Chapter 34

Deanna was up early the next morning, she was taking the time to look over her appointments and reschedule the less pressing ones. While looking over all that had been postponed due to the circumstances of this past mission, she wondered if she would ever catch up. It was part of being part of the Enterprise, the learning to be flexible; knowing that in the process of encountering the unknown there would be unexpected delays in one’s personal as well as professional life.

Will didn’t use the chime, he punched in the access code to enter he quarters. She was so lost in her thoughts that she never heard or sensed him enter until he stood behind her, startling her when he touched her cheek with his hand.

“Good morning, you’re early.” She stood, moving away from the console and into his arms.

“I was hoping we would have a little time alone, and I need an escort for tomorrow night’s festivities on the planet. I was wondering if you knew of any available beautiful women on board who might want the opportunity to be seen with the first officer of the Enterprise?”

“Hmmm no…none that might want to be seen with the first officer. The rumor is ..” She lowered her tone to a whisper, “the rumor is he’s married.”

“Oh, that’s just a rumor.” He watched her, seeing her expression change feeling the intake of breath, he was prepared.

“A rumor!…” He silenced her, effectively keeping her lips occupied, and definitely throwing her thoughts into a spin as he brought back memories with gentle caresses.

They heard a shuffling come from behind them, turning they found Solace shuffling sleepily from Deanna’s bedroom. “Good morning, how did you sleep?” Will kept an arm around Deanna as he scooped the child up.

She smiled and hugged him, the she looked at Deanna, “How did you sleep?”

“Pretty good, but we need to talk about someone who was going to try to sleep in her own bed by herself last night.”

“Not me!” Solace looked innocent, except for the twinkle in her eye.

“That’s right it must have been Aunt Troi.” Will sided with her, Solace knew a good accomplice when she saw one, nodded in agreement.

Deanna rolled her eyes, looking at Will she said with amusement in her voice, “You’ll be sorry.”

Solace looked at him and mimicked Deanna, “You’ll be sor-ry.”

“I think I am already.” He laughed, “Are you still excited about having the lightfoot on board?”

She smiled, “Yess, can we see them now?”

“Not right now. We’ll go after breakfast. I think we are in for a busy day. Are you up to it?” Deanna asked, knowing she would answer yes.

Solace nodded her head, “Will too?” She looked from one to the other.

“As a matter of fact, I thought I would spend sometime with my favorite ladies today. I have some business to attend to after breakfast, but the rest of the day is all yours. Let me take care of ship’s business and meet you for lunch. How would that be?”

Solace nodded.

Deanna smiled into his eyes as she replied, “We will try to make time for you.” The arm around her tightened.

Will added, “Oh, by the way, tomorrow night’s affair is a civilian event - formal attire, uniforms not required.”

“Good, I have something in mind.”

He raised his eyebrows, “I can’t wait.” Then turning to Solace, “Well, little one, shall we have eggs or French toast?”

“Toast.” She squirmed to be put down, Will obliged before going to the replicator to join Deanna in getting breakfast set out.

During the meal Solace chattered about the lightfoot and the names they could have. She was considering several names and tried to get the adults to decide for her. Deanna explained that this was as special privilege that was given to her because the animals came from her home. They agreed to help her if she needed it, but she still had plenty of time to think about it.

Lwaxana Troi joined them as they were finishing the meal. Solace left her chair to sit on Aunt Troi’s lap to tell her about the lightfoot and the need for names. Her enthusiasm was heartwarming and comical. Deanna was relieved that the name that had been her first choice was not discussed. She watched as Solace draped an arm around Lwaxana’s neck, the small face just inches away from the other as the child’s eyes reflected her happiness. Lwaxana smiled while the child chronicled her encounter with the newest passengers.

“Aunt Troi come with us to see the lightfoot,” then after a quick glance at Deanna she added, “later.” Lwaxana hugged her and told her anything that excited her that much would have to be seen. Solace smiled and nodded, then went back to her seat to finish munching on a piece of toast.

“Well, I’ve got to go, as usual little one, it’s been a pleasure,” Will leaned over to kiss a gooey cheek, “Umm maple syrup.. I’ll see you in a little while Solace. Mrs. Troi,  . Deanna, walk me to the turbolift.”

The counselor spoke to the child. “I’ll be right back, stay at the table until we get you cleaned up, okay?” She waited for the Solace to nod, she smiled at the child and winked, then followed Will through the doors.

Once the doors shut behind them, Will slid his arm around her as they walked to through the corridor. “We’re taking Solace with us to the planet? And your mother?”

“I want to talk with Solace first. I’ve been sensing a fear of returning to the planet. I’m not sure why, but I’m not going to force her. I’ll let you know more at lunch.” When they arrived at the lift she turned to look in to his face, “If things go well and the Captain permits it, I think we may arrange to leave as early as the day after tomorrow for Betazed. How do you feel about joining us there when you get a chance to get away? May be we could get away from everyone for a few days.” She held her breath as she first sensed disappointment and reluctance, then she could feel his emotions changing before he carefully blocked her.

He reached to pull her closer still, holding her for several minutes, “Imzadi, we’ll talk before the day is over, I promise.” He smiled slightly, leaning down to touch her lips with his as the doors to the turbolift opened behind him. Will stepped backwards into the lift, never taking his eyes from hers as the doors closed finally breaking their visual connection.

A pensive Deanna returned to her quarters to find Solace feeding Lwaxana her French toast. The sight completely caught the counselor by surprise, “Solace what are you doing?” She couldn’t keep the amusement from her face or voice.

“Aunt Troi wanted a taste and my fork was too sticky.”

Deanna smiled at her mother and shook her head. “Finish up then we’ll get dressed. We have a lot to do today.”

“Maybe a bubble bath?” Solace looked hopeful.

“Later, right now - are you done? Then right now we’re going to get you unsticky and dressed. Then we need to check out some friends of yours.”

“Go see the babies?” Solace was out of her chair and hanging on to Deanna.

“Ooww you are sticky!” Deanna picked her up and headed for the bathroom. “Maybe a bubble bath is in order after all.”


Lwaxana followed them into the bathroom, sitting on the side of the tub as Deanna sat on the floor next to it washing the syrupy substance off the bubble bearded child, who was singing the song she just recently learned from Guinan, ”Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

“Guess what sweetie?”

Solace looked expectantly at Deanna. “You are invited to go to the planet with us tomorrow night. We’ll get all dressed up, have you ever been to a party before. Everyone gets together, sometimes they play music and eat fun food. You’ll get to see Rankeer and Lagi. We’ll pick out one of the new dresses you have. What do you think?”

Solace looked down at the bubbles as though thinking the whole thing over. Deanna touched her chin so the child would look at her; she leaned over the tub presenting the child the opportunity to look closely at her to see there was no more to the occasion than what was presented.

Deanna added, “We’ll come back here, where you will sleep in your own bed tomorrow night. Then we have to pack if you are going to Aunt Troi’s home for a little while.”

Solace seemed surprised, shooting a quick glance back to Lwaxana whom smiled and nodded, she spoke to Deanna, “You come too?”

“I will be there in a few days, but this has to be a secret, okay. It’s a surprise for Will, so we can’t tell him.” Again the nod, Solace continued studying the counselor’s face as Deanna went on to explain, “Will thinks I’m leaving with you, I want to surprise him and stay here with him for a couple of days. Then we will come together, with Doctor Beverly. We’ll all be staying at Aunt Troi’s house. Guinan is going to go with you and Aunt Troi, then in a couple of days Doctor Beverly, Will and I will be there.” Deanna waited; she could sense a mixture of fear, concern and anticipation from the child.

“You come with me?” Solace reached out a soapy hand to hold on to Deanna’s arm.

“In a few days, it not very long and you’ll be so busy with Aunt Troi and Guinan the time will go fast. Solace, sweetie, I will be there in a few days.”

She nodded but still held on to Deanna’s arm. “It will be okay, you’ll see. Now, let’s get you finished up here.” Deanna stole a glance at her mother who had been sitting quietly observing. Lwaxana nodded slightly giving her approval to her daughter’s handling of the situation.

When Deanna had wrapped a towel around the child to pick her up, Solace clung to her. Deanna carried her back to her room where she sat on the bed and held her. The counselor tilted her head back to look at the little face. Tears were overflowing to run down the small reddened cheeks. “What is it, sweetie, you can tell me.” Deanna knew what was happening, she wanted Solace to know she could come to her to communicate her feelings no matter what they were.

“I want to stay with you.” The tears came faster. Deanna gently wiped the cheeks dry, her own eyes tearing. Never before has someone been so dependent upon her, never before had she felt the need for that dependence. Solace touched the tear that had escaped her eye, then encircled the empath’s neck to hug her. One small hand patting her back as if to comfort her. Deanna returned the gesture, patting Solace gently on her back.

Mrs. Troi stood by watching them comfort each other for a few moments before she broke the silence, “Well, are you going to take me to see these animals today or not?” she knew she would get the child’s attention.

Solace turned to Lwaxana, then held Deanna’s face in her hands to look intently at her, “Okay now? Can we see the babies now?”

“If you think you’re up to it.” There wasn’t any way Solace would miss the chance to see them,

“Better. You too?”

“Yes, I’m better now too. Let’s get you dressed.”

At the bio station Solace was impatient to get to the lightfoot. She had Mrs. Troi and Deanna each by the hand moving quickly back through the facility when a young technician asked if she was there to see the lightfoot. Solace told him that she was. “And aren’t you the young lady who is going to name these cute little animals?”

“Yess, I think name her Twinkle.” She looked up at Deanna seeing the surprised look on the counselor’s face she asked,  “Okay?”

Deanna bent down to whisper, “I think that is a good name. Did you name her after the song you were singing?”


The technician laughed, “Okay we have Twinkle and what about the little fellow, have you thought up a name for him yet?”

“Mmm, I think Handsome.” Her eyes again sought approval from those around her.

“Handsome, that sound like a good name. Is that because he’s a good looking little guy.”

Solace nodded. The tech grinned, “So we have Handsome and Twinkle. Two very unique names for our friends. Would you like to help feed them?”

Deanna tapped her shoulder, “Go ahead.”

Solace was delighted, as she took the technicians hand she glanced once more back over her shoulder to make sure the two women were following them. She was given a large bottle to begin the feedings, with bottle in hand she scooted into the pen to sit down a little distance from one of the young animals. Solace clicked her tongue; the Troi women watched as the female went to her. Solace moved it around until it was on her lap, then she slowly had the baby drinking out of the bottle.

The biologist walked over to join Deanna and Lwaxana., she remarked, “She certainly has a way with these animals. I think they already know her.”

“Solace lived in an area the animals inhabited. We saw her go into the woods, hold out her hand while making that clicking sound. They would come out of the woods to eat plants out of her hand.” The counselor watched everything in the pen closely trying to learn more from the way the child interacted with the animals.

“Counselor, would you like to feed ‘Handsome’?” The biologist said it loud enough for Solace to hear.

“You too! Come I can help you!” The little girl was thrilled that she could help. When her bottle was empty she took the other full bottle over to Deanna. Solace sat on the floor, tapped the area beside her for the counselor to sit down. After having carefully followed all of the child’s instructions, Deanna found herself bottle feeding the lightfoot now in her lap, his front paws touching the bottle as though he were making sure no one would suddenly take it away from him.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, now I know what they mean by that.” Said a familiar male voice.

