she explained. "I made several promises to myself regarding Will throughout the years. At first that I would no longer run away from the man I loved. Then that I would have faith in him and see him on Risa. After that I promised myself I would shed no more tears over him as a lover."

 

"Later, on the Enterprise we vowed not to cross the line between being best of friends and being lovers. And the last one I made about three weeks ago; when he came to see me to inform me about his 'shore leave'." The sarcasm in her last two words startled Beverly.

 

"I promised myself that if he would ask me again to marry him I'd accept." Her words caused hope in the older woman. 'Would he?' But when she looked into the sad, empty, dark eyes in front of her that hope immediately disappeared.

 

"What happened?" The younger of the two swallowed, sighed and swallowed again.

 

"He came to me, about a week before we were to leave orbit. He started talking about this woman he'd fallen in love with. I was so sure he meant me, so sure that he would finally ask me to marry him and that we could finally put the past behind us." Her gaze shifted from her friends cold blue eyes to the stars outside. Her delicate face no longer revealed any emotion. "But I was wrong again. I was hoping for something he couldn't, wouldn't give me." As they locked gazes again the despair was easy to read in the dark eyes of the Betazoid.

 

"He had fallen in love with one of the natives. He was willing to give up the very same things that he hadn't been able to give up for me Bev. And once again I was punished for trusting him with my heart. He was even willing to *resign* for her!" Deanna collapsed onto her best friends lap and let the tears and cries take control of her body; she was tired of fighting, tired of pretending she didn't care. Gently Beverly stroked her thick dark curls, humming softly.

 

After almost two hours Deanna fell into a dark, dreamless sleep. Only then did Beverly dare to think about what Deanna had told her. It all made perfect sense now; their behaviour towards each other, and Deanna’s hesitation and fear over getting involved with Will again. Oh, she could imagine how Will told her, how he wouldn't have thought about her feelings at all.

 

Her mind wandered off as she thought of all the times she had talked with Deanna about him, all the times she had seen her friends features momentarily harden as they saw him with another of his flings.

 

She also realized that it was Deanna who had managed to talk him into taking shore leave instead of resigning. Her thoughts flew to the moment she had found Deanna lifeless on the floor in Sickbay, only weeks ago and she made the connection instantly. But she knew there had been more to it than just the pain over him leaving. And she had to find out what it was before it happened again.

The answer, unbeknownst to her at that moment, would become clear quicker than she expected.

 

~*+*~

"Damnit Jean-Luc, keep your hands at home!" As much as she loved him, his habit of waving his arms around while he slept was annoying. The sudden feeling of pins and needles made her open her eyes. She was still half-asleep as the unfamiliar surroundings registered. A distant voice caught her attention.

 

"No...I'm not responsible...it isn't, wasn't my fault." Sheepishly she looked down at the restless form on her lap. The pale face covered in dark curls tossed from one side to the other. "They *did* love me! Like I love them!...not my fault...not mine."

 

"Deanna." She had meant to yell, but the name came out as barely more than a soft whisper.

 

"Not my fault!...I told him...I did...I didn't scare them!" 'She looks horrified.' She remembered now  what they had discussed last night. 'I have to wake her up.' "No! They weren't angry...they weren't scared!...they just left...but not...no! Not because of me!!!"

 

"Deanna..." Her voice still wasn't much more than a whisper. "...Deanna..." She placed a hand under the woman’s neck and shoulders and began pushing her up. "...Deanna!..." There was no reaction.

 

"NOT my fault!...Stop it!!!...Leave me ALONE!" She roughly shook the Betazoid back and forth with all of her strength.

 

"DEANNA!!! Damnit! Wake up!!!" Beverly's scream finally had an effect; the other woman stilled her movements and slowly opened her eyes.

 

"Where--What--?" Frightened and disorientated, Deanna looked around,  visibly relaxing as she recognized Beverly Crusher, her best friend.

 

"Shh, it's all right."

 

"What happened?"

 

"You had a nightmare, that's all." But both knew it wasn't. Nonetheless Deanna didn't allow herself to think about it now. Beverly gently but determinedly pushed her up. "Let's get you into bed." The Betazoid stood up docilely, a shimmer of shock appearing briefly in her dark eyes.

 

"Computer: time."

 

>05.37 hours.< Wide eyed she looked at her friend.

 

"Oh, I'm sorry Bev! I kept you up all night!" The Doctor got up and led the Betazoid to her bedroom, assuring her that she didn't need to be sorry at all. Deanna undressed and slid into a nightgown. Beverly tucked her in and was on her way out when she heard Deanna's soft, pleading voice whispering her name.

 

"Beverly...could you please stay with me tonight? I know it's a lot to ask but..."

 

"Stop it right there." Shocked by Crusher's sudden interruption Troi shut her mouth instantly, only to open it to apologize, again.

 

"Deanna, of course I'll stay if you want me too." The gratitude in her eyes was all that she needed and so she silenced the Empath before she could voice it.

 

"But I will join you in that bed if you don't mind, 'cos I'm not exactly used to sleeping in a chair." Both of the women grinned and the Doctor walked out to change. When she entered the bedroom again Troi had moved to the side creating more space for her friend. Beverly got in and drew the sheets over herself and Deanna. To her surprise the latter had already fallen asleep. She slowly closed her eyes. Within seconds Beverly Crusher had fallen into a restful sleep.

 

~*+*~

Again she awoke from arms slapping against her. Turning around she found Deanna half conscious fighting her invisible demons. "Not me!...No!...I didn't...they did!" Beverly sat up herself, her heart going out to the young Betazoid who was so desperately trying to fight the demons within her.

 

"Deanna, wake up."

 

"He...isn't dead!...I didn't kill him...he wasn't meant to die!...I tried to...I couldn't...STOP IT!!!" 'This is ridiculous; she *has* to wake up.' Not knowing what else to do Beverly slapped her friend across her delicate face. Her eyes flew open and stared straight into the blue gaze of Doctor Crusher. This time Deanna was almost immediately aware of where she was and what had happened.

 

"It happened again, didn't it?" Beverly just nodded, the compassion clear in her eyes. Deanna shook her head sadly, causing the silky curls to drape around her face and shoulders, and let out a loud sigh.

 

"When did it first happen?"

 

"Down on the planet." Immediately the Doctor made the connection and looked at the Betazoid who nodded confirmation.

 

"The voices surprised me, I didn't have time to lock them away; they overwhelmed me. I can control, ignore them during the day but not when I'm asleep, not yet."

 

"What are they saying?" With a quiet voice and tears building in her large eyes Troi explained how one of the voices accused her of scaring away every men she loved, while the other was defending her.

 

"Sound like the 'good' and the 'bad' part of your mind are having a discussion." Noticing the confusion in her friend Crusher explained about the human perception of the battle between heart and mind.

"How are you going to deal with them?" Another sigh escaped her.

 

"I'll have to accept that Will has left me yet again." She forced a weak smile on her face, one that wouldn't and never had fooled Beverly. She drew the younger woman into her embrace and hugged her tightly.

 

"You'll manage, I'm sure you will Dea."

 


Chapter Thirteen:  Aye Captain

 

As the doors closed behind the backs of the admiral and her husband the center of the night's attention dropped down in the nearest chair. "Thank God."

 

"So, how are we feeling...Captain?" With a big grin on her face one of the ladies at the table asked.

 

"Tired." Was the plain reply.

 

"You should be proud."

 

"I'm too exhausted to be proud." The answer was simple and true, there wasn't a trace of humour in it. Beverly Crusher studied the face across the table; the exhaustion was clearly visible.

 

"How's the leg, any pain?"

 

"A little, but it'll be fine." A yellow-skinned man walked stiffly up to them.

 

"Would you like a beverage of some kind...," He paused intentionally, hoping to accomplish a sense of drama when he addressed the highest in rank present. "Captain." A smile rewarded his attempt.

 

"I'm fine Data and really, you don't have to use that title all the time." The android slightly tipped his head.

 

"Capt...I found in my studies of human psychology that they usually like to be reminded of honourable accomplishments." Beverly laughed amused.

 

"Some of them do Data, but they usually have a huge ego. Something the new Captain here lacks."

 

"Very funny Beverly. Shall I need to adopt one I'll give you a call." The two looked each other in the eyes, neither of them willing to look away first. But soon they simultaneous bursted into laughs." Data opened his mouth to ask something when he was interrupted.

 

"Well, Admiral Hirya and her husband have beamed down...finally. *Do* remind me never to give up captaincy." Jean-Luc reached out for a chair, shove it to the table his friends were sitting by and sat down.

 

"I will, believe me, I will." The two Captains grinned and winked at each other. A sudden rather loud and annoyed sigh draw everyone's attention to Deanna Troi.

 

~Little One, the ceremony was beautiful my dear. But I *do* have some comments. Could you send Jean-Luc.~

 

~Mother, one cannot just -send- the Captain of a Starship.~

 

~I'm sure you'll manage Little One.~

 

~Will you *stop* calling me Little One!~

 

~Just send him alright.~

 

"Deanna?" Deanna tipped her head to Beverly's concerned looking figure.

 

"Mother." And no further explanation was needed, for any of them.

 

"So, when are you off to your own ship?" Curious all present glanced at the new Captain, who took a deep breath and glanced first at Beverly and then at Captain Picard.

 

"Actually, I was hoping to be allowed to stay on board the Enterprise." Confused looks were exchanged before he answered.

 

"But your promotion..."

 

"After having seen you being a Captain for sixteen years, I'm happy with my function as it is." The teasing tone of the statement obviously went unnoticed by the Captain.

 

"But your career..."

 

"My career, my ambition isn't to command a Starship. It never has been. I *am* proud with myself for earning that rank and the possible assignment to go with it, but it's not what I *want* to do. I'm happy with my life as it is."

 

When everyone remained silent the newly promoted Captain decided to strengthen the previous statement. "Even if that means refusing the rank of Captain." Cautiously the officer watched the reaction of Jean-Luc Picard. He folded his hands in the same way he had been folding them for the past sixteen years when he was about to try to alter a person's mind.

