He Died With His Boots On

Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the Star Trek franchise . . . I know, it's sad, isn't it? I am claiming the Jere'kians (all of those aliens), Adam Trumpour, Samuel Sparkia, Chelsie Stanton, and Sarn.

Set sometime at or around seasons six and seven. (Give or take.)

Primary Characters: Deanna, Data, Will, Jean-Luc

- /.\ - /.\ -

"Captain's Log: Stardate

"The Enterprise is en route to Jere'kia. We are ordered to receive a Jere'kian delegate and party and deliver them to a conference on Kariolis Prime.

"According to records, the Jere'kian people have a unique communication system simply deemed 'biological communication.' No one is quite sure what it is, or if it effects any species outside their own.

"I feel as if I am taking a risk with this highly unresearched variable by brining the delegation aboard, but I am sure it will cause no problems, as there has been none in the past. I can only hope my crew is not affected and can carry out their duties as I know they can."

- /.\ -

"Headed to the Transporter Room?" Deanna asked Will as they walked down one of the many corridors aboard the Enterprise-D. He looked as if he was in a hurry, but that was hardly inconclusive, he always looked as if he was in a hurry.

"Yes, I'm going to greet the Jere'kian delegation," he replied. "Are we still on for tonight?"

"Remind me what we're watching again?" she asked.

"The final of the Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviland movies."

She and Will had been watching old movies recently. Every week or so they would watch another. It had become a regular occurrence a little over a month ago, and now she found herself looking forward to watching a two-dimensional film. It was a nice relief from twenty-fourth century life. "Right," she recalled. "They Died With Their Boots On. Which one is that?"

"The one with the nineteenth century general."

"I remember now. Custer, right?"

"Right," he smiled. "See you tonight," he said as they turned their separate ways.

Deanna continued towards her office, and caught a few residual thoughts from Will on their parting as she always did. He was meeting a species somewhat unfamiliar with the Federation and he was excited.

- /.\ -

Jean-Luc stood next to Will in the transporter room. The Jere'kians were ready to transport and were waiting for the final word from the Captain. He turned to the crewman operation the transporter. "Chief Sarn, energize."

The Bolian nodded and ran his blue fingers over the familiar console. In a few short seconds, five Jere'kians materialized.

The tallest stepped forward. He was two meters in height, at least, and very thin. He had a strong live tan color in his skin, thick, healthy black hair and a mustache and beard cut square around his mouth.

"Greetings!" he said in a flamboyant, joyous, voice. "I am Ambassador Kerndolph, high representative of the United Cooperation of the planet Jere'kia."

Jean-Luc stepped forward. "Welcome to the Enterprise." He extended his hand to the ambassador, who gripped it firmly at the wrist. "I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard, representative of Starfleet and The United Federation of Planets."

Kerndolph released Jean-Luc's wrist and bowed at the waist. "Thank you, valiant Captain. We are honored to be accepted on such a powerful vessel." He turned sideways and extended his arm, displaying his party.

"This is my lovely daughter: Teerá, my son: Laytorq, the head of the Health Sector: Doctor Tomarish, and the commander of all ground and star troops: Admiral Navarré."

Jean-Luc smiled and returned a small bow to each as they were introduced. "This is my first officer, Commander William Riker," Jean-Luc introduced Will in the same fashion Kerndolph had introduced his party.

Kerndolph bowed.

"Perhaps you would enjoy a tour of the Enterprise?" Will suggested.

"Sounds exhilarating," Kerndolph looked at his children. Laytorq nodded ecstatically, but Teerá shifted her gaze and moved closer to the Admiral; for comfort it appeared. Kerndolph raised his chin, seeming to study his daughter.

"Don't be absurd, Starlight. We are safe here." He stepped closer to Jean-Luc and lowered his voice. "I t had been unsafe in our city recently. There was an assassination last week."

Will smiled at the girl as she almost clung to the Admiral. He felt bad that she could not feel safe. She seemed like a sweet enough girl, the daughter of an ambassador. Will thought that she might have been used to such things, but she was child and it was a childish fear.

She would not meet his eyes. He stepped up to her and offered her his arm diplomatically. As he got closer to her he began to feel that she was more than he had originally thought. He could see her beautiful eyes, the most beautiful he had ever seen. He had no idea what he was thinking a moment ago. This was no foolish child with foolish fears; it was a cautious young woman in need of support.

"Do not worry," he said with a comforting voice. "The Enterprise is safe." Will offered her his arm again.

She tentatively took it and a small shiver shot down Will's spine. What an angel she was! Will felt so . . . so . . . privileged in her presence. She was the most intoxicating woman he had ever met.

Jean-Luc smiled as his first officer took the girl's arm and began to lead her out. She was an adorable girl. He hoped that she could feel safe on the Enterprise, after all she was the daughter of their guest. As much as Jean-Luc did not like children, it gave him a slight comfort to know that his starship was safe enough for them.

As Will and Teerá passed, Jean-Luc's smile faded. He thought Commander Riker was standing a little too close to their guest. That young woman was afraid and Riker was walking around with her on his arm like a trophy. He realized that sometimes Riker could act this way some of the time; but not with her, not with an intoxicating creature like Teerá.

Jean-Luc worried somewhat for her, but he knew he would just have to keep a closer eye on Riker. He reminded himself to discuss diplomatic conduct with him as well.

He followed the party out, and caught a glance from Chief Sarn. Jean-Luc knew he and the Chief were thinking the exact same thing.

- /.\ -

Will sat on the Bridge during his shift. The tour he had given the diplomatic party had been far too short for his liking and he had to leave Teerá alone in her quarters fourteen decks down.

Fourteen decks was a long way if something were to go wrong. If she needed him, he may not be able to reach her in time. He was putting a lot in Worf's hands right now. He could only hope the lousy Klingon would hold up.

Will froze his thoughts for a second. That was not right. He and Worf were friends. He trusted Worf, not to mention he had a lot of respect for Klingons in general. Why would he so casually think things like that? 'Lousy Klingon?' That was not how he felt at all, or at least, used to think.

Something was wrong here.

Will thought about why he felt so anxious. He seemed to be dissociating his mind. Part of him was extremely erratic, and the other part; the small part, was trying to find out why.

