Subject: The Untended Garden (TNG, R/T, Imzadi, [R])
Title: The Untended Garden
Authors: Irina Tellen <email@example.com> and
Codes: R/f, T/m, R/T Imzadi
Summary: In a test of the strength and life force inherent in the Imzadi bond, we wonder: What if it had been so long that neither Will nor Deanna were prepared for the consequences of a forced mutual reunion?
Disclaimer: We own this story, writing in our alter egos Irina Tellen and QDestinyy. The Gods of Paramount own the characters and the toy box. We only take them out to play with them and promise to put them back in good order. Copyright 2000 Ian Toldman and QDestinyy.
Archive: yes. All others please email either of us to ask first. We usually give permission.
Star Trek : The Next Generation
The Untended Garden
Irina Tellen and QDestinyy
“The untended garden will grow wild and, once wild, will resist all attempts by the most ardent gardener to restore it to ordered beauty.”
Christopher Windell Long, 1885
“Riker you look like a penguin in a toreador’s outfit!” he snorted to himself in disgust. The image that stared back from the mirror in his quarters showed a trim body dressed in black close fit trousers, a white blouse with an open throat ruffle-front, and a deep maroon cumberbun topped with a formal bolero jacket.
He grinned and turned to admire himself sideways. “But not a bad looking penguin at that.” //I wonder if she’ll like it? It certainly took long enough to sort through the replicator’s formal attire catalog to find it.//
For a moment, he contemplated the fact that he was talking to himself aloud, and then he shrugged. There was a lot to think *about*, after all. And as far as his attire was concerned, the Captain’s dress orders for this particular affair had been very specific.
‘Senior officers are to dress formally. No uniforms.’
Turning his head to one side, he pulled at a particularly errant wave of hair, sorting it ‘just so’ before brushing out his van dyke beard and running his fingers over the bristles to test their stiffness. //Well, at least the hair softener worked.// He noted with a grin. //Deanna hates it because it tickles her when...// His thoughts returned to earlier in the day. She’d commented on the new beard this afternoon, in fact. As he recalled, she’d said that it looked good on him.
Splashing on a little of his favorite cologne -- the one, which seemed to engender the most favorable female reaction -- Riker stood back from the mirror for a final once over. An uncharacteristic feeling of apprehension stole over him and he suddenly frowned. //Would she like it? Would she remember?// He tried to force the thought from his mind.
“Well that’s enough primping. Time to beard the lion.” He gave himself a mock salute and turned on his heel, to leave for the reception.
When he reached the doorway to Ten Forward, Riker paused and sucked in a shallow breath of air. The truth was, he hated these sorts of political functions no matter what he was wearing. It had occurred to him on more than one occasion that he would rather charge into battle with the Klingon Empire in his underwear than be forced to stand around all night, laughing at bad jokes and nodding at boring conversation while everyone paraded around, pretending to have a wonderful time.
His thoughts suddenly turned back to her again -- wondering about the way she’d look. What she might have chosen to wear. Whether she’d let her long, beautiful hair tumble down along her back, or whether she’d wear it up, the way she’d taken to doing so often since he’d known her.
He recalled with a measure of heartfelt anticipation that she had said that she would be there tonight. After all, she’d noted, as a member of the planetary delegation team and an officer, she couldn’t very well miss it any more than he could -- though both of them had spent a pleasant afternoon entertaining ideas of how they might escape.
Glancing down a final time, Will paused to ensure that his attire was in good order. He tugged at his bolero jacket, setting it square -- it was a bit retro, but he felt that it suited his style somehow. He had a feeling she would appreciate it as well. Or would she? An uncomfortable measure of apprehension returned, managing to lodge itself firmly in his throat. What if she *didn’t* like it?
Annoyed with this uncharacteristically timid attitude, Riker rejected the negative thoughts. No matter what his misgivings, he was determined to make the best possible impression. After all, that was his trademark. ‘Will Riker, the decorated Commander -- the officer that everyone wanted to be.’
He’d learned long ago that even the most superficial impressions would often be remembered, and when recalled, they usually carried more weight in their consequence than even a long-standing friendship. He had found this to be especially true when it came to the delicate political affairs.
Still, it amused him that he caught himself thinking of her so frequently. This brought a wry smile, as he finally tapped the entry-plate and watched the doorway slide aside.
Riker entered Ten-Forward with purpose in his stride. The friendly din of the reception assaulted him even as his eyes quickly swept the room. She wasn’t there. A keen sense of disappointment settled over him at the realization.
“Oh well. I should have known it would be too much to ask.” Will murmured softly to himself.
Looking about, he found Captain Picard and Ambassador H’lokk in a knot of people near the mid windows of Ten Forward. Judging from the small group of officers and diplomats surrounding them, it seemed that they were holding high court. With a knowing smirk, Riker made his way purposefully toward their enclave, snagging a drink from a passing waiter and putting on his best diplomatic face. No one could know what he was thinking; that if he could just get the amenities dispensed with quickly (and was lucky), he could sneak away early; hopefully unnoticed.
“Ah, there you are Mr. Riker.” A voice jostled him from his revere. “I was beginning to think that you had ducked out on us tonight.” The ambassador smiled warmly at Riker’s approach. Will greeted him with an equally polite nod.
“Captain, Ambassador H’lokk. Now why would I do that, sir?”
At this, both the ambassador and the Captain chuckled simultaneously. H’lokk broke the mirth.
“Commander, I believe it’s a given that you would rather be working with our tactical and intelligence officers than be stuck in here hobnobbing with a few stodgy old governmental bureaucrats.”
Deanna Troi paused somewhat nervously outside of the expansive double doorway into Ten Forward, checking to make sure that her long, formal gown was still immaculate. Finding that it was, she sighed, running her hands along the fabric at her hips. She missed her dress uniform.
The unexpected epiphany made her smile, for she had spent the better part of ten years in Starfleet balking at the stiff, often damned, body-hugging ensemble which she felt erected a barrier of ‘rank’ between her and her patients. It was ironic, therefore, in this diplomatic setting -- after convincing the captain of the need for an informality in dress code -- that she now found she missed the decorum of her rank insignia. Good intentions gone awry, she mentally chastised, shaking her head almost absently.
Trapped by the Captain’s acceptance of her own recommendation, she had finally decided to keep it simple and had selected a long, forest green sheath with a deep, low back and matching shoes. The outfit -- simple by anyone’s standards -- fit her well, offering her trim form an evening elegance all its own. It also meant that she could finally wear some of the less gaudy fifth house jewelry, which her mother had given her so many years ago.
A tickle of conditioned air caressed the bare skin at her back, causing a shiver to ripple through her body. The feeling reminded her that, as simple as she had selected, her attire might still be considered somewhat provocative.
Gods, she hated these political functions. She had found them deplorable in her youth, attending soiree after soiree at her mother’s side on Betazed. She had found them even less desirable since her enlistment in Starfleet. As far as political events were concerned, they never seemed to change. A barrage of the same old jokes retold in different contexts, coupled with same old political games of advantage, power and revenge.
Well, perhaps he would be there tonight. That would at least make it bearable. She cast her senses through the doorway, thinking of him. A part of her desperately hoped that she hadn’t been wrong in interpreting his intentions earlier in the day. He had promised to meet her here this evening and had jokingly told her that he might even attempt to gallantly rescue her from what would surely be a boring party. This brought a smile. Even though she couldn’t sense his presence through the barrage of mental noise emanating from within Ten Forward. Perhaps she was a little nervous as well. In any case, if he was here, she would find him.
Her musings were disrupted by the sound of the turbo-lift doors opening. Deanna turned her head just in time to see a Valkyrren woman step out of the car. A particularly beautiful Valkyrren woman with deep red hair, and incredible eyes. She was dressed in a cut-away red/gold skin-tight ensemble which swirled around her as she walked, hinting and suggesting, rather than revealing.
Troi’s instant appraisal of the approaching female pricked her ego with a tinge of jealousy as she unconsciously compared herself to the ‘competition’. It appeared to the Counselor that she would probably look *under* dressed by comparison. Well, one thing was certain. Whomever this stunning Valkyrren had set her sights set on this evening would be a forgone conclusion. She pursed her lips politely, concealing her thoughts.
The woman nodded to Deanna as she glided to a stop beside her, waiting for access to Ten Forward. Troi managed a small smile in return and the Valkyrren afforded the Counselor a cursory ‘once over’ in the form of a deliberately slow glance which annoyed the empath far more than she would admit. Still, Deanna found the courtesy not to betray her unwarranted thoughts, managing instead to hold her perfunctory smile until the young woman turned away and moved closer to the door.
Only then did the Counselor draw a deep breath of air and straighten her posture -- fitfully smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle from her form fitting attire. More than ever, she was now determined to make a worthy entrance.
Her silent avowal was cut short, however, when the young woman glanced backward in question. Chagrined, Deanna tapped the door plate, causing the interlocking panels to slide silently aside.
The din of a lounge full of dignitaries and officers was like a familiar physical assault for the empath as they entered the noisy room.
Again she cast her senses out, searching for his presence. Within moments, she located him. He was standing at the left hand of Ambassador H’lokk, next to the Captain, his back to the door and to her.
“There you are.” She murmured, feeling a glow of satisfaction well up inside her. “It’s a better evening already.”
The Captain’s ‘court’ seemed to have heard the doors open because they turned in unison as she approached their group. He -- was the last to turn. Their eyes met and locked, excluding all else and Deanna sensed a warmth from him, the likes of which she hadn’t felt in a very long time. His gaze widened at her continued approach and his face lit up with a brilliant smile as he took in her presence.
Their instant connection and his response -- meant only for her -- caused a shiver of anticipation to course through her body.
She returned his smile in all its brilliance and advanced on him with the deliberately seductive manner of a woman stalking her own prey.
Ambassador H’lokk, Picard and Riker turned simultaneously at the sound of the doors swishing open.
“Wow!” Riker gasped in awe, catching sight of her first.
“Leave Mr. Riker to understatement.” Picard noted to the Ambassador.
“They do change in a somewhat pleasant manner when they leave their uniforms behind, don’t they?” The Ambassador returned, with a smile of his own.
Picard chuckled as Riker simply stood there, somewhat stunned; his eyes glued to her face and form, entranced as he watched her approach their group.
“Good evening Ambassador, Captain, Commander.” Deanna smiled at each one, in turn.
Picard nodded appreciatively. “Counselor, I must say, you look absolutely radiant this evening.”
“Why thank you, Captain.” she said with a polite nod. She then turned her attention to Ambassador H’lokk. “Ambassador, would you mind horribly if I steal your dashing Cultural Minister away from you for a while?” Her eyes sparkled as she linked her arm with that of the young man’s without waiting for permission. “It seems we have an unfinished conversation from this afternoon, I believe.”
“By all means, Counselor Troi” The ambassador agreed. “A’Gir, do be sure and take good care of this enchanting lady. Besides being a Starfleet officer, she is also a daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed.”
Duly impressed, A’Gir Sa Gy’mir’s gold flecked blue-gray eyes widened.
The sound of Deanna’s voice pulled Riker’s eyes away from that which had fully captured his attention. He turned towards her and caught his breath as he swept up her form until their eyes locked. It was obvious to him that even while on the Ministers arm, Deanna had likewise taken him in. He felt her gaze burn into his soul for a moment and then -- it was gone.
Will swallowed. It seemed as though the outfit he’d selected had made an impression on her; nearly as much of one as she had made on him. He started to speak, but found the words inadequate. “Deanna, you look--”
The moment was broken when a slender feminine arm linked up with his.
“Hi handsome. You look delicious”
Turning, Will found himself gazing into a pair of beautiful green eyes, flecked with golden accents. The same pair of eyes which had fascinated him all afternoon.
With a quick glance back in Deanna’s direction, he was suddenly helpless as he found himself paradoxically torn between two exquisite women; the one on his arm and the beautiful Betazoid empath who was -- even now -- being gently guided away by H’Lokk’s very handsome young minister.
A pang of unbidden jealousy flared up inside him, but he forced it down, returning to the immediacy of the moment and assisted by the gentle, insistent tug of his stunning Valkyrren companion.
“I’m disappointed, Will. I’ve been here nearly ten seconds and you haven’t kissed me yet.”
Riker swallowed what was left of his discomfort, shoving aside the unwanted emotion. He turned to the woman on his arm and gave her a practiced smile which rapidly became genuine as he lifted her hand and brushed the back of it with his lips. Stepping back for a moment, he guided her into a display pose without releasing her.
