Return to Normal – Chapter 8

Dani searched through her closet, examining the collection of civvies she owned. She wanted to choose things that would be awesome for the night life on the shoreleave trip she would be taking next week. They were going skiing on Dolas, but still, if she and Will decided to go to Dolas’ moons for the nights, she would need outfits that were absolutely irresistible. She’d been in this uniform for far too long without any time to enjoy the freedom civilian clothes provided. What she chose to wear on leave would have to be stellar.

As she contemplated a black mini, her door chimed. “Come in!” she called. The doors opened, and Q2 walked in. Dani looked up and saw his reflection in the mirror. She turned to him, surprised.

“Q,” she said. “I didn’t expect to see you here. I thought your father was here to pick you up and give you your powers back.” Q’s week-long stay aboard the Enterprise had come to an end, and now it was time for him to rejoin the Continuum.

“He already gave them back,” Q said.

Dani, upon hearing that, realized that Q had only chimed out of respect. She smiled. He could have just popped in if he’d wanted to.

Q continued. “I just came by to say goodbye.” He held up his hand and a bouquet of white roses flashed into existence. He handed them to Dani.

“Q!” she said. She placed her skirt on the bed and accepted the roses. “Thank you, Q. They’re beautiful.”

“They’re a token of my gratitude,” Q said. “See, you showed me, down on that planet, what it really means to be human. You showed me that it isn’t as easy as I originally believed. Even after my time on Voyager, I didn’t totally get it. But now I think I understand a little better. Thanks to you, Commander Riker, and the rest of the Enterprise crew.”

“Q, I’m really surprised,” Dani said. “And impressed. I’m glad your time here wasn’t wasted.”

Q smiled. “Ah, Cousin.” Dani returned his smile, and they hugged. Q looked at her. “I should be on my way. Dad’s waiting for me.”

“Oh? Where are you two off to?”

“Who knows?” Q said with a shrug.

“Well, wherever you go, don’t go popping into people’s bedrooms during…intimate moments,” Dani chided him.

“You needn’t worry about that anymore,” Q assured her. “I’ve learned my lesson on that front.”

“Take care of yourself, Q. Be careful who you mess with.”

“I will. I’ve got to be around so that I can come back and visit you again.”

Q and Dani exchanged smiles. Then he disappeared in a flash of light.

“I’m glad that you realized being human wasn’t just about sex,” Dani muttered.

“It isn’t,” Dani heard Q’s voice say, “but it’s a big part. And fun, too. But of course, you already know that, Cousin. And now, so do I.”

Dani looked around the room. She looked back at the roses and smiled. So, he had gotten his wish. Dani walked into the bathroom, to fetch some water for the roses.

xxx

Dani had finally finished packing for shore leave. She had cut it kind of close. The Enterprise had arrived at Dolas just this morning, and she was just now closing her third, and final, suitcase. She was looking around her quarters, trying to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, when Will walked in, sporting only a shoulder bag. When he saw the ridiculous amount of luggage in Dani’s living room, he smiled and mused that the amount of things she was taking could possibly be enough to clothe a small army.

“Hello,” Dani said, walking out of her bedroom to greet him.

“Hi,” Will said. “You know, we’re going to be gone for a week.” Dani was puzzled by the statement until Will pointed at the luggage before them.

“Oh. I know,” Dani said. “Do you think I’m taking enough? I knew I packed too lightly. Let me go get-”

“No,” Will interrupted, stopping her from adding anything else to the small mountain of suitcases. “No, I meant, do you really think taking all that is necessary. I mean, they do have replicators down on Dolas.”

“I know. I just prefer taking my own clothes with me. That way, I won’t have to break anything in.”

Will glanced down at the coffee table. There was a flower stasis unit there he hadn’t noticed before. “What’s this?” he asked, walking over to the unit and picking it up.

“They’re from Q,” Dani answered. “He gave them to me right before he left last week.”

“Oh,” Will said, replacing the little unit on the coffee table. He felt a small pang of jealousy as he realized he’d never given Dani flowers before. He’d have to do something about that before too long. “Are you ready to go?”

