"I think it's a wonderful idea," Deanna exclaimed. "I was thinking the same thing myself. And the children will understand that we want to have a wedding ceremony here on the ship, with all of our friends. I think Walker would make a wonderful ring bearer, and Matilda could be the flower girl."
Beverly nodded in agreement and stretched forward onto the mat. She and Deanna had left the children with their fathers and had escaped to one of the exercise rooms for a quick morning workout. Gentle stretching routines would be beneficial for Deanna after having Lucy, and Beverly liked the idea of being able to monitor her friend's exercise.
Her suggestion of a double wedding had been readily acceptable to Deanna. And the more Beverly thought about it, the more she liked the idea. After all they'd been through together, it seemed fitting and natural for them to share a wedding day. Her only regret was that Wesley wouldn't be there. She hadn't been able to contact him in over six months, ever since he'd gone to be with the Traveler. Six months for him, but almost ten years and six months for her. She knew that he would come to visit, but she had no way of knowing when and where.
"We could try to send a message to Dorvan V," Deanna suggested softly, staring over at her friend. "Perhaps he's gone back there."
Beverly looked up and smiled, not really surprised that Deanna had sensed who she was thinking about. "He's hasn't. I already tried. The first day we were back. They haven't seen him in over two months. He's out there on some...alternate plane of existence."
"I guess you could say that we've been out there as well for the past ten years," Deanna laughed, leaning forward and touching her knees and then straightening back to a sitting position.
"I know," Beverly sighed. "I kept wishing that his plane of existence would somehow intersect with ours."
"Speaking of family," Deanna smiled, "guess who I talked to yesterday afternoon."
"That's Grandmother Lwaxana," Deanna corrected with a laugh.
"How did she take the news?"
"She was...overjoyed. Well, not at first. At first, she was angry because Starfleet hadn't informed her of my disappearance. And then she was shocked to hear of our ten year adventure, relieved to find out that Will and I are together, and thrilled about her grandchildren. She can finally stop mourning for me."
"When can we expect her?" Beverly knew that it was only a matter of time before Lwaxana Troi would insist upon seeing her grandchildren.
"She's planning her trip now. She's terribly busy with her ambassadorial duties, but I expect to see her within a week." Deanna's mouth twisted in concentration. "Do you think we can plan a wedding in a week's time?"
"Oh, I think we can do anything we set our minds to. Don't forget, we carved out homes on the side of a mountain for the past ten years. Compared to that, planning a wedding is easy."
And it was, especially with all the help that they received. They would have it in Ten Forward. Data's string quartet would play traditional wedding music, and Guinan would take care of the food. Deanna asked Leslie Gladstrom to be her maid of honor, and Beverly asked Alyssa Ogawa; Margaret would be her junior bridesmaid. Will and Jean-Luc decided to have their sons stand beside them as best men. They would meet Lwaxana at Deep Space Nine, and, as Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, she had already insisted on officiating. Both couples had accepted her "kind offer." "As long as she stays clothed," Jean-Luc had muttered, although he had to admit that he was looking forward to seeing her after a decade.
Unfortunately, they were too far away from Earth for any other members of their family to attend.
But not too far away to contact them, which Deanna insisted that Will do once they were settled into their new routine.
"He's your father, Will. He has a right to know about his grandchildren." Will started to protest, but she stopped him. "And since he really didn't disappear into the wilds of Alaska, you need to talk to him. He and Kate will want to know."
He and Kate. They were a couple again after all these years. And despite the mixed feelings Will had for his father at times, he was happy for them. They were both living and working in San Francisco now – Kate at Starfleet Medical and Kyle still doing pick-up work for the Federation. And over the past few years, their relationship had softened his father's rough edges, mellowed him a bit, but still…
"Will…" He detected that subtle edge in his wife's voice.
"All right, all right," he responded crossing over to the desk in their quarters and activating the computer. "Should we line the children up now?" he asked with a mischievous grin. "Or simply send holoimages?"
"He'll probably want to see the actual live versions. Otherwise, he'll think you're playing a practical joke on him."
This caused Will's grin to broaden. He hadn't thought of just how fun this would be.
