On the bridge Commander William Riker who had just finished his shift, headed
for the turbolift, intending to drop in on Deanna Troi. They were a few days
away from the Ulian homeworld and Deanna, himself and Beverly Crusher were still
having flashbacks, sometimes whilst awake, sometimes whilst asleep. For Riker
however these incidents were slightly less distressing than they were for the
doctor and the counselor. By great force of will he had managed to alter the
flashbacks. Now when Jev appeared, taunting Riker for killing a crewmember,
the commander stepped forward and hit him solidly in the stomach. As the Ulian
doubled to the floor the dream would end. These moments gave him some small
degree of pleasure in revenge for the torment the Ulian had inflicted upon Deanna.
It was one thing that Riker would never forgive. As the lift doors closed Riker
gave his destination "Deck 8"
The counselor of the USS Enterprise lay curled up in her bed, asleep. Her eyelids flickered as she dreamt... ...They had just finished a poker game and Deanna remembered clearly, not without a degree of satisfaction, that she had cleaned up. Only she and Will Riker were left in the room, the others having left in disgust. Then the scene shifted and she was standing in front of her mirror, brushing her hair...No!! Her case had broken and all the chips had clattered to the floor. She's knelt down to gather them up and then...and then Will was beside her. Yes. Will. Not Jev. Not the man who had...raped her. They had kissed. They suddenly they were lying amid the poker chips, she could feel the carpet on her arms and neck, could see Will leaning over her, could feel him kiss her. She had wanted to carry on. But something inside had held her back and she knew what it was "Imzadi we can't. Not whilst we're serving on the same ship". And although reluctantly they had stopped, drawn back. But then...no, he hadn't stopped. He began to rub his hands over her, pushing, kneading with force. "Will, no, you're hurting me". And his hands closed roughly on her face, holding her still, forcing her lips near his, she couldn't stop him and...and it wasn't Will...
With a gasp Troi snapped straight up in bed, her eyes still closed. The images were continuing. Terror was flooding her and she began to scream. It was full-throated and terrified and her arms clawed the air in front of her, fighting off her attacker.
As the turbolift doors opened again Riker heard the sound of screaming. It was instantly recognizable and he ploughed down the corridor then charged into Troi's room, opening the lock with a hastily snapped security override. Deanna was still sitting, but her posture had changed from the rigidity of first movement. Now her body was curled into a defensive posture, even whilst she screamed, struggling to fight off an invisible assailant. Her face was contorted with fear. "Deanna" Riker spoke, trying to jolt her from the nightmare. Mainly for her, partly for him-he couldn't bear to see her so scared. "Deanna" This time a near- shout. It worked because she jerked and after a few seconds the screaming stopped. As the images dropped slowly away she felt a sense of the present return and slowly opened her eyes. Her body was still trembling violently and she remained in the half-curled position. As soon as he saw she was awake Riker moved towards her, coming close to her personal space. He had expected her to reach out for support but instead she edged backward. When she looked up at him he was shocked-and grieved-by the fear in her eyes. He began to speak, keeping his voice soft and low. "What is it? What have I done? What's wrong?" Troi looked down at her still shaky hands "I can't...I...Will please can you get Beverly. I'm sorry" Warily Riker tapped his combadge. "Riker to Crusher" "Crusher here"
Riker looked at the huddled figure of his Imzadi on the bed. She still wasn't looking at him, in fact she hadn't even shifted position. "Deanna's had another nightmare. She wants to talk to you" "I'll be right there" As he cut the link Riker thought of his remodelled flashback. Punching the Ulian in imagination only seemed rather tame. He was shocked to find himself thinking he would happily kill the man if they were left alone for five minutes. He looked back to Deanna but she still seemed distant, unwilling to be touched. Then he realised she was murmuring, talking to him. He leaned closer "What?" She repeated, not without effort "Please can you leave? I...I can't tell you but...I'm so sorry" Puzzled and hurt by the request, Will none the less acquiesced and backed slowly out of the room. Once he had left, Troi wrapped her arms around herself and gently began to rock back and forth, needing some human touch, even if she couldn't take Will's.
She was in the same position when Beverly entered a few minutes later. The doctor rushed over, and sitting on the bed wrapped her arms around her friend. This time Troi did not resist and she leant against Beverly, trying to draw all the strength she could from her loving presence. Just the feeling of being close to someone and safe was comforting to the distraught woman and they didn't move for quite a while. Finally Troi lifted her head, pushing the hair away from her eyes, still obviously working on calming herself. Crusher asked "It was the same nightmare wasn't it?" Troi nodded. Beverly paused, waiting for a verbal response but there was none. "Why did you send Will away? You must have known it would hurt him" Deanna looked away and kept looking at the wall as she tried to explain "I couldn't let him touch me. It was the most horrible feeling. Will came closer and suddenly it was as if...as if Jev was standing over me. How could I tell Will that? My memory has been so corrupted that I confuse the man I love with the man that he hates and I fear". Her hands moved in a gesture of despair. "I hate what Jev did to both of us. He attacked me three times and I don't know which one was worst. I didn't want to send Will away-I just couldn't bear his closeness. How can I ever tell him that?"
