Until Next Time
This is my answer to Liana’s challenge or at best the fluff I promised her about three weeks ago, and it is a G rated heaping spoonful of sugar. I don’t excel at this sort of thing so giggling is allowed; OK expected <G>
The characters aren’t mine, not really, but for a change they’re in my universe.
Feedback is always welcome, but beware flames are sent directly to my dark side, the one that prowls the night in search of victims. (sorry had to get my twisted self in here somewhere;-)
"Miss Anna!" Clara’s enthusiastic call and the sound of her footfalls as they pounded with the same enthusiasm up the stairway broke into Anna’s sweet, indulging daydreams. She turned her head towards the familiar voice and leaned back on the balcony rail outside her bedroom.
"It’s a letter Miss Anna." Anna’s heart leapt into her throat; her delicate hand flew to her chest as if she could tame the excitement that had begun to well up inside her.
A breeze soft with springs scents, but haunted by the summer’s impending humidity tossed her raven hair over her flushed porcelain cheeks, she swept it away with both hands and knotted it loosely at the nape of her neck.
"It sure looks like his writin Miss Anna." Almost as excited as Anna, Clara presented the worn envelope with a dark-skinned hand, and tamed her own wavy dark hair.
Anna accepted the tattered envelope that had probably been in transit forever with a hand that trembled with anticipation. "Thank you." She only smiled for a moment at her friend, a friend that those who lived around her would have called a slave. But not Anna, when Virginia split it had left her helplessly in the middle, alone on a vast plantation with only slaves and dreams to fill her days. She’d offered them all their freedom, but many had chosen to stay with her, help her tend to the endless chores, the constant repairs needed to keep her modest plantation from falling victim to one of the many wealthy men that coveted it.
She stepped slowly inside, tracing her fingers over the curled writing on the envelope; the ink had run from the elements, but she could feel every nuance of the man that wrote it, feel it as if his soul was sealed inside.
"Look at you," Clara said, shaking her head in mock disgust, "Image falling in love with a man you’ve never met, it’s not proper I tell you." She planted her hands on her hips and deepened the look of indignation on her face. "And a Northerner, lands sakes what are you thinking?"
Anna laughed lightly. "I don’t think I am thinking Clara, all I can do is feel."
Clara’s weathered features softened, Anna was certain she saw moisture glaze her large dark eyes. "Whatever it is Miss Anna, I wish the whole country could be feelin it too." She closed the door before Anna could respond, before she could ease the sadness that had shadowed Clara’s presence.
For a moment her shoulders drooped, an instant when reality invaded her hopes for her future and fear darkened the light of her soul. She tore open the envelope almost desperately, reaching for the heartbeat that always echoed her own, the strength that enhanced every word.
Another breeze rippled the curtains and kissed the tears that dripped silently down her cheeks. Clutching the three pages in her hand, she wiped away a single tear and stared at it in the thinning daylight. Jewels of fading rainbow light played inside the liquid pearl of pain, it glistened as it fell forgotten onto her petticoat, blemishing innocent pink silk with tears of crimson blood.
She inhaled deeply, the sweet scent of honeysuckle enhancing her breath, inspiring her wistful dreams in spite of the tearstained pages. "I will always love you too William," she whispered, dropping the fragile papers on the table in front of her and stepping back out to the balcony.
Her petticoats rustled around her skin and the night air whispered with promises. She looked up at the stars that shimmered with forever, she stared at them, entranced, as if her future lie in their mysterious depths.
"Anna?" Strangely the voice, low and rich didn’t startle her. She simply turned towards it slowly and smiled, her breath catching in her chest.
"I had to see you." He was perfect in the moonlight, just as she’d imagined he’d be. Tall and strong, his courage and undying commitment to protect written in the lines that traced his mouth and wrinkled with determination over his forehead. But it was in his eyes she saw the man she’d dreamed of, touched only in thought for the better part of her life. She stared into them as if they were a universe in themselves, and as she felt his hand touch hers, his thoughts, his soul brush against her own she realized they were.
"William," she said, beginning a sentence she had no idea how she was gong to complete.
"Shh." His large hand cradled her neck, his thumb stroking methodically over her throat. "They’ll be another time for us," he promised, his promise dusting her lips with warmth before his mouth barely grazed hers.
A million lifetimes flashed behind his eyes as she cherished the heartbeat in time, the unnatural moment they’d been allowed before he reluctantly drew away.
"I’m whole," he said, his eyes liquid sapphires never leaving hers. "I can go on now.... I love you Anna.... I'll always love you."
Her human instinct wanted to stop him, throw herself at him, entangle him in her arms so tightly he could never get away, but she couldn’t, all she could do was feel that her soul had been completed.
"Always," she said as she watched the man she’d waited a lifetime for begin to flicker from her sight.
"Until next time." She heard him say before the image was gone.
She took slow steps back into her bedroom and picked up the pages scattered over her dresser table. "Until next time," She whispered, tying the final letter in with the others.
She closed the drawer; tears she’d wanted to deny overtaking her as her silent ache became deep heartfelt sobs.
