“Number One, I have a meeting with Abeathdor in thirty minutes. Your presence would be most appreciated. Counselor, I need you to get some rest and to be well.” He entered the turbo lift the had just left, “Will, thirty minutes.”
Beverly, Will and Deanna entered the counselor’s quarters to find Guinan sitting on the floor talking with Solace. When the child caught sight of Deanna she was up and running nearly throwing herself into the counselor’s arms. Deanna swung her up to hold her close; Solace again looked into her eyes. This time she did not find what she had sought and found the previous times, she encircled the counselor’s neck with her arms and cried. The three adults looked at each other in surprise. Will and Beverly searched Deanna’s face looking for whatever it was Solace had found.
Deanna carried the crying child back to her bedroom to try to comfort her. She was sitting on the edge of the bed holding Solace, who had quieted now, though continuing to hold on to her with a surprising fierceness. The counselor talked soothingly to her, reassuring her that all was well. She sat Solace up to look into her face.
“Have I done something to upset you? I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you woke-up. I had a meeting to go to. There are going to be times when I have to be away from you to do my job. I won’t stay away any longer then I need, I’ll be back as soon as I can. I never leave to go away from you. It’s part of my job here on this ship.” She whispered, “Sweetie, I love you, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.” The breath caught in her throat, the words had come out so naturally, surprising her. She had made the decision not to get too attached to the little girl, for fear of making their parting all that much more difficult when the time cam. She told herself it was for the sake of Solace that she would remain somewhat detached, in her heart she knew it was as much for herself as for the child.
Solace was sitting facing hr, straddling Deanna lap with a small leg on either side of the counselor, she laid her head against Deanna, all the while the counselor continued talking to her soothingly, lightly rubbing and patting her back as she talked. She was telling Solace about all the things they could do together once she finished doing her job and returned.
When Deanna could no longer sense the child’s emotions she tilted the small head to see that Solace had gone to sleep. She carefully eased her down onto the bed and covered her. Deanna noticed Will leaning against the doorframe watching her.
“Beverly’s waiting to give you a hypospray of God-knows-what, and the captain is waiting on me. I expect I may have to make some explanations as it is, so I guess I’ll see you later. Get some rest.” He held her to give her a quick good night kiss, but they again found themselves pulling breathlessly apart.
“We need to be discreet, for now.” Deanna warned.
“We need privacy and soon, Mrs. Riker.” Will smiled down at her as his hands gently caressed her shoulders. He looked longingly into her eyes, then pulled her to him for one more kiss, “Sweet dreams, Imzadi.” He whispered before leaving her. She suddenly felt chilled, bereft of the warmth his arms provided.
Deanna stopped to check her appearance in the mirror, shrugged then headed toward the living room area. Beverly and Guinan stopped talking as she entered.
Beverly smiled at the defensive attitude that was out of character for the counselor. “Guinan was telling me about her visit with Solace.”
“She’s quite a child, and she’s thoroughly taken with you. I don’t believe she is interested in returning to the planet. Is there a home for her to return to?” Deanna always welcomed Guinan’s opinions and the hostess generally felt free enough to voice them.
“I believe there are people who care about her there, an older brother and Lagi. I will be in touch with Rankeer soon.” Deanna’s eyes narrowed as she looked closer at Guinan, “Go on. You have something to say, I’m interested in hearing it.”
Guinan smiled, “Do you notice that she doesn’t seem to miss anyone except you, when you ‘re not in her sight?”
“That’s only because she is out of her element here, and she knows me.”
“I have to agree with Guinan, I think it’s more than that. Did you see her reaction when you stepped in? What was all that about when she looked into her face? That usually calms her, tonight it upset her. Do you think she could read from your expression that you were leaving tomorrow without her?” Beverly was intrigued with the odd behavior.
“That was strange. I don’t know what she saw or thought she saw, but it does concern me. She may actually have some empathic skills of her own.” This was the first time Deanna had even considered the possibility of Solace having such skills.
Guinan continued, “If that were true, how would it be accepted on Prakal?”
“I’m not sure. Rankeer is really only an adolescent himself, I’m not sure he could handle it. I think once Abeathdor is returned to her position as queen, Lagi will have her own agenda.”
“Deanna, you are probably as close to having a mother as that child is going to see. I know you haven’t know her long, but what else does she have.” Beverly had leaned forward to lay a hand on the counselor’s arm.
“That’s somewhat exaggerated Beverly, I haven’t even spent a full twenty-four hours with her yet. What are you suggesting that I adopt her? This is not a pet we are talking about. I’m not sure I’m capable of being a good mother to this child. Besides, I would imagine there would be an infinite amount of preparation involved in adopting a child like that- both from Starfleet and Prakal.” Deanna became silent, but her mind was racing; how would Will feel about such a thing. They had waited a long time for the relationship to progress to the depth it had now seemed to settle in. How would Captain Picard feel about a senior officer who had quietly married another senior officer, now adopting a child from a fairly hostile world: who may -or may not be capable of empathic skills? How could she manage all these new curves in her road and still remain in the driver’s seat with her own life?”
