The Living Years

It's strange the way things change, he thought. He remembered the not-so-distant past that he and Deanna spent in denial. In constant alert- mode, both in fear of their true feelings for one another. What changed that? One night. One night of release, of tension building up so strong it finally refused to be held any loner. And in the one night, everything had changed. They were both tired of submersing and denying their feelings. And so, they became lovers again.
And that fateful night led him to this very moment, sitting at his comscreen, sending a vid-comm to the last person in the universe that probably expected it. With the beeping of the connection alarming, the face of Lwaxana Troi appeared in front of him.

"Dear Commander Riker, to what do I owe this pleasant surprise?"

"Ms. Troi? You're stunning as always...always good to talk to you."

"Is everything okay? Is Deanna okay?"

"Oh, yes, yes, I didn't mean to alarm you...it's just that...well, i wanted to talk to you."

"Oh?" With a knowing glance, Lwaxana's right eyebrow vaulted, in much the same way as he was accustomed to Deanna's doing.especially when she knew he was up to something.

"Well, Ms. Troi, I don't know if Deanna has spoken to you about this at all, but, well, we've been seeing each other again for the past few months."

"No, Deanna has not mentioned that, but it's not surprising. Deanna doesn't tend to share things of that nature with me, as she feels I tend to...what's the terran phrase? Butt in? But...nonetheless, I am happy that the two of you have come to your senses. Do you know how mentally exhausting it can be bearing the constant cloud of denial? You two are quite frustrating to share company with."

Will chuckled and nodded his head in acknowledgement, His smile never wavering.

" So I've heard. When we announced that we were dating agiain, there seemed to be an almost ship-wide sigh of "finally!" let out. Deanna and I are happy. More happy than I have ever been. that's why I am speaking with you tonight."

She cut him off, not abruptly but with the nod of her head and an endearing smile. "You want to marry my daughter." It wasn't a questions merely a statement.

"Yes, I do. I love her, and we've spent enough time alone, fighting so hard to stay apart. I think it's time we started fighting to stay together. I want to be with her. Forever."

"Commander, I have had my issues with you in the past. Deanna was young and you...you were no good for her then. You've changed, William. I don't know whether its age, experience or the growth of mature love, but you have changed. My daughter loves you, I know that. I would be honored to have you as part of our family. You have my permission to marry Deanna."

"This means a good deal to me, Ms. Troi- "

"Lwaxana - if you're going to be part of the family, you can't keep calling me Ms. Troi. Besides, it makes me feel old. Now, when can I expect this wedding? when are you going to propose?"

"Well, I'm really not sure yet. I've given it some thought, and I really just want to wait for the right moment to present itself. It has to be special, for Deanna. She deserves that. I bought a beautiful ring on Mon Haley about two weeks ago, so that part is ready. Now, as I said, am just waiting for the right time."

And with that, the two further discussed wedding plans, and Will promised Lwaxana she'd be the first to know of their engagement. When the vid-comm link finally disconnected, he sat smiling, knowing that the difficult part, that which had made him the most nervous, was over. Now, came the easy part.

One week later.

"Number One, my ready room."

At the swoosh of the door, Captain Picard looked up and addressed his first officer.

"Will, I have been given and edict from Starfleet. We are to proceed to a quadrant just outside the neutral zone. There's a small planet there called Jawza. There are two warring tribes on Jawza, the Jawazi who are loyal to the Romulans, and the Zaran, who oppose them. We are to help mediate peace talks between the two tribes. I want you to lead the mediation, Number One. I'll have Cmdr. Data brief you on the tribes at 0900. Any questions?"

"No, sir. Sounds fairly straight-forward."

"Good, then. Get out of here, Number One. You'll be going planetside at about 1300 tomorrow. Get some sleep."

"I'll do my best, Captain," Will answered with a smile. He immediately sought the turbolift and proceeded to Deanna's quarters.

Will keyed in the access code and was greeted by a half-naked Betazoid.