 

"Counselor..." He paused briefly and looked her full in the face. "...I do not expect you to do so. I don't need to tell you about how I feel about this request. If you truly wish to stay I'll allow you too; but I will not allow you to refuse your newly obtained rank *Captain*." Deanna smiled and sighed of relief and looked at each of her friends who were glad she had decided to stay, but also a bit sad that she wouldn't make her career even more impressive. Beverly gently squeezed her hand.

 

"Are you sure about this Deanna."

 

~Little One, don't be ridiculous!~ Ignoring her mother best as she could she replied quietly.

 

"I am Beverly. Captaincy won't allow me to counsel people anymore, and that is what I want to do most and what I'm good at."

 

"Well I could say I'm sorry, but I know better than to lie to an empath." All the officers chuckled and mumbled that they felt the same. Deanna smiled and stood up.

 

"Thank you all for coming. But this guest is going to give herself some rest." Congratulations and goodnight wishes filled Ten-Forward as Deanna Troi turned around and headed to the doors.

 

"Don't let my absence spoil the party!" She called over her shoulder and she rolled her eyes at their common response "Aye Captain!" Knowing full well that they were trying to trigger a response from her she remained silent. Jean-Luc watched her walking out.

 

"What about the leg? Will she ever fully recover?"

 

"You mean if she'll have to walk with a game leg forever." Silently he nodded.

 

"Jean-Luc; she has had little more than three weeks to recover. Give it some time. It amazing that she got this far already."

 

"You're right Doctor, as usual." Doctor Beverly Picard-Crusher smile thriumphantic and kissed her husband on his nose.

 

"As long as you remember that."

 

~*+*~

In her quarters Deanna stared at the reflection in the mirror. 'I don't look different...I don't feel different either.' She took the shiny golden medal of her chest and looked at it, then shrugged her shoulders and put in a drawer. Just as she reached at the clasp of her dress the doorchimes went.

 

"Come in." The doors slid open and Beverly Picard peeked around the corner.

 

"Don't forget your appointment tomorrow."

 

"I won't. Now, go; Jean-Luc is waiting." The cheeks of the Doctor flushed instantly and she began to step away from the doors.

 

"Got to admit; Captain Troi sounds good." The Betazoid turned around to make a comment, but found the doors already closed. Returning her attention to her mirror she judged herself one more time.

 

"It does, doesn't it." And with a grin on her face she walked to her bedroom to undress. 'Captain Troi...' Beverly's words had made it definitive; she was a Captain from now on. Though she had refused the usual vessel to go with it. She pulled the sheets down, stepped in bed and tucked herself in. Fatigue took possession of her as soon as her head hit her pillow.

 

The ceremony had definitely taken its toll. Until Beverly had said those two simple words it hadn't really hit her, not when the nomination came, nor when the medal of Exceptional Courage had been pinned on her chest. And not when the fourth pip had been added on her collar. As she rolled her head to the side her eyes fell on the picture of William T. Riker.

 

"Ironic, isn't it? How we seemed to have exchanged our goals." It hurt, not having him there with her to celebrate; tonight it hurt far more than it had done the past months.

 

~It will always hurt Little One, but it'll fade.~ Deanna sighed sadly.

 

~I know Mother. I just would've liked him being here tonight.~

 

~You're exhausted, you need your rest. Sayara Irië Little One.~

 

~Sayara Irië Mother.~ She closed her eyes and twisted a bit to make herself more comfortable. Almost immediately she felt herself falling a sleep.

 

~I'm proud of you Deanna Troi.~ With a smile on her face Deanna slipped over the edge, feeling more loved and more at peace with herself than she had for a long time. 

 

~*+*~

"She has recovered very well, hasn't she." He watched his wife as she walked up to him, carrying their drinks.

 

"Yes she has, both physically and mentally. Her strength keeps surprising me." She handed him his drink and sat down beside him.

 

"She has surprised many over the years." Beverly chuckled and snuggled closer to her husband.

 

"Who had expected this when she came aboard? She looked so fragile and was so tiny, full of life, naive in her own way and always so understandable and compassionate. God I admire her!" Jean-Luc laughed teasingly and planted a kiss on her forehead. Then he finished what she had started.

 

"And she still is, time has taken nothing from her, but has given her more wisdom and grace." A sad sigh penetrated his ears.

 

"What is it Love?"

 

"Time *did* take something from her, something possible far more import to her than any of the afore mentioned." Soothingly he stroke his hand through her auburn hair; he knew exactly what she was referring too. And like her he could only imagine what had been like for their friend. "I'm afraid Jean-Luc, afraid that she'll never be able to love, really love someone again. Damnit! Will had no right to treat her like he did!"

 

"Shh, no use in getting angry at the past Beverly. Deanna is at peace with it now."

 

"Oh, Jean-Luc, you should've seen her. When she told me of their history, she looked so lost, broken even frightened. And even then she loved him too much to be angry, furious at him. I spoke to Lwaxana several times while she was on Betazed and I did some research myself at this 'Imzadi-bond'. It has never happened before that an Imzadi-couple split up while both were still alive. In Betazoid religion they're almost sacred! How could he toss that, her away like it was nothing?!" Tears shone in her icy-blue gaze. "She's my friend, he*l my sister and it just saddens me that she has been and still is hurting so much."

 

He encircled her with his arms and drew her close. The evening had been a joyful and emotional one. And it now was taking its toll. "Come on, let's go to bed. Otherwise the dear Captain will ask questions tomorrow." Both grinned and reluctantly got up from their comfortable positions.

 

"Oh, she'll do that anyway, count on it." They shared a tender and loving kiss and right after that Beverly disappeared in their bedroom. "Oh, Jean-Luc darling, could you please clean up a bit?" He rolled his eyes and picked up the empty glasses.

 

"Of course Ma'am." When he heard her gentle laughter he started whistling; something he found himself doing a lot lately. By the time he had dressed for bed and stepped in besides her she was already sound a sleep. With mellowed eyes he stroke a wry strand of hair out her face and gently kissed her goodnight.

 

~*+*~

A deck lower Lwaxana Troi was very much awake. As soon as her daughter had fallen a sleep she had raised her mental shields around her Little One, and now she sat in her dark quarters waiting for the dreams she knew would come. It wasn't her habit to protect Deanna from her dreams. She had done it only a few times before. But today was Deanna's day and she deserved nothing more than a good night's sleep.

 


Chapter Fourteen: Laughs

 

"Red Alert!!! All hands to battle stations!!!" The small form in front her groaned and rolled to the other side of the bed. "Come on Captain! You're needed." Another groan and a pale hand drew the sheets higher up. "Deanna, your mother is on her way!"

 

The Counselor sat up instantly; her dark eyes wide open. "WHAT?!" Startled she looked around her until her eyes caught the laughing face of Doctor Crusher.

 

"Quite an impression you make Deanna. Coming late to your first appointment as a Captain." Quizzically Deanna looked into her friend’s face. She rubbed at her eyes with the palms of her hands and blinked.

 

"Captain?" Beverly frowned and looked at Deanna. All of a sudden she started laughing hysterically, startling the Betazoid. Deanna still didn't quite understand but Beverly's fit of laughter had an infectious effect and so Deanna joined her.

 

After Deanna had regained her composure again --she could breath again-- she asked her friend why they were laughing. The question couldn't be answered by either of and she decided to ask another instead.

 

"Why was it you come to wake me up anyway?" Beverly focused inwards for a second.

 

"Uh...? Oh, you were supposed to be in Sickbay then half an hour ago." 'Odd, I haven't slept uninterrupted for a long time...' She turned her gaze back to the ceiling and thought for a second.

 

Beverly studied the Betazoid for a while, realizing that something either bothered, or puzzled her but decided not to ask, happy that for the first time in months the look of sorrow and fear had disappeared from the younger woman's black eyes

 

They remained lying on the bed for a couple more minutes, until their breathing had slowed down and they were ready to get up and go to Sickbay. Deanna sat up first, eyeing the Doctor playfully.

 

"Bev, you are as red as a tomato," she stated matter-of-factly.

 

"Well, you don't look that smashing either Counselor." Crusher replied. "Now get yourself moving and dressed so that you can honor me with your first visit to Sickbay as a Captain." Both grinned slightly and Deanna got up. With a slight limp she walked to her bathroom and disappeared inside it.

 

Several minutes later Deanna reappeared from the bathroom, dressed in a beautiful civilian dress.

 

"What? Not showing off you medal and fourth pip?" Instead of answering Troi threw her friend a sly glance and proceeded her out her quarters. Grinning Beverly initiated her pursuit.

 

During their walk from Deanna's quarters to Sickbay Beverly studied Troi's leg carefully, the dress that darted behind the empath partially covered the leg, but nonetheless the Doctor was able to tell which of Deanna's muscles hadn't healed sufficiently. She's hadn't given up hope though, Deanna was still improving. Suddenly Deanna halted and turned, locking her gaze on that of the Doctor behind her.

 

With her eyes she conveyed her question about what Beverly was thinking. Being the empath and telepath she was now Troi could often pick up stray thoughts from her closest friends. This time however was one of the times when her new powers failed and therefore, knowing there was something important on Beverly's mind she asked. Unwilling to tell Troi what she was thinking just yet Crusher threw her a glance that said as much as 'later'.

 

Briefly Deanna twitched her mouth in playful dismay and then she entered Sickbay. "I'm exhausted! I feel like I've been running up and down the ship for an entire week!" With a loud sigh she hauled herself onto one of the biobeds. Doctor Crusher picked up a medical tricorder and started scanning the Counselor thoroughly.

 

"So, any insight into our behavior this morning Counselor?"

 

"Well, I guess that was the mental revenge for the last stressful month."

 

"Sounds acceptable." They winked conspiratorially and Beverly turned to study the scans.

"Your back and arm are fully healed, and so is your cheekbone." Patiently Troi waited until her Doctor would continue. "There's no more residue of the drugs in your system. So, apart from your leg you are totally healed and ready to return to duty." A sigh of relief escaped her throat. "You did it Deanna!" Both chuckled at Crusher's happiness.

