By Carol Sandford


Chapter 18


Will Riker studied the controls in front of him, checking that everything was okay before he set off. He was deliberately going slow; taking his time, checking things that didn't need to be checked. Killing seconds before Deanna reached him.

He knew she was coming, Tang had already radioed him and warned him that she was on her way. The rest of the team had already left the hanger until only he was left. Even the flight deck crews had drifted away and Will wondered if they'd guessed that he and his guest wouldn't want bystanders watching on, or listening in.

A vision filled his mind and he closed his eyes and allowed her features, her body to consume him for a moment, reminding him again why he loved Deanna Troi, marvelling at how God had created someone that was a perfect match, both inside his soul and out. How his heart undoubtedly beat in time with hers. How her tiny contours flawlessly fitted against his vast bulk. How her lips were just the perfect size and shape for his. And how his rampant hardness had found home in her welcoming body.

Will moaned and his hands trembled and he mentally berated himself for the visible lapse of control over his desires, and fears. And he was afraid. Of her, and of himself. Afraid of losing himself to her once again even though it would be the most dangerous thing he could do.

Somehow, two very long weeks had gone past without a single word passing between them. It had taken a colossal effort on his part to keep away from Deanna, at times physically having to stop his feet from moving when his head and heart had caved in to the need, letting sense and sanity step in when he needed it most, and he was exhausted with the constant battle between the two.

And now, after all that effort, just when he thought he was home and dry - and about to leave, Deanna had heard and had come to him. Will's mouth suddenly went dry as he heard her footsteps echo through the vast corridors. She was almost upon him. Just a few more seconds and he could feast his eyes upon her beautiful face again. One second more and his will-power was going to vanish into space.

Will heard her footsteps slowly come to a halt and he knew she was searching the area for him. He sat ramrod still in the cockpit waiting for her to finally spot him. The rush of tense silence filled the hanger increased tenfold, heightened by the chilly air of the vast metallic dome. Will could see the tiny plumes of breath leave her lips as the cold filled her lungs, her arms immediately snaking around her waist as it hit her torso, too.

Will couldn't leave her out there any longer, and aware that she couldn't hear his voice, he opened his mind and silently spoke, willing her to hear his rudimentary attempt to thought send, I'm in here, Deanna, come in out of the cold

He heard a couple more footsteps as she moved nearer the shuttle's window and then she was facing him head on, and for a long minute they simple stood and stared at each other. Stormy brooding eyes faced her, and her large doe-like ones faced him, until unable to tolerate the chills that were seeping through her body any longer, Deanna stepped out of sight and made her way to the back of the shuttle.

By the time she had timidly entered, Will had turned his body to face her, and battened down his racing emotions for whatever storm that was about to occur, and for whatever damage they were each going to do to their souls yet again> But he could halt the desire that dilated his eyes as he drank in the sight of her. Or believe that she was here, before him. That she cared enough to come to him, to be with him, despite everything.

Nervously, Deanna looked around the small craft before seating herself on the edge of the seat that ran along the side, her palms holding onto its edge as she prepared herself for whatever was about to happen. She tried to gauge his state of mind, but apart from the very brief moment he had let her in to tell her his whereabouts, Will kept it well and truly out-of-bounds, and a few very uncomfortable moments went by before he finally said quietly, "Why did you have to come?"

Deanna swallowed, her throat tightening with dismay at his question. His voice held accusation, fear, and dread at her answer. But looking into Will's eyes, Deanna saw beyond the question. Saw that he was holding back an ocean of tears and emotions that he didn't dare release, afraid of revealing his true pain.

But she wasn't quite so afraid of showing him hers, and tears that she had kept disguised for so long rose to the surface, choking her words as she spoke, "I...heard you were leaving, Will, and I couldn't let you go without seeing you."

Will's eyes flared with pain, his response more a statement than a question, "You don't think I'm going to come back," His anger sparked, "You've come to say goodbye to me, is that it, Deanna?"

Deanna was horrified that he thought that she had only come because she never expected to see him again, especially as it had been the furthest thing from her mind. It was never seeing him again, knowing that he was out there, somewhere, living a life without her. Not wanting her, period, that hurt her more. Much more than him dying.

Throwing herself off the seat, she found herself on her knees at his feet, her hands reaching for his forearms as her eyes pleaded for understanding, "Oh, no, no, Imzadi! I never meant that at all! I...I..." she stalled as she tried to formulate into words what her heart was screaming at her.

But Will had gone beyond reasoning, already accepting that he had jumped to conclusions. Now his head was reeling from hearing the endearment fall from her lips as naturally as speaking his own name, and he found himself smiling sadly at her upturned, tear-washed face, "You called me Imzadi."

