By Carol Sandford


Chapter 12


Deanna slipped to the cold floor as her knees buckled beneath her, unable to carry her weight as the shock reduced her limbs to jelly. Heedless of her naked state, and heedless of the sobs that raked through her slender body, Deanna cried as though her heart would break.

If there ever was a moment when Deanna hated herself, hated her mother, hated stupid Betazoid customs, and most of all, hated Will Riker for putting his life before their happiness, it was now.

Silently Deanna began counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...84, 85, 86...How long could it take? How long was the tunnel? How much longer was he going to be?

Had he made it?

Deanna could not feel him at all. She began to panic, 148, 149, 150...come on, where are you Will?...151, 152, 153...

With each number escalating, Deanna felt the rising terror begin to force her to her feet, until she reached a point where she could not take the uncertainty any longer.

"That’s it, I’m going after him", and before she had a chance to think about what she about to do, she dived head first into the icy water, her final words, but also maybe her last, echoed in the stillness, "I’m coming, Will!"


Deanna was startled as she felt a current pulling her along. She knew she was within the tunnel because she was plunged into total darkness. A pitch, black nothingness that frightened her more than being dragged to lord knows where.

Deanna felt her lungs begin to burn as they struggled with the lack of air. Silently praying that there was still a gap above the water, she pushed her way to the surface.

Her hand broke the surface and touched a slimy roof within inches of her face as it too broke through and gulped the precious lungful of air, just enough before she was dragged back under. Her terror dissipated a little when she knew that at least the air was there when she next needed it.

Deanna felt herself being carried along at an alarming speed. What seemed to take eons in reality was barely seconds, until in the distance, she heard it, the roar of another waterfall and she dimly realized that she was going to go over it, whether she wanted to or not.

Deanna surfaced again and finally saw light looming before her. Seconds later, she reached the edge and as the scream left her mouth, she tumbled into the roar of the pouring water. Seconds later, Deanna felt herself hit the bottom, the water forced her under, seemingly wanting to keep her there, wanting to take her life. Deanna wondered if it had taken her Imzadi’s life.

As her inner voice screamed Nooooooo, she frantically clawed her way to the surface, until at last she floated into calmer waters, breathless, exhausted and freezing cold.

Looking around, she found herself in another cavern, similar to the one she had just left, only this one had daylight pouring in. Searching the high ceiling she found the light's source. A gap between the rocky outcrop outside of the cavern let in the welcome stream of not only light, but warmth too. She felt it touch her face and she lapped up the wonderful feeling until a voice broke through her senses.

"I wondered how long it would take you."

Deanna swung around on hearing Will's voice behind her sending her dripping hair into a showering cascade all of its own, landing with a slap against her body. But none of it was noticed as tears of overwhelming relief run unchecked down her face at the sight of Will sitting on a large rock away from the waters edge.

He sat casually with one knee raised, his arm wrapped around it, his fingers laced as he watched the emotions flit across Deanna’s face. Immensely relieved that she had made it through, Will was also bitterly disappointed too.

Will watched Deanna step from the water, he grinned grimly at the image. Still stark naked, her perfectly toned body glistened as the water droplets clung to her curves. Her black hair that framed her elfin face, hung in tight ringlets practically covering her upper torso with just a glimpse as she moved, of the delights beneath.

Deanna threw herself into Will’s waiting arms, mindless of saturating him with the icy water that he had eventually managed to rid himself of by jogging and jumping on the spot, effectively warming himself up in the process.

"Oh, Will, I am so happy that you are okay. I was so worried about you, why didn’t you come back for me?"

Will sighed dramatically as his hand swept the space before him.

"Take a look around you, Deanna, there is no way up, and the only way out is that tunnel behind me."

Deanna grinned, the relief sparkled in her dark eyes.

"Oh, thank heavens, I think I’ve seen enough water to last me a lifetime. What’s wrong, Will?"

Deanna had turned back to share her evident joy with Will, but caught him frowning, no, scowling. She repeated herself, only this time with a degree of dread.

"What’s wrong, Will?"

"Nothing is wrong, Deanna, except that in your haste to find me, you neglected to bring the back packs with you. The backpacks that have our food in, our equipment, and more importantly, our clothes. Deanna, we are as naked as the day we were born, in caverns that drop to freezing, we still have one whole night and one whole day to get through. I suppose you thought that maybe our love would keep us warm, and fed, and god help us if we come across any more cliffs or maybe crevasses...or worse!"

Will’s voice dripped with enough sarcasm to reduce Deanna to a gibbering wreck at what she had done, or rather, had not done. How could she have been so stupid to have put her heart before her common sense?

Will was right when they had first stepped into the cavern, you can’t go through life on what your heart tells you. Now it was her turn to utter those awful words that barely an hour ago, she had accused him of.

"I’ve killed us, Will. Because of my incompetence, I have condemned us to death, in here, alone. The prophecy was right all along, we were destined to never leave here, our love was not strong enough to see us through."

Deanna was bordering on hysterical. Will stood and pulled the distraught woman into his arms, instantly contrite of his words.

"I’m sorry, Deanna, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it, we’ll make it, you have my word. We willget out of here alive, and we will prove them all wrong. We are Imzadi, and we are strong enough to get through this. We can adapt...we’ll have to adapt. Please,stop crying sweetheart, I’m sorry."

For many long moments the only sound to be heard was the gut wrenching wail of the woman in his arms and the distant roar of the waterfall, until at last, she cried herself out.

Giving her arms a warming, comforting rub, Will kissed the top of her head before forcing himself to pull away from the inviting warmth of her body.

"Come on, we need to get going. We’re going to have to keep moving until we’re out of here. If we stop, we freeze. It means a lot of walking and let’s just hope that we're over the worst of the hazards. Hell, it couldn’t get any worse, could it, sweetheart?"

Will tried to make light their predicament, but inside, he was scared. God, he was scared, and he vowed that when he got out of here he was never going to take his relationship to Deanna for granted again.

Throughout their ordeal, Will had gone over and over his feelings for Deanna Troi. He thought he knew the depth of what he felt for her when he took on the challenge, the ancient contest to prove that his love was worthy, that their bond was strong enough to endure whatever was going to happen to them, down here.

But with every step they took into this unknown world, Will’s love grew stronger and stronger. Not so long ago he couldn’t imagine a day without her, now he could not imagine a minute.

The moment he landed in the pool after falling with the falls and he had seen he could not back to her, back to his one true love, back to his Imzadi, Will had nearly lost it, until common logic told him that she would be feeling the same way and would eventually follow.

Only he did not figure on her leaving behind their backpacks.

Taking Deanna’s hand, Will looked to her. The need for words gone as he asked the question with his steady blue eyes, Ready? Her own eyes, apprehensive, but confident that now that they were back together answered him.


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