Title: Bedtime Stories
Author: Anna C. Bowling
Email: Unzadi AT aol.com
Summary: A young girl demands a story from her grandmother before bed.
Author's Note: Kleenex may be needed for this one. Blame Mary Chapin Carpenter, Liz, Elise, and the rest of the W/T board on AOL. This one's for you varlets. (Hihi!)
Disclaimers: Everything Star Trek, including Worf and Deanna Troi, belong to Paramount Pictures. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.

 

"Tell me the story again, Grandmother."

The old woman pulled the fur coverlets up to the child's chin. With a warm smile that crinkled the corners of her obsidian eyes, she pretended to consider. "I don't know, little one. It is late, and your parents want you to go to sleep."

The child pouted, a full lower lip, much like her grandfather's, thrusting out. "You know I cannot sleep without a good story," she insisted. "I want that one. It is my favourite."

"I know." Her grandmother nodded, patting the covers back into place. She tucked a stray wisp of curling silver hair behind her ear, and waited for her granddaughter's impatient prompt.

"Grand-moth-er!"

"All right, all right, little one," the old woman said with a laugh. "The Empire will withstand one more telling. Move your feet and make room for my old bones."

The child snorted her disbelief. "Ha! You are not old. Grandfather says you are not, and he does not lie. More importantly," she added, "you do not believe it yourself."

The woman smiled again, and shook her head, setting her dangling earrings to jingle. The little girl spoke the truth herself, becoming more observant each day. "Very good, Muanna," she pronounced, reaching out to ruffle the child's thick dark hair. "Now, do I want to tell you that story, or would I rather do something else?"

"Story," Muanna replied, her young voice full of certainty.

"Well, then, move your feet. Even if I am not old, I deserve to be comfortable." She tapped the coverlet over Muanna's feet until there was enough room. Raising a scarlet-nailed finger to her lips, her smooth brow furrowed. "I wonder if I can remember. When did it all begin? The day I first held you, maybe?"

"Grandmother, before that!"

The old woman nodded her head. "Ahh, before that? What could possibly have happened before your birth that has any importance at all?" She punctuated her question with a dismissive cluck and wave of her hand. "Of course, you must mean your parents' wedding. That was a grand affair," she said with a wistful sigh. For Muanna, such a thing was ancient history, but for herself, it was only a heartbeat past, as were all of the events the child seemed determined to hear again and again. "From the very first time your father..."

Muanna interrupted her grandmother with an indignant snort. Still, her bright eyes danced with mirth under their drooping lids. The false starts were as much a part of the ritual as the story itself. "Before that, Grandmother."

"How far back do you want me to go, little one? Back to the part about the heavens and the earth?"

Muanna sat upright against her bed's headboard. "I want the part about you and Grandfather," she demanded, crossing her slender brown arms across the pink flowers of her sleeping garment. "How you did not love him when you met..."

"And came to love him as no other," the old woman finished for her. "That is indeed quite a story." A peaceful smile graced her gently lined features as she thought of her husband, who was no doubt waiting for her in their bedroom with the same patience that their granddaughter now waited for her story. That part of the tale, Muanna was still too young to know. Was it possible that so much time had passed that their child's child was old enough to pester them for stories with such precise details? She could not convince herself that it was.

"It was long, long ago," she began, her voice drifting to a soft whisper. "My hair was as black then as yours is now, and I was just your mother's age when I met your grandfather."

Muanna sucked in her breath in undisguised anticipation. "You had never served on a ship before," she prompted, "but this one was special."

Reaching out to tweak Muanna's nose, the old woman laughed. "Who is telling this tale, little one? You or I? If it is you, then I will go find your grandfather and seek my own rest."

"You are telling it, Grandmother," the child replied, too perfect a picture of contrition to be truly sorry as she lowered her eyes. Her eager grin remained unchanged.

"I am glad to hear that, Muanna," she replied with a chuckle. "Your time to tell stories will come soon enough. You are correct, though. This ship was very, very special."

