When Dani materialized in the Enterprise’s transporter room, familiar faces awaited her. Captain Picard, Will Riker, Counselor Troi, Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay all watched on eagerly as Dani’s form solidified. She had hardly taken one step off the transporter pad when her parents engulfed her. It was as if they were in too much of a hurry to even take turns. Both of them embraced her at the same time.
“Welcome home,” Chakotay said, a huge grin on his face.
“You don’t know how relieved we are to have you back,” Kathryn beamed.
“It’s good to be back, “Dani said, with a little smile. It was the truth. It was nice to be back in a place where the majority of the population didn’t hate you. She’d had two days to grieve for Dukat and look at the situation more objectively while being transported to Federation space. While she knew it would be a long while before she would be over Dukat, she was no longer in the state of shock she’d been in the night her life had changed – again.
Dani looked from her parents to Captain Picard, Will and Deanna. “Captain,” she greeted.
“Lieutenant,” Picard said. “I told you we would find a way to get you home.”
“I know,” Dani said. She silently wished that they wouldn’t have been successful. Living among Cardassians hadn’t exactly been the highest point in her life, but she would gladly return if it meant she could have Dukat back. How ironic that the decision she had dreaded making months ago was now crystal clear. She looked up at Picard, trying her best to look happy, but feeling somehow that she was failing. “I never doubted that you or anyone else here would keep trying.”
Picard smiled gently. “Welcome home, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, sir,” Dani said.
Deanna had watched the interaction between Dani and her parents and now watched the exchange between the woman and the captain. What she found odd about the entire ordeal was that she didn’t pick up any sense of elation or joy from Dani. On the contrary, there was an overall sadness about the lieutenant that seemed out of place for someone who was returning home from captivity.
Picard continued. “We’ll be on a course to Earth within the hour,” he informed Dani. “Starfleet wants to debrief you as soon as possible.”
Dani nodded. She’d expected that. In fact, she’d been preparing for it and would continue to prepare for it until the Enterprise arrived at Earth.
“Right now, I suspect that you want to see your quarters again,” Picard surmised.
“Yes, sir,” Dani said.
“Very well. I’ll let Will escort you.”
Dani nodded and turned to her parents. “Let’s have dinner later on, okay?” she suggested.
“Whatever you want to do,” Kathryn said.
Dani smiled and turned to Will next. “After you,” he said, gesturing to the door. Dani led the way out of the transporter room.
“How was your trip?” Will asked once they’d left the others.
“It was fine – considering … ” Dani said. Her trip from Cardassia had been uneventful, even peaceful, providing her much time for reflection. The others on the little ship left her to herself in her little cabin, which was the way she’d wanted it.
“Dani,” Will began, “what happened was not supposed to happen.” He felt the need to speak on the matter, even though he expected it would still be a touchy subject for her. “Killing Dukat was never part of the plan.” Will, along with Captain Picard and Admiral Necheyev, had received a report on what had transpired on Cardassia’s surface. Will, who had held a crucial role in the planning of the rescue attempt, had never called for Dukat’s murder. He knew that doing so would have crushed Dani. But somehow, it had happened anyway, and it was obvious, at least to him, that Dani was having a difficult time dealing with it. “You were supposed to leave Cardassia, but Dukat was supposed to be remain alive.”
“Well, that isn’t the way it happened, is it?” Dani reminded him. She didn’t see the use in him telling her what should have happened. It wouldn’t make any difference. “Dukat’s dead, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
She and Will walked into a waiting turbolift. He hated that she was so upset. She wasn’t outwardly angry or sad, but inside was a different story. There was something in her voice and her eyes that was painfully melancholy. “Do you want to talk to someone about this? Deanna maybe?” he asked after giving the lift its command. The car began to move.
“I think that would be a good idea,” Dani admitted. “There’s a lot I’m trying to cope with right now. I know that I can trust her.”
The lift doors opened after a short ride. “I’ll have her meet you in your quarters at whatever time is convenient for you.”
Dani nodded. She and Will walked to her quarters in silence. When they reached her door, Dani input the code, which she initially thought she’d forgotten. The doors slid open and she walked in, finding that the area was as she had left it. A little smile couldn’t help but come to her lips. The place was a mess.
A little box sat in the middle of the floor. It was the only new addition to the room, but Dani knew exactly what it was. She quickly walked over to it and opened the grated door at its front. Sherlock scurried out to Dani and began to lick her face in his customary fashion.
Will looked on, a surprised expression on his face. “Who’s this?” he asked.
Dani looked up at him, smiling. “This is Sherlock. He was a gift.” She picked up the little dog and walked over to Will with it. “Sherlock, meet Will Riker. Will Riker – Sherlock.”
“Very pleased to meet you,” Will said, delivering a nice scratch to the crown of the dog’s head. He looked at Dani. “I can’t wait ’til Data hears what you named him.”
