The party was a huge hit. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, which also pleased Aria. It was time for the cake and Aria quietly rolled it out while Riker got everyone’s attention.
“Everyone, please, raise your glass and help me celebrate our Captain’s birthday and hope for many more to come. To Captain Jean Luc Picard,” Riker said as he raised his glass to the Captain while all the other guests did the same.
Picard looked gratefully at those who wished him well. He approached Riker’s side and said, “Thank you everyone. For once you really surprised me. I am proud to serve with all of you. Thank you everyone.” he said, beaming.
After Picard cut the first piece of cake, Aria stepped in and began cutting pieces for everyone else without really being noticed. The jazz ensemble was scheduled to perform three sets for them that night. The Captain asked Aria to sit at his table along with Deanna Troi, Riker and the ship’s doctor, Beverly Crusher. Aria sat quietly at the table and listened to the music. The group was good and their first set was very entertaining.
In-between set, the doctor said, “I’ve heard you are also quite a musician, Lieutenant.”
“Yes, but I only do it for fun now,” she responded.
“Why?” Aria could tell that she was prying.
“I didn’t want to become my mother.”
“What did your mother do?”
“Right now, she’s on tour with the New York City Opera on Brill. She’s Claudia Swenson, lead soprano.”
“I’ve heard of her. She is very good.”
“Thanks. I am proud of her.”
“What do you play?” the doctor said still digging.
“I play the flute, oboe, piano, and I sing, but I can plan most instruments. Those are just my favorites right now.”
“Oh, you should sing for us,” she said almost challenging her.
“I would be happy to, but I will need to get something from my quarters. I could sing during the next set break,” she said calling the doctor’s bluff. Standing up, she said, “If you would excuse me. I will be back before the break.” She acknowledged the captain. Both of the men at the table stood as she left.
Aria was almost pissed off by the doctor’s challenges but realized she was quickly breaking into the Captain’s inner circle of friends and the good doctor was probably feeling a bit threatened. She figured the Doctor had been friends with the Captain for a while and was just being protective or territorial of her friend.
When Aria returned to Ten Forward, she was ready to perform. She had a disk prepared with the background music to accompany her and was properly warmed up. The ensemble still had a bit left in their set so she quietly sat back down at the Captain’s table to wait.
When they were through, Riker went up to the stage to introduce her. “Ladies and gentlemen. We have the pleasure of hearing the talents of another crewmember while our ensemble takes a well-deserved break. I would like to introduce to you, the newest addition to the crew of the Enterprise, our protocol officer and senior interpreter, Lieutenant Aria Swenson.”
There was light applause as Aria made her way to the stage. She was glowing. Once on stage, she got settled and sang her first song, an a cappella version of “A Nightingale Sang at Berkley Square”. She followed it up with a very upbeat, but throaty and raw, version of “I’m the Only One” that was originally preformed by Melissa Etheridge. Her last song was a dreamy and almost sad version of Annie Lennox’s “Why”. When she had sung her last note, there was a moment of silence and then roars of applause. She looked at the Captain’s table and saw Will Riker, beaming like a proud big brother, Doctor Crusher smiling but looking guilty and the Captain. He looked amazed but did not react as much as his tablemates. Aria wondered if he had liked her performance or was he just being nice. She took another bow and left the stage as the jazz ensemble returned to finish their performance. Aria returned to the table where the men rose as she sat down.
“I’m sorry Lieutenant that I doubted your skills,” the Doctor said whole-heartedly. “Where did you go before the Academy?”
“Juilliard,” was all Aria said.
“You were wonderful. I never knew you had such a beautiful voice,” Riker said.
“Thank you very much,” she replied, knowing that she actually held back in her performance.
The last set of the ensembles was very good, but everyone was still buzzing about the impromptu performance. Aria loved the attention, but knew she shouldn’t be in the spot light that night.
As the night drew to an end, the Captain invited some people back to his quarters. He had also asked Aria. She told him she would be by after things were finished at the party. People began leaving when the band was done their last set and after the Captain had left. Aria stayed until everything was cleaned up and made sure that any gifts that were left behind made it back to the Captain’s quarters. She did notice he had personally taken the book she had given him as he left. Once she was done, she headed off to the Captain’s quarters, hoping that it was not too late.
At the Captain’s door, she could hear voices but couldn’t hear what they were saying. She rang the chime and Riker answered the door. He let her in and there was a round of applause for her. She was very surprised by their gratitude and it caught her off guard. Picard came forward and brought Aria the rest of the way into his quarters.
“You never told me you had such a beautiful singing voice. I found your performance very moving. Thank you,” he told her quietly. He guided her with his hand barely touching her on the small of her back that gave her chills.
“Thank you, sir. Consider it another give from me.”
“No, thank you. I’m glad the Enterprise has you on board and I hope you consider me one of your friends.”
“Oh, yes sir. I am glad you feel that way. I don’t sing for just anybody anymore.”
Aria spoke with the Captain a bit more and then mingled with the others in the room. It was a lovely evening for everyone.