Epilogue – Got to Give It Up
The Enterprise was underway once more. Worf had returned from leave, and the bridge crew was discussing plans to celebrate Counselor Troi's continuation at her post.
"We need to do something special – we came this close to losing you, Deanna," Will insisted.
"It was fate that kept you here with us," Worf said.
"There you go again. What if she doesn't believe in fate?" asked Tasha.
"I don't disbelieve in it," Deanna replied.
"Take a stand," Geordi quipped.
"You all don't have to plan anything special for me," Deanna went on. "We're just back to the status quo."
"There was nothing status quo about our trip to Haven," contradicted Geordi.
"I have a suggestion," offered Data. "Several of the entries in our contest for the holodeck programmers are quite inventive. Perhaps we could choose one to test out as a group."
"Data, that's perfect," said Will.
"It does sound like fun," Deanna admitted. "We have to invite Beverly, too."
"And the captain," Will added.
"What are the choices?" Geordi asked.
Data got up from Ops and went to Science 2. He activated the library computer and began to read off titles and descriptions. One immediately caught their attention. "Earth circa 1937: a ballroom dance and murder mystery. Unravel the secret in an elegant setting and dance the foxtrot in a chandelier dream."
"Oh, that sounds romantic!" Deanna cried.
"The captain likes mysteries – I think that's our winner," Geordi said.
"We could dress in costume," Data noted.
"Oh, my god," said Tasha.
"I will not dress in costume," Worf stated.
"Don't be a spoilsport. I'm telling the doctor," Will said. "Then she can invite the captain."
"Good thinking," agreed Geordi.
"Why the doctor?" Data took his seat at Ops again.
"She's known him the longest – they're old friends. He might actually say 'yes' if she invites him," explained Will.
"Do we have to wear costumes?" Tasha caviled.
"Don't worry – I'll help you," Deanna assured her. "I'll research the time period and help you dress. It'll be fun."
"It does not sound like fun," Worf mumbled.
The plans for the holodeck party came together quickly. The women would convene in Counselor Troi's quarters at 1800 hours. The men would meet in Commander Riker's. They had extracted a reluctant maybe from the captain, and Wesley was told in no uncertain terms that he was not invited. They would all arrive at holodeck one at 1930 hours. It was a fitting consolation for the leave that had been unexpectedly cut short.
Beverly was already in Deanna's quarters with a flute of sparkling wine in hand when Tasha arrived. Deanna had Beverly's hair in her hands, experimentally bundling it at the nape of her neck. "Hi, Tasha. Look, Beverly, she already has the perfect hair." Deanna let go of the doctor's red hair and crossed to the replicator. "Champagne." She handed the amber flute to Tasha. "Women on Earth wore their hair short during this period. And the clothes – fabulous." She indicated three dresses laid out over her sofa, all long and slinky, in deep jewel tones.
"Pretty," Tasha said.
"This is going to be so much fun," Beverly enthused. "I haven't really used the holodeck. We've been so busy all the time."
Deanna held up a royal blue halter-top gown to Beverly's neck. "Isn't this gorgeous? The clothes of this era were meant to mimic draperies on a statue, all bias cuts and clinging satin." Beverly took it from her. "But I cheated. This one isn't from the replicator." Deanna held up a siren-red silk dress and showed it to Tasha. "My mother brought it from Betazed."
"For me?" Tasha took a big swallow of her champagne.
"Well, no, she brought it for me, but it's made for a much taller woman. I'm sure it'll fit you like a glove."
Tasha fingered the slippery fabric. "Where's the rest of it?"
Beverly and Deanna laughed. "This dress is very modest by Betazed standards. Don't worry; just try it on." Deanna handed over the dress and retrieved a pouch from the floor. "It goes with these."
Tasha burst out with a laugh. Deanna had slipped out two high-heeled sandals, red satin with rhinestone embellishments. The straps and heels were as slim as optic fiber cables. "Are those supposed to be shoes?" Tasha asked.