“Actually, I didn’t name it,” Dani revealed. “I think he already had the name when Dukat got it from the trader.” Dani bent down and the dog jumped from her arms onto the floor. When she stood upright again, she saw that Will seemed to be studying her, trying to assess her appearance. “What?”
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“What? You mean physically?”
“Yeah.” It didn’t seem to Will that pregnancy was having that much of an effect on Dani’s physique. If he’d calculated correctly, she was supposed to be over three months along. Maybe Cardassian growth rates were different from humans.
Dani looked at him oddly for a moment before it became clear to her why he was so concerned about her health. “Will, I’m not going to have a baby,” she told him regretfully. “I lost it a few weeks back.”
“Oh, Dani. I’m so sorry. What happened?”
“I don’t know.” She walked over and sat on the couch. “The doctor has been trying to pinpoint what the problem was, but he doesn’t really know, either.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Will walked over and sat beside Dani. “You would have made a great mother.”
Dani smiled unexpectedly. “You know, you saying that reminds me of that conversation we had about kids. Back before I left? I said that kids were a long way off into my future and that I didn’t want to pass on my messed up genes anyway.” She let out a little laugh. “It’s funny – who knew that that far off future would only be a few months away?” She looked at Will, her smile fading. “What are people saying about us? What all do they know?”
“I haven’t made any kind of elaborate announcement, if that’s what you mean,” Will said. “I think everyone pretty much assumed that the plans for the wedding were on hold once the news about Starr broke. Then, after our meeting, I sent out a mass message to let everyone know officially that the wedding was off.”
Dani nodded. “That’s good. I hate to think about what might have happened if thousands of people showed up for a wedding that wasn’t going to happen anymore.”
Will chuckled. “You have to admit – it would be kind of funny, wouldn’t it? Kind of like the ultimate practical joke.”
Dani laughed, too, an image of the whole scenario popping into her head. “Yeah.”
The door chime interrupted them. “Come in,” Dani said. The doors slid open, and Deanna Troi walked in. Dani and Will stood.
“I just came by to see how you were settling back in,” Deanna said with a smile.
“Okay,” Dani said. She managed to return Deanna’s smile. “It’s a little strange. I feel like I’ve been gone for years, but it’s only been a couple of months. It’s nice being back.”
“I thought you might like to talk,” Deanna said, testing the waters.
Will took this as a cue for him to make his exit. “I’ll leave you two alone,” he said, beginning to make his way to the door.
Dani called to him before he could leave, though. When he turned and looked at her, she said, “I’d really appreciate it if you would stay.”
The request caught Will by surprise, and he glanced at Deanna briefly. “Okay. I’ll stay, if you want.”
“I do, if you don’t mind,” Dani said.
“You know I don’t.” He walked back over to the couch.
Dani looked to Deanna. “Won’t you sit down?” She watched as the counselor sat in a chair next to the couch. “I’m sorry about the mess,” Dani said, sitting back down on the couch, Will also reclaiming his seat beside her. “I haven’t exactly gotten around to cleaning, yet. When I left, I was sort of in a hurry … ”
“It’s quite all right,” Deanna assured her. “Sometimes, a little disorder is a good thing.”
“Don’t I know it?” Dani said. “It seems like every time my life seems to get a little order in it, something happens to disrupt it.”
“Why don’t you tell me about that?” Deanna suggested.
Dani looked at Will and then back at Deanna. Before she went any further, she had to make sure she knew the rules that were going to apply here. “Everything I tell you is confidential, right?” Dani asked. “You can’t go back and tell Captain Picard or Admiral Nechayev what I said?”
“Everything that is said here stays here,” Deanna said. “I’m here to help you; not betray your trust.”
Dani nodded. “Then there’s something you have to know before I tell you anything about what’s happened over the last three months.”
“Okay. Go ahead.”
Dani sighed deeply. “First of all, I feel like the biggest fraud in the universe,” she said.
“A fraud? Why would you feel like that?”
“Because what Hea Starr told you wasn’t exactly the truth about what happened,” Dani began to explain. “Well, it’s the truth as he saw it, but he didn’t see what he thought he saw. I didn’t choose to remain on Cardassia because I thought it would ensure his freedom; I stayed because I wanted to be with Dukat.” Her eyes looked up at the ceiling. She couldn’t believe she was actually volunteering this information. “I couldn’t pass up another opportunity to be with him, so I basically turned my back on everything I knew. But Starr saw me do it, and he must’ve thought … the point is, everyone thinks I’m this hero, but I’m not. I’m just a selfish deserter.”
“Dani, it isn’t selfish to want to be with someone you love,” Deanna said.
“I know, but duty was supposed to come first, over anything else, and I ignored that. I shouldn’t even be in Starfleet anymore. Do you know that what I did is grounds for a court-martial? People have been let go for a lot less.”
“You can’t beat yourself up about that,” Deanna comforted. “You didn’t have any control over what Starr thought.”