Counselor Troi sat shaking her head, unaware the other tow women were watching her and waiting to be left in on the conversation she was having with herself.
Finally the doctor offered, “Deanna, it is something you need to be aware of, an option you might want to give some thought to. Guinan and I will take turns staying with Solace while you are away. I’ll be checking in with them too.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve been around a child that young. I forgot how enjoyable children could be. Solace is a joy; she is a bright child. Counselor, I don’t think you are aware of the trust she has invested in you. Well, it’s getting late; I’ll go so you can prepare for you trip. Counselor, Doctor, I’ll see you back here in about ten hours. Goodnight.”
Deanna watched as the woman made her leave of them. Guinan always had another sense about her, not necessarily empathic sense - but more of omnipresence. The counselor marveled at the conclusions Guinan came to in such a short amount of time spent with Solace.
Beverly opened the medkit to prepare the hypospray, then paused. Deanna looked up at her seeing the humor in the doctor’s eyes asked, “Okay, what are you finding so humorous?”
She asked the question she had been curious about ever since they returned from the meeting. “What I want to know is- what was going on in the turbolift? The captain was notified that a turbolift was between decks for twenty minutes. The computer identified the occupants, until he looked at me, I thought Will may have enlightened him about your relationship.” Beverly’s face mirrored the humor she saw in the episode.
Deanna could feel her cheeks get warm. “We were talking.”
Beverly knew there had to be more and she was not going to allow the ship’s counselor to get away with it unscathed. “AND…”
“Well it was a private moment. The only one we’ve had to even discuss anything.”
“Come on, you weren’t discussing anything there. If you could have seen your face when the doors opened!” Beverly laughed hard; harder that Deanna had seen her laugh in what seemed a long time.
“Well I’m glad you enjoyed it!”
“And I hope you enjoyed it too Counselor!” Beverly reached to deliver
the hypospray to Deanna’s neck.
“Go to bed. I’ll be here for awhile, I want to check on the progress of the medication I just delivered before I leave. At least Solace will have you near before you go.”
The counselor went to the bed now occupied by the small girl. She changed into a comfortable nightgown, then crawled under the comforter. It wasn’t long until Solace curled up against her. Deanna wondered again about the possibility of the child being empathic. It was the last thing going through her mind before falling asleep.
The doctor checked in on them once more, she found Deanna on her side with an arm around the child curled up in front of her. Beverly ran her tricorder over them to be sure the hypospray was working. Content with the results, she went to her own quarters for a restful night.
Will met with Abeathdor, Worf and Data after the earlier meeting with the captain. He stopped at the captain’s quarters to update him on the subsequent gathering. After covering the finer points with the captain, he hesitated.
“Number One, is there something wrong?” Picard knew his officers enough to know when their behavior was out of the ordinary.
“Sir, I regard you not only as my captain, but I also have come to know and trust you as a friend.” Again the hesitation.
“Will, sit down, would you like tea or something?” The captain thought that by the look on his first officer’s face he himself might need something.
“Ah…not thank you sir.” Will waited until the captain had his tea and was again seated before continuing. “Sir, there are some things I left out of my report, not to deceive you. They entailed something of a personal issue and involved another crew member.” He paused again.
“Will would it be easier if we started with the report you did give me, then we can fill in the other details.”
Commander Riker described the finding of Lepton, the splitting of the away team. He described the chase for Abeathdor, the capture of Data and himself. When he reached the part about the empty camp area where the doctor and counselor were, but then had left; Will noticed the captain seemed to become a little more alert. This was the first time he had heard about the incident with the lightfoot, and Lagi’s drink. Will continued the story with the women getting caught and put on display. He paused ..hesitating on how next to explain the exiting circumstances.
“Go on Will, I’m sorry I missed seeing this in person. Please, by all means, continue.” The captain was smiling.
“To have the women released to us, someone had to show proof of ownership and marriage. I had concocted a story about my brother and I going fishing and lonesome wives came hunting us. I didn’t have the papers with me because I didn’t think I needed them. To make a long story short, Deanna and I were married. It wasn’t a ceremony, more of documentation with witnesses. I have the papers.” Will stopped and watched for the captain’s reaction.
“I’d like to see those papers. Are you telling me that you want it annulled, or do you want to know if it is binding and want the marriage respected?”
“If the union is legally binding, we want it respected.”
“I see, that shouldn’t be hard to find out. Abeathdor and I are having breakfast tomorrow with Doctor Crusher. Stop back at my quarters tonight with the paperwork. You know you will have further documentation of the union to do for Starfleet?” Picard thought now he understood the turbolift incident.
