Standing on the Academy’s athletic field, Dani smiled inwardly. She would have smiled outwardly, had she not been in the middle of a graduation ceremony. Her eyes darted over to Adm. Cambden. He was still droning on about the Academy and Starfleet in general.
Dani, in the meantime, drifted back to the summer after her freshman year at the Academy. She had ended up going to the Enterprise with Will that year. It had turned out that her field training assignment had, in fact, led her there, not without a little help from her parents, Will, and others, Dani suspected.
When Dani materialized on the transporter pad in one of the Enterprise’s transporter rooms, Will was waiting for her.
“Permission to come aboard, sir,” Dani said, keeping with protocol.
“Get off that transporter pad and come over here,” Will ordered with a smile.
A smile formed on Dani’s own face as she stepped off the pad and walked over to Will. She wrapped her free arm around his neck and gave him a kiss and a hug, which earned an amused look from the transporter technician.
Dani hesitated to show any additional affection. Will picked up on her discomfort and asked the tech to give him and the cadet a moment. The tech complied and promptly left the transporter room.
“Does anyone know I’m supposed to be coming here?” Dani asked, regarding her stay on the Enterprise.
“Everyone knows,” Will replied.
“He was the first,” Will said. “Come on; I’ll show you to your quarters.”
Will and Dani left the transporter room. The transporter tech who had beamed Dani aboard was waiting dutifully outside the door. Riker nodded to him, giving him permission to re-enter, as he and Dani left.
Dani and Will continued with the conversation they had been having in the transporter room.
“You can’t possibly believe that Captain Picard initially agreed to this,” Dani said.
“Why wouldn’t he?” Will asked. “You’re currently ranked #1 in your class. You’ve got oodles of experience. And you’re going to make someone, hopefully him, an excellent officer in a few years.”
“And the fact that you wanted me onboard with you had absolutely nothing to do with it?”
“Just what are you implying, Cadet?” Will asked in a mock command tone.
“Nothing,” Dani responded. “Nothing at all.” She and Will rounded a corner and stepped into a waiting turbolift.
“Welcome to your home for the next three months,” Will said, presenting Dani’s quarters to her. She stepped in. The room was considerably larger than her room back at the Academy. It was one large room with areas sectioned off for the beds, dining table, and sitting area.
Beds. Bunked beds. That meant she’d be sharing the room with someone.
When Will saw Dani’s eyes wander over the beds, he knew that she’d figured out that she’d have a roommate, so he answered the question that he knew was going to come out of her mouth next.
“Emma Shale,” Will said.
“What?!” Dani shrieked, turning to face Will. “She’s my roommate?” Will merely nodded. Dani shook her head. “No. Not in a million years.”
“You know the hell I’ve been through with her. Why in the world are we being assigned to the same quarters?”
“Why is she even here?”
“She’s second in your class. If we take number one, we’re obligated to take number two as well. And you are the one who said you didn’t want special treatment. This is standard procedure.”
“Well, is it also ‘standard procedure’ that we room together?”
“Actually, yes – it is.”
“That’s it. I didn’t think it was possible, but I see now that it’s destined to happen.”
“The next three months of my life are actually going to be more hellish than at the Academy.”
Will was about to offer some words of solace (or at least try to) when his comm badge chirped. “Transporter room to Commander Riker.”
Will tapped the badge. “Riker here.”
“Sir, Cadet Shale is ready for transport, sir.” Dani only offered Will a look of desperation. “I’m on my way. Riker out.” He looked at Dani. “It won’t be that bad, Dani.”
“Yes, it will. You don’t understand, Will. You’ve never met this girl. She’s made it her life goal to bring me down.”
“You said that about Nimembeh, too. Are you sure that this isn’t her way of trying to make sure that you make it?” Will asked in a feeble attempt to make light of the situation.
“I’m serious. She has it out for me. You watch her.”
“I will.” He kissed her. “I’ll see you at dinner tonight.”
That night, Dani and Emma met with Will, the captain, and most of the senior bridge crew members for dinner in the Captain’s Mess. Dani ended up sitting between Will and Emma.
