Title: Love Survives
Author: Vicki L. Reid
Email: dekrrini AT aim.com
Summary: Word reaches DS9 that Betazed has fallen to the Dominion. Worf contemplates what this means for Deanna.
Disclaimers: Paramount owns all things Star Trek, I'm only borrowing a few of the characters and will return them unscathed (or relatively unscathed) when I'm finished.

 

Part One: Betazed Has Fallen

 
Lieutenant Commander Worf entered the Ward Room with trepidation in his soul. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. But what he did not know. Moving to stand beside his mate, the Trill science officer of the station, Jadzia Dax, Worf watched as Captain Sisko posted the latest Federation casualty list of their war with the Dominion. Quickly perusing the list, the Klingon's rage was ignited by one word on roster of the dead, lost, and missing.

Clenching his jaw tightly to keep from roaring at the pain and fear in his heart, Worf growled angrily, "Betazed has fallen to the Dominion."

Although Worf attempted to keep the rage from his voice, he knew he had failed by the worried glance exchanged by Jadzia and Sisko. Both were knowledgeable enough about him to know that if he were seriously enraged, he would be capable of anything, including trying to take on the Dominion on his own. Dax touched his arm silently, and Worf knew she had to be wondering why he was so very angry when Betazed was of no real military importance.

Worf looked down at her, fear uppermost in his eyes. Although he gazed into Jadzia's green eyes, the Klingon saw instead a pair of glowing ebony eyes. His heart screamed out to his love in an agony of fear tinged with rage and frustration. 'Iw tIqwIj! But there was no answer. There had not been an answer since his mating with Jadzia.

For the first time since their impromptu mating of several months before, Worf gave no thought to hiding his feelings from his mate, giving Jadzia the idea that her rival for Worf's love was very much alive. Or at least she had been. Worf shook off her hand and strode out of the Ward Room without comprehending completely the sadness in Jadzia's eyes as she began to fear that soon he would leave for good.

For hours after learning of the invasion, Worf performed his duty in an exemplary manner, but how he did not know. In his mind's eye, he saw an exquisitely beautiful face with dark eyes and delicate features framed by long, raven tresses which had often curled themselves around his fingers. A face he knew--and loved--well. *Betazed has fallen*, the dirge repeated again and again in his mind. *Betazed has fallen*.

At the end of his duty shift, Worf entered the quarters he shared with his wife. Relieved that Jadzia was not present, he strode toward the computer terminal purposefully. And stopped abruptly. A voice deep inside his soul told him to leave her alone; she would not want to hear from him. Not now when the invasion of her homeworld would make her extremely vulnerable. Perhaps not ever again.

Another voice urged him to reach out as a friend, who had lived through a similar experience. They had been friends once, but that was long, long ago. Before his betrayal of their love. Before his marriage.

For the better part of an hour, Worf stared at the viewscreen, debating on which voice to heed. Finally, taking a deep breath, the Klingon made his decision, knowing full well it was selfish, and would in all likelihood cause her no end of pain and suffering. But he had to know whether she lived or had died in defense of her planet. "Computer," he asked, "what is the current location of the Federation Starship Enterprise-E?"

"The Enterprise-E is in orbit around the planet Betazed," the computer intoned impersonally, completely unaware that Worf's universe just shattered into pieces at his feet.

"No," he growled, unable to accept even the possibility that she was gone, lost to him forever. Rising to his feet, Worf howled his grief to the universe, shaking the sturdy walls of his quarters with the sound.

"Enterprise-E updated location," the computer intoned again. "The Enterprise-E is heading toward a rendevous with other Federation Starships in the Omicron Sector."

Heart pounding erratically in his chest, Worf crashed down into the chair in front of the viewscreen. With one shaking hand, he entered the proper codes to contact the Enterprise-E and Commander Deanna Troi.

~*~

*Betazed has fallen*, Deanna Troi thought incredulously.

*Don't worry so much, Little One*, Lwaxana Troi replied. *The Dominion may have overpowered our planetary defenses, but they will never overpower the Betazoid overmind. We shall prevail*.

Turning to face her mother who held her younger brother in her arms, Deanna touched his downy hair with gentle fingers. "I'm just glad we got the two of you off the planet, Mother," she said, sadness still tinging her voice.

"So am I," Lwaxana answered with a very maternal smile. "At least for his sake. For myself, I should have remained behind. It was my duty as a daughter of the Fifth House."

Now it was Deanna's turn to smile. "You can do more good for Betazed if you are not in the Dominion's hands, Mother."

When her little brother began to cry, Deanna urged, "Go back to your quarters, Mother. I'll be fine. As long as you and the Littlest One are well, I am content."

Lwaxana eyed her daughter with concern. "Content only, Deanna?" she asked. "Why only content? Why not happy?" When Deanna made no reply, she added angrily, "It's because of Worf, isn't it?"

"Mother," Deanna answered, the warning clear in her voice. "I do not wish to discuss Worf--or his wife--with you."

The youngest son of the Fifth House of Betazed gave another angry cry. Deanna fairly pushed the two of them out the door. "I am fine, Mother," she assured the older woman. "Now take care of your son."

