Captain's Log, Stardate 48563.6. The Enterprise has been sent to Regalia four, to assist in the evacuation of a mining colony. Increased seismic activity have made the mines unstable, we are unsure as to how long the tunnels can remain open.
The turbolift doors hissed open, and Captain Picard stepped onto the bridge. He was met with respectful glances from the crew, as he strode towards his Captain's chair. Commander Riker, aware of the Captain's presence, stood to acknowledge him."Captain."
The Captain turned to Data. "ETA Mr. Data"
"We will arrive at Regalia four in approximately 4 hours, 17 minutes, 29 seconds - "
Picard raised a hand. "Thank you Data, minutes will be fine"
Riker glanced at Counselor Troi, who had the same amused expression on her face.
"What is the status of the colony?"
"The colonists have initiated an evacuation plan, people are being removed from the mines onto the planet's surface"
Worf interrupted. "Incoming message from Regalia four captain"
The viewer crackled with static, and every few seconds, the image of a face appeared, then disappeared. The words were inaudible. Concern was apparent on the captain's face. Worf, to his credit, was calm and collected. "I am attempting to screen out the interference, but the atmosphere appears to be blocking much of the transmission. I cannot get a proper signal"
"Then give me something, Mr. Worf" The captain ordered.
The screen cleared slightly, and although static still dominated the signal, the voice could be heard clearly. "This is Reltan Corosia from the Regalia four mining colony calling the Enterprise. Please respond"
"This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise. What is your status?"
"There has been an unexpected earthquake near the central tunnel. People are trapped in the mines. Please help us!"
The captain looked at Commander Data. "What is our present speed?"
"Warp 4 sir"
"Go to Warp 9, Mr. Data"
Commander Riker sat in ten forward, hunched over his drink. He heaved a sigh. What was he thinking? Of course she didn't feel the same way - if she did she wouldn't have become involved with Worf. How could she be so sure of herself when all he was feeling was confusion and frustration? It made him angry.
"Stop it." He chided himself. "Just get over her and move on with your life" But he knew in his heart that he could never do that. He had tried for the past seven years, but still he couldn't break away from his feelings. He wanted her to know how he felt, that he had changed, and that he would do anything, ANYTHING to get her back.
"Anything." He shook his head again, trying to clear the fogginess from his brain. Why was he acting like this? Why now? But he knew the answer to that before he even asked the question. He saw the way she looked at the ambassador on their last mission. They were 'old friends', so she put it, but Will knew better, he knew that look anywhere, because, as he had reminded her on one occasion, she had had it for him. He absently spun the glass around, and hardly noticed Guinan slipping into the chair opposite him. She waited for him to look up, and when he did, she motioned to the drink.
"Don't you like it?"
"There's nothing wrong with the drink Guinan.." he trailed off.
He sighed again. "I don't know, I guess I've been somewhat preoccupied lately."
She nodded knowingly.
"Guinan, have you ever... *really* loved someone? Someone you would do anything for?"
She pondered his question. "Once or twice. Although relationships didn't really work well for me. I seemed to keep... growing out of my partners"
That prompted a smile from the first officer. It was no secret that Guinan had lived a very long time, as was typical with those of her race. She will probably 'out grow' us all.. Will thought. He turned back to his question.
"And what if you were separated, but years later ended up in the same place?"
"I would probably want to start the relationship again."
He nodded slowly, and was surprised when he realized that his eyes were welling with tears. He blinked hard, letting them fall down his cheeks. When he looked up to thank her, she had gone.
Deanna felt Will as soon as she entered ten forward. She was worried about what she was sensing from him lately - a tremendous amount of sadness and loss. Most of the time he was able to shield his feelings from her, which annoyed her, but sometimes the emotions would seep through the mental wall, offering only a glimpse of what was really going on in there. She spied him at the far wall, facing her, but he hadn't noticed her yet. She proceeded over to him. She was stopped by Guinan. She smiled. "Hello Guinan."
"Counselor." She nodded to Riker. "Not a pretty sight" she whispered.
Deanna looked at her with a worried expression. "No, he's not." And continued on her way. A few more steps and she could see the expression on his face. Her stomach wrenched at the sight. "My God." She whispered to herself "He's crying." She walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Mind if I join you?"
