Disclaimer: Star Trek owns the rights to Star Trek. The premise is mine.
Synopsis: My own unedited response to my anniversary challenge a few months ago. I've had it in the back of my head for a while.
Her head was felt as heavy as a horse on her pillow. The pull of it on her neck seemed to strain the already tight muscles there as had been the case for three nights straight. It had arrived to the point of an acute disliking for starbase thirty-nine's beds accompanied with a slight dread that her body required sleep at all. The pillows were all wrong, the mattress too firm, the blankets too thin, and the space beside her empty.
Deanna Troi, despite her upbringing, was a creature who preferred to live simply. On such occasions as she found herself in now, her usual practice was to ignore the discomforts and make the best of the situation. After all, it did no one any good to work and socialize with an irritable counselor when she was expected to be the paradigm of even-temperedness.
So, with the lack of a better idea of what to do, Deanna finally turned on her back and stared up at the ceiling which was presently blanketed in darkness. The weariness of her eyes lulled them closed again and she reached to the other side of the bed imagining he was there. After a moment of feeling nothing but small wrinkles in the sheets, she sighed and forced images of her husband from her mind. For the time being, it was the only way she would be able to sleep.
Night on a starbase was startlingly different from that of a starship. On a starbase, only a skeleton crew was on duty during night watch. The lounges and shops all closed down leaving the corridors nearly bare. She had always classified the Enterprise, and now the Titan, as a small city in space; but now that she'd spent almost a week on starbase thirty-nine, that classification seemed to fit it more snuggly.
Her breathing began to slow and the thoughts of life on starbase became more sporadic and jumbled. Sleep had finally found her once again and for that she was unconsciously grateful.
Deanna began to dream as she had for the last few nights. A red, pulsating light seemed to blind her but she couldn't see it very clearly. Her legs could hardly keep her stumbling body upright as she tried to get away from the alarming noise that accompanied that damned red light. A hit to left shoulder and then the right knocked her to and fro. She felt like a salmon swimming upstream in a sea of people.
The counselor's body now tossed and turned, wrinkling the sheets underneath her restless form. That noise was burrowing its uninvited way into her ears and she pressed against the pillow trying to shut it out. Her heart, not being able to withstand the adrenaline any longer, woke her with its harsh beating. In an instant Deanna was sitting up in her bed, covered with a light sheen of sweat. It was then that she noticed the red light reflecting off of the walls in her quarters and that sound had become louder than ever.
Once she was able to catch her breath, Deanna's face scrunched up in a mix of anger and frustration as she grabbed a fistful of sheet and flung it over the side of the bed.
"Not these damned drills again," she said through barred teeth. She swiped at a tendril of hair covering her eyes and unwillingly pushed herself up, knowing it could well be two or three hours before she would be allowed to return to bed.
Deanna stumbled across the room to an overstuffed chair which was serving as a bed for her uniform tonight. To her utter dismay, the uniform looked more comfortable on the chair than she had been in the bed all week. "Glad one of us is able to sleep," she said to herself and then yanked it from its resting place.
This was the third night in a row that red alert drills had been performedat night. Deanna wasn't able to determine if it was someone's twisted idea of a practical joke or the result of an overzealous commander who felt insecure in the response of his crew during an attack. In either case, she was ready to throttle whoever was responsible for the interruption of much needed sleep and take the next shuttle back to the Titan.
It was less than a minute before Deanna had her uniform completely on. Two nights ago she would have taken the time to adjust her hair from the dreadful sight it was. Now, she was in the state of mind not to care.
She afforded her quarters once last glance before she joined the steady flow of people outside and proceeded to her designated station.
Will Riker eyed the pair of jacks in his hand until he was sure they were returning his stare. He shifted them back and forth in his fingertips watching their eyes follow him no matter where they moved. It was at that moment he noticed what a strange thing it was for him to be seemingly communicating with the jacks in his hand until he realized that it was the most companionship he'd had in nearly a week. He snickered when he imagined what his wife would say about that.
Will's head snapped up at his first officer's imposition. He'd forgotten for a moment that he wasn't alone. In fact, it was just the two of them sitting at the round table off the living room. A small bowl of mixed nuts adorned the middle of the table while chips and cards surrounded them. The hanging lamp above them cast a mild yellow light on the playing surface and two glasses of untamed liquid sat opposite each other beside their respective owners.
"Nothing," Will said at last. He cleared his throat to erase any embarrassing thoughts of jacks and his social life from his mind.
"You gonna call?" Aaron asked.