For several long minutes after her mother left, Deanna stared out the viewport of her quarters, watching the stars race by in long streamers of white fire. Worf, she thought to herself. What happened to us? Why did you give up so easily? But her questions remained unanswered just as they always had from the moment she learned of his impending marriage. Somehow she had thought that once the Klingon threat to the station was over, Worf would return to the Enterprise-E--and her. But instead he had chosen to remain on Deep Space Nine, becoming involved with the station's Trill science officer. Every time Deanna thought of Jadzia Dax, she felt a slow rage begin to build in her soul. A rage that threatened to destroy her. But the Trill was not the focus of her anger, Worf was. His betrayal of their love was a constant dagger in her heart.

When the computer terminal bleeped its announcement of a caller, Deanna's thoughts were still on Worf--and his wife. Although she would rather ignore the caller, Troi feared it might be important news of Betazed. In her gentle voice, she said, "Computer, access the call."

"Worf," she breathed, face growing still and hard as she caught sight of the caller's image on the viewscreen.

"Deanna," he said simply, the tone of his voice almost caressing her soul. "I called as soon as I heard."

"Betazed has fallen," Deanna said, tears filling her luminous eyes. "Worf, Betazed has fallen."

Reaching out as if in supplication, Worf touched the viewscreen with one hand. "I know, tIqqoch," he said softly. "I was afraid..."

Deanna's fingers touched the screen, almost as if she could touch Worf's. "I'm fine, Worf," she assured him. "We rescued Mother and my little brother just before the Jem'Hadar arrived. Everyone is fine."

Worf shook his head. "You are not, Deanna," he said, eyes narrowing in concern. "You are too pale and..."

"Don't, Worf," she interrupted hotly. Eyes hardening into black obsidian, she continued, "My appearance is none of your concern. My life is none of your concern."

"Deanna," he pleaded. "Please hear me out. I care about you."

*Liar!* she cried out in her mind, even though she said nothing aloud. *How could you, Worf? How could you betray me? You, of all people?*

Obviously stunned by the impact of her words in his mind, Worf stuttered, "I am sorry, tIqwIj. I was a fool to betray you with Jadzia. Once done, I had no choice but to wed her."

Realizing the seemingly tenuous bond between them was stronger than she had deemed possible, Deanna said sadly, "I expected this sort of thing with Will, but not with you, Worf. I trusted you as I had never trusted before." Tears spilled from her eyes, flowing down her cheeks in small rivulets. "How could you, Worf?"

Even across the light years that separated them, Deanna sensed that Worf wanted to gather her in his arms, cradling her against his chest, as he kissed her tears away. But both knew that this was an impossible dream. When a pair of masculine hands closed on her shoulders almost possessively, Deanna could feel Worf's jealousy ignite, as he seemed to instinctively know who those hands belonged to.

"Commander," he grated. "I was worried about Deanna when I heard the news about Betazed."

Leaning down to gaze into the viewscreen imager, Will Riker grinned at the Klingon. "Don't worry, Worf," he assured his old friend, "I'll watch out for Deanna." Dropping a possessive kiss on her cheek, he added, "Won't I, Imzadi?"

Bristling with obvious jealousy as he watched the byplay between the two former lovers with growing approbation, Worf sighed deeply. Deanna watched as he came to the realization that he had no right to care about her lovers--past, present, or future. He had given up that right the day he wed Jadzia--the day he threw their love away. "You are obviously in good hands, Deanna," he growled, unable to keep the growing anger from his voice. "I will trouble you no longer." Looking directly into Riker's smiling blue eyes, he grated, "Do not hurt her, Commander. Or I will feed you your still beating heart."

Without another word Worf terminated the connection. Deanna's tears still flowed as she gazed up into Riker's face. "How did you know?"

"That you needed me?" he smiled gently. "I saw that there was a transmission to your quarters from Deep Space Nine. I figured it was Worf."

"How could he, Will?" she sobbed, as Riker pulled her into his arms.

"I have no idea, Deanna," he answered sadly. "I never dreamed Worf would treat you worse than I did. Or that he'd have the nerve to contact you at this late date."

Drawing some small comfort from Riker's embrace, Deanna murmured, "Why did you make Worf think we're together now?"

"Just rattling his cage a little," Will grinned. The smiled faded. "I don't want him bothering you anymore, Deanna. Just look at you. One communication from Worf, and you're in tears. I won't have it. I won't let him hurt you anymore."

Smiling through her tears, Troi asked with a faint grin, "Who made you my keeper, Will?"

Riker shrugged with a broad grin. "What's a brother for, Deanna, if not to protect his little sister from the big, bad Klingon?"

~*~

Worf flung one boot against the bedroom wall, savoring the loud thunk the inoffensive boot made as it hit the wall. The second boot followed with a resounding kerthunk. Knowing he had no rights to Deanna's personal life, Worf nonetheless hated the fact that she had found comfort in Will Riker's arms. As he strode back and forth in the small confines of his quarters, Worf came to the realization that by entering into this marriage where love was one-sided at best, he had harmed more than himself. In his attempt to do the honorable thing, he had hurt both Jadzia and Deanna. Jadzia deserved a mate who could love her unreservedly--as he loved Deanna.

And now he was trapped for Worf could never bring himself to destroy the love in Jadzia's heart as he had Deanna's. Although Deanna Troi was his tIqqoch, his soulmate, he would never again hold her in his arms as he felt their hearts beat as one. Never again would he feel her lips tremble under his passionate kiss. Never again would he taste her blood--the blood which still sang in his soul. Never again. Not while Jadzia Dax lived.

