“Bridge to Lt. Janeway. Lt. Janeway, report to the bridge.”
Dani rolled over, and her eyelids slowly fluttered open.
“Lt. Janeway, report to the bridge immediately.”
Dani blinked a few times and yawned.
“Bridge to Lt. Janeway. Lt. Janeway, come in.”
Dani’s eyes popped open. “Computer, time.”
“The time is 0820 hours,” the computer said in a seemingly cheerful tone.
“Shit!” Dani exclaimed as she bolted out of bed. She’d overslept. ‘What the hell happened to my alarm?’ she thought frantically before coming to the conclusion that she must’ve forgotten to set it.
“Shit!” she exclaimed again.
“Lt. Janeway, please report!” Will’s voice came boomed through her comm badge.
Dani looked to her nightstand. Not there. “Where is it?” she asked aloud. She dropped to her knees and crawled around on the floor looking for her badge. She crawled over to her dress uniform top and picked it up. ‘Bingo!’ she thought. She picked the badge up as another summons from Will was coming through.
“I’m on my way,” Dani replied, hurriedly.
Dani was dressed in 15 minutes. As a result of her hasty dress, however, her hair was, simply pinned up, in a condition a little lacking of its usually pristine appearance, and she’d forgone any make-up at all.
In another 15 minutes, it was nearly 0900 hours, and Dani was just walking onto the bridge. When the turbolift doors opened, Dani hesitated a bit before stepping out onto the bridge. All eyes were on her. She looked at Will. He was giving her a highly-peeved gaze, and he wasn’t kidding or exaggerating in the least.
As Dani stepped onto the bridge, Will quipped, “Glad you decided to join us, Lt.”
“I apologize, Commander,” Dani said walking to her station. “It won’t happen, again.”
“See to it that it doesn’t,” Will almost yelled. “Man your post.”
“Yes, sir,” Dani said, sitting down at the Ops station.
“Current operational status, Lt?” Will requested brusquely.
Dani’s fingertips danced over the station’s console. “All systems functioning within acceptable parameters, sir.”
During her lunch break, Dani found herself in Ten-Forward, alone at a table near a viewport. She hadn’t even been on board 24 hours, and she was already screwing things up. She’d been threatened with court-martial by an admiral the night before, and this morning there had been the whole ordeal with her being late for her very first bridge shift.
Dani looked up from her lunch and saw Will walk by with Deanna, Geordi, and Data. Dani was overcome by an wave of embarrassment. All of them had been present this morning to witness her incident. Dani quickly switched chairs so that her back would be to the newly-arrived group.
Deanna sensed an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment coming from someone in the room. She sat down and scanned the room, curious to discover who the embarrassment was originating from. Her eyes fell on a lone person sitting at a table near a viewport across the room.
“Will,” she started, “isn’t that Dani?”
Will followed Deanna’s gaze to the person she had determined to be the producer of the dismal emotions. His heart sank. He imagined she must feel terrible.
“Excuse me,” he said to his lunchmates as he stood and abandoned their table in favor of Dani’s. “Hi,” he said to Dani. She looked up at him briefly before returning her attention to her cold lunch. Will took the seat across from her.
“Hi,” Dani said.
Deanna turned her attention to Geordi and Data.
“You don’t think Will was too harsh on Dani this morning, do you?” she asked the two of them.
“On the contrary,” Data replied.
“You think he was too lenient?” Deanna asked.
“It’s hard to say,” Geordi contributed. “I’d say she got off a little easily. Anyone else, and he’d probably have been on her case all morning.”
“I would have to concur with Geordi’s assessment,” Data said.
Deanna was surprised to learn this. The last thing she wouldn’t thought of Will’s treatment of the situation was that he was being lenient.
“I’ve seen officers get busted down to maintenence duty for tardiness before,” Geordi commented, taking a sip from his beverage.
Deanna comtemplated this for a moment. “You’re saying Will went easier on Dani than he would have on other officers.”
“I don’t think he did it on purpose,” Geordi said, “but I do think he was a little easy on her.”
