U.S.S. ENTERPRISE E
"And there we were, in the middle of a heated debate, when..."
When the comm interrupted him. Picard suddenly stopped his story of one of his more glorious days as he had described it, and pricked his ears to hear the incoming message from the bridge.
"Ensign Rogers to Captain Picard. There is a priority one message coming in on a secured channel from Starfleet Headquarters."
Picard shot apologetic glances around the conference lounge table at his senior staff and stood to exit. "I'll take it in my ready room, ensign." He heard her acknowledgement and quickly headed to his ready room just off of the bridge.
Picard wasted no time sitting behind his desk and accessing the secure message. What he saw on the screen surprised him to say the least. "Admiral Atkins."
The admiral smiled slightly and nodded his greetings. "Captain Picard. I guess you're surprised to see me contacting you."
"You could say that. It's not...customary for the Judge Advocate General of the entire fleet to be contacting..."
"The finest Captain of the flagship of the fleet. I understand, Captain, that you might be concerned. But I assure you that neither your ship nor anyone on your ship is in trouble or in any kind of danger."
Picard took a noticeable deep breath and pulled his uniform top down sternly. "Then...I can only think of one thing...one person you might be interested in."
Admiral Atkins smiled again but then hesitated before speaking. "How is, Will?
Picardís face lit up at the mention of his first officer. "Being an exceptional officer as usual. Heís getting married in...a little over six months now."
"Married?" The admiralís surprise was apparent. "Well, secretly I always knew he was the type to settle down, even though he did his best not to reveal that sort of image."
Both men smiled at that. "Forever the ladies man, indeed," Picard offered. "What do you want from him?"
The admiral looked down and then met Picardís eyes once again. "I need something, Captain. Will has always been considered one of the top officers in fleet. Not only is he a born leader, and the best pilot Iíve ever laid eyes on, he has an incredible head on his shoulders. Heís not afraid to do something different, unique in order to get the job done. Thatís how he gets noticed. He learned at a very young age how to do that and he hasnít slowed down since."
"I agree with all of those assessments, admiral, but what does that have to do with this communique?"
"Iím ordering the Enterprise back to Earth. Will is going to undergo some special training along with...well, some old friends. Heís also going to be training some young cadets."
Picard looked away for an instant and then refixed his gaze on the screen. "Is there some specific mission that Will is training for?"
"I canít discuss that with you, Captain. Iím afraid that Will is the only one who can be briefed. Donít worry, it isnít anything he wasnít doing his freshman year at the Academy."
"Admiral, how long will the Enterprise be at Earth? How long am I going to be without my first officer?"
Admiral Atkins released a breath, "About six months. Heíll be staying where he did while at the Academy along with the cadets who are presently under my command. Iíve arranged quarters for your crew. The Enterprise is scheduled to undergo refits and upgrades am I right?"
Picard sighed, "Yes, I suppose we could all use a little planet side time. It would be nice to be able to see France again. Six months," Picard smiled, "How convenient, considering the wedding and all."
The admiral smiled, "Of course. Will will be finished with his job here, just in time to get married. Iíll be expecting you in three days. Admiral Atkins out."
Picard sat back in his chair and ran his hands over his head. He couldnít help but feel like there was more to this story than what was being let on. Sensing a bout of nervousness rise in his gut, he decided to rejoin the dinner in the lounge with his senior officers.
U.S.S. Enterprise E
"Do you have any idea what this is about?"
Will looked up at his fiance from the padd he was reading. "Atty didnít even talk to me. He talked to the Captain."
Deanna sighed and crossed her arms, throwing him a look of tolerance. "I know. I was there when he told everyone we were going back to Earth. But apparently you are the reason. I just thought that you might know something."
Will shut his padd off and put it down on the coffee table in front of them only to pick up another and begin to work again.
"Youíre awfully bent on working and avoiding conversation tonight, Will." She observed him sigh and saw his jaw twitch. He was irritated, although she couldnít figure out why. One thing she was sure of, it had to do with their new orders. "Will, is this about going back to Earth?"