 

 
Part Two: Love Survives

 
Over and over the data chip turned, flipped continuously between strong fingers, trembling slightly with the owner's grief and rage. Fingers strong enough to snap the chip easily, instead held the data gently, although the owner wanted nothing more than to destroy the chip and everything else that reminded him of his loss. Although brown eyes stared steadily at the chip, the man's sight turned inward, remembering scenes in stark relief; scenes which he wished with all his heart had never happened. Fingers holding open lifeless green eyes; a cry of pain and warning--a warrior was on her way to Stovoqor. Condolences from crewmates on the loss of his mate. Captain Sisko saying farewell to the 'Old Man' while Dr. Bashir strove desperately to save the symbiont, Dax.

Jadzia was gone, killed during a battle with the Dominion, but the most intense feeling in the man's soul was guilt. She had been his wife for only a few months and he had long since resigned himself to a life where his only true joy lay in duty and honor. Love, true love, was a distant memory.

The data chip continued to be turned in his fingers as the man recalled more distant scenes. His wedding to Jadzia and the forlorn hope that she would jilt him, leave him standing at the altar. Martok telling him to follow his heart, but there had been so much dishonor in his life since leaving the Enterprise that he could not bring himself to add more to his life.

The mistake of one night had led to a lifetime of regret. A lifetime cut short by the Dominion. Where once there was hope, now there was guilt. Jadzia was gone, but still she stood between him and his one true love.

~*~

Staring out at the stars surrounding the Enterprise-E, Deanna Troi sat alone at a table in Ten Forward. Unable to face the loneliness of her quarters any longer, the counselor had come to Ten Forward to be with people. Still alone in a crowd, she understood that her present unhappiness would pass with time. Just as Worf had moved on with his life, so would she--eventually.

*Worf*, her heart cried out sadly, hoping for surcease. Remembering his glare at Will Riker when Worf saw Will comforting her, Deanna knew the Klingon had been jealous. *Why, Worf*? she asked herself yet again.

"Deanna," a deep voice said behind her.

Without taking her eyes from the starfield flowing past the windows of Ten Forward, she asked, "What do you want, Will?"

Pulling up a chair across from her, the commander answered, "I just received the latest Federation casualty list."

Black eyes, filled with tears, gazed at him fearfully. Riker's expression was full of concern, which frightened her even more. Deanna knew that only one person would bring Will to her side to break the news to her himself. "Worf?" she whispered.

Riker shook his head, but his expression never changed. "Not Worf," he reassured her. Before she could ask her next question, he added, "It's not Alexander either."

"Then who?" Deanna asked, voice wavering with relief.

Her relief was short-lived, however, when Riker stated, "Jadzia Dax."

Feeling as if someone had punched her in the solar plexus, knocking the wind from her, Troi asked breathlessly, "Worf's mate? How?"

"During a skirmish with the Dominion," Riker answered, clearly worried now for both Deanna and Worf. "I don't have access to any of the particulars--only the news of her death."

Unable to fully comprehend the news, Deanna said softly, "Worf must be devastated." A feeling of guilt swept over her. "I hated that Worf married her, Will," she whispered. "But I never wanted this to happen. I never wanted her to die."

"No one believes you did, Deanna," he assured her.

Gazing into Will's blue eyes, Troi wondered aloud, "What's going to happen next?"

"Next?" he queried in return. "Hasn't enough happened?"

Deanna Troi smiled tremulously at her former lover. "Trouble always comes in threes, Will," she told him. "Betazed. Jadzia. What's next?" A single tear slid slowly down her cheek.

Will wiped away her tear with his finger. "Go to him, Deanna," he told her. "Don't waste any more time. Any of us could be next, and I don't want you filled with even more regret because you never told him how much you love him."

"His wife just died, Will," Deanna said a little tartly. "This is hardly the time to swear my undying love to him."

"Do you still love him?"

Smiling a little sadly, she answered, "More than life."

"Tell him," Riker said softly. "He needs to know that, Deanna. If you're feeling guilty, just imagine the pain Worf is experiencing. She was his wife, but he loves you."

Troi couldn't answer, wracked by both guilt and longing. Will placed on hand on hers. "I know you'll do what's best for both of you, Deanna."

For several minutes after Will left her still sitting in Ten Forward, Troi continued to stare out the windows, but she didn't see the swiftly moving starfield, instead she saw Worf, who seemed to be calling out for her. Deanna made a decision, and rose to her feet. As she strode purposefully from the lounge, she only hoped Will Riker was right.

~*~

Strong fingers turned the data chip once more, then stopped. The man came to a decision. Placing the chip in the retrieval slot, he accessed the controls of his terminal. Seconds later, a tall, handsome woman appeared on the screen, the spots along her temples and neck indicated her Trill heritage.

"Worf," she said with a sad smile. "If you're seeing this, I must be dead. I only hope it was a glorious death, worthy of song."

Hitting the pause button, Worf growled his response, "It was, Jadzia. Your death saved many."

When the playback resumed, Jadzia continued, "I want you to know how much I enjoyed our life together, Worf. I wanted to grow old with you, but I think I knew it was not to be." She sighed, eyes saddening further. "Even had I not died, our time together would have been short."

Wondering at the meaning of her words, Worf almost missed her say, "Your heart, your very soul lies elsewhere, Worf."

"What?" Worf breathed in disbelief, thinking he had hidden his feelings for Deanna very well.

"Looking back I realize that you pursued Grilka so avidly not because you wanted her, but because she was safe. Instinctively you knew her interests lay elsewhere. You could flex your male hormones without risking a betrayal of your true love. Unfortunately, I caught you in a weak moment. And once we became intimate, your sense of Klingon honor demanded we take the Oath."

