TEN MONTHS LATER
Exploring Sector 23578
Captain William T. Riker’s attention was drawn to the comm unit on his desk. The words “Incoming Transmission” alerted him and he tilted his head with curiosity when he realized the transmission wasn’t being generated from Starfleet Command, but rather from “Private Residence, Valdez, Alaska.”
“Clearance Riker Epsilon Two Tango,” he said bluntly to the console.
To his utter surprise his gaze was met with a pair of utterly unforgettable, penetrating green eyes and a porcelain-skinned face surrounded by long, straight and pitch-black hair. She was smiling sweetly at him and said, “I didn’t catch you at a bad time, have I Captain?”
“Toni!” he replied gleefully. “What? Where? How long…” he stammered before finally gathering enough of his wits to formulate a whole sentence and lowering his response with concern, “How..How are you?”
“Sorry I haven’t contacted you in so long Will…” she said apologetically.
“No need to apologize Tone, although I have been awfully worried about you. The last time we spoke…”
She dropped her head with embarrassment. “Yeah, you caught me on one of my rougher days I’m afraid.”
Riker didn’t reply, he knew she had more to offer and he was still so shocked by her call.
“That was what…three years ago?” she asked.
“At least,” he said.
Toni shook her head with disappointment. “I guess I had to heal a lot more than I thought.”
Riker didn’t know how to answer her and he tried to the let the uncomfortable feeling drift away, but Toni would have none of it. “It’s okay Will. I did have a lot of healing to go through and for the most part very few people from Starfleet were involved. That’s why I didn’t call you. For a very long time I didn’t want to have anything to do with Starfleet or have anyone affiliated with them – even my closest, dearest friends – to be within a parsec of me.”
Riker smiled at her ice-breaker. “But I take it that some of that has changed. Why the call Tone – is everything okay, can I help with...”
“Will…” she stopped him from rambling again. “I’m calling because I have some news and I’m ...well, we’re rather hesitant to tell you about it.”
Riker stiffened his back. “What’s wrong Toni? What happened?”
Toni Steele smiled gently. “Nothing is wrong really, but this news will most likely come as a complete surprise.” She stalled generously. “I value our friendship…you know that, right?”
Riker smiled broadly. “Of course I do. I value our friendship very much as well. We’ve known each other for too long not to.”
Toni nodded. “I know. It’s why you’re the first…heck, you’re the only person I’m telling this to. You’re the only person that matters enough in my life, but I just couldn’t let you find out from someone else…”
“Stop beating around the bush and tell me. I promise I’ll try my best to handle whatever it is you have to tell me.”
“Will, I’m getting married again,” she said bluntly.
Shock pulsed through Riker but was immediately back-filled with elation. “Toni! That’s wonderful news!”
However the look on Steele’s face hadn’t wavered. “Wait Will…don’t be too happy for me yet.”
Utterly confused, Riker stopped short. “What? Why not? I’m thrilled that you found someone Toni! I can’t think of anyone who deserves happiness more than you.”
“I hope you still feel that way after you find out who it is I’m marrying.”
Steele sighed with dread. “Will, I’m getting married to Thomas…Thomas Riker.”
Riker didn’t know how to respond. Had he heard her correctly? She was going to marry Thomas? His double? Him? Him in another person’s embodiment? Thomas. That Thomas? She was going to marry Thomas? He merely sat there, with a stupefied and vacuous expression plastered across his face.
Steele started to ramble to fill the void of sound, “Yeah, I wasn’t sure you’d take this very well. It’s got to be a serious case of the dejavu-but-it’s-not-you kinda thing. I mean – here we are, former lovers and we became such close friends, but then I ended up meeting Thomas by way of a very circuitous, and may I add painful route, which ended up with both of us in Starfleet psych for six years and now I’m actually going to be marrying the man who, for all intents and purposes, is you but he’s not you because he’s very different from you except for the fact that you were the same person at …”
As Steele rambled on, something snapped inside Riker’s mind and he released an uncontrolled and heart-felt laugh. The laugh blurted out then built up and rolled on with such strength and vigor that he completely drowned out Steele’s nervous diatribe.
Steele stopped talking and watched as Riker burst into uncontrolled and joyous laughter.
“Am I to take this response as a positive one – or one in which you think I’ve gone off the deep-end?”
Riker brought his glee under control to look to one of his oldest and dearest friends in the eye. “Oh...oh Toni. It’s just…that’s just too damn perfect if you want to know the truth!”
“Sorry?” she asked.
Riker roared with another laugh. “Is he there? Is he there with you?”
Toni nodded weakly. “Aye, he’s right here,” she replied, a little taken aback by Riker’s jovial response.
“Thomas! Get on the comm!” he demanded.
Thomas Riker moved in and sat down next to Toni and Riker wasn’t too surprised to see that the man still looked identical to him. It was literally as if he was looking into a mystical mirror. “Will,” Thomas acknowledged his double with a smirk.
Will dropped his laughter succinctly. “Tom, I only want you to know one thing.”
Thomas sat up briefly, seeing Will’s change in demeanor. "I’ll take care of her Will, I promise.”
Will grinned brightly. “Of that, I have no doubt…no, what I wanted to say was this…a few seconds ago I said that I couldn’t think of anyone who deserves happiness more than Toni.”
“Yes. I couldn’t agree more.”
“Well, I was wrong.”
“Excuse me?” Thomas questioned.
“You do too Thomas. Of all of the people in the world, the two who deserve happiness the most – are Toni…and you.”
Thomas smiled and nodded graciously. “I don’t suppose there’s any way you could make it back to Valdez for the ceremony next week.”
Riker grimaced with disappointment. “I’m afraid not.”
Toni leaned forward. “Will…”
“Yes Tone?” Riker responded.
“Thomas and I are setting out to travel after the wedding. It may be rather hard to reach us…I just didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.”
“Now I am sad.” Riker replied. “How long will you be gone?”
Thomas shrugged. “We’re not sure, several months…a couple years…”
“I’ll call when I can,” she offered. “I promise.”
“You do that.”
“I love you Will. Please send my best to Deanna. And please…if there’s any news or emergency or…whatever. Doctor Levani at Starfleet Medical will know how to reach us.”
“Okay Toni.” Riker replied.
“Will…” Thomas leaned in.
“I know I don’t need to remind you, but take care of Deanna.”
Riker smiled. “And I don’t need to remind you to take care of Toni. But I will any way.”
“Good luck Will.”
“Good luck Tom.”
“I’ll call when I can Will,” said Toni.
“Send postcards you two – and please know… I couldn’t be happier for you both.”
Smiles were apparent on all their faces and Steele spoke up. “Bye Will.”
“Bye,” he said.
The comm screened darkened and he looked up to see his wife standing by the door. It became obvious she was standing there for awhile. He stood, slipped around the desk and moved quickly to take her into his arms gently.
He pulled back and looked down to see the amazing swell of her belly. The twins were certainly beginning to fight for space.
“Why didn’t you tell them about the pregnancy?” she asked softly.
Riker ran his hand lovingly over her pregnant belly then up into the waves of her dark brown hair. “They were so happy Deanna. I didn’t want to one-up them.”
Deanna smiled brightly. “We can always tell them after the wedding.”
Riker placed his wife’s arm through his and escorted her from his office and to the turbolift where they made headway to their quarters to celebrate that all was seemingly right with the universe … for once.