"Just try them on," Deanna coaxed.
"How am I supposed to walk in those?"
"Practice," Beverly replied. "You're supposed to dance in those."
"Oh, no. No way. I don't dance," Tasha protested.
"Come on, Tasha. It's easy – I'll show you how," Beverly cajoled.
"No, no, no. This feels like an ambush." Tasha downed her drink and coughed as the bubbles hit her nose. "I'm out of this. I'm gonna wear whatever the guys are wearing."
"No!" Deanna and Beverly yelled and grabbed her arms.
"I don't know . . ."
"Have another drink." Deanna ordered it from the replicator and pressed it into Tasha's hand. "Come on. It's my party. Please stay."
Tasha shook her head, but took up the glossy red dress. "Okay. But the first person laughs at me, and I'm outta there." She draped the dress over one arm and went into the bathroom.
Deanna and Beverly shared a look. "You know, Yar, I was the one who did your physical. You've got nothing I haven't seen before," the doctor teased.
"Leave me alone," came Tasha's voice through the door.
The other two smiled and unselfconsciously began to change. They were puzzling out the intricacies of twentieth century zippers and hooks when Tasha's strained voice called out, "Troi, get over here! I need help."
Deanna stepped to the bathroom door, her royal purple gown half open. "What is it?"
"Troi, my underwear is hanging out of this thing! You can see everything!"
Deanna stifled a laugh. "Tasha, Betazed formalwear is generally meant to be worn over the naked body, for reasons that should be clear now."
Tasha unlocked the door and peeped her head around the opening. "Naked?"
"You have nothing to worry about, Tasha; you have a perfect body."
"Huh." Tasha sighed. "Okay. I guess I should start over, then." She closed the door again.
Deanna smiled and went back to Beverly, who was wrenching at a side zipper, to little effect. They had figured out the fastenings of their dresses and moved on to their hair when Tasha finally emerged. Deanna and Beverly both gasped at the sight of her.
The security chief was draped in the red gown. The plunging front revealed a creamy expanse of skin that glowed with health. The bodice of the dress consisted of two bands of fabric that met a hand span above her navel and covered her breasts only by a feat of engineering. The dress clung to her curves and fell in liquid waves over her slender hips to a pool on the floor. Tasha did look like a classical statue, without blemish.
"Tasha," Deanna said in a hushed voice.
"Is it okay?" she asked falteringly. She turned around and looked over her shoulder. The dress was backless, with a reverse cowl that swung daringly low, just grazing the lowest decent point above her bottom. "I feel pretty exposed."
"Tasha, you look stunning," Beverly breathed.
She blushed and put her hands to her face, spinning back around. The flush stained her neck and bosom pink. "You're not pulling my leg, are you?"
"No one's even going to look at me at my own party," Deanna lamented.
"All you need are the shoes, and your hair and makeup, and you're ready," Beverly said.
"And jewelry," Deanna added.
"No – you guys – I'm not used to it," Tasha said. "Look, this dress is so long. Couldn't I just wear my boots?"
"No!" the other two chorused.
"Just practice in here for a while. You'll be fine," Beverly said.
Tasha grudgingly strapped the fragile-looking shoes on her feet, as Deanna rummaged though a case of jewelry.
"Hey, what happened to that crazy chest?" Tasha asked.
Deanna threw her a look. "Someone may have accidentally beamed it back to Haven. Ah, here we go." She pulled out a shiny silver cuff with a single bezel-set ruby in the center. "What do you think? You could pretend it's a gauntlet."
"I like that." Tasha secured it over her wrist and held it out with an appraising look. "It kinda suits me."
Deanna nodded. "You just need a touch of mascara and rouge, and some red lipstick. I think we should put your hair straight back from your forehead, with a little height at the crown. It'll look like a chignon from the front."
Tasha looked from one woman to the other, feeling shy but pleased.
