It was a day that no Starfleet wife looked forward to. Today was the day the Titan was shipping out. The reason it was shipping out was the Hirogen. They’d become a significant threat to the Alpha Quadrant during the past months, and war was on the horizon. As one of Starfleet’s newest, most advanced ships, the Titan would be on the front lines.
The main lobby of Starfleet Headquarters was filled with Titan officers and their families, who’d gathered to bid farewell to their loved ones.
Dani looked up at Will. She was making an incredible effort to hold back her tears. She looked down at Kris, holding on to her hand. Dani looked back up at Will, and despite her best efforts, her eyes filled with tears.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway made her way through the sea of people toward her daughter. “Oh, wonderful,” she said. “I was hoping I didn’t miss you.” Dani turned to her, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes. Kathryn wasn’t fooled, though, but she understood. She looked down at Kris with a smile and crouched down in front of the girl. “Young lady, I believe you owe me a hug.”
“Grandma!” Kris let go of Dani’s hand and threw herself into Kathryn’s arms, nearly knocking the admiral off her feet.
With Kris occupied for the moment, Dani could turn to Will, emotions uninhibited. The tears fell freely, now. Will gently stroked them away with his fingers.
“Four months,” Dani said.
“That’s the story I got,” Will said with a small smile.
Dani merely nodded. Will pulled her into a tight embrace and looked down into her brown eyes, praying that this wouldn’t be the last time he would be able to do so. He delivered a burning kiss to her lips and found it difficult to part from them.
“It won’t seem like that long,” Dani said. She said it more to convince herself than him. “Besides, we’ve been apart for longer, right?”
“That’s right,” Will said. “It’ll be no time.”
Dani quickly wiped her eyes and turned to Kris, who was behind her with Kathryn. “Come here, sweetie,” Dani said. “Come say goodbye to Daddy.”
Kris returned to Dani’s side, where Will bent down and picked her up. “I am gonna miss you so much,” he told her.
“I’ll miss you, too,” Kris said. “When are you coming back?”
“I’ll be back in four months,” Will said. “Are you going to come and meet me back here when I get back?” Kris nodded. Will crushed her to him. “I love you so much, more than you can ever know, little girl.”
“I love you, too, Daddy.”
Will kissed her on the cheek and then on the forehead before placing her back on the floor. He looked at Dani once again, and gently stroked her face before turning around and walking over to a small group of officers who stood a few feet off from the family crowd.
Dani watched him, and she watched Emma take her place at his side. Dani should have used the moment to watch her husband beam away to his ship, but she didn’t. Instead, her eyes were glued to Emma’s smug face.
Will gazed at the photo of Dani and Kris and picked it up off the coffee table in his quarters on the Titan. It was almost midnight, but he found that he couldn’t sleep. That was the way it always was the first night out. He placed the photo back on the coffee table and stood, ready to make another attempt at sleep. Before he made it back to the bedroom, his door chimed. Will double-checked the chronometer for the time and pulled his robe closed around him. He wasn’t expecting any company and certainly wasn’t dressed for any, but he had made it clear from his first day as captain that he maintained an open door policy toward his crew. If they needed to come talk to him, they could, no matter the hour. Those were his words precisely.
Will pulled himself up to his full height, as if he were in full uniform. “Come in,” he said. The doors slid open and Shale walked into his quarters. “Commander – I didn’t expect to see you at this late hour.”
“Sorry to disturb you, Captain,” Shale said. “Did I wake you?”
“No,” Riker admitted. “I was already awake.”
“Trouble sleeping, sir?” Shale inquired.
“Just a little. Leaving your family is never an easy task, especially when you’re doing it because you’re facing the possibility of war.”
“Is there anything I can do to help, sir?”
Riker regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, contemplating. “Actually, something has been nagging at me, something that I just don’t understand.”
“What is it, sir?”
“Why is there so much bad blood between you and my wife?” Riker asked openly. “I know it goes back to your days at the Academy together, but what started it all?” He sat down on the sofa and indicated that Shale should do the same. She sat down in the chair next to him.
“Well, as I remember, it began when she didn’t want to be my roommate at the Academy,” Shale began truthfully.
Riker nodded. He remembered Dani telling him the story of her and Emma’s first meeting. It was one of many involving Shale that Dani had told him that first year.
Shale continued. “After I told her that I didn’t think we should receive special treatment because of our family connections, she said she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. She said she didn’t want to be associated with someone who didn’t recognize the benefits of position and influence.”
Riker glared at Shale. It was true that Dani had refused to be Emma’s roommate, but it hadn’t happened at all like Shale had said. “You know, Commander, I don’t like what you’re doing.”
Shale appeared baffled. “Sir?”
Riker stood and stepped away from the sofa and from Shale. “You may be my first officer, but she is my wife,” he said. “I don’t appreciate you telling lies about her. Now, I don’t care what kind of history you have with her, but on this ship, we will maintain a professional atmosphere. Let’s get one thing straight – this isn’t the Academy, Ms. Shale, and I won’t have my officers jeopardize this mission by resorting to juvenile games. Do I make myself clear, Commander?”
Shale stood. “I understand, sir. It won’t happen again.” She left his quarters without another word.
Riker watched her go. He couldn’t believe the gall of that woman. How could someone be so calculating and malicious? How had someone like her made it this far?