Divergent Paths Part 1
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Thunder rumbled overhead as a thick cover of dark gray
clouds raced across the sky. The sun disappeared
beneath the gloom, leaving the small patch of land in
sudden shadow. Deanna Troi shivered as she glanced at
the sky above, wishing she were still in the circle of
Will's arms, curled in front of the roaring fireplace
in his cabin.
Instead, she was roaming the patch of wild grass
behind the house, pacing off a stark flash of anger.
They'd fought tonight, and not for the first time.
After being on vacation in Alaska together for one
week, they had argued approximately five times,
tonight's argument being the last and final straw.
"To hell with you, Will Riker!" she muttered, patting
her arms, scuffling her tall boots through the damp
grass. She knew he could hear her...all he had to do
was focus his mind on her thoughts and immediately
they'd be laid bare for him. Well, she didn't much
care. After what he'd said tonight...after what
they'd both said...there wasn't much more to hide.
Tears pricked her eyes and she stopped pacing, wiping
them angrily with the back of her hand. Looking up at
the scattered clouds, she saw the first drops of
freezing rain begin to fall. The cold drops slapped
her face, falling slowly at first, and then rapidly
spilling into a torrent. The rhythm of the rain mixed
with her sobs as she allowed herself to let go.
She hadn’t wanted to cry. Not in front of him. It
was important to give no other impression than
resigned acceptance. It was important to keep her
feelings in check, to walk out of there with dignity.
She’d done fairly well, but now that she was alone it
was impossible to hold anything back. The winter
night surrounded her, chilling her body with its
frigid gusts of wind and icicles of rain. The tears
fell in earnest, mixing with the weather, hitting her
coat in rivers.
A steady, throbbing ache pulsed in her chest. It
really was over. The new relationship they’d built
after the Briar Patch was actually dying…losing its
brightness, winking out like an elderly star. The
distance between them was a yawning chasm filled with
disappointment. It simply was not working the way
that either of them wanted it to. And after tonight,
it was obvious that it never would. They would go
their separate ways; live their separate lives. And
perhaps never see one another again.
Deanna looked to the heavens, straining to see a
glimpse of starlight among the dark, hovering clouds.
But, the brilliant constellations that were usually
easy to discover were now invisible, their light
extinguished by storm clouds. She was alone beneath
the sky, with only the surrounding forest to keep her
company, to hear her breaking heart.
When she’d finally sobbed herself dry, she eyed the
house and its partially open door. She wiped her face
with her sleeves, and cleared her throat. It was time
to go inside. There was nothing more to say to Will,
but that didn't mean she couldn't share the warmth of
the house with him. Walking up the path towards the
house, she shivered again, and took a last look at the
night sky. The stars were asleep.
Will Riker lay in front of the fire, his large body
wrapped snuggly beneath a beige woven afghan. Behind
him, the flames crackled and roared, filling the room
with the scent of burning wood. Drowsy from the heat,
from the late hour, he dozed, nestling down into the
softness of a pile of blue pillows. But he could not
fall fully asleep. Each time he neared
unconsciousness, Deanna’s bright, sad eyes and angry
words brought him fully awake. The pain in her voice,
the feel of her broken heart inside his mind nearly
undid him. His stomach clenched and tears pricked his
eyes. He was going to lose her. After everything
they’d gone through, after rekindling their
relationship after the Briar Patch mission…it was all
just going to go to hell. Just like that.
His head ached from the weight of emotion, the late
hour, too much ale. They’d been drinking with dinner,
which was not a great idea given their current mutual
state of mind. The alcohol gave voice to their every
emotion, to every discordant thought. Deanna, not
usually one to partake, tossed back three or four
glasses of ale, ignoring her steak entirely. And as
the endless silence went on between them, she finally
felt the need to fill it. “I want to talk to you,
“We’ve been doing nothing but talking all week. It
hasn’t gotten us anywhere.” He’d gulped down his food,
stabbing it roughly with his fork, pointedly looking
anywhere else but in her direction.
“What we’re doing right now isn’t getting us anywhere
either. Do you want to end our relationship? Like
this? Is there really no more to say about what’s
happened between us?” Her eyes sought his, demanding
a response, wanting to see his love for her in the
beautiful blue depths. Instead, he glared at her
coldly, the blue suddenly turning to an icy gray.
