By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


"Come!" Jean-Luc Picard's voice elevated slightly to the questioning hail to allow entrance to his ready room. Looking up from the consul in front of him, the door opened to reveal his first officer. Picard did a double take once he had seen who his visitor was, and his heart gave a painful thump before continuing on with its now noticeably harder, agonising beat. Picard swallowed hard before allowing his mouth to utter a sound needing to settle the tight feeling that threatened to strangle him. Several poignant silent moments passed before he dared to tell Will to enter, hoping his voice sounded more encouraging than he felt.

"Will!! Come in, take a seat." Half raising himself out of his chair, he mentally kicked himself for doing so when he saw the frightened look that flared in Will's lackluster eyes, so he promptly sat back down.

The tall man quietly, hesitantly, stepped into the room, looking around it uneasily to settle his mind that no one else was present.

Picard watched him as he gingerly looked at the chair and barely hid the sad smile that had been a seemingly long past memory. A few weeks ago, Will Riker would have bounced into the room, swung the chair around and straddled it without breaking a step.

But this was now. Before him stood a man that could no longer rightfully be called Will Riker, First Officer of the Starship Enterprise.

Now what stood before him was the shadow of his right hand man. A haunted, broken counterpart of his former self. The spark had gone from those unforgettable blue eyes, Picard was not sure when it finally went, but when it did, his Number One died along with it and left behind this an empty shell.

The captain was also conscious of how much effort Will had made to arrive here. Picard cleared his throat and gestured towards the man standing still before him. "Please, Will, sit down."

Will silently took the seat, but hovered on it's edge and Picard recognized it as an 'instant escape' position. One wrong word and Will would be out of the door before he could stand to stop him. Picard watched as Will's hands began a tortuous game with themselves, elevating even more the man's unease.

Picard sensed that Will needed to collect himself and regain his momentum to say whatever he had ventured from his room to say. So he kept silent, but tried desperately with his eyes to encourage him to speak. Picard's eyes watered as he watched Will's mouth try to utter something, but nothing came out. Will had learned that to prevent himself from stuttering like an idiot, he stayed mute until eventually it all came out in one long torrent, and if you missed any of it, tough, you did not get it again.

Will's eyes flickered between Picard, the ceiling and back to his ever-circling hands. With one last glance to his mentor, his friend, Will held his breath, shut his eyes and spoke.

"I want to go home, Captain, I want to go back to Alaska. I need to go home,please."

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