"My, she is a beauty, just like her mother." Kyle Riker tenderly gathered his granddaughter into his arms as Will smiled and embraced Soren, who smiled and blushed. The three of them were spending Christmas in Alaska with Will's father. Thomas and Deanna were expected to join them as well. It would be the first time Thomas had seen his father since he was fifteen years old.
Once Kyle had gotten over the initial shock of learning of Thomas' existence, he had been eager to meet his second son. Thomas, with much persuasion from Deanna, had reluctantly agreed to visit Kyle. Kyle was overjoyed but anxious for the reunion to go smoothly.
Kyla cooed and waved her arms, and Kyle talked baby talk to her. "How Betty would have loved her," he said wistfully. "I can just see all the adorable little coats and hats and booties she would have knitted and crocheted."
"Oh, she's already received plenty of those from her Auntie Deanna," Will chuckled.
"Not to mention all the presents from her friends aboard the Enterprise," Soren added.
Alex and Kyla were the little darlings of their parents' co-workers. Even Captain Picard, who disliked being around children in general, had developed a soft spot for the two babies.
The three of them engaged in small talk until Thomas and Deanna arrived. Deanna was smiling happily, but Thomas looked glum and sulky.
Kyle smiled and extended his hand. "It's so good to meet you and your beautiful wife, son." Thomas gave an almost imperceptible nod as he shook his father's hand, and Deanna gave Kyle a warm hug.
"My, how big you've grown." Deanna gathered Kyla into her arms. The baby laughed and gurgled, reaching for Deanna's face.
"Would you like to hold your niece?" She handed the baby to Thomas, who reluctantly took her into his arms. Kyla immediately began wailing, and Thomas, with a look of relief, immediately handed her back to Soren.
Although Deanna tried her best to maintain a cheerful atmosphere, the tension between Kyle and Thomas was so thick that it could have been cut with a knife. Kyle attempted to engage his son in conversation several times, but each time Thomas cut him off with an abrupt answer.
Deanna caught Soren's eye. "Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea after all," she whispered.
Soren looked at her helplessly. She didn't have a clue how to help the situation. She felt so sad for Will, as she knew how important this holiday tradition was for humans.
After the midday meal, Kyle announced that he had a special DVD that he wanted to show the others.
"It's a DVD of you and your mother on your first Christmas, when you were barely four months old," Kyle said to Will and Thomas.
"I've never seen a picture of you as a baby," Soren remarked.
"Neither have I," Deanna echoed.
Kyle turned the TV on and inserted the DVD.
"Aww," Soren and Deanna cooed at the sight of chubby four-month-old William Thomas Riker. Will grinned, embarrassed.
"He looks exactly like Kyla looks now," Soren remarked.
"Identical," Deanna agreed.
Betty Riker had been beautiful. The physical resemblance to her sons was striking. She had the same dark hair, the same blue eyes, and even the same chin cleft. When she smiled, Soren could clearly see Will's smile. She wished with all her might that she and Kyla could somehow meet Betty in person.
When the DVD finished, Will looked very pensive, and Thomas and Kyle both had tears in their eyes. Kyle rose and went to embrace Thomas, who at first seemed to resist his father's touch, but finally allowed his father to hug him and returned the embrace. Will, Deanna, and Soren beamed.
"What was she like, Dad? I wish I could remember, but I was just too little." The sadness in Thomas' voice tore at Soren's heart.
"She was cheerful, droll, and had a dry wit. She loved music, especially jazz. She always wore a smile, no matter how badly she might be hurting on the inside. She could be silly and flighty at times, and you didn't want to be near her when she was angry. And she loved you more than life, Thomas. I remember how happy she was the day you were born. It was a long, difficult labor, and she lost a lot of blood. The nurse wrapped you in a blanket and handed you to her, and she just beamed. She counted all your little fingers and toes and then she kissed them. I think I loved her more that day than I ever had before."
Thomas and Will both looked very somber. "What about the day she died?" Thomas asked.
Kyle wiped his eyes. "I came home from work and found her lying on the sofa. She told me that she was in tremendous pain and needed to go to the hospital. I left you with the neighbor and drove her there as quickly as I could. They put her in the ICU immediately and hooked her up to an IV. 'Kyle,' she said to me, 'no matter what happens to me, I want you to promise me to raise Will in Alaska. I want him to go skiing in the winter and fishing and kayaking in the summer just like we always have.' 'Of course I will,' I said, 'but you're going to be fine.' But even as I said it I knew that both of us knew better. She slipped into a coma just a couple of hours later, and she was gone before the day was over." Kyle stopped to wipe his eyes again and compose himself.
"But she left me with the most precious legacy. You boys." he looked from Thomas to Will.
"I'm so sorry, Dad," Thomas said. "That must have been so hard for you to have to watch her die like that." He seemed to have forgotten the animosity he felt toward Kyle.
"It was the most difficult experience I've ever lived through," Kyle agreed.
Kyla had awakened and was cooing and gurgling. Soren smiled at her and played with her. "The wheels on the bus go round and round..." she sang.
"What was Mom's favorite Christmas carol?" Thomas asked.
"'O Holy Night'," Kyle replied.
"Why don't we all sing it together," Will suggested. Kyle found a copy of the printed lyrics for Soren, who wasn't familiar with the song. Deanna had learned it as a young child from her human father.
"Thank you so much for coming, and for sharing your precious little one with me," Kyle said to Will and Soren later, when it was time for them to leave.
"Thank you so much for having us over," Soren said warmly.
"Thank you also for coming," Kyle said to Thomas and Deanna.
"I'm glad now that I came," Thomas replied. "It was really good to see you again, Dad."
"It was wonderful to see all of you. I only wish that the day had lasted longer," Kyle told him.
"There will be other days like this one, many, I hope," Will said. Soren and Deanna agreed, and Kyla laughed and waved her arms and legs.
Soren was so happy to see the entire family finally reunited. Her sadness at all she had left behind on J'naii so long ago had been more than compensated for by the love of her new family and friends.