Teerá. This was about Teerá; or so he thought. Maybe it was not. Will could not be sure, his thoughts were distracted and he could not focus to diagnose the situation. He involuntarily glanced around the bridge like prey looking out for the predator. He made eye contact with Deanna.

"Are you okay?" she asked after holding his gaze silently for a moment. She reached out and gently touched his hand.

He ran his fingers through his hair and shook his head. "I don't think so."

- /.\ -

Jean-Luc paced back and forth in his Ready-Room. He had not felt so jumbled since . . . he could not remember when.

Commander Riker had been completely inappropriate today. How could he be interested in Teerá? Did he not have some sort of relationship with Deanna?

THAT LYING CHEAT!

He would cheat on a woman he has loved for years with a woman he had just met? Given the woman he just met was probably the most amazing woman both he and Jean-Luc had ever laid eyes on. . . But still, it was unacceptable. Once established it is a pattern, and Jean-Luc could not risk Teerá with Riker now.

He had to protect her from that hideous snake.

But how?

Commander Riker would not be willing to give ups a jewel like Teerá. Jean-Luc had to take care of that.

- /.\ -

Deanna sat on Will's couch and watched him pace like a changed animal. "You feel anxious, I can feel your anxiety."

"Crazed is more like it," he replied. He ran his fingers through his hair for what seemed like the thousandth time. "Deanna," he tried to gesture with his hands but they shook, "I'm more than nervous." He rubbed his chain compulsively. "I feel . . . I can't concentrate. I can't walk down a corridor without thinking that something is going wrong.

"I can't help but think she's-they're-in danger. I can't trust that it's safe. I can't trust that Worf has made the preparations, and that Beverly can handle anything that could go wrong, and . . .

"There are butterflies in my stomach flying up my throat. My legs and arms are shaking. My mind is disjointed, disoriented . . . dissociated.

"It's as if the Pandora's Box that held all my fears in my mind was opened and can't be shut." A cold shiver ran through his body and he rubbed his neck compulsively. He stopped his pacing abruptly and locked her gaze. "Help me, Deanna."

"First, you need to sit down and take a deep, calming breath. You are only making your situation worse by all this pacing and worrying. So sit down, and try to look at this rationally.

"You have a start by realizing that you are dissociating, and that you feel unsafe, but you actually are perfectly safe. That at least, is a good start, the first step."

Will sat in one of the chairs opposite the couch Deanna was on. He tried to maintain a relaxed posture, but it was obvious that he was trying very hard to do so. "I know there is something wrong here, and that whatever it is: it's wrong with me. There's something wrong with the way I am thinking."

Deanna smiled at his progress. "That was good. You made a statement we can work with effectively. You organized your thoughts and made a direct statement communicating how you feel and your reasoning for that emotion. What do you think is wrong with the way you are thinking?"

Will slowly raised his head in realization. "'Communicate how you feel,'" he echoed. "Deanna, that's it! In their file! Remember their file? 'Biological Communication!'"

Deanna held out her hands gesturing for him to stop. "Will, wait. You're not making any sense. Take a breath, and start from the beginning. Remember, organize your thoughts, and make a direct statement."

He bolted up and grabbed her hand, pulling her up as well. "There's no time! We have to get to Sickbay!"

- /.\ -

Beverly shook her hand and stared at her tricorder. "I still don't know what I'm looking for." She made an adjustment and scanned Will again.

"The file on the Jere'kians mentioned a physiological anomaly unique to their species. The file called it 'Biological Communication.' Will started feeling this way in the Transporter room when, we think, Teerá communicated something to her father about her feeling unsafe," Deanna explained.

"Will believes that he picked up on this communication somehow and now is obsessed with protecting her," she continue. "No one really knows what we're looking for because the Federation hasn't identified it yet. The Jere'kians consider it a private matter and the Federation has never pressed it."

The Doctor sighed and dropped her arms in defeat. "I don't know if I can identify a completely unknown factor in one of thousands of variables in the humanoid form. It could be anything. Right now there are so many things abnormal in Will's body that I can't detect something specific. I've never seen so much chemical imbalance in a conscious, physically unharmed person."

Will sat back up. "I'm sure this is it. It has to be. There's no other explanation for why I can't think." He held his hand in his hands for a moment. "I feel uneasy, like I'm being preyed upon by some daunting, undetectable, unbeatable force." He put his hands down on his legs to attempt to the still them.

Deanna put her hand on his. "It sounds so primitive, so instinctual, like an animal."

Beverly snapped her fingers and pointed at Deanna. "That's it!" She whipped opened her tricorder again. "Primitive and instinctual might just be what we're looking for." She tapped a few controls on her tricorder and scanned Will.

"Pheromones," Beverly smiled, "more or less. This scan indicates that you're being effect by something very similar to a pheromone. I'll begin to analyze this data before taking it to the captain. For now, I'd like you to return to your quarters and stay there."

Will nodded.

"I'll walk you, Will," Deanna said. She walked next to him as they left Sickbay and took a left. She tried to maintain an acceptable distance from him. She could feel his mind jumbling around inside his head. She could hear some of his residual thoughts. She did not like what she heard. She did not like it one bit.

When they reached the turbo life and the door closed behind them the walls seemed to close in, sensing their increasing discomfort.

"Deanna," Will finally said after the longest two seconds in his life. "This is it; this has got to be it. I'm sure Beverly can do something about it."

"I suppose it's bad when the man who cannot trust his doctor to fix something that isn't likely to happen is reassuring the woman who's perfectly fine," she replied.

The doors opened and they continued to his quarters without saying another word.

Will said nothing, he too, could feel what she feeling, and could hear her residual thoughts. She was trapped somewhere between herself and his obsession with Teerá.

When they got to his quarters she came in just long enough for him to walk to the other side of the room before she turned to leave. The silence between them was a void and a spark of light crossed it when he said her name. Deanna turned back and met his gaze, the silence for that half second was deafening.

"I'm sorry, Deanna," he said simply.

For those three words he seemed calm. The craze that was in his eyes vanished for those three little words.

She shook her head in an attempt to break that stare of his capturing eyes, but was unsuccessful. "Will, don't be sorry. This is not your fault."

He looked down and shook his head, realizing she did not understand what he meant. "No, not that." He met her gaze again, and he seemed himself again for a moment or two. "I'm sorry that I'm in love with her."

