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         Will reached the office, not even bothering to slow down as he entered. When he did, however, he came to a dead stop. Amanda stood beside her mother, who seemed to be simply starting at nothing.

 

         In all the years that Will Riker had know Deanna Troi, from the young girl held captive on Betted, to the woman who had now been his wife for nearly 20 years, he had never seen her like this. He approached the chair slowly, not wanting her to be frightened by a sudden approach, and unsure as to just what kind of state she had worked herself into. He started to speak her name, but the whispered word died on his lips when her eyes suddenly met his.

 

         "She was here."

 

         Both Will and Amanda were startled, not only by the words that had been the first she had spoken in their presence, but more so by the deathly cold voice Deanna had used when she spoke.

 

         "Who, Deanna?" Will's mind raced with possibilities. His first thought was Alexandra, but that would never have instilled such emotions as he now felt emanating from his wife, could it? Fear yes, and shock certainly, but the emotion that had come roaring to life with her words was something he could only have described as lethal.

 

         His question never drew an answer from Deanna, however. In the next moment, the office doors wished open once again, and he realized that the question would soon answer itself.

 

         Lana kept her eyes to the ground as she entered, not because she felt fear or shame, but because she knew that this time Deanna's reaction would come far more forcefully, and she was not about to face this woman unprepared. Going for a confrontational approach was a mistake though, and she one regretted from to moment she finally looked into the dark eyes of Deanna Riker.

 

         She had seen cold determination it this woman's eyes before. It was one of the few things about that first, and last, case that still haunted her dreams. They had been friends once, as real as any of that could have been under the circumstances, and it has fascinated Lana at the time to see a girl her own age so completely focused.

 

         It was as if the young girl named Deanna Troi had realized that the world had pulled her back one too many times, and she was ready to pull back. Lana knew, from experience, how easily a teenager could crumble under the challenges of parenthood, but Deanna seemed to thrive on them, the sheer force of her will to succeed in creating her own life burning stronger each and every day.

 

         That forcefulness she could handle now, even match after the knocks she had suffered since then. But this was different, and the both knew it. For the first time in years, Lana felt fear. Not the paranoid fear she had come to trust in as a form of self preservation, but a real, knowing fear, that the coming explosion would finally destroy them all.

 

         Deanna stood now, her body tense. She reminded Will of a tiger laying in wait as she stared down the blond woman. "You," she said dangerously, the young girl's fire turning to black lightening in the woman's eyes, "stole my little girl."

 

         Those words erupted a firestorm through out the room. Will felt his own blood boil with read hot anger, a shocking companion to his wife's cold fury. He started forward, ready to finish with Lana Andrews what he had started on Alexis the night before. But this time he was stopped by Deanna's hand as it clamped down like a steel vice on his arm. Her eyes never left Lana's face, and she never spoke, but her message was all too clear: this was her fight.

 

         He might have objected to her once again excluding him where it came to there first born child, but not this time, not now. He himself hadn't even begun to come to grips with the situation, the could only imagine the sheer hell it was to the woman who had lived it all.

 

         Amanda felt a silent alarm begin to sound in her brain. Something was wrong. She looked around the room, her eyes finally coming to rest on Alexis, who had shrunk back into a forgotten corner.

 

         "I did what I did. I had to survive, you of all people should understand that."

 

         Deanna advanced on her adversary as the other woman spoke. "How can you...?" She didn't need to finish the sentence, it finished itself in a variety of ways, all of them appropriate.

 

         "I never left her alone with them." Lana's resolve broke. "I could have run that day and left her to the wolves, like they did me, but I didn't....I thought I could, that I could get away once they had her, but I didn't I swear!" Tears escaped unnoticed as she stood there, a woman being swallowed alive by her own demons.

 

         The edge left Deanna as she watched, remembering all she had heard the night before. She heard her one voice saying that no matter what her child may have done, she was still her baby. It struck her then, that this woman was someone else's child, and most likely a victim herself. "What....did they do to her?"

 

         Amanda was still watching Alexis as the exchange took place. Now, tears streamed down her face, and she was shaking. Amanda slowly made her way to the corner. Alexis's fearful whimpers increased with her approach, drawing Lana's attention first.

 

         Decades of instinct kicked in instantly. "Stop that! Can't you see you're scaring her?!!? Then she saw Amanda's face.  "Oh God..."

 

         Alexis's eyes darted to each of them, and then from Amanda to Deanna and back again. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't....I'm sorry!!!"

 

         And before anyone could react, she ran.