Dani nodded. “Yeah.” Will watched her as she slung the shoulder case onto her shoulder and picked up the smaller of the two remaining cases. Once she was settled with those two bags, she reached down to pick up the third, humongous bag. It was a bit of a struggle. After two tries, she still hadn’t managed to lift it.

Will laughed. He’d been holding it in, or trying to, when he found he just couldn’t do it anymore. “Why don’t you just let me get that one, okay?” he offered.

“Gladly,” Dani smiled, realizing how ridiculous she must’ve looked.

Will walked over and picked up the bag with little difficulty. “After you,” he said.

Dani walked out of her quarters, Will in tow behind her.

xxx

A few minutes later, they joined Troi, Data, and Geordi on the transporter platform in transporter room two. Beverly entered the room only seconds later, and the group was then ready to beam down to the surface for a whole week of fun in the snow. After seeing the transporter room gradually disappear around them, the team was soon greeted with the cozy interior of one of the many ski resorts on the planet.

Will looked at his companions and smiled. “And so it begins,” he said.

The Enterprise crew members went to their respective rooms. Will and Dani would share one. Once she reached the room, she didn’t bother with unpacking. She headed straight for the bed, dropping her bags and shedding her uniform along the way. By the time she time she reached the bed, she sported only her Starfleet-issue underwear. She collapsed on her stomach into the bed and sighed, all the pressures of Starfleet and the Enterprise exiting her body with the deep breath. She closed her eyes. She was just thinking that she could spend the entire week in this manner when she felt a warm presence ease up next to her and cover her body. She felt the back of a hand graze her side, from her shoulder to her knee, a few times. Up and down. Up and down. A mouth – a bearded mouth – began to nuzzle and kiss her ear, her neck, her shoulder, and she giggled. Finally, Will rolled her over onto her back and draped her arm around his neck.

“Well, well, you don’t waste any time, do you?” Will asked her, referring to her sudden state of undress.

She looked up at him and saw that he was still in full uniform. “And you’re a slow poke,” she said.

Will smiled and kissed Dani deeply. She wrapped her arms around his body and pulled him closer to him. This was going to be a great vacation, she thought. She had Will to spend it with. She had a beautiful, exciting planet to spend it on…and then she heard a muffled chirp. She and Will reluctantly pulled apart from each other. They heard the chirp again. At first they’d thought it was Will’s badge, but they quickly realized that it wasn’t. Which meant that it was Dani’s. They both looked over at her uniform, in pieces on the floor. With a groan, Dani disentangled herself from Will, left the bed, and crawled on the floor, searching for her chirping comm badge. Once she found it, she pressed it and said, “Janeway here.”

“Lieutenant, sorry to disturb you, ma’am,” a young male voice said.

“That’s okay,” Dani said, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. “What can I do for you?”

“There’s a comm here for you, Lieutenant,” the officer said.

“Patch it through to me on the communications console in my room down here,” Dani said, moving to put on the red turtleneck portion of her uniform.

“Yes, ma’am. Enterprise out.”

Dani stood, obviously annoyed. She was supposed to be on vacation, damnit. She was temporarily tempted to toss her badge out the second story window of their room on her way to the computer console, but she quickly pushed the thought out of her mind, instead wondering what the purpose of this communication could be. It was probably pretty important if it couldn’t wait until after shore leave.

Will sat up on the bed and began to remove his boots. He hoped this wasn’t going to be an ongoing trend on this trip. It couldn’t really be shore leave if you were still at the mercy of your communicator.

Dani sat down at the comm console and activated it. Her mother’s face filled the screen.

“Mom?” Dani said, obviously surprised. She couldn’t imagine why they would be calling her. She hoped nothing was wrong, but immediately assumed that something was. Why else couldn’t her comm wait until after she was back onboard the Enterprise. “What’s the matter?” Dani asked. Oh, no. Something had happened to her father. Or Grandma. “Is it Dad?”

Kathryn Janeway regarded her daughter quizzically for a moment. She smiled, hoping to put her daughter at ease. “Nothing’s wrong, sweetheart. Everything’s fine. I heard you were going to Dolas for shore leave. I was calling to check in.”

