Disclaimer- I do not own Star Trek TNG or any of it's characters. I am just having a little fun.
"I'll see your hundred and raise you two hundred," Dr. Crusher said with a coy smile at the first officer sitting across the table from her. She casually tossed her chips into the pile in the center of the table. "You are bluffing. No one has that many good hands in a row."
Will tapped his cards on the table and grinned, but said nothing.
"I don't know Doc, he has cleaned me out two weeks in a row." Geordi shook his head. "No, I'm out." With that, he laid his cards down and pushed back a bit from the table to watch the battle continue between the only two remaining players.
The weekly poker games were always a welcome escape for the Enterprise senior staff. As they sat around the poker table, Worf, with Data at his left wearing his almost iridescent visor, then Dr. Crusher, her cards tapping the table next to her cup of tea. Geordi sat to Beverly's left, his chair just back from the table as he sorted what was left of his chips, which were pitifully few and sipped his ale. Between Geordi and Will, Deanna sat curled up in a chair also just pushed back from the table, having folded her cards long before, her feet tucked up underneath her, holding a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
They all seemed abundantly relaxed after a tense few weeks of delivering supplies to an ailing colony in the Dironeus system. Well, that was everyone but Will and Beverly. Each hated to loose and were locked in a stare across the table.
"Well Doctor, you will just have to find out," Will said with a raise of his eyebrow. He tossed his own chips into the pile. "Call."
Will placed his cards face up on the table and Beverly sighed. A full house sure beat the heck out of her two pair. "Oh, just take it," she said as she tossed down her cards. "You know," Beverly said with a sarcastic glare at their first officer, "I think you cheat!"
"Cheat!" Will protested with an overdramatic look of shock. "Never!" He glanced over at his best friend who looked almost ready to drift off to sleep curled in the chair next to him. A little smile played on her lips watching the playful exchange between her friends. "I think you are just a sore looser, Beverly." Will said turning his attention between the two women at the table. "Deanna, you have known me forever. Have you ever known me to cheat?"
Deanna's one eyebrow shot up and a wicked smile crossed her face as she sat up a bit, having been unwillingly drawn into the conversation. Will would regret doing that, she thought. "Cheat in general?" Deanna asked, "or are we just referring to cheating at poker?"
Will's eyes narrowed as he looked at her. One name was etched on her lips and he was not interested in rehashing an eight-year-old mistake. Deanna's mouth was almost forming the W and he could almost hear the name Wendy Roper filling the room. Not only did he not want to rehash old arguments with Deanna, he had no intention of doing it in front of the entire senior staff. He had left himself wide open for that one. He quickly glanced around at the facial expressions of their companions that varied from Beverly's raised eyebrows of curiosity to Worf's look of confusion, to Geordi's look of sympathy. Will opted for a quick change of tack. "Data," he said whirling his eyes over to meet his android friends.
"Did I cheat? I mean do I cheat?"
"Commander, I have never observed you behaving in any way less than honorably when we have played poker." Data answered in his own matter of fact way. "However, in areas outside of poker, I believe Counselor Troi may have a more complete picture from which to draw a conclusion."
With that the attention of the group was swiftly brought back to Deanna who was almost chuckling at watching Will squirm under their gaze. Oh, that was enough fun for her. She would let him off the proverbial hook for the night. She didn't really want to open up that wound anyway and a joke like that, taken too far could be detrimental to the delicate balance that she and Will had worked out over the years. Plus she would never embarrass him in front of their friends. And she truly had forgiven him a long time ago. Forgotten, maybe not, but forgiven. At least that is what she told Will, and herself. She sat up straight in her seat and leaned over to Will. He was almost pleading, for what…she wasn't quite sure. " Cheating," she spoke loud enough for the group to hear, but directed her comments directly to her best friend, "is just not in his nature." Then she planted a light kiss on his cheek and pushed herself back to her own seat. It was time for a quick shift in topic. "Whose deal?" She said gathering up the cards.
"That would be mine, Counselor." Worf offered holding his had out for the deck.
"That's all we get, hu?" Beverly questionably looked between the two officers. There was a story there that she certainly had never heard. After six years of serving with the two of them, and being Deanna's closest female friend, she still knew strikingly little about the details of their previous relationship. Beverly had never really asked and Deanna shared only the generals, not the particulars. Had Will cheated on her? She doubted she would get an answer, at least not here, not now. But she couldn't seem to stop herself from trying for a bit more information.
"What are we playing?" Deanna asked Worf, ignoring Beverly's inquire completely.
