By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


Challenge: Keywords: Riker. Snake. Wilderness

Set: Titan era but tale is set on Earth.

Deanna woke with a start and her heart pounded within her heaving chest as she gasped for breath. It was happening again; the dream. Always the same dream. She'd had it three nights on the trot now, and for three nights she had woken the same way; alone and afraid. But this night - tonight – she really was alone, and very, very afraid.

The dream had finally come true. Will had vanished. He was out there, somewhere in the wilderness that was once his home, and she didn't have a clue where to look for him.

It was dark, very dark. The night shadows followed her everywhere as she felt her way through the tangle of trees that stood like frozen sentinels surrounding her, blocking her every move, stopping her from getting to the other side, from getting free, and from finding Will.

Tangled vines snagged at her legs and she didn't dare consider what lie lurking, waiting to pounce, waiting to stop her from reaching her goal; Will.

She was cold, so cold. Her flimsy jacket was entirely unsuitable for a trek through the woods near on midnight, and with promise of the winter to come at any moment. Her breath puffed out a cloud of chilled air as she stopped to take in her surroundings and assess which way to go on. Deanna didn't know where Will was, all she knew was that he was hurt and that he needed her.

As she slept beneath the heavy blanket barely half an hour before, Will had silently called to her, waking her from the dream that she had slipped into as they'd laid curled up together on the couch. They'd only been in the remote cabin for five days. Five incredibly peaceful days where they'd done little more than sleep, eat, make love in front of the roaring log fire and walk along little trodden paths in the woods that surrounded their temporary home, the same woods that now scared her witless as Deanna searched blindly for her husband.

Why he'd gone was still a mystery to Deanna as her eyes darted through the murkiness in her frantic search for a way through the labyrinth of trees and scrub that was holding her captive. Tamping down her fear, Deanna reached out to Will with her mind. *Will, Will, where are you? Tell me which way to go. Help me, Imzadi*

Something fluttered onto her cheek and Deanna gasped with dismay when she realised that it was a snowflake. It had begun to snow. The threat of winter had been lingering for a couple of days and the cloudy skies seemed to be loaded down with the weight of freezing water waiting for the perfect moment to fall and cover the landscape with a blanket of pure, white snow.

Both Deanna and Will had been excited at seeing the end result before they returned to their life among the stars, but now Deanna's heart sunk as the ramifications of what it now meant. Snow meant cold, and cold meant death if someone was trapped out in it, and maybe hurt too. Deanna was sure that Will was both, because if he weren't, he'd still be curled up beside her as they celebrated the last wanted thing on the list that would make their impromptu getaway absolutely perfect; the winter wonderland that they wanted to see and share together.

Deanna didn't know how or why her beloved husband was trapped, or how badly he was hurt, she only knew that he was. After Will's initial frantic message via the unique link and precious gift that had been bestowed upon the smitten pair many moons before, any further communication had been severely fractured amidst the clouds of pain that seeped through, telling the Betazoid that her Imzadi was in trouble and hurting and he needed her.

Terror and dismay soared through her as she stood silently and watched the gigantic flakes flutter all around her, settling upon everything they touched, including Deanna. Her teeth began to chatter and as she rubbed at her arms to ward off the chills that began to seep through her clothes and to her very heart. Deanna turned to look behind and considered whether it would be wise to turn back and prepare better. She wondered what Will was wearing and was swallowed whole with the dilemmas that cascaded through her. God, what did she do? Several times Deanna turned back and forth as she searched the darkness behind and ahead of her and deliberated over her quandary as to what she should do, and eventually, it was the pull of her husband's will that urged her to carry on. She'd gone too far to turn back and she knew that Will needed her as occasionally splintered moans of pain filtered through her senses, torturing her already frayed nerves.

As she pushed on the terrain began to alter. She remembered from their walks that the trees covered the hills that surrounded their home. The lake, she knew, was in another direction and her footsteps quickened as the knowledge that she was sure she was on the right track spurred her on. How she knew she was going the right way was a mystery to her, but in her heart, her mind, and her gut, this was the way.