Deanna's breath caught in her throat. "What?" she whispered.

"Believe me, Deanna," he pleaded. "I don't want to be, but I am. It's nothing like being in love with you. This is . . ." he began to get frustrated by the lack of words. "This is like a weight on my shoulders; pressing down on me and constricting my breath.

"Being in love with you," he smiled at the memory of a time when they could be in love. It seemed so long ago now, "is like being completely free from every care in the galaxy."

She turned from him so he could not see the tears in her eyes. "It's alright, Will." She began to leave once again.

"Don't worry, Deanna. There is one thing that you are that she could never be."

She stopped again, and sniffled slightly. "What's that?"

"Imzadi," he whispered as if it was the greatest word ever spoken, anywhere, at anytime.

She turned to face him. "I don't know what to say."

This time, he turned from her and stared out the starport. "Don't say anything. I'd rather be alone."

Deanna nodded, although he could not see her. "Alright." She turned again to leave, but paused at the door. "If you need anything . . . you know where to find me."

Will stood staring at his faint reflection in the polymer glass. It was the only thing separating him from the cold vacuum of space, just as his chest was the only thing protecting Deanna from the cold vacuum of his heart. His chest was far less effective.

Not only was he killing Deanna, but he was killing himself as well. He could not bear to see her suffer. And for what? An adolescent alien girl who was too shy to say her own name.

An adolescent girl who he was madly obsessed with.

He felt as if part of himself was disconnected from the rest. Part of him could not get unhooked from Teerá. The other part, the smaller part, was clinging to his Imzadi and his life.

Teerá was intoxicating.

But Deanna was sobering.

- /.\ -

Jean-Luc took a deep breath before ringing the chime to the Ambassadorial quarters. He had to do a little of first-hand-scope-ing to save Teerá. He had to get her away from here before Riker could break her heart.

"Come in!" Ambassador Kerndolph called from within. "Ah, Captain!" he exclaimed upon seeing Jean-Luc.

"Ah, yes," Jean-Luc stuttered. "I just wanted to see if everything was satisfactory."

"Everything is fantastic! These are surely accommodations for a king! Or at least a prime minister!"

"Everything is well, then? Your son?" Jean-Luc took another deep breath, "Your . . . daughter?"

Kerndolph leaned back and let out a hearty laugh. "Of course everything is well! Your Lieutenant Word is very thorough. I never knew so many things had to be attended to. I don't think a dekerat could get in here!"

"A what?" Jean-Luc asked, the mention of a 'dekerat' concerned him slightly. What was it? Why was it important? Could it hurt Teerá?

"A dekerat! A small rodent," the Ambassador made a gesture of a creature not much bigger than a rat. Kerndolph smiled as Jean-Luc nodded slightly, trying his best not to look around. "And of course, those security officers outside, Stone and Beavers, they're so . . . stoney!"

Jean-Luc nodded and smiled at the Ambassador's pun. It became obvious that this was not working and he had to go to his secondary plan. "I am glad everything is satisfactory." Jean-Luc turned and left for the Observation Lounge where he had a staff meeting in a few minutes. As he walked he thought about his secondary plan; it definitely was not the greatest plan to resort to, but these were serious matters at stake.

- /.\ -

"I've run several tests on both Commander Riker and the Jere'kians. I have concluded and confirmed that 'biological communication' is very similar to a pheramonal system. All Jere'kians can emit certain chemicals that are sensed by the others.

"Doctor Tomarish finally cooperated when I informed him of Commander Riker's condition and he confirmed my suspicions. It is definitely the cause of Commander Riker's condition. As of now, neither he nor I have been able to come up with a counter agent."

"What are his symptoms? Is he fit to return to duty?" Jean-Luc asked. This was the exact information he needed. This was to determine if he would act on his secondary plan or not.

"He is experiencing high levels of anxiety, confusion, disorientation, and he seems to be suffering from a dissociative disorder as well," Deanna explained. "It is my professional opinion that he is not fit for duty, nor will be until counter agent can identified and administered. Although the side-effects are psychological the cause is definitely physiological. From a psychological standpoint, there is much more work to do."

"Very well, Counselor," he turned from Deanna to Beverly. "Doctor, continue working on a counter agent. Dismissed." Jean-Luc watched his staff stand and exit. He waited a few moments after they had left before calling in Chief Sarn.

The far door opened and the Bolian crewman entered the lounge and stood at attention. "Yes, Sir."

"My suspicions have been confirmed. Commander Riker is now a threat to our mission. He must be disposed of quickly and quietly. This is a top priority mission, but there are to be no written orders or logs. You are to speak to no one and your secondary objective is to protect Starfleet and the Federation.

"If you are captured, disclose nothing and you will be protected. I know that I can trust you, and that Starfleet can trust you."

"Yes, Sir," Sarn replied stiffly.

Jean-Luc dismissed his operative and turned his face to the starport. He studied his dim reflection in the polymer glass; the only thing separating him from the cold vacuum of space. Soon a fallen comrade of his would be joining the stars.

- /.\ -

Deanna sat in her quarters alone. The tears had stopped, for now. She had planned on going to see Will after the meeting. She had not gone yet, because every time she thought of him, she thought of his delirious eyes, and then the tears would start again.

Her Imzadi was becoming someone else.

In the deafening silence of her empty quarters she heard something. . . She heard her name.

"Hello?" she called in a raspy voice, one obviously hoarse from crying.

She heard the soft voice again, and realized it was either from the COMM or in her mind, she could not tell. The message was the same either way, "Imzadi."

"Will?" Deanna stood and concentrated on him. She felt him, felt his pain. She went to him, feeling drawn to her Imzadi.

As the doors to his quarters opened she froze. Her hand went to her mouth as she inhaled slowly and deeply; feeling sick to her stomach. Will was lying on his floor in a pool of blood, a knife protruding from his chest.

"Troi to Sickbay! Medical emergency! Riker's quarters!" Deanna dropped to her knees next to him. She meant to touch him but her hands hovered over him involuntarily.

"Imzadi," he breathed. He smiled at her, a euphoric smile, almost as if he did not realize what was going on. He was as calm as the Opal Sea. "Of all the things I wanted to say, none of them matter now," he whispered.

Will reached up and caressed her hair. He spoke through the same euphoric high he smiled through, "None of them matter, they never did." He exhaled choppily, almost as if he was laughing.