 

"And the leg?"

 

"Is better than yesterday. I think you have a very good chance it'll heal entirely in time." Deanna extended her empathic sense; Beverly hadn't lied but she was afraid she might be holding something back. 'Odd, she feels...different.'

 

Gently she extended her probe a little further. 'Definitely different.' In her mind she went over the possible causes. When Beverly turned back to her the concentrated features of the Counselor worried her.

 

"Deanna? Are you all right?" Beverly’s words shattered her concentration as the realization hit her.

 

"By Rixx! Beverly, irhai trhaisyaliha!!!" The Betazoid's foreign words, her broad smile and the twinkles in her eyes surprised the Doctor.

 

"What are you saying?"

 

"You're pregnant!!!" Beverly's blue eyes widened in confusion and disbelief.

 

"Deanna *what* are you talking about?!" Now it was Deanna's turn to be confused.

 

"You didn't know? Beverly, I'm sensing another presence -in- you. Judging by its strength you're 3-4 weeks pregnant!"

 

"But..." Her mixed emotions prevented her from speaking. Sensing her friend's inner turmoil Deanna hopped off of the bed and more or less forced Beverly to sit down.

 

"Shh, relax. I'll take a med scan." She nodded mutely. 'A baby?! But how? When? Oh my God! What will Jean-Luc say?!' Troi's soft voice interrupted her string of thoughts.

 

"Have a look." With trembling hands she accepted the tricorder and nervously looked at the readings. Softly she gasped and handed the device back. The empath sensed her emotions change from disbelief to uncertainty and eventually into immense happiness. Together they laughed and cried in joy.

 

"Oh Beverly, I'm so happy for you." The redhead mouthed a silent thanks when suddenly her features turned serious and concerned.

 

"What will Jean-Luc think? Oh, Deanna, what if he doesn't want the baby?" Tears welled up in her eyes, and the Betazoid squeezed her hands encouragingly.

 

"He'll be thrilled...once he's past the initial shock. I'm certain of that Beverly." The Doctor studied Deanna's face carefully but then agreed with her.

 

"How will I tell him?"

 

"Oh, can I tell him?! Please??? I'll never refuse any treatment again! Can I? Please?" Deanna's childlike enthusiasm made her smile. Her dark eyes were filled with hope and joy. 'How can I possibly deny her anything when she looks like that.' The mother-to-be sighed and nodded slowly.

 

"Oh Thank you!!! I'll be in your debt!" Softly grinning she shook her head. She hadn't seen Deanna this happy since...well since a long time. Maybe this was just what Deanna needed to get her life back together again.

 


Chapter Fifteen: Congratulations

 

It had been two days since Deanna's promotion and the discovery of Beverly's pregnancy, and so far both were the best-kept secrets on the Enterprise. Deanna had requested that her promotion would remain a secret until she had taken care of personal issues. And Beverly had given Deanna the honor of announcing her pregnancy. This morning Captain Picard had gotten Troi's permission to reveal her promotion to the rest of the crew.

 

>All Senior Staff; report to the Bridge.< Captain Troi glanced at her reflection one more time. She told herself that she looked like a true Starfleet Officer as she nervously left her quarters. Her fourth pip and medal was hidden in her closed hand.

 

In the Turbolift she joined Data and Geordi who were on their way up as well. She handed the medal and pip to Geordi who silently attached them on her uniform. On the Bridge the other Senior Staff members were already present. Silently she walked down and went to stand in front of her usual chair.

 

Jean-Luc stood up and gestured her to stand in front of his chair. While she moved the other officers gathered in front of the view screen. No one spoke. Curious, the lieutenants and ensigns present watched the strange behavior of their superiors in puzzlement.

 

"Computer: open ship-wide commchannel."

 

>Channel open.< He winked at the Deanna and began to speak.

 

"This is Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise-E speaking. Can I have your full attention please." The Betazoid felt the anxiety and curiosity of the crew rising and locked her eyes on her Captain.

 

"It is my pleasure and honor to announce to you the promotion of one of the most cherished officers on board this ship. Two days ago that officer was promoted to Captain." The anxiety was gone, but the curiosity kept rising. "To my surprise, and frankly relief, the new Captain has requested to be allowed to stay aboard the Enterprise...I have granted that request." The curiosity was almost overwhelming and accompanied by confusion.

 

"Together with the promotion the officer also received the medal of Exceptional Courage, the most prestigious award within Starfleet." The pride she felt among the crew made her feel content, loved and...home. With a slow nod Picard indicated it was time. He stepped forward and extended his hand. Deanna took it.

 

"Deanna Troi, congratulations on your promotion to Captain. I can't think of anyone who deserves it more."

 

"Thank you Captain." Briefly she closed her eyes when she felt the joy of almost a thousand people wash over her. "And congratulations to you as well." Quickly she winked at Beverly before she returned her eyes to Picard's now confused face. "I'm sure you'll make a wonderful father."

 

Quizzically he looked into the mischievous onyx eyes of his Counselor, but she just smiled back and offered no explanation. When the meaning of her words dawned on him he slowly turned around on his heels and looked at his wife. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were aimed at the floor.

 

"Beverly?" She nodded slightly and then lifted up her blue eyes to lock them on her husband's. The confusion on his face was exchanged for joy as he ran towards her and scooped her in his arms. "You're pregnant?! That's fantastic! Marvelous! Terrific!!!" Joy and relief replaced Beverly’s nervousness and anxiety as she laughed and cried at the same time.

 

Unprepared for the joy of everyone on board the ship Deanna swayed under the deluge of everyone’s emotions. Data's perceptive eye saw this and in a few steps stood beside her in support.

 

"Are you all right Counselor?" She looked up at the android and smiled openly.

 

"Yes Data. The joy I felt overwhelmed me for a moment, but I'm fine now. Thank you for catching me."

 

"No need Counselor. I'm glad you're all right." The two of them turned their gazes to the couple standing the middle of the Bridge. They looked so happy. Deanna really was happy for them, and she was proud on them as well. But inside she was hurting. She had wanted the very same thing so much for herself...with Will.

 

~Don't allow him to spoil the moment Little One.~

 

~I know mother, but I really wanted us to be a family. It hurts.~

 

~I know it does, but you'll pull through it. Now, go and congratulate your Captain from me.~ With a slight smile the Betazoid shook her head and walked up to the Picards.

 

"Mother congratulates you both." They nodded in return but were still too caught up in each other to respond vocally.

 

"It seems we have something to celebrate people! Counselor's orders." She called out to everyone then ordered the computer to terminate the ship-wide comm. "Take your wife home Captain. I'll take the Bridge." She smiled reassuringly and received a silent thanks as the couple headed to the Turbolift. She ordered everyone else to go as well and only allowed Data to stay on the Bridge with her. Neither had someone to go to now and after all, what could happen? 'Okay, wrong question.'

 


==============

Author’s Note: All paragraphs in italics indicate a flashback. It’s the third time I uploaded this chapter, it seemed reluctant to go out in the big wide world ;) Enjoy!

==============

 

Chapter Sixteen: Exceptional Courage, Pt I

 

Sitting in the Captain's chair, surrounded by silence, Captain Deanna Troi checked for personal messages...there were none. In the five-and-a-half months since Will had departed on his so-called shore leave he hadn't sent her a single message, and that hurt. She closed the screen angrily and turned her gaze outward to the stars, the life she had chosen.

 

For days the thought of returning to her home, between the stars had been the only one that had kept her sane, alive. No one had expected that a simple political mission could have gone so...wrong and thus no one had prepared.

 

Her mind wandered to the day she had left the Enterprise to spend some time on Betazed. She had been near a mental breakdown and she had known it. She had used her time on Betazed to clean up the mess she was in from Will's departure. And once again she had managed to get her life back together. With the help of her mother and her two best friends, Chandra and Beverly, she had managed. The crew had been happy to have her back on board and she had been happy to be back...among the stars.

 

Upon her return several changes were introduced. Data had taken over all the First Officer's Bridge Watches, and the extra time that had given her allowed her to keep counseling her patients and to take care of Will’s normal tasks. It was true that she didn't have as much spare time as before, but she didn't really mind. She loved leading Away Missions and more than once her empathy had proven helpful. Besides, it kept her from thinking too much about her personal life.

 

Things on the Enterprise went well; there had been no wars. Of course people had gotten injured during an away mission, including herself; but then, an away mission just wasn't an away mission without *something* going wrong, was it? There had been only one hostile encounter in space.

 

Three weeks after she had returned they had been attacked by a Romulan Warbird near the Neutral Zone. They had been surprised...not as much by the event itself but by the ancient Warbird. It was no match for the Souvereign Class Enterprise-E, but the Romulan commander in charge had set things straight with her 'welcome sentence' "You're going to regret the day you set foot aboard *my* vessel Major Rakal. Or should I call you Deanna Troi." The venom in Toreth's voice had been nearly tangible, but strangely enough Deanna hadn't been scared. On the contrary, she had been annoyed. Talking hadn't helped; Toreth wanted revenge. And so the attack itself hadn't been much of a surprise.

 

 Throughout their communications the Warbird had remained cloaked and when it eventually showed itself to fire it turned out to be over twenty years old. By the time they realized this it was too late, and they had already used their strongest weapons, resulting in the regretful destruction of the Warbird and its crew of eight Romulans.

 

Both governments had mutually agreed that it had been a regretful incident but that neither could be held responsible and the Treaty remained.

 

However, almost two months later things went wrong, -very- wrong.

 

The mission had been a standard one. Deanna, Picard and Data had beamed down as representatives of the Federation to Pklira Prime, a planet that had joined the Federation twelve months prior. They beamed down to talk with the planet's government to investigate the status of the population and the effects of joining the Federation on the natives. She was unsettled by the idea of the three most senior members of the crew beaming down to the planet so she logged her objections.  But Starfleet Command stood fast, sending them down anyway, leaving Geordi in Command.

 

The first day hadn't been a problem. The planet's Prime Minister Kltiap had been cooperative and had allowed them access to all archives. She hadn't sensed any danger or deception, but she was a little concerned by the feeling that he was holding something back. She had made several attempts to find out what it was, but each had ended in a dead end. By the end of the day the officers had beamed back to the ship for the night. The next day they would view the capital city.