"Miss Anna." Deep in her grief she didn’t hear Clara until she felt the older woman’s hands against her arms.
"Miss Anna, what is it?"
"Nothing," she answered in broken sobs.
"Maybe this will cheer you up, it was just delivered by a union solider."
Anna looked up, through her misted eyes the heart shaped locket Clara dangled distorted and twisted in and out of sight like fine silver rain.
Anna took it almost fearfully, her wide dark eyes haunted with pain and loss. She opened the locket slowly. "I’m always with you." was engraved on the empty side, and the eyes that encompassed her universe stared back at her from the other.
"You’ve lost your mind Deanna!" William Riker folded his arms across his chest and did another rolled eyed inventory of his surroundings. "This place is beyond repair lady and if you think I’m living here you're.... NUTS!" He amplified his tone only because it was apparent his wife wasn’t paying any attention to him. "Hello.... Enterprise to Troi," he said, waving a hand in front of her eyes, "Are you in there?"
"Oh Will, this is so tragic." Finally her eyes raised from the worn yellowed pages she’d been reading.
"That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.... And tragic is an understatement."
"Not the house," she said in one of those tones, the ones she used when he’d missed something. "You should read these."
"Deanna if we chose to live here I’ll never be able to read again...My time will be spent making sure we don’t fall through the floorboards."
The eyes that had moved to his but at had never really looked at him drifted slowly back to the pages in her hand. He eyed her a little closer catching a glimpse of the glistening moisture that clung to her dark lashes. He rolled his eyes again.
"There’s a graveyard out back." he paused and awaited a response. Considering he knew his wife, he hadn’t been expecting one and continued sharing every negative he’d found in the four hours he’d spent inspecting this house. "The spiders between the walls, in the passageways are as big as my head." He finished with his most discouraging news; she muttered again and nodded.
He shifted his weight and glared at the floorboard that squeaked and buckled under his feet. "It just won’t work Deanna," he said smugly, "It’s too far from headquarters, it would make this affair I'm having with Ensign Grey impossible."
He arched anticipatory brows and instantly felt them wrinkle with her response. "We’ll work something out Will."
He puffed out a noisy, intermittent breath, slapped his hands a few times against his thigh and finally shook his head, stepping carefully towards the front door—Or the hinges where there should have been a front door. He fingered them thoughtfully for a moment before looking over his shoulder at his wife. With her feet pulled up tightly beside her, her skirt encircling the floor, her fingers tapping nervously against her pursed lips she looked like a child; a little girl that believed straw could be spun into gold, that a single glass slipper could overcome everything, seal a perfect fate.
He smiled and took a step back towards her, catching a glimmer and a muted image of himself in the large arched mirror beside the door. Hundreds of years old, he figured it had probably captured the reflection of more pain, love, heartache and joy then he’d ever know in his lifetime. He nodded to it and smiled respectfully, but sadly, looking back to his image when he realized his eyes weren’t his own—or were they. The color was the same, the lines that eased as his smile faded matched his, but in them, behind the dark cobalt, there was pain, a loss so deep his hand lifted unconsciously to his chest.
He heard Deanna’s call to him, but the name William played through his mind and shifted the familiar image beside him, even the hands he felt slid around his waist all orchestrated a memory...vague and distant... Joy, untamed hope, and the most abysmal sadness he’d ever known, as if his soul had been violated, raped of what it needed to survive.
"I remember," he whispered, sure he could taste his own blood as it welled up in his chest, "I’ll always be with you." At first he spoke to the image in the mirror, but he repeated his promise as he turned to face the small woman beside him.
"I’ll always be with you Deanna."
"I know." Her voice was strained; her eyes liquid, but she tilted her head as if she didn’t understand.
"If you want this house...Imzadi." He slipped a hand under her hair and looked away from her for a moment attempting fruitlessly to contain the profound emotions.
"Will." She shook her head, her hand latching tightly around his wrist. "I understand why we can’t live here."
"No Deanna, we have to live here. We have to bring life, children, happiness into this house." He kissed her, a barely there kiss infused with everything he was feeling. Her eyes opened slowly and widened suddenly.
He smiled. Her body already lax leaned limply against him and for a moment he only held her, reinforced the sentiments and sensations that had become the greater part of him. Strange how only a scent and a thought could complete him so fully.
"Are you sure Will?" She pushed off his chest with the heals of her hands and looked up at him. He saw his own reflection in the shimmering jewels of her eyes, muted by the moonlight it was as if he could see a million lifetimes shadowed in the onyx infinity.
"We owe it to ourselves," he said, drawing her closer to him. Using a gentle hand he pressed her head against his heart while his eyes looked sadly at the balcony above him, seeing another time, the beginning of a love that had surpassed death and moved into a greater infinity. His breath dusted over Deanna’s sun kissed hair, the scent of her perfume and an almost invisible trace of honeysuckle completed the promise of the moment. Gathering his feelings into a single thought he sent it to her silently, a moment shared by only the two of them and whatever Gods had given them a next time.