By Carol Sandford


Chapter 02


"Energize Chief O’Brien"

Will, Picard, Deanna and Beverly turned towards the transporter pad as their guest materialized before them. Stephanie Carter stepped down from the pad almost before the transporter effect was fully dissipated. She smiled in response the four officers waiting to greet her.

He was there! Will was there to meet her! Stephanie's heart pounded wildly as her eyes focused on Will. She had waited for what seemed like forever for this moment. Her stomach jumped into her throat that he was about to take her into his arms. Good breeding and decorum forced her to take her eyes away from him and greet the other officers and the Captain.

Stephy barely registered their names and faces. She couldn’t focus on anything except him. Will Riker was the man who filled her dreams and desires for the last eight years ever since he had saved her life back on Paradise. In the years that followed, loneliness and an isolated existence had solidified a young girl’s fantasies and Will Riker had become her life. Would he see her as an adult?

Will’s jaw dropped as the stunning young woman descended from the platform. That couldn’t be little Stephy Carter? Not this elegant and sophisticated young woman who was greeting the captain and the others like a seasoned diplomat. He flashed his trademark grin and stepped up to greet her.

Stephanie stepped smoothly aside and extended her hand to the captain as she came to a stop before the group. “Captain Picard, it’s such an honor to meet you in person. Even we ice nomads out on Paradise have heard of your triumphs. I’m thrilled to be aboard your vessel.”

Captain Picard smiled warmly at her greeting, and accepted her hand. Stephy darted a glance at Will who stood at Picard’s elbow, smiling his special smile. Picard’s greeting barely registered as the close proximity of Will’s body sent her mind off on a tangent of its own. She caught herself as Picard finished speaking.

“Thank you, Captain. I assure you that I will do my best, and that I am well qualified for this assignment.”

Picard, nodded, “Dr. Carter, your reputation is well documented and has preceded you. Now, may I introduce, Dr. Beverly Crusher. It was she who saved your mother."

A genuine smile of warmth erupted across the delicate face as she shook Beverly’s hand vigorously. "I’ve waited so long to meet you, Dr. Crusher and to thank you. My mother sang your praises for a long, long time. Without you, she would have surely died."

Beverly flushed slightly, "Thank you, Stephanie, but I didn’t work alone. No, actually it was our counselor that really saved your mother. Meet Ship’s Counselor, Deanna Troi. Deanna’s empathic sense alerted her that your mother was still alive. Everyone else thought she was dead, including me when I first saw her."

Stephy came face to face with the pretty dark haired woman that stood beside Will. The smile she tendered to the black eyed woman did not quite reach her eyes. Stephy felt the first stirrings of envy at the comfortable way that the counselor stood close to Will. She quickly squelched the emotion and extended her hand.

"Then I owe you my lifelong gratitude, Counselor. The loss of my father was an experience that I will never forget. Having my mother alive, thanks to you, lessened the pain a little."

Deanna grasped Stephy’s hand and shook it firmly. She allowed her senses to probe lightly and clearly felt the young woman’s turmoil as she relayed her gratitude. Deanna knew that Stephy’s thanks were genuine, but underneath, the empath felt the underlying current of something more. "I’m very glad my abilities helped to save a life. I only wish we’d made it in time to save your father. I understand he was a very good friend of Commander Riker’s."

Both women turned to face him as Will and he took his long awaited turn to greet the visitor. His eyes sparkled with obvious pleasure to be renewing a connection that had been born out of a desperate fight for survival. He tugged Stephy into a bear hug and embraced her warmly.

Deanna didn’t miss Stephanie’s closed eyes and secret smile. She had the answer to the her earlier unease. Stephanie was jealous of her, and as they embraced, Deanna realized that the young Terran was in love with him.


When Stephanie stepped into Will’s arms she felt as though she had come home. She’d dreamed of this moment for what seemed to be a lifetime, and found the reality worth every painful second. Will was in her arms at last, and she was in seventh heaven.

"Oh, Will... God, it is so good to see you! Do you have any idea much I’ve missed you? How are you?”

Will grasped Stephy’s shoulders as he stepped back to get a good look at her. Her hair was short now, so short it almost looked boyish; it suited her to perfection. He took in the sparkle in her green eyes, and pulled her back into his arms for another brief hug, his voice turned husky as he spoke, "It’s good to see you too, kiddo, you look wonderful, I can’t believe how much you’ve grown!"

Will was startled when she pulled out of his embrace and punched him smartly on the arm, but her outburst made him grin. "DON’T call me kiddo, Will Riker! I am twenty three years old and I swear, if you dare call me anything but my given name, this entire ship will know the meaning of your well deserved nickname, Th...”

Before she could utter the one fateful word that Will had hoped she would have long forgotten, he butted in, holding his hands up in surrender. "Okay, okay!I promise. Just...please...don’t say it. Please!"

Stephanie grinned at him before turning away to speak to the captain, leaving Will to back out of the transporter room followed by two very curious, interrogating women. Stephy and Picard stood laughing at Will’s horrified face.

"Welcome aboard the Enterprise, Stephanie. I have the feeling that it’s going to be interesting having you among us for a short while."

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