**Knew I was coming did you, Imzadi?**

"Yes, Imzadi, just the mere thought you were nearing my quarters caused my clothes to leap from my body." Deanna's sarcasm, not lost on Will, produced a deep laugh from the Commander.

"I was just changing out of my uniform, Will. You know, getting ready for our dinner tonight?"

"Ah, yes. I did promise you dinner in Ten Forward this evening followed by something chocolate, didn't I?"

"You did. And I will hold you to that Commander. Or else."

"Ooh, or else what? What are you going to do to me if I don't deliver, Counselor?" He sidled up to Deanna, kissing the bend of her neck, as he ran his hands over her back.

**Wouldn't you like to know.**

Two days later

The peace talks had been going well, Will felt. Both sides had be adamant on their positions, but at the same time both had seemed eager to reach some type of agreement. His thought was that by tomorrow, they would reach some sort of amicable compromise. He had but one more diplomatic dinner to endure tonight, and then hopefully a conclusion to the talks by tomorrow.

As Will exited the reception area after the dinner and made his way back to the conference rooms to retrieve his notes, the last thing he remembered was the faint hiss of a hypospray near his left ear.

Onboard the Enterprise.

The Captain sat in the sick bay, talking with Beverly, discussing the health of a crwman who had been injured in Engineering, when his communicator beep.

"Go ahead."

"Sir, if you would return to the bridge, there is a problem with the peace talks. It seems Commander Riker has disappeared."

"On my way, Data. Well, it seems I am needed. This is rather unexpected, Beverly. I had thought things were going well. Be sure to apprise me of any change in the ensign's condition."

With that the Captain made his way to the bridge. After speaking with ambassadors from both tribes, Picard dispatched units to search the planet for the missing Commander. After giving the situation more thought, he tapped his communicator once and acted in what he thought was the best interest.

"Doctor Crusher to the bridge."

Upon arriving, Beverly was directed to the ready room. Picard was quite unsure as to what had happened to Will, but he had a bad feeling about the whole situation. Someone had to notify Deanna, and he felt Beverly was the person to do so. After talking briefly, he then summoned Deanna.

When Deanna walked into the ready room and felt the anxiety and fear in the two senior staff members, she immediately knew something was amiss.

"Will...oh, Gods? What is it? What's happened?"

"Deanna, Will is missing. We have men planetside right now looking for him. We've questions both tribes. No one seems to know anything. We're doing everything we can. Can you sense Will at all?"

"No, I can't. Not at such a distance. I.oh, no. Captain, I thought these were peaceful tribes. I thought the talks were going well."

"They were Counselor. We have no lead at all as to why the Commander is missing at present. I promise you, Deanna, I'll do everything in my power to find him."

Two Weeks Later

Deanna had been brave at first, not letting her emotions take control, trying to stay logical. She had gone to the surface numerous times with the search parties. Never once were they able to find anything. As the days went on, the idea that they might never find Will slowly started to enter her mind. She forced them away, refusing to accept that. And finally, after about a week of him missing, she finally allowed herself to cry. And once she started, she couldn't stop. Beverly had never seen her like this before.
"Dee, you have to be strong. We're doing everything we can. We'll find him." She held her friend as quiet sobs racked her diminutive body.
"What if we don't?" she sobbed. "What if we never find him? Oh, Imzadi!"

And so it went for the next week until, finally, Picard received a communiqué from Admiral Baldwin.
"Damn it, Jean-Luc! I understand he's one of your own. I understand he's your friend. But, we can't tie up our flagship for one missing officer. I have already dispatched an investigative unit. They'll arrive in 24 hours. If Commander Riker is to be found, they will find him. The Enterprise has duties elsewhere."

As the Enterprise departed for its next assignment, Deanna Troi sat in her quarters sobbing as Beverly and Picard broke the news to her. She had never felt so alone before, never so hurt. She needed Will. Couldn't simply live without him. She didn't want to. He was her Imzadi.

