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THE NEXT DAY

San Francisco
Fort Point


Thomas sat in his favorite spot on the bench that looked out at Fort Point. The waves were gentle and almost serene as they lapped up against the base of the 19th Century fort tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge. The sun shone warmly on his face and head and he wondered if there would ever be a time when he would miss this place.

He laughed internally when he realized that there was a time he actually never thought he’d miss Alaska either, but now here he was actually choosing to move back there.

It had been almost six years since he came back to Earth – almost six years since his war crimes tribunal testimony and six years since the long, long months of inpatient therapy began.

It had been four years since he moved out on his own. He still lived in a small apartment, not three blocks from the Starfleet Psychiatric facility just above Ghirardelli Square.

Now, he was facing leaving the Bay Area and the thought thrilled him – and terrified him at the same time.

He had been offered a position back with Starfleet Intelligence. The same group that was responsible for his whole messed-up life to begin with.

He thought long and hard about the offer and whether or not he was just allowing himself to become victimized again.

He had undertaken his original role with them in order to expose the Obsidian Order without any appearance of a violation of the Prime Directive. He remembered that he offered himself willingly to SI in order to accomplish their exposure and insure that the Federation didn’t make any move without having all the information about Cardassia available to them.

He did it to protect the Federation … and Bajor. He did it because he felt it was the right thing to do.

Only things didn’t go quite as planned.

The hijacking of the Defiant went perfectly. The outing of the Obsidian Order went absolutely according to plan; but it’s what happened afterward that went to hell in a hand-basket.

From the outset of the operation, Thomas knew that he would end up in Cardassian custody, but what he didn’t plan on … well, what no one had planned on was ...

… The Dominion.

Before SI could rescue Tom from the bowels of the labor camps at Lazon II, The Dominion entered the Alpha Quadrant and got stuck there. Eventually they thwarted every single pre-planned escape opportunity that Starfleet Intelligence had put into place to retrieve Thomas.

Essentially when The Dominion got stuck on this side of the wormhole, Thomas got stuck on Lazon II.

However Thomas didn’t know anything about that, he only knew that SI wasn’t coming to get him. He only knew that he had been left behind – that he had been forsaken by the one entity he had sworn his life to – and the one entity that was never supposed to leave a man behind.

To say that he was disappointed didn’t come close to the rage he felt.

Then he met her.

Laren was captured by the Cardassians and had avoided immediate termination. Not that the Cardassians didn’t want to kill her, no – it was The Dominion’s new influence that had … temporarily … saved her life. The Vorta and the Female Changeling felt that her knowledge of Starfleet might be “elicited” and any information on how they operated might give The Dominion an advantage on their new and perplexing enemy.

Laren had been through it before though. She knew Cardassia’s cruelty and had survived it before. She, like him, were trained – very well trained – on how to live through the pain. They never broke.

It was the first brick in their foundation – the ability to rely on each other to assure that neither one of them broke. Their ability to withstand the torture and the pain became a matter of pride…

But her appearance at the camp had brought something else that Thomas had not expected. She brought with her information about who this new “Dominion” were and about how the wormhole was effectively shut down to keep the rest of the invasion fleets from entering. She brought the other inmates information about how The Dominion had somehow manipulated a pact of non-agression with Romulus.

And she brought with her knowledge of how to escape Lazon II.

Laren wanted to escape to go help her Maquis brethren.

Thomas wanted to escape to help her.

He didn’t have any love for the Maquis, but he was a man without a country and if joining the Maquis meant escape from the labor camp, then he was more than happy to allow himself to be called a Maquis. Besides – everyone thought he was Maquis anyway. No one knew they had only been the Trojan Horse to hide his true objective.

It was the only secret he ever kept from Laren.

She never knew. He couldn’t bear the thought of how she would take it if she were to find out he only used the Maquis as a means to accomplish a Starfleet Intelligence mission.

So they escaped. Not for long really, it was only a few days when they were, luckily, captured by a Jem’Hadar attack squad. For some reason the Changeling held off on their executions – again, in the hopes that they had made some outside contact with the Federation or even the Maquis which might give The Dominion some insight to future plans of attack.

It was the only thing that kept them alive and both he and Laren knew it.

Instead of being sent back to Lazon II, they were sent to the mines at Hutet … and Gul Nekrit’s famous – or rather infamous torture rooms.

It was then that Thomas and Laren found out that the interrogators at Lazon II were but mere amateurs.

It was then that Thomas and Laren used each other’s mere existence as a means to survive.

Yes, it was love – but it was a very different kind of love. It was love for love’s sake. It was love for survival.

Laren had once told him that when she was younger she feared being a coward in the face of death.

He took solace in witnessing the fact that she was anything … anything but.

It was the only emotion he allowed himself to attach to the memory of her murder now. He promised her that he’d beat them and he did. He promised her that he’d never forget…

… and he hadn’t.

He came home only to find out that Starfleet Intelligence hadn’t forgotten him. They had tried almost everything to retrieve him from Cardassia when he was initially turned over to them. But the internal connections that Starfleet had with any Cardassian who might be able to help were quickly squelched when Dukat entered into his deal with the Dominion devil. All avenues that were meticulously woven into place unraveled the moment the Jem’Hadar, the Vorta and the Changeling took residence on Cardassia Prime.