Deanna was lost in her preoccupation with Solace and the animals that she never felt or noticed that several of her crewmates now stood beside her mother watching. She looked up to see Geordi, Data and Beverly. Solace was leaning over Deanna’s arm making sure the animal was being fed properly. She left Deanna’s side to go to where the group stood. “Aunt Troi, want to feed Handsome.”

“No that’s okay, I see Handsome is doing very well.”

Data stooped down to the child’s level, “Hello Solace, may Geordi and I see the lightfoot.” At her nod he asked, ”Would you take us over?”

Deanna was pleased with the care Data had taken in his communication with her, she watched Solace respond by going over to the gate and taking each of their hands to lead them to where Deanna sat holding the lightfoot, the counselor handed the bottle to Geordi. Twinkle now wandered over to get her share of the attention. Data was handed a bottle by the technician. Solace backed to sit in Deanna’s lap to supervise both feedings from a more exalted position.

“She reminds me a lot of Deanna when she was a child, she couldn’t stand to see an animal hurt or penned up. She would cry at the educational vids on early animal handling.” Lwaxana enjoyed telling the child hood stories to anyone that would listen, and on her visits to the Enterprise, there were always a willing listening ear to be found. Beverly was now donating hers to the cause.

The doctor put a hand on Mrs. Troi's, “I don’t think that has changed much. She still feels that way about life in general. I’ve seen her with animals, but then you’ve heard that story by now. She’s like that with people too; she can’t stand to see someone hurting. That is why we are good friends and that’s how Solace has entered into our lives.”

Beverly went to the table nearest the pen to pick up a piece of clothing that was laid neatly folded on it. She entered the pen with the other to approach Deanna and Solace. “I think you are going to be our resident specialist on lightfoot, so I had this replicated just for you.” Beverly held out a much smaller version of the lab coat she wore, with the name Solace over the pocket. The doctor pointed it out explaining that it would keep everyone from being confused and taking the wrong coat. She held the lab coat down for Solace to put on.

The child stood up with an arm out, then stopped to turn to Deanna, < Go ahead little one, don’t forget to thank Doctor Beverly.> Deanna thought/sent to her. The child grinned, allowing Beverly to help her put it on, then she turned to thank and hug her.

Beverly smiled, “I’m counting on you to help us with these babies. That will be your job on board the ship, can you do it?”

Solace solemnly answered, “Yes.”

Deanna had an arm around her as she turned to speak with Beverly, “I’ll stop by later. You are going to the planet tomorrow night aren’t you?”

“We’re dressing up.” Solace help Deanna’s hand. “Aunt Troi is coming too. Right?” She looked back at Lwaxana.

“Yes, Deanna, I must go if I am to dazzle your new friends. There is much to do, so I’ll begin now.” Mrs. Troi hugged the child and whispered that she would see her later.

Beverly exchanged glances with Deanna who pulled her off to the side, “I really would like to talk with you later. Will you be in our office in about two hours?”

“Yes, what is it?” Beverly looked concerned.”

“Nothing serious, I just need to go over something with you. I’ll see you later in your office.”

They had rejoined the others with the animals; Solace was sitting talking to the small animal Data was holding. Deanna and Beverly overheard her say, “Well, sweetie I have to go. I’ll be back soon as I can.” Then she leaned over to kiss the baby lightfoot between it’s two pointy little ears.

Solace said her good-byes to everyone and took Deanna’s hand as they left the bio lab and headed to their quarters to clean up before meeting Will for lunch.


They arrived in ten-forward before Will. Guinan showed them to a table next to the stars knowing it was a favorite seat of the child’s. Solace immediately went to stand before the windows looking out at the myriad of stars.

Guinan sat at the table with the counselor. “Have you given more thought to staying behind for a few days. I only ask so I can make some schedule changes here.”

“If it is no problem, I would appreciate it, if you would go in my place. We’ve talked about it and I think Solace will be fine with it. If there is a problem, I can work out transport on another shuttle, but for a few days, I think things will be fine. We’ve agreed it would be a surprise. Will is not to know about any changes.” Deanna looked at the child then at Guinan, trying to decide whether or not to confide more in her when Will walked into ten forward.

“I’m not late am I?”

“No, we are early, we made a stop to see how the lightfoot were doing. I’m sure Solace would love to tell you all about our visit.”

Solace heard Will’s voice and bounded over to join them, Will pulled a chair out then swung one long leg over the top to sit down. “Guinan, will you be joining us for the festivities on the planet tomorrow?”

“I may make a brief appearance. Are you all going down together?”

The commander looked at the faces around the table, then answered, “Yes, I believe we are, aren’t we Solace?”

“We are dressing up. Like a party.” Solace was trying to climb onto Will’s lap; he easily lifted her up so she could talk to him. “Guess where we were?”

Will acted dumbfounded. “Let me see…were you at Guinan’s?”

She shook her head no.

“Were you at Aunt Troi’s?”

Again she shook her head, now she couldn’t wait any longer for the game to continue she hurriedly told him, “We went to see my babies!”

Will looked at Deanna, eyebrows raised, “Your babies?”

“Doctor Beverly gave me a shirt like her’s to wear. I work with the babies.” She was looking very pleased with herself, her eyes dancing with excitement.

“How are the babies, have they adjusted to their new home?”

That was all the incentive the child needed, before she was off on her favorite subject. She talked about their new home, the home that was going to be built and the feedings that she had helped Data and Geordi with.

The hostess politely stayed to hear the last of the story, then excused herself to take care of business. Will put Solace down in the empty chair when their lunch arrived. They talked about light subjects to keep Solace involved in the conversation. Will told them he had about an hour’s worth of work to finish then he’d catch up with them for the afternoon.

Guinan stopped at the table after Will left.  “I’m on my way to my quarters, would Solace be permitted to join me? She could finish her art work, and it would give you a chance to take care of some items.”

Deanna looked at the child, “Would you like that, sweetie?”


“Okay, I’ll stop by later.”

“You come too?” the small face was covered in concern.

“Not right now. I have a couple of appointments to keep, so I’ll see you later.” She remained seated as Guinan and Solace headed for the door. She saw the child turn to look for her once more before leaving,
Deanna smiled and waved to her. Solace smiled and fluttered her hand, then turned to go through the doors holding Guinan’s hand.”

Counselor Troi stood at the entrance to Beverly’s office waiting for the doctor to finish with a patient before entering. “Is this a bad time?” Deanna asked when they were finally alone.

“Actually now is perfect. Do you realize how much time and work go into seeing that everyone aboard has received an antiviral dose? The record keeping alone is keeping three of my people busy. I think we have now finished, except for the follow throughs. She paused as the counselor sat across from her. “How about you, have you been able to get caught up yet?”

“I’m hoping to use today and tomorrow to do what is necessary, the rest will probably wait until we return from Betazed. That is partially why I’m here now. Are you still interested in joining us on Betazed?”

“Absolutely. I’ve talked with the captain- three days after you leave, the majority of the work on the planet should be accomplished, and I should be able to join you then. That is if you agree to it?”

The counselor smiled, “I’m counting on it. I’m hoping Will is going to accompany you on that trip, although there maybe a few last minute changes if all things go as I hope they do.”

“Counselor, if I didn’t know you better I’d say you are scheming something. It has to do with Will doesn’t it…no don’t answer me now.  Let’s talk later, we haven’t had one of those talks for a while.” Beverly asked Deanna about Solace; their conversation then turned to the advancements Solace had made in the short time she had been with them on the Enterprise.

Deanna left sickbay and was headed toward the turbolift when Will caught up with her, “Hi there, aren’t you missing a cute little shadow? I just finished, so I thought I’d spend some time with you two.”

“Hi yourself. The cute little shadow is at Guinan’s, could you do me a favor and pick her up there. I have some appointments I need to keep. Would you mind spending some time with Solace until I met with a couple patients and finished some reports before we go? Do you think you two can manage without me for a while?” she saw his mouth tighten, then relax as he forced a smile.

“Counselor, I am a Commander of a starship, of course I can manage a four year old for a few hours.”
They traveled together to Guinan’s deck, where the commander parted company to pick up the child. The counselor continued on to the bridge.

Counselor Troi touched the chime to the Captains ready room. At her approach he smiled, “Ah Counselor, come in. What can I do for you?”

Deanna explained the events of the next couple of days, and asked how things looked in regards to her participation in them. He had anticipated the request and was prepared to do without her. It was her next request that surprised him. When his face mirrored the surprise, more at the fact that she had approached him then the request itself. She felt the need to explain more fully after his silence.

“Captain, I know you are aware of the situation between Will and I. I have decided to stay behind those three days between when Mother and Solace leave and the time when Beverly would leaving for Betazed.. Will knows nothing of the change in plans. He expects that I will be Mother and Solace on Betazed. Guinan will now be going in my place, and I will be leaving with Beverly and hopefully Will in three days. Has Will mentioned any of this to you, or asked for leave time to go to Betazed?”

“Counselor, are you asking me to confide a personal request to you?” He watched her reaction.

“Yes, Captain, I guess I am.” She looked sheepishly at him, those large dark eyes betraying vulnerability not common to many who knew the counselor, but a look the captain had seen too often in the past several days.

“I see. Commander Riker has obtained permission for shore leave to begin in five days and last for fourteen days. I’m sure you would have known this information shortly. May I ask what you have in mind?”

“Captain, if it would be possible I would like to spend those three days here with Will, hopefully resolving any differences and beginning a future together.”

“When would the commander learn of his additional time off?”

“I thought you might mention it about an hour or two after the shuttle left for Betazed.” She was uncomfortable with the request yet firm enough in her resolve that the captain agreed without hesitation.

She made her next stop at her mother’s quarters where she confessed her plans and tried to discuss any objections that Lwaxana Troi may have had. “Deanna, well, I saw it coming, so I can hardly say I’m surprised. I see your plans are made, perhaps in another eight years you’ll have time for me, if I’m still around.”

Deanna sat beside Lwaxana, an arm around the older shoulders. “Mother, I’m sorry if I have neglected you. I should have made more time available to be with you. Let me get back on to a schedule, then I promise I will be with you more. After all, Solace only has one Aunt Troi, and I want her to get to know you- and you to get to know her.”

“Dear, I hope things go as you hope, but remember in the past several years nothing has happened along this line. I just don’t want you to see you hurt. There is a limit to how much pain one heart can take.”

“I know Mother, but things are different this time. Thank you for taking Solace. I will be there in three days. In the mean time if you should need me, you know how to reach me. My appointment with Doctor Dinal isn’t until the after I arrive, but if anything comes up with Solace please contact me right away.”

“Now you are worrying about nothing. I will handle things. You take care of your time with William.”

“I better be going, I have a couple of things to attend to before the big dinner tomorrow night. Will I see you later for dinner?”

“Not tonight, little one, Guinan and I are dining together. She is a delightful woman.” Lwaxana briskly walked her daughter to the door. Once out in the corridor, the counselor was left to wonder about inherited traits and inconsistencies.

The next couple of hours the counselor spent in her office trying to make up for lost time in scheduling, and working in a couple of appointments she didn’t want to postpone until her return from Betazed. When she became conscious of the time, it was much later than she had intended on being gone. She began to finish up, “Computer, location of Commander Riker.”

“Commander Riker is at bio station two.”