 

~-~-~-~

Someone was following them; she was sure of it and she doubted that that their intentions would be good. Abruptly she stopped and looked over her shoulder, trying to determine where their pursuer was hiding. Picard had noticed her hesitation before but her sudden stop concerned him.

 

"What is it?"

 

"Someone's following us." Her whisper was so soft that only Picard and Data could hear her. With a gesture of his hand he motioned Data to keep their guide busy.

 

"Can you determine his or her intentions?" She shook her head regretfully.

 

"No Sir; but I doubt they’re good."

 

"I agree Commander. Let's be cautious." She threw another glance over her shoulder and then continued their journey.

~-~-~-~

Oh, she remembered that mission well; better than she wanted. And much to her annoyance she wasn't likely to forget. That afternoon the mission had taken a drastic turn.

 

~-~-~-~

The sensation of being followed hadn't left and was joined by anxiety by the time they had reached the government building. They spent several minutes discussing their tour through the city and during that time she felt the anxiety magnify and the tension in their pursuer grow. She realized that there were two pursuers, in close proximity to each other.

 

She informed the Captain and Data of her findings and asked them to be extra alert. Because it was a friendly mission they didn't carry any weapons, which made them a rather vulnerable target. The Prime Minister walked up to them to welcome them back and of course ask them their opinion on his city.

 

As soon as he walked out the door the anxiety increased tenfold and made her gasp softly. When the Minister went to stand next to Picard she suddenly felt a need for revenge and immense hatred.

 

Immediately she knew and understood the intentions of the two men emerging only a few meters away. They held weapons of some sort and aimed at the Captain and the Prime Minister. In the blink of an eye she threw herself in front of her Captain while shouting to Data to protect Kltiap.

 

The disruptor-like beam meant for Picard hit her in her upper leg and made her scream of pain. Glancing at Data and the Minister she saw Data getting up to pursue the attackers and in the same instant she realized that Kltiap had been hurt as well. Deanna then hit her ComBadge and opened a link.

 

"Away Team to Enterprise: Beam us up, now!" Without giving it another thought she threw her Badge to the Minister, thereby making sure he would get the necessary medical treatment. Only after making sure they had been beamed out did she allowed herself to pass out.

~-~-~-~

Unconsciously Deanna rubbed her left thigh where she had been hurt over a month ago.

 

~-~-~-~

Slowly she opened her eyes and scanned her surroundings. There was hardly any light, but enough to see that she wasn't in a luxury suite. The room was humid and cold; a combination the tiny Betazoid couldn't stand. When she tried to sit up a sharp pain surged through her left leg and she clenched her teeth in an effort to avoid crying out.

 

Looking down at her leg she saw the primitive bandage, soaked with her blood. "Well, at least they have the politeness to bind me up." Her muttered statement was lost in the darkness of the building. Judging by the amount of blood the wound was large and had not stopped bleeding yet. Biting on her lip she began to unwind the bandage.

 

What she saw made her gasp in horror. A large chunk of flesh was missing, and several veins and muscles were cut and bleeding heavily. She was very well aware she had to stop the bleeding or she'd bleed to death, which wasn't quite the kind of death she preferred. She shifted her position slightly, took off her jacket and tore it into strips. One of those strips she wound around her leg just above the wound. She tightened it as much as she could; hoping it would decrease her bleeding.

 

Her initial thought was to use the other strips to wrap the wound, but on second thought she decided not to. Her clothes were filthy and would only cause infections, which would worsen the problem. In a position between sitting and lying down she waited...and waited...and waited and eventually she fell asleep.

 

~*+*~

A pain in her cheek awoke her. "Wake up Starfleet-one!" Reluctantly she opened her eyes and looked at the man towering above her. He was rather tall, 6'2” she estimated, and very angry.

 

"Where am I?"

 

"That's not of your concern lady." His cold voice sent a shiver down her spine but she didn't show her fear.

 

"Who are you?"

 

"Nobody. Now you'll stop asking questions and follow me!" His edgy and unpredictable state of mind silenced her...until she tried to move.

 

"Laveer plarhja!" She clenched her teeth together to avoid screaming out again.

 

"What did you say lady?!" His voice conveyed his menace quite clearly.

 

"I said: goddammit this hurts like hell!" While translating she pointed at her injured thigh. To her pleasure she saw the man's features pale as his eyes fell on her wound.

 

"Very well, I'll bring everything here." Curious but also frightened about what that 'everything' might be she awaited the man's return. Some five minutes later he came back; carrying to buckets with water, two towels, some clothes and more bandages. He put the things down at her side and left. "One hour." He called over his shoulder.

 

"Terrific" she muttered as she watched him leave. "Okay let's give it a shot." But every move, no matter how slight, made her cringe in pain. Drawing on everything she had once been taught she used all her inner strength to block out the pain. Eventually she succeeded; leaving only a vague stinging sensation when she moved, but she wouldn't be able to block the pain very long and knew she had to hurry.

~*+*~

In little more than half an hour she managed to undress, clean, bandage her leg and dress again. She had soaked the bandages in the warm water and put them over the wound; then she had wound the dry bandages tightly around it. It was the best she could do, she just hoped it would be good enough. When she was finished she quickly washed her face before allowing herself to feel the pain again.

Like she had expected the pain had increased by several magnitudes and as soon as she stopped blocking it she fainted.

 

~*+*~

This time the feeling of cold water on her face was the reason she awoke. This time there was a couple standing in front of her. The man was taller than the previous, 6'4” or 6'5”, and she had to admit he was handsome as well. He was accompanied by a woman about Beverly's height, pretty to look at but not stunningly beautiful. Both were agitated and nervous but satisfied about their captive; the man a little more so than the woman. Deanna regarded them both with a scrutinizing glance that revealed none of her emotions. "That was a stupid action of you lady."

 

"What was?"

 

"Taking the blast meant for the Minister and that Starfleet Captain." The man nearly spitted the word Starfleet out. His disgust was easily understood.

 

"I consider it my duty to protect my Captain." She lifted her chin up slightly, creating the aristocratic look her friends used to tease her about.

 

"Even if it costs you your own life?"

 

"I'm not dead, am I." A short, horrifying laugh penetrated her ears and made her wish she were dead.

 

"Not yet my dear, not yet." She heard the threat in his voice and sensed that he was able to kill...without remorse.

 

"What's your name?" Deanna shifted her gaze to the woman on her other side. Her soft and pleasant voice had surprised her since it didn't seem to fit her hardened and stern features.

 

"Deanna Troi." They would find out one way or the other. For now she'd rather cooperate until she knew with whom she was dealing. "May I know yours in return?" The two exchanged looks and the woman nodded slowly.

 

"All right. I'm Kasheira and this..." Kasheira pointed at the man. "...is Rahad." 'Brother and sister.' At least, that was what her empathy told her.

 

"Ktoria, sikra tpos Deanna Troi!" Although she didn't understand the native words Deanna was pretty sure the man had just ordered someone to search for information about her. Knowing she wouldn't have advantage of her empathy much longer she began a complete probe of the two in front of her.

 

"Why did you capture me?"

 

"You'll find out soon enough." Brother and sister then left her alone. Mentally she made notes about them. They pretended to be polite and caring and they treated her kindly hoping to win her trust. But to the empath their malevolent spirits and intentions were crystal clear. Neither of them would hesitate to use violence in order to get her to cooperate, and considering her condition it would be better not to infuriate or agitate them. She had only a faint idea of what they were trying to accomplish.

 

~*+*~

In the mean time the Enterprise was buzzing with commotion. Prime Minister Kltiap was in surgery for his badly injured arm, while a lightly bruised Picard was discussing the possibilities and options to retrieve his acting First Officer. The knowledge that she had taken the blast meant for him spurred them to act quickly in order to get her the necessary medical treatment. The Away Team that had been beamed down to investigate the crime-scene had returned without clues.

 

 

"So, a Betazoid, a pretty one even." Rahad and Kasheira had returned and closely examined her now clean face.

 

"If I had known you'd look like this I'd have cleaned you sooner my dear." 'Good, then this wasn't intentional.' With the tips of his fingers he tried to caress her cheekbone but she pulled away, biting her lower lip in pain. Grinning evilly he stood up and turned to his sister.

 

"Rajih tara Kluos tia liamy niro."

 

"Iro sata Rahad." Kasheira held out her hand. Quickly probing her Deanna knew that whatever was about to happen wouldn't be harmful to her and thus she accepted the hand. As she was being pulled up she screamed from the  pain and tears sprung up in her eyes.

 

She limped with the aid of the woman who had lifted her arm over her shoulders to support her. Kasheira led her deeper into the complex. Troi tried her best to keep focussed to study her surroundings and direction but soon the pain forced her to use all her attention not to pass out.

 

She was led through a long corridor and Kasheira opened two large doors nearly at the end and showed her inside. The stunning look of the room made her forget the pain momentarily. Kasheira released her grip and walked out.

 

"You'll find painkillers on the wash table." The doors closed and Deanna heard them being locked. Fortunately the wash table wasn't too far away. Having reached the painkillers after what had seemed an eternity she was willing to take the risk of being poisoned - the pain was *unbearable*. She swallowed them with water and hobbled to the huge bed against the back wall. Once there she laid down and allowed herself to sleep.

~-~-~-~

"It's a quiet evening, don't you agree Captain?" Data's attempt to start a small talk failed miserably as Troi didn't hear his question, or anything else for that matter.

 

~*+*~

>Ambassador Troi to Doctor Crusher; Doctor I suggest you and your husband stop celebrating and help my daughter; she's in need of medical attention." The two officers in question looked at each other in surprise. "Doesn't that woman ever just keep her comments to herself?" He murmured the words to his wife in annoyance. But Beverly was one step ahead.

 

"Computer: location of Counselor Troi?"

