By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


Deanna's day started perfectly. Wyatt called just as she was leaving for the university. "I've managed to secure some places for the dance tonight. Shall I call Chandra and Teb and see if they want to join us?"

Deanna was thrilled. "Yes, please do, Wyatt."

She had heard on the grapevine about the big bash tonight. And had heard her mother boasting about it being very prestigious; that there was to be off-worlders performing and that Deanna was not high enough on the pecking order to be included in such affairs, even if she was the daughter of The Holy Rings of Betazed, blah, blah.

But Wyatt had known someone on the 'inside' and had managed to wrangle four exclusive tickets. Wyatt's voice broke through her excited meanderings. "We'll go for a meal afterwards, shall we?"

"Yes. Yes, please." Deanna decided dreamily. " Thank you, Wyatt."

"See you later, then." Wyatt said softly.

The call was an unexpected bonus on a sunny Friday morning and as Deanna set off to the university the day only got better. The autumn morning was perfect; balmy, warm and heart-lifting as she studied the turning leaves on the tall trees that caught the last of the summer sun's glow.

Deanna had begun seeing Wyatt in earnest only three months ago. She had know him all her life, and, up until a year ago had known that he and she were to marry one day. A brief interlude with another man had shattered those illusions, those dreams, and her future.

But that man had hurt her, then he'd left her and then Wyatt had stepped right back into her life and rescued her soul and sanity. But with every day that had past since Deanna had remembered that other man. She had wanted him and pined for him, desperately. But with each day that slowly past she hurt just a little less. Wyatt was a patient man as well as a kind, considerate and loving man and Deanna gave him her all when they were together. But when the nights came it was the other man that she dreamt about. Always did, always would.

But today was a different day. A good day and to treat herself Deanna took herself off shopping for that elusive gown that would blow Wyatt's mind away tonight. There was a spring in her step and a warmth in her heart that she accepted that, for once, Wyatt had put there. Another day past her heartbreak.

Until, as she glanced into a glistening window admiring the tempting dress that hung gracefully on the model in it she suddenly spotted a familiar figure across the way from her. His back was to her so Deanna couldn't see his face, but then, she didn't have to. She didn't have to see his startling blue eyes on his chiselled face or the handsome torso that accompanied it to know who it was. Deanna could just 'feel' him. She also felt when he slowed to a stop and began to turn her way, his own senses picking up the familiar vibes that had only ever happened between the two of them.

Horrified, Deanna dived into the boutique and disappeared into the flurry of gowns and paraphernalia that accompanied them. Quickly grasping the dress that she had been admiring from the rail she dove into the changing cubicle and hid herself away from surprised eyes and telling thoughts as she frantically wondered herself why he had come back.

Later as Deanna made her way back to the university her tormented mind drifted back to when she had met the young and very handsome Starfleet lieutenant, William Riker. She had been eighteen and he had just been assigned to her planet for a brief spell. But that brief spell had changed her life, and their lives. They had become Imzadi the day that she had finally succumbed to his charms. She had given her complete heart, body, soul and then her preciously kept virginity to him.

And then the time had come when his last few days on Betazed began to draw to a close. The relationship became tense as the days had diminished. Tender loving became desperate clinging. Romantic words became unspoken goodbyes. Laughter became tears. Outward love became inner torture, for them both.

And all because Will's chance had finally come; To be first mate on board the USS Starship Potemkin. News had reached Deanna's ears long before Will had finally sought her out in the museum. She had been sitting in front of her favourite picture staring unseeing at it as she tried hard to hold on to the pain that coursed through her young body. Will had come and stood behind her as she sat on the long bench, her fingers gripping it's edge as she fought against the panic of his leaving.

**"When do you leave?" She had asked him sadly and briefly turned away from him to hide her unhappy features.

"I'm not going, not without you." He had replied with conviction and sudden decision, his voice husky with raw emotion.

Deanna head had spun around as she looked up into his face, his features strained as he struggled to come to terms with the events unfolding around him. All his dreams lay before him; his Starfleet career and the woman that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. But he felt each one slipping away from him, minute by minute. Hell, second by second.