Muanna moved in even closer, crawling out from under the covers. "She had a great and noble name, as befit her valiant captain, the celebrated hero of many battles."

The woman's still-dark eyebrows shot up. "I don't remember describing the valiant captain's battles that way," she chided.

The child's brows, miniatures of her grandmother's, drew together even as her small shoulders stiffened. "You did not," she conceded, with a nod, "but it is true. It is also important to know. Neither you nor Grandfather would have served under a captain who was not a great hero. How else would you have learned how to defend each other in the face of great and terrible danger at the hands of dishonourable enemies?"

Long silver hair fell free of its jeweled clasp as the old woman threw back her head in raucous laughter. "How else, indeed? Very well. Her captain was the celebrated hero of many battles. Your grandfather, a brave and proud warrior even then, had charge of the ship's safety."

"A year later, Grandmother. He had charge a year later. At first, he had a different job. That, though, is not important."

Although the child tried to hide it, her grandmother easily spotted the yawn. "I see. It is all right for you to embellish, but I cannot? I will try to remember. If that first year is not important, little one, we do not need to quibble about it, and I will go right to that second year. We fought at first," she confessed. "There was even a time when I thought I could never forgive him for what he asked of me..." Her voice trailed off as a single tear welled in one eye.

Muanna's small hand slipped over her grandmother's. "We don't need that part tonight. It makes you sad, and you should only be happy. You came to forgive him after all, when he asked you to do so."

"How could I not? Your grandfather can be a very persuasive man. *You*, however, would never know it, the way he spoils you. If I had been told then that tonight I would be talking to our very own granddaughter..."

"You would have laughed so hard as to shake the ship, and cause the tides on any nearby planets to cover all of the land. Is that a good part, Grandmother?"

Pulling the coverlet back up around Muanna's shoulders, the woman stifled her own yawn. "You embellish, as usual, but yes, it is a good addition. Who knows? Maybe I would have laughed just that hard. At the time, I did not think a man like your grandfather would love me, or that I would even want him to."

Muanna snuggled into the assortment of pillows her grandmother had lovingly arranged. "You thought that you would love others, both of you."

"We did think that, for a very long time, but we overcame our ignorance" She paused to plant a kiss on each ridge of Muanna's forehead. "Sleep now, little one. I will still be here in the morning."

"Promise me," her tired little voice demanded with all the fierceness her exhaustion could muster.

"I promise."

With one dark eye still open but halfway, Muanna assessed her grandmother's motive. "You wish to find Grandfather. You promised to tell me the entire story as one of my presents."

"I am very glad that you have only one birthday every year," her grandmother said with mock offense. "Otherwise, I think you would demand half the Empire. Go to sleep and dream of chocolate pancakes."

Muanna obediently closed her half-open eye all the way, but pressed on. "While we eat the chocolate pancakes, will you then tell me of how you rescued Grandfather from his enemies who wanted to destroy the Empire? About the advice Uncle gave you that saved all your lives? About the very moment you knew that you and Grandfather were truly mated?"

"You know that I will," she answered with a sigh. "I am going to need a full night's sleep if I am to tell you all that you want to know. Again," she added. "I'm starting to wonder if you shouldn't be telling me how it all happened. Good night." She presented her cheek to Muanna for a kiss, before rising from the bed and gliding to the door on slippered feet.

The panel slid shut behind her once she stepped into the corridor. In contrast to Muanna's darkened bedroom, the hallway and rooms beyond were lit with dozens of glowing, chocolate-scented candles. Reaching a hand into the profusion of silver curls that hung halfway down her back, she retrieved the clip and began to tidy the shining mass. It had been a long day, but a good one.

"Mother?"

Deanna turned around at the sound of her oldest son's voice. "Mogh. That daughter of yours is finally, *finally* asleep. How much chocolate did you let her have today?"

