Disclaimer: Paramount owns all Star Trek characters. I make no profit from this story.

Author's note: My first try to write a bit longer story. I know that to most this still is "a short story" but not to me. Big thanks go to Jeannette L. for checking my story and to Carol S. for her encouraging words, comments and support. :) The girls also suggested titles for the story and after hours of consideration I ended up choosing Jeannette's idea. Thanks both! Your help is much appreciated! All feedback is welcome and hoped for but please be gentle.

Rating: PG

Assumptions

by Sunstar 7/2001

Chapter 1

Beverly Crusher sat by the bar in Ten-Forward and stared at the couple in the corner. They were having fun. That much was obvious. They were talking and laughing and sometimes it looked like one of them had spoken but no words were heard. At first Beverly had thought it odd but now, after observing them for several days, she had realized that they must be using telepathy.

While Beverly was still watching, the girl got up and came to the bar to get new drinks.

"Hi Bev! What's up?"

"Hi Dee. Nothing much, just trying to hide from the Bolian doctor. I think he has a crush on me and he's SO NOT my type!"

"Sorry to hear that." Deanna said smiling. "Why don't you join me and David. I was just telling him all about last night's poker game."

"Oh, I don't know...I don't want to bother you..."

"Don't be silly! You won't bother us. I'm sure David would love to hear another doctor's opinion about the new medicines he's tried to make. So, will you join us?"

"I think I'll..."

Just then the blue-skinned Bolian walked through the doors.

"...I'd love to! Come on!"

--------------------

At the same time on the planet Quadra Sigma III.

"Commander, the cave is going to collapse! Another earthquake is going to hit in two minutes!"

"Yes, yes... If I could just do this one more thing..."

"No Commander. We don't have the time. We must go NOW!"

"Oh dammit! Fine, I'm coming!"

--- --- ---

"Data, report!"

"Two rescued, sir, both seriously wounded. The third one we got out just died. He had lost too much blood."

"Damn!" Riker sighed heavily and buried his head in his hands. "There are still seven more down there... ... ... We have to get them out alive."

"Sir, I believe there is another way we can try. It was actually Counselor Troi who suggested it."

"I know Data, I know. I've come to the same conclusion myself. We have to do this the way she said it... Why didn't I listen to her..."

--------------------

8 DAYS EARLIER

"Stop yelling at me!"

"I'm not yelling!"

"Yes, you are!"

"Well...I can yell when ever I want to and to who ever I want!"

"Aaargh! I don't want to continue this anymore. Why don't you just admit you're wrong?!"

"Because I'm not wrong! It can't be done!"

"Yes, it can! You don't even want to hear me out! I talked to Data and he..."

"I have been a commander a lot longer than you have. So don't you think I have more experience?!"

"Yes, you do but you can still be wrong. Why don't you let me finish and then tell me what you think."

"You don't have to finish! The whole idea is crazy! If we did what you're suggesting it would only end in disaster!"

"You don't know that! You just can't admit that you might be wrong! Or that there might be another solution?! The great Will Riker is never wrong!

Will... everybody makes mistakes sometimes. You don't have to be perfect."

"Oh, shut up! I hate you when you do that! You just have to change every conversation into a counselling session! I don't need a shrink! It can't be done and that's that! Now get out of my sight!"

"Will... you're upset and tired..."

"Don't you think I know that! I don't need you to tell me how I feel or don't feel! I know my own mind! You know you think you're something special, that you have the upper hand, that you're always right because you know what goes on in other people's minds! But you're wrong! And I don't have to agree with you just because you think you're right! It doesn't help you either to have a mother who is daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the blaa blaa blaa, Heir to the blaa blaa blaa because you're wrong!!!"

"Will!!!"

"Oh, get lost! This conversation is over!"

"But..."

"You're dismissed!!!"

Counselor Deanna Troi walked out of Commander Riker's quarters her eyes blazing with fury. Her face was red from yelling and her throat hurt. She tried to take a few calming breaths with little effect.

They had just had a serious disagreement about a plan of action on their upcoming away mission. They would have to rescue ten people from an underground reserch facility which had been badly damaged after it had been attacked.

