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Healing, In Movements

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Title: Healing, In Movements
Author: vegawriters
Fandom: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Series: Imzadi
Pairing: Deanna Troi/Will Riker
Characters: Deanna Troi, Will Riker, Lwaxana Troi
Rating: M
Timeframe: post Man of the People (season 6)

A/N: 1) I made the executive decision to move Man of the People to the end of season 6, following Second Chances. Why? Because it works better and because episodic television lets me do it. 2) Never forget that Marina and Jonathan have discussed how they portrayed Deanna and Will as lovers. That was their headcanon. It was always up to the writers how they chose to interpret it. Also, on an actual writer note, I don't write my installments in chronological order. So please check the series order.
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: “There’s only so many times I can have my mental … capacities … invaded. In the past, it’s only been an inconvenience to a few people but … but this …” she rubbed her eyes. “This could have killed me. All because I wanted to do something nice for a guy who I thought I trusted.”

 

I

2364
USS Enterprise

She woke, as she did all too often, in a cold sweat. This new violation taunted her, crawling at her skin, pulling away layers and layers of carefully built protection. It had taken hours to sleep; every time she closed her eyes she saw Jev and Alkar ripping away her empathic sense, setting it on fire before her. Awake, her sense of reality and depth was far too sharp, too close. A mosaic that if she moved, would crash around her.

Will stirred next to her and Deanna cursed their connection, wishing she had the strength to send him back to his cabin for the night. But his arms had been so warm around her and what she hadn’t even told Beverly was how cold she felt. Stasis fields didn’t change that she’d been dead for thirty minutes and her mind still didn’t trust the world around her.

She clutched the thin, heat efficient blanket to her chest and pushed errant strands of hair back from her face. By the time she’d reclaimed her equilibrium, Will was awake. Knowing her better than anyone had a right to, he rose silently and came back to the bed with her most comfortable shawl. He draped it over her shoulders and let her lean back against his chest and when he secured her in his arms, she almost felt safe.

Tell me …

The words were faint, gentle, brushed against her mind with tendrils. He didn’t want to push too hard. But words couldn’t convey the darkness, the emptiness, that had wrapped around her mind and started to squeeze like one of the water snakes so common in the oceans of Betazed. She shivered and burrowed closer to him and thanked the Gods of Betazed that he didn’t push. He just held her against him, giving her warmth, letting her work out the emotions. Finally, she projected the void to him and as he came to understand, his arms tightened around her.

Finally, she pulled from bed and made her way to the replicator. “Betazoid Rejan Tea. Hot.” The glow of the unit lit the room for three seconds and a perfectly crafted cup of Rejan Tea waited for her. Deanna took the cup and lifted it to her lips, inhaling deeply. The scent of the herbs tickled her senses and she started to relax. Will watched her from the bed, and she could feel his anticipation, his wondering.

“I’m okay,” she finally said. “Really.”

“I thought our rule was that we wouldn’t lie to each other.”

She chuckled dryly and walked over to the chair by the bed, sinking into it. “Ensign Taylor has an appointment with me next week,” she said dryly. “I’m supposed to look this poor kid in the face and say, hey, thanks for the sexual release but I was really being influenced by the raging hormones of a domineering ambassador and really, I wasn’t myself.” Tears caught in her throat but she pushed them aside with a chuckle. Outside, the warp field and the stars raced past and she watched the comforting scene. “Or poor Ensign Maloy who didn’t want to seek me out, but she had a complaint to file against her superior officer and I told her to stop whining.” Her voice caught again. She was avoiding the real problem, the damage in her mind, the hole in her psyche. It was easier to focus on the humiliation. “I have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust with some of my patients.” Deanna sighed and set the tea on the bedside table, snuggling deeper into the shawl. “It’s a wonder the captain hasn’t asked for my transfer or my resignation.”

Will tensed. “What do you mean?”

“I’m a liability.” She sighed. “The empath who isn’t as strong as she should be.”

“Deanna …”

She only shrugged, appreciating his instant defense. “There’s only so many times I can have my mental … capacities … invaded. In the past, it’s only been an inconvenience to a few people but … but this …” she rubbed her eyes. “This could have killed me. All because I wanted to do something nice for a guy who I thought I trusted.”

“What about after Malor died?”

“The emotions I thought I sensed from him? Of course they were turbulent. I thought his mother had died.” A shiver passed through her. “And I willingly accepted it, Will. He linked to me and I was flooded with his emotions and I didn’t fight him. He overpowered me that quickly.”

“Deanna, it wasn’t your fault.”

“And maybe I’m just not cut out to be out here, Will. Maybe my mother was right. Maybe going home to Betazed and starting a family …” They both winced and she met his eyes.

“Can I ask you a question?” Will asked, sitting up. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and leaned forward, reaching for her hands. She took them in assent. She waited for him to put his thoughts together. “When was the last time you talked to someone?”

She quirked her lips. “Who counsels the counselor?”

The seriousness of his response startled her. “Yes.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Will, it isn’t that simple. I don’t have a staff …”

“You have a therapist back on Betazed.”

Deanna shivered. Yes, she did have a therapist back on Betazed. One she communicated with once a month in a subspace session, but for as successful as talk therapy was for most, Betazoids found an additional benefit from psychic work as well. But going home felt like such a chore, especially once her mother got her claws into her. The therapist in the back of her head lectured her. The woman who wanted to prove how strong she was to the universe stuck out her tongue and pouted. Deanna just squeezed Will’s fingers.

“Deanna … you died. Beverly had to kill you.”

“It sounds like you need more therapy for that than I do …”

“Stop.” His voice made her sit up just a bit. “Deanna. What would you tell a patient who woke in cold sweats, and had nightmares about mental attacks? A patient who is best friends with the love of her life and just told his transporter clone to … well …” They both chuckled at that one. But, Deanna knew he was right. Still, she deflected.

“My last communique to Tom was gentle, you know. To be fair, he called me on my feelings for you before I could tell him the truth.”

His flash of frustration startled her. “Don’t distract me by talking about our relationship, Deanna. I want to focus on you. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to take some leave - leave I know you have saved up - and go spend some time on Betazed. Go home. Let Letha cook for you, let Mr. Homm’s staff clean up after you. Go swimming in the falls. And work with someone. Even the Enterprise needs maintenance after an engagement. That’s all this is for you.”

“I really hate you when you’re right.”

His laughter touched her mind and she smiled along with him. “I know,” he said. “We can get along without you for a few weeks.”

“I’ll …” she took a breath. “I’ll reach out, see if there’s a transport ship going by Betazed in the next few weeks. I’ll talk to the Captain.”

