Author: Vicki L. Reid
Email: dekrrini AT aim.com
Summary: Deanna finds her separation from Worf to be painfully permanent as she has chosen to follow a path leading away from him and his love. Second in The Path series.
Disclaimers: Paramount owns all things Star Trek, including the crew of the Enterprise and the universe in which they live. I'm only borrowing a few of them for fun--not profit.
Deanna Troi stared at the Federation symbol on the viewscreen with unseeing eyes, tears trickling down her cheeks unheeded. Tears she had refused to let Worf see. Somehow she had known that he was close to the breaking point, needing just one little nudge to send him rampaging through the quadrant wrecking havoc and leaving death and destruction in his wake. She would not be that nudge. As he had said, Worf had always been inclined to seek the difficult path, and this time was no different. His love for Jadzia was deep and strong. Perhaps she would await him in Stovoqor after all.
Finding the thought oddly disturbing, Deanna refused to dwell further on Jadzia Dax and her path to the afterlife. But her mind rebelled. Jadzia had won Worf's heart, and Deanna couldn't help but wonder how. Jadzia Dax seemed to be the total antithesis to herself. Outspoken to the point of brashness where she was much more introverted. So what had made Jadzia so special in Worf's eyes? Was it her willingness to become Klingon? Almost overnight it seemed to Deanna that she had lost Worf to Jadzia and still didn't understand why. When she searched his soul, Deanna felt the love he had for her still strong, but shielded away from what he had felt for Jadzia. Compartmentalized in much the same way as her feelings for Worf and Will.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a noise behind her. "Did you tell Worf our news?" Will Riker asked.
Surreptitiously wiping the dampness from her cheeks, Deanna said, "No. The topic didn't come up."
A faint frown marred Will's forehead. "He needs to be told, Deanna," he told her. "Worf will hate finding out about our engagement from someone else."
She turned to face him, eyes burning with frustration and anger. "I won't add to his burden, Will. You didn't talk to him. I did. Worf is barely holding his life together. He doesn't need to know about our love life right now. It won't help him deal with Jadzia's death."
Will's frown deepened. "I know the two of you still have . . . feelings for each other," he said carefully. "Love like the two of you shared doesn't ever die completely. Won't it hurt him more if you're not the one to tell him?"
Rising to face him, Deanna said, "I'll tell Worf of our engagement, Will. But there's no hurry. We're not getting married tomorrow, after all."
Chewing on his bottom lip with his teeth, Will stared into Deanna's eyes. Emotions flashed across his face. Finally, he asked huskily, " Do you want out of our engagement, Deanna, now that Worf is free?"
"Of course not, Will," she answered just a shade too hesitantly. "I don't go back on my word." She sighed. "Worf is overburdened as it is with guilt and remorse. I'm simply not certain how he will take the news of our engagement. We can wait until he's had time to process Jadzia's death."
"I would understand if you've changed your mind, Imzadi," he said softly, the pain in his voice pulling on Deanna's heart. "I won't hold you to your promise if you want Worf."
Deanna smiled, but it never quite reached her eyes. "Worf is my past, Will, you are my future." She paused for a moment. "I will honor my commitment to you."
Will sighed, visibly strained by the conversation. "That sounds suspiciously like a Klingon point of view."
Raising one eyebrow, she asked, "And what's wrong with honoring one's commitments?"
"Nothing," he responded with a shake of his head. "But I don't want you marrying me because of some mistaken sense of honor. I want you to marry me because you love me."
Deanna touched his bearded cheek, streaked now with gray, and said, "I do love you, Will. You have always been my Imzadi."
As Will stared steadily at her, Deanna could sense his internal struggle. Apparently appeased by her words, Will said, "If you're sure, Deanna." Caressing her lips with a gentle kiss, he added, "I must get back to the bridge."
Watching his tall form stride purposefully toward the door, Deanna was amazed at the growing amount of gray in her Imzadi's hair. They were both reaching an age where it was time, probably well past time, to settle on one mate. Especially if they were to have a family.
