Author's Note: One shot AU, probably season six/seven. I have been watching too much Battlestar Galactica, and this is what happened. R/T, angst.

Deanna Troi was drowning.

She felt as if she was caught in a rip-tide, the currents battering her body and crushing her lungs, leaving her unable to breathe. She was disorientated, pulled and pushed in each and every direction, and she could feel herself sinking into the depths below her.

However, unlike the rough currents on the shores of Betazed's Azure Sea, Deanna was not caught in water – she was suffocating in a rush of emotions, coming at her from every angle and overwhelming her every defence. All she wanted to get up, leave the room, run or walk or crawl, just to be anywhere but here. The part of her that was the ship's counsellor told her otherwise, reminding her that she was a grown adult and a Starfleet officer, and that her position and her rank demanded more composure than that. The part of her that was a woman, though, rebelled against any logical decisions, wanting nothing more than to scream and cry and despair.

But she couldn't, not now. Right now, she was first and foremost a senior officer of this ship, and because of that, her place was here in the observation lounge.

(It took everything, however, to not let them –and especially not him- see her cry.)

Captain Picard seemed to take no notice of her inner turmoil; indeed, the rest of the senior staff was apparently completely unaware of the emotional upheaval that she had just endured. Everyone, of course, but him. She could feel his eyes staring at her from across the table; she had to fight every instinct to not look at him, not to meet his gaze and show him just how much he had hurt her. He had tried already to speak to her through their connection, but she had brushed his tentative touches away, hastily re-establishing her mental shields that had been destroyed when she'd learnt the news.

Not that she was the only one who had reacted, by any means. The whole senior staff, with the exception of Data, had stiffened up at the announcement, surprised at this sudden turn of events. It was also a sobering reminder to them all that their actions could have far-reaching implications. The Captain had stood behind his first officer while he revealed the catalyst for their impromptu meeting and resulting mission, and had clearly demonstrated his support for his friend following the news.

Deanna wished she could be as supportive as her Captain; she really, honestly did. And had it been any other crewmember, any other at all – she knew she could have had put aside her surprise and astonishment in order to stand behind her compatriot. But not this time.

She forced herself to refocus, to listen to what her commanding officer was saying. Pushing her feelings aside from the moment, she grabbed whatever mental clarity she could and returned her attention to the meeting.

"... and so, understandably, Starfleet Command has asked us to intervene on the child's behalf, which is why we are now on route at warp nine to the Tyril system. It is unfortunate that is must come to this, but Starfleet Command sees no other option," stated the Captain, placing a reassuring hand on the shoulder of his first officer. "Commander Riker will be called upon to claim his rights and hopefully the crisis that has been at the center of the renewed fighting between Tyrillian factions can be resolved."

Somewhere, from the dark recesses of her mind, a voice whispered to her, sensuously and yet, sadistically, reminding her of what she had lost this day.

The child, Deanna, the voice whispered from the darkest parts of her own heart, the child that could have been, should have been, but now will never be yours.

The news had come in this morning, news of heightened tensions and sporadic outbreaks of fighting between the three main factions in the Tyril system. Years of war perpetuated by religious disagreements and xenophobic tendencies had only been ended a year ago, when the Enterprise had been dispatched to mediate the bloody conflict between the three inhabited planets of the Tyril system. When the Enterprise had left the system, a tentative and fragile peace had been established, and it was this peace that had now been broken, all because of Commander William Riker.

It was, of course, not due to any intentional action on the part of the ship's first officer – Will Riker was, above all else, a dedicated and exemplary Starfleet officer. And while he was a talented tactician, a responsible first officer, and a courageous warrior, he also had his vices – such as his weakness for the opposite sex. When he came back aboard the Enterprise at the end of their mission, he'd left much more than he had known down on the surface of the third planet. It was for this reason that the conflict had broken out again – news of a half Tyrillian, half alien child had trickled down throughout the three colonies, and a 'disagreement' over the fate of the child (called an "abomination" by the most xenophobic of the factions) had developed. Long simmering tensions disguised by the false hope of a failing peace agreement had found their catalyst in the form of an infant hybrid child.

A representative of the least xenophobic faction had had the bright idea of tracking down the child's parents and, upon finding that its mother had perished in childbirth, had contacted Starfleet in an effort to find the child's father and stop the bloodshed threatening to once more overwhelm their star system. Starfleet Command had the child's DNA tested, and upon obtaining the results, had ordered the Enterprise back to the Tyril system in order to (hopefully) end the conflict by having Will Riker claim his child.

Deanna chanced a glance over to him, to her Imzadi, and she saw him as a changed man. His shoulders were slumped, hands anxiously knotted together, and his eyes – his eyes now carried something, a weight, that she had never seen before. For a brief moment, she witnessed things from his perspective – a man suddenly faced with the guilt of having indirectly caused a war, a man now responsible for the deaths of numerous sentient beings, and most of all, a man now faced with an uncertain and difficult future.

At that moment everything shifted, and she wanted nothing more than to take his hand, to hold him in her arms, anything just to touch him, to feel him. The selfish pain and anxiety she had felt mere moments ago had faded (but not disappeared), and was now replaced worry for the man who was simultaneously her best friend and her soul mate. She knew that he needed her now more than ever, and would need her still in the coming days and months and years. Deanna put aside all of her own feelings and doubts and desires, and reached out beyond her psionic barriers to him.

Imzadi, I am here, she sent to him, embedding within it all the calmness and reassurance she could muster.

He looked up from the table then, and the fervent nervous movement of his hands finally ceased. He took a deep breath, held it, and then let it go, releasing some of his tension and allowing him to regroup. His deep blue eyes met hers once more, and this time she could see something more there, some glimmer of hope, some reminder of that confidence that defined Will Riker.

He sent her back a single message, but it carried so much more than the words could ever say: I'm sorry.

She kept her eyes locked on his, and answered him: I know.

As they both reluctantly turned their attention back to the Captain and the briefing, Deanna was caught once more in the tide of her rising emotions. Will Riker, her first love, her Imzadi, her best friend –had had a child with someone else. And though she knew how muchWill cared for her, how much he loved her, it didn't take the sting away from the truth. Will had given to someone else what he had never given her – a chance at a family. Their lives, intertwined as they were, would now never be same.

And as the Enterprise raced on towards Tyril and their inescapable fate, Deanna couldn't help the wave of jealousy and sadness that rushed over her – jealousy for the child that wasn't hers, and sadness for the future that now could never be.