Dani had already met these people before. When she was younger, she’d been a familiar face on the Enterprise–D. The Enterprise had often served as her shuttle from one place to another, where one or both of her parents were waiting for her. As she looked around the table, she noted the absence of two notables, Worf and Wesley. Worf was now an officer on Deep Space Nine, and Wesley – well, no one quite knew the exact whereabouts of the former Ensign Crusher. He had joined a man known as The Traveler on his exploration of time, space, and reality.
“So,” Captain Picard began, “How would you rate your tenures at the Academy, so far?” He looked from one cadet to the other.
Dani looked at Will. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t want to lie to the captain, and tell him everything had been peachy keen, but she didn’t want to lay everything all out on the table in front of everyone.
“Well-” she began, but before the entire word had even left her mouth, Emma was already talking.
“Well, Captain Picard, I think I speak for the both of us when I say that our experiences so far have been quite interesting and unique.”
“Really? Wonderful!” Picard said, smiling at the cadets. “I remember my time at the Academy as a time of wonder and excitement. Absolutely exhilarating. I think that most of my colleagues here would agree. Number One?”
“Absolutely, sir,” Will said. “Some of the best years of my life were at the Academy.”
“Wesley seemed to be gain so much from his experiences when he was there,” Beverly said. “I wish he had stayed and finished.”
“Wesley’s out exploring realms that human beings rarely get the opportunity to see,” Captain Picard input. He looked at Dani. “You remember Ensign Crusher, don’t you, Dani?”
“Of course, sir,” Dani replied. “It’s quite difficult to forget an individual such as he.” She smiled at Dr. Crusher, who smiled back.
“How were your classes last year?” Deanna Troi asked.
“They weren’t really all that difficult,” Emma said.
“51.295 of first-year cadets would tend to agree with you,” Data said. “As would I.”
Dani still couldn’t get used to the reality of Data having emotions. Right now, he was smiling genuinely at her and Emma.
“What kinds of classes are you taking?” Geordi LaForge asked. Emma replied first. “Engineering.”
“Looks like you could have a future engineer on you hands, Geordi,” Captain Picard said.
“And what about you, Dani,” Counselor Troi asked.
“My field will be science,” Dani replied.
“Cadet Janeway’s being modest,” Will said. “She’s on her way to command school.” This earned impressed looks from everyone around the table except, of course, Emma.
“Really?” Geordi said.
“Of course,” Will said. “It is, after all, in her blood.” He smiled at Dani, who was blushing noticeably. She was grateful that her shoulder – length hair was covering her ears because she was sure that they were beet red.
“I do have plans to attend command school,” Dani confirmed.
“Hopes of taking your own command one day, Dani?” Picard asked.
“Yes, sir,” Dani replied.
“She’s going to beat Jim Kirk’s record,” Will bragged.
“You could have beaten that record, Number one,” Picard said.
“Not if it meant giving up the Enterprise.”
“They say that command school is very difficult to complete,” Emma said.
“Take it from me,” Picard began, “It is.” He looked from Emma to Dani. “However, I believe that Cadet Janeway is more than well-equipped to successfully complete the rigorous course work required to graduate from command school.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Dani said casting a triumphant look at Emma.
“Did I or did I not tell you that she was out to get me?” Dani said to Will, as they returned to their respective quarters after dinner.
“Dani, how?” Will asked.
“You didn’t hear her talk about command school?”
“All she said was that command school could be difficult.”
“All while implying that I wouldn’t make it. You can’t tell me you didn’t hear it in her voice.”
“Okay. Yes. I admit that she did sound a bit vindictive when she was speaking.”
“But that doesn’t automatically mean that she has it in for you.” They stopped walking right outside Dani’s quarters. Will placed his hands on Dani’s arms. “Look, just try to make this work, okay?”
“I am. She’s the one-”
“Dani – try. For me?” Dani nodded. Will gave her a kiss.
“Maybe I should just spend the night with you,” Dani suggested.
“No, you stay here with Emma tonight.” Will took Dani’s hands into his. Dani wanted to protest, but it would do no good, she knew. Will kissed her hands. “I’m glad you’re here with me.”
“I would say I’m happy to be here, but it’s not entirely true. You know why.” Dani walked into her quarters.