“What happened to you this morning?” Will was asking Dani.
“I forgot to set my alarm last night, I suppose,” Dani said. “Either that, or it’s malfunctioning. I don’t know. Whatever it was, I overslept. I’m sorry.”
“It happens to just about everyone at least once during their career,” Will said, attempting to comfort her. “At least the captain wasn’t on the bridge at the time.”
“Yeah, I know. I don’t even want to imagine that scenario.” Dani continued to ponder her cold slice of pizza. “I’m such a screw-up. You were way too easy on me.”
“Nonsense. I would have done the same for any officer who’s late for his shift,” Will insisted. “Besides, there are people on this ship who have screwed up much worse than you have, believe me. Remember when Reg Barclay was serving aboard the Enterprise?”
Dani smiled and said, “Of course. There was that time when I was onboard and he had that holodeck addiction.”
“Exactly. And he was always late for his shifts.”
“Yeah. Not to put Reg down or anything, but I don’t want to be compared to him.”
“You wouldn’t want to be compared to a person who helps bring long, lost star ships back from the Delta Quadrant?” Will asked, turning the tables.
Dani looked at Will. He did have a point. If it hadn’t been for Barclay, Voyager wouldn’t have established communication with Starfleet when they had. “I guess you never really know what people are capable of,” she said.
“No, you don’t. But I like to think I know what you are capable of.”
“Well, if today so far is anything to go on, that isn’t not much.”
“You’ve had a rough morning; that’s all.”
“You’ve got to learn the ropes of a starship again. It’s a lot different than being on a station.”
Dani nodded and sighed. “I guess.”
“I’m really excited to have you onboard,” Will said, his tone softening. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you, too, Will.” Dani looked into Will’s clear blue eyes and smiled for the first time that day. When she noticed a group of her peers walk by and give her less than friendly looks, however, her smile disappeared.
Will noticed her change in demeanor immediately. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I’m getting this vibe that the other junior officers don’t really like me,” Dani admitted.
“How could you know that? You haven’t even been onboard two days.”
“I know. It’s small stuff. Looks in the corridor, remarks behind my back that they think I don’t hear.”
Will thought this would be the perfect time to bring up the conversation he’d had with Deanna before Dani had boarded. “Dani, yesterday, Deanna told me she’d been receiving reports from people who were worried about you,” he revealed.
“Why would they be worried about me?” Dani asked.
“They’re questioning your loyalty to Starfleet.”
Dani laughed resentfully. “Just like the admiralty, huh?”
“They’re also worried about you receiving special treatment from the command staff.”
Dani shook her head and let out another little laugh. “It’s like being back at the Academy again. I can’t get away from it.”
“I’m going to meet with the department heads today to remind them of a few…policies.”
“About special treatment,” Dani surmised.
“Yes,” Will admitted. “We don’t want to give anyone an excuse to make your life aboard the Enterprise more difficult.”
Dani nodded. She understood perfectly. “Thanks.”
“I’ve got to get back early for my meeting with the department heads. I’ll see you back on the bridge a little later.” Dani nodded. “Don’t be late this time,” Will added with a smile.
“I won’t,” Dani said, adding a little smile of her own.
As Will stood there looking down at Dani, he contemplated whether or not he should kiss her. Would it make things more difficult for her if he did? Would she care if it did? As he gazed at her, he realized that he was going to kiss her, regardless of what everyone else thought. He bent down and briefly pressed his lips against Dani’s. “I love you,” he quickly whispered into her ear.
When Will stood upright again, both he and Dani realized that some of the people in the room were staring. Among them were the group Will had walked in with and the group of junior officers who’d walked past Dani’s table with less-than-enthusiastic glares.
“I’ll see you on the bridge,” Will said to Dani.
“Okay,” Dani nodded.
Will gave final glances to his group and the group of junior officers as well. They all returned their attention to the conversations at their respective tables as Will left Ten-Forward.
Nearby, the small group of junior officers sat across the room, watching with disdain as the ship’s first officer interacted intimately with a mere junior officer.
