...but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight. As the light upon the leaves of trees, as the voice of clear waters, as the stars above the mists of the world, such washer glory and her loveliness; and in her face was a shining light[i]
Will had another appointment with the counselor his father had set him up with. It turned out Kyle wasn't the one who needed the counseling, it was Will. Counselor Troi seemed to have the idea that Will had "abandonment issues" and she thought that somehow, just by choosing the right words to "counsel" him that he would be able to get over it.
Since laying his eyes on her for the first time that day, Will had a nervous, flighty sort of feeling he couldn't get rid of. He found himself starting to think of the counselor more and more, as if just the thought of her could make everything he lived with just whoosh fly away, blown off lightly like a little feather. He was both excited and scared, the same feeling he had when he was about to release The Dark Life.
Only he didn't care whether or not it made money. He just wanted to get it out.
Whatever. He started the day with a trip down to his editor's office and finally announced that he desperately needed an extension. Ron wasn't too happy about it, considering that he would have to tell his boss and then write a press release. He had other, more pressing matters to attend to, seeing as how Will wasn't his only client, his wife was pregnant and his life was now filled with mood swings and sudden cravings galore.
It was actually a little amusing.
Next stop: the counselor.
Maybe it was her eyes that drew Will in. Or maybe it was her stunning psyche. She had informed him of her heritage as did he, and they found that if she let it, time would escape them, drawing them away from their own realities, into one which only the two of them existed, where only the words and expressions exchanged mattered.
They talked of subjects varying from Will's writing career to his childhood (she had insisted on it, it was part of her job after all) to her childhood and her career in Starfleet.
She couldn't help it.
Gently, slowly, carefully inching into his mind, she felt a simple, innocent, almost boyish spirit in Will when they talked of Starfleet. She could imagine him tall, maybe in a position of command, maybe even as the captain's right hand, where he would guide some illustrious, already accomplished captain through Romulan and Klingon attacks, or maybe even Borg.
Take the Enterprise for example. Picard would undoubtedly get along with Will like brothers, along with Worf, and Data, who Deanna predicted Will would find odd but friendly amusing. The corners of her mouth turned upwards as she entertained the idea, not realizing how far she was about to fall for him.
"...and then Mom would come in and yell at Dad for something silly, and he would just laugh it off as if it didn't matter, because it really didn't..."
Deanna could imagine Will as a young boy on Earth, in the middle of the harsh freezing weather of Alaska, growing with a mother, on his way to live a good life...
She could practically see it with her own eyes...
...a young, blue-eyed, dark haired boy, born under the light of the stars...
..."Mommy! Daddy said that he was going to play with me all afternoon!!"...
...a little boy writing his first poem about playing with the same starlight he was born under...
...a growing twelve-year old boy, suspiciously confident, winking at a throng of ogling girls passing by...
... "...a thing for brown eyes. Yeah. Big, brown, eyes."
... "It's all your fault!! GET OUT!! Get out, and never come back!!!"...
...a quiet house, occupied by a lonely, gray-haired man...
...the boy turning slowly into the man he would become, writing, turning his back on the night sky...
..."I'd like to get published."...
...a tall, dark, and definitely handsome bearded man, lost, unsure, scared, and struck with a worsening case of writer's block...
"It sounds like you started off right." Deanna forced the lump in her throat to fall back into her gut, remembering her own childhood. Her father had often read to her, mostly western's, and she had sometimes let her mind drift, to imagining the minds of the genius writers who concocted these adventure-filled plotlines, how the stroke of their instruments went, what it would be like to have lived in those ages and have written as they did...
Whether it be their minds or their appearances, Deanna had once hoped to get to know one of these genius men -or women.
But that childhood dream had long been buried. She didn't know when, or why, but the image of her mother telling her of her father's death came to mind. That day, that god-awful day, would never bury itself, but Deanna knew that that had been the day she grew up, had stopped imagining the many people behind the Jesse James' of the world.
Will was talking. "...died soon after that."
Deanna offered a comforting hand, something she always did for grieving patients. "I'm sorry, Will."
He took a deep breath, watching Deanna almost as if trying to fathom some unknown mystery buried deep within his subconscious.
"How old were you?"
