By Carol Sandford


Part 4


The Waiting Game - Chapter 2


Two Years later ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Deanna pushed back her chair with a sigh. Having had enough for one day, she felt slightly guilty as she almost welcomed her last patient's exit. Letting her body slump low in the luxurious soft leather chair, her head fell back, her eyes closed and she let her mind empty of the days events. But as she tried to fill her mind with sights that not so long ago she had considered therapeutic, now only held sad memories for her.

Her mind focused on the abstract picture that hung in the museum, the large concentric swirls once reminded her of peace, tranquillity.. Love. Now when she thought about the painting, his face appeared in its place. The colours swirled and fused together to make up the outline of him, his words echoed in her head. I'm coming for you, be ready. I love you Deanna

Deanna's eyes snapped open along with the spark of anger that flared within them. Her derisive outburst followed again as it did whenever she tried to shut him out her mind. Love! Love! You don't know the meaning of the word, Will Riker. You would never have left me if you truly loved me.

Knowing that she sounded like a spoilt brat, she quietly added You could have least have tried, Imzadi

Deanna's eyes caught the newly framed diploma that graced her newly acquired office wall. Coming home to Betazed to begin her counselling career amongst familiar surroundings, her old friends, and her mother, had been the only thing that Deanna had focused on.

Graduating from the Starfleet Academy in only two years still made her swell with inner pride. Her previous training at her home university had already sent her well on her way, plus the added bonus of being empathic, seemingly forged her path with a silver lining. Passing the exam with honours, the only blight on the horizon was that the one person who she wanted to share her joy with was no where in sight. Deanna began to wonder if he was ever likely to be.

Deanna's mind wandered back to the earlier times, the time when she had to face the humiliation of returning to Earth, to the questions, the sympathetic stares, and the 'I told you so' conversation with her mother.

For that alone she did not think she would ever forgive Will.

Getting back into the swing of Academy life was harder than she ever imagined, her heart was shattered, along with her spirit. More than once she had packed up and prepared to return home, but the one person who made her stop, stay and grow up was her mother.

Of all the people she had expected sympathy, and welcoming arms from was Lwaxana Troi, but she was decidedly put out to find her quite forcefully discouraging Deanna to 'give in'. But Deanna's biggest nightmare was the prospect of Will's return to Earth, of actually seeing him, face to face. One day.

But it never happened.

Deanna was never quite sure if it was a blessing in disguise, or a deliberate evasion on his part. Her heart ached for him, but that very same ache told her to step back and give it time. Lots of time.

Now was the time to make a career for herself. Some day, one day, Deanna would meet Will again, but this time, it would be on her terms. Along side the ache that she doubted would ever leave her, was a determination to show Will Riker that she could, and would, survive without him. She was going to prove to him, her mother, and to herself that she, Deanna Troi, could do something with her life, on her own.

But it still hurt.

A knock on her door took her by surprise and she physically jumped, bringing her out of her reverie. "Come in"

The door swung open quietly and Deanna craned her head to see who it was, because the visitor made no move to enter. She was surprised to see Sergeant Tang standing there, in full uniform, but nervously twisting his beret around in his huge hands. Deanna watched the hypnotic motion for a few moments before raising her eyes to his face. He looked very nervous, but it was not the emotion that Deanna felt from him, it was shame.

Deanna tentatively smiled at him, unsure of his reason for the visit. "Hello, Tang, this is a pleasant surprise. Please, come in."

Tang stepped into the room enough to close the door and to resume his nervous twirling. Deanna sensed that he had and needed to say something, so she stayed silent. It was several moments before he glanced up at her face, then away to the window, before clearing his throat. "Hurrumph...I'm sorry, miss for not getting Lieutenant Riker's message to you on time. Believe me, if I'd have known, I would have done my utmost to have got that message to you, but I was away on patrol. I'm sorry, Miss Troi."

Deanna was not sure if it was the words, 'Lieutenant Riker, or, 'message' when her heart stopped beating. But when it started again, she was sure that Tang must have heard its thump. "Message Tang. What message?"

Once more Tang shifted restlessly. Deanna reached out to touch his arm, her voice calming, begging. m"What message, Tang?"

Sadly as Tang relayed the message to her, he watched her eyes well. "The day that Will was supposed to meet you on Risa, he sent a communique to me just before he went into deep space that he would not be able to make the rendezvous and for you to return to Earth and wait for word from him there. Nothing would have stopped him coming for you, miss, if he could've. It was out of his control."

Tang's next words forced the tears that had built to spill down her now pallid cheeks. "He said...he said, tell her that I love her". Tang had no difficulty saying the fragile words to the delicate woman that stood before him, aware of their importance, and knowing that it was the only chance he had of making things right.

Time stopped as Deanna absorbed his words. Tang took a step towards her, his eyes, and arms beckoning. Feeling the need to be a father figure for her, but not quite sure if she would welcome the gesture. He gently pulled her into his arms, offering any comfort that he could.

At first Deanna was stiff and unwieldy, but Tang could feel her sorrow seeping through him, unconsciously he began to gently rock, rather like lulling a small child off to sleep, and eventually he felt her body posture began to relax, until he heard her sniff. He realised it was her way of asking him to release her, and he did so, stepping back to give her the space.

He gruffly asked her, "Are you alright?"

Relieved when she offered him a watery smile, Deanna nodded. "Yes. Yes thank you, Tang. I'm sorry about that. It's been a long time, I think I must have been storing it up, even if I did promise myself that I wouldn't cry over him anymore."

Tang smiled as he tried to reassure her "It's okay, ma'am, I'm glad I was here to help, even if it was mostly my fault that this has happened."

Deanna cut him off, "No, no, Tang, don't say that. I have come to realise that it was probably the best thing thatcould have happened. We were both too young, we both had too many dreams that needed us to be individuals to achieve them. You probably did us the biggest favour, so don't ever, ever blame yourself, Tang."

Tang became nervous again as he posed his next question to her. "Do you think you will ever get together again, Miss?"

Deanna grinned at him, her eyes still bright with unshed tears. Feeling the need to set his mind at ease, she spoke with every conviction that her heart could muster, "Absolutely. When the time is right for both of us, we will be together, of that I am certain."

Tang frowned, "Why didn't you answer any of your communiques? I'm sure Will tried to contact you many times, as did I."

Deanna stepped back, and turned away, her face thoughtful. "By the time I had arrived back to Earth, I had realised that Will not coming had been the best thing for both of us. I saw no point in resurrecting the relationship, it would have been unbearable, and pointless at that time, so I severed any contact, including from you Tang. And it seems to have worked, hasn't it?. I've qualified from Starfleet Academy, and Will...well, Will is out there, doing what Will does best. He couldn't have done it with me in tow. I know it, and I'm sure he knows it too.

"I made a conscious effort to wipe Will from my life, and it hurt, Tang. The pain was an experience that I never want to go through ever again, and I know I would have if he'd have come to Risa. He would have left me again, Tang, and what would I have been left with? No Will, no career and absolutely, no self esteem, no self respect.

"No, Tang, what I did, I did for the best, for both of us."

Deanna turned back to face him, feeling that she had made peace within herself once more, and she smiled gratefully at him. "Thank you again, Tang, for everything."

Tang smiled and turned to leave her office, but Deanna's voice, low with underlying doubt of what she was about to ask of him, stopped him in his tracks as he turned to face her once more.

"Tang. Could you keep me posted of what Will's doing?"

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