Although he wanted desperately to pull the data chip from its slot so he would not have to hear her words, Worf's honor refused to let him take the easy way out. Jadzia deserved no less than his best.

"Did you ever wonder why I took so long to agree to marry you, Worf?" she asked, still wearing the same sad smile.

"Yes," Worf snarled at the image, paused for a moment as he dealt with his conflicting emotions. "To remain in an intimate relationship outside the bonds of the Oath was wrong of me. And for me. Why I did it, I do not know."

"I was waiting for the one thing that would tell me you loved me," Jadzia said, when the playback resumed. "But it never happened, not even after we were married." She sighed. "I should never have agreed to the marriage, Worf. But I loved you and hoped you would come to love me in time."

Guilt wracked Worf's soul as he relived his life with Jadzia and wished she had never known the truth. Never known that he was bound body and soul to another.

"You never tasted my blood, Worf," Jadzia continued. "Not once while we were together. And I know it's because the blood of another sings in your heart."

One finger gently traced the image on the screen. "I am sorry, Jadzia," Worf said softly. "I never meant to hurt you."

"At first I believed it was K'Ehleyr who still held your heart," Jadzia told him. "But after Betazed fell, I knew who you loved and would always love. I saw the rage and fear in your eyes until you found out that she was safe." The image on the screen smiled warmly now. "Go to her Worf. Tell her how you feel. Don't waste any more time worrying about how others will react. Life is too short to waste time on inconsequential things."

Worf sat staring at the screen, shaking his head in sad denial, guilt-ridden that his love for Deanna Troi was so obvious to his mate. His one moment of weakness had destroyed three lives and he wondered if he could ever forgive himself for hurting both Jadzia and Deanna.

"Be happy, loDnal," she urged him. "Share your life, your soul, and your heart with the woman you truly love, Deanna Troi. You have my blessing, Worf."

When Jadzia's image faded from the screen, Worf stared silently at the Federation symbol emblazoned on the viewer. Her words echoed endlessly in his mind and heart, reverberating in his soul with sadness and guilt. Jadzia had deserved so much more than a Klingon with an overdeveloped sense of honor. More than a man bound body and soul to another woman.

Although Jadzia Dax, because of Curzon Dax's history with Klingons, had seemed the perfect mate for him, Worf knew the apparent perfection was nothing more than an illusion. Perhaps had his heart not already been irrevocably linked to Deanna's, he might have found happiness with Jadzia. But now all he had was a heart full of regrets and guilt.

Worf sighed deeply. Jadzia's death should have released him from his vow to her, but still she stood between him and Deanna. More firmly now than while she lived. Although her dying wish had been for him to reunite with the woman he loved, Worf knew it was an impossible dream. Not only was his guilt for hurting his mate erecting an insurmountable barrier between Deanna and him, but Troi had already turned to Will Riker when he had destroyed their love by marrying Jadzia.

*I am sorry, Jadzia*, he said to himself. *I cannot do as you wish. It is already too late*. Guilt-induced grief deepening, his thoughts turned to Troi. *Deanna*, his soul whispered. *If only I had not been such a fool, we would be together now*.

Startled by the bleep of his commlink, Worf gave an involuntary jerk. He did not want to speak to anyone, but he thought it might be Alexander seeking verification of his step-mother's death. Reluctantly reaching forward, Worf accessed the commlink. His heart stopped when he saw the image on his viewscreen.

Deanna Troi, ebony eyes dull and red-rimmed from weeping, smiled tremulously at him. "Worf," she said simply. "I am so sorry."

Just looking at her eased his burden of guilt for she quite clearly shared his load. Easing her pain would lessen his. "Thank you, Deanna." One hand gently touched the image on the screen, and he smiled at his beloved. "Iw tIqwIj."

With a visible start at his use of an endearment, Deanna queried, "Worf?"

Smiling gently with only a glimmer of the fire which raged in his soul for her reflected in his eyes, Worf explained, "It was Jadzia's last wish that I go to my tIqqoch and beg forgiveness for my indiscretion."

Deanna raised one eyebrow. "Indiscretion?" she asked incredulously. "You rip my heart out and you call it an indiscretion?"

"Poor choice of words," Worf conceded. "But I hope one day you will forgive me, Deanna."

Staring into his eyes, she replied honestly, "I don't know if I can, Worf. The trust is gone, and I'm not sure we can get it back."

Jaw clenched tightly, Worf stated, "Then I guess you no longer have feelings for me. I assume you have resumed your former relationship with Commander Riker."

Although only a faint sparkle in her eyes betrayed her inner joy at this manifestation of Worf's jealousy, Deanna said simply, "You couldn't be more wrong, Worf."

After waiting a moment for her to elucidate, he asked, "About what? Your feelings for me or your relationship with the commander."

Deanna smiled warmly at him, the first genuine sign of happiness she'd expressed since she'd learned of his impending wedding to Jadzia Dax. "Both," she replied. "Will is my friend, Worf, just as he was when we all served on the Enterprise-D." At the look of relief on her erstwhile lover's face, Troi's smile deepened. "I do love you, Worf," she told him. "I always have and I always will."

Joy, heat, and passion surged through his body only somewhat tempered by the obvious hesitation in her voice. "But?" he asked simply.

"How can I trust you again with my heart?" she asked him. "I had no idea anything was wrong with us until I received the announcement of your betrothal. What happened, Worf?"