Will was sure there was only one way of getting the people out of there but Deanna did not agree. She thought Will's plan was risky and she had another idea that might work but telling that to Will had been a big mistake.

Will had been under a lot of stress and had not had the time to relax in weeks. When Deanna showed up on his quarters and questioned his decisions it was more than enough to blow him up. He vented all his anger and frustrations on her. He did not even want to listen. He had had enough!

"Fine!" She snorted on her way out. "If that's the way he feels, fine! I won't get in the way of his success! No one can even fit into the same room with his big ego!"

--- --- ---

A few hours later in the observation lounge.

"As you all know, we are on our way to the Sigma III Solar System to rescue the people from the destroyed reserch facility. That will be a very difficult task and I was hoping we could focus solely on that but no such luck... Starfleet has given us more orders."

Surprised, everyone stared at Captain Picard as he continued.

"A group of delegates will be boarding the Enterprise in 48 hours and our orders are to entertain them and transport them to Starbase G-6."

"What?! What kind of delegates? We don't have time for this."

"I was just coming to that Number One. I agree that we don't have much time but as you know, we have to do what the Admiral tells us to do. As for the delegates, I don't know any names but the group consists of doctors, psychologists, scientists, botanists etc. They have requested to meet with Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi. This all means that we have to change our plans. The new plan is this. We will arrive to our destination in 24 hours. Will, you'll assemble an away team. Take Data, Worf, Doctor Selar and any others who you need, except for Troi and Crusher. You'll take your team to the planet and help the people as best as you can. In the meantime, we will meet the delegates and take them to Starbase G-6. After that, we'll come back for you. Any questions?"

No one said a word.

"Fine then. Number One, go prepare your team. Doctor Crusher, help Selar with the medical arrangements and after the team has left you and Troi can make plans concerning the delegates. Dismissed."

--- --- ---

"All the away team shuttles have cleared the Enterprise, sir."

"Good. Take us out of orbit ensign. Set a course to intercept the vessel that is carrying the delegates."

"Aye, sir."

--------------------

Chapter 2

BACK TO THE PRESENT

"Captain, I would like to ask a permission for shore leave."

"Really?" Captain Picard asked a small smile lightning his face. "Now that's a surprise."

"I know this is a bit sudden, sir."

"When would you like to have this leave? Where would you go?"

"When we reach starbase G-6, sir. I would like to go to Betazed with Dr. David Thompson. He's an old friend of mine. I was hoping we could take a shuttle from the starbase since the away team is using all of ours."

"When were you thinking of returning?"

"Well, the Enterprise should be back in this sector after 3-4 weeks, right? So, I was thinking I could rendezvous with you then."

"Sounds like you got it all planned. I have no reason to deny your request. We shouldn't be needing your skills for a while... We're just transporting people from one place to another..."

"That's what I thought, sir."

"Well then, permission granted Counselor! You may go to Betazed. We'll contact you when we're heading back."

"Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome. And Deanna...!"

"Yes?"

"Have fun!"

"I will."

With a big smile on her face, Deanna Troi walked out of the Captain's ready room.

--- --- ---

"I still can't believe you're going!" Beverly complained. "Oh, Deanna, how can you leave me here! I won't have anyone to talk to... It'll be so boring here."

"Sorry Bev!" Deanna laughed. "David and I have so much catching up to do. I'm thrilled I can go! Besides I haven't had a vacation in ages!"

"I'm happy for you. We could all use some relaxation. Maybe we'll have a chance later, when you come back. I should talk to the Captain...... ..."

"You do that. We have to go now. I'll miss you."

The two women hugged and then Beverly watched Deanna and David shimmer away. They were the last to leave. Now the Enterprise would go back to get the away team.

--------------------

Chapter 3

"Welcome back, Number one!" Picard said a broad smile on his face. "You look tired. How was the mission? I assume you got the job done." He continued, his expression turning into concern.

"Almost, sir. We lost one but the other nine should be fine."

"Good. I expect a full report but you won't have to give that until tomorrow. Now I think you could all use dinner and a good night's sleep. I'll see you tomorrow. You can go."

"Thank you, sir."

--- --- ---

Will Riker thought it strange that Deanna had not been in the briefing that morning but assumed she had some other business to take care of. Now he wanted to find her. He had some serious apologizing to do.