He looked up to confirm the voice he had tried so hard not to hear. He turned away and shook his head. Not taking her hand off his arm, she moved the chair around and sat adjacent to him.
"Will, what's wrong?"
He looked up, staring into her concerned eyes. There were many times he could have got lost in those brown eyes. How could he tell her? How could he expose all those feelings he'd tried to keep bottled up?
He turned away.
"Will, you and I both know that's not true. I want to help you. Why do you keep pushing me away?"
"I'm not pushing you away Deanna." He looked at her pleadingly, and Deanna was taken aback at the vulnerablility of his expression. "Some things I just need to sort out on my own. I hope you can respect that." There was almost a challenge hidden behind his plea. She ignored it and took his hand.
"I do respect that, however there comes a point where one's mental..."
She struggled to find a word
"Stability?" He offered. She nodded
"...interferes with the way they do their job. That is where I come in."
"Are you saying that my performance is being negatively affected by this?"
"No, but I'm saying it will. Eventually, you'll have to talk to someone about it."
"Eventually, maybe, but right now, I need to sort this out by myself."
"All right. But know this, commander." He looked up at her again with a questioning expression. She continued. "I never give up." He smiled. Suddenly, the Captain's voice was heard over their heads.
"Picard to Riker. Please report to the bridge immediately"
He stood up and smiled at her. He still had her hand firmly in his, perhaps a little longer that he had wanted, but it made him feel so safe.. so...
"Counselor Troi report to the bridge." She tapped her comm badge. "Acknowledged."
Riker and Troi stepped off the turbolift onto the bridge. Although her talk with Will hadn't gone as she had hoped, she had made it clear that she would always be there for him. A bright light flashed before them, and a man appeared, dressed in starfleet uniform.
"What the hell is he doing here?" Riker snapped.
Worf snarled at him, and Captain Picard shot visual daggers at him.
"What Jean-Luc? No welcoming party? I'm offended."
"Q, this isn't a good time. No, scratch that, this is a terrible time."
"Yes, I noticed. I actually came here to tell you that this mission is way out of your league, and continuing on would result in..... unfortunate accidents."
"Is that a threat Q?" Picard snapped angrily "Because right now I don't need them. If you are not here to help, then you can just leave."
"Oh, and miss all the FUN!? I wouldn't do that, you do not know me well enough Picard." Q shifted his gaze to Worf. "Ahhh.. mister Worf. Hope they've been feeding you well."
Worf clenched his fists, and reached for his phaser, but restrained himself.
"Nice to know you have your primate urges under control today."
"Believe me" He grated "Under any other circumstances, my urge would be to rip you to shreds and feed you to a -"
"Mr. Worf!" The Captain breathed.
"And Commander Riker, you're still just a first officer, what an absolute waste of your talents as an arrogant leader."
Riker adopted his poker face. "Nice to know you care, Q. Now if you don't mind, we have people to rescue."
"So I see.. well, don't say I didn't warn you" In another flash of light, Q disappeared.
"Great, just great" Riker complained.
The Captain was busy arranging the evacuation strategy for the colony. The closed-in tunnel made things even more difficult. Ensign Ro interrupted his chain of thought.
"Now entering orbit around Regalia four"
"Thank you ensign, standard orbit"
In the air above them, the bridge crew heard, "I'm warning you Jean-Luc.. you aren't wanted here.."
"No Q, we are wanted here. There are desperate people down there and we are the only ones who can help them."
"Picard to Doctor Crusher"
"Doctor, I want you to assemble a medical team to beam down to the planet. We-"
"Sir" Data interjected "The ionic radiation in the atmosphere and their distance underground has limited our transporter capabilities. We can beam a team down sir, but we will have to rely on pattern buffers to get them back up. Even in that case, only 4 people can beam down or up at a time."
"Work on it, Mr. Data"
The captain turned his attention back to the Doctor. "Still there?"
"Yes Captain, medical team is already assembled. We're way ahead of you sir"
Picard smiled. He had every faith in his medical officer. "Mr. Worf, assemble a security team to help evacuate the colonists. "Mr. LaForge, we'll need your eyes. Number one, you too."
"Yes sir." He stood up, but was stopped when a hand reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Be careful Will."