 

>Counselor Troi is on the Bridge.<

 

>Data to Crusher. Doctor, Captain Troi...<

 

"I know Data, I'm on my way!" Quickly she dressed and headed for the Bridge; Jean-Luc followed a minute later. Neither of them had remembered to reply to Lwaxana.

 

~-~-~-~

She looked around herself in confusion. 'Where am I? What is this place?' Slowly the events of the previous, at least she assumed it was the previous, day returned. Deanna sat up and realized that she only felt a slightly stinging pain instead of the sharp breathtaking pain she had felt the day before. "The painkillers must be working."

 

Throwing the sheets off her body she saw the gown she was wearing. 'They must have changed my clothes while I slept.' It didn't bother her, she knew her empathic sense would've told her if anything else had happened. She sat up and looked around her. The room was painted in soft yellow and purple colours, the furry carpet was white and most of the furniture was made of wood. A large closet was placed a few meters from her bed in the right corner. On her left was a small alcove in which a white bathtub had been placed.

 

On the doors someone had hung a dress, the only piece of clothing in the room. Reluctantly she got up from her comfortable position and walked to the doors, glad she could –walk- instead of limping. A small note was pinned on the dress.

 

"Brekfast wil be rite ther." She had to read it twice before realizing that is was standard English, only written phonetically. She carried the dress back to the bed and waited for her breakfast.

 

~*+*~

For two days she was constantly interrogated and deprived of sleep. At first they had tried to get information about the archives the Enterprise crew had reviewed but as soon as they had realized she would not talk they had switched to information about Starfleet; weak points in their defence system, political weakness, anything.

 

When she still didn't talk they had started on her empathy. They tried to find a way to use it to their advantage. Questions like 'Can you influence a person's behaviour with your empathy.' She was left with little to wonder about their intentions. Questions about her empathy she answered honestly, but they didn't believe her.

~-~-~-~

"I don't get it! Everything is normal: brain activity, heart-rate, blood-pressure, psilo-synine levels, EVERYTHING!!!" Frustrated she pushed herself away from her desk. "I just CAN'T wake her!" Beverly forced herself to go over the readings once more. The sound of the doors hissing open broke her concentration. "*WHAT*?!!" Angrily she swung her chair around and found herself looking straight into the big brown eyes of Lwaxana Troi. "Oh, Mrs. Troi. Deanna is in the Personal Observation room."

 

The elder Troi turned her back to the Doctor and looked through the window into Sickbay. "I didn't come to see Deanna." With a frown Beverly looked up. "There's nothing *I* can do for her. She has to wake up on her own, or with the help of her Imzadi..."

 

"And that's out of the question right now." Beverly stood up and approached Lwaxana until she stood right behind her. "You know what's wrong with her, don't you?" With a smile the Betazoid turned around, and the two women locked their eyes until Lwaxana sighed and turned back.

 

"I'm not totally sure but I think she induced this comatose state herself." As she opened her mouth to ask something the telepath cut her off. "I don't know why." Annoyed the Doctor let herself drop back in her chair.

 

"So what? We just sit and wait until Sleeping Beauty there decides to wake up?!" A bit angry but most of all frustrated and tired Doctor Crusher returned to her desk to once again go through the readings.

 

"Doctor, there is nothing anyone can do for her now. I suggest you return to your quarters and get yourself and the baby some rest...or to continue whatever you and Jean-Luc were doing." Open mouthed she stared at Lwaxana. 'Did she just order me?'

 

"I wouldn't Doctor, now go!" Too confused and tired to object Beverly left silently. 'Did I just...?' But she never finished her thought and just headed back to her quarters.

 


===============

Author’s note: The parts in italic are flashbacks.

===============

 

Chapter Seventeen: Exceptional Courage, Pt II

              

~-~-~-~

When after two days Troi still hadn't given them any valuable information Rahad called a physician. She briefly entertained the hope that he would treat her wound but soon it became obvious his purpose was to use her for experiments.

 

In the next twelve hours the doctor, Giltiar, almost constantly administered drugs into her system. Soon she was unable to shield her mind. She was overwhelmed by the emotions of others, causing her behaviour to change from second to second. One moment she was crying, the next she was furious or having a fit of giggles.

 

Rahad, Kasheira and Giltiar watched her with interest. But the emotions extracted their toll and soon Deanna became more and more exhausted from the lack of sleep as the emotions battered at her mind. After nearly five hours she was delirious, her words were incoherent and her movements frantic. Her eyes were larger than normal and had a haunted look. No one was able to approach her. After yet another hour she was too exhausted and simply collapsed. The two men carried her to the bed and allowed her a few hours of rest.

 

By the time she awoke the drugs hadn't worn off and she still wasn't able to shield her mind. Fortunately she could control her own behaviour. The next drugs they gave her had far more serious results. The drug was designed to enhance the slight telepathic abilities she had. But its influence was far greater than they had expected.

 

Her mind picked up every single thought of the people around her as well as everyone else's in the city. The thousands of voices in her head slowly drove her insane. Constantly screaming and twisting she managed to frighten the three spectators. Every once in a while she'd fall down in front of them and beg them to make the voices go away, tears streaming down her pained features.

 

 They kept her in this state for several hours; agreeing that it was the perfect way to know what the population of the city was thinking and feeling. During that time she injured herself by slamming against walls and other objects as well as scratching herself with her nails. In her state the pain didn’t register so she didn't pay attention to her wounds and her physical condition worsened quickly. Finally the doctor sedated her, after insistence of Kasheira.

 

"Why did you let him sedate her?!"

 

"If she's insane, or dead she'll be of no use to us!"

 

"She isn't anyhow!"

 

"Glpatioka Rahad! She's a *royalty*!!! We can ask *anything* for her return! But if we do that

we *have* to make sure she's in good health!!!" The fire was nearly visible in Kasheira's eyes, but Rahad remained calm.

 

"You've seen the records! Starfleet -doesn't- help criminals. Why would they help us?"

 

"As I see it my brother; we have two options. One is that we use Troi to get a ransom of some kind. The second is that you somehow manage to kill her and we get captured by the Federation. Personally I prefer the former." Kasheira's voice had dropped and dripped with sarcasm, but Rahad didn't back off for a second.

 

"C’mon sis, she's been here for four days and those friends of her still haven't found her. -If- we accidentally kill her they won't even know. And so far...I have other plans for her." A devilish grin washed over his cruel face. Kasheira's eyes flashed with disgust.

 

"It will only be a matter of time Rahad, you know that." He smiled self-confidently and turned to the small form lying on the bed.

 

"Well than, maybe you should clean her wounds...so that her condition won't worsen." He threw her a disdainful glance and left. The woman walked to the bleeding person on the bed and studied her condition. Even now she was murmuring protests against the voices in her head. The Pkliaran didn't allow herself to feel pity for the small woman in front of her. But because it would be in the best of interest for both of them she decided to clean the wounds.

~-~-~-~

"Hello Little One. I had hoped I wouldn't see you back in this room so soon. You really have to take better care of yourself." A sad sigh escaped Lwaxana as she stroked a stray strand of hair from her daughter's face. She wasn't really surprised this had happened. After all, what happened to Deanna on Pkliara Prime would have driven most Betazoids insane, if not killed them. She had seen the tapes and she had to admit, she doubted she would have handled it as well as Deanna had. Her daughter's mental strength kept surprising her and reminded her time after time that her Little One was a lot stronger than she expected. "Don't give up Little One, you have a godchild to watch growing up." Lwaxana lovingly placed a kiss on Deanna's forehead and then left her side reluctantly.

 

~-~-~-~

Quietly he slipped into the room, making sure that no one, especially not his sister, would see him. Cautiously he walked to the bed and looked down at the small sleeping figure. 'She -is- perfect.' Tenderly he stroked a stray strand of ebony hair from her pained features. The woman stirred and turned her head. He studied her for a while and listened to her incoherently murmured words.

 

Deanna turned to her side, causing the sheets to fall down and giving Rahad the view he had hoped for. The highly transparent nightgown she was dressed in left little to the imagination. Rahad liked everything he saw...too much. As she was sleeping Deanna sensed his arousal slowly building, causing her body to began to react as well. Giving in to his desires Rahad tenderly began to trace her jaw line with his fingers.

 

"I-Imzadi?" Suddenly overwhelmed by feelings and thoughts of physical lust and desire her eyes flew open. She stared wide-eyed into the red gaze of Rahad.

 

"What?!--How?!--Where?!--" He placed a silencing finger on her lips and gently stroked her lower lip with his thumb. Too confused and unfocussed Deanna didn't notice.

 

"Shh, it's all right. I'll take really good care of you."

 

"Can you make the voices stop? Please?" She gazed at him hopefully, begging as a child would. But he shook his head while continuing striking her soft skin.

 

"I can't. But I can make you forget them." With his large hands on her shoulders he gently forced her to lie back down again. Not totally aware of what was going on Deanna settled herself into the sheets and closed her eyes.

 

"I don't want to hear them anymore."

 

"I know Liefje." His soft voice soothed her and her breathing slowed down. He trailed his hands down her body, barely brushing the material of her gown. He moved to sit at her side and simultaneously pulled her gown upwards and roughly pressed his lips against hers. Troi's eyes flew open and flashed with anger and confusion. Quickly he straddled her tiny frame and pinned her down underneath him.

 

Frightened and infuriated she kicked her legs, ignoring the pain. But she couldn't reach him. Triumphantly he smiled down at her, while his hands roughly caressed her chest. "Let me go!!!"

 

"I promised to take care of you didn't I?" He pressed his mouth on hers once again and was dismayed when she held hers tightly closed.

 

"What? You don't want to play?" The coldness in his voice startled her and for a brief moment she ceased all her movements. While he continued his strokes and kisses she forced herself to think. But the voices in her head confused her and made it impossible for her to concentrate.

 

"Tria ta fhlore thioha klahaya ZHATH!"

 

"That sounds flattering, what does it mean?" She waited to answer until her eyes had locked with his. The raw emotions in her eyes briefly startled him; the fury and despise were almost tangiblet.