A Few Weeks Later

Over the following weeks, Deanna withdrew more and more. Leaving her quarters only for bridge duty, or for her office hours. Once completed, she would again seek the solace of her quarters. She was exhausted but barely slept, barely ate. Day by day she felt worse and worse. Each of her friends had reached out to her, each in his own way, but she refused them all. She wanted no comfort, she did not want to feel better. Will was gone. And she knew. How could she not? No one though he was coming back. No one, except for her. She could sense that he was still alive somewhere. She was fairly sure of that. And that was the only thing that gave her hope, the only thing that kept her going.albeit barely going.

As she sat on the bridge one day, focused inward, no obvious sign of acknowledgement of anyone or anything, she had stood to make her way to the turbolift, and as she did, she faltered. Her knees had grown weak, she was dizzy, and more than anything, she was nauseous. She was steadied by Commander Data as well as the Captain, who ordered her to Sick Bay.

She sat in Sick Bay, morose and sullen. Beverly had run some tests, scanned her with the tricorder, and instructed her to rest. As Beverly entered with her results, Deanna once again grew nauseous.

"Well, Dee.everything seems okay. There's nothing wrong with you per se.but."

"I know, I know, Bev. I have barely eaten anything in the past two days. My blood sugar is low. I know I'l eat something."

"No, Deanna, that's not it. You-"

She raised her eyes and met Beverly's. "I'm pregnant, aren't I?" It wasn't so much a question as it was a statement.

"Yes. I'd guess about 7-8 weeks. Dee.how long have you known?"

"I didn't for sure, until now. I've been getting sick daily for about a week. I suspected it, but I was hoping." And she burst into tears. "Why is this happening? Why now? Why like this? This should be one of the happiest days of my life but look at me! When I've dreamt about this day, Will was always there to share the news. Gods, Bev, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?"

Beverly held her friend and consoled her until she finally calmed down, what seemed like hours later. "Dee, I know this is hard. I can't even imagine. But you have to stay healthy. You have to be strong. You have to. For Will. And for his baby."

About a month later

If it were possible for Deanna to withdraw more, she did. She had told no one about her pregnancy. The only time anyone saw her was on the bridge or in her office. Beverly saw her in Sick Bay for her prenatal visits, but that was it. The Captain had finally decided that this whole thing could go on no longer.

"Beverly, I understand your oath as a doctor prevents you from telling me what is going on, but as a friend? Come on! Deanna needs our help. None of us can get through to her. She looks terrible, she barely speaks. Someone has to do something!"
"Jean-Luc, I.Oh, I don't know. I am just as worried about her as you are. Ugh. Okay, okay. You're right, we have to do something. Jean-Luc, Deanna's pregnant." She sat and watched realization set in.
"And Will is."

She nodded in answer. "On top of that, she had to go through his quarters, go through his things last week. That would be hard enough, let alone pregnant with his child. And she told me.she told me that when she was going through his things she found a ring. An engagement ring. Will was going to propose to her."
"Oh dear."

"Jean-Luc, she hasn't told anyone about her pregnancy. Not a single soul. Not even her mother. She told me so today at her appointment. She said it didn't seem right telling others before she told Will. She's terrified of him not coming back, of having this baby alone. And she's terrified of how he'll react if he does come back."

"You have no idea what else we can do? There has to be something."

"Well.maybe we should contact Lwaxana."

"That's a good idea, Beverly. We might not be able to get through to her, but maybe her mother can."

When the vidcomm came through from the Enterprise, Lwaxana was certain it was from her daughter. They had spoken in a few months, and she was sure Deanna would have some news for her by now.
"Captain Picard, Doctor Crusher! What a surprise!"

"Lwaxana. How are you?" They said in unison.

"How are things on that little ship of yours, Captain?"

"Well, they certainly could be better. Lwaxana, we need to talk to you. Have you talked to Deanna recently?"

"No, it's been a month or two. Why? What's going on?"

"Lwaxana, " this time it was Beverly, "I don't know if you were aware of this, but Deanna and Will have been together for quite some time now. They.resumed their relationship."

"Yes, I am aware of that. In fact, they're going to be married. I am sure you know that by now, though. Dear William contact me to ask my permission. I am curious as to why my daughter has not contacted me with the wonderful news yet. Has he still not asked her?"