He smiled, but just that gesture sent up pangs of sadness to his throat, which he hid.
"There are a lot of frightened people down there, captain, but they are comforted by the fact that someone is trying to do something to save them." Picard nodded. He considered the situation, and changed his mind.
"Data, you are in charge of evacuating those who have made it to the surface."
He walked towards another door. "If anyone needs me, I'll be in my ready room." The door hissed open, but Picard was not alone. Someone, something was occupying his chair. The captain was not amused.
"Q, what are you doing?" He gestured out his window to the planet beneath them.
"Is this you?"
Q put on a sad expression. "Alas, captain, I cannot take any credit for it."
"So, are you just here to test us again? Or do you enjoy watching innocent people suffer."
"Oh, on the contrary, Jean-Luc, I came to see you out of the goodness of my heart."
"Where you're concerned, 'goodness' and 'heart' do not even fit into the same sentence."
"You may regret saying that. I came here to warn you, and you went against my wishes. Now I want to see the look on your face when you realize I am right."
"Get out of here, Q."
He raised his hands, and in a flash of light, he was gone. Picard however, couldn't ignore completely what Q said. Once he had risked his life to spare the Enterprise, and now he had warned him more than once to abandon this mission. Yet he couldn't ignore those people down there, or Starfleet's orders.
The first thing Riker noticed was the mustiness. There was a sour taste of Carbon dioxide in the air, and some of the tunnels were filled with rubble. Worf waved the tricorder around, then pointed down one of the less-filled tunnels. The 16 officers trudged towards the opening, each carrying 2 transport buffers. After around 500 metres, they heard voices up ahead. Crying, occasional screams and moans from the injured permeated the air. Riker stepped forward.
"Everybody calm down. We are federation officers, and we are here to assist you. Please tell us what has happened."
A burly man crossed the crowd and stood before him.
"We were in the middle of an evacuation when another earthquake hit and our escape tunnel collapsed. We're trapped in here, there is no other way out."
"We will find a way out." Worf noted.
Geordie motioned to Riker. "Sir, it looks like the tunnel is being held up with the rubble. We can't get these people out without bringing down the whole thing."
"Looks like we'll have to do it slowly then. Arrange the buffers. Doctor Crusher, is anyone critical?"
"No sir, not yet, but I suggest that some of the medical staff beam up with the injured first so they can be treated."
"Agreed. Proceed doctor."
Back on the bridge, Deanna sought out Will Riker. She was so used to doing it, it was now second nature to her. He was nervous, and apprehensive, normal emotions, but he was still bothered, and it bothered her. She heard his voice over the communication line. "Riker to Picard. We are beginning transport of the evacuees. There is no way to break through the rubble as it is holding one of the tunnels in place. LaForge believes if we disturb it, the whole mine could come down, so we are not taking that risk."
"Acknowledged, number one."
Deanna nearly jumped out of her skin. When the Captain turned, she had become pale.
"Counselor?" He said, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Captain, there's.. been another earthquake. It's worse than before.. "
Data confirmed her fear. "The counselor is right sir, geological activity has increased by 40 per cent. The earthquakes are more frequent and greater in intensity."
"Damn." Picard muttered. He tapped his communicator
"Picard to Riker"
"Riker here, sir, another tunnel has collapsed, the caverns are full of dust.." Deanna felt fear from him, but he wasn't hurt. "Is there any way to get them out faster?"
"Number one, we're trying, but the depth of the mines is preventing us from transporting more than four people at a time.. How many people are left down there?"
"About fifty sir, but I don't know how long this place will hold."
Picard looked at Data. "The commander is correct, there are 49 people still down in the mine"
"Keep going commander."
Riker couldn't see in front of him. The dust was thick and he could barely breathe. He had no idea where he was, or where the transporter buffers were, but he needed to get those people out of there. Suddenly, in the midst of the dust, he saw a figure, and immediately recognized it as the Security chief. He stumbled towards him, and found the buffers as well.
"WORF! HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE WE GOT LEFT?"
"9, INCLUDING OURSELVES." Was the stern reply.
Riker was enormously relieved. He gathered the last four officers between the buffers and they disappeared. 5 to go, he thought.. he tapped his communicator
"Riker to Captain Picard."