That is where she found Will and Solace, both of them were sitting within the enclosure with the two young lightfoot. She refrained from announcing her presence, but watched the two with the animals. Solace had Will feeding one, while she talked to it scratching the chin. Deanna couldn’t hear all that was being said she put together that Solace was telling the animals the story of “the princess and the lightfoot”.

She was considering whether or not to interrupt when she heard Solace ask Will, “Do I know the princess?”

Will had caught a glimpse of Deanna behind him, “Yes, turn around, look behind you. Who do you see?”

Solace turned to see Deanna leaning over the gate watching them. “Dee!” She ran through the gate that Deanna had opened for her, she stood with her arms wrapped around the counselor’s knees, before being lifted up for a hug.

Deanna carried her into the enclosure to sit on a stool beside Will’s, “I’m sorry, I let the time get away from me. I never guessed it was this late.”

Will watched her as she apologized, “It’s alright. We had dinner and decided to give the babies their bedtime snack before going back. Have you eaten yet?” He held up the nearly empty bottle of formula.

The counselor made a face, as she answered, “No thank you I’m not really hungry.” She squeezed the child on her lap, “Did you have a good day sweetie?”

“Yes, we told Twinkle the story of the princess and the lightfoot.”

“Well, she’s finished.” Will set the now empty bottle down and let the young animal go. “These animals should grow fast, they seem to be constantly eating. Are you ready to go home?” he asked Solace.

“Yes. You read to me then?”

“Only if Deanna is up to it tonight.”

Solace turned to look at the counselor, “Yes we can read. Do you know where the feeding bottles go when they are empty?”

“Yes.” She scooted off Deanna’s lap to take the bottle over to one of the technicians.

Will stood brushing the hair from the animals off his pants. “Did you get everything accomplished you wanted?”

“I guess I underestimated all that I needed to do. I should be able to finish everything up tomorrow, before we leave for the planet. I am sorry, I never intended to be gone that long.”

“Deanna, it is alright, we had an enjoyable afternoon. I’ve learned a lot. Did you know that lightfoot young like you to kiss them between the ears? It’s a fact, although, I don’t quite buy into the part about whispering in their ears.” He smiled at her expression. “Come to think of it, the only person I know that can eat the way they do and never put on weight is your mother.” She had to laugh despite the remark, she knew he was jesting, and Lwaxana Troi was well known for her appetite for exotic food. He took her arm to escort her from the pen. For an instant she felt remorse at the child’s upcoming departure for Betazed. A very real part of her wanted things to go on as they were now. The change may prove to be just that, a deviation from the course they now appeared to be taking- the direction she wanted them to continue to take.

Will had been studying her, taking a step closer to her he asked, “What is it, what’s wrong?”

“A month ago, could you have even imagined these changes in your life?”

He had an answer, but the return of the child kept him from voicing it. She stood looking up at them, then taking Deanna by the hand and wrapping a small arm around Will’s leg she waited. He picked her up and smiled fondly at her. Deanna heard his thoughts, < I didn’t imagine it would happen like this, but I have imagined it in our future, Imzadi.>

The three of them entered Deanna’s quarters to spend the rest of the evening reading and talking. Solace was in bed trying to convince the adults she had met several hobbits in the woods by Fallscity. Will kept it lively by telling her of the many dwarves he had met while on board this very starship. Deanna tried to explain to the child that they were Ferengi and not dwarves, while Will chuckled the entire time. Will’s comm badge stopped the fun.

“Commander Riker the Captain requests that you report to sickbay immediately.” It was Worf relaying the request.

Riker looked quickly at Deanna before answering. “I’m my way.”

He leaned over to Solace, “Well, I guess I’ll see you in the morning, little one.” He kissed her forehead, before leaving her room. Deanna told her she’d be right back to say her goodnights.

After they left the child’s room, she asked, “What do you think it is?”

Probably a problem has developed on the planet. I’ll see you later.” They said goodnight; both knowing it would have to be a significant problem to have received the indirect summons from the captain. Deanna went back to check on Solace. The child was sitting in her usual cross-legged fashion waiting on her. “You should be under the covers and almost asleep by now. Come on.” She held up the covers for the child to slide underneath them.”

Solace looked hurt. “I was waiting on you.”

Deanna sat on the bed beside her, “Thank you for waiting. Did you have a good day with Will?”

She nodded, then asked, “Sleep with me in my bed?” Her tone and expression suggested she didn’t expect it to happen.

“How about this; I will stay with you until you fall asleep?”

Solace picked up the covers for her to slide under. The counselor was slightly amused at the speed and detail that a child could learn to mimic another’s traits. She had no sooner crawled under the covers than Solace snuggled up against her.


Chapter 35

Deanna came awake suddenly, fully alert and tense. She made herself lie still, waiting until she could calm her racing heart. Solace was still sleeping close to her, apparently they had both fallen into a sound sleep. Deanna carefully extricated herself from the child to slip out of bed and into the living room, where she could concentrate on the rush of emotions that brought her from the sound sleep.

She sought out Will, it was easy to find him, like going home, she had become that familiar with his thoughts and emotions. Home at this moment was in turmoil; it was his emotions that had brought her from her sleep. He was greatly disturbed about something; she tried to get a sense of what was happening without contacting him if we were involved in something that intense he certainly didn’t a distraction.

“Computer location of Commander Riker.”

“Commander Riker is in sickbay.”

Now she was becoming more concerned. What could be happening in sickbay? She hadn’t been contacted so her professional skills were not needed. Her communicator then interrupted her thoughts.
“Riker to Counselor Troi.”

“Yes Will.”

“Deanna, Beverly and I need to talk with you. Stay in your quarters and enforce the security precautions we had implemented before. I’ll explain when we arrive.”


She went to the door and secured it, to wait for the commander and doctor. Solace came to stand beside her. “What’s wrong, are you having trouble sleeping?”

“Yes, sit with you?” She rubbed her eyes, blinking from the unaccustomed light.

“Okay, come on let’s go get comfortable. How about we listen to some music together?” She picked the small girl up to hold her as she requested the song she hoped would help the child fall back into sleep before the others arrived. The song had played twice before Solace relaxed enough to close her eyes. Deanna continued to hold her as she slept, somehow it made the waiting easier.

The chime sounded, she had no wish to awaken the child so she carefully laid her on the sofa to go to the door. Reaching out with her senses to confirm what she already knew she began the security clearance procedure.

Will Riker’s voice acknowledged the computer’s query allowing the doors to open. The counselor had backed from the doors for the visitors to access the room. Will’s eyes quickly moved around the quarters noting the sleeping child, then continuing on through the living area before coming back to look closely at Deanna. “Come in, give me a moment to resettle Solace in her bed.” The counselor wen to the sleeping child, lifting her to carry her back into her room. Solace stirred, then eased back into her slumber. Deanna had stopped, waiting -making sure that she had gone back to sleep. Once inside the child’s room she had the computer softly replay the waltz instrumental version twice more, just in case Solace hadn’t fallen completely asleep. She didn’t know exactly what Will and Beverly needed to speak to her about but she was sure she wanted to hear it with out the worry of the child overhearing it. After tucking her in once more, she rejoined the other tow in the living room area.

Will stood when she approached them, “Can I get you ladies something, tea?”  He continued over to the replicator without waiting for their answer, returning with a cup for each of them and for himself.

“Would one of you explain, please. What is it? She could sense their reluctance and concern, but without prying deeper the source of those emotions remained hidden. In her own mind she felt it had to do with Solace or Gringbald, the last she tried to eliminate, after all he had died.

Beverly took any hope of that away with her next words, “Deanna, Gringbald’s remains are missing?”

“What do you mean missing?  They were transferred to the transport ship to be ferried to a research station weren’t they? Oh no, not again, this isn’t going to happen again.” She looked at both of them; unable to believe her worst fears could be realized now, when everything seemed to be finally going in the right direction.

Will leaned forward to look get a better look into her face from his position beside her on the sofa. “The transport never arrived at its destination. We are trying to go over all the details surrounding the death and transport of Gringbald’s remains. We are going to meet with the Captain, as soon as Guinan and your mother arrive. Beverly and I wanted to prepare you a little for the meeting; it was a shock to us too. It does not appear that Gringbald is still aboard the ship, however, we needed to take precautions to ensure your safety.” He looked at Beverly and nodded his head, at his signal she reached into her pocket; her hand emerged with a tricorder with a strange appendage attached to it.

“Deanna, I need to check you over, it’s harmless but necessary right now.”

Will stood to move away from her, it was then that Deanna noticed the phaser that he had been wearing. She looked at him, surprised and wary. Beverly stood before her, running the tricorder over her, once than a second time more slowly. The empath waited, sensing the relief from the doctor at the result of the scan.

“Please explain now.” Her patience was running out she watched as they exchanged a look and Beverly shook her head to answer Will’s unasked question. “Was this part of the precautions you are taking. You wanted to make sure Gringbald had physically melded with me?”

Will answered softly, “Yes, everyone must be checked, each of us had been scanned before leaving sickbay. He already attempted to meld with you once, you had to be checked Data is working with the computer to find a way to run a ship wide search through the sensors, but tonight we needed to use the only method we thought would work.” He hesitated before continuing, “Deanna, we need to check Solace too. I spent the entire afternoon with her, I could sense nothing. I’m sure there is nothing to worry about, but we can’t take any chances, everyone must be checked, especially those close to you.”

She nodded her head, allowing them the lead as they entered the sleeping child’s room. Solace lay, as she had when the counselor had tucked her in, on her side with a hand under her head, the other holding the covers to her. Beverly quickly ran the tricorder over her form, then more slowly a second time, just as she had done earlier to Deanna. The doctor checked her results then watched the two of them standing together, Will’s arm around Deanna, but he other hand resting on the phaser.  “Everything is normal with Solace.” She left the room, leaving them to stand looking down at the bed and it’s small occupant. The doctor waited for them while making herself comfortable on the chair facing the sofa, finally able to drink the now room temperature tea.

The other two emerged from the bedroom, “I thought having to do that with your mother was tough, this was tougher.”

Deanna looked from Will to Beverly in utter astonishment. “You had to do this with my mother? I’d love to hear about that, before she gets here.”

Will grimaced painfully, “I’m not sure I’m ready to relive the experience so son. If they were to be here with Solace, both of them would have to be tested before being alone with the child.”

“Actually the captain and Beverly came up with the approach: they were being tested because of the antiviral serum, everyone on board needed to be checked on the progress of the serum. It almost worked.” Will smiled..

Deanna knew she was going to hear the story from her mother, but wanted the other version, the one she knew she would be defending. “What happened?”

Beverly picked up the story, “Your mother accepted the initial explanation, I think because Guinan did. Unfortunately, she noticed Will’s phaser and asked why he was wearing it.

Deanna turned her attention back to Will and surmised the rest of the story, “She caught you lying? You made up a story?”

Will nodded, “I told her, I had just come from the planet, we had had some problems with a few renegade soldiers in the Palace, who didn’t know that Gringbald was no longer in power and I hadn’t turned it in yet… she telepathically learned the truth. Deanna, I have to say your mother is an indomitable woman under the best of circumstances, let me tell you, we escaped with our heads only because the captain was there. He appears to be the only she respects enough to listen to.” He looked like he was still in pain over the whole incident.

The empath smiled slightly, “She was upset because she thought he was still aboard and endangering the ship?”