She entered and saw that Emma had made herself quite at home. Emma had nicely dumped Dani’s belongings onto the floor. The bed that the things had once occupied was now occupied by Emma’s belongings – and Emma.
“I guess this means I’m supposed to sleep on the top bunk,” Dani said, moving to the bunked beds and preparing to climb to the top bunk.
“No, it means you can’t have either,” Emma said.
Dani ignored Emma and moved to access the top bunk. Emma, who moved faster than Dani had expected, barred her from accessing the bed.
Dani sighed. “Look, I know we’ve had a, how did you put it, ‘quite interesting and unique’ history at the Academy so far, but we’re not at the Academy right now. So, please – let’s just try to civil about this.” She tried to move around Emma again, but again, her path was blocked. “Emma!”
“Where are your brass connections, now?” Emma asked.
“Down the corridor. Now move!”
“You shouldn’t be here, Dani. You don’t deserve it.”
“I worked for what I’ve got.”
“Everything you have was given to you on a silver platter, while the rest of us have worked our asses off.”
“You haven’t worked anything, except my temper. And if I’m not mistaken, you were the one who, at move-in, was so set on convincing me that because we do happen to have ‘Fleet connections, we deserve special treatment. I have no idea where your sudden change in attitude came from, but I think I like that other Emma better.” Dani reached down and began picking up various belongings of hers and continued. “I’ve worked just as hard as anyone has,” Dani argued. “Maybe even more. You think I’m privileged because of who I know? I have to work twice as hard as anyone to prove myself. If someone happens to give me a break once in a blue moon, oh no, it’s got to be because of who my mother or who my father is, or damn it , because of who I am. So, don’t you tell me about work, because I’ve done more than my fair share of it. Now, move!”
Emma reluctantly stepped out of Dani’s path, and Dani climbed up to the top bunk.
Dani often found it amusing that she’d somehow found herself in the field of science, a subject she distinctly remembered hating while on Voyager. Maybe she hadn’t been interested in science back then because her personality had clashed with Seven’s. Or maybe her interests had simply changed as she’d grown older. But sometime between Voyager’s return and the beginning of her second semester at the Academy, her interest in medicine had waned while she’d turned her attention to other types of scientific study.
Because Dani’s future field was science, she would be spending a large amount of her time aboard the Enterprise with Data, which was cool with her. She always enjoyed spending time with Data. It was just that he was so…different now, but so…the same.
On day two of the cadets’ stay onboard the Enterprise, after Data’s shift on the bridge, he and Dani had lunch together. Dani could do little more than stare at him in wonderment as he reacted to everything with emotion.
“Dani, you are not contributing to the conversation significantly,” Data said. “Am I boring you?”
“No,” Dani said. “Quite the opposite, actually. I’m not used to seeing you with emotions.”
“Sometimes, I, myself, do not believe that it is real, however…it is,” Data said with a little smile. This caused Dani to smile, too.
“It’s really amazing,” she said. “I guess you finally got your wish, huh?”
“Yes. I am more human now than I have ever been in the past.”
“I’m happy for you,” Dani said.
If Data had emotions, that included all emotions. There had been something that Dani had been wondering about since she’d found out that Data had acquired the emotion chip.
“So, have you found anyone special, yet?” Dani asked.
“By special, you mean a lover?” Data clarified.
Dani had tried to be kind of discreet, and Data’s bluntness had surprised her a little. That was one thing that had not changed because of the chip. She nodded. “Yeah.”
“Not exactly,” Data said.
“What do you mean?” Dani asked. That kind of vague language wasn’t what she was used to hearing from Data.
Data leaned forward and lowered his voice. “I have not spoken of this with anyone before now, so I would greatly appreciate it if-”
“-If we just kept this between us?” Dani said, finishing his statement.
“Of course I will. Now – what’s up?”
“There is a young woman in Engineering,” Data began. “I do not know how to best describe the feeling I have for her. She is friendly, intelligent, and has a good sense of humor. And she is attractive. I find myself strangely drawn to her.”
“Data!” Dani said. “You’re in love!”
“I am? Is this what love feels like?”
