By Carol Sandford


Chapter 11


"Marry me."

Will's quiet, 'Walk with me' had led them both along the pretty lane, along the outskirts of the park to a bench by the lake some twenty minutes walk away from Deanna's home. On leaving the Troi home, Will had pulled Deanna's hand through his arm and laying his long fingers atop of her much smaller, slender ones. Neither had said a word as both had been lost to thoughts and silent questions that needed answers.

It wasn't until they had both sat down and spent a long moment surveying the tranquil setting around them that Deanna had blurted out her somewhat surprising proposal.

"Marry me."

For a long moment Will behaved as though he hadn't heard her. Deanna willed him to look at her. To answer her. Say yes, but she knew, deep down in her heart, that his answer was going to be no.

Eventually on a sigh, Will looked down at their hands as he linked his fingers with her. His voice was low with tension and regret when he finally spoke. "I can't, Deanna. I'm sorry."

Even though his answer was what she had been expecting, his refusal cut her to the core. "She got to you, didn't she? My mother warned you off and you're going along with it. How could you let her do that to you, Will. To us?" She added brokenly.

Shock rippled through him as he quietly responded, "It was my decision, Deanna. You're mother tried to talk me into marrying you. It was I that said no. I'm sorry, I can't marry you, Deanna."

"I thought you loved me, Will. I thought we had a future together. I thought..."

"You thought wrong." He jumped in quickly to stop the pain from dissolving his carefully hidden reserve. He turned his body so that he could face her, head on and look her straight in the eye so that she would know that what he next said to her there would be no doubt in his decision.

"I'm a Starfleet Officer. I want to become a Starship Captain, and to be one I've got to take a lot of risks, like missions that no one else wants to do, places that no one else wants to go. I don't want a wife that's sitting worrying and waiting for me to come home when chances are I won't be. I'm not going to make you a widow before you've even had time to blink, Deanna. I won't do it, I'm sorry, but that's the way it's got to be."

Deanna blinked rapidly to stem the tears the she could feel filling her eyes as she watched her future disintegrate before her very tear-filled eyes. "And I don't get to decide whether I want to spend the time, however much we have, with the man that I love? That's a little selfish of you, isn't it, Will? And isn't your obsession to become a captain above all else a little extreme?"

It's something I have to do, Deanna, otherwise all my dreams throughout my youth and all that I've achieved until now will have been a waste."

"Including falling in love with me."

It wasn't a question, just a harsh realistic fact that she'd gotten in the way of the one goal in his life; to be that captain of a starship.

"I'm sorry, Deanna, I truly am."

Wearily Deanna pushed herself to her feet. Will stayed where he was knowing that this was finally their final goodbye. Deanna looked down into his handsome face and allowed the tears that she'd been hanging on to fall. "So am I, Will." She whispered hoarsely. "So am I." She took a deep, shuddering breath before continuing. "Goodbye, Will. I hope you find what you're searching for. I hope all your dreams come true some day."

As Will watched her walk away he took a deep breath to stop himself from hurtling after her. He'd done it. He'd done what her mother had wanted; He'd set her free. He'd set them both free. The lie had cost them both dearly, but sensibly, within his broken heart, he'd done the only thing that he could have. He'd chosen to put the blame upon himself because there was no point in Deanna hating her mother. He was leaving Betazed, and Deanna as quickly as humanly possible. That he was leaving without the woman he would always love but couldn't ever have hurt his heart and soul, but it was done.

Lwaxana had won.

And two whole long miserable years later, Will Riker had never forgotten his promise or the one true love of his life.

Deanna Troi.

The woman he'd let go for a lifetime among the stars.

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