By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01

  It was the end of another, long and somewhat painful day as Will slowly walked along to his quarters. It took him a long moment when he reached his door before he could summons up the nerve to admit something to himself. But eventually it did and when it did, it instantly slammed home just what the day was and what it meant to him.

It was his anniversary and this anniversary, along with the past four, he celebrated alone with a tumbler or two of good whiskey and a melancholy tune that soothed his tortured soul until he could fall asleep and start another day. A day that wasn't his anniversary.

Christmas was only around the corner and like his anniversary, it was another time that was not welcome, especially as it was Christmas Day when it had finally sunk in that Deanna wasn't coming back to him. Ever.

Old friends tried their best to get him to take leave and spend the holidays with them, and each year he had feigned one excuse after another using his favourite one of taking on the shifts so that other crew members with families could spend precious time with them.

Will didn't need Christmas. He had no family and it was just another painful admission that crucified his soul at times, like now as he steadfastly refused to allow Christmas to take over his quarters. The only present he allowed himself was an honest, good old fashioned bottle of scotch which was usually gone by the time dawn broke as he drunkenly pondered if Deanna had found the excitement and happiness that she had said was missing from their own relationship.

"I'm bored, Will, we need to change."

Deanna had meant herself, of course. Will hadn't wanted to change. Change what? He'd wondered too many times as he'd emptied another tumbler of the amber soother down his throat. How could they change their lives on a Starship? And so she had left and he had stayed as the change she eventually took, didn't include him.

They'd married before they'd taken up their places on the USS Titan. That had been the change that Will had wrongly thought they'd needed. But it hadn't been. If anything, it had simply made things worse, what with his new captaincy, a role that demanded even more of his precious time. Deanna had been firmly pushed back into the background even though she was a qualified counselor, purely because she was his wife. It was assumed that she would stay at his side and not continue her role as a counselor. It was also assumed that she was more than happy to be nothing more than a wife, and she had hated it.

Sighing at the unwanted memory Will shucked his boots and made his way to the replicator. It was a full minute as he pondered over what he wanted to eat for supper only to eventually shrug and walk away again empty handed, his appetite lost. Throwing his large frame along the entire length of the settee Will rested his head back and stared gloomily at the ceiling.

The insistent, 'peep, peep' of the console was ignored until the incessant noise began to grate so much that Will reluctantly pushed himself to his feet, purely with only the intent of shutting the infernal racket off before he did something he regretted to the valuable piece of equipment.

But as he stared at the unrecognisable code on the display screen, Will found himself intrigued at the mystery caller suddenly relieved that it wasn't one of his closest friends calling to offer him a night out on the town, or worse than that, their sympathy.

Pushing the acceptance switch Will came face to face with the one person he least expected. The one person that he didn't want to see or talk to, because it was the person that took his wife away from him. His brother. His twin. His nightmare. Thomas.

Will tried valiantly to hold the bile down that rose in his throat as he stared at the mirror image of himself not quite believing the man's gall. Only Thomas Riker would show his face on a day that still held more than it should to him. Only Thomas Riker would dare to have the nerve.

"What do you want?" Will spat not even attempting to keep the venom from his voice.

Ignoring Will, Thomas asked, "Have you seen Deanna? I thought..." He faltered, suddenly very unsure of himself. "I thought she may be with you."

Startled but wary, Will took a longer look at his nemesis and saw beyond the man that stole his wife from him. Deep, deep shadows made his blue eyes stand out even brighter than normal, even though those eyes were filled pain and worry. His hair was unkempt, his clothes shabby. His whole demeanour looked troubled.

Resting his palms face down onto the desk's surface, Will lowered his face to the screen before him, close enough for Thomas not to miss one moment of Will's own torment. "Why would she be with me? I haven't seen her since..." Will struggled to spit the words out but couldn't stop the bitterness when he finally did. "since you stole her from me, you bastard."

There was a silence for a long moment as Thomas absorbed Will's loss, neglecting his own briefly until he was ready to face him again. Moments later, he took a deep breath and spoke shakily. "Deanna's left me, Will, and I've reason to believe she's with you."

Stunned, Will stood upright, his eyes widening with disbelief until Tom continued on, "If you refuse to see me then I'll be convinced she's with you."

The last person in the universe Will wanted to see face to face was Thomas. To come face to face with him after all this time, and after all that had happened, made him go cold with loathing. Events that were still as raw to him as the first day that he'd come home to find his wife gone, gone to be with his brother, was so almost incomprehensible that he didn't even consider his preposterous accusation.

And then he thought back to what Thomas had said and astonishment turned to anger. "Just whereabouts are you, Thomas?"

"About an hour out of Titan's position." He confirmed.

"So you're really coming for her?" Will asked with dread.

"If that's an invitation, Captain..." And severed the connection. Will stared at the blank screen and attempted to take in what and who he'd just seen and heard. Deanna had left Thomas, and Thomas was coming to the Titan to find her. In an hour.

One hour.

God help him.

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