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One Step at a Time

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Title: One Step at a Time
Author: vegawriters
Fandom: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Series: Imzadi
Pairing: Deanna Troi/Will Riker
Rating: Mature, but mostly for the words you will yell at them for being idiots.
Timeframe: Captain’s Holiday
A/N: 1) If the conversation in Will’s quarters looks familiar, it is in fact the flashback that Deanna has in Violations. I think a lot about that episode and what wonderful memory Jev ruined. So, why not just go there. 2) If this is your first click, welcome. 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.

Summary: Deanna shook her head and realized, suddenly, that she just didn’t want to have this conversation while lying on the floor of his cabin.

USS Enterprise, 2367

It was down to them. Beverly, Data, and Worf all sat, their chips lost to the two most frequent winners. Deanna knew the teasing would come, that they shouldn’t let an empath play poker, but she behaved herself, and the fact that she was allowed in the weekly game meant they trusted her. Much like, right now, Will should not. Was he really that obtuse to realize how much she was bluffing? She held a pile of nothing in her hand, and the fact that she’d conned Beverly into folding was a stroke of luck considering how good the doctor was at holding her own. But no, tonight, it was down to her and Will and this was the last hand of the game. She waited, counting heartbeats, while Will made his decision.

“I’m out,” he groaned, tossing the cards down. “But I gotta see it.”

She smirked at her former lover and displayed the nothing hand. “I thank you all for your generous contributions,” she said, claiming Will’s usual closing line as her own.

All but one of her tablemates groaned and she felt the white hot REALLY from Will. Data only nodded his head in congratulations. “A well played hand, Counselor.”

“Thank you,” she teased with a grin.

“I would enjoy discussing it with you further, however my shift is about to begin on the bridge. Good night.”

They all called good night to their android friend. Worf made his exit next, muttering about guile and deception, but Deanna could feel his sense of pride. She knew when they first met, he’d never figured her for a worthy opponent. Her size and distaste of violence set them at opposite ends immediately. But over the years, he’d come to respect her.

“You owe me breakfast,” Beverly said, laughing. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

And then, again, it was down to them. “I’ll help you clean up,” Deanna offered, sliding her chair back, doing her best to ignore the tension in the room now that they were alone. Since the Apgar hearing, she’d felt a change in Will’s presence, and she wasn’t sure what to make of it. This moment offered them the chance to talk, but she shied back, instead organizing the chips and picking up the case to put back in its drawer. As she stumbled over the edge of Worf’s chair, the box, which she hadn’t latched, flipped open and the chips cascaded out in a waterfall of sound and color. She groaned at herself and knelt to pick up the chips. Will’s hands joined hers and she looked up to smile. When his lips met hers, she didn’t stop him. Not at first.

The kiss lasted forever, his hands moving up under the silk of her top, hers tugging at the band of his pants. She missed him so much. Not just the emotional connection, but his physical presence. As their mouths moved, his hand pressing her against him, she found she didn’t hate the beard as much as she thought she would. The light tickle she’d felt in previous kisses, in moments when they’d danced, now the whiskers stroked her and she shivered, wondering what it would be like to have him rasp across her bare skin.

But they had to stop this. They couldn’t do this. Not while they were serving together. The missteps of a couple of years ago had been because of learning boundaries.

“Will …” she moaned, breaking the kiss, her mind aching with the loss of the physical connection. When he brought her lips back to his, moving her so she could straddle him, she pressed her core against his erection, grinding lightly. He pushed up against her and she slid her hand between them, ready to reach down and grasp him. Her fingers brushed skin and she froze. They had to stop. This wasn’t right. Not while they were serving together.

“Imzadi,” she gasped, breaking for air again and sliding off his lap. “We can’t.” She took his hand in hers, pressing her face into his palm, desperate for the contact. “Not while we’re serving on the same ship.”

His eyes didn’t break contact with hers and she saw a change in him. But he backed off, slightly. “There’s something I should have told you a few weeks ago.”

“What?” She shifted against him. Her libido and her need for him to again be inside of her was winning the war against logic and boundaries and everything else they’d told each other since coming to serve together.

“I talked to the Captain.”

Well. That shut that down. “What?” She sat back, placing her hands behind her. “You did what?”

He chuckled and trailed his fingers up her thigh. “It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t seek him out. He came to talk to me after the Apgar hearing and saw Ode to Psyche on the shelf and the conversation turned to us. About giving us permission, if we want, to be together.”

Silence.