The men waited outside of holodeck one, dressed in black tuxedos, shifting in glossy patent leather pumps and fiddling with cufflinks.
"They are late," Worf said, inserting a finger into his shirt collar. "They are never late for duty."
"This is different. They're making us wait on purpose." Will looked debonair in his double-breasted dinner jacket, his communicator hidden beneath the crinkled red head of a carnation. It chirped.
"Troi to Riker."
"Go ahead, Troi."
"Why don't you boys go on in the holodeck? We want to make an entrance," Deanna's voice replied.
Will raised his eyebrows at the other three. "This ought to be good. You got it, Deanna." He nodded to Data.
"Computer, load program: 1937 Mystery Dance," Data ordered.
"Program complete. You may enter when ready."
Geordi, Worf, Will and Data passed through the bulkhead doors into a gleaming ballroom. Black and white parquet floors glinted with polish below electric chandeliers that cast thousands of twinkling reflections from hundreds of crystal swags and drops. The walls were covered in oversized murals of bright, stylized birds that roosted under geometric swirls of golden trees and vines. The room was empty of people.
"Incredible," marveled Will.
"Data, you must've inspired the programmers. This is impressive," Geordi said.
Data nodded approvingly. "It is a representation of an Art Deco ballroom, historically accurate and aesthetically balanced."
A low growl emanated from Worf's direction.
Out in the hall, the women had just arrived at the holodeck entrance. Beverly wore a small white turban over her hair, with a decent approximation of shingled curls peeking out beneath. Deanna had tucked her hair into a black net snood. Between them, Tasha supported herself with a hand on each of their bare shoulders, teetering in her high heels.
"Just balance on the balls of your feet," Beverly counseled her. "And hang onto someone's arm all night. You'll be fine."
Tasha nodded wordlessly. She felt as nervous as a cadet taking her first exam. They pivoted as a body and put their backs to the wall next to the door.
"Okay, Troi, you go in first: you're the one they're waiting for," Beverly said. "Then me, then Tasha. Ready?"
They nodded and giggled with excitement. Tasha let go of Deanna's shoulder and put her hand against the wall for balance. Deanna squared her shoulders and stuck out her chest. "Computer –"
"Wait!" Tasha grabbed Deanna's shoulder again and yanked her close. "Don't let me make a fool of myself in there, Troi. Promise me you'll tell me if I'm doing something stupid," she whispered.
Deanna put her hand to Tasha's cheek. "I promise." They let each other go. "Computer: enter."
The doors slid open, and Deanna was greeted by whistles and catcalls from the men inside. Beverly laughed. She turned to Tasha. "Balls of your feet."
"Am I too late?" The captain came around the corner, adjusting his black bow tie with a practiced air.
"Jean-Luc! My, you look handsome," said Beverly. "You're not too late – we were just making our grand entrance."
"Shall we?" He offered his arm to Beverly.
"Actually, Tasha could use an arm to lean on. I'll go in alone. But, thank you." Beverly patted down the skirt of her royal blue gown and touched her turban. "Computer: enter." She went through the bulkhead doors.
The captain offered his arm to Tasha. She took it and stepped away from the wall. "Thank you, sir," she said.
"You look lovely, Lieutenant," Picard said.
"Thank you, Captain," Tasha smiled and twitched the skirt away from her feet with one hand. "Are you ready?"
"Whenever you are." Tasha took a tentative step forward, and Jean-Luc's eyes started from his head; her back was bare to the dimples above her derriere. He cleared his throat and composed his face. "Computer: enter."
The room that the doors opened on dazzled Tasha for a moment. When she could focus, she realized that they hadn't taken a step. The six officers inside were staring at her. Tasha kept her eyes on just one of them, sharing a long gaze, and then she looked to the captain. He led them in.
Geordi spoke first. "Wow. You clean up nice, Yar." Deanna wrinkled her nose at him.
"You look fantastic, Tasha," said Will.
