Title: The Guest
Author: Anna C. Bowling
Email: Unzadi AT aol.com
Summary: DS9 hosts the wedding from hell
Author's Note: This is for Liz Ann and E, true Klingon('s) women both. Sorry for the delay. Paramount may own Star Trek, but it owns neither my mind nor yours, so imaginations full steam ahead. This story is the sequel to "Friendly Advice," so it would make a heck of a lot more sense to read that one first. Riker relatives unfamiliar to the casual reader were first introduced in First Light en Masse fanzine, in the Tapestry Saga by myself and E. Catherine Tobler. Watch out for rogue cameos as you go. Qapla!
Disclaimers: Everything Star Trek, including Worf and Deanna Troi, belong to Paramount Pictures. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.

 

There weren't many people gathered in the holosuite. It was small, for one thing, and for the other, not many had responded to the hastily issued invitations. Neither of the principal participants had family present, a point which was not lost on anyone who had come. Even with the seats Quark had sold for the altruistic purpose, he insisted, of plumping the ranks of guests, the suite looked underpopulated. Although there were several different races of sentient beings, as well as a few pets present, it was noticed by all that there was one, and only one Trill.

She stood near the front of the room, pacing, the wide, too- cheerful smile on her face masking the unease she felt inside. Occasionally, she would spare a glance for the door to the holosuite, or maybe into the mist that cloaked the corners of the room. In an undisguised gesture of nervousness, she smoothed down the skirt of her dress uniform. There were too many things to factor into this day without having to wear a new style of dress uniform for the first time. At the third such adjustment in the span of five minutes, a dignified dark- skinned man placed his hand on her shoulder. "Cold feet, Old Man?"

Jadzia blinked. "Trills always have cold feet," she blurted out. "It's perfectly normal."

Sisko threw back his smooth-shaven head and laughed. "I was referring to bridal nerves."

Nodding, Jadzia smoothed her uniform again. "I know that. I've had several weddings, Benjamin. This isn't anything new." Even as she said it, Jadzia knew she was lying.

"First Klingon is always the hardest," Sisko observed wryly, stroking his freshly-trimmed goatee. "Not to mention the fact that this is the first wedding of my officers I'll be performing. Being bridegroom was nerve-wracking enough for me."

Dusting an imaginary speck of dust from her left shoulder, Jadzia nodded again. "I know. When Tobin got married..."

"Excuse me for interrupting, but Tobin got married? You never told me that."

Jadzia smiled, prompted by Dax's memory of the old host. "Her name was Liesel. A human woman. They were very happy, but she ended up doing most of the talking for him, which was just fine by both of them. They were very happy."

"You just said that," Sisko reminded her, with a gentle touch on her arm. "Your uniform is fine. You look wonderful. You look beautiful," he added, dark-chocolate eyes sweeping over her. "I only wish you looked a little happier."

Jadzia looked around the holosuite, evading Sisko's gaze. "I am happy," she insisted. "Don't tell me you were perfectly calm before you married Jennifer, because I know for a fact you weren't."

Sisko shook his head. "No, I wasn't. As I recall, I was a nervous wreck, and my father had to tell me that I had my dress tunic on backwards."

"It was your communicator, and it was upside down. I don't see the O'Briens."

"They couldn't come."

Jadzia's red-lipped mouth drooped into a frown. "You mean they wouldn't come. I understand," she sighed, "but I wish they'd reconsider. Miles and Keiko are friends. They should be here. Is Julian coming?"

Sisko pointed a tapered finger. "Right over there. Next to the new Dabo girl. I don't think I caught her name yet."

"Zilann," Jadzia supplied. "I'll bet you're feeling grateful that Julian saw her first, and not Jake."

Rich, deep laughter bubbled from Sisko's throat. "I am feeling very grateful, but have you looked over by the door?"

Jadzia looke where Sisko indicated, and saw Jake, a young man now, no longer the child she'd always seen him as, his head close to that of a lovely young copper-haired Bajoran lady. "Could that be anything serious? They seem to be getting along well."

Sisko crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I don't know. That's between Jake and Ressa. She's a student of poetry at the University of Bajor."

"So it's a professional relationship?"

He had to consider that. "Maybe that's how it's starting. She likes Jake's stories. He likes her poems, and considering that they come from two completely different cultures, that's not too bad. She might come for Kwanzaa this year. Jake already asked if he can invite her."

"An invitation for Kwanzaa? It does sound serious. I hope she's good to him...oh, look! Rom and Leeta." She sighed. "They look happy. Guess marriage agrees with them."

Craning his neck to see the new arrivals, arm in newlywed arm, Sisko made a husky murmur of agreement. "There's nothing like being married to the right person."

Jadzia drew her brows together, causing the rows of spots on either side of her face to arch. "Are you implying that I'm marrying the wrong person? Benjamin, you know Worf and I have to get married. Klingon custom clearly states that a physical relationship requires..."

"Don't quote Klingon law to me, Old Man. I don't care about Klingon law. I care about Worf. More importantly, I care about you." He cast a quick glance at the half-dozen or so Klingons who sat stoically in the front row of seats. "There's still time to think about this."

***

Deanna knew that the sight of a Ferengi in a Starfleet Academy uniform was mildly unsettling to Will Riker, but that didn't change the fact that she was the one squeezing his hand for support. She knew also that the pressure from her grip was likely causing his wedding band to cut into his flesh. She desperately needed a friend though, so she kept her hand right where it was, knowing he would understand.

"Here we are, ma'am, sir," Cadet Nog informed the two officers as they reached the holosuite. "May I escort you to your seats?"

"That would be nice," Deanna answered, following the diminutive cadet. She wasn't quite sure what she should have been expecting; the Klingon Great Hall, the Baths of Trill, or something in between. What she saw struck her as merely odd. With the mist that swirled around the perimeter of the room, it was difficult to make out the details, but she couldn't shake the feeling that someone had decided to decorate the suite like the inside of a cave. They had only partially succeeded.

Riker leaned down to whisper in her ear, "These colours are horrible. It looks like they were planning to host a funeral here, but called it on account of fog."

She had to laugh at that. "You sound like Sarah. You wish she could be here," Deanna said softly, voicing his concern for him.

Riker nodded. " The Bonney wasn't close enough for her to come. Seems like that was a common excuse." Most of the seats, he noticed, were empty, particularly on the bride's side. Only a few people filled those chairs, station personnel by the looks of them, with a spattering of unfamiliar aliens, ticket chips clutched firmly in hands, paws, claws or tentacles to spice up the mix. Miles and Keiko O'Brien were conspicuous by their absence, which he had expected. He remembered that the slender, attractive Bajoran woman with the cropped auburn hair was Major Kira Nerys, the station's first officer. She was looking at him strangely, for some reason.

"Thomas." Deanna's voice cut into Riker's thoughts.

"What?" Riker turned back to Deanna.

"I think she might be thinking about Thomas," Deanna clarified, gently tugging Riker towards their seats. Nog had departed upon sighting another set of guests. Although Ferengi emotions were unreadable to her, Deanna could still tell, by his eager expression and parade-perfect carriage, that it was extremely important to the young man that he perform his ushering duties perfectly. "Are you going to try and visit him while you're here? We're not that far from Cardassia Prime."

Riker allowed Deanna to precede him down the row of seats. "I haven't decided. Might be awkward. Who knows; they might let the wrong one of us go," he said, trying to lighten the mood for both of them. "Then where would we all be? I'm not all that familiar with the rules for visiting Cardassian labour camps, and I don't want to become familiar with the rules for living in one." He made an exaggerated shudder. "Sarah is never going to believe me when I tell her somebody actually chose these colours."