Deanna remembered an outcrop of craggy rocks that topped the hill ahead. Just two days beforehand they had climbed the hill and on reaching the top had sunk down onto the summit, both out of breath but deliriously happy when they'd seen what being up higher revealed; miles and miles of the most spectacular landscape Deanna had ever seen. Alaska was a beautiful country and Will had painted such a wonderful picture of his homeland that Deanna had wanted to see firsthand what pulled her husband home every once in a while. Now she knew.

But as she began to climb Deanna began to wish that she'd never set eyes upon the place, let alone her feet. Joy had quickly turned to horror as she neared the outcrop and her sense of Will began to strengthen. He was here, she knew it, but what was she going to find? Deanna worriedly started to think about how she was going to get him home if he was hurt. But what if he needed hospital treatment? They were in the middle of nowhere and the nearest town was some 50 miles away. There was no way of contacting the Enterprise. Well, there was, but in her haste to find Will, Deanna had stupidly left the life-saving communicator at the cabin.

As she spied the outline of the craggy rocks Deanna began to mentally slap herself for her stupidity. She knew better than this to leave home so unprepared, especially knowing that Will could be critically injured. For once in her life she wished she had thought before acting, and as she began to clamour up the freezing rocks now treacherously slippery with icy snow, Deanna called Will's name.

"Will! Will! Where are you?"

"I'm here, Deanna, but for God's sake, don't come any nearer to me!"

Deanna stopped in her tracks as confusion cascaded throughout her body at her husband's odd demand. She searched the rocks around her and ascertained where she thought that Will may be, but did she dare move now? "Why not, Will. Are you hurt?" She asked fearfully as unknown terrors grabbed at her.

And then she heard the one word that sent shards of dread straight to her heart. "Snake, Deanna, a big one and it's bitten me. I can't move very well and I know it's still here somewhere. I can hear the bloody thing moving around and hissing its head off."

As Will spoke Deanna realised that his voice was echoing a little and another layer dread built on top of the level that held her feet captive. Will had fallen into a cave or something similar. Oh, God, that meant that she wasn't going to be able to get him out, certainly not without disturbing an already pissed snake.

Deanna shuddered as the word, 'snake' rolled throughout her body. She'd hated snakes for as long as she could remember, and then belatedly, she also remembered that she had been stumbling blindly through woods that were probably rife with them. She just hoped that with the ruckus she was making she managed to scare them out of her path long before she'd reached them.

She shook off her somewhat irrational fear as she tried to rationalise the situation that they were both in. 'Okay,' she pondered. 'If Will's in a cave or a hole big enough for a six and a half feet guy, then that means that the snake is also in there with him. So surely that means I can get nearer'

Taking a deep, trembling breath Deanna slowly walked further towards where she figured Will would be. Several large jagged rocks pushed into the dark night taking on a dark sinister look of hovering grim reapers. A semi-crescent moon blazed in the pitch-black sky behind them making the monoliths glow and Deanna used this precious source of light to cautiously make her way towards Will.

Will obviously heard her ascent and his curse word echoed around the chasm that he'd fallen into just a few scant hours ago. Why had he wanted to come up here and watch the stars? When he and Deanna had stumbled across the outcrop just a couple of days before he had promised himself that he would come back at night and take in the vista that he was sure he'd find. Maybe, he considered, he'd even see the Northern Lights. Of course he'd seen them many times before, but from up here they would have been spectacular and he wanted Deanna to experience them before they left the planet.

His grave error had been in coming up alone and without any form of communication device. It hadn't been his intention. He'd wanted to share the moments with his wife, but when he'd risen from their bed she'd been so deeply asleep he decided not to disturb her. There would always be another day before they had to leave. His first mistake had been not leaving Deanna a note. His second had been not looking where he was going and falling into this miniature hell-hole. His third had been practically landing on the slumbering snake that had been curled up snug as a bug in a rug at the bottom.

Before he could anything to save himself the wretched creature had sunk his fangs into his ankle and now it burned him to blazes. The fact that he was still alive and not suffering too greatly meant that, to his good fortune the snake hadn't been a venomous one. His main problem was that he was stuck in a ten foot deep hole that wasn't much bigger than him for the most part, but clearly had some kind of tunnelling as the snake had slithered off away from him. Tentative reaching around with his hand quickly told Will that the snake wasn't in his immediate vicinity, but he was certain it wasn't too far away as he could hear it shifting around.

