A father-daughter moment, maybe twenty years after the beginning of CRUSH. ST:TNG belongs to the folks at Paramount, and I promise to return their characters without folding, spindling, mutilating them, or making any money from the endeavor.


STRAWBERRY

They visit the little café every morning at precisely eight o'clock, he in his Starfleet uniform, she in her black patent-leather Mary-Janes shining below a dress that just begs for a satisfying twirl.

He always quietly suggests that she would be more comfortable at a table, but she demands a seat at the bar, and so he lifts her up and gently places her onto one of the tall wooden stools with the bent-wood backs. Before he takes the seat next to hers, he leans close to whisper something softly in her ear, causing her to giggle.

Mostly to be polite, he orders a cappuccino for himself, and on those rare occasions when he eats, it's always something basic: a water bagel with plain cream cheese. For the little girl, he also orders the same thing each morning: hot chocolate with whipped cream, and a strawberry croissant.

While they wait to be served, they solve the daily trivia question written on an antique chalkboard that hangs above the magazine rack at the end of the bar. He always knows the answer, but he lets the child have the first shot at it, and it's clear that it doesn't matter to either of them if she's right or wrong. It's also clear that at her tender age of five or six, the child has far outpaced the adult in the categories of pop culture and interplanetary cuisine.

Their food is consumed in styles that match their personalities. He is methodical, never spilling, rarely allowing a crumb to fall. She is sloppier, and while she alternates sips of cocoa with dainty bites of her pastry, and wipes the corners of her mouth without being prompted (much), she always ends up with traces of strawberry stickiness in her innocent smile.

Between bites of croissant (hers), and sips of coffee (his), they chat about their plans for the day. Their voices carry enough that anyone else in the restaurant can glean that she refers to this man as "Daddy," even though his gold-leaf complexion and eyes the color of twin suns and her chocolate curls, dark eyes, and ever-so-slightly pointed ears belie any biological relationship.

"Can I wear my purple dress tonight?" the girl's treble pipes up, over the sound of milk being frothed.

"You may," he answers, stressing the second word in a not-so-subtle correction of her grammar.

"And will you wear your dress uniform?" the child blithely continues, swinging her feet until her toes kick against the wood paneling beneath the bar.

"Mind your feet," he answers, a phrase that rolls off his tongue with the ease of much practice. But he answers her. "Your mother's opening night is a formal occasion. My dress uniform is appropriate."

Her feet continue to swing, but with less force. "Mommy says you look dashing when you're all dressed up."

"I have heard her refer to you in a similar fashion," he tells her. "I believe she called you 'angelic.'"

"Mommy says she falls in love with you all over again when you wear that. Mommy says it makes her feel sixteen again." The girl pauses to think a moment, her feet stilling themselves. "You and Mommy weren't together when she was sixteen, though."

"No," her father replies - and he is her father, it's obvious, even if there isn't a blood tie - "When she was sixteen, we were…friends. Love came much later."

"What was Mommy like then?"

The man pauses for a moment, his eyes moving back and forth as if he's scanning mental images - and maybe he is. "She was mischievous," he begins after a bit. "Mercurial," he continues, then, gauging the child's reaction, he corrects it to, "Moody. Musical."

The girl giggles. She knows this game, this word game. Her mother plays it often. "Marv'lous."

His mouth quirks up at the corners. The hint of a smile. "Yes, marvelous. As well as," and now that smile is positively devilish, because he's about to use a phrase the woman in question obviously coined, and he's proud that he can do this now, without sounding stilted. "Math-impaired." But his nature forces him to add, "It is a trait she still claims to possess, and one she would prefer that you not acquire."

His warning isn't particularly serious, and they both know it. She grins, and gives him a sticky kiss on his cheek.

At exactly eight-thirty-seven, as if it's programmed into them (and in truth, it may be programmed into him), they finish their breakfasts and prepare to leave - she by slipping to the floor in a sliding hop, and he by merely rising to his feet. He keys an account code into the padd the server offers, includes a tip of exactly eighteen percent, and gives the child a gentle push toward the exit.

At the door, she reaches up and he folds her tiny hand into his own. Together, they head back down the street, a breeze ruffling both their hair. If he's walking with perfect posture, and she's skipping beside him, the only response from anyone is the knowing smile that comes from seeing a father and daughter who fit together perfectly.