Thinking back to that same year that she’d had her falling out with Emma, Dani remembered that she had been so glad when that first break of the year, Thanksgiving break, had come around. Besides the obvious reason, that she’d have a week-long break from her heavy load of course work, the time off would also afford her some time to spend with her parents.
Dani had always thought of Thanksgiving as an antiquated holiday that didn’t have much meaning anymore. But both her parents had always held firm that celebrating it was about more than celebrating what some pilgrims and Native Americans did hundreds of years ago. Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay thought of it as a time for families to get together and spend some quality time with one another. When Dani had been younger, she’d scoffed at that idea. But now that she was older and away from her family, she understood the relevance of the holiday all too well and was glad her parents had decided to uphold the traditions that surrounded it.
When Dani awoke Thanksgiving morning, the sweet aroma of dressing baking in the oven invading her nostrils. She opened her eyes. Her father must be downstairs cooking Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen, she figured.
Dani looked at the chronometer on her bedside table. 9:32 a.m. It’d been ages since she’d slept this late on a weekday. Her usual rising time was 6:00 a.m. She sat up, happy to be home.
Chakotay’s had been away on assignment last Thanksgiving, so Kathryn and Dani and gone to her aunt Pheobe’s and had dinner with Kathryn’s mother and Phoebe’s family. This year, though, both Kathryn and Chakotay were home, and what’s more, they had invited some former members of Voyager’s crew for dinner. It was going to be one big feast. The only person missing was Will. The Enterprise wouldn’t be back to Earth until December, so Will had promised to be home for Christmas.
After showering and dressing, Dani headed downstairs. As she made her way down, she heard two voices talking in the kitchen. One was her father. The other was not her mother. It was another man.
Dani walked into the kitchen. “Will?”
Will Riker turned around, a turkey baster in his hand and a wide grin on his face. “Hi,” he said.
Dani walked over and kissed him. “Hi. What are you doing here?”
“Our mission was postponed, so we got an early leave,” Will informed her.
Dani turned to her father, who was standing on the other side of her. “Good morning, Dad.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“Good morning,” Chakotay said. He was busy chopping collard greens and placing them into a pot. “Did you sleep well?”
“I always sleep well in my own bed,” Dani said, smiling at her father.
“Good. Is your mother up, yet?” he asked.
“No, I don’t think so. I haven’t seen her.”
Kathryn appeared in the kitchen doorway. “What’s this?” Kathryn asked. “I’m the last one up? I must be slipping.”
“Good morning,” Dani, Chakotay, and Will said in unison. Dani walked over to Kathryn and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“Let me finish doing that” Kathryn said, offering to take over the turkey basting for Riker. She approached him, and he handed the baster to her.
“Thanks,” he said. He and Dani walked into the living room and sat down.
“When did you get here?” Dani asked him.
“Late last night,” Will said. “I was going to wake you, but you were sleeping so soundly. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
“I wish you would’ve. I was dreaming about you, anyway.”
Will smiled. “Were you?”
“What was I doing in this dream?”
“I wouldn’t feel right saying it out loud in my parents’ house.”
Will’s blue eyes seemed to light up. “It’s that bad?”
Dani nodded and smiled. “So, how long are you going to be here?”
“Only a few days. Our mission was rescheduled. The Enterprise leaves orbit Saturday at noon.”
Dani wanted to complain, but she knew he had no control of it, short of quitting the ‘Fleet.
“I know it’s not long, but we’ll make every moment count,” Will said. “I promise.”
“It’s more than enough time. I didn’t think I’d get to see you at all. Now I find that I get to spend two whole days with you.”
“I don’t know how much of that time we’ll actually get to spend alone.”
“Yeah, I know – Harry, Seven, Icheb, Tom, and B’Elanna are all coming over.”
“Don’t forget Data,” Will added.
“He’s never been to a real Thanksgiving dinner before.”
Dani nodded. “That’s ten. Perfect.”
“Harry, could you pass the salt, please?” Tom asked.
“Sure,” Harry said. Harry picked up the salt and passed it to Tom, who was seated beside him. Both were at the Janeways’ dinner table with eight other people.
“So, how did you two meet,” Tom asked Dani and Will. He looked at Dani who, in turn, looked at Will.