“No. I didn’t say that you loved her; I said that you were in love. There’s a difference.”
Data furrowed his golden brows in that most familiar way. “I do not understand.”
“When someone says that he or she is in love with someone, that usually means that that person has romantic feelings toward the another person. When a person loves another person – well, that’s a bit more complicated and damn near impossible to explain.”
“Do you love Commander Riker?” Data asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you in love with him?”
“So, it is possible to be in love with a person and love that person simultaneously?”
“Very possible indeed.”
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Data and Dani looked to the new speaker, Will.
“No. Of course not,” Dani said.
Will pulled up a chair and straddled it backwards, joining Dani and Data at the table. “So,” he began, “how’s it going?”
“Fine,” Dani said.
“Everything alright with Emma?”
“I should be leaving,” Data said, rising. “I have a shift in Engineering.”
“Should I be there?” Dani asked, starting to rise as well.
“No,” Data said. “Your presence there is not required at this time. Finish your lunch with Commander Riker.”
Data nodded and smiled. “I will see you later.” He left the table and Ten- Forward.
“I’ve been trying to get used to Data with emotions,” Dani said.
“Yeah, I know,” Will said. “He still surprises me.”
“About Emma – we didn’t exactly work things out last night. But I got my bed.”
Dani and Data were in Engineering a few days later.
“Data, give me the readings from that scan,” Dani said, studying her panel. When, after a few moments, she hadn’t received the information she looked at Data.
Data hadn’t seemed to hear a word Dani had said. He was looking off into space it seemed. “Data?” Dani said. He didn’t answer. “Data,” Dani said a little more loudly and firmly. He looked at her. She walked over to him. “What’s the matter?” Data’s gaze returned to the previous object of his attention. Dani followed Data’s gaze to a young woman, a lieutenant, standing across the way.
“Is that her?” Dani asked him.
“She’s cute.” Dani looked at her. “Go talk to her.”
“I cannot,” Data said.
“Why not? She doesn’t appear to be outrageously busy.”
“Data, are you…nervous?”
“It would appear so.”
“Data, you’re not going to get anywhere like this. How do you expect to build a relationship if you don’t even go talk to her?” Dani moved closer to him. “Nothing can happen if she doesn’t even know how you feel.” Data nodded. Dani gave Data a supportive pat on the back. He walked over to the lieutenant and successfully began a conversation.
Will entered and approached Dani. He spotted Data with the lieutenant and looked quizzically at Dani. She took his arm and led him a little distance away to give Data and his ‘friend’ some privacy.
“Data’s working on a…project,” Dani said, keeping her voice low.
Will nodded. Keeping his voice low as well, he asked, “Will you be free for lunch?”
“No,” Dani said regretfully. “We’re still working on these scans.”
“Dinner?” Will asked hopefully.
“Always. Your quarters?”
Will smiled. “Always.”
“I’ll be there at 2000 hours.”
Will lowered his voice to a whisper. “Should I bring out the extra toothbrush for you?”
“Keep it handy.”
When Will opened the door to let Dani in, he didn’t even get the chance to say hello before her lips were pressed firmly against his, and her hands were on his body pulling him closer to her.
“Oh, no you don’t,” he said, managing to pry his lips and his body away from hers. “I actually cooked.”
“Can’t that wait until afterwards?” Dani asked. Before he could answer, she was kissing Will again.
“You’ve got it backwards,” he said. “Now, come on; let’s eat.”
Ten minutes later, Dani and Will were well into their meal.
“It’s been wonderful having you onboard the Enterprise,” Will said. “I can’t wait until your post here becomes permanent.”
“You don’t even know if I’ll be assigned here,” Dani said.
“Well, generally, those that do well during their field training are usually offered permanent positions once they finish at the Academy.”
“I know. I just keep thinking that everyone’s setting themselves up for this big disappointment. If I don’t turn out the results that everyone expects of me, I feel like I’ll be letting them down.”
“Hey,” Will reached over and covered Dani’s hand with his. “No matter what happens, you’ll always have my love and support.”
“Thanks. You have no idea how much I’m glad to hear that. Now, could we please move on to dessert?”