Will let out a gruff breath and decided that his jacks weren't good enough to risk his few remaining chips. "Take it," he said, throwing down his cards.
Commander Jameson gave a low whistle at Will's apparent effort not to try and drag himself out of the hole he was currently in by bluffing. He wasted no time in recollecting the cards for the next round.
"You're losing your touch, Will. It's pretty bad when I beat you at your own game," Jameson said and then stacked his won chips in the appropriate pile.
Riker sighed and pushed away from the table a bit. His hand cupped around his synthehol and held fast to it. "Try playing with your wife gone for two weeks and see how you do," he said.
"Don't have to. Thankfully it seems to work to my advantage. Deanna should leave the ship more oftenit might boost my poker ego a little."
Will gave in and downed the rest of his drink in one swallow. It stung like a hive of bees as it traveled down his throat and he welcomed it. "We're so pathetic," he said after the sting began to dissipate. "I can't concentrate on a simple game like poker because my wife isn't here, and you can't even get a girl to lose concentration over."
"I could get a girl," Aaron protested. He began to shuffle the cards for the umpteenth time that evening. Will watched as he mismatched the cards, placed and replaced them within the deck. Oddly enough it seemed to be a metaphor for his life when Deanna was not living it with him. For the first time since they were married, he fully realized how lucky he was that she had seen it fit to give them a second chance. He hated to think of the rest of his life as it was now, wallowing in the pathetic fate of bachelorhood.
"You want to go five card draw this time?"
Riker shook his head and stood up in one quick motion. "Let's forget about the game, huh?"
Aaron dropped the cards onto the table unceremoniously and plopped against the back on his chair. "You were a lot more fun before you got married, you know that?"
"Normally it wouldn't bother me this much that she's gone. It's just..." Will trailed off and walked the short distance to the couch. Instead of sitting again, he opted to face the giant window perched behind the sitting area and watched a distant nebula get smaller as they sped past it on the way to their next destination.
Jameson rose from his chair as well and took their used dishes to the recycler. "I know. It's your anniversary and all," he said. Once the dishes had disappeared, he turned back to his captain and couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the poor man. He decided that his presence didn't seem to be doing any good and started toward the door.
Out of the corner of his eye, Will saw Aaron cross the room, ready to leave. How could he blame him? In some ungrasping way he wanted the company of his good friend, but he also knew it wouldn't be fair to Aaron, forcing him to stay in what could only be described as a pit of mawkish self-indulgence.
"I'm gonna take off, Captain," Jameson said. "See you at the briefing tomorrow morning."
Behind him Will heard the familiar sound of doors opening and then closing again. He breathed a sigh of relief that he could now feel sorry for himself without an audience. It was the first time that he and Deanna had been away from each other since the wedding. They both knew sooner or later a conference would come up or an elongated away mission would surface. Rational sense told them that they couldn't be together all the time. But of all the times to be together, they were apart on their first anniversary.
His thoughts turned to his wife on starbase thirty-nine as he sank down onto the couch. She had a required conference to attend there in order to keep her certification as a counselor. He understood that. But he didn't have to like it. The conference was scheduled for two weeks and they weren't even halfway through this agonizing ordeal yet.
He remembered back to about a month ago when she's told him that she had to go. Of course they had argued about the impeccable timing of the whole thing and he'd ended up on the couch for the night. She couldn't believe that he was so willing to dismiss her carrier and insist that she not go. He'd been mad that she could dismiss their first anniversary so easily. The next day they had worked out their differences, neither liking the idea that they couldn't celebrate their anniversary together.
Such was life, he surmised, and figured that the rest of their marriage would
have more scenarios like this one in the future. He propped his head against
the back of the couch and closed his eyes. Silently he hoped that Deanna was
missing him as much as he was missing her and that she was sleeping much better
than he had been.
The doors of the turbolift hissed open and Riker winced at the sound. Night shift on the bridge was inevitably quieter, and the slightest noise was picked up by everyone present. Presently his second officer was in command of the bridge and she would definitely take notice that he wasn't anywhere but here this time of night.
Riker hesitated for a moment before stepping out of the lift. He braced himself for the lecture he knew was coming and sped down the ramp as quickly as possible. Maybe she wouldn't say anything if he looked like he was in a hurry.
Will froze. Inwardly he groaned as he spied Lt. Commander Deft approaching. Melissa Deft was one of the top scientist in Starfleet and he was damn lucky to have her onboard. There were times when he thought she could have given Data a run for his money. Not only that, she gave up a prestigious command at headquarters so that she could serve on the Titan. The brass back home were none too pleased with her decision, but she had proven to be of even greater value serving on a starship. Plus the fact that the two of them were old Academy rivals seemed to cement their relationship even further.