“Actually, we’ve known each other for quite a while,” Will said.
“Since I was a kid,” Dani said.
“Yes,” Will said.
“Well, then I suppose that the question I should be asking is how you came to be a couple.”
“I’m surprised you don’t already know,” Dani said. “I would have thought everyone’s already heard about it courtesy of the Federation News Service.”
“It was after Voyager returned from the Delta Quadrant,” Will began. “We reunited at a reception. The rest is pretty much history.”
“Wonderful,” Harry said. “Any wedding plans?”
Everyone’s head snapped up. Their eyes fell on Dani and Will.
“No,” Dani said. “Not at the moment.”
“But in the future?” Seven probed.
It was like a tennis match. Everyone’s head was following the conversation as if it were a bright yellow ball.
Dani looked at Will before answering. “Well, we have talked about it, if that’s what you mean.” Kathryn and Chakotay both went white. Dani saw it and quickly added, “But we both agreed to wait until after I graduate from the Academy, at the very earliest.” Kathryn still looked as if she would faint.
“You’re getting married?” Tom asked. “Way to go, Dani!”
“This is most unexpected,” Icheb said.
“You’re telling me,” Harry said. He’d broached the initial question, but he hadn’t expected that Dani would actually be ready for marriage. Not now. He looked at her. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
“Lt. Kim has a point,” Data said. “Marriage is a big commitment.”
“Dani, I can’t say that I agree with your decision to marry at such a young age,” Chakotay said.
“I’m 22,” said Dani, but it was as if no one heard her.
“I have to agree with your father on this one, Dani,” Kathryn said. “This could be a mistake. I mean, you aren’t…pregnant, or anything – are you?”
Dani and Will looked at each other, as everyone else at the table continued to talk about their ‘engagement.’
“Excuse me,” Will said. No one even knew that he was trying to speak. “Hey!” Everyone ceased talking and looked at Will. “Thank you,” he said. “Now, no one, at least not Dani or I, is getting married. We said we talked about it. That’s all.” Everyone looked at one another and went back to enjoying their meal. Dani and Will looked at each other, amazed at how quickly that whole conversation had escalated. It was intriguing. It had given the both of them a look into everyone’s train of thought concerning the course of their relationship, and it’d been very revealing.
“I can’t believe how wild dinner got this afternoon,” Dani said. She and Will were sitting on the porch swing. Night had fallen, and things had settled down considerably since dinner.
“Yeah,” Will said. “Who knew one little question could cause so much of an uproar?”
“I’m sure Harry didn’t mean any harm by asking,” Dani assured him.
“No,” Will said, agreeing with Dani. He pulled Dani closer.
A gentle breeze blew through. Dani pulled the thick blanket draped over her and Will closer.
Data, Harry, and Tom observed Dani and Will from inside.
“Out of all the people I imagined Dani ending up with, Will Riker was the last person on that list,” Harry said.
“Last?” Tom asked. “He wasn’t even on my list.”
“I, too, was surprised by the coupling at first,” Data said. “However, after observing them together and considering their history together, I have come to find that they are quite well-suited for each other.”
“I never meant that they didn’t make a good couple,” Harry said. “He just seems a bit…” He searched for the appropriate term.
Tom didn’t bother with searching for ‘appropriate terms.’ He completed Harry’s statement for him. “Old?” he said.
Harry looked at Data. “No,” he said. ‘Old’ didn’t quite fit. “It isn’t exactly that. I mean there is an obvious age difference, but that’s not really it. It’s just…”
Tom took a sip of his glass of water and tried guessing again. “He’s a bit of a player in the relationship game.”
Harry and Data looked at each other and nodded. Tom had hit the nail exactly on the head.
“I just wouldn’t want her to get hurt, you know?” Harry said.
“Lieutenant,” Data began, “may I remind you that the commander and Dani have been in a monogamous relationship for over two years.”
“Data’s right,” Tom said. “Besides, anyone can change.” Tom was a living testament to that statement. He’d first boarded Voyager an irresponsible, womanizing ex-con. When he’d disembarked for the final time, he’d been a responsible family man with a wife and kid.
The three of them once again returned their gazes to the couple sitting on the porch.