By Carol Sandford


Chapter 15


Leaving her precious boy behind in the capable hands of his second mommy, Beverly, Deanna and Will left the ship in the same shuttle that they had arrived in, not so long ago. Sensing the importance behind Deanna’s request to return to the place that she’d called home for a year, Captain Jean-Luc Picard gave his permission, allowing her, and her travelling companion, Will Riker, one week to finalize her business with Jal Collser, and return to her true home, the Enterprise.

As they broke through the planet’s orbit, the heavy snows that they had left behind had stopped falling and now blanketed the breathtaking landscape in a smooth pristine, glistening white carpet. As her eyes swept over the view, Deanna felt a sorrow fill her soul, remembering that it had been on a day exactly like this one when Jal had brought her to his home for the first time.

At that time, it had entranced her, but now she saw it with different eyes. It was a beautiful planet, one that she had loved for a short time. But with no one to talk to, and no where to go, and no husband to be by her side, the planet had become a prison to her, and if she hadn’t have felt the need to consult Jal on his son’s name, as well as ask for their marriage to be ended, Deanna would never have returned.

With each kilometre that he travelled nearer to Deanna’s previous home, Will felt the woman beside him retreat deeper and deeper into herself. Reaching across, Will tucked his fingers around hers, briefly squeezing them, telling her without words that he understood, knowing that when he felt her squeeze him back, she was doing okay.

Familiar land-points began to appear and Deanna felt her heartbeat begin to pulse harder, it’s echo reverberating through her head, blocking out everything but it’s noise. Buildings that she’d seen on clear days loomed in the distance, and she knew that she was near. Seeing her own home approach, Deanna gripped Will’s hand even tighter still and he pulled it over to his lips and kissed the chilled and tense knuckles.

"It’s going to be alright, Deanna, I won’t let him hurt you." Will reassured her.

"Too late for that," she hoarsely replied, "he hurt me a long time ago, and he hurt me more when he denied our son."

Will tried to stop himself from asking the obvious but couldn’t halt the words. "Then why...?" He asked, hating that his voice was strained and slightly sulky.

"...because he has rights, Will. If he denies us this time, then the choice will be mine to make, and no longer his. I feel I owe him that much, but nothing more," she vowed.

Will was only half listening to Deanna, his attention focused on his descent towards her home. Carefully banking around as he prepared to land, he ignored Deanna’s uneasy voice as she whispered with fear beside him. "The shuttle, Will, it’s still there."

Frowning deeply, Will searched every inch of the landed ship, his own shuttle manoeuvring around it so that he could see it from all angles. Still perched in the precarious position that he left it in, Will worriedly chewed his lip and silently wondered if he’d caused more damage to the ship than he’d originally estimated.

And if he damaged it that much, then what about the pilot flying it? When he’d fired upon it as they’d left before, Will was certain that he’d only disabled it’s engines. He didn’t want to destroy Jal or his ship, he just wanted to get Deanna and the boy away without any more trouble. His readouts had told him that Jal was very much alive when he’d shot him down, but now, looking at the ship, still nose down and now three quarters buried beneath the heavy snow, Will wondered if he was a bit presumptuous with his computers assessment.

True, Jal could have been alive when they’d escaped, but it didn’t mean that he hadn’t been injured, and it didn’t mean that barely minutes out of range, Jal could have died. It was a sobering thought, one that punched at Will’s conscience hard enough to make him tremble with disgust and fear. Had he injured a man and let him die in the freezing storms? Had he unwittingly murdered Deanna’s husband? What kind of man had he become, just to be with the woman that he loved?

And as Will brought the small shuttle around to the crippled ship’s cockpit, he got his answer. Even through the fine layer of crusty snow and ice on the windscreen, he could see Jal’s frozen and mummified body as it sat in his chair, the safety harness still encasing his torso, holding him upright, imprisoning him where he sat, and probably aiding him with his painful death.

Hovering the shuttle in front of Jal’s ship, unable to tear his eyes away from the gruesome sight before him, Will momentarily forgot about the woman beside him, but when the eerie silence surrounding him became so loud that it consumed his entire being, Will tore his eyes away and slowly turned his head to face her.

Tears streamed down Deanna’s cheeks, but she uttered nothing. Eyes locked onto the deathly form of her husband, she could do nothing more than weep for his suffering and for the loss of her child’s father. Unsure what to do next, Will deliberated as to just turn and leave, or stay and deal with Jal’s body, realizing that his guilty conscience was nudging at him to at least grant the unfortunate man a burial.

Knowing that the decision was really in Deanna’s hands, Will swallowed the large lump in his throat and prepared himself to not only speak to Deanna, but pull her out of her shocked state as well. "Dee..." he started, but she stopped him, her voice heavily with loss and acceptance.

"Take me away from here, Will.," she said sadly but urgently. "Take me home, to my son, now."

Unsure whether to broach the subject of disposing of Jal’s body, Will studied her frozen features for a long moment. But eventually, Deanna turned her watery and blotched eyes to him and her lips and body trembled with sorrow. Realizing as she looked into her new lover’s face, she suddenly understood his dilemma and said. "I’ll deal with it later, I just need to leave here, Will. I want to go home to my son."

Recognizing her need to leave, Will silently and reluctantly nodded his agreement and turned the shuttle about and set a course back to the Enterprise. Deanna didn’t look back once.


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