He repeated it again, adding more words, so as not to alarm her. "How old were you, when your father died?"
But Deanna didn't like it. She was the counselor here, and this conversation was going somewhere she didn't feel like venturing into. "It doesn't matter, does it?" She snapped, unaware of her slight loss of emotion -surprising, for her.
"I think it does."
"Of course it does," Deanna took her hands away. "it mattered when your mother died, hadn't it?"
"Don't bring my mother into this, Deanna. I was asking about-"
"Then don't do the same for my father," Deanna interrupted. "I'm the counselor here."
"So you prefer to remain in control?" Will challenged, not knowing but enjoying what he was throwing himself into.
"I prefer to-" Deanna found herself at a loss for words. Will had the advantage, him being the writer and all. He was a dictionary of words, descriptive and non, he would come up with the best comebacks and frustrate Deanna, probably enjoying it the whole time.
"I prefer to do the job I was brought in to do."
The appointment after the next had began the same way. Will dove straight into what they had been talking of the last two days.
"Do you think," Frustrated, Will knew he had let Deanna gain the upper hand when he lost his temper with her in the beginning of the session. Not that he cared. As of this moment, he wanted to get straight to the point of what had been tickling the edge of his mind since the day before. "That perhaps you would help me more as a friend, than as a counselor? Because so far, we're on our fourth appointment, and it doesn't seem like anything is getting solved."
"Why would changing your status to a friend be any better than that of a patient?"
"I don't want to be an annoyance, Deanna." The use of her first name caused his heart to pound louder. He was in uncharted territory, and whatever the next step was, it was completely oblivious to him. "I don't like to argue, especially with someone who is trying to help me."
She knew all along -of course. "It is unusual for me to argue as much as I do with a patient." Her mood disappeared like rain did, when the clouds cleared, letting the sunshine through. "But to suddenly be a friend and not a counselor would be like trying to change black paint into white. It takes time."
"Alright, then we start over. You take me off your appointment roster, and I come back tomorrow, only for lunch." Excitement lit his face. "We begin, all over again."
This was not the way to go. What the hell was she doing? This was totally unheard of! What were they talking about, changing from patient to friend?
"I don't know..."
His excitement dissolved like sand in the wind and as a new emotion -one more familiar to Will- began boiling like overheated water, Deanna found herself in fear.
What would she be missing out on if she didn't take his offer? On one hand, he was her patient, lost -which is what had landed him in her office in the first place- but confident and strapping -which was why she began thinking of the lunch she later agreed to, as a date.
What would she wear??!!
"This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It's little, and broken. But still good. Yeah. Still good." [ii]
"Andy! What time is the signing?!"
A hand slowly crept out of the abyss of PADDs and books -made out of paper, no less- as a younger voice answered the uneasy Will.
"I'm right here, you don't need to yell," When Will failed to answer him, Andy trudged onward with a half smile, watching as the man he often assisted in business matters -the one who often remained calm and collected, who could go a whole day without speaking a word to anyone- button and unbutton various coats, and shirts, and different ways to style his hair...they all looked the same to him. "Your signing is at two PM."
"Tell me why its so important again, please?" He took off the dark blue coat. Maybe go with something of a lighter hue...
"We've gone over this." Andy didn't need to remind Will often, and today he had done so of the novel-signing three times since he had arrived at the office they shared.
"Go over it again!!" When Will finally stopped to watch as Andys face turned somber and downcast. He immediately apologized, knowing better. Casually throwing the various coats, jackets and sweaters he had in his hands into the closet he had gotten them, Will sighed.
What am I doing?!
"It's alright, Will," Andy's solemn mood had lifted, but apparently Will's, had not. "The signing is a little bit more than important. Remember? We printed copies of your book into hardcover, paper and ink versions just so your fans could get a better feel of what you, as a traditional-minded writer, would want. You even wrote that little foreword in the thing."
Will smiled, an echo of a memory flashing back to him as he slumped into his desk chair.
'I've written a book, Andy. It may be hard for you to believe, but I'd actually like for it to be that when its published.'
His fanbase had grown almost twice its estimated size when the limited edition hardback came out.