Mogh Ian Rozhenko-Troi favoured his mother with a guilty smile. "Probably too much. Did you want me to factor in what Father and Kyrri gave her, or just what she got from you and me?"

"Don't even try to count that high," Deanna said, securing her hair in its clip. "How do I look?"

Mogh made a great show of examining his mother, walking around her in a slow circle. "Beautiful," he pronounced at last. "And far too young to be a grandmother. Kyrri says there's still some mocha mousse left, and that you have first claim on it."

"I'd better not," Deanna refused, pulling her flowing aqua robe tight against her body. "If I eat anything else, I'll be the size of a small moon."

Taking his mother's arm in his own, Mogh began walking in the direction of the family's sitting room. "Nonsense," he pronounced. "You're beautiful just as you are. Besides, if anyone else gets that mousse, you'll be after them with Father's bat'leth before they could even pick up a spoon."

At that, Deanna found it impossible to resist. "Then walk faster. I think I saw your sister hovering near the table when I brought Muanna to bed." It never failed to amaze Deanna, even after all these years, that the young man at her side, the one she and Worf had named for his Klingon father, had turned out to be the most Betazoid of all her children. Only the classical lines of his forehead ridges would tell a casual observer that Mogh bore Klingon blood. That, and the quiet resolve of his stubbornness.

Like the house where they had all gathered to celebrate Muanna's sixth birthday, on the shores of Lake Cataria, Mogh was the very picture of Betazoid prosperity. His lean, yet muscled frame wore the flowing robes with unmatched elegance, the deep ocean blue of the fine silk setting off his dark, neatly trimmed hair and flashing onyx eyes. His measured, graceful movements reminded Deanna of the long, torturous hours spent with tutors who had tried to teach her how to properly comport herself, then given up in exasperation. In Mogh, it came naturally.

Natural to him as well was his sensitive manner of dealing with others, a calmness that had always, ironically, been the one thing that could irritate his father. With his grandmother, Lwaxana, it had been a mystery she still had no luck in uncovering. He did not wish it to be uncovered, and so it would not be. Even Deanna found her son's manner puzzling at times, but as she had learned in all her years of raising children, that was because he was a unique individual who had never existed before. No wonder he had been such a surprise to her.

"Did she want you to tell her the entire story of your and Father's courtship again?"

"She did," Deanna admitted, pausing for a moment to admire a piece of artwork on the wall. It seemed like centuries ago that she had sat in Ten-Forward and received the etching from a certain eager young lieutenant, knowing even then that she would one day be here, where her heart would lead. "She says she wants to write an opera about us."

Mogh nodded. "She will. She is like Grandmother Lwaxana in that regard. Kyrri says I don't dare leave the two of them alone. She says they'll give each other ideas." Reaching the sitting room, Mogh parted the curtains and stepped back to allow his mother to precede him. "Valerian root tea?"

"Please," Deanna accepted, lowering herself into a lush, cream-coloured loveseat, and propping her feet up on a matching ottoman. "Where is your father?"

"I think he's with Sergey, at mok'bara. They asked me to join them, but it's late, and after the party, I'd rather conserve energy. You'd be surprised at how difficult it was to keep the mousse away from Grandmother Lwaxana," he teased, presenting Deanna with a delicately curved bowl filled to the rim with a delicious-smelling mousse.

Deanna took her first bite of the mousse and closed her eyes with pleasure. "Perfect. Have I ever told you how proud I am that you married such a wonderful cook?"

"Several times," Mogh admitted, setting the teacup down on the low table next to the loveseat. "She had Uncle William monopolized all morning, but I think the results were worth it. There's hardly anything left. Then again, there are a lot of stomachs to fill. Alexander and Thia, Lianne, Sergey.... Did you know Kyrri's mother went to the temple to give a thank offering right after dinner?"

"That Muanna is beautiful and healthy and six years old today? That is the reason *I* went."