“I could correct it, though,” Dani said.
Deanna realized what Dani was offering to do. She didn’t think it was a very wise course of action, considering that it would probably effectively end her Starfleet career. “If that’s what it takes for you to be happy with yourself, then that’s what you should do,” Deanna advised. “But you should only do it if it’s going to make you feel better about yourself. Don’t do it because you think other people will respect you for it.”
Dani nodded. In all actuality, she had contemplated telling the truth about the nature of her purpose on Cardassia. But ultimately, she’d decided against it. What purpose would it serve now that everything was said and done?
“I have something else I need to tell you,” Dani said. “It’s something that you probably need to know to counsel me effectively, I guess. I was pregnant … but I miscarried. The father was Dukat.”
“Dani … ” Deanna trailed. The woman really had been through a lot.
“No, wait. There’s one more thing I want to say before you say anything else,” Dani said. “I loved him. With every fiber of my being. But if it meant that he could be alive today, I would have never chosen to stay on Cardassia with him.” She choked up and had to stop for a moment. “Excuse me. I’m sorry,” she said, once she had regained her composure. “I’ve come to realize that the reason he is dead today is me. If I had never gone to Prime, there would have been no rescue attempt. And he’d be alive.”
Jean-Luc Picard was standing at his replicator sipping on a fresh, steamy mug of Earl Gray tea when his ready room door chimed. “Come,” he beckoned. The doors slid open and his ship’s counselor sauntered in. “Counselor – what can I do for you?”
“I’ve just had a meeting with Dani Janeway,” Deanna said.
Picard walked from around his desk and settled into one of the chairs across the room. Deanna claimed the small sofa across from him. “How is she?” Picard inquired.
“Not good,” Deanna admitted.
“Oh, dear,” Picard said. He had suspected as much earlier when Janeway had first transported aboard. She’d seemed a little out of sorts for a person being reunited with her family. “What seems to be the problem?”
“Dani is dealing with a lot of emotions at the moment,” Deanna said. She wanted to give the captain a good idea of what was going on with one of his officers, but at the same time, she didn’t want to reveal anything Dani had been adamant about keeping secret. “I can’t go into much detail, but she’s dealing with guilt, grief, loss. She’s trying to hold it together on the outside, but I’m afraid she won’t be able to keep it up much longer. If she doesn’t get some rest soon, there could be some serious emotional damage.”
Picard leaned back in his seat and crossed his legs. He could order the counselor to tell him the cause of these feelings Janeway was having, but he knew Deanna wasn’t one to talk about her patients. He could only guess at what, or who, was at the root of these feelings, but he had more than an inkling about what was going on. “Counselor, have you ever heard of Stockholm syndrome?”
Deanna thought for a minute. That name sounded familiar … then it came to her. “Yes, sir,” she said. “That’s a condition that hostages sometimes develop. They begin to identify with their captors. In extreme cases, the hostages no longer wish to be free and actually want to join the people who abducted them.”
“That’s right,” Picard said. “Could that possibly be an explanation for Janeway’s condition?” He knew that wasn’t it. But it would offer ample explanation. Especially to Starfleet Command and Headquarters.
Deanna’s eyebrows rose. It was an avenue she’d never considered … until now. “Yes, sir. I do believe that could explain why Dani has been taking Legate Dukat’s death so hard.”
“I see … ” Picard said. “And what would be your recommendation on a course of action for Lt. Janeway?”
“I recommend that she take a medical leave of absence. Immediately. She needs time to recover from this. It’s all been very traumatic for her. I would say she needs at least six months away from active duty, but I suspect it will take her much longer to get completely over this. There’s no guarantee that she will ever be completely over it.”
“I hear that isn’t unusual for sufferers of Stockholm syndrome,” Picard commented.
“Not at all, sir,” Deanna replied.
“Well, then. Make out your report and include diagnosis and treatment suggestions,” Picard said. “I’ll send my recommendations along with yours. I’ll see to it that Lt. Janeway’s leave begins as soon after the debriefing as possible.” He stood, as did Deanna. “Dismissed.”
Deanna nodded, wondering on the way out if this whole Stockholm business was just a coincidence or if the captain knew more than he’d let on.
Picard walked back around to his desk. He’d hated that this had all turned out so bittersweet. They’d gotten their people back, but at what cost? The emotional well being of one of his officers? Damn that Nechayev for sending Janeway to Cardassia in the first place. She’d known what she was doing when she’d handed down that assignment. Anything to catch Janeway in the middle of something that would get her kicked out of the ‘Fleet. But Picard had something for the woman that he knew she would never have anticipated. A little-known, nearly forgotten condition that he’d happened to come across in some recent research. The funny part was that any doctor who examined Dani Janeway would probably come to the same ‘conclusion’ he and his ship’s counselor had come to, and there wouldn’t be a thing Nechayev could do about it. The miracles of medicine …