And now, today at two, Will was going to a book-signing, a concept long gone with the appearance of PADDs and the rest of technology. Pens had been replicated, (50, to be on the safe side) and from what Will had last heard on the news-comm, the line at the bookstore Andy had chosen had grown, like his fanbase had, twice, its estimated size.
Everywhere, the hardback had sold out, fans frantic to get a copy had even purchased the bootleg copy, which also proved to be a challenge not worthy of someone who was only curious' time.
"That was a good idea, Will."
"What was?" Head resting on his arms, and arms folded on his desk, Will was really, beyond tense. It really wasn't about the book-signing, after all, all he was really doing was signing his name onto a piece of paper and talking to his fans.
Nope, it wasn't about that. It was about the petite woman with long, dark hair, who, if he pushed the right buttons, would be putty in his hands, ready for him to sweep off her feet.
"The whole book thing. I couldn't have thought of it, that's for sure."
Will lifted his head, chin on his arms now, and watched as Andy stood, a five-foot something, twenty year-old man with thin brown hair and softer features than Will had at that age.
Andy had been ten years old when he showed up at Will's doorstep, fatherless -he had died several days ago- red-faced and tear-streaked, for his mother had ran, somewhere into oblivion (she had never looked back, never to realize that the son she had left behind would one day grown to be the extraordinary man he was today) and since Will was the neighbor who occasionally played with him when nobody else would, he was the first person Andy went to.
It had been raining that day, Will remembered, and the week which followed had been rather hectic, running back and forth between his room and Andy's room, in their cramped apartment, tending to his cold and fever as well as his child-like emotions.
"Do you think my daddy will come to pick me up soon? He's been gone for a real long time."
Will furrowed his eyebrows. If he wasn't going to tell the boy, nobody else would, and chances of that looked slim at the moment.
"Andy, your daddy loves you. Never forget that, okay? No matter what happens, always remember that your daddy loves you and always will."
The tears were forming, his sniffling increased, and Will feared he would do the same if he continued. Nevertheless, the boy was waiting for more.
"Andy, you're going to stay with me, okay? Until we get everything sorted out and taken care of, you're going to stay with me."
And he did. Will contacted the authorities, who, after taking Andy and putting him into an orphanage for a week, realized he would be better off with someone familiar than someone of the opposite stature (the system had improved greatly since the twenty-first century, after all) and deemed it worthy for Will to take legal guardianship of the young boy.
The rest of it was history. Although they never established a great father and son bond Andy would have had with his own father if he hadn't died, the two of them still shared an understanding, as if loosing a parent made them the same people.
"I don't think you give yourself enough credit for what you do." Will began, standing up to collect the rest of his clothes. The gray one would do fine. It was a neutral color, not inviting a lot of darkness nor brightness.
Andy laughed, gently and sarcastically. "I go to school, come here, and then go home. I dont do much!"
"No," A tickling rush ran through and through as Will began what Andy would've labeled as a lecture if it weren't for Will's grave expression. "you go to Starfleet Academy, where you learn to chart the infinite number of stars and planets which litter the universe, and then you come here, where you manage to keep me sane and proud of the person you've grown to be, and then you go to home, because that's where you can rest, because, after all, you're only human."
A smile. "What??"
"I hate it when you're right!"
Andy was a character I created because when I started writing about "Will's
assistant", I imagined a young man, who had some sort of grand, teacher-like
but bordering on father-like relationship with Will. I didn't want "Will's
assistant" to be just that, like he was working for him. So "Will's
assistant" then turned into Andy, which kinda fits into the story perfectly,
because if you think about it, twenty-year old Andy could be twenty-year old
version of Will. I don't know why, he's kinda grown on me. He's just so lovable!
"Galadriel his sister went not with him to Nargothrond, for in Doriath dwelt Celeborn, kinsman of Thingol, and there was a great love between them..."[iii]
"So he's like your son, then."
Walking down the bare, dirtless, time-worn path of some nameless, ancient and miraculously still-standing park, Deanna and Will walked under the shadows which mingled with the sunlight and trees, talking all the while of subjects they could have never touched on if they were still in her office at Starfleet Medical.
