By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


The two men sat on the porch watching the last few minutes of the sun's daily visit. Darkening clouds drifted across its face, hinting of showers to come, probably overnight. But the men didn't care about that. They were going fishing at the break of dawn and the reminder of a much needed early night brought on a yawn of some size.

"Sorry about that," One said. "Guess we should hit the sack. All this fresh air just seems to make me wanna eat and sleep, although not necessarily in that order."

The other man seated, not a hair's breath away from him, chuckled throatily as he agreed, before raising the nearly empty bottle of beer to his lips and taking a healthy swig, and then wordlessly cursing as some of the amber liquid dribbled into his bushy, grey-tinted beard.

Swiping it away with the back of his hand, he caught the other man's grin and grinned himself in the twilight shadows that began to sweep over the porch. "At least I didn't pass wind just as your wife came through the door."

Will groaned, his already ruddy face reddening even more at the lousy timing. But damn it all, he didn't know she was going to come out. She normally left him and Tom alone when he came to visit, aware that they needed the precious time alone to catch up and reflect on the months that fly past with a speed that is sometimes unbelievable.

"It's gonna be a while before I can live that one down, isn't it?" Will groused. "Couldn't even blame you, could I? Seeing as you were too busy laughing your ass off."

Tom chuckled, delighted as his brother's indignant position. "Hey, bro, what can I say? I was the one born with the manners."

Will almost choked on his laughter, "Manners?! Says he who barfed over Worf's shoes at my wedding!"

Tom grinned, "It wasn't my fault that Lwaxana punched me in the gut for giving her a kiss."

Will's forehead creased with remembrance, "Oh, yeah, that was a good one, wasn't it?

Tom chuckled. "Guess I shouldn't really ask her if I can go back for the odd vacation. But then again," he continued thoughtfully, "might be worth looking up that nice gal....what was her name? Oh yeah, I remember, Wendy something."

"Roper," Will reminded him sourly and quietly. "and her name is not mentioned in front of, you know who," tipping his head towards the screen door. "she hasn't forgiven me yet."

Toms eyes widened, "Not yet!? Even after all this time? Even though you've been married for yonks!?"

"Even though we've been married for yonks." Will repeated, "Especially as she even came and tried to seduce me at my own wedding."

Now it was Tom's turn to look stunned. "No! You're joshing me. Hell, how did I miss hearing about that?" he wondered aloud.

"As I recall," Will said smugly, "Beverly Crusher had dragged your sorry ass off to sober you up with a hypo or three."

"Yeah," he remembered soberly, "I remember. Damned woman. Always trying to get me naked on one of her bio-beds. I think she secretly fancied me, y'know."

Will nodded, agreeing with him, "Yeah, probably. You know that me and her had a thing going on for a while?"

"You did!?"

He nodded, looking over his shoulder to see if a, 'certain someone' was listening in. She wasn't, he hoped. "Yeah. Deanna knew, of course."

"She did!? Hell fire, Will, how did you get away with that!?" He leaned nearer for his answer.

"It was accentuating circumstances. I was just playing host to an alien until someone else more suitable could take over." Will shrugged his heroic deed off as though he did that kind of thing every day.

Tom thought about it for a moment before adding thoughtfully, "So that's why I feel kinda special when I'm around her, even though it was you, and not me."

Intrigued, Will asked, "I take it you wouldn't mind stepping into my shoes? After all, she is still a free woman. Doesn't look like Picard is going to do anything more than stay her friend, God knows why though. I think they're made for each other."

"Just like you and Deanna." Tom surmised.

Will smiled fondly, "Just like me and Deanna."

Unanimously, both men pushed themselves to a stand, stretching out the kinks in their long bodies before leaning on the bar that surrounded the veranda, looking out across the lake, now glistening with the moonlight's silvery beams.

"Thanks for letting me have her, Tom." The light moment turned serious as Will looked across at his mirror image, even though Tom had grown his beard longer, scruffier even. His hair was longer too; tucking into his shirt collar, whereas Will had kept his short in a valiant attempt to hide his rapidly expanding bald patch.

Tom's eyes met Will's as he pondered on Will's heartfelt, but strange comment. "She was never mine to have, Will. Deanna has been yours from the very first moment you met. I might have thrown a spanner in the works for a very brief moment, but I was never really in the running for her love. You had that all along. It was you who built a relationship with her. And it was you who stepped in after I left, not that you were very far away, anyway. I could sense you waiting in the wings for me to push off."

"Deanna is a lady that likes security." he continued, "I'm a man who scoffs at the very word. Being stuck on that planet taught me that there is no such word as secure. I thought I was secure, but I still got stranded anyway, just the same as I thought my relationship with your wife was secure. I lost out there too."

"She could have been yours, Tom. I wouldn't have stood in your way if Deanna had chosen you." Will felt obligated to clarify the important promise.

"I know, and I thank you for that, Will, even though we both know that I didn't have a hope in hell." he stated confidently, "And besides, I was too restless. I would only have left her again, and we both know where she would have ended up." He looked directly at Will, but Will had to look away to hide the betrayal.

Yeah, Will thought, right back in my arms.

"I wouldn't have touched her you know, Tom." Will said quietly. "If Deanna had chosen you, I would never have done anything more than be there for her."

"You don?t have to touch to be intimate, Will. Don't be so dense." Tom growled, but with honesty, not malice.

Will nodded, "I know. I'm sorry."

"Don't be, you damned fool. Deanna is yours. You got her fair and square. I'm the one who should be sorry, for butting in when I shouldn't have." Tom stated firmly.

"Hey!" Will protested, "The only thing that was keeping you alive was the thought of seeing her again. Seeing me on board must have been somewhat of a kick in the nuts."

Tom chuckled, "Yeah, you could say that," He agreed. "Shit, when I saw your ugly mug and figured you'd have looked Deanna up by then, I could've quite happily thrown myself off that precipice. Figured I might as well have done, selfish bastard that I am."

"Glad you didn't, Tom." Will murmured sincerely, catching his eye in the fading moonlight.

And as another pair of arms snaked around their waists, they both looked down into a pair of midnight black eyes which now shimmered with tears, who said, "So am I, boys. So am I."

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