Dani walked along the blue shoreline of Risa. She’d come here before in her own time, and she was surprised to see that in 200 years, not much about the planet had changed. It was still beautiful and promoted a carefree atmosphere. It had only been a few days after Dani’s dinner with Captain Archer in the mess hall, and she was grateful for the opportunity to sort things out.
Dani sat down in the sand and looked out at the gently lapping waves, the sun rising behind it. The scene reminded her very much of a West Coast sunset on Earth.
‘What if I really am stuck here for the rest of my life?’ she asked herself. It had been weeks since she’d arrived, and the Enterprise crew was no closer to cracking the temporal transporter’s code than when she and Kyle had first arrived. It was beginning to look like she’d never make it home. She knew in her heart that Will had tried to keep his promise to bring her back. She knew because she knew him and knew that he still cared for her, as she did for him, and he would never willingly abandon her. But given the circumstances, she was beginning to think going back ‘home’ was becoming more and more of a distant probability.
Dani jumped when she felt something brush against her back. She turned around and looked down. A beagle nudged at her back and walked around in front of her as she began to stroke the little dog’s head.
“Hey,” Dani said. There was something familiar about this dog, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. “Where did you come from?” The dog barked. Dani looked around her for any sign of the dog’s owner. When she looked over her shoulder, she saw him jogging toward them in the distance. She looked down at the dog again. “You’re a fast one, too fast for your owner.”
The dog took off in the direction of his owner. As the owner gradually closed in on his beagle, his image became clearer, and Dani realized that the dog’s owner was Jonathan Archer. She stood immediately.
“Porthos!” he scolded as he caught up with the pooch. He crouched down to the dog’s level. “How many times have I told you not to run off from me like that?” He picked Porthos up and finally looked at Porthos’s ‘victim’. He was surprised to see that it was Dani Janeway.
“Hi,” he said, walking toward her.
“Hi,” Dani said.
“I’m sorry about Porthos,” Archer said, closing in the last few feet between himself and Janeway. “He doesn’t usually behave like this.” He placed Porthos on the ground and fastened a leash onto his collar.
“No, it’s alright,” Dani said. “It gave us a chance to make proper introductions to each other.”
Archer chuckled and sat down in the sand. “So, what do you think? Is it very different from the Risa you know?”
Dani sat back down and looked around at their surroundings, nodding slowly. “It’s pretty much the same as I remember it, actually, which is pretty surprising. I mean, you would think that 200 years would make a difference, but I guess that’s not always the case.”
“Time doesn’t have to change everything, especially if there isn’t anything that needs to be changed,” Archer said.
“Don’t try to fix it if it’s not broken.”
“Exactly,” Archer agreed.
They both turned their attention to the ocean in front of them. The sun was rising from behind it, creating a reflection across the water that consisted of nearly every color imaginable.
“I was just thinking, before Porthos here joined me, that this beach reminds me of the West Coast, except it’s a sunrise here instead of a sunset,” Dani said, stroking Porthos . “And except for the rainbow effect here, of course.”
“You’re right,” Archer said. “This is my first time here, but I grew up in California. This place is almost eerie in how much it reminds me of home.” He looked at Dani and was struck by how stunning she looked in the early morning light. He knew he was staring, and he hoped it didn’t come across as rude.
Dani turned to him and was mildly surprised to find him gazing at her. She didn’t look away. Instead, she returned his gaze, staring into his hazel eyes. She wasn’t prepared for the effect that the whole scenario had on her: the beautiful beach sunrise, the feeling that they were the only two people in the universe, the sheer beauty of the man sitting next to her. She felt the intense urge to kiss him, and she wasn’t so sure that he would be disappointed if she did do just that.
Her suspicion was confirmed when Archer began to lean toward her slowly. Dani moved to meet him.
Archer and Dani each drew back and looked over their shoulders to see Trip jogging toward them.
“I just finished talkin’ to the people up at the travel agents,” he said once he reached them. “Our cabins are ready and waitin’ for us whenever we’re ready.”
Dani and Archer looked at each other briefly before looking at Trip, and it suddenly occurred to the engineer that he may have just interrupted something. “Uhhh, I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“No, it’s okay, Trip,” Archer said. “We were just talking about how beautiful everything is here.” He looked at Dani again. “Do you have somewhere to stay, yet?”
“Yeah,” Dani said. “It’s this place on the beach, not too far from here,” Dani replied.