"You could say that." To Will, Andy had indeed, been his foster son for the eight years he was required to until he was of age. But as time had gone on, things had changed, and Andy had grown to be his own person, with nothing of Will's to influence the person he had become today. "Andy's character is deeply rooted into what his parents taught him as a child. He still remembers them vividly, so me taking him in and taking care of him is exactly that. Nothing more, but nothing less."
If she didn't know any better... "You seem a little bitter about that."
"I don't mean to," When Deanna paused to answer, Will took the moment to do it for her. "It's not really an issue, we're a lot like brothers. I'm the older, bigger one, who occasionally overly-reprimands him for doing stupid things while he's the younger one, occasionally checking in with me to let me know that heâ€s still alive and kicking."
It was a peculiar sort of bond; and something Deanna would've never had expected. But of course, there was always an exception to everything. People would never cease to surprise her.
"What does he do? For a living, I mean."
Instinctively proud, Will happily proclaimed, "He's studying at Starfleet Academy," Deanna seemed to beam right along with him, not really knowing why, only happy that that was what Will was. "He wants to be a doctor."
A commonality! "Oh? Maybe I could give him a few pointers."
"Actually," Will glanced at his chrono. "He should be at home right now, would you like to meet him?"
"I'll never understand why he wants to be a doctor." True, Andy's mother had been one, but she wasn't exactly his favorite person in the world at times of self-doubt everyone had.
Will never really did trust doctors; they never really did anything for his own family's matriarch.
"Maybe he just wants to help people," said Deanna, "That was certainly one of my reasons for being one."
"He would be good at that." Will spotted his apartment from where they were. It was rather old, which was obvious, with the antiquated architecture and the dark, historical colors, which, at the darkest hours of night, the occasional footstep or wind-haunting moan would chill and freeze Will in fright -which he would never admit to- and the hairs on the back of his neck.
Would it make sense for Deanna to say that Will was beautiful? He was well-dressed and smart -even wise- and with Deanna's empathic senses, the urge to comment on the subject was overwhelming. It seemed to be on the tip of tongue, reminded over and over again to control itself, that such a remark would be inappropriate, that it would probably wreck their friendship...
"I don't think you give yourself as much credit as you deserve for raising him." She said instead. The Betazoid was stepping over a line, but it wouldn't be the first time she had considered it. "Not many people would take a ten-year old boy with a cold in for the rest of his life like the way you did."
"Would you have?"
"Maybe," Deanna answered, truly contemplating it. "It wouldn't have thrilled my mother though."
A million embarrassing memories surfaced to Deanna's cheeks, threatening to change a brighter color. "To say the very least, she's a bit overwhelming. And loud. And stubborn. But-"
"You still love her, like any other daughter would."
Deanna only nodded.
The sun was setting.
And the two of them were walking around in circles, not really going anywhere, just discussing whatever came to mind, both afraid of loosing what they had found.
"Well, kind of. Words are more heavily used when it comes from the view of a writer." Deanna listened with great enthusiasm, never having thought of writing as an art of any sort, or at all, for that matter, but when Will told of it, she was a fish on a hook, stuck on his words, never wanting to let go, in fear of its result.
"What do you think of them?" Deanna could feel the subtle changes in feeling she had for Will begin to change again. It was like a light, turned on, but ignored, as the writer went on.
"I don't know. I have mixed feelings about them. I think people tend to use them too lightly, and I kind of resent that. Words are like puzzle pieces. You put them together and they make something, big or small, insignificant or great, they are still words, and I still try not to take them for granted like most people do."
"Words are every writers' treasure," she simplified, "so to speak. Once found, letting go is out of the question."
"Hey, good metaphor." The counselor would make a good writer herself. "But you're right. If I were to be captured by, say Klingons, then tortured and mutilated, I'd still have words, the way I choose to put them together, and what I decided to do with them. They can't be taken away from me, you know?"
Something then clicked.
That mental light switch that had turned on in the petite counselor had now sparked, popping and crackling and gassing; that light was now a star, burning bright and true.
Will was more than Deanna had asked for. When she was little, well, a little bit older than just little, when she was old enough to begin obsessing over which male was the most good-looking and the best-suiting for her; when she began what every woman and man went through, she often thought she would find someone good-looking. And that would be enough. Personality didn't matter, she was her mother's daughter, any man would should feel lucky enough to bend to her will.