“Good.” He tugged her hands just a bit and she went to him, glad for the familiar touch. She slipped into his lap, her knees on either side of his thighs, her arms around his neck. It was a tempting position, especially when his hands moved on their own accord to support her back. “Deanna …” he murmured. “I didn’t stay just for …”

“I know,” she said. The urge to kiss him was almost overwhelming and she knew this time, he’d go along with it. She knew he was still reeling, still needed to make sure she was his Deanna, his Imzadi. That death and Alkar hadn’t taken her from him. She could feel his body reacting to her, could hear the quick intake of breath. But the rush of need wasn’t just from him. She needed him, too. Needed to feel his hands on her body, to feel how he touched her, how he tasted her. The emotion she needed to shed had nothing to do with someone else’s rage, but her own. She’d been taken advantage of, used, turned into a receptacle and all she wanted was to bring Alkar back to life so she could kill him all over again. Slowly, she lowered herself in his lap, pressing against him, and he shivered, his hands moving to steady her waist. Tread carefully, her inner voice warned. Do you want him back in your life as your partner, as your Imzadi, or do you want him to prove to your body that you are, in fact, alive?

Why can’t I have both? She shouted into the internal void.

In the year since their mutual decision to give each other some space, their friendship had only deepened. But since Tom’s appearance in their lives and Deanna’s realization that she needed a William Riker - this William Riker - in her life, the tension between them grew thicker every day.

“Will …” she murmured again, her body shivering as his hands tightened on her hips.

“Deanna?” He quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Yes?”

He kissed her but she stopped herself just short of pushing Will onto the bed.

Two days before, she’d pulled a scared little ensign into this room and used him. The flood of emotions coming from Alkar had heightened her libido to a breaking point, overflowing with anger and rage that her body had only been able to process through sexual desire. Now, in the arms of the man she trusted more than anything, she froze. He’d known something was wrong. He hadn’t wanted to play, hadn’t wanted to engage. Even before she’d ripped her nails through the flesh on his neck, he’d known she wasn’t herself and even if she’d been able to comprehend his frustration as anything other than outright rejection, he’d understood something wasn’t right.

Humiliation seared through her. Deanna pushed back off of Will’s lap and into the chair again, shaking.

What is it?

Why couldn’t I trust you to know? You knew I wasn’t right. Alkar broke … I … Why did her head hurt? What was this feeling? What was wrong?

Will was suddenly in the small space between the chair and the bed, kneeling before her, his hands covering hers. “Deanna. You have to stop blaming yourself.”

“I should have known better! I should have sensed what he was up to! I should have stopped him!”

The words ripped from her, rending at a place in her chest that she hadn’t been ready to rip open. The scream and subsequent sobs spilled out of her soul and she barely connected to Will gathering her into his arms and moving her back to the bed. She rolled over, her face buried in the pillow, wailing into the unfairness of the attack she’d endured and what she’d had to sacrifice in order to survive.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she registered Will wondering if he should call for Beverly, but no. A sedative would trap her in nightmares, in blackness and void. But still, she couldn’t stop shaking. Quickly, she calmed her breathing, the tried and true tactics of her people coming alive in her consciousness as she fortified her shaky mental walls.

“I’ll be all right, Will.” She knew he didn’t believe her. She wasn’t sure she believed herself. But Deanna sat up and pushed her hair out of her face and tried to focus on the man in front of her. “I’ll be all right.”

“Deanna …”

She hated that he felt so helpless. Hell, he hated that he felt so helpless, she could sense it. So, she took a breath. In and out. In and out. In and out. His blue eyes watched her. Finally he reached over and brushed the last of the moisture from her face.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said.

“For what?”

“Your neck …” she shrugged. “It wasn’t exactly my best moment.”

“No, it wasn’t. But, it made me and Beverly realize that something serious was going on.” He stroked her face. “And anyway, wasn’t there some comment years ago about how when I left you on Risa, you wanted to put your boot on my neck and make me beg for air?”

She almost laughed. “Close enough.”

He adjusted, gathering her into his arms, and Deanna stretched out next to him, her head on his chest. He was right. She needed to talk to someone. She needed to go home. She needed Letha’s cooking and her mother’s fussing and Mr. Homm’s silent devotion. But mostly, she needed Kiva to sit her down and help her rebuild mental walls that had finally crumbled away into dust.

But first, she needed to sleep.

Chapter Text

Betazed

Five weeks after waking up in sickbay and reaching for Will, Deanna materialized on the porch of the Troi family estate outside of the central city of Rixx. She stared at the entryway, open to catch the late summer winds, and realized for the first time in a long time that she just wasn’t here out of obligation before retreating to the house on Lake El’Nar. No, she wanted to be here.

Deanna!

Her mother came rushing out, a flurry of color and noise against the calm of afternoon.

Deanna! Darling!

She let herself be wrapped up in her mother’s embrace, clinging far more tightly than she had in years. Her fingers tightened in the Tholian Silk of her mother’s dress, clutching so hard she was sure she damaged the fabric. The sob that she tried so hard to keep in, the one she’d planned on keeping to herself and the stuffed horse on her bed, came crashing through her barely constructed walls, washing over both of them with such a force that Lwaxana staggered back.

This isn’t just a social visit … Deanna … her mother cupped her face in her hands. Deanna? What’s happened? No. No. Come inside. Set your things down. Mr. Homm will bring your bag.

For once, she didn’t argue. She couldn’t. She let her mother lead her into the sitting room and sank onto the couch, her head in her hands. Lwaxana sat next to her, hand on her back, rubbing gently in a motion Deanna hadn’t felt since she was a child. Letha appeared, tea tray in hand, and served them in silence.

Halfway through the first cup of tea, Deanna regained enough capacity to look at her mother and was astonished to see the tears in her eyes. The good thing about Betazoid parents was they knew what was wrong before the words ever formed.

Deanna, why didn’t you tell me sooner?

She winced at the tone in the words, knowing it came from love, but still too raw to do anything but take it personally. “I didn’t want to have this conversation over subspace.” She could see the surprise in her mother’s face as she spoke aloud, but since Alkar, telepathy only gave her headaches.

Fair enough.

Again, Deanna winced and realized it was more at the effort it took to listen to her mother than at the words themselves. “Mother, can you speak, please? It hurts right now.”

“My precious Deanna. What did he do to you?”

The question was superfluous, but caring. Lwaxana was no expert in psychology but even she knew talking would help. Deanna wanted to tell her, wanted to be open, but she also just wanted her mother to hold her, so she put the tea down on the tiled floor and moved, resting her head in her mother’s lap. Gently, Lwaxana stroked her hair and Deanna closed her eyes and let herself imagine that it could be like this always. Thankfully, her mother just let her exist in silence.

Enough time had passed that she saw the pink of sunset through the windows, and Deanna stayed where she was, her head in her mother’s lap. Her mother, to her credit, never moved. “He called me a receptacle,” Deanna finally said. “He knew I was an empath and he worked his abilities and dumped all of his negative energy into me and it almost killed me.” She was still so angry over it. Just thinking about it all still made her shake with rage. “He wanted to kill me. He wanted to use me until I was dead and he justified it.”

“Did he not know he was attacking a Daughter of the 5th House?”

“Mother, he’d have celebrated it even more if he had.” Deanna finally sat up. The room spun and she realized she hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Truth was, she’d eaten less and less over the weeks since Alkar’s attack.

Her mother, of course, read her mind. “This man, he’s dead, right?”

Deanna nodded.

“Good, because if he wasn’t, he’d be …” her mother’s eyes flashed and Deanna recoiled at the rush of energy. Her mother noticed and reached for her. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.”