“Yes Captain, that will be no problem…there is one other item.”
Now Picard did look surprised. “More? What else have you left out of the report, Number One?”
“What would our chances be of keeping Solace here with us?”
“Ah…I’ve heard she have become very dependent on the counselor. She has no family on the planet?”
“Her family consists of one teenage brother and a band of what they refer to as waste people. They all live like refuges. Deanna has developed very strong feelings for her. She fears for the life the child would have on the planet. I have to say I share that fear after having seen the life she has had up until now.”
“I’ll speak with Abeathdor about it. As far as the Enterprise is concerned, I believe we can work it out. What about the brother, would he also be joining us?”
“I don’t know sir, he was pretty badly injured by Gringbald’s men during one of their attacks on the waste people.”
“Nasty business. Allow me to take care of these items for now. Perhaps you and the counselor would like to make a stop at Fallscity after we wrap up the mission. Talk with the brother and find out his feelings on the subject. I’ll talk with Abeathdor about both items.”
Will nodded looking relieved as he got to his feet. “Thank you sir.”
Riker stopped and turned back to look at his captain, “Yes sir?”
“Congratulations it’s about time.”
His face split into a huge all encompassing smile, “Thank you sir.”
Will stepped outside into the corridor and took a deep breath. He had hated
omitting parts of the report tot he captain, but now that he had taken
care of speaking him all he wanted to do was go to Deanna and…..Solace,
he had temporarily forgotten the child. He would have to get Geordi to
work on the other bedroom for the child as soon as they had the matter
on the planet taken care of.
Deanna awoke first, her arm still around Solace, who still appeared to still be sleep. Deanna slowly and carefully eased away from the sleeping child. She opened her hand; the one that had been wrapped around the child’s shoulders, there nestled in the palm was the carved lightfoot. She looked at the child. Solace was now awake and watching her. The counselor lay back down beside her, pulling her close she whispered, “What is this? Did you put this in my hand?”
Solace nodded yes. She could sense the child’s emotions, just as last night Solace was afraid Deanna wasn’t coming back. The carving was to work it’s magic as it did before, Deanna would return with the carving. “I don’t nee this to return. I have you to come back to. No matter how far I am from you, I won’t stop caring.” Deanna could sense that nothing she said had convinced the child. “Sweetie, if it will make you feel better, I’ll take it along. Okay?” She kissed the small cheek and held her for a few reassuring moments, when she moved to get up Solace held on to her, putting a hand on each side of the empath’s face she looked into Deanna’s eyes. This time apparently Solace found what she was looking for; she smiled and laid her cheek against Deanna’s. The door chimed, before Deanna could stop her, Solace jumped out of bed and made for the door. She drug a chair over to the release button allowing the doors to slid open.
Beverly was surprised to see it was Solace that opened the door. The child smiled at the doctor and moved for her to enter.
Deanna stood back and watched.
“My, you’re up early. Did you sleep well?”
Solace nodded her head. “Is Deanna up yet? She’s not in bed yet is she?” Beverly had seen her standing near the bedroom door. The doctor was trying to learn how much Solace understood and how well she could vocalize an answer.
The child padded over to Deanna, taking her by the hand let her to the doctor. Deanna smiled, “Good morning, Doctor Beverly, how are you today?”
“I’m fine. You two look as though you had a good night’s sleep. I’ll find out exactly how you are when I examine you. I’ve brought a replicated copy of the outfit you had on when we beamed you back.” Beverly handed it to the counselor. “Let me check you two over now. It will only take a few minutes.”
Deanna looked at Solace. “The doctor wants us. Who should go first? You or me?”
The child looked surprised by the question. She gave the answer Deanna expected from her; she pointed to the counselor. Her expression an anticipatory smile as she watched to see if the counselor would accept that.
“Okay, Beverly, I’ll go first. Where do you want to do this?” Deanna smiled, as Solace looked relieved.
“Sit on the bed, that would be the easiest.” They went into the bedroom where Deanna followed the doctor’s instructions. Solace accompanied them sitting cross-legged watching everything. Then as she became more and more curious, she would move closer to see what the doctor was doing. Sometimes she got in the way, so that Beverly would be getting readings from her rather than Deanna. She had Solace hold the tricorder for her while she read the results.
“Good, a healthy improvement over the last examination. I can’t keep you here -no matter what I personally think.” Beverly looked at Solace standing next to her still holding the tricorder. “Okay young lady, you are next.” Beverly regained possession of the tricorder. She sat beside Deanna as they talked about the results. When she was ready for caught Deanna’s eye, Solace was standing behind the counselor, leaning into her back while playing in the bountiful hair.
“I believe that is typical of a four year old.” Beverly said loud enough just for Deanna, then to Solace, “I don’t know, do you think Deanna needs a haircut? You hold her and I’ll get the hair cutters.”