But then the time went on, and that phase quickly passed. Suitor after suitor, Deanna grew bored, and stopped dating for quite awhile, up until David and the Enterprise came along. David had broken the walls she had put up for all those years, and then put them back up again, when he presented her with that ring.
And now, when Will, with his silent and gentle, arrogant yet compassionate, romantic and caring demeanor, trotted up with his white horse, Deanna found herself changing all her rules, making new ones quickly, urgently, trying to adapt, but finding herself more surprised than anyone had ever done so in her now realized short-lived life.
"I think I might love you."
Fear and Consequence
"At first, her withdrawn moods terrified him. When she stared at him coldly, her bright blue eyes as hostile as a strange child's he was frantic."[iv]
Will's chrono-alarm rang.
He took his arm gently out from her head, careful as to not to wake her. She stirred, lifted her eyes open as much as she could, but at four 'o clock in the morning, that was a feat like none other. She grinned slightly, and he smiled back, cooing her back to sleep, which she very gladly did.
He was accustomed to getting up when most had not, the silence helped with the personal process of compiling a story, one he had already somewhat started on, and needed building up; to a climax, whatever was after that, and then the resolution -which he had fresh in his mind long before The Dark Life had hit the market.
It was a routine repeated for the past, unforgettable, indescribably intense week. The two of them would discuss subjects varying from work to their childhood to their stances on certain issues, opening their hearts for things that everyone else had predicted but them.
The house creaked and moaned with age, and the counselor found herself with an irresistible urge to explore. All she had seen was Will's bedroom! It was the human thirst of her which beckoned to be quenched.
With permission, of course.
She was slightly disturbed by the subterranean house; by its dark, seemingly inhospitable environment for a Betazoid of her stature, and its echoing memories and lingering emotions, wasting away to the remembrance of those they belonged to. The brightest room was the conservatory, where the sun streamed in from the large paned windows, and Deanna found that she preferred this room to all the others.
She crept into Will's study, slowly, silently, watching as the author tended to his flock, his treasure, and put in a simpler way, his work. Shelves of books and other loosely bound papers soon enveloped Deanna, taking her in, almost as if they had eyes, as if they were measuring the depth of her soul and whether it was approved for her to enter such a sacred point for the owner of the house.
Will looked up, smiled rather casually, and then returned to his work.
Realizing she was probably treading on private ground, Deanna went out the way she came, in search of the kitchen.
'Frank's family was the family Tom preferred over lack of his. Frank's mother, a gentle, kind, plump little woman never complained of Tom's nightly visits, when his relations began to crumble, when his life began to-'
She looked up, a little cross at the interruption. But there stood Andy, tall in his cadet uniform, and even she couldn't help but feel a little of the pride Will often emanated when around his foster son.
"What are you reading?"
She closed the book and showed it to the young man. "Your father's book. Thought I'd give a try at it, but it seems too heavy for me."
He grinned. "People often tell him that."
Deanna put it back where she found it, on the shelf which housed most of Will's work; from the short stories he published to first drafts collected loosely in folders he undoubtedly made himself, with its tattered corners and whatnot; he had collected everything.
"Where is Will, by the way?"
In the kitchen, Will was hunched over the trash chute, emptying out what looked to be the lunch Deanna had prepared for him.
"Will? What the hell are you doing?"
The trash compacter and the silencer was turned on, and as the food was mashed and emptied into who-knew-where, Will washed the plate and answered, "Deanna's such a bad cook!"[I]
Andy chuckled to himself, knowing Will had a high taste for such things.
"Shh...don't tell her!"
Will's adopted boy only laughed harder.
In a corner of Will's study, Deanna looked up from Tolkien's The Hobbit, and found Andy, PADD's and all, looking down at her as if she were some all-knowing guru with the answers.
"Sorry to disturb your reading, hopefully you're not like a certain author in here who lectures for an hour on the twenty-first century laws of privacy."
"I heard that." Came Will, still buried in the clutter which buried his desk.
Why he didn't use PADD's, Troi would never know.
Smiling, Deanna shook her head. "No, no," She shut the book, "don't worry about it."
