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The Gardens

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Title: The Gardens
Author: vegawriters
Fandom: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Series: Imzadi
Pairing: Deanna Troi/Will Riker
Rating: Mature
Timeframe: Pre-Canon
A/N: My general distaste for the concept that Deanna Troi had no personal agency before she met will Riker is coming out in this series. She could be a “Very Serious Psychology Student” and still know how to have fun and also be in control of her body and her emotions. But thank you to Peter David for the traction joke.
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: She trailed her fingers across his chest, watching his body’s reaction to her touch. “Let me guess,” she said quietly, “your desire to be a starship captain outweighs anything else in your life, including risking daring to build that life with someone else.”

Riker was surprised at how comfortable the ceremony had been. He’d sat in the same curved row as many of his superior officers, all of them naked as they day they were born, and after his initial terror of not knowing where to look, it had been surprisingly easy to be stripped of everything - including rank and underwear.

“It’s a stunning tradition,” Admiral Hopper had said as he and his husband, a Betazoid exobiologist named Tamil, settled next to him. “The Betazoids believe in total and complete honesty. They’ve never understood the human preoccupation with …”

“With lying to yourselves and each other, especially in relationships,” Tamil finished for his husband. “It just takes up so much time.”

Unbidden, Riker’s thoughts drifted to Deanna. What was she thinking about when it came to him? Tamil caught his eye and barely hid a smile. But before the older Betazoid could offer up any teasing, the bridal party took their places in the center of the gathered. The chairs were arranged in a circle, giving everyone an equal chance to see the family as they bonded. There was no pomp and circumstance, no wedding march. The family and their witnesses rose from chairs at the center of the circle and the officiant opened her mouth to speak. But, as soon as he laid eyes on Deanna, he’d stopped listening.

Oh, it really wasn’t fair that the last time he’d seen her had been when she kissed him goodnight after dinner. That the first time he got to see her naked was at an official function where he had to be on his best behavior and impress admirals and diplomats. Where he was surrounded by telepaths who could all tell that he was crushing on a Daughter of the 5th House. Though, if they all looked at her, they could see why.

God.For the first time in his life, he understood the romantic concept of the Snow White mythology. Dark hair. Alabaster skin. Bright. Red. Lips.

Betazoids were okay with complete honesty. What about unbridled lust?

Somehow he survived the surprisingly short ceremony and was, in truth, glad to be back in his dress uniform. Sitting next to his superior officers while naked was one thing, but he wasn’t sure about an entire reception. Not only was he treated to the safety of clothing, but finding out there were no speeches, no toasts, was a weight from his shoulders. Given the nature of the Xerx Household, he’d expected some kind of allowance of royalty. When Tamil informed him that the most political part of a wedding like this was the seating chart - and the well wishes before the ceremony - Riker completely relaxed. Listening to diplomats talk out of their asses for two hours was not on his want-to-do-list. Now he just needed to entertain his bosses until things wound down. And, hopefully, find some time to dance with Deanna. If Betazoids even danced at weddings.

“How are you taking to the planet?”

Will’s attention was caught by the Admiral, who stepped up to join him, a glass of Spring wine in his hand. Inspection had gone better than Will had expected, although his plea to get the Admiral and the other Starfleet and Federation staff over to the hospital was falling through every possible crack. They were all here for the day, just for the wedding, they all said. But if he forwarded his report, they’d be sure to read it. Privately, Riker thought that rather than be forcing themselves in and out of their dress uniforms, they should be talking to the refugees, but he’d learned quickly that there was a reason they assigned junior officers to run the offices here on Betazed. It wasn’t that nothing happened here, but really, nothing happened here. Earth and Vulcan were only hours away if something did.

“It’s beautiful,” Riker said, forcing himself into a place where small talk wouldn’t make him antsy. He wasn’t comfortable with it, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to waste time talking about the weather.

“It was truly one of my favorite rotations. And not just because I met Tamil. It’s such a peaceful place and it’s easy to lose yourself in how calm it is.” Riker shifted slightly, seeing Deanna out of the corner of his eye. How could he get out of this without being rude? Hooper chuckled knowingly and kept on talking. “Don’t worry, Lieutenant. After tonight we’ll be out of your hair. Thanks for helping to coordinate the shore leave requests.”

“I wasn’t aware my orders were something I could refuse,” Riker said, trying a joke. It worked. Hopper laughed.