Riker gazed appreciatively at her exotically red and gold clad body. “Sa’Terre, you -- look incredible -- but I’ll bet you already knew that.” He grinned at her. “Although I can’t say I didn’t appreciate you in uniform earlier but I do have to admit this is better.”
“Thank you, kind sir.” She answered with dramatic emphasis and a dazzling smile. “But I can’t be an intelligence officer all of the time. Especially when daddy requires me to attend these dreadfully boring functions. You will save me from such an awful fate won’t you Will...?” She winked at him, her final sentence dripping with suggestion.
“Sa’Terre Ta’Vanne, you behave yourself. Mr. Riker is our host tonight.” Admonished H’Lokk.
“Hi daddy.” She added coyly, leaning forward and kissing the Ambassador on the cheek.
“Er -- Commander,” The Ambassador intoned, “I see you’ve met my daughter. And you seem to have rapidly assimilated the ability to handle our names. I’m told they can be difficult to pronounce for some.”
“He learns quickly daddy... In all things.”
The Ambassador raised an eyebrow.
Riker had the good sense not to comment immediately then replied. “I had a good teacher.”
“And Jean Luc, you said he wasn’t much of a diplomat yet!” H’lokk bellowed in a great belly laugh.
“Daddy, you’re evil.” Sa’Terre shook her head in mock reproach and then looked up at Riker with mischief in her eyes. “Commander, let’s leave these rather crass bureaucrats to drown themselves in their drinks, shall we?”
As A’Gir lead Deanna away from the group, his eyes were repeatedly drawn to her, drinking in her face and form appreciatively.
“Counselor, if I haven’t said so already, you look absolutely enchanting this evening. You are always radiant, even in uniform, but I must say that tonight your choice in attire does your magnificent figure particular justice.”
Though it had been some time since she’d been complimented in as bold a manner, Deanna’s pleased response was very real. “Why thank you, A’Gir. You are handsomely turned out tonight as well. Perhaps we should shed our day clothing more often.” She smiled coyly.
“I believe the lady leads me on with promises she has no intention of keeping!” He laughed, and his smile grew wide.
“Perhaps.” Deanna’s eyes flashed. “and perhaps not.”
Their teasing banter turned into easy conversation within minutes, and they found themselves fully taken with the other. The small ensemble of musicians entertained the guests from one corner of Ten Forward began a new musical set -- beginning with a piece unfamiliar to Deanna. She was taken by its an insistent, almost vibrant tribal rhythm.
“A’Gir do you know this song? I find it... intriguing.”
“You have a sharp ear. It’s one of our most famous dance pieces -- Perhaps you would like to give it try with me, Counselor?”
“Please, A’Gir, you should be calling me Deanna by now.” She smiled at him, but then looked at the pairs of dancing Valkyrren couples somewhat warily. “The rhythm is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s wonderful, but complicated. I’m afraid I might only embarrass us both!” She laughed.
“Never! Just allow me.” he answered with an infectious grin sweeping her up into his arms and on to the dance floor.
Allowing herself to be lead, Deanna found to her delight that the motion of her body rapidly synchronized with his. It had taken only the barest glance at several of the other couples on the floor, along with A’Gir’s masterful lead, to learn the complex pattern of movement of the dance and, now that she had, Deanna found it to be almost addictive.
The dance swept her entire being along with it, with little or no effort involved on her part. It was remarkable and exhilarating and she allowed herself to be captured by the moment.
As the last of the music reached a crescendo and faded away, each pair of dancers spun through an almost ritualistic finale, punctuating their closure with a graceful, though intimate, embrace.
Deanna, still breathing quickly, looked up at A’Gir’s and smiled happily.
“You see?” he smiled back as he pulled her into his arms as the started a slower, more romantic piece.
Yielding to the warmth and closeness of A’Gir’s embrace, Deanna could not help reflecting that it had been some time since she’d felt this comfortable with a man in a romantic situation. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to bask in the pleasure of the moment. She was content, her head resting against his shoulder as they continued to move together to the music in the comfort of the now dimmed lights.
With an audible sigh, she finally opened her eyes, intending to ask A’Gir a question. but, inexplicably, she found her attention drawn across the room by a flash red and gold -- that of the gown of the young woman she had encountered earlier.
The beautiful Valkyrren seductress had draped her lean feminine form sensually along the body of her male companion. Deanna watched silently as Will slipped his arms around the other woman’s waist and drew her towards him. She was irrationally irritated by the Valkyrren’s seductive smile and even more so when she noted where the Commander had his hands.
Purposefully turning her attentions elsewhere, she tried to remember her question for A’Gir -- but it was gone, lost to the distraction. A chill came over her when, even in the midst of her own partners embrace, she found no comfort. She felt -- was feeling -- betrayed? Rejected? Her mind spun into confusion, weaving hundreds of courses of action -- none of them involving A’Gir.
‘Stop it!’ Deanna cried inside. ‘What are you doing to yourself?’ The petulant sound of her own inner voice rose up in defiance. Knowing full well that she had no hold on him. ‘It’s been so long now that... that we agreed to... agreed to keep our lives separate.’ With a quickly indrawn breath of air, she found herself able to think more clearly -- and she gave him his due. ‘Enjoy yourself Will.’
Somehow the sentiment still caused a bitter lump in her throat.
Will was absorbed in Sa’Terre’s discussion of the effect of their society having more men than women when, inexplicably, he looked across the room.
Without realizing why, he sought out found Deanna on the dance floor, moving contentedly in the arms of a Valkyrren male. He frowned, his relaxed body language evaporating as he tensed. A ‘male’? With another somewhat rueful glance in Troi’s direction, Riker realized that ‘male’ was exactly how he thought of the good looking cultural minister in whose embrace Deanna now seemed to be melting. He wasn’t a man or even a minister, but a territorial interloper. A male who was, even now, holding the Counselor far closer than Riker was willing to deem acceptable.
Watching Deanna glide in the other man’s arms, he finally forced himself to rationalize his feelings. In truth, he had no right to feel what he was feeling, and he knew that well. When they agreed to friendship, hadn’t they also agreed to live their own lives? And wasn’t that precisely what each of them was doing tonight? Despite its infallible logic, the thought offered Will little comfort. Instead, a familiar pang of jealousy rose within him, unbidden, and he found himself casting a pointedly antagonistic glare in the direction of the cultural Minister before his rational side had interceded long enough to convince him that he was making a fool of himself. With an inaudible sigh, he forced the unwanted feelings away. Far away...
“Hey, where did you go?” The sound of Sa’Terre’s sultry voice jolted him back into an awareness of the woman in his arms. He cringed in embarrassment when he realized what had just happened.
“Sorry... just got a bit distracted. You were saying that when Valkyrren was settled, the genetic distribution created an imbalance between males and females?”
“That was three sentences ago.” Sa’Terre admonished gently. She was not used to being ignored.
With a rueful smile, Riker sighed. “My apologies. I have no excuse, but I can assure you that you now have my full and undivided attention.” He raised her hand and brushed the back of it with his lips.
“That’s better. I was beginning to think that I was boring you.” She made a dramatic point of pouting.
“Never. So what does a poor benighted Valkyrren man do when there aren’t enough women to go around?” Will asked with interest.
“Valkyrre was settled about two hundred and fifty years ago during the first Diaspora from earth. Our initial population was equally divided between men and women but something in the planet’s ecosystem cause the ratio to shifted to about six men for every four women. We’re not sure what it was nor are the Federation scientists who have been studying us. Current speculation is that our population disparity might be associated with our planet’s eccentric orbit or possibly with the effects of radiation given off by Valen, our sun.”
“I guess that’s where your beautiful eyes and hair come from.”
She smiled, accepting the complement. “Only partially. The tendency for grey and green eyes and red hair are from our genetic pool but we think that the dark highlights and golden accents of our irises may be an effect of this unknown catalyst.”
“Well what ever it is, I think it makes you one of the most beautiful and exotic women that I’ve ever known. Smart *and* beautiful. You know that when the light shines on your hair in just the right way, it has an almost lustrous purple glow to it.” He touched her throat and slid his hand under her short cut hair, cupping her face lightly, he turned her head. “That same light makes your eyes into something that I could get lost in.”
“Only could?” she replied with a coquettish smile, pressing her cheek into his palm.
“Maybe.” he teased.
“Now you’re playing hard to get.”
“It won’t work you know.”
“I sincerely hope not.” he grinned.
Deanna sat with A’Gir on a small couch in a darkened corner far from where Will was courting Sa’Terre. She nestled back against her companion, with his arm protectively encircling her from behind. She felt warm and comfortable.
“So when did you decide to open your own studio?” She asked softly.
“It was about six of our years ago.” She felt a rumbling laugh in his chest as he thought about the incident which had precipitated that momentous change in his life. “A spring morning, in fact. Quite a beautiful day, as I recall, when my mentor, the great master sculptor A’Mendan Sa’Rani locked his studio and refused to allow me back inside. When I pounded on the door, he came to the open window above the street and peered down at me, laughing. I asked him ‘Master why are the doors barred?’ ‘So that you cannot get in.’ he replied. ‘But why?’ I asked -- for I was very confused. A’Mendan had always been kind -- surely a firm and demanding teacher -- but none the less kind. ‘It is time for you to leave my studio for I have taken another apprentice.’ He bellowed at me. I was shocked. ‘Master?’ I replied. ‘Have I offended you in some way?’ ‘No you have not, you young idiot. It is simply that I have nothing left that I can teach you for your last works are very nearly the equal of my own in form and passion.’ This too was a revelation to me for this was the first time that the master had actually complemented me on a work. In the past, high praise from him might have been that a work was ‘acceptable’ or ‘workman like’. By this time, all of the neighbors had their windows open and were enjoying my discomfort. ‘Master, what am I to do?’ I called up. ‘Why it’s simple you young whelp, go forth and find your own patrons! In time, take your own apprentices, and when you finally recognize that you too are a master sculptor in your own right, you may even begin to exceed me.’ Deanna, I did not feel any such thing at the time -- I only felt rejected for that was the one true place where I felt I belonged and I was being cast out. Even as the neighbors applauded me as I stumbled away, heart broken and down cast, it took me weeks to come to grips with the fact that A’Mendan was right.”
“Kicked you out of the nest, did he?” Deanna laughed.
“Yes, kicking and screaming all the way.” Her sweet and musical voice melted A’Gir’s heart. He wondered if he might ever have someone such as she, fall ‘in love’ with him. Life could be so unfair, he thought.
“I know someone who should have the same done to him.” Deanna smiled ruefully, interrupting the young man’s thoughts.
“It is traumatic but necessary I think -- at least in hind sight. I love the sculptural work which I’m finally free to create.”
“Which medium do you favor?”
“I like metals and woods but my true passion is stone -- in particular marble, granite and volcanic obsidian. Some of our best stone comes from the Aleedandran quarry in H’Lanna Province. It is expensive but incomparable.”
“What kind of marble is it?”
“Kind? You know stone?”
“A little. I was a student of planetary geology at the university -- at least I was until I changed majors. I favor the look and feel of fully transformed, metamorphic dense white marbles though black marbles are also interesting.”
“I prefer the pure whites, for they seem to cry out for to me to reveal that which lies hidden within the stone. When I touch such a stone, I sometimes think that I can feel a life-force within it and it tells me what it is to become. Has this ever happened to you?”
Deanna turned her head away and frowned slightly. “Not really. I haven’t much talent in that area, I’m afraid.”
“Come now, Deanna, everyone has some sort of artistic talent though they may not realize what it is, nor the degree to which they have it.”
“Well, I’m probably an exception to the rule, then. Oh I dabble in this and that for my own relaxation -- my mother forced me to ‘express’ myself when I was younger, you see. Don’t misunderstand, A’Gir, I do love the arts and in particular the work of certain abstract expressionist painters. Some of it is so wondrous, it seems to reach out from whatever plane of existence it was created to touch my soul. As to being able to create such works? No.” She dropped her head and shook it slowly.
A’Gir could hear the self-deprecating tone in her voice and was determined to change the subject.
“You were telling me about the Arboretum and some of the work that other’s of this ship have done with living plants. Would you show it to me?”
“Tonight?” she was surprised by question.
“Why not? I think we’ve been here quite long enough to be seen. Do you think that we can escape without causing gossip?”
“Unlikely.” She admitted.
A’Gir merely smiled. “My culture doesn’t make a big deal of such matters. Does it matter to you?”
Deanna looked across the room just in time to catch Sa’Terre kissing Will. A feeling of hurt drove into her soul.
“Not on your life, Lets go.”