Eyes darkening with remorse as he remembered the events of that single night that had destroyed three lives, he answered, "I was weak and foolish, Deanna. But once I had mated with Jadzia I had no choice but to take the Oath with her."

"You loved her then."

Worf shook his head. "No," he answered. "I did not love her, not as she deserved to be loved. How could I when my soul is bound to yours?"

Staring at the man she loved the confusion clear on her face, Deanna asked, "Then why did you marry her, Worf? Why destroy us if you didn't love her?"

Drawing himself up proudly, he replied, "Klingons do not indulge in meaningless sex. I do not indulge in meaningless sex."

"You married her because of Klingon pride?" she asked incredulously. "Not because you loved her?"

"It sounds foolish, I know," Worf told her. "But I am Klingon and I must follow the dictates of honor."

Under Worf's watchful gaze, Deanna's expression passed through several phases as she dealt with his betrayal and his finely honed sense of honor. At one point, he feared she would never forgive him, but finally her smile told him differently. That single gesture told him as clearly as any words could have expressed that she knew her heart would always be bound to his and to deny it further would be pointless. "tIqwIj," she said, touching the viewscreen with her hand.

Worf knew, they both knew, the trust would return in time. Neither would betray their love again, it was too precious a treasure to lose a second time.

The red alert klaxon on the Enterprise-E suddenly began blaring, loud enough to be heard over the commlink. Smiling at her erstwhile lover, Deanna said, "I must report to the bridge, Worf. We'll talk soon."

"Qapla'!" he told her, as her image disappeared from the screen. *Idiot*! he berated himself. *The woman you love is going into battle and Qapla' is the best you can do*?

Reflecting on the conversation, Worf felt more in sync with himself than he had since leaving the Enterprise. There were hurdles to be crossed, battles to be fought, but Worf knew in his heart that someday he and Deanna would find their way back to each other.

~*~

For two days, Worf had carried out his duties with a light heart, although only another Klingon might recognize his happiness. To the rest of the station, he seemed to be much the same as always--gruff and quick to battle. Because of Jadzia and the people on the station who loved her, Worf knew he would have to leave Deep Space Nine once he and Deanna reunited. He had too much respect for her--and them--to have his obvious happiness held in contrast to his less than blissful marriage to Jadzia.

Worf was considering his options when his commbadge bleeped. "Commander Worf," Sisko's disembodied voice commanded. "Please report to my office at once. And bring Chief O'Brien with you."

The Klingon heard the sternness in the captain's voice, and wondered what he and the chief of operations had done to enrage Sisko. "Aye, Captain," he rumbled.

When the two men entered his office, Sisko rose to meet them. His jaw worked for a few seconds as if he were finding it hard to speak. Finally, he said, "I believe you both still have close friends on the Enterprise-E." At their nods, he continued, "I just received the latest casualty lists from Starfleet. The Enterprise-E was lost two days ago, during a heated battle with the Dominion. I'm sorry, gentlemen."

Feeling as if his knees were about to buckle, Worf wanted to scream out his defiance to the universe which had taken his beloved Deanna. But instead Worf held his grief and rage inside, unwilling to hurt the captain by letting him see it was much stronger now than when Jadzia had left for Stovoqor. "Thank you, sir," Worf grated.

"I want you both to take the rest of the day off," Sisko said, apparently seeing that both Worf and Miles O'Brien were having difficulty dealing with yet another great loss. "I don't want to see either of you until your normal duty shift tomorrow. Understood?"

"Yes, Captain," Worf said, turning on his heel and striding from the room.

Worf overheard Chief O'Brien say, "Worf had many friends aboard the Enterprise. That's why his grief is so intense, I guess." He paused for a moment. "I always wondered why he stayed on the station, when it was so obvious he missed them so much."

"A sense of duty," Sisko said. "He believed the Klingon threat would continue to trouble the station. Worf never said as much but I know that was his reason."

"If he hadn't remained here . . ." O'Brien began.

"He would have died along with the others," Sisko stated. "And right now I know from personal experience that he wishes he had."

~*~

Worf strode rapidly through the corridors of Deep Space Nine, the rage clear on his face. Even those beings not familiar with Klingons, knew instinctively to step out of his way. With every step he took the dirge repeated endlessly in his mind. *Deanna is dead. Deanna is dead*. The grief for the others--Captain Picard, Dr. Crusher, Will Riker, Geordi LaForge, Data--would come in time. But now he could think of only one thing--one person. Had he never left the Enterprise, Worf knew he would have suffered the same fate and joined his love, his friends, his family in Stovoqor.

Entering his quarters with hands clenched into tight fists, nails biting into the palms of his hands, Worf strode to the center of the living area where only a few traces of Jadzia remained. Most of her belongings had been stored away for the next Dax, a Dax Worf would never know. For several seconds, the Klingon allowed his grief to fully encompass his soul. With a howl of rage mixed with grief and desperate longing, Worf cried out to the fates who had stolen his love from him. The walls of his quarters rattled with the strength of the outpouring of his pain and sorrow.

*Deanna*! his mind and heart cried out as his knees buckled and he slowly sank to the floor. Worf had lost loved ones in the past--his parents, Kurn, K'Ehleyr, Jadzia--but nothing, not even K'Ehleyr's death, prepared him for this loss. Although he had loved the mother of his son deeply, those feelings paled when compared to the bond he had shared with Deanna Troi. The small, Betazoid woman had been his soulmate--the half which made him complete.

