RATING PG - for some mild language.
"SKIPPING STONES" by Sarah K.
In the village square, Riker squinted against the bright
sun as he watched the Baku, children and animals in tow, make their
way down from the mountains. It was a charmingly pastoral scene
abruptly made all the lovelier by the sudden appearance of Deanna
Troi alongside the rest of the away team.
Riker scarcely saw the others. Despite the stern
presence of Worf beside him, he waved excitedly, as if he and Deanna
had been separated years rather than days.
Like a lovesick cadet, he told himself sheepishly; it
was the radiation, just the damned radiation making him act this way.
The thought was squelched immediately when Deanna caught
sight of him and smiled with a radiance that took his breath away.
His lips curved upward in a grin broad to the point of foolishness,
yet he no longer cared, even though Worf cleared his throat nervously.
No point in trying to hide his feelings from the
Klingon, Riker decidedor from anyone else, for that matter. Still
holding Deannas gaze with his own, he asked Worf:
You think when we get away from this metaphasic
radiation, itll change the way we feel?
A long pause, and then the Klingon replied with
uncharacteristic gentleness, Your feelings about her havent changed
since the day I met you, Commander. This place just let them out for
a little fresh air.
Surprised by his friends insightfulness, Riker tuned
toward him with a now-curious grinbut Worf was already moving away
toward the approaching group, which included the Captain. He wanted
as the Klingon voluntarily helped an older woman with the load she
was carrying. Maybe the metaphasic radiation hadnt changed the way
he felt about Deanna, but it sure seemed to be doing a number on Worf.
Silently chuckling at the thought, he turned back to
Deanna only to find her hugging a small child good-bye. Apparently
she had made some friends on their little excursion through the Baku
mountains. It didnt surprise him in the least, Deanna had always
been good with children, particularly in times of distress. In fact,
it was a supreme gift of hers that she had with everyone. It was no
wonder every man who came into contact with her practically fell in
The child let go of her new-found friend and rejoined
her parents who were waiting by the road side. Riker instantly felt a
twinge of sympathy for the people. Their beautiful, near perfect home
had almost been taken away from them so quickly. It was a feeling of
dread that he now shared.
Only a few short hours ago, he had been faced with
losing something very precious to him as well. It was the first time
hed felt that strongly about it ever since he could remember. The
thought intrigued him a bit.
Suddenly heard the sound of something clanking to the
ground beside him. Deannas phaser rifle was now leaning against a
tree stump, the tall grass swaying in the breeze surrounding it. She
was casually brushing some of the accumulated dirt from her clothes.
He couldnt help but smile at the sight of it. It wasnt often Deanna
let her usually immaculate appearance go for the sake of duty. Not
that she had the chance all that often either.
You didnt use that thing, did you? Riker teased her.
He knew her disdain for violence, even though she understood it was
Deanna shot him a look of tolerance while still brushing
the sleeves of her jacket. Ill be glad to be rid of it. And yes, I
did have to use italthough, not on a person. For that I am
grateful. She gave one final brush to her sleeve and then
straightened up. There, better? she asked him.
Beautiful as ever, Riker said, smiling.
Deanna didnt respond, only mirroring his smile. In that
instant, a soft breeze floated between them, and time seemed to slow
down. She watched mesmerized at a lock of Wills hair as it was swept
off his forehead by the gentle winds. It reminded her of a moment a
long time ago when they had both stood like this for the first time.
Staring at each other, neither one knowing what exactly to say. The
first time they had been coy, dancing around each other in a show of
passionate disinterest. But not this time, thought Deanna.
The sound of children playing in the distance brought
her focus back to the present. Wills eyes shifted toward the
commotion, but only briefly.
Wheres the Captain? she asked him, noticing that
Picard was no longer in sight.
Riker shrugged and started walking in the direction of a
small lake near by. She picked up her rifle and fell into step beside
him. He had a few loose ends to tie up. Getting the Sona and the
Baku together again isnt going to be an easy process.
Deanna nodded at his words, At least they know the
The truth will set you free? Riker posed.
She laughed softly, Something like that. The rifle was
beginning to be a burden for hernot that it was heavy, she had just
been carrying it for several days straight and her arms were tired.
Careful not to touch the safety, she shifted it in her arms for a
more comfortable position.
Here, Riker leaned over and took the weapon from her,
slinging its strap over his shoulder. What kind of gentleman would
I be if I didnt carry the ladys phaser rifle for her?
Deanna rolled her eyes at the statement, but smiled
nonetheless. Without the slight cargo to worry about anymore, she let
her arms drop and rest for a bit. Riker didnt fail to notice that
her entire body seemed ready to drop.
With his free arm, he wrapped it around her waist,
offering what little support he could provide at the moment. He felt
her lean into him and rest her weight on his strong frame. She really
For the next several minutes, neither of them said
anything. They continued on the path Will had begun towards the lake.
