By Carol Sandford


Chapter 14


The crowd began to gather at the entrance, many more than the original gathering. An excited babble filtered through the variety of people assembled.

Dignitaries of Betazed's highest order came to bear witness to the rare occurrence. Members of the Enterprise came to see their colleagues, and their best friends emerge amongst the pomp and prestige of one of Betazoid's oldest and revered customs.

The Caverns of Discovery.

And at the head of the ever-growing crowd was the matriarch of all of Betazed's finest, Lwaxana Troi.

Standing in her over-flowing, over bright and slightly over tight gown in practically every hue of purple known, Lwaxana stood with her hands clasped before her voluptuous bosom, her chin outrageously high, and today, she had the family tiara perched regally amongst her russet curls.

Guinan left the Captain's side and made her way towards Lwaxana coming to a halt within whispering distance.

"How can you be so precise to Will and Deanna's emergence? Surely anything could go wrong, they might even decide to stay in there!"

Lwaxana grinned knowingly, stooping slightly to return the whisper to the smaller dark woman,

"Trust me, no one stays in there any longer than they have to, and I am confident that within a few minutes either side of the time limit, they will come out, make no mistake about that!"

Turning towards the crowd, Lwaxana raised her hands effectively silencing the murmur of excited voices. Three words spoken and all eyes turned expectantly towards the gaping entrance.

"It is time."

The minutes ticked by. The occasional urgent muttering of, 'where are they?' filtered through the waiting crowd, but their eyes remained riveted on the open expanse of rock before them.

Will and Deanna stepped into the dazzling sunlight slightly perturbed at the lack of town folk. Dressed casually in a long flowing flowery dress, Deanna looked happy, no, radiant.

After sleeping solidly for four whole hours, they had risen, bathed, eaten and tended to their wounds and made love, but the intimate encounter had surpassed any other coupling that they had shared, all bar one, nothing could over ride their first joining when the word Imzadi had become engraved within their hearts, minds, their very souls along with the awareness that there would never be any other for either of them, ever.

And they had finally proved it. They had taken the challenge and had emerged victorious, even deeper in love, if that was possible, and ready for the commitment that had brought them to this point and shown them both that the time for games, for uncertainties were over, forever.

Instinct pulled the couple towards the jungle, towards the past nightmare of barely a few hours ago. Both Will and Deanna were surprised at how quickly the bad experiences that they had endured had simply faded away leaving behind the warm feeling that enveloped and embraced them.

Will's arm was slung casually along Deanna's shoulders, her thumb tucked unobtrusively into the back of his waistband and for all the universe's knowledge, they were two lovers, simply out for a stroll, but they were heading one way and nothing could have deviated them from their route.

Minutes later, they were within yards of fairly large crowd, correction, the backs of a fairly large crowd, intent of the large rock formation in front of them. Stretching up to his full height, Will craned his neck to see over the tops of the heads, shock registered as he realised that they were waiting for himself and Deanna to emerge.

Pulling Deanna closer her whispered into her ear,

"I don't think that we came out at the right co-ordinates, it appears that the way in was also the way out!"

As realization dawned, Deanna's eyes glittered with first surprise, then malice. Pulling back her shoulders, she hastily whispered, "Watch this."

Will saw the devilment in her eyes, the grin that she plastered on her face and he knew there and then what her intentions were. A huge grin lit up his own face, and together they took the remaining steps to put them in full view of the ignorant mass.

"Hello, everyone!"

They watched with joy and thirty or more eyes flew to their location, some so stunned that they had to reach out for support, others swayed where they stood. Will and Deanna watched with amusement as the entire crowd were rendered speechless.

Without relinquishing her hold, Deanna steered Will towards the front of the crowd, to her mother who was currently being fanned by a friend as she sat in a heap on the floor, her pallor evident.

For a brief moment, Deanna felt almost contrite, almost, but not quite, when her mind briefly flashed back to her most horrific moment inside the caverns.