Almost against his will, Worf found himself remembering the past with painful clarity. The moment he learned Deanna loved him stood out in his mind in stark relief. Even though the memory now caused him excruciating pain, Worf knew he would treasure that moment until the very end of time.

~*~

Standing before Troi's quarters, Worf stared down into her shimmering ebony eyes, wishing the night would never end. Deanna's dark ringlets tempted his fingers to twine themselves in her hair even as her lips invited his to a kiss.

She smiled up at the burly Klingon, saying, "So that was Klingon opera."

"Very different from Betazoid or human opera," he acknowledged. "Not everyone can appreciate the intensity of sound and music that is Klingon opera." He paused for a moment before smiling tentatively. "I hope you enjoyed it."

"To be honest," Troi answered, smiling warmly, "I didn't expect to like it, but I did. It's very moving and beautiful once you get used to the music."

Conversation lagged. Worf gazed down into her black eyes, glowing with happiness and perhaps something more, and making him want to kiss her. But he hesitated, remembering the last time he had kissed her good-night in the corridor outside her quarters. Being caught in a passionate embrace in public by a superior officer acerbated his Klingon sensibilities. But he also hesitated to invite himself into her quarters, fearing she would read more into the request than he meant. Not that he didn't burn with the desire to become one with her, but Worf knew she did not yet love him, and mating without love was meaningless sexual gratification. And he would not belittle either Deanna or himself by indulging in casual sex.

"Would you care to come inside, Worf?" Deanna asked, noticing the Klingon's hesitation and deciding to help him. But her question wasn't altogether altruistic. She didn't care to be caught kissing in the corridor either.

"I would," he answered gruffly, sudden passion thickening his voice.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Worf began thinking he had made a mistake. Being alone with the woman he loved behind closed doors made him think of making love to her, and that was something he could not do. Not yet. Not until she loved him, too.

Gently trailing his fingers along her jawline, Worf was almost overwhelmed at the intensity of desire that simple gesture had engendered in his body--and his soul. Surprising even himself, Worf began reciting a Klingon love poem. A part of him was grateful that Deanna didn't know the significance of the gesture.

Deanna smiled a little ferally at her perspective mate, and eased away from Worf, slowly backing toward a glass topped table. Worf's recitation hesitated for just a moment when she seemed to withdraw from him, but seconds later his eyes lit up with delight when he easily ducked the heavy glass vase she hurled in his direction. The vase was quickly followed by a large glass bowl, two books, and a chair. Crossing the room quickly, and sidestepping another book, Worf swept Deanna into his arms. Lowering his head to capture her lips in a kiss of unrestrained longing and passion, Worf murmured, "Do you understand what this means, Deanna?"

In response, Troi nipped his cheek gently. Worf's body shuddered with passion at her touch, and he lowered his head to hers, kissing her with growing desire.

When he raised his head to stare into her ebony eyes, she stated simply, "I love you, Worf."

Gathering her up into his arms, Worf growled deep in his throat, feeling her tremble with unspoken desire. As he began striding toward the bedroom, he stated, "I love you, Deanna Troi, for all eternity."

~*~

Worf sighed dejectedly. That night was not meant to be. Just as they entered the bedroom, the red alert klaxon had sounded, returning them to duty. Another opportunity had not presented itself as they were caught up in the battle with Soren over the Nexus. Then the Enterprise-D was destroyed, and he was called to Deep Space Nine to help with the Klingon problem. And now she was gone. Lost to him forever. There would be no second chances.

Worf's pain was fierce, like an eternal thrust of a painstick in his soul, as he thought about Deanna and the foolish mistakes he had made which kept them apart for so long. Fear that Deanna was too fragile for Klingon mating; jealousy of Will Riker and the Imzadi bond; dalliance and subsequent marriage to Jadzia Dax; trusting in the fates who favored star-crossed lovers not to harm them further. But there was no rectifying the final mistake--the fates had taken his love from him, rending his soul in two.

*How do I live without you*? Worf asked, knowing there would be no answer. His eyes were drawn to this bat'leth, hanging on the wall in its place of honor. Crossing the room quickly, Worf took the weapon from the wall, gazing at the sharp edges and knowing it would be so easy to end the pain. One quick thrust and his heart would know surcease.

*You won't go to Stovoqor*, his conscience spoke in the form of Jadzia's voice. *If you do this, Worf, your soul will go to ghe'or*.

For several long seconds, the Klingon warrior debated with himself, but soon his shoulders slumped dejectedly. He could not take the easy path. Throwing back his shoulders, he vowed to pay homage to Deanna by following the more difficult way--the honorable way. Although the pain in his soul raged fiercely still, Worf knew the fault was his and his alone. Had he not treated both Jadzia and Deanna dishonorably, the agony of her loss would not be tempered with guilt, remorse, and regret as it was now.

"I will honor your memory, Deanna," he vowed. "You shall be my tIqqoch until the end of time. Await me in Stovoqor, beloved."

~*~

Captain Benjamin Sisko glared at the Klingon officer sternly. "I understand the desire for retribution and revenge is of paramount importance to Klingons," he stated. "But it is not the Starfleet way of dealing with grief."

"I am not seeking vengeance," Worf answered shortly, his anger at the universe barely suppressed, but clear in his voice and in his stance.

"In the three weeks since losing your mate and your friends aboard the Enterprise-E, you have led every single dangerous mission against the Dominion." Pausing for just a heartbeat, Sisko continued, "Are you trying to join them in Stovoqor?"