The computer indicated that Earth time in San Francisco was a little after 1900 hours, so he keyed in his father's home comm address and waited a few moments. Then Kyle Riker's face filled the screen – first a look of confusion, followed by a genuine smile.
"Will, this is a surprise. I haven't heard from you in months."
It had actually been almost a year, but Will just nodded. Almost a year plus ten for him.
"It has been a while."
"Where are you?" Kyle asked, knowing that the Enterprise could be almost anywhere in the quadrant.
"Just the other side of Deep Space Nine," he answered.
And Kyle cocked an eyebrow. "Well, not too far, but far enough."
"Oh, she's fine. Around here somewhere," he mused, looking back over his shoulder. "She's taken up cooking as a hobby. Damn good at it, too," he added, patting a hand to his stomach.
"So, you two are still…"
"Together," Kyle finished for him. "Yes, she puts up with me. Says I've settled down more in my old age." He smiled. "She's good for me, Will. And speaking of good women, how's Deanna?"
"She always was. When are you going to wise up and marry her?"
Will laughed and leaned back in his chair. "Funny you should ask…"
Kyle's eyes widened. "Really? You're not kidding me? You asked? She said yes?"
"Well, there wasn't so much a proposal as there was an understanding. You see, Dad, Deanna and I have… Well, we've had a bit of an adventure…"
Twenty minutes later, the only words Will could think of to describe his father's expression were shell-shocked delight. By this time, Kate Pulaski was sitting next to him with an arm wrapped around his shoulder in support. Deanna mirrored her position beside Will.
"Four?!" he exclaimed, his eyes blinking.
And Will was sure that he saw a silver glint of tears in their brown depths.
"Two boys, two girls. Sam, Thomas, Matilda, and Lucy."
"And Beverly and Jean-Luc have children as well?" Kate asked.
"Two boys and a girl."
Kate smiled. "That's something I'd like to see – Jean-Luc Picard with children."
Deanna smiled. "Well, we've seen it for almost ten years now, so we're used to it. But, believe me, the crew is having quite a time with Papa Picard back in command."
"Congratulations, to both of you," Kyle said softly.
And Will heard the sincerity in his father's tone. "Thanks, Dad."
And the next few moments were quiet and filled with emotion. Until Kyle said, "Now I understand that extra grey at your temples. I suppose you're my older son now."
And Will leaned his head back and laughed. "That makes Thomas ten years younger. I hadn't thought of that." He fixed his eyes on his father. "He's still on the Gandhi. Have you spoken with him?"
Kyle sighed. "Last time I spoke to you. We're still not…" His words trailed off and he lowered his eyes. Then he looked up, taking a deep breath. "But I'll contact him. We'll work on it."
"I need to get in touch with him, too. Introduce him to his nieces and nephews," Will grinned, trying to lighten the moment.
"Not before you introduce them to their grandfather you won't. Where are they?"
"I'll go get them," Deanna said, giving Will's shoulder a gentle squeeze before she headed into the children's rooms.
Just as they had the day before, they crowded in around the monitor and shyly said hello to their only grandfather and step-grandmother. No one said very much – Deanna knew it was a bit overwhelming for the children, and perhaps just as overwhelming for the adults. But it was good to put faces to names and establish a deeper family bond.
"So, you'll be heading back toward Earth soon?" Kyle asked before they said goodbye.
"Within the next few months," Will offered. "I think we'll be close enough to visit."
And his father smiled. "I'd like that, son. I'd like that a lot."
"Me, too… Granddad."
"And this is Walker." Jean-Luc pulled the wriggling four-year-old onto his knee.
"Oh, we're so happy for you." Marie Picard smiled at him, but his eyes were on his brother, gauging his reaction, wondering what he would say.
And Robert was silent, holding his gaze for long moments. And then he spoke, "Congratulations, brother, you have a fine looking family." He shifted his eyes to Beverly, who leaned over Jean-Luc's shoulder. "And a beautiful wife." Another beat of silence. And then, "I'm proud of you."
