Setting: shortly before the Enterprise 1701-E leaves space dock prior to Star Trek: First Contact
"Beautiful, isn't she?" a low voice inquired behind her. A smile
tugged at the corners of her mouth as Deanna Troi turned away from the transparent
layers of glass separating the inside of the space dock from the vacuum outside.
Will Riker stood beneath the arched entrance to the viewing lobby. He was leaning
against the neutral gray frame, his head was cocked to one side, and he wore
an inquiring look on his face.
"Any ship bearing the name Enterprise is bound to be," Deanna replied to his question. She then turned back to her view of the newest ship christened with the infamous name, the 1701-E. Riker inferred that he was not disturbing her, so he stepped into the lobby, positioning himself a few paces behind her.
"I wasn't talking about the ship."
He let his comment hang in the air for a moment. Not exactly sure how she should react, Troi held her emotions in check, her face impassive. As he moved closer to her, Will's flood of emotions became more intense, threatening to overwhelm her if she let her guard down. He stopped just short of touching her, but in such close proximity that any further movement by either of them would bring their bodies into contact with each other. His nearness was affecting her more than she had expected it to. It took her a moment to remember to breathe. As she exhaled, she felt herself relax again, and her empathic skills began to shield her from the onslaught coming from behind. Without taking her eyes off of the ship outside, her melodic voice replied with more than a hint of amusement, "Will Riker, you are quite the flatterer."
She had hoped to lighten the atmosphere; her flippant comment had the opposite effect. Will stepped in front of her, blocking her view of the ship outside. One hand had instinctively gone to her waist when he had turned to face her; the other reached up to brush away a loose strand of hair. The seriousness of his face and the sincerity of what he said next startled her after such a long time of bottling up so many of their emotions in order to serve together as friends. "Deanna, that wasn't flattery. That was the truth."
He held her at arm's length for a moment, one hand lingering over her cheek, as if he were afraid to touch her. Finally, he exclaimed, "My God, it's so good to finally see you again!"
She allowed herself to be wrapped up in his embrace. It felt so safe to be in his arms. All of his anxiety melted away, and he knew that with this inner calmness, she would be able to hear him.
Oh, how I missed you, Imzadi! Those simple words formed in her mind and spoke to her soul. She felt his lips brush against her forehead.
"I missed you, too," she said quietly. He responded by pulling her closer to him, drinking in her presence.
"I had no idea how much I took everything for granted until after the Enterprise was destroyed. Everything changed so quickly, and all of the newness seemed wrong somehow," he said hoarsely, the emotional strain caused by what he was telling her evident in his voice. These were emotions that he never allowed anyone else to see. She knew that she was the only person he trusted enough to open up to and risk the vulnerability of sharing his true feelings.
"We were all split up--some on leave, some with temporary assignments. Communication was limited to a two-dimensional image on a computer screen. There were no more emergency meetings in the observation lounge, no late night shifts on the bridge to figure out how to entertain ourselves while everyone else was sleeping, no poker games in my quarters. There weren't even crew evaluations to suffer through, as agonizing as those weeks spent in Ten-Forward were."
He paused to take a breath, closing his eyes and feeling the warmth of her body as she leaned against his chest. Deanna squeezed him tighter, silently reassuring him that she was there, and she wanted to listen. He knew that out of all his friends, Deanna would be the one who understood exactly what he was going through and not think any less of him because he felt this way. When he opened his eyes again, he had returned to his earlier calm. She smiled up at him, encouraging him to go on.
"Surprisingly, it didn't take long for a new routine to replace the old. Of course, I still missed life on the Enterprise, but I could copeâ€¦ except for one thing." Relaxing his hold on her waist, Will pulled back slightly. Lifting her chin with his hand, he looked into her eyes. "I missed our relaxing conversations after a long day. I missed sharing dinners in Ten-Forward, especially the chocolate desserts. I missed the way your presence made me believe that all was right in the universe. I could go on all night, but the point is: I realized how much I took for granted that you would always be there for me."
"I missed my best friend."
She didn't reply. She didn't have to. Will's smile mirrored the one that appeared on her face. She laid her head against his chest, and their minds touched. He immediately felt a sense of complete peace that had eluded him since they had parted. Then and there, William T. Riker thanked God that He had found the time to give him such a precious gift of unconditional love and friendship in the form of Deanna Troi.
The End (7/20/00) -