Ten hours later, Beverly lounged back in her office chair, too tired to keep on typing. She stared at the computer screen, letting her mind wander. She was still worried about Deanna and also about Will. As far as Deanna was concerned, in Beverly's opinion the sooner they got to the Ulian homeworld the better. Troi was becoming very traumatized by the flashbacks and last night it had been two hours before she had managed to sleep again. Will did not seem to be so affected by flashbacks from his memory invasion but he had obviously been deeply hurt by Deanna's words last night. The doctor longed to explain to him but she didn't know if it would help. Besides which she knew that Deanna would be shocked by the betrayal. In the midst of her concern for her friends it didn't occur to Beverly to be concerned about herself. She was exhausted and knew perfectly well why. Every time she closed her eyes the image of Jack lying on the mortuary slab would float up into her vision. Then it would mingle with the image of his eyes snapping open and she could hear Jev's voice echoing inside her head...since emerging from her coma Beverly had managed less than five hours sleep per night. In her chair Beverly's head dropped forward and her eyes began to drift shut. But the sight of her husband, dead but not dead, the sound of laughter, someone laughing at her pushed through her thoughts again and she jerked back to consciousness and pushed herself out of the chair, heading back to sickbay. She had an autopsy to perform.
<IMAGE> As Doctor Crusher stood over the body she felt a twinge of fatigue. But she ignored it again and turned to Nurse Ogawa. "Nurse, run a baseline chemical scan" Ogawa turned to the instrument s but paused and cast a cautious look at Crusher. "Doctor are you sure you feel alright? You look very pale" Beverly turned to reply, to snap out that she was fine, but in mid-motion she froze. The body had moved. It had been lying flat on the examining couch ready to be studied. But now one of it's arms was crossing it's chest. Slowly Crusher turned back towards the body and was unable to repress a gasp. It was her husband. For an instant Beverly closed her eyes, trying to think straight. It wasn't her husband lying there, it was an ensign who had been killed on an away mission. By causes unknown. She was trying to determine the causes. She opened her eyes again and he was still there. The body of her husband. But this time he was dead. It wasn't a flashback. Beverly couldn't stand it. She began to edge towards the door then turned and fled, tears beginning to swell. She didn't know where she was running to ,all she knew was that she had to get away. Hearing a noise behind her she looked back and thought she saw someone following. It didn't enter her mind that it could be Nurse Ogawa. In her current state there was no rational explanation. A stifled sob emerged from her and she fled into the turbolift and randomly selected a destination. "Deck 10". As the lift began to move she sank back against the wall and began to shiver.
On the bridge Troi and Riker sat barely five feet away from each other, but emotionally they could have been at opposite sides of the quadrant. Since the alpha shift had started an hour ago the atmosphere between them had been tense and Picard had been literally caught in the middle. Riker seemed to be trying to initiate some contact with the counselor but Troi was steadfastly looking anywhere but across at the first officer. Finally Picard couldn't stand it any longer. "Is there a problem Number One?" Riker jerked then looked at Picard, pulled from another long look at Troi, one which still accomplished nothing. Her response was the same as before - non-existent. "Problem sir?" "Number One would you like to discuss this in private?" "No sir" Taking a deep breath Picard turned again and looked at Troi. "Counselor?" Troi looked deeply uncomfortable then shifted and stood. She hated being the cause of so much tension and part of her desperately wanted to talk, to tell Will what she was feeling. But after a moments internal struggle the part of her advocating silence won. "Captain, I have a counseling session in five minutes. I really must attend to my appointments". Then she strode up the ramp and into the turbolift. "Counselor" But she was gone.