"Sir, we've evacuated everyone. There are five of us left down here. We're ready to - "
"Captain" Riker heard Data's voice over the comm signal. "There are six people in the mines. It appears that someone is trapped in one of the tunnels."
"Damn.. " Riker said. "Data, where is the location?"
"The person is around 100 metres east of you sir."
"Data, I don't have a compass.. which way is east?"
"There are three tunnels to the left of you commander, two are blocked. The life readings are coming from the third."
"All right.. I'm sending everyone else up. I'll go find them."
Picard smiled. Soon everyone would be out. "It seems that the 'threat' Q warned us about is not so accurate." Q appeared in a flash before him, scowling.
"Don't bet on it, Picard." Q didn't believe the Enterprise could evacuate the people in time. Now one of his threats was going to fall through, he couldn't have that. They would mock him, jeer at him.... Stupid primitive humans... he thought to himself. They have no idea what I have in store for them. He smiled to himself.
Riker turned back to the three tunnels, and started down the unblocked one. He entered into another cavern, looking around for any signs of movement.
He noticed some movement in the corner of his eye. "Hello? Is anyone there?" He yelled again. He turned to his left, to try and make out the figure in the darkness. He was grinning at him.
"Commander Riker, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be back on your ship?"
Q. If he wasn't immortal, Riker would have killed him. "Data read another life form. I came to get them back to the ship."
"There's no-one else but me down here, Commander." He said, dryly.
Riker's eyes widened as he realized it was all a trick. "Bastard, meddling bastard." He cursed.
"Riker to Picard"
"Captain, the life form you were reading is actually Q.. I don't know -" Riker stopped as he noticed the ground rumbling. Another earthquake. He was gripped with fear and panic as he saw rocks falling from the tunnel he came through. Deanna, he thought. Help me.
On the bridge, Deanna turned as white as paper. She heard his plea, but felt helpless.
"No..." She breathed. "IMZADI!!! RUN!" She yelled in her mind and out loud.
"Captain, I am reading another earthquake on the planet." Data stated. "It is 20 per cent stronger than any other encountered."
The captain paled.
Riker heard and felt Deanna's warning. He bolted down the tunnel, as rocks caved in behind him. He had five metres to go when the first rock struck him, then everything went black. On the bridge, Deanna clutched the back of her head, and doubled over, writhing with the pain. Captain Picard steadied her, then turned away.
"Picard to Commander Riker."
There was no response.
"Captain Picard to Commander Riker, please respond."
Data broke the silence. "Captain, the earthquake has ceased."
"He's still alive." She gasped. "He's.. he's still down there! We have to help him.. so much pain..." Picard steadied her. She closed her eyes, and slowly breathed in and out, controlling the intensity of the emotions sent to her. When she looked up at him again, their eyes met for a moment, and before Picard knew it, she was heading to the turbolift.
"Picard to Crusher. Get to transporter room 2 immediately."
"Data, you too."
In transporter room two, Beverly Crusher had a firm grip on Deanna's clammy hand. She knew how hard this would be for her, feeling his pain mixed with her own.
They materialized in the mines. The dust had once again settled and the crew could see the buffers. They were still operational. Deanna ran towards one of the tunnels, the others following behind.
"Will!! It's me! Hang on.. we're going to get you out!" She sprinted towards the blocked tunnel, and stopped when she saw a hand sticking out of the cracks in the rubble. She took it in hers, tears streaming down her face
"Imzadi.. it'll be all right, I'm here" She stroked his hand, but she didn't believe a word she was saying. She didn't even know if he could hear her. Data ran up behind her and began removing the rubble, as if the rocks were made of polystyrene. Bit by bit, the rest of Commander Riker was freed from the tunnel. Deanna's heart stopped. The tears choked her. His uniform was black with dirt and wet with blood. His eyes were shut, and she didn't know if he was breathing or not. Data scooped him away from the rubble and lay him in the center of the cavern. Deanna dropped to her knees beside his head, and gently wiped the blood and dirt from his face. The tears fell onto his forehead as she sobbed unrelentingly.
"Please... please wake up.. Imzadi, please"
Suddenly, he stirred, blood trickling out of his mouth as he opened his eyes, trying to speak. He looked up at her.
