Author: Anna C. Bowling
Email: Unzadi AT aol.com
Summary: When Deanna receives word of Worf's pending wedding to Jadzia Dax, Riker gives her a little friendly advice.
Author's Note: This one is for Micki, with lots of love and appreciation for the ego boosts. Also for Elise, as her "Invitation" inspired this twist on things. Paramount may own Star Trek, but it doesn't own any of us!
Disclaimers: Everything Star Trek, including Worf and Deanna Troi, belong to Paramount Pictures. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Deanna looked up from her untouched double fudge sundae. "What?"
Will Riker took the chair opposite Deanna and turned it around. "I said," he repeated slowly, straddling the chair, "that you should go."
She made a halfhearted stab at a melting iceberg of dark chocolate ice cream with the tip of her spoon. "I'm not done," she insisted, watching as a fat chocolate chip slid its way down into the puddle of fudge at the bottom of the oversized dish. It wouldn't take much, she noticed, to push it over the edge.
"I didn't mean go as in leave the mess hall," Riker restated, his voice low enough that only Deanna could hear. There were a few others scattered about the Enterprise E's mess hall, but none of them needed to hear what he had to say. "I meant this." One long, lean finger tapped against the screen of the turned-off padd Deanna had pushed to the other side of the table. "Pretending the message isn't there won't make it go away."
*Throwing it into a recycler will,* she thought cynically, shoving her spoon into the bottom scoop. She ignored the long string of fudge that followed the spoon up to her lips. She took her time eating it, allowing the ice cream to dissolve on her tongue. After what seemed like at least an hour of Will Riker staring at her, she swallowed and wiped at her lips with the cloth napkin she'd been clutching. "You're wasting your time," she insisted, pretending to take great interest in covering a cherry with chocolate marshmallow sauce. "I'm not going. Why would I go?" She punctuated her question with an affected shrug.
He didn't buy it. "Because you need to." He paused to take in a long breath, running a hand over his beard to stall for time. This had been a lot easier when he'd rehearsed it in the lift on his way there. "You need to be there."
"Excuse me?" Deanna sputtered around a mouth full of the dessert she couldn't taste. "Did I just hear you say you think I need to be at Worf's wedding?"
Riker squared his shoulders. "Yes. You did."
Deanna blinked at him, focusing her empathic senses on the man she once thought she'd known better than anyone. Time had told her how far off that had been, and current circumstances taken into account, she wasn't doing much better now. She'd thought she had known Worf that way, too. Apparently, as the padd had told her, she didn't. "Why do you say that?"
"Because I've been in this kind of situation before," he admitted, a clouded shadow passing over his features. "Trust me. You need to go."
"I see," Deanna began, tossing the napkin down on the table between them. "I should use up valuable leave time that I had planned to spend..." Where *had* she been planning to spend it? It didn't matter "Doing something else," she filled in the blank, knowing it sounded as lame to Will as it did to her, "so that I can go all the way to Deep Space Nine and watch Worf marry somebody else? I don't think so." She followed her comment with a very Lwaxana-like snort.
Seeing the way Deanna crossed her arms in front of her, Will was reminded of another beautiful and stubborn woman who liked to throw blocks in his way. That woman was the biggest reason he'd stayed up half the night rehearsing what he had to say now. "You could talk to him."
Deanna's answer was a sharp bark of contemptuous laughter. "We've said everything there is to say. Worf hasn't said a word to me since he left. I asked him for a little time, and he said he'd honour that request." She dipped her spoon into the dish, scooping up the cherry and biting down on it before she continued. "Do you know how he honoured it? By not waiting for his shuttle to dock before he started rolling around the station with another woman. That doesn't sound very honourable to me."
"No," Will agreed, "it doesn't. This isn't like Worf. You know that just about as well as I do, and I can't believe you're letting things go this easily." He paused, taking up the napkin and smoothing it through his fingers. "Deanna, friend to friend, you're going to regret it for the rest of your life if you don't go to this wedding."