By the time she reached Ten-Forward, Beverly had managed an appearance of outer calm. But her mind was still in turmoil and all she really wanted was to hide away and cry. Unconsciously however she had kept walking until she reached the doors of the bar. As she walked into the room, Beverly looked around and relaxed slightly as she realised that none of her friends were there. The only worry was the possible appearance of Troi. Beverly devoutly hoped that her distress had not been acute enough to catch her friend's empathic attention. It would be so painful to talk about her flashbacks-even to Troi. Picking the table furthest from everywhere, Beverly sat down and tried to convince herself that none of this was happening. The attempt was shattered a few minutes later when Troi walked into the room . The tension in the counselor's posture completely escaped Beverly and when Troi walked over, clutching a large cup of hot chocolate, she stiffened in anticipation of probing questions. They sat in complete silence for a few minutes, until finally Troi looked up "Beverly?" The quaver in her voice finally made Crusher sit up and take notice. Immersed in her own troubles she had not properly looked at her friend. Now she did and was horrified to see that Troi was on the point of tears. Instinctively she reached over the table and clutched Troi's hands in hers. Deanna gulped and tried to fight back the sobs welling inside her. "Beverly I can't cope with this any more. The memory keeps going round and round in my head and I can't even look at Will any more. It's like a nightmare that's never going to end and I feel so alone". Her voice cracked on the last word and a tear rolled down her cheek. The frankness shocked Beverly into admitting her own sorrow, voice low. "I know. I've not slept for days. I can't. Even when I'm awake in the darkness Jack's body appears in front of me, but it's Jev". Her voice dried up as she struggled against the memories. The single tear on Troi's face had been obscured by the many now flooding down her cheeks. Her grip on Beverly's hands tightened "All we can do is stay together. We've both been hurt and we can't cope alone. Please Beverly you're my best friend. Help me. I'll try and help you". Silently Crusher nodded. But over the quiet the unspoken thought hovered 'Can we truly live through this?'.
Two days later the USS Enterprise moved into orbit around the Ulian homeworld. On the bridge Picard ran his hands over his head then turned to look questioningly at Riker. "Well Number One, are you ready to meet the Ulian doctor?" Riker shook his head "No sir, I've decided not to go through with it" Picard's eyebrows quirked in surprise "Number One I'd like to discuss this in my ready room. Mr Data you have the bridge".
Once Picard had settled behind the desk he looked up at his first officer "Will?" Riker stared at the floor then turned back to the captain "Sir, I've altered any flashbacks I have. Changed them so whenever Jev appears...well let's say I'm not the one who comes off worst". A slight grin flitted across Riker's face but quickly disappeared. "Sir we both know how much Counselor Troi and Doctor Crusher have been affected by the attacks he made on them". Picard nodded, his face sombre. Over the last 48 hours both Crusher and Troi had become more and more reclusive. He was worried about both of them and knew Will was too-especially about Troi. Will continued "I know I'm wrong but I can't help feeling responsible for what happened to Troi. After she fell into the coma I saw Jev- I knew he was acting strangely. I just didn't connect it. If I had she would have been spared...everything else. My flashback is the only way I can get any revenge. Don't make me change it sir. Please". Riker's words came to a halt and he stared ahead at the stars outside. Slowly Picard nodded. This was one request he had to grant. He too had had a loved one harmed by Jev's violence and knew how much he longed for a chance to change what had happened. Riker had that way and Picard could never deprive him of that comfort.
In the counselor's office, Troi and Crusher sat waiting for the Ulian doctor. They had elected to be treated here because it was a private place neither associated with their experiences. Exchanging nervous glances they settled back on the sofa and tried to relax. Both looked exhausted, for despite their best efforts sleep had remained elusive. Troi broke the silence, her anxiously twisting fingers betraying her outer calm. "Beverly, what do you think they'll do? I mean will we forget everything that's happened or just stop getting flashbacks?" Beverly's voice was weary as she spoke "I don't know. I just want to be able to sleep again". Troi nodded. She too only wanted one result-to feel safe near Will Riker again. She hated feeling that he was the man who raped her, and was desperate to stop the comparison with Jev. At that point the door slid open and a tall, thin female Ulian walked in. Her white robes brushed the floor as she glided towards the two women huddled on the sofa. "Greetings, I am Fena, the doctor assigned to your recovery. I believe you are Counselor Troi and you are Doctor Crusher". Both nodded but did no more. "We have studied the circumstances and although I cannot remove the trauma you have suffered I can restore your memories to their original form, leaving you free from further pain. Is this acceptable?" The two exchanged glances then Deanna replied "Yes it's what we both want. But where is Commander Riker? He was also affected" "Commander Riker has chosen to keep his affected memories. Now, Counselor Troi I would like to treat you first. It will take only one session. Will you move over to this chair please?"