Will was surprised when Sa’Terre leaned forward and kissed him. Not a chaste kiss on the cheek, but one full on the lips, filled with the promise of much more. As their lips parted and the intense look of her beautiful eyes drilled into his innermost being, his heart began to race. Riker was used to being the hunter, not the hunted and was unsure of just how this was going to play out.
As he sat back, the sweet taste of her still on his lips, he glanced up just in time to see Deanna leaving with A’Gir. He felt his chest tighten as he watched the them together, A’Gir’s arm around Deanna’s waist. His gaze followed the pair intently until the doors closed behind them.
When he turned his attention back to his companion, however, she wasn’t looking at him but rather at the door. After the couple had disappeared into the corridor beyond, the young Valkyrren regarded Will with a puzzled expression.
“She’s quite beautiful.” she said without looking at him.
“Yes she is.”
“You two have a history?”
“Nothing... It was long ago -- ancient history.”
Unconvinced, Sa’Terre banished the uncertainty from her mind, determined to have this man no matter the price.
“I would like to see this Holodeck that you told me about this afternoon. It sounds wonderful.”
“Yes, why not now?”
“No reason. I mean is it okay to leave... your father... I mean...”
She laughed. A low, very sensual purring laugh.
“You mean appearances? That’s sweet. I come and go as I please and have for some years. Daddy gets upset at times but that’s his problem not mine.”
Riker had thought he knew this woman and what she wanted -- he’d thought himself immune -- yet now he found himself to have been wrong on both counts.
A’Gir and Deanna were laughing, arm in arm, as they approached the door to her quarters.
“Deanna, those little miniature trees -- what did you call them benzai?”
“Bonsai.” she laughed.
“That’s it Bonsai.”
“The technique was developed in a region on Earth called Japan. Attending to their cultivation is considered a high art form.”
“I can believe it. Infinite patience over many years slowly shaping a form which is never static. Very unlike the kind of sculpting I do.”
“Would you like one?”
“Only if it came with instructions!” The Minister laughed. “I would probably kill it from neglect.”
Deanna smiled at his genuine candor. It was truly refreshing to talk about art with someone who appeared to be a kindred spirit in that regard. She touched his arm, gently. “I have two that I tend in my quarters. I took lessons from Kiko O’Brian before she and her husband transferred to Deep Space Nine.”
“How long have you had them?” A’Gir asked.
“Oh, about three years now -- and I haven’t killed them yet.” She winked at him and was rewarded once again with his gentle rolling laughter.
“What happens if you don’t tend them?”
“Well, they can become unruly and, if you don’t catch them in time, they grow to a point from which they can never be returned to their miniature form. In a sense, they’re ruined.”
“In that case I think that you had better keep them here!” He grinned wryly.
Stopping outside of the door to her quarters, the they paused and looked at each other expectantly; not quite knowing for certain whether the other wished to continue with what they had both obviously had on their minds. The silence was deafening.
“Deanna” “A’Gir” Their voices overlapped, causing each of them to begin laughing again.
A’Gir blushed. “You first.”
“You may as well come in for a bit.”
“Are you... sure?”
Deanna sensed his reluctance to press his need and took the initiative herself by taking his hand as the door slid open to admit them.
He could not see her smile as she lead him inside.
Riker reclined with his back against a tree, the grassy hillside beneath him rolled down to an inland sea. A breeze caused the light of the double moons overhead to form diamond-like ripples in the water, sparkling in the quiet night.
“This is a program?” Sa’Terre said in amazement. She stood a short distance from where Will sat, slowly drinking in the experience. Will was doing the same, but it wasn’t the moonlight he was admiring.
“Um hum. An optical illusion created by photons and micro force fields.”
“Did you write this one?” she asked.
“No, this one’s too simple. I just told the computer to create something which met the parameters that I requested from its extensive library of templates and models. This is what it came up with.”
“If this is simple then I’m *impressed*...” She gestured at the scene around them and then returned to where he sat.
Riker continued to watch her come toward him, ignoring the scenery. ‘She moves like a panther’ He found himself more than a little intrigued at how she might move under other circumstances.
She stood for a moment, looking at him, her head cocked slightly as if thinking. He offered a hand, which Sa’Terre took, wrapping it gracefully around herself as she settled beside him -- no beside him wasn’t quite right, she seemed mold her body to his almost like a second skin.
“Yes, I’m impressed by many things...” She whispered, pulling the arm she had captured tightly around her. He noted that she deliberately gently allowed it to come to rest cupping the curve of her breast.
Riker raised an eyebrow at her boldness, but he found himself smiling, none the less. He was beginning to feel that he was about to be eaten alive. What startled him perhaps even more, was he didn’t much care.
Being ‘lead on’ by a woman in so forthright a manner was a very different experience for the Commander. Oh, he’d met his share of headstrong, independent women, of course, but there was something nearly predatory, about Sa’Terre; something wild and untamed. Something which kept him both curious and excited whenever she drew near. Will recognized the fact that he was anything but in control of the situation this evening. If he was honest with himself, he would have had to admit that he was becoming just a tiny bit nervous.
He decided to try to change the subject even as his hand continued to caress her intimately. “Your family name Ta’Vanne -- I seem to remember that you called your mother Sa’Vanne.”
“Didn’t I tell you? Our society developed as a matriarchal lineage. My mother is the head of our enclave -- I suppose that you could call it a clan, although that would be something of a misnomer. Sa’Terre Ta’Vanne could be interpreted as Terre, first daughter of the clan mother Sa’Vanne.”
“And the ambassador? Your father.”
“Oh he’s Sa’H’lokk Te’Vanne or more literally H’Lokk first husband of the clan mother Vanne.”
“First husband? You can have more than one?”
“You’re shocked!” she giggled. “Well most Valkyrren women take only one but custom allows her up to three, especially if she is a prime.”
“A prime?” Will cleared his throat.
“A clan leader or one who has otherwise risen to high status.”
“Sounds like a cast system to me.” Riker frowned, rejecting the concept.
“Oh no. Anyone can rise to high status, male or female. The mating customs are simply a result of the six to four ratio of men to women. In addition, our clan groupings aid in the raising of our children and in supporting the other members of the group -- in cases of illness or in times of intense distraction. Besides, Valkyrren men consider it a point of pride and honor to be a husband to a prime.” She responded in a rather matter of fact way.
Riker looked chagrined. “Oh. I apologize. I thought...”
“I know. Most people do.” She rolled into his arms and kissed him. “I want to see one more place tonight.”
“And where would that be?”
She began nibbling on his neck, driving him to distraction before placing her lips against his ear and whispered something.
Riker’s eyes widened.
A’Gir watched Deanna glide toward her bedroom, the green of her low-cut dress framing the satin smooth skin of her back. He was entranced. He felt his fingers tingle; fingers which had, that very evening, memorized the feeling of her skin; the weight of her body; the softness of her hair. His heart was racing and he could hardly breathe.
“Make yourself comfortable.” Her voice made him shiver from the inside out.
Comfortable? She had to be kidding! “Ah... I’m fine.” He tried to occupy himself by examining the various examples of artwork which cluttered the walls and tables in her apartment. Then was when he noticed them -- a pair of small, exquisite works in bronze -- something he could focus on.
“These bronze sculptures -- who did them?”
Her voice floated out from the other room. “Oh those old things? I did, actually. Maybe ten or twelve years ago. They’re very primitive, I’m almost embarrassed to have them out, but Will--” she stopped herself, and then corrected, “one of the other officers, convinced me they’d collect more dust in my closet than they would out there.”
He could almost hear the ‘shrug’ in her voice as he picked up one of the figures -- an abstracted reclining nude. Running his fingers over the form he explored it with a master sculptor’s eye.
‘She lied,’ he decided. ‘Perhaps to herself as this Counselor had far more talent than she knows or is willing to admit.’ “They’re exquisite.” He finally called out. “Tell me, what was your inspiration?”
Deanna returned from the bedroom, running her fingers through her hair, loosening its dark mass so that it framed her face. She had changed into a form fitting, opaque, silver gray sheath. The silken cloth hugged her form in such a way that it became obvious it was all she had on. When she smiled at him, he felt as if he’d lost the ability to breathe.
“No inspiration, really, except a pile of sculptors wax during an excess of idle time. As I recall, I was bored.”
“Bored?” He nearly choked, sucking in a shallow breath and returning his gaze to the bronze in his hand. “Forgive me, but this is not the work of one who was bored. Heartbroken, perhaps -- or deeply in love.” With an appraising glance upward, he found her watching him closely with those large hauntingly dark eyes, eyes which neither confirming, nor denying his suspicion.
A’Gir set the nude down carefully and picked up the other -- an abstracted male in a meditative pose. Again he ran sensitive fingers over cold metal planes which suggesting muscles and sinew in the form.
“No...” He whispered. “Definitely not bored.”
An odd sound came from her direction. He looked up and found her shaking her head slowly with an expression of surprise suffusing her beautiful features.
“You know, A’Gir, I think you’d probably make a better Counselor than I.”
He gave her a rueful smile and a slight shrug. “I cannot help what I see in the stone or in this case bronze.” He turned his attention to her other artwork. “And these paintings?”
‘He’s trying to distract me.’ thought Deanna as she came up behind him. Slipping her arm into his, she gently took the figure he’d been holding and placed it back on the shelf.
He could feel the heat of her breast where it pressed into his arm as she pointed to the first painting. Her perfume combined with her natural scent assaulted his senses to the point of distraction.
“Well that one’s my mother’s. These two are Y’Tang’s -- one of my favorite artists. And those, over there, are mine.”
His mind was whirling. “But... You said...” he stammered.
“Said what?” she said coyly.
“You said that you had no talent for the arts.”
“I don’t -- At least not compared to the artists, poets and musicians that tracked in and out of mothers house. They were all around me as I grew up and I was always comparing my little works with theirs.” She lead him to the small couch in the center of her quarters and pushed down on him gently, causing him to fall backwards somewhat unceremoniously. Deanna gracefully sat down next to him, tucking her long legs up underneath her.
“And they certainly pale when compared to yours,” she continued. “at least those that I saw this afternoon.” She looked into his gray-gold eyes and found him speechless. “Are you afraid of me?” She could feel his shock.
“A little.” He admitted. “I’ve never felt like this with anyone before.” A’Gir swallowed and regarded her with wonder. “Should I be afraid of you?”
Deanna leaned forward on her knees and then stretched out on top him, capturing his lips with hers. “We’ll discuss it later...”
They stopped outside of his quarters.
“Are you sure about this.” Will asked.
Sa’Terre frowned. “About what?” She was used to deference from men but not about such things as this. Will’s reticence only made him even more desirable to her. In fact, she mused, he was easily the most exasperatingly attractive man she’d ever met -- and he didn’t even seem to realize it!
“Damn you -- I know what you mean. Are you going to invite me in or do I leave now!” Her gold-green eyes flashed with annoyance.
Will studied her for a moment; the curve of her lips; the way her dark, almost royal red hair framed her beautiful face. When upset, she seemed to automatically take control of a situation. She was obviously used to being obeyed. The thought of Deanna and her comparatively forgiving nature crossed his mind fleetingly but evaporated with the heat of Sa’Terre’s touch.
Instead of answering her question, Will suddenly pulled her body to him, silencing the surprised Valkyrren by covering her lips with his. The kiss was long, and intense and so consuming that Sa’Terre didn’t notice how he activated the door or how he seemed to transport her inside.
With a touch on the interior control, the door behind them, leaving them in a room illuminated only by the shimmering reflection of the Valkyrren home world, shining through the window ports behind his bed.
Sa’Terre was beginning to breath more rapidly as Will acquiesced to her need. Still, she wondered whether he understood what she really wanted -- what she needed -- this night. Without breaking the kiss she turned him and pushed him hard against the now closed door. Dragging the bolo jacked off of his shoulders, she began to fumble with the fastenings of his ruffled shirt.
Will shrugged away from the door, letting the jacket fall to the floor. Frustrated by the fastenings, Sa’Terre gave up and shredded his shirt, the torn buttons flying freely in every direction. His broad chest was now exposed to her and she slowly drew her fingernails down over his skin leaving light red scratch trails. She could sense the rising heat within him.
Deanna pulled A’Gir’s tunic out of the waistband of his trousers and ran her hands up under the cloth finding his washboard flat stomach. She was pleasantly surprised by the muscular definition she found -- and its sensitivity. A’Gir shuddered as she drew her nails over the skin beneath the cloth. Her empathic sense of his consuming desire coursed through her like burning flame. In spite of this, she sensed his reluctance to push that desire in her.
Why didn’t he take her hint? His behavior confused, frustrated and inflamed her. Well, if he wouldn’t take the lead -- she most certainly *would*. With that thought, the Counselor pulled his tunic over his head and then gasped at what she found. His broad chest rippled with muscle, as did his arms.