Able to breathe again, Andy continued, "I was wondering if you could help me with my homework."
He had been listening to their little tutorial session for quite some time now. Will found certain advantages to being expected to be too busy to even acknowledge their presence. Deanna's knowledge and experience in Starfleet Medical had proven to be helpful to the young lad who requested her aid, and in doing so, it imprinted an image familiar to the man.
[I] -I borrowed the idea that Deanna's a bad cook from an author on the list,
I'm sorry, I hope you don't mind! I thought it made sense, since Will had to
cook his own meals as a boy and all. I'll give you credit, if you want it, just
"No parent should have to bury their child." [v]
The day had been long, tiring, and exhausting on both the mind and body, so when Deanna arrived to her second home, and was offered the chance to take a nap on the second floor balcony on one of the nicest spring days in San Francisco since she arrived -in Will's arms- she did not need to be asked twice.
The wind blew gently, the sun shone in a way which reminded Deanna of Betazed, and the birds were chirping as if their morning catches had been pumped full of sugar.
They fell asleep instantly; Will's fatigue was mostly blamed on the accumulating sleep-deprived, literature packed week, while Deanna was just plain tired from the day's activities.
It wasn't hard to fall into that deep, silent place, in fact, it might've even been easy, if not for the noisy, now infuriating chatter of the neighboring winged-creatures.
But Deanna had been barely awake when Will's comm rang inside the house.
The hospital was bustling with nurses and doctors doped up on caffeine, and while they tended to their patients, one of them lay in bed, with Will and Deanna by his side.
They were at the hospital near UCSF. Something went wrong at the Academy. And Andy took the worst of it.
"Shush Andy, there's nothing to be sorry about."
And now Will was faced with no hope and no future with his childishly bright, too young, too precocious, half-mutilated boy.
His son was dying.
Deanna sat near the window of the room, tears in her eyes, face in her hands, already having broken down, already having felt the magnitude of sadness surrounding the room. And as Will pushed back the tears, strong, too stubborn to give into his greatest fear, to see the image that would come with the passing days, of him, standing in front of another member of his already defeated family, with stupid flowers and stupid tears running down his face, he leaned close to Andy, who too limply, too tiredly, spoke to Will.
Will felt his day brighten, even if only by an ounce, but quickly dug himself into the darker emotions. It wasn't right, for him to be so happy, and so hopeful, while Andy lay in the hospital bed, suffering from burns and broken bones and bruises that pounded too inward for Andy to ever be the same again.
"Right here, Andy. I'm right here." She took his hand in hers, tears streaming down her face too strongly for her to control them, the sobs coming in too powerfully for her to choke them back. They were flooding over, like a cracked dam on the verge to cripple and fall.
The boy paused before he spoke again, face twisting into a mask of pain.
"I'm going to ask for some morphine." But Andy had a good hold on her hand, and Deanna didn't let go, for fear of breaking something else.
"Let it be."
"Andy," Will panicked, still fighting with denial. "Deanna has the authority to-"
"You guys, let me," He took a breath, surrendering to his new fate. "die with some dignity."
The bed was empty.
The rest of the patients on the floor had been put to bed, and Will sat alone,
with the lights turned off, as the nurses changed shifts, the doctors in the
emergency room rushed to save another life, and as Deanna, at home, in her apartment,
talked to an old patient.
Never Be The Same Again
"A lonely heart that can't be tamed..." [vi]
The doorbell rang.
And another reminder of Andy's death punctured Will's heart like hot coal on a chilled winter's day.
He continued to stare at the empty chair across from him as the doorbell rang for the third time.
It couldn't have been Deanna; she knew the passcode.
Andy's relatives; late for the funeral? Yeah right. What relatives?! They hadn't even cared enough to fight for his adoption.
Will stood as if the mere movement would kill him, and moved to answer the door.
Kyle waited for a greeting...or maybe a slight nod?
A grunt would suffice...
But he instantly recognized the expression his son wore, and the hilarities died. It had been the same way when Betty passed. The grief weighed so heavily that even the simplest tasks of life couldn't be accomplished. That was why the damned emotion was so dangerous, and it dawned on Kyle then, that why Will, as a child, took the worst of Kyle's misery.