 

“ It means get your filthy, ugly, despicable body off mine..." He ceased his movements and just watched her. "...I don't believe there's a correct translation for Zhath, but 'little, repulsive, disgusting, brainless DWARF!' comes close." During her explanation she had felt the anger build within him. If it wasn’t from her words it was because of the agonizing calm and authority with which she spoke.

 

Rahad lifted his left hand up, his red eyes almost burning with fury. He struck he cheek with incredible force. She literally -felt- the bone break as she bit her lip to prevent herself from crying out. Seeing the blood on her mouth he laughed in satisfaction and leaned down to lick at it. It was a painful mistake. As soon as she felt the pressure on her hips lessen she lifted her right leg and rammed her knee  between his legs. Unprepared for an assault, he screamed out from the sharp pain flowing through his lower regions. Her hands were freed and she  used them to push him off her.

 

She stood up immediately and started to hobble to the doors. But Rahad recovered quickly and ran after her, grabbing her leg and yanking her down. This time she did scream out from the pain as he grabbed just below the painful wound on her leg. Deanna fell roughly to the floor. Before he had the chance to pin her down again she turned onto her back and started kicking at him. With the accuracy of an android he grabbed her left foot and twisted her leg. Her high shriek chilled the marrow in his bones and he almost felt sorry for her.

 

"You're even filthier and lower than a rat Rahad." Her insulting words fed his fury and he stood up, rising to his full length above her. With his foot he pushed her onto her side.

 

"At least I can walk." His voice was soft and low, almost apologetic. Horror washed over her face when she realized what he was about to do. A devilish grin curled around his lips as he bent to bring his mouth near her ear. "Cooperate and you will too." Flashes of the past ran through her mind; her father and mother, Ian, the Janara Falls, the Enterprise-D, her Captain and friends until the image of Will Riker took its place and did not leave.

 

"I would never, *ever* give myself to such a rat as yourself willingly! Even the most cruel woman in the universe deserves better!" The words, spoken through clenched teeth, were barely a whisper but loud enough for him to hear. Rahad brushed his lips against her broken cheek and stood up. Deanna tried to turn onto her belly but was stopped by an invisible force. She closed her eyes and summoned all her mental strength to block the pain she knew she was about to feel.

 

The man swung his leg backwards and waited a few seconds before kicking it forward with all the strength he had. Deanna felt the tip of his shoe come into contact with the small of her back. She was thrown forward from the force with which his shoe collided with her body. A long scream of pain rang through her ears but it took a while before she realized it was hers. But he didn't allow her much time to experience her pain before he roughly rolled her back onto her back and kneeled down at her side.

 

"Happy now?" She ignored him and focussed inwards. "Very well, I'll have fun anyway. With or without your mental presence." He grinned wickedly and leaned down to kiss her once more. His hands tore her dress apart and violently attacked her bare skin. But Deanna didn't react; she refused too. His nails scratched her silky skin and soon she was bleeding everywhere. But Deanna didn't feel it; she didn't allow herself to. Inside the fury was steadily building.

 

"Open your eyes!" A small evil smile crossed her features. She knew he was watching her closed eyes. The fury within her had pushed the voices to the background, allowing her to concentrate fully.

 

"Watch me." She spoke calmly but through clenched teeth. Something in her voice made him shiver and he wanted to pull away but found himself unable to break his gaze. Serenity washed over her face she seemed utterly calm. Inside, however, the fury was ten times greater than she had ever felt. Slowly she opened her eyes and focussed them on Rahad. What he saw made his heart stop beating for a few seconds and then it jumped to his throat. But no matter how much he wanted to, he was still unable to break her furious gaze.

 

In each black pupil there was a tiny yellow spark, flickering as vigorously as a flame. Her irises had changed from deep brown to as green as possible. The brightness of the colour almost hurt his eyes. The whites of her eyes were almost black. Horrified he gasped aloud and tried to move...but couldn't.

 

Deanna narrowed her eyes slightly and attacked him mentally. All of a sudden he -felt- the emotions and voices of everyone around them pour into his mind. His red eyes widened and his hands flew up to his temples. Terrified he shrank backwards, away from the empath. As soon as she was freed Deanna crawled up, never once noticing the wide red eyes of her captor. She glanced down disdainfully at the screaming man.

 

"I told you to let go." Utterly calm she turned around and started walking to the doors, oblivious to her pain and nudity. As she walked to the doors she focussed her gaze on the lock. As she neared it a click was heard as it unlocked. When she was less than two meters away the doors suddenly swung open, freeing her. As she stepped out into the corridor she was noticed by a guard. The woman stared at the Betazoid for a few moments before taking her weapon and aiming it at her. Deanna never slowed her pace. She focussed her green fury at the guard and shot emotions and voices into the woman's head. The intensity and abruptness knocked her out.  Deanna continued her way without seeming to notice.

 

~*+*~

Kasheira had witnessed everything via the camera's placed throughout the complex. She had been on the verge of interrupting her brother when the Betazoid had taken control. The small woman scared her; apparently she was far more powerful than they had assumed. Her mind went quickly over all possible scenarios of what could happen and within seconds she had made her decision.

 

~*+*~

Deanna had knocked three more persons unconscious from her mental attack and instinctively knew she was near the exit when she noticed Kasheira was coming her way. She was ready to defend herself and tried to lock her gaze on that of the taller woman. But she was smart enough to keep her eyes at the floor.

 

"Take this." Kasheira held out a long black coat and a little black box. "The box contains the visual documentation we made of your capacity; it will help your Doctor treat you." Troi could almost smell the fear of the woman in front of her and even sensed it. She accepted the coat and slid into it, then took the box and put it in a pocket. Without glancing at the woman again she proceeded to the exit. Kasheira sighed her relief but stiffened as she heard Deanna's hate filled voice in her head.

 

~Don't even think it's over now.~ She turned towards Deanna and saw her just going around the corner. As soon as she had pulled herself together she ran to their hostage's former room to help her brother.

 

Deanna no longer walked; her feet barely touched the ground. Her mind was empty, yet not. Her psyche was filled with thousands of voices and emotions, but none were her own. Except for the strongest emotions of all: anger, hatred and self-defence. Having reached the door another guard ran up to her, but as soon as his eyes met hers he ceased his approach, turned around and ran away as fast as he could.

 

Using her newly discovered telekinetic powers Deanna broke the lock on the doors and opened them. Fresh air blew into her face and made her hair flutter backwards. While she strode through the streets she drew everyone’s attention.

 

The black coat left little to the imagination, her bruised and bleeding features radiating determination and anger. But most of all it was her eyes that drew the attention. Her huge green eyes were luminous and accentuated by the black surrounding them. She kept going straight ahead. Everyone that crossed her path turned aside and all obstacles she encountered she moved telekinetically. The Pkliarans looked after her, stunned and scared by what they had seen.

 

~*+*~

"Captain; censors register one human/Betazoid lifeform." Data calmly made the announcement. Picard nearly jumped out his chair.

 

"Where?!"

 

"Several hundred meters from the Government buildings Sir."

 

"Get a transporter lock on her Mr. Data. Picard to Sickbay: Doctor, prepare for the arrival of Deanna. We've found her."

 

 

In Sickbay Beverly flew up from her chair.

 

"What's her condition?"

 

>Unknown< The Doctor left her office and ordered her medical team to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Immediately Sickbay was buzzing with orders, questions and curses.

 

 

"I have a lock Captain." Jean-Luc sighed in relief and walked over to Data to pat him on the shoulder.

 

"Transporter Room 5: Beam Counselor Troi directly to Sickbay."

 

>Yes Sir.< Exhaling slowly, Picard sat back in his chair, thinking they had her. Then a few seconds later the Transporter Chief contacted him.

 

>Captain we are unable to beam her up.<

 

"What?! Data, can you tell me why?" Data pushed some buttons and managed to zoom in on the place Deanna was now. Jean-Luc frowned as he stood up again to study the viewscreen. Meanwhile, Data left his position and took one of the science stations to study the sensor readings. "Doctor Crusher: report to the Bridge."

 

 

Having noticed something was wrong Beverly was already on her way.

 

"Odd, she seems to be all right." When the Turbolift’s doors hissed open he didn't even turn around but motioned Beverly to approach with a gesture of his hand. She took her place next to him and both officers watched almost hypnotized at the scene being displayed in front of them.

~*+*~

She sensed she was nearly out of the city. Several hundred Pkliarans were following her now, driven by curiosity but keeping a safe distance. Deanna was beginning to relax when she heard the unmistakable sound of policemen coming towards her. A quick empathic scan told her they were ahead of her.

 

She intensified her concentration but didn't slow her pace; determined to get away. Several minutes later five heavily armed Pkliarans came walking towards her. Each of them held a weapon, comparable with 21st Century Earth Shotguns.

 

"Lady; cease your actions and surrender or we will fire!" The man talking lifted his gun slightly. Deanna heard and understood his words, but ignored them and continued on her way.

 

~*+*~

"Jean-Luc we have to do something!" The couple stared at their friend with wide eyes..

 

"We can't, our weapons aren't precise enough to attack."

 

"But they'll kill her!"

 

~*+*~

The man warned her again and when she still didn't react he ordered his troop to prepare for firing. Out loud he counted down; beginning with the Pkliaran equivalent of five and ending at one. The five men fired their weapons simultaneously. Five bullets flew towards Deanna, and all witnesses held their breath, including those onboard the Flagship in space.

 

The bullets closed in on her; five meters, four, three, two, one...when they were not more than sixty centimetres away from Troi they stopped, floating in the air before her like tiny insects before they dropped dead onto the ground. The five confused shooters exchanged looks, as did the two officers aboard the Enterprise. Deanna didn't seem to notice the turmoil around her and kept going.

 

 The leader of the five ordered to prepare for fire again, when suddenly an invisible force lifted him of the ground and up into the air. In their surprise the others dropped their weapons onto the ground. Four invisible hands picked them up and aimed them at their former owners.

 

 The empath walked between the four men and underneath their leader. When she was a good ten meters away the leader fell down and the five guns seemed to melt. The policemen slowly turned around to watch Deanna disappearing in the distance.