Deanna wiped away her tears and sniffled. "Don't talk like that."

He looked up, past her, for just a second, before gazing into her eyes. "Deanna, Deanna, don't be scared, Imzadi. You're so brave, and so strong. I've always loved you and I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you.

He laughed again. "I'm free. In death, I'm finally free of her. There's only one person on my mind, Imzadi." He ran his thumb across her cheekbone. "You are so beautiful."

She kissed him once. As she did, she felt time slow around them for an instant, maybe two. "You're not going to die, Imzadi. You can't die, you're Will Riker."

"That doesn't matter anymore," Will breathed again. "It only matters that I love you. That I'm free of her, to love you. You know, you're the reason."

"Reason for what?" she asked through tears.

"Can you keep a secret?" he continued before she could answer. "The reason I turned down all those promotions, I wanted to be with you."

Will coughed and some blood, a lot of blood, came to his lips. "Walking through life with you, Madam . . ." he smiled a laughed as more blood came to his lips. "Funny, I can't remember the line."

He closed his eyes for a second before looking at her, for the last time, he knew. "More than words can say, I love you Deanna Troi. My Imzadi.

Then Deanna felt him die. She let out a loud wailing sob. She fell atop his body and clutched him. She cried into his shoulder. "Imzadi!" she choked out over and over again.

- /.\ -

Beverly hurried down the corridor towards Will's quarters with a medical team behind her. They had tried to transport him, but there was some sort of dampening field around the room.

When the doors opened she froze and a medic or two ran into her. "Oh my God," was all she could say. Beverly never thought she would ever see anything like what she was seeing now.

Will was on the floor in a pool of blood, and Deanna was clinging to him like a frightening child, wailing.

Beverly rushed in and touched Deanna's shoulders. Deanna whipped around and clung to Beverly, still crying uncontrollably.

"He's dead," Deanna sobbed. "He's gone, I can't feel him."

Beverly looked at Alyssa, motioned with her head for her to take care of things. She then started out the door with Deanna to her own quarters.

- /.\ -

Jean-Luc stood next to Beverly and watched the medics lift Will's lifeless body onto a stretcher. "Where is Deanna now?" she asked. That was not really his concern, now. Seeing the body affected him more than he thought it would.

"She's in her quarters with Data and Geordi. I didn't want her to be alone right now, so I asked them to stay with her. I think we should take shifts for the first twenty-four to thirty-six hours. In addition, she shouldn't be on duty for at least a week, preferably longer.

"Worf has already taken the knife. Which I think is the murder weapon, I'll have to perform an autopsy to be sure. Worf is beginning tests now, we'll know more in six hours."

Jean-Luc nodded, staring at the stretcher as they removed it from the room. He then shifted his gaze to the pool of blood slowly drying on the floor. He had forgotten about Worf. Worf was not just going to let this go.

Will had been Worf's friend. Worf was an honorable Klingon, and would not let the death of a friend go unsolved for very long. Actually, on second thought, he himself would never let anything like that go.

Then it hit him.

Jean-Luc ordered the murder of an officer; of a friend. Jean-Luc ordered a murder. A Starfleet officer ordered the murder of another Starfleet officer.

"Jean-Luc?" Beverly stepped around him, between him and the blood. "Jean-Luc, are you alright?"

"Beverly, I . . . I think I've done something wrong," he said in a quiet, childlike voice.

"What is it, Jean-Luc?" she asked, tilting her head. Beverly now fully realized that something was wrong here. She had never seen Jean-Luc so . . . frightened.

He looked up at her with eyes of cold recognition. "Oh, Beverly," he breathed. "I've done something awful."

- /.\ -

Data, Geordi, Worf, and Beverly sat in the observation lounge. "I have relieved Captain Picard of duty, finding him psychologically incapable of fulfilling his duties. Commander Data, you have the Enterprise," Beverly told them.

"Doctor, what is your reasoning for this determination?" Data asked.

Beverly looked around the table at her fellow officers, her friends, her family. With Will, Deanna, and Jean-Luc gone; there were half as many of them as usual. "He feels responsible for Commander Riker's death. He told me he ordered the murder."

Worf started slightly. "Doctor, that is a serious confession. Premeditated murder is a serious offense. One punishable by life in a penitentiary."

"I am aware of that Worf, but I don't think he did. I think Jean-Luc is in such shock and denial, his mind is creating things that aren't true."

"Normally, I would refer him to Counselor Troi, but since Will's death she isn't herself. She shouldn't be working for some time, or left alone for the next couple of days at least. Her condition seems to be deteriorating."

Geordi looked around the table. "Pardon me if I can't count but, who's with her now?"

Worf and Data glanced around the table as well.

"I left her with Alexander for now."

"The boy?" Worf asked.

"Contrary to your beliefs, Worf, Deanna and Alexander are good friends. She smiles when he's around, and does love him more than I think you realize. I think he is one of the best choices to stay with her right now."

Worf nodded and concealed an annoyed grumble.

"I will contact Starfleet Command at once with what news we have now. Lieutenant Worf, what have you determined from your investigation?"

"I have analyzed that knife taken from Commander Riker's chest. I have determined it is a ceremonial dagger used in an ancient Bolian rite known as the Sha'Trah. It is a fight to the death for one's mate."

"There are only about twenty Bolians on board," Beverly offered.

"Seventeen, Doctor," Data corrected.

"I have also found DNA and fingerprints which indicate one Chief Sarn, a Bolian currently on board."

"Sarn was in the transporter room when the delegates beamed aboard," Geordi said.

Beverly paled visibly.

"Doctor, are you ill?" Data asked.

Beverly shook her head. After a dramatic pause in which she found her voice, "Chief Sarn is who Jean-Luc told me he ordered to murder Will."

"It appears there is enough incriminating evidence to detain both Chief Sarn and Captain Picard for questioning and a trial."

"Enough evidence, Data?" Geordi exclaimed. "They just signed their own confessions."

- /.\ -

Deanna sat on her couch silently, her eyes dry. She had not cried since Alexander had arrived two hours ago. Right now he sat on the floor, coloring at the coffee table.

"Come in," Deanna responded to the door.

Worf walked in. "Good morning, Counselor. I have come for Alexander. It is time for him to attend to his school work."

