By Carol Sandford


Chapter 10


The solitary figure stood over the polished ebony casket with his eyes tightly closed as he fought the grief that gnawed at him. Will took an unsteady step forward, bringing him within arms reach of the glossy exterior. He felt his pulse quicken as he struggled to hold back the onslaught of tears that threatened to fall from the ever present pool that had stayed with him since he had felt Stephanie's last, final heartbeat. Unable to stop himself, Will reached out and placed his trembling hand on the cool surface. He wanted to say so much to her, but the words got stuck in his throat every time he tried. Swallowing, he cursed his inability to perform something that he knew he had to do.

That was, until he heard a familiar whisper ripple through his mind, *Tell her Will, let it all go.* Will released the breath that had been almost strangling him, feeling the heavy weight that seemed to be pulling him deeper and deeper into the black abyss of despair, lift. He felt her there, helping every step of the way.

Deanna was the only person who understood, the only person who knew him better than himself. Will treasured the tiny Betazoid who he knew would be waiting on the other side of the cargo bay doors, waiting with her arms wide open, along with her heart and soul.

Moments later, Will found himself walking around the solitary capsule, faint smile touched his features as his sparkling eyes took on a faraway look as he remembered the vibrant young life that he had the privilege of knowing, not only her, but her heart too. Chuckling to himself, he trailed his hand along the caskets length, his voice low when he finally opened his own heart to her ever present spirit.

"In the short time I knew you...I mean, 'really' knew you, not as the spunky kid with a mind of her own, but as the beautiful woman that blew me away the moment she stepped down from the transporter pad. You managed to turn my whole world upside down and inside out and I enjoyed every mind-blowing, tantalizing, thought-provoking, precious moment of it."

Will's voice trailed off as he fought to control the rising pain in his chest. He had so much to say to her, wanted to say so much to her, but he could feel his throat getting tighter and tighter again. Coming to a standstill at the head of the casket, Will closed his eyes and his mind as he attempted to reign in his emotions once more, but then suddenly, out of the blue, it burst out of him in a long tormented wail.

"I can't do this, Deanna, help me!"

Before he had finished, she was by his side, holding him close. Deanna soaked up his grief, sharing the heavy burden between them. Will felt her soothing voice wash over him, inside and out.

"I’m right here, Will. It's alright, I'm here, I'm right here."

"Oh, Deanna, I don't know why it hurts so much."

Deanna pulled away enough to look into his face, her own eyes shimmered with tears along with his own, she reached up to stroke his cheek with the back of her fingers.

"Because you loved her, Will, but you never had the chance to tell her, until now. But she knew in her heart that you loved her."

Unable to pull his gaze away, Will stared at the coffin over her head, barely whispering to the tiny woman that he clung to.

"Do you really think so, Dee?"

Deanna stepped away from Will, but he gripped her hand to stop her from going out of arm's reach. Deanna shook her head as she spoke,

"You need to tell her, Will and you need to say goodbye...on your own, I'll be waiting over there, Okay?"

Understanding Deanna's compulsion to finalise what had happened between Stephy and himself, Will nodded and reluctantly let her hand go. Deanna made her way towards the door but did not leave the bay, she knew that he needed her close by, but Deanna wanted Will to say what he needed to, in private.

Their eyes met across the distance. Deanna's relayed her love, understanding and encouragement, Will's sparkled with adoration, sadness, and resignation.

Sighing, Will turned back for the very last time to face the casket. Swallowing painfully he, at last said what his heart desired.

"This is it, kiddo, this is goodbye, but I promise you Stephy, I will never, ever forget you, you have my word. I have a special place in mind for your resting place, and I'm sure you will love it. I kept my promise, I'm taking you home, to Earth, back to California, where the sun always shines. I am going to miss you, so very much, Stephanie Carter, I’m glad you came to visit me."

Will kissed the tips of his fingers and pressed them to the casket mouthing his final words, "I loved you, Stephy, I know it wasn’t quite in the the way you wanted it to be, but you touched a part of me that will always be yours, forever. Goodbye until we meet again."

Will spun on his heels and quickly walked away. Deanna watched his approach and sliding her arm around his waist they both stepped through the giant steel doors, closing another chapter of their lives, leaving the Starship Enterprise to take them on another journey.


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