And now Deanna had arrived and Will was terrified that she would meet the same fate as he if she came too close to the half hidden foot wide crack that he'd fallen into. Before she'd arrived he figured he'd just bide his time until sun up and then he could see where he was at and make his way out. The only reason he hadn't tried was from fear of slipping on some unseen loose dirt and falling back to the bottom and the snake lashing out at him again. He figured he'd been relatively lucky first time around, but he didn't rate his chances much if it got him again, and that was only if he didn't break his fool neck falling first.

Will had to stop her from coming any further and shouted out while he silently prayed that he didn't piss the snake off with his racket. "Deanna, please don't come up any further. It's too dangerous, honey. There's a crack in the rocks that you'll miss if you're not careful and it's too dark to see it. Go on back to the cabin and I'll make my way out in the morning when I can see what I'm doing."

He heard Deanna's feet shuffle to a halt and he breathed a sigh of relief that she was at least taking heed of his warning. But if expected her to do as she was told he was sorely disappointed. "If you think I am going to leave you here, then you are a fool, William Thomas Riker! I am going to lie down and edge my way up towards you. I can't fall in anywhere if I'm lying down, can I?"

Riker sighed and shook his head at his wife's illogical reasoning. "Deanna," he groaned. "All that means is, is that you'll fall in the damned hole head first. Please go on back, I'll be all right, I swear."

Will heard a shuffling noise coming from outside and he realised that Deanna hadn't taken a blind bit of notice of his warning or his plea, and when his prison suddenly became darker still, he knew that Deanna's head was now blocking out the little moonlight that had crept through the foliage above. Looking up he just glimpsed the outline of her head, seeing one of her hands reaching in towards him.

"Will, sweetheart, are you in there?"

"Yes, Deanna, I'm here." He reached up his own arm and on touching her hand he laced his chilled fingers with hers, and then suddenly, Will realised, he was glad that she was there. Being apart from his wife was hell. Being in danger and away from his wife was another story all together, and as he squeezed her fingers, his words were heartfelt as he murmured, "I love you, Mrs. Riker."

Deanna chuckled, relieved to finally connect with her soul-mate once more. "And I love you, you crazy lunatic. What on Earth compelled you to come up here on a night like tonight?"

Will chuckled himself as he answered her, the irony of the situation, considering their careers, wasn't lost on either of them, "Would you believe me if I said that I wanted to see the stars?"

"Of course you did." And Will knew that if he could see her she'd be shaking her head in amused and loving exasperation. But then the air between them went serious again as they remembered where they were and the fix that they were in, and that they weren't entirely alone.

"How can I help, Will? There must be a way I can help you get out of there."

"Unless you can drag a tree trunk up here and slide it in, then great. But, you can't do that, sweetheart so, nope, there's isn't another way until I can see what I'm up against at first light."

It took Will a few moments to realise that her hand had left his and another moment to realise that he was talking to himself. She'd gone. Deanna had left him. What fool plan had she'd thought up to get him out of there? He wondered.

For a long time Will stood with his hands on his hips listening out for the return of his wife, but after a minute or so he felt something slide across his shoes. He stopped breathing as horror swept over him. The snake had come out from its hidey hole and was looking to wrap itself around his feet. What did he do? Damn it, he couldn't do anything other than stand stock still, and pray.

And then, to top it all, he realised that he needed to pee. "Shit," He quietly groused, "This day is just getting better and better. All I need now is a friggin' earthquake to hit."

For a time that he couldn't even guess at, Will didn't dare move a muscle. He desperately wondered where Deanna had gone and if she was okay. It had to be freezing out in the exposed air as he was chilled to the bone himself. He'd glimpsed the snowflakes slowly falling above him, their magic captured in the shards of the moonlight that he could now see through the crack above him again.

And then he heard it, dragging, and then a moan of exertion, a mild cuss, and then a clunk of something hitting the rocks above. The noise disturbed the snake and Will felt it loosen its hold and slither off his shoes, hopefully going back into his little hidey hole away from him.