Alexander looked up from his paper. "May I return later?"

Worf harrumphed. "If you finish your work." He paused and looked at Deanna. "And if Counselor Troi says you may."

Alexander turned and met gaze with Deanna. She loved looking in those big, adorable brown eyes. He was such a sweet boy. "Of course you can return later, Alexander."

He jumped up and gave Deanna a hug. "I made this for you," he handed her the paper he had been coloring on. "It's a picture of the mirror Katar gave to little T'Evora so she could see all her friends in Stov'Okor."

In the mirror was the child's rendering of Commander William T. Riker. Deanna kissed Alexander's ridged forehead. "Thank you, Alexander. This means so much to me."

- /.\ -

"Yes, Admiral," Commander Data said. "Captain Picard has been confined to quarters pending your investigation."

"Commander Data," the Admiral said in a deep scratchy voice. "I have been given the authority to promote you to full commander, first officer of the Enterprise and give you a temporary field commission of Captain which will be revoked when the Enterprise receives a permanent captain. Your first assignment is to report to Earth.

"Lieutenant Worf will continue with his investigation, but will turn over all information to myself when I board the Enterprise in Sector 0-0-1. You and I are to find the facts, Starfleet will decide what to do after that. Good luck Commander. Trumpour out."

- /.\ -

"Admiral Trumpour had given me temporary Captaincy of the Enterprise and ordered us to Earth. Upon our arrival the Admiral will take command of the investigation while we attempt to keep the ship running frictionlessly.

"Doctor Crusher, assemble all the forensic evidence and transmit it to Admiral Trumpour at Starfleet security at once.

"Lieutenant Worf, you will be assigned to Admiral Trumpour when he arrives, you too are to assemble your evidence and transmit it as well."

Data swept his eyes around the room, and locked them on the face he had not seen in the Observation lounge since Commander Riker's unfortunate murder. "Counselor, you will be expected to testify at the trial of Commander Riker's murder."

Deanna looked down to her hands for a moment before standing. "Excuse me," she whispered on her way out.

The others looked at Data, understanding why Deanna left. Data looked at the door Deanna had walked out of, genuinely confused.

- /.\ -

Deanna sat alone in her quarters. She had been there crying for some time now. They were going to order her to counsel the Captain. She could not do that. No matter how innocent he was. No matter how mentally impaired he was. He killed Will. Captain Picard had had Will murdered and she could not handle that.

Captain Picard was almost a father to her. Now that father had betrayed her so harshly that she could never forgive him.

The door sounded and wiping tears from her eyes, she called for whoever it was to enter.

"Good afternoon, Counselor," Data greeted her as he stepped in.

"Afternoon?" Was it really afternoon? Deanna had been in her quarters much longer than she had thought.

"Yes, it is 1246 hours." He continued forward into her quarters and stopped halfway between her and the door. "I could not help to notice that I upset this morning in the staff briefing."

Deanna shook her head and wiped a few more tears. "It's not your fault, Data. I, um, I . . ."

Data stopped her before she could find the words. "In either case, I would like to apologize." He sat down on the couch next to her. "When Tasha died, I found my thoughts dwelling on her often. It was difficult to remain focused for an acceptable amount of time.

"I also found the more people wanted to discuss Tasha and her death, the more I did not want to. The simple presence of my friends was what you may call comforting. Therefore, I have brought you two offerings.

"I'm not really in the mood for presents, Data, but thank you," she put her hand on his for a second, as a gesture of thanks.

"I am afraid I must insist, Counselor. I have learned from you that denying a fact often makes that fact fester. My first offering is my presence. I am capable of remaining here for a considerable amount of time. I am always at your disposal."

Deanna smiled. "Thank you, Data. I think you understand humanity more than you lead on."

His facial expression changed as he considered her statement. "Thank you, Counselor." He paused for a second before continuing. "My second offering is this," he handed her a small holo-projector.

Deanna clicked it on. It was a still hologram of Will. The tears began to fall again.

"Have I displeased you?" Data asked, noticing her tears.

"No," she barely breathed. "Thank you, Data." Then, Data did the most surprising thing of all; he wrapped his arms around her and held her.

- /.\ -

"Good afternoon, Jean-Luc," Beverly said as she walked into his quarters. "How are you feeling?" She tried to be cheery, but he had sucked all the life out of the room, and she could feel it to her bones.

"I sent for the murder of my first officer and friend. How would you feel?" he asked sadistically. Jean-Luc did not even look her as he spoke. He just stared into the abyss of stars outside his window.

"Jean-Luc," Beverly said quietly, taking a seat on the edge of the coffee table. "You have to stop blaming yourself. You were under the influence of powerful pheramones, of which you couldn't overcome. There is nothing wrong with that. This is not your fault."

Jean-Luc whipped around to face her. He advanced on her like a tiger stalking it's prey. "Then whose fault is it, Doctor?" Jean-Luc asked. "Will overcame those pheromones! Why couldn't I! Why? Doctor, please tell me! I've been running it over a thousand times! Perhaps your medical expertise could inform me why I murdered him and not the other way around!"

Beverly sat in stunned silence. She had never felt afraid of Jean-Luc, but she had never seen him this angry before.

Jean-Luc turned and stalked for a few paces. When he turned, Beverly saw that the anger had converted into guilt. "I'm sorry, Beverly. Whoever's fault this is, it's not yours. I apologize, and appreciate what you're trying to do here. But, if you don't mind, I'd rather be alone."

Beverly stood and headed towards the door. She paused as it opened. "If you need anything, just call."

He barely acknowledged her leaving. William Riker was dead. The best man he ever knew was dead, by his hand. It could not have been worse if he had held the knife himself.

The girl who had so consumed his thoughts was now a distant memory. He remembered when he was so sure that once Will was dead, she would be safe and . . . but that was true. She was never in danger and Will was never after her.

They were her pheromones that sent both Will and himself on this terrible ride, but it was no ones fault. One thing nagged him though, what made Will different? Why could he tell the difference?

It did not really matter now. Will was dead, and the answer to that question died with him.

- /.\ -

"Ship's Log, acting Captain Data. The Enterprise is currently thirty-six hours from Sector 0-0-1. Commander Worf is compiling all the information on the investigation of Commander Riker's murder. Once he has finished, he will transmit it to Admiral Adam Trumpour.

