Dani opened her eyes to find that she was still in her bedroom in Indiana, but it was daylight out. She was confused for a moment because that change appeared to be the only difference, at first glance. She realized there were more when she felt the familiar nuzzle of a warm, fuzzy face on her neck.
“Goodmorning, gorgeous,” the hairy individual whispered into her ear.
Dani looked over her shoulder, up into the blue eyes of Will Riker. He kissed her before she had a chance to say anything. He parted from her, rising from the bed and walking across the bedroom and into the bathroom.
Dani sat up in the bed, trying to gather her thoughts. Her head spun momentarily as if she’d sat up too fast. A flash caught the corner of her eye. She looked, and Q was beside her on the bed.
“I know you probably have a lot of questions,” he began. “So, I’m going to give you a brief run-down of your life. You and Captain Riker are married. You’ve been married for ten years. Riker is in command of a ship called the Titan.”
“The Titan?” Dani repeated. “What about the Enterprise?”
“Didn’t work out that way,” Q said. “But nevermind that. What’s important is that you aren’t in Starfleet anymore.”
“What? Why not?”
“You left shortly after your daughter was born,” Q informed her. Even as the words left his mouth, Dani was inundated with a flood of memories she’d never had before. She suddenly had memories of a life that she didn’t know she’d lived.
Q continued on. “You didn’t want your daughter to grow up like you did, with your parents always being away and you being passed around from ship to ship. You wanted her to have a stable family so you resigned your commission to take care of your daughter seven years ago, after she was born. You never rose above the rank of Lieutenant Commander.”
Dani drew her legs, obscured by the bedsheets, up to her chest. “Since you’re telling me all this, what’s the point of my being here?”
“To see just how happy you’d truly be if you married Will Riker,” Q told her.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” The calls were accompanied by the sound of little feet running toward the bedroom.
Dani looked to Q for guidance, but he offered none. “Mommy … ” he mocked in a sing-song voice before disappearing.
“Q – wait!” Dani whispered desperately.
Will called from the bathroom, “Is that my little Kris running like that?”
Suddenly, the little footfalls stopped, and the bedroom door creaked open. A head of brown, disheveled hair appeared in the crack between the door and the wall. Big blue eyes peered out from behind dark, overgrown bangs.
“Kristiana.” Riker appeared in the bathroom doorway, his bathrobe wrapped about him. He looked down at his daughter with a firm expression “What have we told you about running in the house?”
“Sorry,” the little girl said sullenly.
“We just don’t want you to fall and hurt yourself, sweetheart,” Riker said. The sterness of his face softened as he walked over and sat on the bed beside Dani. He patted the space in front of them on the bed, inviting Kris over. She bounced into the room and hopped up onto the bed in front of her parents.
Kristianna Riker was a seven-year old little angel with long, dark hair and big, expressive eyes.
“How did you sleep last night, sweetheart?” Will asked her. “Did you have good dreams?” Kris nodded enthusiastically. “Are you ready for a fun day at school?”
“Yeah!” Kris cheered. She crawled into her father’s lap and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him on the cheek. Then she migrated over to Dani, delivering a hug and a kiss to her mother as well.
Dani held the little girl and smiled at her. This didn’t seem like such a bad life. How could it be? She was married to Will, and they had a beautiful young daughter together. She looked at Will and smiled. She wasn’t in Starfleet, but was that really such a devastating thing?
“Kris, make sure you replicate something healthy for lunch today,” Will instructed, placing the last of his PADDs into his slim briefcase. “That means no ice cream sundaes, brownies, or cakes.”
“What about candy?” Kris asked hopefully.
Riker looked down at his daughter and shook his head, indicating that candy wasn’t allowed on the menu, either. “But if you’re good at school today, we’ll go out for ice cream when I get home from work.”
Kris’s face lit up. “Ooh, can we, can we, can we?”
“Only if you’re good,” Will reminded her.
“I will be, I promise!” Kris vowed.