“I’m here to see Kiva,” Deanna admitted. “I need some work.”

The sigh that shuddered through her mother was almost a sob. “Starfleet killed your father. I’m not going to let it kill you too. You’re here until you are healed. Understood?”

Deanna almost smiled. “I’ve got three weeks of leave accumulated. I’m starting there.”

“Three weeks isn’t enough time, Deanna. Your mental shields, they’re almost non-existent. How can you go back out there?”

“I need fortification, Mother. Not …” she picked up her tea cup and moved it back to the tray. The tea now was stewed and thick and she turned off the warmer. “We’ll start at three weeks.” Suddenly, she was exhausted. “I think …” she realized her hands were shaking and her mother jumped up and put her arm around her. “I think …”

“Let’s get you to bed. Talk can happen tomorrow.”

Deanna leaned on her mother as they made their way up the stairs to her bedroom. Mr. Homm had turned down the bed and opened the windows to the night air. Deanna remembered removing her shoes, but she was asleep before her mother pulled the covers up over her.

***

Deanna woke to the smell of fresh coffee by the bed. Groggy from the emotional release she hadn’t planned on, she moved slowly, pushing aside the fog of sleep and the pressure of depression. She needed water before coffee, and to wash her face and her teeth before she could focus on anything. A glance at the chronometer told her she still had two hours until her appointment with Kiva, so at least she wasn’t running late.

But what surprised her was the presence in the room with her. Her mother lay on top of the covers, a light blanket covering her. She’d put on bed clothes and her hair was wrapped in a silk kerchief, and for a moment, Deanna saw her grandmother. She’d never realized just how much like her grandmother her mother was. Avren had been strong in a silent way, leading the family with a firm hand, and Deanna wondered how often she mistook her mother’s brash loudness for weakness as compared to her grandmother’s silent composure.

Carefully, she slipped out of bed and moved across the room. Her intention just to wash her face turned into a long muktock scented shower. She lingered under the sonic waves, promising herself a turn in the tub after her sessions today. In her dressing area, she found a long blue skirt and pink tunic she’d left behind when she’d left for the Enterprise, and by the time she emerged, dressed, her hair loose and held back under a headband, a chain and charm Will had given her gracing her neck, her mother had woken and poured them both coffee.

“You look better,” her mother said, worry still dancing along the edge of her words. “Sleep is one of nature’s cure-alls.” She sighed and rose. “Deanna …”

She took her mother’s hands in her own. “I’m going to be fine. I’m tired. I need to rebuild my strength and I came here to do it. That’s the important thing.”

“Have some coffee.”

She understood her mother’s stress, her distance. Lwaxana Troi was not used to having to restrain herself, but the only way to help her daughter was to do so. At least for now. She nodded and settled down for a cup of coffee.

“Are you hungry? Letha said there is breakfast downstairs.”

She wasn’t. But, she also hadn’t eaten in almost forty-eight hours. “I think so …” Her mother saw right through her lie, but didn’t challenge her. Thankfully. “Something small might be good.”

“You’ve lost weight, Deanna. Doesn’t Jean-Luc feed you?”

She stood, taking her cup with her, glad to play along. “We’ve been on rations for a while.”

“I simply must talk to him about that. Starving my poor girl like this.” Her mother squeezed her hand and together they walked downstairs toward the kitchen where Letha had set out fresh cream and berries and light toast flavored with saba seeds. The attraction of real food, the smell of something not created perfectly by the replicator, Deanna’s stomach kicked into overdrive and for the first time in weeks, she was truly hungry. Letha poured fresh coffee once Deanna had settled at the table, and as she walked past, her aging hand rested on her shoulder.

Eat up, DeeDee. You need your strength for what is to come.

She wanted to ask Letha to speak, but their devoted cook hadn’t spoken aloud in decades. To Deanna’s surprise, the telepathic link didn’t hurt as much as it had yesterday. Maybe all she really did need was rest.

Breakfast was quiet. Nervous. Halfway through her cup of coffee, Deanna reached across the table for her mother’s hand. “I promise,” she said, “when I get home tonight, I’ll tell you what happened. In full. Right now, I just don’t have time before my appointment with Kiva.”

Her mother’s shoulders relaxed and she assented with a nod. Deanna took that as the chance to make her exit. She had plenty of time before she needed to be to her therapist, but really, she wanted to walk into town and take it slow.

This wasn’t going to be an easy rebuild.

***

The thing that a lot of people didn’t understand was that therapy wasn’t actually about giving advice. Most of the time, therapy was about listening. It was about patience. It was about giving the patient permission for healing to begin. The problem often was that a patient hadn’t yet come to terms with a reality that they needed to forgive themselves for slights against themselves, they needed to give themselves permission to be broken, they needed to allow themselves the space to heal. In the day to day universe, those truths were pushed to the side, and buried under emotions that all too often, were about self imposed guilt than anything else. Once permission was given for healing, the patient could address the trauma and work toward wholeness.

It was a great theory, a great practice, and Deanna had spent three hours with Kiva, steadfastly fighting the entire process. She was exhausted and, surprisingly, hungry. Trudging back into the estate, it was a relief to know her mother was in the capitol, having been called out for something necessary to the business of running the planet. For just a moment, she allowed herself the flash of guilt, the reminder that she could be involved in the planetary government like her station dictated. But no, for all of her questions right now, she also knew that she did belong in Starfleet. Which was why it was very good that her mother was not home when she slunk through the door.

Letha appeared but said nothing. Deanna just crawled her way to the top of the stairs, stumbled into her bedroom, shut the door, and crashed down onto her bed.

This goes deeper than what happened with Alkar, Deanna.

No, really?

She kicked her feet and let a scream out into her pillow, feeling every bit the spoiled brat she truly was. Three hours of intentionally dodging Kiva’s questions, of rambling about Will and Tom, of dancing around the real issue: feeling powerless. Deanna was one of the most adept empaths on Betazed. Her ESP skills ranked higher than many full telepaths. But over and over, she had been tripped up by those who sought harm. She should have been able to sense the danger, and yet there she was, having her mental shields buffeted like a paper sail in a windstorm. Over and over and over again.

Beverly was right. Therapists really were the worst patients.

She slept until long after the house had gone silent. Cautious, Deanna pulled herself from bed, washed her face, and changed into a light nightgown and robe set that was fitting for the late night heat. She opened her bedroom windows to allow in the wind and went in search of tea and something to eat.

On the fifth step down toward the kitchen, Deanna realized her mother was awake and waiting. She almost turned back, but something kept her moving forward. There, in the kitchen, stood her mother, cutting berries and dropping them into a fresh light cream. The tea was warming on the table.

“Does telepathic communication still hurt?” Her mother asked, her voice tender and gentle. “Because, I’m fine speaking.”

“Thank you,” Deanna said. “How did you know …”

“I’m adept,” Lwaxana said, getting a second bowl out of the cupboard, “but I’m not clairvoyant. No, I needed a snack. You being awake is just a treat for me. Sit down, Deanna. Let me do the work.”