" Five card stud, nothing wild." Worf began to deal the cards, but Beverly and quite frankly the rest of the group continued to look at Will and Deanna.
"Hey, don't look at me. I thought our relationship was an open book." He told the others giving Deanna a playful nudge with his elbow as he picked up his cards and took a sip of his own ale. She would have to do better than that at steering the conversation to a safer topic.
"Umh Hmm," Deanna nodded in mock agreement, swallowing her drink "Open book." She repeated as she picked up her own cards and took another sip of her hot chocolate. She was beginning to regret that she had ever opened this can of worms and if Beverly didn't drop it, she was thinking of kicking her under the table.
"Counselor," Data interjected. "I was wondering if I might ask you a question."
Deanna felt her mood lighten. Thank goodness, she thought. The new topic she had been looking for. "Of course, Data," Deanna gratefully agreed.
Data paused and reviewed an area of his social etiquette program, then shook his head slightly. It was a question that he had been hoping to ask her for some time, but had not known exactly the correct way to broach the topic. This may not be the ideal setting, but he had no way of predicting when the next opening might present itself. "It is a personal question," he cautioned her.
Deanna thought of the last conversation that she had both started and hopefully ended and shrugged her shoulders almost wondering out loud how bad it could be. On the other hand, Data had an almost childlike innocents sometimes about personal matters. "Why not," she said as she sighed and then added a quick, "you can ask, but I won't guarantee that I will answer."
"Fair enough," Data nodded in agreement. He then seemed to pause, almost hesitantly.
"Well?" Deanna asked as each member of the group traded in a few of their cards with the dealer.
Data nodded again. "Was Commander Riker your first sexual partner?"
As soon as the words left his mouth, the reaction shot around the table, but none so vocal as Commander Riker. Will choked and sputtered on his ale that he had partially inhaled. He quickly tuned and leaned over his chair, continuing to choke. Had Data really just asked her that? He couldn't stop coughing and his face was turning bright red, whether this was from embarrassment or lack of ability to breath was unclear to the rest of the room. His eyes were huge and Beverly became momentarily worried. She stood from her chair to approach him, but he quickly waved his hand to indicate that he was fine, or at least would be as soon as he could catch his breath.
Deanna's face had gone a shade of red herself and what had originally been a look of shock at Data, had quickly turned to concern for Will and now almost laughter. He looked like his eyes were going to come flying out of his head and he was staring at her, watching her next move. She tried to control her urge to laugh and made a mental note to take Data's warnings more seriously the next time. She reached out and patted the still slightly coughing commander on the arm. "You alright there, flyboy?" Deanna asked lightheartedly. Will's look was one of utter confusion and again maybe a touch of pleading. She tried to smile at him, slightly reassuringly.
"Ahh, Data," Geordi spoke up. "That is.. Ah…wow" Geordi couldn't seem to finish his thought, but noted the commanders' discomfort and was looking for an appropriate way to ask Data what he was possibly thinking asking her that. Beverly was trying hard to cover her smirk with her cards. Oh, this was going to be good, she thought. Watch Deanna get herself out of this one. Worf on the other hand made no comment. His face was unreadable, but, while he would never admit it, and would never have asked himself, he was interested in hearing the answer. He cared for Deanna and the friendship that they had developed since Alexander had come aboard. There were times that he wondered about the extent of she and his commanding officer's prior relationship.
Data took in the looks from the group. "I should not have asked. I apologize counselor."
Data seemed to be studying his own cards, and while Deanna knew better, she couldn't help but feel that he looked hurt or embarrassed. "No, Data," she began, trying to draw him back out. "It was unexpected, but I said you could ask." She hoped that her smile would make him more comfortable, not to mention everyone else. It did seem to help, except for Will. He seemed far more comfortable with Data's simple withdrawal of the question. With a look somewhere between asking permission and an apology towards Will and sighing a deep sigh she turned her attention back to Data. "Tell you what. May I ask you a question first?"
"Of Course." Data nodded.
"Why do you want to know?" Deanna asked simply. The card game had completely ceased and the room sat quietly listening to the two's conversation.
"After my last attempt at a more romantic relationship," Data said with a bit of a pause. "I began to analyze areas for improvement. One of the areas that seem to exist in human relationships that I found myself lacking was the proper use of a term of endearment: Sweetie, Dear, Darling, Lovie, Snookums, Pookie, Honey, Pumpkin, Baby, Sugar…"
"We get it Data!" Beverly interrupted.