Deanna looked around the small holosuite. Riker was right; the colours were horrible, all blacks and greys, combining with the grey mist to make the small holosuite seem even smaller. She wondered if Worf had chosen those, or if that were the impression Jadzia Dax had of his preferences. Had anybody bothered to ask Deanna, she would have been able to tell them of Worf's preference for dark reds and purples when it came to festive occasions. Nobody had asked her, though, hadn't asked her anything except for her presence.

She still didn't know why she had been invited to this wedding, except that the rest of the Enterprise senior staff had been asked. Surely, having her name on the list had been an oversight. It had wrenched at her when she had first seen the invitation, a pain like no weapon's injury could ever inflict knifing through her. Some of the pain, naturally, came from the fact that Worf had chosen to marry someone other than her. More of it, though, came from the realisation that he had not told her himself, privately, as she had thought he might. Did she, did their time together, the family they'd started to forge, mean that little to him? Did he hate her now?

The trained therapist in her had reasoned, after talking with Riker in the mess hall, that having her name on the guest list might indicate that Worf wasn't too sure about this marriage. He might have, subconsciously, asked her there so that she could stop it. That was exactly what she intended to do. If, that was, she didn't turn tail and run, which was starting to sound pretty good about now. The fact that six shaggy Klingon heads were turned in her direction didn't help matters. They looked at her, then looked at the Trill woman who stood at the front of the room with Captain Sisko. One of the Klingons snorted.

"Is that her?" Deanna asked Riker in a whisper. He nodded. She'd hoped for someone different. Fatter, maybe, or older, or not as pretty. Jadzia Dax was absolutely lovely. Why did her former lovers always have to find beautiful women after they were done with her? Not that she would have felt better if they married ugly women, but it was the principle of the thing. Although not many knew it, Deanna did have her moments of insecurity. This was one of them.

The Klingons' heads swivelled from Deanna to Jadzia and back again, a loud roar of raucous laughter filling the small space. She was sure she'd seen one of them make a questionable gesture, but couldn't tell in whose direction. Not, of course, that she wanted to find out. There was already more than enough to deal with as it was.

She hadn't expected the Klingons to be there. Their burst of laughter was the one bit of merriment Deanna could detect in these pre-wedding moments, if she didn't count the strong romantic and erotic feelings emanating from a giggly young Bajoran woman on the arm of an insanely grinning Ferengi male. Those weren't exactly for sharing.

Deanna's fingers slipped away from Riker's hand as the strains of a Klingon opera began to play. Akor and Melotha, she recognised. She had listened to it with Worf many times, all the way through, until she was able to hum it during her morning bath with only her soap for an audience. Occasionally, she would even dare to sing a stanza or two as she rinsed off the scented bubbles.

Worf had been trying to give Alexander an appreciation for Klingon opera, but hadn't been successful. Not with Alexander, anyway. The boy still preferred jazz, with a smattering of classical Terran music thrown in. Deanna had come to find the deep, resounding notes of the great Klingon operas strike a familiar chord in her. The operas, she had discovered, were one place where the intense Klingon emotions were given free reign. She worried her lower lip and gripped Riker's hand tighter. Her arms used to be another place where Klingon emotions knew no restraint. Whatever had happened to that?

Her heart pounded like a bass drum as a portion of the mist cleared, framing Worf. He looked to her, as he always did, strong and wild and beautiful, garbed in traditional Klingon attire. That puzzled her. Worf's preference, she had thought, would have been to wear his Starfleet uniform, as the officiant was a Starfleet captain. Maybe Jadzia had requested it, she thought, her eyes darting immediately to the young Trill woman's face.

Jadzia had broken into a smile when Worf had appeared, a wide smile of delight that stopped the pacing. She reached her hand out to beckon him, frowning when he headed for the second row of seats instead.

***

Worf strode directly to the seats of the only Enterprise crewmates who were in attendance. He had expected that few would be able to accept the invitation, due to the Enterprise's current mission. He had not issued an invitation to Deanna, not wishing to cause her any discomfort. Apparently, someone had revised his list of preferred guests. Seeing her, seated next to a man he had once counted as his closest friend, was too much to bear.

His fist, covered in metal mail, shot out, connecting with Riker's bearded jaw. "Ha'DIbaH! Animal! Defend yourself!" He yanked the stunned human to his feet, turning to the row of Klingons across the aisle. "Somebody give this...person a weapon." He spat on the ground in front of Riker, turning away from the man. "Deanna, step away from him," he added more gently, his eyes meeting hers. "I do not wish for you to be injured. My fight is with Commander Riker, not you."

In the blink of an eye, both Sisko and Jadzia were there, blocking the way of several Klingons who were all too ready to provide Riker with the requested weapon. The ensuing fight would be far more entertaining than the boring proceedings they had come to expect.

"What's going on here?" Sisko demanded, planting a strong arm on Worf's shoulder to pull him away. "Commander Riker, are you all right?"

Riker rubbed gingerly at the place where Worf's fist had made contact. The two of them had sparred together often during their days on the Enterprise, and Riker had taken many blows from Worf then. Those, however, had been far removed from the blow he had just received. There was nothing friendly in this one. He probed at a loosened tooth with his tongue, and nodded, looking at Worf in mute appeal. "I'd like to know what's going on myself."

"This man," Worf accused, jabbing a pointing finger at Riker, "has a wife, but he brings his lover here. He dishonours both women!"

A collective grumble of outrage came from the Klingons, who pressed closer.

Deanna, her hands on Riker's shoulders, shot a furious glance at Worf. "That's not true!"

"Which is not true?" one of burliest of the Klingons asked, taking a wicked-looking dak'tag knife from his clothing and tossing it at Riker's feet. "That you have no wife, or that you did not bring your lover here? Deny the falsehoods if you can!"

Riker tried to speak, but for some reason that probably had a lot to do with Worf, found it impossible. Instead, he kicked the knife away, shaking his head. That action, he decided as soon as he began to move, had been a mistake. The pain shooting through his jaw blocked out any reason he tried to focus on. There were no words to put to the questions he had. The shock was greater than the pain.

"Stop it!" Deanna rose to her feet as soon as Bashir reached Riker's side. Picking up the knife by the blade and thrusting it back into the tall Klingon's hand, she glared at Worf. "How dare you! Will didn't do anything to you, and he certainly didn't do anything dishonourable to me! Why don't you try asking some questions instead of assuming you know everything?" Full of fury and out of words, she pushed Worf square in the center of his chest. The impact was hard enough to make him take a step backward. "Apologise!"

"Ah, if nobody needs either one of us," Bashir ventured, his voice carefully calm, as if he knew that even the wrong tone of voice could ignite the tinderbox that the aborted wedding had turned into. "I'm escorting the commander to the Infirmary for treatment. Don't give me any new patients." Riker clapped Bashir on the shoulder as the younger man led him to the door.. There was a heavy silence to the room after the doors closed behind them.

Quark, elbowing his way through the small crowd, clapped his hands for attention. "Ladies, gentlemen, and...other beings. I'm afraid there's been a slight change in plans. The wedding ceremony will be postponed indefinitely, but seeing as how there was quite a spectacle, we will consider the transaction val..."

