Six months later on Deep Space Nine…
“Computer, time,” Dani requested. She was comfortably buried in her bed, under the covers.
“The time is 0830 hours,” the computer replied.
“I guess I could go in early for a change,” Dani said. She considered it for a moment and then decided against it. “Nah.” She rolled back over, pulling the covers over her head more.
The door chimed. Dani groaned. ‘Maybe if I just ignore it, they’ll go away.’ So, Dani lay there, silently willing her visitor away. She realized it wasn’t going to happen when the door chimed again.
‘Who is this?’ Dani thought throwing the sheets back and drudgingly rolling out of bed. She padded through the living room to the door on bare feet, wearing running shorts and a tank. She was already at the door when she realized that maybe she should’ve put on a robe or something, but the door chimed again, and Dani decided to just forget the robe. She was wearing shorts and a tank. That was enough. Besides, she wasn’t trying to impress anybody.
Dani deactivated the lock and opened the doors. The last person she would expect to see was standing in the corridor.
“Will,” Dani said.
Will had been surprised at Dani’s attire. He knew it was a little early, but he’d expected her to at least be dressed. It’d been so long since he’d seen her, he’d almost forgotten how good she looked.
“Hello, Dani,” he said. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No,” Dani said. “Come in.” Will walked into Dani’s quarters and the doors shut behind him. “Actually, I was just thinking about getting up.”
“You were in bed?” Will asked.
“Well, I wasn’t asleep. I was contemplating going to my shift early, but I couldn’t think of enough reasons to do it, so that option lost.”
Dani didn’t know what to say or do next. She walked over to the couch and sat down. Then, she changed her mind and stood up again.
“What are you doing here?” she finally asked Will.
“I was just passing through,” Will said casually.
“You’re lying,” Dani accused teasingly.
Will smiled and shook his head. “Same old Dani.”
“Have a seat,” Dani said. She retreated to the bedroom and returned sporting a navy bathrobe. She sat down again on the couch, as he sat in the chair across from her. The ice was broken now, and Dani was feeling a little more at ease.
“I’m on leave,” Will explained. “I came by to check up on you.”
“Oh,” Dani said.
The two stared at each other uncomfortably for a few moments. So, maybe the ice wasn’t that broken.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry about what happened to Dukat,” Will said, breaking the silence.
“No, you’re not,” Dani said, “and neither is anyone else who never knew him.” Dani knew an empty sentiment when she heard one. “You’re only saying that because it’s the polite thing to say.”
“That’s not true-” Will started to say, but Dani stopped him.
“I don’t like being patronized, Will,” Dani said sternly. “You should know that, as long as you’ve known me. You ask any Starfleet officer about Marac Dukat, and they’ll tell you he was a horrible man. He was a conniving snake, he was this and that. And they may be right. He might’ve been all those things at some point, but when he was with me, he was different. He loved me, and no one understands how I could’ve loved him back.”
It became obvious to Will that this was still a very touchy subject with Dani. She was still feeling the effects of what had happened six months ago. “You’re right,” Will said. “We don’t understand. Maybe you can explain it.”
Dani stood and walked over to a viewport. She turned and looked at Will. “How do you explain love? I sure as hell don’t know how.”
Will stood and started to approach Dani. “What did your parents think?”
“What do you think they thought? As soon as I told them,” Dani looked down at her hands, “they ended the transmission. It took me getting stabbed before they would even talk to me again.” She remembered that they’d contacted her while she was still on the Defiant. They had only been on non-speaking terms for a few days, but it had felt like an eternity. “They thought I was crazy,” Dani continued. “Much like they did when you and I first started dating.” A little smile broke out across her face. “You remember that?”
“All too well,” Will said, a smile forming in his beard. “Boy that sure was something; trying to convince your parents that I wasn’t up to something.”
“Yeah…” Dani trailed. She’d thought of a way to make things a little clearer for Will. “Now imagine what that would’ve been like if your past was Dukat’s past. And that I’m not just trying to convince my parents, but a whole station of people.” Dani could see a bit of understanding on Will’s face that wasn’t there before. “It’s damn near impossible. After a while, I just stopped caring what other people thought, even my parents.”
“That’s not an easy thing to do,” Will acknowledged.
“I know. But I was happy.”
Will took few more steps toward Dani. “Dani, I’m sorry. Truly. About everything. About Dukat, your parents…about us.”
Dani looked at Will. “I appreciate that. I do. It’s very big of you to be able to say that.”
“Dani, I have missed you. I won’t lie. When I heard about you and Dukat, I was furious. But my situation was my own fault. I shouldn’t have let you go in the first place.”
Dani realized what Will was trying to say and decided to let him finish. She looked out the window as he continued.
“I was mad, we were both mad,” he continued. “I know a lot’s happened since then, but I want to try to work this out. If you’re willing.” Will stepped right up to Dani. “Are you?”
“I don’t know,” Dani said truthfully. The fact of the matter was that she wasn’t quite over Dukat, yet. She turned and looked up at Will. She was being given a second chance at something special. “We’ll see.”
Dani’s door chimed again. “What is going on today? Come in!” she called.
The doors opened Chakotay entered. She’d been wrong before. These two people were the ones she’d least expected to see at her door.
“Dad,” Dani said timidly.
Chakotay stopped short when he saw Will.
Will looked at Dani. “I’ll be around for a few days,” he said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Dani nodded. Will headed for the door, greeting Chakotay as he exited. Dani was left alone with her father.
“Well, I didn’t expect to see you here,” she began.
“Neither did I, to be truthful,” Chakotay said.
A thick silence followed before Dani sliced through it.
“Dad, I’m so sorry,” she said. “You know that I love you and Mom, but I loved him, too.” She didn’t need to say his name. They both knew who she was talking about.
“No matter how hard that is to hear,” Chakotay began, “I’ve come to realize that it’s just one of those things you have to accept. This whole thing has made me realize, once and for all, that you’re going to do what you want to do, no matter what your mother or I think.” He laughed a little. It wasn’t because he found anything funny. He chuckled because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
“Daddy, it’s not that I don’t respect your opinions,” Dani said, walking up to her father. “I do. It’s just…sometimes I don’t exactly agree with them.”
“I understand.” He placed his hand on her shoulder. “Dani, I need to apologize for my behavior. I was…a jerk.” Both he and Dani laughed a little.
“Yeah, you were,” Dani agreed.
“We love you, Dani, and when it comes down to it, all we really want is for you to be safe and happy. Well, you’ve pretty much always known what would make you happy. It’s always been your safety we’ve been worried about. Now, though, I guess there’s not much left for us to take care of in that department, either. You’ve been through the Academy. You made it through command school.” Chakotay sighed. “You can take care of yourself just fine.” With that, he let go of the strings of his balloon called ‘Little Girl’ for good.
“Come on,” Chakotay said. “Your mother’s waiting in the replimat. I told her we could meet her there.”
“Great,” Dani said. She was about to leave with her father when she remembered that she wasn’t dressed properly, yet. She let out a little laugh. “Maybe I should get dressed first.”
Chakotay nodded. “Good idea.”
“You can wait here. I won’t be long.”
Dani went to her bedroom, quickly changed into a clean uniform, and combed her hair. She was out again a few minutes later.
“Ready?” Chakotay asked.
“Let’s go,” Dani said.
On the way out into the corridor, Chakotay asked, “So, what’s going on between you and Will? Are you two getting back together?”
“Dad…” Dani whined.