He pressed the door chime on her office door but no one answered.

"Computer, locate Counselor Troi."

"Counselor Troi is not abord the Enterprise." Came the computer's monotone response.

"What?!!! ... ... Then where is she?"

"Counselor Troi was beamed to Starbase G-6 seven days ago. Her current location is unknown."

Will was shocked. He stared at the wall for a while but then headed to the only place from where he knew he could get some answers, sickbay.

--- --- ---

"Beverly why didn't you tell me Deanna was not aboard?!" Will asked, impatient to know where Deanna was.

"You didn't ask. I didn't think it mattered." She answered shrugging. "Besides I've been busy."

Will could not believe what he was hearing. Beverly's tone was so casual and dismissive, like she did not know how much Will cared for Deanna. Sighing heavily he continued.

"Where is she now?"

"On Betazed."

"Betazed? What's she doing there?"

"She took shore leave. Is that so amazing?"

"Shore leave? Just like that?"

"Will, she hasn't had a vacation in a long time. Besides she wanted to spent more time with her old friend."

"Old friend?"

"Yes, he was one of the doctors that came onboard after you left."

"He?"

"Yes, David Thompson." Said Alyssa Ogawa as she came to stand next to Beverly giving her a datapadd. "Oh, how I wish he were my doctor... " She continued, her eyes looking up to heavens then quickly turning her head to the Doctor. "No offense Beverly but I wouldn't mind being examined by him... ... He's gorgeous! ... And those black eyes....ohhh... He could give me physical any time... Don't you agree?"

"Uh-huh." Beverly mumbled her expression dreamy.

Will looked at the women his eyes wide. Then he grabbed Beverly by the arms and dragged her into her office.

"Beverly, you don't understand. You have to tell me more. Who is this guy? What kind of mood was Deanna in when she left?"

"What are you doing Will? Why do you want to know?"

"Because I'm in big trouble Beverly!"

"What do you mean?" Beverly asked knitting her brows. "What have you done this time?"

The redheaded Doctor stared Riker in the eyes and got worried when she saw his normally so bright blue eyes now dark with worry. He lowered his head and took a deep breath.

"Before I left for the mission Deanna and I had a fight, a big fight! She hasn't talked to me since... I'm afraid I might have ruined our friendship and possible the chances of ever being more then just friends... ... ... Beverly, I'm desperate, you've got to help me!"

"Of course Will." Beverly said her tone now low and soothing. "Sit down and tell me everything..."

--------------------

Chapter 4

Will could not believe it. Deanna had gone on a shore leave without talking to him first. It was not like her at all to leave things unsettled. Usually she was the first one to come and work things out but not this time.

"She must be really mad at me. I must have hurt her too much." Will thought desperately.

He was pacing his quarters feeling really bad. He had said some terrible, unforgivable things to her and he wished he could take them back. He had even said he hated her!

"Oh God! Why?! Why did I tell her that?! I hope she knows I didn't mean it! I could never hate her!"

While on the planet, Will had had some time to think. Time to think about what he had said and done, about his life and what he wanted from it. When one of the researchers had died he had watched how his wife had cried. Cried for hours and hours and after she finally quieted down she looked like her life had been taken as well.

Will could not help thinking how he would feel if he lost Deanna. Even though she was not his wife she was his best friend, his soulmate, his imzadi, his whole world.

Will had made a decision. When he got back abord the Enterprise he would beg for Deanna's forgiveness and if he got that, ask her out on a date.

He wanted to start over with her. He wanted her back in his life and he wanted her to stay in his life too, hopefully forever.

"But how can I tell her I'm sorry if she's not here?! She's gone. Gone with some good looking friend. I must tell her how I feel before it's too late, before I lose her to someone else."

--- --- ---

"Captain, I need shore leave."

"How come all my officers suddenly want shore leave?" Picard said raising an amused eyebrow. "First Deanna, then Beverly came begging for leave after this mission is over and now you. When and where would you like to go, if I may ask?"

"I would like to go immediately, sir. There is something very important, personal issues, I need to take care of and it can't wait."