He didn't get to finish before Sisko's hand closed over his mouth, cutting off his speech. "Everybody out. Except," he qualified, "for Worf, Jadzia and..." He looked at Deanna.

"Counsellor Deanna Troi," she supplied, instinctively offering him a hand.

Sisko took her hand, releasing Quark. The Ferengi took off for the door, pulling Rom away from a shocked Leeta as he left. "Captain Benjamin Sisko. This is Commander Jadzia Dax, and I believe you know Commander Worf."

The Klingons, remaining where they were, gave a quiet growl of anticipation.

"Come on, you guys," Kira interjected, waving her hand in a circular motion towards the door. "When the captain says 'everybody out,' that includes you. Free blood wine at Quark's. All you can drink."

"Go ahead," Jadzia instructed with a sad smile. "As he'll likely inform me, it's all paid for anyway. Quark never gives refunds. I'll be along soon." She nodded at the Klingons, who muttered among themselves for a moment before taking her advice. They tromped out the door, speaking loudly in Klingon. Jadzia could make out Deanna's name in their conversation.

When the Klingons had finally filed out, the last guests to leave, Kira hesitated by the open doors. "Should I get out of here, or should I stay?" She looked pointedly at Jadzia.

"Stay." Jadzia's voice was soft and quiet.

Sisko, who had moved behind her, took her hand in a show of silent support. "Why don't we all take a seat and discuss this like rational adults? We can all do that, can't we?"

Deanna took five chairs, arranging them in a circle. For a fleeting second, she felt as though she were setting up the group session she would have been facilitating, had she remained on the Enterprise instead of coming to the station. "I'd like to think I can," she said, glaring at Worf.

"I will...restrain myself," he promised, pacing behind the chair instead of taking his seat like the rest of them. He had never thought this moment would happen, with both of the women he was connected to, in the same room, and both obviously upset with him.

That, though, was where the similarities ended. Deanna's dark eyes flickered with fiery anger, whereas Jadzia's only pooled with tears. Despite the Klingon betrothal necklace she wore, the tears only served to remind Worf of exactly how non-Klingon she truly was. Not once had she objected to what had happened, nor had she challenged the woman who had defended the man Worf struck down. A Klingon woman would have knocked Deanna to the ground the second she had touched the fallen Riker. Worf felt more than a flicker of anger rise up inside him at the thought of Jadzia harming Deanna. Were things to come to that, he would not allow one blow to be struck.

"Sit down, Mr Worf," Sisko ordered, pushing the chair out for emphasis. "We're here to talk, not to wear holes in the floor. He waited for Worf to lower his bulky frame into the straight- backed chair before continuing. "You realise we have a whole holosuite full of witnesses who saw you assault Commander Riker. I'll be leaving that investigation up to Mr Odo. Right now, I want to know what happened. What I saw," he paused, glancing at the turned-over chair Riker had occupied. "Was you come out and hit a man who had no argument with you."

Worf and Deanna merely glared at each other, Jadzia forgotten for the moment.

"You are aware that Commander Riker has a wife now?" Worf asked, his voice as pointed as the ceremonial dagger tucked inside his sash.

Deanna rolled her eyes. "Of course I know. I also know that you were about a minute away from having one yourself."

Worf knit his brows together and made a low grumble deep in his throat, not looking at either woman. "I did not take you as the sort to be a willing partner in adultery."

"I'm not," Deanna said, her eyes nearly boring holes in Worf's forehead. "Will is not my lover. We're good friends, as we've always been, but that is all."

"We had decided..." Worf started to speak, but reminded himself of a more important point. "How did you receive an invitation to this wedding? I did not send one."

Kira cleared her throat. "Good question."

Three pairs of eyes slid to Jadzia, who shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "I did. I thought you'd want all of your friends from the Enterprise here. At least, they should have been asked. I thought you'd like that," she restated, her voice dropping to a quiet, childlike tone.

"That's a reasonable assumption," Sisko allowed. "Is there a reason you didn't want Counsellor Troi to attend?" His eyes pinned Worf's.

"Counsellor Troi," Worf admitted, "and I were romantically involved on the Enterprise."

***

"Whenever Worf mentioned your name before," Bashir ventured, fiddling with the slender wand he was using to poke around in Riker's mouth, "he seemed to regard you as a friend."

Riker winced as Bashir hit a tender spot. "Deffa bhefooye kamir."

Bashir removed the wand, and made an adjustment. "I'm sorry, Commander. I didn't quite get that."

"I said," Riker clarified, poking at the no-longer loose tooth with his tongue. "That Worf and I were friends before he came here." Seeing Bashir's hand coming near him with that instrument of torture again, he grasped the doctor's wrist, guiding it down to the surface of the examination table. "Everything feels pretty firm. Why don't you just take your final readings? I'd like to see how Deanna is doing."

Setting the dental wand aside, Bashir picked up his tricorder. "You'll do," he pronounced, after a cursory reading. "But I'd recommend soft foods for a couple of days. Nothing Cardassian or Klingon."

"That," Riker assured him, "is not a problem. I've lost my taste for the stuff recently." Sliding off the table, he walked into the washroom, taking a small cloth and wetting it. Peering into the mirror, he wiped the blood from his mouth and beard. He noticed that Bashir was still standing behind him. "Tell me, Doctor," he ventured, "are you and Worf friends?"

Bashir considered. "We're not enemies. Actually, I'm closer to Jadzia. Commander Worf hasn't made his social life any sort of priority. He has quarters on the Defiant rather than the station, and spends his time either with Jadzia or alone. Aside from a few infrequent evenings in Quark's, I'm afraid we haven't really had the pleasure."

"Sounds about right," Riker mused, coming out of the washroom. "Has he ever mentioned Deanna?"

"Ah, no, he hasn't," Bashir supplied. "Should he have?"

Riker pretended to examine an assortment of test tubes on one of the Infirmary shelves. "Probably. They were close. Very close. Everything was fine until after the destruction of the D. Worf went one way, and Deanna went another. It upset her."

Bashir swallowed and drew himself up to his full height, which was considerably less than Riker's. "Pardon me for seeming rude, sir, but I do have to ask if Commander Worf was correct in his accusation."

"What accusation? All I remember is a huge Klingon fist rearranging my teeth."

"Is Deanna Troi your lover?"

Riker's eyes widened, and he shook his head. "No. She hasn't been for far longer than either of us care to admit to. About..." his voice trailed off as he tried to remember. He could see in his reflection that there was a noticeable threading of silver in his beard, right where he'd been stroking it. He took in a deep breath. "Fifteen years or so. Maybe more. We're friends. That's why I came with her. She wanted to...it's for Deanna to say why she came, but it wasn't anything to do with me. Far from it. I love my wife, and I wouldn't do anything to hurt her. Not after all the hell we had to go through to find each other."

Resting the base of his spine against the edge of the diagnostic bed, Bashir regarded Riker warily. "You'd best be telling the truth. You know I consider Sarah a friend."

"I know," Riker answered, forcing a grin. "I never lie to doctors. You have access to drugs. Sarah sends her best, by the way. She couldn't get leave."

"Too bad," Bashir said, answering Riker's grin with his own. "I would have loved to have had the both of you for tea. Maybe later?"

Riker nodded. "Later would be nice. I'll let her know. Right now, I'd like to find out what's going on with Worf. The whole wedding thing came as a surprise. How long has he been involved with Jadzia Dax?"

Bashir ran a hand through his hair, looking suddenly tired. "Maybe this is a story best told over a raktajino."

