Return to Normal – Chapter 5

Dani awoke the next morning in Will’s arms. The alarm that had ripped her from her peaceful slumber was still blaring. “Computer, alarm off,” she said groggily. The alarm ceased and the room was blanketed in silence. “Computer, time.”

“The time is 0700 hours, two minutes, 24 seconds,” the computer chimed.

Dani sighed. “Will,” she said. “Will?” Will groaned. “Will, it’s time to get up,” Dani said in a sing-song voice.

“No reminder needed, thanks,” he said, struggling to open his eyes.

Dani sat up and looked over her shoulder at a yawning Will. He rubbed his eyes and blinked a few times to clear his vision. Slightly dazed blue eyes stared up at Dani as she leaned over and kissed their owner.

“Mm…” Will moaned. He wrapped his arms around Dani’s waist and pulled her closer. “We’ve got time for just a quick one, don’t we?” he asked.

“No, no, no,” Dani said, pulling away from Will. “Time is ticking.” She snorted. “I would’ve never thought I would ever be more concerned about the time than you are.” She sat up. “I’ve got to go shower.” She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood.

“Mind if I join you?” Will asked, rising to a reclining position on the bed.

Dani pretended to ponder over the decision. “Hmm…it would save time.” She looked at him. He was so cute when he woke up in the morning. His hair was disheveled, sticking out every which way, and a slightly sleepy gaze still graced his blue eyes. She realized then just how much she’d truly missed him these last few months.

“Come on,” Dani said, inviting Will to join her in the bathroom. Will smiled and didn’t waste any time in following. As he was following her, he noticed the little triangular mark on her lower back. Her very lower back.

“What is this?” Will asked. “I’ve never seen it before.” He hadn’t noticed it last night or any other time before that.

“What?” Dani asked, as she turned on the sonic shower.

“This,” Will said touching the little design at the base of her back.

Dani looked over her shoulder and down at the spot Will’s finger was touching. “Oh. It’s just a tattoo.”

“A tattoo?” Will repeated. Was she trying to be funny? “I can see that,” he said. “What is it of?”

Dani turned and faced Will. “You have seen it before,” she insisted.

Now, Will was downright confused. He’d seen Dani naked about a million times, and he’d never seen that mark on her before.

Dani, deciding to finally put an end to Will’s confusion, told him what he wanted to know. “It’s the mark of my father’s people. It’s the same mark that’s on my dad’s forehead.”

His curiosity piqued, Will turned Dani around and kneeled to have a better look at his new discovery. It was the same mark that he’d seen on Chakotay’s forehead. He traced it lightly with his finger, causing Dani to giggle a bit. He rose to his feet, and she turned around to face him once again.

“When did this happen?” Will asked.

“The night of the Academy graduation,” she replied. “I had a little too much to drink and had a Klingon buddy of mine draw it on for me.”

At this confession, Will’s eyebrows rose in amusement. A grin instantly appeared on his face. “You? Drunk?”

Dani ignored Will and the turn he was taking with that last comment. She instead turned her attention back to the sonic shower.

“How long has it been since you had a real water shower?” Will asked her as he changed the shower from the sonic setting to water.

Dani leaned back against the vanity and thought. “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s probably been a few years.”

Will stepped up to her. “Too long,” he said, moving in and kissing her deeply. She gently pulled away from him and stepped into the shower. She held out her hand for him. He took it and joined her inside the little stall. She kissed him again and realized she didn’t care where this would lead to.

Will steered her into the stream of falling water droplets. The surprise of the forgotten sensation made her yelp.

“Don’t worry,” Will said, smiling. “Water doesn’t bite. But I do.” Dani smiled. The sensation of the water on her skin had a therapeutic effect, and it was evident by the relaxed expression on her face. “This is why I prefer water showers,” Will said.

Dani smiled again and played with the dark, damp hair on his head. “There’s no cleansing agent,” she observed. “You have to provide your own soap, don’t you?”