And Starfleet Intelligence was, for the first time in years, completely frozen out from Cardassia.

Thomas became a victim to what was nothing more than really, really bad timing.

To this day everyone outside SI still believed that Thomas had defected to the Maquis. But, that was about to change.

Today Rear Admiral Shane had an appointment with Captain Toni Steele … and Thomas feared what her response to the information might be.

Would she rage against him? Would she never forgive him for withholding that secret from her like he did from Laren? Would she accept him? Would she understand?

Could he dare to hope?

He sighed helplessly as he watched the a waves lap up against the concrete retaining wall and smiled as tourists passed by him.

This time he didn’t even hear her approach. He was so bogged down in his own fears, he didn’t even realize how much time had passed.

Her smooth, alto, velvet-rich voice shattered his cocoon. “Can’t say I’m surprised to find you here.”

His eyes shot up to catch a glimpse of her beautiful face. Her onyx-black hair was pulled away from her face and held by a clip at the back of her head. Her amazing, vibrant and jade-green eyes seared into him. He swallowed hard. Well, here we go.

Her arms were folded in front of her and she quickly peered down to the ground, breaking eye contact with him.

He found it hard to breathe. “Do you want to sit?”

“No Will, I want…I want to cry.” She lifted her head and he could easily see the glistening in her eyes. “I want to scream. I want to hit you square upside the head and then walk away.”

He lowered his head. Her response wasn’t unexpected, but it still hurt like hell. “I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you about SI. I don’t blame you for being angry.”

She froze where she stood and the pain crossed her face. “I’m not mad at you for not telling me about SI.”

He shot his gaze to her blazing green eyes again. “You’re not?”

“No.”

“Then why...why are?”

“You’d leave me? You’d really leave me Will? After everything…?” The tears lifted and fell. “…everything we’ve been through together, you’d really leave me…again? You’re moving away and you didn’t have the courage to tell me?”

Thomas shot up from his sitting position and straight over to the beautiful woman standing so stoically by the bench. “NO!” he retorted loudly. “Who, who told you I was leaving?”

“Shane said you were looking at property in Alaska,” she admitted. “He said you told him you wanted to go home.”

Thomas set his hands gently onto her shoulders. “Tone.” He moved his large hand gently to her lowered and locked chin. He pulled her chin up to force to look him in the eye. “I am not leaving you.” He caught his breath and choked back his shock and emotion. “I won’t leave San Francisco if you don’t want me to. I’ll move to New Mexico if that’s where you want to go. I’ll move to Andoria if you want me to. I’ll go anywhere…anywhere for you because…” He swallowed hard. “I love you. I love you so much I don’t know how to handle it.”

The woman in his arms swayed gently and he moved to steady her. Tears once again filled her eyes and fell silently down her cheeks. He wiped them away tenderly. “If you love me, why would you plan to move to Alaska without telling me?”

Thomas moved her towards the bench where he was finally able to convince her to sit next to him. “I planned on asking you to come with me..but…

“But what?” she replied defensively.

“But I wanted to make sure that if you said no, that you didn’t want to be with me - that I would…that I would have a place to move onto so I could leave you alone. You’ve already suffered enough because of me.”

She wiped more of her tears way from her burning cheeks. Her anger brewed and she grit her teeth as she turned to face him more squarely on the bench. “You haven’t been the cause my suffering Will, so stop saying that you are. I didn’t just go through six years of therapy so you could guilt yourself into caring for me.”

It was Thomas' turn to feel stabbed. “That’s not how I feel Tone.” He lowered his voice and his head reverently. “But is that how you feel about me?”

She growled and covered her face. “Of course not. I’m just angry that somehow…somehow you wouldn’t already know.”

“Know what?”

“That I love you too you big idiot. That I don’t know if I could go a day without seeing you.” She pushed her hands against his broad chest.

“Do you meant that?”

“Of course I do! I was mad that you would even think to leave me to go Alaska without even thinking of aski..”

Thomas bolted forward wrapped his arms around her and covered her lips with his own, silencing her sentence before she could finish.

Initially surprised by the veracity of his kiss Toni retracted, only to fall easily back into his embrace and return his kisses with passion.

Thomas pried his lips away and pushed his hands into her hair and gazed into her gorgeous green eyes. “You understand what Jack has asked you to do?”

She nodded without a verbal response.

“You understand why I want to do this?”

Again she nodded.

“I don’t want you to agree to do this unless your decision has nothing…and I mean nothing to do with me.”

Toni tried to laugh. “That would be impossible and you know it,” she retorted honestly. “However, I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me feel more useful too. Think about it Will, there are people whose lives are going to be forever altered…like ours were. We can help them. We’ll be able to help them forgo the suffering that we had. We can help them avoid the pain we share.”

Will smiled and kissed her deeply once more. “Somehow…somehow I knew you’d understand.”

She lifted her delicate yet strong hand to his face and drew her finger down the outline of his beard. “I love you Will.”

He pulled back from her and set his hands on hers. “Will you move to Alaska with me?”

She laughed brightly. “When can we go?”

He roared with glee and drew her back into his arms and he pushed his lips towards her ear and whispered, “I never want to let you go.”

“Don’t then,” she whispered in return.

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