By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


Deanna stood in the background watching quietly as Will packed the last few pieces of his possessions into the carry-all. It was a meagre amount for a man so well travelled; just a couple of personal memento's and a lifetime of memories. In a couple of hours he'd be on his way to Earth; to Starfleet Headquarters for his final debriefing before his new assignment as captain of the Titan.

If only she were going with him; to be beside him as they explored new planets, new civilisations and made new dreams together. But she had to face facts, and had to painfully accept, that it wasn't going to happen.

As Will's gaze swung around the cabin looking for anything he might have missed, Deanna studied his face, deliberately seeking to imprint its image on her mind. He was so handsome, especially now when a new adventure lit up his features, despite being also acutely aware that he was losing her. But even so, that quirky grin and those intense and sparkling blue eyes would stay in her memory for ever.

Eventually, though, knowing that he'd not missed anything, Will knew his eyes had to finally meet hers and Deanna was more than aware that he was sensing some of her feelings despite using her skills to try and mask the deepest of them - the ones that would betray her true pain.

Will had looked forward to this day for weeks. In truth, he'd been looking forward to this day practically from the day he was born. But now it was here, instead of the euphoria he'd expected, all he felt was a great hollowness building in his heart.

If only she knew, he thought, how much he felt like sweeping her up into his arms and saying, 'I've changed my mind. I'm not going because I can't be without you.' Or the other scenario that churned over and over in his mind. 'Marry me, come with me.'

If there had been the slightest change of heart on Deanna's part, he would have done so, gladly. But no, there she stood with possibly the saddest smile he'd ever seen on her beautiful face. A smile that was supposed to tell him that it was okay that he was going, that she'd accepted it and was happy to let him go. But it was anything but that and it was killing him to know that she was doing it for him.

The tense silence between them stretched as they each battled with thoughts that needed to keep within their own minds. The throb of growing despair began to climb, adhering their feet to the carpet just a few feet apart from one another, just far enough away to keep them from doing what they both desperately craved to do; throw themselves into each others arms and reveal the thoughts that would change everything.

But then suddenly as those thoughts began to bubble inside their mouths and threatened to change everything, Deanna reached her hand across the great divide that spanned invisibly between them and instinctively, without thought, Will slipped his own hand into hers.

"Let's get out of here." Deanna murmured.

Forcing his head to nod, Will agreed. Maybe they did need to neutralise the moment. He still had over an hour before he officially left the ship, a whole hour of treading on extremely volatile egg-shells that could shatter already shattered dreams. Within a few minutes they were both seated in the familiar and beckoning corner booth in the Ten Forward lounge with their drinks managing to evade the curious and pitying stares from its other few occupants.

Moments later as Deanna absently stirred the steaming hot cup of tea before her trying to justify her insane reasoning for bringing them both out into public, when all she really wanted to do was privately hold the man opposite her within her empty arms and show him her breaking heart and reveal why he should stay with her.

But she couldn't do that to him. She wouldn't.

Will watched as Deanna took a deep breath and then release it on a sigh that hurt his soul. The silence that followed hurt hom even more. Normally, before this, they could talk for hours. They had so much in common and had so much more to learn about each other. They'd had their quiet times, too, but those had been companionable quiet times and not this dead, desperate battle of unspeakable words.

Deanna stared into the amber liquid and thought about their time on the Enterprise; the things they'd done as comrades, as friends, and as lovers, a love that began to die as soon as Will realised that his dream was about to come true. How was she going to live without him?

Deliberately, Deanna pushed that thought away. In a couple of hours time she was going to find that answer out all on her own.

Quickly realising that they'd made a mistake in leaving Will's quarters, Deanna and Will quickly drank up and made their way back. But as they reached the door to Will's quarters, their feet slowed to a halt. What did they do next? Did she enter his quarters and prolong the parting, or did she leave him, right here?

Her choices were stolen from her when Will, unable to keep up the charade any longer, suddenly spoke. "Look, Deanna, I've still got a few things I need to do before I leave, and I'm sure you've got things that you're not doing because you feel you need to nurse-maid me before I go. Honestly, Dee, it's okay. You can go, if you want."