“You could do that,” Will said. “Or you could just tell the computer to add it for you. Computer, add cleansing agent number 33 to the water, please.” The computer chirped as it complied.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Dani said, with wonder. Almost immediately, she began to notice a difference in the texture of the water. It became more like an oil. A sweet citrus scent invaded her nostrils as she looked down at the floor of the shower and saw that a slightly foamy lather had formed.

“Is that better?” Will asked.

Xxx

When Will and Dani went on duty at 0800 hours, the Enterprise had arrived at Garessa II, a large, uninhabited M-class planet. The Enterprise was currently on a survey mission of recently charted star systems. The away teams’ assignments were of a variable nature, from simple science surveys of the mineral and metallurgic make-up of the planets to tactical surveys of the layout of the planets and their possible uses as Federation bases or colonies. Garessa II was one of these survey planets.

“Will, I think it’s an honor to be sitting in on the senior staff mission briefing,” Dani said. She and Will were on their way to the observation lounge. “But I don’t understand my purpose for being present.”

“All I know is that the captain wants you there, so you will be,” Will said.

They both walked through the doors of the observation lounge. Will took his customary seat in the chair beside the captain, who was always at the head of the table.

Captain Picard sniffed. The air around him had taken on a mildly fruity flavor just as Will had sat down. Picard looked at his Number One. “Is that a new cologne, Number One?” he asked.

Will froze. He’d already forgotten about that aspect of the shower he’d shared with Dani earlier that morning. Next time, he’d have to pay more attention to the scent of the soap before he chose it. He looked at the captain, intending to reply to his question, but he found that Picard’s attention was already on something else.

Dani took a seat much further down the table. As she sat, she pondered over why she was in on this mission briefing while no other junior officers were.

“Goodmorning, everyone,” Picard began. “As you all know…” As the captain began to explain the purpose of the mission, the methods, etc., Will allowed his mind to wonder back to the bliss of the morning he’d shared with Dani. Her body was incredible. Those long legs…he was getting excited just thinking about them.

“…Commander?” Picard waited for Will to reply. When he didn’t, Picard called his name again. “Commander?” This brought Will out of his reverie.

“Sorry, Captain,” he said. “My mind was…somewhere else.”

“Let’s try to remain here and in the present, please, Commander,” Picard said, a little annoyed.

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” Will stole a glance at Dani. She smiled and lowered her head.

“Now, I was just saying that the away teams will be organized into groups of ten,” Picard said.

“That’s right,” Will said. “The first two groups of ten will be the science teams. Tactical teams will follow, and after that, medical.”

“Each group will also be accompanied by a security team,” Picard added. His eyes scanned the faces staring back at him. He stopped at Dani’s brown eyes. “Which brings me to you, Lt.” Everyone turned to look at her. “I know you’re wondering why you were summoned to take part in this briefing, Lt.” Picard said.

“Yes, sir. It had crossed my mind,” Dani said honestly.

“Lt. Janeway, your sole purpose on this mission will be to accompany Q to the surface.” Picard could see the puzzled, surprised, and wary looks on the faces of his officers. “If Q really is here to observe what being human is all about, I believe this would be an extremely valuable opportunity for him to observe human interactions within teams. Teamwork is the key word here.” He watched the concept sink in with his crew. He directed his attention back at Dani. “You are to be with him at all times. Understood?”

“Yes, Captain,” Dani said. She was more than just slightly perturbed. She hadn’t transferred to the Enterprise to babysit. That was her job for this mission, as she saw it. She was to babysit Q. And she wasn’t responsible for Q, she thought sarcastically, her mind going back to the conversation she and Will had had the night before. She looked down the table at him. He was smiling.

“Now,” the captain said, “everyone has his orders. Make it so, everyone. Dismissed.”