“True!” The admiral finished his glass of wine. “You’re running an impressive group, and there will be challenges to come. Now if you will excuse me, Tamil and I are going to visit his family before we leave and we need to pay our respects.”

Riker watched his superior officer walk toward the bridal party and reigned in the desire to run over and interject himself into the moment. And, he realized, holding back allowed him to stare, stupidly, at Deanna.

She had donned a blue gown of some kind of shining material that caught the candle light in the courtyard. It moved around her like a cloud and Will couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel as he tried to undo the straps. She moved easily through the crowd, looking every bit the daughter of a powerful house. Her head held high, her touch easy, she only sipped from the wine glass in her hand and never allowed herself to be stuck too long while someone bent her ear. Will mingled, chatting idly with his fellow Starfleet officers, but he couldn’t stop watching Deanna. It took about ten minutes for him to realize she was making her way to him. It was a well-crafted dance. She’d stop and chat and smile and sip her wine and move on and no one seemed all the wiser that she had a destination in mind. Will watched, wondering anxiously if she would simply treat him the same way as her other conversation conquests. But, as she slid next to him, her hand on his arm, and met his gaze, he could tell she’d been waiting for this as well.

“Lieutenant,” she said, her tone very prim and proper, but he could see the warmth behind her eyes. The playfulness. Still though, she turned her gaze to the man Will had been talking to, and her demeanor changed slightly. “Captain Jackson,” she addressed the officer. “It’s been a very long time. How are you?”

“I’m well, Deanna. I didn’t think so much time had passed, however. You’re all grown up.”

“And a lieutenant in my own right.” She smiled. “Much to my mother’s chagrin.”

“I’d been hoping to talk to your mother,” the captain said. “If you think she’d see me.”

Fascinated, Riker watched the interplay. Deanna moved her hand from his arm to the captain’s, leaned up, and kissed his cheek. “There’s nothing left to forgive, Captain. It was an accident and it was a time of war.”

Jackson let out a breath and nodded. “Thank you. Enjoy the evening.” He met Riker’s eyes. “Lieutenant. It’s been a pleasure.”

Riker watched the man walk across the lawn. He paused next to a tall, formidable woman in a dress of gold and black. Jackson bowed, took the woman’s hand, and kissed it. In an instant, he was in her arms and they were hugging tightly.

“Oh good,” Deanna breathed out next to him. “I was worried that I gave him bad advice.” She took a sip of her wine and then faced him. “My father was under his command when he was killed. The captain has never forgiven himself.”

Will let out a breath, remembering what she’d said about her father. “I’m sorry.”

“So am I. But, today is not for sad reminiscing.” Deanna took a step closer, leaned up, and kissed his cheek. “I’d grown quite accustomed to seeing you every morning, Will. The last couple of mornings haven’t been … quite as pleasant.”

Nervous, he slipped an arm around her waist. “How many more … duties … do you have to see to?”

Her dark eyes matched his intensity and suddenly he realized that she was more than happy to substitute their morning run for a workout of a different kind. “It’s improper of me to leave quite yet,” she murmured. She took a breath and stepped back. “There’s another garden, through the back. Meet me there in ten minutes.” And with that she was gone, and Will forced himself to look normal as he walked over to another captain to say his hellos.

***

She was an unabashed cliche, sneaking off like this at her cousin’s wedding, but Deanna hadn’t realized until she’d been forced to be away from Will Riker for a couple of days that, truthfully, she should have stayed with him after dinner the other night. So, she had no compunctions about grabbing Will’s hand as he came around the garden wall and pulling him against her.

The second kiss was just as sweet as the first had been. She sighed into his touch, wondering why she hadn’t jumped him the moment she laid eyes on him. Waiting weeks to get around to this point was just silly.

“Tell me the truth,” he said as they broke apart.

“It is our way,” she teased, her hand on his chest. She was absolutely entranced by his blue eyes and the way the edges crinkled when he smiled. “So, what am I telling the truth about?”

“If I stick around, will I get to walk you home?”

Deanna shivered and leaned in. “It’s going to be a while,” she sighed. “But, if you’ll be up late, I can come by the campus when we’re done.”

