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They were alone. After an afternoon of sympathies,
handshakes, hugs, and tears, Deanna and Will were
finally alone. Alone to grieve their loss in private,
in the comforting womb of Will’s quarters. They were
finally able to drop the masks, to allow the pain to
override the false smiles and mutual show of strength
they felt forced to engage in. Now, in the circle of
one another’s arms, they could allow the emotions to
crash over them in waves; to let go of the confusion
they had each carried for so many years and feel what
they had felt all along…love.
They had loved him. Each in their own way. And yet,
Tom’s desire of a relationship with Deanna had driven
a wedge between he and Will. The tension between the
two brothers was unbearable, and eventually, the
subject of Tom Riker ceased to come up between them.
He was gone, whether on a prison colony on Cardassia
or in another place, they did not know, but he was
gone, and they allowed him to go. It was easier that
way. Until the day they received news of his death.
It was Will who heard the news first, and it was Will
who’d come into Ten Forward to find Deanna, to bring
her the news. Looking up from her lunch to see her
Imzadi in tears was more than enough to break her
heart, and she’d known almost instantly what had
happened. “He’s gone, Deanna. Damn the bastard, he’s
really gone this time.” The words fell to the floor in
shaky gasps, as Will’s hands had fumbled for the back
of a chair. He’d sat down with a heavy thunk, shaking
the drinks on the table, looking so desolate, Deanna
had felt as though he had been the one who’d died.
“He…oh Gods, it’s Tom, isn’t it?”
The look he gave her was filled with pain and
unmistakable grief. He nodded once, confirming her
suspicions, and she felt that she’d been stabbed
directly through the heart. In a shaking voice,
Deanna asked, “How, Will. How did Tom…die?” She asked
the question with tears already filling her eyes,
silently wishing that he was wrong, that what he had
to tell her was anything but the news that one of the
men she’d loved was really dead.
Will’s blue eyes filled with pain, etched around the
edges with dark shadows.
“He…it was…oh shit…” he broke off, choking up
unexpectedly, and Deanna reached to grasp his hand.
She pulled it towards herself, squeezing it, kissing
it, telling him without words to take his time. When
he pulled it back together, he wiped his eyes with a
napkin and began again. “Tom…died…yesterday. He was
working as Captain of a freighter, trading goods for a
few strips of latinum. He’d been on the job for the
past five years, apparently doing pretty well at it.
Yesterday, a Cardassian ship patrolling the quadrant
came across his vessel…apparently they weren’t too
happy about the fact that he’d escaped from prison.
Gul Treket, the man who’d imprisoned him, boarded the
freighter and hit Tom full force with a phaser set to
kill…right between the eyes…he…never had a chance.”
Deanna’s heart fell out of her chest at Will’s words,
silent tears filling her eyes and falling to the
tabletop in tiny rivers. She choked back a sob, her
mind suddenly filled with the memory of the man she
had once loved. His arrival on the Enterprise, his
avid courting of her, his desire to have her come with
him on the Gandhi, the way they’d kissed on the
holodeck…all of it was as vivid as though it happened
yesterday. And all of it was so painful that she shook
her head, denying reality for as long as she could.
“No…” she said, tearing at her napkin, unable to look
Will in the eyes. “I don’t believe it.”
“Imzadi…I wouldn’t tell you this if it weren’t true.”
“But you could be mistaken. I mean, have you checked
He nodded. “Of course. I checked with all of the
local authorities, with the Cardassian government,
even with Starfleet. It all checks out. Tom is
“Oh Gods!” It was too much. Deanna felt herself
losing control, felt her emotions overwhelming her to
such a degree that she knew she was about to make a
scene. But she couldn’t do that. The ship’s counselor
could not air her own pain in front of a crew who
depended upon her for her strength and control. She
had to leave. Now.
“I…I’m going to my quarters, Will. I have to get out
of here.” Rising from her seat, she tossed the frayed
napkin down on the tabletop and stormed blindly out of
the room, tears hanging so heavily in her eyes that
they blurred her vision.