His father nodded, as if he understood. Of course he understood, this wasn't new to him, after all.
But he had never known Andy the way Will did, why did he care? What made Kyle care so much for Will that brought him to his door? Who did he think he was?
"Deanna called. Told me about everything."
Damn. A man could really go crazy with the love he felt for that woman.
And Will collapsed, letting himself cry with his father for the first time since his mother's death.
The call had come in. Her patients needed her, that damned starship (whatever it was called) and its crew needed her, but it was Will who did so the most, if only she could see it!
The timing was shit.
She continued packing her things, mind racing with a hypothesized outlook of what her patient's family would tell her combined with her failure as a counselor, which was what killed her the most.
As a doctor, one would never want to hear the words "died", because it implied failure in the person's role as a physician. One of Deanna's personal hated was "committed suicide".
"There are things to take care of, William. And I've already found a replacement for my job here."
As a cadet at the Academy, it had been her first case project, having to deal with a suicidal patient, on the verge of committing the crime of ending his own life. And it was a weakness, as well, for Deanna, because she had earned a failing grade she pushed hard for the next year to raise into something acceptable.
And as soon as it was all over, she swore it was something she would make sure never occurred.
But it did.
Anger and frustration and grief rolled into one, and Will lost his temper.
"You did your best!"
Their argument had moved to front yard, where Deanna stood at the door of a transport cab.
She turned, a threatening almost scared- look in her eyes. "Don't say that. My best?" Her breaths were coming in puffs of smoke, typical of morning Franciscan temperature. "How dare you say that to me? You don't know what I've done. You don't even know who I am."[II]
And Will was hit with the truth. With all that was going on, him meeting her for the first time in her office, them choosing to be friends, their conversations together and her helping with him moving on without the son he so loved; had all been slightly one sided. While Will poured his heart out, Deanna merely stated little details, important, but never once did she see him the way he wanted her to. She was always an outsider, welcome, but never fully integrated into his life.
"Just go. Will? Just leave."
And he let go of the door, permitting it to whoosh shut.
"Death changes everything."[vii]
The house was quiet.
Which was both expected and unexpected at the same time.
Will found other things to do; he had sent off his final draft to be critiqued and prodded, poked and cried over, and then they would spit it back at him with all the red, and then he would get back to writing again.
"William T. Riker?" Beverly and Deanna sat in the middle of the Enterprise' Ten Forward, where both women were enjoying their drinks and each other's missed company.
"Yes, Beverly. The author."
Before she could dive into it all, the sudden chirp of both badges interrupted. =/\= All senior officers, please report to the observation lounge. =/\=
What Deanna had to tell Beverly about the month that had gone by, about Andy, Kyle, her patients, and all that had involved the infamous author that still held a place in her heart, would have to wait, as work had inevitably interrupted.
Both of them had moved on.
And neither one realized how much it would affect them. Only from time to time, when the clouds departed, letting the sun take its journey to the other side of the world, when the night sky had spit the stars out, did they let their thoughts drift to one another.
Her patients came and went, Beverly and an increasing interest in theatre took up most of her leisure time, the new first officer of the Enterprise was slated to arrive in a week, and the rest of the inhabitants of the Galaxy-class ship went about their lives as if Deanna had never left.
In a way, she hadn't; her duties were put on hold, and almost as if nature had willed it, most of her other patients had found solutions to their own problems, allowing Deanna to clear most of her schedule. Some days were even completely empty, which was both good and bad.
With more time on her hands, the Betazoid was given time to read.
"Starlight...starlight found and lost so many times, forever beyond this reach; starlight watching, starlight waiting for hundreds of generations, then slowly, sadly, turning away, to the sea."[viii]
Will's book had hit the market.
Beverly, the nurses in sickbay, Geordi, even Data and Picard, had took to using their hard-earned shoreleave to divulge themselves in the book Riker had written, and not one of them could convince Deanna to read the darn thing.
Perhaps visiting David onboard the Newton had not been the perfect decision.
"Everywhere I look, I seem to be reminded of you." He smiled, nervously playing with his coat -gray, like Will's had been.