In her life, Deanna had never seen her mother work in the kitchen. It was only slicing berries, but there was a talent to it that came from long practice. “I never knew you even knew where the bowls were.”

Her mother chuckled. “Your mother,” she said as she put bowls of berries and cream down on the table, “is a woman full of secrets.” She shook her head. “Actually, when I was a little girl, my governess loved to cook for us during the day and she thought it was a good way to teach me the ways of the world.” Lwaxana settled at the table and poured them each a cup of tea. “She was right. Your father, he was a wonderful cook and he loved Betazoid cooking as well. When he was assigned off world, I’d wait for him to come home and our first night together, we’d stand in the kitchen and he’d tell me about all his adventures while we made dinner.” She sighed and shook her head. “So, when I miss him, I come down here and cook something small and let myself imagine that he’s off on a starship.”

Deanna felt a pang of regret. She knew her mother missed her father, but even all these years and suitors later, she never imagined that the loss was still so great for her. “Did you ever go with him?”

A smile crossed Lwaxana’s face. “In those days, civilian spouses were not encouraged onboard. There were a few ships where it was allowed, but … it was a time of war for the Federation. The Klingons were again aggressive and the Romulans … you’ve been raised in a time of relative peace, save for the Cardassians.” she sighed. “But, to answer your question, I did, once. He was stationed on board this ship called the Thames. His cabin was smaller than this kitchen and I was bored out of my mind. They didn’t have anything for civilian spouses to do. So, I came home. I loved being out in the stars with your father, but all I did all day long was read and send communiques to the diplomatic corps.” Her mother regarded her for a long time and Deanna shifted nervously, anticipating the question. “So, no judgement, all right?”

“Okay.”

“You weren’t a civilian. You were a Starfleet officer capable of requesting a transfer. And I’ve listened over and over to your excuses about William and why you didn’t marry, but what really happened, Deanna? You’re there, on the ship with him.”

It was easier than addressing the trauma in her mind, so Deanna nodded. “He put his career first, Mother.” She paused. Took a breath. “And, he’d also convinced himself that to be worthy of me, he needed a ship of his own.”

“So why in the Hells of the Gods did he turn down his own command?”

Deanna almost laughed. It was a question she’d asked herself more than once. But, it was a question she also had the answer to. “Because William Riker is a complicated man, Mother. He knows he is part of a team on the Enterprise, part of a family.”

“He’s staying for you, Deanna.”

“Partly.” She took a sip of her tea. “But to put it all on my shoulders isn’t fair to either of us.”

Lwaxana raised an eyebrow. “You two are back together.”

Quickly, Deanna shook her head. “Mother ….” she held up a hand. “For a time, we were. A couple of years ago, around the time we were kidnapped by the Ferengi, we made the decision to try again.”

“You aren’t together now? What happened?”

Another sip of her tea, a bite of the berries. “Mother, my relationship with Will is so complicated and we started seeing each other again under the watchful eye of one-thousand shipmates. Sometimes, the pressure just builds. We made the decision to just breathe for a while, and it’s made us even better friends.” Deanna decided to take the plunge and trust her mother. “We’re not sure where we stand right now. Some things have happened over the last few weeks, including this situation with Alkar, and I didn’t want to open up the romantic side of our lives again after such a close trauma.”

“You’ve always been so cautious, Deanna,” her mother chastised lightly. “So careful. Even as a child. I’d watch you climb the tallest tree in the park, but I never worried because while the other kids were racing to the top, you chose each branch carefully. I suppose part of that comes from walking the two worlds you walk.”

A smile crossed Deanna’s face and she took another sip of tea. “Some of it.”

“Do you know why I never had an issue with William in your life?”

“Why?”

“Because, for the first time, I watched you throw caution aside. You were impulsive and at times irrational and Deanna, you were in love. Deeply in love. You radiated happiness and joy and I didn’t give a single care that he was human.”

Shock hit her, hard. “You didn’t approve when I told you I’d accepted his proposal.”

“It wasn’t that he’s human, Deanna. He’s a Starfleet officer. I never wanted you to feel the pain I feel every day since your father died.”

“Mother, I’m a Starfleet officer.”

Her mother shrugged. “Devil’s in the details, my darling. I just didn’t want your heart to break.” She took a deep breath and poured them more tea. “My point here is maybe you should stop being so cautious with William. Maybe the reason you two have had trouble restarting your relationship is because you were never careful. You raced ahead, hand in hand, refusing to be scared of anything, and it was beautiful to watch.” Lwaxana drew circles on the table with her finger. “But if you aren’t going to get back together, you need to let each other go. You need to break your bond with him and let yourself move on.”

“Mother, he’s my closest friend.”

“And he can still be your closest friend, even without your bond.” Her mother looked up and met her eyes and Deanna found herself lost in the emotion that sparkled from the wide, black eyes that matched her own. “Little One, I know he loves you. And I know that you love him. But love means heartbreak at times and if you two aren’t ready for that, then maybe you weren’t ready for each other in the first place. But if you were. If you are, then get your mind right and go back to that ship and do right by each other. Because what you’re going through, you shouldn’t have to do it alone.”

Deanna took a breath. “I wish you could understand how important my friendship with Will is right now. How he’s been there for me through so much and without a romantic aspect to it.” Another breath. “It’s what I need right now.”

“Just don’t be afraid to throw caution to the wind. You did once, and you were so happy.”

How could she make her mother understand? Throwing caution to the wind had only ever hurt her and right now, Deanna just needed to take slow, careful steps. Right now, she just needed to hold onto anything that could keep her sane. But still, she appreciated the reminder. “I’ll take it under advisement,” she said, her voice thick and tired. “But right now, I think I need to go back to sleep.”

“You’re here to rest and heal, Deanna.”

“Thank you, Mother.” She rose and walked over, dropping a kiss to her mother’s forehead. “Thank you.”

***

She slept for twenty-four hours and woke feeling just a bit stronger and that her mental shields could take a buffering. At least until Kiva’s large, black eyes are glaring at her with the frustration of a long familiar therapist. A good one knows how their patients will dodge and stumble around and away from the question at hand. She’s been seeing Kiva for ten years. There are no tricks between them anymore.

“All right,” the older woman said, crossing her legs while Deanna paced the office like a caged tiger. “You’re the one who came here, who said she needed help.”

“What if I just needed rest?”

“Then you’d be on Risa with William.”

Deanna winced. She’d entertained the possibility, but the wounds from Tom had been too fresh, too near. She still wasn’t sure how she wanted him in her life.

Well. That was a lie.

“Would you rather talk about him?” Kiva asked.

No. She didn’t want to talk about him. She didn’t want to talk about the man who still held her heart and her soul. The one who, if she hadn’t been so blindingly hurt after his forgotten-consciousness affair with Ro, she might be married to at this point. Why oh why did her culture put such a damn emphasis on marriage?

Exhausted, Deanna sank onto the couch and rested her head in her hands. “I don’t know what I want to talk about, Kiva, because I don’t know where to start.”

“So we pick at a thread and see what unravels.” Kiva paused for a long moment. Long enough for Deanna to look up at her. “There’s a knot at the center of all of this. But we can’t get to it until you trust me and start to talk. Somewhere. Anywhere.”