 

~*+*~

On the Enterprise both Jean-Luc and Beverly were too startled to speak or move. And when Data addressed them they nearly jumped of surprise.

 

"Captain, I believe I have found the cause of our inability to beam Counselor Troi up. Her body contains an extraordinary amount of drugs which the computer does not recognize. Also it appears the Counselor has somehow been shielded."

 

"How?" Beverly’s voice sounded absently, her eyes still aimed at the viewscreen.

 

"Unknown Doctor."

 

"Unknown?" Doctor Crusher spun around on her heels. "Scan for her medical condition." Obediently Data ordered the computer to take a med scan and handed a PADD with the results to Beverly. She studied them in silence and than gasped aloud.

 

"My God!!! Dozens of bruises and cuts, a broken cheekbone, a broken arm, her leg is fractured at two places not to mention a week old injury of a Pkliaran weapon and she has multiple spine injures!!! She shouldn't even be able to move let alone to walk!!!" She stared at her husband with wide eyes.

 

"I second that." Came Data's neutral reply. Thousands of questions spun through their heads but they couldn't answer even one of them.

 

"Data, it appears she is heading towards something, can you determine what?"

 

"I shall try Captain." The android made some quick calculations and commanded the viewscreen to zoom in to an open place in the nearest forest. "It seems that is her destination."

 

"Very well. I want you and Doctor Crusher to beam down and wait for her there. Be careful and don't make her feel threatened. In the meantime Mr. LaForge and myself will work on a way to beam her up."

 

"Aye Captain." The android and Doctor replied together and headed for the Transporter Room.

 

"Bridge to Engineering. Mr. LaForge report to the Bridge."

 

>On my way Captain.<

 

~*+*~

While Deanna was on her way to the forest Picard and LaForge were feverishly working on a way to get her onboard. "The drugs aren't our biggest problem Captain. If necessary I can shut down the safety guards and biofilters and reinstall them as soon as the Counselor is back on board. Right now we have to find a way to beam her up while she still is shielded."

 

"Whoa!!!" One of the ensigns screamed out in amazement. Everyone's eyes turned to the viewscreen on which they saw a group transport vehicle being literally thrown away by an invisible force to land a few meters to Deanna's left. It seemed as if she didn't even noticed it.

 

"What was THAT?!". Geordi and Jean-Luc exchanged looks and turned back to the Science Station to resume their attempts to find a way to beam Counselor Troi up.

 

~*+*~

Kasheira tried to calm her brother down, but his frantic movements prevented her from approaching him closely enough to administer the sedative. "Leave me alone! Get away!!!...phrinsbeoskly!!!" He was going insane; right in front of her eyes. At least she thought he was until he suddenly stopped moving.

 

"Rahad?" Her voice was soft and unsteady, but he heard her nonetheless.

 

"Kasheira? Where's the woman?" She looked at her brother incredulously. "She was in my head, I heard her, I felt her." Slowly he sat up and looked around. "She could've killed me. He was right; she isn't able to kill." A cruel smile curled around his lips.

 

"I am always right concerning her." A tall man stepped out of the dark corner of the room. "I told you to be careful, but you let her get away!" His anger added tension to the air. He walked closer and looked down at the two relatives. "Now get up and find a way to bring her back!!!"

 

"But..."

 

"NOW!!!" Rahad and Kasheira stood up. They left the room quickly, fearing the tall bearded man that remained. As soon as his two servants had left he sighed and looked around. "Still being stubborn, aren’t you Imzadi." He picked up her torn gown and called out to the thin air.

"Riker to Rhiuk: one to beam up."

 

~*+*~

Geordi stood up shaking his head. "This isn't working. I don't know why or how she's been shielded like that, but I cannot penetrate the shield or find a way to beam her out of it." Throwing one last glance at the readings displayed on the screen Picard nodded once and ran his hand over his head.

 

"Can you determine what the power source of the shield is?" Geordi immediately began giving orders to the computer.

 

"Hold on." He muttered while working. "Okay, computer: display findings on viewscreen." Both men turned around and watched the screen. Geordi stepped closer and point at the screen while explaining what was being displayed.

 

"This..." He pointed at the left side of the screen. "...Is where the sensors first picked her signal up. Now over here..." His finger pointed a few decimeters to the right at one white dot, facing five black dots. "...Is where she encounter the troop of policemen. Computer: display shield." Around the white dot a red circle appeared. "The red circle indicates the shield around her. According to our calculation the shield is formed around her like a ball. The shield has a diameter of approximately one point two meters."

 

He moved to the right side of the screen and pointed at a black bar. "This is the transport vehicle we saw a minute ago. Computer: display Vehicle Encounter." The scene they had seen nearly ten minutes ago repeated itself. "Look, as the vehicle crosses the Counselor's path, it was moved precisely so that she wouldn't have to alter her course or slow her pace." Picard let the words sink in before he turned to his Chief Engineer.

 

"Are you saying *she* moved it?" Geordi sighed and nodded at the Lieutenant at the helm, who immediately restored the viewscreen so that is was following Troi again.

 

"I can't prove it, but it appears that way." The Captain stroked his chin and turned back to the screen.

 

"Is there a way to prove it?" LaForge's eyes lit up.

 

"Maybe, but I need a full mental scan." The bald man's eyes shifted from left to right until they met Geordi's artificial ones.

 

"I believe Doctor Crusher can take care of that. Picard to Crusher."

 

>Yes Captain?<

 

"Doctor; we have not been able to find a way to beam Counselor on board. You'll have to find a way to let her drop her shields." With a mischievous grin on his face he waited for his wife's reply.

 

>*Her* shields Captain?< He smiled at her reaction.

 

>Security to Captain Picard.<

 

"Hold on for a minute Miss Fko." He retapped his CommBadge. "Yes Beverly. Geordi believes Deanna has created those shields herself. She also appears to possess telekinetic powers; caution is required." Down on the planet Beverly looked up in the air as if expecting some answers to her unvoiced questions.

 

>Aye Sir.< And she terminated the link. 'Telekinesis? Deanna?'

 

"Doctor: Commander Troi will be here in approximately five minutes." She nodded absently at the android

.

"Bridge to Security."

 

>Captain: we've beamed up five persons from the building where Counselor Troi seemed to have originated. Four of them were in need of medical care and have been escorted to sickbay where they are being held.<

 

"Well done Chief." The connection was terminated and a satisfied Jean-Luc sat down in his chair. Geordi returned to the Science Station to continue working on a way to beam her up. The Captain briefly allowed his thoughts to wander off, trusting on the capability of his crew.

 

"Bridge to Sickbay. How are our guests doing?" Alyssa Powells voice came through.

 

>We have sedated three of them. One has been treated for bruises and cuts.<

 

"Sedated? Do you know what's wrong with them?"

 

>They seemed to have lost their sanity. The one who was all right claims to have been mentally attacked by Counselor Troi.<

 

"Thank you nurse." He closed the connection with Sickbay. "Beverly, did you hear that?"

 

>Yes. I don't know what to think of it now. I'll scan her soon as she is in reach, which will be in less than two minutes.<

 

"All right, be careful."

 

>I will.<

 

 

================

Author’s Note: The entire chapter is a flashback and is therefore entirely in italics.

================

 

Chapter Eighteen: Dangerous Encounters

 

Beverly curiously awaited Deanna's arrival, her head spinning with unvoiced questions. Data came from out the bushed and stood still at her side. "Counselor Troi will be here within thirty seconds." The redhead took a deep breath and looked around  once more. They were standing at the edge of the round open spot, surrounded by huge trees. She couldn't help but noticing it was a typical setting used for UFO landings in 20th century Earth movies.

 

~*+*~

Deanna's mind was buzzing with thoughts from others. She acted purely from instinct, reacting to the need to get away, to make the voices go away. She was only aware of the thoughts of others. As she walked through the forest multiple branches attacked her body, scratching her face. She reached the open spot and didn't stop until she was standing in the middle.

 

"My god, Deanna!" Horror washed over Beverly's face as she saw the bleeding welts on her friend's face. When she heard her friend's words and sensed her emotions Deanna lifted her head up and opened her eyes. She met Beverly's blue gaze head on with her furious green one. The Doctor's eyes widened and she unconsciously stepped back, scared by the empath. Beverly felt her heart beating in her throat and held her breath.

 

 On the other hand, Data wasn't more than a little surprised and approached her. As soon as she noticed him her eyes flashed with fear and anger. While Data distracted her Beverly quickly opened her tricorder and scanned the furious Betazoid.

 

"Don't come closer." Through clenched teeth the hissed words contained so much anger Beverly could practically touch it. But Data stoically continued his approach.

 

"Counselor, you are injured, we must help you." Two short high sounds indicated the scan was completed. Doctor Crusher gasped as she read the readings. "By Cochrane!" She muttered. She pushed a button to send the readings to the Enterprise and put her tricorder back in her pocket; it wouldn't be of much use anyway. The android was little more than two meters away for Deanna when she suddenly yelled out.

 

"I told you to STAY AWAY!" A fraction of a second later Data was picked up by an invisible voice and thrown away like he was nothing more than a football. Beverly's wide-eyed gaze followed him until he disappeared out her sight. She turned her eyes back to Deanna in amazement.

 

~*+*~

Via the viewscreen Picard witnessed everything, including Data's flight. He had landed on top of a tree a few meters away. It seemed Deanna had 'planted' him there on purpose. The Captain ordered the Transporter Chief to beam the android up and silently wished his wife good luck.

 

~*+*~

Realizing it would be best to let Deanna calm down first Beverly sat down on the ground with crossed legs. She studied the Betazoid closely, thinking of treatments and ways to calm her while she waited. But Deanna picked up on those thoughts, and her latest encounter with a physician hadn't been a pleasant one. "Hm, nice thoughts Doctor Crusher." She looked at the Betazoid in confusion. 'Since when are you telepathic?'

 

"Since when? Since your colleague injected those drugs into me." Her voice was filled with sarcasm and hatred. Crusher got on her feet and took a few steps towards Deanna.

