By Carol Sandford


Chapter 10


"What can I get you, Tom. The usual?"

As he settled onto the familiar barstool, Tom mumbled, "Sure." He was scheduled to leave the Enterprise in less than half an hour but was determined to make this one last, important visit before he left. In his heart he was aware that he was unlikely to ever return to the ship that one week ago he thought had been his saviour, but now he wasn't so sure. Down there, on Nervala Four, a place that he truly believed he would eventually take his last dying breath, he had only survived for so long, he was sure, because of Deanna Troi. And now, brought back from a fate far worse than death, he now felt that he had lost his sole reason for living.

He had lost in love, again, and this time, there was no turning back for them. This time it had been Deanna to turn him down, and God, that had stung, even more than losing her to his brother.

Guinan quietly placed the tall glass in front of him and he instinctively curled his long fingers around it and took a long swallow of its chilled contents. It wasn't until he slowly put it back onto the bar that Tom finally raised his eyes to meet the dark ones of the woman waiting patiently before him.

"You want to know what happened. And you want to know why I told you to go to her and find your destiny, don't you, Tom?"

His simple, suspended and hissed, "Yes." was all he could manage as he fought against the nausea that bubbled deep inside of him. He'd hurt when he'd placed his one last, lingering kiss on Deanna's lips before walking out of her life. And he'd hurt more when he reached the furthest end of the corridor and realised that she wasn't going to come after him and tell him that she'd changed her mind.

But that one word that had fallen from Guinans mouth, 'destiny' had been the catalyst to release all the bottled up emotions that he'd suppressed since walking away from what he'd thought had been his destiny. How had Guinan got it so wrong? He had to come to her to find out. He had to know, before he left for good.

Guinan reached out a dark hand and gently settled it upon his forearm. "Tom, haven't you yet realised? This IS your destiny because you were never meant to be with Deanna. The time you had with her was only ever meant to be very short. Your destiny, Tom, lies out there still waiting for you to find it."

Suspiciously bright eyes locked onto hers as he whispered brokenly, "Then how come Will has her? How can it be his destiny and not mine? We're the same person, Guinan."

Guinan smiled sadly at him. "If you believe that then you're a bigger klutz than I originally thought. You are not William Riker, Tom. You have not led his life. You have different goals and different dreams. You're still searching, Tom. Will is not. Everything he's looked for, he has finally found here, on the Enterprise."

"But I wanted her, Guinan, so much."

Guinan touched his cheek with the palm of her hand and whispered to the broken man, "I know you did, Tom, I know you did. But she belongs with Will. She always has done. You know that."

"Then why did she...?"

"She had to, Tom, don't you see that? She had to be with you one last time to let you both go."

"I don't think I'll ever let her go, Guinan."

"Of course you won't, not until your own special girl comes along one day, and she will, Tom. Someday soon you'll meet your own own one true love and she'll be yours, heart body and soul. You won't have to share her with anyone and that I promise you."

Suddenly Guinan pushed herself away from the wilted man before her, took a tell-tale sniff, wiped a non-existant mark from the bar and told Tom firmly, "Go and find your own destiny, Thomas Riker, and don't forget invite me to the wedding, y'hear? And for good measure, she added, "And don't leave it too long. I ain't getting any younger."

Chuckling as Tom stood, determinedly shaking off the melancholy shroud as he did so, he impulsively reached across the bar and pulled Guinans face to his, giving her a kiss that was loud enough to echo around the lounge before pushing himself away from the bar.

"Bye, Guinan, and...thanks."

Picking up Toms discarded glass, she grinned at her friend. "Keep safe, Thomas Riker, just keep safe. That's all I ask."

And with a familiar wink and cheeky grin, Thomas acknowledged her with a wave and headed off to the shuttle bay, leaving behind more than he thought he ever would, but taking with him something infinitely more precious.

His life.

His very new and exciting life. A life that he'd once thought he'd lost but now had something more valuable to find, some day.


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