"I see..." Picard said taking in Riker's stiff posture and his desperate sounding voice. "Normally I wouldn't allow leave on such a short notice but since you really seem to be needing it, I'll grant your wish. You can have leave for 8 weeks. After that we'll meet you on Earth. You can take one of our shuttles."

"Thank you, sir. Thank you so much."

"You're welcome. Now go, where ever you're going I can see you want to get there fast, so go. Have a good trip Will."

--------------------

Chapter 5

For days now, Will had traveled alone in a shuttle, headed to Betazed. He was pushing the shuttles engines to the limit wanting to go faster and faster. Isolation was not good for a person when he was scared. Scared to death that the woman he loved would fall in love with someone else and stop loving him. His mind had created many scenes of what would happen when he got to her. He tried to think that everything would be okay but his subconsciousness kept nagging that it was too late.

According to Beverly Deanna's old friend was a doctor. A gorgeous Betazoid doctor and a very strong telepath. Deanna had spent almost every minute with him. Laughing and having fun. Going to the holodeck and arboretum. Beverly even said they had been using telepathy in public. Something Deanna usually did not want to do because it was impolite since other people could not hear them.

"This guy must be something special since Deanna is giving him so much time and attention." Will thought jealous. "I'll have to give her all I got and more if I want to win her back... ... ... More than anything I want Deanna to be happy and if she thinks she'll be happy with someone else... then I just have to accept that and let her go... ... no matter how much it hurts... ... I owe her at least that."

--- --- ---

After safely arriving on Betazed the first thing Will did, was to locate Deanna. Luckily that was not hard because Deanna had her communicator with her so the Enterprise could contact her. According to the readouts, Deanna was near the ocean. Riker guessed she was staying at the Troi family beach house, so he took the nearest ground transport that would take him there.

--- --- ---

Meanwhile in the beach house, Deanna was spending a quiet evening with David.

"Is something wrong Dee?" He asked telepathically after emerging from the kitchen and seeing Deanna looking out at the sea lost in thought. David set the two very big cups of hot chocolate he was carrying on the table and moved to sit next to Deanna.

"I was just thinking about Will and the fight I told you about..."

"Oh, Dee. You know he didn't mean what he said. He was just too tired and stressed."

"I know but still... it hurts. No matter how tired or angry he was he still shouldn't have said those things. I was just trying to help him... and instead of being grateful he mocked me and everything I believe in... He said he hated me!"

"Honey, I'm sure he's feeling miserable right now."

"He should! ... ... I don't even know if he got back alright. What if something has happened to him?" Deanna asked alarmed her black eyes shining with fear and unshed tears.

"You would have been notified. And you would have felt it. Don't worry everything is okay." David said putting his hand on her shoulder.

"I know, I know. You're right of course. I just... I don't know how I should feel right now. I'm mad at him, I worry about him, I miss him.... he was my best friend you know. Now I don't know what he is anymore."

"He'll always be your friend... and your Imzadi. I'm sure he worries about you just as much as you worry about him. After all you left without telling him, or leaving a note, right?"

"Right. I didn't know what to say. I needed some time to think."

"You still love him, don't you?"

"Yes, I do... ..."

One teardrop slowly made it's way from her eye to her cheek.

David pulled her into his arms.

"Shh, everything is going to fine. Trust me."

--------------------

Chapter 6

Will was standing behind the window, watching them. He was trying to build walls around his mind so that they would not sense he was there. He saw them sitting on the couch facing each other, drinking something that looked like cocoa. A fire was burning in the fireplace and they looked quite comfortable though their faces were serious. David said something and smiled. For a while Deanna seemed to think what he had said but then she smiled back and nodded her head. She moved to him, hugged him, gave him a big kiss on the cheek and whispered something in his ear. Whatever she said made him smile more. He kissed the top of her head and wrapped an arm around her shoulder and squeezed her to him.

Will was crushed. Deanna was obviously involved with David. Why else would they be hugging, kissing and cuddling like that. It was over between them. Will would never again be able to hold her in his arms and stroke her beautiful hair. He would never hear her thoughts or kiss her lips. She would not need him comforting her when she was sad because she had David. He would never be her husband or the father of her children. She was not his anymore.