“You’re stronger than you look.” she murmured appreciatively as she slithered up his body, rubbing against him through the thin silk of her dress.
“From hammering stone I would guess.” He remarked as though it was the most natural thing in the world. The only other man Deanna had ever been with who was this well defined was... She let the thought die.
Deanna nibbled appreciatively on his well defined pectorals then had a wicked thought. “I suspect that you could immobilize me and have your way with me if you decided to.” She bit his biceps causing him to wince.
“Deanna!” his voice told her he was aghast at the thought. “I could never do that!.”
She grinned. “You mean there’s no way for me to provoke your aggressive side?”
He glanced at her in confusion. “I’m not sure I understand your question. In our society it’s aberrant behavior for a male to lead an encounter with a woman...”
His answer surprised her. “You mean the female is normally the sexual aggressor?”
“I guess that you could say that. Young men are taught from an early age that it’s the woman who controls the pace of courtship or even recreational sex.”
“Does that seem -- unnatural to you?.”
“It’s different.” She commented all the while happily thinking //Play time!// Surprising him again, she kissed him aggressively. The feeling which was returned as his hands roamed down her naked back, sending shivers along her spine.
“I care for you Deanna.” A’Gir’s hesitant whisper caressed her ear.
Though the admission shocked her somewhat, Deanna couldn’t help her immediate response to its sincerity. “I care for you too, A’Gir.” She returned, and then could feel the sharp intake of breath he drew, for she also knew he had not been expecting the response.
“Yes?” A cautiously expectant tone colored his voice.
“I have some exercise for these big strong arms of yours. I want you to carry me to my bedroom. I think we have some... rather intimate getting aquatinted to do.”
Needing no further encouragement, he slipped his arms under her, lifting her effortlessly into the air, as though she weighed nothing at all. Deanna gasped in surprise, enjoying the feeling of his warmth and closeness. She placed her arms around his neck, her mouth close to his.
It was an obvious invitation, and one which was rewarded with a passionate and sensual kiss as he stood to carry out her command.
Riker came up for air.
His voice broke as he tried to regain a measure of control.
“Music?” he squeaked.
Sa’Terre kissed him passionately unwilling to give up her advantage.
“Yes.” and then pushed against his bare chest.
Will’s legs tangled with the edge of the bed as he tried to regain his balance but couldn’t an landed flat on his back on the bed with a surprised grin.
“Something you like.” she continued boldly, reaching down and fumbling with the unfamiliar fastenings of his pants.
Sucking in his belly to make it easier for her he activated what he hoped would be an adequate selection. “Computer. Random selections from my collection. Rhythm and sensuality -- African and middle eastern.”
As the sensual erotic rhythm swirled around her, she could feel her heart beginning to synchronize with the music. “You’ve done this before?” She began tugged his pants down over his legs.
“On occasion.” He gasped and then smiled when she found a particularly sensitive appendage. “You are the aggressive one...”
“No more than I should be.” she laughed - her voice a silvery purr.
Freeing him from his pants, she stood for a moment to regard her ‘quarry’, pleased that his body was taut, supple and strong -- a perfect match for hers.
“You’re quite fit.” She noted appreciatively.
Riker smiled. “Combat training, martial arts and a few competitive sports.” he replied watching her closely.
She threw his pants into the corner and then reached behind her neck. When her hands came forward, the folds of her exquisite form fitting gown melted away, sliding silently down into puddle at her feet.
Will’s mouth fell open in unabashed awe at her lithe, sensual figure. Her stomach was flat, her legs smooth but well muscled, her breasts in perfect proportion to the rest of her but not overly large. Every part of her was as beautiful as her face and mesmerizing gold flecked green eyes which now had him pinned him in their gaze.
“You’ve done a bit of training yourself. Either that or you’re one hell of a dancer?” He commented, unsuccessfully trying to break the spell.
She laughed, knowing her effect on men. “Something like that -- Valkyrren fighting arts, swimming and D’Janta. It gives me pleasure to be fit.” She arched her back like a cat. “And to be supple.”
Sa’Terre began to respond to the seductive music. Never releasing him from her pinning stare, she began an amazingly sensuous snakelike primal movement, keeping perfect time with the music’s insistent beat, her hands, hips and body trading off in exquisite counter point.
Will swallowed hard , afraid he might burst into flame as he felt his internal temperature rise. “If you keep that up, I can *not* be responsible for my actions.”
She smiled as her seductive motion undulation became even more excruciatingly erotic. In perfect time with the music, she advanced on him. “You realize I’m going to hold you to your promise, Commander?”
“I certainly hope so.” He grinned back; their game filled with intimate tension.
As the tribal rhythm ended, she folded down onto the bed within reach. A soft sheen now covered her body.
“Where do we go from here?” she asked.
He didn’t answer but reached out and pulled her to him, covering her mouth with his. In an instant, she was returning his passion fiercely, even as her hand snaked down his side, and into his briefs.
Deanna lay her head on A’Gir’s broad chest, listening to the sound of his heart beating in slow rhythm.
‘He *is* strong. Very strong, in fact.’ She thought but the hesitancy of his manner which seemed mask an unpredictability which she couldn’t quite figure out. She shivered with anticipation.
When she looked up, she found herself staring into his eyes -- eyes which were drinking her in. Her almost feral urge to have him became overwhelming.
“A’Gir?” Her question obvious as she explored his body.
“Ummm?” He groaned, softly.
“That’s what I thought.” she grinned and moved up on his body, sliding her free leg over his washboard stomach. Reaching forward she captured his wrists, one in each hand. He did not resist, but continued to watch her with a quirky grin, one that she erased from his lips with a passionate kiss. She slid her hips backwards, then -- seeking the joining that she so desperately wanted.
Sa’Terre had Will at a somewhat unfamiliar disadvantage. He had allowed his wrists to be bound to the headboard with cords made from parts of the silk of Sa’Terre’s dress. He was unsure of how or even why he had allowed her to bind him in this way, especially since he had never really been interested in any form of ‘bondage’ in the past. He could easily have resisted her bold advances at any point, but he hadn’t.
Now, tied flat on his back to the bed, he found himself unsure of whether his acquiescence had been such a good idea. There were, however, certain parts of his anatomy which quite obviously had other opinions entirely. His eyes fixed on Sa’Terre through a mixture of arousal and trepidation.
“Do you do this often?”
“You mean secure a lover?” Her double entendre was very apparent.
“The question did cross my mind.” He admitted with a smile.
She leaned forward and kissed her captive gently.
“Only those who are my equal.” she whispered “And those are few and far between.” She paused thoughtfully.
“Come to think of it, you’re the first.” She declared impishly as she pounced on his helpless form, straddling his hips.
Rising up for only the briefest moment, she lowered herself onto his aroused flesh and then leaned forward to rest her body on his chest, her hard nipples pressing into his skin as she moaned softly.
As she joined with him, Will could feel how tight she was around his flesh, and suddenly -- he understood. “You, my lady, are a fraud.” His teasing whisper into her ear.
She kissed him in response.
“And if you dare tell anyone about it, I’ll kill you.” She growled seductively.
“I think you would.” Will nodded slowly, savoring the feeling of her lithe form and the primal rhythm of the background music swirled around them.
Sa’Terre shut her eyes as she unconsciously flexed her hips. She moved quietly at first; a repetitively sensuous movement which quickly synchronized with the strange, almost heart-beat-like music.
Will’s entire being was completely focused on his lover as their passions grew. They began to breathe irregularly, seeking enough oxygen to sustain the sexual energy they were expending. Sa’Terre’s soft intonations became an almost feral purr which ended with a low moan as she bent down and took his lips in a primal kiss, allowing herself to bask in a kind of wild abandonment she had never before relinquished to a man.
Eyes closed, Deanna’s breath came in gasps as she and her lover neared their mutual climax.
“A’Gir... now!” she commanded, pulling him closer.
Unconsciously, her mind reached out for that of her lover. Unbidden, her passion released that which she had long and carefully suppressed. The dormant link she once shared with another.
Driven by their shared passion, it slid happily into the core of the one she had taken as her lover. It found his essential spirit -- and then paused, suddenly puzzled. This was not the one! It recoiled in confusion and retreated.
But it knew he was out there. He was near, it could sense that. Frantically, it shook itself free of all restraints, crying its other half. Even as Deanna’s body shook in the rictus of passion’s release, her soul knew its own private truth. He was out there -- it could sense him as clearly as it felt the risinbg emotions within her. It reached out -- seeking a truth which only its mate could provide.
Sa’Terre opened herself fully to him as she shuddered through her first climax. Even as their bodies drove towards an even greater level of passion, the call of something and powerful within him -- something long suppressed -- tugged at the edges of his mind.
Unable to rationalize anything beyond the urgency of the moment, Will was completely lost within Sa’Terre’s embrace. The throes of their passion climaxed, and then he too -- unknowingly -- reached out with his mind, answering the insistent summons within him.
Sa’Terre shuddered again and again in erotic ecstasy as she rocked on his body. Even with him bound and thrusting his hips up to meet hers, she was filled with -- something new -- something inside her at her very core -- something she had never experienced before.
Will’s own suppressed mental ability was free -- a link long dormant reawakened by the intensity of the passion which coursed through his mind. Answering only to instinct, the demanding spiritual energy emerged. It broke free of its chains.
Aggressive. Hungry for the bond it needed; wanted almost desperately, it sought the presence of his mate; the one it knew so intimately. Touching first upon Sa’Terre’s mind, it found her inflamed passionate center which caused her to shudder in ecstasy -- and then it retreated. Hers was not the soul it sought.
Intensifying in strength, the energy of his soul slipped it’s bonds and searched for the one who called to it; searched for the voice that had awakened it after so many years.
It sensed her presence and knew that she was near; her being filled with a burning passion as great as his. Instinctively it followed the faint empathic tenrils she gave off... it followed... it searched... until it found her.
:::Imzadi!::: “Deannaaaaa...” he cried out in release.
:::Imzadi!::: “Willllll...” she sobbed openly as her mind and body merged to betray her.
Sa’Terre collapsed and lay on top of Will’s chest, panting lightly. A sheen of perspiration covered their bodies as they tried to gulp in enough air while waiting for their racing hearts to slow. She could feel his heart beating strongly against her as she slowly began to relax, and she smiled to herself at the exquisite sensation until -- until she remembered.
Pushing against him, she straddled his hips, and then she frowned; their bodies still intimately joined.
Will’s mind tumbled with unwanted thoughts. He had been fully absorbed in making love with Sa’Terre when something had happened. An experience which he’d known with only one other person but that had been in the far distant past. It was impossible because it had been with *her*. Impossible because she wasn’t here, now. She wasn’t…He froze with the new thought.
“I asked you a question!” Her green eyes blazed with the need for an answer.
He swallowed, attempting to regain some semblance of focus.
“Sa’Terre... I… I...”
“It was her -- the one who left with A’Gir, wasn’t it?”
He didn’t answer.
“Wasn’t it?” She demanded, sitting forward, the hurt in her expression as plain to Will.
He nodded sadly as he tugged at the restraints on his arms as though he had just realized he was still bound.
Sa’Terre snarled. “I ought to leave you tied up here for someone else to find!”
Will began to panic. “Sa’Terre, I don’t know quite what happened…” He stammered.
“Well I do!” she replied vehemently. “At the moment you should have been mine, you called out her name! *Her* name! *Not* mine!”
In that moment, Will Riker, found himself the victim of an utterly shattering bout of confusion. And then he remembered. He had wanted nothing more than to abandon himself to this woman; a woman who had so thoroughly intrigued him; a woman he wanted to make love to and wake up beside. He remembered. “Sa’Terre did you feel -- something -- something in your mind?” He asked pointedly, attempting to sit up without success.
“What!?” She shook her head. “I... I don’t know, I...What do you mean?” She muttered, confused by his question.
“At... At... that point... something happened -- I can’t really explain it -- If you had felt it, you wouldn’t have to ask...” Will pinned her with a direct gaze.
She frowned. “All I know, is that I felt as though I was a part of you -- It was incredible and then -- something yanked you away.”
“That’s it. Yes, that’s it exactly!” He answered. “But...”
“But nothing.” She flared again, her eyes narrow. “I’ve never been so humiliated in all my life.”
“NO! Not another word.” She rose, slipping free of him, and gathering her clothes. Reaching up to the headboard, she loosened the restraints she had fashioned with her dress silks. “I need these.” she murmured flatly. And then she fled into the fresher unit. The door slid shut behind her.
Finally free, Will rose and padded over to the closed door. Placing his forehead on the door panel, he knocked gently.