“Something like that, she was concerned that we put you life in danger again.” At Deanna’s expression, Beverly added, “It’s alright, the captain explained the circumstances and that the procedures being implicated were primarily precautionary.  From the information we had been able to obtain, the evidence points to Gringbald as having been aboard the transport vessel and then perhaps being the cause for it’s disappearance. She seemed to accept that- and the captains offer to take her for tea to apologize for any inconvenience and worry.”

“Did all this take place in sickbay about two hours ago?” Deanna

“Yes that would be about right. Why?”

“I woke up suddenly sensing Will to be greatly distressed and asked the computer for his location.” She looked Will and smiled, “I had no idea at the time it had to do with Mother. I thought it was a problem with Gringbald, but kept reminding myself that he was dead.”

The door chimed, “It’s Mother.” Deanna looked at her companions before going to the door.

As soon as the doors opened, Mrs. Troi flew through them to embrace her daughter. “Deanna, thank the gods!” She stopped, held her breath as she held her daughter away from her scrutinizing her. “It is you?” Then as if to make sure, she thought/sent  < Tell me Little One, that it is you. >

“Of course it’s me, Mother. Please, let’s not wake Solace, I don’t want her to know of any of this.”

“Darling, I’m not an ogre, regardless of what you may have been told.” She glanced over in Will’s direction.

“Mother, nobody said any such thing, we’ll talk of this later. It sounds as though it is going to be a long night. You can sleep in my bed Guinan. Mother, Solace would love it if you slept with her. If she gets up again and can’t sleep try the song I told you about. Thank you both, I really appreciate this.”

“Hurry on, Jean-Luc is waiting for you. The poor dear has so much on his mind, don’t be causing him any more worry than he has now. Guinan and I will be fine, we’ve been having a delightful discussion, haven’t we dear?”

Guinan just raised the area on her face that would have been eyebrows, if she had them, and smiled. “We’ll be fine until you have finished and get back.”

Beverly touched Lwaxana on the arm and smiled, “Good-night.” The other two said their good-nights and followed the doctor out into the corridor.

Deanna turned toward the turbolift, Will took her arm and directed her further along the corridor. “We’re going to my quarters for the meeting. The captain didn’t want to start a panic, after seeing your mother’s reaction he thought a private meeting might be better.”

When they arrived at Will’s quarters they found the captain, Worf and Geordi all there. “Data will be joining us shortly. He is reviewing some information we just received from Starfleet. What I need from each of you is a complete detailed account of what you witnessed at the time, of what we thought as, Gringbald’s death.  We’ll start with the counselor, because I believe you had the most exposure to him and I’d like to hear once more of your empathic impressions at the time of his dying and death. Counselor, leave nothing out, perhaps a clue is buried amongst the confusion. Let’s begin then….”

The night phase of the Enterprise had since passed, Doctor Crusher had just finished giving her experience with the shape-shifter’s remains when the captain looked around the room at his bleary eyed officers. “People, I have seen no proof to indicate that Gringbald is now on this ship, however, we will continue with the tests for peace of mind. Data will institute the new format Starfleet has approved aboard the Enterprise. Starfleet has notified all members of the Federation of Gringbald’s disappearance and the danger this being presents. The new scanning format will take place on all vessels embarking and disembarking Federation planets. Betazed has been notified and given details of the episode as far as Gringbald’s desire for the emotional education. They will in particular be watchful for his presence.”
The captain ended by assigning Data and Geordi to the broader project of finding a detection device using the information Doctor Crusher was able to accumulate about the physical properties belonging to the shape-shifter. The others were left to finish previous assignments while reminded that the queen’s dinner was to be that evening and their attendance was mandatory.

Everyone had left to go about fulfilling their assigned roles before the formal dinner, leaving Beverly, Will and Deanna to gather up the cups and glasses. “Can I get anyone another cup of coffee, or how about hot chocolate?” Will asked as he unloaded a tray of cups and glasses.

“Nothing for me, thanks. I need to stop at sickbay and check on some test I’m running for the captain. I guess I’ll see you both later.” Beverly turned to go when Deanna stopped her.

“Beverly could you wait for a minute. I’ll walk with you.” Deanna turned to Will, “Can we meet for lunch?”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say there is a conspiracy to keep us from having any time together.” He looked as though he were considering the possibility.

Deanna smiled as she walked up to him. “You couldn’t be more wrong.” She let her fingers caress his cheeks before lowering his face to deliver a friendly kiss, as she turned to leave he reached for her to bring her back to him.

“That does not disprove my point Counselor, you will have to try harder to persuade me otherwise.”

Beverly stepped outside to wait in the corridor for Deanna. When the empath did emerge for Will’s quarters, the doctor noticed the flush on her friends face, “You two are going to have to work out an arrangement before long.” When she didn’t get a response to her comment she asked, “What is it you wanted to talk to me about.”

Deanna looked surprised by the question,  “I’m suppose to be the empath her.” Is the weekly poker game still set for the tomorrow at Will’s?”

“Yes, we decided Will is probably going to need cheering up after you leave tomorrow.”

“That’s very thoughtful, however, how difficult would it be to find a replacement- if it should become necessary?” She turned to Beverly, the doctor noted a definite twinkle in her eyes (and it had nothing to do with a lightfoot.).

“I don’t suppose it would be difficult to either cancel or find a replacement. Why hasn’t Will mentioned it?”

Deanna smiled, “Maybe Will doesn’t know he’ll have other plans yet. You are still coming to Betazed in a few days?”

“Yes, I’m counting on it. I’m looking forward to meeting this Doctor Dinal and to really see your home planet. Has something happened to change these plans, because you continue to ask if I’m still coming.?” Beverly suspiciously watched the smile on Deanna’s face.

“You may have company, and I keep asking because I’m really looking forward to being able to show you around. Are you meeting us to go down to the planet later?”

“Yes, shall we meet at your quarters?”

“Yes, I need to make a couple of stops before I check in on Solace and Mother.”

“You might want to consider getting some rest too. I’m heading back to my quarters for awhile, as soon as I catch up on a few things. You’re not going to tell me what it is you are up to, are you?”

Deanna just smiled as the turbolift doors closed and she continued on her way to her office to finish her appointments. She had been working for some time when she decided to head back to her quarters to allow her mother time to get some rest and prepare for the night’s events.

As she entered her quarters she was immediately struck by the silence. She sensed she was alone, a quick look through the quarters confirmed that, other than a few toys on the sofa everything was very tidy. She used a few minutes to look through her wardrobe and that of Solace, checking the sizes for the child. It just amazed her how Lwaxana was able to accurately guess the sizes on the clothing she had chosen for Solace, or was it by guessing? She was going to stop by her mothers quarters next, perhaps she could find out.

She entered after her mother’s greeting to see Lwaxana Troi stretched out on her sofa. “Mother, are you alright?” Deanna went to sit beside her.

“Yes, yes, I’m not used to sleeping with a child that is determined to sleep as close as possible. She gives you absolutely no space. How do you do it?” Lwaxana sat up to better look at her daughter.

Deanna smiled and moved to the chair beside the sofa, “Think of it as a great compliment, Mother. Where is she now?”

“Guinan took her to finish a project, a surprise for you. The child is a delight to be around, I ‘m just not used to sharing a bed with one. Speaking of which, I thought you and William would be spending this time together, at least if he had his way you would still be….”

“Mother,” Deanna’s tone was a bit sharper than she had intended. “Let’s not spend the time we do have together like this. I’m going to the replicating center to pick up a few items for Solace and myself for tonight, is there anything I can get for you?”

“Oh my dear, your little ship hardly has the type of accessories I’m looking for. No, I’ve brought a few little pieces you haven’t seen before. I’ll be fine. Run along then, take care of your little errands. I’ll see you tonight. I’ll stop at your quarters as we planned.” She reached for her daughter’s hand to pull her into a motherly embrace. “Don’t be upset with me about William, it’s an old habit. I don’t dislike the commander. I just want someone who will take care of you as you should be taken care of, that’s all.”

Deanna kissed her cheek, “I know you want what you think is best, but Will is what is best. I’m not upset, just try harder to see Will for the man I know him to be. Get some rest; I’ll see you later.

She had dropped off her parcels in her quarters before going to Guinan’s for Solace. Guinan met her at the door; Deanna quickly looked around for the child. “She’s making a surprise for you. It only needs the final touch to complete it. Come in, please sit down.”  Once they were seated Guinan asked if she had been able to accomplish all she had set out to do.

“I hope so, I feel like a thief in the night. Maybe this isn’t the best way to go about it.” She then went into the details with Guinan.

When Solace heard the two adults laughing she peeked around the doorway. Deanna saw her, “Hi there, are you ready to go yet?”

She walked over to Deanna to stand looking up into her face. “Are we getting dressed up now?”

“I think we probably should start back so we have time to do everything. Are you finished?”

Solace turned to Guinan who asked,  “Is it finished?”

She nodded her head, and shot a quick look at Deanna to see if she was following their communication. Deanna waited patiently for them to include her in on the project.

Guinan took the child’s hand, “Excuses us, we have something to put the finishing touch on. You are going to like this.” Solace looked back over her shoulder to smile back at her as they went around the partition into the dining area of Guinan’s quarters.

When they returned, Solace with Guinan’s aid was carrying a large frame. She handed it to Deanna. The counselor looked at it then back to the child, “Is this what you’ve been working on? This picture is very nice.”

Solace pointed to the picture of three lightfoot, drawn with a heavy dark material, “Like us.”

Deanna carefully laid the framed picture down beside her to gather the child to her. “Yes, a family, just like us.” She looked to Guinan to mouth a silent thank you, which Guinan acknowledged by a nod of her head.

She turned her attention back to the child. “Let’s go back to our place and wrap this, we’ll surprise Will with it before we to the party?” Solace liked the suggestion, the child in her loved surprises and the idea of everyone having a good time.

“Guinan, you are coming with us tonight? Would you like to meet us at our quarters, Mother, Beverly and Will are going to be there?”

Guinan simply did one of her deep slow nods. She smiled at Solace, “You are going to introduce me to some of your friends right?” Solace mimicked the same half bow half nod back.

“Okay, sweetie, are you ready we have a lot to do. Thank you Guinan for taking such god care of Solace for me. We’ll see you later.” The counselor stood with the picture tucked under one arm and Solace holding on to the other with both hands as though she were afraid of a quick escape by the counselor. Walking to the door the child turned to wave good bye and thanked Guinan before going back to holding Deanna’s hand with both of hers.

The child danced along side of her on their way through the corridor, “Now we get dressed up?”

“Soon. Let’s take this beautiful picture to our quarters and wrap it, then Will is going to meet us for lunch.” She looked down into the child’s eyes to see how excited she was about the upcoming event, and regretted the approaching short parting between them.

They had no sooner finished wrapping the picture when Will entered. Solace ran to him, “It’s almost time to get dressed up, then we have a surprise.” She quickly looked to Deanna, checking herself. Will followed the child’s eyes and raised his eyebrows waiting for an explanation.

Deanna winked at Solace, “Will has to wait doesn’t he?”

Solace took his face between her hands to direct his attention back to her. She held it so she could look into his eyes, their faces a few inches apart as she told him, softly yet sternly,  “You have to wait. Soon.” She held him like that until he promised to wait.

When he had set her down, he looked at Deanna as the child left to wash up for lunch. “How long have we had her with us? Because she certainly has you down, she does a good imitation of you.” He had moved to stand in front of the empath,  “I’ll come early tonight maybe we can have a moment or two before we meet with the others. This thing with Gringbald bothers me, promise me you won’t go anywhere alone while we are on the planet? I’m having second thoughts about the trip to Betazed too.”