Deanna scowled, and sent a short breath upwards to ruffle her bangs. "For closure? To accept things as they are and go on with my life? I've thought about that." *And I don't like it.*
Riker dropped the napkin and leaned in towards Deanna, his slate blue eyes dead serious. "No. Because you won't be able to live with yourself otherwise. You'll wonder what it would have been like if you'd done what you wanted to do in the first place and said something. You'll play it over and over in your head until you think you're going to lose your mind. Accept things as they are," he gestured to the padd, "and you'll never close anything."
"Sarah," he affirmed, a dry sadness creeping into his throat. "I could have gone. I should have gone. I would have gone, if it weren't for the stupid pride that seemed more important at the time."
Despite the first-class sulk she'd worked herself into, Deanna couldn't help smiling. "What's with all the rhyming? Don't tell me you're taking up poetry again. You'd starve as a poet."
Riker's face creased with a smile of his own as Deanna brought up the memory of an afternoon that seemed eons in the past. "Don't worry about that. It's not going to happen."
"But it does give you the credentials to play counsellor in this case, doesn't it?"
Riker nodded. "Unfortunately. Deanna, I think I'm safe in saying I know Worf better than most." He waited for Deanna's eyes to register her agreement. "I know he loves you."
"Funny way of showing it," she protested, stabbing again at her dessert, mushing the back of the spoon into a mound of marshmallow topping. It splattered over the side of the bowl, a sizable white glob landing on the back of Riker's hand. "Is that how love works? Everything is just fine for the longest time, and then all of a sudden, they're not there anymore? No goodbyes, no reasons, no explanations. Just gone. Just..." She aimed a chocolate chip at the padd, hitting her target square in the middle of the screen. "Just this."
Reaching across the tabletop, Riker put his hand on top of Deanna's. "I know. Feels like hell, doesn't it?"
"Just about," she confessed, taking comfort in the familiar touch. "I know there are more important things to think about, but I can't get my mind on anything else." She shrugged. "With all the counselling I'm *doing* lately, I think I *need* some. I'm going to recommend that Starfleet Command provide every ship with a counsellor just to counsel the counsellor."
"They did," Riker told her, giving her hand a light squeeze before releasing it. "Me."
She managed a weak smile. "You? Since when are you qualified to dispense counselling? Did you sneak off and get certified when I wasn't looking?"
"Only if you count having made all the wrong choices and not wanting to see a friend do the same thing."
"All right," Deanna allowed, something in his words catching at her. "If it were you in my situation, what would you do?"
He didn't wait even a second before answering. "I'd go. I'd be there, front row center in full dress uniform" He paused to register the shock in Deanna's onyx eyes. She was about to say something, he could tell, that would push her right over the edge of hopelessness. "And I'd be the first one to speak up when the officiant asks if there's a reason the couple shouldn't be married."
Deanna just sat there in stunned silence. What Riker had just suggested had never occurred to her, but it was, ironically, very Klingon in its philosophy. If there's an objection, voice it. "That's what Worf would do."
Riker inclined his head. "Worf is a very intelligent man, usually. He's just having a momentary lapse. Could happen to anybody."
"I have no argument with that," Deanna agreed, allowing a silent second to pass between them. "You know Jadzia Dax," she said hesitantly, the tip of her spoon tracing her name in the slushy ice cream. "What is she like?"
He let out a long breath and shrugged. "I don't know that I can answer that. I met her once, at Quark's It's not like we had a thing going."
"Tell me anyway." If there was any real love between them, she thought, she could at least respect that. It would carve an even greater rip into what used to be her heart, but facts were facts.
"Want some coffee? I'll get coffee." Before Deanna could say anything, Riker had hauled his frame out of the chair and was striding over to the replicator on the far wall.
Had they still been on the Enterprise D, he would have had to do was to flag down a passing waiter. Had they still been on the D, there would have been a staff to take care of them in a comfortable lounge instead of a utilitarian mess hall with replicators. Then again, Deanna considered, shifting in her seat, if they were on the D, they wouldn't be having this conversation. Worf would still be here, and the two of them would be the ones planning the wedding.