"I thought you said no Klingon food," Riker countered.

"Beverages don't count. On second thought, maybe something even stronger would be appropriate." He draped a companionable arm about Riker's shoulder. "Have you ever had something called stout?"

***

Quark looked miserably around the bar. It was packed, to be sure, full of wedding guests, tourists and the various station personnel who would have been there anyway. Had he been charging by the head, he might have turned a tidy profit. Instead, he could only watch as the ever-growing throng, attracted by the scandal of the wedding-that-wasn't, devoured the prepaid wedding feast. The fact that there had been no wedding didn't change the fact that his per-head monies were rapidly dwindling.

The actual blood wine was long gone, thanks to the six Klingons who had insisted that Kira had given them Carte Blanche. Whatever that was. All Quark knew was that he didn't like pain. If the groom at a Klingon wedding was allowed to punch the guests, he didn't want to take any chances on what the guests were allowed to do. Remembering his own brief marriage to Grilka, he supposed pain was an integral part of the Klingon proceedings. He just wished someone had warned him about the poverty part of it.

He had stopped counting heads long ago, about when the Klingons had begun staging their own impromptu opera, which seemed to require several bottles of Romulan ale, and the destruction of a piece of furniture on the average of every five minutes. There was still a fair amount of food left, but the gagh was dying, and the large wedding cake Captain Sisko had ordered from his father's restaurant on Earth was untouched.

Quark, himself, had been in favour of either serving the thing, or selling pieces of it. His sister-in-law, Leeta, though, had adamantly refused both options, insisting that it was for the bridal couple, and no others, to cut. It reminded her of the cake Sisko had provided for her own wedding to Rom, at a reception held after the Dominion threat was past. Either way, the confection was still hideously ugly, four tiers high, sparkling with white sugar and festooned with yellow icing roses. On top of the cake was something he was hard-pressed to identify, but which Jake had said his grandfather insisted upon. Some human marriage ritual, he was sure. What the purpose of the little people in front of the huge rings was remained a mystery. Were the guests supposed to wish the newlyweds much jewellry? Anyway, it didn't matter to him. The rings weren't real gold; he'd checked. All the stupid thing was doing at the moment was sitting there, dropping sugar all over his largest table, and beginning to melt from the heat of the fire pit the Klingons had constructed nearby.

Thanks to Major Kira's promise that they could help themselves to free blood wine, the Klingons had been steadily drinking their way through Quark's stock. Not stopping at the single beverage Kira had suggested, they had proceeded on to drain the punchbowl and use it to create their fire pit. Flames -- actual flames, for profit's sake -- sparked dangerously high, causing Quark to fear for whatever he had left.

At a table to the side, in a relatively safe corner, Jake Sisko and his date sat, padds in hands, both taking notes. If nothing else, Quark consoled himself, he could at least recoup some of his losses if he could get the writers to come up with a holosuite programme based on the day's chaotic events. Jake had, after all, been coming up with some of the more popular programmes for the past year, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Quark started off for Jake's table, ready to offer the young man a generous twenty percent of the profits from such a programme...after taxes, of course, when his attention was diverted by a resounding crash.

***

"You were what with her?" Jadzia's voice screeched as she jumped out of her chair.

Immediately, both Kira and Deanna had a hand on the Trill's shoulder, guiding her back down. "I understand you're upset," Deanna soothed, at the same time biting down on the inside of her lower lip and suppressing a strong urge to pummel Worf senseless. "Finding out that someone you trust has withheld important information can be very distressing."

Jadzia slapped Deanna's hand away. "Spare me the psycho- babble!"

"Psycho-babble?" Worf looked perplexed.

"It means this isn't a counselling session," Jadzia explained, her voice softening to take on a hurt-little-girl quality. "Why didn't you ever tell me about her?"

Sisko faked a cough. "I don't think that a counselling session would be such a bad idea, actually. Too bad we don't have a regular counsellor on staff for the station."

"I remember seeing a group of vedeks in the replimat this morning," Kira offered. "I'll go see if I can find one."

Sisko's teeth showed in brilliant white relief against the black of his goatee. "That's the best idea I've heard all day," he agreed as Kira rose and made her way to the door, weaving around overturned chairs and surprise puddles from the paying guests' pets. "That still," he clarified, fixing both Worf and Dax with a steely glare, "doesn't get you off the hook. Saying that what happened here upset the station's routine is a gross understatement."

There was a moment of tense silence after that. Deanna could feel Sisko's impatience as well as Jadzia's confusion. As for Worf, he was trying his best to remain calm and stoic, but Deanna knew the man well enough to know that there was a storm going on behind those bottomless brown eyes of his. By the slope of his shoulders, she could tell that he was ashamed of himself, mulling over what he could have done to avoid this situation. There had to be an honourable solution, she was sure, but at the moment it was escaping her. Nervously, she glanced at the chair Kira had vacated, and wondered how much longer it would be before the woman would return with one or more vedeks. This particular group session was going to need all the help it could get.

***

"By the Prophets!" Kira swore at the sight that greeted her eyes at Quark's. Not only were the Klingons hefting amazingly large bottles of drink, but they seemed to have converted the entire bar into a makeshift opera hall, complete with fire pit. Two of them were dragging Garak along the corridor toward the bar, the Cardassian tailor at the end of his protests.

"Costumes," he sighed as they passed Kira. "They need costumes."

Kira raked an impatient hand through her close-cropped hair, causing it to stand on end. For some reason, the Klingons thought this was hilarious, and commenced another round of table-smashing. Expecting Quark's vociferous protests, Kira wasn't at all surprised when she felt him tugging at the leg of her uniform.

She dropped into a crouch, and peered under one of the tables. Quark immediately darted out a hand to pull her to safety.

"Where is Odo?" he hissed, small eyes darting furtively around what remained of his once-fine establishment. "I've been trying to find him, ever since they," he indicated the Klingons, one of whom Garak was now fitting with what looked like a copy of Sisko's uniform, "cleared off a whole shelf of my best bottles to make room for the stage."

Tucking her feet in just as a large, round yellow fruit rolled by, Kira shook her head. "I haven't seen him all morning. I thought he was on security detail for the wedding."

"Obviously, he isn't doing a very good job," Quark objected, grabbing the fruit before it was completely out of his reach. "Get any food that comes our way," he instructed. "I have a feeling we're going to be here for a while."

Kira kept her eyes on the mayhem around them. "I'm looking for a vedek," she informed the Ferengi, who had begun to peel the fruit and slurp it noisily, without offering her any. "Any vedek. I'd even take Kai Winn if I could find her. Do you know Worf already had a girlfriend when he came here?"

Quark slurped his fruit and nodded.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

He discarded half the peel, shoving it outside the confines of their shelter. "Nobody asked. I would have been happy to share the information, for a small fee." His voice broke off as he noticed the latest act in the Klingons' opus of destruction. "Nooooooooooo! Not Uncle Rugi's pretzel cart! It's not paid for yet!" Thrusting the half-eaten and completely sticky fruit into Kira's hand, Quark rushed out from under the table just in time to see the cart , a flustered Leeta atop it, draped in an improvised Starfleet uniform and long black wig, being placed on top of the bar.

Surrounded by cheering Klingons and other aliens, the cart careened wildly along the bar, pretzels flying everywhere, Leeta hanging on for dear life. Rom ran alongside the bar, calling out encouragements to his wife, and batting ineffectively at the Klingons with a scrap of fabric that looked suspiciously like.... Quark felt for the tails of his new coat, only to find them missing.