"I suspect the Admiral's investigation to be brief. Commander Worf has been very thorough, and there will be little for him to do but make a report to Starfleet.

"For the time being, Captain Picard has been confined to quarters, and Chief Sarn is in the brig under arrest for the murder of a Starfleet officer. In addition, Counselor Troi has been relieved of duty being determined unfit for duty due to psychological factors.

"The remainder of the crew is feeling the strain of the loose of their two most senior officers and their counselor. Commander LaForge tells me that crew efficiency has decreased considerably, but that everyone is attempting to hold together as Captain Picard as come to expect from them."

- /.\ -

Data was sitting in the Captain's chair on the Bridge when Admiral Adam Trumpour arrived. He was escorted to the Bridge by a small entourage of his assistants.

Data stood when he appeared in front of him. "Welcome to the Bridge of the Enterprise, Admiral. You have caught us slightly off-guard, you were not scheduled to arrive until 1100."

"Fifteen minutes early is on time in my book, Commander," he replied.

"The ship is yours, per your request," Data continued.

The Admiral took Data's hand and shook it firmly. "At this time, that is not necessary, Commander," he said in a thick, raspy voice. "Right now, we need to get to work. I will need to see all Senior Staff, including Counselor Troi, in the Observation Lounge at 1115 hours. Understood?"

"Sir, if I may remind you: Counselor Troi has been relieved of duty," Data said, trying to spare his friend from stress that she could not handle now.

"That doesn't matter; I need to see all of you. My assistants and I will get set up in the Lounge now and will see the rest of you in half an hour.

Worf and Data watched Admiral Trumpour leave the Bridge. Once he did, they made eye contact, thinking the same thing: 'Trumpour is going to be trouble.'

- /.\ -

Admiral Trumpour watched the senior staff assemble before him and take a seat. There was a gap directly to his right; he assumed it was where Commander Riker normally sat. He paid close attention to Counselor Deanna Troi. He could tell she did not want to be here, she seemed unsettled. He also had no doubt that she knew exactly what he was thinking.

"As you know," he said after they had all sat down, "I am Admiral Adam Trumpour. I will be taking over the investigation of Commander William Riker's death, the arrest of Chief Sarn, and the apparent confession of Captain Jean-Luc Picard."

"Excuse me, Admiral," the red-head doctor spoke up. "This is no 'apparent confession.' Jean-Luc knew exactly what he was saying when he told me that he ordered a murder. As much as I refuse to believe that he is capable of such an act, I must accept that he believes this is his fault."

Trumpour nodded. "Thank you, Doctor, but I prefer to make that decision for myself. I appreciate your input, and as one of the Captain's long standing friends, I will be referring to your knowledge of him.

He paused for a moment let the thought sink in before he continued with what he had been saying. "I have decided not to take command of this ship from Commander Data at this point. It is my prerogative, and Commander Data is doing a good job without me looking over his shoulder and catching his rebounds. I expect the rest of you to continue working with the same amount of professionalism that you have for these past several years. It will make my job easier, and it will also assist your grief-stricken and confused crew.

"As of yet, I have all the information I need, but I will be interviewing crewman as I see fit. Lieutenant Worf, I would like you to assist with that. If no one has any further questions or comments, you are dismissed to continue with your duties."

"Admiral," Data said, "I have a question. Is Counselor Troi's purpose here to simply be informed of ship's status, or is there another reason for her presence. Since you have left me in command of the Enterprise, Counselor Troi will remain unfit for duty for some time longer."

Admiral Trumpour considered Data's thoughts. He thought it odd that the android spoke as if the Counselor was not in the room. He regarded the faces of the other officers. He could not read Commander LaForge because he could not see his eyes. He could not read Lieutenant Worf because he, as most Klingons, had an excellent poker face. So, he regarded Doctor Crusher. From her face, he knew that she had had the same question and agreed about relieving Counselor Troi of duty.

"Counselor Troi is here for two reasons, the first is to inform her of ship's status," he told Data. He tried not to look towards Counselor Troi, it seemed odd referring to her as if she was not in the room, even though she was only a meter or two from him. "The second," he turned to face her, "is to question her on the murder."

The Admiral faced Worf. "That is one thing I wanted to ask you, Lieutenant. Why did you not question Counselor Troi?"

Worf seemed surprised by the question. "It was not relevant to the investigation," he replied.

"Not relevant?" that shocked him. Either this man was a very poor security officer, or a very convincing liar. "How is the last person to see the victim alive not relevant?"

Worf paused for a moment and locked eyes with Counselor Troi. "It is my professional opinion that Counselor Troi is incapable of murder, especially the murder of Commander Riker. If there was anything pertinent to the case, she would have told me."

Trumpour turned again to face Counselor Troi. "Why 'especially the murder of Commander Riker?'" he asked.

He watched her swallow a large knot in her throat. "I would like to discuss that in private, Admiral."

He nodded, seeing this was a very difficult subject for her. "Alright, the rest of you are dismissed." He kept his eyes on the Counselor while the rest of the staff got up and left. She watched the others go.

When they left she cleared her throat again and began to speak quietly and slowly. "I was the last to see Will alive. I was sitting in my quarters thinking about him and something he had said to me earlier that day when I heard something. I heard Will call me."

"Strike one, Counselor. Communication logs read that no communications went in or out of Commander Riker's quarters until you called for medical assistance." He saw her look at him in surprise, as if she was not expecting to be accused.

"We're going to have to get right to the point, aren't we?" she asked, getting defensive. "The reason Worf said that I was especially incapable of Will's murder is because he knew our history."

"History?" Admiral Trumpour asked, interested.

"When Will and I, both, were very young we met on my home planet, Betazed. There we developed an ancient telepathic bond known to all Betazoids simply as 'Imzadi.'" Trumpour observed her pause at the word and say it with such reverence that it was obvious that this was the real thing. "Imzadi is extremely rare among my people. It was a great surprise to see one form between a human and a half-betazoid.

"Through this bond Will and I were able to speak to each other, and experience a sense of unity only known to few. After a few unusual events Will and I separated. We met back again for the first time here on the Enterprise six years ago. We found that our bond was still there, unable to break, but we never got back together. Several times over the past six years the subject of our bond has come up between us and we both decided, with much reluctance, that we could not be together.