“I died.” Deanna confessed, softly. “The only way to save my life was to kill me and now I’m here and I have no idea what it means. I have no idea why it even matters. I just know that I placed myself in an unsafe situation that led to my death.”

“So now, what? You aren’t sure why you are worthy of still being alive?”

“I want to know why it all feels so normal but so different at the same time. I crave telepathy but it gives me a headache. I want Will’s arms around me but I don’t want him to touch me. I want sleep, and I crave even a nightmare. The voids of my dreams are black and endless. There were no ancestors waiting for me when everything went black, Kiva. No gentle wrapping of my soul by those who were embraced by the Gods before. It was only nothingness.”

“Can I pose a question to you?”

She nodded.

“I think, perhaps, you aren’t giving the Gods enough credit.” Kiva held up a hand. “Because, this isn’t about them or about your own fears of what happens after death. The Gods know that. So. Why do you think you aren’t worthy of this gift that was given to you, this chance to live again?”

A shiver crawled up Deanna’s spine. She hadn’t framed it like this in her mind, and she wasn’t sure she agreed with the premise of the question, but she couldn’t lie - so much of her anxiety stemmed from that question. Why had she been brought back and what was she supposed to do with herself now that she was here?

“I do want you to pay a visit to the hospital and have then run a neural check on your psionic transmitters. If telepathy is causing physical pain, medical treatment combined with rest will help set that right. And I want you to do that before your next session with me. I want to start some psychic healing with you, and I can’t do that if you’re in pain.”

Deanna nodded. It was only logical and something she should have told Beverly before she even left the ship, but she was so damn tired of this whole thing.

“Now. Why don’t you tell me, from the beginning, how you felt when you opened your eyes in sickbay.”

Deanna understood what Kiva was doing. She knew Kiva needed something, somewhere to start. And she also knew she needed to stop fighting her therapist. She’d sought this out. She’d asked for leave. She wasn’t here on orders.

“I was terrified,” Deanna admitted. “Everything had been this void, this nothing. And then, all I could feel was pain. It was like someone was performing surgery on my brain with nothing to numb my nerves and I could feel pieces of myself flaking away and sticking back together and I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. There was this pressure on me. But as it lessened everything around me grew stronger and stronger and I could feel the light of sickbay on my skin and everyone around me was so worried and so anxious and I couldn’t filter any of it out.” Her hands were shaking. “All I could focus on was Will. He was there and he was this pillar of light in my psyche.”

“Keep going.”

Feeling caged again, Deanna paced back to the window and stared out at the view of her home. Rixx glimmered in the late afternoon sun, the light pink sky sporting blue and white clouds over the distant lake. “I was attacked,” she finally said, her voice low and scared. “Someone overpowered me and they used my mental talents, my empathic talents, to serve themselves. In that, I acted in ways I never would - not just emotionally, but physically, and sexually. I was turned into a laughing stock. I turned myself into one.” She kept her eyes on the city outside, watching a transport lift off from the top of the medical complex. “All of my control was stripped away. I became what he wanted of me, and I begged for his attention and his time. He laughed at me while I suffered. He justified it. He called me a receptacle. He knew what he was doing would kill me, and he just didn’t care.”

She’d said the words in some form already - to Will, to her mother. But saying them to Kiva had a different weight. A reality that it was time to focus on what was really destroying her. “I wasn’t strong enough to fight it, Kiva. I watched this happening to myself and I couldn’t stop it. And it isn’t the first time.”

There.

“Well. Now we have something,” Kiva said. “Keep going.”

***

“So, the telepathic transmitters in your brain have been beaten up pretty badly, and I’m very concerned at the pain you’ve been feeling, your fatigue, and every single readout I’m looking at right now. The good news is, you aren’t completely broken.”

Doctor Phyla Jarens was an older woman who reminded Deanna of Kate Pulaski. Her long white hair was swept back in an elaborate braid and bun, reminiscent of the more traditional styles of Cyndriel women, styles which Deanna wished would make more of a comeback. Her eyes were sharp, focused to the point of being unnerving. She pointed to readouts on the screen, readouts Deanna understood all too well. “If you were a marathon runner, you’d need a week of IV fluids to just reach baseline and even then, it would be touch and go,” Phyla chided. “And given what you’ve been through, I’m not surprised. And, if I’m right, the root cause of this is actually not what happened with Alkar but instead is based in what happened when you lost your powers a couple of years ago.”

“The quantum filament?” Deanna pressed her fingers to her temple.

“There was brain damage then. Your brain healed, but there was the equivalent of scar tissue that was ripped open when you were assaulted by the Ulian and then again with Alkar. That is a lot of pain for your brain to endure.”

Deanna winced. “So, how do we soothe the bruising?”

“Right now, rest, mostly. And you’ve been right not to communicate telepathically. There’s an old joke among doctors … one I won’t retell, but the punchline is that if it hurts when you do it, don’t do it.”

Deanna smiled. She’d heard that one from Beverly before.

Phyla continued, “But, I’m not sure we won’t need to take surgical steps. Deanna, the damage is extensive. I’m going to start by giving you a daily dose of a neural stimulator. It’ll feel like a strong cup of coffee for a couple of hours, but what it’s doing is racing into your brain and strengthening those pathways. We’ll do that for a week and then see where you are.” She said this as she pressed a hypospray to Deanna’s neck and then packed up six other doses. “Come see me in a couple of days. We’ll run the same tests. If I don’t see improvement, then we’ll talk about the next steps. But, I want to start here.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Deanna took the hyposprays and left, wondering what else was in store for her. Wondering what else Alkar took from her.

She had another appointment with Kiva tomorrow. And then only two more weeks before the transport ship was scheduled to scoop her up and take her to the rendezvous with the Enterprise. Two more weeks before she needed to resume her life.

Walking home from the hospital, taking a road she walked so often she could do so in her sleep, she wondered if maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t time to come home and stay. She could resign her commission, resume her work with refugees. Here, she wouldn’t need to face the humiliation of her own making.

A reality remained for her: she should have known better. With Alkar, with Jev, she should have known better. Conducted herself better. A daughter of the 5th House does not parade about her grandmother would lecture. She is stately. Refined.

Not only had she paraded herself, she’d thrown herself.

Mother parades! As a child, she'd defended her mother, wishing she'd had the courage to be like her.

Your mother likes to give me headaches. Her grandmother still loomed.

Slowly, Deanna made her way into the main city. The last time she’d been planetside, she and Will had been whisked away from their moment of bliss by the worst of the Ferengi. She wanted him here, walking with her, holding her hand. They were always happy here. It was out in space where things always felt so complicated.

Had this been how her mother had felt?

Her feet stopped and she stared ahead of her, realizing that she’d walked herself to the one place she’d been ignoring. Refusing to think about. But here she was, standing before the entryway to the J’Nal Temple. Inside, an initiate knelt in prayer in the courtyard.

Well. If she was going to use this time to see her therapist and her doctor, she might as well visit her gods, too. Grumbling at her subconscious’ abuse of her senses, Deanna took a breath and walked into the temple.

