"Just Dinner?"

Author: Lieutenant Commander Karissa Bentara
Date: June 8, 2384
Location: Karissa's Quarters

Karissa had made the plans for dinner, and all parties had agree to come. She had the table set, wine and sparkling cider chilling, and the meal prepared. It was certainly the most elegant dinner party she'd thrown in awhile, as she looked over her work. She had appetizers on the table - some pesto canapés and assorted crudités with vegetable dip. The meal would consist of salad, prime rib au jus, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed green beans. She was going to serve strawberry mousse in chocolate cups for dessert, though she wasn't entirely sure how much she'd be eating . . . Her nerves were on edge.

Karissa had especially taken great care with her appearance. She wore a floor length, black dress, that even though it showed off her growing tummy, flattered her appearance. She accented it with a white gold choker around her neck studded with diamonds. All her jewelry, except for her promise ring, were white gold as well. Her hair was pulled up, away
from her face, with ringlets framing it. She wanted this to be a nice evening.

As the door to her quarters slid open, she turned to see Ryan standing there. She smiled as he went to her, holding a single red rose.

"You look stunning," he said, handing her the bud.

"Thank you," she smiled gently, kissing him.

"I have everything set for the diversion . . . Are you ready?" he asked.

She sighed. "As ready as I'll ever be . . . It's something that has to be done . . . I just . . ." she looked away for a moment getting her emotions in check. "I just don't want to upset him . . . Or hurt him . . ."

"Kari . . ." he replied, tenderly caressing her face, "I will be all right . . ."

Ming and Will arrived on time. Ming had brought another bottle of wine - one with no alcohol, so that Karissa could join in a glass, and Will had brought a small bouquet of flowers.

"Come in," she said as they took in her appearance.

Soft instrumental music played in the background.

Ming went to Karissa and handed her the wine. "You're beautiful, tonight . . . Not that you weren't before, but . . ."

Karissa laughed, handed the wine to Ryan, and embraced him. "Thank you, Ming."

"These are for you," Will said, as Ming moved away, handing her the flowers.

"I'm glad you could make it," she smiled. She embraced him tenderly. "The flowers are lovely. There are appetizers on the coffee table if anyone's hungry."

She could sense that Will was a bit uncomfortable, and she was determined to put him at ease as best as she could. Swiftly, she put the flowers in a vase, as the men sat down on the couch and chairs. There was a space left for her beside Ryan on the couch. Will sat on her other side. She picked up on his emotions as he looked at her. It took him awhile, but he had actually started relaxing and enjoying the evening, as the bottle of wine was consumed. There was more there though, she sensed. Something else was haunting his mind and it was more than just his child. She didn't probe further because she knew she'd have an opportunity to speak with him soon. The thought caused her own stomach to flip-flop. Ryan heard her soft change in breathing and gently squeezed her hand. She met his dark gaze with her own, briefly, and smiled, letting him know she would be all right.

As they sat down for dinner, the conversation continued. They all shared tales from the Academy and different anecdotes from their careers . . . The food was wonderful, and she had been complimented several times over. She laughed, replying that knowing how to program the replicator just right did help. Everyone had laughed with her.

"Anyone care for dessert?" she asked.

But before anyone could answer, they were interrupted.

"Lt. Tierro to Captain Evans and Lt. Wang."

They both tapped their commbadges and acknowledged Ciara. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Some information has come in pertaining to the requested transfer," she said.

"Can't it wait until later, Lieutenant?" Ryan asked, "I'm in the middle of dinner . . ."

"Actually, Captain, there are some things in the file that will need your immediate attention as well as Lt. Wang's . . . Especially, if this transfer is going to go through . . . "

With a sigh, Ryan looked at Karissa. "We're on our way," he replied, answering for Ming. "Sorry, Kari . . . But it shouldn't take all that long," he said as he stood up. "Looks like dessert will have to wait . . ."

"I'll have it ready for when you get back," she smiled.

"All right," he replied, going to her and kissing her cheek. Gently, he squeezed her shoulder, letting her know that no matter what, he was there for her.

As Ming and Ryan left her quarters, she looked at William who had excused himself from the table with a glass of wine and had walked over to the porthole. Getting herself a glass of sparkling cider, she joined him.

"So what's on your mind?" she asked. She wasn't willing to jump straight to the point . . . wanting to see if she could possibly draw him out first.

"Not much . . ." he replied, taking a sip of his wine. "Perhaps a lot of things . . ."

She nodded, picking up his discomfort at being alone with her in her quarters. He was confused and unsure how to react.

"You know, we do need to talk," she said, looking at him.

He turned to her briefly, his dark eyes meeting hers. "Yes," he replied. "About the child that's mine . . .?" His eyes turned back to the dark expanse of space beyond the porthole.

She nodded. "I want you to know, I'm not asking for anything . . ." she said. "I just want to know how you feel about the baby . . . and . . . if you want to be involved in any way . . . I'm not pushing . . . just asking . . . "

He was quiet as his mind turned. Of course, he wanted to have a role in his child's life. That was a given . . . though he was concerned about the role of being a father. Would he make a good father? And how would he work in being a father to his child . . . It wouldn't be as if he
were with his child all the time . . .