It was Dani’s turn to look a little confused. Why would her mother feel the need to ‘check in’ with her? “Oh…I’m fine,” Dani said. “I was just about to lie down for a nap.”

“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Kathryn said, her face taking on an apologetic expression.

“No, you’re not disturbing me at all,” Dani lied. She could feel Will’s eyes on her, casting that ‘yeah right’ look.

“Good. Then, you won’t mind your father and I dropping by,” Kathryn said matter-of-factly.

“What?” was Dani’s immediate reaction. Will’s head snapped up. “What do you mean, ‘dropping by’?” Dani asked.

“Your father and I are spending our leave on Dolas, too,” Kathryn said cheerily. “We’ll be able to spend our vacation together with you, just like old times.”

Dani managed a weak smile.

“We left Earth two days ago. We should be there later on this afternoon,” Kathryn informed her. “How’s the weather?”

“I haven’t been out, yet,” Dani replied.

“Oh. Well, we can go out and do something later on tonight. I can’t wait to see you, honey. Neither can your father.” Kathryn smiled warmly. “We’ll see you in a few hours. Janeway out.” The older woman cut the connection.

Dani’s body slouched. She sighed. “I guess two more won’t make much more of a difference,” she said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Will admitted. “We are with a group after all.”

Dani stood and walked over to where Will was sitting on the bed. She stood between his knees. Unzipping her tunic, she said, “As long as we don’t have to share a room with them or anything.” She discarded the shirt and put her arms around Will’s neck. She moved in and kissed him. “I mean, that would be absolutely disastrous.” She kissed him again.

“Yes, it would,” Will agreed, smiling.

xxx

When the door chimed, Dani groggily pulled the bedcovers over her head in an effort to ignore the unwanted interruption in her sleep. Maybe whoever was at the door would think she and Will were out and would go away.

Beep-boop

No such luck, Dani thought with a reluctant sigh. Beep-boop. Will stirred at the sound of the chime. His eyes blinked open as the door beeped again. “Visitors?” he asked with a yawn.

“Unfortunately,” Dani said, catching Will’s yawn and letting out one of her own.

The door beeped again. “I’ll get it,” Will said to Dani, slowly sitting up and placing his feet on the floor. He reached down, picked up his uniform pants and pulled them on. Next, he found his red tunic on the floor. He picked it up and, as he tried to put it on, realized it wasn’t his tunic but Dani’s. He turned to her at the sound of her giggle and tossed the tunic to its rightful owner. Taking a few more steps to the door, he came across his own tunic and quickly pulled it on. The door beeped again. “Here I come,” he called out.

When he reached the door, he looked back at Dani to find that she’d already pulled on the tunic and her uniform pants and was gathering the remaining pieces of scattered clothing. As she picked up the last of the discarded clothing and headed for the bathroom, Will opened the door following another beep. He was stunned to learn who their visitors were.

Admiral Kathryn Janeway and Captain Chakotay stared back at Will Riker, smiles on both their faces. Will put on a quick smile to cover his initial shock.

“Kathryn, Chakotay,” he began. He shook her hand, delivering a kiss to her cheek. He also shook Chakotay’s hand, but held back on the kiss.

“Will,” Kathryn began. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Likewise,” Will said. “Well, this is a surprise. We didn’t expect you to arrive quite so early. Dani?” he called over his shoulder, “Your parents are here.”

Dani appeared from the bathroom as her parents were stepping into the room. “Mom! Daddy!” she said, rushing over to greet them with hugs and kisses. Smiling, she said, “We weren’t expecting you to arrive until later.”

“Will was just telling me that,” Kathryn said. “I’m sorry I didn’t mention how close we were when I commed you. It slipped my mind.” Kathryn, for the first time, noticed Will’s and Dani’s states of undress and became alarmed. They were both in partial uniform, and it was obvious by the state of the bed and the condition of their hair that they had been disturbed. “We didn’t mean to interrupt anything,” she said, cautiously.