"Will, you know I cannot come with you. I can't leave my mother, not now, she needs me." It sounded lame even to Deanna's ears, but it was the truth. She was all her mother had. The loss of her father, even though it had been many years before, had left the two women reliant upon each other. Lwaxana was an important person in Betazed's society and Deanna had known from birth that she, too, would take over her mothers responsibilities when the time came for her to step back. The Troi name had been left solely to Deanna to carry it on. No matter what.

Her Imzadi could not stay with her and she could not go with him. "I won't go with you." She reiterated, swallowing several times to stop the tumbling words that clawed at her for freedom to speak out against her choice.

Will regarded her silently for a long moment before murmuring gently, "You're afraid." It wasn't a question, just the plain, simple, unnerving truth.

Will's knack for reading her mind still unsettled Deanna. She turned her head away not wanting to see the accusing light that made his beautiful eyes sparkle. Her fingers gripped the seat harder still, turning her knuckles white. Her admission slipped quietly from her mouth. "Yes, I'm afraid."

"Of me?" Will asked equally as quiet, already half knowing her answer.

Her slow shake of the head gave him the answer that he already knew. Her voice grew stronger still. "No, never of you, Will."

"Then what, Deanna? Tell me, please." He implored urgently, struggling to hold himself still when all he wanted to do was sweep her into his arms, shower her with kisses, make love to her, anything to prove to her that being apart was going to destroy them.

"Of being alone, Will."


Will began to protest but Deanna cut him off. "You belong to Starfleet, Will, not to me. What I would want of you...there isn't enough room for compromise. You can't stay with me and I can't go with you and I do not want to be left somewhere, waiting for you to come home to me. I don't want to be left alone, Will, and I know that I would be."

Comprehension dawned. "Like your father left you. You still miss him."

Deanna nodded, sadness and memories enveloping her like a cold blanket. Her arms snaked around her midriff but as she felt Will's hands touch her shoulders, she leaned back against his warmth. "I can't be with you, Will," She whispered, her eyes closed, hiding her pain. "Maybe one day...."

"When, Deanna? When I'm old and grey, unable to even walk let alone fly a starship?" His voice grew bitter as visions of a life that he didn't want to see fluttered through his mind. Unconsciously Will held her tighter and Deanna held her breath as the numbing pain of not only his arms holding her, squeezing her, but his inner torment, too."

"It wouldn't have to be that way, Will," But even as she said it, she knew he spoke the truth. "When mother...." She couldn't bring herself to say, 'dies'. Couldn't admit to herself that losing her would be an unbearable loss, a loss that meant more than just the death of her beloved mother, but the death of her own life. The life that she led now. A life without Will.

"I'm sorry, Will. I can't come with you. I'm sorry."**

And then he'd left.

And now he was back. For her? She wondered. Surely not, though. She'd made it quite plain that there was no future for them, at least not for some time and Will had not been prepared to give her that time. But then, she rationalised, why should he? She knew all too well how short a Starfleet officers life could be. One mechanical flaw on the starship that he was on. Or, one enemy with too much hate in his heart. Or one organism that refused to be beaten.

Luck was not on the side of a Starfleet officer, no matter how good they were, and William Riker thought he was invincible. He was the worst kind. The kind that she had fallen in love with, regardless of who and what he was, just like her mother had done with her own father so many years before.

And now he was back and she had to deal with losing him all over again. Only this time - this time, there was doubt in her heart as over time, her mother, Wyatt and her own dreams had gradually became a secondary factor. The time apart from her Imzadi had shown her that there was more to life than duty, for she had known, deep in her heart, that marrying Wyatt would have been a formality only. She could never have loved Wyatt as she loved Will. It was an impossibility. And as for taking over her mothers roll as ambassador, she'd realised that there were many others that would probably do a much better job than she.

But she told no one of these thoughts, afraid of upsetting the status quo. Afraid of being left with nothing at all if Will did not come back for her. It was shallow and it was cowardly, but it was how Deanna felt. The loss of Will had subsequently been the loss of her own identity.

And now, just twelve long months along, Deanna was prepared to change her life, her dreams and with a deep shuddering nervous breath, Deanna wondered if Will had changed his. Did he still want her?

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