She stopped just inside the archway to remove her sandals and add them to the rows of others who had come to commune. It wasn’t necessary, but tradition held the course in many things, and most people didn’t want to get all the way naked or change into the light robes of the initiates just to wander the gardens. So, visitors removed their shoes.

Deanna wasn’t sure how devoted she was anymore. It was easy to believe in Gods while living and working among her people, but she’d found her faith shaken during the Cardassian border skirmishes and again when working with the Bajoran refugees. While Cyndriel teachings didn’t espouse all knowing or judgemental godheads, she had always had a difficult time reconciling war and death with mythical beings of goodness and light. Yet, the further she travelled from home, the more she missed the stories of the temple. In truth, she appreciated Worf’s devotion to Kahless and his strict adherence to the teachings. She understood him, to a point. A child of two worlds who, at times, didn’t really feel comfortable in either. She knew that was why Worf trusted her with Alexander. If anyone could understand them, she could.

Slowly, she moved back through the grounds, to the Ambress Gardens. The last time she’d been here, she’d been teaching Will about their Gods. She’d sat back on her heels and watched with awe as he hadn’t zoned out or just nodded along to appease her. Instead, he’d sat, cross legged, and allowed himself the time to absorb the gardens and the statues and later, she’d learned, he’d come back on his own to ask questions of the priestesses.

Now though, she was here for herself. To sit and focus and try to reclaim some of her center. A part of her felt silly, like she was performing for her mother, who so often performed for her own. But as she sank onto the pillows at the feet of the statue of Cyndriel herself, Deanna released a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, and started to cry.

Chapter Text

USS Enterprise

The fourth time Will snarled at Worf, he knew he needed a break. He was in command, holding the bridge down while the Captain spent some much desired time in Stellar Cartography, and so he passed the con off to Data and stormed into the ready room, where he could pace there.

Two weeks on Betazed and not a word. Not a whisper. She hadn’t promised anything, hadn’t given any indication that she would check in, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t crawling the walls. She’d been such a wreck when she left and now he could only imagine where her mind was. Even the lightest touch of empathic connection had been painful. She’d had to cancel her appointments and Beverly had taken to stopping by her quarters at night to administer a sedative.

“What is it?” He’d asked one night once Deanna had finally dropped off. “She’s in agony.”

Beverly looked stricken. “There is damage to her neural pathways from Alkar’s attack. What the extent is, I’m not sure. She needs a Betazoid specialist. I’m good, but I’m not familiar with all of the particulars. Will,” the doctor had sighed. “She’s been through a lot the last six years. I just don’t know if she’s getting through this one without a hard reset of some kind.”

Now, he waited. He went by her cabin to check on the fish and sit in her space and just hope that she was coming back. He took extra shifts. He even went out with Lieutenant Jensen for dinner when they stopped by Starbase 671 for supplies. But John knew full well he was a distraction for something and Riker didn’t want to insult him, so they had a lovely dinner and went their separate ways. When the Enterprise’s departure from the station had been delayed due to a cargo seal concern, Riker sucked up his pride and sought out the counselor on the base. A Betazoid. Of course he was Betazoid. Of course those black eyes would stare back at him. How in the universe could they all have the same eyes and yet they be all so different?

How could he express his needs in an hour of therapy?

So he’d looked at this stranger, leaned forward, and said words he knew the Betazoid in front of him would understand, “My Imzadi has been assaulted and is hurting and I can’t go after the man who hurt her because he’s dead. But I still feel this rage bubbling and I need it to go somewhere.”

“Why do you need to hurt the one who hurt her?” The counselor had asked. Will opened his mouth to scream, to beg for understanding, when he realized that it wasn’t just Alkar he wanted to pound into a pulp. It was Jev. It was Tom. It was the alien who had impregnated her and the damn cosmic string that had ripped her powers from her. And when that was all pulled away, he knew that the one he really wanted to hurt was himself.

“How long are you going to carry your pain for a decision made long ago?” The counselor had asked, cutting right through to the heart of his issue. After all, if they’d been married, he still couldn’t have protected her. These things still could have happened.

How long was he going to carry the pain? Until he righted it.

Now, he paced the ready room, waiting for a signal that had no reason to come. The ship was hurtling through space toward their next assignment and then to the rendezvous point where, if they were lucky, Deanna would rejoin them.

“Picard to Commander Riker.” The Captain’s sharp accent sliced the air.

“Yes, Sir?” He walked away from the desk a bit, never comfortable with being in the ready room when the Captain was close by.

“Please report to Dr. Crusher’s office.”

The order was delivered with a gentle sense of compassion, but Will could only feel a shiver crawl up his spine. “I’ll be right there.”

The trip to Sickbay took only five minutes, but in that time, he’d convinced himself Deanna was leaving Starfleet. In that time, he’d mapped out his own resignation. All of this wasn’t worth it without her.

Beverly and Picard were waiting for him and he suddenly felt like the husband about to receive the bad news that his spouse was dead. “Captain?” He asked while acknowledging Beverly with a nod.

Thankfully, Beverly just jumped in. “Will, I’ve heard from the hospital on Betazed.”

His knees buckled and he sank into a chair. “Hospital? Deanna was going home for therapy. To rest after the situation with Alkar.”

“Remember how I mentioned the damage to some of the neural pathways that control her telepathic and empathic responses following the situation with Alkar?”

Will nodded, trying to remember to breathe.

“The doctors on Betazed have determined that the damage can’t just be repaired with rest. She needs extensive treatment. Alkar’s violation of her came on the heels of some other psychic trauma that she’s suffered over the last few years. Alkar’s brand of projective empathy in effect ripped her brain open. Most of his victims lived for years, but Deanna aged to the point of death in mere days. When we reversed the flow of emotions back to Alkar, that process didn’t reset her brain. Instead, it sent her into overdrive.”

“That’s why empathic sensations were painful,” Will said, his voice soft. “She was like a cup that was on the verge of shattering.”

“They caught it in time,” Picard interjected. “But she will be on medical leave for the foreseeable future.”

Riker clenched his fist so hard he was sure he heard something snap. Professionalism needed to hold court but all he could see was Deanna before she left, drawn and tired and in so much pain. How much damage had the thousands of minds on board this ship done to her?

“Will,” Picard said, catching his attention. “She’s asked for you.”

“What do you mean, she’s asked for me?” Will didn’t miss the look between Beverly and his captain, so he fixed his gaze on Deanna’s best friend and doctor. “What do you mean she’s asked for me? And why couldn’t she just message me herself with this? What is wrong?”

Beverly took a breath and leaned forward. “Will, Deanna lost consciousness two days ago. She’s in the neural intensive care unit on Betazed, under the care of their best doctors. They have been able to access her thoughts and she’s asking for you. They think …”

“Imzadi …” Will said, his voice quiet. “It’s a bond … a telepathic bond … that is formed between Betazoid lovers. On the surface, it means beloved. But it’s so much more.” He closed his eyes, seeing her standing before him. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

“We’re altering course for Betazed,” Picard said, his voice reassuring, almost paternal. Will sucked in a breath. “We’ll be there in three days. Hopefully, the treatments will have worked and she’ll be coming out of it. But if they don’t …”

Will shook his head. “If they don’t, we’re going back there to say goodbye to her. And she knows it.” He shrank back in his chair. “Thank you.” He wanted to be positive, he wanted to think only the best, but he also knew they wouldn’t have called the Enterprise to Betazed if a Daughter of the 5th House wasn’t dying.