Beverly squeezed Deanna's hand reassuringly as she stood and moved cautiously over to the chair. She sat and breathed deeply, trying to relax. Fena raised a hand to her head and Troi closed her eyes, pushing away memories of what had happened last time she had submitted to this. Abruptly a very familiar scene appeared. She was with Will in the poker room...could see him lean over her...he wouldn't stop...she began to cry out "Will, no, you're hurting me". In the office Troi was beginning to sob, crying out against the violation. Beverly cast a concerned look at Fena but the Ulian was rapt in concentration. Images continued to flash in front of Troi...she was being held to the floor...it's not Will...forced to submit...no...then slowly parts of the scene disappeared, replaced by blackness. Confused, Troi blinked, expecting her office to reappear. But although the scene was disintegrating before her, nothing was replacing it. She could feel her mind slow then even her consciousness was blanked and she fell into blackness. In the office Crusher jumped to her feet and headed for Troi. The counselor's face had gone completely blank then she had slumped back in the chair, unconscious. Before she could reach her friend however, Fena held up a hand to stop the doctor. Beverly fought back "Let me to her. You've hurt her again, can't you tell? She's unconscious for heavens sake. She could be in a coma". But Fena spoke, her voice quelling Crusher. "You will not touch her. Trust me Doctor she is not in a coma. I have placed her in a trance-one to bring peace. It rests and cures the mind-removes any un-true memories. When she wakes her flashbacks will be gone. Until then there is nothing we can do". Beverly blanched slightly. "Nothing? Can't you bring her back?" Fena gave her the most direct answer possible "No" Seeing Crusher's concern the Ulian elaborated "I expect her to be in the trance for about 45 minutes. All our records indicate this is what will happen" the Ulian shrugged expressively "However do not touch her. It can only cause harm" Slightly dazed by what was happening Beverly sat back on the sofa. In a business like fashion Fena continued "Shall I treat you now or would you like to wait for your friend to emerge?" Hastily Beverly chose the second option and sighed, her gaze drifting over to Deanna, who still lay slumped, pale and unconscious in her chair.
To Crusher the 45 minutes seemed like several hours. Troi was still not moving. "Why is she so still? You said she would come round now. What's happening?" Fena waved her back to silence. For another age or so it seemed they waited. Then Troi's eyelids flickered and she stirred in the chair. Her eyes opened and she looked around in some disorientation. In a second Beverly was beside her. Fena asked "Do you remember the flashbacks?" Troi's face gained a faraway expression as she concentrated and then a huge smile lit her features "No. No I don't. All I remember is the night in the poker room with Will. I can remember all our conversations Beverly and I know what happened to me but I can't remember the actual event. I just feel incredibly relaxed". She turned to the Ulian doctor "Fena thank you. I don't think I could have lived with it much longer".
The Ulian's eyes were warm as she looked at her now recovered patient. "To use a phrase it was my pleasure. We do not want anyone to suffer as a result of another's actions".
Fifty minutes later Beverly slowly revived and smiled her first smile in days. She looked up and saw Troi crouched down beside her, hand on her knee. Fena had left a short while earlier to report to the captain, after offering to return if they needed any further help. Crusher was relieved by the privacy-she had shared her misery with Troi- she wanted to share her happiness too. Beverly lent forward and hugged her friend, pleased with the warmth of the response. Her face creased and she broke into a yawn which lasted for almost a minute. Deanna pulled away and looked at her closely "Beverly you're exhausted. Go to bed" Crusher nodded and gave Troi another quick hug before stumbling towards the door. She exited but a couple of seconds later stuck her head back around the door, a wide smile on her face "Deanna, there's someone to see you". Then she disappeared again and in her place stood Will Riker. Uncertain what to do Deanna shifted and smiled at him. They hadn't seen each other since she'd hurried off the bridge two days ago, and the sudden test of her restored memories was unnerving. She had no desire to hurt him by recoiling again. He looked as uncomfortable as she felt and his unease squashed her questioning. She ran over and hugged him, relief filling her at her ability to do this. He seemed vaguely startled by her sudden attitude change but quickly accepted it. He hugged her back. Words began to spill from her "Oh Will I'm so sorry, I was dreadful to you, I'm really, really..." "Ssssh". He placed one finger on her lips "It's alright I understand. Dr. Fena explained what she found in your memory, that you were physically affected by your flashback. Really I know it was nothing against me and nothing you could control". He grinned at her, mischief glinting in his eyes "I gather you remember that evening properly now. Maybe..." the implication was clear but tinged with humour. Deanna smiled up at him "Imzadi you know how I feel about you. I know how you feel about me. But now isn't the time-someday it will be but not quite yet". They walked out of the office and down the corridor to an empty observation room. They moved over to the window and gazed out at the stars. Will moved his arms around Deanna's waist and she leant back against him, sighing in contentment. It was bliss to feel this happiness replace her previous fear. She could sense Riker's contentment too, it flowed through her as she once again strengthened her link with him. Their togetherness felt right as if she had regained a part of herself. As they stood, looking out into space she moved slightly in his arms and whispered "Yes Imzadi, someday will be the time for us to be together again. I know it will".