“We’ll see,” Will said. “Say goodbye to your mother.”
Dani crouched so that Kris could hug her. They kissed each other on the cheek. “You have a good day at school today, okay?” Dani said. “I’ll be there to pick you up at the end of the day.”
“Okay, Mommy,” Kris said. “I love you.”
Dani gazed at Kris, still amazed that the girl was actually hers. “I love you, too, my little girl. Be good so we can go get ice cream.” Kris nodded enthusiastically.
Dani stood and looked up at Will. “And you be good, too,” she told him.
“Yes, ma’am,” Will said, a smile coming to his face. He wrapped his arms around Dani, pulled her to him, and planted a kiss firmly on her lips. “I’ll see you tonight,” he told her.
“Alright.” Dani and Will parted.
“Come on, Kris,” Will said. “We don’t want to be late.” He and Kris left the house for the transport that was waiting in front of the house. Dani waved goodbye to them as they took off and left the area.
“Dani – I’m home!”
Will Riker stepped through the front door after returning home from San Francisco. He’d spent part of the day on the Titan, now in orbit around Earth, and the other part in San Francisco. Now, it was fifteen minutes before 1800 hours, and he was finally home.
At the sound of her father’s arrival, Kris came running excitedly from the kitchen, her hair flying behind her. “Daddy!”
Will reached down and scooped Kris up into his arms, showering her with kisses. “My little girl! Were you good today?”
“Yes, I was.”
Dani appeared in the kitchen doorway, a dishtowel in her hands. Will looked to her for the final verdict. “What about it, Mom – did you get a good report from Mrs. Winters today?”
“Yes. A very good one, as a matter of fact,” Dani replied. She walked over and joined her little family by the front door. She reached up and smoothed Kris’s wild hair. “Our little angel was very well-behaved today. Mrs. Winters says she didn’t hear one peep out of her.”
Kris looked from her mother to her father. “See? I was on my best behavior.”
“I see. A vast improvement over last week,” Will praised. “Looks like we’ll be going out for ice cream later.”
“Yay!” Kris cheered as she was lowered to the floor.
“Go wash up for dinner,” Dani instructed. She and Will watched Kris practically skip into the kitchen. Then they turned to each other and wrapped themselves around one another as Will’s lips gratefully found Dani’s . “How was your day?” she asked him.
“It certainly wasn’t the easiest day on record,” Will told her.
“How are the upgrades coming?” Dani asked.
“My people keep running into all kinds of problems,” Will answered. “It’s just one headache after another.”
“Maybe I can help those headaches go away … ”
“I do hope so,” Will said, pushing the worries of the day out of his mind.
Will hoisted Kris into the air and onto his shoulders. They walked with Dani along San Francisco’s bustling Fisherman’s Wharf district.
“Did you enjoy your ice cream, Kris?” Will asked
“Yes, I enjoyed it very much, Daddy,” Kris said politely.
“Anything for my girls,” Will said, smiling at Dani. “My job is to keep you and your mother happy. Are you happy?”
“Yes,” Kris answered.
“Are you happy?” Will asked Dani.
“Very,” Dani replied.
The family came to a couple of ensigns who promptly greeted Riker. “Goodevening, Captain,” they said, almost simultaneously.
“Goodevening,” Will replied. He continued to walk with Kris on his shoulders and Dani at his side.
“Daddy?” Kris said.
“When I grow up, I want to join Starfleet,” Kris proclaimed. “And I want to be a captain one day, just like you.”
“Well, sweetheart, you can grow up to be anything you want,” Will espoused. “As long as you put your mind to it, and work hard, you can do whatever you want.”
Dani watched the interaction with a smile. Kris reminded her so much of herself at that age. She remembered having a similar interaction with her own father when she was a little girl. Chakotay had told her that she could be what she wanted, too, and she’d been on her way. But she’d made a choice, hadn’t she? She looked up at Kris and smiled.