“Oh, no, you didn’t,” Dani assured her. “We were just waking up from a nap. It was time to get up anyway.” Dani’s gaze surveyed the luggage that accompanied her parents. “So, let’s get you guys settled in.” She picked up one of her mother’s bags, a shoulder case. “You’re staying here, right? What room are you in?” She was already walking to the door.

“This one actually,” Kathryn answered.

Dani froze. She turned around and looked at her mother and father. “This one?”

“Yes,” her father asked her. He cast an unsure glance in Kathryn’s direction before continuing. “We hoped you wouldn’t mind. All the other lodges and hotels on this side of the planet were booked. The only openings anywhere were on the other side of the planet.”

“Oh,” Dani said. She walked away from the door. She couldn’t have her parents stay on the other side of the planet. That was for extremists. It was dangerously cold and isolated.

“I hope this doesn’t put too much of a damper on your vacation,” Kathryn said apologetically. “We can go to the other side of the planet, if you’d like. It won’t be that big of a problem. Just a bit of an inconvenience. Really.”

Now Dani was really feeling guilty. She wanted nothing more than to say ‘okay’ and send them on their way, but she couldn’t do that. These were her parents. If they got hurt or worse over there, she’d never be able to forgive herself. Besides, this was their leave, too. And they’d traveled all the way from Earth just so they could spend a little time with her. The decision was made.

“Nonsense,” Dani said, walking back over to her mother and placing the bag on the messy bed. “You and Dad are staying right here.”

Kathryn and Chakotay looked at each other, smiling. Dani and Will looked at each other, also smiling outwardly, but a little less sure about this arrangement on the inside. This was definitely going to be one interesting vacation.

xxx

Dani and Will walked out of the restaurant on Kava, Dolas’ social moon. Of Dolas’ seven moons, this one was the party destination. Dani looked around at the endlessly bright lights. The music from the vast array of night clubs poured out into the streets and mingled, producing an intoxicating effect. Add to that the delicious aroma drifting from the many different restaurants, and you have Kava, one of the best party spots in galaxy.

The temperature was a comfortable 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Dani was dressed perfectly for the weather, sporting a slinky black dress and high-heeled sandals that laced up around her ankles. Her hair had been carelessly, but stylishly, put up with a hair clip. A slight breeze blew, upsetting the loose strands of her hair.

“You are so beautiful,” Will said, moving to embrace Dani. His arms around her, he continued. “How did I ever end up with someone so wonderful as you?”

Dani laughed. She fingered the collar of his blue button-down shirt. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said. “You’re Will Riker. Charmer and lover extraordinaire. You know how you ended up with me.” Their faces moved in closer to each other, and they were about to kiss when Kathryn and Chakotay walked out of the restaurant. Dani and Will promptly separated.

“So, where are we headed next?” Kathryn asked, oblivious to the fact that she and Chakotay had interrupted anything.

Dani’s parents had thought it would be a good idea if they all had dinner together, which they’d just done. Dani and Will had thought it would be a good idea as well. It would afford them the opportunity to catch up with one another. But they’d thought the captain and admiral would want some time to themselves that night. They’d been wrong, apparently.

Dani turned to her parents. “Well, Will and I were going to do a little club hopping,” she said.

“That sounds like fun,” was Kathryn’s reply. “Where to first?”

Dani glanced at Will before continuing. “Well, um, we didn’t think you and Dad would be interested in that kind of stuff. We thought you might like to spend a little time together-alone.”

“Nonsense,” Kathryn said, not catching the hint. “We had more than enough alone time in the shuttle over. You two just lead the way, and we’ll follow.”

Dani and Will turned and began to walk toward the direction of much of the music. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. It couldn’t be.

They turned a corner and came to a strip lined with nightclubs. Dani smiled. The music was infecting her. She was just itching to get on a dance floor. The feeling completely dissipated when she and her companions walked into the first establishment they came to. ‘Crossroads’ was the name of it, and the group quickly realized that it was a Terran country/western bar. Music of that type was blaring from the speakers, and everywhere they looked, there were people in cowboy hats, tight jeans, and boots. And was that a mechanical bull in the corner? This was not the place where Dani could get her dance on. They quickly exited the establishment, preferring a much less themed place.