"Mrs. Troi.Will has not asked her yet. In fact, he's been missing for two months now. We have no idea where he is or what happened to him."

"Oh, my Little One. She must be beside herself."
"She is. But there's more. Lwaxana.Deanna's pregnant.with Will's baby." After the audible gasp from the other end, she continued. "We've contacted you because we were sure Deanna hadn't told you. She's not talking to anyone these days. She's a mess. She's barely eating or sleeping enough. She doesn't socialize. She's retreated within herself. We don't know what else to do. We thought you could help."

With tears in her eyes, Lwaxana responded. "Of course I can. She's my daughter. My Little One. I will be there as soon as I can. Thank you for your love and concern. Both of you."

The conversation completed, Lwaxana began her travel arrangements. She didn't bother talking with Deanna, for she knew that would get her nowhere. She had Homn pack her things, and she was off. She needed to be there for her daughter.

Two days later

Deanna immediately sensed Lwaxana's arrival on the Enterprise.

**Mother. What are you doing here?**

**You need me, Little One. So does your Little One.**

As soon as Lwaxana made it to Deanna's quarters, they fell into a tight embrace, and Deanna sobbed openly to her mother. After an hour, Deanna had calmed enough that the two of them sat and talked.

"Oh, but Little One, why did you not tell me?"

"I. I don't know. I've been so afraid, Mother. I want Will here to share in all of this. I want our baby, I do. It's the only piece of him I have. But, I want this baby with him. I just don't know what to do. "

"Oh, darling, you just have to be strong. This baby needs you. Will wouldn't want you to carry on like this. He'd want you to go on, to take care of his baby. To try and be happy."

"Maybe you're right. I don't know." She paused. "Thank you for coming.."

"I will always be here for you, Deanna."

Lwaxana was, indeed, there for Deanna. Every other month she'd make arrangements to join the Enterprise, whatever it's location. She would spend anywhere from 2-4 weeks, helping to take care of Deanna, helping to prepare for the baby. There was still no word about Commander Riker's disappearance. Any leads that had existed had already been exhausted. It was as though he'd simply vanished. Starfleet had officially declared him MIA and most likely deceased.

Lwaxana's visits did seem to help Deanna come out of her shell, although very slightly. There was no hiding her pregnancy any longer, and the crew was wonderful to her. Everyone offered their support and help. Beverly was always there to talk to, when her mother was not. She had started to open up more to Beverly. She shared with her fears and her sorrow. Beverly was even able to coax her to Ten Forward for dessert now and then.

"Oh, Dee.you are getting so big. I just can't believe it. Are you sure you don't want to know the sex?"

"Positive. Bev, you know.Will's not here to find out with me. Plus, I'd kind of like it to be a surprise."

"Well, do you at least have any names picked out? Come on Dee, you need to get on the ball here.this bay's due in four weeks" she joked.

"Well, if it's a boy.I'd like to name him after Will. William Thomas Riker the third."

"The third? Wasn't Will's father's named Kyle?"

"Yes, but Will was named after his grandfather, William Thomas Riker, making Will a 'second.' I will probably call him Trey, that way it's not so confusing when Will comes back."

Beverly stared sadly at her friend. **She still thinks he's coming back.** She couldn't believe it. Will had been gone for over three- quarters of a year now, and Deanna still thought he was coming back. She cleared her throat, and continued.

"Well, Dee, what if it's a girl?"

"To be honest, I really haven't given it much thought. I have a feeling it's a boy. I don't know, I've always liked the name Madeleine. And I like Elizabeth. That was Will's mother's name."

They stayed in Ten Forward and talked for the next hour or so, until finally Deanna's yawning urged Beverly to call it a night.

"You need your sleep, Mama. Go home. I'll see you in the morning."

Later that night

Deanna awoke with the start of another contraction. This can't be happening, she thought. I'm not due for another month. But, sure enough, after another two hours, the contractions weren't going away. In fact, they were getting closer together.and stronger.

"Troi to Dr. Crusher."

"Deanna.what time is it?"