The lake provided a secondary source of irrigation for the Baku,
their main source was the much larger lake which had been hiding an
uncovered holodeck of sorts. This lake was like a small oasis for the
village. Trees of all different kinds surrounded it, wildlife seemed
abundant, including some rather large fish. If only I had a fish
pole right now, thought Riker.
They stopped at a small clearing near the edge of the
water. Behind them was a row of large rockslarge enough to sit on,
which Deanna took full advantage of. In the distance, Riker could see
the children still playing while the rest of the village was at the
task of getting everything back to normal. This is what its all
about, he mused. The war had dampened all of their spirits
considerably the last couple of years, but being here on this planet
put it all into perspective for him again.
Its a damn shame that were stuck onboard the
Enterprise so much that we sometimes forget why we are stuck up
there, he said to himself as much as he did to his companion.
Deanna turned to see what he was looking at. Immediately
she understood what he meant. It was hard not to see life in a new
way after being in the midst of the Baku for any length of time. She
felt a peace and contentment that she had never felt
before. Remarkably, those feelings seemed to intensify
the ones she felt for Will. It was a sense of belonging, of home. It
was a very primal feeling that transcended whatever situation they
found themselves in. She smiled at thatthere was no way shed ever
let Will know of any primal feelings she experienced. But he would
have no basis to blame her for them, because she knew that he felt
them too. Suddenly, she looked at him watching the children in the
distance, and felt the transformation of the man he was with the man
he was becoming.
Riker took a deep breath of fresh air and pulled the
rifle from his shoulder, setting it down on the ground. He saw his
counterpart still resting on one of the rocks, looking at him very
peculiarly. Just as he was about to ask her why, something stopped
him. Instead, he let her watch him, figuring that she needed to for
The breeze off of the lake was cooling and extremely
refreshing. It invited him closer to the water, where he all at once
seemed to remember something from his childhood. Stooping down, he
picked out a few small rocks from the ground around him and bounced
them around in his hand, feeling for their weight.
Curious as to what he was doing, Deanna got up from her
rock and joined him by the water. He took one step away from her,
gripped one of the rocks, and launched it sideways across the surface
of the lake. She watched as the rock skipped along the top of the
water, leaving small rings behind at each point where it made contact.
Riker smiled in satisfaction that he could still skip
rocks as well as he could when he was a kid, living in Alaska. In
fact, he couldnt remember a time since then that he had done so.
Deciding to see if he could outdo his first attempt, he let another
rock fly, this one giving him one more bounce than the one before.
Whats the purpose of this game? Deanna asked, a
slight amusement in her voice.
Nothing, Riker said as he threw another rock. Its
not a game, I mean, he said turning to her. Havent you ever
skipped rocks before?
Deanna shook her head, On Betazed
You go for more intellectual activities. I know, Riker
cut her off. You sure dont have as much fun, though. Another rock
skipped across the water, this time bouncing eight times. Hah! A new
record for William Rikereight skips.
Deanna smiled at his self-satisfaction. Im sorry I
dont have a trophy to commemorate this moment, Mr. Riker, Deanna
He turned back to her, a devilish glint in his eye. You
think this is funny? Why dont you give it a try? He held out the
remainder of his rocks to her. She looked at his hand for a moment
and then back to his face. Whats the matter? he asked, afraid you
cant do it?
Deanna knew he was baiting her into his own game, but
she couldnt just flat out refuse him. Slowly, she reached out and
took the rocks from his waiting hand. Just as he had done, she tossed
them around in her hand to get the feel of their heaviness.
As she took her stance facing the lake, Riker inched a
little closer to her. You want to throw it sideways
I know, she told him, only glancing back at his form
behind her. After all, she had just seen him do it several times.
Riker shrugged, a bemused expression on his face. If she
didnt want his help, he wouldnt give it. However, he was certain
that her first throw would land directly in the water. It always did.
Deanna took a deep breath and closed her eyes
momentarily as if blocking everything around her out. Her eyes opened
again and her arm cocked back. The next thing they both saw was the
rock hitting the water with a splash and sinking to the bottom of the
lake. Her shoulders slumped in defeat and she let out a frustrated
Riker did his best not to let her see his smug grin,
though he knew she could feel it. He cleared his throat, Um, you
want to throw it a little more sideways than that.
The look she shot him gave him a chill down his spine,
but he knew it was all in good fun. Thanks, she said. Determined to
give it another try, Deanna brought her arm back once more, skipping
any attempts to center herself before hand.
Wait, Will said. He took a few steps toward her and
gently grabbed the arm she held in the air. He moved it down
slightly, See, it has to be more level with the water, or else the
angle is too sharp.
A wonderful warm feeling welled up between them as Will
held her arm. His other hand had found its way to her shoulder.
