- The door chimed and Counselor Troi placed her book down upon the table."Come,"
she said in a wary tone. It was 0200 and she certainly wasn't expecting any
Commander Riker entered the room with his hands behind his back."Will," Troi said with a little bit of confusion."I thought you had the bridge this shift. What are you doing here?"
Riker moved his hands around and produced a small box."Can't a gentleman bring a gift for a lady fair as thee?" he said with a devilish smile.
"Ricean truffles. Oh Will, these are my favorite," she said as she took the box from him."Thank you so much!"
"You're quite welcome. I was saving those for a special occasion, but, well, no time like the present. You know?"
"I know. So tell me what's wrong."
Riker shifted slightly on his feet."What makes you think anything is wrong?"
"Most commanders don't ditch bridge duty, even to see a 'lady fair as thee,'" Troi responded.
"Yes well I'm not most commanders," he said.
"And I'm not most counselors. I'm half telepathic. I know you, Will. Please sit down and tell me what's troubling you."
Slowly Riker sat down next to Troi. He stared into her eyes and gulped nervously."Who am I talking to here? Counselor Troi or Deanna?"
"Why can't I be both?"
"You can. You are. I just think you might be better as counselor right now."
"I'm still your friend, Will. But as ship's counselor I'll try to help you as best I can."
Riker got up and went to the food dispenser."Ice water, cold," he said. When the glass had materialized into existence he took it and sat back down. After sipping a bit, he looked back at Troi and said"it's the war."
"With the Borg?"
Riker nodded."We're losing ships left and right. You check the reports and the casualty lists. They number in the tens of thousands now. Day after day after day the numbers pile up. I've lost five members of my class from the Academy."
Troi placed her hands in his."War can be terrible but sometimes it's the only choice we have. But you've held strong for months now. You've kept this crew going in times when everyone thought we were lost. What's changed now? Tell me what's really wrong."
Riker took one hand away from Troi's warm fingers and reached back for the water. Taking a sip he turned back to her and said"two days ago the U.S.S. Demosthenes was on a routine patrol through the Frost Nebula. They encountered a Borg sphere traveling at low warp. Thinking it may have contained a queen, they seized the opportunity and engaged the enemy. After a brief struggle, the sphere self-destructed. The ship was badly damaged but it's being towed back to Starbase 317 as we speak. Captain Namso and Commander Tucker were both killed."
"That's terrible news. At least the ship can be salvaged though."
"But that isn't the end of the tale, Counselor," Riker said as he slowly took another sip of water."The situation is this. Starfleet is running out of qualified captains. We're heading for Starbase 317 right now. I've just received my orders. I'm to assume command of Demosthenes. We'll be arriving there at 0600 today."
Troi looked into Riker's eyes and saw tears welling up."How long is this command to be?" she asked.
"Deanna, it's permanent. I'm their new captain. Just like that."
"But it hasn't been just like that, has it?" she asked."Starfleet has been after you for almost a decade to captain a vessel."
"And I've always declined."
"Because you knew there would always be another opportunity, right?"
"Because I never wanted to leave Enterprise."
"Why do you think that is?"
"Stop being my counselor, Troi."
"That's what you asked me to be."
"And you told me that you were also my friend," he said, taking his right hand and cupping her cheek."Be my friend now."
"Will, you've always been afraid. Afraid of what, though, you'd never share. Do you think that if you fail, your father will look down at you? Do you think you can't handle the responsibility? Do you think your leadership will get others killed?"
Riker laughed."So much for being my friend."
"A friend is someone who can speak honestly to you, Will."
"Maybe I need someone other than a friend, then," Riker said as he leaned in towards her. Troi's lips parted and locked together with his. Riker's hand moved back behind her head. Their breath became one as he pressed her closer. Suddenly Troi pushed him gently away.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked.
"Come with me."
"To the Demosthenes?"
"Be my first officer, Deanna."
"What? I'm not qualified to be second in command of a starship!"
"You took the commander's exam and passed. Starfleet has a short supply of qualified officers. Now more than ever they need you," Riker explained."I need you," he said after a pause.
"You talk of your needs, Will, but what of mine? I have a life here on the Enterprise. I can't just give that up."
"I have a life here too and I'm being forced to give it up. I don't want to, but I accept that that's what has to happen. It's for the good of Starfleet and I cannot, I will not, allow anything to get in the way of that. But that still doesn't change how I feel about you. I'm asking you to come with me."
"You left me once before, Will. Your drive to succeed forced our separation. I can't go through that again."
"I'm not asking you to, Deanna. I'm asking you to come and join me. Together we can make the Demosthenes the flagship of the Federation. The history books will write volumes on the legacy we'll leave."
"You speak poetically, but I feel the truth. The little boy inside you longing for a mother."
Riker was taken aback."Is that what you believe I think of you? One large Oedipus complex?"
"You see me as a woman, but you look for the control. You control but long to controlled yourself. That's why you never became a captain before. You enjoy the authority Picard has over you. You look forward to it."
"And with you? Where does that theory fit in with you?"
"I am half telepathic. I know what you're thinking Riker. You know that gives me power over you and you want that. You seem to crave that. I don't want to control you, Will. I just want to be with you. But you won't ever let me. You never have and you never will."
Riker leaned in closer again."I'm letting you now. We are Imazadi," he whispered."We have a responsibility towards each other." With that he kissed her again, more passionately than before. Their heat merged, their hearts merged, their minds merged and they communicated on a thousand different planes simultaneously. Minutes passed, locked together in a blissful state.
Then Troi pushed away again. Slower, this time. Softer. Controlling and wanting to be controlled, she thought. Aloud, all she said was"no." Quietly, quivering, but firmly. No.
Riker looked into her eyes. An eternity passed in that stare. He nodded, almost imperceptibly, and then rose from the couch."I need to finish packing," he said as he placed the water back into the replicator.
He walked back to the door, not once looking back in her direction.
"Thank you for the chocolates," she said.
The door opened at his presence, and hissed behind him as he left.