"That does it!" Quark shrieked, his eyes going suddenly, unnaturally wide. Having reached the end of the bar, the Klingons had begun to turn the cart around for a return trip, and had discovered the soda compartment. With every shaken can they opened, spraying precious soda all over the bar and its occupants, not to mention Leeta, Quark could feel the bars of latinum slipping out of his own stores. Uncle Rugi was his best supplier of Earth beverages, but they didn't come cheap, not even for relatives. Just because the root beer hadn't sold, that didn't mean all Earth beverages would mean a loss. "Not the Diet Coke!"

Quark launched himself at the pretzel cart, dodging the cheese- cup missiles that seemed to be trained on him. Even if someone hadn't managed to separate him from his coattails, the cheese- food stains alone were going to render his jacket unwearable.

With Quark's added weight, the cart cleared the bar, becoming airborne until it landed with a great thump next to the punchbowl-turned-fire pit. Propelled by the impact, sparks from the fire flew onto the wedding cake, causing the stench of burning sugar to fill the Promenade. Quark heard Leeta's breath catch in horror as the miniature couple decorating the cake went up in flames which quickly engulfed the entire confection. The logical progression of disaster raced through Quark's mind. Flames...alcohol...

Emitting a sound nobody present knew Ferengis could make, Quark raced to the flaming cake, snatched it up and ran pell-mell for the railing. Hefting the burning dessert over his head, he tossed it over the railing, then turned to face the wildly applauding Klingons.

***

"You're drunk," Keiko accused the two men standing in the doorway of the O'Brien quarters.

"Naah," Riker contested, leaning heavily on the doorframe. "Are you drunk, Julie?"

Bashir shook his head, a broad grin dominating his face. "Not at all, but thank you for asking. That was highly considerate of you."

Keiko sighed heavily, the sound full of resignation. "MIles, your friends are here! No, Molly, stay in your room." She pressed Kirayoshi's face into her shoulder, wrinkling her own nose at the smell of the men, as well as her son's diaper.

"That," Bashir announced triumphantly, pointing at Kirayoshi, "is the baby."

Riker nodded his head in slow agreement. "That's a baby, all right. You're a goooood doctor, Julie."

"Sit down, both of you," Keiko commanded, shooing them towards the couch. "Miles! I said your friends are here! I think you really want to see them. Now."

"Bring the costumes," Bashir added, his lopsided grin growing even broader. "We're off to the holosuites!"

Keiko groaned and took Kirayoshi into Molly's room. She should have gone to the wedding, she told herself, requesting a fresh diaper and some talcum powder from the replicator. At least the wedding would have been quiet.

***

"Don't ask," Kira instruced Sisko as she re-entered the holosuite, a frosting-covered young woman next to her. "This is Vedek Ejenni. I, ah, encountered her on the Promenade and covninced her to help us out here." Kira paused to remove a yellow frosting rosette, singed to black around the edges, from Ejenni's shoulder. "The cake is gone," she explained, before launching into the introductions.

"Pity," Sisko lamented, rising to greet the vedek. "We may need some food if we're going to be here much longer. Thank you for coming, Vedek. I assume Major Kira filled you in on the situation."

Ejenni inclined her head gracefully, despite the odd batches of cake and frosting that still clung to her head covering. "It is a problem of a romantic nature, is it not?" She looked from Jadzia to Deanna, then to Worf.

"Somewhat," Deanna allowed. Vedek Ejenni, despite her youth, radiated a strong serenity that she found immediately calming. The scent of the cake, though, only made her hungry. She'd been too nervous to eat anything that morning, and was now paying the price. Her stomach grumbled in quiet protest. "I received an invitation to..."

"But I did not inv..." Worf cut in, being in turn cut off by Jadzia.

"I sent it, because I thought..."

Ejenni clapped her hands, calling them all to be quiet. "Now," she pronounced, brushing a scrap of singed tulle from her shoulder, and settling into a chair Kira held out for her, "I would like to hear what the Emmissary saw here." She turned calm bright eyes to Sisko. "Nobody speak until he has finished."

Sisko cleared his throat, trying to find his way back to what had happened before the wedding exploded into a fistfight and Klingon opera. "We were ready to begin the wedding," he began, gesturing to Jadzia and then to Worf. "I was talking with Jadzia, asking if she was having a change of heart at the last minute."

Despite Ejenni's command that there be no interruptions, Jadzia shook her head forcefully, causing her ponytail to whip back and forth behind her, slapping Worf and Sisko on the cheeks. Kira couldn't surpress a quiet snicker at the incongrously comical sight. Immediately contrite, she kept her eyes on the floor.

"Nog; he's a Starfleet cadet, and also Rom's son," he explained for Ejenni's benefit, "was seating the guests. Counsellor Troi came in along with Commander Riker -- I believe he is in the infirmary with Dr Bashir -- and sat down. When Worf came out, he walked right up to the commander and punched him in the jaw."

Vedek Ejenni inclined her head once towards the Emissary. "I see. Why?" she asked, looking pointedly at Worf.

Worf shifted in his seat. He did not like having so many questions asked of him, but this woman posed a logical one. "I believed that he had dishonoured Deanna."

"Did he?" Ejenni turned to Deanna.

Deanna brushed a stray wisp of hair away from her face. "No. He didn't. It's true that Will is married, but we're still friends. He came with me to the wedding because I needed support. A friend's support," she emphasised, her eyes finding and fixing Worf's with the intensity of her emotion.

"Why did you need this support, child?" Ejenni asked.

***

"Just where do you think you're going?" Quark challenged the three oddly-dressed men who had barged into what was left of his bar.

"Culloden," O'Brien supplied rather sheepishly, tucking his bagpipe under one arm. "But I think we're already there."

Bashir looked around, feeling as though he were in the eye of a hurricane. Leeta, long black wig askew, was perched on top of the bar, Rom patting her hand as she buried her head in his shoulder. Over his wife's head, the Ferengi was glaring at a group of half-dozen Klingons who were roasting some sort of meat over flames sprouting from the punchbowl. Interspersed with their mutterings of appreciation for the food were off-key snatches of music, which sounded oddly like "Deee-aaaaahhh- nuhhh," after which they would throw their heads back, laugh heartily, and shove the entire chunk of meat down their throats, and start the whole sequence all over again. "Any casualties?" he asked, taking a medical tricorder out from under his sporran, which sat slightly askew.

"Not yet," Quark said, waving away Bashir's offer. "Put that thing away. We don't want to make them nervous," he elaborated, wagging his head in the direction of the Klingons. He squinted at the tall, shaggily bearded man wrapped in a green-and-black plaid. "You are not playing Dabo in my establishment," he insisted, pointing a blue-nailed finger in Riker's direction. "I'd like to have at least some of my investments still intact at the end of the day, if that's all right with the universe." He rolled his eyes as the Klingons raised crushed cans over their head and began a chant Quark had quickly learned to dread.

"Hi-C! Hi-C!"

Quark lowered his head into his hands and shuddered. "Did they have to find the citrus cooler? It's too late for me," he warned the men, gesturing dramatically to the door of his best holosuite. "Save yourselves."

O'Brien looked from the Klingons to Quark, and then at the door. Food covered most of the flat surfaces, both horizontal and vertical, several unidentifiable items hanging from the railing overlooking the lower level. The bar itself was going to be a logistical nightmare when Quark asked him to fix it, which O'Brien knew the Ferengi would do in less than a minute. Making sure the bagpipe was secured under his arm, he planted one hand on Bashir's shoulder, the other on Riker's, and bulldozed his way through an advancing group of cake-covered Bajorans who looked anything but peaceful. The battle of Culloden had to be safer than this.