Riker wanted nothing more than to envelope her completely within his
embrace. It was so overwhelming that he instinctively leaned into her
a bit, his hand wandering over her shoulder, stroking it tenderly.
Deanna felt him lean into her and she welcomed it by
returning the gesture. Their eyes locked, black on blue, she felt her
head swimming closer to his. Before she knew what was happening,
their lips touched ever so lightly. They separated only for a second
before they both needed the intimate contact again. Again, they
kissed, still light as a feather, gently nipping at each others lips
over and over again.
A short sound of contentment came from Wills throat and
Deanna smiled against his lips, echoing his incoherent sentiment. An
indeterminable amount of time later, they both pulled back, hearts
racing, breath short.
Will looked back out at the lake, taking in a deep
breath, while his eyes regained their focus. He realized that he was
still holding Deannas arm. Looking back down at her, he stuck his
tongue in his cheek at her smile. Want to try it again? he asked.
Deanna raised an eyebrow, What? The throwing or the
Riker took a step back and let go of her arm. As much
as Id like to kiss you again right now and for the rest of my life
for that matter, Deanna regarded him drolly, I think it would be
best if we continue with the throwing, given our current
circumstance, he finished, indicating that they were still on duty
and probably being watched by some nosy children.
Deanna dropped her arms and sighed. Okay, she said
with an air of determination. Riker stepped back out of her way as
she brought up her arm in the position he had showed her. Careful not
to let her arm out of that position, she reared it back and let go of
the rock. To her amazement, it skipped across the surface of the lake
two times before giving in to the depths below.
Without warning, Deanna hopped into the air, a squeal of
delight coming from her small frame. I did it! she exclaimed like a
Will laughed out loud at her excitement, I wish I had a
trophy to commemorate this moment, Miss Troi, he said to her. Deanna
admonished him with a tolerant look, though the smile never left her
Think I can do better? she asked him, getting ready to
throw another stone.
I thought Betazoids didnt play games like this, Riker
I thought this wasnt a game, she shot back.
Riker bent down to gather more rocks for himself. Its
not. Its just a way to pass the time of day, and its sort of a
personal challenge to see if you can outdo yourself. But I think
youve caught on already, he said, weighing the new cargo in his hand.
Want to make it into a game? Deanna said, challenging
him with her words and her stare. Will could never back down from a
challenge, it was one of the first things shed learned about him
when they met. Shed also quickly learned to use it to her advantage
when she needed to. Often, it was the only way she could get her
points across to him. But that wasnt the reason for her challenge
today. This challenge was more of a friendly one.
Riker shifted his feet, glanced at the lake, and then
back at her. You think you can skip your stones more times than I can?
Deanna shrugged nonchalantly, If youre afraid she
trailed off, making her intention clear.
Will stood there, considering his options. Obviously he
would beat her at her own game, and he hesitated to see the sparkle
of accomplishment disappear from her eyes. However, Fine. But just
remember, you asked for it.
Deanna nodded satisfactorily and took up position again.
Riker stepped up beside her and started to ask who should go first,
but her eyes were closed again and her breathing was even. He sighed
and looked sidelong at the lake. Deanna? he said cautiously.
Shhh, she kept her eyes closed but put up a hand to
silence him. She was the picture of the girl he remembered years ago,
centering herself while hanging from a tree limb. Her breathing
slowed and her hand softly glided back to her side.
Riker rolled his eyes and stood by a bit impatiently.
Before she could get too deeply entranced, he decided to speak up,
You cant turn this into the same thing as hanging from trees. Its
throwing rocks for crying out loud. It wont work.
Deanna exhaled sharply, and threw him an annoyed look.
Riker promptly chastised himself for interrupting her. Did you not
get the reason for centering yourself? Did you think we were only
doing it because we were hanging from a tree?
No, Riker said quickly, I mean, I get it.
Theres more to it than that, she added, her eyes
narrowing slightly. She was regarding him rather seriously at the
I know, Riker swallowed. I know, I just havent ever
considered throwing rocks as qualifying I suppose. He shifted his
weight uncomfortably. Suddenly he felt as if he were a lieutenant
again, and she an insistent psychology student.
Deanna watched him a few seconds longer and then vaguely
nodded her head. He brought his eyes back to hers and held them
there. Well, she said still looking at him, though a hint of a
smile began to form, I have no idea if it will work or not, but I
intend to find out. She smirked at him and turned back to her
mission at hand.
Wills eyes widened at her apathetic admission and
snickered. Dont tell me you were bluffing the whole time? he said,
a mention of disbelief in his voice.
Of course not, Deanna said over her shoulder, Ive
just never tried it with rocks before.
Riker watched her go silent again with a mixture of awe
and amusement. It was times like these when he realized just how much
of him had rubbed off on her over the years. If this had been on
Betazed, she would never have lowered her aristocratic philosophy to
the ranks of humor.
