Presently, Dani walked into the living room and looked around the area. She was happy her father had suggested having dinner as a family, but she was a little worried about how everything would go with her mother. It had been forever and a day since the last time they’d all had dinner together. The first significant thing she noticed was that both of her parents were out of uniform. It was a little unsettling because she hardly ever saw them out of uniform. They truly looked like different people. Her mother was at the replicator. Her father was standing at the large windows behind the table. He turned to face her when she walked in.
“Dani,” he said. She took a few steps toward the table. He noticed that she was looking at his clothes. He held his arms out to his sides. “I told you the uniform hadn’t fused with my skin.”
“So you did,” Dani said, walking to the table.
The pot roast materialized in front of Kathryn. “Damn, not again,” she muttered to herself, before the roast had even finished materializing. She didn’t need a tricorder to tell her the roast was overdone. No. Not overdone. Charred was more like it. As she picked up the hot dish with pot holders, she wondered why she could run a starship but couldn’t replicate a decent pot roast.
Kathryn walked over to the table. Chakotay and Dani were already seated. “I’m afraid the pot roast didn’t turn out quite like I expected,” she said, placing the dish on the table.
“I’m sure it tastes fine,” Chakotay said. He looked at Dani expectantly. She caught on. She looked at Kathryn and smiled, nodding enthusiastically. “Besides, I like mine a little dark, anyway.”
Chakotay chewed on the first bite of the roast, which wasn’t really what one would call an easy task. He’d said he liked his dark, but maybe this was a little too dark. The only color he could pick out in the meat was black. Something gave him the feeling that this wasn’t its correct color. He looked across the table at Dani. She looked like she was thinking the same thing he was, but she was forcing the singed meal down somehow. And she tried to look like she was enjoying it, too. He was amazed by how she was pulling it off.
“You know what,” Kathryn said, putting her fork and knife down, “I’ve determined that this…is practically inedible. I wouldn’t force my worst enemy to eat this. Dani, you can stop pretending, now. By the way, you’re a very good actress. For a second, I almost believed that you were enjoying that.”
Dani was glad to retire her eating utensils. She forcefully swallowed the bite that was already in her mouth and took a long drink of water. But it was too late-that awful burnt taste surfaced on her tongue.
“I apologize,” Kathryn said. “Grab some bread; we’ll do peanut butter and jelly tonight.”
“Not so fast,” Chakotay said. “I asked Neelix to bring something down from the mess hall.” Kathryn looked at Chakotay. “I asked him to keep it warm for me. I had intended to have them after dinner, for desert, but I suppose we could make an exception,” he said glancing down at the very well-done meat. Just then, the door chimed. “That must be him, now,” Chakotay said, getting up from the table and walking across the living room to the doors. The doors slid open and, sure enough, Neelix was standing there with a covered tray.
“Neelix,” Chakotay said cheerfully.
“Here you are, Commander,” Neelix said, handing the tray to Chakotay. “They were kept warm, just as you requested.”
Kathryn and Dani looked at each other. They watched the interaction curiously.
“Thank you, Neelix,” Chakotay said with smile. The Talaxian returned Chakotay’s smile and nodded.
“Anytime, Commander.” He walked away and the doors closed.
Chakotay turned to a curious Dani and Kathryn. He carried the tray to the table and placed it beside the pot roast.
“What’s this?” Kathryn asked.
Dani recognized the smell. She smelled some more.
“Wait a minute,” she said. She looked at the tray. Then she looked at her father, her eyes filled with revelation. “I know what these are.”
Chakotay removed the tray’s cover to reveal rows of perfectly square, perfectly brown, perfectly fluffy caramel brownies. Both Dani’s and Kathryn’s eyes filled with glee at the sight of the choco-caramel treats.
Dani walked into her quarters. She had just finished a lesson in astrometrics with Seven. Dani found astrometrics absolutely boring, but her mother was making her study it. She was much more interested in medicine. If only Seven had been assigned to sickbay…She tossed the
PADDs Seven had assigned to her on the bed and walked over to her desk. She sat down in her chair and propped her legs up on her desk.
“Computer run program ‘Sheryl Crow’, please. Volume level 10.” The music began. Dani put her hands over her eyes and let the music flow into her.
Hey, let’s party, let’s get down. Let’s turn the radio up. This is the meltdown…
Today had not been a particularly good day with Seven. They had disagreed on many fronts, and Seven had decided that it would be best to end the lesson early. She’d assigned Dani an impossible amount of reading to do and…
She didn’t want to think about it right now. She just wanted to sit back and relax.
Kathryn entered her quarters. She sat down at her desk and turned the computer on her desktop towards her. It wasn’t too long before she became aware of the sound of muffled music coming from Dani’s room. There was no way she’d be able to concentrate on her work if she could hear it. She stood and walked over to the door. She chimed once. There was no reply. She chimed a second time. There still was no reply. Kathryn entered the lock code into the small console beside the door. As the doors slid open, a wave of music hit Kathryn.
