By Carol Sandford


Chapter 15


At exactly noon, Will found himself back on the Troi mansion's doorstep again. Knocking louder than what was necessary, Will took a pace back and unconsciously straightened his uniform, sweeping his hand through his hair too, ignoring the tremble in his hand. He initially put it down to his excitement at seeing Deanna again, but as soon as her mother opened the door, he realised the tremble was fear, of her. Puffing up his chest in a show of bravado, he spoke. "I'd like to see Deanna please, Mrs. Troi?"

"I'm sure you would, Mr. Riker, but I am not going to allow it." Lwaxana Troi told him in no uncertain terms, her voice firm and unyielding, "I won't tell her you called. Goodbye."

Reeling from her words, Will didn't immediately react to the door being shut in his face until it was almost closed, and with the speed of a bullet, Will put one of his rather large, black, shiny booted feet in its way. "Have I done something to offend you, Mrs. Troi. I thought we were..."

He hesitated on the word he wanted to say; friend. It didn't seem to be quite the right one anymore. She was obviously upset about something and he swallowed when he saw the look upon her now sour face. "Friends, Mr. Riker? Is that what you were going to say? I thought, 'friends' didn't kiss each other in quite the same manner that you and that Roper creature did last night. I'm sure my daughter won't see it in quite that way."

Caught. Trapped. Presumed guilty without a trial. Will swore beneath his breath, never taking his eyes away from the formidable woman that stood taller than him, courtesy of the door's elevated rise from the lower step that he still stood ramrod still on, the foot that had previously wedged the heavy wooden door now firmly back beside its mate. Frozen.

And then he replayed the bitter words that had fell from her mouth; I'm sure my daughter won't see it in quite that way...

Won't see it...

She hadn't told her!

"No, I haven't told her...yet." she confirmed, "But I intend to, Mr. Riker, as soon as I'm confident that she will believe me," she stated. "At the moment, her head is not being ruled by common sense, but it will, because you, Mr. Riker, will hurt her."

Will opened his mouth to defend himself, but she cut him off before he got a word out, "You will hurt her, Lieutenant, and it has nothing to do with your...dalliances with other ladies." she said, disgust lacing her words.

"Because I'm leaving." Will realised, feeling even more miserable about that than about his other minor transgression.

"Because you're leaving." She agreed. And after a long moment of tormented inner struggle, watching the truth drain from the young Starfleet lieutenant, the fight suddenly left her, and moving away from the door, Lwaxana Troi's arm made a dramatic sweep, inviting him to step in. He did so, warily, glancing behind the door to see if the giant housekeeper, Homn was lurking there, ready to pounce.

"No, he isn't there, Mr. Riker. He's fixing lunch." she said, reading his mind, and his actions.

Will slowly closed the door behind him and stood barely a few feet away from it, uncertainty oozing from his very essence, but amongst that uncertainty, Will felt a glimmer of hope. Maybe she wasn't such an old gargoyle after all.

Stopping in mid stride, the matriarch turned back towards him, her mouth and eyebrows risen in amusement, her voice holding a hint of laughter as she spoke. "Trust me, Lieutenant, I can be."

Will inwardly groaned. Being around one of the most powerful telepaths on the planet was getting to be a right, royal pain in the proverbial a... He cut the thought short when he caught her glancing over her shoulder at him again as he followed her through to the impressive drawing room, missing the smirk as she turned back away from him.

Indicating to him that he should be seated, he wisely waited until she had done so, his manners at last making an appearance. Hoisting his pant legs up as he stretched his long limbs down onto the fancy seating, Will perched nervously on its edge, lacing his fingers to hide the feint tremor, waiting for...what? He didn't have to wait for long.

"I'd like to know why you're hurting my daughter." she asked.

Will was confused, "But...I thought..."

"No, no," she exclaimed, batting away his confusion with her hand, cross that he'd misunderstood her, "That was before. Now I want to know why you needed to find solace in another woman's arms, and don't tell me it wasn't your fault, Mr. Riker. I know perfectly well what went on last night, and you were not totally innocent of the encounter."

Will had absolutely no intention of telling her one, solitary thing about his little mishap with Wendy Roper. Okay, so maybe he wasn't quite as innocent as he proclaimed, but he sure as hell wasn't exactly rolling in the hay with her, and, he added, he did back away as soon as his head caught up with his libido and reminded him about another woman who was at home, keeping his place warm for him.

But then his guilt and excuses skittered away to be replaced by other feelings, emotions, and finding Lwaxana's eyes, he held them fast with his own and as honestly as he could, he said, "I forgot," his broad shoulders lifting a fraction, aiding his response.

It was said so simply that Lwaxana's last ounce of mistrust and doubt slipped away. She hadn't expected him to say what he had. What she'd known of Terran males in the past, including her treasured husband, was that when it came to matters of sex, honesty was about the furthest thing from their minds.