Hearing the door whoosh closed behind him, Deanna let down her guard, allowing her pain to flood her being. No matter how much she might love Worf, and she did love him, she could never be reunited with her tIqqoch. Even though Jadzia was dead, Worf was still unattainable because of her life choices this time. When she and Will had made love on the fountain of youth planet, she had chosen a different path. A path which lead away from Worf. Now she must lock her feelings for Worf away behind a secret door in her heart. She didn't love him any less, but could no longer acknowledge the love openly.
A single stupid act had cost her everything she held dear. Others might look upon the recapturing of lost youth a treasure beyond measure, but for Deanna it was the worst thing that had ever happened to her. For with the return of youthful hormones, came unfulfilled yearnings and desires for a man who could never be hers. And so she turned to someone else--just like a hormonally crazed teenager. Deanna closed her eyes, reliving the moment when she realized she had lost Worf forever.
Stroking Will's freshly shaven face, Deanna grinned, "Much better, don't you think?"
"I'm not so sure," he smiled a little ruefully. "The beard has been a part of me for a long time. I sort of feel naked without it."
Her eyes traveled downward. "You are naked, Will."
Pulling her tightly against him, he said, "So are you, Imzadi." He lowered his head, capturing her lips in a kiss with both passion and promise. Regretfully raising his head, Will said, "I suppose we've stolen enough time. The captain is probably looking for us."
Again stroking his smooth cheek, Deanna felt rather badly for shaving Will's beard. She found she missed it as well. "I expect he is," she said with a smile. With just a hint of humor in her voice, she added, "Now I wonder where your clothes are, Commander."
Although he grabbed for her quickly, Deanna swiftly slipped away, laughter ringing in the small bathroom, which was mostly taken up with the tub still full of bubbly water with bits of whiskers mixed in with the bubbles. She raced through the open door, naked as the day she was born, still laughing at his expression. And stopped dead in her tracks. Will, only paces behind her, was unable to stop as quickly, and ran into her. Only by grabbing her arm did he keep from knocking her to the ground.
"Deanna?" he asked, "What's wrong?"
Her eyes widened to their fullest extent, and Will's gaze followed hers. The lovers found themselves staring into the eyes of a Klingon. A very angry Klingon, if Worf's expression was any indication of his feelings.
"Captain Picard has been looking for the two of you," Worf growled. "I will tell him I have found you."
Turning on his heel, Worf strode toward the door. Rushing across the room unheeding of her nakedness, Deanna pulled him to a stop. "Worf, wait!" she commanded.
His eyes raked her up and down, as his jaw clenched and unclenched. Rage, frustration, pain, and finally resignation raced across his face. "You have chosen your path, Deanna," he said softly, touching her face with a gentle hand. "I will honor your choice."
"Worf, please," Deanna begged. "Let me explain. The planet . . ."
Placing his fingers against her lips, Worf acknowledged, "I have no right to dispute your choice, Deanna. I gave up the right when I wed Jadzia."
"You don't understand, Worf," she said, tears filling her eyes.
Again he touched her cheek, in the same place which bore the faint outline of his teeth. "I do understand, Deanna. I feel as you do, but our love was not meant to be it would appear." He sighed. "Be happy, tIqqoch."
And then he was gone. Gone from the Enterprise. Gone from her life. *The path not taken,* she thought regretfully. Worf was her soulmate, but he had made it clear that day that he expected her to honor her choice and marry Will Riker. His conversation with her had made it clear that nothing had happened to change Worf's mind. Making love was a lifetime commitment for a Klingon, and his expectations of her were the same. In his eyes, Jadzia's death had freed him, but her commitment to Will still held. Worf might not like it, but felt strongly it was the right thing to do.
Will Riker was a good man, perhaps better than she deserved. Knowing her feelings for Worf, Will had done the honorable thing in his eyes, and offered her freedom from her vow to him. But she couldn't accept, although perhaps for Will's sake she should have. Will deserved better than what she had to offer. He deserved a woman who could love him with all her heart. Throwing back her shoulders, Deanna slammed the door to the secret place in her heart--the place where her love for Worf was hidden. Her tears streamed down her face as she vowed, "I will follow this path I have chosen. I will make Will happy. I will love and honor him until the day I die."
A remnant of her love for Worf, declared deep inside her soul, *But not as much I love you, tIqqoch. Never as much as I love you.*