Jean-Luc released the breath he hadn't been conscious of holding, felt Beverly squeeze his shoulder. "Thank you, Marie, Robert." He lifted one hand and touched Beverly's fingers. "We've been… very blessed." He wrapped his other arm around Andrew and Margaret who stood beside him. "And very fortunate to be back on the Enterprise."
"We wish you were closer to Earth so you could come for a visit," Marie said. "And I wish Rene wasn't away at school. He will be so excited to know he has cousins."
"We look forward to visiting," Beverly responded. "I know the children are eager to see where their father grew up. Jean-Luc's told them so many stories throughout the years."
Robert arched an eyebrow at his brother. "Stories?" he questioned.
And Jean-Luc smiled. "Good stories."
"So you made the old man a grandfather," Thomas Riker smiled at the idea of Kyle with grandkids. Somehow the image dulled the sharp edges of the man.
"And made you an uncle," Will added quietly, sensitive to the fact that, up to a point, he and Thomas were both essentially the same man who had first fallen in love with Deanna. Only she was with him, and not Thomas. A hard truth.
But the congratulations that Thomas offered seemed genuinely heartfelt. If he still harbored resentment, he hid it well.
"Thank you," Deanna extended, settling on the arm of Will's chair.
Thomas grinned, pulling his fingers down around his mouth and over his beard – a familiar gesture they both shared. "You named one after me? Or is he just named after us?" He looked pointedly at Will.
Deanna smiled. "He's named after you and your father – Thomas Kyle Riker."
"Personally, I was saving William for this last one, but she turned out to be a girl – Lucy."
"We named her after Lwaxana, but we thought Lucy would be easier."
Thomas laughed. "A hell of a lot easier." He exchanged a meaningful glance with Deanna. He knew Lwaxana Troi all those years ago, and he highly doubted that she had changed. "Just hope the name is all she's inherited from your mother."
"I'll second that," Will added.
And Thomas shook his head, expression sobering, suddenly becoming more serious. "So, how did you explain me to the children?"
Will sighed and cast his eyes downward. "Truth is… We haven't yet. They've been exposed to so much so quickly that… Well, transporter mishaps may cause some concern."
"Not to mention nightmares."
Will nodded. "They know I have a brother."
"Who looks exactly like you?"
"Not as much anymore," Will sighed, rubbing his fingers over the silver strands in his beard, acutely aware of the fact that Thomas' beard was still a solid brown.
And Will shrugged. "Twins wouldn't be quite accurate."
"Nor truthful," Deanna supplied.
"We haven't been exactly truthful with them from the beginning," Will frowned. "When they asked where my father was, I told them he got lost in the Alaskan Territory."
Thomas laughed. "Well, that's not exactly a lie – there were times when Dad did get lost in the Alaskan Territory. Always managed to find his way home," he added with a sigh.
"He says he's going to contact you," Will said, giving him a heads up.
"Thanks for the warning," Thomas replied with a roll of his eyes.
"Give him a chance."
"Because you did?"
"No," Will grimaced, "because life's too damn short." He felt Deanna elbow him in the ribs. "All right – also because I did. And I'm glad I did. You might feel different if you actually talk to him."
"And listen," Deanna leaned closer to the computer monitor. "He may just say some things you need to hear."
Thomas threw up his hands in mock surrender. "All right, all right – I won't totally disregard him if he calls." He caught Deanna's gaze. "I'll give him a chance. But I'm not making any promises."
And for a moment, something passed between them. A look, a connection that Will noticed and understood. He knew how much he'd loved Deanna all those years ago. Knew how much he loved her now. Knew that he was damned lucky to have her. Still felt a twinge of guilt that he was with her and Thomas wasn't. Felt unsure about introducing him to a family he could never have. At least, not with her.
But Thomas took a deep breath, and, with a familiar shrug of his shoulders and a cocky grin that Will had perfected years ago, he broke the silence and the sudden tension with his next words.
"So, do I get to see these nieces and nephews? Or do I need to wait until you figure out a way to explain me?"
The look in his eyes was hopeful, his request heartfelt. He really wanted to meet them.
Will glanced over at Deanna, and she nodded.
"We've told them that you and Will look a lot alike. I think now will be a good time for you to meet them." She sighed. "And we'll figure out the rest… later."