Sunshine Sally and Peter Ustinov…don’t like this scene anyhow…
“Dani,” Kathryn said. The music drowned out her voice, and Dani didn’t hear her. Kathryn cleared her throat and decided to try again, this time louder. “Dani!”
Bringing her feet to the floor, Dani turned in her seat and looked at her mother. When had she entered the room?
“Computer, lower volume to level 2,” Dani commanded. The music volume abruptly fell to a level that would permit conversation. “Sorry about that.”
“Does it have to be so loud?” Kathryn asked.
“It helps me think,” Dani replied.
“Who is it?” Kathryn asked, referring to the singer whose voice was drifting lightly into the room.
“Sheryl Crow,” Dani informed her mother. “She was a late-twentieth century singer.”
“Oh…” Kathryn said. She glanced at the PADDs on Dani’s bed. “So, how are things going with Seven?”
“Horrible! We don’t agree on anything and she gives way too much work.”
“Well, are you learning anything?”
“Not anything that I want to.”
“Well, I’ll talk to her and see if I can’t get her to diversify her lesson plans a little.”
Dani looked at her mother. She was glad to see that she was making an effort. “Thanks.”
“How’s your science project coming?” Kathryn asked.
“Oh, I’m not doing one,” Dani said, matter-of-factly. Kathryn was caught completely off-guard by this.
“You’re not doing one?” Kathryn asked.
Dani shook her head. “No. I don’t want to.”
Kathryn couldn’t believe her ears. Her daughter not want to do a science project? That wasn’t even conceivable. How could she not want to do one. It was science. “Why not?” She knew that Dani wasn’t as fond of science as she was, but she’d thought that Dani would at least do a science project.
Dani shrugged. “I just don’t want to.” She couldn’t tell Kathryn that she absolutely detested any kind of science that wasn’t associated with medicine. She knew what a scientist her mother was. It might break her heart.
“The other students are doing projects,” Kathryn said.
“I know,” Dani said, “but I just don’t want to.” Her eyes fell to the floor.
Kathryn wanted to try to convince Dani to reconsider, but she thought better of it. “…Okay. If that’s what you really want to do.”
“It is,” Dani said.
“Okay,” Kathryn said. She wanted to say more, but she settled on ‘okay’ again. She walked toward the door and then stopped abruptly. She turned back to Dani. “Why don’t you want to do a project? Just tell me. I promise I won’t get upset, whatever the reason.”
“Mom-” Dani started to protest.
“-Please,” Kathryn pleaded.
Dani stood. “Mom,” she began, “I…” She took a deep breath. “…I hate science. I find it absolutely boring. The only kind of science I like is medical science.” She looked at Kathryn. There was a look of bewilderment on her face. She took a few steps toward Kathryn. “Mom, I wanna be a doctor.” Dani studied Kathryn’s face. Kathryn was wearing her best poker face, and Dani had no idea what her mother was thinking.
“Oh,” Kathryn said simply. “Is that all?” She forced a little smile. “Well, you certainly could’ve told me this earlier. I would’ve put you in the sickbay with the Doctor, instead of astrometrics.”
‘She hates me,’ Dani thought. ‘I’d better say something.’ “I-”
But Kathryn cut her off. “No. There’s no need to explain. I understand.”
Dani took a step towards Kathryn. “Mom-”
“I’ll leave you to your music now. Computer-raise volume to previous level.” The volume of the music rose to level 10, and Kathryn left the room. Dani sat back down in her chair. Now she felt even worse than she had when she’d first walked in from her lesson.
Kathryn walked over to the sofa and sat down. She looked out at the stars. Dani hated science? How could that be? What was worse was that she had forced her into going to all those lessons in astrometrics. What had she done? Dani must surely hate her.
‘What kind of a mother am I?’ Kathryn thought.
The doors leading to the corridor slid open and Chakotay walked in. It was near the end of his shift, and he still had those departmental reports to read. His intentions had been to come in and get them over with right away, but when he spied Kathryn sitting on the sofa, his plans changed. He noticed that her demeanor was extremely melancholy. Not at all normal for her.
“Kathryn?” he said. Kathryn looked up at him. “Hi,” she said. Chakotay walked over to Kathryn. He kissed her as he sat down beside her on the sofa.
“What’s up?” he asked her.
“Nothing,” she said. “I was just thinking.”
“About what?” Kathryn shook her head. She looked back out the window. Chakotay could tell that something was eating away at Kathryn.
“What’s the matter?” Chakotay asked her.
“Nothing,” Kathryn lied.
“It’s about Dani,” Chakotay guessed. Kathryn looked at him. The look on her face told him that he’d guessed correctly. “What is it this time?”
Kathryn looked down at her hands. “She hates me,” she said.
“What?” Chakotay asked. He hadn’t been sure he’d heard correctly.