“There’s got to be some kind of protocol against that,” Ensign Eric Clements said to his peers at the table. “Officers shouldn’t be allowed to go around seducing their commanding officers that way.”
Ensign Marta Shields nodded in agreement. “She’s been working on him for a long time,” she said. “They started seeing each other before she even got into the Academy. She’s got the one-up on all of us. We were all in the same class, and we’re all still ensigns while she’s smooching it up with the first officer and is on a first-name basis with the senior staff.”
“One bar of gold pressed latinum says she’ll reach full lieutenant before six months,” Clements wagered.
“I’ll second that,” Marta said.
“Well, we can’t all bet for the same thing,” Clements joked. “Wouldn’t be a real bet then.” He chuckled.
“We don’t know what’s going on in her or the commander’s lives,” Ensign Paul Milsap said, speaking up for the first time during the conversation.
“I guess we know who his bet’s for,” Clements said.
“I just don’t think it’s fair, what we’re saying about Commander Riker and Janeway,” Paul said.
“Oh, jeez!” Clements exclaimed.
“What?” Paul asked innocently.
“Don’t give me that crap.”
“What?” Paul pressed. What was he saying that was so wrong?
“She’s a spoiled brat, and that’s all there is to it,” Clements concluded. “It’s people like her, the people who haven’t pulled their own weight, who are dragging Starfleet down.” He took a final sip from his drink and stood. “I haven’t even mentioned that whole business with that spoonhead.”
“Yeah,” Marta said, standing as well. “She’s probably a spy.”
“Let’s go. Don’t want to be late,” Clements said.
“Yeah. With her onboard, we don’t need to do anything that ‘s going to make her look better than she already looks in the eyes of the senior staffers,” Marta added.
Paul looked up at his two friends. He didn’t agree with them that Dani Janeway was simply a spoiled ‘Fleet brat, and that was it. There had to be more to her than that. After all, she had made it through the Academy and command school.
He stood and walked out of Ten-Forward with Eric and Marta. Paul didn’t care who she was, he’d never believe that those Academy instructors would simply pass Janeway because of who she was. It wasn’t likely at Starfleet Academy, and it was sure as hell impossible in the Command School sequence. In fact, they’d probably all given her a harder time because of her familial connections, Paul guessed. Having to constantly prove that she was worthy, Paul figured she was probably a better officer than most of the people walking around this ship.
Dani’s shift was over at 1600 hours. When she reached her quarters a little after that time, she was surprised to find that her dinner table was set.
“Now, I know I didn’t leave my quarters like this when I left this morning,” Dani said aloud. When Dani’d rushed out, she’d barely unpacked. Now everything was neatly decorated and in its place as if she’d been living there for years.
Dani looked to her right and realized that it was Will who had spoken to her. He was walking out of Dani’s bedroom toward her with a warm smile on his face and a glint in his blue eyes.
“This place was a mess when I first walked in here a few hours ago,” Will said.
“You cleaned all this up?” Dani asked
“I sure did,” Will said. He kissed Dani gingerly on the lips. “I also have a meal waiting for you.”
“It’s replicated, though. Would’ve been freshly cooked if I’d gotten off my shift a little earlier.” Will led Dani over to the dining area.
“Smells delicious,” Dani said as she sat down in the chair will had pulled out for her. She watched as he walked around to the other side of the table and seated himself.
“I know you haven’t exactly had the easiest first day,” Will said. “I just wanted to do a little something special for you. It isn’t much, but I didn’t want your first memory of serving aboard the Enterprise to be all bad.”
“My day hasn’t really been all that bad,” Dani said. “No worse than some of my days at the Academy. It’s just been a little bumpy is all.” She gave Will a reassuring look. “Nothing I can’t handle.” She looked at the food already on her plate, prepared to be eaten. “So, what do we have here?” she asked, unfolding her napkin and spreading it over her lap. “Steak, brown rice, rolls …”
“Those are still among your favorites, right?” Will asked. “Or some of them, at least?” It’d been so long since they’d last dined together. He hoped her tastes in food hadn’t changed too drastically in three months.