He glanced at her but continued working. "This? Iím just a little behind on work because Iíve been paying more attention to...other things. Iíve got to get these reports in."
Deanna smiled at that. Yes, they had been spending more time than usual together lately. But when youíre engaged, what are you supposed to do? She decided it best to leave him alone tonight. Knowing him the way she did, he wouldnít talk tonight about anything. He needed to focus on his work and she needed to let him. "All right, I can take a hint, Commander. But, at breakfast tomorrow, I intend to find out what is going on."
Will shot her a look, "Nothing is going on, Deanna, because I donít know anything. This is just as much of a mystery to me as it is to you."
"Then why are you getting angry at me over it? This isnít like you." She now stood, facing him. Perhaps she thought she could feel an advantage, being taller than him if only temporarily.
Will looked away and let out a long breath, attempting to quell his rising anger. He really did need to get the reports done. "Iím sorry," he paused as if searching for some words, "Going back to the Academy is bringing to surface some memories of how it used to be. How I used to be. I guess Iím starting to get back into that role without realizing it."
Deanna shook her head, confused, "What role is that? One of anger?"
Will felt his jaw twitch at the tone of her voice. He certainly did not want to get into this conversation at the moment. The truth was, he did know something. He didnít know for sure, but he could only think of one reason why he was going back for...special training. "Deanna, I did some things at the Academy that no one knows about, save the rest of my comrades. We were so good that they had us as cadets doing things that normally only experienced officers would do. We literally were the best of the best."
He watched Deanna make her way back to him on the couch. She sat next to him but did not touch him. "Who is we?"
Will put down his padd and took her hand instead. It was the one with her engagement ring that he had given her a year ago. He slowly ran his thumb over it as if he could polish it. She watched in fascination, first his hand and then his eyes as they softened. Suddenly he opened up to her and she could see deeper into his blue gaze. "The Nova Squad," he simply answered her question.
He continued, "Twenty...something years ago, I didnít have any commitments to be concerned about. I was young and too stupid to know what was good for me. Now, you come first in my life. I want to marry you, and have kids. Raise a family together. Those are the things I work for now. I thought that the Nova Squad was behind me."
Deanna gripped his hand tighter and caught his eyes. "You make it sound dangerous. This isnít going to be dangerous is it?" She heard the slight panic in her voice and mentally reprimanded herself for it. Being in Starfleet was dangerous. They both had made this commitment understanding that very fact.
Will looked into her eyes for an eternity before looking away. He then brushed some hair behind her ear and smiled tenderly at her, "I hope not, Imzadi. I donít even know what it is, and I may be making this a bigger deal than it really is."
"But it was a priority one communique, Will. Thatís as serious as it can get."
Will kissed her lightly and then hugged her to him. "I know. Well, at least itíll be easier to plan the Earth wedding on Earth."
Deanna laughed lightly in his arms, "I suppose thatís true." She then pulled back and took his face in her palms, "Promise me that youíll be careful and not be stupid like you were twenty years ago?"
Will smiled tiredly at her and took both of her hands in his own. "I made a promise to marry you, and I intend to keep it." They leaned in simultaneously and captured the otherís mouth with their own. For an entire minute they stayed that way, sealing the assurance of their promise to each other.
When they disengaged, their foreheads remained touching. Deanna ran a hand through his hair soothingly and he drew an invisible picture on her palm. Both wanted to stay like that much longer than they were able to. "You need to finish your reports, Imzadi," Deanna reluctantly broke the silence. "And then...get some sleep. Iíll see you for breakfast." With that she kissed him again, this time with much more briefness.
He let her go and just as the doors to his quarters opened, he called out quietly to her, "I love you."
Deanna turned and smiled back at him. "I love you too. Get some sleep."
She watched him nod silently and then she walked out of his door and through her own right next his quarters.