Deanna couldn’t breathe. She wanted to shout and cheer and run around the corridors naked. She also had spent so long putting up her own mental shields, proving that she was worth more than her status on Betazed. What now, the man she loved and her Captain had talked about them? Had … “Will!” She exploded. “You … really? You talked to the captain about us and you didn’t involve me? And then, you didn’t tell me about it? Will!”

His hands went up in defense. “He asked me about why we didn’t get married. I told him the truth.”

“Why didn’t you come to me with this?” Tears pricked her eyes. She wanted to be elated but she felt somehow like Will had asked for her father’s permission.

“Because I wasn’t sure what it meant, really.” He reached over and stroked her hair. “Please, Deanna. I can’t stop thinking about us. I miss you. Tell me you feel the same way.”

“I miss you, too …” she needed to process this and she needed him to hold her and this time when he kissed her, she pulled herself across his lap. When he laid her back on the floor, she tugged at his tunic, desperate for more contact. His mouth was on her neck and his hands inside her shirt.

I’ll stop if you want me to …

She heard it so clearly in her mind, so fresh, as if they were back on Betazed, chasing each other through Jala Park.

No … she sent back, shifting under him so one leg could wrap around him.

Will pulled back, shock in his blue eyes. It had been three years since they’d touched each other’s minds quite so clearly. She traced her finger down his cheek. “The connection never went away, Will. We just put up walls to keep ourselves safe.”

“Safe from what?”

Deanna shook her head and realized, suddenly, that she just didn’t want to have this conversation while lying on the floor of his cabin. She pushed at him, lightly, and he sat up. “Come on,” she said, standing carefully, aware of how he made her legs tremble. They moved toward his bed and he sat down, bringing her onto his lap. It felt so right. She kissed his neck. “Safe from everything that comes from being in love and serving on the same ship. Safe from the reality that we could be taken away from each other at any moment.”

“That reality exists every day, Deanna.”

She hated him for his strength, his confidence in them. Where had this been back when he didn’t meet her on Risa? Back when he left her on Betazed, so hopeful about their next step? Where had this been the last three years? Where had it been when she was so scared after being impregnated with Ian? Why couldn’t she trust herself to follow him blindly forward? “But if there’s a wall …” tears touched her eyes. “Will, if I ever lost you …”

“If we’re on separate ships, if we aren’t together but are still here on the Enterprise, the loss is just as real. At least this way we have the fighting chance of going out together.”

She sighed and looked into his eyes, realizing all over again just how not over him she was. They’d had relationships with other people, they’d encouraged relationships with other people, but she just wasn’t over him any more than he was over her. So what the hell were they doing?

“You’re still my commanding officer.”

“And I’m the commanding officer, technically, of every junior officer I ask to dinner.” He rolled his eyes. “Deanna, I’m … asking … if you want to be together again. I know I’m tired of running around, pretending we don’t want this.”

She sighed and slipped off his lap. He watched her as she walked around to the other side of the bed and stretched out. Will smiled and lay down next to her. Rolling over, she propped her head on her hand and traced her fingers down his chest. “Talk to me,” she said. “Tell me why you want this, even now, all these years later.”

***

He should have known she wouldn’t make it easy, and in truth, that was why he loved her like he did. For as happy as she was to give herself over to the physical, when it came to them he knew she took everything so much more seriously. Will reached out and trailed his fingers down her arm, watching the goosebumps rise as he reached her elbow. “Do you remember the last time we were together?”

She nodded, her black eyes suddenly solemn. They’d fallen into bed together for no good reason other than they were still adjusting to being on the ship together. A late night doing crew evaluations had led to dinner had led to him taking her hand as she walked to the door of his quarters had led to per pushing him back toward his bedroom and them keeping each other up the rest of the night.

The morning had come far too quickly and an early call to the bridge kept them from discussing what it all meant. Two days later, Dr. Pulaski had announced to the senior staff that Deanna was pregnant and his response had been one of caveman level territorial bullshit. He’d leveled an accusation at her while she sat removed from all of them, shrunken back into herself. He’d listened in shamed horror as she told a room full of men that she’d been violated and was now carrying a child she’d never wanted to carry. An alien presence had taken over her body, had decided she was a good vessel and she, in her ever emotional Betazoid existence, had kept the child. A child he had wanted ever so desperately to be his. How dare some alien invade her and use her for his own? How dare Ian break her heart like he had?

Will looked into her eyes, realizing she was expecting him to continue and not muse in reverie about that night and the subsequent days. Taking her hand, he kissed her palm. “I wanted to ask you then about exploring our getting back together.”

“But then Ian happened.”