Wouldn't they? She wondered. She could only recall one time they had discussed marriage, in a roundabout way. Most of the conversation was lost to her at present; exhaustion and emotional self-flagellation could do that to a person. Still, she distinctly remembered using the words "maybe," and "someday." Neither were in keeping with Klingon directness.
Watching as Riker made his way back to their table, she flashed back to a time so long ago that it surely had to have happened to another person. Other *people,* she corrected herself. Nobody either of them knew now, of course. It had been "maybe" and "someday" then, too. She sighed heavily, drawing the spoon listlessly across the last of the whipped cream, swirling it into the fudgy goo. There seemed to be a pattern to her romantic relationships.
As Riker placed a steaming mug on the table in front of Deanna, their eyes met. "You were going to tell me about Jadzia Dax," she pressed.
"Dax." He breathed the other woman's name, wishing at the moment, that he was the empathic one so he could know exactly what Deanna needed to know. "I played Dabo with her one night at Quark's," he began, slowly. "I was having a run of bad luck, so she staked me until I could get back what I'd lost."
"You're hiding something."
Riker took a long drink, feeling the hot liquid burning his throat. "Not hiding, just rather not mention it." He smoothed a hand over his beard, knowing Deanna wouldn't let him get away without the details. "She made some advances," he confessed, "but I wasn't interested. I went my way and she went hers." She'd been persistent, he remembered, but Deanna didn't need to hear that. "After a few very diplomatic but firm refusals."
Deanna nodded. "She's got good taste in men."
"I'm hard to resist."
"I managed," Deanna put in, a hint of her usual cheer breaking into her still-shadowed voice.
Riker raised his mug in a toast. "For which I am forever grateful."
"We make much better friends," she said, flavouring her coffee with a generous dollop of melted ice cream. "I don't think we ever talked like this when we were together."
"That's because we hardly ever talked." They both laughed at that before the mood grew suddenly serious. "Have you decided if you're going yet?"
Deanna shook her head, feeling the lump rise to her throat again. No matter how much thinking she did, she couldn't come up with a set answer. Will had been right when he'd said that she would play all the possibilities over and over in her mind. She was already doing that.
What had it been that had sent Worf away from the Enterprise, away from her, and into the arms of another woman? Was something in Deanna Troi lacking that after years of slowly growing closer and closer, she just wasn't enough? Or was it that this Jadzia Dax was so exquisitely spectacular in every way that Worf, having barely met her, was instantly smitten? Whichever it was, it still left her staring at nothing.
"Hey." Riker reached across the table to tap the back of Deanna's fingers as they gripped the mug. "Stop beating on yourself. You're a wonderful person."
Doing as she was told, Deanna forced herself to put on a less dismal expression. "Why can't all my former lovers be like you?"
"Then they'd all be married to somebody else," he returned, ducking away from the playful slap that he knew would follow.
Anticipating his movement, Deanna leaned in closer so that she was able to at least rap his knuckles with her spoon. "They all are."
"Not Worf," he reminded her, taking the napkin to wipe the traces of fudge from his hand. "Not yet."
Not yet. The words echoed in Deanna's ears, the meaning heavy. Not yet. There was still something she could do. A Klingon woman, of course, would do exactly as Will had suggested, and walk boldly into the middle of the dreaded proceedings. A Klingon woman would state exactly why the union shouldn't take place.
Then again, a Klingon woman would also insist that she be joined to the groom right then and there. A Klingon woman...or a *Klingon's* woman. Moving as though in slow-motion, Deanna set aside both dessert and coffee, putting the spoon back in the dish with a decisive clink. She reached out a slender hand for the padd. "Are you going?" she asked Riker, her old spirit coming back into her voice, along with a measure of purpose she hadn't felt for a long time. Not since she'd watched Worf board a transport ship.
"Good," she pronounced, her fingers tapping a short message into the padd. "Bring a holo-recorder, because you're not going to want to miss this. I"ve got some packing to do."
To Be Continued...
in 'The Guest'