"Shhh.. it's going to be okay, you're going to be okay" She said, But she could feel him slipping away. His blue eyes were tired and he struggled to breathe, gasping and wincing at each attempt.
"I wanted.. tell you... I couldn't.."
"Try not to talk.. we're going to get you back."
Beverly was working hard to stabilize him. In any other situation, she would have asked Deanna to stay away, but this time she realized that Deanna was the only thing keeping him alive. Troi took his hand and held it to her face. He gripped it with as much strength as he could.
"Please.. don't cry.. wanted to say..."
"What is it?"
"Love you.... Imzadi"
His eyes glazed, and the grip on her hand released. He saw nothing anymore. "No... not now, please.. Imzadi.. no.. it's not time." She looked through blinding tears at Beverly, who tried to keep the crack out of her voice.
"I'm sorry Deanna."
"NO!" She screamed.
And she realized, for the first time, that he was a part of her she would never see again. Now, he was gone. She cradled the lifeless Riker in her arms, rocking back and forth. She had never cried so much - she didn't know a time she had felt so much pain. It was also then that it hit her. The reason why Will had been so withdrawn, so upset. It made her cry even harder. He would never know.
Picard, learning of the news, nearly collapsed, but Data placed a firm hand on his shoulder, steadying him. He nodded to indicate he had regained his balance. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He pointed towards his ready room door, and tried again. "I'll be in there, Data."
"Sir, may I remind you of something?"
Picard turned. The grief clearly showing on his face. "The Commander's last message noted that the life form detected was in fact Q. You are not responsible for Riker's death."
"Damnit Data, Don't you think I know that?" He rasped. The door shut behind him, and he slumped into his chair.
"God.." He whispered. Q appeared before him.
"At your service, Jean-Luc"
"Q... you.. you" He struggled to find a word, Q helped
"Wonderful person, all-powerful and mighty -"
"Come, come Jean-Luc, that is not a nice thing to say." Picard tried to control his anger, but couldn't. "IT WAS YOUR FAULT HE DIED, Q! YOUR FAULT!"
"Now Jean -" Q interjected, but the Captain was far from finished. "Those people, you didn't think we could do it. You threatened us, and we proved you wrong."
"No you didn't Picard, Commander Riker is dead."
"BUT IT WAS YOU WHO CAUSED HIS DEATH!" He shouted angrily "You realized that we had outdone you, and you couldn't have that, so you took your own steps, waited until everything was over, posed as a lost... whatever.. and lured him away. YOU KILLED HIM Q! Without your intervention, Riker would still be alive."
Q's expression darkened. "Don't talk about intervention Picard, I could have done worse things to your petty crew and tin-can. I chose not to."
"Oh, you're SO humane Q."
"What would you have me do Jean-Luc? Alter time? Rearrange everything to your liking? You know I can't do that."
"Don't turn this around to make it seem that you are doing me a favour, because you're NOT! How does it feel Q? How do you feel knowing that you are the one who killed him, not because it was the right thing to do, but because of some twisted, selfish motivation, being that you were too scared to admit you were wrong!? What will the continuum do when they have found out what you have done? Did you think of that before you murdered one of my officers?"
"Jean-Luc, it is irreversible."
"I am not asking you to reverse it Q. Instead, I am asking you to RELISH it. I WANT you to pass by people on the ship, see how they have been affected. And as a bonus to your twisted wish to witness pain, I'm sure you'll enjoy dropping in on Deanna Troi. But I'm telling you this. You have done enough to the human race. Never, ever show your face here ever again. Now, get out of here."
He left. The captain sagged into his chair, exhausted. Out-arguing an omnipotent being was difficult, especially as his friend was in the middle of it... his dead friend.
He shook his head. What was done was done, and there was nothing he could do to fix it.
* * *
Q was frustrated, no irritated, by Picard's treatment of him. How could he talk to me like that? He thought. He paced up and down the Orion nebula. He knew Picard was right. Once the crew of the Enterprise was willing to risk their lives for him, and really, it was their human influences on him which had him reinstated into the continuum. As much as he tried to deny it, Q respected the Captain of the Enterprise, even liked him. That was why he wanted to become human when he was kicked out. A Klingon bird of prey flew past, but he took no notice. Normally he would have stopped it, tormented the crew, and sent them on their way completely and utterly confused, but he had too much on his mind. Damn you Picard, he told himself. Why do you have to be so difficult?