"Thanks, Commander." The attention, as good as it felt, was starting to unnerve her. "Shouldn't we get this party started?"
"Computer: run program," Data ordered.
The room was suddenly filled with the motion of dozens of elegantly dressed dancers, the sound of an orchestra on the bandstand, and the tinkle of glasses from the mahogany bar.
Data stepped forward and offered his arm to Tasha with a deferential look at the captain. "May I, sir?"
"Of course." Jean-Luc released her, and she took Data's arm with a smile. He led her toward the orchestra. Behind them, there were choked sounds coming from the other men.
"That's some dress," Will remarked to Deanna, who smacked him with the back of her hand. He laughed and led her to the dance floor with a hand on her back.
The captain approached the doctor. "This era suits you, Beverly."
"Thank you, Jean-Luc. There's supposed to be a mystery with this program. Shall we look for someone who's been murdered?"
"Let's." He offered her his arm and they headed to the bar.
"The cheese stands alone," said Geordi to Worf. "Wanna work the room with me?"
"I hate this," the Klingon muttered.
"Don't go too fast," Tasha cautioned Data, as they passed behind the bandleader. "I can barely walk in these heels."
"You have altered your appearance," he responded. He looked somewhat preoccupied.
"What do you think?" Tasha asked.
He held her arm up and pivoted her in a circle, and then tucked her hand in his elbow again. "That is an interesting dress."
The look of preoccupation in Data's face intensified, and he moved them towards the press of holographic dancers.
"Wait, Data, I don't dance," Tasha stammered.
"Neither do I. I seem to be experiencing a malfunction," he said, with growing concern.
"What's wrong?" They were weaving through the crush of dancers, towards a set of columns that marked off a dimly lit balcony.
"I mentioned to you that I had modified the initialization routine of my sexuality program. Do you recall?"
"Sure, I guess so. So what?"
"It appears that I must make further modifications."
"What do you mean?"
They had reached the balcony, momentarily out of the glare of the bright chandeliers. Data put his hands on Tasha's waist and drew her pelvis against his.
"Oh." She searched his eyes, on a level with hers. "Damn. That's pretty hot." She put her hands on his shirtfront, willing herself not to grab his rear.
"I do not understand. Not all criteria have been met for my program to activate, as we are not alone. And yet..."
"Data, it's very human. I mean, human males can't control their physical response the way that you usually do. Maybe it's not a malfunction." Her voice was calm, but she couldn't stop herself from pressing her hips closer to his.
"It is inappropriate."
"Well, we're getting out of here, before I ask the computer to conjure up a closet."
"But we just arrived," Data said.
"I don't care. Y'know, Troi may not be able to sense what's going on with you, but she sure as hell can feel what's going on with me. We're getting out of here, or I'm going to do something really inappropriate." Even as she said it, one disobedient hand was sliding down the hard line of his abdomen, inching close to his waistband.
"To go where?"
"Nearest empty room." She took a shaky step backwards and stumbled. "These goddamn shoes." She raised one foot and put a finger on the strap.
Data covered her hand with his. "Leave them on. The equalization of our heights presents intriguing possibilities."
"Oh, we are so getting out of here." Tasha grabbed his hand, turned, and shuffled forward on her toes.
"The others will notice," Data said, as they plunged back into the bright lights of the main ballroom, edging along the walls.
"Nah. They're all having a good time already – look." She indicated the general direction of their friends with her head. Jean-Luc and Beverly were talking with the bartender. Geordi, Will, and Deanna were dancing. Worf stood off by himself, glowering ferociously.
"It seems unwise," Data said.
"Data, don't argue with me, for once. Computer: exit." The doors slid open, and they sidled out with a glance back. Tasha looked both ways; there was no one in the corridor. "Okay, where's the closest vacant room?"
Data considered. "There is a banquet hall on this deck, very close by."
"Would it not be more prudent to go to your quarters?" Data asked.
