By Carol Sandford


Chapter 02


At nine fifteen sharp, Lieutenant William Riker stepped into the shuttle bay. It was alive and buzzing with people coming and going to a nd from their various destinations. Over the throng of excited, welcoming cries of those just arriving to the muted, tearful snuffles of those departing, Will allowed to let it all wash over him, bleakly remembering his own arrival not so long ago, alone.

Moving to the appropriate landing dock Will stood apart from others awaiting the arrival of the same shuttle. Trepidation coursed through his veins as he watched the shuttle's docking routine begin, counting down the minutes to when he would finally meet his assignment.

Standing tall with his hands clenched stiffly behind his back he waited for the rear door to open. As it rose, Will unconsciously found himself holding his breath as he studied, one by one, the people that began to disembark down the slight ramp.

Convinced that he was looking for a child, Will was momentarily shocked when his eyes rose to an overly tall figure as he stepped out, stooped low and straightened up again when he was clear of the shuttle. Even before he saw the man's features, Will knew who it was. Homm. What on earth was he doing here? Will wondered as he stared open-mouthed at the seven foot plus man that hovered by the shuttle's door waiting for someone else to follow.

But, then, as soon as he saw the final passenger as she began to emerge from the shuttle, Will knew, with shock, who his charge was going to be. Deanna Troi. The same Deanna Troi that he had loved, left and lost some six months before when he'd been stationed and then subsequently left Betazed. The same six months since it had taken him to shake her out of his system enough to be able to get on with his job. Six months of pain and longing until, at last, he learnt how to ignore his heart's true want.

It had been the most desolate six months of his entire life.

Everything that he'd achieved and tucked away so that the pain of recalling her face, her body, her soul and her love wouldn't kill him at the most crucial of moments when he needed his wits about him, had been done in that long six months. It had been a bloody, long, hard ride to achieve sanity again, but he'd won. By God he had won.

And now, just one look from her ebony eyes as she looked across at him had put him back by about a hundred years. Just one look at her and he remembered their last moments together; when they had said goodbye, the same time that they had each broken each others hearts. Just one look and his soul melted as his mind drifted back to when he'd taken her body and shared it with his own and made it into one.



They were still Imzadi. He watched her make her way down the ramp and walk towards him. They always would be Imzadi. Always. Forever, he recalled silently to himself, already lost to times past, times that he wanted to remember, but hurt too much to do so right then. Later, he mused as his eyes locked with hers. Later.

Shaking himself free of the memories that cascaded through his mind, Will side-stepped the need he saw in her eyes, smiled and stepped forward, holding out his hand to the tall man servant first, "Mr. Homm, it's good to see you again." quickly realizing that he suddenly meant every word of it. Homm pumped his hand, stooping low, revealing his all-too-familiar tight lipped grin, his silence quickly telling Will that not one thing had changed about him. The man was still, and always would be, an enigma, and it was that that Will, and everyone who met him, perversely liked.

Releasing his hand, Will took a deep breath to prepare himself for the next few moments and stepped sideways to put himself in front of the woman waiting beside the giant. Before Will could utter one word, though, Deanna raised her finger to her lips, effectively silencing him. Instead she spoke to him with her mind, taking his proffered hand within her much smaller one. Sssh, Will, do not speak my name aloud. We will talk when we have more privacy.

Unable to speak, Will took a very long moment just to simply gaze at her and remember the woman he had once loved - still loved. Watching her eyes melt as his thoughts graphically and lovingly replaced his voice told him that she had 'heard' his endearment.

Keen to get them away from prying eyes, Will gently squeezed her fingers and reluctantly released her hand and turned away, indicating with the same hand his intentions. "Follow me, please. I have a suite ready for you where you can refresh yourselves, and then we can talk."

From the look in his eyes as he held her gaze for a moment longer, relieved that the meet had been more pleasant than she had expected, Deanna knew he had more to talk about other than her reason for being on Earth. Whether he was going to like what she had to tell him was another story.

Homm retrieved the huge, and Will knew, very heavy carry-all that had been put at his side by two burly porters and they made their way out of the shuttle bay towards the foyer where he led them into an elevator which sped them high up into the building above.

Guessing it was a hotel of some type, Deanna willingly followed Will's footsteps, desperate to, not only tidy up from the arduously long journey and get out of the dark, unobtrusive travelling outfit that she wore, but spend some time alone with the man before her - if Homm let her out of his sight for more than five minutes.

["Homm,]" She'd remembered as she heard her mother dictate to him, {"Do not let my daughter out of your sight. Do not let that young Lieutenant - or any other lieutenant, come to that matter, take advantage of her, even though I'm fully aware that the young scallywag has already taken one too many advantages than he was entitled to. I'm putting her completely in your hands. Look after her,"] she ordered sternly, ["or so help me, you'll have me to deal with when you come home."]

Deanna had heard every word and for the life of her couldn't imagine why her mother had specifically requested that Will be her guardian for the next two or three weeks. It was a mystery. It was also completely absurd. Lwaxana Troi had practically run him from her planet when he'd been stationed there, for, 'messing about with her daughter', but barely six months later, she was practically forcing him to stay by her side. It could only result in one thing, as far as she was concerned. But her mother had made it perfectly clear that that was not going to happen.

So Deanna had promised to, 'stay away from him'. And she knew that Will would have been instructed to, 'promise to stay away from her' by his superior officers, too. But the question was, could they promise to stay away from each other?

Arriving on one of the uppermost floor levels, the trio exited the lift-shaft and made their way along the lush corridor adorned with deep russet carpeting and a profusion of floral arrangements that complimented their surroundings perfectly. On reaching their suite door, Will showed Deanna and Homm into the luxurious interior and handed Homm the key card. "Please, make yourselves comfortable."

Stepping over to the vivid green panel on the table in the centre of the room, Will pointed to one particular glowing section and said, "Order up a meal if you wish. Just press this area and make your request. I'll come back in, say, two hours?" glancing at the Betazoids for confirmation. On Deanna's nod, Will reluctantly headed back for the door, murmuring, "I'll see you later." as he opened it and stepped outside, closing it with a firm click, signalling the release of the pent up breath he'd been holding since he'd first set eyes on his past.

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