He stroked her cheek and reached for a kiss again. Deanna lost herself in the moment, not caring about what was at all proper for the two of them. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew her mother was looking for her and that Chandra needed her and that her connection to this human was the last thing her family would approve of. She had her own betrothal to think about at some point. But right now, it was her and William Riker and all that mattered was this moment.

Deanna Troi! Where are you! Her mother’s voice sliced right through her libido.

“Damnit,” she groaned as she pulled away. “I’m being summoned. I’ll try and see you later.”

Will’s disappointment matched her own, but Deanna needed to get back to the reception. With a final kiss to his cheek, she turned and made her way through the gardens and back to the gathering. Her mother watched her approach, an eyebrow raised, and stared past her at the hedges.

Yes, Mother? Deanna tried to distract her. I’m sorry for disappearing.

Her mother fixed her with a smirk. He’s cute.

Mother! Deanna turned to watch Will make his way toward the refreshment table.

We’ll discuss this later. Go on. Chandra needs you.

Chastened, Deanna hurried to her cousin, who was looking at her with the same expression as her mother. That’s him?! Oh Gods, Deanna. What are you doing here with me?

I have duties, Deanna snarked at her cousin. So if you’d like to hurry up and finish this up, I can get on with my night.

Your night! Chandra stuck out her tongue before tucking a flower behind Deanna’s ear. “And why didn’t you tell me how cute he is?” She asked, her voice floating between them.

“Does anyone compare for you right now?”

Her cousin giggled. “No. And today has been wonderful. Thank you, Dee.”

The love flowing from Chandra wrapped Deanna in a warm hug and she stepped into it and put her arms around the other woman’s waist. “You two are going to be so happy.”

“I know.” Chandra smiled. “You know, when you think about it, Betazoids hold an advantage over the rest of the universe.”

“Well,” Deanna teased, “we’ve always believed that. But why are you saying that specifically?”

“Think about it, Dee. We actually can believe in love at first sight. We know in our soul when something matters, when we’ve met our match.”

“You know, Chandra, there is a lot of psychology out there discussing the importance of open relationships and that perhaps we are not meant for just one person. That the pressure of being just one person for another is too much for the soul.”

“Who in the God’s Hell said just one person,” Chandra laughed. “I’m saying that we are lucky because we can set our eyes on a soul mate and know it. What you and your soul mate do with that knowledge is up to you. Because if you think I am just having sex with Tabor for the rest of my life, you are out of your mind.”

Deanna giggled but her eyes drifted to Will, who was chatting idly with one of the admirals. Was this feeling in her heart what Chandra was talking about? What if it was and what if she didn’t want to open the relationship? What if her Imzadi truly was Wyatt Miller?

“Stop thinking so much,” Chandra chided softly. “And go on and send me and Tabor off so I can get him naked all over again. My dress is starting to itch.”

Deanna laughed and pulled away, stepping to the dais. As First Maiden it was her place to bless the couple and then send them on their way to their new life. It was the only true speech of the night and really, only lasted a few moments.

“Thank you all for coming,” she said, her voice raising above the crowd. They all turned to her and Deanna squared her shoulders, the training she’d had her whole life helping bring this moment to life. “Thank you for celebrating the Bonding of Chandra and Tabor.” She clasped her hands before her. “May the Gods of Betazed bless this space, bless their Bonding, and may we all celebrate with them upon the return.”

A gong chimed in the back of the garden, and the bride and groom took hands and were escorted out of the party. But here, things were just getting going. It was going to be a long night and Deanna couldn’t leave until the last of the guests had stumbled home.

***

Will could only stare as Deanna came down from the dias. She was a queen. A damn queen. He was used to hearing her soft voice at the hospital and seeing her deflect to others on their morning runs. Who was this commanding woman with a voice that could silence crowds? God, he was out of his element here. And what was she doing in Starfleet?

So many questions and all of them paled in comparison to the one he cared most about: when exactly would he get to see her naked again?

Not any time soon, if the party was to be decided. The Starfleet personnel were trickling out. Ships couldn’t stay in orbit forever and Riker knew full well the last of the shore leave had ended an hour before the wedding. Admirals and Captains didn’t want to chase down their crews while pushing away their own hangovers. Riker watched them all go, shaking hands and suddenly much more confident in his dealings. It was hard to hold everyone to the same rank once you’d sat naked at a wedding together.