"It'll take too long. This won't keep. C'mon." Tasha tried to hurry forward, but staggered in her heels. "Damn it! Just carry me, will ya?"
"What if someone sees us?"
"I don't care! Just do it!"
Data swept her up and moved rapidly down the hall. "There will be no bed," he noted.
"But there will be a table." Tasha giggled and put her arms around his neck.
Will and Deanna swayed to a foxtrot, ignoring the steps and simply moving to the music. He held her close, her hand in his against his chest, his head bent to the top of hers.
"Are you still angry with me?" Will asked.
"I was never angry with you. You were the one who was angry with me," Deanna said softly.
"I'm not anymore."
"I know." She flattened her hand against his chest. "It's better this way. You'll see. In the long run."
Geordi danced by them, his arms around a blank-eyed computer-generated partner. "These holo-babes are great – light as a feather, follow your lead, and they don't say a word." He danced away out of earshot.
"Geordi's found the perfect partner," Will joked.
"It does seem real. What a beautiful fantasy." Deanna looked over Will's arm at the sparkling room.
"Beautiful," he agreed, looking at her.
Deanna smiled and laid her cheek against his lapel.
Data stood inside the banquet room with Tasha in his arms. "Computer: secure door lock. Tasha, are you sure that this is the right thing to do?"
"You're turned on; I'm turned on. It wouldn't have been right to stay in the holodeck. Relax – we'll be back before they know it. Live a little – be spontaneous."
"Hmmm." He placed her on the edge of the banquet table. Tasha slid her fingers under one red band on her shoulder, but Data stopped her. "Leave it on, please."
Tasha raised an eyebrow. "Better and better."
"It is an interesting item of apparel. Though you are fully clothed, it presents the illusion of your nudity. It is as if you are more bare with the dress on than you would appear with the dress off."
"Shhh…do you hear something?" They both listened silently for a moment.
"I hear music. I believe it is coming from the adjacent crew lounge," Data replied.
"Good. That means they won't be able to hear us." Tasha leaned backwards and scissored her legs around Data's waist, bringing him close with a lurch.
"I think that you should endeavor to be quiet," he cautioned.
"I'll try. Can't promise anything."
He laid her down flat to the table and kissed her. She pushed his face away after a moment. "Let me see . . . good. No lipstick on you. We'd be hard-pressed to explain why you were covered in red lip prints."
"I would prefer to expedite our actions. Is that acceptable?" He took the hem of her voluminous skirt and flipped it over her shoulders. He bent and kissed her navel. "The table is at an optimal height. I trust you are not uncomfortable?"
"Data, don't take this the wrong way," Tasha replied. "Shut up."
Beverly and Jean-Luc left the bar, threading their way through the holographic dancers to find Will and Deanna.
"Guess what? We're all spies!" Beverly announced, clapping her hands. "All of the action will take place in this room. We're members of something called an anti-fascist movement. We have to find a double agent who murdered one of our colleagues. Isn't that great?"
Will and Deanna were rising and swaying to the waltz the orchestra was playing. "What do we have to do?" Deanna asked languidly.
"Casually question the holographic people without arousing suspicion," Jean-Luc answered.
"Where is everyone else?" Beverly asked.
"Geordi's off somewhere with a holographic date," Will answered.
"Worf left," Deanna continued. "He said he wasn't having any fun. He seemed . . . miffed."
"Where's Data? And Tasha?" Beverly asked.
"I'm sure they'll turn up," Jean-Luc answered. "Let's start our inquiries."
"Yes, let's!" Beverly waved her fingers and they melted back into the crowd.
Will was grinning like a devil.
"What?" Deanna asked.
"What, what?" he replied innocently.
"Dip." Will followed his warning with a dramatic dip, and brought Deanna upright again.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
"I didn't say anything."
"Hmmm," she said again. Will laughed. "Whatever it is you're thinking, I'm sure it's none of our business," Deanna scolded.
"I'm not thinking anything. I didn't say a word," Will protested.