"Will called me that night through our bond and I know it was him because he called me 'Imzadi.' And when I got to him," she continued on speaking swifter and tears beginning to fall from her eyes. "When I got to him, he was lying on the floor of his quarters in a pool of his our blood, and a knife sticking out of his chest.

"He told me that he was no longer affected by the pheromones that so plagued his mind with obsession. He told me that he was free to die in peace, thinking of his Imzadi. He told me that he loved me and that I was the most important thing in the galaxy to him." She stopped abruptly, unable to speak through her hysteria.

Admiral Trumpour sat in silence for a moment. "I apologize for asking you to recount such an event, Deanna," he used her fist name for a bit of comfort. "I regret that it was necessary to rule you out as a subject. I may not be empathic but I am confident that Lieutenant Worf was sound in his conclusion.

"I am not going to ask you to do anything you are not capable of, so you will be relieved of duty as of now and reinstated when the Chief Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, N-C-C 1701-D, determines you fit for duty," he said officially. He then softened his tone, as much as his rasp would allow, "Get some rest, Deanna. Go home, take some leave, do what you need to do."

- /.\ -

Deanna sat in Beverly's office. She watched Beverly bustle in and out. She was only there because she knew she had to get out of her quarters, for at least a small part of the day. So she sat, like an obedient child, and watched Beverly work.

When she got a minute to pause, Beverly walked into her office and sat on the edge of the desk, facing Deanna. "What did the Admiral say to you once the rest of us had left?"

Deanna took a deep breath. "He apologized for asking me to recount . . . it, and for suspecting me. My empathy has been a little off recently, but he was genuine; I'm certain of that. He also told me to take some time off, and go home."

"Then why are you still here?" Beverly asked.

"This is home, Beverly, you know that. My family is here, and I don't want to have to argue with my mother." Deanna fiddled with an iso-linier chip, which she found on Beverly' desk.

"You really think that your mother is not going to be understanding? If I recall, she lost her husband in Starfleet."

Deanna shook her head. "That's exactly it. This will just give her another excuse to try to convince me to resign. She never really liked Starfleet, and now she just has another reason to dislike it more."

"Losing someone important to you . . ." Beverly paused as she found the words. "Makes you feel like you've lost part of yourself. When you know someone who has experienced the same thing, all you can think of is how they're feeling exactly the same as you did." She paused again, in remembering. "I'm not about to pretend that you and Will had the same type of relationship that Lwaxana had with your father, or that I had with Jack, but . . ."

Deanna smiled. "I understand," she said so Beverly did no have to find the words. "I know that I'm not the first person to feel this way, but . . . I can't help but feel that there was so much left undone, unsaid. . ." she trailed off.

Beverly put her hand on Deanna's shoulder, tearing glistening in her eyes. "That's how we all felt, and how we all still feel."

- /.\ -

"Come," Admiral Trumpour called to the door. He did not need to look up to know who it was; Data was always very prompt when summoned.

"You requested my presence, Sir?" he asked, although Trumpour was sure the question was for courtesy and not for clarity.

"Yes, Commander. Have a seat." Trumpour looked up at Data sat down. He wished he could read the android's face, but sometimes you had to adapt. This, unfortunately, was one of those times. "I have gone over the evidence, and conducted my own investigation. I would like you to look over my findings before I submit them to Starfleet Command. I didn't want there to be any unexpected surprises. Informing the crew is under your discretion."

Data took the PADD from the Admiral's outstretched hand. Trumpour watched his eyes speed through the information and look up after a mere second or two.

"Admiral, with all due respect, I believe this report to be slightly biased. It clearly implicates Chief Sarn as the sole contributor to the murder. Captain Picard's confession is dismissed due to psychological factor resulting from alien influence." He paused for a second. Trumpour could tell that Data could read him easier then he could read Data. "Is this not . . . dishonest?"

"Data," he said in a less formal tone. "There are some things that you do not understand about humans. One of those things is that we cannot always punish those that are high in command, and sometimes the fault must be placed elsewhere."

"Sir, if you are referring to a 'scapegoat,' I am familiar with the concept," Data interrupted.

"Many of high-ranking admirals, including myself, and members of the Federation Council have met unofficially and pre-decided the fate of all officers involved. It was clear to us that Captain Picard had to be spared at any and all costs.

"Our initial plan was to make it seem that Commander Riker was a serious threat, and when Captain Picard approached him, Riker became violent. An argument ensued, followed by a struggle and Commander Riker fell victim.

"Upon learning that Captain Picard did not commit the act himself, it became clear that whoever did would be our 'scapegoat.' Deanna Troi was the first suspect, and then Chief Sarn.

"As Chief Sarn is undoubtedly at fault for following an order to murder superior officer, he will be easiest to place blame, punish, and then we all can move on with the rest of our lives."

Trumpour watched Data as he considered what to say. After another few short seconds, Data spoke: "You did not answer my question, Sir. Is it not dishonest?"

Trumpour smiled. He did not expect that from the android. "Data, I like you. You always get right to the point: no political bull-shit." He looked both ways, even though he knew that the room was clear. "I'll be frank with you, off the record. I expect this not to leave this room. Understood?"

He waited for Data to nod, then continued. "No, Data. This isn't honest. And this isn't even the first dishonest thing of this sort I've done. We are doing this to protect Starfleet and the Federation from any and all criticizers. A murder of this scope: a well-known Commander murdered by his superior officer, a famous Captain, over a girl is . . . unheard of. It would be a large weakness in the Federation.

Trumpour paused to think of an acceptable analogy to use to make sure he was making sense. "Starfleet plays a zone defense. We've got all sides of the court covered. Right now one player had made a mistake and we've got a large gap right to the basket. So, we're moving someone down and someone over to fill that gap and keep the key protected. Do you understand?"

Data nodded, "Yes, Sir."

Trumpour smiled again. "Good, dismissed."

Data stood and began to leave. He paused at the door and turned to face Trumpour again. "Sir, you say that we are lying for the Federation, but if there is one thing that I have learned from humans, it is that people value the honesty that accompanies trust, and that people do not like to be betrayed. We are betraying the trust that the people have placed in Starfleet by deceiving them."

Admiral Trumpour watched Data about-face and leave. He was surprised once again by the golden-faced android. He did make a valid point, but he did not realize that sometimes you have to protect the people from themselves.

