Author: Anna C. Bowling
Email: Unzadi AT aol.com
Summary: Riker teaches Worf the subtle language of women.
Disclaimers: Everything Star Trek, including Worf and Deanna Troi, belong to Paramount Pictures. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Deanna did not know Worf was watching her. That was good, he decided, forcing his breathing to slow. She was concentrating on the sparring match, on her opponent's stregnths and weaknesses, looking for the proper opening to make her move. She was not concerned with the observations of her classmates, or her instructor, instead being completely focused on the competition at hand. Worf gave a nod of satisfaction. When she had first begun attending his mok'bara classes, he had considered requesting her to withdraw. There were other humans in the class, other females, but Deanna was small, and to his way of thinking, too delicate to engage in the activity.
She, of course, had noticed Worf's reluctance, and had contested, producing file after file proving that there was no medical reason a Betazoid/human woman could expect more physical harm than normal. More physical harm than normal. As Deanna's arms curved gracefully into the next movement, Worf's lips curled back from his teeth in an expression of appreciation.
Rather than too small, he would now term her build compact. Instead of the soft, unused muscle he had expected to find beneath her smooth skin, there was a distinctly feminine stregnth. Like K'Ehleyr, but with Deanna's own signature to it.
The thought of his departed mate caused Worf to turn away from his students, a scowl crossing his face. He had come too late to K'Ehleyr, able to say the words of the oath only as she lay dying from an asassin's dagger. Their son was already well on his way to manhood before Worf had been able to know the boy. This reunion, in part, was due to Deanna's insistance that it was what both father and son needed. She had been right, her reasoning as true and sure as the well-aimed kick that sent her opponent tumbling to the mat.
"Class has ended," Worf announced, at the sound of the two women leaving the mat to step onto the bare floor. Still not facing his students, he listened as they milled about the room, collecting towels and shoes, or requested water from the replicator on the far wall by the door. Deanna left with a small group of women, after she had gotten two drinks of water. He knew her footsteps now, could pick them out of a crowd if need be. She walked with determination but an equal measure of energy, which he admired. Although Deanna bore the burden of the often shifting emotions of the entire crew, over one thousand in number, she did not appear to sag under it, as he had once thought she might. He admired that.
"Commander, I would request that you stay," Worf found himself saying as Riker passed him, perspiration-drenched towel in hand.
Finding the towel completely useless, Riker swiped at his face with the sleeve of his tunic as the last few students filed out. "If this is about the requisition I recieved this morning, the answer is still no. We just can't spare the power. Not now. I thought Geordi made that clear."
Worf's dark eyes fixed Riker's blue ones, the human man stepping back instinctively. "I accept your decision. I wished to talk about a personal matter."
Riker's bright grin split the damp darkness of his beard. "In that case, I'm all ears."
Worf took a deep breath, then plunged straight ahead. "Do you love Deanna?"
"Do I love Deanna? What kind of question is that? You know I do." He dropped the towel on the floor, next to the canvas bag he had brought with him, and stripped off his tunic.
"Then I will not mate with her." The statement was accompanied by a deep sigh of reluctant resignation such as Riker had never heard coming from a Klingon.
Bending over to fish a fresh tunic out of the bag, Riker felt Worf's word like a blow to the back of his head. "Mate with her?"
"I consider you a friend," Worf explained, clearly chagrined that he needed to say anything further. "And do not wish to take anything that is yours. If you desire Deanna as a mate, I will not pursue her."
Riker took the time to shrug into the fresh tunic, but left it hanging open. "Mate? You think I want Deanna for my mate?"
Worf only nodded, his eyes expressionless.
A moment of silence hung between the two men. Then Riker laughed. The sound caused Worf to step forward, his features taking on a fierceness behind his control, smouldering as Riker had only seen in battle, either real or in their advanced holodeck exercises. "Clearly, I've said something wrong here."
"If you do not intend to take Deanna as a mate, but lead her to believe that you do, I will challenge you on her behalf."
Riker could only stare at his friend, wide-eyed. Normally, he would have looked around to see Deanna, who would probably be doubled over in laughter at what a masterful prank she was pulling. Instead, he knew the Klingon was deadly serious.
"You love her," Worf stated, a growl lacing his words. "So do I. You say you love her, yet you pursue other females in her presence, talk to her about them."
Putting a comfortable distance of a meter or so between them, Riker rifled through the bag, needing the distraction. "I do love Deanna," he explained, "but I'm not in love with her. She's more like a...a...sister," he finished, wadding up the damp towel and shoving it into a corner of the bag. "What we had was good, but it was a long time ago, and it's over now. If you're interested in Deanna, she's the one you ought to be talking to."
"I did not wish to take away anything that is yours."