Deanna hated hearing the pleading tone in his voice and in that instant, knew that he wanted to end the torture of his leaving, right there and then. She inwardly sighed, understanding that he was giving her an easy way out and, thinking that it was what he wanted too, readily agreed.

"Fine," The smile she threw him was brittle. "I suppose we said our real goodbyes last night."

Will gave her that lop-sided smile which always sent a tingle down her spine and a kick to her womb as they both remembered meeting the dawn with him inside her for the forth time of the night, a night that they both would never forget. "Yes, we did, didn't we?" He said, his voice lowering with wistful desire.

Up until today, Will had been happy. Here, on the Enterprise he had found home, in more ways than one, but none so evident than the times he'd spent with this one woman opposite him. Those times he spent within her arms, Will had truly understood the concept of home, but more so when he had been buried deeply inside her.

But now, as the truth of their relationship lay ignored between them, Will knew that no matter what he said or did now, Deanna would refuse him, even after last night.

Deanna dropped her gaze away to hide the truth, truths that last night, and this morning, she had almost spoken aloud as Will had consumed her soul, almost shattering the already crumbling defences that protected it.

Will took her hands and lightly brushed her lips with his. Deanna was relieved, for if he'd enfolded her in his arms and held her tightly as they kissed, she knew she would have begged him not to go. Her eyes were very bright as she smiled up at him and took one unsteady, but firm step back away from him.

And then, with a deep shuddering breath, she whispered, "Goodbye, Will, and good luck." Then she'd spun on her heels and walked away.

With her back to Will, the mask of cheerfulness slipped and her face crumpled. Tears coursed unchecked down her cheeks, but even so, knowing that Will was watching, Deanna kept her head held high. As long as he couldn't see her tears, that was all she cared about.

But Will didn't need to see her face. Her pain poured into his mind and bled with his own. Tears of frustration saturated his own eyes and he struggled against the urgent need to go after her. Torn in two, Will first stepped after her and then stepped back until in the end he couldn't take any more of the anguish that was drowning him from afar and darted after her.

But Will was too late. Even before he'd turned the corner he heard the distinctive whoosh of the turbo-lift doors closing and knew she'd gone


In truth, she'd been going since he'd gotten his promotion. Now as he stood and stared at the closed turbo-lift doors, willing them to open to find her standing there, it dawned on him that, day by day, and little by little, Deanna had been removing herself from him. Not physically, though. Mentally, by the time today had come, Deanna was as far away from him as she could possibly be.

But it still wasn't far enough. It never would be.

What a fool he'd been.

Having reached the safe haven of her office, Deanna collapsed onto the couch and rested her head upon her thighs, taking a deep, shuddering breath as she rocked back and forth. She'd know it wouldn't be easy, but the depth of her pain, even though it hadn't been a surprise, had hurt more than she'd expected.

Earlier in their relationship they'd agreed, foolishly, that they would keep things simple. The captaincy promotion was always there, between them on the distant horizon for Will and they both knew it would come to him sooner or later. But now it had come, it had come too soon, for both of them. But Will had worked so hard for it, he would have been a fool to turn it down just because of her, and as she had not given him the opportunity to include herself in his future plans, she couldn't do or say one single thing about it.

Deanna had been ready to throw aside their agreement weeks ago but Will had given her no sign of a change of heart and she had deliberately mirrored it. She sighed morosely. No more moonlit walks in their favourite hologram settings. No more cosy reminiscing in each others quarters late at night. No more seeing his handsome face at the start of their united shifts. No more battling it out across the poker table as they silently competed with one another, much to the amusement of the rest of table's occupants.

And no more intimate dinner dates. Deanna recalled the first time they had dined on board the Enterprise. Deanna had wanted to take control of the meal but Will had other ideas. Wanting to impress her with his culinary skills, he successfully produced her favourite meal. But then, whatever Will cooked for her was a favourite. He was a phenomenal chef, in her eyes.