Heard that, her voice jolted him from his revere.
I thought you were centering yourself, or meditating,
or something, he said.
Deanna took a deep breath, Yes, well its kind of hard
with your thoughts hovering over me.
Will you just throw the rock already? he said with
I was just about ready to when you called me
aristocratic, she said, her eyes remaining closed.
Riker looked at her in astonishment, How did you know
that? You cant read thoughts.
I felt it, she said simply.
Right, he said. Opting to let her have her way, he
shuffled to one of the large rocks Deanna had been occupying earlier,
and sat down. She would throw the rock when she was ready. He almost
laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole thing, except he didnt.
Something was pulling his attention away from her and he looked back
toward the village. The children were no longer playing, and there
was a larger gathering of Baku near the fountain. He briefly saw the
Captain talking to Anij and shaking hands with one of the other men
at her side. They were leaving soon.
He turned back to Deanna, about to call their game off
when she lifted her arm and threw her rock towards the lake. It was
the perfect angle and it skidded across the water, bouncing a total
of nine times.
Riker got up and slowly walked to her, his eyes never
leaving the trail just made in the water. Nine times. It worked, he
heard her say quietly. It worked, she said a little louder, looking
up at him.
Either that, or its beginners luck, he said.
Deanna seemed to contemplate his words for a moment, and
tilted her head. You should try it. She held out her last remaining
rock. He glanced back at the village and saw that Geordi and Beverly
were joining back up with he group. Out of the corner of his eye, he
watched Deanna follow his gaze.
Were leaving, she almost whispered, clearly
Will nodded silently, but took the rock from her hand.
We should go, the Captain will be looking for us, she
said as she watched him play with the stone.
Will nodded again. You go ahead. Ill be there in a
Deanna looked up at him, a worried expression on her
face. But then she realized what he wanted to do. Bending down, she
collected her phaser rifle and gave one last look at the lake. Good
luck, she said turning back to him. She reached up and brushed her
palm over the side of his face as she was so fond of doing.
He offered a small smile as her hand trailed down over
his chin before she let it fall. A moment later, he watched the back
of her retreating form. As she neared the village, she caught the eye
of the Captain who stopped talking briefly to acknowledge her.
Riker walked back to the lake, he knew that Deanna would
give him the time he needed. The Captain could wait a few more
minutes. He stood there, his eyes focusing on one of the mountains in
the distance, his breathing becoming more even. His eyes slid shut on
their own accord and he let the breeze from the lake lull him into a
peaceful state. Concentrating on nothing but the blackness of his
consciousness, he shut out all thoughts, all sounds until he could
not even hear the birds perched in the trees above. Eventually, he
let himself visualize the stone skidding across the water until it
reached the other side of the lake. He tried to feel his arm make the
perfect motion and then let go.
When he opened his eyes, he saw the stone glide across
as if the water was solid. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine, ten .ten times he counted.
It worked, he said on a breath. Ill be damned, it
worked. He began to laugh, and he couldnt stop. He felt like
shouting at the top of his lungs, but chose not to for the sake of a
first officers dignity. Instead, he leapt over the row of rocks and
took off, running across the field toward his fellow officers. He
slowed as he reached the edge of the village and saw that the Captain
was beginning to get a head count on his crew.
His attention went to the sound of someone yelling.
Data! Beverly called out, watching as a small boy and
an android poked their heads from the middle of a haystack. Its
time to go! she added, trying not to laugh at the sight.
It was all he could do not to laugh as his friend said
good-bye to the boy as if he were a school kid. Data extricated
himself from the hay and began to walk toward the entourage of
Yes, this is what it was all about. Friends, family,
home. Without those things, life would be an empty existence. He knew
that now. It was what gave him the courage to reach down and take
Deannas hand in front of an entire village in front of his closest
and dearest friends. They were together now, her and him.
She took his hand firmly and smiled up at him with a
look that communicated her understanding of his success. Of course,
she would have felt it. He smiled down at her with a look that told
her he finally understood. But there was so much more to it, he knew.
They would both find that out together over time. For now, though,
they would enjoy just being in love.
He looked away, toward Captain Picard, who left Anijs
side to stand with his officers. The captain pressed the commbadge on
his chest and said: Picard to Enterprise seven to beam up. Energize.
Just before the transporter beam claimed them, Deanna
heard Wills voice in her head, By the way, you won. She didnt
look at him, but she knew what he meant. As they felt the familiar
tingle of the transporter, they let go of each others hand. No,
Imzadi, she answered back, I won a long time ago. He didnt see
her smirk as they were taken away from their temporary paradise.
In the village square, the Baku stared at the now empty
places where the Federation officers had just been. Anij turned to
face her beloved people, Come, lets enjoy what we have.
The sights and sounds of the village resumed. And the