“Do I want to end our relationship? That’s a hell of
a question coming from someone who turned down my
marriage proposal. Two weeks ago, I asked you to be
my wife. And do you remember what you said?”
Softly, she swallowed her drink and set her glass on
the wooden table, meeting his eyes. “Yes, of course I
do. I told you that I loved you…that I would always
love you. And that’s true, Will. I’ve loved you ever
since we met on Betazed nearly twenty years ago. You
are my Imzadi and that means I will always love you.
You know that.”
“Great. So you love me, just not enough to marry me.”
“It’s not that. I couldn’t love you any more than I
do right at this moment. But right now our paths have
come to a crossroads. You’ve been offered command,
and that’s wonderful. I’ve been offered something as
His face twisted into a parody of a smile. “A
professorship at the Betazed University of Psychology.
Quite a feather in your cap, Counselor. I can see
why you would hate to turn it down.” The sarcasm in
his voice was unmistakable. It hit its target,
causing Deanna’s face to tighten, her eyes to flash
darkly with anger. She threw down her napkin and
stood up, shaking the table.
“Damn you Will Riker. How dare you belittle my career?
On my planet my career, my life’s work is important.
More so than any other study. The Betazoid mind, the
Betazoid heart, the way that people feel…those things
are paramount to us. Paramount to me. I could have
spent the past 13 years living with my people, helping
them with their problems, achieving a state of
serenity and acceptance in my own soul that would’ve
brought all of us tremendous peace. Not to mention, I
could’ve been near my family. Do you know how long
it’s been since I’ve seen my Mother? How long it’s
been since I’ve seen my little brother?”
His eyebrows lifted and he leaned back in his chair,
crossing his arms.
“I’m aware of that, Deanna. But that’s what you
chose when you decided to attend Starfleet Academy.
When you decided to become a Starfleet Officer. I
made that choice too—all of us did. The Captain,
Beverly, Geordi, Data…all of us. And we all live with
the consequences of that choice every day. You’re no
different. Do you know how I feel about this place?”
He swept an arm around the cabin, gesturing towards
the bay window and the snowy mountaintops beyond.
“This is my home. I love it here. I’d give anything
to come back and live here. My mother made a home for
me right in this very house, and on this land is where
she was laid to rest. I’d like to work here on Earth,
to make my home in Alaska, to be close to the only
things I have left of her…but I can’t. When I joined
the Fleet I gave up that right and I would do it
again. It’s not easy, but I’ve done it and continue
to do it every day. Don’t ever tell me that I don’t
know what it’s like to leave your home behind.” His
eyes were blazing, his face flushed red with anger.
Jumping up out of his seat, he pushed away from the
table and moved to the windows.
Deanna walked around the table, down the steps and
around to the sofa. She sat down roughly, tucked her
legs beneath her and stared up at him. “I don’t want
to fight with you about this, Will. We’ve done enough
of that. I accept that you know what I’m feeling, I
believe you do. But that’s all the more reason for
you to support my decision to go back to Betazed.
Don’t you see? I have a chance to go back and do
things differently. Not that I regret my time in
Starfleet. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m
grateful to have had it. But now is my chance to
return home, to live a different sort of life. I’m
ready Will, and I have been for some time. Ever since
we got back from the Briar Patch mission and I learned
how the Baku lived their lives, I’ve wanted something
simpler for myself. A life that’s peaceful, that
allows me to take stock of who I am and what I want.
Those people were happy, Will. Without technology,
without war, without the challenges we face every day
aboard our ship, they were happy. I want that for
myself. And I want you to be a part of it. You could
come with me, Imzadi. We could build a life on
Betazed-together.” Her eyes lit up, sparkling with
excitement at the very idea.
Will turned from the window staring at her in
disbelief. “It’s that simple, is it? I just say to
hell with my plans, to hell with my ship, and take off
for Betazed? And just what would you have me do when
we got there? Take a post as what, some kind of
instructor at your University? Not my style,
Her face fell, looking as though he’d slapped her.
“You won’t even consider the idea? You say you want
to marry me, that you want to spend you life with me,
but you’re not willing to make any sacrifices in order
to do so!”
Her breath was ragged, her cheeks blazing with fiery
pink color. She’d never looked more beautiful to him,
and yet, it did nothing to quench his anger. Standing
over her, stiffened with resentment, he looked like a
statue. Unwilling and unable to budge.
