By Carol Sandford


Chapter 03


Deanna heard and felt the appreciative murmurs that rippled around her as she made her way into the grand hall on Wyatt's arm. Her aubergine ball gown shimmered with iridescence hues that almost became transparent as she moved. Her hair, piled high into an elaborate twist sparkled with strategically placed glitter, and her make up was flawless upon her already flawless skin. She looked ethereal. Stunning.

The foursome, more than aware that they weren't really supposed to be there, tried to be inconspicuous as they made their way to their table. But they were anything but as every woman eyed Deanna with envy and every man crowed with sexual admiration. Her mother, however, glared at her with sheer malice, furious that her own daughter, who shouldn't have even been there, had outshone her by a mile.

Her own ballgown, a concoction of deep, deep reds and baby pink accessories paled in comparison to her daughters attire. But, she gloried in the fact that even if Deanna had outshone her, there was no mistake who she took after, and that somewhat mollified her. Lwaxana Troi had been a beautiful woman once and anyone looking upon her daughter would remember her as she once was.

She wasn't something to be sneered at now even if time, worries and men had crept upon her at an alarming rate. She was still slim. She still had a figure that any woman would be proud of. And she had grace. And influence. And power. And if she so wished, Lwaxana could have had her daughter and her companions thrown out of the hall with one snap of her fingers. But as everyone had started to settle into their seats, the Troi matriarch thought better of it. She would deal with her wayward daughter later, when they got home!


Deanna felt Wyatt's fingers close around hers beneath the table. She shuddered against the sudden chill that swept over her unaware that she was shaking like a trembling aspen. Throwing him a wobbly smile, she murmured. "I'm okay. Mother has discovered I'm here. She is not best pleased with me."

Wyatt chuckled. "What's she going to do, sweetheart. Throw you out and make herself look a fool? Don't worry about it. Enjoy the night."

Deanna chuckled nervously. "Oh, I'm not worrying about tonight. It's tomorrow morning I'm dreading."

Chandra slipped her hand over Deanna's free one that rested upon the table top, her insightful words hitting the point of her mothers contention right on the spot. "She'll only be cross, Deanna, because you've upstaged her - again."

The foursome's laughter drew many upturned noses their way, but it did the trick in releasing the tension that shrouded them. That was until the orchestra began to fill the stage, because one of the first people out of the side wings was none other than the one man that garnered a gasp from all four members of her table.

"What's he doing here?" Gasped Chandra, her applauding hands stopping mid-air as she spied the familiar face making his way towards his seat with his trombone in his hand, his stature tall and sure and his eyes somewhat nervous as he glanced surreptitiously around the tables.

Deanna felt herself shrink in her chair and as his eyes seemingly missed her and she sighed with relief. But accusing eyes were upon her as she straightened herself up and her friend asked the obvious. "You knew he would be here, didn't you, Deanna?"

Deanna's eyes met her friends in silent apology. "I saw him in town today. I didn't know until that moment this was the reason he was here, though, I swear."

Deanna slowly moved her gaze to her companion. Wyatt was studying her thoughtfully but kept strangely quiet as he read her thoughts, hurt that she had deceived him. But along side the hurt was dread. If Will Riker was back, it could only mean one thing for his and Deanna's relationship.


Instinctively, Deanna reached her hand across and settled it upon his and he automatically curled his fingers around her somewhat chilled ones. She squeezed them in apology and her eyes silently pleaded with him to hold off his questions until after the show.

For a long moment he simply looked at her; devouring her features as though it was for the last time. But eventually he nodded slowly and turned his head back toward the stage area. The orchestra were now all settled and after a brief introduction, they began to play.

Deanna barely heard one note of it. As hard as she tried she could not move her eyes from the dark head that seemed to dominate the stage. The fact that he sat a head taller than everyone else didn't come into it. As far as Deanna was concerned, Will was the only person in the room, besides her.

Three quarters of the way through the evening Deanna felt Wyatt push back his chair and with a whispered apology he made his excuses. The table assumed that he was visiting the bathroom and it wasn't until half an hour later that the remaining threesome realised that he'd left the building.

