By Carol Sandford


Chapter 38


It was over. It was done. The Sindareen, faced with three massive fleets against them, had had no option but to allow their hostages to be transported back to their own kind, and then have to face the indignity of being escorted out of Federation space, with their tails tucked firmly between their legs, lucky to have escaped with only a severe warning. This time.

Lieutenant William Riker and the rest of his command returned back to Betazed, coming to land with, it seemed, a welcome fit only for royalty. As soon as the ships touched down, a massive swarm of people descended on them as they stepped out of the hatches, each and everyone of the Betazed people either wanting to vigorously shake their hands with gratitude, their tearful words unable to convey their feelings, or kiss them, sweeping them into their embrace, silence saying much more than words ever could.

Taller than most, Will could only soak up their indebtness, reddening right down to his toes for, what he considered, to be simply doing his job. as he began to search out with a mixture of fevered urgency and longing above the tops of the heads of the very people he had helped to save, to try and spot the only person that he wanted to see right then. It seemed to be an age of tortured waiting, of thumping heart, and dreaded fear if what the Sindareen had put her through, until finally, he saw her.

Will spotted the wild mane of ebony hair, and even before physically seeing her, he?d felt her presence, allowed it to quench his soul?s thirst, and knew that she was almost within his field of vision. Almost there with him. Among the frenzied hustle and bustle of disembarkation, and the band of security people forcing themselves through the fray holding a makeshift stretcher, he reached out to her with an invisible touch of comfort, and without seeing her with his own eyes, Will captured her relief and worry as she clung to the hand of the stretcher?s occupant as she walked along side it.

Will swallowed his disappointment along with the miniscule flare of mistrust that whoever she was escorting, clearly needed her more than he. He didn?t care about that, having thrown his entire quota of trust at this one woman and he trusted her implicitly, so jealousy didn?t even enter his mind other than that of his own selfishness to have her holding onto him. He needed her, just for a moment, just for a second, just to satisfy his heart, his soul, that she was back and she was safe.

Just one second.

Just one second. Look at me, Imzadi. See me, he pleaded silently.

As his eyes followed her his breath caught, the silent pleading for Deanna to stop finally filtered through the chaos that surrounded her and her feet slowly came to a halt. In slow motion, she turned and her eyes found his across the colorful forest of heads, unable to anything more than look, and feel. Deanna simply soaked up the very sight of him, felt the warmth of his love flow into her frozen, hurting body and replenish her heart. Her huge eyes swam with tears in her pale and dirty face as fatigue, sorrow and fear poured from her soul. Will felt each emotion batter her mind as she battled against falling apart before him.

And then she was gone, cocooned within a blanket that suddenly appeared upon her shoulders and then led away with the other rescued hostages, and Will?s heart ached as he realized that he was going to have to wait a while before he could get to see Deanna again and wipe away the terrors that he knew from experience, would come and claim her later, and he hoped, above all else that he would be there to help her through.

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