My Other Side, Part II
MY OTHER SIDE
Deanna crouched down and gently placed the flowers near the headstone of his grave. She stared blankly at the tombstone and reread the name just as she had done what seemed like hundreds of times before.
It had been Kyle Riker’s request that his son’s body be brought back to Alaska as a final resting place instead of being released in space. He wanted his son buried next to his wife, Will’s mother who had died when Will was barely two years old. In Kyle Riker’s mind it just seemed the most decent thing to do. He felt as if he owed it to his son. Not only out of love for his wife and respect for his son, but also because of his own guilt for never being there when Will was younger.
The two headstones that were side by side were identical with the only exception of the engraving of the names.
Deanna had come here on this day just as she had done every year. It was his birthday, she smiled at herself at the thought of how old he would be now…if…he hadn’t been taken away.
Automatically she ran her index finger lazily tracing the name that had been carved in the marble, making sure that she had touched every letter, afraid if she missed one…something dreadful would happen to him or she wasn’t paying proper respect to the man she still loved so dearly.
She had determined to herself that she would simply pay her respects tell him "happy birthday" and then go.
Remembering how hard it was for her to leave the cemetery when they first laid his body to rest. Beverly had offered to give her something for her nerves, but Deanna refused wanting to be totally alert as they paid their last and final respects to the proud Commander of the USS Enterprise.
Deanna silently knowing that it was going against her better judgement ran her finger along the headstone and touched the small pad that was below the engravings.
Suddenly a holo-pic of William T. Riker appeared at the head of the grave. It was only about a foot high and the transparent image of her beloved stood at full attention complete in Starfleet Dress uniform.
He was so handsome and proud the day this was taken; she smiled inwardly. It was the day the two of them had announced their engagement. She almost laughed at the thought of Beverly wanting one last picture of him. And how her good friend referred to it as "the last photograph of the most eligible bachelor in Starfleet." Will made certain that he smiled extra big that day. Just to show all of the other women what they were going to miss.
As the events of that day ran through her mind and just as she had suspected, the tears slowly began to fall….
She stared at the image and silently wondered how any of this could have happened. What had she done to deserve this? Who had she wronged? They were so happy, it had taken them almost twenty years to find comfort in one another, and then suddenly all of it was gone.
She continued to stare at the image and wished so badly for it come to life. She reached out ever so gently and touched the holo-image.
Only to discover that her fingers reached though the transparent image. Slapping her back into the cold reality that he was gone, gone forever…. And it was that reality that made her sob.
After spending what seemed like an untold span of crying, composing herself Deanna reached for the touch pad, "Happy Birthday, Imzadi." The words were spoken from behind the lump in her throat. Through now reddened, puffy eyes she focused on the image and it slowly began to fade away.
Deanna immediately jumped at the sound of Will’s voice and from her squatted position she was unable to stand or control her startled body and she gently fell backward.
"Are you okay?" The familiar voiced asked with concern and urgency. He reached down and gently grasped her upper arm helping her to her feet.
He was standing in front of her now, and she looked into blue eyes that were full of solicitude and happiness at the same time. Then she saw his smile, the same identical brilliant smile that she had just witnessed in the holo-pic.
"It…can’t…" she quietly choked the words out.
Her heart began to thump hard in her chest faster and faster it pumped, sending blood at a lightening speed to her brain.
"It’s not." He answered, and then added quietly, "Yet it is." His hands reaching out and touched the sides of her face wiping away the tears gently with the pads of his thumb.
Deanna Troi was fighting the urge to faint now. Her head was in a whirl as she stared blankly at him, as if she had the ability to look through him.
"I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to frighten you."
"Please…. I…just…. Need to…." She fought the dizziness that was now beginning to overtake her.
"Sit down." He finished the sentence for her as he guided her to a nearby bench that Kyle Riker had placed under a tree that shadowed the two sacred graves.
Deanna sat there and tightly closed her eyes, attempting to center her thoughts. She couldn’t escape all of the familiar emotions that were emitting from this man targeted directly towards her. Knowing that surely she must be dreaming and thanking the Gods silently if she wasn’t.
She slowly opened her eyes.
And he was still there now with his hand placed on top of hers as it rested on her lap. Deanna first looked down at his hand. It was the same strong rugged hand that would gently brush the side of her face while she slept and then she gazed into his eyes. It was the same beautiful federal blue eyes that had the power to pierce through straight into her soul.
Her Betazed senses told her immediately that his concern was genuine…. And that it was for her.
Deanna instinctively reached out and embraced him tightly, feeling the familiarity of his broad shoulders.
He as if by reflex, he responded and wrapped his arms around her embracing her just as tightly as she held him.
It had been so long since he had held her like this, she suddenly was afraid to let go. Afraid to rise her head and look at him, afraid that if she moved he would slowly disappear just like the holo-pic.
She breathed in as deeply as she could and his scent filled her nostrils. A familiar manly scent that she had three years ago thought she would never experience again.
The soft sounds of his breathing filled her ears and she heard the pumping of his heart…
It was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. It being a language of it’s own...it was confirming over and over again that he was alive. And it was that confirmation that made her begin to cry uncontrollably…releasing from her body were tears of sadness, tears of joy, tears of relief, but mostly tears of a prayer that had just been answered.
He held her in his arms with fierceness but his voice was soft as he hushed her telling her everything would be all right. He stroked the back of her head gently sending his love and his strength to her.
Her tears finally subsided. Still half dazed and in shock, she found the courage to look up at him.
"Will…I…" she began…and then it hit her. The cold steel blade of truth slashed through her heart once again, forcing her back into reality.
"Oh my gods" she gasped with wide eyes. Her facial expression suddenly transformed into one of repentance…and sorrow. "I’m sorry…. I’m so sorry." She choked out her apology as her tears began to well up and fall again.
He reached out and brought her closer to his body in another embrace. "It’s all right…. I understand…." He whispered the words into her hair, gently kissing the top of her head.
"I…. Thought you were…"
"I know." He said, cutting her off not wanting her to go through any more pain than what she had already been through. His love for this woman was powerful, binding and fierce. He chose to block it from her because he couldn’t do anything about it…at least not now, not at this moment.
There was gentleness to his voice that Deanna found comforting and safe as she began to relax, feeling all of the tension release itself as he held her near.
Deanna pulled herself slowly out of his embrace.
Their eyes met and held.
A moment of silence passed between them. Before he spoke again, "Are you all right?" It was a stupid question he knew that the minute it came out of his mouth. Of course she wasn’t all right; her eyes were swollen and puffy from crying. He had just scared the living daylights out of her. Almost giving her a heart attack and then she almost fainted. And to top it all off, she thought he was someone else, and was totally heartbroken to find out he wasn’t.
"I will be." She half smiled as she attempted to gather herself with steady even breaths. He witnessed how she slowly turned her head glancing over at the two graves…focusing on the one; her bottom lip began to tremble.
He stood to his feet, not knowing what else to do and offered her his hand. "Hey, what do you say? We get out of here and go find some food. I know of this crappy, dirty little hole in the wall that has totally naked dancers and dirty scroungy bartenders and the best Betazed salads you’ll ever eat."
She looked up at him suspiciously, knowing he was lying about everything but the salads. She looked up at him and took his hand. "Liar." She said flatly.
"Liar?" he attempted to sound shocked, pulling her to her feet. Wanting nothing more but her lift her spirits.
"Liar." Deanna repeated with a raise of her own eyebrows, linking her arm within his.
"Let’s see…. Miss Troi…." Thomas led her by the arm away from the burial grounds and the sadness.
"Now where have I heard that before?" he asked, knowing she already knew the answer.