“Sa’Terre. Won’t you give me the chance to apologize?”
Through the barrier, her choking voice came back. “No, Not now! I don’t want you here when I come out.”
Will backed away from the door, his emotions filled with conflict at the unexpected weight of her rejection. He hung his head and turned with a heavy heart.
How could he have let this happen?
Deanna collapsed on top of A’Gir, sobbing quietly in frustration for what had just been stolen from her. She knew exactly what had happened. She had heard stories from her mother, impossibly fanciful tales made up to frighten little girls. She had never thought that such a thing could happen to her -- not in reality.
Why? Why had this happened? Why now? Why after all this time? Her thoughts were dark and angry, circulating throughout her mind as the impact of her frustration caused teardrops to well up in her eyes. They fell and mixed with the sweat of her partner.
She knew that she had lost him. Lost them both, in that moment. And her quiet anguish stung the handsome, gentle man who held her close.
“Deanna?” He whispered.
She shook her head, unwilling to speak.
“This Will who’s name you called out -- he’s the Commander I met this afternoon, isn’t he? The one who looked at you as though you were...” He let the sentence die unfinished.
She nodded, still crying softly. He could feel her hair brush over his skin. He cared for this woman -- this one whom he had known only briefly. When they joined, he had felt something, if only for a moment. Something which he had never felt before. Something even more intense than their physical coupling, which seemed to touch him at the level of his soul.
Even so, he knew that she was lost to him -- that she had never been meant for him. He mourned for that loss as keenly as though it had been rightfully his from the first yet there was nothing he could do to make it right.
Frustration filled him as he stroked Deanna’s back and, though desolation threatened to overwhelm him, he made it his sworn duty to comfort her as best he could.
Her breathing and sobs quieted until he could tell she had drifted off to sleep. Still, he waited until she slipped into a deeper, more peaceful slumber. Easing her into a more comfortable position, he quietly slipped from their bed and spread a cover over her before leaving the room.
Once re-dressed, he returned and stood beside her bed, watching her sleep. //She is beautiful.// He thought, as he knelt silently next to her. Leaning over her quiet form, he brushed her hair with his lips, almost afraid to wake her. //Good-bye my dear one.//
He rose, leaving her there sleeping, and left the room before the pain of loss could overcome him again.
Ten Forward was empty and dark. Wearing a casual tunic and loose fitting pants, Will Riker sat in the darkest, furthest corner of the bar.
Alone with his thoughts.
Before him stood a bottle of real single malt which he had pirated out of a very private -- very locked -- liquor cabinet. //I’m going to owe Guinan a week’s credits after tonight.// he thought bleakly as he poured another two fingers into the empty tumbler.
Dark, angry thoughts intruded at the edge of his consciousness, haunting him even in this place, but he wasn’t entirely certain who to be mad at first. Himself? Deanna? Had she even known? Or was it fate? He snorted in disgust.
Sipping slowly from the glass, he shuddered slightly as the smooth burnt peat flavor assaulted his senses. Holding the glass up, he gazed through the amber liquid at the curve of Valkyrre, visible through the lounge port windows, vibrantly glowing such a seemingly short distance away. From up here, it seemed as if he could reach out and touch the planet’s surface -- to touch *her* once again.
Where was she now? He had been sitting here for nearly two hours and it had already been nearly half as long again, since he was informed that she had transported back to the surface.
Deanna awoke and found she was alone. Though she knew the reasons why, the thought of how her emotional retreat had affected A’Gir drove her once more to tears. Tears of frustration and release; tears of pent-up emotion; tears of anger and unresolved conflict.
Eventually, she cried herself out. The shards of broken a vase against the bulkhead near her bed lay in mute testament to her anger and self reproach.
Pulling herself together, she wiped the residual salty moisture from her eyes and tapped the communicator which sat next to the bed, calling the transporter duty officer.
A voice answered her tentative query. ‘Minister A’Gir had transported back to the surface nearly an hour and a half ago.’
Deanna hung her head, disconsolate, sad and, oddly -- hungry. She became aware that her nails were digging into the palms of her clinched fists and she released the somewhat painful grip she’d taken with an audible sigh.
Several eternal moments later, the gnawing dispassionate insistence of her stomach forced her finally to acknowledge that she had not eaten since midday.
It was now well past midnight.
Will sat quietly in the darkness, lost in thought. He was angry at losing her. And for what? To what? He wasn’t even sure of how it had happened. A sense of helpless frustration began to build within him when he heard the doors to Ten Forward slide open. He turned at the sound.
//Just when things couldn’t get any worse...// giving thought to his annoyance.
Annoyed, he retreated deeper into the shadows and chose to remain silent. He didn’t want to deal with her -- especially tonight.
Will watched Deanna pad slowly over to one of the food replicators, dressed in a casual outfit she seldom wore. Her hair appeared damp and newly brushed, as though she had just showered. Out of character for his dark mood, he found himself almost smiling as he remembered her normally fastidious nature and found that her current -- somewhat disheveled -- appearance surprising but not displeasing. Seeing her this way -- unguarded -- forced him to realize just how rarely he saw her without the benefit of the meticulous care she usually took with her physical appearance, even around her closest friends.
She was obviously unaware of his presence. And that meant she hadn’t sensed him, either. More food for thought…
He watched her at the replicator panel. //Raiding the pantry.// he smiled at the old Earth idiom.
The replicator illuminator cycled twice after which he saw her put a bowl of something, probably soup and a small sandwich on a tray. She turned back again.
If he were to hazard a guess, he would place all of his credits on chocolate as her next choice. The replicator illuminator cycled again. His suspicions were confirmed when she put what appeared to be a large glass of chocolate mousse on the tray.
//Ha!// He mused. //Couldn’t resist. Another winning guess for the Commander.// He’d been about to shake his head at his own familiarity with her choices when he paused; wondering if he truly understood what “made her tick”. His awareness of her -- his familiarity of her -- the word he’d been avoiding all night popped into his mind -- his “Imzadi” He realized that she had probably been one of the reasons he was so upset at having lost Sa’Terre.
Sa’Terre was an enigma to him in many ways -- a mystery to be solved. Was that what he wanted? The newness? The challenge? Deanna had made her share of impossible demands of him in their day but she had never been the aggressor in their romantic relationship. She was headstrong and independent, all right, but when they’d made love, things were -- well -- different.
He paused, his memories taking him back to another lifetime; another kind of love. In truth, he hadn’t been ‘with’ her in a very long time. Had she’d changed? Had he? Frowning thoughtfully, he found the concept difficult to wrap his head around. Imagining either one of them as different than they had been so many years ago as young lovers on Betazed, only served to confound his already twisted sense of reality this night.
And then there was his career... always the career. Torn between a relationship and a career, his career, like so many other Starfleet officers, had always won. It had also been the story of his life with Deanna.
At first it had been his choice, then hers and finally theirs. In the end, it had them trapped into a comfortable prison of friendship; into an agreement rather than a relationship; an agreement which allowed each of them to be at ease with the other; an agreement which allowed them to suppress their past involvement and locking away possible of future ‘complications’.
A long time ago, she had made it abundantly clear to him that she would hide nothing from him, so long as he agreed never to tread across the line she had drawn. Or was it he who had drawn it? As a function of separating their personal lives from their professional ones? He really couldn’t remember anymore. In either case it was a devils bargain. Doomed with consequence. And here they were tonight.
Maybe Sa’Terre was easier to understand, after all. At least when he thought of her, he wasn’t completely confused by what she wanted. His only problem was that he’d made a complete ass of himself and had destroyed any opportunity he might have had to share in her passionate personality.
Riker took another swig of his whisky and grimaced as it burned a its way down his throat.
Deanna retreated with her tray to the far end of Ten Forward where she took one of the alcove tables next to a larger window. Gazing out at the stars, she cast her somewhat muddled senses outward, searching for any hint of connection between herself and her Valkyrren lover. She thought of him as though he could answer her call. Of course, there was nothing -- the silence in her mind was deafening. No non-telepath had ever been able to reply to her in that way. No one except -- she cut off the thought.
She sighed and tried some of the soup, normally one that she liked, but not tonight. //Ugh!// She grimaced and pushed it away. She took two small bites of the sandwich before dropping it back on the tray in disgust. //Nothing tastes right tonight.// She frowned, gazing into her plate and then pulling the deep dessert dish of mousse over to her. She regarded it warily. Chocolate. How could she go wrong with chocolate?
“You better not be screwed up tonight” she warned the dessert quietly. “I don’t think I could stand being rejected a second time in one evening.” Picking up her spoon, she was about to dig into it when she froze, with the spoon in mid air.
//Someone else is here!// Her senses had begun to right themselves and she sat up, looking about, trying to scan the darkened room.
“Who’s there?” she called out, wary as much from the other person’s silence as from the fact that she had not been able to sense their presence earlier.
His voice came out of the dark in immediate response. “Couldn’t sleep either?”
//Will!// Startled, she fumbled and dropped the spoon. It clanked onto the metal table. She quickly recaptured it before it could clattered off the table onto the floor.
How had she not sensed him? Of all people to be oblivious of--
“What are you doing here?” She asked, almost sharply.
He was silent for a long time, and then she heard him sigh. “At a guess? Probably the same thing you are.”
“And what would that be?” She pressed, unwilling to give him quarter.
“I was thirsty.” He said a bit too neutrally. “You?”
“Hungry.” She returned in a subtly defiant tone.
There was a long pause.
“We don’t lie well do we?”
She was startled by the observation, but swallowed the ready rebuke on her lips as she slowly exhaled. “I guess not.”
His answering silence spoke volumes. She could hear him rustle in the dark and then his footsteps. A tall shadow approached her before emerging into the reflected light of the planet below.
“You look like hell.” She noted, conversationally.
“You would too if you’d been through what I have tonight.”
Deanna glanced at the bottle he placed on the next table. He took a seat there -- putting a protective distance between them.
“Trying to drown out what happened?” Her perception was as accurate as ever. He gave her a wry and somewhat defensive look
“Thought I’d take notes from a chapter in Cochran’s book. I seem to recall that it worked for you at one time.”
Her eyebrow rose. “Malicious humor does not become you, Will. Nor does self deprecation.”
“Don’t try to psychoanalyze me, Counselor. Especially tonight.”
“You might try leaving me alone, then. I didn’t ask you to sit down.” Her gaze narrowed, but he didn’t move, ignoring her not-so-subtle hint. Instead, his look became thoughtful.
“You said something a moment ago -- you said I was ‘trying to drown out what happened’ as if you knew.” the tone of his voice was accusatory.
Deanna dropped her eyes and focused on spooning some of the chocolate mousse into her mouth.
“Deanna?” he sat forward. “You do know something, don’t you? Damn it, look at me!” Genuinely angry now, Will placed both hands on the table before him.
At that moment, the only thing she wanted to do was to get away from him. She made a move to stand, dropping the spoon on the table.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
His demand was low and filled with as dangerous an intent as she had ever heard from him. It stopped her momentarily. She swallowed. It was clear that he wanted answers. As he reached out to grab her arm, she jerked away.
“Leave me alone!” she yelled.
He made another move towards her, reaching for her with both hands this time. She was ready for him, grabbing the nearly full glass of chocolate and hurling its contents at him. As she followed through, the glass slipped from her hand and bounced off of his chest, covering him in a liquid cascade of chocolate.
Startled by her own actions, her eyes locked momentarily with his. Ten Forward’s doors barely had time to open as she broke contact, turned and ran, seeking escape.
Dripping chocolate, Will stood for a moment in stunned silence, watching her retreat knowing it was already too late.
Goaded into action, he yelled through the still-open doorway. “No you don’t!” and took off after her.
She slowed her flight but was still walking rapidly -- heading for the safety of the turbolift when he caught up to her. Picking up his pace, Will came warily came abreast of the Counselor and she automatically retreated to one side of the corridor without breaking stride.
“I just want to know what happened!” he barked.
“You’re lying! Where’s your Valkyrren friend? Mr. Muscles.” He snapped back, sarcastically.
“And where’s that tart of yours?” Casting him a seething glance.
“That’s enough of that. She’s not a tart!”
“And A’Gir’s a gentleman, unlike someone else I could mention.” Deanna snarled.
“Don’t even go there.”
“Go where?” she said cynically.
When the doors to the turbo lift opened, she entered first. He followed. Even here they kept as far away from each other as the confined space would allow.
“What exactly happened between you two tonight? I think you owe me an explanation.” He growled.
“I owe you what!?” Her incredulous gaze turned on him and her eyes flashed in anger. “It’s none of your damned business!” she hissed at him vehemently.
