She opened the door, and there he stood, looking saucily at her and holding a razor. Startled, she stared at him for a minute and then burst out laughing.

"Don't tell me you're going to shave your beard after all these years just for me!"

"Oh no, I'm not. You are." He took her arm and led her to his quarters.

When they arrived, Deanna was taken aback to see that he had filled his bathtub with water and bubble bath.

"Will Riker, you have a lot of nerve!"

He just stood there watching her with that devilish grin of his and gesturing with his eyes toward the tub.

She burst out laughing. "You're impossible!" But she took off her clothes, hesitantly. He took his own clothes off quickly, with no hesitation.

When they were both completely naked, she moved her eyes slowly up the length of his body, savoring every inch. He had a bit more of a belly than he had had the last time she had seen him naked, but that wasn't where she was looking. She had a hard time tearing her eyes away, and he watched her with great amusement. "Go ahead, admire all you want." She hid her face in her hands, embarrassed.

He helped her into the bathtub and then climbed in himself. Then he covered the lower half of his face with shaving cream and handed her the razor.

"I'm afraid I might cut you," she said hesitantly.

"Not if you're careful. Proceed, Deanna! Remove the one obstacle standing between me and unadulterated bliss."

She did as he asked, being careful not to press too hard. When she was finished, he examined the razor.

"What a professional you are, my dear. Not one drop of blood. Behold, I am kissworthy at last!"

She opened her mouth to say something, but his mouth covered hers before she could get a word out. Laughing, she pushed him away. He fell backward with a loud splash.

"What is it this time?"

"Shouldn't we at least get out of the tub first?"

He drained the bath water and they both got out and dried off. Then he picked her up and carried her to his bed.

"Imzadi, you don't know how long I've waited for this moment," he said lustily. As their bodies came together, all the years seemed to melt away, and she was once again in the Jalara Jungle on Betazed, being cradled in the arms of her one true love.


Their passion had been spent, and now they lay in each other's arms, talking about things they had never discussed before.

"It must have been quite a shock for you to find me aboard the Enterprise when you first arrived," she told him.

"I was taken aback, yes."

"How did you feel about it?"

"In a way I was happy to see you, but I was also afraid that you would still be angry about what had happened on Riza. But then you spoke to me with your mind and I knew that it would be all right."

"I was never angry about what had happened on Riza. Disappointed and hurt, yes; angry, never."

"Was it difficult for you to accept orders from me as your superior officer?"

"It felt strange at first. I just had to get used to our relationship being a different one from the one we had shared on Betazed."

"I never stopped loving you, you know." His voice was husky. "I tried to tell myself that it was over, that I had made my choice and now had to live with the consequences, but I could never quite make myself believe it."

"I always thought that your feelings toward me had changed, that your romantic desire for me was gone and you only thought of me as a friend. I tried not to show it, but it cut me like a knife to know that you and Ro Laren had been together."

"Ro Laren." He rolled his eyes. "That whole incident meant nothing to me. I haven't even given her a thought since then."

"I couldn't understand why it bothered me so much when our relationship was strictly platonic at that point."

"I think it was completely understandable that you were bothered by it. I acted like a totally inconsiderate jerk, flaunting that right under your nose," he lamented. "I didn't think about how it would make you feel at all. Please forgive me for that indiscretion, Deanna."

"There's nothing to forgive, Will. We had no commitment to each other at that time. You had the right to be with whomever you wanted, and so did I."

"It's been a long time for you though, hasn't it?" His voice was gentle as he cradled her chin in his hand.

She nodded. "I just never found anyone else that I wanted to be with."

He kissed her forehead, then her nose. "Deanna, letting you go was the worst mistake I ever made in my life. For so many years I thought that I had squandered my only chance with you. Then you told me that anything is possible on this ship, and that gave me hope."

"When I was a little girl, my father had a painting on the wall of his study. It was a beautiful scene with seagulls on the beach on Earth. At the top were the words, 'If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours forever. If it doesn't, it never was.' I never forgot that saying, and I've always taken it to heart."

"You're the most remarkable woman I have ever met, Deanna. I thank my lucky stars that I am holding you right now. That's so much more than I ever dreamed I could even hope for."

"I love you, Will. I couldn't imagine living without you."

"I love you too, Imzadi. More than you will ever know."

For a long time they just lay there, content just to be together, knowing that whatever was in store for them, they would always have each other.