By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


Taking in the delicate scent of the tiny bright orange Bolian rose, Deanna giggled as the fragile petal tickled her nose and the man beside her smiled in amused tolerance as he watched her antics with a familiarity that they had both become accustomed to over the many years.

She was still grinning as Will gently took her elbow, aiding her rising and keeping it there as they moved along the gravelly path that meandered through the gardens. The comfortable silence between them continued as they admired and sometimes touched, and sometimes couldn't resist smelling the profusion of blooms along the way.

The silence was broken by two young children chasing one another through the maze of paths and the high-pitched screech of the female child to the clearly irksome boy as he barrelled past Will and Deanna's legs at a break-neck speed, "Come back here at once, Daniel Thompson, or I'm gonna tell mommy!"

Both Deanna and Will watched the two with comical fascination until the tiny tornado's disappeared as fast as they had came and the tranquil quiet prevailed again. Reaching the heart of the arboretum, Will indicated for Deanna to sit on the bench, placed there so the visitors could relax and enjoy the restful sound and sight of the cascading fountain that continuously spurted forth frothy water from the strategically placed scantily clad woman seemingly pouring the water from the urn held in her arms.

Deanna loved it here, and Will too. It was a place of peace. A place to talk, and if you didn't want to talk, then to just be together, just for a while. Today Deanna wanted to talk.

"I wonder if the little girl caught up with Daniel Thompson? I wish it were that easy; to simply call for a man and for him to come running. I would use it on Simon Carsdale. I could just shout, 'Here boy!' and he'd come running instead of me trying my hardest to drop subtle hints and then making myself look like a total idiot."

"Who's Simon Carsdale?" Will asked, "I haven't heard that name before."

Deanna nonchalantly leaned forward and swirled her finger tips in the cool water. "He's new on board. He's not scheduled to officially join the crew for another couple of days, but had the opportunity of coming on board a few days early. He's terribly dishy and I was attracted to him instantly." She turned her head and smiled wryly up into Will's handsome face, "Trouble is, so are the rest of the unattached females on board the Enterprise."

"You'll just have to be patient, your time will come. There is no man alive that can resist your charms, Deanna."

Deanna gave a hefty sigh, "But he doesn't seem to know that I exist."

Will looked away and appeared to be studying the distant display of flora, but seemed to notice nothing. "I know how you feel," he ventured at last.

Deanna was momentarily stunned. "You do?" For as long as she'd know William Riker, she had never known him to have lady trouble. Quite the opposite in fact. She studied him a little closer. Now she could see the fatigue lines, the tousled hair, the 'not so confident' air that surrounded him. Deanna felt guilty suddenly. So wrapped up in her own pursuit of a romantic liaison, she had neglected to notice that her closest and dearest friend was having some troubles of his own.

He cleared his throat before answering her, "Yes."

Deanna looked even deeper. The blue eyes looked the same. he looked the same, but at the same time he looked...different.

Will dared a full frontal look at the woman before him. It was enough for him to pluck up the courage to say more, "Yes, I do know the feeling." Another glance at her surprised face gave him a tad more confidence; he had to go on. "Absolute hell actually." His body slumped again as he turned away and muttered more to himself than her, "But what can you do?"

The silence stretched between them as they each digested each others revelations. At last Deanna asked quietly, "Who is she?"

Deanna wasn't sure at Will's response to her perfectly obvious question, but he seemed surprised to hear it and before he could think coherently, he repeated it, knowing he sounded stupid for doing so, "Who is she?"

Deanna saw the invisible wall go up before Will did and she sat back out of his direct vision, "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked, I didn't think that perhaps you wouldn't want to tell me."

Will immediately swung in his seat towards her, "No, no, I'm sorry, it's alright, really." He sighed with resolution as he prepared to reveal his secret - or so Deanna thought until he sighed again, "Just...a girl I know."

Deanna almost screamed with frustration. He was being deliberately evasive and it was driving her insane. Here she was, laying her heart out for him to see and he was deliberately avoiding an issue that somehow annoyed her beyond reason. Damn it, he was supposed to be her friend. They were supposed to tell each other their secrets. They were supposed to be there for each other, through thick and thin. But William Riker had decided to play coy with her and she was festering inside. No way could she let it go now, no way, even if it did make her feel like a leech.

She pushed on relentlessly, "What's her name. Where did you meet her. Was it on board the Enterprise. Have you spoken to her?" And just for good measure she added, "Does she know that 'you' even exist?"

Will fell back against the seat dejectedly, his arms crossing across his chest as he warded off the chill that ran through him. He pursed his lips before finally answering her quietly, "Ros. Her name is Ros. Rosalind."

Deanna chewed the name over in her mind, searching for its familiarity. Was she a crew member or a guest currently on board? She didn't recognise the name and that sparked an inner dread within her. She wanted to be able to say, "I know her." And she wanted to know if the woman should be considered a serious threat to their incomparable relationship, but Deanna's memory bank came up blank.

Deanna was desperate to know what 'Ros' looked like. Gamely she threw him a grin and said, "With a name like that I bet she's tall, blonde and willowy. I bet she's highly distinguished and her family are loaded." Deanna chuckled knowingly, adding, "And I bet she'd got big boobs too."

The sparkling grin that Will threw her as they chuckled together seemed to satisfy her curiosity. Suddenly laughing out aloud, Will heartily answered her obvious attempts to find out about the woman that had captured his heart, "Couldn't be closer."

As the two friends finally pushed themselves to their feet, locked arms and began to make their way out of the arboretum, Will was relieved that Deanna seemed satisfied with her own definition of Will's typical female companion. Somehow it seemed safe to leave it as it was. The trouble was now he had to convince Rosalind that he was the man of her dreams.

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