Dani looked around Archer’s villa as she stepped in. She’d never been inside before, but still, she got the feeling that something – or someone – was missing. “Where’s Porthos?” she asked.
“Trip took him out for a walk,” Archer said. “He needs the exercise.”
“Trip?” Dani asked.
“Porthos,” Archer clarified.
“All that cheese he’s able to get out of you, I suppose?”
“Yeah, I’m the culprit there,” Archer admitted. “But he’s so adorable, he’s just so hard to say no to.”
Dani looked over at Archer’s balcony door. Up until now, his villa had seemed nearly identical to hers, but now she saw that there was one major difference.
“You have an ocean view,” Dani said, gravitating toward the glass sliding door. She opened it and stepped outside onto the spacious, stone balcony. She looked out at the reflection of the moons off the gently breaking water. The ocean breeze kissed her face.
“This is wonderful!” she gushed. “I would love to be able to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean every night. And I mean the real thing, not something simulated from a computer. I want to be able to smell the water, feel the breeze.” She closed her eyes and relished in the sound of the breakers, the smell of the salt water, and the sensation of the cool night air on her skin.
Archer walked over to the balcony and stood beside her. “It is pretty nice,” he said, looking out at the sparkling night water.
“I wish we didn’t have to go back tomorrow,” Dani said, opening her eyes. “Everything’s so simple here. Things make sense. Tomorrow, once we go back, things will be even more complicated than they were before.”
“We don’t have to see each other any more if you think it’s a bad idea,” Archer said.
“Oh, I know it’s a bad idea,” Dani said. “But that doesn’t mean I want to stop.”
“Neither do I,” Archer said. He and Dani turned to each other. “We must be crazy, willingly doing something that we both know is a bad idea.”
Dani shrugged. “What can I say? I like to take risks, obviously, or I wouldn’t have ended up here. Sometimes, things that are really bad ideas at first lead to some pretty amazing things.”
They moved in close to each other and kissed.
The next morning, Archer woke first. Dani was in his arms. The balcony doors were still open from the night before. The gentle ocean breeze, the sound of the waves, and the light of the rising sun had stirred him awake.
A perfect moment. It was a shame they had to return to the ship in a few hours. Shore leave had been eventful but still restful. Even if it hadn’t unfolded as he’d predicted, Archer couldn’t say he was disappointed with the way things had turned out.
He looked down at Dani and grinned. She was still knocked out. He hated to wake her, but he had to. They had to get back to the ship.
“Dani,” Archer whispered. He stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. He whispered her name again, and she began to move. Her eyes slowly opened, and she looked at Archer.
“Good morning,” she moaned, grinning.
“Good morning,” Archer said. He kissed her.
Dani looked past him at the rising sun outside. “I wonder when we’ll get to wake up to a sunrise again,” she mused.
“You take it for granted if you’re planet-side for long enough,” Archer said. “But Enterprise has been away so long now, I don’t know if I’ll ever take it for granted again.”
That was one thing that hadn’t changed in the 24th Century, Dani thought. Even with the holodeck’s advanced simulation capabilities, it was usually never as good authentic nature.
Dani shifted and pushed herself to a sitting position. “I have to go pack,” she said.
“So do I,” Archer said.
“I’ll see you on the transport,” Dani said. She moved to get out of bed, but Archer caught her by the hand, pulled her back to him, and kissed her.
“I’ll meet you in the lobby in an hour,” Archer said.
Dani nodded and left the bed.
The transport back to the ship was the first time that Dani had seen Kyle since he’d told her that he’d shot Marac. She could barely look at him, much less speak to him. When she sat, she angled her body so that she didn’t have to see him. It was only a temporary solution, though. Kyle was her cabin mate, and it was going to be impossible to avoid him forever.
Kyle opened the suitcase on his desk. Recyclers were one innovation that would really have come in handy about now.
A room of his own was also something that he could use. Sharing quarters with someone always brought along it’s own set of challenges. After what had happened on Risa, sharing quarters with Dani was going to be even more difficult. And awkward. There was nothing he was going to be able to say or do that would take away the pain she now felt, knowing that he was the one who had killed Dukat.
Dani walked into the room and froze at the door. Her eyes immediately found Kyle, and she quickly diverted them. She went immediately to her bunk, dropped her suitcase, and walked right back out.
When Archer opened the door and found Dani and the corridor outside his quarters, he wasn’t surprised.
“Hi,” he said as he stepped to the side to let her in.
As Dani stepped into Archer’s quarters, she realized that this was her first visit. She was surprised by the small size.
“What do you think?” Archer asked, as the door slid shut behind her.
“It’s a bit cramped to be the CO’s quarters,” Dani said.
Archer chuckled. “I imagine that where you come from, Captains have spacious suites.”
“Not just the captains, either.”
“Do you miss it?” Archer asked.
“Being on a ship like that?”
“All of it. The future.”
“A little.” Dani wrapped her arms around Archer, draping them over his neck. What she missed most was her family, but she found that the less time she spent thinking about them, the better she was able to deal with the possibility of never seeing them again. “But I miss it less and less each day.” She kissed him.
“Have you finished unpacking already?” Archer asked.
“No,” She walked over to the large chair next to the desk and sat down. “Kyle was there, so I just walked in, dropped my bag on my bunk, and walked right back out.”
“I take it things are still awkward between the two of you right now,” Archer said.
Dani momentarily closed her eyes as she responded, “I can’t even look at him right now.”
Archer sat down in his desk chair and faced her. “Are you angry at him?” he asked.
“Yes,” Dani said. “No…I don’t know.” She sighed. “It’s just…I know that he was only doing his duty,” she said. “I know that. But it doesn’t change the fact that he shot the man I loved, and now that I know that, there is nothing that he can say or do that will erase that fact from my mind. At the same time, that doesn’t change the person he is. He’s still one of my best friends.”
She looked at Archer. “I just have no idea what to do,” she said.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Archer offered. He rolled his chair closer to her. “Maybe I could assign you to different quarters?”
Dani shook her head. “I can’t avoid him forever,” she said. “This ship’s not big enough for that.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to live with him, especially if it makes you uncomfortable,” Archer said. “We wouldn’t bunk crewmen of the opposite sex in the same quarters anyway under normal conditions. But yours was a special case…What do you want to do?”
Dani shrugged. “Take it one day at a time, I guess,” she answered. “Hope that tomorrow I feel differently.” Maybe it wasn’t just wishful thinking that everything would magically be better tomorrow and that she would no longer feel the way that she currently did. One could always hope.