“But then Ian happened.” He confirmed. “And you were so angry at me. Which, you had every right to be.”

“Will,” she sighed. “Yes, what you said was … it still stings sometimes. When I think back about Ian and what happened with him. But, there was something I never told you.” Tears touched her eyes.

“What?”

“Dr. Pulaski, she said that Ian chose me for a reason. Not just because I was female.”

Horror settled into his chest and he shivered. “What are you saying?”

“She wasn’t ever able to confirm it, but, she always thought Ian chose me because I was pregnant already.”

His gut roiled and Will fell onto his back. “Deanna …”

“I’m sorry I never told you. But I just ... “ her hand moved up his chest and he captured it and squeezed tightly. “She couldn’t confirm it and the whole experience was too much for me to process at the time. I still wake up and look for him sometimes.”

“Deanna …” he turned his head and again their eyes met. He could see the regret, the anger, the pain she was still processing. And then he smiled, sadly, desperate to ease the mood just a bit. “So which one of us forgot our birth control that night?”

A light chuckle shook her shoulders. “Actually, it was me. It was time for my injection and I got distracted by my Imzadi taking me in his arms and reminding me of our physical connection.”

“And if you had been pregnant … I mean … not without Ian’s help. What would you have done?”

She shook her head. “I’d have spoken to you, Will. Of course.”

For a long time, all that could be heard was the gentle white noise of the computer station, and he appreciated her giving him time to absorb the information she’d been carrying in her soul for so long. “I’m sorry you didn’t feel like you could tell me sooner. I’m sorry we got interrupted that morning. I’m sorry I didn’t meet you on Risa.”

“Be honest with me, Will.”

“Look,” he sighed. “I truly believed I was doing the right thing for my career. But, I’ve never forgiven myself for not being there.”

“It was a lovely post-graduation vacation for me,” she said, and he heard the regret in her voice. And then, she surprised him. She laughed. She just threw back her head and laughed. “Oh by the four deities are we full of melancholy, aren’t we?”

He chuckled. “Well, there’s reason for it.”

“I won’t restart our relationship with the cloud of regret hanging over us, Will. We both made choices. I could have married you on Betazed, before you left for your tour on the Potemkin. You could have come to Risa. We could have had this conversation three years ago. But we’re here now. So,” she leaned in and kissed his cheek. “If we have been given permission by our Captain to resume our relationship, I say we take advantage of that allowance. But we need to take it slow and accept that it’s going to be difficult. We can’t jump right back into being betrothed. Too much has happened. But the good news is, we’re already good friends.” She curled up against him and Will adjusted so that he could put his arm around her.

They lapsed into silence, and Will counted stars while listening to her breathe. He wanted to honor the request and not dwell on the regrets, but it was easy to look back and see all the places he could have done better. He wanted to kiss her, wanted to pull the clothes from her body and kiss his way up the insides of her legs. He wanted to touch her, to erase the distance they’d built between them. But he also wanted to take it slow, to find each other again.

“Yes, Will,” she murmured.

“Yes, what?”

“You can kiss me.”

He chuckled. “Never have loud emotions around an empath.” But he shifted for a better angle and when their lips came together, he never wanted to stop touching her. She moved and he pulled her on top of him, feeling her knees stabilize on either side of his body. The kiss lasted an eternity, never building past the need to touch, to caress. Even as her shirt fell away and his hands found her breasts, they didn’t push each other, didn’t make it a race to some end just because they weren’t sure when they would be discovered.

Rolling them, she opened her legs around him, adjusting to their size difference, and Will did what he’d been imagining earlier. Kissing slowly down her body, he took his time. There was no demand for some one-off climax. She was his and he was hers and right now, it was about rediscovery. Right now, it was about sliding her pants down and kicking them away, it was about his clothes joining hers in the corner. It was about feeling more than hearing her gasp as he entered her. It was about the rush in his mind as he opened to her, truly, for the first time since Betazed. About knowing exactly how she felt while they moved together, exploring each other all over again. They’d had sex more than once since being assigned together, but this was the first time they were truly together again.

His mind swirled with familiar color as she approached her climax, the tendrils of their connection solidifying as their minds entwined as deeply as their bodies. She pushed at him and they shifted position, her crawling onto his lap and sinking onto him again. Their eyes locked as they moved together in tandem, a dance they’d always known the steps to, one where they both knew when to take the lead.

She came first, keening his name in her mind as her head rolled back and her back arched. With another thrust, he followed her over the edge, linking their fingers as they both came back to their bodies.