Everyone stood and began to file out of the room. “Lt. Janeway, a moment, if you would, please?” Picard requested. Dani stopped and turned to face the captain. Will, who’d been on his way out, also stopped and looked at the captain. He looked at Dani again before walking out of the room, leaving her with Picard.

“Yes, Captain?” Dani said.

“Dani,” Picard said, taking a few steps toward her, “I know this isn’t exactly the assignment you’d like to be given, but you’re the one whom I believe best-suited for the task at hand.”

“I understand, Captain,” Dani said.

“I just think Q will be more likely to listen to you than anyone else aboard.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“I thank you for doing this, Lt.”

Dani nodded. “You’re welcome, Captain.

“Dismissed.”

Dani turned and walked out of the observation lounge. Will was waiting outside the door. Before he could say anything, she spoke. “Don’t say anything,” she said, sternly.

In the observation lounge, Picard noticed that after Dani left, there remained the scent of citrus fruit. He sniffed. Yes, that was it. Orange or tangerine, it smelled like. He wondered what this new-found affinity for fruit-scented colognes and perfumes was. First, Number One, then Dani. Who was next? Data?

Xxx

The first away team materialized on the planet’s surface amid conditions akin to those in paradise. Dani looked around. The temperature was perfect, and the sky was blue. If she hadn’t known that this was going to be a survey mission, she’d have mistaken the planet for a shoreleave planet. It was beautiful there.

“All right, people, let’s get to work,” Will announced. “Standard away team procedures. No one goes anywhere alone.” The officers fanned out and began to conduct their surveys.

Will tapped his comm badge. “Enterprise, this is Riker. We’re ready for the second team down here whenever you’re ready to transport.”

“Aye, Commander,” came the tinny voice through Will’s communicator. “Stand by.”

Dani and Q left Will and started walking toward one of the survey team pairs. The team had already ventured a good distance away, so Q and Dani, at the leisurely pace they were traveling, had a little walk ahead of them.

“This is so humiliating,” Q said.

“What?” Dani asked.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Q said defiantly.

“You think I wanted this assignment?” Dani asked Q. “Believe me, this is not my dream job. I’d much rather be performing some of these surveys. But an order is an order, and I intend to follow it to a tee.”

“Why? If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.”

“Q, there are certain things you’re going to have to learn about our society. I thought you’d already learned them from your time aboard Voyager, but apparently, you’ve forgotten them. Sometimes, you have to do things you don’t necessarily want to. You do them because there’s a bigger picture, and because it’s probably the right thing to do. You don’t disobey orders. Especially from the captain. So, here I am. Stuck with you.” The euphoric feeling Dani had first experienced after beaming down to the beautiful planet was quickly dissipating with the presence of her charge, Q.

“Well, thank you for making me feel so welcome,” Q said flatly. “I’m honored.”

“No,” Dani said apologetically. She was being mean to Q, and this situation wasn’t even his fault. He was just as innocent as she was. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault you’re here – it’s your father’s fault.”

The two walked over and joined a team that consisted of Ensign Paul Milsap and Lt. Nina Carter. Milsap and Carter looked up from their work at the new arrivals.

“Don’t mind us,” Dani said politely. “We’re just observing – if that’s all right.”

“Of course it is, Lt,” Carter said politely.

Meanwhile, Ensigns Eric Clements and Marta Shields were a few paces away taking soil and plant samples.

“Is there no end to it?” Clements asked. “It isn’t enough that she’s in good with half of Starfleet’s hierarchy. No. She’s got to be in good with the Q, too. Who knows what kind of predicament she’s put us in, bringing Q’s son here? It’s only her second day, and already, I can’t stand her.”

“Well, you can take comfort in the fact that she doesn’t have all of Starfleet in the palm of her hand,” Shields said.

Clements looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“There’s a rumor going around that Nechayev was this close to court-martialing her during that whole mess with Dukat,” Shields said, holding up her index finger and thumb.

