By Carol Sandford


Chapter 11


In orbit at Starbase...

Captain Picard took his time as he looked around to each one of his senior officers, his heart heavy at the obvious turmoil radiating from almost every one in the conference room. His close knit family, and that is what they were to him, were falling apart at the seams, and it was left to him to rectify it.

The atmosphere in the room was fraught with tension and it was clear that nobody wanted to be there. Sullen faces stared into laps that hid hands that would have betrayed the host of emotions in the fidgeting fingers.

Downcast eyes also hid the traitorous raw feelings. Some of misery, some were embarrassed, some were angry, and amongst all of that, was an underlying sexual longing that electrified the very air that they all breathed.

Picard sighed as he slumped back in his chair and crossed his legs and arms. He knew he was the only one left to change the miserable situation, even though some of that misery emanated from himself.

"I am aware," he started. "that this mission has been a somewhat tiresome one, and I, for one, am glad that it is over. We have 72 whole hours to ourselves and I intend to try and forget every lousy minute of it."

A nervous chuckle went around the room along with a slightly guilty look as it became apparent that Picard was aware of the spiralling disquiet that they had caused between them. Picard continued. "I am also aware that morale has hit rock-bottom and I do not intend the next mission to start as this last one has ended. So, in our honour, Star Fleet has arranged a consortium for our benefit on our last evening here. I expect you all to be there, dress is formal, and I would greatly appreciate it if you could all turn up with a smile on your face."

Looking around at the finest crew he had ever served with, Picard's eyes settled on the doctor. Trying to hide the painful knowledge that he was soon likely to lose a very close friend he offered her a small smile. He was rewarded with a similar one back, but it held a hint of sadness.

If Picard had been in any other position other than captain he would have made his feelings for Beverly known long ago, and he would have happily pursued an intimate relationship with her, if he could've. But being captain, meant just that.

He was captain, of the Federation's flagship. The responsibilities alone were too much to allow a full and complete relationship with a woman, any woman, and least of all with one he loved dearly. He simply could not commit to her 100%, and anything less was a waste, and an insult, to her.

So they had remained friends. Picard would watch Beverly leave the ship the same way that she had boarded. Ignorant of the fact that he loved her, deeply.

Shaking himself out of his emptiness, Picard stood to leave, dismissing his crew as he did so, but hesitated when no-one stood with him.

"Are there any questions?"

Everyone appeared to look at one another, each hoping someone would say 'do we have to attend?' No one wanted to go to the party, but no one had the nerve to say so.

So no one spoke up.


The evening was in full swing when the last remaining few of the Enterprise crew passed through the huge ornate doors. The room was already crowded and Will's eyes scanned the sightless faces looking for Deanna. Or maybe he was looking for a blaze of red hair and he mentally kicked himself for doing so.

Geordi's voice sounded in his ears. "Well, it's nice to see one couple kiss and make up."

Will's eyes followed Geordi's and he spotted that blaze of red that had had occupied his thoughts only moments before. His stomach churned painfully when he spied the familiar bald head of his captain escorting her.

The black ball gown she wore was extremely low cut and Will found himself mentally kissing the freckles that adorned her shoulders. But as their eyes caught briefly, he swore silently to himself and turned away, shaking off the intimate image as he did so.

But moments later, Will felt the familiar sensations flutter through his senses and he found his eyes drawn to the doors once more as he watched Deanna make her entrance.

Will held his breath as he took in her appearance. His heartbeat pounded in his ears and he dizzily swayed as he found himself blindly reaching out for Geordi's shoulder to steady himself.

He had never seen Deanna dressed in such an evocative, breath-taking way before, and it completely blew him away.

Deanna looked stunning. The off-the-shoulder midnight blue gown hugged her already slender figure to perfection. The tight bodice pushed up her bustline so that her breasts almost fell out of the plunging neckline. Tiny silver beads encased the entire dress like a web mand every move became a shimmering glow.

Will's eyes dragged themselves from the delights of her body up to her head, and he remained shocked into silence.

Her hair, free of any tethers cascaded, not in tight ringlets, but gentle waves, the effect being that it was almost twice as long as her usual style. As Deanna turned her head, her hair fell forward, covering the front of her dress almost to the waist.

Will was enchanted. He had always adored her hair, but this, this was something else. He imagined his fingers running freely through it without them getting tangled in the riotous curls and his stomach somersaulted as he envisioned it splayed across his pillows.

His betraying thoughts finally caught Deanna's attention and her eyes sought his and locked. The surrounding room's occupants faded into the distance as it became solely him, and her, only her, just like it used to be, a long, long time ago.

A time when love was all that mattered. When love overtook sanity, logic and reasoning.

When love so intense it invaded your very soul and turned it into something more precious. A unity that could defy everything and anything, even death, and Will had to go to her.

He made one small step in her direction but stopped as not only her attention was caught by her companion, but also Will's. He had not even noticed her escort until now and his heart stopped beating when he did not recognise the tall, fairly handsome man attached to her arm.