Quietly Will moved away and headed back to the spacedock.

--- --- ---

The next morning Deanna saw a message light blink on her computer. She activated the terminal and accessed the message. It was marked personal, it was from Will. Deanna tapped a button and soon his face appeared on the screen.

"Hi Deanna. I really don't know from where to begin. I guess the beginning would be the best idea...

When I came back from the away mission I was shocked to hear that you were gone. I had so many things I wanted to say to you. I wanted to apologize for all the things I said to you but I couldn't. I could have send you a message sooner but I didn't want to. I felt like I had to apologize face to face. So after Beverly told me where you were, I asked for a leave, got it, took a shuttle and came to Betazed.

I had such a big plans, I was supposed to beg for your forgiveness and if I got that, you know what I was going to do? I was going to ask you out. Yes, out on a date.

While on the away mission I realized how short life can be and how people shouldn't waste their lives living the kind of life to which they aren't satisfied. I thought about my life and something was missing. Do you know what that was? Love. Oh, I was in love, had been for a long time but I had been afraid to show it, to give it, to give myself to someone, so completely. Afraid of being rejected and left alone with a broken heart.

I always thought that someday things would work out on their own. That one day I would be married to the woman who stole my heart. We would have children, be a family and live happily ever after.

I guess that only happens in fairy tales. Real life isn't so simple. Things don't change if I don't change them and now I've waited too long. Now it's too late. Someone wasn't afraid to make a move and now I don't have a chance anymore.

You're probably wondering what I mean. ... ... I saw you. I came to the beach house. I watched you from outside. It's obvious that you're in love with David and I don't blame you. He's a good man I'm sure. Doctor and a Betazoid, not living on a starship, wanting to be a Captain. What more could you want. I'm sure your mother is happy too. By the way, I'm sorry for what I said about your mother. You know she can sometimes push my buttons and make me very angry but still I respect her very much. She's a remarkable woman. As are you. I hope you'll be happy with David.

I don't really know why I'm telling you all this. Probably because you have always been the one who I've talked to when I have troubles. That's what you get for being the ship's counselor... ...

Seriously, you're my friend, my confidant, at least I hope you still are. I have no one else I can tell this. True Bev helped me to clear my head but still...I can't tell her all this. She wouldn't understand.

Okay, enough with this rambling. I just want to tell you I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for what I said. I hope you know I didn't mean any of it. I was just so frustrated and angry and... ... I know I know, it doesn't justify for what I did... I should have held my tongue. I feel so bad right now and I deserve it, deserve every bit of it.

I'm not sure where I'm going now. I need some solitude so I can get myself together again. I will meet the Enterprise when I am scheduled to. That hasn't changed. I hope you'll be aboard then too.

Bye for now.

And Deanna... ... please remember, I could never hate you."

Deanna closed the computer with trembling hands. Tears were streaming down her face and she had trouble breathing. Her mind was reeling.

"What in the world had Will seen? Why did he think she was in love with David? What was he going to do? Where was he going? I have to tell him the truth. I love him not David."

--------------------

Chapter 7

"I told you I wasn't imagining things, I did sense Will last night. He must have been blocking his thoughts because the feeling was so vague. ... ... David could you do me a favor and check when the next shuttle out of Betazed is scheduled to leave? I must get to the Enterprise as soon as possible." Deanna said running from place to place packing her things.

"Sure. I hope you find him. You two deserve to be happy. I'm sorry if I've caused problems." David replied walking over to the computer console.

"It's not your fault. You haven't done anything. Will and I are masters of creation problems into our relationship."

David did not quite understand what Deanna meant but decided it was better not to ask.

"Okay...let's see. Next shuttle leaves.... after an hour."

"Great. I have just enough time. Thanks for everything David. I'm really sorry we couldn't spent more time together."

"It's okay. Your happiness is on the line, go now."

--- --- ---

Deanna sat in the shuttle thinking about Will's message. He had looked so heartbroken. His eyes were blurry and his voice hoarse. He seemed to be fighting tears. Deanna had wanted to reach out and touch his face but that of course had not been possible since they were light years away.

He had not mentioned her name but she knew he was talking about her. How he loved her and wanted to be her husband, to have children with her.