Mogh surveyed the remains of the family's feast, finally selecting a half-emptied bottle of prune juice and a the last slice of rokeg blood pie before sitting down opposite Deanna. "No, for the great miracle that she actually got something to eat, with all the people we had here."

Deanna cackled. "Ha! Navera could fast for a month and never starve. She just missed being the center of attention."

"That, and the human relatives, no doubt." Mogh shrugged. As mothers-in-law went, Navera wasn't so bad. "I feel sorry for her valet, though. She had Mr. Deg carrying one of the largest baskets I've ever seen. Remind me to count the silver before I turn in."

Mother and son laughed heartily at that, Deanna reaching her fork out to sample some of Mogh's pie. "Your father is with Sergey, at mok'bara, you said? Does this mean we have to knit any bones tonight?"

"I don't think so. Sergey promised to take things easy."

"It's Sergey I'm worried about," Deanna protested, jumping to her husband's defense. As much as Mogh had taken naturally to Betazoid ways, Sergey, the youngest brother, had gravitated to his Klingon side. "He's not as strong as your father, and he doesn't have as much experience."

Mogh dismissed Deanna's concern with a wave of his hand. "They're fine, Mother. They're both happy. I can feel it from here. Besides, how is Sergey going to learn to temper his overconfidence without proper practice? They both live for these times, and you know it."

"That's one problem with having an empath for a son," Deanna complained, sipping at her tea. "It's too hard to argue with you, and impossible to nag."

"Nag Lianne. Come on, there's enough material. She's too hotheaded, she pesters the Council, she's not married." Mogh's straight white teeth flashed against his dark olive skin. "Really, I know a wonderful man at the university who would love to meet her."

Deanna swallowed her tea before forcefully insisting, "No meddling. Please, no meddling. You aren't saying you want to assume her seat."

"But she doesn't even have an *imzadi*," Mogh insisted, leaning in close and dropping his voice so low that even he could barely hear it. "What does it look like when a woman's younger brother has children before she does? Grandmother Lwaxana says..."

"Grandmother Lwaxana says far too much on the subject," Deanna said, cutting him off. "And I will thank you to remember that we are not living in the old days. An imzadi is not necessarily the person one marries. Your father and I certainly taught you that, as did your Uncle William."

Mogh shook his head, a tired hand kneading at his temple. "Mother, Kyrri and I have been imzadi since we were sixteen years old, and look how happy we are. We have each other, we have Muanna, and the baby coming..."

Deanna coughed on a spoonful of mousse that she hadn't quite swallowed. "Baby? You're having another baby? How wonderful!" Springing from her seat, she ensnared her son in a Klingon-strong embrace. "Why didn't you wait for Kyrri to be here when you told me? Why didn't you wait for your father? For that matter, we've had the whole family here all day, and not a word. For a Son of the Fifth House, you should know better." It was odd to hear Lwaxana's scolding coming out of her own mouth, but Deanna had learned that being a grand- mother was a special heaven all its own. Ever since Alexander and Thia had presented her and Worf with little Amanda, she'd forgiven her mother every nagging harangue. Someday, she'd get around to telling her that.

Mogh shrugged as soon as his shoulders were freed. "There wasn't time. It was Muanna's day, Mother. We didn't want to take away from that. She already feels like she's being neglected."

"Ah, sibling rivalry. Did I ever tell you about the time you tried to float Sergey down Janaran Falls? You were furious that we had him! I remember your father refusing to talk to you for days."

"Except to give me a blistering tongue-lashing in Klingon," Mogh clarified. "I don't think I'll forget that, but I still don't know what he said. It convinced me to let you keep Sergey, though. I believe," he recalled, rolling his eyes back dramatically, "That the alternative was sending me to a Cardassian military school. Father was quite firm that they *did* have a kindergarten."

Deanna wiped tears of laughter from her eyes. "I remember that. You're lucky that Alexander was nearly an adult by the time you were born, and Lianne was too young to notice that we'd snuck another baby in."