“Imzadi…wait. Deanna wait. I love you…let’s talk
about this together.”
She turned back towards him for a moment, the look in
her eyes so painfully empty, so devoid of warmth, that
he felt frozen to the spot. “I want to be alone. I
love you Will, but I loved Tom too, and seeing
you…it’s very painful for me. Please…give me a few
days, all right?”
Will felt too helpless to do anything but nod, but as
he watched her walk away, he felt as if his heart had
fallen into his chest. He’d never been so alone in
his life; not since his Mother died. Now, he felt the
full weight of the pain of his loss descend upon him,
and the person he needed most in the world was
The empty chair across the table mocked him, and he
could sit there no longer. Instead, he headed for the
bar, in hopes that Guinan might have something
stronger than synthale on hand. It was going to be
the longest night of his life.
In her quarters, Deanna Troi curled into a ball
beneath the purple comforter and cried softly against
her pillow. The trickle of tears that had filled her
eyes when she heard the news was only the beginning;
now that she was alone, the weight of the news hit her
full force, and she was wracked with sobs. It wasn't
just that Tom had died; Tom was after all, Will Riker,
just as much as her own Imzadi was. Losing Tom for
her, was therefore, the same as losing
Will...something she always feared but never imagined
Now, the unthinkable had happened, and she could not
deal with it. Her years of training as a counselor
should have helped her, but the moment she’d heard the
news, all of her faculties seemed to evaporate,
deserting her completely.
“Oh Tom…I’m so sorry,” she whispered, wondering if he
could really hear her.
She rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling,
her dark eyes searching for his face. The heavy
weight sat on her chest like a stone, pulling her
entire body down into a frightening undertow. She
felt deadened, and yet never more alive. Her body and
heart were cold and numb, feeling nothing. Her mind,
however, was alive with images, memories, feelings.
It was as if in dying, Tom had given her the remainder
of his own life energies, filling her up with his love
as one last gift….
“I loved you, Tom. I truly did. I’ve always loved
you both and I always will. I hope that you knew
The word fell off her tongue with ease, and she sobbed
again at the sound of it, recalling that day on
Betazed when she had told Will what the word meant.
Tom had been there too; that memory had been etched in
his mind just as surely as it was in Will’s, and she
knew that he had gone to his death thinking of her as
his Imzadi; his beloved. And yet, they had been
unable to resume their relationship. Oh, she’d had
the chance to go with him to the Gandhi, perhaps even
to become his wife. But she’d chickened out. It
seemed easier, more comfortable to stay aboard the “D”
and remain friends with Will. Now, she wondered if
she should’ve taken the chance, and tried for the
relationship…at least given it a chance.
After Tom had left, she never tried to start things up
with Will again. It had been tempting, but like a
child frightened of fire, she’d backed away whenever
Will got too close. Afraid of being hurt, she was
determined that they remain friends, and it had stayed
that way until the Briar Patch. Now, years later,
they were finally together, having the romantic,
loving, sexual, spiritual relationship she’d once
dreamed of when they’d first met. It was wonderful.
But right now the shadow of Tom’s memory hung over her
so heavily that she felt guilty. Guilty for being
alive when he was dead, guilty for loving Will and
committing to him and not Tom, guilty for all of the
unspoken words between them and all of the years since
his departure when they’d had no contact at all.
Again she murmured, “I’m sorry Tom,” and wondered if
he knew just how sorry she truly was.
Stumbling, Will made it down the corridor to his
quarters and fell through the door, landing on his
ass. Carefully, he got to his feet, and mustered
enough strength to cross the room to the couch where
he fell on his back. He stared up at the ceiling,
feeling the room spin, feeling as if everything he’d
eaten were about to come rumbling back up.
