Title: Permission Granted
Fandom: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Pairing: Deanna Troi/Will Riker
Timeframe: A Matter of Perspective (Season 3)
A/N: News flash: I don’t write things in chronological order, but I post them that way. So, if you are following along, make sure you check out the order. If you’re new to the series, this is my attempt to not only erase the disaster of a book, Imzadi, from all of our minds and give Deanna more agency and power, but also to expand on their relationship beyond the show. Hope you enjoy!
Timeline Notes: According to Memory Alpha, Deanna Troi and Will Riker meet on Betazed in 2359, shortly after her graduation from Starfleet Academy. I'm making a small amendment to that timeline, putting them on Betazed together from 2360-2362, given that Memory Alpha's timeline for Will is not quite as specific. They are assigned to the Enterprise together in 2364.
Disclaimer: There was a time when Star Trek published fanfiction and they hired unagented writers. Those times are (mostly) gone. So here I am, making no money, and loving every minute of this exploration. But, that being said, if the powers that be would like to make my stuff canon, I’m always taking calls. Also, Ode to Psyche was written by John Keats. Go read it and realize why the writers used it as something significant for these space idiots.
Summary: Part of him wanted to charge the two doors down to her cabin, take her in his arms, and just throw all caution to the wind. But what happened when they came back down to the deck plating?
USS Enterprise, 2367
The chime startled him. Riker took a breath, set down his glass of Saurian Brandy, and cleared his throat. “Come in?”
Even though he knew it wasn’t Deanna, he hadn’t felt the telltale tendrils of their emotional connection, he was still disappointed that instead of the woman who kept him grounded on this flight through space, instead it was his commanding officer who stepped through the door. Quickly, Riker cleared his throat and went to stand, but Picard waved him back down.
“Got an extra glass?” Picard asked.
Riker poured out some brandy for the captain and waited, nervously, for the dressing down he was sure he was about to receive. This might be informal, and possibly off the record, but the harsh truth was that he knew his reputation. He knew his reputation had been used against him in this situation. He hadn’t acted with discretion. And even though he was not to blame for Apgar’s death, or his actions leading up to it, he was in part to blame for the emotional state his grieving widow was in.
But Picard took his time. Riker watched him inspect the quarters - his trombone, mementos from his travels, a photo of him and Deanna at Janaran Falls. He was about to turn when the bookshelf stopped him and Picard reached for a well loved book. Riker waited, watching the historian open the ancient copy of Ode to Psyche.
"O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung,” Picard said, from memory. “By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear, And pardon that thy secrets should be sung Even into thine own soft-conched ear: Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see The winged Psyche with awaken'd eyes?” Picard smiled and turned, holding the book, which he’d opened to see Deanna’s soft inscription.
“She gave that to me when I proposed to her,” Riker confessed. “It was her way of saying yes.”
“I’ve never asked why you two never married,” Picard said. He settled in the chair across from the couch, the book still in hand. “All I know is that I spend a lot of time trapped between you two on the bridge.”
Riker smiled and shrugged an apology. “Truth?”
“It’s the expectation on this ship, Will.”
“I convinced myself that I wasn’t worthy of her until I made captain.”
There, the confession. The rich, absolutely backwards confession that made no sense to anyone because he’d been offered his own ship more than once and he kept turning them down. Because it was easier on his heart to be near her and maybe not with her than to be without her. He’d made that mistake before. And maybe it was unfair to both of them, but he couldn’t bear it. At least, not right now.
Picard leaned back in the chair, the book still in his hand, clearly expecting the rest of the story. “We met on Betazed, which you know.” Picard nodded. “I was stationed there for a year and it was the best year of my life. She was finishing school,” he took a sip of his drink. “Her third degree, for the record. I was learning how to be an administrator.” A part of him wondered why this was the conversation and not the lecture on propriety, but he also was happy to delay the inevitable.
Picard smiled and opened the book, scanning one of the pages. After a long, quiet moment, he put the book on the table, took a sip of the brandy, and sighed. The set of his shoulders changed. “Will, I’ve never really cared about your dalliances with those on board. We’re on a long voyage, and as long as you conduct yourself with respect and don’t break any Starfleet rules, I don’t care what your personal life is.”
Riker waited for the “but” that was coming.
“However, in this situation …” Picard sighed. “How do you manage the he-said/she-said? Who do you believe?”
“Deanna said she sensed no deception,” Will admitted and winced at the defensive tone in his voice. “Which means … what I took as flirting …” he sighed. “I only know what I remember.”
“As does Mrs. Apgar.” Picard took another sip of his brandy. “But, the truth is she did not file assault charges. This was a matter of who killed her husband. Which, to me, says that the emotions in the situation were riding high and memories have been filled in to cover for fear. However, given the evidence presented, if she had filed charges, I would have had no choice but to turn you over for a hearing.”
Riker swallowed. “I know.”
“Will, in the time I’ve known you, I’ve only ever known you to be an upstanding officer and for all of Lwaxana’s … eccentricities … I suspect that the Troi family would not have allowed you within 100 yards of Deanna if they did not feel the same. I’ve never heard a complaint, seen a question on your record for your behavior around those you pursue. And, I feel in the end, that if Mrs. Apgar had pressed charges, you would have been exonerated. However,” he leaned forward, elbows on his knees, “if you’ve convinced yourself that you aren’t good enough for Deanna Troi unless you are a captain, and if you are staying on the Enterprise for her, perhaps it is time you stopped running from your psyche and instead made the hard choice to try and make something work between the two of you.”