"Ah, Yes Doctor," Data nodded in acknowledgment. " I began to add terms to my database by analyzing the terms of endearment from other humanoid cultures."
Suddenly Will could see where this was going and the knot in the pit of his stomach grew. Would Deanna politely opt out of the conversation? He doubted it. Will never thought himself to be a terrible prude, but discretion being the better part of valor, it seemed that the more intimate details of his relationship with Deanna were, to say the least, off limits to the crew, even his friends. He wasn't embarrassed by their affair, it was just not a topic of conversation that he had ever imagined having with his colleagues over a poker game. Like a deer in headlights he watched and listened and waited for the collision.
"That is when I came upon a Betazoid term that I am having trouble understanding it's many layers of meaning." Data continued.
Deanna nodded her head as if she just got where this conversation was leading and she began to square her shoulders preparing her response.
"The term Imzadi," Data continued "can mean a more simple endearing phrase, but it can also indicate a more complicated, and apparently rare, telepathic bond. Another meaning that I have found would translate roughly to "the first". I am curious how, or perhaps more appropriately what, you and Commander Riker use this term to mean."
Will looked from Deanna to Data. He could not think of any way that Data would have heard either of them refer to each other by that name and so decided to take a preemptive strike. "Data, what would make you think that either of us use this term at all?"
Deanna looked over her shoulder back to Will and he was surprised to see a look of disappointment on her face. He raised his shoulders as if to say "What?" The others in the room were watching them intently and finding it to be her only way of communicating her feelings to him she, for the first time in years, thought cast the simple words, are you embarrassed by me so easily Imzadi? Hearing her in his mind almost knocked him off his seat. That was just not something she did, at least not anymore. He had forgotten how it made him feel to have her in his mind like that. It was like a drug to him. But the harsh hurt in her words made his heart sink and he fumbled with how to respond. So thoroughly out of practice he could not simply cast back to her that he was trying only to protect their privacy, not to deny that their special connection existed. He opened his mouth, but again found himself lacking the words to communicate. Softly, hopefully, he almost just mouthed the words "I'm sorry," and hung his head a bit. Perhaps it was better for him to keep his mouth shut and let Deanna reveal about herself what she would. He doubted that it would shock anyone in the room to find out that they had slept together, so what difference did it make that he was her first? He knew that it might not be logical; it just did make a difference, at least to him.
Data seemed oblivious to the exchange between the two and continued on, answering Commander Rikers question. "There have been 3 incidents that you have referred to Counselor Troi as Imzadi in my presence, and 2 where she has referred to you with the same expression." Both Will and Deanna looked a bit shocked, first at Data and then at each other. Data continued, speaking to Commander Riker, "Once on the bridge, once in Shuttle Bay 2 and once in sick bay." Deanna arched her eyebrow at Will and tried to remember even one of those circumstances, but drew a blank. Then turning his attention to the Counselor, Data continued, "Once in Sickbay and once on an away mission. I could give you both the star dates if you would like."
"No!" came their answer in unison as they leaned into the table as if to physically stop him. Neither could have related any of those instances, but knew better than to doubt Data's recollection of events.
"Each was in a moment of great distress, where one was injured or life was in jeopardy. It is clearly not a term that either of you inject lightly. This lead me to believe that the meaning that this term may be, for the pair of you, the more literal translation as " the first". However, this lead me to another question, since you both use the term to address one another, that would mean that you were also Commander Riker's first sexual partner and after calculating the mathematical likelihood of that event, I am left puzzled."
With that comment both Beverly and Geordi began to laugh. With one look from the commander, Geordi wisely tried to cover his laugh as a cough, but Beverly did not attempt to hide the humor she found in Data's last comment.
"Excuse me?" Will said, to either Beverly or Data.
"You calculated the mathematical odds of Will loosing his virginity?" Beverly asked, still struggling to control her laughter.
"Actually, Doctor," Data answered without the slightest hint of amusement. "It was not a matter of if he lost his virginity but a question of when. Once I entered the data that I have observed after serving with the commander for the last 6 years and multiplied and averaged the results, it formed a fairly basic algorithm."
"Hey!" Will spat out waiving his hand in the air as if they had perhaps forgotten he was still sitting at the table with them. That was enough to send Deanna into laughter and Geordi's fake coughing wasn't doing him any good. Worf, on the other hand, simply squirmed in his seat, uncomfortable with the topic.
"Data!" Will sounded exasperated
"Don't make algorithms about my sex life."
Deanna tried to take some deep breaths and calm herself, but the more Will glared at her, the harder it was to keep a straight face. Finally when she thought she could speak without a crack of laughter in her voice, she began to address Data.