“You’re damn right.” Dani easily cut into the thick, juicy slab of replicated meat. She stabbed the little square of meat with her fork and raised it to her mouth and chewed it with great ease. “It’s so tender,” Dani marvelled, chewing.
“I know you like it like that,” Will said. He watched her eat, realizing that he wasn’t really hungry, himself. He’d spent the time to prepare the meal for two people, but all of a sudden, it occurred to him that he didn’t have an appetite for food. He had an appetite for something else.
In a few minutes, Dani had worked her way halfway through the eight-ounce steak.
“I can’t eat another bite,” she said pushing her plate away from her a little. Will looked slightly alarmed. Dani was usually such a hearty eater. Tonight, she hadn’t even finished her steak. She’d barely touched the side dishes.
“Is there something wrong with it?” Will asked.
“Oh, no. It was absolutely intoxicating,” She assured him. She stood.
“Well, what’s the matter?” Will probed.
“I just don’t want to get too full,” Dani informed him, walking around the table to join Riker on his side. He followed her stride with his eyes. She walked around the back of his chair, tracing her finger along his shoulder. “I wouldn’t want to have to skip desert.”
Will looked up at her with sudden panic. He hadn’t thought about providing a dessert at all.
“I forgot about dessert,” he said sadly.
Dani leaned down so that she was face to face with Will. “I didn’t.” She traced her finger through his beard.
Will was suddenly made aware. He still recognized that look in her eyes, even if it had been a while since he’d seen it last.
He smiled and asked, “What are we having?”
“It’s one of your favorites,” Dani purred.
Dani nodded. “Mm-hm.” She worked her fingers to the inside of Will’s uniform collar and gently pulled. Will obediently stood. Dani led him to her bedroom.
“Watch what happens next, son. See how the female seduces the male? Human males are so weak. Especially this one.”
“He’s such an ape. What does she see in him?”
“That’s always been a mystery to me, son. But it seems that women are overwhelmingly attracted to this particular one.”
“Maybe human females like ape-like men. Like Aunt Kathy – her husband resembles this male. Only less hairy.”
“I see your point.”
“Look at this. This is such a primitive, inefficient way of reproducing. I don’t see the point of engaging in this sort of act.”
“Apparently, reproducing isn’t the only reason humans engage in this activity.”
“What other reason could there be?”
“Who knows? Why do you think I keep watching them? I’m trying to find out.”
Will and Dani kissed each other hungrily
“Oh, Dani,” Will sighed, “I’ve been waiting to do this all day.”
“You’ve been planning this all day?” Dani asked.
“I’ve been planning it all week.”
“Oh!” yelped a delighted Dani, as Will hit a nerve somewhere.
“Let me take a look at you, at what I’ve been missing.”
“My, my…Danielle certainly has matured, hasn’t she? I can’t wait to tell your Aunt Kathy what her daughter’s doing.”
“Better yet, why don’t I show her?”
“Just a moment, son. I want you to watch this.” A moment later, Admiral Kathryn Janeway appeared. She looked around the room puzzled for a few moments because only a moment ago, she’d been in her office, preparing to leave for the day. She quickly realized what had happened, though.
“What are you doing here?” she inquired. “Where are we? What have you done now?”
“My dear Kathy, it’s not what I’ve done, but what your daughter is about to do.”
Kathryn thought for a few seconds. She turned, looked over her shoulder, and saw a naked Will Riker moving toward her equally naked daughter. Once it clicked with Janeway what was going on, she clapped her hand over her eyes and quickly turned back around.
“Why are you showing me this?” she asked removing her hand from her eyes. “And why are you showing this to your son?”
“I’m trying to teach him about human interaction.”
“I’m sure there are other ways to do this.”
“Of course there are. But this way is the best.”
“You’re invading their privacy. This is an intimate act between two consenting adults. You should not be watching this.”
“Well, you don’t have to watch if you to want to.” Before she could say anything else, Kathryn disappeared in a flash of light.