Deanna froze, her eyes locking with his as she mentally back-tracked to her heart-felt words, unable to take them back and then not even wanting to as she witnessed the reaction to her innocent mistake upon his face She smiled weakly, and then wider still as Will's hand rose and his palm caressed her jawline, "You are my Imzadi, Will."

Will closed his eyes and sighed heavily, the burden of failing the woman before him increasing another notch. Reluctantly opening his eyes again, he was serious and forlorn as he murmured, "I know," He sighed again before continuing, "You've got to believe me, Deanna when I say I wish this had never happened between us. Not now."

And she did, nodding understandingly, "I know, Will. No one is more sorry than I, and I'm sorry that I forced you into this position - that I wasn't strong enough to fight against it happening to us," Her voice strengthened with conviction, hoping that it would pull them out of the painful moment. "But it has happened, and we've both got to put it aside and get on with what we've got to do, especially you, Will. Especially now."

Deanna felt the wave of agony sweep over her at her words and she reached up and gripped the hand that still caressed her face, moving it over her mouth and pushing her lips to it's palm, his words bringing stinging tears to her eyes again as her heart shuddered with sorrow.

"I think I'm going to die, Deanna." Will said brokenly, the sudden belief stunning him, hurting him deep down inside, in a place that he'd never knew existed, that had over the past weeks had revealed itself and its capability of inflicting unbearable pain.

She gasped at his brutal honesty, "No! No you're not, Will! Don't say that. Don't ever say that! You are not going to die!" And then sudden inspiration hit her and she said quickly, "I can ask my mother to intervene. Starfleet will listen to her! She can tell them that you're needed here - to protect us. Or for..."

Will cut her off, "Deanna, Starfleet didn't want me to do this anyway. This mission is my idea. My decision."

Deanna leaped to her feet, denial pouring from every pore, her terror ripping away at the very thin layer of self preservation, exposing just what his actions was doing to her, "NO!" she cried, as fresh tears steamed down her face, "Why are you doing this to me - to us!? You don't need to do this, Will. You don't need to go!"

Will jumped from his seat, pulling her into his arms, holding her tight against his chest, her wails lost as his body soaked up her suffering, absorbing it along with his own. Now he'd gotten over the worst part of telling her, he felt a calmness fall over him and his voice was quieter and steadier as he tried to explain,

"I've got to, Deanna. We've had word that the Sindareen have an encampment on the far side of your second moon. They are gathering forces - preparing to strike Betazed any day now. We are going to go and get them before they come and get us - catch them on the hop."

Pushing her away far enough so he could look into her face he continued, "While I've still got breath in my body, I am not going to let them get near you, Imzadi."

Will looked longingly down into the face that had been etched upon his soul forever and struggled against giving in to what he wanted. What he only wanted, and with a groan of submission, and self-loathing, Will caved in to the hunger that gnawed away at his heart.

Their mouths met with a crash as Will crushed her to him, sliding his tongue into her welcoming mouth with a fever that had eaten away at his soul for two long miserable weeks. His body shook with feeling, and he let her replenish him with everything that she offered, giving it equally back, hoping upon all hopes that it would be enough to see them both through the next few hours.

It had been naivety that had brought them both to this moment, but love had stepped in and taken over the first chance it had gotten. But it had never meant to take it to this extreme, and never expected to be torn apart this soon.

They had no chance of remaining friends. Every time Will spoke to her, or saw her, or thought about her, his heart would break. Knowing that he had to live without her beside him was beyond comprehension. Beyond forgetting. But he couldn't do that anyway, because she was with him, and within him, everywhere he went.

But for now, Will had to let her go. He had to say goodbye, but his tortured and rebellious mind refused to take that final step, clinging onto the tiny shred of hope that somehow, someway that had a chance. But he had a job to do first, and he had to get back home to her, alive.

Will ripped his mouth from hers and urged her to the back of the shuttle craft, struggling to hold his voice as he spoke, failing as it crackled with emotion. "Go," he pleaded, "Please, Deanna, go."

Unable to speak, the tears clogging her own throat, Deanna could do nothing more than take one last look at him, hesitating a moment longer, tormented by the agony etched upon his face, knowing that she put it there. Spinning on her heels, she hurried out of the shuttle and once she was clear of the doors, she stopped, turning to watch the hatch come down, her soul preparing to close its own doors to hide away from the pain it was going to have to contend with until she saw him again.

Deanna moved around to the side out of harms way as the engines began start up. Her eyes searched for his through the window, and once more, for a long moment, they simply looked at each other until, with a small salute, Will finally began to move off.

Deanna rose her hand to wave goodbye, but he was already gone, banking sharply out of the giant hanger door and heading towards his comrades as they sat waiting for their leader, mentally preparing themselves for the mission ahead.

War was all but a heartbeat away and nobody knew who was going to be the victor. But Will hoped and prayed with all his heart that it was going to be him, just so that he go home and feast his eyes upon his Imzadi again.

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