* * *
Deanna was numb. She felt nothing as she sat next to him in sickbay. She couldn't even cry. She had lost so much.. Beverly had already made out the death certificate. According to her, Will had died of massive internal injuries. She was preparing to have him beamed out into space as he had wished, but Deanna wanted to see him one last time. His lips were blue, and when she touched his hand it was freezing. He was naked save for a blanket which had been placed over him. She circled the bench, trying to come to terms with his death. She knew she never could. What made it worse were his dying words. I love you Imzadi. She found herself crying again, but didn't have the strength to fight the emotions, as she hadn't slept since his death two days ago.
"What do I do now Imzadi?... What do I do now you're gone?"
She stared at his face, and imagined those bright, twinkling eyes and disarming smile he always seemed to carry with him. He meant so much to her, he was always there when she needed him, but she took him for granted.
Now, she would never be able to tell him......
Something tingled in the back of Deanna's mind. She gasped, and stood up, staring at Riker on the table, a look of utter shock on her face. She backed away, shaking her head, trying to get rid of the sensation, it was unsettling. Oh God.. she thought.. I'm going crazy.
She looked up with a start
Suddenly, the table he was on started shaking. "Troi to Doctor Crusher! Help!" She shrieked. She then realized, to her surprise and shock, that it was not the table shaking, but it was Riker... he was alive. She rushed over to him. He was so cold. His eyes were still shut, but his teeth were chattering. She held his chest down with one arm and his head still with the other. She bent down and placed her cheek next to his.
"Will, it's okay. I'm here.. You're going to be okay." She whispered. She was incredibly confused, as she repeated the words she spoke to him three days ago. She was sure he was dead. He had to have been. Beverly rushed into the room.
"What the hell happened?"
"I don't know" Deanna struggled to hold him down "I just.. I mean, he was dead, and then I felt him in my mind, and.."
"He's freezing. We have to warm him up."
"What about his other injuries?"
"I.. I don't understand it, they've gone. He's.... Deanna..?"
But Deanna was busy comforting him. She couldn't believe what was happening, but the only thing she knew was that she had her Imzadi back, and everything was going to be all right. Riker was moved to the central observation bed, where Dr. Crusher busily tried to raise his body temperature. Finally, he stopped convulsing, and lay still. Deanna wanted to wake him, to let him know she was still there for him.
"He needs to rest Deanna. Perhaps we should leave him."
Beverly Crusher sat opposite her friend in her office. She was listening to Deanna's story. She was ecstatic for her, because she understood how Will's death affected her, but that didn't take away any of the mystery. Deanna finished, and sipped her hot chocolate. Beverly shook her head. "You're saying that he's lying there, dead as a board, and suddenly he just 'popped' back to life?"
Deanna nodded. She had noticed the words Beverly had chosen, but was not offended by them.
"That's what happened. I heard him in my mind. I felt nothing, then I felt something... it's as simple as that."
Picard ducked into the office, and acknowledged both of them with a puzzled expression.
Beverly shook her head again. "Don't even try asking. Just be content with the fact that Commander Riker is alive, and he's going to get better."
"He just 'came back to life' sir, what can I say?"
Picard smiled to himself. He knew what to say. And he said it at the top of his voice.
"Q!" He appeared in his starfleet uniform.
"You know Jean-Luc, your demands to see me are becoming tiresome."
"Q, for the first time, I am happy to see you." Q looked at him with genuine surprise.
The captain gestured towards Riker. "Thank you."
Q shook his head. "Don't think I did this as a favour to you Captain, you were right in what you said, the Q weren't pleased. I was just covering my tracks to avoid being expelled from the continuum. What I did was entirely in my best interests."
"I hope I do not detect a hint of sarcasm in your voice Picard."
"Not at all Q. I am glad you retained your position."
"Yes, yes, but I must be going.. I have some Klingon vessels to torment. Excuse me captain." He disappeared. Picard called to the air above him.
"You are welcome here Q, anytime."
The air responded: "I don't need your permission, Mon Capitan. I come when I want to."
Picard and Beverly grinned, but Deanna was puzzled. "What did you say to him?"
"Oh, just how... disappointed I was in him..."
