By Carol Sandford


Chapter 04


The atmosphere in the Ten Forward lounge was lively a few days later. It had taken Deanna a couple of days to get over her initial meeting with W. T. as he'd been christened to save confusion and since then, she had stuck by my side like glue. I know she was afraid of being around him and had, so far, managed to avoid being alone with him. But I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before they'd get caught in a position that would change things.

And just like a bad penny, the object of many of my thoughts appeared at the entrance and swept his gaze over the throng of people already settled, and eventually spotting us, he made his way over to our table, grabbed a chair, swung it around and sat on it. I bit down the resentment that jumped into my throat at his casualness around my friends, but it hadn't taken him long to fit in as though he belonged - just like I had done.

The light-hearted rush of 'hi's' and 'hello's' swept around the table and he grinned up into Guinan's face as she placed a glass of rootbeer before he'd even asked for one. I knew the infamous bar-tender already had a soft spot for him. I don't know why. Kindred spirits, I guess.

Geordie was the first to kick off the conversation. "How goes it, Lieutenant? I hear Picard busted your balls over your goof down in engineering."

A chuckle rippled around the table and he looked sheepishly down into his beer before responding. "Yeah, well, can't help being a bit rusty. Technology has progressed a bit since I last touched a tacheon enhancer."

As a ripple of sympathetic laughter rounded the table, his eyes swept around the group slowly before coming to settle on Deanna's. It was like watching something in slow motion as I watched as the laughter die in his eyes, along with hers and for a long moment, they just simply stared at each other. I almost died when Deanna's eyes suddenly widened as an invisible thought passed between them, turning the air electric. As I watched I realised that I, and the rest of table, had been well and truly forgotten. I could have been a million miles away for all they cared, and right then, I bet they wished that I was.

It was Chief O'Brien that brought us all back to earth with a timely bump. "Lieutenant Riker, are you going to stay on board the Enterprise? I guess you must be thinking about moving on and I heard that there is a position on the Ghandi just waiting to be snapped up by a professional like you. You interested?"

The spell was broken and with it came the opportunity to pull Deanna's gaze away from his. Just by sheer will alone I reached out to her and dragged her back to me. I felt her struggle to return but eventually I won. This time. Was this how it was going to be for us. The battling triangle? But now seeing them together and seeing that silent plea, it was going to be even harder than what I first thought. I wasn't just fighting against my doppelganger, I was fighting against my own Imzadi.

Determined, I slipped my hand into her chilled one and pulled it over to my lap. Reluctant to show the entire population of Ten Forward that we were an item - despite the fact that I'm sure they already knew - I moved closer to her, sliding my arm around her now trembling shoulders, but even then, she still fought against his pull.

W. T.'s eyes met mine above her head and I was surprised to see dazed shock there. Clearly the moment between them had been so intense that they'd lost all sense of reality just for those few stolen moments and seconds later a seemingly highly embarrassed, W. T. pushed himself to his feet and without saying another word, left Ten Forward as though the very devil himself was hot on his tail.

The ensuing silence was heavy with a multitude of silent questions until at last, Geordie asked. "What's with him?"

I shrugged. "Guess he just remembered that hot date I heard him making plans with in the cargo bay earlier. Guess he just remembered where he left her." I joked, desperate to break the stunned silence that shrouded the entire table. Deanna obviously didn't like the idea of him with someone else and visibly stiffened beside me, and then, mortified, I felt her shift as though she was going to go after him.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt that if I'd have let her go a devastating transition would have happened between them. I couldn't let her go. I wouldn't let her go, and using the pretence of nestling her neck, I huskily whispered against her ear. "Please don't go, you'll only hurt him further. And us." I added, just to make sure that she realised what was at stake.

For the longest time I thought she was going to ignore me; I felt the torment within her. I felt her need to comfort him. I felt her ache for him. And then eventually, I felt her wilt with acceptance as she realised that going to him was the wrong thing to do, for all of us.

She turned her misty eyes to me and whispered sadly, "Take me home, Will."

I had won again, for now.

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