Chandra threw accusing eyes at Deanna. She didn't have to say that she was to blame for his leaving as it was there, written all over her face. Guiltily, Deanna pushed herself to her feet and made to turn away from the incriminating stares, but a familiar voice boomed through her mind.

<Don't you dare leave this room, young woman!>

Deanna sunk back into her seat, searching for her mother as she did so. She found her, some thirty feet away from her, nearer to the front of the stage. <Where else would she be?> Deanna reasoned. <She is the resident queen, after all>

<I heard that and I'll deal with you later. But you will NOT leave this room and bring unwanted attention to yourself. Do I make myself clear, Deanna?>

The 'unwanted attention' was very clearly meant in reference to the man on the stage who was thankfully oblivious to the tumbling trouble brewing at the tables. Deanna felt Chandra's hand slip into hers and she looked into her old friends eyes and was surprised to see compassion there.

"I'm sorry, Dee, I didn't realise how hard this ordeal is for you. If you like, we can slip out before the show ends. That way we can be sure that we are not going to accidentally bump into anybody that we don't want to. Okay, sweetie?"

Deanna released the unsteady breath that had held her prisoner for the last few moments. "Thanks, Chan. I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't know...I thought we were..."

She cut in. "He's your Imzadi, Deanna. Things are never going to be finished between you. It's whether you want to leave things as they are, or find out if you really are meant to be together. Either way, you owe it to Wyatt to make a decision."

At Wyatt's name, Deanna's eyes teared up. "I know, Chan, I know. But I'm so scared of discovering the truth."

"The truth is, sweetie, is that you love him."

Deanna didn't even question as to who it was that Chandra was referring to. "But what if he's forgotten me, Chan? I couldn't bare it if I faced him again and he didn't remember us."

"Don't be dense, Dee. Now," She squared up. "Are you going to run, or are you going to face him? And to hell with your mother." She added with wry humour.

Deanna sat and thought for a long time as she unabashedly watched the man on the stage as he concentrated on the music sheets before him, waiting for his part. But then Satan himself crawled over and gripped her with the same fear that had stepped in and took her over a year ago and slowly pushing herself to a stand, coming to her full height, she murmured thickly now blind to everything and everyone around her. "I'm running."

Before another word could be said, she spun on her high heels and dashed through the maze of tables and out into the foyer. The flash of her shining and glittery ebony locks pulled Will's gaze towards her and with a start he realised that it was Deanna fleeing as though the devil himself was on her tail.

Damn it, she'd done it to him again. He hadn't expected her to be there and he hadn't really expected to ever see her again after tonight. But now he had and he didn't know what the hell to do about it. There was still a full fifteen minutes left of the performance so he couldn't up and leave. And afterwards, where the hell would he even begin to search for her?

It was then that Will felt the first sensation of being watched and his eyes instinctively made their way around the tables below him. It wasn't long before his found those that now held him captive. Lwaxana Troi.

<Leave my daughter alone, Mr. Riker.>

Will looked steadily at her for a long moment and then sent back to her. <And if she doesn't leave me alone. What then, Mrs. Troi?>

It was clear that the older woman hadn't considered that scenario and was momentarily taken aback. But not for long. <I'll make sure she does.>

<She's a grown woman. She can...>

<She can do nothing, Mr. Riker! I'm not going to let her forget who she is, or who she is betrothed to.>

That stopped Will in his tracks. Betrothed? Deanna was betrothed! But then, did he really care? She had got what she wanted, and she wanted someone who was prepared to be with her all the time, something that he knew he couldn't offer her.

Begrudgingly, Will offered the watchful woman a nod of compliance. <You have my word. I will not seek her out.>

He watched her wilt with relief, acknowledging him with a wavering smile. But then, just as he pulled his mind back to what he was there to do she gave him her parting shot. <Not bad playing, for a human.>

Will was grinning as he raised his beloved trombone to his lips, marvelling at her ability of defusing tense situations. But then, that's why she was where she was and why her daughter was following on in her footsteps.

As Will pondered on that thought he began to understand Deanna's dilemma from a different prospective. Deanna Troi was the future of Betazed and he had no part in it. By the time the last strains of music came to an end, Will's mood had soured again. He had to get off the planet before they met. He just had to, before he blew it all again.

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