“I know, I’ve thought of it too, but we can’t live in his shadow. Besides I won’t be alone on the planet or Betazed. He may be light years away; we can’t look behind every shadow expecting to see him. I’ll be careful.” She looked into his eyes sensing his concern for her, she projected her feelings to him to allow him to share them, and to realize how deeply they ran for him. He lowered his head to hers, several minutes
passed when they became aware of a crunching sound. They both looked toward the sound. Sitting at the table munching on a piece of celery, Solace sat watching them, at their look she smiled.

“Aren’t you going to wait and eat with us?” Will teasingly asked.  She held out her celery for him in reply to his question. He leaned down to take a sizable bite out of it to her delight. They finished their lunch, to sit and talk for a while before Will was paged to return to the bridge.

After Will left, Solace asked, “Now we get dressed up?”

“Maybe we should take a nap first. What do you think? It may be very late until we get back.” Solace looked at her like she had to have been joking. “We have a little time before we start to get ready, you and I will rest for a little while.”

“I’m not sleepy.”

“Then we’ll just rest.” Deanna waited to see if there would be another objection

Solace asked about the evening’s activities, “Rankeer and Lagi will come too?”

“Yes they want to see you. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen them. They’ll be very happy to see you.”

“Then I come back with you?”

“Yes, then we will come back here. Remember tomorrow you go to Aunt Troi’s with Guinan. You are going to be so busy. Then in three days, I’ll come.”

“With Doctor Beverly and Will.”

“Yes, you know what, I think we should have a party there too. What do you think?”

She smiled and nodded. Deanna was relieved, she seemed to be getting used to the idea of going without for a few days. They had been sitting at the table while Solace slowly finished her glass of juice. She was still in high spirits as they talked about Deanna’s home. When the juice was finally finished, she asked if Solace would like to nap alone in her bed.

“I’m not sleepy, just rest with you.”

“Okay, come on then, whose bed, mine or yours?”

“Rest in my bed.”

Deanna stood at the foot of the bed allowing her to get in first. She then sat on the side and took off the child’s shoes rubbing the small feet for a few minutes, before kicking off her own, to curl up on the bed.
Solace laid close with her eyes closed. “I thought you said you were not sleepy? Deanna whispered.

“I’m just resting.” Solace whispered back without opening her eyes.

Deanna smiled and closed her eyes.

Chapt 36

When Deanna opened her eyes she saw that Solace now shared her pillow, the empath studied the child as she slept. Looking at the small face she could see no likeness to Gringbald or to Queen Yarmi, at least no likeness to the portraits of her that hung in the palace. She watched the sleeping face smile, from somewhere in her child’s mind came good pleasant thoughts, Deanna leaned over to kiss the smiling face, “Come on sleeping beauty, we have a lot to do.” She spoke softly to the child.

Solace stretched, slowly opening her eyes, she smiled at the counselor, and “I was resting.”

Deanna laughed, “You rest very soundly.”

The child nodded her head still smiling, “Time to get dressed up?”

“Yes, let’ get started. We don’t need to rush, but we want to be ready before everybody comes…and I have a surprise for you!”

The small blue eyes lit up, “What? More lightfoot?”

“No something for tonight.” Deanna stretched before getting up, she stood looking down at Solace, who was now sitting cross-legged on the bed. “Why don’t you open your closet and pick something to wear?”

Solace looked doubtful, “My surprise?”

“Your surprise is…that you get to choose what you want to wear.”

It was very obvious the child didn’t know what to do. She stood on the bed to walk over to Deanna holding out her hand, “You help me?”

“Come on, open the door. I’m right here. Nothing is going to ruin tonight for us. Come on.” Deanna took her by the hand, as the girl jumped off the bed, then together they went to the closet. Solace opened the door and stepped back as though waiting for something amazing to happen, when nothing did, she looked through the low hanging outfits. Noticing something different she pulled it out. A lavender colored colored dress with a lighter shade of lilac ribbon around the waist. Her eyes were wide as she turned to show it to Deanna.

“I know, I thought you might like that. You said that was your favorite colored.” Deanna led her to the mirror and held the dress in front of her.

“Ahh, pretty. Let’s dress now.” It was not a question as much as a pronouncement.

“Okay, first we go to the bathroom and clean up.”

It took very little time until Solace had the new clothes on. The dress matched the colored leggings and shoes. As she stood looking into the mirror, Deanna brought a little box, kneeling behind the little girl; she eased the little necklace around the small throat and closed the clasp. On the chain was a small lavender colored piece of glass in the shape of a small lightfoot.

Solace nearly broke the chain the figure was on by trying to pull it out and upwards to look at it closer. Deanna showed her how to hold it up to the mirror to see it. “Tonight when we come back, you can take it off and hold it. Okay?”

Again the slight nod of the head, she was clearly beside herself not having experienced so many things like this at one time before. She turned to Deanna hugging her until the counselor lost her balance to end sitting soundly on her bottom. Solace sat on her lap gripping her arm. The entire episode brought tears to Deanna’s eyes, it seemed any time anything good happened to this child she had learned to hold on to it, so that it wouldn’t vanish.

“Come on sweetie, Will is going to be here and I’m not ready. Let’s comb your hair, I found a pretty little flower to put in it.” She sat her up on the counter, to comb the short dark curly hair, then attached a small porcelain flower to a clip, pulling some of the hair back with the clip. She turned the child around to face the mirror. “There, what do you think?”

“Ooh very pretty.” She held the counselor’s face close to her own. “Thank you.” She planted a big kiss on Deanna’s cheek.

“You are welcome sweetie.”

Then the door chimed. Deanna lifted Solace off of the counter and to the floor. Once the little feet touched the ground, she was off to show off the new outfit to anyone who came to visit.

It was the commander, dressed in a deep sapphire blue silk shirt, and darker blue slacks. “Wow! You look beautiful!” He lifted her up, she then showed him how her necklace, legs and shoes all matched. He again complimented her, telling her how no one else will look that nice with a lightfoot necklace. She face radiated with happiness at his attention. “Is anyone else all dressed up?” He looked around for Deanna.

The counselor answered from within the bathroom, “Not just yet. How late am I?”

“I’m a little early. You still have some time.” Then to Solace, “Is there any more surprises?”

With a conspirator’s mile she nodded yes, “We have a whole lot of surprises for you?”

Deanna stood in the doorway, wearing a robe, “And if you keep asking you will get none of them. Will, don’t pry, that’s not fair.”

“Is one of the surprises the outfit you’re wearing?” he asked Deanna.

 She looked at him that same smile Solace had just flashed at him, “It could be”, with that she turned retreating back into the inner sanctum of the bathroom.

Will put Solace down, “It looks like it’s just you and me for a while. So, now what should we do?”

Solace ran back to her room and brought out the book they had been reading, “Read to me please.” They read and talked about the pictures in the book for quite a while before they heard Deanna coming.

“Alright you two, this is it. I hope it worth the wait.” She walked into the room. Will’s mouth dropped open for a second before he caught himself, his mouth sliding into a grin.

Solace was off the sofa and standing in front of Deanna, then walking around her looking her over carefully, she said in her most serious voice, “You look very pretty!”

“Thank you sweetie, so do you.” She looked at Will with raised eyebrows waiting.

He stood watching her, rubbing his bearded chin, then walking to her, “You would be the belle of the ball if we went. I’d rather stay here and keep you all to myself.” He reached to pull her closer.

Solace interrupted them, “The other surprise for Will now?”

Will looked from one to the other, “Another surprise?” He kept an arm around Deanna, not allowing her to move away from him.

She answered the child, “Yes, can you carry it in?”

“Yes.” She was skipping out of the room as she answered.

“You look very handsome in blue.” Deanna stood admiring the man before her.

“Deanna I don’t know when I‘ve seen you look more beautiful than you are now.” He couldn’t believe his eyes, she had a deep red strapless gown. The bodice wrapped around her low enough to allow just a thought of the flesh hidden beneath the satiny material, the dress fit perfectly to the form wearing it, a slit running up the left side to three inches above the knee. Beneath the hem he could glimpse the matching heels. Her hair hung in loose curls pulled away from the beautiful face, that his eyes kept coming back to after each admiring expedition of her. He took in the long simple gold earrings that hung almost to her shoulders He grinned that was something about the way it all came together that gave a dazzling look to it.

Solace returned dragging a large flat object. Will went to help her carry it to the sofa. She helped him get it on to his lap. “This is your surprise.” She waited for him to open it.

He slowly opened it. Solace was impatient and began fidgeting, Deanna took her hand to bring her to stand in beside her, and there she hugged her to reassure her. Once opened Will looked at the picture, studying it, then he picked Solace up to sit on his knee. “This is a very nice picture. You did a very good job drawing the lightfoot.” He kissed her cheek, “Thank you.”

“A family, like us.” Solace had a hand on his cheek, patting his beard.

He looked over at Deanna, “Yes like us.”

The door chimed again, Solace hopped off his lap and ran to let Beverly enter. “My you look very nice.”

Solace nodded, then returned the compliment, “You look pretty too.”

Beverly came in to sit with them, Will showed her the picture the child has drawn. Solace shyly went to stand close to Deanna, holding on to her hand while awaiting the doctor’s verdict on the drawing. To Deanna is seemed the child was starved for affection and acceptance, perhaps basing her future with them on their opinion of her performance. She leaned down to put her arm around the small shoulders, and kiss the forehead in an attempt to enforce that Solace didn’t need to impress her to gain her affection.

The doctor smiled and told the child how much she liked the picture and invited her to come visit the other animals at the labs and draw their likeness also. Lwaxana and Guinan arrived. At their appearance the child literally couldn’t’ keep her eyes off of Mrs. Troi’s gown. It has certainly captured the attention of everyone in the room. It was low cut and laced up the front, with a slit up each to mid thigh on both sides. But it was the colors that drew the eye: on a bronze background were large flowers of the greenest of greens, burgundy, bright yellows, and turquoise, it was almost hypnotizing. She had on very large bronze colored earrings in the shape of oriental gong, had there been a wind Mrs. Troi would surely be the equivalence of a large loud wind chime. Solace went over to touch the flowers expecting them to jump off the material.

Guinan’s outfits had always been eye catching, the headdress she chose to wear with them most times the out bedazzling anything she could have put on her body. Tonight the dress was a floor length tapestry of colors; bright red strand was woven through the pattern like a ribbon holding the ensemble together. That was also the color of large flat-topped headgear - blood red.

Deanna watched the effect all this had on Solace; the child stood in awe of the sight presented by the two women. Her head tilted far back to fully take in the affect of Guinan’s apparel. The counselor suddenly found herself wondering about the three days Solace would be spending with these women and the after effects such exposure would incur. Things could prove to be very interesting when they returned to the Enterprise from Betazed.

All that were going down to the planet met in the transporter room. Captain Picard announced, “ You will be interested to know we are not beaming down to the palace, rather the co-ordinates we were provided with will put us in Fallscity.”

Data asked, “Captain, should we resume the former relationships we held when we previously had been in Fallscity.