“She hates me,” Kathryn repeated. “She hates science and she hates me.” Chakotay saw Kathryn’s face crack with emotion. Tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks.
“Kathryn?” Chakotay pulled her close and wrapped his arms around her. “Where did all this come from?”
“She told me,” Kathryn said.
“She told you she hated you?” Chakotay asked.
“No.” Kathryn sat back and looked down at her hands again. “We were talking about science projects and she told me she wasn’t doing one. Eventually, she told me that she…hated science. She told me she wants to be a doctor.”
“A doctor?” Chakotay asked. “That’s wonderful.”
“I know. But I made her go to all those lessons with Seven. She must’ve been miserable. I must be a horrible mother to put my daughter through something like that!”
“Oh, no, Kathryn…” Chakotay pulled Kathryn to him once again. “You’re a wonderful mother.”
“How could I do that to her?”
“You didn’t know, Kathryn. She just told you today.”
“I’m a bad mother,” Kathryn sobbed.
Later on, Chakotay walked into Dani’s room to find that she had the same demeanor as her mother. It was anybody’s guess what was getting her down. Chakotay had come in to tell her what Kathryn had told him earlier. It seemed that his plans would have to change for the second time that day.
“Dani?” Dani looked up at Chakotay. She was sitting on her bed. It seemed that she had been so into her thoughts that she hadn’t even noticed that someone had walked into the room.
“Dad,” she said. “Hey.”
“You wanna talk?” Chakotay asked.
“About what?” Dani asked.
“You tell me,” Chakotay said. “You look a little down.” He walked around to the side of the bed and sat down in front of Dani. “I was talking to your mother earlier today-”
“She told you,” Dani jumped in. “What I said.”
Dani looked down at the blanket that covered her bed. “She hates me, doesn’t she?”
“What?” Chakotay asked. He couldn’t believe he was hearing this-again.
“She hates me because…I’m not a scientist.” Dani broke into small sobs.
“Oh, Dani…” Chakotay pulled Dani to him and wrapped his arms around her.
“It’s true, isn’t it? She hates me.”
“Your mother does not hate you, Dani,” Chakotay said.
“Yes, she does,” Dani insisted. “I told her I didn’t like science-except medicine, of course. She didn’t say so, but I could tell she was disappointed. She hates me.” Chakotay chuckled unexpectedly. Dani looked at him. “Why are you laughing? I don’t think this is very funny.”
“Do you know what your mother and I were talking about earlier?” Chakotay asked. Dani shook her head. “She told me that you hated her.”
“She thinks she’s a bad mother,” Chakotay informed Dani.
“No,” Dani disagreed. “Mom…Mom’s great.”
“She doesn’t seem to think so.”
“Why would she think that?”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
Kathryn was looking out the window when Chakotay and Dani walked into the room. She stood as they approached to sofa.
“Now, the last time you two encountered a problem, I did all the talking,” Chakotay started out. “Now, I think it’s time for you both to do your parts. It’s time for you to talk.” Chakotay sat down. Kathryn and Dani looked at each other before taking their places on the sofa. “Now – talk.”
Since Dani already knew how her mother felt, she thought it was only logical for her to be the one who begin. ‘Logical?’ Dani thought to herself. ‘I’m spending way too much time with Tuvok.’
“Mom,” Dani began, “First thing’s first – I do not hate you.”
“You don’t have to lie to protect my feelings, Dani,” Kathryn said.
“I’m not lying, Mom,” Dani insisted. “I don’t hate you.”
“Yes, you do. I made you go to all those lessons with Seven. I made your life miserable.”
“No, they weren’t that bad.” This time, Dani was lying. Those lessons had been hell. “It’s just that I wasn’t all that interested in the subject matter.” She looked down at her hands. “Actually, that’s why I thought you hated me.”
“Hated you?” Kathryn asked.
Dani looked up at the ceiling.
“I thought that you hated me because I wasn’t a scientist,” Dani revealed. Kathryn watched as tears appeared in Dani’s eyes.
“I mean, I feel like nothing I do is ever good enough for you,” Dani went on. “I mean, when we were on Earth, I did the ballet thing, and I played tennis, but I never…I never felt like I made you proud.”
“Dani, I am proud of you. I always have been.”
“Well, I never felt like you were. I never felt like I could measure up to your standards, like I could make you proud like your officers do.”
Kathryn put her arms around Dani.
“Dani, you can’t compare yourself to a Starfleet officer because that’s not what you are. What you are is my daughter. Don’t you know that you make me and your father proud of you every single day?”
“I do?” Dani asked.
“Yes,” Kathryn said. “Yes, yes, yes.”
“Why?” Kathryn repeated. “You have been through so much in the past five years. We all have. But you’ve tried to do everything like you normally would. That takes a lot of courage. I admire that, and I’m proud of you for it. Dani, I love you so much.” She and Dani embraced each other again.
“I love you, too,” Dani said.
Chakotay looked on, a smile of satisfaction on his face.