Worf glared at his superior officer through narrowed eyes. Captain Picard would never have questioned him in such a manner, but would have trusted that Worf was making the right decisions for both himself and the ship--or in this instance, the station. When K'Ehleyr had died and Worf invoked the Rite of Vengeance, challenging Duras to a duel and subsequently killing the traitor to the Klingon Empire, only then had Picard questioned Worf's integrity and giving him a dressing down about following Starfleet protocols while wearing a Starfleet uniform. But this was very different. Clearly, even after three years, Sisko did not understand Worf or Klingons in general for that matter.

Gritting his teeth tightly for a moment, Worf answered, "I would not endanger the lives of others in a quest for death. They all died with honor, and need not be avenged."

"Very well," he answered shortly. After a brief pause, he added, "I do know how it feels, Worf, to lose the woman you love. Especially when she was on a vessel you should have been on as well."

Jerking his head around to meet Sisko's eyes, Worf stammered, "What do you mean, sir? Jadzia..."

"Was not the woman you loved." Sisko smiled a little sadly. "The 'Old Man' told me in her last message that you loved someone from the Enterprise-E, and it wasn't much of a stretch to figure out it was Deanna Troi."

Worf's shoulders slumped for a moment. "I am sorry, sir," he said. "I did not mean to hurt Jadzia."

"I realize that," Sisko told him. "But can you understand why I can't allow your Klingon sense of honor to harm anyone else? Or yourself? You're needed too badly in the fight against the Dominion. If it weren't for the fact that every single report from these missions state your dedication to duty, I would be relieving you of duty until I was certain of your state of mind."

Drawing himself up stiffly, Worf announced, "I do not plan on joining Deanna in Stovoqor for a very long time. I am quite certain the fates will keep us apart until I am a very old man."

From Sisko's expression Worf knew the older man wanted to help him deal with the loss of his soulmate. "The pain will ease in time, Worf," he assured him. "You'll never forget her, but you will find someone else eventually." Worf slowly shook his head, but Sisko continued, "Look at me. I found Cassidy Yates, and I care for her just as deeply as I did for Jennifer."

"You do not understand, Captain," Worf explained. "Deanna was my tIqqoch, my soulmate. There will never be another." Noticing that Sisko was about to speak further, Worf added quickly, "It is a Klingon mores, sir. There can be only one tIqqoch in a lifetime. And I threw my one chance at happiness away when I ignored my tIqqoch and married another."

Worf stared steadily at his commanding officer. "I will not endanger others in a quest for death, Captain," Worf reiterated. "Upon this you have my word."

~*~

Entering his quarters after a particularly difficult, but ultimately successful, mission against the Dominion, Worf removed his honor sash, laying it carefully on the table beneath his bat'leth. He crossed the room quickly and accessed the computer terminal just as he had every day for the last two months. "Computer, list Federation missing, presumed lost starships."

For several minutes, the computer droned on, giving the long list of starships lost during this fight with the Dominion. "U.S.S. Enterprise-E, lost on stardate..."

"Computer, end list," Worf interrupted. Even though he knew the information would be unchanged, the Klingon warrior continued to ask, hoping with all his soul that one day the computer would give an update on the Enterprise-E stating that the ship had been found with all hands alive and well. But Worf knew it was only a dream--one that would never come true.

Staring out the window of his quarters into the black night dotted with stars, much like Deanna's sparkling eyes, Worf came to a difficult decision. The time had come to let go of the past, and free Deanna's spirit to continue the journey to Stovoqor. Although the pain would never ease, he could no longer bind her soul to his, keeping her from completing her change to the next plane of existence be it Stovoqor, Heaven, or the Betazoid equivalent. He would no longer continue to hope that the Enterprise-E had not been destroyed; he would no longer ask for an update on the ship's status. He would let them both go--Deanna and the Enterprise-E.

"Good-bye, my beloved," Worf whispered into the night. "I will miss you until I draw my final breath and join you in Stovoqor."

~*~

"Thank you, sir," a timid voice said.

Turning to frown down at the young ensign, Worf asked, "For what?"

"Saving us, sir," she answered with a smile. "I don't think many in Starfleet would think of using the cloaking device like that. It really saved the Defiant and all of us."

Worf noticed that she was very young, and very inexperienced. Even through his grief and Klingon denseness into the ways of human females, he could tell that she was very interested in him as a potential mate. With a smile of his own, he answered, "You are welcome, Ensign..."

"Huxley. Amanda Huxley."

Her eyes glowed as she stared up at him, an open invitation in her expression. Although he knew many men, Will Riker and even other Klingons, would not hesitate for a moment to pursue the female, Worf was not like other men. His heart was bound to Deanna's for all eternity, and it did not matter that she was dead, there would never be another to take her place.

With a bit of long suppressed Klingon humor, Worf said, "I believe you are a similar age to my son, Alexander. Perhaps you would care to meet him? I understand his ship will be arriving later tonight or sometime tomorrow."

The disappointment was clear on her very expressive face. "That would be nice, sir," she said with a sigh.

Although the little tete-a-tete with the young ensign had sparked a humorous response, the reaction did not last long. As soon as Worf left the bridge of the Defiant to return to his quarters to prepare his report for Captain Sisko the grief and rage returned in full force almost as if any relief from the agony was not to be tolerated by the fates who had stolen his happiness. Striding down the corridor with stern expression on his face, Worf was irritated by the excitement which seemed to permeate the station.