Will and Dani were now wrapped together in the bedsheets, moving together. Will, on top of Dani, kissed her deeply, burying his hands in her long, dark locks.
“Why are they making those noises?”
“You know, I always wondered about that. You see, son, from what I’ve seen, heard, and been told, what they’re doing is supposed to feel good.”
“Why do they sound like they’re in pain, then? And those faces their making – you’d think they’re killing each other.”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand it.”
Will sat up, pulling Dani to him. She sat with her legs on either side of him. They pulled closer to one another as he nuzzled and kissed her ear, her neck, her collar. Dani moaned breathily and writhed on top of Will, each movement and noise she made driving him closer to the edge.
“Oh, Dani. Dani…Dani,” he moaned.
“Watch what happens, son.”
The couple disappeared from the bed and bedroom in a quick flash of light. They reappeared, again in a quick flash of light and still drapped in the bedsheets, on the deck of the bridge, in front of the captain’s chair
“Oh, Will,” Dani cried in the throes of ecstasy. “Will, Will.”
“Dani…” Will murmured.
Dani threw her head back, opened her eyes, and was thoroughly alarmed to find that she was no longer in her bedroom. She was on the bridge, and all eyes, including the captain’s, were on her and Will. A yelp of surprise escaped her lips and she clung to Will even more.
“Oh, yeah, sweetheart,” Will said, totally unaware of the fact that his and Dani’s intimate act of love was being witnessed by the entire bridge crew of the Beta shift.
“Will,” Dani whispered into Will’s ear.
“Dani…” Will murmured.
“Will,” Dani said a little more forcefully.
“Oh, Dani,” Will said.
“Will!” Dani exclaimed.
“Ahem.” Captain Picard stepped away from his chair and toward the couple on the deck. Will immediately ceased kissing Dani and opened his eyes. When he did that, he realized, just as Dani had, that they had somehow ended up on the bridge.
“What the hell…” Will muttered, instinctively pulling Dani closer to him. “What is this?”
Everyone turned his head at the sound of clapping. What they found was Q walking around to the front of the bridge.
“Very good, Commander,” Q said. “Very good show.”
“Q!” Will hissed. He and Dani struggled to rise together while remaining wrapped in the bedsheet. They were finally successful and able to stand.
“Q!” Picard began, “What the devil do you think you’re doing?!”
“Nothing, Mon Capitan,” Q said innocently. “Just giving my boy a little lesson in human interaction.”
“Q, what are you talking about?” Picard asked.
“Q’s here?” Dani asked. Q snapped his fingers, and his son appeared. “Q!”
“Hello, cousin,” the younger Q greeted cheerily. “You’re looking well.”
“Q, what is going on?” Dani demanded.
“Nothing,” the two Qs said in unison.
Picard was confused and was quickly losing his patience. “Q, I want you and your Q friend here off my bridge, and I want my officers back in their own clothes this instant!”
“Temper, temper, mon Capitan,” Q warned playfully. “I just wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to my son.”
“Your son?” Deanna asked, taking a step forward.
“Yes. Everyone, this is my son – Q. Q, meet everyone.”
“Well, well, Q, it seems you’ve been busy since we last met,” Picard dead- panned. “And he’s a spitting image of his father. Now get off my ship.”
“This is all good and well, but it doesn’t explain why I’m standing in the middle of the bridge wearing nothing but a bedsheet,” Will said, obviously growing madder by the minute.
“My, my, you are dull,” Q-senior said. “Obviously, you can’t do what you two were doing with your clothes on. But that’s beside the point. I’m teaching young Q, here, about the nature of human relationships. You and Dani were the perfect example. Simply put, you were in the right place at the right time.”
Dani’s eyes grew wide. “You spied on us?” She looked from one Q to the other. “How dare you!” At this point, she was ready to pounce on them, the sheets be damned. If Will hadn’t placed a calming hand on her arm, she would have.
“She’s obviously inherited her mother’s temper,” Q whispered to his son.
“Q,” Dani said, addressing the younger Q, “put us back in my quarters NOW!”