- /.\ -

Deanna stood at Will's dresser in his quarters. She had gone through many things, and was reaching that back of it. She picked up a large bottle of cologne and smelled it. It was the scent that he usually wore to important functions. As she looked back to the dresser, she saw a picture frame that had been hidden from her view by the cologne.

Will would have been able to see it because of his height.

It was a picture of Deanna. In the holo-graph she had been young, very young. It was probably taken years ago, when he had known her on Betazed. She seemed surprised that he had kept it. It seemed a lifetime ago; two more like it.

The door chimed, and Deanna jumped, startled. "Come," she called softly. She heard the door open and close but felt no addition presence. "Good afternoon, Data," she said without looking back.

"Good afternoon, Counselor," he said.

Deanna continued to sort a few more things from the dresser as he approached her. She turned when she heard his footsteps stop. He stood before her as he always did, no expression on his face, no feelings from his mind. "How are you?" she asked to break the ice that had somehow frozen itself between them.

"Well, Counselor," he replied as he always did, "and yourself?"

"As well as can be expected," she answered truthfully. She was feeling better than she had been since Will died, even better than she had earlier that day.

"Admiral Trumpour has shown me his report and given me insight into Starfleet Command, and what they are going to do. I thought that you should be the first to know."

Deanna smiled at Data. He had learned so much about humans, yet he seemed so alien, so unreal.

"Chief Sarn will be implicated with full fault, and Captain Picard's confession will be ignored because of the Jere'kian pheromones. Starfleet has made this decision to protect itself and Captain Picard. I am unsure what to think of it myself. I was unsure how to . . . feel."

Deanna watched Data twitch his head characteristically. "Data," she sat down on the bed, "no one is at fault for Will's death. It took me some time to realize that myself, but it's true. Chief Sarn was affected by the Jere'kians, just as Captain Picard. From what I've sensed, Bolians are less affected than humans, but he was under the influence just the same. The Jere'kians certainly held no malicious intent.

"Will's death was an accident due to insufficient safety measures and the lack of disclosure from a friendly species.

"The thing is Data, you and I can accept that, but much of the public may not be able to." As much as she hated to say it, it was true. Group-Think and Mob-Mentality were not pleasant things to overcome, but sometimes it had to be done.

Data nodded in understanding. "Thank you, Counselor. I am put at some ease by your thoughts on the situation. Good day," he turned to leave Will's quarters.

"Data," Deanna said before he got to the door. "I was thinking about something I said to Beverly about leaving things undone, and I thought I could finish one of those things. Will and I were going to watch a twentieth century film, and I was wondering if you could watch it with me."

Data nodded again. "I would be happy to," he replied.

- /.\ -

"Captain Picard," the guard said as he opened the door to the small, Spartan quarters that Jean-Luc had been given for his stay at Starfleet Psychiatric. "You have a visitor, Sir."

Jean-Luc turned from the window he had been staring out, a pass-time he found himself participating in more and more recently. When he faced the door he saw an old friend enter. "Kathryn Janeway," he stated somewhat surprised.

"Jean-Luc," she smiled. "It's good to see you," she said genuinely. "I heard about what happened on the Enterprise, how are you?"

He shook his head. "Not well, less angry, but not well." He paused for a moment remembering how he shouted at Beverly for the same question just days earlier. "I'm interested to hear what's new on your front."

"Have you heard of The Voyager?" she asked. When he nodded she continued, "I'm her new captain. First mission: take her to the badlands and hunt down some Maquis rebels."

Jean-Luc smiled at her enthusiasm. "I'm glad you're on Maquis tail and not mine. Good luck, Katie."

She extended her hand and he shook it firmly. "Thank you, Jean-Luc," she said softly. "Good luck to you." She turned and walked away. "I expect you to take me out for a cup of coffee when I get back," she called as she walked out the door.

'Not likely,' he thought to himself, 'only if you're gone for a long, long, time.'

- /.\ -

Data and Deanna sat on the couch in her quarters, watching the film that was being projected onto the wall. When it said 'The End' and the credits began to roll, Data stood and turned of the film.

Deanna sat in tears, she'd been crying since Errol Flynn left Olivia de Havilland saying "Walking through life with you, Ma'am, has been a very gracious thing."

Data saw her tears and spoke, "Counselor, are you alright?"

She nodded. "The line, the line he couldn't remember," she whispered.

"Who could not remember?" he asked.

"Will." She said nothing more because she knew he understood. She sat in silence for a moment, thinking about what Starfleet was going to tell the public. Data was right, it was wrong to lie to them. It did not matter what they would believe, they needed to know the truth.

"Data." Deanna stood up and wiped her tears. "We need to talk to Admiral Trumpour."

- /.\ -

Admiral Trumpour sat at the head seat of the table in the Observation Lounge waiting for the senior staff to assemble. He had taken Commanders Troi and Data's argument to the admirals and members of the Federation Council who had decided a scapegoat was necessary.

They changed their minds and his formal report was altered accordingly.

When the senior staff had arrived, they all sat, waiting for his announcement. "Both Captain Picard and Chief Sarn have been found innocent due to psychological distress caused by incidental alien influence. They will both be treated and the Jere'kians are working with Starfleet medical to develop a counter-agent for the effects of their pheromones.

"As for the Enterprise, you all have faired very well. The crew and their families will be given shore leave on Earth while the senior staff works with the Admiral's Board of Captaincy to discuss a new Captain for the Enterprise. A new Operations officer will be assigned as well.

"It has been an honor serving with you for this short, and unfortunately unpleasant, time. I hope that one day I can work with you all again under happier circumstances, and I will depart giving you two names who are good candidates for the position of Captain of this ship: Commander Samuel Sparkia, and Captain Chelsie Stanton.

"The decision is yours." He stood and took a final look on the senior staff of the Enterprise, especially Deanna Troi and Data, who surprised him very much. "Good luck," he turned and left them to their ship and their lives.

Trumpour had no doubt that they would recover from this traumatic experience fully, as they had already begun to rebound themselves. It was a great tragedy that an important captain was to face a lifetime of guilt and remorse, and one of the most promising commanders in Starfleet had to die with his boots on.

- /.\ - /.\ -

-Fin-

- /.\ - /.\ -

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