"Um.about 3am. Bev, I think I'm in labor."

"Okay, I'll meet you in Sick Bay in a few minutes."

Deanna readied the things she would need to take with her, and quickly sent a communiqué to her mother on Betazed telling her that she was in labor, knowing that Lwaxana would be on the next transport there.

Once in Sick Bay, she was greeted by Beverly and one of the nurses.

"Alright, Dee. Go ahead and change into the gown, and I'll check your cervix. Amy's going to get the baby on the monitor for me."

After a few minutes of watching the baby's heart rate and the contraction pattern, Beverly checked Deanna and informed her that she was already 6 cm dilated and fully effaced.

"Dee, you're doing great. Now, the baby is only about 36 weeks gestation. 9 times out of 10 it's fine but occasionally a baby at 36 weeks has a little lung immaturity. If that happens, I can give a medication called surfactant to help the baby, and we'll just need to watch him closely. I just want you to be aware that it's a possibility, okay? Now, I think you're going to go pretty quickly. The baby's head is well- engaged, and you're fully effaced. You'll dilate easily. Do you want anything to help you with the pain?" she asked as she watched her friend writhing with the pain of the next contraction.

"No, I'm fine.I want to do this on my own." And with that, she burst into tears.

"Oh, Bev, I really don't want to do this on my own. I just meant I didn't want any drugs or anesthesia. I don't want to do this on my own. I want Will. Where is he? Oh." The next contraction began.

Fifteen minutes later, the contractions were like clockwork, and between her contractions and her crying, Deanna felt the urge to push. Her next cervical exam revealed she was complete.

"Okay, Deanna. This is it. The better you push for me, the quicker this goes. With your next contraction I want you to bear down while holding your breath. We'll do three rounds of that with every contraction, and I want you to relax as much as possible in between. Okay, here we go."

With that contraction, Deanna began to push. With no anesthesia, she pushed well, and she was surprised to hear Beverly when she said,

"Okay, Dee...next contraction and we're having a baby. Come on, you can do this."

"Push Deanna! Push! Okay stop.stop. The baby's head is out. Look down. Can you see it?"

Deanna looked down and saw the most amazing sight of her life. It was her baby, still inside of her, but outside as well. Tears poured down her face as Beverly spoke again.

"No cord around the neck. Alright, Deanna, give me one more big push."

And with that, Williams Thomas Riker III, or "Trey," came screaming into the world. Well, into the galaxy.

Deanna cried unabashedly as Beverly placed him on her stomach and the nurse began to dry him off. The nurse allowed the baby to remain with Deanna for a moment and then took him to the adjacent warmer to assess him. As Beverly was surveying Deanna's laceration, deciding whether it needed lasered or not, she noticed for the first time that Deanna had been crying the same thing over and over again. "Will.Will." It broke her heart to see her friend in so much pain.

"Deanna, you have a minor tear, but I'm going to laser it really quickly, okay. Won't hurt a bit. There.all finished. Dee, you did great!" She hugged her friend, and went over to the warmer where the screaming infant lay.

"Well, I don't think we have to worry about this little guys lungs!" she joked. "Dee, he weighs 7 lbs. 14 oz. That's big for a 36- weeker! He looks great!"

Beverly picked up the baby, and got her first good look at him. She wrapped him tightly and then smiled and took him over and placed him in his mother's arms. As Deanna got her first truly good look at her son, she smiled. He looked just like Will. A head full of dark hair, and those grey-blue newborn eyes. She cried as she held him close.

"Oh my baby! Beverly, he's really here."

" I know. It's amazing, isn't it? He's beautiful Deanna. I don't want to up set you by saying this, but.he looks like Will. Don't you think?"

"I do. I am so happy. I wanted him to be the image of his father. He's all I have left of him."