It didn’t take long for the three of them to reach the cabins. As they approached the 15-story building, the three of them realized that Archer and Trip’s hotel was also Dani’s hotel. Trip stopped by the desk in the lobby, but Dani and Archer went ahead to the lift that was already waiting for them in the lobby and rode up to the fifth floor. When the lift doors opened, they strolled out into a small lobby area on the fifth floor.
“So, listen,” Archer began, speaking to Dani, “if you’re not doing anything this morning, how would you like having breakfast with me?”
‘He’s asking me out on a date?’ Dani asked herself. She didn’t realize she was staring until Archer spoke again.
“Well, with me and Trip,” he corrected.
Dani nodded. “Oh, sure,” she said. “Breakfast would be great. Yeah.” She hoped it didn’t sound like she was trying to convince herself to go. Really, it was just her nerves making her sound like an idiot. “What time?”
“About an hour?” Archer offered. “If that’s not too early. This is a vacation after all. I don’t want you to feel obligated to follow a schedule or anything.”
“No, it’s fine,” Dani said. “I didn’t have anything planned, and I am getting kind of hungry, so it works out great.”
Dani stopped walking. They had already reached her door.
“What?” Archer asked, concerned that he might have begun to annoy her.
“This is my cabin,” Dani said.
Archer looked at the room number displayed beside her door and then looked at the door immediately to the right, making a surprising discovery in the process.
“This is your cabin?” Archer asked her.
“Yes. Is anything wrong?” Dani asked.
“My cabin is right next to yours,” Archer explained.
Dani nodded. “Really? How convenient. Maybe they put all of us from the ship on the same floor.”
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Archer said. “Trip is two floors below us.”
“Well, then,” Dani began, “maybe it’s just us.”
Archer wondered if the environmental system in the hotel was functioning correctly. Suddenly, it felt as if the temperature had risen about ten degrees.
Or maybe it was just him. He nodded. ”I’ll see you in a little while then,” he said. “We’ll see you in a little while. Trip and I, I mean.”
“Alright, Captain,” Dani said.
Dani turned to her door, and Archer turned to his. Before he entered the security code on the keypad, he turned back to Dani one more time.
“You don’t have to call me ‘captain’ while we’re here,” he said. “We’re on shore leave. Think of us as two friends getting to know one another.”
“What should I call you?” Dani asked.
“Just Jon,” he said.
Dani nodded and grinned. “Jon,” she repeated to herself. It felt strange to call him that after weeks of referring to him by his formal rank. But if that’s what he wanted, she was definitely more than happy to oblige. “See you in a bit, Jon.”
Arch grinned before opening the door and retreating into his cabin. Before Dani could do the same, the door immediately across the hall from hers opened, and Kyle stepped out.
“Hey,” he greeted.
“Hey,” Dani said. “Did you finish settling in?” She entered the security code and opened the door to her cabin.
“As much as you can for only a two-day stay,” Kyle said, following Dani inside the room. “It seems like you’re not having any problems at all settling in.”
“Okay, I’ll bite,” Dani said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know what it means,” Kyle said. He lowered his voice to a whisper before speaking again, just in case the walls in this place were thin. “Breakfast with the captain, all that ‘we’re on shore leave, call me Jon,’ talk?”
“And? Your point being?” Dani asked. Her voice remained at a normal conversational volume level.
“All I can say is that I bet he hasn’t invited any other crew to ‘call him Jon’ just because we’re on shore leave.”
“Kyle, it’s probably only because of our situation,” Dani said. “So what if the other crew can’t call him by his first name. You know we aren’t like other crew. He probably wants you to do the same.”
“Doubtful,” was Kyle’s answer.
“Well, why don’t you come to breakfast with us?” Dani offered. “You can find out for yourself.”
“I don’t think I’m the one the captain wants to get to know better.”
“He wants to get to know both of us. He told me when we had dinner the other night.”
“And that may have been true one week ago, but I get the feeling that’s not the case anymore.”
“Oh my gods, are you serious? Are you hearing yourself right now?”
“It’s not such a wacky idea if you think about it,” Kyle said.
“What isn’t?” Dani asked. “I want you to say it.”
Kyle didn’t hesitate to offer up an answer. “He’s into you.”
Dani didn’t want to admit it aloud, but she had a growing suspicion that Kyle was right. She and Archer had nearly kissed on the beach not even an hour before. Of course Kyle was right. She only hoped that Archer didn’t act on the feelings he was developing. And she hoped that she could do the same.