Just before the door closed behind them, Riker looked back at the mess that made Wolf 359 look like a little girls' tea party. The Klingons were finishing up the intermission in their opera, picking Leeta up by the waist and hoisting her up on their shoulders to parade her about the Promenade. Rom sighed deeply, shaking his head as he began his pursuit of his wife, but was pushed aside by an elderly Bajoran vedek with a gob of singed frosting decorated with specks of gold-coloured plastic matted into his earring. Quark gave a little shriek, and quicker than quick, dodged in between the closing holosuite doors.

"Interior lock!" Quark grabbed Bashir's fallen plaid bonnet and slapped it on his head, where it sat in lopsided splendour. "So, gentlemen," he asked, rubbing his hands together, "what sort of game are we playing here?"

***

"Excuse me for interrupting, but I'm looking for my husband." The petite blonde woman in the Starfleet uniform glided in, looking back over her shoulder as the door closed on the chaos of Quark's behind her. "I was told he was in one of these holosuites."

Jadzia stood, and placed her hands on her hips, letting out a huff of pique. "Well, you can just forget the wedding now, ridge-boy! I am not, and I repeat, not going to be anybody's number two wife. A secret girlfriend is one thing, but an actual wife?" She shook all over, turning an extremely unflattering shade of fuschia while a vein throbbed behind the spots at her right temple.

Worf, Deanna, Ejenni and Sisko rose to their feet as well, though in a far more controlled manner. Sisko placed a hand on Jadzia's shoulder and spun her about to face the woman. "It's good to see you again, Sarah. I'm not going to try to explain things, but the last time I saw Will, he and Dr Bashir were headed for the infirmary."

Sarah cocked her head, taking in the strange sight of four extremely nervous people and a serene, but cake-covered vedek gathered together in a room that had actually managed to make black and grey clash. "I know," she answered, her cultured British voice the calmest thing in the room. "They sent me to the O'Brien quarters, and Keiko sent me here. Can you believe how Molly's grown?"

Sisko shook his head, ignoring Dax's little noise of frustration. "No, I can't. Did you see the baby?"

"Lovely boy. That couldn't have been Jake in bar, could it? He was just a boy the last time I..."

Jadzia made a "time out" signal with her hands, then, when it didn't do any good, stepped between Sisko and Sarah, waving her arms. "Hello? Anybody remember me? The one who was going to be getting married before the whole universe went blooey?"

Sarah turned from Sisko and fixed intense violet eyes on the Trill woman with the Klingon betrothal necklace on backwards. "Ducks, isn't it? That's quite a coincidence actually, because my brother calls his..."

Worf gulped, beads of sweat beginning to drip down his ridge. "Danielle is here? Computer, security lock on..."

"Belay that order," Jadzia snapped. "Who's Danielle? Another wife?" She whirled again to face Sarah. "And the name is Dax, Blondie."

"That's Captain Blondie to you, Commander. Benno, I understand that your officer is upset over the current situation, whatever it is, but you might wish to have a word with her about respect for those of superior rank." Sarah took a deep breath and smoothed her uniform skirt. Danielle is Worf's ex-girlfriend, actually," she put in helpfully, "also Willie's sister, but I shouldn't worry about her. She's married to one of my brothers, and quite happily, I might add. She did send her regards."

Worf looked visibly relieved as he sank down into his chair, springing right back up again as he remembered that both women and superior officers were still standing. Most of the women were superior officers, at that. "Then she is not here?"

"No," Sarah assured him, peering over his shoulder at a flower arrangement that didn't look quite right. "She's not here, so you're safe on that account."

Deanna looked at Worf. "Have you been carrying on with her, too?"

"Who?"

"Danielle!" Deanna directed an exasperated breath up at her bangs. "You were seeing her right before we..."

Sisko cleared his throat. "Has anybody seen Major Kira? Please, please, please don't tell me she fell into the mirror universe again. I flat out refuse to deal with that today."

There was the sound of rushing water from a source he couldn't identify, and Kira stepped out of a rather wobbly-looking wall. Shaking water droplets from her fingers, she wiped her hands on the leg of her uniform. "Somebody tell Quark he's out of towels in the women's head. She blinked in surprise at the woman who hadn't been there a few minutes before. "Sarah?"

"Nerys, you're looking lovely. Have you heard from Tommy lately?"

Kira shook her head. "No, but you know the strangest thing? I think I just might be able to..."

Jadzia put two fingers between her lips and whistled. "Can we please just get things straight here before you all have the time of your lives at my ex-reception?" She cast hopeful eyes at Ejenni. "What do we do now?"

Ejenni smoothed a loose strand of Jadzia's hair back behind her ear. "It's always best to be direct, child. Ask your questions."

"Okay," Jadzia began, pointing to a far corner of the room. "Everbody who's never had a thing for Worf go stand over there."

Sarah, Ejenni and Sisko trooped over to the place Jadzia had indicated.

Kira raised her hand. "Does ogling count?"

Jadzia considered the question for a moment. "How serious ogling?"

"Not very. Bariel was right there."

"Okay, you're with them." She waited for Kira to join the others. "Now, everybody who has had a thing with Worf, next to me."

There was a laboured sigh from a pot of flowers on the altar before the outline blurred, turning into Odo. "Just so there's no confusion," he drawled, striding over to the non-Worf group.

***

"And dinna ye ivver coom back again, ye bloody sassenachs," the sword-slinging holofigure shouted, chasing Bashir, O'Brien and Riker out of the holosuite, Quark right behind them, clutching onto the plaid bonnet with white-knuckled fingers. "Ye'll be keeping yer bloody troll with ye, too, or t'won't go well at all fer the lot of ye!"

O'Brien glared at Bashir. "I told you to keep your mouth shut when he showed up," he hissed, wiping the sweat from his damp curls, using the remnants of his sporran. The sword-slinging Highlander had severed it from the rest of O'Brien's costume just before he'd shown the men the way out..

Bashir looked affronted. "Me? Who's the one who mentioned his wife holds a British title?" All eyes swung to Riker.

"I thought it would help," he insisted stubbornly, re-draping his plaid so that it covered the gaping tear down the front of his shirt. "I was trying to reason with him. Anyway, we were doing fine until somebody," he looked pointedly at Quark, "stopped hiding under the bridge."

"Well, what would you have done? The man did specifically say that he'd give a king's ransom for a decent drink. I just so happened to have a flask of exceptionally fine tulaberry wine on my person, and thought I'd help a fellow traveller in distress."

O'Brien snorted, throwing his sporran down on the table, where it landed on top of an extremely interestingly-shaped pretzel. He cast a quick look around the room to make sure Molly wasn't around. There were several years, maybe decades to go before she was old enough to see such a pretzel. "Did you ever stop to think that all he had to offer was holographic money?"

Quark drew himself up indignantly, slapping the plaid bonnet back on his head. "Well, we were in a holographic environment, weren't we? I should think that holographic currency would be the perfect coin of the realm."

"I don't suppose there's any tea left," Bashir mused aloud, watching with amusement as the Klingons succeeded in coaxing a scantily-clad dabo girl out from her hiding place in one of the cabinets. So, he thought, that's where Zilann got to... Crowing their victory, the Klingons immediately began sticking their thumbs in a dish of yamok sauce, which they had decided perfectly complimented the pretzels, and applying the sticky stuff in a series of thumbprints down along her temples. "Looks like they've found their Jadzia," he observed, hiding a smile behind his fist as he faked a cough.