Deanna sighed inaudibly, out of frustration for her own fighting emotions, and maybe even out of pity, for the man she nearly promised her whole life to. She took the seat beside him, in the middle of The Apple, which the senior crew of the Newton had so affectionately named.
He was wearing his uniform -four pips and all- and his hair was as immaculate as usual, leaving no room for any sort of imperfection.
"Deanna, please reconsider."
An image of Will -on the day Andy had died- sprang into mind.
"David," Deanna watched as the tears welled up and her own outlook of the world began to blur. "You know I can't."
He turned toward the windows to his right, and then to his shoes, and then back at Deanna, brown eyes ready to flood over the salty droplets of his heart.
He smiled, gently, kissing her hair for the last time he ever would.
"I thank you then."
"For being you."
He held her hand, and they sat there for a brief moment, both of them understanding, not angry, nor sad, nor happy.
Starfleet Academy seemed different, but the same.
Life went on here, as it always did, and not even the death of a cadet changed that. They hadnt known him the way Will -or even Deanna- had, and it was foolish for her to expect it.
She realized later, when nearing the Medical facilities that that had not been the reason why Deanna had come here. She remembered there being a rather large, wall-sized plaque that had been established a couple of years after she had graduated; the creation of it inspired by the deaths of four young cadets, who had engaged themselves with several ill-tempered Nausicanns, and ended up paying for it with their lives.
So there, in the middle of it all, those who perished in one accident or another, had their names engraved, where they would be remembered forever, immortalized, with lessons to teach to future cadets.
And there, on the bottom of them all, was:
ANDREW M. RIKER
"Shoreleave went by fast, didn't it?"
Deanna, Beverly and Picard stood in the middle of Transporter Room 3, on the Enterprise-D, awaiting the arrival of the new first officer that had taken the David's place.
"Yes, yes it did." Picard had replied, finding it hard to simply bottle the excitement. "But I look forward to meeting our new first officer, I hear he's been out of commission for quite some time."
Oh? "What's his name?"
"Actually," Picard answered, in the very French way he always did, "I don't know.[III] I spoke to Starfleet yesterday, and it turns out, that his father had recommended him for duty."
"Yes, he 'thought it best' for him. It seems that a family member has just recently passed away, and getting posting again seemed the best way to cope. What I'm curious about is what he did with his time before being assigned, I heard he seems to be quite the accomplished writer."
A death in the family? His father's recommendation? Quite the writer?
"Sir, one to beam up."
And so with a shimmer and a shine, Deanna's fears were confirmed; when William T. Riker, uniform and all, transformed himself in front of her very eyes.
[III] -I know that this is highly unlikely, but I included it for the sake of the story.
"I don't wanna run away; but I can't take it, I don't understand; if I am not made for you, than why does my heart tell me that I am..."[ix]
This was their second meeting. Whatever prompted Will to become an active member of Starfleet again probably did have something to do with Andy's death, but for Gods sake, why the Enterprise?!
He smiled boyishly, running his hand through his hair. "Well, you know, I heard of a certain counselor who was stationed aboard, and just couldn't resist the temptation." More seriously, he added, "Besides, Dad insisted."
"I didn't know you were in Starfleet."
The same smile. "You never asked."
"You know what I meant."
Will fidgeted. "In a nutshell, I won admission. And then I wrote The Dark Life and asked to become inactive." Deanna didn't believe it. And Will didn't feel like explaining. "You have access to my records, find out for yourself."
"You're rude today."
"Let's cut the bull, Deanna. You and I both know that I probably wouldn't be here, right now, if it weren't for you. He paused, calculating his words. "I lo-"
"I'm not ready," Deanna interjected.
"To what? To be loved? That's a contradiction."
After that, it was merely strategy.
Avoiding him was easy; Deanna knew the Enterprise and its corridors better than he, and as each mission came and went, she spent less and less time on the Bridge. Beverly and Picard had inquired of it all, and even though she had been unwilling to, she owed it to them, as a best friend and a Starfleet officer.
And it seemed like Will knew what she was doing; he hadn't bothered to visit her or even talk to her when they were placed in a room together, by default. During these occasions, her back would stiffen and her heart would race, and whomever she seemed to be talking to would also pause, suddenly aware of the affect their first officer put on the ship's counselor.