And that bothered him. It meant that Deanna had manage to get involved with someone in the short space of time that she had been on the Starbase and that hurt, deeply.

Will watched her laugh at something that her companion had said and he felt his spirits fall to the floor. He simply could not stand still and watch her with another man, not any more.

He had done some long hard thinking about his relationship with Deanna Troi. It had not taken him long to understand that the love he'd had for Beverly was one that had been born out of need.

Will had, at long last, realised that the need he was seeking was a wife. Someone to come home to every night. Someone to bare his children. And there was only one woman who would ever fill the empty void that had left him with that same desolate feeling, and that woman was Deanna Troi.

Will could never even consider anyone but Deanna, his very own Imzadi.

Unable to watch the scene before him any longer, Will turned to escape, but Deanna had second guessed his actions and hurriedly made her way towards him and her fellow comrades, dragging her guest along with her.

Her voice stopped Will in his tracks. "Don't you dare run away, Will Riker!"

Still turned away from her, Will collected his scattered feelings before facing her once more. But as he turned, he caught the flash of red out of the corner of his eye and he inwardly groaned as Beverly and the captain joined the group.

Looking rather sheepish, Will took a deep breath and smiled gamely at the twosome who stood before him. "Deanna, you look radiant, as always."

Deanna smiled sweetly at him, not missing the slight shake in his voice. "Thank you, Will. I'd like to introduce you all to Jarel. Jarel, please meet my closest friends, Will Riker, Geordi La Forge, Data, Worf, Captain Picard and, of course, Beverly."

Jarel made his way around the semi-circle before him, warmly shaking their outstretched hands, until, at last, he came to Beverly.

Lifting her hand, Jarel lightly kissed the back of her fingers, his eyes never leaving her face. But when he spoke, Beverly very nearly crumpled to the floor. "An absolute pleasure. Would you care to dance, Doctor Beverly?"

Beverly's quick intake of breath resonated around the group as the few that were still in the dark, in turn, slowly realised just who Jarel was.

Jarel stepped backwards without releasing Beverly's hand, forcing her feet to follow him onto the dance floor. All eyes watched as the reunited couple fell together as if they had never been apart.

The captain watched silently from the sidelines, his heart, ricocheting back and forth with his own loss and happiness for his one, true lost love. Watching her move in Jarels arms with tears of happiness cascading down her cheeks, Picard could only watch on, the heartfelt whisper only audible to his own ears.

"Goodbye, Doctor Beverly Crusher, I shall miss you, mon amie, mon amour."

But unexplainable anger radiated from Will as he rigidly watched Beverly and Jarel move off and merge with the foray of dancers that moved in time with the music.

Needing to distance himself from his comrades, Will edged away as the other members of the senior crew watched in awe as Beverly and Jarel lovingly renewed their acquaintance.

Even though she watched along with the others, Deanna missed Will's presence immediately. Searching the room, she spotted his tall retreating back as he made his way towards an uncrowded corner of the hall.

She followed him. Will knew that she would. What he had decided to say to her did not need others ears.

Deanna came to a halt barely a foot away from him. Will was transfixed as he watched the tiny beads that covered her gown gradually slow to a stop. Another day, it would have been the luscious cleavage that would have caught his attention, but not today, or tonight. Tonight he was in too much pain, and for the life of him, he was not quite sure why.

Will's steady gaze drifted to Deanna's face when her voice captured his attention. "I love you, Will."

With surprise his eyes searched hers, but what he was searching for within them was a mystery to him. Will felt at that moment in time like his whole life was a mystery, but even so, he answered her with the one answer that he knew was a certainty. There only ever could be one answer.

"And I love you Deanna, I always have."

Deanna's eyes glistened, her smile tremendous and Will felt her relief as she responded. "I know, Will, I know. But where are we going to go from here? We can't go back to how it was before."

Will let go a long sigh as he thought about her question. He was sure in his own heart where he wanted them to go, and this time, Will wanted it all. But did she?

His gut instinct told him that she did, but his mind refused to imagine the possibility of marriage, babies and total happiness. It was down to Deanna and he was petrified of her possible refusal, but his prayers were answered when Deanna steadily spoke.

"It's what I want too, Imzadi. It's what I've always wanted. Haven't you understood that? All this time, I have been waiting for you and I thought you knew, but you never seemed to want to move on."

Will nodded, uncomfortable with the thought that it was him that was playing the waiting game, and for what? It was only a matter of time before they ended up right here, doing something that they could have done years ago.

"You're right and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything, especially keeping you as a friend when I should have realised that we could have still been so much more. I have wasted so much of what could have been, I could have lost you Deanna."

Deanna closed the gap between them, sinking into his welcoming arms. It felt so right, they were so right. And at last, at long last, the time was right.

Reaching out to caress his face, Deanna lovingly looked into his eyes, finding everything that she had felt and desired. The gentle kiss after she uttered her final words washed away all the past.

"You would have never lost me, Imzadi. Didn't you know, we were destined to be together. We just had to wait a little longer than we originally planned."

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