She wanted all those things too. She had loved him almost all her life and was terrified by the thought of losing him now.

"No, that cannot happen! I won't let it! I'll find Will, tell him the truth and prove him wrong. We can and we will live happily ever after."

--- --- ---

"Deanna! What are you doing here? I thought you weren't coming back untill next week!" Beverly Crusher cried out amazed.

"Yeah well, things changed. Have you heard from Will?"

"No, not since he left. Why, has something happened? I thought he would be with you."

"Yes..." Deanna muttered her eyes thoughtful.

"So, he found you and you had a chance to talk?"

"Yes and no."

"Deanna, you're not making any sense." Beverly sighed frustrated.

Deanna took a deep breath trying to collect her wandering thoughts. Then she lifted her head up and fixed her eyes on Beverly.

"Will found me alright but I didn't talk to him. He had seen me and David through a window and misinterpreted something he saw. He now thinks that I'm in love with David. He left Betazed in a hurry and only sent me a message wishing me a happy life."

"Oh no, poor Will! He was so miserable when he left. He must be absolutely devastated now."

"He is. You should have seen his message. That's why it's important that I find him soon. Do you have any ideas where he could be? He said he needed solitude. Where would he go to get that?" Deanna asked her mind now completely clear and focused on finding Will.

"I don't know..." Beverly said lost in thought. "...but I do know that he should meet us on Earth after about six weeks."

"Earth? Hmm... Does he still have his house in Alaska? If he does, that's were he is. I'm sure of it. Home is were people usually go when they have troubles."

"You're right. And I know he still has his house. He was telling me about it just before the latest mission." Beverly said getting excited.

"Good, then all I need to do is ask for more leave and find a way to get to Earth.."

"You don't need to do either." Beverly chirped happily. "The whole ship and crew is going to be on vacation starting next week and we are going to dock in McKinley Station."

"McKinley Station? That's great!" Deanna smiled. "Then all I can do now is wait, I guess." She said slumping against the corridor wall, a little bit of worry climbing back to her eyes.

--------------------

Chapter 8

The Enterprise was docked to Earth's station McKinley. Deanna Troi was standing in line waiting for her turn to beam down. During the week that it had took from the Enterprise to get to Earth Deanna's moods had been shifting from extremely happy to extremely scared. She could not wait to find Will and tell him the truth. She was ecstatic that he still loved her and wanted her. She loved him too, so much that it hurt. But she was also worried, worried that she would not find him or he had changed his mind or that something had happened to him during his long journey alone. What if he did not believe her? What if he was too heartbroken to even want to listen?

"No, no. Stop thinking like this! I will make him listen, make him understand. Everything will be alright." Deanna thought to herself. "Just believe and everything will be fine."

After beaming down to Valdez, Alaska, Deanna was hit by a chilly breeze. It was not even winter yet but still she felt like she was standing in a refrigerator. She put her arms around herself and shivered.

"How can anyone live in this weather year after year?!" She muttered to herself and wished she had brought her jacket with her instead of only her long-sleeved shirt.

She did not know where Will lived so she went to the nearest infocenter and asked the location of William T. Riker's house. After she got that, she rented a groundtransport and punched in the right cordinates.

--- --- ---

Will's house was not in the center of Valdez. It was located in a small village just outside the big city. Deanna did not want to drive right up to the front door so she parked the transport about 300 meters from her goal. She stepped out to the cold air and started walking. She climbed up a small hill and from there she could see what she was looking for. It was fairly big, two-story log house with large windows and a massive porch. The yard around the house was well-tended, not a weed in sight. The trees that lined the driveway looked stunning because the cold autumn air had turned the green leaves red and yellow. On one side of the house Deanna saw huge berry bushes, the other side was full of apple trees. She could not really believe what she was seeing. She had not expected Will's house to be so big and beautiful and full life. She had imagined a small "boyish" hideaway in the middle of nowhere but when she thought about it, it seemed only natural that Will would have apple trees etc. on his land since he loved cooking.