Deanna stayed by his side all night, her hand in his. Slowly, her eyes began to droop, and she rested her head on his bed. She was woken abruptly when she felt his hand move. She looked up with a start, but his eyes were still closed.
"Will? Can you hear me?" She said softly. She moved her chair closer to his head. She could sense him regaining consciousness, and watched as he tried to wake up. 2 days of death has to be hard on anyone she thought. She placed her hand on his head, stroking his forehead with her thumb.
"Will.. it's me. It's Deanna."
He slowly opened his eyes and turned towards her. He was so tired, but she could see his eyes brighten when he saw her. Her eyes clouded with tears.
He was quite disoriented, heck, he was damn confused. He was sure he had died back in the mines. He wanted to know what had happened, and tried to sit up, but between Deanna's resisting hand and his foggy brain, he couldn't .She smiled at him, and one by one the tears emptied from her eyes down her cheeks. Will wanted to say something, but his vocal chords just weren't responding, so he smiled an exhausted smile, and raised his hand to her face, wiping away some of the tears. He could always find out what had happened to him later, but right now he had a friend who needed him.. no, not just a friend, his Imzadi.
He placed his fore finger on her mouth, and smiled again. She looked down. "I'm sorry." He looked at her with a completely puzzled expression.
"I wanted to help you in the mines, I... heard you call out to me... I couldn't.." He shook his head, and this time made no attempt to silence her. She needed to talk. He merely stroked her cheek with his hand. She was crying now, not with joy, but with regret.
"When I saw you.. I felt like.. I should have helped you.. should have done something, but I couldn't think of what. Oh Gods, Imzadi.. I lost you.. I was so alone."
She saw tears in Will's eyes. He had been waiting nearly 10 years to hear her say those words. He let the tears come. He gladly let her take his hand, as his ability to hold it vertically upwards by himself was diminishing. He gripped her hand again, with no more force than he had in the mines three days ago, trying to send her what little strength he had left.
"How's my patient?" A voice boomed from behind them both "Stop hogging him, Deanna, and let me do my job. It's my turn." Beverly walked around the other side of the bed. Riker turned, and watched her as she ran the tricorder over him.
"Well, aside from mental and physical fatigue, you're fine commander."
He smiled again, apparently relieved. Beverly then turned to the counselor. "A word, Deanna?"
She nodded, the two walked into her office. "Beverly?"
"This... incident, has taken it's toll on Will. He's very weak, and I don't think he will get over this completely for a long time."
Deanna nodded again.
"What can I do?"
"Just be there for him, Deanna, he needs you now more than ever."
"I have no intention of not being there for him, Beverly" Deanna stated simply.
"He'll have to stay here for at least another day or so..."
"He won't like that"
"I know." Beverly grinned "But he'll just have to. He has no choice. I'm the CMO around here."
Deanna laughed. Beverly became serious.
"He needs rest, but you know as well as I that he'll try to fight it. Try to get him to understand his position."
"Okay Beverly.. and thanks."
They embraced, and Beverly whispered in Deanna's ear, "Good luck. You'll need it."
Deanna walked back to Will, and although she could feel his exhaustion trying to take him over, she also felt his strong desire to ignore it. This is going to be more difficult than I thought, she thought to herself She sat by his biobed again and took his hand. He was staring up at the ceiling, trying to fight the tiredness in him.
He turned to her.
"Beverly says you'll be okay, but you have to stay in sickbay for one or two days, perhaps longer, until you regain some of your strength." She felt the frustration well up in him as he shook his head, and tried to sit up. She placed a firm hand on his chest, pushing him back down.
"You're not going to recover unless you're willing to help yourself Will."
He shook his head again. She knew why he wouldn't sleep. She knew his reasons.
"Will, I won't go anywhere. I'll stay right here. I promise."
She took his hand as a reminder she was there. He nodded slowly, and smiled a smile of relief. She stroked his cheek with the back of her other hand. Slowly, the motion of her hand across his face lulled him to sleep, and he allowed himself to be consumed by the exhaustion. The last thing he saw was her face, and he slept, content.
Just before consciousness slipped away, Deanna heard 6 words in her head that she would remember forever. Tears came to her eyes as she heard the words she never thought he'd say to her again.
You'll never be alone again, Imzadi.