Deanna crossed her arms to shut him out and leaned back against the wall, her head down to avoid looking at him. When the turbolift doors finally opened she slipped out into the corridor before Will could react. In seconds, Will recovered and was out of the car right behind her.
Deanna managed to reach to her quarters before him, but as the door began to slide closed, an arm intruded catching the edge and then forced it backwards into it’s slot, overriding the mechanism’s whining servos.
The shock at his deliberate and unwanted intrusion of her quarters caused her to retreat from him.
“Leave. *now*. I’m warning you.” She growled.
“Or *what*?” Will rounded on her as the overtaxed door snapped shut behind him. “I want to know what you did to me tonight! How did you screw up what I had going with Sa’Terre! Tell me and I’ll leave. I promise you that.”
Deanna’s eyes grew wide with shock. “What *I* did? I did nothing! If you want to find someone to blame, look in the mirror!”
“Oh, come off it, Deanna! You’re the one who has the empathic ability.”
“I hate you when you act like a jerk, Will Riker. I want you out of here, now!”
He ignored her, stepping forward and grabbing both of her arms in his hands. Though she tried to shake loose, she could not.
“Not until you tell me!” Still holding her firmly.
With an unexpected yank, Deanna freed one hand from his grasp and took a swing at him, connecting with his jaw. Surprised, he release her, more from shock the unexpected attack than from any pain. She had never been physically aggressive towards him before so the power and accuracy of her blow had taken him by surprise.
Freed, Deanna turned and sprinted towards the bedroom with him right behind her. “Oh, no you don’t! You don’t get away that easy.” He dove after her, attempting to recapture her from behind, but missed. Their momentum, however, carried them forward, landing in a tangle on the bed. Deanna quickly rolled over him and agilely leapt off of the other side.
Before she could escape, however, Will grabbed the waistband of her trousers and pulled her back towards him.
Finally losing her tenuous purchase, Deanna felt herself fall backwards -- forcing him off of the other side of the mattress. He landed on the floor with a grunt, dragging her struggling form down on top of him.
“Why are you doing this!” she yelled, twisting around to hammer against his chest in frustration. “Let go of me!”
He grabbed her wrists suddenly trying to still her attack. “Not until you tell me what happened!”
“You really don’t get it, do you?” Her angry voice hurt as she violently yanked her hands free again. “You used the link -- our link -- I had no control!” her voice rose from venom to a scream. “You drove him away!”
“Me?! I didn’t do anything! You’re the one who called to me, I felt you!”
Desperately, he recaptured her wrists to protect himself.
Inflamed, Deanna tried to bite him. “I hate you.” she sobbed as she lunged at his unprotected skin with bared teeth. “I hate you.”
Her desperation finally penetrated to his inner core and his anger was replaced by something far less satisfying. Guilt. He pulled her to him, burying his face in her hair. He could smell the perfumed scent of her shampoo -- it reminded him of the nights she’d come back into bed with him right after a shower -- the nights after she and he had made love. The revelation came not without a price, however, for it was suddenly painfully clear to him that she and A’Gir had...
He let the thought lapse, unwilling to complete it. He concentrated on holding her instead. His arms tightened around her body as she struggled like a trapped animal.
“Let go of me.” She growled. But he continued to hold her tightly against him.
“I got over you a long time ago, Will Riker!” she said fiercely in his ear. “Why are you doing this to me?” Deanna’s voice dripped with rage like poison as she twisted in his arms, trying to get away. He felt her teeth graze his skin.
With a quick motion, Will pulled her arms around in front of her and pinned them against his chest. Held in this position, she couldn’t claw at him or bite him -- but he couldn’t avoid her eyes; eyes flashing with molten fury. In their depths, a dark liquid fire had brewed to the surface and he saw an almost insane hostility. Will knew in that moment that she was livid enough to kill him, if he didn’t defuse this situation soon.
As quickly as it had appeared, the look in her eyes was gone, and her expression returned to a bone chilling glare, appraising him in a way he’d never seen before.
Unable to free her hands from his grasp, the Counselor shifted tactics. No longer struggling to get away, she began clawing at his tunic -- ripping the first strip even as he held her.
Momentarily startled, Riker loosened his grip which afforded her the opportunity she’d been waiting for. She wrenched her arms free, but rather than run this time -- her tiny hands began shredding the rest of his tunic from his body. He couldn’t believe her strength as she tore away strip after strip with methodical ease, tossing each remnant aside as though it were somehow contaminated.
In less than a minute, she had his torso bare and vulnerable. She she fell upon him, lunging at his exposed neck; her teeth grazing the edge of his collar bone, painfully.
Her only reward was a mouth full of chocolate. Annoyed at being denyed, she shoved against him, sobbing with anger and frustration as the dimly remembered events of Ten Forward filtered up into her mind.
Again she attacked him, this time seeking his throat; demanding blood and again she found only the taste of the remnants of the sweet confection on her lips. She was now hissing in consummate anger.In self-preservation, Will abandoned any attempt to recapture her, falling backward instead, landing on the floor beside the bed.
His change in altitude afforded Deanna only a fleeting chance to escape -- but it was enough. Liberated, she sprang away from him and scrambled onto the mattress, heading for the other side.
Without thinking, Will turned with lightening speed and caught her by the cuff of her pants. Deanna twisted in his grasp, yanking back on her leg. And a feral look of triumph suffused her expression when, with the agility of a lynx, she ripped open the fastenings open along her leg and slid out of the garment which held her. She left Will holding the empty husk of her slacks.
An instant later she was crouched on the other side of the bed, breathing heavily. Her eyes focused on him as he came to his knees on his side of the mattress.
“You are a slime worm.” her eyes flashed in anger.
“You made that clear the first time you *bit* me!” He snapped back at her, breathing hard. It was clear to Will that she was beyond anger. Knowing their temperaments, it startled him that he seemed to be the one in command of his emotions.
Even so, Will knew that he had to end this soon -- for he wasn’t all that far behind her. If this continued, he too could lose his self control. If that happened, one or both of them could get very hurt. He would never knowingly hurt Deanna, but he might not be able to keep her from hurting *herself* or him.
Teetering on the edge of consummate rage, he couldn’t ever remember being this angry with anyone in his entire life. At the same time, he felt something more powerful stirring beneath the fury. In the midst of the anger and venom of Deanna’s rage, he realized that he was feeling a different sense of her passion. A dark and forbidding sense of it. A hidden side of her personality which the beautiful empath had never allowed him to see before-- or perhaps anyone else for that matter.
Will watched Deanna track him warily as he slowly edged around the bed, collecting his thoughts; taking comfort from the assumption that, in her current state, she would be unable to read his emotions. At leased he hoped that was the case.
His voice grew soft and controlled as he attempted to calm her. “I’m sorry, Dee. I swear to you, I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?” she spat then darted around him, trying to get to the sanctuary of her own fresher unit.
He snagged her in mid-stride and reeled her in, holding on for dear life as she bit and clawed at him, tears streaming down her face, mixing with his blood.
//I knew I should never have allowed you to date a Klingon.// Riker thought, wincing in pain. Deanna howled with rage and yanked at his arms, attempting to loosen their grip on her.
His earlier theory had been wrong -- she had heard him.
Still he endured her attack, holding onto her tightly throughout the assault. His arms and hands, scratched and bleeding, a painful reminder of her capability when angered. He knew that she would have never gotten to this point if he’d been there to listen to her.
Instead, he had let her down. Let her down as lover. As a friend. Let her down by deliberately avoiding the fragile issue of their feelings towards one another, while knowing full well in his heart that they had only postponed the inevitable. And now the day of reckoning had come. He only hoped that it would not immolate them both.
In his heart, Will also knew the reason why. Had he been Betazoid perhaps things would have been different for both of them. But he was not and they had cut off their intimate relationship so completely...
Whether it was him or her, no longer mattered. And though he knew she wasn’t blameless either, some part of him now felt as though he’d been an insensitive jerk. Will felt his self control begin to slip as the accuracy of her accusations stabbed into his heart.
He held her tightly, turning her into his arms as she struggled, feeling her sobs as they wracked her body. On instinct, he pulled her towards him; watched the flash of her eyes fix upon him before he covered her lips with his, robbing her of the breath to protest.
She struggled against his familiarity causing Will to stumble bakward upsetting his balance which caused him to fall backward onto the bed. As he fell, he pulled her down on top of him.
“No, No No! Let me go.” she cried.
“I can’t, Dee. I won’t.”
Inches apart, their eyes locked and held. A thin sheen of perspiration covered each of their bodies. He could feel the heat of her as he tried to kiss her again. This time she bit him hard, drawing more blood. Still he refused to let go, challenging her fury with resolve.
Defeat was not a word in Will Riker’s vocabulary.
Bracing himself for another attempt to escape, Will was surprised when something snapped in Deanna, abating her fury.
She pulled away from him, shoving against his body with her hands until she could look down at him. An odd expression of curiosity mixed with control suffused her face.
Here, pinned beneath her, was a man half covered in chocolate. With blood leaking from wounds where her fingernails and teeth had found their marks, and still more trickling down from his lower lip where she had bitten him.
She explored the features of his face for only a moment, and then she fell forward as if still seeking to physically injure him even as she began kissing his wounded lips with a fierce passion. Abandoning her attempt at escape, she began pulling the remaining clothing from their bodies.
Worried that she may have truly snapped, Will attempted to extricate himself from under Deanna. It shocked the hell out of him when she emitted what could only be described as a feline growl of warning, freezing him in position. She rose and straddled his hips, peeling away the shreds of what little remained of her own garment.
Will watched her eyes grow darker with each passing second. On instinct, he lifted his hands towards her trembling form, uncertain of whether the change in her was rage or passion -- or both.
She slapped his hands away and then pinned them behind his head, no longer willing to be denied. “Don’t touch me!” She growled, setting new rules.
Will was as thoroughly entrapped by her personality change as by the tatters of his clothing which hung from him in shreds. What little remained of his pants were dangling from an ankle. He gazed up at her, the fire in her dark expression threatening to incenerate the remainder of his control.
Deanna moved slowly, her now nude form sliding back and forth along his body, desperate to be joined with him. He heard his own moan when she edged back into contact, a low, throaty growl which forced it’s way forth, demanding release from the most primitive part of his psyche. With his wrists still pinned, Will acceded to her demand and thrust against her, entering her body as she forcibly slid backwards on top of him.
Deanna threw back her head, her being flooded with sensations; desires fulfilled. Accepting the restored reality of a once familiar intimacy. Her voice cried out in joy as she finally achieved what she had unknowingly sought.
She released him. Her fingers were now splayed across his chest supporting her as she struggled in the grip of her lust. She felt his fullness within her as she ground her hips into his, conquering him, forcing their contact to still deeper levels. Both moaned loudly as the pleasure of their union overwhelmed their senses.
“Oh god, Dee -- “ Will was pinned to the mattress in a haze of agonizing pain and pleasure. Attempting to focus, he looked up at her and saw her expression fill with dangerous intent. Time after time, his hips rose and met hers, sliding back -- each time harder than before. Finally she leaned forward on top of him, gasping for breath, recapturing his wrists above his head.
Unwilling to be confined for even a moment longer, he yanked them free. He heard her sharp intake of breath and saw defiance in her eyes even as he locked his hands on her hips, pulled her against him with punishing force. This time it was he who moved for her. His eyes stared back with equal defiance as he set a new pace of their movement.
He watched with satisfaction when she took her lower lip between her teeth. Her eyes closed and then reopened as she struggled to reclaim what was left of her rapidly diminishing control. He heard her voice a word, a Betazoid word, one he recognized as *very* slang, especially for her. He smiled, watching her eyes darken; knowing how close she was. He drew his wounded hands along either side of her with reverence. There was only one more thing to do... one more thing, and she would be his.
When Will touched a particularly sensitive spot, Deanna’s audible gasp of surprise and the reaction of her body alerted him to his control of her. Moving faster; increasing the sexual tension between them, he bit back his own cry of passion, struggling in a losing battle to control their release for a few moments more.
Deanna, still vulnerable from her earlier emotional outburst, was not so lucky. Teetering on the edge of absolute ecstasy, she’d left herself open to his exploit. With her guard was down he slipped inside her mind.
Thrusting inside of her in both body and soul, he reached out mentally and seized that which she had been denying both of them for so long.
“Oh, Gods!” She trailed off on a whisper, barely a breath of the volume she’d started with, as she felt his intrusion. He knew she was fighting him and he deliberately touched the core of her being in a way that only he could. He felt her shudder with passion. And then he felt her fear, followed by an outraged scream of anger.
