Dani stood on the Academy green during the graduation ceremony remembering that Thanksgiving when Will had surprised her by showing up. Her mother had told her of a conversation between Tom, Harry, and Data that she’d overheard. That entire ordeal had made her smile. They had been the good memories. As she remembered the last year of her Academy stay, though, thoughts turned to less pleasant memories. It was somewhat ironic that Tom, Harry, and Data had been worried about infidelity. It was ironic because it had actually become an issue in Dani and Will’s relationship, only Will hadn’t been the one who’d stood accused – he’d been the accuser.
Dani discreetly pulled at the collar of her dress uniform. She’d only had to wear it on a few earlier occasions, and every time, she’d hated it, just as she hated it this time. The were unflattering, ugly, and impossible to keep clean. Dani looked at her friend Rane Skara. She seemed right at home in her uniform.
“At least they aren’t those horrid dress things people had to wear before the design changed,” the Bajoran said, referring to the earlier style of the dress uniforms. Dani had to at least be thankful that they hadn’t had to wear those. Still, though, she contemplated just how much better off she was in what she was wearing now. It was different from the earlier style, but just as ugly. And now she looked like a waiter, too.
Dani plucked a glass of ginger ale from a passing waiter’s tray. “I don’t understand why this has to be so formal anyway,” Dani said. “This is supposed to be a celebration, isn’t it?”
“This is a celebration,” Kyle Hicks said, joining Dani and Rane’s conversation. “This is how they celebrate.” He pointed to a group of Academy professors and Starfleet brass who were standing together talking across the crowded room.
Kyle took a swig of his ginger ale and frowned. “But it’s definitely not how I celebrate,” he said, looking dejectedly at the non-alcoholic beverage. He handed it off to a nearby waiter.
“Guys, we only have one more day to go. Tomorrow we graduate and tomorrow night, we have our own celebration,” Rane said. “A real one.”
“With real drinks,” Kyle added.
Dani smiled at her friends. Saying goodbye to them would be difficult. None of them had been given the same assignments. Rane would go to the Grissom, while Kyle was going to Starbase 123. Dani would be going to Deep Space Nine. It wasn’t the Enterprise, as she’d hoped, but it was a good post. It meant, though, that Dani’s relationship with Will would remain a long-distance one. She looked across the room at him. He was currently chatting with a captain and an admiral, but he didn’t miss her look. He looked at her and flashed her a smile. She smiled back before turning back to her Kyle and Rane.
This was all so bittersweet. Dani was ecstatic that she was about to graduate and become an officer. Her career in Starfleet was about to get off the ground. At the same time, she was going to have to leave these people who’d become two of her closest confidants in her time at the Academy.
Dani hated having to do this. While she hadn’t had a high school graduation and hadn’t had to go through that ordeal, she’d gone through a similar experience when Voyager had returned to the Alpha Quadrant and she’d had to leave the friends she’d made there. And here she was having to do it all over again.
“I can just imagine some of these admirals at a real party,” Kyle said. “They probably wouldn’t be such tight-asses if they’d get a little booze in them.”
Will looked up from his conversation with Admiral Davies and Captain Chang and looked across the room at Dani. Obviously, she found something very funny. She was laughing hard and trying her best to hide it. Will smiled. He was going to have to get her to-
Will’s smile fell immediately. Dani’s hand rested squarely on the chest of the man standing beside her. He watched as the Bajoran who’d been standing with them moved off, leaving the two alone. The man placed his hands on Dani’s arms and leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. He then whispered something in her ear after which Dani hugged him.
It all could’ve been innocent, and Will would’ve passed it off as such if it weren’t for the rumors he’d been hearing around the Enterprise lately. He and Dani had talked about it, and she’d denied that there was anything going on between her and any of her classmates. But, then again, the look that he’d just seen her give that man, that wasn’t just a look between friends – or was it?
He wanted to believe Dani. He wanted to with all his might, but could so many people really be lying? He wasn’t kidding when he said he’d heard it all over the ship. Literally just about everywhere he went on the Enterprise, there was some ensign who’d recently graduated telling someone else about what he or she had seen Dani do and who he or she had seen Dani with. And now, this ambiguous evidence presented itself before him. Was Dani – his Dani – cheating on him?