“Oh, all right,” Q agreed reluctantly. He snapped his fingers, and Will and Dani disappeared from the bridge in two flashes of light and reappeared in her bedroom in her quarters.
“I can’t believe that little creep,” Dani said, dropping the bedsheet and moving to get dressed. “Spying on us!”
“I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life,” Will said.
“People are going to be talking about this for weeks,” Dani said. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to look anyone on this ship in the eye again. The nerve of him! Invading our space and our time like that. I never thought Q – the younger one – would be capable of anything like this. I thought he’d learned his lesson when he was onboard Voyager.”
“I suppose we can’t blame him as the sole party responsible,” Will pointed out, also dressing. He pulled on his pants. “This was Q’s idea – the older one. He did bring his son here.”
“I know.” She pulled on the different layers of her uniform’s top portion. “That doesn’t make it any less traumatic, though.” She plopped down on the bed and, with an exasperated sigh, dropped her head in her hands. “This is not what I need right now. I do not need this now.” Before she could stop them, tears were welling up in her eyes and falling down her cheeks. Will sat down beside her. “I’m never going to live this down, Will. I don’t know what to do. If it isn’t one thing, it’s going to be another. People are never going to leave me alone.”
Will put his arms around Dani, and she leaned into him. “I’m not going to be able to do this. No one’s ever going to accept me for me. They’re always going to see me as one thing or another that’s not me.”
“I know this doesn’t make things any better,” Will said. “I know it has the potential to make things a lot worse, actually. But you can’t give up. You’re strong, a fighter. You made it through the Delta Quadrant, Academy, Command School. I know you’re not going to let a few obstacles stop you. You know I’ll be here for you to help you. But you can’t give up. This is the stuff that’s going to make you even stronger than you already are. It’s supposed to be tough.”
“I know, but I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I can’t handle it.”
“You know, everyone goes through rough times in their lives, and there are plenty of people who simply give up before they even start to fight. It’s the greats who come through those hard times without folding. You are one of the great ones, Dani.”
“Yes, you are.”
“NO!” Dani got up and walked away from the bed. “No, I’m not. Everyone just thinks I’m supposed to be because who my grandfather was, and because of who my parents are, and because you are. But I’m not. I’m not! And I don’t want to be.”
Dani shook her head and looked out the viewport. “I’m just going to end up being this big disappointment to everybody.” She looked down at her feet. “What if what everyone’s saying is right? What if I’m not making it on my own merits?”
Will stood. “How could you say that?” Will asked walking over to Dani. “After all the hell Nimembeh put you through? After Command School? Come on, Dani. You know that’s not true. You’re letting them inside your head. They don’t know you. They’re going on assumptions. Part of your job is to prove those assumptions wrong. The only way to do that is to keep being the officer I know you are. Alright?” Dani nodded. “I’m surprised at you, wanting to give up like that.” He gently lifted her chin with his fingers. “It isn’t like you.” He walked over to the bed and picked up the red tunic of his uniform.
“Q with a son,” Will mused. He sat down on the bed and began to pull on his socks and shoes. “I never would have dreamed it.”
“Neither would I – until I actually saw the baby.” Dani walked over to Will. “You know, he wanted my mother to be the mother of his child.”
Will looked up at Dani, obviously unaware of this little tidbit of information. “You’re kidding,” he said.
“No. He gave up when he realized my mother would never concede. He convinced a female Q to mate with him and, well, the result is standing on the bridge. He named my mother the baby’s godmother.”
“And you’re his ‘cousin’.”
“I understand now.”
“And then, when he was older, his father dropped him off on Voyager so that he could learn a little something about maturity. Seems he was a little too wild for Q.” This earned another surprised look from Will. Dani continued. “He wreaked havoc on the ship before my mother brought him back down. And now he’s back.”
“What does he want now?”
“Q said he wanted to teach him about human interaction,” Dani reminded Will.
“I know,” Will said. “But if the first thing that involves is spying on us and placing us in a compromising position on the bridge, I’m a little wary of what more this little lesson could involve.”