“That’s my whole point, though,” Clements said. “The only reason Nechayev didn’t go ahead and court-martial her was because she’s Dani Janeway. If it’d been anyone else, they would have been gone. If not that, they damn well wouldn’t be serving as a bridge officer on the ‘Fleet’s flagship. You know I’m telling the truth.”

“Yeah. Well, she will have to prove herself at some point,” Shields said. “She won’t make it far on her connections alone. If she is all she’s cracked up to be, only time will tell.”

Xxx

An hour later, all the survey teams were down on the surface. There were about 40 people total on the surface taking surveys on the different physical aspects of the planet. Dani and Q had managed to visit at least one two-person team for each survey group, and in many circumstances, they had made it to more than one team.

“I still don’t see the purpose in all of this,” Q said. “Why come down here and physically take samples when you’ve got the Enterprise and the ability to do all this from the ship? From where I’m sitting, this just looks like a big waste of time.”

“Well, it’s not,” Dani said. “Believe me. Yes, we could do this all from the ship, but we get much better information if we do it first-hand. You get to see it with your own eyes and touch with your own hands, instead of letting sensors and transporters see and do for you.” She looked at Q. He still wasn’t getting it. “The point is teamwork. You’re supposed to be observing how people work together and what makes a team successful.” She looked up in time to see Will walking toward them.

“There’s a system coming this way,” he said.

“A bad one?” Dani asked.

“The Enterprise sensors indicate that it’s only a line showers at this point, but it has the potential to develop into something more serious,” Will explained. “The captain has ordered that we return to the ship.”

Dani nodded. She looked past Will at the first group of ten as they assembled and awaited transport. Will’s comm badge chirped. “Enterprise to Riker.”

“Riker here,” Will said.

“Stand by for transport,” the transporter technician’s voice came through Will’s communicator.

“Standing by. Riker out.” He turned and watched as the first group of ten dematerialized. He turned back to Dani and Q. “You’ll be transporting with the last group.”

Dani nodded. She saw the next team assemble for transport. After a few moments, the group dematerialized in the transporter stream.

“Observe anything interesting today?” Riker asked. He smiled at her. A few paces away, the third group of ten assembled for transport. A few seconds later, they disappeared from the planet’s surface.

Dani returned Riker’s smile. “Not lately,” she said. “But this morning…well, that’s a different story.” Riker’s smile broadened as he, along with Dani, Q, and the members of the last team assembled for their turn to transport. He tapped his comm badge. “Enterprise, this is Riker. The last team is ready for transport.”

“Stand by, Commander,” the transporter tech replied. A moment later, the transport process began, and Dani began to feel the familiar tingling sensation associated with teleportation. A few seconds later, she, along with everyone else in their group, rematerialized and found that they were still on the planet’s surface. They all looked around, puzzled.

Riker tapped his comm badge. “Riker to Enterprise,” he said. “What seems to be the problem. Why are we still on the surface?” There was no answer. “Enterprise, come in.” When there still was no answer, Will instinctively looked to Dani. She tried her comm badge, but got the same result that Will had.

Xxx

On the Enterprise, the transporter tech worked frantically to find the signals of the 10 crew members on the surface, but to no avail.

“It’s no use, Captain,” the woman said. “There’s too much interference.”

Xxx

On the Bridge, Captain Picard was beginning to worry. He turned to Data, who was now second in command because of Riker’s absence.

“Data, prepare a shuttle for launch,” Picard ordered. “It looks like we’re going to have to go in and get them.”

“Sir, I would advise against that course of action,” Data said. “The storms approaching the location of the survey team have grown in intensity and strength. They are quite severe, now. Attempting to pilot a shuttle to the surface would be dangerous, sir.”

Picard took this in and reconsidered. “Suggestions, anyone?” he asked after turning the situation over in his mind. No one offered up any ideas. “Well, then, I suppose we’ll just have to wait this one out.”

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