"Hello, mother, aren't you pleased to see us?"

As two male friends ungainly heaved the woman to her feet, Lwaxana found her equilibrium, and in a style that only Lwaxana Troi could get away with, she launched herself into Deanna's arms, but before she began her congratulatory outburst, she hastily whispered to her, Play along with me darling

"Oh, my precious baby! My baby made it through! The true daughter of Betazed and her Imzadi conquered the perils of the caverns and made it in record time! It is indeed a time to rejoice."

Deanna forcibly pushed Lwaxana away from her body, her smile, although not quite reaching her eyes, held an inner laughter, an inner ridicule that held the threat of a further conversation, in private.

"Yes, mother, let's rejoice, after all, it's not often that a couple can come back from the brink of death on so many occasions that one can lose count. But we had our love, our bond to get us through the traumatic time, so yes, let's rejoice that."

And then without another word to the stunned woman, Deanna turned, took Will's hand and as they walked away she spoke loud enough for everyone to hear,

"Come on, Imzadi, let's go home."


Back in the Troi household, Will, Deanna, and her mother gathered in the huge ornate study. To any other it appeared to be a trial with Deanna firing the questions at her mother, full force, but it was a time that was beyond Lwaxana's understanding, she was clearly perplexed.

"Have you any idea what you put us through, mother? Will and I could have died!"

Lwaxana hung her head with guilty shame, her highly manicured hands wrung restlessly on her lap, Deanna watched the movement, briefly glancing at her own practically nail-less finger tips, she looked at her mother with renewed venom.

"I'm sorry, little one, I would never have agreed for you to have undertake the challenge if I thought for one minute that your life was in any danger. The caverns were supposed to be a challenge of the heart, a test to see if your love would endure the various challenges that arose."

Will found Deanna's eyes across the room as they realized that his initial assumption had been right all along. It had been a challenge, a challenge that had gone horribly wrong.

Will stepped in, his huge frame hovered over the seated woman, Lwaxana knew there was no threat with his stance, just a furious curiosity.

"We could have died! No, we nearly did die, Lwaxana!"

His last word almost echoed around the confines of the room. A silence followed it, until finally, a pitiful apology fell from Lwaxana's lips.

"I'm sorry."

A heavy sigh reverberated throughout the room until suddenly out of the silence, Lwaxana's voice spoke again.

"By the way, how did you come to get out of there so early?"

Will looked puzzled by the question,

"We didn't come out that way."

Lwaxana's eyebrows knitted together as her own puzzlement became apparent.

"But...there is no other way."

Will snorted derisively as he answered her.

"Oh, yes there is, I can assure you!"

And it was then, and only then, that the full impact of what the Imzadi couple had gone through surged through her body, they had done the impossible. They had taken the route never taken.

They had taken the wrong turn.

"But, but, that way has been unpassable for more than a century! You should have reached a dead end and turned back...taken the other fork!"

Deanna came to a stand before her mother, her arms crossed agitatedly across her chest.

"We DID come to a dead end mother, a huge cliff. We just scaled down it, it wasn't a tremendous challenge to us, certainly not enough to turn back from. We assumed it was part of the course. Are you telling me that it wasn't, that we have risked our lives unnecessarily?"

Lwaxana paled under the scrutiny along with the sickening thought of her cherished daughter scaling the 50 foot drop. And as her blood run cold, she could only nod speechlessly.

Deanna felt Will touch her arm and she broke the accusing lock that she still held with her mother.

"I think that's enough, Deanna. It was obviously a misjudgement, but we're okay, we came through it with flying colours. I think we've shown everyone, and ourselves what we truly mean to each other and for that alone, I'm glad we did it. Come on, let's get out of here."

And taking the same casual stance as before, Will casually slung his arm around the woman he adored and together they looked towards the future, a future no longer filled with doubts or uncertainties.

The future of a true Imzadi couple.


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