Just when Deanna was about to walk down the other side of the hill, someone moving near the house made her stop. She crouched behind a tree and watched. What she saw made her heart skip a beat. It was Will! He really was here! She had found him! Although Deanna's senses had already picked up his presence it was still a relief to see him with her eyes. But the reason why Deanna did not run straight to his arms was the fact that Will had not come out of the house alone. Deanna's view was partly blocked by a tree but when she moved a bit closer she saw that the other person was a woman. A very beautiful blond-haired woman. The woman said something to Will and then she hugged him. Will smiled and hugged her back.

Deanna's mind went numb and her heart almost stopped beating. Images of Wendy Roper and feelings of déjà vu were flooding her mind.

"No, no, not again....he couldn't have.... I know that's not Wendy but the situation is the same. He thinks our relationship is over and what does he do? .... ... No, no, I can't believe this!"

Deanna started backing away. Her vision was blurred by tears but still somehow she managed to get down the hill, back to where she had come from. She switched to running but she did not run to the transport since she did not know where she would go, instead she opted just running and walking blindly forward.

--- --- ---

After a few hours she found herself in the center of the village. There were some shops and an open market place where fresh fuits and fish were sold. Deanna was an emonational wreckage, hungry and freezing so she went to get something to eat. Rubbing her cold arms she walked between the tables and finally came to a stop in front of one fruit stand.

"I'd like to have an apple, please." She said to the woman behind the table.

The woman had been talking to her friend and turned around when she heard Deanna's voice.

"Certainly, here you go."

Deanna had not seen the woman's face before she turned but when she did, Deanna recognized her to be the same woman who had been talking to Will.

Deanna was shocked to see her but managed a quiet "Thank you.".

"Would you like anything else?" The woman asked smiling.

"No, thank you."

"Are you alright? You look a little pale."

"Yes, I'm fine but thank you for asking." Deanna said trying to leave but the woman continued talking.

"I know this isn't any of my business but I really think you're not okay. You're pale and you have a haunted look in your eyes. You've been crying too, haven't you?"

Deanna felt like the woman was twisting a knife in her heart but she could not leave without being rude. Besides it was not the woman's fault. So she stayed quiet and let the woman say what she wanted to say.

"You know this is the second time today that I've seen that kind of look. A friend of mine, my neighbor actually, had the same kind of look in his eyes. That's the kind of look you get when someone has broken your heart. He didn't tell me that but I could see it, felt it somehow. He's a Commander in Starfleet. What a rough, lonely life that must be. He just came home for a short vacation. I've been taking care of his house while he's gone. The poor guy looked so miserable, probably hadn't eaten in days. So I just had to make him some food. After he'd eaten he felt a little better. He even smiled and hugged me when he said thank you.... ... ...

So, are you sure you don't want anything else? A little more food might make you feel better too."

Deanna had been listening only with half an ear untill the woman had said the words "Commander in Starfleet", after that she had been all ears.

"No, I don't need more food but I would like to know one thing."

"What's that?"

"Is your neighbor's name by any chance William Riker?" Deanna asked holding her breath.

"Why yes!" The woman said surprised. "Do you know him?"

A smile was slowly spreading on Deanna's face.

"Yes, yes I do. Thank you so much! I have to go now! It was nice talking to you. Maybe we'll see again later. Bye!"

Deanna was already halfway gone before she had finished talking leaving a very bewildered woman behind her.

"Wow, her mood changed quickly. I don't know what I did but obviously something good. Well, I'm glad I could help." The woman said shrugging in confusion.

--------------------

Chapter 9

The sun was setting while Deanna walked back towards Will's house. The temperature was falling with the sun so Deanna tried to keep her steps rapid without running. She laughed to herself thinking how stupid she had been.

"I, if anyone, should know that things are not always what they seem to be. Will saw me with David and thought we were involved. I saw him with his neighbor and thought they were involved. What a fool I was." Deanna told herself shaking her head. "I should always find out the truth and not just believe what I see especially if I haven't seen things very clearly the first time."

When Deanna this time approached Will's house, she did not stop at the top of the hill but continued forward. Will was sitting on the porch staring up at the sky. Deanna felt her insecureties rising up again but she pushed them back, determined to do what she had come here to do. Will did not hear her coming until she was right in front of him.

"Hello Will." She said her voice trembling a little.

