By Carol Sandford


Part 3


The Last Teardrops - Chapter 3

  Will could not believe what he had just heard. On the one hand, his heart wept with joy that Deanna had finally found her purpose. But on the other - Would this new purpose take her away from him? And did he have any right to stand in the way of it, now that he had encouraged her so strongly to seize control of her own life and dare to live those dreams?

One moment, it seemed, she had wanted to be with him. And the next, she wanted to be free. Free to join Starfleet. Hell, she had done that already, without even a word to him!

Then again, he had not exactly been around for her to consult, had he? Slumped in his chair, one hand splayed over one half of his face as her words repeated themselves in his mind, Will allowed himself to mope, tossing her words back and forth in his mind until he could recite them verbatim: You've set me free Imzadi...become a Starfleet officer...until you come and get me....

Will did not think he had ever felt so torn; so wretched, in his entire life. Staring at the now blank view screen in front of him, he muttered absently, "What the hell am I going to say to her?"

If anyone knew what the demands of a Starfleet career would place on a person, it was Will Riker. And so he sat, unmoving in his chair. Feeling a conflicted sense of depression, mixed with pride for her. It was a full ten minutes before he finally punched in his access code and began recording a message marked personal and confidential: "For Deanna Troi, Starfleet Academy." And it would be five days after that before his hail was answered.

Even though he was desperate to see her, Will really did not expect her to be sitting at home, waiting for his call, so he was taken aback as Deanna's smiling face lit up his view screen.

Certain that she was not going to be there, he had not prepared his response for the reality of the beautiful young empath's actual presence come alive before him.

"Will! What a wonderful surprise, it is so good to see you, Gods, I've missed you so much. I didn't even realize how much until just now."

Will smiled despite himself. Her enthusiasm lit up her expression and she had never been more beautiful to him. He tried his best to look happy for her, as well. "Hey, Deanna, I've missed you too. I, uh, I hear you've been busy."

Will had tried to keep his voice spirited. But as Deanna's entire being came alive with tales of life in the academy, his heart grew heavier and heavier. Knowing from first hand experience that the life she had chosen would take her farther and farther into a realm of discovery and wonderment. He was also (selfishly) aware that it would likely take her farther and farther away from him...

Even once she had finished her studies. A career in Starfleet was day by day, all work and very little play. It was a life he had always loved. But it was also a life which had precluded him from any sort of serious relationship, or even the thought of one. Until he had met Deanna. Now with both of them living the same kind of schedule, the odds of their having a workable relationship had gone from marginal to very, very slim.

Deanna'a voice repeating his name brought Will back to the present and she chuckled at his far-distance expression. "Am I boring you already, Will?"

He grinned and shrugged, changing his train of thought. "I'm sorry, Dee, it's been a long haul, especially after being planet side for a while. I think I need a holiday."

Deanna laughed at the suggestive tone in his voice. "Does that mean we have a date, Imzadi?"

The grin on his face faltered and Will posed his next question carefully, "What about your schedule Deanna? As I recall, classes aren't exactly very forgiving of lateness or absence."

"Will," Deanna rolled her eyes. "we're talking about a date, an evening alone, maybe two." She grinned. "I'm not dropping out of the Academy, and they do let us off for a few hours in the evenings, if we're good." Her eyes sparkled with mischief.

That was it. The wall of pent up emotion within him finally snapped and he shook his head, his gaze serious. "What if I wasn't talking about just a date, Deanna. What about what happens after the Academy? When you get assigned to some ship somewhere and we get to spend two days together every five or six months. Have you thought about that at all?"

Deanna watched his face as he spoke, and her eyes grew sober. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. And I imagine it wouldn't be a problem. If we were married, Will, we could still be together, even on a Starship." BR> " do still want to marry me don't you. Don't you?"

Even to Will's mind his voice sounded hollow as he rapidly answered her. "Yes, of course, sweetheart, the sooner the better. But why didn't you wait for me like we planned?" There. He'd said it. Gotten it out into the open, so to speak. But Deanna only sighed.

Will's uneasiness pricked at her conscience, but Deanna ignored the sensation and met his gaze defiantly instead. "I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, Will. When you left Betazed, I wanted nothing more than to be with you, out there, wherever, I wanted to go anywhere, as long as it was with you. But then you were gone, and I didn't know for how long. A part of me wanted to sit back and wait for you, I won't lie to you about that, but another part of me, a bigger part of me wanted to go somewhere and find a way to make a difference somehow. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?"

Will frowned as he tried to understand her logic. "No. But you could have done that on your home planet. Why Starfleet? Why Earth?"

Deanna shook her head, desperately needing him to understand, "Because I had never lived anywhere other than Betazed. Will, can't you see? I needed to find myself, and the only way to do that was to leave everything which clouded the reality of my purpose with the monotony of habit. My mother is such a powerful voice at home, she's an Ambassador to the Federation -- Can you not imagine how hard it was for me, trying to help find a place where I 'fit' on Betazed? I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall.

But when I talked with humans, in each experience, and with other non-Betazoid cultures, I knew that there was something 'out there' for me. A way that I might be able to help, not only because I can sense the feelings and emotions of others, but because I finally felt worthy of the challenge. Will, I want to help people."

Will did not need convincing of her innate urge to understand others. He smiled fondly at the memory of Deanna trying her utmost to get within his head when all he wanted to do was get in her panties, but once he'd succumbed to her way of thinking, their ultimate joining had been like nothing he had experience in his entire life, and would probably never be surmounted in the rest of his existence. Deanna Troi had somehow taken possession of the deed to his soul, not that he was complaining. The reality of that thought made up his mind for him.

"Okay, you win. And I do understand. I'm not really as dense as I look sometimes." He smiled lopsidedly. "So, how about this Exactly three weeks from today, you and I meet up at the hotel Parisido on Risa. It's a beautiful resort, Dee, they've got a private holosuite for every client. There are real beaches along the outer city. I'll be there waiting for you, in exactly twenty one days."

Will suddenly grinned. "Oh, and you may want to bring along your Mother and your prettiest dress. I know you do things, 'au natural' on Betazed and your mother will probably call for my immediate execution, but I..."

The end of Will's explanation was drowned out by Deanna's sudden cry of joy, "Oh, Will, do you really mean it?"

His smile grew wider at the look of unguarded happiness which crossed her features. "Absolutely sweetheart, we'll be married on Risa. And after that, who knows?" He waggled his eyebrows and she laughed.

Deanna's eyes filled with tears of happiness and her hand automatically extended. She touched the screen, wishing she could touch him instead and she whispered as a solitary tear fell, "I love you, Will, you've made me so happy."

Will's heart swelled with love, pride and an overwhelming feeling of completeness as he rose his fingers to his lips, and blew her a kiss. "I love you too, Deanna. I'll be counting the days until we meet again, and you'll finally be mine."

Pausing as he looked over his shoulder, Will turned back to her, an apologetic look upon his face, "I'm afraid I'm being summoned, I've got to go. Take care of yourself, Dee. I'll see you soon."

Deanna barely managed to mouth the word, "bye" as their connection became severed. As it was, she sat and stared at the blank screen for several long moments, recalling every precious word of their conversation, her heart filled with an almost painful excitement and ached from the renewed contact of their bond. With a heavy sigh, she finally forced herself to move and to think on other things.

Three weeks Deanna, you've just got to wait three weeks muttering to herself as she walked out of her quarters, Deanna shook her head.

"If I don't die from insanity first."

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