“And you are? You won’t even consider the idea of
coming aboard the Orion with me. I’ve got my own
ship, Deanna. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was boy,
standing here looking up at the stars in the backyard,
dreaming of what it would be like to fly through
space. Don’t you see? It’s my dream come true. I
can’t just give it up now. Please, reconsider. Please
say you’ll come with me.”
“I can’t, Will. I’m sorry.”
“And I can’t go with you, Deanna. Not now.”
She rose from the sofa with as much dignity as someone
who’d drunk four Romulan ales could possibly muster,
and folded her hands. Lifting her regally beautiful
face, she nodded. “I understand. I suppose we are at
an impasse.” She wandered to the small cloakroom just
off the front door and pulled on her boots and a
purple velvet coat.
“Where are you going, Deanna? It’s freezing out
“I’m going for a walk. I need to think. But mostly,
I need to get away from you.”
Even in her anger she was composed, controlled. For
a moment he wished that she would simply let him have
it. Instead, she sighed sorrowfully and opened the
door, wandering outside without a backward glance.
“Damn it to hell!” He slammed his palm against the
rugged wood of the doorway and kicked the door with a
heavy black boot. Then he went to the kitchen for
another bottle of ale from the fridge, hoping like
hell to rid himself of the raging pain that filled his
mind and heart.
The next day, the echos of their argument still
seemed to fill the house. Tension and sadness throbbed
through the chilled air, reminders of every painful
word that flew between them. The room seemed filled
with lost possibilities, reminders of what might have
been. Once filled with a cheery fire, the throb of
jazzy blues, and the scent of Will’s incredible
cooking; now the room sat dark and empty, devoid of
any sound or light. The only bit of color brightening
the heavy darkness was the beautiful beginning of a
Deanna watched it through the bay windows as it
streaked orange streams of light across the sky. She
watched the world awaken, filling with color. The
sunlight danced across the snow-topped mountains,
glittering like a sprinkling of diamonds. And then a
dash of bright red flitted through the evergreens,
only scant feet away from her position. As the tiny
creature lighted on a tree branch, she could see that
it was a cardinal. Will had once told her that on
Earth, the bird was a symbol of bright life and new
beginnings. Watching the bird bounce along the
branch, then take flight amid a shower of snow, she
wished that he were indeed a sign of good things to
come. She wished with her whole heart that somehow
her glimpse of the little bird did somehow herald a
change in her life. In her relationship with Will.
Everything had changed between them. In the space of
a week they’d gone from being nearly engaged to being
ex-lovers, and it had happened so quickly, Deanna’s
heart had not had time to make the adjustment.
Swallowing the thick lump in her throat, Deanna
blinked back fresh tears and turned to stare at the
pile of bags sitting by the front door. They’d be
leaving for the Enterprise in little more than an
hour, and she was as prepared as she could possibly be
for the trip. Yet her heart climbed into her throat
at the very thought of leaving this Alaskan paradise
behind. This house, this beautiful mountain, this was
Will’s home. And this was where they had last made
That night, in front of the fire, lying naked in
Will’s embrace, losing herself in the tender pleasure
of holding his body, kissing his mouth, looking deeply
into his eyes and sending him all of the love in her
heart...it was to be the very last time that they
would ever make love. Had she known it at the time,
she would’ve…but no. She would’ve done nothing any
differently. It had been perfect; passionate and
beautiful. She wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Wandering away from the window, she paced the room,
waiting for Will to let her know that it was time to
leave. Her heart thudded rapidly, thinking of the
endless ride back to the Enterprise. Sitting next to
Will for days on end, speaking only to confirm
navigational choices and to pilot the Hawking back
home…it was going to be endless.
Tilting her head upwards, Deanna thought of her
regally beautiful Mother and the innate strength that
seemed to radiate from Lwaxana like a shining star.
She wrapped herself in her velvet coat, and then stood
tall; her long, black boots giving her added inches of
height. Imagining herself on Betazed, facing the
representatives of the nine Houses, she formed her
lips into a diplomatic smile, and held herself in a
manner befitting the daughter of Ambassador Troi.
Befitting a daughter of the Fifth House.