He closed his eyes, hoping to ward off the dizziness,
but it only made it worse. The moment his lashes fell
towards his cheekbones, the images started to play in
his mind, tormenting him with their accuracy. Tom’s
familiar face staring at him; angry with him for
daring to take “his” life, for taking “his” woman, and
for taking “his” career. Seeing his own face so
filled with rage, and knowing that Tom had every right
to feel the way he felt, had not made Will show
compassion and regret to his new “brother.” Instead,
every particle of self-hatred he’d ever known was
jettisoned from his consciousness; it’s beam solely
focused outward now onto this other Riker, this other
Tom had reminded him of the worst parts of himself;
the parts he was now embarrassed about. He’d been
cocky, self-assured, willing to take risks-everything
that Will himself had used to be before he’d matured
into the man he was today. In Tom, Will saw not only
what he used to be, but also what he could have been,
had he not taken the path to a Starfleet career. Oh,
Tom had been in the Fleet as well, but never had he
hung on and bucked for a ship of his own or a
Captaincy the way that Will had. For Tom, the fleet
had been a promising diversion, a way to travel the
stars and see more of the universe, never a serious
Will’s heart ached as he realized the truth of
it—he’d envied Tom. Been jealous of him. Wanted more
than anything to be like him. Because the honest to
God truth was that if he hadn’t been so damned focused
on a career in the Fleet, he never would’ve left
Deanna behind on Betazed and they could’ve had a
relationship decades ago.
Will’s face twisted in anger, and he wished violently
for something or someone to kick. Tom would never have
let the Fleet come between he and Deanna…he would’ve
gone back for her; he would have begged her to marry
him and live aboard the Potemkin- something Will had
never had the balls to do and regretted more than
anything in his life.
Tossing on the small gray couch, he tried to get
comfortable, tried to get the endless racing thoughts
to stop. But they wouldn’t. It was as if in death,
Tom were speaking with him emotionally, letting him
inside his own mind to see the deepest secrets of his
heart. God, he wished that the bastard were here now.
He wanted to give Tom a piece of his mind, to
throttle him. His very existence had been so
threatening to Will that he’d wanted to kill him the
moment he’d seen him, and still itched for the chance
to do so. How dare he carry his name, his face, his
memories…he was nothing more than a pattern of
molecules from a transporter accident.
And yet, Will realized with a stinging ache, he’d
also been very much a part of him. He’d been a
brother, for lack of a better word, and that was
something Will had wished for since boyhood. Growing
up without his Mother and with a distant, domineering
father, Will had secretly wished for a playmate, a
confidant, someone who would understand him better
than he understood himself.
But Tom had come into his life so unexpectedly, so
shockingly, that his reaction had not been one of
gladness and gratitude. When his long ago wish had
finally come true, he instead felt the wild rage of
resentment ride his mind, and the fury of a man whose
life had been stolen out from underneath of him.
Rolling over again, he curled onto his side and
thought of the moment they’d found Tom, and of the
story he’d had to tell of his eight years on Nervala
IV. Tom, Will realized with guilty shudder, had been
the one who had had his life stolen. As far as he’d
known, he WAS William T. Riker, and he was trapped on
an empty, unforgiving world with nothing and no one.
He was the one who had lived without companionship,
love, and a career for eight years. Somehow he’d
gotten through it without going stark-raving
mad-something Will was certain that he would never
have been able to accomplish.
That William Riker shared his memories, his childhood,
his parents, and his love for Deanna…he WAS him for
all intents and purposes. Yet Will had treated him
not like another version of himself, but like a
distant, unpleasant family relation. He had hated
him…truly despised him. And for what? Because he had
the bad luck to be a copy of himself? Because he’d
gone through a hell that only he could imagine and
been left behind when he should have been on the ship
That hurt more than he cared to admit. When Tom was
found, it was shocking to be sure, but it was also
profoundly disturbing. Hearing his story, Will felt
as though his insides had been emptied out and stomped
on. Although he had never once admitted it to Deanna
or anyone else, he’d felt hurt that a part of himself
had been left behind. It was almost as though he’d
had a child and the child had been left to survive on
a cruel and heartless world all alone…that was what
happened to Tom and it wasn’t his fault.