But each and every date they'd shared had ended with them being on the brink of moving onto something more, but always, at the last moment, either one of them would dismiss the moment and they would part with a chaste kiss that always ached to be extended and explored.

But it never did, until a few months ago. When they both suddenly discovered that they needed more. Deanna had often wondered if they knew their time was coming to an end and that they had to capture their time they had left together before it was too late.

Her friend, her companion, her lover, her soulmate was going and she hadn't done one thing to stop him from either leaving or encourage him to take her along.

And now it was too late. She'd lost him.

Taking another deep breath, Deanna pushed herself up from her crouched, foetal position, wincing as she straightened her tired and emotionally drained body. Going behind her desk, she picked up the padd that sat there waiting for her attention and stared at it blindly for several long moments before throwing it back down with a clatter, disgusted at herself for being so weak-willed. Furious with herself for not listening to her best friends well meant advice.

"Just tell him how you feel, Deanna!" Beverly had ranted at her. "What's he supposed to be, a mind reader?"

Well, actually, yes, Beverly, if she'd have let him. That would have solved just about all of their problems in one fell swoop. But she had deliberately blocked him out and it had almost destroyed her in the process. She had to hang on for just a little longer. Just until he was far enough away from the ship for her to completely let go.

She glanced at the time piece. Thirty minutes. That's it. That's all the time there was for one of them to come to their senses. Her mind wandered back to her conversation with the doctor. "But we had an agreement, Beverly. I'm not going to indulge in emotional blackmail."

"But he might have changed his mind, too!" She had raged at her.

Deanna had shaken her head. "He hasn't. And anyway, it's too late."

Beverly had thrown her hands up in the air. "All bloody brains and not once ounce of common sense between the damn two of you!" she'd muttered as she'd stalked out.

But that had been yesterday. Today, if she had needed her, she could have depended on Beverly to be by her side when it got bad. Really bad.

The padd before her blurred as Deanna sat and studied the information that she had typed into it. She knew it wasn't entirely accurate, but it would do. Will would be taking off about now. Her feet carried her to the porthole and studied the empty space outside. She heard the distinctive rush of a ship passing through the invisible anti-gravity shield and closed her eyes to block out the view that she knew she would see next.

Behind closed eyes, Deanna imagined Will's shuttle veering off into open space and with each second that passed a huge ache began to weigh down the very centre of her being. As she felt her entire being begin to go numb with shock, her legs buckled beneath her and she slipped to the floor unable to support the loss that her body and mind had just endured

Will had gone. He had finally gone.

Moments later her office door opened and Deanna turned dry emotionless eyes towards the woman that stepped through it, frowning when she saw her cheery face.

"Leave me alone, Bev. I want to die in private."

"I know, I know," she crooned sympathetically as she hurriedly stepped over towards the woman on the floor." "But an ensign brought this to the bridge from the shuttle bay. It's from Will so I had to bring it to you. I couldn't resist!" She chortled, excitement lighting up her classic features.

It was then that Deanna noticed the large box in her hand covered in deep crimson paper and tied with gold ribbon. She plonked it on top of the desk, and, curiosity getting the better of her, Deanna climbed to her feet. As Deanna untied the ribbon, the wrapping paper unfolded like a blossom, releasing a large blue balloon with the words, I love you, Imzadi! emblazoned across it in gold lettering.

The balloon floated up to the ceiling, trailing a length of ribbon with a small gold card attached. Stunned, Deanna reached out and pulled the card off and opened it. Inside, a question mark written within the picture of an engagement ring stared back at her and underneath were the words, Fancy becoming my wife and my new ship's counselor?

Peering unabashed over her shoulder, Beverly clapped her hands in delight. "What a wonderfully romantic gesture! You'd have to be crazy to let to this chance slip by this time, Deanna."

Laughing, Deanna screwed up the piece of paper in her hand and threw it at Beverly. "For once I agree with you. Please, use your feminine whiles on the captain and see how soon you can get me on the next shuttle to Earth."

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