Captain Picard, looked amused, “Only if you want to Data”, the captain stole a glance at the doctor in time to see her icy expression. “I believe those on the planet may be understanding now as to the earlier need for the pretense. Any fictional relationships need not be maintained.” He saw Will smile as he placed a hand on Deanna’s back as they took their places on the transporter platform. Solace hesitate going up, Will scooped her up to hold her. That wasn’t enough, she also reached to hold Deanna’s hand so they stood close as the beam down began.

Solace relaxed her grip as she recognized the surroundings, and the people that awaited them. Rankeer came forward first, a warm smile on his face as he approached the crew. Only a slight limp could be detected in his walk. He went first to Solace. “It’s so good to see you. I almost didn’t recognize you, you look so grown up.” He reached for her; she eagerly went to him from Will’s arms. He had talked slowly keeping eye contact with her.

“Rankeer!” She hugged him, then held her dress for him to admire. “My new dress!” She was smiling, but Deanna could tell she was holding back.

“Solace, why don’t you visit with Rankeer?” Thinking that her presence may be to reason for the child’s holding back, she wanted her to feel free to be happy with the people that had been a family to her. Rankeer was very surprised at the rapid change in Solace, her speech as well as her ability to hear and comprehend.

The counselor thought/sent < I’ll be right here, if you’d like to spend a little time with Rankeer that’s fine. I know you missed him and he missed you. >

Solace watched her as she communicated to her, then Solace asked, “Please come too.” As it turned out, most of the crew went along. Those who had known Rankeer, came to catch up on events, the others came out of kind curiosity to meet these people who sheltered and cared for their own crew mates.

The restoration that had taken place in the glen during the past few days was remarkable, the demolished and ransacked had been removed. The air no longer held the acrid scent of burnt damp wood, but again was fresh with the aroma of pine. New buildings had begun to replace the old.

Rankeer holding the child’s hand led the others to the large pavilion in the center of the glen. The temperature was very pleasant, not the cold brisk air that they had last left in Gendla. They entered into the pavilion and as they were introduced to each of the crewmates the Prakalians handed the women each a small bouquet of flowers consisting of the local colorful wildflowers.

Lagi entered, her appearance also greatly altered from their last meeting, here before them now stood a rejuvenated woman. Her trodden down appearance now replaced by a very happy smile, even the haunted look that betrayed eyes that had seen too much sorrow had transformed into eyes that reflected a much lighter heart when they rested on the familiar faces of the away crew.

The counselor went first to her, embracing and greeting her enthusiastically. Deanna then introduced her to those who had yet to meet her. Lagi seemed quite entranced by Mrs. Troi, and somewhat amazed to learn her to be Deanna’s mother. After the introductions Lagi asked about Solace, Deanna pointed to the table where Solace sat on Will’s lap as he talked with Rankeer.

“She looks grand. You’ve taken good care of her, she is happy with you.” Lagi looked at Deanna, “and you have made a decision?”

“I believe it was made when we were both held by Gringbald. I just had to consciously admit it to myself.” Deanna smiled, “She is a very bright and affectionate child. Come over, she was hoping to see you.” The counselor put her arm through the other woman’s as they walked over to join Will and the others at the table.

“Lagi, it’s good to see you!” Holding the child within one arm, Will stood to greet Lagi.

Solace left Will’s lap to go hug Lagi. “Well you look very nice. How is life on a starship?” Solace was very willing to go into detail to answer Lagi. The older woman gave a surprised glance at the counselor, as the child talked about living with Deanna, her new bed, and her new job with the lightfoot. Rankeer and Lagi asked question and Solace showed great relish in answering them.

The small girl found her way back on to Deanna’s lap, where she sat with an arm around the counselor’s neck as she talked. Abeathdor and Nairma entered. The room suddenly had become very quiet began standing. Lagi explained, “They stand to applaud her survival and to offer hope that her reign will be one of justice and wisdom.” That said the rest of the table also stood. Then the applause began, it lasted for five uninterrupted minutes, by then the Enterprise people had all gathered in at the same table, except for Guinan and Lwaxana Troi who now stood at the front of the pavilion talking with the queens escort Nairma.

Lwaxana’s daughter watched uneasily as her mother was introduced to Abeathdor. She caught Beverly watching her, smiled and turned her attention to Solace, who was informing Will about her place where the lightfoot come to be pet and fed.

Finally Lwaxana and Guinan joined the rest of the crew at their table. “I must admit, I was very impressed with the queen, and she seems quite taken with you people. I think if we could find her a good advisor with insight, she would be all set to get this planet straightened out. Unfortunately for her, my schedule is quite full for the next couple of weeks.” Lwaxana announced as she seated herself beside the captain.

Will grinning and with eyebrow raised turned to look at Deanna. She closed her eyes and lowered her head; even Solace chuckled as though she got a charge out of it. Deanna was beginning to worry the child was picking up Will’s humor in regards to her mother.

The food was being brought to the tables by some of the young people they had met here previously. Rankeer and Lagi took it upon themselves to see that all seated at that table were sufficiently looked after.

When the meal was over, the music began. It was performed by the same two young men that had so brilliantly entertained Beverly and Deanna on their first visit to the glen. Later several other musicians playing a wide variety of instruments joined them. Solace tapped Deanna’s arm in time to the music; she had once again claimed her lap after the meal. Many new pieces were played that had different couples dancing and at one point Data had escorted Lagi out to dance. A break was called for to allow the musicians to refresh themselves. During the break Abeathdor and Nairma made their way to the Enterprise table. Rankeer quickly gave his seat to Abeathdor, she talked a little to everyone, but it seemed the child held her interest. She asked the child about her new home and if she was happy there. Solace smiled and answered yes. Abeathdor asked her what one might do aboard a starship, Solace answered detailing all that she had done since she arrived, everything from painting Guinan’s room to taking care of the lightfoot. The table slid into a respectful chatter with the queen.

When the musicians returned to once again play, Abeathdor stood to announce that the tradition to dancing to the music was to be resumed. The next piece played was an upbeat, fast paced, loud and presumably favorite by the reaction o f the crowd. The dancing that accompanied it was more of a stomping than dancing, although there were a set of steps that were accomplished by tall the participants.

Rankeer asked Solace to come dance with him. She looked a little shy at first, then looked to Will and Deanna for their approval. Will asked her, “Can you dance to this music?”

She smiled, “Yes.”

Will grinned and looked at Deanna, she answered, “I’d like to see it please.” Rankeer took the child’s hand to walk her out to join the other dancers. Solace may have missed a step or two, but her exuberance out shone her dancing technique. She would steal a glance over to the table every so often, just to make sure they were all there. She managed to out dance most of the dancers and her partner. Rankeer was no doubt, still recuperating for his injury and was held up a bit by his still healing leg.

Data had been studying the dance and mastered the repetitive steps. He asked for permission to join the dancers, the captain waived him off to have a try at it. He ventured over to Solace to partner with him for a dance, the two set off at a fast pace, Solace was adding a few steps of her own enjoying Data’s attempt to copy them.  The music was light hearted and the atmosphere so relaxed that they all thoroughly enjoying the dancers enthusiasm, clapping and stomping in time to the beat. When the music stopped Solace ran back to her table and Deanna and Will. Will scooped her up into his arms to tell her what an excellent dancer she was. Then confidentially he asked if she had more surprises for him. She nodded and told them they did.

He caught Deanna’s look as she thought/sent, “You’re not playing fair! You will miss the best surprise yet, if you get her to tell!”  He gave her his best Will Riker- who me look.

The following piece of music was a slow piece; Abeathdor and Nairma danced a slow waltz. Others quietly followed their lead. Will put Solace down to offer his arm to Deanna. Lwaxana called Solace over to sit with her as the two went out on to the dance area. The little girl made herself comfortable on Lwaxana’s lap, then leaned back to tell her, “They look pretty.”

Mrs. Troi looked out on to the floor to see her daughter and Commander Riker did indeed look to be a very dashing couple. Their steps were in time, they moved well together, even more than that; they looked like they belonged together. It was belayed in the ways they engaged in conversation as they danced, the way they held each other, and continually gazed into each other’s eyes when they were far enough apart to gaze into each others eyes.  All of it attested to the fact that this was more than a growing attraction, this was a far more serious relationship. Lwaxana had to admit, her beautiful daughter and her very handsome escort were well matched, and as far as she was concerned it well past time for it too. She looked at the others at the table to see that they too were watching the couple on the floor.

Abeathdor and Nairma returned to their seats after a couple of words to the musicians. The music began again, Troi and Riker continued dancing. Lagi leaned over to talk to Beverly, “How long have they been together?”

“They met on Betazed, Deanna’s home planet several years before they were posted on the same ship.” Beverly answered the question honestly, but well short of the pure truth.

“Have they children of their own>”

“No..a ..no..” The doctor stammered a bit.

“Then they are planning children? A couple such as they must surely have children of their own.” Lagi scrutinized the doctor’s face, while the doctor tried to find a way out.

“To my knowledge they have not yet tried to have children.”

The captain leaned into Beverly to whisper in her ear, “See what becomes of match making and meddling.” She turned to glare at him.

The music ended and the couple returned to the table. Solace quickly left Lwaxana’s lap to again sit with Deanna. Will and Rankeer had gone to retrieve refreshments. The child was beginning to grow weary. “Lets go for a walk, you can take Guinan and Aunt Troi to see where the lightfoot visit.”

“It’s dark, we don’t see them then.”

“Okay, then let’s just walk around the glen. They haven’t seen the waterfalls.” Deanna had gotten to her feet, when the two men returned with the beverages. She looked at the drink, then over to Beverly, a smile tugging at her mouth.

Beverly stood, “I’m for a walk, anybody else?” Guinan and Lwaxana stood to go.

Solace had sat back down in Deanna’s seat, “Are you too sleepy?” Deanna asked her.

“No, I’ll go too.” It was said like a penalty she had to accept.

Lagi also decided to go. When they had left, the captain turned to look at Will, “I’m not sure Number One, but it appears we’ve been deserted.”

“It’s the drink, this is what got the good doctor and our counselor into trouble before.” Will was practically laughing as he looked at the expressions on Rankeer and Picard’s face.  “Personally, I haven’t had a problem with it.”  He explained the lightfoot story to Rankeer, omitting the part of the marriage papers.

The women walked to the falls and back, talking about the temperature differences and the heated springs. They were making their way back to the others when Beverly spotted Nairma waiting for them.

Chapt 37 epilogue

Nairma approached the counselor, “Abeathdor wishes to speak to you I private, if you would so honor her.”

Deanna felt Solace squeeze her fingers, she bent down to talk to her, “Would you do something for me? Would you go back with Aunt Troi, Guinan and Doctor Beverly, I need you to tell Will where I am and that I’ll be back there as soon as I can?” She waited a few moments for a response, Solace was holding tightly to her hand.

Nairma cleared his throat, “Perhaps the doctor would like to join us too?”

Beverly quickly looked at the counselor, “Yes, of course.”

Deanna again spoke to Solace, “Would you tell Will, I’m not alone, that Doctor Beverly is with me?” The child looked at the doctor then back to Deanna, nodded her head, and then took Lwaxana and Guinan’s hands to go back to the others. The counselor saw the child looking over her shoulder as the women began walking back to the festivities.

Deanna felt the doctor’s scrutiny, turning to see Beverly with a meaningful look on her face. Deanna smiled reassuringly, as she thought/sent, < I sense no danger or deviousness, but they have some information they feel a need to discuss.” Beverly’s eyes widened but she subtly shook her head, letting the empath know she understood.