“It could have been me,” he murmured, rubbing his
eyes. “I could’ve been left down there on Nervala IV
and Tom could’ve beamed back and resumed my life…our
God, the very notion of spending nearly a decade in
solitude without his friends and without Deanna…it was
more than he could even comprehend. And yet it could
have easily happened that way. Icy fingers of guilt
twisted in his stomach, making the drunken roiling
even worse. He realized with a painful awareness that
he’d never once felt even a hint of compassion for
Tom’s plight. Even after Deanna’s loving suggestions
that he should give him a chance, he’d tossed any sort
of connection or relationship right back in his
Not that it would’ve been easy to pursue a brotherly
relationship with Tom…he’d been every bit as stubborn
and arrogant as Will had…they would’ve butted heads
for years before any kind of closeness could have been
born. But now it was too late to even take the chance.
Now they would never have anything together except
Will’s bitter memories. That wasn’t much to build a
relationship on, especially when the other person was
Looking up at the ceiling, as though searching for his
face, Will whispered,
“God, Tom…I’m sorry. I screwed up royally. I hated
you so much, and yet you were what I’d always wanted.
A brother…someone who could understand the way I felt
about Dad. Someone who knew just how much it hurt when
Mom died. You could’ve been that person, but I never
gave you the chance. I was too damned stubborn, too
angry. I was afraid that you were going to waltz in
here and take Deanna away from me before I ever had
the chance to win her back. It was stupid, I see that
now. You couldn’t help but love her—how could you?”
He broke off, feeling the tears rising in his eyes.
It hurt, and as much as he hated to admit it, he
missed Tom. He didn’t want him to be dead. Not when
there was so much undone and unspoken between them.
“I wish…” but it was useless to wish. It was too late.
Frustrated, Will swayed to his feet and walked into
the bedroom, heading for the dresser beside his bed.
Opening the drawer, he rifled through the PADDs,
papers, holos until he found what he was looking for.
He pulled the frame out gently, calling for the lights
to come on. Sitting on the side of the bed, he stared
at the framed holo, his gut aching with pain. The
Captain had taken the picture just before Tom had left
for the Gandhi. In it, Tom and Will stood together,
not hugging or touching in any way, but close enough
to fit within the holo imager’s frame. They weren’t
smiling, both looked as if they’d rather be anywhere
but there, and yet, Will could see a hint of something
in Tom’s face…he’d been happy to be there with Will
and the others. Happy to be aboard the Enterprise D.
Tracing the familiar face with a finger, he murmured,
“I’m glad that you were happy here. I’m sorry that you
felt the need to leave…or that I made you feel you had
to leave. I know there wasn’t enough room for two
William Rikers on that ship, but we could’ve made
room, if I hadn’t been such a sorry, stubborn
He sat the holo on the dresser where it was visible,
and then flopped back onto the covers, wishing that he
could have just one moment with Tom. One moment to
tell him he was sorry, to shake his hand and call him
brother. Perhaps even to hug him and give him a moment
of welcome and support. But you can’t hug a ghost,
and you can’t ever get time back once it’s gone.
And then, as he lie there, it hit him. He could speak
with Tom, in a way.
Getting to his feet he moved into the bathroom where
he combed his hair and brushed his teeth. He
straightened his wrinkled uniform jacket, stood
stiffly erect, and tried for a smile. The mirror would
not comply, but it was all right. It was the best he
could do under the circumstances.
When he got to the holodeck, he took a deep, painful
breath and held it, then released it slowly. Touching
the computer’s buttons, he created a program. When it
was finished, he cleared his throat and said,
“Computer, play Riker program 7-0-alpha.”
The door to the arch slid open, and he stepped
hesitantly inside. And there, in the middle of a
scene of Alaskan beauty, stood Tom.