By Carol Sandford


Chapter 08


"Are you going to tell me what's going on, Will?"

"Don't call me that, Guinan. I'm beginning to hate that name."

"So what are we to call you then. Asshole?"

"What did I do now?" He groused and then added, "And you can call me Thomas."

"I kinda liked asshole. Sort of suited you. You know the rumours that are going around, don't you?"

Tom sighed, plonking his glass down onto the bar, harder than he intended, slopping the inch or so of beer over its edge. "Yeah, I've heard 'em. Christ! All I did was dance with her, Guinan." He guiltily eyed the mess he'd made and mumbled, "Sorry."

"You sure about that, Tom? I heard that you did a lot more than dance last night."

Thomas Riker studied the dark El-Alurian as she wiped the spilt beer away, watching him with something akin to sympathy, his body warming with remembrance at what had truly transpired between him and Deanna on the dance floor. He thought they'd got away with it. He thought that what had sizzled silently between them had stayed deep within their own souls. How wrong he'd been. Damn it.

"We just danced, Guinan. That's all. If people want to see more than that, then that's their loss." he grumbled guiltily, picking up his glass again and studying its contents as though the entire ships safety depended on what he found there. Eventually he rose his now suspiciously bright eyes to hers again and repeated solemnly. "We just danced."

Guinan leaned nearer to him and whispered kindly to him. "No, you didn't, Tom. You made love to Deanna Troi on that dance floor last night, and now you're here asking me what to do from here onwards, aren't you?"

All Ten Forwards occupants drifted off out of their sights as the two friends locked horns and brooded over the problem at hand, and there really was a problem now, they both were acutely aware of that.

Eventually Tom swallowed and whispered huskily back to the hovering woman. "I want her, Guinan. I want her so much that I'm prepared to risk everything to win her heart."

"Is this about Deanna, Tom, or is it about stealing her from your brother?"

"He's not my brother," Tom responded with more vehemence that was necessary, squirming on his seat, revealing his agitation. "He's just another me. He's just..."

"The man who's got your Imzadi." Guinan stated on a sigh, finally getting to the point of her intimate grilling.

Tom deflated before her very eyes. "Yeah, the man who's got my Imzadi."

He drained his glass and pushed it towards her waiting fingers dejectedly. "Fill it up again, this time with something a bit harder."

"Going to down your sorrows, Tom? That won't win her, you know that, right?"

"Wanna tell me how I can? I'm fresh out ideas here, especially as I've now got the entire crew on my back for betraying Will."

"You haven't betrayed him yet, Tom, not really."

"It won't be long before I do, Guinan." He responded with honesty. "I can't stop thinking about her and I can't stay away from her anymore, and even though I know she's torn in two, I know she wants to be with me, Guinan, I just know it."

"What did you expect, Tom? You're offering her everything that Will cannot."

"Such as?" he asked, his curiosity piqued.

"Imzadi." She responded patiently.

Now Tom really was intrigued. "She has that with him."

"It's stronger between you two. That's was she's being pulled towards you. The bond is stronger because it's new. What Will and Deanna have is somewhat muted because they've been together for so long. You've reignited the spark that can make Imzadi reach a whole new stratosphere, Tom. She doesn't really know you. For her it's like being reborn again. There isn't anyway that she can resist it's pull, Tom, despite what Will feels for her.

"He loves her though, doesn't he, Guinan?"

"More than life itself."

"But she could love me more." He stated, distracted and lost in the possibilities that were unfolding before his very eyes.

"That depends."

His eyes creased with puzzlement when he looked back at her. "On what?"

"On what you do when you leave here, of course."

For a long moment the young lieutenant and the age old El-Alurian wordlessly looked at each other until finally Tom asked. "Why are you doing this, Guinan?"

She smiled enigmatically at him. "Destiny, lieutenant. Destiny."

Impulsively Tom leaned over the bar and placed a tender kiss on the darker woman's warm skin, smiled his thanks to her and left the bar. Guinan followed him out with his eyes and whispered to nothing but his departing shadow, "Destiny, lieutenant. Destiny."

As Tom strolled purposely along the corridor he spoke to thin air. "Computer, location of Commander Riker?"

<<Commander Riker is on the bridge>>

"Location of Counselor Troi?"

<<Counselor Troi is currently in the gymnasium>>

By the time he reached level 19, Tom was in a somewhat better mood than he'd been in an hour ago, deciding that destiny had been kind enough to give him a second chance of getting back the love that he'd lost.

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