Deanna Troi turned at the voice calling her dead sister's name. The air around her seemed to have a haze, an unreality to it that added to her confusion. She was standing on a broad hill covered with new spring grass, overlooking a mansion reminiscent of her mother's home. She was on Betazed...
...and Will was there. She saw him as the haze parted, reaching down instinctively to lift the child running toward him. A five-year-old girl with long, blonde hair and dark eyes, she looked no more out of place in his arms than did the two-year-old boy playing harmlessly on the grass between them. Troi stepped forward, only to stop in amazement as her mother came out of the house, calling aloud.
"Kestra!" She looked up and saw the two of them, and smiled warmly as she started up the bank. "Oh, Will, you've got her. Thank goodness - she ran off so quickly, my legs won't keep up these days."
It was then Troi noticed how old her mother seemed. Old, but happy, she realised. Judging by the way Will was looking at her, and the way she couldn't help returning his smile, Deanna had the sneaking suspicion that she knew what had made her mother so satisfied. Looking down at her hand, the glint of a wedding band in the morning sun confirmed the suspicion.
"Mommy!" The blonde girl's cry brought an instant and instinctive smile to her face, and she crossed to Riker to take their child in her arms. It seemed so natural - why wouldn't it? This was her family, the family she had always wanted. Will Riker, his bearded face graced with that so-typical grin as he exchanged their daughter and stole a kiss. Lwaxana watching over a second generation of Human/Betazoid children, with the eye of a proud grandmother who spoilt them rotten. Her children gathering around her as she sank onto the grass to grasp the errant boy crawling from her. It was all perfect, all the way it should be.
"I love you, Mommy," Kestra told her solemnly. Deanna smiled and squeezed her tightly.
"Mommy loves you too, Kestra." She looked up at Riker. "And so does Daddy."
Riker grinned down at her and mock-fell onto the dewy grass, drawing a burble of laughter from the boy in front of him.
"Well, little one, do you think that's funny? Do you?" Scooping the two-year-old into his lap, he tickled him lightly, earning another bubbling laugh.
"Will, don't call him that," Troi reprimanded with a smile. She knew he was teasing her; it was just his style. She lay back on the grass: he ignored the jibe and fell onto his back next to her. Kestra hefted her baby brother, striding purposefully over to Lwaxana, swinging the little boy determinedly in front of her. Will turned to Deanna and their lips met in a kiss-
And she was on the Enterprise, lifting her head shakily from beneath Data's protection to investigate the damage around her.
"I'm all right," she managed to get out,
fighting off the dazed feeling of having been there, in perfection. It
was comparable to - to... She couldn't think, and one look in Riker's direction
made her fight the need to go back, to be there again. As he lifted his
head, she saw in his face that he wanted it as well: any thought that he had
seen something different vanished when their eyes met. She tore her gaze away to
let him deal with the task in hand: as acting Captain, it fell to him to
organise the crew and ascertain damage. No doubt a rescue ship was already on
On board the rescue vessel Saratoga, Will Riker strode down the corridor to his quarters. It was strange to think that he would never walk down deck eight of the *Enterprise* on the way to his cabin anymore. This one, on deck twelve, was only a room assigned to him: it wasn't his quarters. He'd managed to recover most of his belongings, but the ship, his home, had been unsalvagable. Teams of Federation ships would come to dismantle and collect what could be used, but the Enterprise herself would never be rebuilt. There were already plans for another, so he'd heard. Picard had pulled in every favour to make sure of that, but it would at least a year or two before it was completed. Until then, the main crew at least would have to find something to occupy their time - which brought him to the reason he had now walked straight past his quarters and continued on.
Data and Picard had already arranged to teach classes at Starfleet Academy: Beverly Crusher had accepted another stint as Head of Starfleet Medical, and Worf's transfer to Deep Space Nine had been approved that morning. LaForge was returning to Earth with Data, to work on the construction of their new ship. Guinan was her usual enigmatic self and had given no hint of her destination except to promise a return in time for the commissioning of the Enterprise-E. That left Riker himself, and an until-recently-attached ship's Counselor by the name of Deanna Troi.
He paused outside her door, then quickly pressed the buzzer before his sudden timidity won out.
"Come in, Will." The doors slid aside to reveal to him Deanna Troi seated on her couch, watching him as he walked carefully inside. He had the sensation of the fly in the instant that it sees the spider's web, and it wasn't comfortable when Deanna was sitting there like the proverbial black widow.
"I'm not going to ask how you knew it was me," he said with a bemused grin.
"You've been wanting to talk to me since we came on board," she answered, a small smile playing over her lips. He couldn't deny it: the vision of her lying on the fresh Betazed grass, his child in her arms, wouldn't leave his mind.
Instead, he wandered over and sat down in a plush chair. "I hear Worf left."
Troi ran her fingers through her hair and sat back with a sigh. "It wasn't working. There was never much between us, really, I don't think. He felt more than I did... which is surprising, I suppose, but life's like that sometimes. I just finally realised we shouldn't be together, when-" she stopped abruptly, but it hardly mattered: he finished the sentence for her.
"When we were in the Nexus. You didn't see him as your perfect moment."
"No." Deanna shook her head. "No, I didn't."
He tried not to leap on the chance. "I'd be willing to bet a lot of people didn't see people they know. Maybe you just saw the situation, rather than the people you'd choose to share it."
"I don't think so." She looked up, that knowing smile of hers fixing him to his seat. "I saw you. Us. Together."
He smiled, simply. "So did I."
Troi hid her understanding behind feigned surprise. "Did you?"
Riker, however, was having none of it. "You know I did. You were there." She smiled patiently, about the explain the temporal mechanics of the situation to him when he leaned forward and put one hand over hers. "You were on a hill, on Betazed. It was your house, not your mother's but it looked similar. There was a boy, about two years old, and a girl, Kestra-"
"My mother was there. She was calling Kestra, and I thought she meant my sister until I saw you... holding her, like she was your own. And the ring." She paused, her eyes meeting his. "I had a diamond ring, and a gold band on my left hand. So did you. It-"
"It was catching the sunlight. I could tell it was Betazed: it was brighter than Earth, and hotter. We were sitting on the grass, and I went to kiss you-"
"And we were back on the Enterprise."
As they talked they'd moved closer; he was perched on the arm of the couch, she on the seat pressed up to him. "We can't go back there," he said quietly. "We can't be like Soran was. We have to forget what happened."
"I won't forget."
"Neither will I," he admitted. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. "But we're luckier than most, Deanna. We have the chance to make our fantasy happen."
She looked innocently up at him, and after a moment drew him down to her. "Make it happen," she whispered, and kissed him. He responded instantly but a little too enthusiastically, and in doing so slipped off the couch onto the floor. Unwilling to release him and still tangled in his arms, Troi followed his descent and landed on top of him, settling expertly across his torso.
Riker looked up at her, raised his eyebrows and grinned. "Nice landing."
Deanna swatted him with a pillow.