Mogh inclined his head in agreement, and raised a crystal glass of prune juice in his mother's direction. "A wise move. To her, I was always there. Kyrri says we should have followed your example."

"And established your own house?"

Mogh took a thoughtful sip of his juice, his dark eyes meeting Deanna's. "No, thank you. The House of Worf and Troi will stand as it is. Lianne handles it well enough. I think it's the place where she's most stable. Still, I'd feel better if she were married."

Deanna sat back against the cushions and just looked at her son. It was always strange to hear her mother's words coming out of his mouth. Stranger still was the fact that a person who had come from the great passion that had bound her and Worf together could be as settled as Mogh was. Mogh's world was complete on Betazed, with home and family. His wife, Kyrri, a Daughter of the Sixth House, and their darling Muanna, with the baby to come were all he needed. It helped salve Worf's concerns that Mogh had chosen a career at least similar to that of his father.

"Will you be working tomorrow?" she asked.

He thought for a moment. "If Nevara stays another day. She's just waiting to provoke me into a Klingon rage, and prove herself right, that I'm not worthy of Kyrri. That won't happen."

Deanna allowed a tiny smile to grace her lips. She could tell by the way Mogh ducked his head and hastily poured another glass of prune juice that he was hoping she didn't notice that Kyrri was the only one who had seen his Klingon side. Kyrri knew, and appreciated it as much as Deanna appreciated it in Worf. "You haven't talked much about work since I've been here."

"What's to say? It's work. What do you think an investigator does all day?"

Setting the emptied mousse bowl aside, Deanna pretended to scrutinise Mogh. "In your case, I think you look at everything with painstaking detail, and then play the big, barbaric Klingon until the suspects confess."

"Only the guilty ones," he admitted before joining in his mother's laughter. "What about you? Father didn't say anything about your plans. He was talking politics with Lianne all morning, avoiding Grandmother all afternoon, and now he's off with Sergey."

Deanna hid her yawn behind a beringed hand. "There's still some time left before we have to report back to Command. I was thinking maybe Risa."

Mogh choked on his prune juice, the delighted expression on his mother's face quickly changing his disbelief to match her mood. "For a second there, I almost believed you," he confessed, rising from his seat to survey the dark stain spreading across the white carpet. "I'm not waking Mr. Surno this late," he thought aloud, walking to the replicator he insisted be hid behind a piece of artwork. Moving the framed painting aside, he requested, "Stain remover." As soon as the small device appeared on the pad, he let the picture slide back into place.

"No, we're not going to Risa," Deanna soothed, taking the stain remover from him. "Let me do this. You didn't see Cocoa's latest present under the gongstand. Actually," she mused, bending to work on the stains, "I think we'll probably just go home and spend some time in the garden. There'll be enough to do when we're settled in at Command again."

Deanna's small sigh before the quiet, high-pitched hum of the stain remover began didn't escape Mogh. He placed a hand on her shoulder, his free hand reaching down to shut the device off. "Do you miss it, Mother?"

"Miss what?" With one look in her son's eyes, the mirror of her own, Deanna knew she couldn't hide anything from him. She had never been able to. "Sometimes. Those early days were wonderful ones."

"Muanna knows that," Mogh agreed, coming to sit on the now-spotless carpet beside her. "I think that's why she chose you and Father as the subject of her first opera. Thia says Muanna will be a great composer one day, just like her aunt." His paternal pride radiated through both of them, warmer than the contained fire pit that was the center of the room. "Some day, the stories told around this pit will be sung in the great Klingon opera halls. That should be some consolation."

Deanna shrugged. "What do I need to be consoled from? I have never been happier. I only wish," she added, her voice holding a soft note of regret, "that I had known how special the early days were. Then I would have made sure to remember everything, and I would not have been so foolish."

"And you would not have become the person you are now," Mogh cautioned. "I, for one, wouldn't trade the mother I have for this stranger who might have been. You would have been different, Father would have been different, and so would all of us. There might not even be a Muanna to celebrate, and this would have been just another day to work. Would you like that?"