It was just as well it had gone as the next thing he heard was Deanna's voice grunting, "Watch out below!" and then a six inch wide and very long log came hurtling his way. Will just managed to duck to one side when he saw what was heading towards him.

"Damn it, Deanna! Are you trying to bust my head just so you can really make my day absolutely perfect!" But even as the words were leaving his mouth he couldn't believe that his tiny, girly, cuddly wife had gone and hunted through woods that he knew she would have been scared out her wits of, and hauled all the way back to him, what looked to be, a pretty feasible escape route. For the first time since he'd headed up here, Will smiled. Damn, he was proud of his woman.

Deanna's head filled the crack above him once again and this time he could hear the excitement in her voice even though he knew she must be absolutely frozen to death by now. "Will that one do, Will? It was all I could find at such short notice."

"Let's find out, shall we, sweetheart? Man coming up!" He hollered with barely concealed elation.

Will didn't waste any time fixing the long log into place, pushing on it to test its mettle. He was by no means a slim man anymore, but as he put his good foot on a knobbly off shoot upon it, he figured it was do or die time. Slowly he inched up, slipping more times than he cared as he bore too much weight on his bitten foot, but he was now determined to get out of his upright coffin just so he could hold his wife in his arms again, and get away from his room-mate, the snake.

Will had his hands on the end of the log. He was so close to escaping. So, so close. And then his hurt foot slipped on the damp bark and he found himself free-falling again, this time hitting the ground and landing on his ass. A grunt left his lungs at the same time a scream left his wife's.

"Will! Sweetheart! Are you okay?"

Feeling more stupid than hurt, Will shifted as he ascertained that he hadn't broken anything in the fall. Swiping at the dirt and dust that billowed up from his fall, Will was quick to reassure Deanna that he was no worse than before. That was up until he felt the tell-tale of familiar pain shoot through his left ass cheek. The damn snake had bitten him again.

The curse word that left his mouth was one that was very rarely spoken by Will, but under the circumstances he felt it was more than justified.

"Damn! The bastard bit me again!"

"Oh, my God, Will. Where? Are you okay?"

Temper surged through him as he struggled to his feet. Waves of pain soared through his buttock and thigh but the pain seemed to generate an urge so great that he gripped the trunk and started to climb again cursing all the way. By the time he reached his arm through to hopefully grab some sturdy foliage he had used every curse word that he knew, and even a couple of Klingon ones that Worf had taught him eons ago.

Deanna grabbed Will's arm and heaved with all her might. She didn't know if she was helping or not but she was hell bent on not letting him slip back again. Eventually, with a lot of grunting and moaning on both sides, Will finally crawled out of the hole. He'd made it, but now that the adrenalin rush was subsiding, the bite mark was making itself known. Will sunk onto a nearby rock, gasping as he caught his breath. Still on her hands and knees Deanna crept between Will's thighs and slid her arms around his waist.

"I am so glad you're safe, Will. How can I help?"

One of Will's hands slid through the damp mop that was once her beautiful silky hair. Brushing the long wet tendrils away from her upturned face, despite the pains rippling through him, Will could only marvel at the little fireball at his feet.

Chuckling with exhaustion, Will murmured, "Well, right now I was considering on asking you to suck the venom out of my wounds, but I think I'd rather go home and soak in a hot bath, but only if you join me."

Smiling, Deanna pushed herself to her feet, reached out her hand and helped him come to his feet. Slipping her shoulder under his arm, Will leaned on her strength. And she was strong, he realised. She had shown it to him now on so many occasions that he never had any doubt about her utter devotion to him. It took a unique kind of woman to hold a man up, and he had found the strongest of them all. He considered him to be blessed to have not only a woman that loved him with everything that she was, but strong enough to carry them through every pitfall that snatched at them rather too frequently.

Slowly and with determination Deanna guided her husband home. When, at last, they spied the thin plume of smoke from their log fire, Will let out a whoop of joy, crushing the small woman beside him against his chest. They'd made it, and all thanks to his devoted wife. The biting cold and the thick snowflakes that continually battered them on their way were forgotten as they'd reached their sanctuary.