But William Riker was different. Every time she encountered the man, or heard something about him, he never failed to surprise her, and sometimes he even delighted her with his own brand of uniqueness. It was easy to see why her daughter had fallen head over heels in love with him, and if she'd have been twenty years younger....

Dragging herself back to the present and away from her fanciful, and evocative daydreams, Lwaxana quickly decided that she wanted to make William squirm for a little longer before putting him out of his misery.

"You forgot. My daughter?" Lwaxana packed her voice with a touch of venom, using her expressive eyes to carry the insult across. "Would you like to expand on the word, 'forgot', Mr. Riker?"

Will blinked rapidly as he accessed his befuddled brain, searching for the explanation that would get him out of the hole that was getting deeper and deeper by the minute. He swallowed, "Perhaps forgot was the wrong word, Mrs. Troi." he said carefully.

"No it wasn't. The word was exactly the one you meant to say, and I'd like you to explain to me how a man that barely two days ago, not only took my daughters innocence, but was privileged to become her Imzadi, too, could possibly, 'forget' her."

"I didn't forget Deanna!" He jumped in, his whole posture coming alert as he realised that her mother had got entirely the wrong end of the stick. Gamely he ploughed on, "I love your daughter, Mrs. Troi. Forgetting her is something that will never happen, I can promise you that." he said sincerely.

"Then just, 'what' did you forget?" she asked exasperated.

Will sighed heavily, moving his eyes away from her intent gaze as he tried to make her understand the importance of his confession. "I forget about Imzadi," he said, turning his face back to her, pleading for belief.

Now it was Lwaxana's turn to blink. "You thought you could behave inappropriately with another woman and get away with it, but you got caught out because the bond squeezed in between and reminded you that you'd given your soul to my daughter? Is that it, Lieutenant. Is that the pathetic excuse you're going to use to placate me?" she asked, astounded.

Will inwardly cringed at her scrutiny, and her accusation. She was right, he couldn't argue against that, and when she voiced it out aloud, the whole episode became sordid. What in hell's name had he done?

Deanna meant more to him than that. In the space of a few scant days, Deanna had become everything that made life worth living, and he'd thrown it all away because he hadn't had the will power to say no. The knowledge of that made the bile rise to his throat and he pushed himself to a stand and prepared to leave, unable to stare his failure in the face any longer.

Looking down at Deanna's mother with sadness and regret etching his handsome features, he uttered the only two words that came to mind. The only two words that he could offer with any degree of sincerity.

"Forgive me."

Will visibly watched the anger fade from Lwaxana's face, his eyes rising as she too came to a stand before him. He was surprised when she gently reached out and touched his arm, a sad smile forming upon her face. "Forgive yourself, Will. Consider what happened a lesson. You weren't to know about the powers held within an Imzadi bond. But I'm sure you do now, don't you?" she asked kindly.

Understanding, Will nodded slowly. "Yes," and then brightening a little he added with a smile, "Besides, how could I possibly want more than what Deanna has given me."

It wasn't a question and Lwaxana saw it as such, but still, she answered it as though it were. "All I ask is that you remember that, Will."

Will felt the ton weight lift from his shoulders as he stood smiling at the woman before him. Taking a deep cleansing breath he figured he'd got nothing left to lose as he opened his mouth to ask her the obvious. But he soon closed it again when she beat him to it.

"No, Mr. Riker, you may not see Deanna today," She stated firmly as she took his arm and lead him through the house towards the door, "You can go back to your quarters and spend some time thinking about our conversation. And then, you can think about what you've got to offer my daughter. And then," she carried on relentlessly, Will's head spinning with the barrage of assignments she was enforcing upon him, "I want you to think about what's going to happen when you get reassigned and leave my planet."

By then they had reached the outer door and once more Will stood on the threshold, still held captive by the matriarch's domineering voice. Moving to close the door, she finally added, "And then, I want you to think about Deanna. Goodbye, Mr. Riker."

The door closed with a solid, 'thunk' and Will didn't move from his familiar spot, thinking about her parting words.

Think about Deanna...

Of course Will knew exactly what she had meant. He was going to leave Betazed sooner or later, and when he did, Deanna was going to be brokenhearted. In fairness, so was he, but in maybe a month or so's time, they would be closer still - maybe even inseparable by then, but Will was aware that no matter how much he cared about Deanna, when the time came, he would leave.

But, if he broke things off now, despite their Imzadi bond, technically the pain would be less. And even as Will turned away from the closed door, his heart began to ache with the prospect of never seeing his one, true love - his Imzadi, ever again.

What in hell's name am I going to do?! he wondered sadly, the prospect of never seeing Deanna's beautiful face again, never to touch her, kiss her, talk to her, or make love to her ever again was completely unbearable.

Yup, Will really was going to think about Deanna, but he knew he wasn't going to like the end result.

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