"I can hear what you're not saying loud and clear. Like the captain said, I'm sure they'll turn up any minute," Deanna said.
"Hey, come here. I can't stand it. Come here and take me." Tasha pushed Data's head away and fumbled at his waistband. "What are these?"
"They are called 'buttons.' The computer described this closure as a button fly."
"Help me, before I rip them off."
He obligingly unbuttoned his trousers. "But I fail to see what significance flight has in the context of a –"
"Data, please. Come here now."
He complied without further words, and she crossed her feet behind his back. "Yes! Oh, I love it when you do that."
"That. Don't stop."
He did not stop, but accelerated. "You have employed a forbidden word."
She dug her hand in his hair and brought his head close. She whispered with her lips against his ear, "I love what you're doing to me. I love the way you make me feel. I love this moment. I love it, I love it, I love it." And then she stopped talking, and let the sensation carry her away. She dug her short nails into him and cried out, her thighs squeezing tight. She felt him silently shudder to the end. She kissed his ear.
"That was one for the record logs," she said, after a minute.
"Have you changed your mind about your usage of that word?" he asked.
She put two fingers on his chin and looked him in the eyes. "I'm trying it out. Maybe it's okay. Don't rush me."
Data shook his head. "Never." He put his arms under her back and held her up, gathering her close in a hug. She put her chin over his shoulder and rubbed her cheek against his. "We should go back," he said, after a long moment.
"I know." She let him go and he stepped back. She hopped down from the table. "Do I look okay?"
"Your dress is crushed," he noted.
She smoothed her hands down the silk skirt. "Is it really noticeable?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Pssht. I don't care. Nothing I can do about it, anyway." She leaned one hand on his shoulder.
He made final adjustments to his tuxedo and presented himself for her inspection. "Do I look 'okay'?"
"You look better than okay. You look wonderful."
"Then, shall we?" Data put one hand on Tasha's bare back and picked her up with the other.
She linked her hands behind his neck. "Or we could go back to my quarters." He gave her a reproving look. "Just kidding. Let's go back to the holodeck. Maybe I could say I got in a fight. Or I had to scale a wall."
"Computer: release door lock." Data carried Tasha into the corridor.
"Or maybe we shouldn't say anything at all," she wound up.
"I believe that would be best," Data replied.
They went through the empty corridor together, back to holodeck one.
A/N: Woohoo! My first long-form fan fic is done, but there are lots more stories to be told in this vein. I'm so grateful to have found this creative outlet and the super cool community that is fanfictiondotnet. I cannot thank you enough for reading, and I'm especially thankful to the readers who reviewed and PMed and helped me stay on target. There were so many days when I was baffled by a transition or a motivation or had some other trouble with a chapter, and bam! someone would write and give me just the key I needed to unlock a scene. It's one thing to plot out a story, and it's another to get from A to B to C to Z with believability. Thanks to everyone who reviewed and favorite-ed, but especially to Sands12, Trance47, Grayroots, Kendrawhisp, ScarletWitch0, and Jojobevco, for being insightful, specific, picky, and inspiring. And a huge up-top high-five to BatMonkey81 for obsessing about these characters as much as I do and engaging in a dialogue that helped me suss out their interactions.
While fan fiction is inherently creative work based on a world to which someone else holds the intellectual rights, I want to acknowledge other sources that I relied on for this story besides the primary source of ST: TNG episodes and movies:
The Computers of Star Trek Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg
The Physics of Star Trek Lawrence M. Krauss
The Star Trek Chronology Michael and Denise Okuda
The Star Trek Encyclopedia Michael and Denise Okuda
The Next Generation Companion Larry Nemececk
ST: TNG The Continuing Mission Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens
Star Trek NCC-1701D Blueprints Rick Sternbach
ST: TNG Technical Manual Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda
Trek Core (thank goodness for screencaps!)
I hope you check out my other stories as I crank 'em out. Keep reading, and keep reviewing!