Their footsteps quickened and moments later they were ensconced back inside their temporary home. Deanna stripped off her damp clothes as she hurried through to the bathroom. Fitting the plug in its hole she turned the bath taps on full force. Tipping in some heavenly scented bath foam she splashed her hands through the heated water and watched with satisfaction as bubbles began to billow.

Will watched his wife from the doorway, smiling at the scene before him. All she was wearing was a pair of thick dusty pink socks and it was all he could do to stop himself from moving towards her and doing what he'd wanted to do ever since she'd crazily come to rescue him. And rescue him she did, he'd realised. On his climb out of the hole he'd quickly established that he would never have made it out of there on his own.

Thank God she'd come for him.

Sensing her husband was behind her, Deanna was smiling with mirth as he turned her head towards him. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Captain Riker, we need to get you cleaned up so I can treat those bite marks. Come on, in." She ordered, resisting the pull of his ardent stare.

Will was laughing as he made his way further into the bathroom. He never could hide anything from her, especially lustful feelings. But, she was right. Cold and fatigue slipped throughout his mind and body. He stepped into the large tub and held out his hand. "You too, Mrs Riker, you're as grubby as I am."

"And besides," He added, as Deanna reached for his hand, using him as a balance as she slipped off her socks and stepped into the bath, both sinking into the hot bubbly water together. "I don't want you any further away from me than the end of my arms from now on. I can't seem to keep myself out of trouble when you're not around, and it doesn't look too good when the captain of a starship keeps getting rescued by his little, itty-bitty wife."

Deanna melted as she sunk against her husband's solid chest, letting him fill up his palms with soapy suds and run them lovingly over her shoulders and breasts. But even though she felt as though she'd died and gone to heaven, there was no way she was going to let that last little remark slip by.

Shifting her backside and legs so that she now sat upon his lap pressing against the hardness that she'd spied as he'd been watching her fill the bath, Deanna revelled in the power that she knew she had over her man. "Little, itty-bitty wife, hmm?" Another miniature movement on her part and they were one.

Will moaned low in his throat. His ankle and ass forgotten he let desire overwhelm them both as his hands slipped down to her petite waist and rode the waves together. Water and bubbles surged over the side of the bath but neither of its occupants noticed or cared. Nor did they care when Will urgently, and somehow, without dislodging his partner, turned her round so that she now straddled him. Hot lips slid across her throat, his whiskers burning a trail along side. Deanna purred as she dropped her head back encouraging Will to move lower. Will didn't need telling twice and as his soapy lips latched onto a crimson tipped nipple Deanna finally felt the stirrings well deep down within her burning body, her purrs turning to wanton whimpers as she fought for unwanted freedom.

Will's mouth slipped to nurse on the other breast as his hand slid down between their bodies to touch and expertly nurture the engorged nub. Frantic movement became slower, intense, and divine and as their eyes finally met Deanna's soap coated hands came up to caress her loving husbands face. Slowly, slowly they moved bodies and heads until finally Will swept his tongue into Deanna's waiting, open mouth. They kissed deeply as their joined loins set each other on fire, and when Deanna finally exploded, Will caught and devoured every wonderful moment of it, letting her catch and devour his own tortured run for heaven.

Hugging her husband against her as their twin pulses regained steady momentum, she whispered against his ear, "Nothing itty-bitty about that now, was there, Imzadi?"

Will chuckled against Deanna's throat, "Nope, I guess I'll have to take that back." Will kissed her shoulder finally letting the horrors of the past couple of hours slide away to leave nothing more than a couple of bite marks – yet to be treated – and a love that still continued to amaze him.

Deanna pulled back on sensing the change within her Imzadi's mind to look at his handsome face. She smiled gently at the expression she saw there. "I love you, Mrs. Riker." Will murmured.

She leaned forward and lightly touched her lips to his. "And I love you, Mr. Riker," But then as she pushed away from his spent body and got ready to plunge her tangle of midnight hair into the still overly warm water, she added, "But I'm still not going to suck the venom out of your ass."

End ~ March 2012

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