Karissa could feel his emotions, and gently touched his shoulder. "I know this is difficult," she said. "I didn't even know how to bring it up to you before now . . . But I think you'll be a wonderful father if you give yourself that chance . . . I can sense that you want to . . ."

He turned to her again. "Of course, I want to . . ." he replied. "I want to be part of my daughter's life . . . But . . . what kind of father can I possibly be? How much time will I have to spend with her?"

"We can work out something . . . She's your child and I want her to know her father . . ." Karissa said. "To know what kind of man he is . . ."

"And just what kind of man would that be?" he asked with a hint of bitterness, as memories of his away mission playing through his mind.

"Will . . ." she began, "You are a good man . . . " Tenderly, she caressed his cheek.

Instantly, he grabbed her hand. "Please don't . . ." he replied, though not releasing her hand. He sighed and turned back to the porthole.

"This is more than just our daughter, isn't it?" she asked. "Will, I can feel your emotions as clearly as if they were my own . . . I have even been picking up stray thoughts . . . Talk to me . . . If nothing else, we need to settle this for ourselves . . ."

"If you can sense my feelings, then you know what some of the things going on in my head are . . ." he said, "You know how confused I have felt since that night with you on the holodeck . . . Since then, I have come to like you as a person, though we don't know each other that well
. . . We haven't had much of a chance to get to know one another . . . But . . ." he grew silent as he turned to her again. His dark eyes penetrating into her. He set his wine glass down, and gently caressed her face as she had done to him. But there was more behind it, than just
concern. "Karissa . . . I still have this attraction for you . . ." He let his hand go through her hair as his thumb continued to caress her cheek.

This was one of the things she had been afraid of. One night of uncontrolled passion had become an entangled web of emotions for all involved, with her in the center having been the spider to weave it, though unintentionally. Her dark eyes glittered like onyx as tears began
to form. "I'm sorry . . ." she said. "I had never intended any of this to happen that night . . . "

"I know," he replied gently. "I read your file . . . I know about your DNA and I have seen Ming's research into your pheromones among other things . . . Perhaps its even the pheromones that have left this lingering feeling . . ." he reasoned. "Though I think I would have been attracted to you regardless . . ."

Her cheeks tinted pink at the compliment. "Will -"

He took his hand away from her as he wiped away a tear that had just started to fall. "Its all right, Karissa . . . I understand that you are in love with the Captain . . . I suppose one of your concerns is how I might feel about him raising our daughter when I'm not around."

She nodded. "Yes . . ."

He thought for a moment. "You are the mother of my child . . . Ultimately, I need to trust your decision in this matter," he replied. "However, Evans is a good man from what I've seen . . . I trust him as my Captain . . . I'll learn to trust him as my child's other father . . ."

"Then it's sorted out," she said, with a gentle smile. "Except where we stand . . ."

He sighed and walked to the couch, taking his wine with him. As he sat, Karissa took the chair next to him.

"We have a child to deal with together . . . The better friends we are, the better it will be for our daughter . . ." he said.

She nodded. "Then we should start building on it a little more . . . "

"I agree . . ."

As time wore on, Will and Karissa talked and laughed, getting to know one another. A good deal of Will's uneasiness had ebbed as they found themselves talking about friends and family from their childhood. An hour had passed before Ryan and Ming returned to find the two laughing and enjoying each other's company.

"Did we miss anything?" Ryan asked, kneeling beside Karissa's chair, as Ming took a seat on the couch.

"Not much," she replied. "We've just been sitting here talking . . ."

"Good," he replied, kissing her tenderly, knowing everything had gone well.

"Shall I get the dessert ready?" she asked, as she stood up. "I can't believe it, but I'm hungry again!" she laughed.

"Expect that to get worse," Will smiled. "You're eating for three!"

"And by the end of this pregnancy I'll be as big as this ship, I bet!" she replied, smirking.

"And I'll love you even more," Ryan smiled, gently resting a hand on her stomach.

After Will and Ming had left, and everything had been cleaned up, she snuggled with Ryan on the couch. She finally felt as if everything about that night on the holodeck and about the babies had been settled. There were no more questions and no more doubts . . . The pain was finally running the end of its course . . .

"Thank you so much for suggesting this dinner party," she smiled.

"So you and Will worked everything out, I take it . . ." He pulled her closer, kissing her forehead.

"Yes . . . Everything . . . Including the name of our daughter . . ."

"Daughter?" Ryan asked.

"When Will did the initial scan of the babies and saw the DNA, he also saw that his child was a girl . . ." she explained. "Her name is going to be Maya Amber-Marie. What do you think?"

Ryan sighed. "I think its a beautiful name . . . "

Karissa sighed with contentment. For the first time since this all started she could honestly say her heart was light . . . There was nothing else for her to deal with in relation to that night on the holodeck or the babies she carried . . . It was settled . . . Finally . . . She sat up and caressed Ryan's face.

"Stay with me tonight?" she asked.

He smiled. "Thought you'd never ask . . ."