***

Betazed

Never in his life had Will imagined he would see Lwaxana Troi as anything other than the formidable queen she presented to the world. But the woman at Deanna’s bedside looked older, frail, quiet. Her hair was natural and pulled off her face in a severe bun, her face devoid of makeup, dressed in a simple pair of loose pants and a tunic. She was a mother, terrified for her daughter’s life. In this room, there was no holding court. For her part, Deanna looked like she was sleeping. She was pale, but even the readouts on the panels above her head seemed normal.

“You can come in, William,” Lwaxana spoke, her voice thick with tears. “You don’t need to hover.”

He obeyed the woman who he’d once been ready to call his mother-in-law. There was a chair by the window and she got up and moved to it, leaving the space next to Deanna for Will to claim. “How is she?” He dared to ask.

“Stable, thankfully. They were able to stop the neural breakdown so she isn’t cascading anymore. But they aren’t sure how much they can rebuild. Your doctor sent over all of Deanna’s medical records. Apparently, some of the root problem is at least three years old. There is scar tissue in areas of the brain I can’t even pronounce.” The older woman sighed. “What are you people doing to her out there?”

Will knew better than to answer. He just took Deanna’s hand in his and stroked along her fingers. “Can I ask what happened?”

“They found her in the gardens at the temple. She’d been going there after her sessions. The neural stimulant that her doctor gave her to try and strengthen her telepathic connections apparently had the opposite effect and her brain overloaded. She’s stable enough for surgery, but they wanted to wait until you got here. All waiting does at this point is give her time to rest. They knew Deanna wanted you to …” her voice choked. “Deanna wants you here.”

Will nodded and focused his energy on Deanna. Maybe she would be able to hear him through the mess, maybe she could talk to him. But all he could feel when he closed his eyes was a storm inside his own head and he wasn’t sure if it was hers or his. But he stood in the center of it, refusing to back away. If this was her storm, he was going to help her find her way out of it.

Hours passed. He knew the Captain was touring the Starfleet offices, and that Beverly was with the surgical team. He knew Alexander had begged to come down to see Deanna and Worf was having a time trying to explain why it wasn’t time yet. But all that mattered was this room and the soft, slow, rose and fall of Deanna’s chest. She was breathing on her own. That was what mattered.

A doctor entered the room. She was older, her hair off her face, hidden under the hood of a set of blue surgical scrubs. “It’s time, Lwaxana,” she said and then turned to Will. “You must be William.”

“I am.”

“We’re glad you’re here.” She offered him a small smile. “I’m Phyla Jarens and hopefully, this time we won’t make her any worse.”

“Doctor …” Will stood, getting out of the way of the staff who came to wheel Deanna away. He watched them go before turning his attention back to the older woman. “Can you repair the damage?”

“I’ll do my best.” She nodded. “I suggest you two try to get some rest. It’s going to be a long night.”

Will could tell from Lwaxana’s face that she wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was he.

Chapter Text

Betazed

The darkness was a blanket, heavy and soothing. Warm against the cool of the outside world. Deanna floated, suspended, weightless. Pain free. She could feel pressure to move, to lift the blanket, to crawl out of the comfortable darkness, but why should she? Why give this up?

Snippets of conversation caught her attention. Closer. Flashes of light in the comfortable darkness.

“It’s up to her now.”

“Come back to me.”

“Please wake up.”

She wanted to stay right where she was.

***

Deanna …

The blanket lifted. The weight changed. The voice comfortable. She rolled toward it.

Deanna … come back to me.

So familiar. Why did she know the presence?

Imzadi … please …

***

Against her will, Deanna’s eyes jolted open. She was in a hospital room. The lights dim. Two people with her.

Will.

Her mother.

Frustrated, she shut her eyes, wanting to keep out the light, wanting to go back to where it was warm and quiet. Where nothing could hurt her. But her brain was awake and refused to let her crawl back inside herself.

A groan escaped her lips and she watched the shapes of those who mattered most to her leap to her side. Her mother grabbing her hand, Will leaning down, stroking her hair back. She met his eyes and reached up, touching his face. He felt so far away. So distant from where he should be. But he was there. He was here.

Exhausted, she closed her eyes. This time, her brain let her rest.

***

She woke naturally as sun cut through the windows. Deanna lifted a hand to her face, pressing down against her forehead, before trying to sit up. Her muscles ached from not moving for untold days.

When had Will arrived?

She remembered it all. Taking the third dose of the neural stimulant, stopping at the temple on her way home from her appointment with Kiva, finally starting to unravel her anger over Alkar, the headache that had split the sky, the void.

The room spun as she sat up, taking in where she was. Her mother asleep by the window. Will asleep in a chair by the bed. Both looked dreadfully uncomfortable. She blinked. Everything was sharp and clear. If she touched anything, it might slice her open. But her mind was calmer.

How long had she been in the hospital?

A grunt from Will and he opened his eyes, realized she was sitting up, and jumped up so quickly she saw him wrench a muscle in his back. But he kept moving, coming to her, his eyes wide with hope. “Deanna …” he murmured. “Oh my God … you’re awake. Really awake.” Why did he seem so far away? So disconnected?

She shook her head, which made her dizzy, before reaching for the hand he offered. “I’m …” she gripped, tightly. “I’m okay. I think.”

Her mother was stirring.

“The doctors repaired your neural pathways and the damage done, but your brain needed time to heal.”

“How long?”

“Two weeks.”

The timeframe hit her, hard. “Two weeks?”

“We’d almost given up hope and then you woke up two days ago. We were just waiting for you to really come back to us.” He settled onto the thin biobed and helped her lean back against him. He was warm. Comfortable. Soothing.

Her mother realized she was awake and jumped from her place by the window, racing over to squeeze her hands. “Deanna!”

“I’m … I’m okay.” She returned the squeeze. “Two weeks?”

“The longest of my life,” Lwaxana sobbed. Deanna appreciated her mother’s restraint in not grabbing her and hugging her. She couldn’t take sudden movement quite yet.

The next three hours were a dizzying blur that left Deanna in need of sleep. Phyla and Beverly both had questions (had the Enterprise been in orbit this whole time?) and then she had to meet with neurotherapists who were there to set her on a rehabilitation schedule and of course Kiva was also there to speak to her about her next tier of therapy.

And then they were all gone. Everyone save for Will. Even her mother had gone home - to get things ready for her return, she declared. Deanna tried to breathe, overwhelmed with what she’d felt from everyone. The waves were disconnected, far off, it was like watching a storm through a force field. It was normal, Phyla said. Her full functioning would return as she healed, and they expected a full recovery.

Did she want one?

“I can’t believe you’ve been here the whole time,” she said as she took a seat next to him by the window. He was watching the sunset over the lake and she followed his gaze as he wrapped her in his arms.