Later that morning, a ship-wide announcement was made telling of Trey's birth. Friends stopped by off and on all day to congratulate Deanna and get a look at the newest Riker. Lwaxana arrived early that evening, and Beverly and Jean-Luc thought they would pass out as they watched her cry, holding her grandson.
**Little One, he's beautiful. He's an angel. And all that hair! He's going to be regal, I can tell already.**

This elicited a chuckle from Deanna. **Mother he can be whatever he wants, whoever he wants, as long as he's happy.**

The next few months passed by quickly, too quickly for Deanna's liking. Trey was now a healthy, chubby, happy 5 month-old. Still the spitting image of his father with tons of dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Lwaxana continued to come every other month, reveling in the time she spent with her grandson. Deanna appreciated the help, and found it nice to have her mother around. Lwaxana was helpful but not intrusive and they functioned easily together.

One Saturday evening, as Deanna was bathing Trey, her communicator beeped.

"Picard to Troi."

"Yes, Captain."

"I need you in my ready room as quickly as possible, Counselor."

"I'm just finishing Trey's bath. I'll be right there, sir."

Deanna kissed Trey and pulled him, giggling from the tub and handed him to her mother. She dried her hands and made her way to the ready room. When she entered, the site stole her breath. Seated around the conference table, was the senior staff. All staring at her. She knew immediately.

"Where is he? They found Will, didn't they?"

Captain Picard was the first to speak. "Deanna, we received a message from the Starbase at Graham 5. They claim that an unknown man arrived there three days ago via shuttle. He claimed that he'd been held hostage, that he'd escaped, that he was a Starfleet officer, and that he was William Riker. They've arranged transport. He'll be here in approximately 17 hours."

"Oh my Gods." Deanna cried. "Will. He's back."

"Deanna. We don't that for sure. Let's just wait and see. But, we all agreed that you should know what was going on," Beverly confided to her friend.

Those next hours were some of the most nerve-racking of Deanna's life. She knew in her heart that it was Will. She could just feel it. Her Imzadi was coming home.

When the transport arrived, the passenger was immediately beamed to Sick Bay, where Picard, Crusher and Deanna all sat waiting. As Will materialized, he looked at the three figures in front of him and had to fight the wave of tears that threatened to flow. He locked eyes with her, then, and she heard him.

**Imzadi**

Gods! She had heard him in her head. It was Will. She knew it. She felt it. Only Will could communicate with her like that. She needed no genetic testing, though it would still be done. She knew.

**Imzadi. I've missed you so** she sent back.

**I'm home**

Over the course of the evening, Will had told them of his escape.from the Zaran ship. He'd been in a Zaran ship orbiting Jawza the entire time. Held prisoner, used as leverage or insurance, in case the Romulans invaded.they'd have a good item to trade for their safety. They'd treated him well, fed him, given him good shelter, but they'd taken him nonetheless. Stole him from his ship, from his life, from his love.

Once he was cleared by Beverly, he declared that he wanted to go to his quarters. The three exchanged glances.
"We'll make arrangements for new quarters, Number One. We'll talk more about this mess later. You won't be eligible for active duty for another month or two, so we'll have plenty of time. It's.It's good to have you home, Will."

He received a huge hug from Beverly, who then turned and exited with the Captain, leaving he and Deanna alone. They simply stared at each other, both disbelieving.

**Imzadi. We searched long and hard for you. I never gave up hope.**

**I've missed you so much Deanna. You're what got me through all of this**

He leaned in to kiss her, but she pulled away. "There's so much we have to talk about, Will."

"I know. Dee, I'm.I'm tired. I promise, in the morning, we'll discuss everything. Everything. We need to."

She escorted him to his temporary quarters, and hugged him tightly as she wished him goodnight. The tears brimming in her eyes, she promised to see him in the morning.

When morning came, Will found himself surprisingly refreshed. He showered, replicated a quick breakfast, and made his way to Deanna's quarters. He was surprised when the voice beckoning him to "come" was not that of Deanna, but of her mother, Lwaxana.

"William.Oh dear." She pulled him close and embraced him. "You've been dearly missed, William. You have no idea."

"Thank you, Ms. Troi.Lwaxana." Startles by her appearance and the warmth of her greeting, his gaze flitted around nervously. It was then that he noticed Deanna standing a few feet away.