"Data, the word Imzadi in Betazoid culture means many things at many different times. You would be correct about it not being a word that is tossed around lightly. But I think that you are taking its translation as "the first" a bit too literally. It does not necessarily mean ones first sexual partner, but the first one that you share your soul with. The one that you share a bond with. Trust me, mathematical algorithms will not help you understand it."
"Then you and Commander Riker share some sort of a bond?" The question came from Worf. He was studying each of them with some skepticism.
Will glanced at Deanna. His pride had been a little dinged by hearing that an algorithm could quantify his personal affairs, but his attention was now far too wrapped up in how to explain a bond he had never been able to put into words. Deanna on the other hand seemed unfazed by the question, so he remained silent and let her answer the question that was, after all, directed towards her.
"Yes," was her simple answer. She did not elaborate.
"A telepathic bond?" Worf asked even more adamantly than he had the first time.
"A sort of telepathic bond, yes."
"That is not possible." Worf stated empathically. "He is human, you are only half betazoid. It is impossible."
"Well," the doctor chimed in. "I will give you unlikely, but it is not impossible. The brain chemistries would support a kind of link, but it would have to be initiated by a telepath, at least I would think," she added looking at Deanna.
"Usually." Deanna agreed. "But, as you know, I am not a telepath, but an empath and yet here we are." She said for the first time making eye contact with Will and holding his gaze.
"So you can communicate with each other telepathically?" This time it was Geordi with the question.
Both Will and Deanna gave a slight nod, but before they could offer any input Beverly broke in, "See," she gestured to the two of them. "I'm back to the cheating. You two could have whole conversations without us knowing it."
"It's not that simple," Will began.
"And it's not something we do every day," Deanna added. "There was a time when it was easier, but things can be…" Deanna let her sentence trail off unfinished.
"Complicated." Will finished for her. She gave him a grateful smile and patted his arm with her hand. He quickly took her hand and held it in his own. It felt comforting to have her close to him right at that moment. Having their bond out there, in words for others to scrutinize, had left him feeling more vulnerable than he had expected and she clearly sensed that. Deanna, on the other hand, having grown up familiar with the concept of such a bond, was far more at ease with it and the idea of hearing and answering her friend's questions. They had all known each other for 6 years. The bond that she and Will shared was never intended to be a secret; it had just never come up quite this way before.
"So then you would say that you are linked?" Data asked.
"Yes," again they answered in unison, this time far more comfortable. Will sat back in his chair and stretched his arm around the back of Deanna's chair as he still held her hand in his other hand.
"Interesting," was Data's only reply.
Both Will and Deanna glanced around at their friends, seeing if there were any other questions about to be fired at them. The others also seemed to be deep in thought. If they had questions, they were not ready to vocalize them.
"So the more correct translation of Imzadi would be "Soul mates"" Data stated simply.
Will's lips curved into a smile. Whatever he and Deanna's relationship was, he always liked to think of her, most of all, in that way.
"Thank you Counselor," Data told her.
Deanna also smiled and then glanced at the hand of cards that sat in front of her on the table. "You are welcome," she replied. It seemed a good time to move on so she fanned her cards out in her hand. "So, Data, I believe you control the bet."
Suddenly everyone began to pick up their cards, as if they had forgotten that they were in the middle of playing poker only a few minutes before.
"You are correct, Counselor. I will begin the bet with fifty," Data stated and tossed his chip into the center of the table.
"I'm in." Beverly added in her chip.
"Why not," Geordi shrugged and tossed in his as well.
"You did not answer his question." Worf stated before Deanna could take her turn.
"I'm sorry?" Deanna asked looking over at her stoic friend.
"You did not answer Data's question." He repeated.
"True," Beverly added with a smirk.
Will and Deanna exchanged a look. In fact she had not answered the original question.
Will raised his eyebrows in a playful expression and mumbled, never looking away from Deanna and his own cards, "Hmm, how 'bout that."
Deanna's smile broadened and she replied keeping her eyes locked with her Imzadi's. "How about that."
With his arm still around her, Will reached over to his chips and grabbing one in his hand, yet never looking away from Deanna's large dark eyes, he spoke, "I'm in if you are." He held the chip out to her.
Deanna realized that his last comment had much more to do with their relationship than it did with the poker game in front of them. With a mischievous twinkle she took his chip grabbed one of her own and threw them both in the middle of the table. She looked back at Will's face. She could sense his love and concern for her all around her and she gave him a wink. "Then I guess we are in it together."