Picard sighed and continued. “There are myths about being a captain, Will. Some of us say you have to be distant and focused solely on the mission of space. Others don’t want the weight of a family, but want the comfort of someone in their bed. But, my envy has always been for those with families, those who are willing to do the work. There’s no right way to be, Will. But sometimes, I’ve found myself wondering if the reason you have the reputation you do is not because you want to keep from hurting Deanna Troi, but to keep from hurting yourself.”
Riker took a breath. “I’m confused, Captain. Are you telling me to get back together with Deanna? And if I do, it would keep situations like this from happening again?”
Picard laughed softly. “Well, perhaps the first part. But, no, I’m not suggesting that you settle down simply for the sake of image and propriety. Also, I know that my questions perhaps cross a line. I had intended to come in here to discuss the Apgar situation. Ode to Psyche was a bit of a surprise, and quite frankly, a welcome distraction. You know what happened aboard the station, and I trust your judgement.”
Will relaxed a bit and decided to focus on the question about his relationship with Deanna. Anything to distract from the darker topic at hand. “Honestly, Deanna and I talked about getting back together when we were first assigned to the ship.”
“Oh?” Picard’s eyebrows raised. “What stopped you?”
“We weren’t sure how you would feel about two of your senior officers in a relationship, so we decided to curb the conversation. Over the years, we’ve settled into being good friends.” It was mostly true.
“And you know, three years ago, I might have stopped you. So, your instincts were correct.”
Riker finished off his brandy. “Good to know.” He sighed. “Captain, I know that … I apologize for how things turned out on the station. It was a disaster from start to finish. I could have responded better to Apgar, I could have made a point to find different quarters on the planet when he denied us accommodations on the station, and I could have better avoided Mrs. Apgar’s attentions. I know better.”
“Yes,” Picard said. “You do.”
Riker accepted the dressing down. And then, again, his commanding officer surprised him.
“Will, you are not the first officer of your caliber to be caught in a situation like this. The way you deal with it is to keep your head up and keep your nose clean for a while.”
“I will, Sir.”
“Good.” Picard stood up and handed back the book. Riker took it, running his hand over the familiar cover. “As for the other question in the room,” Picard sighed. “I’m not a romantic, Will. I’m not even one to advocate for a captain choosing to marry. I am however someone who knows two people who belong together when I see it. What you and Deanna choose to do is your business. Your relationship has never disrupted the ship’s operations and I have never seen you put your feelings for her ahead of the safety of the ship. But, if you two choose to pursue this proposal you once gave her, one that she accepted,” Picard smiled, “you have my blessing.”
Riker nodded, more than stunned. “Thank you.”
His captain nodded and left the room, leaving the discussion to be. Riker poured a second glass of brandy, leaned back on the couch, and opened the book to the inscription, written in English, her flowing handwriting sprawling across the page. To Will … all my love … Deanna.
He turned to the page to the sonnet, his fingers moving to the second inscription, written in the margin of the poem. There, in Betazed script, was her answer, the final line of the Betazoid marriage ritual. For our minds have come together, our souls will come the bonding. We are more than one. Connected. Imzadi.
He let out a long, frustrated breath. Part of him wanted to charge the two doors down to her cabin, take her in his arms, and just throw all caution to the wind. But what happened when they came back down to the deck plating? What happened when they realized just how much work they had to do to truly repair things? He’d asked her to marry him and she’d said yes, and then he’d broken her heart.
Deanna - I can’t come to Risa. I’m sorry. My new duties on the Potemkin aren’t as flexible as I would like and my shore leave has been cancelled.
Had he really been sorry? Or relieved? The stress of starting a family along with his career taking off had been terrifying. He’d told her that, eventually. In love letters that started off as endless until one week, he was too tired to write. Letters that became notes that became quick communications until he’d not even told her he was posted to the Enterprise. For a year, he’d slept with the book under his pillow, and cursed himself for his cowardice. Now she was two cabins down, the emotional connection between them growing every day, and he still wasn’t sure what was stopping them. Every time he was sure his feelings had changed, and she was there to be his soulmate in friendship, he’d catch her laugh and his heart would lift like it used to. They’d have dinner and linger over drinks and sometimes, fall asleep next to each other. Sometimes, all too rarely, they would lean in close and their lips would brush and the walls they tried to keep in place would crash into dust. What they were doing, he knew, wasn’t really fair. But he wasn’t sure, exactly, what they were doing.
His father had asked him if he was staying for Deanna. For a woman, he’d snorted, like he hadn’t once given up a life for his wife and child. And Will knew, in the end, that was what kept him from walking over and getting back on one knee. Would he be willing to give it all up if that was what it took? Not that Deanna would ever expect it. And not that Deanna even wanted to get back together. He was jumping to imaginary conclusions. But if he walked over there and handed her the book, would she say yes again?
A long sigh escaped him and he stood, walking back over to place the book in its proper place. The truth was, none of it mattered right now. Right now, there was a mission to prep for in the morning, and a crew evaluation to cover in the afternoon. Right now, she was two doors down and right now, he wasn’t sure how to broach a conversation that even the captain knew he needed to have.
So, he capped off the brandy, set the bottle in its cupboard, stretched out on his bed, and as he drifted off, he dreamed of a hike through the Jalara Jungle, dropping to one knee, and asking the most important question he’d ever asked.