By Carol Sandford


Chapter 06


"I don't want this assignment, Admiral. Get me out of it."

Nechayev's eyebrows rose up under her fringe before her eyes turned to glittering chips of steel at the young lieutenant's tone, and somewhat unsurprising demand. "Out of the question, lieutenant. You have been given this job and you're going to see it through."

Will's heart pumped with fear. "I'll leave Starfleet." He threatened.

Alynna Nechayev laughed out loud. "Try it, Riker and I'll put your ass in the brig for insubordination and desertion."

"Right now, I don't care what you do to me, Admiral," Will warned. "just get me off this job."

Nechayev sighed dramatically and said, "Sit down, lieutenant." When he made to ignore her, she barked, her finger jabbing the air in the direction of the chair. "Sit!" making him jump with it's sharpness.

Thinking better of it, Will reluctantly lowered his tall frame into the seat opposite his superior officer and slipped his shaking hands beneath his thick thighs. Nechayev studied him silently for a long moment and Will could see the pity in her eyes. Eventually he had to look away, unable to hold her steady gaze any longer, ashamed that he'd had to come to her.

Alynna didn't hold anything back when she confronted the young, handsome officer. "You lied, didn't you, Will, when I asked you if there was anything that I should know, concerning Cadet Deanna Troi?"

Will turned steady eyes back to the older woman, realizing it was pointless to deny it any longer and said slowly. Defiantly. "Yes, ma'am, I did."

"I'm listening."

Defiance dying, he lost his moment of bravado and Will turned away and shrugged. "We were an item on her home planet. Now we're not."

Nechayev laughed again and the sound began to bite on Will's nerves. "Nothing is that simple, Riker. If it was, you wouldn't be getting so uptight about this assignment. What aren't you telling me?"

Suddenly reluctant to tell her, Will clammed up, but his silence did nothing to conceal his true feelings. They lay open to the admiral as surely as if he'd told her, until eventually she guessed all on her own. "You fell in love with her." It wasn't a question, more a statement.

Will refused to answer, instead asked again, hope tinging his question now that she knew his secret. "Will you reassign me, Admiral?"

She shook her head, her bluntness shocking Will momentarily. "No." She sighed again, her mind changing as quickly as her decision. "Will, you have one more week. You can make it through that, I know you can, you're stronger than this, I know you are."

Will shook his head sadly, uncaring that he was shattering his male pride. "I wish I were, Ma'am."

Suddenly Alynna Nechayev made a decision. "Listen. The worst of the job is over. There have been no threats toward Miss Troi, and, she does have that big..." She struggled to find a suitable description for Homm, reluctant to use the only one that fitted who and what he was, but failed. "man constantly looking over her shoulder at every turn. I'll concede that you don't have to be at her side every time she steps out of the door, so, I'll make your job a little easier for you, lieutenant. Take care of her from a distance."

"From a distance?" Will asked, puzzled. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"No," She answered honestly, "But it means you're getting the job done. It's the best I can do, Will. Be blessed that you haven't got Ambassador Troi on your back. Trust me, your job is nothing compared to grief I'd get from her if she found out you'd renegaded."

"That's the best I can get?" Will asked.

"Yes, it is. I'm somewhat disappointed that you've dug yourself this all too familiar hole, lieutenant. I thought you were better than that.Twenty years ago you would have been kicked out of the academy. Actually," she emended, "two years ago you would have been, too. Starfleet are getting mushy on us, a trait that I don't particularly care for. But," She sighed dramatically again, "Our ships have families on board now. I guess romance has gotta start somewhere!"

Will felt compelled to apologize. "Sorry, ma'am."

She shrugged, preparing herself to dismiss him. "It's nice to know your human, lieutenant, it's just a shame Deanna Troi's mother isn't."

Will chuckled as he pushed himself to his feet. "Don't remind me. The woman was put in the universe purposely to make my life miserable, and she's succeeded."

Will stretched out his hand to Nechayev and she in turn put her own into his. "Keep your distance, Will. Just one more week."

"I will, ma'am. Thanks."

And as before, Will stopped in his tracks as his hand reached for the door handle as Nechayev's raised voice rang out. "Next time, lieutenant, I'll kick your ass out of that door myself if you barge in here again."

Will tried to keep a straight face, but failed again as he stepped through the door and pulled it shut. "Yes, ma'am."

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