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         "Does she know?" Deanna could barely ask the question.

         Lana nodded. "She does now. I didn't see the point in letting her torture herself with details she couldn't understand. Granted, she can only remember what anyone might remember from when they were five years old, but I trust you'll be able to fill in the gaps."

 

         "How the hell am I supposed to do that? I can't even fill in my own!"

 

         Seeing her normally composed mother in such near hysterics was more than enough to frighten Amanda, but she shoved it aside for the moment. "Mom, Lana filled in what was missing for -" she hesitated, wondering which name would be better to use, knowing each would draw a reaction, and trying to decide which would be least painful at the moment. "Well, for Alexis, and maybe she can you too. Right?"

 

         Deanna winced. She was right of course, but in spite of knowing that Lana Andrews was as much a victim as the rest of them, the idea of letting this woman inside her mind was terrifying to her. "Where's Will?" she asked suddenly, trying to distract herself from the decision at hand.

 

         "Probably still trying to track her down. That girl was always good at making herself hard to find." No sooner had the word left Lana's mouth then she wished she could takes them back. "Oh, God...I didn't mean, I'm sorry."

 

         At this point, however, Deanna simply waved it off. It didn't matter anymore, any of it. What mattered now was knowing that somewhere nearby her child was out there needing her, and she didn't know how to help. ~No that's not true, the answer is there, you just don't want to face it.~

 

         Whether the words came from herself or from Lana she wasn't sure, but it provided enough challenge for her to force the decision she needed to make. "Alright, do whatever it is you need for now, I couldn't stop you at this point if I wanted to."

 

*  *  *

 

         "Damn!" of all days for the lift to go down, why this one? Or at least why in those few minutes? By the time Will Riker made it to the main floor of the building he was sure Alexis Black was long gone. And why had she run to begin with? That in itself bothered him the more he thought about it. Where did this woman fit in this massive chain of coincidence that the last few days had become?

 

         "Excuse me?" The woman's voice behind him caused Will to turn. "Are you looking for the young woman who just left?"

 

         Will nodded to the older woman, who he vaguely recognized as a commander who worked in the sociology department. "She looked pretty bad, couldn't even find her own transport, poor dear. Not that she should have been driving it anyway, mind you. I saw that she got a public transport home, don't you worry."

 

         "Ah yes, of...of course. Thank you."

 

         Will didn't bother to wait for her reply. He had to get back to Deanna, assuming she was still at least as together as she had bee when he left her. He only hoped the damned lift would decide to function this time.

 

*  *  *

 

         Tears streamed down Deanna's face as she remembered moments that, until now had only existed in pictures. Of course, with the pleasant memories came the return of even more painful ones as well, along with the feelings of what it had been like to lose it all.

 

         She lived it all again, from the day she left home for San Francisco, to the first steps and first words, all the way to the sound of Axie's tears as she left the schoolroom that last morning. That sound that she could now remember so clearly, the sound that in the days that had followed, had filled her thoughts during the day and continued in her dreams at night.

 

         Will's entrance finally drowned out the torturous cries, and Deanna turned, already knowing she wouldn't be there. "What happened?" She asked, trying in vain to wipe away her tears before her husband would notice.

 

         "The lift went down, and by the time I got there, she had just left. I ran into a woman who apparently made sure she got a ride home, so at least she wasn't driving."

 

         "Thank God." Only Will was shocked by the intensity of his wife's reaction, or her next comment. "I need to go after her."

 

         "What? Deanna, please talk to me. Tell me what is going on here!"

 

         Deanna hesitated only briefly. He WAS her father, and after what she had done the last time, he deserved honesty now. But it would take too long, and in the end that would do no one any good. "Will, please, trust me to do it right this time, OK?"

 

         A hint of understanding, followed by a flood of confusion flashed over his face. "Deanna? Of course I trust you, but --"

 

         She did let him finish, instead she held him tightly. "Take care of Mandy and make sure Lana gets home." At his questioning glance she finished, "We can deal with all of that later, they'll explain everything, I promise. I love you."

 

         ~I love you too, Imzadi, you know that. Be careful.~

 

         Deanna nodded in response to his parting words and shot a reassuring look to Mandy, then left. Suddenly, with the confusion gone and her path clear before her, she seemed very much like the Deanna she had always been, at least on the surface.