The next place they walked into had some alien name that didn’t translate into any Federation language, but it was a bumping place. When they walked in, Dani was immediately feeling the place. The music was loud and had a good beat to it, the lights were low, and the neon tube lights that lined the walls illuminated the room gradually morphing from one color to another, blue to purple to pink to red and so on.

Kathryn and Chakotay had managed to find a little table near the bar. This definitely wasn’t the kind of place they would willingly spend their free time in. They were content to wait it out, though, until Dani and Will decided to move on to another place – if they decided to move on to another place. Dani and Will had taken such a liking to this place, it didn’t look like they’d be leaving anytime soon.

On the floor, Dani was completely into the music. When it finally stopped, she stopped.

“Whoo!” she exclaimed, letting out a large breath and leaving the dance floor. “I need a break.” She grabbed Will’s hand as she headed over to the bar. An attractive, bald bartender was waiting for them.

“What can I get for you?” he asked them.

“I’ll just have a water,” Dani requested. She was a little out of breath and very thirsty. She knew alcohol, even synthehol, would make her thirstier. The bartender returned a few moments later with Dani’s water. He turned to Will. “Can I get anything for you, sir?”

“No thanks,” Will replied. “Just bill the water to Commander William Riker.”

“It’s on the house,” the bartender said, casting a lingering look at Dani. “Your lady friend here earned it. You should be a dancer, you know,” he said, addressing Dani. He left to see to another patron before Dani could get the opportunity to thank him for his generous compliment and for the water.

She placed the glass on the little glass coaster and looked at Will. “You ready?” she asked him.

“Ready for what?” Will asked.

“To move on to the next place,” Dani said.

“You seem to like it here. I thought you might like to stay for a while.”

“No, that’s not what club-hopping is about, at least not tonight. I want to get to as many places as I can.”

“Whatever you want to do.” The couple rose from the bar and walked out of the club.

Kathryn and Chakotay scanned the crowded room but didn’t see Dani and Will anywhere. Then again, it was fairly dark. They couldn’t see much of anyone. They stood and made their way through the maze of tables and past the bar, all the while keeping an eye out for their daughter and her companion. By the time they’d reached the exit, they’d come to the conclusion that Will and Dani must’ve already left the club.

“Kathryn,” Chakotay began. “I think we’ve been ditched.” He chuckled.

A ripple of small laughs moved through Kathryn as well. “I’d have to agree,” she said. She sighed. “Oh, well. It isn’t as if we can’t find something to do on our own.”

“Why don’t we find a nice, quiet club to relax in,” Chakotay suggested. “One that doesn’t sound like a giant headache.”

“I agree,” she said as they left the loud, heavy thumping and bumping.\

xxx

Dani and Will had found a soulful, mellow blues club to visit. They were sitting at a little table listening to two men perform a delightful duet, a cover of an old Earth tune “Riding With the King.” Dani remembered that the original had been performed by two legends, B.B. King and Eric Clapton. The guys who were performing tonight weren’t the originals, of course, but they were wonderful. She took another sip of her Long Island Ice Tea. It was the real thing, not synthehol, and she could feel herself beginning to relax more and more.

The next song the duo played was a slow one, so Will decided to take advantage of it. “Wanna dance?” he asked Dani. She nodded, and they rose, hand in hand, and walked to the little dance floor in front of the small stage. There were already a few more couples out on the floor, and Will and Dani, beginning to move, just blended in. He pulled her close to his body, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.

“You don’t feel bad about leaving your parents behind, do you?” Will asked her.

“No,” Dani said, matter-of-factly. Then as if re-examining her earlier decision to ditch them, she asked, “Should I?”