"Well, I think I better get going. I am to meet that wonderful Captain of yours for breakfast. Will, it's good to have you home, safe."

Will's eyes never left Deanna's as Lwaxana left. He went to her then, and enveloped her once again in his arms.

"Deanna. You have no idea how I missed you. I thought of you every day, Imzadi."

She cried and nodded her response. "So did I. I.we tried to find you."

"Shhh.don't. I know. I know." He leaned down to kiss her, but again she pulled away.

"Deanna."

"Will." they started at the same time.

"Will, so much has happened while you've been gone. I've-"

"You've found someone else. It's okay, I understand, I .. . I just want you to be happy."

The tears started then. "No, no! Never! There is no one but you Imzadi.I ."

"Then what is it? What, Dee?"

She took his hand and led him slowly down the hallway toward the nursery. Before they reached the doorway she looked at him softly, but anxiously, and led him in. Will looked around, stunned by the site before him. He was.he was in a nursery, and there was a baby sleeping in the crib in front of him.

"You, you." he choked, "you have a baby."

**We. We, Imzadi.**

As Will processed the thought Deanna had just sent him he did the only thing he could so.

He left.

Deanna did not fail to see the tears streaming down his face as he did.

Ten Forward

Before everything, before his kidnapping, before his life was turned upside down, before all of this madness, he would come here if he needed to talk. Guinan. When no one else could, she had always helped him see the truth in any situation. He sat at the bar, one of three people in all of Ten Forward at this hour, and smiled at her.

"Welcome home, Commander. You've been missed."

"Thank you, Guinan."

"You know," she said as she slid him a lemonade, "I wondered how long it would take you to come find me."

"What made you so sure that I would?"

"Come on, Commander. With all that's happened. You need a counselor, but she's not exactly an option for you, given your.situation. So you seek the closest thing.your favorite bartender," she smiled at him.

"You are wise beyond your years, Guinan."

"That's why you come to me. Now, tell me, what is a newly home, newly free Commander doing sitting in a bar talking to me, and not doing so with his.girlfriend?"

"It's.well, it's complicated."

"Come on, Commander," she beckoned, "try me."

"Everything has changed. Everything. I mean, I didn't expect time to stand still for me, but.I don't know. I've changed. Things on the ship have changed. Hell, I don't even have a place to live yet. And."

"And the baby," she coaxed.

"And the baby," he admitted with a nod.

"He's beautiful, by the way. You should be proud. He looks just like you. I think Data actually asked the Counselor at one point why he didn't look like her - at all. He said something to the effect of 'aren't human lifeforms supposed to be an equal combination of both genetic parents? Your child appears as though he may actually be a clone of Commander Riker.' Deanna didn't find it that amusing, but the rest of us did," she laughed.

Will laughed, but did not respond.

"Is it really that bad, having a child?"

"No, Guinan, it's not that. It's just.I mean, what the hell kind of father am I going to be. I had a terrible example myself, so that tells you what I have to bring to the table."

"Commander, what you have to bring with you is the knowledge that you will do everything you can to be a better father than yours. If you're not careful, you may turn out to be just like him."

"That's just it Guinan, I feel like I already have. I've failed before I have even started. I haven't been here for anything. Hell, I missed feeling him kick, missed hearing his heartbeat, I wasn't even here for his birth."

"What and that's your fault? You begged to be kidnapped?"

Shaking his head, Will knew she didn't understand. Guinan decided to try another approach.

"Do you love her?"

"What?"

"Do you love Counselor Troi.Deanna.do you love her?"

Will leaned forward, locking eyes with Guinan and whispered, "With all of my heart. I've never stopped loving her."

"The two of you are quite a pair, Commander. Rarely have I seen a couple with the connection that you two have. It's a beautiful thing. What is that you two call it?"

"Imzadi."

"That's it. Imzadi. What is that, exactly?"

"Well, long story short, to be Imzadi is to be.linked.bound.like soulmates, in a sense."

"So, you have this love that goes beyond the physical. It's an emotional and spiritual love?'
"Yes."