Blinking the mist from her eyes, Deanna kissed the gentle ridge of her son's forehead. "You are wise, Mogh, Son of Worf."

"Son of Worf *and Deanna*," he corrected her, returning the kiss. "Don't ignore Lianne's efforts. It's been a long day, Mother. Get some sleep. We'll need to conserve our energy for Mr. Surno's feast in the morning. Leave all of this," he instructed, indicating the party leftovers with a sweep of his arm. "Allow our valet to earn his keep. Kyrri gets distracted when he sulks."

"We wouldn't want that," Deanna agreed. "Good night, then." She turned and started down the dimly lit corridor that led to the room she and Worf occupied. It hadn't been all that long ago, she thought, when the young man who owned this house had been no more than a fluttering in her womb, and his sister, the reknowned Klingon politician, a toddler clinging to her skirts. So much time had passed that it was easily lost track of, or at least it seemed that way.

Reaching the door, she hesitated, before placing her hand on the crystal touchplate. The doors slid open, framing Worf's form in front of the window. From the back, it was easy for Deanna to pretend she was walking into a room of decades ago. His long, dark hair, unbound, was only laced with silver, and his muscled body, nude from the waist up, was as firm as any of their sons' physiques.

She could tell by the stiff set of his shoulders that he was troubled. The reflecting garden's peace didn't reach him tonight. With a sad sigh, she slipped out of her shoes and padded up behind him. "What is it, *bID*?" She couldn't put a date to the first time the Klingon word, meaning half, had become a name they used for each other, but it fit. Deanna found it impossible to consider herself complete without Worf, nor he without her.

Worf turned slowly from the window. His body still glistened from his recent mok'bara practice, the tunic still clutched in his hand. "Did Sergey send you?"

Deanna shook her head, taking the tunic from Worf's hand and dropping the garment to the floor before she folded herself into his embrace. "No. I haven't seen him. I put Muanna to bed, and then Mogh and I talked for a while. Who won?"

"We were evenly matched," Worf answered after a quiet moment. He tightened his arms about Deanna, holding her close enough that she would become a part of him if his grip were any stronger.

"Then you're not angry about the mok'bara. What is it? You are upset about something. Even Muanna could tell."

Worf grumbled at that. "Your mother would not leave me alone. She believes that I do not know what is a proper present for my own granddaughter."

"Muanna adores Klingon opera," Deanna soothed. "She played it all evening. I think that's what Mother was upset about. I'm not concerned about her right now, though. I *am* concerned about you." Running her hands up the moist dark skin of Worf's chest, to rest on his tensed shoulders, Deanna pressed her point. "Is it because of the anniversary?"

"Yes."

That explained much. With the excitement of Muanna's birthday, it had been easy for Deanna to forget the other reason this particular day held such import. "I am sorry, *bID.* You didn't get much chance to be alone, did you?"

"It has been good to see everyone again," Worf hedged. "Admiral Riker is doing well."

"He is," Deanna agreed. "I don't think I've ever seen him happier."

Worf nodded. "He had to be the one to tell me of Alexander's achievement."

Deanna began to massage the muscles of Worf's neck. "You know Alexander is shy about his poetry with you. He knows you're proud of him, but he's still shy. It's just easier for him to go to Will and Sarah first."

Worf stilled Deanna's hands with his own. "I know."

"You feel alone," she ventured. "Come to bed, then." Reversing the position of their hands so that hers were on top, Deanna began walking slowly backwards, leading her husband. "You don't have to talk if you don't want to. We've never needed words."

Worf growled, a low, guttural sound. "Words. I had no words for Jadzia."

Deanna dropped her hands. "It wasn't your fault. People die in wars, *bID*. She chose to accompany you on that mission. She knew the risks."

"If I had told her to remain on the station, she would have done so."