Riker shook his head, sending droplets of sweat flying. "Worf, sometimes I think the High Council could take honour lessons from you. Look, I don't want to meet you with pistols at dawn or anything like that. Last time I checked, Deanna didn't belong to anybody. She's her own person. She can make her own choices. Somewhere, there's an extremely lucky man she belongs with, and if that's you, I'll be the first one to start celebrating. I think it's up to her, though."
Crossing his arms against his chest, Worf glanced toward the door. "I only wanted," he restated, "to be certain there was no misunderstanding between us."
"There's not," Riker declared, closing the bag and stretching the cramp out of his spine. "Unless you're asking all these questions because you're interested in me. In that case, I'm flattered, but I'm just not that kind of guy." Riker could have sworn he saw the purple flood into Worf's face, but the Klingon smiled.
"We understand each other, then." Worf nodded as Riker headed for the door. Before he could activate the panel to open it, the door slid open of its own accord, framing a tired but clean Deanna Troi.
"Are you two still here?" she chided, onyx eyes scanning the room. "Can you believe I got all the way to Beverly's quarters before I realised I'd forgotten my water bottle?" She shrugged her shoulders, the one nearest Worf exposing itself as the pale blue fabric of her blouse slid down just a notch. A long black curl brushed against Worf's sleeve as she squeezed between the two men, headed for the corner where the pink and purple bottle rested on a white towel throne.
Worf's nostrils flared at the scent of musk carried by Deanna's hair, his eyes captivated by the sight of her long, shapely legs encased in soft white trousers. The sway of her hips matched the pounding of his heart as he watched her cross the empty floor and bend to snatch up her bottle.
"I'll just leave you two to whatever it is you've been talking about all this time. You can just brief me at tomorrow's meeting," she added, sauntering past them both on her way to the door. "Beverly will kill me if I'm late for rehearsal," she admitted, giving the water bottle a dangle before she pressed a hand to the door panel. She hesitated for a moment, a slow, sly smile coming over her subtly painted lips. "Carry on, gentlemen." With that, she stepped back out into the corridor.
Riker gave his face another swipe with his sleeve, and grinned at Worf. "Did any of that answer your question?"
"Answer?" Worf's features cramped into a mask of confusion. "I do not understand."
"My friend, that is the understatement of the century." Riker draped a companionable arm about Worf's shoulder, removing it as the Klingon stiffened. "Don't tell me you missed the signals. No," he amended, shaking his head. "You wouldn't have caught them. Human women haven't been your forte. "
Worf took up a padd he'd stashed beside a pile of mats, and began going through his post-class checklist. "I do not understand you. Counsellor Troi merely wished to retrieve her bottle. There is no mystery in that."
"Now that," Riker corrected him, "is where you're wrong. The language of woman is extremely complex, but didn't it strike you as a little strange that Deanna brought a water bottle?"
Worf continued to go through his list, counting mats and comparing them to the inventory on the padd. "It is important to keep the body hydrated when exercising."
"I know," Riker said, walking to the far wall. "Water," he requested, and took up the glass the replicator immediately provided him with. "That's what we have these for. If a lady wants water, she can get a whole ocean right from the wall. Any kind she wants. If she brings a bottle with her, she's got something other than hydration in mind." He took a long drink of the water, draining the glass in one swallow. Placing it back in the replicator, and instructed it to recycle.
Halfway through his double-check of the attendance, Worf paused. "Deanna claimed to have just reached Beverly's quarters, yet she had changed clothing."
Riker nodded. "If I have to explain anything more, you don't deserve her. Why don't you let me do you a favour," he began, taking the padd from Worf. "I think you'd much rather be somewhere else right now."
"I have not yet finished my evaluations," Worf protested, holding out a hand for the padd that was now firmly in Riker's grip.
"Nope," Riker contended, his head bent over the padd. "I think you'd really rather watch the theatre group rehearse. Or does she have to come in here again before you get the hint?"
Worf's generous brows knitted as he stared hard at the door, as though willing Deanna back. "She wishes me to follow her? She did not say that."
Riker looked up, the broadest of smiles crossing his face. "Loud and clear."
The Klingon took a step forward, than paused. "If you are wrong..."
"I'm not. Trust me." He turned his attention back to the padd for a moment, listening to Worf's ragged breathing. "And if you're not on your way to that rehearsal in sixty seconds, I'll reconsider that challenge."
Worf grumbled, but took another step. "I do not see what purpose my presence will serve."
"You'll be there," Riker told him, gesturing toward the door, padd still in hand. "That's all she wants. The two of you can work it out from there."
There was a silent moment as Worf busied himself with the sash of his tunic. "I should change into fresh clothing. I do not wish to offend." With that, he nodded his goodbye to Riker, his steps picking up speed and purpose as he made his progress. Surely, Deanna's changing clothes herself had been another signal for him to follow.