"And could you ever turn your back on that love? On that bond?"

"Guinan, we tried for years to do that very thing. It's impossible. I could never do it."

"Okay, so.you take this spiritual, Imzadi bond that the two of you have, and borne of that, you have this beautiful child. Your child, Commander, is a physical symbol of that bond. So, now not only are you bound emotionally and spiritually, but physically as well.

Will sighed, contemplating her statement. "I never really thought about it like that."

"So, if you can't turn your back on that bond on that love, how can you turn your back on your son? It's one and the same, Commander."

As Will walked the halls of the ship, he thought at great length about Guinan's words. He loved Deanna, there was no question. He loved his son, or at least he would, how could he not love something that was a product of the love he and Deanna shared. He had always envisioned having children with her, just not like this. He was just so frightened. Becoming his father was his biggest fear. But, maybe Guinan was right. Maybe knowing that gave him an advantage. Hell, and having Deanna to help him was certainly an advantage. Strengthened by these thoughts, he knew he had to find Deanna and talk to her. He had to make this right. He made his way to her quarters. Upon arriving, no one called him in, so he entered the long-remembered access code and quickly entered her quarters.
"Deanna?" But there was no response. He rounded the corner and found her napping in her room. He stood over her, lovingly memorizing her soft features for the thousandth time. After a moment, he turned and headed into the nursery. As he entered, he took a moment to look around, to observe the decoration and feel of the room for the first time. Deanna had done an amazing job. The nursery was beautiful, decorated with stars and moons. He noticed a small holograph in the corner. Actually, it was three of them together. Under the first were the words "My Mom" and naturally above it lay a holo of Deanna. Next was the word "Me" with an adorable picture of the newborn. And finally, what brought tears to Wills eyes, was the third holo. The words read "My Dad," and above them sat a holo of Will. As he sat the holographs back in their place, he looked over suddenly as he noticed the baby's head pop up. He went over and peered in at his son. He continued to cry as the infant looked up at him, with those same blue eyes Will saw everyday in the mirror. He reached in and picked up the baby boy, and pulled him close to his chest, weeping. After a few minutes, the baby began to squirm, so Will relaxed his hold on him, held him out in front of him so that he could thoroughly look him over.

"Hi there, buddy. I'm.well, I'm your Dad. You don't really know me yet, but I promise I am going to change that. I've been gone for a while, but I'm not going anywhere else. I'm not leaving you or your mom again. . You are awfully cute. It seems as though everyone is right.you do look just like me. Hmmm. The dark hair, big blue eyes." As he stood and talked with his son Will felt stronger and stronger in that knowledge that he could really do this. He could be a father. For his part, Trey merely looked around, occasionally looking in awe at Will and his beard. Finally, he started to fuss.

"Hey, hey.none of that." Will sat on the floor of the nursery, placing the baby in a seated position on the floor, with his hand behind his back for support. "Can you sit up yet? Not yet? Well, no offense buddy, but maybe it's because you're a little fat.need to lay off the chocolate for a while," Will teased. To his delight, his son smiled and laughed at him.

"He's not fat, he's chubby.and it's all of that good breastmilk that does it."

Deanna stood at the doorway, watching Will interact with his son for the first time, with tears in her eyes.

"Hey! There's you mom, big guy."

" Will."

"Imzadi.I'm so sorry.I love both of you so much.I-"

"It's okay, Imzadi, I understand. You don't need to explain. We love you. Please don't apologize. I know it's been overwhelming."

"Thank you. Thank you so much. For him, for loving me, for.everything. I love you."

Deanna went over, sat next to Will and their son, and kissed them both.

"Well, we all have a lot of catching up to do, right buddy? Hey - what's his name anyway?"

"William Thomas Riker III - we call him Trey."

**Thank you, Imzadi.**

"Well, we do have lots to attend to, Trey. Your mom needs to fill me in on every minute of your life that I have missed, all of the good Picard/Crusher gossip, and everything else," he smiled at his son. "That and Daddy has a present for mommy somewhere that he's been waiting a very long time to give her.

" A very long time."

The end.