Once the last had gone, he realized he was the only Starfleet officer left and suddenly, his presence was a bit awkward. There were other non-Betazoids still at the reception, but his uniform was now out of place and he felt it. There was, truthfully, no reason for him to remain other than to wait and see if a raven-haired beauty wanted to walk him home. Deanna was across the gardens, attending to a group of older Betazoids, one with white hair and her identical bone structure. Her grandmother, he presumed. He watched her for a few moments, wishing he could make her understand that he didn’t want to go but he really had no reason to stay. So, he moved to the edge of the garden, looked back one last time, and headed out into the late night of Rixx.

The similarities between the capital city and Paris were striking, and he found himself wondering if some poor Betazoid had been trapped on Earth hundreds of years ago and ended up designing the most romantic city on the planet. Slowly, his steps took him across the bridge over the water, past the golden glow of the capitol complex, past the gardens at the edge of the school, and finally to the Starfleet campus where a shadow in the courtyard caught his attention. His eyes adjusted to the light and he watched the object of his infatuation saunter over to him.

“You didn’t say goodbye,” she taunted as she came closer.

“You were busy …” he swallowed and put his hands on her arms. Please let this be happening. “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“My mother sent me off,” Deanna said. Her voice was light as she slid her hands up his chest. For a moment, her fingers toyed with the fastener on his dress uniform before she leaned up and, as she wrapped her arms around his neck, kissed him.

Will refused to question this gift bestowed to him. He’d send a thank you card to Deanna’s mother in the morning. Right now, he just wanted to get her back to his bunk and out of that dress that felt like a silk he’d never felt before. That was, if he could stop kissing her long enough to lead her back through the campus to his quarters. It wouldn’t do for him to carry her the whole way, though he was contemplating it.

“Will,” Deanna murmured as she broke for air. “Maybe we should take this inside?”

He loved a forward woman. She took his hand and somehow, he managed to get back to his cabin and close the door behind them. Turning to her, he sucked in a breath and thanked whatever Gods she believed in for giving them this moment.

Her hands reached up again, and this time when she touched the pips on his collar, her fingers stroked for a long moment. “This means everything to you, doesn’t it?”

“Doesn’t it for you?”

She smiled at the question but the shrug caught him by surprise. “I don’t know if I see Starfleet as the same driving purpose that you do. But you do make me want to be a better officer.”

“Aww shucks, Miss Troi,” Will teased. He moved to catch her hands in his own, but she was faster and found the snap of the dress uniform. One click. Two. Three. And the jacket was falling open. Will held perfectly still while Deanna ran her fingernails over his chest, teasing him through the thin uniform shirt. She tugged again at the jacket and it came open and her hands were on his waist. Will let the jacket fall to the floor and knew he’d regret it in the morning but right now he just didn’t care. Deanna pushed her hands up under his shirt and he helped her off with it and when she stopped, he worried that suddenly, they were moving too quickly. But there was a smile on her face. “What?”

“Why are human men so hairy?”

The question surprised him and then Will realized that at the wedding, he’d been surrounded by a number of very hairless men. “Well …” he chuckled, running a finger up her arm. “Traction?”

She giggled and leaned up for another kiss, which he gave willingly. He wrapped his arms around her waist and picked her up - God she was so small - and carried her toward the bed. She pressed against him when he set her down. Where the hell did her dress release? But she took care of that for him, reached over to her shoulder, and undid a flower clasp. In one fluid moment, the entire garment fell to the floor, revealing her naked body to him.

This time, he let his thoughts of lust and raving run rampant. Deanna was no wilting flower and he wanted to bury himself inside of her over and over again. Her hands pushed at the fastener of his uniform pants and he helped her kick them down and to the side, tripping over his boots as he toed them off. She giggled and pulled him down onto the bed with her, taking charge as she did so, and rising above him. Will groaned, holding on for the ride as she bent to nibble his neck, to explore his chest, to leave bite marks on his nipples. Her seduction was slow, but determined, and when her mouth closed over him, it took every ounce of self control not to thrust up into her face. But she kept light pressure on his hip, and he followed her lead as she made love to him with her mouth. A breath before he hit the point of no return, Deanna pulled back and again straddled him. Will groaned, grabbed her hips and guided her up until she was poised above his face. She gasped as he tasted her, his tongue dragging slowly through the folds he’d been fantasizing about since he’d first seen her.

It was. She tugged his hair and he could feel her legs trembling as she tried to keep herself steady.