Will shook his head. “I don’t think so. No. They’re adults. They know how to find entertainment on their own.” Dani considered this for a moment. He was right. She knew they wouldn’t be too upset about it. They’d just “gotten separated in the crowd.” She was sure they would find something to suit their needs.

xxx

“Next, we have Chakotay!” an announcer called out. Chakotay, full of confidence, strode up to the mechanical contraption and gracefully climbed on. “Now, remember – if you can last a full eight seconds on the bull, you and your lady win a free round of beers and ‘Crossroads’ t-shirts. Are you ready?” Chakotay gripped the handle of the saddle firmly and nodded. The announcer nodded in response. “All right, boys – start her up!” At the announcer’s words, the mechanical bull began bucking and spinning wildly. The other patrons in the building were cheering him on loudly. To remain on the bull would be a miraculous feat, but that’s just what Chakotay was managing to do. He even put one of his arms into the air, managing to hold on to the machine with just one hand. When the machine stopped, Chakotay hopped off proudly. “Folks, he’s done it! He’s mastered the bull!” the announcer exclaimed. It had only been eight seconds, but for Chakotay, it had been the longest eight seconds he’d ever experienced. “Here you go, Slim,” the announcer said, handing Chakotay two shirts. “You earned it.”

xxx

When Dani and Will returned to their room later that night (or rather, very early the next morning) and found that Kathryn and Chakotay were not there, they were somewhat alarmed. Dani checked the chronometer on the computer console. It was nearly 0300 hours. From what she remembered from her childhood and from time aboard Voyager, her parents had never really been big night owls unless it was necessary for a mission or something else duty-related.

“Don’t worry,” Will said. “I’m sure they’re just out having a little fun together by themselves. Or maybe they found another couple to hang with.”

“Yeah,” Dani sighed. “You’re probably right.” She looked in the mirror on the dresser and removed the hair clip from her hair. Her long, brown hair fell to her shoulders and she got an idea. She turned to Will, who was beginning to undress for bed. He’d unbuttoned his shirt cuffs and untucked and unbuttoned his shirt halfway down. Dani walked over to where he was standing, near the pull-out bed they’d offered to take so that Kathryn and Chakotay could have the more comfortable conventional bed. He was busying himself with the task of unbuttoning the rest of his shirt when Dani approached him and put her arms around his neck. She had a mischievous gleam in her eye that Will recognized immediately.

“Since we are alone, we should make good use of the time,” Dani suggested.

Will smiled, but then a thought entered his head. “What if your parents come back?” he asked.

“What if they don’t anytime soon. All that time…wasted.”

Will smiled again as he moved in and kissed Dani. “Computer – lights,” Dani called. The room darkened as Will pulled Dani’s dress over her head and let it fall to the floor. Dani pushed Will’s unbuttoned shirt back over his shoulders and pulled it down his arms. It, too, fell to the floor. Dani shoved Will down onto the bed and pounced on him. This one was going to have to be quick. They had no idea when Dani’s parents would return. They could walk through that door any minute.

Dani and Will both froze. They heard footsteps. Will immediately rolled onto his back. He and Dani pulled the bed covers up to their necks and lay there, their eyes closed, pretending to be asleep. They were expecting the lights to pop on, but they didn’t.

Neither of them expected to hear what they heard next.

They heard the distinct sound of two people kissing. Dani’s and Will’s eyes popped open. Dani looked at Will, who returned her mortified stare, and then peeked over at her parents. She saw them. The two of them were kissing. Then she saw them pull apart. Her eyes snapped shut, as did Will’s.

“Sshhh,” she heard one of them say.

Kathryn glanced over at the couple on the pull-out bed. They were sleeping peacefully. They looked so sweet. They were both under the covers, all tucked in, with their heads slightly inclined to one another.

She turned back to Chakotay. “They’re asleep,” she whispered.

“You’re sure?” Chakotay whispered back.

“Um-hm.”

