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Sleep had been something long avoided. It seemed to her as though it had always been that way. It hadn't, of course, there had been many easy years where the dreams had almost never invaded her slumber. Years in which they had served together as colleagues and wonderfully intimate friends. But lately, lately, her mind seemed insistent on the idea that they should be far more intimate.


Night after night now, whenever she closed her eyes, she saw those same forbidden images that she thought had been banished long ago. Beautiful blends of memory and fantasy would present themselves to torture her with the perfection of a reality that could never be. And so, she had learned to fight the impulse to sleep, despite the fact that she knew she needed it desperately. It wasn't healthy, everything she knew, every ounce of professional training told her that. And besides that, she was beginning to lose herself in the exhaustion.


She blinked rapidly, desperately trying to keep the heavy lids from closing over her dark eyes. "This is crazy!" her frustration sounded loudly in the empty room. "It's only a dream, after all." Besides, her rational side argued, at this point she was so tired, she wouldn't be able to dream now, even if she had wanted to. At this point, it seemed more than worth the risk.


Having finally convinced herself, she slipped into her nightgown, ran a brush through her dark curls, and climbed into bed. She was asleep in an instant. And then, it happened.


~~ She looked up at him, and suddenly, she had forgotten to breathe. She heard his voice, asking questions she didn't know how to answer. But he didn't want one. He kissed her in a way he hadn't in years. His hands moved to touch her, and this time, she didn't fight it. And she was hopelessly lost.... ~~


She awoke with a start. Her heart racing, her body silenced with the chill of loneliness. The tears ran freely once again, It wasn't the dreams that she hated so much. It was the waking up, the total emptiness that followed their conclusion. WHY, why was this happening to her? Why now? And why did it have to hurt so damn much? She shook her had angrily, and got up to change. The last place that she wanted, no needed to be was here in her bedroom. Not right now.


*  *  *


He sat at the bar of the lounge, staring helplessly into his drink. Even there, he could see her. And why not? She was everywhere, a part of him that followed wherever he went, everyday of his life. It had always been that way...always, she was there, a part of his very soul.


But since that long ago night in his quarters, the night she had gently pushed him away, putting any personal relationship in the past, where it belonged. Or at least that was how she had seen it. And yet, he had understood why. She had wanted, needed, more than just a relationship -- she had needed HIM. At that time, he didn't know how to give her that much of himself, and she had known that as well as he had, perhaps even better.


But things had changed. At least they had changed for him. It had been nearly eight years since that night, he was older, and hopefully wiser. These days he understood the need for more than just simplistic, casual relationships like those he had had with other women over the years. Even for more than his relationship with her had once been. Now, he was thinking more about having a life, a future...something real. And the only person he could imagine loving that way was her. His soulmate.


But, was that what she wanted? He didn't know Since that night they had settled back into the comfort of close friendship. They had never really discussed if the day would ever come when they could try again, and right now, that fact was killing him inside. Now, he found himself thinking of her every waking moment.  He saw it all an it could be, the two of them...children....he knew she would be a wonderful mother, he had always known had been him he had worried about. Whether she would want that life, or life with him at all, that was what he feared most. He feared the answer so much that he dared not ask the question. And so he dreamed of her, finding solace only in sleep.


"Will." Her voice behind his startled him from his daydreams, back to the distant world of reality.


"Deanna, what brings you out this time of night?" He had come off the first night shift himself, a little over an hour ago, but Deanna wasn't due for a shift for hours yet, and they were still in the hours of ships night so he knew she couldn't be up and ready for appointments just yet.


She shrugged absently "Sleep wasn't working for me tonight." With that, she took the cup of hot chocolate Guinan had seemed to know she needed without asking and smiled her thanks to the bartender.


"Join me then? Will, asked casually, rising and gesturing toward the far table he knew to be her favorite. She hesitated only a moment, then nodded. The hesitation wasn't lost on Riker, but he decided it was best to let whatever was bothering her remain her business...for now.


Once they were seated, they were silent for a while, both lost in their own thoughts, both trying to ignore the tension that, for reasons both were aware of but neither understood, had materialized around the table.


Finally, she looked at him, her dark eyes filled with question and speculation. "Why did you come here?" She asked softly.


He looked up at her, his eyes narrowed in confusion. "Here?"


She shook her head apologetically, but when she looked at him, he had the erie feeling that she couldn't even see him. "To the Enterprise....."


He wasn't sure how to respond to that, really. In truth, it had just seemed to him at the time to be the best choice. "I don't know, he answered finally, "I guess it just seemed like a good career choice. Turns out I was right."


"But," Deanna continued, only half hearing him, "you were offer a Captaincy, the ultimate goal and you turned it down, Why?"


Her voice had raised an octave, and his discomfort was becoming concern. "Deanna, take it easy...where is this coming from?" He didn't understand, but as far as that was concerned he wasn't sure she did either.


    "I don't know! Gods, I don't know! I really am not even sure where this conversation is coming from....I don't know where any of this is..." She was near tears, the sheer exhaustion finally getting the better of her. "I'm sorry, I don't know why this is happening. I'm just so tired, things aren't making sense anymore. I just --"


Will's hand came up, gently cutting her off. He stood slowly, then coming around the table, he reached out and guided her up to her feet. She didn't fight or question the gesture, she simply followed. She trusted him in this moment more than ever before, and so she followed feeling as though she had just placed her life, her heart, indeed her very soul in his hands. Even to herself, the situation seemed dramatic yet surreal, and in the end, all she could do was let it happen.