Riker plucked a sprig of heather out of his beard, staring at the plant that shouldn't have still existed. "Explain this," he insisted, dangling the flower in front of Quark's nose.

"Ah, that would be because I was using that particular holosuite to double for an experimental hydroponics lab. For Mrs O'Brien's birthday," he elaborated, jerking his head back toward the door. "Besides, he won't let me uproot them."

"Why don't you just terminate the character?" Riker asked, rooting around for any stray plant life he might have brought with him. Some things were just impossible to explain to one's wife. Taking the old girlfriend to somebody's wedding was one thing, but fauna in the underwear was another thing altogether...

Quark looked to Bashir. "You tell him."

"Oh, no," the doctor countered, pointing an accusing finger at O'Brien. "It's your programme, and your wife who wanted the hydroponics lab."

O'Brien looked hopefully at the Klingons. If there was any chance they needed another player for their opera, he would gladly volunteer, no matter what the role, rather than confess this problem he couldn't solve. He had no such luck, as the Klingons seemed perfectly happy to coach their new Dax in her role, which seemed to involve a lot of crying and running around in circles, pulling at the roots of her hair. He sighed heavily, and raked a hand through his own hair, coming up with a king-sized thistle. "I've tried to delete him," he confessed, lobbing the thistle at Bashir, "but he just keeps coming back. No matter what programme I use, he's still there. Worse than the bloody Jem'Hadar," he grumbled.

"Or Borg," Riker cut in. "Remember the Borg, Chief? Now, there was a battle!"

O'Brien nodded. "That it was, sir, and we didn't have to worry about trolls popping out from under bridges, either." He glared at Quark. "Why'd you keep that suite open, anyway?"

"I had the other one reserved for the wedding," the Ferengi explained, letting out a little squeak as he instinctively lurched forward in defence of his last remaining store of oversalted nuts. "And we can't forget the honeymoon suite," he tossed back over his shoulder, grabbing the box of nuts from a salivating Klingon. As far as he could tell, he'd already been stripped bare of supplies by the Klingons, who still looked restless enough to be a problem. Even if it cost him a fortune, if they could remember they'd had a good time at Quark's, they just might come back when they were in a better, not to mention more generous mood. "Better call Moogie," he muttered, passing the pretzel cart on his way to the back room. He didn't want to know where they'd gotten the revolving platform, but he was pretty sure this meant he needed a new dabo wheel.

As the Klingons' voices reached a reveberating pitch, the door to the wedding holosuite slid open, sticking just a little due to the coating of yamok sauce on its exterior. Filing out in a neat line, Sarah, Kira, Odo and Ejenni surveyed the damage.

***

Worf and Deanna both looked at the floor, Jadzia standing between them. With everyone else gone, the room echoed with silence, the stray peep from a pet lost in the shufffle, not to mention the overturned chairs, occasionally breaking into the quiet.

Jadzia cleared her throat. "Well?"

"I am sorry," Worf ventured, his eyes still glued to Jadzia's boot. It was less intimidating than the fury in her eyes.

"Not you," she snapped. "I mean your Betazoid Betty over here."

Sisko placed a warning hand on Jadzia's shoulder. "Old man, that's not helping anything. Let's keep this adult."

"That would be advisable," Deanna agreed, her voice frosty. "It's been a long day."

Jadzia nodded, taking her first good look at Deanna. The Betazoid woman was indeed beautiful, long dark curls gathered loosely at the back of her head, straight and proud posture softened only a little bit by weariness, and wide dark eyes that seemed as depthless as a Bajoran orb. One host ago, Dax would have been falling all over himself to make her acquaintance. It wasn't that hard a stretch to see what Worf had seen in her.

No, Jadzia corrected herself, watching the air between Worf and Deanna as though she could see the sparks between them, he still saw it. There was undeniable passion there, in the way his full lips curved back from his teeth, trembling slightly. Despite the fact that there were two other people in the room, she knew Worf, at this moment, saw only Deanna, drinking in the sight of her as though she were returned from the dead.

He had never looked at Jadzia like that. Not once. Not when they had fought together, defending each other in the heat of battle with valour that would have put Kahless himself to shame. Not when they had lain together in the night, bodies entwined in a dance of pure physicality but still remained as emotionally distant from each other as if one of them had been in the Delta quadrant. Neither, Jadzia realised, pulling the band from her hair and shaking the silky straight mass loose about her shoulders, had she looked that way at him.

With a sad smile, she lifted the betrothal necklace over her head, wincing as the sharp links pulled a few strands of hair from her scalp, and handed it back to Worf. "You're free," she whispered, as their eyes met in understanding. "You will be remembered with honour."

Worf stared down at the necklace in his hand and nodded. "As will you."

Jadzia heaved a heavy sigh and ran a hand through the full length of her hair. "Benjamin, I think I'd like to go now. Somebody should let the guests know what's not going on."

Sisko slipped an arm about Jadzia's waist as he guided her to the door. His hand rested on the curve of her hip, which filled his palm perfectly. "How about a little time in the other holosuite, Old Man? Your choice of programme."

Jadzia sniffled and smiled at him. "I think I'd like that. I think I'd like that a lot, as a matter of fact. Chief O'Brien has been wanting me to try his battle of Culloden programme for a while now."

"Sounds good to me," Sisko agreed in velvety tones. "As for you two," he instructed Worf and Deanna, "you're not to leave this holosuite until you've come to an understanding. That's an order," he added, with a wink he knew Deanna would catch.

***

"Hello, handsome. Nice kilt."

Although his eyes were covered by a pair of small, soft hands, Riker would know that voice anywhere. He reached behind him and pulled Sarah into his lap, kissing her soundly. "I thought you couldn't get away."

"One of the perks of being Captain," she told him with a saucy smile, plucking a blade of straw from his beard, and brushing it across her own lips, "is being able to let your first officer take charge of the ship once in a while."

"Can't argue with that," he agreed, as Bashir and O'Brien quickly vacated their seats. "Any news on in there?" He nodded in the direction of the wedding holosuite.

Sarah snaked her hand under the hem of Riker's kilt, to rest on his knee. "I think things are getting settled. What's up with the Klingons?"

"They're producing an opera," Quark answered before Riker could open his mouth. "If my..." he paused to shudder, "mother can get here before the Nagus's next visit, I just might be able to fix the damage and still come out just a little bit ahead. Now, if this fine establishment had the endorsement of two such fine people as the hero of Wolf 359 and an actual member of Terran royalty..."

"Nobility," Sarah corrected him automatically; she hadn't been listening to anything the little man had said, but some things were too important to ignore.

Quark shook his head and left the human couple alone. "Customers," he explained, rushing up to meet Dax and Sisko, his mind whirling. They'd been in the wedding suite during the whole fiasco, and didn't have to know that the Klingons had already consumed everything remotely palatable, as well as a few things that weren't. If he could just get them to order a large meal and then set off a red alert, things would be well on their way to improving. Not only would the two officers have paid in advance, but the red alert would get everyone out so he could clean up and take inventory of what was left.

"Quark, my good man," Sisko greeted him, "the Commander and I are interested in a little holosuite time. O'Brien's Battle of Culloden programme."