“Heavens beyond,” she murmured, the Betazoid curse slipping past her lips. “I’ve missed that.” Slowly, she sat back up and wrapped her arms around him. He held her close, keeping them joined, meeting her gaze. “No matter what happens from here, know that I love you, Will Riker. We’ll take this one day at a time.”

“I love you, too.” Will reached for a kiss and she gave it willingly. He never wanted to let go and wanted to take it slow and at the same time wanted nothing more than for the captain to get back from Risa so they could ask him to marry them. Right there in his ready room. But she was right. One day at a time. Whatever it meant in the morning, right now, they were right here. Together.

She broke the kiss, adjusting slightly, and he raised an eyebrow at the smirk on her face. “So?” she asked.

“What?”

“Am I inventive enough for you?”

Confused for just a moment, he burst into laughter and rolled them. “I just wanted to get a rise out of you, you know.”

“Looks like I’m the one who got that rise …” but he cut off her smartass comment with a kiss and she sighed when he nuzzled against her neck. “I guess I need to cancel that date with Ensign Dawes tomorrow …” He sat back, trying to push away the flash of jealousy, but she was grinning. “Got ya.”

“You’re trouble, Deanna Troi.”

“Always have been.” She stroked his cheek and leaned up for another kiss.

***

There was no chance for morning to dawn on a Starship. Like many of the crew, Will had the lights in his quarters set to gradually brighten to assist with waking. Deanna appreciated the tactic. She was not a natural morning person and needed at least an hour with her morning coffee and breakfast to get moving. This morning, however, she was thrown from sleep by the rocking of the ship and the red alert klaxons sounding off. Will was on his feet and yanking on a fresh uniform before she was completely steady on her feet.

“Status?”

The red alert klaxons stopped as quickly as they’d begun.

“The ship was grazed by a plasma discharge from a nearby storm. All systems within normal parameters, Commander.”

Will groaned and disconnected the comm link. Deanna took a breath and grabbed the clothes that had been discarded the night before. Slowly, she pulled them on and moved to sit by her lover. “What is it?” She asked, linking their fingers.

“Just a morning reality is all,” he admitted, tugging the fresh uniform back over his head. “Talk about taking it day by day.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“Yeah.” He kissed her fingers. “You up for a shower?”

She checked the chronometer. “Yes. But a fast one. I owe Beverly breakfast. But … let’s have dinner tonight. In Ten Forward. We’ll go from there.”

“I like it.” He stood up and Deanna set her clothes aside, following him to the sonic shower in the head. He pulled her into the small cubicle and hit the controls, keeping his arms around her as the waves rolled over them. It was over before it really began and in moments she was replicating a fresh casual uniform and dropping the wrinkled clothes from the night before into the matter reclamator. It was something they’d done so often on Betazed when they were together. The gentle patterns of a domestic morning. Waking up, showering, getting dressed, all in silence, all the while being truly content in each other’s emotional company. It wasn’t like it had been the times before, a couple of years ago, when mornings turned to awkward, unasked questions about what was next. Instead, he loosened her hair from the tangled knot of last night and helped set it into something resembling professional. She straightened his uniform jacket and kissed him softly.

“I’ll see you on the bridge later,” she said, softly.

“I’ll be there.”

She moved to walk away when he caught her hand and brought her back to him. Another kiss, this one with more promise for later, left her breathless. “Thank you,” he murmured. “For telling me about Ian.”

“We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, I think. But you deserved to know.”

“And I’m sorry I acted like such an asshole during all of that.”

The apology washed over her and she accepted just how much she’d really needed to hear those exact words. “Thank you,” she said. “So now, that’s one hurt we get to move on from.”

“Just one,” he chuckled.

“One day at a time,” she responded. One last kiss and she squeezed his hand and walked away, toward Ten Forward to meet up with Beverly, who she realized was already waiting at the turbolift and had watched her leave Will’s quarters. She approached her friend, who was grinning like an idiot, and held up a hand to forestall the questions. “Not a word.”

“I’m not saying anything,” Beverly teased. “Yet.”

Deanna rolled her eyes and realized she was grinning like an idiot. Quickly, she schooled her face into something professional. It wouldn’t do for her to go skipping around the ship. The counselor had to be even keeled. But still, when she saw Will’s doors open and him step out, her heart fluttered freely.

“Can I say one thing?” Beverly asked.

“What?” They stepped onto the turbolift. Will turned the other way, heading, she presumed for engineering.

“Thank god.”

Deanna looked at Beverly. Beverly just shrugged. And together, as the lift doors closed, they dissolved into laughter.

Thank the Four Deities indeed.