"Maybe. You don't know what would have happened," Deanna told him, sitting on the bed by herself. She patted the empty space next to her, her eyes meeting Worf's. "A very wise man recently reminded me that we owe what we are now to what we have been."

Slowly, Worf crossed the short distance to their bed. "Mogh?"

"Mogh."

"I have fathered a poet and a philosopher," Worf said, reaching for the clasp that held Deanna's hair away from a face that had grown only more beautiful through the decades. Finding the small latch that held the ornament closed, he flicked it with his finger, relishing the sound the metal made as it hit the floor.

Deanna smiled at him in the darkness, tracing the strong lines of Worf's ridge with one of her fingernails, eliciting a growl of pleasure from him. "And a member of the High Council, and a warrior. How many men have a House of their own, hmm?" Her lips followed her finger's path.

"Few," Worf allowed, sliding Deanna's long embroidered vest free of her shoulders. "But fewer of their sons have reflection gardens. All this...thought. It is different from the Klingon way."

"And you are just noticing it now?" Deanna joked. She shrugged free of the long vest, and turned around, giving Worf access to the dozens of delicate buttons that ran the length of her spine, closing the rich fabric of her traditional Betazoid gown.

Worf's fingers had become no more nimble over the years where these buttons were concerned. "I understand why you have valets," he grumbled. One of the buttons at the very top of the collar broke away under his touch, and skittered down Deanna's back, rolling onto the floor and under the bed.

With the sound of the button as it rolled, Deanna was reminded of the reason for Worf's melancholy. "It was Reldek's present that upset you."

The Klingon's fingers stilled. Reldek Dax was not a frequent visitor to any of Worf's family, but special occasions, like a grandchild's birthday generally warranted at least a holo-transmission. "I did not expect him to come."

Deanna turned about to face Worf. "You wish he hadn't."

"I do not understand Trill," Worf said, his voice flat. "Reldek Dax is a good man, but I do not invite him to our family's celebrations. At one time, Jadzia and I were friends. She is gone."

In the faint moonlight that crept into the room, Deanna could see Worf's pain clearly etched in his strong, handsome features. "You feel there is a part of Reldek that is still Jadzia."

"How can there not be?" Worf ground out his question from between clenched teeth. "I did not understand it then, and I do not understand it now. That he can remember when Jadzia and I were..."

Deanna didn't need any more words from Worf, and didn't want to hear them anyway. "I know, *bID*. Some things are difficult to say to anybody."

"I did not tell Jadzia that I was not in love with her. If I had been truthful, she would not have insisted on following me. She died because I was..." Worf broke off, swallowing hard so that the word he wanted, needed to say, could get past the rock in his throat. "Because I was cowardly."

"Never!" Deanna's voice was a fierce whisper. "You are no coward, Worf, and you never were. You couldn't be one."

He hung his head, looking for that one moment like the old man he felt during these quiet times. "I learned to separate Dax and Jadzia too late, and for that she lost her life."

"As Starfleet officers sometimes do," Deanna reminded him, a tender hand raising his chin so that their eyes met. "That wasn't your fault. I think the next time you get this way, I will fetch Muanna."

Worf's eyes bored into hers. "Why?"

"Because she will remember all the details, like how you preserved the symbiont so that Dax could live on in a new host."

"One I cannot face."

Deanna silenced her husband with a deep, healing kiss. "Because it is not yet time. What it is time for, *bID*, is you and me and the night. Muanna said this was a time for only happiness. Let happiness chase the shadows away."

Worf hesitated between the impulses that tore him. Part of him wanted to return to the window to brood over things in the past that he could not change. Another part of him knew it wasn't possible. The past was history, and the future was yet to be conquered. As for the present... as for the present, there was moonlight shining on the delicate details of Deanna's face, her acceptance covering his pain. "I will talk to Reldek in the morning," he decided, covering Deanna's body with his own. "Wise mother of my wise children..."

 
Finis

 

 
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