By Carol Sandford


Part 3


The Last Teardrops - Chapter 2


~~~~~~~~ Deanna Troi stepped out from the shuttle into a fairly chilly San Fransiscan afternoon. The sudden assault of the autumn breeze made her gasp as she pulled her arms together around herself.

Turning to a fellow passenger she whispered, "Sweet Heavens, how can they live here? It's freezing!"

The lady passed around her chuckling lightly. "Welcome to Earth, honey, and be grateful it's only the fall."

Deanna watched her walk away, open-mouthed. Having heard about the changing seasons on Earth, she had not been prepared for it to be quite this cold. On Betazed, the temperature never dropped below a very comfortable level; one often too warm for most human standards, but one she had become accustomed to having lived on the planet all of her life.

When Deanna had heard about it, she had initially been looking forward to winter, and her first experience of snow. A chance remark from her lover about the Alaskan winters when he was a child had made her all the more determined to come here, to his world, his past life. But if it were only going to grow colder than this. She shivered and sighed.

Her lover... her lover did not even know she was here. Deanna had attempted to send him an answering communique to let him know of her plans, but he was gone, she had been too late. In desperation, she had gone to see Tang. She no longer trusted her mother to send on any messages, nor to inform her of those which might have been sent to her at home. But she knew in her heart that Tang would move heaven and Earth to make sure she received anything from Will, and visa-versa.

Of course, Tang knew of her plans, since he had been the one who had made the initial enquiries for her within days of Will's departure from Betazed. But even he had voiced his concerns to her, worried as he was about not being able to uphold his promise to the lieutenant. He could not, - after all -- look after his new charge while she was thousands of light years away from him.

"But, ma'am, what will happen when Will comes back for you? He did promise he would."

Tang waited with suspended breath for her reply. "You've been a good friend, Tang, but I think that both Will and I have some thinking to do before we meet again."

Deanna met the older man's unwavering gaze and smiled. "If he's nearer to Earth the next time, then perhaps I can meet him there, but even if he chooses to rendez-vous at Risa, I don't see that it will really be a problem."

The sergeant looked at her worriedly, "But what about the Academy, miss?"

Deanna touched his arm gently and Tang watched as her expression grew thoughtful. "We all have goals and dreams, sergeant. Perhaps when Will has had enough of whizzing around the universe, our lives will find a place in sync once more. Until that time, it's always been a dream of mine to make a difference. I've come to believe that I will be able to do that in Starfleet, but I won't even know unless I try."

Tang watched her shrug and continue, "Besides, you know how those deep space missions can be. If Will ends up on the other end of the quadrant for a while, I can't just put my life on hold indefinitely."

Though she sounded resolute enough, Tang saw the uncertainty in her eyes. Just as quickly as it came, however, it was gone, and she tried to reassure him once more,

"One way or the other, Will and I will meet again, of that I am certain."


Two months later: Will's grinning face appeared on the screen in front of Tang's and the sergeant smiled in response to the young man's obvious cheerfulness. "Lieutenant Riker! It's good to see you, sir."

Will could not contain himself, he had been so filled with anticipation as he reached communique range, that he had nearly forgotten the end of his duty shift, lost in his thoughts of Deanna. But he needed to speak to his friend before feasting his eyes on her once more.

"Hello Tang, it's good to be back. How's my girl?" Will accompanied the somewhat cliche term of endearment with a knowing smile. When he saw the older man's hesitation, however, an eerie dread stole over his consciousness, making him grow cold. Harsher than he intended, his one word prompt demanded an answer.


Tang cleared his throat loudly before plucking up courage to fill the lieutenant in on the events of the previous few months. "I'm sorry, sir, but the little lady's gone."

Will simply stared at him in disbelief. He might have even chuckled at the attempt at bad humour, but when he saw Tang look down at his feet, he knew; he sensed that he was telling him the truth. The air crackled with tension as he asked, hoarsely, "Where is she, Tang?"

Nothing could have surprised him more than the answer he was to receive. "Earth, sir" The older man watched Will blink several times, digesting the information.

Seconds later, Will echoed him, "Earth? What's she doing on Earth?"

Unconsciously Tang puffed up his chest with pride as he boldly informed him, "Miss Troi has joined Starfleet Academy, sir."

Once more Will stared silently at him before finally spluttering out: "Starfleet!? What did she go and do and dumb fool thing like that for? She was supposed to wait for me. We were going to get married, have some babies..."

Will broke his tirade when he realised what he had just said. More to the point, how archaic it had sounded, even to his own ears. He shook his head, and then, more quietly he muttered, "She was supposed to wait for me, Tang."

Unsure of what to say, Tang allowed an empty, guilty silence to surround them both until the sergeant suddenly remembered the disc he'd been given to guard. Digging in his pocket excitedly, he finally held aloft the shiny object, almost like a trophy. "I, uh, I was supposed to give you this when you returned sir, it's from Miss Troi."

Will peered into the view screen at the disc and Tang watched him reach out automatically with his hand, then drop it just when the realisation that he could not simply take it from the older man's hand finally dawned on him.

Tang could almost feel the lieutenant's disappointment from across the distance. Another silence followed, until Tang suggested hopefully. "I could upload it to your station there, sir, at least you could hear it, but it would have to playback here as well simultaneously."

Will nodded sadly, "Okay. But I'd like to hear it in private if you don't mind, Tang"

The sergeant nodded vigorously as he fitted the disc into the machine, "Of course, sir, just give me a minute." Seconds later Tang walked out of the office and Deanna's musical voice took his place.

"Hello Will. I know by the time that you receive this I will be at the Academy. Please know that nothing about the way I feel for you has changed. I miss you almost desperately sometimes. But then I look up at the sky, and I imagine you're thinking of me, perhaps, all those many light years away. I am still waiting for you, just in a different place. Before I met you, it had been a distant dream of mine to leave Betazed, to divest myself of all of my mother's responsibilities and make a difference. I really think that I can do that as a Starfleet officer. Will, I want you to know that if it hadn't been for you, I may never have realized this opportunity. When I met you, you changed my life... me. You gave me the courage to stand up for what I wanted, you showed me what it might be like to break away, even if it is only for a short while. You've set me free, Imzadi, and now I can never go back to the way things were. Tang has my location details so that you can send your next communique directly to me. I can't wait to see you again, to hear your voice, my love. You know, at night the stars are so bright over the Golden Gate bridge, and every once in a while there's a Starship that goes by, closer to the atmosphere than the others -- and I imagine that it's you, on your way back. And that we'll be together again very soon."

When Tang came back into the office a few minutes later he walked into a deafening silence and a blank screen.

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