"Deanna my dear girl! William, my dear, dear boy!"
Lwaxana pulled Riker down and planted a kiss on his forehead, no-doubt leaving behind a bright orange lip-print. Out of the corner of his eye, Riker could see Picard, Beverley, and Geordi trying and failing to keep a straight face. Data, too inexperienced in the ways of emotions to be able to hide them, was flat-out laughing at him.
"Darlings, it's so good to see you both!" Lwaxana hooked an arm through each of theirs and began to lead Deanna and Riker away from the madness of the wedding preparation. "I am so very sorry I couldn't make the wedding on Earth, but little Odo had a fever, and I just couldn't leave him. Now, I don't want either of you to worry about a single thing! Everything is taken care of, everything is on schedule for tomorrow, and all you need to do is rest and relax."
"We appreciate all of your hard work," Riker said.
He wasn't just being diplomatic. Lwaxana had outdone herself. The garden burst with color, with the reds of the hakar leaves and blue of the jimthira flowers and the green of the passat trees that were so reminiscent of Earth's weeping willows. The low stone wall around the garden had been freshly painted in a light purple hue, and accented with gold flecks. Bronze statues adorned the garden, each one polished to a high gloss and shining in the sun. The stone platform where they would sit for the ceremony was decorated with ornately embroidered pillows.
Even Deanna, who had spent most of the trip to Betazed fretting that her mother was going to go completely overboard, was pleased. "Thank you, Mother. It's lovely."
"Thank you, Mrs. Troi."
"Mrs. Troi? Pah! From now on, you simply must call me mother!"
Deanna rolled her eyes. "No, he's not--"
Lwaxana barreled on. "Now, little Odo is down for a nap, and I have had prepared a simply wonderful picnic in the park for us. Come along, before safra gets cold and the po gets warm."
She led them out of the garden and into a larger park with brick paths that led down to the water. Lwaxana continued, "I've arranged rooms for everyone. I tried to convince Jean-Luc to share the suite with us, but he refused." She frowned. Lwaxana wasn't being inappropriate. It was common Betazoid custom for the most distinguished guest to share the family suite. Not that Riker faulted Picard in the least for declining the offer.
Lwaxana turned to him. "And what about your father, dear? Is he coming?"
"No," Riker said.
"He could only make the Earth wedding. Well, too bad." Riker stared at the mirrored surface of the lake reflecting the bright blue sky and the pleasure craft in the sky above. Lwaxana cocked her head to one side. "What's wrong, dear?"
Deanna brushed her mind against his, a soft, comforting touch. "Will's father couldn't make either wedding."
"Oh, how unfortunate! Is he ill?" Lwaxana settled down on a pillow on the ground and began pouring out glasses of po, a fruity, carbonated beverage that Will had developed a taste for during his two years living on Betazed over a decade and a half ago.
Riker settled down on the ground across from her. "No, not ill. Just busy with a terraforming project."
Lwaxana stared at him in disbelief. "Too busy to attend his own son's wedding?"
"So it would seem."
Lwaxana lapsed into a silence that wasn't really silence, and Will could feel a faint buzzing in the back of his brain, like inaudible whispers ghosting across his thoughts. Lwaxana and Deanna were having quite the conversation. He knew perfectly well what Deanna's opinion of the matter was, although she had been careful not to actually let her anger out in front of him. In fairness to his father, Kyle Riker had seemed genuinely sorry when he'd called to tell them he wouldn't be coming. Just not sorry enough to get on a ship and return to Earth.
"You know," he said after a few minutes, "it's rude to talk about someone behind his back right in front of his face."
They both had the good grace to look guilty.
"Well!" Lwaxana said. "That's too bad, but we're going to have a wonderful time all the same!"
"Yes we are," Will said. Lwaxana scrutinized him as if trying to see if he was lying. He wasn't. His father was who he was, and Will had long since stopped trying to change him. At least they were on speaking terms now. Time to blatantly change the subject. "How's little Odo?"
"Oh, excellent!" Lwaxana said, and launched into a panegyric about his newly acquired ability to hold a spoon.
"Odo is an interesting name," Deanna said. "You never told me how you came by it."
"Didn't I?" Lwaxana said. "Here, try some safra. I had them make it the way you like it."
"Wasn't the security chief on Deep Space Nine named Odo?" Will asked, vaguely recalling meeting the dour Changeling years before the name of his race had been known.
"Yes, yes, I believe he was. Safra?"
Deanna was confused. "Wait, did you name him after the security chief on DS9? When were you on DS9?"
"A few times, over the years." Lwaxana said. She rearranged her voluminous brown skirt. "Here and there."
"Often enough to name your son after Constable Odo?"
"Well..." Lwaxana cleared her throat. "I was briefly married to him, you see."
Will looked back and forth between them and started to stand. "Maybe I should go for a walk..."
"Sit!" Deanna ordered. "You're part of this family now, for better or worse, remember?"
Will sat. Deanna turned her attention back to her mother. "You were married to Constable Odo?"
"Very briefly. It was almost immediately annulled."
Riker recalled the prickly Changeling constable. He couldn't fathom a chain of events that would lead to him marrying Lwaxana Troi. Not that he claimed to know the man--person? What was gender to a Changeling anyway?--well at all.
Deanna folded her hands neatly in her lap. Anyone who wasn't telepathic, or who didn't have an empathic bond with her, would have thought she was perfectly calm. She was not, however, fooling anyone sitting on the blanket. "Annulled?"
Lwaxana looked out at the lake and sighed. "Oh, very well. You aren't going to stop until I tell you everything." She looked back. "I married the wrong man."