Sisko's words caused the Ferengi's face to light up like the glow from a storehouse full of latinum in direct sunlight. Of course! It was the perfect solution to all his problems. "Well, you know," Quark pretended to consider, rubbing his fingers together, "There's just the honeymoon suite, but you wouldn't be interested in that."

Sisko thought he head Dax say something as she slipped her arm about his waist. "Maybe later. I wouldn't change the programme just yet, if I were you, though. You might find another pair of customers who'd jump at the chance." He inclined his head in the direction of the table where Riker was presently unwinding his wife's long pale hair from its figure- eight chignon.

"I see what you mean," Quark answered, making a mental note to offer the couple the use of the suite. Of course, it was already paid for, but it had been paid for Worf and Dax's wedding, and the Rikers would most assuredly want some very expensive modifications. At the very least, they'd want to get rid of the bat'leths and armour. "I'll get right on it. You know," he continued, rubbing his chin, "I just might be able to offer you a most reasonable discount if you don't mind entering the Battle," he raised his voice to a loud enough level to make the last word heard over the noise, "of Culloden in a programme that's already running. Those gentlemen," he nodded in the direction of Bashir and O'Brien, who were picking their way over the debris-laden floor, looking for a safe way out, "left without terminating their programme, so it's on their bill. You may as well use it," he offered with rare generosity, patting Jadzia's hand. "With everything else that's gone on today, why worry about paying for your h olosuite time?"

Jadzia's old smile made a reappearance. "Thank you, Quark. That's actually... nice of you," she said, not quite believing it herself. "I don't suppose you'll be wanting this back?" She withdrew a slim programme rod from the folds of her dress uniform and extended it to Quark.

The Ferengi grabbed it so fast that his nails scratched the palm of her hand. "Enjoy yourselves," he instructed as he skittered off to the table where Riker and Sarah sat. "Excuse me," he interrupted, when they finally came up for air, "but I've just this minute come into posession of a very interesting programme that two people of your, ah, calibre, might find use for. It was originally intended for a honeymoon couple, but they've made other plans." He coughed and turned in the direction of the now-open holosuite door, where all could plainly see Jadzia and Sisko leading a procession of Klingons into Culloden.

"Come on, boys," Jadzia called out, taking O'Brien's bagpipe as she passed him, "the more the merrier." The invitation had only served to enhance the Klingons' already high spirits, as they whirled the pretzel cart about and headed for the promise of battle. By this time Leeta's face had frozen into a mask of reluctant resignation, but Rom had renewed his campaign, and scrambled up to join her atop the cart. Encircling her waist with one hand, he used the other arm to hang on tight to the pole of the red-and-white striped umbrella one of the Klingons had unfurled.

Riker looked at the crystalline rod Quark was turning end over end, and then at his wife. "Your call."

Sarah reached a manicured hand out and plucked the rod away from Quark. "See to it we're not disturbed, and there might be a handsome gratuity for you."

As Quark backed away from their table, Riker scooped Sarah's light form into his arms. "I have only one question. If I'm here, and you're here, then who's watching the girls?"

Sarah tapped one dangling foot against his thigh. "Chelly and Ella, of course."

"You left our children with Charlie and Danielle? Your brother and my sister?" He heaved a dramatic sigh, but kept walking toward the honeymoon suite. "All right, but you're responsible for any new words they've learned when we get them back." As they passed the wedding suite, Riker only hoped that things were going as well inside as outside.

***

"Well, Deanna clasped her hands behind her back and took a step forward. "We're alone at last."

Worf kept his eyes downcast, unable yet to face her. "I will, of course, apologise to Commander Riker for assaulting him."

"That would be nice," Deanna agreed, drinking in the sight of the man she had longed for, despaired of, and sometimes wanted to kill over the past year. "If it will help make you feel better, I don't think he'll be pressing any charges."

Worf grunted. "He had that right. I behaved dishonourably."

"Why do you say that?" Deanna took in Worf's stooping posture, feeling his anguish as deeply as though it were her own.

"Commander Riker has always been a friend to me. I should not have suspended my trust in him. He is a man I greatly admire, but cannot emulate."

That struck Deanna as odd, the attunement with Worf's emotions she had begun to reestablish shaking. "Emulate?"

Finally, Worf met her eyes, his pupils wide and remorseful. "Once having been your lover, he is now as a brother to you. That is something I could never accept. It is why I never initiated physical relationship in all the time that I had known you." He paused, debating whether or not he should continue. "According to my customs, if not yours, a physical relationship requires a permanent mating. I recall how distraught you were at the marriage your mother had planned for you."

Deanna searched Worf's face for signs of an impending collapse. In a non-Klingon, there would be rivers of tears by now, but his bottomless eyes remained clear. "But you would have married Jadzia."

"You prevented that."

"Are you saying that if I hadn't come, you would have gone through with the wedding?"

Worf squared his shoulders and mumbled something Deanna didn't hear. "It is Klingon custom."

She tilted her head to one side, noting the grim set of Worf's brows. It was the same expression he wore when in physical pain, but not wanting to reveal that fact. She knew without words that his recent actions tore at him like a slashing wound from an enemy blade. Closing the distance between them with slow, sure steps, she placed a finger across his full lips. "Forgive yourself. It is over now. All of it is over. What matters is now."

He took her hand from his lips, allowing her fingers to entwine with his. She fit him like a chainmail glove made by a master armourer, covering , protecting, healing with a single touch. "Deanna, I could not posess you once and then watch you go to another man. Even," he elaborated, thinking of Riker, "if he were a friend. When it comes to you, I must have all or nothing. If you think you may want to leave me someday, walk away from me now and never look back. It is the one thing I will ask of you."

Deanna released his hand, snaking her arms up about his neck. Reaching for his hair tie, she unwound it slowly, taking her time with each turn, until the thong dangled from her fingers and dropped to the floor. Pressing her lips to his, she was reminded of how she had often the lovely dark hue of his skin was like the richest of dark chocolate, but far more delicious. She leaned into his embrace, feeling his strong, weathered hands conform to her body, one settling about her waist, and the other cupping her bottom. He was warm, strong, shoring her up when she had thought this day would bring about the collapse of what she had prayed for countless cold and lonely nights.

He pulled away. "You are trembling," he observed, his eyes scanning her beloved features for signs of distress. At the sight of the single tear that began its silvery trail down her cheek, he brushed it with his thumb. "I have hurt you?"

"No, Worf, no, you haven't. It's only..." She broke off her words, not knowing how to express the intensity of their combined emotion. All the longing, the passion, the controlled desire both had suppressed over far longer than they cared to think of had been channelled through that one kiss, the promise of yet more hanging between them like a tantalising treat. "I thought I would see you marry someone else today. Will talked me into coming here, and I almost didn't."

Worf swallowed something in Klingon, pulling Deanna to him. "Know that I desire only you," he insisted, "Now and always. I will be your husband, Deanna, and you will be my wife. Nothing will part us, if you will still have me."

Smiling up at him, all Deanna could do was nod her head once before pressing it into the rough fabric of his robe. It was real, Worf was real, and he desired her, only her. Just as she desired only him. Running her fingers across the dull metal of his sash, she blinked the moist tears from her lashes. "I will always have you, Azuna."

"I do not understand that word."

"It's a Betazoid word," she explained, standing on tiptoe so that her lips touched against his. "And you should get used to hearing it very frequently. It means last one," she confided, the words sliding into the kiss that marked the beginning of their life together. "You are my last one."

 
FINIS

 

 
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