Dani heard the sounds of kissing resume, but this time they were accompanied by the sound of zippers unzipping and clothes rustling. A few minutes later, she from her parents sounds she and Will had just been making themselves. Her parents were going at it! In the next bed over! Dani placed two pillows over her head in an attempt to block the noises out. Will merely sighed. ‘Great,’ he thought as he rolled over on his side, his back now facing Kathryn and Chakotay’s bed.

xxx

The next morning, Dani sat on a couch downstairs in the lodge’s lobby, sipping on a steaming cup of coffee. She hated the stuff and didn’t usually drink it. But this was an extreme circumstance. She’d hardly gotten any sleep the night before. Her parents’ lovemaking had gone on exceptionally long. Dani swore it seemed like the sun was rising before they were through. Dani had tried to go to sleep, but that wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do when your parents were in the bed right next to yours indulging in the carnal pleasures of the flesh. She’d been relieved when, around five, they seemed to have drifted off to sleep, allowing Dani to do so as well without the fear that she’d be awakened by their sounds of passion.

She took a sip of her coffee and winced a little. She could still taste some of the bitterness of the drink, but the sugar and creamer she’d put in it helped a lot. All in all, she’d probably received anywhere between two and two and a half hours of sleep. She was surprised she was even capable of keeping her head up and her eyes open. Hopefully, when they got outside, the cold would wake her up some. She looked away from the gentle fire that was always burning in the fireplace and saw that Will was making his way toward her. She placed her half-drunken cup of coffee on the little table and walked over to meet him.

“We’re all set,” he said. He took a step back and looked Dani over. “That looks so good on you.” Dani was wearing a black form-fitting ski suit. It was made of a special wind-and-water-resistant fiber, so she would be completely protected from the cold. She was also wearing a bulkier cargo vest, for extra protection and to pocket certain essentials such as her communicator.

Dani smiled. “Let’s go,” she said, excitement waking her from her exhausted, zombie-like state. It’d been so long since she’d last skied on real slopes. She and Will had been on the holodeck a few times in the week after Q had left, to brush up on some basic skills. Once she’d warmed up a little, it had all come rushing back to her like it had always been second nature.

Now, they were going to hit the real thing. Dani and Will walked outside. Deanna, Beverly, Geordi, and Data were all outside waiting, each dressed in snow gear. Dani also noticed that her parents were present. For some reason, she found herself unable to look them in the eye. At least not so soon after…Dani quickly pushed the thoughts away from her mind. She didn’t want to think about it. She turned her attention instead to the snowmobiles they were going to ride up to the slopes. Will climbed onto one and started it. Dani climbed on behind him and, after pulling her protective eyegear over her eyes, wrapped her arms around his waist. Data was the first to take off, with Troi as his passenger. Beverly and Geordi were next, each on individual vehicles. Dani and Will took off next, followed by Chakotay and Kathryn.

In about five minutes, the group of snowmobilers had reached the slopes, covering an area it would have taken nearly 20 minutes to cover on foot. The group of eight climbed off their respective vehicles and began to prepare their ski equipment. Everyone except Dani opted for traditional skis. Dani wanted something a little different, and she opted for a snowboard.

Dani pulled out her portable music device and placed its wireless earbuds in her ears. She sat her board on the edge of the slope, where she was going to push off from. She pressed a button on each of her boots, which magnetized them to the board. She pressed the play button on her music device and music poured from the earbuds into her ears.

Looking back at her companions, she announced “All right everyone, I’m going.” They all looked back at her and watched as she used her weight to push the board over the edge of the slope. She moved swiftly from side to side, making it all look quite effortless as she navigated the snowboard down the slope. Once she had enough momentum, she stopped slaloming and just sailed down at a straight angle. At one point she even put a little curvature into her path, squatting down to let her gloved hand graze the soft snow, as surfers often did with waves. She stood upright again and re-established her straight path.

Dani was moving at an incredible speed, but she slalomed a few more times to pick the speed up a little more. As she did so, the front of her board must’ve caught on something because one minute she was gliding smoothly, and the next moment, she was eating snow as she tumbled and slid the rest of the way down the powdery slope.

The group at top of the slope watched on with growing worry and concern as Dani’s figure transformed into a blur of moving snow.

“Oh, my God!” Kathryn said, stepping as close to the edge of the slope as she could without going over. Dani was lying at the bottom of the slope, motionless. “She’s not moving,” Kathryn said, parental worry clouding her features.