"Commander Deft," Will said, turning to face her. He held up his hands, "I know. I should be asleep in my quarters right now."
Her expression yielded a smirk and she kept her voice down to keep what was said between the two of them. "Actually, I was going to say that I don't like commanding officers to look over my shoulder while I'm in command."
"Who's looking?" Will shrugged.
"This is the fourth time this week you have been here when you are not supposed to be here."
Riker looked at her, a full head shorter, hands clasped behind her back. That smirk still on her face.
"It's my ship, isn't it? I can come onto the bridge whenever I feel like it," he turned and started toward his ready room. "I'm going behind closed doors and I promise to leave everything in your capable hands."
Deft watched him disappear into his ready room and sighed. He may have been one of the most revered captains in Fleet, but when it came to matters of the heart, he could crumble like a Ferengi under pressure.
Inside the solace of his ready room, Will plopped down on the couch and laid his head back. What he wouldn't give for one of Deanna's miraculous massages right now. He could imagine her hands working the knots out of his neck and shoulders, her soft breath caressing his ear. Her front pressed against his back. He outwardly groaned from the frustration and snatched a book from the table next to him.
He absently flipped through the pages, hoping to find something interesting enough to get his mind off of his wife. His eyes caught site of a sentence and he began to read. Unfortunately he didn't get very far before his door chime was ringing.
"What?" he called out, knowing who it was.
She didn't bother answering and let herself in. With a smile on her face, she pulled one of the chairs away from his desk and straddled it beside the couch.
"What are you reading?" she asked.
"I don't know," Riker said, tossing the book back on the table. He put his head in his hands briefly before jerking his eyes back to her. "Who's watching the bridge?"
"Don't worry, remember? I left your ship with a babysitter. You don't look so good. Maybe you're coming down with something."
Will let out a heavy breath and rolled his eyes. Of course she would try to come in and cheer him up. Unfortunately, she seemed to get more of a kick out of it than he did.
"I'm fine. I just..."
"Have a case of love sickness?"
Will afforded her an icy glance then stood up and walked across the room to the fish bowl. Deciding that it has been a while since their last feeding, he dumped a small amount of food into the water.
"You know, my marriage is my business, Deft. I'm just having trouble sleeping lately, that's all." He leaned against the edge of his desk and crossed his feet at the ankles. "Why do you care, anyway?"
Deft shrugged and slowly stood, pushing the chair back into place. "Deanna told me to look after you while she was gone. You know, make sure you got enough sleep among other things."
"Other things?" Will said.
The commander crossed her arms and took a step toward him. "She would have asked Commander Jameson, but she didn't fully trust him. Come on, Captain. You've been on edge the last few days, you never come to the bridge during night shift unless it's an emergency. Now it's become a nightly stop for you. We all skunked you in the poker game a couple nights ago."
"What do you want me to do?" his question came out louder than expected and for the first time, he realized just how frustrated he was. "I'm pathetic, I know. But she's gone for another week."
He lowered his head and looked at the floor for a moment. Was the crew really able to see a change in him? Was he allowing this to affect his job?
"You know what you need, Captain?"
Will's eyes traveled around the room and then settled on Deft's face. "I'm not letting my personal life get in the way of my command, am I?"
Deft averted her eyes briefly and that was all the answer he needed. His posture slumped a bit more and he cast his eyes downward again.
"Why don't you leave the ship for a while? You haven't had shoreleave since the day you took command. Really, your're not doing yourself any favors by sticking around."
In an instant Riker began to pace the room. "I can't believe that I've
let this get to me. I mean, there has never been a time when I let anything
come between me and my work ethic. The fact that I'm married shouldn't change
that. What's happened?"
Deft sighed and grabbed his arm as he passed by. It caused Riker to stop in his tracks and look at her. "Go on shoreleave...go to starbase thirty-nine. It's nothing to be ashamed of, Captain. Commander Jameson and I can take care of the ship. We've got a routine mapping mission ahead of us, and you've earned it. You and the Counselor. Just because you're a married Captain, doesn't mean that you don't get to have a little fun like the rest of us."
The truth was, he had never gone longer than six months without a shoreleave. He did need a break, and it would be the perfect opportunity to surprise Deanna. "I'll be back in a week," he said and then all but sprinted to the door.
He stopped, though, just before the doors could open. "How far is starbase thirty-nine?"
"One day by shuttle, but you'll have to punch it."
"Great. Oh, and don't crash my ship or anything while I'm gone."