 

"What did he do to you?" The injured woman closed her eyes and shook her head madly. She sensed the surge of compassion flooding through the tall woman but didn't realize its cause. "Deanna, let me help you." Beverly stepped closer. "I want to help you, make you better." When their gazes met again the vulnerability and pain in the Betazoid's eyes struck her and urged her to move closer. "I can make the pain go away. But I'll have to sedate you." The green eyes flashed with fury and she clenched her hands into fists.

 

"NO!!!" Fear overwhelmed the Doctor and briefly she was sure Deanna would kill her. But instead the trees around them suddenly caught fire and soon turned into huge burning torches.

 

>Beverly, I'm getting you out of there!<

 

"No, Jean-Luc wait!" He rolled his eyes at his wife's stubbornness, but conceded. Beverly raised her hand and slowly walked forwards.

 

"I'm not going to do anything, but I need to get further away from the flames." The empath didn't react and endured the Doctor's approach. When about two meters separated the two women Beverly sat down again, in the same position as before.

 

~*+*~

For ten minutes neither woman moved. Deanna was still standing with her eyes empty, dead. Beverly was still sitting on the ground. She had been patient and had waited for Deanna to relax. But the empath didn't and the Doctor became a little annoyed. Her mind had been working constantly and finally she had come up with a fairly good plan.

 

"Crusher to Enterprise." Deanna tensed when Beverly's voice suddenly broke the steady sounds of the burning trees.

 

>Yes Doctor.< A slight smile curled around Beverly's thin lips as she heard her husbands voice.

 

"Captain, is Geordi there?"

 

>I'm here Doc.<

 

"Geordi, can you beam down something to play music?"

 

>Sure thing Doc. Any particular songs?< Geordi's optimistic enthusiasm was contagious and she felt her spirits lift.

 

"Uhm...Yes. The songs ‘Immortality’ and ‘Love is on the Way’, performed by Celine Dion, 20th Century Earth and include a Betazoid mediation piece as well."

 

>On its way Ma'am.< She glanced at her companion who had visibly stiffened during her communication with their ship. Deanna's eyes had hardened and focussed again. 'What's going on in that head of yours Deanna Troi?' Their eyes met and for a fraction of a second the green eyes mellowed and a tired sounding voice answered.

 

"You really don't want to know Beverly." The redhead wanted to say something in return, something to comfort her friend, but was interrupted by a white and grey box that appeared in front of her. Deanna's haunted gaze shifted rapidly between the Doctor and the box.

 

"Don't worry, it's something to make our time here more enjoyable." While the tones of the songs joined the crackling sounds of the burning trees Beverly focussed her mind on the past; their first meeting during the Farpoint mission and the ensuing seventeen years they had served together.

 

She tried to make Deanna's mind pick upon the good memories, but at the same time keep Will out her thoughts. Deanna didn't notice immediately but when she did her softened eyes flashed with again with fury. "*Don't*hide!" Crusher's eyes flew up to meet Troi's gaze. Knowing instantly the mistake she had made Beverly raised her hands in an apology.

 

"I'm sorry." 'How am I going to make this right?'

 

"Let me in." Their gazes still held. It took her a few moments before she realized what the empath wanted and needed. 'Should I? How will she react?'

 

"If you *are* my friend you don't need to be scared." The blue eyes searched the green ones for any sing of recognition but found none, nor the slightest indication of any other emotion. Her eyes shifted from left to right as she quickly tried to go through the pros and cons. When her eyes met Deanna's again she knew she didn't really have a choice

.

"All right." Deanna nodded slowly and lowered herself to the ground. Beverly was fully aware of the extent of her injuries and nearly reached out to assist her, but the bright green eyes held her back. She sat down, facing the Doctor and tucked her legs underneath. Her eyes focussed on the blue ones of the woman across from her.

 

Beverly closed her eyes, but opened them as soon as Deanna softly whispered "Don't". The empath's eyes narrowed and Beverly held her breath. After a few more moments she felt a slight tingling sensation in her mind and she focussed her eyes on Deanna's again.

 

Deanna saw Beverly's entire life; from the moment she had gained a memory, her quest to find out more about her parents, her Academy years, the meeting with Jack, their wedding, Wesley’s birth, then coming aboard the Enterprise, the friendship that had grown between the Senior Staff, Q, the Borg, Locutus, each Senior Officer in critical condition in Sickbay at least once, her year at Starfleet Medical, her experience with the Captain on Kespryt, the destruction of the Enterprise D, boarding the E, fighting the Borg, Zefram Cocrhane, the Son'A, Will's leaving and, of course, Beverly’s wedding. But Deanna didn't just watch Crusher's memories, she also felt her emotions at the time of each event. The empath softly gasped as she felt the flow of compassion, concern, fear, friendship, joy, and sister-like love surging through her as she witnessed Beverly's latest memories.

 

Hearing Deanna's gasp Beverly looked back into her eyes. To her delight the eyes had softened, as had her friend's features. Troi retreated from the Doctor's mind and stood up again, her eyes watching the fire, her mind checking the information she had received. As soon as the green eyes had left her own Beverly closed them and exhaled deeply.

 

She stood up slowly, hesitating before offering Deanna's her small hand. But before she had Deanna, ever so slowly, turned her head back, her dirty curls swinging around as well. The redheads braced for another flash of fury coming from the bright green eyes but although the irises were still green and surrounded by black the eyes were dim and empty. They shifted from one side to the other. For a few moments she looked down, trying to compose herself. When she lifted them again they seemed to be searching something in the blue eyes they encountered.

 

"Bev-Beverly?" Her voice was quiet, cautious, pleading and hesitating at the same time and all of a sudden Deanna seemed so very, very small to her friend.

 

"I'm here Deanna. Let's take you home and make you better."

 

"Yes. Home. No more voices." 'Voices?' She looked at the empath questioningly. When she reached out however Deanna shrank away.

 

"Don't touch me." Confused Beverly looked at her. 'Why not?'

 

"All right, I won't until you let me okay?" At her slight nod Beverly tapped her CommBadge.

"Crusher to Enterprise: Deanna and I are ready to be beamed directly to Sickbay." On the ship Picard briefly glanced at his Chief Engineer before responding.

 

>I'm afraid we can only beam you to a Transporter room. I'll meet you there.<

 

"Yes Sir." She glanced at Troi who hadn't even blinked her eyes throughout the conversation.

 

"Time to go home Deanna." And as she spoke a shimmering light surrounded them and carried them. home.

 

When they materialized they where alone. There was no one behind the console and no one to welcome them.

 

~*+*~

Picard stepped out the lift and nearly ran to the Transporter room where his wife and First Officer had materialized. The doors hissed open and he stepped in with a broad smile on his face which disappeared the second he laid his eyes on Deanna.

 

Despite the distance between them her green eyes were in stark contrast to the pools of blackness surrounding them and made him freeze. It took him longer than he would've wanted to compose himself, but when he did he studied the rest of her appearance. Her hair was dishevelled and filthy, and from where he stood he could see the tangles in the mass of dark curls. Her face was bruised and covered bleeding cuts.

 

Little streams of blood were running from a corner of her mouth and a cut on her temple. Her lips were swollen and blue. The V-neck of the black coat she wore allowed him to see the bruised and cut skin underneath. His eyes traced her body until they had reached her bare and bleeding feet. 'She looks terrible!' Their eyes met and for a minute he thought she -knew- what he had thought. But just as quickly he dismissed that assumption.

 

"Counselor, it's good to have you back with us." He was surprised when she didn't reply. He looked at his wife, eyes full of unvoiced questions. 'Thank god she's all right. I would never have forgiven myself if anything had happened to her.'

 

"Neither would I Captain." Startled he looked at Troi. 'What?--How?!--" But when his eyes met Beverly's he knew it was no use to ask and left it alone...for now. He held out his hand to Deanna and looked at Beverly in confusion when she shrank away from his touch.

 

"She doesn't want to be touched." He shifted his gaze between the two women and nodded. Suddenly Deanna reached into her pocket and drew out a little black box. She held up the palm of her hand with the box on it and focussed.

 

Startled, confused, amazed, scared and impressed Jean-Luc and Beverly looked from the box to each other to Deanna and back to the box. It left Deanna's hand, flying up until it floated about five inches above her hand. From there it moved to Captain Picard until it was only five inches away. He too held out his hand and slowly the box lowered and eventually landed on his hand.

 

"Video-material." Without uttering another word Deanna headed towards the doors, carefully avoiding physical contact. The others were stunned as they watched her, unable to make a sound or move a muscle. When Deanna strode through the doorway rational thought kicked in and they followed her, still wearing an amazed and confused expression on their faces.

 

Fortunately it was ship’s night so they only ran into two crewmembers. Troi seemed oblivious to her surroundings but lead the way to Sickbay without hesitation. When they entered Sickbay she held still and quietly observed her surroundings, and after a few minutes Beverly stepped in front of her.

 

“This way Deanna.” She pointed to the private room and waited for Deanna to proceed. Empathically and telepathically the Betazoid checked the persons around her for any malevolent or ill will. When she found no sign of either she obeyed the Doctor and walked into the room. Soon after Beverly followed, carrying a hypospray to sedate her patient.

 

In the same second that she entered she tried to inject the sedative in her wrist Deanna neglected to warn her not to touch her. Deanna turned around too late to avoid physical contact. The moment Crusher’s hand touched Deanna she felt a wave of emotion invade her mind. Her hands flew up to her temples and her mouth fell open, screaming silently. The Doctor dropped to her knees and closed her eyes.

 

Through the window Jean-Luc was watching them and when he realized his wife was in pain he ran to the doors to help her. The doors hissed open and he entered…but he was barely a step through the doors before he was thrown back by an invisible force field. By the time he stood up and made his way back to the door Beverly had also gotten up and no longer seemed to be in pain.

 

“I warned you not to touch me.” The soft voice was trembling and could barely be heard.

 

“Yes, you did. But I have to sedate you Deanna.” The Counselor seemed to think about what the tall woman had said when her eyes focussed on the hypospray on Beverly’s palm. While Deanna climbed onto the biobed and laid herself down she pulled the hypo towards her with her telekinetic powers. She grabbed the device and