"No, Odo was very much the right sort of person. Maybe not an ideal marriage mate, but very much..." She trailed off and said, very softly, "right." Lwaxana played with her skirt again. "It was the man before Odo that was the mistake. A huge mistake. Jeyal. Very unpleasant, being married to him, and then he tried to take little Odo, and I had to run away, which was hard because I was practically a prisoner in my own home, and...well. Odo helped. Went above and beyond really. Naming my son after him seemed the least I could do."
"Mother, why didn't you call me? I could have helped."
"Because frankly, Deanna, I didn't want to be judged for making a mistake."
Deanna recoiled as if slapped. "I wouldn't!"
"Yes, you would."
Deanna looked at Will, who found something fascinating in the bottom of his glass of po.
"I can't believe this," Deanna said. "You really think that I wouldn't have helped you if I'd known?"
"I never said that," Lwaxana said. "Only you might not have been very nice about it. Oh, but let's drop all of this unpleasantness. Have some safra, little one." She held out a cracker smeared with the warm, salty dip.
"I'm not hungry."
They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Will ate his safra and drank his po and tried to think of something pleasant and neutral to say. He was coming up blank when one wandered into his line of sight.
"Is Data naked?"
Lwaxana and Deanna turned to look. Data was indeed naked, and walking toward them across the verdant ground cover. A naked, anatomically correct android walking through a park in broad daylight was not the strangest thing Will Riker had seen in his life, but it was certainly unusual. When Data had gotten close enough, Will asked simply, "Why?"
"May I sit?" Data asked, all politeness.
"Of course," Lwaxana said gesturing to the blanket. "Your creator certainly didn't skimp on detail, Mr. Data. I had no idea you were so perfectly...perfect." She smiled. Deanna was not smiling, and must have thought something unkind because Lwaxana gave her a dark look before turning back to Data. "Is that all...functional?"
"Fully," Data said and looked at Riker. "In answer to your query, I was created with a modesty subroutine that can prove quite...insistent at times. I wished to ensure that it would not cause any problems at the wedding tomorrow, and so I decided to go on a trial run, if you will." His eyebrows went up. "I did ask first to ensure that public nudity, while not very common, is not frowned upon on Betazed, and would cause no difficulties for me or my host." He nodded to Lwaxana.
"How very kind of you to think of me that way." She whirled around and faced Deanna. "No I do not!"
"If you don't want to know what I'm thinking, don't read my mind!"
"Stop thinking so loudly!"
Data looked at Riker, concern on his face. "Have I caused a problem?"
"You? No. Deanna and her mother have decided to dredge up thirty years of familial discord the day before the wedding. You see, Data, Deanna is hurt because Lwaxana didn't tell her that she needed help a few years ago, and went to someone else instead. And Lwaxana is hurt because she believes that Deanna has a tendency to judge her, especially when it comes to her romantic entanglements, which is why she didn't feel comfortable approaching Deanna when her marriage turned out badly. But the actual issue is that, ever since her father died, Deanna has felt that she's been forced to take on something of a parental role because Lwaxana's personality is so...carefree that at times she can seem almost childish, although she is actually a mature and intelligent woman who can take care of herself. Meanwhile, Lwaxana doesn't really understand Deanna, and has historically tried to force her into the sort of life choices that would make her happy, rather than focusing on what actually makes Deanna happy, which has made things even harder between them."
Lwaxana and Deanna were staring at him. Data just nodded. "Thank you, sir. That makes sense."
"I thought I was the psychologist in this family," Deanna muttered.
"My father left when I was fifteen. Do you have any idea how much therapy I went to before I turned twenty? I know all about prematurely taking on a parental role in a single-parent family."
In retrospect, social services had probably taken a look at the combination of high intelligence, low fear response and high tolerance for risk, and parental death and parental abandonment both, and put a 'risk of anti-social behavior' red flag on his file that meant intensive psychological intervention. At the time, all Will had known was that two afternoons a week, he got to go to his therapist's office and stop pretending that he was okay.
Deanna said, "Data, classify everything that Will told you as personal-private. I don't mind you knowing, but it shouldn't be shared outside of this circle."
It was a good catch on her part. When it came to personal matters, Data didn't always quite get the finer distinctions of who should be allowed to have what information.
Data stayed a few minutes more, and then decided to wander into town and continue testing the limits of his ability to override his modesty subroutine. Will, having said his piece, ate safra, and the chicken salad that Lwaxana had also included in the picnic basket, and drank po, and looked out across the lake. They were stretched out under a tree, and the sunshine filtered down through the large, translucent purple leaves.
He lay back on the blanket and closed his eyes, listening to the rustle of the wind and the lapping of the lake. The air smelled good, floral and earthy all at once.
"You've got a good one there, little one," Lwaxana said.
"I know. But let's not praise him too highly. He's not actually asleep, and it's enough work keeping his ego in check as it is."
Will, without opening his eyes, stuck his tongue out at her. Deanna laughed.
"Your father was the best thing that ever happened to me. I've never been happier than I was with him. Being married, having you, h--having...Kestra, that's what gave my life meaning. If I've tried to push you into marriage, it's because I wanted that for you too. And if I've sometimes made a fool of myself chasing men, it's because I wanted it for myself again too, so much."
Deanna didn't reply, at least not in words, but Will could feel them communicating. Deanna's emotions were briefly overwhelming, and then settled back down, and she felt lighter than she had. He cracked an eye as Deanna lay down perpendicular to him and rested her head on his thigh. He reached down and took her hand, twining his fingers with hers, and listened to the lapping of the water against the shore.