Her eyes snapped open -- eyes black and cold as obsidian. A mental shield slammed down cutting him off at the source of his entry, it sliced through their link -- it sliced through him -- and then he felt nothing -- nothing at all.
Sucking in a breath of surprise and fear, Riker watched her gaze narrow. He had thought she was fighting him unsuccessfully but he had been wrong. It was then that he realized his folly. He should have known better than to go after her using a method she herself had taught him.
What was worse, she had cut him off -- shut him out completely -- and he now found himself staring up at her, and into soulless void. He had never imagined it possible, the emptiness of it. But she had forced the truth upon him in the most unforgiving way possible.
He knew now that she had never really been gone. That *this* was what it would be like, without her there; without her constant presence in his life; without the link binding them. Since the first day of their union on Betazed -- they had shared -- a sharing which he -- they -- had each taken for granted. Now she was showing him what would be lost if all of that were gone.
Swallowing the block of ice in his throat, Will watched her eyes -- still pinning him to the bed. She knew he understood; he could see it in the flash of her wordless expression. It was also her victory. He knew that too.
Though their bodies continued to move together; though the physical pleasure of union intensified with each passing moment -- it felt hollow -- lifeless. By any standard, it should have been the best sex of his life but it wasn’t -- It was an empty and soulless coupling of bodies. She had ensured he knew that just as she had made certain he understood why.
‘Sex’ for him had always been about the chase. The hunger. The hunter and the hunted. The capturing of the prize. He’d been with lover after lover, seeking whatever physical gratification he could find even while his reluctant soul drew back; searching eternally for the intangible beautiful gift it had known once, so long ago, cradled in her arms.
And now she was here. With him. He held her body flush with his own and her head fell backward once more; her dark hair spilling down behind her as she moaned softly; panting while he continued to take her. The moment seemed surreal. A kaleidoscope of physical pleasure which mocked them both. And it was wrong.
It was wrong because he could no longer feel her with him. No longer feel her presence in his thoughts or in his spirit -- she was here and she was gone. He knew now that he could not live without their union of souls. He understood that he needed to feel the warmth of her spirit merged with his just as desperately as his body craved release. He needed her soul... her loving missing soul.
A part of him wanted to beg for forgiveness -- beg her to let it go -- plead with her to release what she held captive. The other part of him -- the part that was strong and proud and unwilling to admit defeat -- that part of him damned her for the power she had exerted over him and her cavalier ability to exercise such control over their link.
Lifting her head, Deanna’s eyes slid open and her focus locked with his. It was in that instant that he realized he’d been wrong about his assumption. He could see it in her eyes now. The toll which her block was taking -- even on her far more disciplined mind. One couldn’t simply ‘turn off’ a link as powerful as theirs without consequence. Hadn’t she been the one who’d told him that once?
It was a battle of will and control she was fighting and slowly losing, even as he felt the first chinks in the mental wall between them begin to crack. Still she refused to relent even though her point had been made.
Locking his hands on her hips, Will sat them both up and, in a continuous motion, tipped her backward onto the mattress beneath them. She resisted at first, but his mouth cut off her protest at the moment of its inception. He explored the opening of her lips with his tongue, groaning low in his throat when he felt her respond to the kiss and invade his own mouth in a similar fashion. Oh yes, she wanted him, physically at least. There wasn’t a doubt in his mind. But the other part her, the part he so desperately craved -- was still locked away. Denied him.
“I thought you said you were over me...” He growled, only millimeters away from her face, tensing in both pleasure and pain as her fingernails snaked a winding trail along his back. He drove into her, harder, quickening their motion to match the rhythm of their racing heartbeats.
“Who says this has anything to do with *you*?” She shot back, stifling an outcry when his hands expertly kneaded the sensitive tips of her breasts.
“Nothing to do with me, huh?” He grunted softly.
Still she denied him even as she placed her lips against his chest again. Baring her teeth, she bit down hard, not quite breaking the skin this time, but very definitely marking him forever as her own in an almost Klingon fashion.
“Ahh, Godddd...” He groaned, the shock and pain freezing him for a moment. It was then that he heard an answering sound as he shifted inside her; he saw her eyes darken to even new depths and could feel the swirling vortex which had always been unique to them, as it rose up within him. He knew what was happening, and so did she -- her eyes told him that it was happening to her too.
The tenuous line between anger and passion suddenly snapped and both Will and Deanna pressed forward, coming together so that not even a millimeter of space might separate their bodies from the agony of pleasure which surrounded each of them. Will pulled her flush against him as they rolled once more; allowing Deanna to reclaim her dominance over him, his hands never still upon her as the two lovers moved in rhythmic unison.
Her inner voice called out to him, begging him for something which even she seemed not to understand. And her back arched upward as her hands kneaded into the sensitive muscles of his chest. With the hint of a full reunion barely visible between them; partially established, yet teasingly out of reach, Will found himself beyond thought, beyond reason; needing her -- almost desperately. Wanting her with an intensity he hadn’t dreamed was even possible.
“Oh, god, Deanna... yes... yes...” He whispered harshly, watching as the darkness of her gaze sealed with his. Yet she refused to relinquish the last of her control. She continued to shut him off from the bond, her black eyes flashing resolutely, even as she closed them, her soul drowning in the force of the pleasure which consumed them both.
Locked in passionate combat, Will could feel the futile struggle which each of them continued to place against the link -- a resolute insistence which would not be denied. He could sense Deanna’s rebellion against her fate, even in the midst of their passionate liaison. But the force which drove them higher was far more powerful than either one of them could begin to imagine. With each passing instant there was more of her with him -- and yet it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.
The realization of that both tortured consumed him, plying against his tenuous self control until, in a moment of blinding surrender, he relented. Relinquishing the last of his control to something far greater than he, Will’s head pressed backward into the mattress behind him; his mind suddenly free -- and he knew. In defeat he found strength.
The force became irresistible. He knew the precise moment when she too ceased to resist the insistent demand upon her soul. It was in that instant that he felt her with him again, wholly, completely. As though they’d never been apart. Not for a year, a day or even a moment. It felt as though his spirit had forever been merged with hers.
“Will... “ She sobbed; crying out for him while warm teardrops began spilling down over her cheeks.
This time, when their thoughts and emotions flowed together, there were no barriers. There was only the most incredible sense of truth. A sense of completion in the other’s ecstasy; of pure and untarnished joy as their bodies and their minds cried out in unison.
The word resonated with an almost a sacred reverence between them as it echoed anew in their minds; as what should never have been separated was finally restored.
That which had been torn asunder was healed. That which had been confined was released. That which had been held in abeyance was free. In that blinding flash of physical perfection, their joining was once again -- complete.
She lay atop him, gasping for air on his chest and listening to the rumble of his breathing as he struggled for breath of his own.
Without thinking, without even caring why, Deanna drew her head into the crook of his neck, breathing deeply of him. The warm, musky scent of his body sent a shiver across her own. She felt so close to him now; so utterly fulfilled. His arms wound around her and she began to kiss him lazily, allowing her lips to trace the outline of the corded muscles in his neck.
She heard his voice whisper against the edges of her drowsy consciousness, allowing the first glimpse of a colder cognitive reality to slip through, unbidden. Sighing softly, she pushed away from Will until she could look in his eyes. In truth, she was still stunned at power of their union, as well as the clarity of their reestablished telepathic connection.
“Shut up, Riker--” She shook her head, sealing her lips over his possessively. She heard him groan in response. The kiss broke off and he met her expression.
:::But you can hear me, again...::: Her eyes flashed at him. “I thought we agreed a long time ago that this would be a bad idea?” she spoke aloud, neither confirming nor denying his statement.
Will returned her question with an expression which betrayed his awe of the entire situation. He regarded her curiously. She was different somehow. Something about her had changed. Or had it?
“It’s this damned Imzadi thing,” he smiled and shrugged at the continued defiance in her eyes. “it seems to have a mind of it’s own.”
She sat up then, straddling his hips proudly in much the same way that Sa’Terre had earlier. Not that he was able to think of the other woman for more than a fraction of a nanosecond before his thoughts were filled with Dee once more. He couldn’t help the way his body responded to her boldness. It was new and incredible... or maybe it had always been there, and only the years they’d forced themselves apart had kept them from rediscovering just how much each of them had grown and changed in the interim.
She shifted atop him purposefully, and he shut his eyes with a softly spoken entreat. For a time, she was silent, and then he opened his eyes once more.
“Do you want to deny that it happened.” He asked, frankly.
“I’m not the one who’s in the habit of denying anything.” She shot back and his gaze widened.
“I beg your pardon? As I recall, you were always the one who said ‘no’, Deanna. I sure as hell tried...”
“You *tried*? You? *Mr. Commitment*?” At this, she laughed. A low musical sound which somehow also seemed dangerous to him now “You put more effort into your anbo jit’su sessions! When was the last time you *tried*?”
She rolled backwards off of him, breaking their intimate connection and leaving him feeling chilled, despite the warmth of the air in her cabin.
“Deanna,” He sat up, more than a little confused. “I thought I was respecting your wishes, what the hell was I supposed to do after you used that: ‘not while we’re serving on board the same ship’ line. Ignore the lady’s request? Especially when she’s also my best friend!?!” He fired back at her, his own eyes flashing in anger.
“Just answer the question, Will and you’ll probably see my point. Even through that thick skull of yours. When was the last time?” She repeated, turning to face him as she did so.
“Well,” He frowned, suddenly flustered... “I don’t know, I guess it, well, it was--”
“How many years has it been, *Imzadi*? Or do you still want to pretend not to know what that means, anymore?” It was the first and only time Will had heard her use the term of endearment without the warm feeling which usually accompanied it in his thoughts.
His mouth opened and then closed once more, a look of confusion stole across his features. “Are you saying I should have tried again after you refused me? Wait a while until our friendship was secure and then just see if it was ‘okay’? Why was it my responsibility?”
When she didn’t respond, he shoved himself upright into a seated position, juxtaposing hers. “How the hell was I supposed to know that, Deanna? I’m not a mind read--”
His voice broke off suddenly and her eyes locked with his.
“Oh, shit.” He let out a long, sharp breath of air. A long and uncomfortable silence ensued between them before he next spoke.
“I thought I understood. I thought-- I should have known. I guess I did know...” He trailed off with a whisper. “I just assumed that... Geez, Deanna -- why didn’t you ever...?”
“What would you like me to have done, Will, take out an ad? Light up the aft portion of the ship with a message? Did you think that just because we couldn’t be together at the very beginning of our careers, it had to mean we were to remain apart forever? The bond doesn’t just ‘go away’ because we’d prefer it did!” She shot back.
“Yeah. I got that message. Loud and clear.” He mumbled sullenly.
“Or because you don’t give a damn anymore.” She continued, and he could see the hurt in her gaze. “I hate to break it to you this way, *Imzadi* but we’re stuck with it. It will never leave either of us, wherever we go... whatever we do with our lives. And now you’ve made things worse--so much worse...for both of us.” She dropped her gaze and he felt the depth of her frustration when she continued in a quieter voice. “Before tonight, it was getting easier...”
“And after tonight?” Will asked.
“Don’t patronize me.” Deanna whispered. “You know very well what happened tonight.”
For a time, neither spoke, and then he raised his hand to brush against her hair, taking several strands of it between his fingers.
“I can’t stop thinking about you.” He admitted, slowly. “I never could stop thinking about you.” With a swallow, he met her gaze when she turned to him. “Doesn’t that count for something?”
Deanna stared at him for a time. Her eyes seemed to bore into his soul, and then she shook her head, mutely. Not in negation of his question, but rather in response to the fact that she had no answers; no more than he.
Finally, she whispered softly. “After a while, I realized that you weren’t in love with me anymore. We were friends, and that was enough. It had to be enough.”
Will shifted forward suddenly, touching her face with his hand. “But Deanna, you’re an empath, and especially with the bond, even as it was... you had to have *known* how I was feeling. God, there were times when I could have crawled under the table. I thought for sure that you must have sensed it -- and yet you never responded at all. I thought you were being polite because *you* had moved on-- especially after Worf...I thought--”
“Oh, I did sense those moments Will. How could I not? I felt them. I thought about them.” Her head lifted and she regarded him with large eyes. “But they were fragments of an emotion you had long kept buried. They were feelings you were unwilling to have. I sensed that too. You kept trying to push the memory of us aside, and since that was how you wanted it to be, I would never have--”
Without warning, Riker suddenly pulled her to him, his lips seizing upon hers as he drew her body close in his arms. :::I know you can hear me again. But it’s not just tonight. You’ve been able to hear me for a while, haven’t you?:::: His mental voice caressed her thoughts while his tongue explored the warmth of her mouth.