“Will!” She cried his name and it was his undoing. He pulled on her hips, bringing her back to him, rolled them, and once she was under him, sank into her. They both stilled, adjusting, and she met his eyes.

“Hi,” he murmured.

“We should have done this weeks ago,” she replied, wrapping her legs around his hips. He laughed and thrust into her and for a few moments, all that mattered was them and this and when he came first, gasping her name, he needed a moment to recover.

Deanna held her own, groaning as he pulled from her, guiding his hand down between her legs where he slipped two fingers through the now familiar folds and worked her until her back arched and she called his name.

Slowly, she came back to herself and Will stretched out next to her, smoothing her hair back from her face.

“Hey,” she said, a smile touching her lips. “That was very nice.”

“Just nice?” Will teased.

She pinched his nipple and sat up, scooting off the bed and making her way around the wall into his bathroom. She emerged and stood naked in the doorway, arms crossed over her chest. “So, where do we go from here?”

In this moment, he realized it was a choice he’d made so often before. Something fun and casual, or to dare to step into the depths of a serious, honest, adult relationship. One that, he knew, could go somewhere if he trusted himself enough. If he trusted her. Will sat up and reached for her and she came, taking his hands in hers. “Deanna, I don’t know for crap what the customs are on Betazed, especially for a woman in your position, but … I like you and I like spending time with you and if the sex keeps on being like this …” they both smiled. “I’d like to see what happens.”

She sighed, content and comfortable, and slid into his lap. “That works for me.” Her musical accent flowed over him and Will leaned up, kissed her, and together they fell back onto the bed.

***

She woke with his alarm chime, the exhaustion of an active night seeping through her bones. She was sore in all the best ways - and some of the more uncomfortable - and really, she didn’t want to move. Deanna stirred, stretched and muttered, “Computer, shut that thing off.” The ringing ceased and she rolled over and pressed her face into his arm. “Can we forget running? I mean, last night was a pretty good workout.”

Will’s chuckle rumbled through his body and he adjusted so she could rest her head on his chest. His fingers tangled in her curls and Deanna sighed and looked up at him, glad they’d finally get this out of their systems and hoping that he really did want to keep exploring what a relationship could mean for them. Considering he hadn’t pushed her out of bed, and the smile in his eyes, he seemed to be on board.

“I don’t usually do this,” he said, meeting her eyes.

“What? Charm locals into your bed?”

“Well,” he laughed. “I do that.” He paused. “Wait, is this what you do?”

“What?” Deanna teased. “Oh, you mean charm Starfleet officers into mine?”

“Does it count if I’m one too?”

Will screwed up his face. “I keep forgetting you’re one of us.”

She grinned and sat up, stretching out the tension and pulling her disastrous hair over her shoulder. “So what then?” She said, directing them back to his earlier question. “Do you want an actual relationship?”

“Yeah, that.”

She trailed her fingers across his chest, watching his body’s reaction to her touch. “Let me guess,” she said quietly, “your desire to be a starship captain outweighs anything else in your life, including risking daring to build that life with someone else.”

“They say it’s a solitary life.”

She shook her head. “Look, we barely know each other, so I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. But, it doesn’t have to be solitary. In fact, despite what the legends of captains and admirals might tell you, psychology proves that the happiest ones have someone in their life to help walk along the path.” Deanna felt the blush creep along her shoulders. “Which, I know, sounds like I’m pushing us too quickly.”

“No,” he reassured her, catching her hand in his, “it doesn’t.”

“I get a little intense,” she said with a smile. “It’s just who I am as a person.”

“It’s a trait I appreciate,” Will replied. “And I’m glad you want to explore the idea of us. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel being seduced and then tossed away by a member of the local aristocracy.”

Deanna giggled and slipped out of bed. She wasn’t one to randomly use resources to replicate something to wear, but she’d be damned if she was caught wearing the dress from last night while she made her way home. She typed in her access code to the replicator, and in seconds, a fresh outfit was waiting for her. Deanna turned back to Will, set the folded cloth down on his table, and nodded toward the shower. “You joining me?” Her laugh was stifled in a kiss as he grabbed her around the waist and spun her toward him. Deanna wrapped her arms around his neck and didn’t at all question when he maneuvered them back to the bed and slid between her legs.

Since the moment they’d laid eyes on each other, they’d been heading here. Now, it was just a matter of what happened next.