“You said that you would never intentionally do anything to hurt me,” Dani said heatedly. “Don’t you think the same goes for me, too? I would never ever do anything to hurt you, Will.”
“Then, you and I must have different guidelines on what hurts and what doesn’t,” Will said. “When I find out that you’re seeing other people on the side, playing me for a fool, that hurts.”
“For the gazillionth time, I’m not seeing anyone else. You’re the only one.” Dani could tell by the way Will looked off to the side that he didn’t believe her. She had no idea where all these accusations were coming from. Just this afternoon, they’d both been at the reception, and things had seemed fine. She thought they’d resolved this issue the first hundred times they’d discussed it. Obviously she was wrong. “Just where are you getting your information, anyway?”
“It’s everywhere. Everyone knew – except me.”
“There was nothing to know!”
“Every time we get new ensigns fresh from the Academy, I have to hear all the latest gossip about who ‘the Commander’s girl’ was last seen with.”
“Will, you should know, better than anyone, that rumors fly around this place like crazy. And besides, nobody forced you to listen.”
“Dani, I saw you this afternoon,” Will revealed.
“What?” Dani asked. “Of course, you saw me. I saw you, too. We both saw each other.”
“No,” Will said. “I mean with the blonde man. I saw the way you were with him.”
“You mean Kyle. Will, you’re mistaken. Kyle is a friend. A very good friend.”
“Yes, I can see that he is,” Will said coldly.
Dani didn’t appreciate his tone. “Will, tomorrow, I’m going to graduate, and I’m never going to see him or any of my other friends again. What you saw was nothing outside of what any other two people in our situation would do.” She couldn’t believe he was trying to make this into something that it wasn’t. It was like he was looking for her to cheat on him.
She’d always thought they had a solid relationship. That he didn’t have more faith in her, more trust…it hurt.
Dani walked over to the couch and sat down, burying her head in her hands. “This isn’t working,” she muttered.
She looked up at him. “This – us. It isn’t working. Over the past six months, every time we’ve met, we’ve ended up fighting about the same thing.” She laughed. “I can’t believe this – you’re actually accusing me of being unfaithful.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Will asked, somewhat defensively.
“It means that you’re the one with the track record for this sort of thing.”
“Ahh, so you were expecting me to be unfaithful, then?”
“Well, when that’s all you’re hearing from everyone…” Dani trailed. “And it’s not any different from what you were expecting of me. You were expecting me to cheat, too, weren’t you?”
“Guess you know how it feels, now,” Will stabbed. He regretted the moment he said it. It was a low blow, and he knew it.
‘Ouch,’ Dani thought. That had hurt. Dani stood. Glaring at Will, she made her way to the door. Her hand was on the button to open it when Will spoke.
“Run away,” he began. “Is that what they’ve taught you at the Academy?”
Dani turned. “What do you want me to do? Just sit here and argue with you? Sorry. I can’t do this every time we see each other. I’ve got better things to do with my life.” She turned back to the door preparing to open it once again.
“You know, you’re right,” Will said. Dani, once again, hesitated before leaving. She wanted to hear what he had to say. “I did make a mistake.” Dani almost turned back around to him. Will’s better judgment told him he should stop, but he ignored it and continued anyway. “But the mistake wasn’t today; it was four years ago. The mistake was ever getting involved with someone as young and irresponsible as you.”
Dani almost burst into tears right then and there, but she willed her self to maintain her composure. Instead she turned and looked at Will.
Dani’s eyes stabbed Will, right through the heart, and he immediately regretted everything he’d said. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” Dani told him quietly before turning back to the door. She opened it and walked out.
He sat down on the couch in the hotel room he’d booked for the purpose of attending Dani’s graduation activities. He felt like he didn’t know what to do next. Had he just ruined a relationship he’d had with a wonderful woman. How he wished he had listened to his better judgment and just shut his mouth. Now, he’d messed up – bad. And he didn’t know how, or if, he could do anything to fix what had gone wrong.