The Klingons must be back, he thought to himself, sighing deeply. Now I must deal with Alexander's rage as well.

Usually Worf did not mind when Alexander turned his anger against his father, blaming the older man for Deanna's loss. But tonight Worf didn't feel strong enough to shoulder more guilt. He would do what was necessary, however, to help his son as he could not help himself get over the pain.

"Worf!" Chief O'Brien called out excitedly.

Barely pausing in his long stride, the Klingon answered coldly, "What?"

Julian Bashir, who was grinning from ear to ear with excitement, kept pace with the angry warrior. "Have you heard the news, Worf? It's hard to believe..."

"I am sure that it is," Worf growled. "I do not have time to chat, gentlemen. If you will excuse me."

As they watch Worf stride away, Bashir asked, "Do you think he knows?"

"He must," O'Brien said. "Why else would he be in such a hurry?"

"I would have thought he'd look a little happier."

O'Brien grinned. "Perhaps that is how a happy Klingon looks."

Although he had overheard their remarks as he strode away, Worf vaguely wondered what he had to be happy about. His life was over. Now he simply went through the motions of living. Upon reaching his quarters with no further interruptions, Worf sighed with relief as he entered the room. Slipping the honor sash from his body, he strode to the center of the room. And stopped. Something was wrong.

*Is that the shower running*? he wondered, seldom using the water shower, much preferring to be cleansed by the sonic shower.

"Who is there?" he called out angrily, refusing to budge a millimeter more until he uncovered the truth. When the water stopped, Worf realized it was probably Alexander, who was more human than Klingon in many respects--showering being one of them.

Now that the mystery was solved in his mind, Worf began walking toward the table beneath his bat'leth.

"Hallo, Worf," came a voice from behind him.

Recognizing the voice, Worf began to tremble uncontrollably as the honor sash slipped to the floor through nerveless fingers. Slowly, ever so slowly, he turned to face the voice, certain his memory must be playing tricks on him again.

When his eyes met the vision before him, Worf thought he must be losing his mind. He could not speak, but simply stared at the ghost of his beloved Deanna Troi, clad only in a towel with her dark ringlets clinging damply to her bare shoulders.

"I hope you don't mind that I used the shower," she said with a smile. "We couldn't use that much water on the Enterprise so I had to settle for sonic showers. I've been dreaming of a shower for over two months now." Her eyes darkened as she continued suggestively, "Among other things."

Worf remained rooted to the floor, unable to move, unable to speak. His eyes drank in the vision, afraid she would disappear from his life yet again.

Tilting her head to one side, she queried, "Worf? What is it? Have I been too presumptuous? Perhaps I should go."

"No!" he exclaimed, finally crossing to her. One hand reached toward her with trembling fingers. Softly touching her face, he murmured, "You are alive."

"Very much so," she told him. "I understand from Captain Sisko that we were all thought to be lost over two months ago. I'm sorry, Worf. We couldn't communicate for fear of being caught by the Dominion. And then..."

Sweeping her roughly into his arms, Worf muttered, "Explain later."

Worf lowered his head to capture her lips with his. The thrill he experienced at the touch of her lips was like nothing he had ever known in his life. His tIqqoch was alive and in his arms. Never again would he let her doubt his feelings for her. "I love you, Deanna," he said. "Only you, from now until the end of time."

Wrapping her arms around Worf, the towel dropping heedlessly to the floor, Deanna whispered, "I love you, Worf. Nothing will come between us again."

Touching her bare back with gentle hands, Worf felt white-hot passion flaring between them. He growled deep in his throat, which turned to a roar of passion when he felt Deanna's teeth nip his cheek.

Eyes glittering with passion, Deanna said as she licked the blood from her lips, "Now you are mine, Worf. Your blood sings in my soul."

Fingers tracing the site where he had tasted hers, Worf answered, "I have longed for you, Deanna. I never stopped loving you. I..."

Echoing his words, Deanna said, "Explain later. Or never. Now is the time for kissing, Worf."

The fire in her eyes was matched by the inferno in his. "And other things," he murmured, nibbling on her neck, sending shudders of desire throughout her body.

"Definitely other things," Deanna said, as Worf picked her up and carried her toward the bedroom. Rasping her tongue over the mark she had just inflicted on her soon-to-be mate, Troi whispered, "Many other things."

~*~

A few hours later, Will Riker encountered Chief O'Brien and Dr. Bashir lingering unabashedly outside Worf's quarters. Raising one eyebrow, Riker asked, "May I ask what you are doing here?"

O'Brien grinned. "Same thing as you, I would imagine, Commander."

Although Julian didn't know Riker very well, he added, "We just wanted to make sure that everything was all right. We weren't certain Worf knew about the Enterprise limping into the station."

A loud crash followed by a passionate roar was heard inside the quarters. When a female voice was heard giggling, Riker said, "I'd say he knows. Let's move it along, gentlemen. I don't think they need witnesses."

After making sure the others left, Will Riker stood for a moment listening to the passionate encounter taking place inside Worf's quarters. A broad grin crossed his face. His two best friends in the universe were fine now. An obviously heavy object crashed against the door, shattering into bits and sounding a bit like a gentle rain as the pieces fell to the floor. Or at least they would be after a trip to the station's sickbay. With a grin, Riker murmured as he walked away leaving the two lovers in peace, "I guess I forgot to warn you, Worf. Deanna's a lot feistier than she looks."

 
-end-

 

 
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