Nairma conducted the two women to one of the refurbished buildings. The building had been redone with many of the comforts borrowed from the palace, most likely for the queen’s comfort during the festivities. Abeathdor stood facing a glowing fireplace, her back to them, “Thank you for coming. Please sit, make yourselves comfortable. Allow me a moment to collect my thoughts.”

The women sat in two of the four chairs set before the fire, waiting apprehensively for the monarch to join them. Deanna picked up enough to know it was about Solace, and that it was difficult for Abeathdor to relate. The queen finally turned to look at them, “This is not easy for me. You would think that having been held by Gringbald and Zylon all that time, having been chained and treated worse than an animal should be treated, that pride would not be an encumbrance I would have to overcome. I find, however, that I retain enough of that trait that even now I struggle to relinquish it’s hold on me, so that I may set matters straight between us. I owe you that much.”

She now sat facing them, her back to the light, silent once more. “Madam, may I…” Nairma tried to take the burden from her.

She shook her head, “Let me begin, you may need to finish.” Her attention turned to Deanna, “You asked about medical records on the child. We have found the records involving her conception and birth.” Looking at Beverly she continued, “You were correct the DNA from the shape shifter and ourselves would not normally have produced such an offspring. We have found that the conception was a laboratory accomplishment.” She stopped, again there was the silence to speak for her of her discomfort and her own empathy.

Nairma continued on for her, “Yarmi, was not a willing partner. She was kept drugged, the child fed through other devices, so as not to partake of the drugs in the mother’s system. There were so many changes made to make the DNA cohesive to allow the conception. I have notes here.” He handed a notebook of different sizes and colors of papers stuck in it to Doctor Crusher. She quickly began going through them.  Nairma added,  “We had the information translated into a print you could read-word for word, so the reading may at times prove difficult when a direct translation was impossible. If you need explanations or aid, please contact me.”

Deanna nodded, she was watching Abeathdor and sensing the very strong emotions from her. “Abeathdor, there is more, tell me what it is that continues to upset you.” Deanna spoke softly. “I hold none of this against you, you were not in a position to do anything. You talked with the child; she shows none of the traits of the monster Gringbald. I didn’t know your sister, if nay of her traits are visible, I would not know.” She waited to see if any of this affected the other’s emotions.

“Deanna, it is because I saw her happiness and the care you have for her that I am upset. We do not know how this DNA manipulation will alter her health or her future. This is a science we are only beginning to study.” She laughed a sound filled with bitterness. “We, who do not know or cannot care enough to have compassion and concern for our own, are cohorts to this. We seem capable of so little that speaks well of us.. you see, there is more to tell. Somehow news or conjecture of this has already leaked out. We know of one small group that is pledging riches for information on a child. The description of the child would not readily point to Solace.”

“We will be leaving the planet shortly, that will relieve you of that problem. She leaves for a federation planet tomorrow to been seen by specialists that may greatly aid us in what to expect and how to deal with any future problems.” Deanna now stood beside Abeathdor’s chair, then stooping, sitting on her heels as best she could in her outfit, she was better able to see into the queens eyes. “What is it that truly upsets you? There is something more.”

Again silence, Abeathdor sat looking at the counselor, noting the control she strived to keep. Just as the counselor was sensing Abeathdor, trying to find the reason for the turmoil. “The medical experiments on Solace did not finish at her birth. When she was brought to you as you were being held captive, she had been infected with the goal in mind of infecting all in the waste people’s hide away. It would not have killed her, weakened yes, you were intended to die, the child would have been sent back to Fallscity. You were nearly killed by that virus, you and all aboard your ship.”

Deanna sucked in her breath at the revelation. “Gringbald was not responsible for that. It had to have been Zylon.” Deanna looked to Nairma.

He addressed that point. “I believe that is true, Counselor. However, Gringbald did want the child dead. That is why she had been taken from Fallscity. Zylon, we believe, later took matters into his own hands. It was a way that both would have gotten their wish; Gringbald would have the child dead, and Zylon -you.”

“You see Deanna, that puts us all in a quandary, now that you have this information and may no longer care for the undertaking of the responsibility of the child, she cannot be left here. It would only be a matter of time until she would be found, to be killed by one faction or used to usurp my rulership by another.” Abeathdor looked at the doctor, her Almoner, then lastly she let her gaze stop at the counselor.

Deanna waited for her attention to settle on her. “Abeathdor, none of this changes my decision to care for Solace. I would not condemn her for being used as a pawn; she too was a victim. Beverly, have you found any reason for leaving her behind? Does she prove to be the source of any danger to us?”

The doctor shook her head, “Absolutely not, the only problems may come from our inadequacies in dealing with future problems. We’ve already made provisions to learn of these. I see no reason to leave her behind.”

Abeathdor and Nairma exchanged a long look before Abeathdor continued, “We have learned of Gringbald’s disappearance through your captain. He may use the child to find you, if he is still intent on that purpose. Here is another danger you may have been put into, because of me this time. If you were uncaring and continued your trek across the stars none of this would have happened.”

“Abeathdor, you called out for help, you didn’t force us to stay or me to come. Much good has come out of the experiences of this planet. We’ll deal with Gringbald when and if we come across him again. There is so much yet to be learned of the universe, he may have already found things of greater interest.”

When they rejoined their crewmates, Beverly noticed all the empty mugs sitting on the table. Lwaxana Troi had just set her empty mug down and was reaching for the tray with the large pitcher on it. Deanna whispered to Beverly, “I hope you have enough alcohol decontaminate aboard, it looks like we may be the only ones who don’t need it.” They both chuckled a little. The only one who noticed their return was Solace, as soon as Deanna was seated; the child was on her lap. While they talked the musicians began to play, “Waltz of Hearts”.

Will turned to pull his chair over beside hers, and lay an arm across the back of her chair. It was as beautifully preformed now, as it was when she had first heard it. The last refrain was song by a young woman. Deanna looked down at now stilled child; Solace had gone into a sound sleep. When the piece had ended Deanna edged toward Will, “I think it’s time Solace and I went back. She has a full day tomorrow.”

“As so I, and I’m just beginning to feel like dancing!” Lwaxana had apparently drank more of the beverage than the amount Deanna had witnessed.

Will chuckled, “Just when things were going to get interesting. Come, let me take Solace, can you manage your mother?” They said goodnight to Lagi and Rankeer. Guinan and Beverly decided that they too were ready to call it a night. The rest of the crew decided to they were not ready to leave yet, and would thank their hosts and the queen for them.

Lwaxana and Deanna went to the guest quarters where Mrs. Troi had been assigned. Will carried the sleeping child ahead to Deanna’s quarters. The doctor stopped to get a hypospray of the alcohol decontaminate for Mrs. Troi. When she reached the quest quarters Deanna had managed to get Lwaxana into bed and was trying to coax her to stay and sleep. “Here this will put her out for the night. What times does the shuttle craft leave tomorrow?”

“Before lunch. That should give her time to recuperate. Thanks Beverly, let’s go while we can.” The two left the sleeping older Troi; each headed in a different direction.

Deanna arrived to find that Will had put Solace in her own bed, removed her shoes, then sat to read to her, except she had already fallen back to sleep. Deanna watched him take the flower out of her hair and remove the necklace. He leaned over her to kiss the child’s forehead, she heard him say, “Goodnight little one, I’m going to miss you.” Solace reached a hand out to pat his bearded chin, then tuck it back under her own face.

Will turned to see Deanna watching,  “Is Lwaxana all tucked in?”

“As tucked in as Lwaxana will allow.” He slid his arm around her waist as they went back into the living room area.

“Computer play, ‘Waltz of Hearts’  instrumental version only.” Will moved her within his arms as they danced across the floor. “It seemed such a waste to look that good for only a couple of dances.”  He held her close as she had the computer slow the tempo. They swayed to the music.

She could sense that he was feeling very mellow, and knew his thoughts about her leaving the next day. A part of her wanted to tell him about the change in plans, but the part that couldn’t wait to see his face when the plan worked held out.

“Beverly and I met with Abeathdor and Nairma tonight.” She didn’t want to break the mood, but wanted to talk with him about the meeting before they said goodnight.

“Yes, I heard he stopped you and asked you to go to speak with Abeathdor. What was all that about.” He stopped dancing, but continued to hold her close, as he kissed he collarbone and shoulders. “Hmm.” He continued as though he expected an answer.

“Will! You know I can’t concentrate like this and you…”

He chuckled, “I wanted to make sure some things hadn’t changed.” He took her hand to lead her to the sofa, where they sat while she told him about the meeting. He listened, not interrupting; an occasional nodding of the head was his only contribution until she had finished.

“Beverly has the information with her? Do you think we should sit down and go over it with her before meeting with this Doctor Dinal?”

“Yes, but she’ll need time to go over it and digest it herself. We have time, even after you get to Betazed.” They continued talking and making plans until it was only hours before Will had bridge duty. They decided to meet in ten forward before the shuttlecraft left.

After he had gone, she stood looking out at the stars wondering when she had become so capable of pulling off something like this. There was a time when she would never have considered doing something like this, least of all to Will.

She went to her room to change, when she had heard no sound form Solace she looked in on her, the child was still asleep. Deanna went back to her own bed and slept soundly for two hours before she heard Solace crying and calling her name.

When she got to the child’s room, Solace was sitting up in bed, her face red and wet from crying. “Shh, tell me sweetie, what’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?” Deanna was holding her trying to sooth her. She climbed into the bed still holding Solace in her arms. “Can I sleep with you in your bed tonight, please?” Deanna got the reaction she was hoping for. The child’s crying stopped immediately; she looked at Deanna like she must not have heard her right. Then nodded and answered, “Yes.”

“Would you like some music, I’ll have the computer play the song you like?’

“No you.”

“You want me to hum it to you?”


Deanna had to smile, no one else would prefer her humming to the beautiful reproductions the computer could master, nobody, but this child. “Okay,” she began to hum the tune as the child still hung on to her, her head against Deanna’s chest. Finally she could sense that Solace had gone to sleep. She laid her down in the bed, noticing that Will had gotten the dress and shoes off, she still had the leggings on. That would wait until morning.  She lay on her side facing the child, wondering where she was with things. Her mind ran through the countless items that needed to be done to make a permanent home for Solace. It would all wait until they returned from Betazed with some answers. She closed her eyes, she could feel the small body snuggling beside her, she leaned over to kiss a small cheek, feeling a little hand wrap drape over her neck.

She came awake to the sense that she was being watched and something was touching her face. Deanna opened her eyes to find Solace sitting close tracing a finger around her face. “Good morning sweetie.” Deanna smiled at her. “Are you ready to get up?”

“Yes, today I go with Aunt Troi?”

“Yes, after breakfast. We have a lot to do, we need to get you packed, then we need to make a couple of visits, and meet Will. Remember this is a surprise, so we can’t tell him.”

“Yes, we stop to see Twinkle and Handsome?”

“Yes, I thought you’d like to seem them.”

Solace put her head against Deanna, ‘You come in three days?”

“Yes, we will be there before you know it. We’ll visit a waterfall and have a party with all of us. Aunt Troi has this huge house with all kinds of stuff. You will be amazed. You could stay in my old room, the room I had when I was a little girl. There’s probably some of my things there too.”

That got her attention, she looked up at her, “You’ll see.”