Will quickly tapped his comm badge, positioned just inside his vest. “Will to Dani,” he said, his voice betraying his fear that she’d been hurt. “Come in. Are you all right?” When he didn’t receive any response, he looked nervously at the others standing on the edge of the slope. He prepared to go down the slope on his own skis and was about to shove off when his comm badge chirped. “Dani to Will,” came through the little device.

“Dani,” Will breathed, “are you okay?”

xxx

On her back at the bottom of the slope, Dani sighed. “I’m fine,” she said. “My board hit something, and I lost my footing.”

“Are you injured?” Will’s voice asked her through the communicator.

“No,” Dani insisted. She sat up to prove it. “Just a little embarrassed with a mildly bruised ego. But what a ride.” She looked up the slope at the group, despite the fact that she couldn’t see them clearly. All she could make out was small figures that were standing at the top of the slope. Dani hadn’t realized how large the slope was as she was coming down it, but now she could see that it was actually quite large. Will and the others at the top of the slope looked like little specks. She touched the side of her sunglasses. They had a built-in zoom function in them. Once she’d zoomed in on them, she saw that everyone was looked down at her with what looked to be great concern for her well-being.

The first thing she did was de-magnetize her boots. She started to stand up, testing her strength as she did so, just to make sure she hadn’t broken or sprained anything. When she was satisfied that everything was in working order, she waved at the top of the slope.

xxx

Will smiled. Dani was waving at them. “She’s all right,” he said. He waved back.

Dani smiled back. They saw her. She raised her hands over her head and screamed, “Wooohooooooo!”

xxx

That night, the Starfleet group of eight sat around a table in the lobby playing poker. Data was the dealer. He even had on the green little dealer’s hat.

“That’s too much, I’m folding,” Deanna said, placing her cards facedown on the table. She joined Beverly, Geordi, and Chakotay among the ranks of those who had already folded for this hand. Dani, Kathryn, and Will were still involved in a volatile game of tug of war. Dani hadn’t played poker with Will in ages, and she was surprised she’d lasted this long in the game. She remembered how, when she was younger, Will would let her sit in on the poker games on the Enterprise sometimes. Dani’s mother would kill both of them if she ever found that out, though.

Dani looked at Will. She wasn’t too worried about her mother right now. She knew when her mother was bluffing. She’d seen her do it a million times on Voyager. But Will was a different story. She could never tell what he was hiding. It would only be a matter of time, though, before she would be able to crack the code of his poker face.

Glancing down at his chips briefly, Will said, “I’ll see your 300 and raise you another three.” He picked up six 100-credit chips and tossed them on the pile in the middle of the table.”

Dani looked down at her hand. It wasn’t even that good of a hand. All she had was three of a kind. She’d been able to fool everyone else, but Will wasn’t buying it. She was bluffing, and somehow, he knew it. She looked down at her skimpy pile of chips. All she had left was 700 credits. She would have to fold if she wanted to survive for the next hand. “Damn!” she quietly exclaimed, laying her cards face down on the table.

That cocky smile spread across Will’s face as he turned to Kathryn. “Okay, Kathryn,” he said. “Let’s see it.”

“Well, Commander, if that’s what you really want,” Kathryn said.

“Oh, believe me – it is.”

Kathryn raised an eyebrow and laid her cards out for everyone to see. Will was stunned. “A royal flush?” he said, shocked.

“Read ’em and weep, Commander,” Kathryn said, a look of pure victory on her face.

Will sat back. “Damnit,” he said. It was followed by a laugh. “Well, that’s what I get for playing ahead of myself.”

“Out of curiosity, what did you have?” Dani asked Will.

Will sheepishly displayed his cards for Dani and anyone else who cared to see. That entire hand, Will Riker had been holding nothing more than a measly two pair. He’d been bluffing the entire hand. Dani started to laugh. She displayed her three of a kind. Suddenly the others who’d folded began to laugh as well. Deanna displayed her four of a kind, Geordi, his flush, Beverly, her full house. Everyone at the table had hands that beat Will’s. It just re-enforced the fact that you never knew what Will Riker was hiding up his sleeve.

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