“Where else would I be, Deanna?”

“We aren’t married, Will.” It was a gentle chiding. He only held her tighter.

“I’ll always be here,” he murmured, kissing the side of her head.

“Why is the Enterprise still here?” She burrowed deeper into his arms.

“Shore leave. Checking in with the Bajorans. Supervising a refit of the Starfleet campus.”

“So, anything the captain could come up with?”

He chuckled. “Yes. I was willing to stay behind. Beverly refused to leave.”

Overwhelmed, Deanna just closed her eyes. She reached out, gently, poking at the shields that protected her mind. As always, Will was right there. Comfortable. Cozy. She sighed and reveled in his presence. Right now, this was all the therapy she needed.

***

“It’s going to take time.”

Kiva’s voice held her usual gentle but firm tone, the reminder that therapists were terrible patients and she needed not to push herself.

Three weeks after being released from the hospital, Deanna was going home. To the Enterprise. Put under the careful medical supervision of Dr. Crusher. Every day, her neural pathways were rebuilding. Forming stronger connections. But it didn’t mean things were clear. In a moment, everything was so sharp and in focus she was scared to move. In the next breath, a fog rolled in, covering everything. She was under direct orders to meet with the doctor daily, and weekly reports would be sent back to the doctors on Betazed. In six months, she was to come back for another round of therapy.

“I don’t want it to take time,” Deanna admitted. “I want to snap my fingers and be where I’m supposed to be.”

“And where is that, exactly?”

Deanna looked across the office at her therapist. “I want my connection with Will to be stronger than it is. Where it used to be.”

“Will that be your definition of healed?”

She sighed and shrugged. “It’s a milestone.”

“You’ve been through a lot in the last few years. A lot we haven’t even discussed because of what happened when you lost consciousness. Deanna, you have to allow yourself the time to rebuild yourself. What happened to you is no different than a crew member losing a limb in an accident. We can replace the leg, the arm. The officer will have no side effects, no indication the leg is anything other than their own. But that doesn’t erase the trauma. It doesn’t change that they need to learn how to trust that leg again. And that trust comes in waves.”

Deanna nodded, knowing full well that Kiva was right. “It’s just frustrating being on this end of it.”

“It’ll come.” Kiva stood up and Deanna followed her to the door of her office. Good luck, Deanna, her therapist projected. You’re going to be just fine. Trust yourself.

For the first time in as long as she could remember, the touch in her mind didn’t hurt.

Chapter Text

USS Enterprise

One of the reasons she loved William T. Riker was, quite simply, physical. Of all the men she’d been with, he had a true joy in throwing her legs over his shoulders and making a meal out of her. Since growing the beard, the experience had been even more powerful. Tonight, she was sure she’d never come back to her body.

He climbed up to meet her, his mouth making patterns on her skin, and she could feel him willing away her last sexual experience, the ensign she’d seduced, his own rejection of her while Alkar was controlling her emotions. Giving herself over to him, Deanna wrapped her legs around his hips as he pushed into her body and she pulled him closer, her nails digging into him.

Will … she sighed, letting their minds mingle. Don’t … don’t stop … Will …

She could feel him, so close to his own release, delaying the cascade over the edge so they could find a place together. His mind reached for hers and as they wrapped around each other, one more wall fell away. She came one step closer to healing.

Deanna … Imzadi …

The rush of emotion filled her and she arched back, reaching for him in all ways, crying out as their souls touched. Light washed through both of their minds and then it was still as they gasped, finding ground again.

I love you … she heard him, so clearly.

Deanna opened her eyes and stroked his face, surprised to find tears in his bright blue eyes. I love you, too.

Slowly, carefully, they untangled and Deanna lay still while Will grabbed a cool cloth to clean them both up. It was a true pleasure of hers, to be tended to by her lover like this. Will had always seemed to quite enjoy indulging her.

“Do you want anything?” He asked as he sat up. Her eyes raked over his body and they both grinned at the suggestion she threw into his mind. Will leaned over for a kiss and she sighed into the touch. “Other than to ravage me until we’re both due on shift. Because you know you’ve got my attention for that.”

She laughed and stretched, reaching for her robe. “Food actually sounds wonderful.” He donned a pair of loose pants and made his way to the replicator. Deanna moved to the couch and settled, watching him. “Will?”

He looked over his shoulder at her while the replicator created cheese and fruit and her favorite crackers from Earth. “Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“For that?” He teased as he walked back over with the plate of food. “Oh, that’s my pleasure, Deanna.”

“Not just what you just did to my body,” she teased. “Thank you for being there on Betazed.”

He sat next to her on the couch, the plate of food on the table before them. But he took her hands and kissed them. “Deanna, I know that we’re in our own relationship limbo. But no matter where we are in the universe, I will fly across the galaxy to help keep you safe.”

“Do you want to be?”

“What?” He didn’t break her gaze.

“In a relationship limbo?”

She felt his sigh before it left his body. “Deanna, I think you know what I want. You were the one who wanted space after our memories were wiped.”

“I know. And now …” she rolled her eyes. “You’d think now would be the perfect time to throw it all aside and just be together.”

“I sense that isn’t going to happen.” Will’s voice was soft, barely masking the hurt.

“Will, I’m scared.”

“I’m not going to hurt you again.” He sounded so scared himself, so worried that he’d ruined everything all those years ago. “Not intentionally. Deanna, I know I made a mistake.”

“You did. We both did.” She sighed. “But it isn’t being hurt that I’m scared of. Actually, I … after Tom left, I knew who I really wanted.”

“So what?”

She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Will, I almost died. And right now, the last thing I want is to be rebuilding our relationship in the face of that trauma.”

“I thought when you wanted to spend your life with someone, you took vows. In sickness and in health.” The words were frustrated, but he was holding it together. She appreciated his confusion. Hell, she shared it. What was it her mother had said though? That Will made her throw caution to the wind? Will made her impulsive?

“I just need time, okay? Because I do want to be with you. But I’m still figuring out how to navigate right now. I’m still relearning to trust my empathic senses. I’m not asking you to wait forever. But just …” she sighed. “Can we try this in some kind of no pressure way? That every kiss doesn’t mean we’re going to get married tomorrow?”

There was a cautious relief she could feel in him. “That’s fair,” he said. “Although, if this hadn’t happened with Alkar, I’d probably have been down on one knee by now.”

She stroked his beard. “And I’d have said yes.” She kissed him softly. “I love you, Will. But I can’t be impulsive right now. It’s like when Worf was learning to walk again. I need to take it one, slow, annoying step at a time.”

“That’s a theme with us, I’ve noticed.” He reached for a slice of mango and handed it to her. “But, I can appreciate the caution.” He took his own bite of fruit. “So, no pressure?”

“No pressure, but also, an acknowledgement of how we feel about each other.”

“Happily.” He leaned in to kiss her again. “I love you.”

“I love you,” she said as she reached for another slice of fruit. He leaned back on the couch and she snuggled in, closing her eyes, and reaching out with her mind. After a moment, she felt the soft touch of his, the connection they’d become so used to over the years.

Yes. Eventually. They were going to be just fine.