::::Yes:::: Her answer fell against him and his hands roamed over her skin. She leaned forward then and licked him, just below the base of his neck. And when she sat back up, she had a small streak of chocolate mixed with his blood just below her lips.
Struck with awe by the simple beauty which her presence in his life could engender, Will raised his fingers to wipe the chocolate from her lips and she captured his hand, sucking the remainder of it from his fingertip without tearing her gaze from his.
His own eyes darkened upon her, his body’s response automatic, and she smiled suggestively when she felt the latter.
“Seemed a shame to waste it.” She whispered. “It was thoughtful of you to bring desert.”
This time, he laughed. “Well, there was a take out order as I recall.” His voice fell an octave. “Deanna, what does this mean for us? I think -- for the first time, I really know how I feel. About you. About us. But I also know that it’s not up to me, alone. Do you think it’s still possible for two people...us, I mean...”
“I don’t know.” She admitted, suddenly serious. “I don’t know anything for certain, Will.”
“Well I sure as hell know one thing for certain.” He fixed his eyes on her. “I know what it was like -- without you. I know I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”
A charged silence descended upon them where they sat, face to face. “Neither do I.” Deanna finally admitted aloud. “And I believe you do know how you feel, Will. I can sense that much is true. But do you know what you want?” She regarded him frankly. “Because as much as I feel for you; as much as you might feel for me. I’m not willing to be with someone who doesn’t--”
“I want you.” He responded, his resolute voice low with emotion. “My *soul* wants you. God, I feel like I can’t breathe without you...” He swallowed. “Deanna, I was worried that -- you might not want *me*”
Deanna almost laughed. “Well, I think you can stop worrying.”
“You think?” Riker grinned, pulling her close in his arms and placing his lips on hers.
“You get cocky when you’re over confident,” she gasped, smiling back at him.
“I guess I could work on that...” He managed, running his hands lightly along the contours of her body.
“Right now?” Deanna tipped her head, moving so that she lay back down over him, placing her lips against his. “Right this very instant?” Her voice grew teasing as she moved on top of him and Will was happy to oblige her desire. They had no idea when it was that exhaustion finally overcame them.
Sa’Terre Ta’Vanne sat on a bench on the quad of Valkyrren’s military academy watching Valen, the Valkyrren sun move toward the horizon. She idly picked at the officers rank slash marks on her sleeve as she pondered her future. Her military rank had been honorably attained and she was proud of that and the fact that she paid her own way in this society of privilege and social connections.
She had just finished her weekly senior studies lecture in the tactical use of intelligence and would normally have been satisfied -- but not tonight. For some reason, all that had she had buried after that fateful night six months ago came flooding back to her.
//Six months!// she thought. Six months since the Federation ship had taken him away. Six months since that horrible experience. Six months since the night when she had experienced an intense abandonment to a kind of passion which she had believed impossible. Six months and the man responsible was still as much on her mind.
Something had happened then. Something which left her feeling empty now. In the time since then, her parents had tried inventing all sorts of opportunities for her to meet some of the most intelligent, handsome, eligible men on Valkyrre. She found them all charming of course. Sometimes even desirable but... there was always a but.
She had not taken a lover since that night. Even her father had commented at dinner one evening that she had been in exceptionally bad humor of late.
The last light of Valen gone, she leaned back and stared silently at Sa’Vendri and Sa’Vonne, Valkyrre’s moons. It did not make her happy that she had to agree with her father which darkened her mood even more.
A’Gir’s apprentices moved about the studio with apprehension, fearing another outburst from their master. They watched as he attacked the huge block that dominated the center of the workspace. The muscles of his back and arms rippled under the skin as his arm as he worked the stone with a vengeance. Again and again he raised the heavy hammer and then brought it down. Each time the violence of the impact of the hammer on shaping chisel gave off forge like sparks and another chunk of stone clattered onto the floor.
The apprentices watched in fearful amazement as huge chunks of stone rang as they bounced off of the ladder and scaffolding that surrounded the block. Even in the masters passion and anger they were in awe of the fact that only the stone that should be was carved away from the block.
A’Gir had not gotten over that night. Not gotten over her. He had been pursued by some of the most beautiful women on the planet since that night. Perhaps they could sense something different in him -- that he had somehow been changed. He had been touched by the essence of a goddess and had been found wanting. He had not accepted another lover since that night. How could he?
Tears of frustration welled up in his eyes, clouding his ability to be precise in his stokes. “Argh!” He cried out as he tried to wipe his eyes but the salt in his sweat stung too much. In anger, he threw the hammer and chisel with all of his strength. The hammer bounced off the wall, taking a large chunk of plaster with it. The chisel imbedded itself in one of the workroom’s wooden beams.
“Water!” he roared. One of apprentices grabbed fresh towels and raced to the sink with the water bottle. The other scrambled to recover his hammer and then looked up at the chisel which had been driven to half it’s length into the beam. He scurried to get a new one from the tool cabinet. One did not ignore the master when he was moody.
//Damn, Damn, Damn!// Thought Sa’Terre. //They’ve hauled me out to another incredibly boring evening.// The elegantly dressed Valkyrren men and women circulated through the gallery, occasionally snagging a fresh glass of wine, or a mug of mead or ale. //All of these damnable idiots pretending to know something about art -- mouthing off about this or that when they really haven’t a clue.//
She tried to make herself invisible, keeping to the shadowy corners of the room, away from the spotlights illuminating the various artwork. Being invisible was not an easy thing for one as beautiful as she, however -- and the fact that her mother insisted that she wear clothes which accentuated her slim beauty did nothing to help her predicament with the occasional male admirer who wandered by.
Dismissing the latest of these admirers, she looked about the room and contemplated the various sculptural works. //At least this one isn’t a complete incompetent.// A particular set of works -- far different than the rest -- were being displayed in a small alcove. She noted that most of the guests stopped, looked in and then moved on to the more conventional work being displayed in the main gallery.
A’Gir circulated among the guests, talking with patrons and their invites equally. The turnout for an artist who was also the Minister of Culture was predictably large. When some old biddy enclave matriarch or a rich off world trader would show interest in a piece, he would feign interest, answering even their most inane questions and nodding sagely at their largely pseudo knowledge of art. Then, once they had finally decided to add a trophy piece to their hodge podge collections, he would congratulate them on their wise choice and signal one of the gallery attendants who would then authorize an incredibly large credit transfer, arrange for the delivery and, in some cases, remodeling of the clients home or office to properly accommodate the piece.
From across the gallery he observed as the majority of the guests continued to pass by his new work. Only the most knowledgeable would occasionally venture into the side alcove. //At least some of them understand.// But even these did not question him outright, for most had known him or his art for some time already.
They would eventually come to him, occasionally commenting only generally on the works but never talking any one directly. He made small talk with these, the knowledgeable ones. Eventually they would nod politely, their unasked questions apparently answered and left him alone again. He would find out later how many of his new works they had been acquired. //Why does it have to be such a damnable business. Sometimes I feel like a prostitute rather than an artist.//
He took another draught from his mug of ale when his attention was drawn by a flash of deep red and purple. Someone passed under one of the artwork accent lights and he paused. Intrigued, he watched as a slender and very beautiful woman slipped cat like from shadow to shadow and finally disappeared into the alcove. //Ah, One who wants to hide from everyone, a feeling I can sympathize with.// He felt an affinity for this unknown woman who would be alone. With his curiosity tweaked, A’Gir quietly circulated until he too could slip into the alcove, unnoticed...
Sa’Terre ran her hands over the exquisitely carved stone. For some reason, these works spoke to her, comforted her and disturbed her at the same time. Her fingertips vibrated as she touched the surface of the dark stone. Placing her cheek against the smooth edge of it, she realized that it was not cold -- not warm, either -- but almost alive. //Yes, it -- it has life in it.//. The thought of that made her want to hug the stone for comfort. Tears began to flow from the corners of her eyes and making wet trails down her beautiful face.
A’Gir stood in the shadow and watched silently as the woman touched his artwork almost reverently. She ran her fingers over the stone with eyes closed, an expression of peace on her face.
He remembered her now -- the ambassador’s daughter -- her name came to him -- Sa’Terre.
When she put her face against the stone and tears began to fall he knew that he had touched her in some way. Unbidden, something inside him reached out for her.
Her green eyes flicked open when she became aware of another presence. She turned and stared at the man shape in darkness of the one corner.
“Who are you?”
“The artist” he answered plainly.
“Why this one?” She touched the stone.
It was a question A’Gir had not expected. “I have pain -- it had to come out.” he said from the darkness.
“Yes. And you -- a man?” //I have no ability to say an untruth.//
“Yes.” From the startled look in her eyes he could see that she had experienced a similar revelation.
“This work -- it means something to you?”
“Yes. It is alive. It has a soul.”
He made a decision. One that would probably generate an argument with the gallery tomorrow but he had to do this.
“It is yours.”
“I cannot afford it. I am a soldier and teacher.”
“You did not understand me. It is yours. You purchased it with your tears.”
She looked at him, astonished. Something about his voice compelled her. She had tried to hide within herself but she could not.
“You do not even know me.”
“For some reason, I feel that I do.” he replied.
“Come out of the shadows.”
“Why, there is comfort in the shadows.”
“I want to see your face.”
He stepped from the darkness into the pool of light surrounding the sculpture. She knew at that instant that she had never known a man such as this -- not even the one who had caused her such joy and pain. His gold flecked eyes touched her soul.
“Why am I attracted to you?” her frank statement caught him off guard.
“Perhaps we see each other’s pain?” he ventured.
She paused and chewed her bottom lip pensively. “No. It’s something else. I’ve felt empty and without purpose for a while.”
“Since the Federation ship came and left.”
“I remember now, you were at the reception. You were with a Federation officer that night. Was that the man?”
She nodded. “And you were with the dark haired one.” She saw his eyes cloud over. “It was her, wasn’t it?”
He nodded. “Something happened that night -- something touched me -- changed me somehow...”
The tears which pooled in her golden eyes told him that she too had been affected by that night. He reached out and touched her.
In that instant, that which had lain dormant, unknowingly placed there months ago, awoke within each of them and flowed towards their touch.
They could not help themselves nor deny that which was about to occur any more than they could consciously stop their hearts from beating. In a flash of understanding they were each within the others core being -- their lives -- their loves -- their pain -- their desires -- flashing across the others mind. Each could hear the others soul within their own.
Her eyes were wide at the unexpected touch of his mind.
:::A’Gir, What’s happening:::
His went equally wide.
:::I don’t know.:::
:::I feel everything:::
:::I feel you everywhere.:::
:::Hold me. I am afraid:::
She stepped into his arms, hers hands slipping around his neck as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do. She pulled his head down to hers so that she could capture his lips.
When their kiss finally broke, he looked her in wonder. “Do you have any idea what just happened?”
“Not a clue.” she smiled. “Would you like it to happen again?”
“Again and again.”
“That much would please me.”
“Forever would please me even more.”
Will Riker paused, gazing out into the dim light of the candle-lit cabin. His thoughts were clearly wandering, and so he decided to give voice to them before she might wonder enough to ask.
“The captain told me that we’re going to be in the Valkyrr sector next month and Starfleet has asked us to stop off for a diplomatic visit.”
Deanna settled into her husband’s arms, pressing her back against his front, her head beneath his chin. “Ever think about her?” She whispered after a time.
“Sometimes.” Will admitted. “I wonder if she ever found what she was looking for.” He placed his lips against the top of the Counselor’s head and shut his eyes, inhaling the familiar scent of her warmth. “What brought that on?”
“I got a sub space note from A’Gir today.”
“Oh?” Try as he might, Riker felt a twinge of -- something -- burn inside of him. He tried to unsuccessfully keep his reaction hidden.
“He and Sa’Terre were married last month.” She smiled as she felt his jealousy dissipate, almost as quickly as it had arrived. She had felt it, despite his obvious effort to contain the emotion. And now she felt his relief. There was no reason for him to be jealous, of course, and yet it still made her irrationally happy that he was. The irony of it made her smile grow wider.
“Now, that’s an oil and water combination.” Will mused, still caught up in his own thoughts.
“Like us?” She teased.
“Well, uh... that’s different, they don’t have the advantage of an Imzadi bond.” He shifted her in his arms and then settled his body on top of her, kissing her parted lips. “Why would you compare them to us?”
A hidden smile tipped her lips upward as her fingers lightly traced over the scar at base of his neck -- one he would not let Beverly repair. Edging up his body, she returned his kiss with her own emphasis.
“Oh, no reason.”