Solace shook her head no, then wrapped her arms protectively around Deanna’s neck, putting her chin on the counselor’s shoulder. Deanna patted the small arms, then pulled her around to sit on her lap, wrapping her own arms around the child, she whispered in the small ear, “Doctor Beverly is kidding you. Don’t you think she’s being very silly.”
Solace nodded her head then for the first time answered verbally, “Yesss.” It was not much, but it was a beginning. She was rewarded with a hug and a kiss from the counselor.
“Okay, sweetie, it’s your turn.” Deanna sat Solace beside her. “I’ll get a bath ready for Solace and change into the outfit.”
“I can see to that, you’re running out of time Deanna. Solace will be fine with me. Guinan should be here soon too."
“No, I’ll see to the bath, it shouldn’t take long.” Deanna had begun the water as she freshened up and dressed.
When the doctor had finished wit the exam; Solace timidly walked into the bathroom. “Come on, you’ll enjoy this, I know I do.” Deanna had a large amount of bubbles in the bath. It was clear by the girl’s expression that this was new to her. Deanna undressed her, then lifted the child to put her into the water. Solace latched on to the counselor, with no intention of going into the water alone.
“Okay, let’s try this another way.” Deanna put her down beside the tub and wrapped a towel around her slight body. She leaned over the tub, gathered a handful of bubbles, and then blew them into the water. Solace watched, her eyes got big with each handful.
Beverly looked in, “A challenge at each turn, that’s what having children is all about. You can become quite inventive when you have to. It will be good for you, a part to grow into.”
Deanna looked at the child and winked, then turned to Beverly and blew the next handful of bubbles on her. No one heard the chime at the door, so Guinan let herself in. she followed the noise to the bathroom to find two adult women and one child throwing and blowing bubbles, all three were laughing. The floor and the two dressed adults were all displaying many wet spots. The driest object in the room was the small naked child running around between the adults with a washcloth on her head.
The door chimed again, Guinan said to no one in particular, “I’ll get it.” She turned to go to the door when Will Riker met her in the doorway to the bathroom.
“What’s going on?” He looked at Guinan then around her to the source of the noise. At that moment everyone seemed to notice each other. There was a deafening silence.
Deanna picked up Solace and got her into the tub, trying not to laugh. Solace saw through it and put a soapy hand up to the counselor’s mouth, setting off another round of laughter from the participants.
“Ladies, I’ll wait out here.” Will and Guinan walked back tot he living room. He looked at her with raised eyebrows.
She smiled, “You have to admit things have gotten a lot livelier.”
“They have, haven’t they.” He shared a conspirator’s smile with her.
Beverly joined them carrying a tray with cups and hot coffee. “Deanna and Solace will be out in a few minutes. They’re having a discussion about this trip down to the planet.”
Will went back toward the bedroom, where he could hear Deanna’s voice. “Dr. Beverly and Guinan will be here with you until Will and I return. I’ll come back as soon as I can, and I’ll bring this little guy back with me.” She held up the figure of the lightfoot. “When I get back we’ll do something special, you think of something you would like to do, okay?”
Will looked in to see the counselor holding the child. The two looked very serious, Solace like she was on the verge of tears. Deanna’s voice had in it the quality Will had come to recognize as being present whenever the counselor was battling her own emotions. He watched as she hugged the child.
He walked in, carefully took Solace out of Deanna’s arms, holding her up too look at her he said, “I’ll take good care of her for you Solace, I promise. Go on in with the doctor. I’ll help Deanna get ready to go.” He put her down. The child stayed looking at them.
“It’s okay sweetie, I’ll be there in a minute.” She looked intently at Deanna before turning and going in to join the doctor.
Will took Deanna’s hands to pull her to her feet. He looked her over walking behind her then back. “That’s an interesting outfit, one of Gringbald’s?”
She watched him not allowing herself to smile, “Yes.”
His eyes held the spark that she knew so well, “Turn around.” She turned around to see him smiling. “I think you should keep this one.” His effort at looking innocent was totally lost.
“Only if you wear it the next time. You would look good in a backless uniform, maybe I should suggest it as a first officer’s dress uniform.” She returned his false innocent look.
He relaxed and smiled; at least that hurt sound was missing in her voice. He pulled her close and escorted her into the room with the others. Solace left her place beside Beverly and came to stand in front of Deanna. The counselor stooped down to see what the child wanted. Solace hugged her again and returned to her place with the doctor.
Will took his cue from that, “Well ladies, we’ll see you later. Hopefully this shouldn’t take too long.” Will kept his arm around Deanna’s waist not allowing her to deviate from the course he set to the door. The last good-byes were quick and painless.
Little was said as they made their way to the transporter room. When
they arrived it was all too evident the others had been waiting for awhile.
to be continued
here for part eleven