By Carol Sandford


Chapter 45


Deanna took in the surroundings before allowing her dark, troubled eyes to finally settle on the object of her true intention; Will, standing amongst his fellow comrades; friends he?d made, Betazoids that had come to admire and respect him to wish him a fond farewell.

She?d dressed appropriately for the occasion, or so she had thought. Deanna had been tempted to wear an outfit that Will would never ever forget; something slinky, sexy and beguiling. But then, at the eleventh hour, she had changed her mind.

As Deanna had stood in front of her mirror assessing the gown she had chosen, her heart had become overcome with a feeling that she hadn?t expected. A feeling that she had experienced not so long ago. A melancholy that she had felt when a friend had died. When Chandra had lost her life. It had swept through her; chilling her heart, clawing at memories that needed to remain light, turning them into nightmares that threatened to consume her very soul.

Will was leaving, and it felt like he was dying, right then and there, in her arms. She couldn?t stop the reaction from sending a chill throughout her body. Hugging her slim arms around her midriff as the loss cascaded through her, Deanna continued to stare at her reflection in the long mirror, the tears that she longed to shed, finally breaking free as she let them cleanse her heart of the misery that had bottled up inside since Will had left her a few scant hours ago.

Death required a different outfit to the one that adorned her slender body. Stripping it off, Deanna reached into her wardrobe and pulled out a black high-necked and long sleeved top, slipping over her head before reaching in again and pulling out black pants that, although fitted her derriere snugly, flared out until they reached the floor.

The hair that she had pulled up into a high bun, leaving tendrils escaping here and there to take off it?s harshness, Deanna freed it from it?s confines and let the riot of curls fall to lay naturally down her back.

Now she looked as she felt; like a woman that was losing her soulmate. Taking one last look in the mirror, Deanna swept a shaky hand across her cheeks to wipe away the moisture that lay there, and then turned away with a deep sigh, pulled open the door and walked out and down the stairs, her footsteps as heavy as her heart.

As she put her hand on the handle of the front door, Deanna hesitated. She?d sensed her mother behind her, aware that she had paused in the drawing room?s doorway, unsure if she should say something to comfort her daughter or let her be.

Deanna turned the ornate bar and pulled the door slowly open, she hesitated before turning her head far enough to face the one person that must have known what she was going through. Deanna offered her a sad but tentative smile. A smile that relayed to her that she would be okay. Lwaxana could only offer a watery smile back before turning away to remember a memory of her own, a memory that she needed to share with no one but herself.

Deanna headed down to the base, a walk that took her almost twenty minutes. Grateful for the solitude and the time to compose and prepare herself for the ordeal she was about to face, she wasn?t prepared for the sight that greeted her as she approached the base?s accommodation sector.

A riot of jovial laughter and chatter assaulted her ears and as Deanna stepped into the building, she realized that a party was in progress. Will?s leaving party. Inanely, she had thought that their farewell would be somehow similar to when Will had gone to face the Sindareen; that they would be alone. That they would be saying goodbye amongst kisses and tears. But as she neared the room that the raucous laughter was emanating from, Deanna quickly realized that that was not going to happen.

Half concealing herself just outside the door, she watched the man that she longed spend the next half hour of her life with in private behave as though he was going on a routine run out and not as though he was leaving a bereft woman behind. Dismay rode her features as the enormity of the situation unfolded before her.

Her frown deepened still as she watched him throw back his head, letting go the roar of light-hearted laughter that Deanna hadn?t needed to read his mind to know that it was of a rude nature. He stood so tall, so handsome, his Starfleet uniform, freshly laundered or replaced fitted his lanky frame as though it was to be forever moulded to his lean body, a harsh jolt to remind her of just who Lieutenant William T Riker truly was.

But despite his attempt of being at ease with himself, and his leaving, Deanna could see, without even delving into the depths of his mind, that his stance was rigid, and edgy. Desperate even. He listened intently; leaning towards those who spoke to him, afraid of letting his thoughts wander off to a place they did not want to go. He craved the people that clamoured for his attention as though everything depended on it, his very life. His sanity.

He?s scared. Deanna quickly realized. He?s petrified to be alone with me. The instant she had arrived and seen the crowd surrounding Will, Deanna was aware, probably more than Will had been, that it was a deliberate attempt on his part to reduce the pain that they were about to endure, to a level that could be tolerated.

Deanna wasn?t sure if she was silently relieved, or pitifully saddened. Could the next few minutes be lessened to merely a fond farewell? To a chaste kiss on the cheek? Could she allow one solitary tear to be set free from the dam that bubbled and raged inside her, waiting to do it?s absolute worst to her already bleeding heart, her tormented mind, and her completely tortured soul? Could she let him go without revealing any one of them to him?

God help her, no. But she had to try, for his sake.

When Will?s buddies had descended upon his room just before ten o?clock after a spending the last few hours of night plagued by taunting, conflicting demons, some begged him to stay, others told him to go. To follow his heart. To go get the girl. To be the man he always wanted to be. To be the man that Deanna wanted him to be.

What did he do? He was emotionally ripped into two and the only thing that kept him from yielding to his hearts true desire, was his goal. The same goal that he had chased since he had been a boy.

To be captain of his very own Starship.

Even if it meant giving away his soul, a soul that he no longer owned anyhow. A soul that he knew now, he would one day reclaim, along with the woman who took it.

Deanna. His Deanna. His destiny. The destiny that he had been promised.

And then, as he?d roared with grateful laughter at the roguish wisecrack, Will?s mind first tingled with a familiar sensation, the same sensation that he?d come to be too familiar with in short a time. A sensation that he knew he was going to miss, for a variety of reasons, the biggest being not being able to turn around and find her there, to see her beautiful face and be aware that she was only a touch away, mentally and physically.

Will felt his body tense as a wave of excitement that somehow, despite the situation, always found him turning towards the origin. The same magnetism that drew him towards her whenever she was close by. He couldn?t stop it and he didn?t ever want it to, and now was no different. The chatter that continued regardless of his sudden silence dissipated into a distant hum as Will found himself being pulled towards the source of his mind and body?s pull.

Will took in a deep, unsteady breath as his eyes found hers, instinctively turning his body to face her head on. But that was as far as he got. His feet refused to move. He was aware of the voices around him, aware of the jocular taps on the shoulder as the men continued to include him in the conversation, completely unaware that the star of the show had his mind and eyes locked onto the woman that was slowly walking towards him.




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