They were up and dressed in a very short period of time. Deanna allowed Solace to pack the clothes they agreed upon. Solace asked to be allowed to wear her new necklace, Deanna could only put it on her after she had been able to hold it in her hands and study it. The door chime sounded as they were preparing to go visit the lightfoot. Solace answered the door, bringing Aunt Troi into the bedroom with her.

“Mother, are you okay?” Deanna hid her amusement at the sight of Lwaxana’s pale appearance.

“I’m just tired. Tell me little one, was that the drink you had when William had to rescue you out of that display business?”

“The very same.”

“I understand now, if you looked like I feel…I have a whole new respect for William.”

“Thank you Mother, I’ll be sure to relay that to Will. We probably looked worse, Beverly gave you an alcohol decontaminate last night, something we didn’t have in the little house we were held in.” She caught Solace listening with a strange look on her face. “What is it sweetie?’

“You were the princess.” The child smiled, “and Will is prince.”

Deanna didn’t catch the meaning right away, then she remembered the story and Will telling her she could see the princess. “Yes in Will’s story that’s right.” For some reason, that made the little girl very happy, as she skipped out the door to go visit the young animals.

Lwaxana flopped on a chair, “Go do whatever…I’ll be here, I’m ready to go. I mean I’m packed.”

When they arrived at the bio labs Beverly was already there checking the animals’ weight and adding nutrients to their formula. Solace had her lab coat on and was in the pen before Beverly had time to get her the feeding bottle. After delivering the bottle to Solace, the doctor went to stand with Deanna. “I thought you told the captain that the biologist would be taking care of the animals?”

“They do most of the time, I just check in once a day to see how everything is. You know you’re going to miss tonight’s rehearsal for the play.”

Deanna looked surprised, “I thought the play wasn’t for another month.”

“It isn’t but I’m not going to be her for a few weeks, and I just wanted to make sure everything got off on the right foot. It will be a good one, even the captain is taking part. I thought A Mid Summers Night Dream would be fun. And we get to see the men in tights. Are you sure you don’t want to wait one day to go back, I have a part designed for you? You’d play opposite Will?”

“Let me just say, I hope to be very occupied.” Deanna smiled.

Beverly caught the devilish look in the counselor’s eyes, “You have been up to something for days.”

Deanna smiled, “Yes, I have.”

 They cleaned up before leaving for ten forward and meeting Will. As they entered ten-forward, Deanna caught sight of Will almost immediately; he was talking to Guinan. Solace ran ahead hoping Will would swing her high into the air. He did, as she wanted, swinging her high then hugging her before seating her in a chair at the table next to the windows. He stood waiting to seat Deanna before going to his own chair.

They talked about small things, like the animals in the bio labs, until after Solace had eaten her strawberries. Guinan arrived as the last strawberry went down, to ask if Solace would like to go with her to see the animals. Deanna thanked her knowing the real purpose was to give them a little time to play out this scene, since the hostess knew all along what was going to happen.

The two sat in silence for a few seconds. “I might as well log some extra bridge time while you’re gone. It would help pass the time. Things will seem awfully quiet.”

She reached out to put her hand on his. “It’s going to go fast - the three days, you’ll see. Will, I don’t want you to come to see us leave. So I guess we should say good-bye before I go to pick up Solace.”

He looked at her with an eyebrow cocked, “If you think that’s best. I know you’re trying to make as little of this trip as possible for Solace, to keep her comfortable with it. If you think that would help, fine. Let’s go for a walk now.”

They walked out of ten forward Deanna suggested the holodeck. That is where they ended up, standing on the beach facing the sunsets. He stood behind her with his arms around her, “I’ve talked to the captain, there is no problem with an extended shore leave to begin in three days. I’ve asked for two weeks. We will have family quarters when we return. Beverly, I understand will be on Betazed with us for a while.”

“Yes, as our physician with the medical information form Prakal. Beverly has never been to Betazed, I thought we could show her some of the more interesting spots. It would be great fun.”

“I was hoping we could get away, just you and me. Do you think we could work that out?” he turned her to face him.

She answered softly, “I think anything is possible.”

When Deanna and Solace returned to their quarters they found Lwaxana stretched out on the sofa sound asleep. “Ssh, Aunt Troi is sleeping.”

“Yes, I see. Why don’t you wash up a bit since you were playing with the animals. I’ll wake Aunt Troi.”

Solace would have rather done the waking, she ran to wash up, hoping to still get into the other event too. She returned skipping back into the room just as Deanna touched Lwaxana’s hand.

“No, like this.” Solace moved in beside the sleeping Troi, lightly tracing a finger around Lwaxana’s face. Mrs. Troi twitched her nose, and moved her hand as though trying to swat an annoying bug away.  Solace giggled, then she leaned up to whisper, “It’s time to get up, sleepy head.”

Lwaxana opened one eye, making a great show of looking all around with the one eye still closed. She stopped when Solace leaned into her face. “Are you done resting now? It’s time to go!”

“My dear, I must have fallen asleep. I’ll get my bags, Can you help me up?” She held out a hand for Solace to pull her up, the child enjoying the game, grunted and groaned as she pulled on the hand.

Deanna sat back and watched smiling. “We’ll stop and get it on our way Mother. We should be moving along, Guinan is probably waiting at the shuttle.” She took her mother’s arm. “Are you sure you’re okay? Maybe we should stop and have Beverly give you a quick look.”

“I’m fine, come let’s not keep everyone waiting. Little One, come take my hand.” Solace happily scooted over to take the offered hand and reached for Deanna’s too.

They reached the shuttle as Guinan emerged from inside talking with Captain Picard. “Ladies, have a safe and productive trip. Mrs. Troi I spoke with Abeathdor, she wished to thank you. The young man you pointed out to her, proved indeed to be the spy.”

Deanna looked shocked. Lwaxana consoled her, “It isn’t your fault dear, you had other matters on your mind.”

Picard turned to Solace, “Remember, you have a job here, don’t stay away too long.”

She smiled at him and motioned for him to come down to her level, as he stooped down she kissed him on the cheek.  Deanna couldn’t remember seeing the captain so taken back by something so innocent. He smiled at her and thanked her. He smiled for Deanna too, “I believe everything is going as planned Counselor. I don’t expect to be seeing you until your return from Betazed. I truly hope things work out as you wish.”

“Thank you sir.” He nodded said good-bye and exited the shuttle bay.

Everything was ready to go Deanna took Solace to her seat beside Lwaxana. “Sweetie, I’ll see you in three days. Aunt Troi knows how to reach me.” She gave her a hug and a kiss, “I’ll miss you, I want you to have a good time with Aunt Troi and Guinan.” Solace continued to hold on to her. Deanna gently loosened the hold.

“I’ll miss you too!” Solace latched on with a fierce hug, tears already beginning to slide down her face. Deanna hugged her again, kissed her mother, then stepped back to the next seat where Guinan sat.

“Thanks Guinan. I appreciate this more than you know.”

“Don’t be so sure, Counselor, I’ve lived a long life. Besides, this is proving to be very interesting, I’ve needed a vacation and I’ve never been to Betazed. I’m looking forward to an educational visit.”

“If I know my mother, it will certainly be that. Thank you.” She stood looking forward to where Solace and her mother sat.

“Deanna, I promise I’ll take good care of both of them.” Guinan smiled knowing some of the counselor’s thoughts on the matter.

The shuttlecraft left, Counselor Deanna Troi stood watching as it moved out of sight, feeling a little depressed and anxious.

Before going back to her own quarters she stopped at Will’s to pick up some items for him. She went to her own quarters and tried to calm her nerves with a hot bubble bath.

The comm system in her quarters sounded, “Picard to Counselor Troi.”

“Yes Captain.”

“When would you like me to talk with Will.”

“Captain could you give me one hour?”

“One hour it is, Counselor.”

“Captain…thank you sir.”

“Picard out.” He smiled to himself, thinking of all the preparations she was going through. Will Riker had better take advantage of things and react as hoped for, or he’ll be looking for either a new ship’s counselor or a new commanding first officer, or worse -both.

She quickly told the computer not to allow entry into Commander Riker’s quarters without a special code, that she as ships counselor would okay. She took a minute to center herself. How silly this must seem to the few she confided in. She thought about how nice it would be to let everyone know they were together.
 She changed into the lingerie she had selected when she picked out their outfits for the evening in Prakal. The cool silk felt refreshing against her skin, she stood brushing her hair, leaving it loose around her shoulders, the way he liked it. She stood back to look at her appearance.

Data stopped Will on the bridge  “Commander, the counselor asked that I relay a message to you.”

“When was that Data?”

“Two hours and twenty minutes ago, in the shuttle bay before their departure. She requested that I tell you she left your surprise for you in her quarters. I believe they are her exact words, ‘tell Will for me his surprise is in my quarters, tell him not to forget to go by as soon as he gets off duty. It will not last’ Do you know to what she was referring sir?”

Will was grinning, “No, she had been hinting at something for the past couple of days. That would be like her to leave something intriguing behind.”

The captain entered the bridge from his ready-room, to take his seat of control beside Riker. “Will I take it the counselor is going to be joining you and Beverly on your trip back to Betazed in three days?”

Will looked a little confused, “Deanna left with Lwaxana and Solace about two hours ago.”

The captain played his part well, looking with concern at his first officer, “No I believe there was a change in plans, Guinan went with Lwaxana and Solace in the counselor’s place.”  Picard watched the effect the news had on his first officer, surprise, then a jaw splitting smile.

“Commander would you like some time off, I believe we can do without you for about three days.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Will moved as quickly as Captain Picard had seen him move in sometime as he made a dash for the turbolift, trying to move quickly without looking conspicuous. He decided he wanted to stop at his quarters to clean up before checking her quarters out.

He stopped at his door when it seemed slow in opening at his approach. He hit the enter key twice, still no response. He punched in his code, and nothing. Doctor Crusher, Geordi and Data were heading down the corridor to talk with him about changing the rehearsal time when they witnessed the problem with the door. Beverly began to greet him, then hesitated, she looked at the two with her, “What…?”  Geordi and Data both started forward to assist him, when he appeared to give up and went next door to Deanna’s door, he hit the chime.

Deanna knew who stood on the other side of her door.  She took a deep breath, then positioned herself in front of the doors before releasing them. As the doors swished open, Will Riker stood staring as though he could not believe his eyes. He had only made a half of a step into her quarters before he froze at her sight. The smile that appeared on his face literally went from ear to ear as his eyes took in her appearance. His eyes shone, dancing with a light in them she hadn’t seen for too long. It was exactly the look she had hoped for. She took his hand then began to pull him in from the door, she got as far as the full extension of his arm, when he pulled her back into his arms, forgetting or not caring that he still stood in the open doorway.

Watching the scene before them, Data innocently asked, “Doctor, does that the commander will not want to have the rehearsal earlier, it will stay at the original time 0800 hours?”

The scene before them had heated up considerably as they saw the counselor’s lingerie land on the floor on the commanders’ feet. Fortunately his body shielded the counselor from their view. The doctor went to the door way firmly nudging the commander in so the doors would close. Then using her security code as CMO she secured the door. “I believe it means Data, that the counselor got her wish, I think we’ll have to look for another actor for the play.”


THE END  ***But I am hoping for a sequel....please check back!!!***

please e-mail your comments to either me, Micaela at CounselorDTroi@yahoo.com
or directly to the author, Pamela at nightowl230@yahoo.com  THANKS!!!

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