Somehow, she would get through the long shuttlecraft
ride with Will. Somehow, she would remain calm,
professional, and polite when they returned to the
Enterprise. And somehow, she would pack her things
and head for Betazed; leaving everything she knew and
Suddenly, it was too much. The carefully built façade
began to crack; the searing pain filling her chest so
abruptly that she couldn’t catch her breath. Before
she could stop it, a soft cry burst from her lips and
she sank to the hardwood floor, sobbing in rasping
gulps; grieving for everything that might have been.
Will opened the shuttlecraft door and tossed his bags
inside the small cargo hold. The sun filled his eyes
as he leaned out of the doors, and he squinted against
the glare, staring up at the mountains for one last
view. He was ready. Or, as ready as he would ever
be. All he had to do was bring Deanna aboard, then
close down the house for good. After a long,
sleepless night, he’d decided to put the old cabin up
for sale. The realtor would be by later that day to
pick up the keys from the old metal mailbox beside the
He turned to stare at the two-story log cabin, loving
every beam of wood, every pane of glass. Flashes of
his childhood flickered through this mind. Images of
his beautiful Mother played inside his mind like a
filmstrip in an old movie house. She’d loved this
house as much as he did. When she was alive the house
too came to life, filling with bursts of her delighted
laughter and the smells from her delicious culinary
endeavors. Betty Riker had made the house a
home-something that Will would never have the chance
Hunkering down on his haunches amid patches of wet
snow and muddy grass, Will looked at the gray-blue sky
and realized that his one secret dream would not ever
come true. After he served his term as Captain of the
Orion, he’d planned on resigning from the Fleet and
coming back to Alaska for good. He’d imagined living
in this house with Deanna, raising their children
together in this cozy world at the foot of the
mountains. He imagined building a life that would
once again make the old house into a home. But none of
that would happen now. Deanna had made it crystal
clear that she intended to go home to Betazed. There
was no hope of changing her mind.
Standing stiffly, he leaned against the shuttle,
dreading the moment when he would have to go inside
and tell her that it was time to go. His heart was a
heavy ache within his chest and his eyes pricked with
tears. It was over, and he knew it. Accepted it.
And yet, with everything inside of him, Will Riker
longed to have Deanna race outside and into his arms,
telling him that she had changed her mind. That she
would go with him. That she just couldn’t let their
He continued to stare at the door, searching for her
beautiful face, wanting desperately to see her and
fold her soft, small body into his arms. But the old
porch was empty but for the two old Adirondack chairs
that flanked the steps, and a small gray squirrel,
running along the wooden beams.
Clenching his hands into fists at his sides, he began
to walk towards the house. Nothing was going to
change no matter how much he hoped that it would.
Somehow he had to dig deep within himself to find the
strength to go on without her. To move into his
bright new life without his Imzadi at his side.
He reached the door, standing immobilized by the
thought of seeing her again. What was he going to say
to her? How were they going to get through the next
few days? His heart throbbed painfully against his
sternum, and he closed his eyes, leaning against the
door, trying to get himself under control.
One thing was for certain-he sure as hell didn’t want
Deanna seeing him like this.
No woman was ever going to see him like this. He may
not be crazy about his father Kyle, but he’d learned
from him how to comport himself in a manner befitting
a Starfleet Officer. Befitting a man. Swallowing deep
gulps of air, Will switched off his emotions, covering
them with a thick block of ice. Then he put on his
best “I’m in charge” face, and pressed open the door.
“Deanna,” he called gruffly, “it’s time to go.”
There was no answer. The house was silent, except
for the soft echoing of her sobs emanating from the
living room. Will’s gut twisted painfully. She was
crying. Over him. He felt frozen in his tracks, unable
to think, unable to move. It nearly ripped out his
heart to hear her. What the hell was he going to do
now? There were no Starfleet regulations for dealing
with a broken heart. None for comforting the woman
you loved either. Especially when the relationship
Waiting in the empty foyer, he breathed deeply,
feeling his heart constrict with every painful breath.
Suddenly, more than anything, he wanted to run to
her; to pull her into his arms and tell her that he
loved her. That he would go with her to Betazed if
that’s what it took not to lose her for good. But his
feet would not move. His stubborn heart beat
painfully in his chest and he stood there for ten long
minutes, listening to his Imzadi grieve, never once
noticing the trickle of tears running down his own