By Carol Sandford


Chapter 07


There is only so much dancing a man can do before he begins to feel decidedly sick. I had managed to keep Deanna either within my arms or at least less than two feet away from me for a large part of the evening, but I was shattered and eventually I had to beg her for a break. I was phenomenally thrilled when she too left the floor with me and hand in hand, we trailed wearily back over to our table.

There was only one chair left so I sat down and pulled Deanna on to my lap, reaching for a glass around her as I did so. Deanna picked up her own glass and we both took a long grateful swig before settling down and watching those who were still shaking their booty around the multicoloured lit floor.

As we'd been lost within the throng of the other dancers for the bulk of the evening, we'd lost track of the other Riker and for a while I completely forgot that he was even there. But now as we sat and caught our breath, he came to haunt my thoughts again.

I hated that he had that power over me. I hated that he was still here, on our ship, getting in the way of our life. And I hated even more that he knew that he was the proverbial thorn in our side. The transfer to the Ghandi couldn't come soon enough for me, as far as I was concerned. But I knew that the other ship was still several days away, stuck on some diplomatic mission in the Earondach System. Several days in which my entire world could drop away from me. Us.

'If' I let him get near her, and I didn't intend to.

But, so lost in my own tumultuous thoughts, I didn't see him come to stand before us his hand already extended towards Deanna. Startled, I watched incredulously as she tentively reached out her own and linked her fingers with his. Smiling tenderly at her, he spoke loud enough for the entire table to hear, a deliberate ploy to put me in the position that gave me no choice to agree unless I wanted the entire senior crew to know how much I was rattled. "You don't mind, do you, Will?"

Damn! What could I say? My quick glance around at my now avid comrades, who were watching for my reaction with interest, told me that to refuse him would be petulant. But I knew, I damn well knew that if she went, it would be the end of us. An irrational thought, I know, considering it was just a dance. But dammit! I didn't want her to go. The fact that she was already rising from my lap meant that the decision was no longer mine, so in a truly magnanimous gesture I laughed at the ridiculous situation. "Sure. Just make sure she comes back in one piece."

He knew what I damn well meant and throwing that all too familiar grin at me, he simply acknowledged it with a wink over his shoulder and walked into the middle of the crowded dance floor with my girl. My Imzadi. Damn it! But she was his Imzadi, too! It took a monumental effort to keep myself seated in that chair and I was aware of the conversations around me, but nothing in the entire Cosmos would let me take my eye off the couple on the dance floor.

It was a long dense moment later that I realised that the music had changed and as I listened to the ballad now playing I wondered what I'd done to deserve this kind of torture. Did he deliberately plan the change in tempo? It wouldn't have surprised me in the least. The strains of an old Earth favourite, Garth Brooks, 'Baby I'm amazed by you' just added to the pain that now chewed away at my gut as I watched them in tortured agony.

For the longest time, Deanna swayed against his body, lost only, I hoped, in the music. He had her hand captured within his against his chest, with the other resting gently upon the slender nape of her long neck. His chin was perched gently upon her head and his eyes were closed. So were hers I noticed, when she eventually turned my way. They didn't talk, not one word because they were lost to the dance. Completely and utterly lost.

Or were they?

My suspicions were confirmed when before they slowly returned to the table as the last strains of song ended, he dropped a tender kiss upon her forehead. The tension was heavy as they came towards me and he reluctantly put Deanna's hand back into mine. Sadness poured from their souls, I could feel it. I could see it and I couldn't help biting at him. "I asked you to bring her back in one piece, damn you."

The shock in their eyes as they guiltily looked first at each other and then at me told me exactly what I needed to know. More had happened between them on that dance floor. More than words, and they both knew it, and as I watched one solitary tear fall from her eye as she watched him spin on his heels and leave I realised then what I had to do.

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