"I'm supposed to know how everyone feels...but I...I can't read you right now." She had always been able to read him so clearly, ever since that fateful day in the Jalara Jungle all those years ago.

"Maybe your own feelings are getting in the way," he gently suggested.

"My job is to help others sort out their emotions. My own feelings are beside the point."

"Not to me. Feelings are what make us human."

"Are you feeling sadness?"

"Yes."

"So am I."

He saw the tear slide down her cheek, and instantly he was there, holding her, comforting her. They stood silently like that for a long time, and then he gently touched her chin, lifting her face so that he could look into her eyes.

"It will be hard for me to leave the Enterprise and all the friends I have come to know and love, but by far the most difficult thing of all will be to leave you...again."

"I would never want to hold you back, Will. You must follow your dreams."

"In 2361 I followed my dreams and paid a heavy price for doing so." His voice was husky.

"I've grown up so much since then, Will. I'm not the scared little girl I was in 2361, not anymore. I've found that I can not only survive on my own, but that I actually enjoy my independence."

"I know you have, Deanna, and that's one of the things I admire most about you. I've done some growing up of my own as well, and discovered that some things are more important than achievement and recognition, things like friendship, trust, promises...and love."

"Please don't tell me you're having second thoughts about accepting the position on the Ares just because of me."

"No, not just because of you. But if it were, that would be enough."

She started to say something, but he shook his head and gently placed a finger on her lips.

"No, just listen to me for a moment, please. I love you, Deanna. Leaving you alone on Risa was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. You don't know how many nights I've laid awake in bed regretting that decision."

"It was a miracle of fate that found me stationed on the Enterprise with you. Now that I've been given that second chance, I don't want to make the same mistake again."

"So does that mean you've changed your mind and want to stay on the Enterprise after all?"

"I think so, Deanna." He was so glad that he had decided to come and talk to her. It had helped him to see the situation so much more clearly.

"To be honest, I felt ambivalent about it from the start," he admitted. "To give up a secure position on the Enterprise for what the Ares has to offer was so risky and uncertain at best. But when I saw the tears in your eyes, that was the deciding factor. I can't bear to see you cry, Deanna. And to know that I mean that much to you, even if only as a friend, is reason enough for me to stay right where I am. There'll be other opportunities for me to advance to Captain of a starship of my own in the future. But if I leave you again, fate may never give me another chance to be a part of your life."

She was crying again, but this time her tears were tears of joy. He gathered her into his arms and held her tenderly to his chest as he kissed her tears away, and knew in his heart that he had made the right choice this time.