"Deanna! Hi. What are you doing here?" He asked getting up, a surprised and hesitant look in his eyes.

Deanna could sense he was happy to see her but at the same time he was sad and wished she would go away.

"I'm here because we need to talk."

"Deanna please, I know what you're going to say. It's okay, I understand. You have a right to be happy, don't worry about me. Go be with him. I would just like to be alone. I have nothing more to say to you. ... ... Oh, except that I'm sorry for what I said the last time we talked. Though we weren't exactly talking... Anyway, I'm sorry. You were right, I should have listened to you. I hope you forgive me and we can still be friends."

"Oh Will, of course I forgive you. But that's not why I came. I have to tell you something and it's important. It's about me, you, and David."

Will was about to interrupt again but Deanna raised her hand up and silenced him.

"No Will, listen! I don't know what you saw on Betazed but I'm NOT involved with David. He's just an old friend who I hadn't seen in a long time."

"But you kissed him and cuddled on the couch! Is that what you do with "old friends"?" Will asked getting defensive.

"Will, he was comforting me! I told him about our fight. I was very upset by what you had said. I was crying my eyes out! He was just trying to make me feel better!"

Will did not say anything, he was busy examining his shoes.

"I - am - NOT - in - love - with - him! He's just a friend. There's only one person in this universe that I'm in love with and that person is not David." Deanna said quietly. She seemed to have found something interesting on the ground too.

Finally, after a long silence Deanna spoke again.

"Will... did you really mean all the things you said on your message?"

"Yes." He answered lifting his gaze and for the first time really looking at her. What he saw shocked him.

Her eyes were wide and filled with tears. She was shivering and her lips were blue. She looked miserable and exhausted.

"Deanna! My god, you're freezing!"

He stepped closer to her and instinctively pulled her in his arms so she would get warm. She fell against him like a ragdoll and clung to his jacket with her last strength. The whole day had been emotionally very rough and she had not eaten anything except that one small apple. She let go of her mental barriers. Tears fell freely over her cheeks and after managing a weak "I've missed you.", she passed out.

--- --- ---

When Deanna woke up the first thing she saw was Will's blue eyes staring down at her.

"Hey there sleeping beauty. How are you feeling? You got me worried." He said softly.

Deanna noticed that Will had carried her inside of his house and now she was lying on his couch.

"I'm okay. Just feeling a bit weak. Haven't eaten much today."

She gave him a small smile.

"I thought so. Here, drink this. I put lots of sugar in it."

"Thanks."

She sat up slowly and took a sip from the hot chocolate Will had given her.

"Umm... This is so good...."

Deanna looked around her. The room was wonderful, spacious, lightly furnished and cozy. A huge fireplace dominated one corner. Deanna loved to watch the fire, it was so beautiful yet dangerous.

"This place is gorgeous Will." She said amazed.

"Thank you, glad you like it. Feeling better?"

"Yes."

"Good. ... ... ... Deanna, if you don't love David then who do you love?"

"Will..." Deanna said placing her hand on his cheek. "You know the answer...."

"I hope I do..... but I want to hear it from you."

Deanna smiled.

"William Riker... ... I - love - you!"

"You sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

Will blinked and a big tear escaped his eye.

"Will? Is something wrong?" Deanna asked alarmed, searching his eyes and mind.

"No, no.... It's just ... .... You don't know how much I've wished to hear those words. ... ... .... When I saw you with David I was sure I had lost you forever. I guess I just can't believe that you're really here." He said gazing deep into her black eyes. "I love you so much!"

Deanna pressed her forehead to his.

"I know. I can feel it. ... ... .... So, where do we go from here?"

Will pulled back a little.

"If I remember correctly I was going to ask you out, Miss Troi."

"Oh...right."

"So, will you go out with me?"

"Absolutely! When?"

"Now. We could have the date right here. What do you say?"

"It's a deal, BUT only if you cook! I'm starving!"

Will had to laugh at that.

"Of course, dear. I want the love of my life to be strong and full of energy. ... ... You know your lips still look a little blue. I think we should find a way to warm you up some more."

"Yes... I agree. Any suggestions?"

"Yes. May I demonstrate?"

"Be my guest."

The End